Friday, November 28, 2008

Stampede

The stampede has begun already and the marauders are out in force. Today was the first fatality of the door-busting sales on Black Friday in the US. Such flagrant and vulgar mobs have already brutalized each other over the years, but this year, for once, someone saying hello to grateful customers perished after being trampled.

I read a few comments from people at the scene who discussed the credit crunch and how difficult things were for them this year. I read about people using debit instead of credit, about long lineups late at night. And naturally, I recalled the US election.

Often invoked in the last few months, is the idea of Socialism. That hated, evil philosophy that equalizes all humans as holders of rights and responsibilities to themselves and each other. I see the point; the extreme left is Totalitarianism, versus the current extreme right, Authoritarianism. Those who can hearken back to the days of terrifying tales of Russians waiting in line for milk from as early as 3 am, in the shadow of ugly, grey boxes of cement.

These difficult, libidinal times make us seasick as our collective value swings up and down with every second. An attack here, a mortgage subsidy there, nothing is secret: everything is permissible. In a continent of people convinced their history is built on rugged individualism, that the very idea of cooperation is fetishized and unions are by definition corrupt, this makes sense. Without our things who are we? What would happen if the state owned it all?

A single mother on employment insurance stood outside at 4 am to get her son an iPod, the only thing he said he really wanted. She used her debit/credit card (true debit cards are only in Canada, where Visa and the Master can't get their mits on every bank transaction) and was thinking of the short term future. The slate-coloured box had a lone line in front of it that morning, and as the doors finally opened, like a group of starved citizens in front of a produce store, they burst inside. Doors were wrested from their hinges and three people were injured, including a pregnant woman. A welcome hand was crushed under the boot of desperation. Out of conjured need and false famine.

Christmas is coming, and with it, the bills. Refusing to carry a balance is a start, and a good one. Now if only someone had thought to pick up someone caught under a rush of pushing feet. If we could take a careful step forward and think to carry each other, we might just avoid the inevitable chill in our fingers and toes as we stand hungrily outside our grey buildings. And wait.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The best birthday present I could ever get:

Oh Sarah, who are the good guys?




wow! and why is it better to bail out private companies? oh, what does it hafta be all about?



jeepers! I just love it when strong, intelligent women set an example for ladies like me everywhere. good on ya Katie.

*CBS got pretty ad crazy, so these videos are now youtube links.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

3 decades of sushi

A September birthday insists on parties inside as nights are already too chilly for comfortable terrace drinking. Frosh tends to interrupt celebrations, coffees are becoming more complicatedly warm instead of frozen, and four times out of five, there's an election.

I always thought being treated like a credulous idiot on my birthday would cease as my age advanced. I am no longer asked to believe a clown has pushed a pin through a balloon without breaking it or to give sincere sounding thanks to an aunt that thought socks might be a good idea. Why then the constant barrage of insistence from all 4 candidates and their strategists and the media that I take at face value anything that might be said or done in the hopes of getting a vote?

As for the maneuvering from everyone, it's sadly this time like watching Machiavelli's retarded cousin trying to be canny and, oh dear, sly. The poop is out of the puffin this time, and frankly I've come to expect being called stupid by the Harper conservatives. I say Harper because there are other cons out there from the rational world who would never dream of including pixies and count-dracula ghosts in a website opposing a liberal platform. These guys have been treating Canadians like they're idiots who want nothing more than cheap jokes and funny pictures to get through a political debate, and the liberals are worsening the situation by agreeing.

How often has Dion had to dumb down the idea of a carbon tax? If he can't communicate, surely the liberal party of Canada can afford to hire someone who can. The NDP enjoy every second they get to appear tapped in and turned on and intellectually happening, never once imagining that their policies do need further explanation beyond the boardroom table/kitchen table dumb-down I've been fed.

I'd expound on the Bloc but I'm honestly just too tired. I'm a federalist living in a riding where the Silver Fox has never lost an election. He and Elizabeth can toast their nearly-theres on debate night.

In less than two hours I'll be thirty. I had hoped that by now I'd have lived through enough disappointment, frustration and machinations from these petty, power hungry wolverines that the system would be more intelligent, not less. I've heard nothing about Copyright, nothing about Women and nothing about Afghanistan that hasn't been said before this campaign.

I'm not an idiot gentlemen. And neither are many of us out here. Don't treat me like a credible, bleary-eyed yahoo and don't at all assume that when I demand an explanation you can get away with less than 100 words outlining your idea and how you'll implement it.

Make me want 60 more years of leadership. Right now I'm looking at midnight with deep dread and sad dismay.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Jazz Slowly Takes Over Canada

Submission for new Hockey Night in Canada theme: Slap Shot in the Dark









Wednesday, August 06, 2008

well said! and then sadly thrown away

Coney Island sideshow with Guantanamo Theme:

"What’s more obscene,” he asks, “the official position that waterboarding is not torture, or our official position that it’s a thrill ride?"


Northwest Passage opens this week:

Ice remains from west of Cornwallis Island in Nunavut to east of Banks Island in the Northwest Territories, he said. "There is only a fairly small plug in there right now and it's showing signs it's melting away."

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Ice-Cream Man Cometh

He always knew when he was needed. He was always the one with a boat in the flood. He had stockpiles of baking soda ready for any fire lit under their noses.

Rosie was bleaching the walls of the apartment when he came this time. She knew him by then and smiled gratefully,

"Something blue with nuts please. I want down."
He smiled as he prepared the treat and topped it with whipped cream, unasked. She looked across his window at him, waiting.

"On the house this time cher," her lips curved upward at his little joke; that is exactly where his truck was parked. "You look like you've had a day." She nodded and took the treat. He watched her throat as she licked and slurped it down, crunching the nuts, sucking at the whipped cream.

"Come check the place when I'm done. It'll be as good as new." He eyed the punctured rooftop below him and sampled the dry rot smell drifting up from the open stairwell. Good as new would take more than bleach and determination. "Until next time." he said and drove off.

Rosie was working her spray bottle like a speed-champion air-brush artist. Some of the markings were coming off. Others were simply changing colour as the paint wore away. Adam hadn't come out of his room yet. The better for Rosie since now she could get every inch of wax off of the walls. She hadn't yet figured out what she was going to do about the light fixtures and the carpet, but she would. First things first. She'd be able to think once the walls were clean. The wax had easily scraped off of the fridge and microwave.

Adam could hear the spray bottle and music playing while Rosie cheerfully scrubbed away the evidence of his binge. He'd thought for sure he had gone too far this time, but as usual, she was making the place home again, eyes narrowed, her fingers raw.

The night before he had been deranged. He'd promised himself no more from the candy man in the truck who showed up everywhere. Their dad had been away again the day before and Adam had been...

He stirred for a long while at the knock on the window. The familiar, uncomfortably thin covers flapped over his dense body as he turned. He had hidden in here the night before, (the eyes staring back at him when he came home had startled him). Stock still in the doorway on shaking feet, he had instantly decided that black wax eyes all over the walls and doorways were too much for him to handle right now. The man had come again that night. He'd seen him drive up outside the bar when it closed and he, with the other straggler, went out once more. He felt the bells before he heard them. A tinkley ice-cream truck quietly easing down snowy Sussex drive.

"You were remembering her". Gordon wondered how he could have known. "You saw her again, here."

"One of her friends was there that tonight. She was like, uncomfortable. And you know. It was weird." Gordon's cheek pulled the side of his mouth up into it as he cast his eyes down. The truck driver smiled down at him.
"Just a minute." he said. "I'm coming"

Gordon met him at the back of the truck. They sat on the lip of it with the doors open. The candy man ran a reassuring hand down Gordon’s back then back up to stroke his hair lightly.
"I didn't know she was like that, How could I? She did it anyway, I never cheated."
The man ran his arm across Gordon’s shoulders and held him to look him in the eye. "You have been with as many men as she has. But she knows what it's called."
Gordon’s forehead creased in panic and anger.
"She's the liar! She went out all the time, it was so bad at her house Rosie came to me!" This was always what Gordon would say when he felt cornered, defenseless. "I did the best I could with those kids. If things had been different between us..." Gordon's eyes sparkled as his lip quivered.

"I know.", said the man. He smoothed his agile hands over Gordon's forehead. "You did what you could. You need warmth from somewhere." He was nuzzling tentatively, then kissing deep into Gordon. Exalted relief filled him, though he knew it wouldn't last.
When they pulled away finally, Gordon was close to tears again. "I have to go back there. I can't go alone."
"You won't be, the man said. He got up and went into his truck. He rummaged in small fridges and cabinets.
Gordon was nervous and excited as the man approached. "Can we go in and shut the doors, its cold out here"
"Come on now, we've done this before Gordon. Turn around." He sighed and shrugged theatrically as his cheek kissed the grimy floor of the ice-cream truck. Strong gentle weathered hands circled his skin, fingertips leaving telltale traces on his back, his crack, the back of his knees. He groaned as the confection entered him. A shiny, round ball of relief and warm waves. His prostate throbbed contentment, gratitude at the base of his cock, waving.
"It's just for now you know, ahhhhhhhh" Gordon groaned. "I won't need this forever."
"No." said the kind and ever-caring man. "None of you will."

Gordon wondered at this on his way home. "Of course there were others." He thought. It would be unfair, selfish to imagine I'm the only one. He still found himself saddened even through the floating warmth.
Now the man was here at his window. He didn't know how and he didn't care. "I can't be here right now. Take me away"
"I've got many people to see today. Can you move, try to get up."
Gordon rolled over on his face and carefully made his feet meet the floor. He stood unsteadily, looking for balance found after toddlerhood.
"Take this. It'll steady you for today. I'm rushing my rounds, can't wait." The good humour man smiled evilly, long teeth and narrow nostrils flared. "Stay where you are Gordon. Watch your son and daughter today"

He left a small green cake on the windowsill. A white star iced onto it. Gordon saw the pastry across a long distance. He had just spent all his effort getting out of bed. Now he had to get back across it to the window. No matter how much he told his muscles to move, they wouldn’t go any further. He crossed the bed creakily, with eyes closed, on faith. On all fours, he planted the tiny cake on his tongue and lay back. The kids would be fine today. Hell, one of them had done it right?

Gordon groaned and cried out as he allowed himself to think, ’just this once’. Again.

Rosie had called him that night. Gordon was nowhere to be found, as usual, and Adam had gone off the deep end. She unlocked the door and went into the apartment that faced four lanes of Merivale. The first thing she saw was a black-eye on the dining room wall. “steady, steady…” a simple mantra, but effective. She turned to each wall and found an eye on every surface but the floor. On the TV screen, the walls, the washer and dryer. There were words on each door. She didn’t bother to read them; she went straight to her room at the rear end of the apartment. There was nothing out of the ordinary in her room; only the regular roaches and window grime. The garbage was packed tight in the old laundry detergent bin she was using. There were no eyes inside. She hadn’t read the wax message on her door. She phoned everyone she knew with a car. After six or seven messages and two refusals, she opened the window to her six-lane neighbours and lay down in the city dark; orange and loud with sodium.

The bathroom was right next to her room so when Adam came home she heard him brushing his teeth. “Adam” she called out.
“Yeah”
“How are you”
“I’m okay, are you okay?”
“Yeah.” He said. “I’m going to bed.”
“Okay” she said back. And that appeared to be that.

They never talked about it. And the man comes to everyone as necessary. He never went where he wasn’t wanted. She wondered briefly if he had tapped the phones, orchestrated the no’s in order to see her again. The worry didn’t stay with her, and she went back to her scrubbing.

Saccharine structures of crystal messy melting on his tongue. Two hands grip a cup as he slurps carefully, then replaces the vessel on his placemat. He licks his lips and sits back. Hoping for the candyman and his promised puffy mushrooms. It was bad last night, ugly. He crashed around the place, wild, spinning spilling his adhesive seed on every surface the soft candle end would touch. He could see them now. His recruits watched every move from the lights, the walls, the freezer door. His surveillance, however unnerving, made him feel better. They watched, and watched over him.

Adam had been dumped for the first time last night. He wasn’t ready for it. He wasn’t ready for the cavalier way that his man had turned him into something small. This man and the others around them treated Adam like a jewel, like something precious to be coddled and listened to. He was used to being plied with drinks, used to being touched and kissed seductively, used to being the person who dumped them. The shock of it pushed him to a place he wasn’t used to, brought swimming images of people who had made and broken promises over the years. Faces and small voices floated around him, and he started running.

He was looking for familiar space, somewhere he could get to where his particular specialness was known, was a given. Where it was only a matter of daily life that he was chosen, great. He crunched down pink, blue, green, silver sprinkles and chugged foam as he stumbled towards home. He crashed into the door frame and turned upside-down to get his key in the suddenly huge, long tunnel of lock. He shuddered when the compact was finally made and the tumblers turned to let him in. The door shut behind him and he opened his eyes to what should have been safety, a place to regroup. Alien walls looked back at him, ceilings bulged down in quiet attack; even the carpet moved, tiny legs and shells turning the floor to quicksand. He couldn’t go back out, not now. His back against the doorframe, there was no choice at that moment but attack.

The Good-Humour Man watched over all his children, the frightened, the lost, the desperate, the enraged. These three only needed cupcakes and the occasional topping to keep going, and how sad if they ever separated; started drinking water and cooling their nerve ends. He nursed a green liquid in a plastic batman cup.

They’ll always have me.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I wanna Diephone

I work for a major telecom doing customer service. It is a mindless, uncompelling job specifically devised for an odd cross section of potential employees: those with no wish to go any further in life, and those with no hope of doing so. The former are often immigrants who find their degrees which, like bartending, should guarantee them employment everywhere, are useless here without more school. The latter are generally engineers recently laid off from salaried positions at large corporations who have just enough dignity, and French skills, to avoid flipping burgers. Everyone is bitter. No-one wants anyone else to have a nice day.

Recently, a new product was introduced onto the market that only us and our parent company were offering. Being too young when the Cabbage Patch doll craze was happening, I had no real experience with a large-scale consumer frenzy. This was to be the first in my life, and it was magnificent.

Being one of the few people in my company without a cell-phone, I'm often able to wax philosophic about the rampant consumerism and mindless consumption in this culture. I get odd looks when I admit I don't have a cellphone and occasionally, I'll ask how an employee account is set up just so I can impart to the person next to me that I am somehow above it. "no no", I'll say, "I don't need to switch it, if I get one, I'll have to set it up from scratch." I emphasize the if, to make clear that somehow, someone is going to have to make it worth my while.

The glut didn't surprise me this time, as I was one of the people who actually did want one of these devices. They are smooth, sleek looking, and they have that next-generation feel of all useless and dangerous technology. "A flip phone?", I'm known to ask friends and friends of friends, "who would put that much faith in hinged fibre optics? Don't be surprised that when it breaks, they won't replace it." This is my final word on both the technology and the managers who own it. Don't expect much, it's only shiny until you use it. Then it's covered in skin oil and traces of earwax.

It wasn't so much the unadulterated avarice surrounding this launch that did me in, this being the default state of being for anyone in their right mind in North America, but it was the depressing residual follow-up phone calls that I had to handle from those people who were offended at the thought that on the first day the item was available in this country, they might have to pay for it. In the build-up, I dealt with many customers who needed assurances that they could get them, that we were in fact selling them. I tried to tell them everything would be okay. A friend of mine in another department cleverly advised a customer who was waiting in line overnight outside a Toronto store to dial the customer service number at 7:30 am and wait on hold until we opened at 8. The phone wouldn't be on sale until 9, but that way, he could choose whichever was faster. He thanked her for her innovative suggestion, you could almost hear his wink over the phone.

The mantra of the day was, 'it's just a phone' all throughout the office. Partially this was to shield us from the live insanity leaking through our headsets at us, but it was also response to the management's handling of the launch. We had been invited to wear white, presumably because in a call-centre environment, not only can the customer 'hear your smile on the phone' she can also tell what promotional colour you might be wearing based on your tone of voice. Managers walked about with baskets of Spartan apples, which I only accepted after confirming that they were from Quebec and hadn't been shipped in from somewhere.

In the days leading up to it, several online petitions and articles by tech reporters had gone far to describe how unfair and draconian the business practices of our, and by extension many, telecoms were. I dealt with Europeans who were shocked at how the business is run here, and a few Americans who were surprised that the system still ran the way it did. A bill had even been presented in Parliament for review and a potential vote, and when one woman from Etobicoke asked me about it, I didn't have the heart to tell her what a 'first reading' meant and that likely she'd get her answer in the next two years or so. When asked in an accusatory tone if we were 'doing anything' about all the people who took seconds from their life to sign an email petition about telecommunication business practices, I looked for a way to explain that for every call to complain, there were 10 to place an order at full-price, while retaining my tone of understanding and helpfulness.

The day itself is passed now, and actually went okay given all the hype from both sides. Comments ranted on internet columns, managers sweated, computer systems crashed. Like any usual day when millions of tons of important information are shoved willy-nilly through overtaxed towers and routers. I often imagine satellites groaning in space under the sheer weight of classroom text messages and gps searches for the nearest 99c pizza.

It's done, we're in it and it's one of our products. The buildup is over and launch day could have been worse. The traditional disappointment in finding the normalcy in your newest acquisition is setting in. And as I prepare for work tomorrow, I can say, with a smile in my voice, that at least for this telecom, it's bark is worse than it's bite.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

go canada! Let's hear it for home grown plastic recycling

This is one of those things that I think the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council, or the Canada Foundation for Innovation should be holding prizes for. Also, it should be much much closer to the front page than it is.

A grade 11 kid in Ontario has developed a composting mechanism including the appropriate bacterial culture to break down plastic bags within 3 months. Break down plastic bags in a three month period. Three months. This is something scientists have been working on for about a decade since the plastic developed and produced since it's advent in the 1950's has no degradable component and no naturally occurring microbes yet exist that will ingest it on a large scale. The cleanup efforts this process could assist are breathtaking, particularly considering the monstrous build-up of floating plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean.

The next questions to ask are: how can this be improved on and implemented, what materials are left after decomposition and what should be done with them, and how do we prevent this innovation from giving plastic companies an excuse to keep mass-producing without killing the innovation itself?

A related story was put just as far from the headlines showed the Barrie Metals Group recycling high-tech materials and using some components to make diesel fuel. This was in the small-business section of the CBC and failed to correlate this with another story on the staggering high-tech waste being unsafely recovered in landfills in Asia.

Too often stories like these and others are kept separate, portioned off to us in varying sections of reports, papers and websites. A little momentum if you please? Could we relate the current international food crisis to the need for diesel fuel that can be created from reclaimed laptops, copiers and computer screens? How about the possibility of cleaning up not just the Thames, a section of wetland or a coastline, but in fact a continental section of ocean.

More than cynical commentary or semantic condescention, what we need is actual discussion, some hows, some funding and some linkage to how one technology can affect diverse situations the world over.

And what the hell, it's an Olympic year. Let's shout a little that it's happening here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

heyday to greyday

June 24th, 2008. A day that will live in infamy. The at-home work in the morning and the eternal 25 minute ride to the call-centre. A day beginning like any other; better in fact, for several reasons. When in the washroom just before my shift started: the sudden flash, the loss of equilibrium: one hair, a silver filigree, daring me to toss it back with the others.

I looked back on my life in that mirror this morning and thought of all the disappointments and regrets I've collected since my first few memories. This is not unusual for me, particularly before work, and since my birthday is roughly three months away, that dreadful inevitability has been bearing down on me for some time.

I thought of the stress that could have caused it, but this year is nothing to two-thousands four and six, each of which landed me in the care of disturbed and wonderful medical practitioners. I irrationally thought it was someone else's until I pulled it out and felt the poing from my own scalp.

I love my hair. It's one of the few features I have that I have never questioned, second-guessed or had any problem with. It saw me through every change the rest of my body, face and general appearance. I could always end a disparaging comment with, 'but I have great hair' and feel better. Am I about to lose my appearance's most powerful ally?

I thought of my boyfriend, the man who had unexpectedly changed my life for the better. Who was always sympathetic, happy for me and proud of everything I endeavoured. Who calmed me when I raged and took me seriously in the craziest of frenzies.

"This is all your fault!" I rationally yelled in my head. "All of your beatific peacefulness, your neverending encouragement and unwavering loyalty and insistence on making me laugh even in the face of disappointment and total failure has caused me nothing but stress and anxious incomprehension!" And now my hair is grey.

It's so unfair. More unfair than my friend Dan who started losing his hair at seventeen? Of course! He's had 13 years to make peace with it, and he's a director. Shaving his head and getting square glasses only gives him street cred. My friend Dave might sympathize, but he's been graying and losing his hair since he was a lad of fifteen years. He's a veteran grey grower and probably doesn't even remember what it was like to have soft, luxurious, chocolaty curls that lift and sway on windy afternoons. Asshole.

My hair is going grey. This September will mark three decades of pain, failure and disgust by me, with me and around me.

At least I have a good hairdresser.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Summer Bling

I don't have summer bling. It's forty degrees with one hundred percent humidity, I have rounded toe flats with sticky insides, a black sarong and hair in a clip. Shirt optional. The bling saw me today, sneered at my black cotton ensemble from across the subway. It never looks like it's supposed to. Across from me in the metro, gold shoes shone along the outside of red, blistered toes. A tight leopard tube top rolled out over itself, exposing the top of the strapless bra beneath. A matching tan canvas and brown leather bag frayed out of its season, hastily ripped from the closet this first day of summer. Iridescent eyeshadow glinted out from acne-studded faces, lips swelled with cherry gloss and plump sun-sores. Arms dimpled with freckles and lightly burned bustle me on and off the cool, underground trains. It might be the fluorescents, or just me that is unkind, but the only summer bling that has delivered on its promise is the strobing, glitter covered cell phone, smooth and skinless, held to an oily ear.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Sunday, June 01, 2008

bubble from the water cooler

We all have days where we know we should be doing something else with our lives. We all have moments where we think to ourselves, I could be doing more than this. I myself am a gigantic Hitchhiker's Guide nerd, so my main adage is to tell my friends and compatriots that I am having a Marvin day. "Here I am, brain the size of a planet and they ask me to pick up this piece of paper..." It is with this that I introduce to you the most recent assignment by blondezilla to the mermaid, after having had an uncomfortable conversation about productivity in the new office. I am going to be challenged more! I am going to be responsible for more things. What she was talking about got finished in about an hour and a half, and then I frantically checked my google account again all afternoon. Today it was a list. We all use them, we all gripe about having to fill them in, but they are a staple of office life. Without them we would be daydreaming poets, or possibly CFOs. I am used to dealing with lists, particularly ones that help me to get things done. It was in that spirit that I made my own list and included on it such things as who else was involved in the project, what status the project had acheived, the event date, the shipping date, you know, things that need to remain hidden and top secret from anyone not directly involved in setting these dates. So in order to keep my things on track I made myself a list which I happily read from when anyone asks me any question about anything. In this way, I have gained a stranglehold on all office information, bwa ha ha! (In the interest of full disclosure, I have mentioned more than once that we need to share information in order to avoid many of the difficulties we currently run into. Usually in these conversations I'm told to stop complaining.) So today I was a little taken aback to hear that I would be making a new list. This one would go back in time to every event we have hosted since January and determine whether all relevant materials were in or still needed to be processed. I made mention of the fact that we have two databases with all this information at our fingertips, along with a folder marked Done on the server, but it appears my list-making abilities are second to none and they had to have them. On the day before a shipping day, when certain priorities should be, well, prioritized, an assignment such as this took me from 9:30am until 4pm with several interruptions to see if I was done yet. My arm felt like it was going to fall off from repeatedly typing the same few letters over and over, and I never want to see an excel spreadsheet ever again unless I get to actually write a formula that takes....thought. Is your boss accountable to you? Yes. The boss must demonstrate some idea of what the job is, listening skills and the ability to make reasonable decisions based on the situation inherent in the office. My boss is still asking me to pick up the piece of paper.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

ahem...

here's the latest site w/ notes from the mermaid...

Sore Throat

Friday, May 16, 2008

the beat of your drum

The systolics were off today, this was one of those awful days that make other, more livable days so much more enjoyable based on simple comparison. Little sleep, deep pain in my left ear, rushed, tiny breakfast and a trip across town for the benefit of a complete jackass to waste my time. One of those days.

Rushed on the way to work after and stupid, co-dependent nonsense from coworkers who can't take care of their own tasks. Is there any adult human who truly feels no responsibility for coming back to you several times on an issue they are supposed to handle and then trying to transfer the work directly to you because they don't want to keep going back and forth? How about doing your own work and realizing that being part of the workforce means not trying to dump extra work on others when you turn out to be incompetent?

By 6 I've eaten my delicious and healthy salad and I can't continue my life without an earl grey and a brownie the size of my chest cavity. The space surrounding my office is fully enclosed, several foodcourts that are all underground and without natural light. I had gone on a short brownie search during a 15-minute mid-day break, and the only close resemblance there was to a tea and a chocolate confection was the green monster itself: Starbucks.

I'm not big on the evil empire, and I'm generally not willing to purchase anything from them on the basis that it's there anyway. Given that, I wasn't sure if the quotes on the cups displayed at the cash were normal, or some kind of new medium. The choice caught me off guard: attributed to Newt Gingrich, "On the battlefield of ideas, winning requires moving toward the sound of the guns." In principle, this might be interesting. The historical significance comes from a battlefield tactic favoured by american civil war generals. I can't necessarily fault it, not being a general of any stripe, but I wonder how it might apply to Starbucks.

Would the fact that wave after wave of low-ranking men be killed have a parallel in Starbucks' low-level employees and the farmers their product is purchased from? What of the significance on the 'battlefield of ideas'? Surely someone in the PR department deep in Seattle's heartland recalls that Starbucks recently stole the names of coffee beans from the Eithiopian people who produce and sell them. As such, I find it unwise to promote bloody resistance to backwards-thinking ideologues whose way of life is rapidly becoming extinct.

I pondered this as I scarfed down a wide brown wad of sugar, strikingly similar in appearance to a compressed wad of tobacco, and sipped my non-fair-trade, third-world nation subjugating earl grey tea. These thoughts stayed with me throughout my shift at the telecom, where I respond to customers who subscribe to a service predicated on simple theft: we sell air.

I hope to sleep tonight, and resolve the incessant skipping that makes my breath come short and shallow. I'll take my very civilized Darjeeling in the kitchen from a box purchased meters from my home and leave the phone off the hook for one day.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

low-tide

It's been a quite week in lake woebegone, and small pebbles seem to be turning in lively acelleration. The book isn't out yet, but a fun little ditty I did on campaign finance reform will be appearing in the Voices of the Future anthology from Elder & Leemaur Publishers. Deep Blue rants can now be seen on NinjaHobo.com, an awesome new online publication devoted to filthy, toothless high-spin kicks. Here's a link to the first of many eloquent screams that float to the surface from between my lips: Up Close With Goldie.

I've been flexing the gooey grey this year, so there hasn't been alot of extra time for screeching about the SPP, the torpid foot-dragging that is this years parliament and the blooming international food crisis. Motley Fool is an investment advisory site who this year is suggesting savvy investors buy stocks in water and sewage utilities as this precious commodity is soon to boom on the world stage and it's so important that it will never be deregulated leaving utilities protected from competition. I could cry, but I wouldn't want to make anyone else any money from it.

A paper I wrote on the portrayal of Muslim women in Western Media has been nominated for an award. I'm very pleased about it and depending on how it goes I might be able to post a link to it or it's publication soon.

I'll be posting more over the summer months, and until then, keep it turning, don't eat the chum if you can help it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

...

So is art apparently.

Starving dogs serves as art for (hopefully) starving artists. This one deserves to be eaten by slavering jackals.

Hope is a Myth

Thursday, February 28, 2008

more grabbin your green

Ethical investments are the new black for many, especially those who make regular contributions to an RRSP. To be sure, return on investment is a key factor in deciding, but for those of us out there who have leafed through company litterature...okay, pamphlets, or read banking websites trying to make sense of clustered investments like mutual funds and RRSPs, information on the ethical standing of companies included isn't out there in the open.

Also, everyone has different and equally valuable ethical standards by which to judge a company or business practice. So how does one person apply those standards to a fund? Several options are now available.

The Ethical Canadian Index is an excellent place to start if you want funds that can perform, but also meet vigourous social standards. The index is related to funds in the TSX and their financial information is maintained by Standard & Poor. From there, the Sustainability Scorecard (I love this) measures the environmental, social and governance indicators of a company and compares it to the rest of the industry. From that basis, further elimination is done of companies whose main business focus is unethical such as tobacco, firearms manufacturers and uranium mining companies. This is basically everything I've ever wanted in a stock index, as my personal beliefs will indeed drive the direction of my cashflow (limited as it may be).

But not everyone looks first and foremost to the same indicators I will. What if your main concern is that businesses in whom you invest agree with your religious principles? How are their employees and partners treated? There are now very aggressive religious funds available for the devout investor.

frontierALT Oasis Funds offer excellent returns with global investments based on shari'ah principles. The concept of sukuk allows for return on investment from profits in the companies invested without interest. Interest is not permisable in Shari'ah ethics, and so this fund has a way around it for investors who insist on getting a return, but not by compromising beliefs.

Advisors with Purpose is a network of Christian financial advisers who steer investments in projects and companies who agree with Christian ethics. Their website is not as information-rich as frontierALT Oasis, but there are still strong mentions of the treatment of your fellow man, that includes living wages for employees in developing countries, and environmental sustainability.

There are many others, but the point is that now it is easier to be mindful of investments. Instead of having to open an investment account or pay broker fees and then monitor each separate company for business practices and projects with which you may or may not agree, RRSPs and mutual funds are available for the socially and environmentally conscious, at an equivalent return.

Grab your green girls, and should anyone come across a business or project directly related to the promotion of women worldwide and/or companies run by women, the indicators in all three funds I just mentioned do not evaluate the status of women in the companies or the effects on women that company projects will have. It's a great start, now we just have to remind ever-greening Bay street that sustainability includes fellow-persons, not just fellow-men.

It's not their money!

The current Ministry of Heritage is reviewing Bill C-10 which would effectively allow the government to refuse funding for Canadian cultural projects if they are too 'racy'. The disturbingly broad definition of 'racy' in this case includes material that is too graphic either in sexual content or in terms of violence. The current definition of obscenity and pornography in the criminal code are sufficient insofar as they preclude funding of criminal projects. Any other project should be open to Canadian funding.

The govt's response? Again mixing up the country with an investment bank, a Toronto lawyer argued that they should be able to exercise 'discretion' and choose not to invest their money in a project they don't agree with.

Their money.

Here's the difference between a country and a private investment firm: a private investment firm is made up of principle shareholders who review projects based on their own criteria, usually centred around ROI, but also including their specific goals. A country is a public citizenry whose values and beliefs have coalesced over time. The money in a private investment firm is, well, private, and the money a country's government is disposed to distribute is public. The shareholders in a country are the citizens.

The current government who I hope will crash and burn on at least one of the confidence motions headed for us, is not disposed to make decisions of taste with public money. There is no discretionary latitude for the department of Heritage to use as relating to feel-goodery, and who ever said officials should not have to administer funding to those things of which they disapprove? If I have to fund from my own pocket the purchases of T.A.S.E.R.s for public police, the tax breaks that corporations and investors enjoy under this government and the salary of a Prime Minister and Cabinet for whom I did not vote, they are overwhelmingly obligated to fund cultural projects in this country (at least!) that might be seen by some as distasteful.

Guys, it's not your money.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

the morning after

Two delightful alternatives to the insulting, depressive budget proposed yesterday:

http://rabble.ca/news_full_story.shtml?sh_itm=8f9e5fc0d44ab7b80520fa68854a4da4&rXn=1&

http://www.policyalternatives.ca/News/2008/02/PressRelease1826/index.cfm?pa=BB736455

Saturday, February 23, 2008

White Trash Groceries

I went out this evening to the grocery store to pick up some items I forgot to get earlier. It only occurred to me now that they all fit into a certain category. As I unpack my canvas bag in my kitchen, a small dismay passes over me. I needed something for my bathtub drain, so the main focus of my purchases was merit selection drain opener, which they were out of, so I got regular drano. The cheapest they had was gel plus. No-name easy-tie kitchen garbage bags and no-name paper towels round out my purchases from the corrosion aisle, also dedicated to cat and dog foods. I rounded out the trip with three packets of coin rolls in the one cent denomination as this evening I possess only enough mental capacity to roll coins, a package of merit selection chocolate fudge pudding and a six pack of Sleeman Silver Creek, affordably priced at 8,99$. I would have left it there, but as I waited to pay I couldn't help but pick up and read a french paparazzi magasine about Britney Spears. As I put it back I noticed a package of cheddar cheese sitting on top of the chocolate bars and realized I meant to get cheese but didn't. It is now in one drawer of my fridge since I didn't feel like going back for refrigerated cheese when I could easily rescue this one that comes with the added thrill of having no idea how long it has been sitting there.

I noticed my purchases at this moment and now I will go into the other room, order take out and start rolling pennies. and wait for inspiration to hit...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Open Source Ho!

http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9584_22-6230997.html

And where is Elonex releasing this masterpiece? I couldn't have chosen a more appropriate venue:)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Kids Eat Crayons

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Say, who's that sax player whose head is obscured by the high-tech lighting arrangements on stage?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

more notes from a cube

Here is a little anecdote that my friends and I commiserate on even to this day. In the realm of project management, there are always common grounds to meet on. The IT guys tell me sometimes about difficulty understanding service calls because the people who need service don't have the vocabulary to describe a tech problem. (Occasionally they don't have the vocabulary to describe their four-year-old's most recent belching achievement, but that is not for me to judge). Sometimes I can get together with the Loss Prevention (cop-wannabes) staff because the people on the front line generally don't want to go the extra mile and actually tell you about something that happens. For my money though, there's nothing like Construction for people taking things into their own hands and failing entirely to call a professional.

Case in point: For several years I received phone calls and emails on a myriad of topics such as faulty wiring, changes to landlord-owned gas lines, faulty heating or cooling systems, etc. Many of these requests are routine, so I thought nothing of it when I received an email about a light fixture that wasn't working. Something jumped out at me though, the requestor mentioned that she had tried everything before sending the email, turning the light on and off again, checking the breaker, getting a potato, trying to change the bulb. It was the potato that I found strange, and I asked my cohort if she had ever recommended such a thing. You know, policy developed before I got hired. If a light fixture stops working, find the nearest root vegetable and make sure, make absolutely sure not to use the same one twice. I called the store with the fixture problem and tried to get a handle on why a potato might equate success in this endeavour. Apparently in the nineteen fifties when most bulbs were incandescent and women didn't venture far from the kitchen, if a light bulb broke and the metal contact got stuck in the fixture, the safe way for a lady to get it out was to grab a potato, cut it in half, shove it onto the offending metal (the potato grounds you) and unscrew the rest of the lamp safely.

It is no longer nineteen fifty. Potatoes are not readily available in clothing stores, so this girl actually went as far as going to get a potato. That's a long time to think about what you're doing and wonder if it's a good idea. The bulbs used in most commercial environments are full of various gasses that probably shouldn't be mixed with starchy vegetables. The fixture too should probably remain clean and free of potato peelings. I take these things in stride. Why if it weren't for this girl getting in over her head with the potato solution, I wouldn't have a job after all. I told her how to get the fixture itself down from the track with a simple click and shipped her a new one while the one she had would have the socket replaced. Problem solved right?

No. The managers all talk to each other, so before this girl starts her own confidential potato tip-line, I need to nip this in the bud. I sat composing an email to the district manager wondering how to word what would be circulated without calling this girl stupid or old-fashioned or any of the things that though applicable, are not professional. I settled on foreign objects. It is not a good idea to attempt to remove broken pieces from a light fixture with any foreign object. Call the number, if we can walk you through it we will, if it takes a repair tech, we'll send someone. The first thing that went through my mind in this whole episode was me. Did I misjudge this girl? Have I misread the email? Is there some secret potato pact I'm not a part of? When we asked a few other women at work they acted as though we had missed some vital part of childhood education that we didn't immediately think to shove half a potato into every offending light fixture we saw. It became a cult with us. When something doesn't look right, or we have a question that might sound stupid or obvious, the first thing we say to each other is, "I have a potato question." To this day I can call one of my best friends at any time of the day when something weakens me. When something I would never have considered shows up and I have to deal with it. When I can't think of what words apply to the stupid stupid situation I'm now in charge of fixing, I open my email and send it along to the girl now managing these requests for another company. And in the subject line: What do you mean a potato?

Monday, January 28, 2008

and now...sports

The american state of the union was on when I got home tonight, and being a junkie, once it was on I couldn't stop watching. Many things irked, annoyed, distressed and vexed me, 911 was sung out like hosannas and of course I was told how great the Iraq war is and that it should continue.

Sandwiched between these two upsetting ideas, was the announcement that the Summit of the Americas, that's us, the US and Mexico, will be held this year in the great city of New Orleans. It is not only the symbol that bothers me.

The words rang out after commending the people of the Gulf Coast, failing to mention the egregious and inhuman reaction of the bush administration, the private insurance companies and the Red Cross to the disaster, the president continued by simply making the announcement and going on to safer ground. (pun intended)

Can I safely point out that the last thing the people of the Gulf Coast need is the insane amount of security forces that come with international delegations? Can it be reasonably pointed out that in gearing up for this summit the local security forces will be hiring like crazy and the jails will surely be brought up to standard faster than the hospitals and schools. And where are all these people staying? In the public housing that survived the storm but is now being knocked down in order to build limited public housing on a two-tiered feudal system?

I wonder these things. I sit and I ponder that representatives of my government who have gutted my social system and broken our industries in two, representatives of the bush administration who make me want to puke in my soup, and representatives of Mexico, who have done nothing and will continue to do nothing and who stand elected on the body count of hundreds of women, will meet in a broken city. A city where those who needed help helped each other. Where those who faced madness and skin-peeling winds were ignored. They will sit in this city and marvel at the poverty, the new constructions, the resilience, the quiet judgment of its people.

The city truly unto itself, the first american city-state not by secession, but by abandonment, this island of non-recognition, of failed citizenship will host three leaders who wish to do nothing more but keep going.

I won't be there, my health does not permit it. But good news for me that night would be news from local reporters of an uncontrollable riot. And a guillotine.

Pride

A great article on a great anniversary

Sunday, January 27, 2008

come swim in my pond

The mermaid's lookin fer a roomie, here's three postings on the subject:

craigslist

kijiji

Hey, who wouldn't want to live in Mtl with an urban ichthyosapien?


mermail

Saturday, January 26, 2008

more from the defunct digest

Normally I don't bother socializing with people from my office. As a general rule they aren't much fun and wonder about what entertainment habits the "weird girl" might enjoy. This time though, it paid off. One of my colleagues left the company, and as he reached escape velocity, a bunch of us decided to have a 5 to 7 together. By showing up late after an appointment, I ensured that the boring one-beer, one-song people left and the former employees were boozing it up with gusto. Perfect gossip opportunity. Gossip I feel is an undervalued commodity in office life. There is no better way to share information than word of mouth, and in terms of one-sided communications, offices can't be beat. In order to survive such an environment with curiosity intact, it's important to learn about colleagues, bosses, upcoming procedures and events etc. It's not only a way of remaining sane and in small measure getting back at those with authority, it's also about keeping those neurons firing in the face of insurmountable odds. The best places for gossip include the lunchroom, a colleagues's car on the way to lunch, hallways, printers, coolers, elevators and naturally, the washroom. The richest, most central hub of office traffic, the washroom remains the unsung hero of the office communication nexus. It is where we pass each other and comment on our hair or clothes, where we bitch about a bad day, where we have at one time or another passed a phone interview on a cell in the only private space available. Where better to commiserate with people who do the same job you do? Where better to solidify ties with those on the other end of your job? Where better to waste fifteen when you can't bear to go back to your desk? Yet it was not here that I made the best discovery yet. At the bar, over a decent microbrew, I learned what is now keeping me glowing warm in the middle of this unseasonal snowstorm. The dog, the lies, the history, all pales in comparison to this: My boss is the former Miss Lebanon. She went to the Miss Universe pageant in the hopes of bringing home the values of western beauty pageants to the middle east. I honestly never thought to picture blondezilla in downtown beirut, but I will say this: It's Sunday, my work for tomorrow was completed last Wednesday and this is the only thing that will get me through the week. ...Until of course, I need to stop in the bathroom. Tell me your favourite gossip! Feel free to hide names and dates if you wish.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sunday, January 20, 2008

losing my M-F'ing mind

For anyone out there who was hoping I'd come back from xmas with tales and a welcome ear for stories of the holidays and a year in review, I must disappoint. I'm working full-time until the end of February and skule has begun. As such, I'm freaking out, living off adrenaline and True Grit. Smoke is coming out of my ears, I cry molten lava at the slightest provocation and sleep has become but a wistful memory.

I love you all, I miss you all. I promise I'll be in touch when I get part-time hours and a recalibration of my frazzled central nervous system. I'm thinking of upgrading to the latest titanium fibre optic model as seen in Venusian2: bionics for the well-accessorized civilian.

love,
Mermaid

Friday, January 11, 2008

another phone-in after the holidays...

So in my first real altercation between myself and my new boss, I learned a valuable lesson: Never assume anything. I thought I had this office diplomacy down pat after 5 years in retail construction. I have heard every ridiculous rant you can imagine, I have seen unprofessionalism at it's worst. But I should have worn a flak jacket to be in the room with this one. Both my sense of personal dignity (a nonsense idea in an office I know) and my bosses loud, carrying voice have caused mild friction from the beginning. Nevertheless my work is done well and correctly, so we deal with each other. The other day however, things took a bit of a turn.

I've been feeling lied to pretty much since I began. The job is not what it was advertised to be and the people I work for are pretty clique-y. This is fairly stressful for me and on this particular day I received an email from one of the developers that didn't look quite right. I forwarded it on to the person who normally handles changes of event dates and asked if I should be adjusting calendars. I continue my slow journey towards an early stroke brought on by flickering ancient screens attached to computer equipment that appears to have been made by Fisher-Price, when I see a mass of dyed, curly blond hair move hyena-like between cubicle walls with a voice calling low, Margaret! Is this date change confirmed? Why is Julia sending emails, what is going on? My reaction was immediately to say, no no, I sent one email, the developer in question sent many emails and cc'd me. I wanted confirmation. Given the sheer decibels and urgency in her voice, I couldn't understand why she wouldn't just come to me and ask why I sent the email or at least for more information. One of the clique girls who has an office nearby came out to look at me and say, whoa! As though I was in the midst of a hostage situation and she was the person who was going to restore order to the situation. The boss comes over and says she doesn't like that, she doesn't want to be spoken to this way etc. Immediately I apologize, it makes no sense to argue with the boss about who's right in a situation like this. She vented a little and went to deal with the urgent email situation. She came back to further expound on how inappropriate it is to defend yourself when you are being accused in front of everyone in the office. I asked to speak to her in her office alone.

I must say, I have had my fair share of uncomfortable situations. When I yelled at the VP of Finance in one of my old offices for being loudly homophobic near me, for the way he spoke to and about women, for the way I bitched out the director of product in my last office after a very stressful move, after another employee lied to the boss and our department had a meeting about it. All in all, I have learned how to diplomatically ease uncomfortable situations, take responsibility when responsibility is mine, apologize, graciously accept apologies and move forward. I figured this was a great opportunity to solidify my relationship with my new boss Gail, or as I call her, blondezilla. It sadly was not to be. In her office I apologized again and immediately did what I always do in big, corporate situations. I explained where I was coming from and what I had interpreted from her to lead up to what I said in the office. Big mistake.

Normally in offices of 200+ people, this type of approach makes sense because you have to deal with everyone all day. In this way, we respect each other, attempt to understand where they are coming from and openly communicate to avoid hostility. In teeny, tiny, sad, barely extant little offices like this, never ever ever talk about what you mean or where you are coming from. She immediately said the following, "Okay Julia. I'm going to explain what is going on with me. I don't have to explain anything to you, but I will."

I don't actually remember the rest of what she said because I was seeing vivid red in front of me and was (as usual) counting slowly in my mind. She doesn't need to explain anything to me? But I'm supposed to graciously accept this explanation that I don't deserve? Guess what lady, you do owe me an explanation. Your boss is an authority figure. This person has direct control over your salary, your hours of business, vacation days, what projects you will be working on. This directly affects your standard of living and indirectly that of your family and friends. I don't need my boss to think I'm right (though it helps) but I do need to know that someone isn't going to pull any nonsense with that authority. If I see some evidence that I am being treated inappropriately by someone with power over myself and my job, I'm going to say something. Your boss DOES in fact owe you an explanation when they don't appear to be acting in good faith. It is definitely okay to stand up for yourself and attempt to reconcile the situation as necessary.

It's been two months now, Blondezilla one, mermaid zero. But the other people like me. For now.

Friday, January 04, 2008

more bubbles from the water cooler

So I used to commiserate with my good friend when she was working in a small, exclusive photo studio. She was the manager and along with her was one employee and the owner, that was it. I was working various crazy cubes at the time, trying to figure out what it's all about (and I find myself now here...) and she would call to tell me about the owner bringing her child and/or dog into the studio with her. I never really understood this, although some parents do occasionally need to bring the little ones into the office. This was a photo studio and a small child or a huge golden retriever never made a lot of sense to me in the workplace. Would the dog attend the photo-shoots? Would it participate? Would it in fact bark through the entire day giving my friend good reason to sell it to the nearest petting zoo when the boss wasn't looking?

I complained of the unprofessionalism in various places I worked at. My favourite saying was, "if the tattooed girl who swears all the time is giving someone else a lesson in professional conduct, there's a problem." I had been used to being in shops of various kinds before I made the jump to office life and I was struck by how ambivalent, uncommunicative, unhelpful, inhospitable and downright dumb some of these people could be. It occurred to me that that must be why they worked in offices because dealing with the public (if you do it well) takes some diplomacy and courtesy whereas in an office you tend to get off by just treating everyone however you wish at any given moment. Don't get me wrong, I try to socialize, but when I tell people I have a 4' long green iguana free-roaming at home because I'm not a cat or dog person (also, iguanas kick behind!), they always ask me, "Why would you do that?"

Or I'll try to talk about sports. Inevitably if you're a habs fan, you're not enough of a habs fan and if you are enough of a habs fan, they like the Canuks. If you like Wes Anderson movies, they've never heard of him. But they can't wait to tell you how surprised they were at who the killer is in Saw3. If you're into politics at all, either their eyes glaze over trying to remember the name of the prime minister or they go on a tirade about how high our taxes are and why can't we give up on some of these more archaic social services like drug coverage?

I don't fit in generally. My habit is to ride out the first two months getting to know people while generating a reputation for getting everything done and knowing as much on any subject as possible. "hey ya, go ask that weird girl in construction, she knows everything." Fine by me! So it was no surprise whatsoever for me when I started at the new company two months ago and I didn't immediately get along with everyone. I had just come from five years in huge corporate offices with whole HR departments and IT departments, and their own form of officey bullshit that everyone has to deal with. Also, some great people. Also, some complete assholes. In this new place there is no HR, there is only my boss and IT consists of one guy, one student to assist him and the owner of the company who is a "self-taught" programmer. IE: he never uses the program per se and therefore has no idea what various employees might need in terms of programming it for their work.

It should not at all have surprised me, under these circumstances, to have been introduced to the owner's dog immediately after the owner. I started my first day with my new boss who had originally interviewed me, the owner himself and then the dog curled up on his floor. I thought it might be an every-so-often kind of thing and went about my business, but the dog was back the next day. And the day after that. They had introduced an hors d'oeuvre-sized bichon frisse to me as though it was an employee. A manager. I met the vice-president of the company (owner's wife) in the ladies room the next day. It is the type of washroom with stalls, (yes, more cubicles though these at least are honest in their function) and the dog was sitting on the threshold of the door which I wanted to close. I looked down at the dog and make shooing sounds and motioned with the door to close it and to get out of the way. The owner's wife, excuse me, vice-president of the company, told me not to move the dog. I told her in politest terms that closing the bathroom door is one of those things all dogs need to deal with in their lives. It's not always pleasant I agree, but they get used to it. Why? They're dogs. She said, "but it's Milou." Yes, the f*#!ing dog's name is Milou. I have nothing comical I can add to a white fuzzy tragedy on that scale. "Yes" I agreed, "It's Milou. I'm Julia, the human and therefore dominant species. When using a public washroom, I close the door because the doors on the cubicles do not afford me enough psychological protection to deal emotionally with my co-workers listening to me peeing. The dog is fine, I'm not, the dog moves. Dog. Me. Doooog....Me.

I find it difficult to understand how many employers of both small and large companies will make special effort to diminish the comfort of those employees with whom the company invests salary, benefits, insurance and equipment, but who will then fall over backwards inconveniencing themselves for small filthy rat-like animals who bark their way through client meetings and insist on having their own waste picked up for them in minus forty centigrade weather at lunch hour. The dog was taken out after a conversation in which I was told that I am not allowed to be allergic to the dog and I now see it daily as it walks in and around my office. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that the dog is in fact fairly well behaved and doesn't bark too much, although when it does, certain close friends of mine get emails containing only: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuggggggggggghrrrrr goddam filthy little sh*t is barking why in GODS name would anyone bring such a thing to the workplace aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa ....and so on like that until the dog stops. The other managers though, you'd think they'd never seen a dog before when it whines and paws and jumps up on people. There is much oooing and ahhing on the scale of David Blaine audiences. They act as though it makes perfect sense not only to have a dog present, but to stop all work and coo at it if it happens to walk by for some reason. Am I the killjoy in my office? Very likely. I sit in my space in front of the database, a PowerPoint presentation or an email and I blast my Tom Waits like my life depended on it. I socialize with most people and I'm cynical enough in humour that everyone likes me except upper management. What else is new? There is an argument towards integrating the work and home in a more balanced fashion and respecting the personal life of the employee more. Indeed, my last office had such a thing as flex-time for those with children to pick up, a kids day every holiday season where all employees children come in for a show, a free buffet and presents. Mat leave is a year and many men take advantage of the parental leave available to them. A dog walking through the office though, that's crossing the line.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

water cooler first bubble

I used to post on a now-defunct website and in the spirit of slacking off and phoning it in right after the christmas break, I'm resurrecting the posts I put on it since you can't link to it anymore.

They will appear as bubbles in the water cooler whirlpools and I'll tag them as Cubicle Digest.

I miss it a lot and I hope cubeguy finds a publisher for his book soon.

Here it is: the first post from me on Cubicle Digest (how I miss it so)


A fond hello from the city-dwelling mermaid. I'm happy to join this group of enthusiastic people who truly understand how much a break from the monochrome of fluorescent boredom is a requirement, nay, a necessity of the workday. I have many stories of nonsense, defeat, dissent and disappointment, but since this is my first post, I will begin with a story of triumph. This is not a huge win. This is not one of those stories about changing the workplace for the better or indeed even trying to. This is one of those things I think everyone can relate to about office diplomacy in the face of extreme frustration. A day to day moment of standing up for myself. Believe me, I won a few tiny battles, but the people in this particular office won the war.

It begins at 8:15 am, a far-too-godly hour of the morning. For no reason at all my trains and the bus I took to get there had conspired to bring me to the office building earlier than usual. As such, I was enjoying an early morning cup of coffee, this was before they started charging for it. I worked in the Construction Department at that time. We had undertaken a project the night before, so I wandered into the area to see how the work was coming along. Anyone who has done such a thing will know that it doesn't matter whether a project is yours or not, whether you know about it or not, you are treated as an ambassador for your department wherever you go. I should have remembered that. I went over to one of my friends who did tech support and asked how things were, if there were enough drop-cloths to protect the screens from the drywall dust, how did he like his new car, good morning, god it's early isn't it? His supervisor came over and immediately started demanding loudly and in an oddly high-pitched voice about we weren't told about the extent of the work and how are we supposed to accommodate this and that. She was extremely irate and didn't seem to calm down at all as I sipped my coffee at her. She was getting more and more hysterical as she talked that I couldn't imagine what I could say that would make her relax enough to speak coherently. Not only that, I knew if I said anything even remotely like I'll get back to you or I'll take care of it, suddenly I would have this to manage along with my full-time job.

The net admin was sitting nearby; I had an audience. Also, it was not the designated time for me to start work. Also, I didn't recall signing on to come in early to be shouted at by panicky call centre supervisors. I picked up the nearest thing to me, a piece off a nearby stack of 8.5x11 white paper (ah the heady days of office procurement) handed it to her and said quietly, "Heather, this cares more than I do." The look on her face pretty much paid off in that moment for the inevitable trouble I was going to get into for saying something like that. Her jaw dropped open and her eyes went wide making her whole head resemble a bowling ball. I went straight back to my desk and told the manager overseeing the project what happened, including what I had said. It is to her credit that when Heather came to tell her that I had an "attitude problem" that she immediately said, "why, what did you do to provoke her?" Our friendship was forged at my interview, but solidified that day when for the first time, another human in my office recognized a cardinal rule that it is unfair to immediately pounce on the first person you see from one department and assume they are there to fix your problem. We worked together to finish that project properly and since then, according to those who know me in other offices in the city, it's become legend.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Worst Xmas Present

Give it to me guppies!

This year it was a tie between a set of broken, poorly made silver gargoyle candleholders and a set of 5 fridge magnets of naked men with oven mitts. One of the men is wearing socks, possibly because he has Lupus, possibly for some other reason.

Let's hear it, the holiday is officially over. What was the worst one this year?

covert piano rescue

This piano:

rescued piano

was in a house in Vancouver that was slated for demolition. I was there over the holiday where I met the house piano and this one. Friends of friends knew the people who had lived in the house and when they left it was more work to save than to demolish. The city was going to go in and the piano was going to go with it, so spicy K crept in the window while mom got a van and pulled it around front late one night. They hauled and rolled and now this piano lives in their house on the floor below their household piano. It needs some care, the tuning is off and it could use some cleaning. There was a bong sitting inside it and god knows what else.

It will take some time to resurrect, it will take some care and patience. But that piano is not going to dust with the mouldy house. Not today.