Saturday, August 30, 2008

Why I’ll Never Smell Like a Spring Breeze

Just back from the drugstore to stock up on some my personal care items. We all know men and women are different – but when it comes to personal care products, you’d swear it’s all in the scent and color.

I actually will stop and read labels when I shop – I know, it takes a little longer, and I probably annoy everyone else, as I stand there in the isle, and everyone has to go around me. But I like to know what I put in, on and around my body and home. To me, that’s important.

So, I’m shopping for the usual suspects, body wash, liquid hand soap, shampoo, deodorant and so on. Like most people I assume, I have my favourite brands, but sometimes I like to mix it up and try different things.

Before I try something new, I’ll read the label. Maybe I had too much time on my hands, or maybe I’m just a nut, but I thought I’d compare similar male and female personal care products.

First thing I noticed right off the bat – price. Women’s products are all more expensive than those sold to us men. And often the ones which are marketed to women, are in smaller containers, so you get less, but pay more.

Colors and scents were also different – products geared towards women are usually in bright, pinks, blues, greens and yellows, with flowery scents to match the flowery colors. Scents like Summer Breeze, and Spring Showers, and my all time favourite play on words, Warm Mud Bath – great – I’ve always wanted to smell like crap.

The male versions of these products are less colourfully packaged, and have strong, manly names for their scents, like Mountain Rush, Sport, High Endurance and Crisp (whatever that smells like).

But if you actually read the ingredients on these things – not that they put many on – for the most part they all are the same. First ingredient is water, next was sodium something or other (salt-based cleaners) sulphates (the stuff that makes it stick to your body and grab on to dirt when mixed with water) and right down the list to fragrance and color last.

Granted, the fragrance and color are different from men to women – but everything else is identical.

In the female lines of products, there were the occasional “other” additives – but most of these are just weasel words which sound “girly” but mean little. Things like “added moisturizers” if they are added, how come they don’t say exactly what was added? Or when they are mentioned, if you do your homework, you’ll learn that it really hasn’t been proven effective – something like “rose extract” is supposed to “cure” wrinkles, but there hasn’t been any scientific research on this.
Deodorant is exactly the same from men to women, only difference is size and scent – men’s are generally wider and longer than women. Women’s scents were things like “baby fresh” and “Lilac” while the male versions were “sport,” “rush” and so on.

I’ve always wondered what “sport” is really supposed to smell like? And how come one product’s “sport” doesn’t smell like another company’s “sport?”

I think a lot of these personal care products – though necessary – are pure marketing.

So, I’ll never smell like a rose or a spring breeze, but I’ll still be just as clean as any ‘gal.’ And I pay a lot less – for more.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Size Matters -- Especially in Saving Money

I’ve been going over my various bills, trying to figure out what a lot of the things are that I have – and that I pay for.

On my landline, I’ve been paying for last call return, call forwarding and a bunch of other things I rarely, if ever use.

So, in an attempt to trim the fat, I put on my best negotiating hat, and called the phone company.

You hear a lot these days from big companies about “bundles” – the combining of services to save money. Essentially, the more stuff you buy, the more you save.

It is a great marketing ploy, which captures all of your services from going to the competition.

I’ve been looking at increasing my Internet, while decreasing other services which I don’t use.

And yes, I deal with the big old phone company. Call me old fashioned, but I like to deal with those who actually run the equipment, have the lines in the ground and own the cell towers. Sure, I can go for one of the other telecom providers, but they don’t maintain the systems, so when things go wrong, I may not get as quick a fix as if I were with the company actually running the show.

I thought I’d spend hours haggling, negotiating, even begging for a good deal. Turns out, the customer service representatives I talked with were very helpful at getting me great deals.

I managed to keep most of the features on my landline – even some I rarely if ever use – yet I knocked off $15/month from my bill, by bundling it with their top speed Internet service. And I got a great deal on my Internet too – normally it goes for $89.99 month for their top speed, I’m getting it for almost half that price! I’m actually paying about $14/month less than what I was paying the cable company for a much slower service – all thanks to bundling products and features.

Most marketing ploys are just that – ploys, gimmicks, not worth anything really to the consumer. But bundling actually works – I’m saving money, and getting a better speed Internet.

I highly recommend calling the various companies you deal with for your communications utilities, and challenge them to give you a better deal – I bet they will take you up on the challenge.

There is so much competition in the marketplace for television, mobile phones, high-speed Internet, and other wireless communications devices, the ball is really in our hands.

I remember when the industry was just becoming deregulated, and competition was being discussed. There were those who said competition would be bad – all the big players would undercut everyone else so much, they’d effectively eliminate the competition by forcing them out of business.

Not so, competition has made the marketplace better for consumers, because we get to really negotiate good deals.

For years, the telecom companies have been sending out these chain letters to customers who switch from them to one of the other companies, offering great deals if you come back.

Bundling services and features has been around for a while, but I never gave it a second thought. I just figured it was a trick to get me to spend more.

Turns out I was wrong – I am getting more for less!

Chock one up for us little guys, instead of the big corporations.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mega-Meat Mess Up in the Press

A couple of weeks ago, a large meat processing plant nearby announced a big recall of processed meat products – mostly deli-type slices.

They claimed the meat may have been contaminated with a pretty nasty bug. Over the past few weeks, four people died because of possible contamination.

We were told by the news media to carefully check our fridges for specific products, and to throw anything which we suspected of being contaminated out.

What the news media didn’t tell us was just how big a mess up this was. Not only does the meat recall affect every meat product which came out of this plant, and is sold on grocery store shelves, but it also affects a lot of big name restaurants.

When you order a pizza from a big-name chain, you figure you’re safe. Think again – pepperoni – one of the most common pizza toppings – was part of this major recall – and a big-name pizza chain was named as one of those who uses this meat.

Of course, you wouldn’t know this from the media reports – you have to actually go to the list of products recalled directly from the vendor to learn this valuable tidbit of information.

I know, mentioning a big pizza chain – or any large corporation – in a negative capacity in the media can lead to allegations, even slander or libel suits. Though the risk is low, so long as the truth be told.

And when people’s lives are at risk, I think disclosing this information isn’t dangerous – but is a necessity.

There were other restaurants mentioned on the list, with the specific meat products which were affected. Again, none of these restaurants were mentioned in any of the media reports.

In fact, the news media failed to discuss the possibility of restaurants having any of the recalled meats, they focused on the potential for people to have it at home, from shopping.

Granted, not everyone goes out, and those that do go out probably don’t eat out for every meal. But that doesn’t make it any less important a fact to mention.

Sure, people may opt to stay home instead of going out – costing restaurants business. But a few weeks of lost business are more acceptable, than increased infections and body bags.

I worked in the news media, and I know as well as anyone else who worked in it that it is a business just like any other business.

But isn’t it bad business to kill off your customers? That’s what they are doing, to those who they failed to educate and inform properly, and who die because of this lack of information.

Yes, many businesses which are affected advertise in newspapers, on the radio and on television. So there is the potential to alienate some of the advertisers that pay the salaries of journalists covering this story.

But wouldn’t a headline about one of those advertisers, about someone dying because of consuming bad meat at that business, be a worse fate?

A good journalist would even follow-up with some of these businesses and do stories on how these restaurants and other food establishments are taking steps to ensure none of their customers gets sick, or dies. That’s good press for the advertisers, and just doing good journalism.

Sadly, good journalism isn’t very common any more.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Roughing It the Technological Way

One of the many benefits of having a laptop is that you can take it anywhere. That is also one of the downsides – means you can and in some cases are expected too, do work at home.

Recently, I took my laptop to the park, sat down at a picnic table, and began working under the shade of a nice big maple.

I often joke on beautiful, summer days, that there ought to be a law against working inside on days like these.

I stand by that line of thought.

It was quite pleasant working in the park. There was plenty of fresh air, a nice breeze blowing about, and I could hear birds chirping. Every so often, I’d be somewhat distracted by people doing there thing in the park. From people walking their dogs, moms taking their kids in strollers out for air, or just kids goofing around.

But overall, it was very nice being in the great outdoors, and the distractions weren’t that bad either. Probably no different than being distracted by co-workers chatting, coming by my desk asking for this that and the next thing, or even the phone ringing every so often.

I took a while to find a good spot to set up shop in the park. The first picnic table I found, although it was nice and sunny, the sunshine was so bright, I couldn’t see my laptop’s screen.

The next spot was too close to the playground, so the constant buzz of kids was just too distracting.

But eventually, I found a nice, quiet spot, in a shady spot, far enough from the playground, but still in the midst of the trees.

I felt energized working outside. Maybe it was the fresh air, or the vitamin D from the sun. Most likely, it was because of the change of location and pace.

Change is good, and although it is important to have a regular stomping ground to work in, it is nice to have a change of scenery every so often. Makes you feel less like a cog in the big picture, and more in touch with yourself and your surroundings.

Also, without the constant rush at the office, I was able to take my time and really focus on the things which really needed some careful thought. There weren’t any co-workers buzzing around like bees asking me “are you done yet?” and there weren’t any phones to constantly hound me.

Working out in the park was a real joy, and is something that I recommend to anyone who can. There was a certain sense of freedom working in the park. And besides, we all need our vitamin D.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Naming Your Responsibility

I know it is hip and trendy to re-invent yourself – everyone seems to be doing that these days. Whether it involves buying a new wardrobe, getting a new hairstyle, or even just getting your teeth whitened – many are up to these things.

But when you are a “celebrity” of sorts, say on television, the radio, movies or even in print, you have a certain responsibility to those you are talking too. Because you are in the public eye, whatever you do is held to a slightly higher standard – because when you mess up, everyone will know about it.

So how come some of the latest celebrities have aliases, or only first names? I was watching some show on one of the local stations, and the host was only identified by her first name. If you’re afraid of people holding you accountable for your actions, you shouldn’t be on television in the first place.

Granted, she could be concerned about being stalked, but hey, even some of the big name celebrities that do use their full names get stalked.

It may sound cool to have some funky pseudonym like “DJ Durk” or “Mr. X” but I wouldn’t trust you or your opinions. Which may be why you got into the public sphere in the first place – to share and maybe sway people in their viewpoints.

The Internet is slightly different – anyone can say or be anyone they want online. So people posting blogs, like this often do assume aliases or handles, because they may have a completely different life online, and others may only know them by their online name.

Though that does raise the question about how legitimate people are online – or when they do choose to go by a handle, an initial, or even not their real name.

Those in the major media – television, radio, movies, the printed papers and magazines – should always use both a first and a last name at the very least. Unlike the Internet, not just anyone can gain access to this method of mass communications.

As such, it’s important that these people – the so-called “celebrities” of the world – show some accountability for their actions and have a way to identify them, other than through some cool sounding alias.

While online, I’d say handles are all the rage and okay. Though I still wonder about Mr. X’s intentions. . .

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Beg Me for Work? ME?

I go to professional development functions all the time – it keeps me sharp and knowledgeable about the latest trends in my field.

Maybe I look the part of the successful, always hiring person, because I always run into people – or more likely they run into me – who want jobs.

It always starts off painless, with some small talk about the function. Then they ask me what I do, and I in turn do the same. Though usually, it ends with them asking me if I’m hiring, or know anyone who is hiring.

I know it is important to network in today’s world of work. Most people get jobs from those they know – which is often where I come in. As most people get hired for who they know, rather than what they know, I’m often called in to clean up the mess.

But that doesn’t mean I’m an instant resource for the unemployed. I may occasionally have job leads, or I may occasionally even be able to hire someone on to fill a void. Note – occasionally – not often, not always, just occasionally.

But I am always hit up for jobs by those looking for something better, or those who don’t have anything at all.

Maybe it is because I dress for success – but isn’t that what we were all told to do to be successful? Maybe I should stop polishing my shoes, washing my clothes, and combing my hair, so that I look the part of an unemployed person.

But then, although I may keep those looking for work away, I’d probably also lose a lot of contracts in the process. Then I’d be the one nagging working professionals at professional development functions for a job!

Well, probably not – I’ve been nagged enough to know that nagging doesn’t pay. I enjoy talking with people in the field, and learning what they do and how they resolve situations. I may have encountered similar situations, or may encounter those situations in the future. But I don’t go to these things looking for work.

Work is something you have to find on your own. It is something that we all must do, and we all must find our own way. It isn’t easy, especially with overcrowding in our cities, the economy faltering, and the workforce changing to a more service-based sector.

But it is one of those things which we all must do – we all need to work to survive. That is until I win the lottery. Maybe my numbers are up – I’d better go and check . . .

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Need for Creature Comforts at Work

We all have our own personal comfort zones, and things which help us adjust and adopt to things which may occasionally fall outside those zones.

In an office environment, companies and organizations have different ways of helping us make those adjustments.

The most common is to provide free coffee and tea. Most offices these days have lunchrooms, full of various coffees, teas, and even hot chocolate. The fridge has free milk and cream, and sugar and those artificial sweeteners are also provided. All you need usually, is to bring your own mug.

Some of the high tech companies have been known to provide slightly more caffeinated beverages than others, in an attempt to increase productivity. Microsoft and Google provide free soft drinks, including Coke.

I’ve been to offices where they have televisions in the lunchroom, so employees can keep up with the current state of the world during their lunch hour, play foozeball on a free foozeball table, or pray in the prayer room.

By providing these creature comforts, companies and organizations get the best out of their people, because they make those doing the work feel more comfortable being at work.

Then there are places like a current client, where the only thing they seem to provide plenty of is work. There isn’t any free coffee, tea, and forget about television in the lunchroom. The lunchroom has been designed to be cold and not very welcoming to encourage people to eat at their desks – I go out for lunch whenever I’m on-site.

It does cost money to provide those pleasant creature comforts – but the return on investment outweighs the cost many times over.

Studies show that people are more productive when they are not only comfortable at work, but enjoy being there. Warm, inviting offices, with even the smallest token (such as free coffee) increase productivity, because those doing the work don’t want to leave as fast as they got there.

People that are treated like robots, and expected to show up, do the job and nothing else, aren’t very happy, friendly, or productive at the office. They usually arrive early, so that they can escape just as early.

And that is very evident here – most people arrive well before 8A.M and are long-gone well before 4P.M.

I bring my own tea to the office, luckily they do have hot water and microwaves. But aside from that, you are always left on your own – to fight for your own survival.

That is what it feels like here – like it is a constant battle to survive. Probably because people here aren’t comfortable, and so they aren’t happy or friendly to their co-workers.

I’m an anomaly – I always say good morning/good afternoon as I pass people in the halls. They usually look up in bewildered uncertainty of my intentions. Though I have no intentions, I’m just being friendly – which isn’t the norm in places where they expect you to do nothing but work.

I sometimes even feel taking the much needed bathroom break here is in violation of some protocol or rule. Which is outrageous, because that’s not just a creature comfort, but a biological necessity.

So next time you are taken on a tour of a potential employers workplace – take note of what they do or don’t do for your needs. It can make a big difference in not just how you feel, but how others there treat you.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Adobe’s Application Templates are Worth a Look

I’m in the process of creating a website. I’ve done this many a time, for many a client, and I usually do what many professionals do – I do everything from scratch.

This time around, I was browsing some of the pre-configured templates which come with Adobe’s Dreamweaver CS3. I remember briefly exploring these templates when Dreamweaver was a Macromedia product years ago. They were okay, but nothing special.

Adobe has really done a lot of work in putting together some pretty good basic designs, and not just using plain vanilla HTML either. There are templates in JSP, XML, and other more advanced varieties.

I was so impressed with the templates, I took one and began to use it for one of my current projects. I’ve made a lot of modifications, but the underlying themes and styles remain true to the original template design.

That says a lot, when a professional can go in and use a pre-packaged template. At professional functions, if anyone ever mentioned they had used – or even just “thought about” using one of the templates which came with their software they were using, they’d be laughed out of the room.

Real professionals do it from scratch – that’s why we’re paid the big bucks.

Not so anymore, at least for those using Adobe’s products. Adobe has always been a leader in creating exceptional professional-level software tools. I am proud to be an Adobe shop – I use the complete set of Adobe CS3 (Creative Suite 3). I use PhotoShop to edit photos, Premier to edit videos, SoundBooth to edit audio, Acrobat to make PDFs, even InDesign to layout print materials.

The good thing about Adobe CS3, is all the products were designed to work together. They don’t always offer completely seamless integration, but for the most part they work very well together. Far better than Microsloth’s offerings, and way better than most other products on the market today.

I haven’t explored the templates in the other Adobe products, and I’m not even sure if there are templates in all of them. But when my brain is fried, trying to figure out a design for a project which just isn’t coming together, I’ll definitely take a look at any templates which came with the product.

From now on I won’t be afraid to admit to using a pre-packaged template, at least from Adobe. These templates don’t offer all the bells and whistles, but those can be added. The main thing is they provide a sound starting ground to build up from.

After working on the same project for eight or more hours a day, for weeks, one’s mind can use some stimulation every so often to get the creative juices flowing again.

And pre-package templates can do just that, so long as they look good enough to be at a professional level. Adobe’s pre-packaged Dreamweaver CS3 templates are at that level. I’ll have to take some time to explore the other Adobe CS3 products and see what goodies are there for the taking.

Monday, August 11, 2008

This Ain't No Disney Movie

This past weekend, I saw the movie Hellboy II. It was a pretty good movie – not as great as the original, but then, many sequels aren’t as good as the initial offering.

Hellboy isn’t for kids, the movie is rated 14A – meaning if you are under 14-years of age, you need an adult to get in.

It is a violent movie, with lots of blood and fight scenes, it isn’t a horror, but it isn’t for kids.

Yet, there were quite a few young kids in the crowd – probably under 10-years-old. They were there with their parents, but they shouldn’t have been.

One was sitting in front of me, and kept standing up to look around the movie theatre, he seemed more interested in the people around him than what was happening on the screen in front of him. Another kid was in our row, and actually came up to my brother to say “hi.”

Then there was a noisy little boy a couple of rows down from us. He kept yelling at the top of his lungs, as if he was talking to the characters on the big screen. Eventually, his mom took him out of the theatre, but he obviously was way too young to even be there in the first place.

What is the matter with parents today?

Granted, there isn’t a manual on good parenting, but even common sense should be able to offer some simple guidance. When I was a kid, my parents used common sense, and I think I turned out alright.

I went to the movies when I was a kid, but my parents never took me to movies which weren’t appropriate for my age.

If this were a Disney movie, then I’d be a little more understanding of seeing little kids running around the theatre. Disney movies are specifically made for kids – and kids will be kids.

So how come some parents can’t be parents?

I think some of these folks came to the movie with their young children because they wanted to see the movie, and couldn’t find someone else to watch their kids. Or maybe they thought – wrongly – that this movie would be something their young kids would enjoy. Or maybe they just decided to watch the movie with their kids on a whim?

Whatever the reason they brought their young children to the movie, it was wrong. It disturbed others in the theatre, and the movie itself really isn’t a kids movie. We’re talking about a movie with the word “hell” in the title – you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that.

Even for those who aren’t bright enough to figure out that a movie with “hell” in the title isn’t really for kids, it was clearly rated 14A – all the posters and even the ticket booth had the ratings clearly visible.

Perhaps it isn’t the kids that need to grow up here. It is the parents.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Kill the IOC

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past year, you probably know the Olympic games are currently being held in China.

China is known for lots of things – most of them not exactly gold medal performers.

Made in China products are usually cheap, dangerous and often produced by people so poor, they can’t feed their themselves, let alone their families.

The Chinese government has a long list of human rights violations, from as far back as the 1950’s – probably even longer, but they are so good at covering up their tracks, we can only trace these to that era.

And in keeping with the Olympic spirit, China has put thousands of poor workers out of work, as they have closed factories all over the city, in a vane attempt to clean the air. It’s been so smoggy over their, some athletes have pulled themselves out of their events, for fear of injury!

There are so many places, good, decent and clean places on this planet, why on earth did the International Olympic Committee (IOC) choose one of the worst?

The IOC has long been accused of playing politics with sport. There was that whole incident at the last games, where several members of the IOC stepped down in disgrace, after being caught taking bribes.

Looks like the IOC is still in the habit of taking some kick back or another, because the only thing this year’s games really have managed to do, is stir up controversy.

Which is really too bad, because the original point of having an international sporting event of the best of the best was just that – for the sport of it all, as a competition. The Olympics should be about athletic victories, and the stories of desire, drive and determination of hard working people, doing what they love to be the best.

Instead, the Olympics is always about anything, but the sport. This year, if there isn’t some story about some country pulling their athletes out of the games, or some protest at the games or abroad, it’s about some stupid American athlete protesting fur.

That’s right – fur. While millions of people starve in China, and millions more are beaten to death by the government, one of the American athletes held a press conference, where she showed off a poster of her in the nude, declaring fur evil.

If anything should be declared evil, it is the IOC.

Athletes from around the world dream of one day, competing with others from around the world in their sport. They all want the gold, but even just getting to the Olympics is a sign of prestige and glory.

But the IOC has tainted those dreams, by selling out. Instead of creating an event which really is all about athletes achieving their dreams, the members of the IOC have created an event to simply pad their already hefty wallets.

Sure, it costs millions of dollars for any country to host the Olympic games. And there are some benefits, jobs are created, tourism brings in money, and you get to be on the international stage.

But do you really want to share that stage, with people that are so dishonest and deceptive, they don’t care about the athletic dreams they are crushing?

Placing the Olympics in China was a bad idea. But having the IOC still calling the shots as to where to place the games is an even worse idea.

It is time the IOC be disbanded, and the Olympics be put into the hands of people that actually care about the games, instead of their own butts.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Relaxing Falling Water

One of my current client’s is so very stressful, I practically run out of the office every chance I get, like I am escaping something terrible.

In many ways I am – the atmosphere is pretty terrible. A divide and conquer approach, tossed into a highly individualistic and just as highly unproductive workplace, makes for something anyone in their right mind would want to escape.

Just like a kid in school running out to play during recess, I escape to the great outdoors. There is this very peaceful, quiet and relaxing water fountain not far from the client’s offices.

During lunch, I run out to that fountain, find a cold metallic chair, and sit and stair at the water fountain. Moving water is very soothing – from the sound, to the soft mist, to the fact watching it takes my mind away from the horrors of this horrific workplace.

I love this little fountain, and I’m surprised I haven’t run into others from the same office, escaping here too. Though maybe they are used to or enjoy the fatalistic approach – sickos all.

Anyone who enjoys relishing in making another person’s life hell is messed up in the head. Though I think a large part of the problem lies with management’s inability to manage . . . but hey, we’re talking about the peaceful water, NOT work!

Seagulls and pigeons fly in and out of the water. The pigeons are so accustomed to people feeding them, that they have absolutely no fear of people. They come right up to you and will actually eat out of your hand if you stay very steady.

Some of the pigeons are just like dogs, begging at their owner’s feet during dinner. They actually will come up and stare right at you, pleading with you to toss them some crumbs – and these are birds we are talking about!

There are ice cream trucks on the street, and hot dog vendors too, and they probably make a killing during lunch, as the water fountain area is always packed with others escaping from the troubles that plague them during work.

I love looking up at the sky, and just watching the bright white clouds dance across the brilliant blue sky. With the mist from the water, and the sound of the water fountain, it is pure relaxation.

Then I have to get back to reality, and back to hell. But at least this contract will be ending in a few short weeks, so I don’t feel the urge to escape.

I have never had any urges to run, to escape elsewhere, but this office is just so out there, so isolationistic, and so un-motivating that end of the day, I am completely wiped. I’m thankful for the few moments I can steal away at the water fountain – at least that gives me a chance to re-energize and recharge my already frustrated juices.

I’m just glad it isn’t winter, else the water would be ice, and I’d have no where to relax. Then, I’d probably be driven mad.

I wonder if the first person to go “postal” did so in winter?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Presume Nothing But Trouble

Recently, the Ontario government announced plans to increase organ donation in Ontario. Currently, you have to give your consent in writing prior to them taking your organs upon your death.

Problem is, most people don’t sign their organ donor cards. There are many potential reasons, the most likely is people just don’t want to be organ donors – and I can’t blame them.

Though what the current provincial government in Ontario is proposing is a far cry from a voluntary organ donation system which we have now – they are proposing presumed consent.

What that means is essentially everyone is automatically assumed to be an organ donor in Ontario, unless you opt out of it by signing the opt out card. That is, it unless you sign the little piece of paper which you normally ignore anyways, it is presumed that you are willing to be an organ donor.

This reminds me when many companies were using automatic renewals to keep people on their contracts – Rogers Cable was one of the biggies back in the day. You’d sign up for, say a three-year deal, and in the fine print, it said if you didn’t cancel within a certain number of days prior to your contract ending, it automatically renewed for another three-years.

Rogers doesn’t do this anymore, as most companies don’t – they learned by public outcry that presumed consent wasn’t always right.

The same hold true for organ donation – or anything else. Just because someone doesn’t remember to sign something, is no excuse to interpret that as they knowingly accept and acknowledge some hidden outcome.

Besides, can you imagine the ethical, legal and political battles which presumed consent for organ donation can cause?

What happens when little Johnny, a shell of his former self thanks to a horrific car crash, is kept on life support against his parent’s wishes, so that his organs can be harvested for another kid, who hasn’t made it into the hospital yet?

How would you feel if your son or daughter were clinically brain dead, and the doctors told you there is nothing more that can be done, but we’re keeping him or her on life support until we can remove his heart for someone else? Wouldn’t you just want to get it over with – could you imagine watching your dead kid being kept alive, just to benefit some stranger?

Granted, organ donation is a good thing to do – it does save lives. But keeping someone alive just for that purpose prolongs the pain and suffering of the next of kin – and that is wrong.

There are many other issues too – what about those who just forgot to sign their card. I know, it’s a weak excuse, but it’ll happen. By forgetting to sign your card under a presumed consent system, it is assumed that you are okay donating your kidneys, liver, heart or whatever else is needed at the time of your death.

Organ donation is a very personal thing – probably the most personal thing there is, as it deals with the ultimate of private property – our own bodies. It only makes sense then, that organ donation should be an informed, educated consent, not a presumed consent.

There is quite a bit of information already out there on organ donation, and whenever you renew your driver’s license, you are given the organ donor card to sign, or not to sign – the choice is up to you. As it should be.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

When Reaching Out Isn't Easy

I get calls from prospective new clients all the time, and being pretty busy, usually they get my voice-mail.

Most are intelligent enough to leave their full name, company, and a number where I can call them back. That is most . . .

Just the other day, I received a voice-mail from a potential client, almost immediately I knew I may have trouble getting back in touch with this person. The voice-mail sounded like it was left by a person on a speaker phone, it was ‘tinny’ and the person on the other end sounded somewhat distant.

Whenever someone leaves you a message while they are on speaker phone, it says “hey, you’re not important enough for me to stop what I am doing and leave a proper message.” Also, speaker phones are hardly private, so unless she expected to get me immediately on the phone, and had others with her for a conference call, it is rude to be using her speaker phone.

Actually, it is rude to call someone you have never talked to before, and put them on the spot by placing them into an instant conference call with others you have never met before.

This potential client’s voice-mail included her first name, company name, a phone number and an extension to reach her. Sounds like all the right ingredients are in place for me to call back without any problems.


When I called back, I immediately got the company’s automatic answering system, which was tres high-tech, saying if I knew the person’s first and last name, I could say it into the phone, and be connected to that person. Problem is, I only had a first name and an extension.

So my only option was to enter the extension and hope for the best. The best – the best – not even close. The phone rang a few times, and then the automatic attendant kicked in saying: “the person at XXXX extension doesn’t subscribe to this voice messaging system, transferring your call to the operator.”

So, I was unable to leave a message, but at least I wasn’t left hanging – I was sent to the company’s operator.

The company’s operator said in order for her to transfer my call, I’d need a first and a last name, or an extension. So I gave her the first name and extension.

I was transferred again, to the exact same message I got before: “the person at XXXX extension doesn’t subscribe to this voice messaging system, transferring your call to the operator.”

As the phone dialed and transferred back to the operator, I hung up. What else could I do?

I had a first name and an extension that took me nowhere. I’m surprised the phone number I was given actually was the right number.

Makes me shake my head in wonder – in such an age where voice-mail is so common, how can there still be people out there that just don’t know how to leave a proper message?

I deleted this person’s voice-message from my voice-mail, as it didn’t get me anywhere. Hopefully, if this person is serious enough about getting in touch with me, she will call back. And, if this person has the misfortune of having to leave a voice-mail, maybe she’ll leave one with contact information I can actually use.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Warm Swirling Wet Goo

No – I’m not going to talk about THAT goo – get your head outta the gutter!

As I write this, I’m just back from the pool – all energized, eyes slightly hazy from the excessive chlorine, joints somewhat fatigued from a good workout, hair moist from the wet goo I swam in.

I’m using the word “goo” here in a positive way – by no means is the pool stanky. I live in a pretty high-end high-rise, and they do an exceptional job of maintaining all the public spaces, including the pool.

How can goo be good?

We’re all created in cess pools of goo. We really are when you think about it – amino acids and peptides mesh together in a genetic pool of protoplasm, floating from cell structure to cell structure, mixing, blending, oozing into chromosome bodies, to ultimately create the multi-celled maze of natural living breathing creatures we become at birth.

Swimming in the pool brought back memories from my initial goo stage. Well, not really – I had no memories back then! But it probably felt somewhat similar – the water was warm and soothing, floating over my body. The wind creating waves and currents, carrying bits and pieces of stuff.

Granted the stuff were bugs and leaves, but hey, we’re working on a science analogy here . . .
Where am I going with all this rhetoric about goo oozing in my pool?

We don’t talk science enough, yet we’re surrounded by science and technology. The information is out there – newspapers, television shows, radio broadcasts, the Internet – it is far easier to learn about science these days then ever before.

Problem is, although we have grown to depend on science and technology to survive, we really don’t care enough about it as a society, to take a real interest.

Where would you be without your phone? Thanks to good science, we are no longer out of touch with those that matter – or in many cases (like telemarketers) those that we’d rather avoid.

Without a computer, you wouldn’t be able to read this blog, check your email, or even chat with your buddies.

We see science all around us, but we don’t really take any interest other than what we can use. Which is sad, because if we were all a little more inquisitive, chances are we’d be better period.

If we tried to understand science, we’d probably pick up on the thought process involved in unravelling some of the big mysteries facing our time.

Such as solving global warming, stem cell use, even cloning human beings – and trust me, it’s more complicated than just creating another you.

Science isn’t something to be scared of – unless you blow something up. But hey, that’s just a practice one – right?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

So This is How Our Government Works?

One of my current clients is a government ministry – one of the large ones at that. I’m working as part of a team, on a special project which is arms-length from the actual ministry, but still answers to that ministry – so I am told.

Everyone except the most senior of managers is a contractor. Most of those on their very first contract – some working in their very first “real” job – either they were in more administrative low-end/low-paying roles previously, or they are recent graduates.

Some are on contract for the very first time, having been on staff for many years before – these people are bitter and angry with the system, and they make it known. I’ve chatted with a few who complain about the lack of benefits, the lack of job security, and the lack of real leadership.

Well, the first two are common in contracting – there never are benefits, and job security doesn’t even exist anymore for those on staff. Look at BCE – the parent company of Bell Canada, the nation’s largest telecommunications company – they just announced last week they are trimming their workforce by three-percent – or 2,500 jobs. General Motors, Ford, even Chrysler have all announced staffing cutbacks. Air Canada, the nations only national airline, is cutting jobs too.

Lack of leadership – now there is a legitimate beef – especially for a publicly funded government project.

One of the benefits of being a veteran contractor, is that I have the experience of experiences. I work for big multi-global mega-corporations with hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide, to simple start-ups and mom and pop shops with barely enough employees to count on one hand. I’ve worked in offices where suits and ties every day are the norm, to ones where blue jeans and t-shirts are considered high-end fashion.

I experience many corporate cultures, and many leadership styles. That’s what makes me a good consultant. I learn from those who are good leaders, and I learn from those who – such as this government client – aren’t very good leaders.

I take the lessons from the good, and remember them, so that I can apply these lessons to other clients. And I learn what not to do, or even better, how to resolve issues created by poor management.

While experiencing these lessons from those who excel in their leadership roles is energizing, exciting, and empowering, it is far more painful to learn through the experiences of poor leaders.

Bad leaders never think they are bad – it’s not their fault things never get done on time or on budget – even though they have the final say on those things, and make the plans which lead up to those things – nope, not their fault at all. They always blame someone, or something else.

A true sign of a bad manager or leader is someone that comes to the table with blame, guilt, anger, frustration and other negative feelings about their team, their projects, or how others perceive of them, their team, or their projects.

The sign of a great manager or leader is someone that comes to the table with solutions to current and potential problems, is full of warmth, hope, energy, and drive. These people have nothing negative to say – even when times are tough and things look very bad. True leaders always have a way of turning major stumbling blocks into slight bumps – they are problem solvers, not creators. They speak highly of themselves, their teams and their projects – they know they have the right people to do the job – no matter what.

You’d expect government agencies and their projects to be on the ball when it came to sound leadership theory – hell, the universities and colleges are partly funded by the government, so they should be living the latest MBA theories.

But they aren’t – and they are costing us all.

Poor leadership increases the overall costs of anything those poor leaders touch – simply because they take so long to get things right, if they even ever do get those things right.

Turn-over of contractors and staff alike is higher under a poor leader, which is an added cost. It costs the average company about $5,000 to recruit and hire one new person – since I started this project just over a month ago, I’ve seen three people leave!

Tax payer dollars shouldn’t be funding poorly managed projects – but there probably are so many we never hear of, no one ever really knows about these things.

This project, as so many before it, will probably go well over budget, and be swept under the political rug when the next election comes, so as to not be noticed by the media.

I’ve only been with this client for just over a month, and I’ve already spent two-weeks worth of time re-doing the exact same thing I’ve already done, several times, just because none of the higher-ups can figure out which way is best. Hey, I charge by the hour – keep it coming! These foul-ups have cost this client thousands of dollars in under two-weeks, just to have me re-do something. That money is your money – tax payer money – but it now pads my growing bank account, because I charge way more than some junior contractor, and far more than a staffer to do my job.

That’s the true joy of consulting and the pain at the same time. I make more with clients that really haven’t a clue, because they don’t know how to manage themselves, and it creates more work for someone like me who is highly organized.

Though the pain and agony of working with bozos instead of prize winners probably will shorten my life – stress kills.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Sticky, Wet and Very Messy

I went to a local RibFest with my brother the other day – we went to the same one last year.

I love ribs – they are a real man’s man type of food. Sexism aside, ribs epitomize the male in today’s society.

Think about it, the meat is still on the bone, providing that primal sense of hunter-gatherer, dating back to when men went out to hunt for they families survival. The brownish-red rib sauce, dripping off the meat is reminiscent of the blood of the animal, another primal metaphor. You even have to eat them with your two hands, although a knife and fork can be used, that is just wrong.

Ribs were meant to be eaten with our bare hands, just as our gave-dwelling ancestors feasted on their freshly hunted food stuffs.

The whole process of cooking ribs, over an open-flame is yet another link to the past – they didn’t have ovens or stoves back in the era of early humans.

Maybe that’s why I love ribs – it brings out the man in me. Or maybe it’s just because ribs are a lot of fun to eat.

Sometimes, the messy things in life, are the most enjoyable – and ribs certainly are messy. Oozing with sauce, which always seems to find its way from the ribs, to other parts of my face, my hands and sometimes my clothes.

I got very messy at RibFest, not just with sauce – but also with mud and ice cream. It rained for the first part of our visit – I spent over 30-minutes in a bus shelter with my brother, as we waited out the rain, to see if the skies would clear.

We got lucky, the sun came out, and although we got drizzled on a few more times, we managed to tough it out. Though the grounds were very muddy – as the whole event is held in a park, so I got covered in mud and gunk as I traversed from one “ribber” to another.

But that’s the way our ancestors did it too – through the muddy forests, and dense brush of Mother Nature’s wildest of environments. They didn’t have the luxury of a bus shelter to take cover in.

It is always best to go to RibFest with someone. See, they have all these restaurants and bars, competing for Best Ribs of the Fest. Sure, you could go to one place, and try their ribs, but ribs are pretty heavy – chances are you’d be too full to try other places.

So, what we did – same as last year – was to get half racks from various places, and split them. That way, we each get a good sampling from all the different places – or as many as we could try before becoming too full.

The best way to hunt for your food is in a group too – you need backup support to help lure the prey, and then corner it, so that you get a clear shot. And it doesn’t hurt to have someone to talk to while you’re out in the wilds of nature.

It was nice to catch up with my brother, as we feasted on some very manly food, in the natural surroundings of a big urban park. Why we end up going on country music day is beyond me? I’m pretty sure they didn’t have country music in the cave man period – if they had, we probably wouldn’t have evolved much since those early days!

As for the ice cream, well – we all have the inner kid in us. You know that nutty, funny, zany character pushing to get out . . .

But that’s another story for another day.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The X-Files Meets Ozzy Osborn

David Duchovney is a pretty good actor – he made it big on the cult-hit The X-Files TV show back in the 1990’s.

He’s done some psudo-soft-porn in The Red Shoe Diaries, and most recently had an amazing streak as a writer with permanent writer’s block in Californication.

I haven’t heard much about the X-Files since the last movie back several years ago. The movie wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the television show which originally spawned it.

Mulder and Scully are back, in the latest X-Files movie, which opened recently in theatres.

I was thinking about this while on my way to work the other day – it is hard to imagine the characters as they were, since so much as gone on since then.

I’ve seen some episodes of The Red Shoe Diaries, and all of the first season of Californication – I’m really looking forward to the coming season, provided Showtime Networks brings it back.

For most actors I never really think about them as one particular character versus another. But I’m thinking how hard it will be to see Duchovney playing Fox Mulder, a dry, FBI agent, since I’ve seen him play a colourful, witty, and wild rocker-writer-type in Californication.

Think about it, when you go to see a Johnny Depp movie, you don’t think about whether his character will be the same as that other movie he did – unless it is the same character of course. When I watch Pirates of the Caribbean, I know Johnny Depp will entertain as the nutty Capt. Jack Sparrow, just as I know when I see Edward Scissor Hands, Johnny Depp doesn’t fail to impress with his Edward character. Johnny Depp is different in all his movies – he really can become other people.

David Duchovney doesn’t seem to offer the same range – he’s the same in all his roles, just sometimes better mannered, and armed.

I suppose all actors have their strengths and weaknesses – they are human beings, just as you and me. But isn’t the whole point of being a great actor, to play many different roles, and become many different characters?

Isn’t the sign of a great actor, one who can appear completely different from one role to another?

But then again, I suppose not all actors are great, just good at what they do.