Tuesday, August 29, 2006

And I wait....

My project proposal at work still hasn't gone through. I've been waiting news since Monday. I know it's only two days, but it's a lot of time for someone that's as bogged down as I am. It doesn't shock me that word is coming back late, but it is bothersome that I had to bust my tail last week to get things done on top of everything else I had to do, and it's being kicked around the office.

Interesting point: senior management's response to my initial proposal was that my numbers had dropped by 13%. However, once you factor in that we've had to farm out some work and our billing rates changed, making some of our services cheaper, we have a real increase in workload of 6.5%. But no one bothered to figure that out.

I took an Internet course on crisis management yesterday. One of the lessons taught was to be prepared for any eventuality. For example, when determining possible crisis situations, if someone at the table says "that couldn't happen here", it usually means that it's something you should prepare for.

So if the response I get from the worst-case scenario in my project proposal is "that couldn't happen here", I'll know I'm onto something. ;)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Blubber Begone!

Finally, the day has come. The day that I begin building my home gym.

Believe it or not, I used to be quite an athlete, back in the day. It's easy when you do manual labour for 8 hours a day, then work out for another 3. But, switch your job where you run around 8 hours a day for one where you sit at a desk, then switch your 20 minute walk there for a 45 minute commute, then switch all your free time for a 2-month old son. Then, after all that, switch your parents' fridge stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables for takeout pizza. Then struggle with tendonitis because of all the time you spent wearing out your joints while playing sports. I've kept extra poundage off for the most part, but I'm still not quite as firm as I'd like to be, especially around the middle. I figure I have 15 lbs or so to lose, but I'm more about how I feel rather than what I weigh.

So, tomorrow, the exercise equipment starts rolling in. You might say you've heard it all before, and that equipment is just going to collect dust. Uh uh. I still remember what it's like to be in shape, and I won't stop until I feel that way again. Then I'll just keep going.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Contrarianism: It's More Than an Investment Strategy, it's a Lifestyle

"I don't know why you say goodbye when I say hello..."

The Beatles, "Hello Goodbye"

In case you haven't guessed already, I'm a pretty independent thinking person, and have always sort of marched to the beat of my own drum. At first, I didn't like being an only child, I always wanted to have a little brother to play with. But I learned to appreciate the time I had on my own, and to make the most of it. There's evidence now that the more you "exercise" your brain, the more efficient it becomes, so I'm pretty happy that I spent all those lonely rainy days alone with nothing but my books and my thoughts.

I never was really interested in the outside world growing up, but there were two things that really stuck out in my mind. The first was the importance of spotting trends ahead of time, so that you could always stay ahead of the game, and the next was that no matter how good things were, they were bound to go bad, and no matter how bad things got, they'd get better.

A lot of people have made a lot of money viewing the world this way. It's the principle of contrarianism. As it relates to purchasing stocks, it's the strategy of buying steady performers that are out of the public eye or have fallen out of favour among investors for whatever reason, then waiting for the economic spotlight to shine on them, and sell them and make a killing. Then, while everyone jumps on the bandwagon, you find the next hidden gem.

But contrarianism is useful outside of the stock market: buying a winter jacket at the February end of season sale, taking the train when its en vogue to fly, going on trips down south in July instead of during spring break, etc.

I've also adopted the principle in my lifestyle: most people my age want to travel and skip from job to job. I've started a family, and found a job with a good pension plan and am staying put. I bought a bungalow when two-storey homes were popular. And I'm paying down my mortgage aggressively and limiting my debt while I hear stories about debt spiralling out of control everywhere while people are taking advantage of the increases in their home equity. Do people really think the good times are going to last forever, or do they just want to live it up now and deal with the consequences later?

In the 80s, your average Joe yuppie never thought the good days would end. Then the recession of the 90s hit and wiped out a lot of the world's equity. We are just now reaching the heights of the mid 80s. And once again, very few people are noticing that we're at the top of the hill and closer than we think to going over the edge.

Unlike most people my age, I don't believe that a world of unlimited credit and low interest will last forever. I know that rates will rise and that banks are going to tighten up, and I'm saving hand over fist right now to get ready for that time, while most people are happy to charge everything and build up debt like lemmings.

How much can interest rates mess up finances? Think about it this way. For every $100,000 you're in debt (mortgage), a 1% increase in your mortgage rate adds an extra $70 or so to your monthly payment. So if you've got a $200,000 mortgage and renew your mortgage at a 3% higher rate (entirely conceivable), that's an extra $420 a month in interest payments. And that doesn't count the extra you'd pay on your car loan, line of credit, credit cards, etc.

That's when the banks go for the kill. All of a sudden, your debt-service ratio is out of whack, and they know they're in the driver's seat, and won't negotiate your mortgage rate. So, if your credit is already maxed out, the bank starts protecting its investments, which is when repossessions and foreclosures come into play.

And when that happens, and I'm guessing it will happen in about 5-6 years at the current rate, possibly far sooner if we're subjected to further terrorist attacks, consumer spending will dry up now that there's no home equity left, there will be a mass-selloff, a surplus of inventory in the market and few people qualified to make purchases, which will drive down prices. Investors will flee the housing market, since the combination of higher interest rates and dangerously low equity will but them in the red. All those people on the informercials proud of the fact that they're carrying investment real estate while holding next to no equity ("Get rich in real estate fast! Make over 10,000 a month!") will be ruined. Book it.

By that time, I'll be free and clear and sitting on a pile of cash. And ready to buy your investment condo for 50 cents on the dollar.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

...And I'm spent.

"I'm taking an awful risk here, Vader. This had better work."

Grand Moff Tarkin, Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope

As we all know, Grand Moff Tarkin's risk didn't really pay off. The homing beacon Vader's operatives placed on the Millenium Falcon led the Death Star straight to the rebel stronghold on Yavin IV. The potential reward was to crush the rebellion once and for all with a decisive strike. However, the rebels, particularly Luke Skywalker, dealt a mortal blow to the Death Star through a small thermal exhaust port, right above the main port. That blow was the tipping point that ultimately swayed the momentum of battle into the hands of the Rebel Alliance.

I'm reaching a similar tipping point in my work. While I'd hate to characterize ourselves as the Imperial Army, we're getting to the point where we have to start thinking outside the box to resolve our problems. Today, I came up with my last hurrah, the only thing I haven't tried. It's not a sure thing, and I'm not arrogant enough to say that it's guaranteed that it will be accepted, though I can safely say that I did all my homework and presented a strong case.

If this doesn't work, I'm out of ideas. I can honestly say that I'll have tried everything. So, what to do then? I couldn't leave in good conscience, because I know that if I did, nothing would have even the slightest possibility of working. But how much do I owe my employers? Will I sit there like Tarkin, proclaiming certain victory while everything explodes around me? Or will I enter the dogfight like Vader, claiming little victories and being a witness to the catastrophe, while living to fight another day?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Like Elephants in a Stake-filled Yard

Elephants, for the most part, are pretty smart creatures. As the saying goes, an elephant never forgets. Which is good, in some ways. For instance, they remember where all the fresh water is. And they know where all the tigers prowl.

But it's also a bad thing. For instance, did you know that circus elephants are tied to a stake with a heavy chain so they don't escape? For a while, the elephants try to escape, but then ultimately resign themselves to the fact that they're stuck. The funny part is, you can remove the chain, but as long as the stake is there, the elephant knows it has to stay put.

When dealing with change, a lot of people act like those elephants. The chains have been removed, but they're scared to walk away from the stake.

Friday, August 18, 2006

All We Wanted Were Some Chicken Balls! (Post-Uni)

When you live in an apartment with 7 people and have a kitchen the approximate size of a walk-in closet, you get pretty familiar with the local delivery establishments. Especially in the wintertime, when we couldn't barbecue.

We ate all the junk that could get delivered to our door: pizza, KFC, Swiss Chalet, there was even this great little Italian place down the street that could whip up an awesome fusilli carbonara. It was good for three meals and only cost like $9.

But when you've got a bunch of starving guys who know they want something fast and good, but don't know exactly what, and can't agree on anything, Chinese food is the preferred option. There was this awesome place in the mall that served up great Chinese food (both traditional and "white man" Chinese), the only issue was that no one at the restaurant really spoke English, so ordering was always an adventure.

So we found a simple way to get the ordering done. Instead of trying anything fancy, we sacrificed a bit of selection for an easier order. This place did two different kinds of combo delivery meals: the "regular" (white man Chinese, with egg rolls, chicken balls, fried rice, you know...) and "spicy" (more traditional asian cuisine, hot and sour soup, lots of mushroom and veggie dishes, and yes, a bit spicier than normal).

So I call up the restaurant for a delivery.

"Hi, I'd like to order the combo for six, delivery."

"Combo for six?"




"Regular or spicy?"


"Regular or spicy?"


"Regular or spicy? Restaurant very loud..."




"Oh, ok, I got it."

"Are you sure? REH-GEW-LURR."

"Yeah, sure. Thank you!" *click*

"Uhhh, guys, I'll bet you $20 our order's fucked up."

I don't remember why we were so hungry, but we were all in agony waiting for that delivery. Needless to say, the delivery guy comes in, and we just throw the money at him and start diving in. Then we notice that we got the spicy combo, of course.

So I call the restaurant back.

"Hi, I'm calling back about an order for delivery, combo for six, regular."

"Yes? Everything ok?"

"Well, no, actually. We ordered the regular combo and got the spicy."

"Oh, so sorry. We make proper order right away."

"How long?"

"About 30 minutes."

"Ok, that'll do, I guess. Thank you."

"Thank you, and so sorry, bye!" *click*

"But...wait...what do we do with the rest of the food?...Dammit."

So, we're sitting and waiting. And the spicy stuff is smelling, well, spicy. And good. And we're all circling it like vultures. Then we start to rationalize...

"Do you think they're going to ask for the food back?"

"They could, I guess, but why would they?"

"What would they do with returned food?"

"That's true, maybe we can just have a little bit, and they won't notice..."

Well, a little turned into a lot. A half-hour came and passed, so we figured they forgot about us. So we kept eating. Fifty minutes later, the doorbell rings.


"Hi, I'm here with the replacement delivery, combo for six, regular."

"Hi, thanks a lot for coming."

"Ok, we take other combo back."


"Because you didn't order it."

"Ok...but why else? What are you going to do with it?"

"Don't know, but kitchen wants it back."

"Are you sure? It's all cold...and eaten."

"Oh...well, I don't want any trouble, and it was our mistake in the first place, so just give me back what you have left."

So, we kind of spread the remaining food around the containers to make them look more full. Meanwhile, the delivery guy calls the restaurant and starts speaking in Cantonese. He hangs up the phone and turns to us.

"Everything ok, just one big misunderstanding. I take back what you didn't eat. No problem."

"Wow, ok, thanks man. We're sorry, but you were late and we didn't think you were coming."

"No, it's ok. Just misunderstanding. Good night."

So, we thought we were home free, and we had ANOTHER six person combo for free, very useful for when we were going to be hungry again in an hour. All in all, a good night. We were even talking about how cool the delivery guy was.

Then, about half an hour later, the phone rings.


"Hello, this is XXXXXX restaurant. You owe us money?"


"You got two combos, only pay for one."

"That's because you screwed up our order."

"Yes, but you ate food anyway."

"That's because you were late with the replacement and *snicker* we were really hungry."

"Oh, you think this is big joke?"

"Actually, I do."

"You had to pay delivery man."

"He never asked for money."

"Well, I send him back, you pay for combo."

"No. This is really poor customer service, you know. You messed up our order, and you want us to pay for it? If I ordered a pizza and they screwed it up, we'd get another pizza free."


"Yes we would, it happens all the time."

"I call cops on you!"

"Yeah, you do that. Bye." *click*




"Whatever." *click*



"Oh, you in trouble now. I call cops."

"You know what, fine. Call the cops. Let them know what happened. That you screwed up our order, then we ate it anyway because of a misunderstanding, then you delivered the proper order, and asked for the other food back, and now you're harassing me over the phone. What good is that other food to you?"

"None of your business!"

"What were you going to do with it? Dump it back in the buffet? Go on, admit it, and I'll call health and safety on you, and you'll get shut down." (huge laughter and cheering from the guys in the background. I don't know how I kept a straight face through all this...come to think of it, I didn't.)

"That's it, you never eat here again!"

"Let me get this straight, you would refuse a paying customer if we called you back?"

"Yes. I hate you!"

"Ooooooh-kaaaaay. Look, we won't call you anymore, but you have to promise to take anger management classes or something, alright?"

(Unintelligible yelling and screaming.)

"I'm going to hang up the phone now...are we done?"


And with that, went our Chinese food dealer. But a week later, we found another one, even better. And we gave him all our business. And all our friend's business. And we talked everyone we could out of going to the other place.

Last time I went to that mall, our old Chinese place wasn't there anymore. Hardly surprising. Whatever business you're in, good customer service is a must. I'm not saying you can't hate your customers (they deserve your anger more often than not), but telling them about it isn't wise policy under any circumstances.

Moving Day! (Post-Uni)

Well we’re movin on up, to the east side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin on up to the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.

Jefferson's Theme


(Recommended: go back and read Lords of the Slum before taking on this bad boy)

February 2002.

Even though we were all still friends, it was widely acknowledged among the group of us that we really needed to see a bit less of each other. Tempers were fraying, everyone was tired, we had all gotten new jobs that were a little more stressful and demanded that we be a bit more responsible, so no more drinking till 2:00 am on a Tuesday. The girls were working shifts, which further added to the tension.

The original idea was for all of us to stay together, but just buy a bigger house to give us more room, and take advantage of the booming housing market. But we could never agree on a location in the city, or how much we wanted to pay, or how long we'd commit to staying there. So, we were pretty much screwed on that one. Besides, in the 2 years I lived there, I was the only one able to save up any money for a downpayment.

So, I figured, I've got a pretty decent salary, and my girlfriend's got a new job and she's holding her own too, we should be able to get a decent place, right? Not when your significant other is towing along an anchor in the form of a $50,000 student loan, you can't. But, it was confirmed that my roommate and his extra-drippy ex-girlfriend were leaving no matter what, because she couldn't stand us, and we couldn't stand her. I definitely didn't want to rent again, I wanted to get into that hot condo market, but we couldn't afford much. So in a rush, we decided to buy a condo out in the East end, which, while it had its moments, was basically a disaster. If I had to go back and play my cards differently, I would have found new tenants and held on to the rental until after the student loan was paid off, while buying a condo from plans in the neighbourhood I wanted to live in, waited until it was built, moved in, lived there for about a year and a half before my transfer, and sold the place for $70,000 more than what I paid for it, instead of making a paltry $2,500 on the condo I ended up buying before deciding to rent an apartment in the very neighbourhood I should have bought my condo in. But that's neither here nor there. And I'm not bitter, of course not. Pssh.

My other roommate has this knack for lucking into some great arrangements. He found himself a cool little house to rent on the west side with a few of our other buddies, and got a great deal from the owners. I was really relieved and happy for him, because I was worried we were leaving him up shit creek by moving out. Turns out he got the best deal. Not that I'm really surprised.

Anyways, this house had a rec room, and he decided to celebrate by buying a ping pong table before we moved out. Which, of course, was set up in the middle of the living room for our entertainment. Drunken ping-pong is close quarters is the shit.

So my other roommate and the oozing wonder moved out, leaving their bedroom empty. Originally, the plan was to pack up all of our boxes and leave them in that room until we were all to leave a few weeks later. But that plan was quickly scrapped.

See, the house the remaining roommate was moving into had no garage and was pretty wide open to the elements, which was bad news for the new sport bike he had just bought. His solution was to build a huge box that he could use to protect the bike from the wind, rain and snow. And now that there was an open bedroom, it seemed like as good a place as any to build it.
So he builds his box in such a way that it was basically being held together by 4 toggle bolts and you can just unscrew it and collapse it down, so that he could fit it out of the door and out of the apartment, but decided to leave it assembled in the guest bed so that he didn't wear the bolts out.

My girlfriend and I start packing up our shit, and stacking everything out in the living room, around the ping-pong table. The remaining roommate packs up his shit, and takes up the wall on the other side of the ping-pong table, and the kitchen. There are boxes EVERYWHERE. Such is life when 7 people are moving.

So, of course, we get a call from building management:

"Hi, this is building management, we'd like to show the apartment."

"I don't think that's such a good idea."

"Well, we are legally entitled to showing the apartment when we know you're moving out."

"We're aware of that, thanks. We're not saying no, we're just saying it's a bad idea."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, dumbass, we're moving out in two days. That means there's boxes and shit everywhere, and the place is a sty. We gave you 60 days notice. We kept the place clean for you to show it in that time, but now, we're in the middle of moving, so find another apartment to show if you want to attract a new tenant."

"But yours is the only three bedroom available."

"Then show them a two-bedroom, and say that 'your place would be just like this, but with an extra bedroom'."

"No. We're going to show your apartment."

"Fine, suit yourself. But you're gonna regret it. And all those repairs we requested didn't get done by themselves, either."

My roommate comes in.

"Who was that?"

"Building management. They want to show the apartment."

"Did you explain to them what it looked like in here?"

"Yep, and they want to show it anyway."

"So, what are we gonna do?"

"Fuck 'em. By the way, it's best of three, and we're tied at one. Your serve."

It's pretty interesting when you live and spend your time with a small group of people for a long time. Certain things just become accepted. Like there's an ant colony living in the cases of beer stacked 6 high right across the kitchen wall. Or the freezer door is held together with velcro. Or no one bothers sweeping away the roaches (both kinds) anymore. Or there's a punching bag collecting dust in the corner. Or that all the furniture comes from three different goodwill stores. Or the half bath smells like a McDonalds bathroom. Before cleaning. See, you sort of build up a tolerance to that stuff. Then someone steps in from normal society, and they get their fucking minds blown. And then you think "yeah, I guess that's not really normal, is it?"

The super knocks on the door. We don't even stop the rally. "IT'S OPEN!"

By "IT'S OPEN!", we meant "You can open the door about 18 inches before hitting a pile of boxes!". So the super walks in with what appears to be a charming young couple, full of hope and dreams and happy thoughts...which all got flushed down the crapper in about 0.06 seconds.

The young lady walks into the apartment and immediately kicks over the nice pile of warped parquet tiles we had stacked on the floor.

"Oh, don't mind those. One night a few months back, our toilet exploded and flooded the apartment got shit everywhere and warped the tile, so it popped off the floor. But I'm sure they'd fix that before you move in. Right Mr. Super?"

But that didn't hold her attention for long.

"You have a ping-pong table in your living room?"

"Yeah." While taking a swig of my drink. "Nothing beats beer and ping pong."

"But how do you get to the other side?"

"Silly, we climb over it. Besides, usually all these boxes aren't here, so try to imagine this place without them."

"I'm trying, but it's hard."

"Tell me about it."

Desperate to find a selling point to the apartment, the super turns to the kitchen, sees the pile of dishes in the sink, the half-packed boxes, the wall of beer and the velcro on the freezer door and does the smoothest 180 I've ever seen.

"Yeah dude, just forget about walking into the kitchen altogether."

So he goes to the major selling point of the apartment, the beautiful balcony. You know, the one hidden by the former circus tent drapes. So he goes and opens the drapes, stepping out onto the balcony, half of which was taken up by the frame of the weed tent (the guy who had moved out took his tarp with him) with readily visible extremely vulgar stoner vandalism, along with what remained of the circus tent frame. Again, the young lady turned to us with a look of disbelief.

"You guys sure have a lot of lumber up here."

"Oh, yeah, that. Actually, it used to be the frame of the fourth bedroom that we built out of one third of the living room. Because there were seven of us living here at one point, you know. And those sheets hanging up there were the wall."


She looked like she wanted to ask us more questions, but thought better of it and said something in quick, hushed tones to her husband, who by now was completely turned off of moving in, but I think he must of thought we were pretty cool guys, 'cause he just smiled through the whole thing like he was the only one in the room getting the joke.

They walked past the two bathrooms...with "Dump Entrance" signs nailed to the doors of each. They left well enough alone there.

Then they get to our bedroom, which was fine, with the exception that there were no drapes in the window, just a sheet stapled to the wall. That was probably the least shocking thing they saw.

Now, onto the empty bedroom. That is, the bedroom that was empty except for the 8 x 5 box in the centre of the room, and sawdust and power tools. I watched the lady go into that room, and she seemed to be doing some advanced, lost form of calculus to figure out how that box was going to fit through the door to get out of the room. She probably figured we kept bodies in there. Or we were growing weed. I thought of throwing her a bone, but I was just too amused by the whole thing.

All of a sudden, her brain aborts the mission, she turns on her heel and starts heading out.

"I think we've seen all we need to see, thanks." The super's shoulders slumped and his face harboured the look of a defeated man.

"Really? We could show more. The mismatched tiles in the bathroom, the water damage in the master bedroom... what would you like to see?"

Of course, I cut off the super before he caught up to the couple, who would have probably set an Olympic record getting from our door to the elevator.

"Now, I told you showing this place was a bad idea. Did you listen? No. Now, if you guys can just keep your shorts on for two days, we'll be out of here, and this place will be empty. You can fix everything that you never took care of while we lived here, and then you'll actually have a chance at renting this place instead of wasting your time. Deal?"


We were gonna be nice, we really were. But then they ended up double booking us on the service elevator, being assholes about it, and wanting to charge us extra to undo the booking. So, we just didn't throw out any of the lumber on the balcony, and left all the garbage and sawdust in there to rot. It's not like we gave real forwarding addresses anyway. And they had already given us back our deposit. We all wanted to take turns taking a shit in the busted-up half bath toilet without flushing, leaving a mountain of unflushable shit in there. But even we weren't that mean. So with that, we all went our separate ways (east side, midtown, west side), but we can't deny that the two years we spent in that apartment made us closer than we had ever been before.


Since my transfer earlier this year, I now live about 500 km away from my friends. The ones who live the closest to me, anyway. I miss them terribly. I love my wife and son, but it's different. When I'm not around my friends, I feel empty, like there should be someone by my side to have beers with and rehearse with and help me out with the yardwork and barbecue great meals and talk shit with, but there isn't. I guess I've been writing about all this lately because these memories are good, and it makes me feel like my friends are close by while I'm typing away. I can still hear them laughing, still hear their voices in my head, clear as the day the memories were made.

I know that I made the best choice for my family by moving here. I'll have career opportunities here that I never would have had otherwise. As will my wife. My child gets to grow up surrounded by parkland, instead of gang turf. And my starter home here is bigger and nicer and newer than any home I could have ever bought there.

I guess I just didn't think that the sacrifices I had to make would hurt so much.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Legend of the Extra Drippy Cunt-eh (Post-Uni) (Redux)

"We're never gonna survive, unless...we get a little...crazy..."

Seal, "Crazy"

As an aside, an extremely underrated artist, IMO.

It's funny, even the telling of this story has a background. See, it sort of was the inspiration for this blog. I posted it on a message board a while back to rave reviews, which led me to believe I had an audience for this kind of stuff. Unfortunately, I never kept a copy of it on my hard drive, and the site got hacked and we lost the original story. I will attempt to recreate it here as faithfully as possible.


Sometime in summer 2001.

So, as I had mentioned, six months after I moved into the apartment, a couple moved out. My girlfriend and I took the bedroom that was left behind, leading to the dismantling of the circus tent. At the same time, one of my other roommates had recently started dating a girl, and they decided (she was from out of town), that she should move in to try to find a job. So, there were five of us living there full-time, with an extra two guys part time. In addition, the third guy roommate was dating this other girl's best friend. There'll be a test later.

Everything was fine at first. But as is always the case when you bring girls into the picture, things got complicated. As time passed, we started to suspect that this girl wasn't very bright. Then, we were convinced of it. My roommate referred to her as "the stupidest creature to walk the face of the Earth".

Now really, this girl was stupid. You know about book smarts, and street smarts. This girl had neither. In fact, she had the opposite of both these things. Now, as long as you didn't stray from general small-talk, she could be an ok person to be around, barely. But as soon as we would talk about more serious stuff, she couldn't keep up. I don't mean to rag on the fact that she was dumb, but I mean, she didn't have any matter of in-depth knowledge about anything. And people like that, in addition to being boring as hell, get really annoying after a time. Especially when they think they're as smart as you. Which they're not. 'Cause they're dumb.

This girl enjoyed arguing for the sake of arguing. She was never right, but would just stick to her guns like a captain going down with the ship. Now, my roommate was a pretty high-strung person, so he'd just end up going ballistic and getting stressed out. It was not a good situation for any of us, and when you've got 7 people living in 1100 square feet, there isn't anywhere to really get away.

However, and here's the kicker, you can't just up and tell your best friend that his girlfriend is a troglodyte bitch. Men get blinded by love, it's true, and you can't tell him anything bad, because it could potentially ruin the friendship. So you just stick it out and make sure that you're there for them when things invariably go bad.

Things went from bad to worse as she dug her claws in. Since we had my old 21 inch tv in the living room, she volunteered to bring a newer, larger tv from home. We thought "hey, great! The bitch is good for something!" Well, no sooner did that tv come in than she placed a ban on all sports shows. Uhhhhh, what? The deal was, we were allowed to watch her tv as long as we asked her, and that she was ok with what you were watching. Uhhhhhhh, WHAT?

Now, I watched sports a lot more than the other guys, so I became a raving lunatic for a while. I probably don't watch any more than 10 hours of tv a week, but probably about 9.5 of that is sports. So I brought my tv back out in the living room, put it on a table beside hers, reconnected the cable to mine, and watched nothing but all sports, all the time, just to spite her. Fuck you, bitch.

Now, as I was saying before, when you live in close quarters, you find things out about people that you never want to find out. My roommate, as was his habit when he smoked a lot of weed, came out with a lot of secrets. So, when he banged this chick for the first time, I could just see it in his face that he wanted to come out and tell me about it.

"Listen man, now, you can't tell anyone about this, but I fucked her. I fucked the shit out of her. And she leaked EVERYWHERE. It soaked through the blankets, through the sheet, and it soaked right into my mattress. My parents are coming to visit this weekend, and I can't get the smell of pussy out of my room."

"Dude, are you sure she didn't just piss herself?"

"NO. Uhhh, NO. Ummmm, I don't think so, she couldn't have...fuck off. No. FUCK. NO."

Now, as loath as we normally are to using the "C" word (girls don't like it, and it's just plain rude), this girl had already done enough to earn the moniker Dumb Cunt (even my girlfriend called her that). So now, she was the Drippy Cunt. And somehow, that wasn't enough, so she became the Extra Drippy Cunt. In addition, she had told her best friend (who was dating the other roommate) about this, and she told her boyfriend, the other roommate about it. And I told my girlfriend about it. So we all knew, but we didn't know that anyone else knew...until one afternoon...

We were throwing a huge bash one weekend for no particular reason. At least if there was a reason, I don't remember it now. To spice things up (and get the girls drunk), we started playing a drinking game, Kings. Now, I don't remember much about this game, except that you use a deck of cards, you have to drink with certain card combinations, then you make up bullshit rules, then you drink more.

(One funny rule before we go on: the NO SIMPSONISMS rule. Because all of us were avid Simpsons watchers and quoters, I figured that I could get a lot of people drinking if I made a rule that no one was allowed to quote the Simpsons at the table. If they did, they had to drink. Honest to God, here was one exchange we had:

"Eat my shorts!"

"That's a Simpsonism, you have to drink."


"That's two drinks."

Another guy at the table: "Haw haw!" (Nelson the bully)

"That's a drink for you."


"That's two drinks."

First guy: "Haw haw!"

Third guy: "No, no, dig up, stupid!"......"D'OH!"

First and second guy: "Haw haw!"

Not our most brilliant hour. Anyways, on with the story.)

So, on the tv is that "I AM CANADIAN" commercial. So, like good Canadians, we make up a rule that we have to finish all of our sentences with "eh". Then, the other girlfriend picks the "questions" card:

(From the Kings rules site:

Q) Questions
You start by making eye contact with someone and asking them an off-the-wall question. The players then go around in a circle asking each other questions. The point is to do this fast and to make the person laugh. Whoever laughs first drinks. In some groups, the first person to answer one of the questions, or make any statement other than a question, drinks instead.)

And finally, because of all the bad feelings simmering under the surface, and the amount of booze everyone had had to drink, my other roommate's girlfriend turns to this girl and says:

"So, I hear you've got an extra drippy cunt, eh?"

And we all just start roaring (and drinking, as per the rules), and we started laughing harder once we realized that all of us knew what it was that we weren't supposed to know, and that everyone else knew as well. As you can well imagine, the rule goes into place that every sentence must be finished with "extra drippy cunt-eh". I thought this girl was gonna freak out, but she was too drunk and stupid to be any more than slightly embarrassed. She was even good about it, finishing off her own sentences with the lovely phrase, which made it all the funnier.

The game went on for a while, but then we started noticing that this girl's boyfriend had never really stopped laughing, but now he was starting to stop breathing. He was clutching at his sides, tears squirting out of his eyes, snot running down his nose, and his face was contorted into a painful looking laugh, with no sound, and no air going in or out. Each time he calmed down enough to draw a quick breath, his laughter redoubled in intensity, until he got to the point that his sides hurt so much that he couldn't draw in any breath at all. For a minute, we wondered whether someone could really die laughing.

All of a sudden, there was a split second of calm. Then, his eyes bugged out and both hands instinctively clasped tightly over his mouth. It would seem that all of the rapid-fire drinking and laughing had churned up his stomach something awful. We didn't even hear him heave, but chunder started squirting out between his fingers, coating the table, the floor, himself, and the guy beside him. (Ewwwww, that's warm. Can someone get me a towel?)

Never have I seen so much puke come out of a man. And he could never position his hands to stop the flow, it would just squirt out between different fingers. So it was like a puke sprinkler. He finally half staggered, half was pushed out onto the balcony, and he coated that entire balcony, which was no mean feat. Even after all that barf in the living room, out on the balcony he looked like that the guy in that one scene that everyone knows about from Stand By Me, during the pie eating contest:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Which...well...sort of meant the end of the game. And it was probably the start of the end of that relationship. The horrid thing was, was that she was pressuring him to move out with her, and the rest of us wanted to move out to get away from her. My girlfriend and I ended up buying a condo that, if we had taken the time to research a bit more, would never have bought (and taken more time to pay off her student debt), and the EDC-E and my roommate broke up a few months after they moved out, so he got shafted paying rent in an apartment by himself. And the third guy had to scramble to find other people to live with, which put a dent in our friendship for a while, it seemed.

So fuck you, you extra drippy cunt.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Lords of the Slum (Post-Uni)

For all the fun that we were having, discovering the city, making our first forays into adulthood, dreaming the big dreams of the young, naive and overeducated, we were never able to rationalize the fact that...well...we lived in a total shithole.

My buddies had been living there for about a year before I moved in. They had two smaller places between them, but decided to get a larger place together to reduce the rent. However, they had just enough money to escape the worst of the ghetto living. That's to say, we weren't in any immediate danger of getting shot. As in, most of the gunshots we heard were from one street over. And that's about the best we could say.

We were living in what was referred to as the "Immigrant Ghetto", where various immigrants and refugees (some legal, some not) crammed themselves into apartments in the hopes of making it big in Canada. We were doing the exact same thing, except we were refugees from rural Ontario. So the other tenants sort of saw us as a novelty act, I think. We always figured, there's no way property management can bust us for having a circus tent in our living room, because there's probably 50 more of them scattered throughout the building.

Here's a snapshot of how shite this building was:

We had 1 1/2 baths in our apartment, but because of my one roommate's penchant for the McDonald's value menu, the toilet in the half bath was reserved for him, until he clogged it. Drano saved us for a while, but then the situation got dire. So on average, about every 2-3 weeks, we'd call the super to come fix the toilet. So he'd come up to our apartment, laugh at the circus tent, and use that snake thing on the pipes. Over and over again.

Well, you know, that snake thing doesn't really fix anything, it just pushes the shit further down the pipe in the hopes that it dislodges. But it never really did.

I wake up at five in the morning to banging on the door and screaming. I walk out to the hallway and notice that we have a river flowing through, coming from the half bath. We quickly put two and two together and realized that months of snaking the toilet had created a monster. The supers were yelling at us, saying they were going to take us to court and all this stuff. Apparently, a pipe had burst from the pressure caused by McDonalds-bred fecal matter and the water was causing damage all the way down to the 15th floor, from the 18th.

So, of course, we show off all of the service requests that we had made for the toilet, and that matter was resolved. Then, we start noticing how uneven the floors are, because lakes are gathering in certain areas of the floor, while others stayed bone dry.

So, our place smelled like Lake Erie for a week until we were able to finally get the smell out. The water raised and curled all of our lovely parquet flooring, so we stacked all the tiles neatly in the corner. We put in a service request for tile repair, but if that stuff ever got fixed, it was only after we left.


So, one night, we were screwing around in the building hallway, and one of my drunk buddies kicked the door to the utility room. And it broke open... JOY!

Once in that room...we noticed the Holy Grail of drunken mayhem...the door to the roof. Unlocked. HAPPY! HAPPY! JOY! JOY!

Now, I'm deathly afraid of heights (or more specifically, falling off of high things), so I peeked my head through the door and was satisfied with that. But, as every night went on and the utility room door still wasn't fixed, the guys came up with bolder and bolder plans.

One of my buddies still brags that his longest golf drive was over 900 yards. Yep, that's right, off the end of the building, bouncing through the mall parking lot across the street and over the parkway on the other side. We made sure to listen to the news the next day to make sure he hadn't killed anyone.

But that's not even the best one. One day, we decided that we should throw something off the roof, just to see what happened. We couldn't throw anything off the balcony of our apartment, or we'd be busted, so we figured if we dropped something off the roof on the other side of the building, no one would suspect us. Now...what to use? Eggs? Oranges? Pudding? Too small. This would be our only chance at this, and we had to think big. Ah, here we are...watermelon. One whole watermelon.

Now, the goal was to drop it from the top of the building into the dumpster. And we had to definitely make sure to pitch it far enough that it wouldn't land in someone's balcony. So we overshot the dumpster by about 4 feet. Damned if that watermelon didn't sound like a 12 gauge shotgun at impact. Total disintegration. The only evidence was the very top of the shell, and a little bit of juice had sprayed onto the dumpster. No pulp, no seeds, no shell, except for that one piece. We lifted it up, and the grass below it had also disintegrated. Nothing there but dirt.

But damned if later that summer, that wasn't the best fertilized patch of grass on the lot. I could barely contain myself as I walked by two months later and the supers were standing out in a lot full of dead grass, looking in amazement at this one round patch of the greenest, lushest grass you've ever seen...about the diameter of one medium-sized watermelon.


The building hadn't had any renovations to its old plumbing since it was built. There were leaks and sweating pipes everywhere. One of them was located in the wall between our bathroom and the master bedroom. So, we'd call down to have them fix it, as the walls on both sides would bubble and blister and crack and peel. So how would it get fixed? Remove the tile, shave down the blisters, replace the tile. Or, shave down the blisters and repaint. By the time we left that place, the whole master bedroom wall needed replacing.


The thing that pissed me off the most about that apartment, was our fridge. After years of sitting on an uneven floor, we just couldn't finagle the feet on it to keep it steady because the screws on the feet were so worn out. So it would rock forward and the doors would swing open. Particularly the freezer door.

It was the start of summer, and of course, barbecue season. Four renowned carnivores in one apartment, you're damn straight there's gonna be some charred meat on the menu. We went shopping on Thursday night and filled the freezer. Steaks, chops, chicken, ribs, you name it. We dropped about 2 bills, I think. We left town on Friday to go to a birthday party, and planned to return on the Sunday afternoon, in time for an official start-of-summer barbecue feast. Came back to the apartment on Sunday to an open freezer door and the smell of rotten meat.

First, we stared in disbelief. Then, we were all like, "it's just a little thawed out, it's still good, it's still good", then we cried, then we got really, really angry. I grabbed one of the drivers of the group by the collar.


"Do you have any idea what you're going to do?"


So we're roaming the isles of Home Depot. Axes, sledgehammers, chainsaws, all of these are looking like good options. As my cooler head started to prevail, I figured that we could just shim up the legs and make it at least lean backwards, but that wouldn't be enough of a conversation piece. Installing a clasp system required drilling a hole in the fridge...no good. Ah, here we go, velcro. Two stickers, then a velcro patch that you could put over them. We got home, one sticker on the door, one sticker on the side of the fridge, velcro holding the two together. Problem solved. And what a conversation piece that was. "My God, is your freezer being held together by velcro?" "Why, yes, yes it is. Why do you ask?"


After six months, one of the couples moved out, so my girlfriend and I took their bedroom (more on this later). But there was still the trouble of what to do with the circus tent. After all, we had spent about $60 in wood, we didn't want it to go to waste. Two things happened with it:

1) We built a frame for a hotbox tent on the balcony, which was covered with heavy duty tarpaulin (great for smoking in the wintertime). I think the guys even got cable and a LAN drop out there at one point. The frame stayed out there, complete with stoner vandalism (XXXX has a small penis! Fuck you, no I don't!) long after we moved out.

2) The stress of living together was getting to us, so we decided to buy a punching bag so we could pound it and not each other. One of those heavy 70 pound fuckers. A quick reconfiguration of the remaining wood built us a pretty handy frame for it. We wrapped some sponges and towels around the points that came in contact with the wall, and let the fists fly. So yeah, we had a heavy punching bag in our living room. At the point we had reached, this seemed like completely normal behaviour.

Me and one of the other roommates used to come home from work, put on the gloves and take turns doing 3 minute rounds on the thing for about half an hour before supper. One day a few weeks in, we were REALLY laying into it. So we get a knock on the door. It was this cute little Indian lady.


"Hi...can we help you?" (We're all breathing hard, sweaty and still wearing sparring gloves)

"I was just wondering if we were having an earthquake..."

"No, I don't think so, we wouldn't really be able to notice with our sparring."

"Oh...OH." (looks in and sees the bag)

"OH, you must stop the boxing, please. I am one floor below, and doors are rattling, pictures are falling, it's not good."

"We're very sorry. It won't happen again. *snicker*"

"I'm sorry you guys, I'm sure that's a lot of fun."

"Would you like to come in and try it out?"

"No, no thank you."


So, as I said, about six months in, one of the couples moved out. We took a bedroom, two other guys moved out into the living room part time (we charged them food and use of the one guy's meat freezer as payment, they only stayed with us about 3 days a week). And one other roommate's girlfriend moved in, which put us up to 7 people half the time. And what an interesting arrangement that turned out to be...

Like, when you live with people too long, you learn things about them you never should. Next entry will go into detail about one of those cases...

I'll Get By With a Little Help From My Friends (Post-Uni)

Someday we'll wave hello
And wish we'd never waved goodbye...

The Smashing Pumpkins, "This Time"

I have the best friends in the world. It's a shame we don't live close together anymore and don't see each other as often as we'd all like. But we stay in touch as much as we can. We've all spread out across various provinces and states, but think nothing of driving all night to spend a weekend together. We'll see how having a baby interferes with that, but it hasn't so far.

With a few additions and subtractions, our core group of friends has been together since the 7th grade. Of that group, there are a few of us who can trace our friendship back to the 1st grade. And since I can't really remember further back than that, I can honestly say that I've known my friends my whole life.

We're closer than family, closer than brothers. So, when I had a hard time landing on my feet after university, they were the ones I turned to. And, as usual, they came through, just like they've always done, and I like to think I've always done for them.


Spring 1999

I'm working the two jobs (unofficial grocery store trainer and bilingual admin clerk) and scuffling along. I'm stressed out because my girlfriend is still in school and, at the time, even though I knew I wanted to pursue the relationship after she graduated, I wasn't sure what was going to happen. Nothing was forcing her to move to the same city as me, and I'm not the type of person who wants to keep someone from doing something they want to do, even if that doesn't involve me.

The three guys I moved in with are a year younger than me, and thus, were still completing their degrees and were in their last year of school. In addition, one of the guys had his fiance living with us as well. So, that's 4 guys and 1 girl in a three-bedroom apartment. I didn't care that I slept on the couch, because it was only fair, and because I have a grand total of zero shame ("hey, if you happen to see me naked, that's YOUR problem, not mine.").

Then, the summer rolls around, and my girlfriend calls. She's having trouble finding a job, so she'd rather stay with me for the summer, while still trying to find work. I felt sort of bad, because the apartment was already overcrowded, so I asked the guys:

"Hey, do you mind if my girlfriend stays on the couch with me?"

"Is she cute?"


"Is she a bitch?"


"Will she take a share of the rent?"

"Yeah." (going up to 6 people paying rent in the apartment brought our shares down to $227 each a month, we quickly figured...then started cracking up)

"No problem. We'll figure something out."

That "something" was probably the most resourceful, eccentric, yet all around retarded decision we've ever made. And, it probably set the tone for a bunch of other stupid things we did over the total of two years we lived there.

Our living room was L-shaped. The back third was basically just used to stack empty beer cases and pilfered street signs, and play cards, drink and smoke. We hypothesized that we could condense everything down to 2/3 of the living room, then build "some sort of structure" that would serve as the 4th bedroom.

I don't know if it was the lingering aroma of hash and weed in the air (don't do drugs, kids), or the consecutive weeks of drinking until 3 in the morning on work nights, or watching Animal House too many times, but the "some sort of structure" became a temporary wall frame assembled by 4x4s that sealed off the back third of the living room and was held up by huge L-brackets. So, so illegal. We now had a wall frame, and decided to push this project to the limits of absurdity.

In order to give us some semblance of privacy, we went to a fabric surplus store and got reams of the cheapest stuff we could get. Since one colour would be too bland and flowery patterns would be too gay, we decided to go with various samples of bold colours - red, blue, green, yellow, purple, gray, pink. In honour of the colour scheme, my bedroom was dubbed "the circus tent". The really funny part was, that after a few people moved out and we got a bedroom of our own, the tent sheets were used as drapes for the living room of our 18th floor apartment. At night, when it was dark out and the lights were on, a multi-coloured glow shone out into the street.

But that didn't help that our room was still very visible from the balcony - the sheets only cut us off from the living room. So we drew a line on the balcony, that the guys knew not to cross for risk of seeing my furry white ass fornicating.

We stayed up all night assembling that tent the day before my girlfriend was due to arrive. I wonder whether our neighbours had the slightest clue what we were doing. I mean, high-rise dwellers would have to get curious when they hear power tools 18 floors up at 1:00 in the morning.

I still can't believe that I lived in that tent for 6 months. At least I got to the point where I had bought an air mattress to go on top of the pullout, but still, what the hell was I thinking?

The relationships started getting a bit strained because of the close quarters and conflicting schedules, but if it was anyone aside from my best friends, we'd have killed each other. But looking back on it, the nights playing euchre and bitching about work, the treks throughout the city to find the best wings, and the best strippers, and sometimes, the best wing/stripper combo, the stupid dares, the road trips, getting high and going to the mall, and just generally being guys away from home, were some of the best times I ever had. I don't miss the jobs I had, but I certainly miss our time in that apartment, and looking back on it, I shouldn't have left when I did, but sometimes all the petty shit that gets in the way looks more important than having fun with your friends.

I'll get into that petty shit next time... :)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Everything Looks Nicer in the Rear View (Post-Uni)

"I'm alright with the way that I've become
I've paid my dues, I'm ready for whatever comes..."

Ben Kenney, "Inside, Pt. 2"

You know the people who say that it's the journey that's important, not the destination? Fuck them. They don't know shit.

People who can say that without any sense of irony are usually the people who ended up in a favourable destination, the circumstances of which they can use to go back and rationalize their journey as being worthwhile.

Busting your ass in a band and hauling your gear in a van for a few years while slowly building a fanbase and eventually achieving all the musical success you desire (whatever that level of success may be) is laudable. Doing the same thing your whole life and never getting anywhere is depressing.

Starting out as a factory worker and grinding your way up the ranks is an inspirational story. Starting out as a factory worker and never getting past entry-level is a waste of human potential.

The point is, people bust their asses along the journey, with the hopes that they arrive at the destination they're looking for. Sometimes they get there, most of the time they don't.


May 1999.

Upon recovering from my habanero-induced illness, I took stock of my situation:

  • $40 to my name
  • no job
  • no leads
  • no car
  • no driver's licence
  • new city
  • no bed
Literally, the only things I had were my guitar, a suitcase full of clothes, two blankets and two pillows. I was crashing on my buddy's ancient pullout couch, the kind with the springs and bars that reorient your spine while you sleep. Not only did I not have a job, but most of the large employment firms deemed me unemployable because of my very odd set of particular and disparate skills. Ironically enough, those same skills are paving my way to executive management as we speak.

So, using my last $40 to find enough sustenance to last me as long as possible, I ventured to the neighbourhood grocery store which, convienently enough, had a Help Wanted sign posted in the window. Well, it was a start. I might have been considered unemployable in the office world, but damn if I didn't have more than enough experience to get me that job. Figuring that lump in my throat proving really difficult to swallow was only my pride, I marched into that store with every ounce of false confidence I could muster and basically begged for the job.

I stated that I thought that my five years of experience and supervisory skills far outclassed whatever employees they had currently working at the store, and I was right. The stockroom was a mess (I was responsible for organizing the stockroom once a week at my old job), their dairy case was full of expired product, and the shelves were empty while there was stock collecting dust in the back. Upon looking at the store, I went and bargained for $10 an hour. The store owner didn't buy it, but he said that since he was going to pay me $6.50 an hour, he'd meet me halfway and pay $8.25.

I told him that I needed any money I could get, but that I wouldn't stick around at $8.25 an hour. After all, in my last year at the old store, I was making $11.50, and I'd gotten a university education since then. So I gave him my business proposal:

"You and I both know that as soon as I get a halfway decent job, I'm out of here. So here's what I propose. Your store is a mess. If inspectors walked into your dairy case, you'd be busted. No one can find anything in your stockroom, and your student workers haven't been properly trained. (After all, he was a businessman who had bought a franchise - he wasn't a qualified store manager, and the person he had hired to do that needed training himself). I can come in a few nights a week and maybe a day on the weekend to get your store in shape, but you have to leave me my days off so I can find a real job. If I can't find a decent job within a few months and if you like what I can provide you, you can hire me full-time and I'll run your store."

Upon hearing me talk, he knew that he was in trouble and needed what I could provide badly. So for 22 hours a week (3 five hour weeknight shifts and one 7-hour weekend shift), I did what I said I would: I cleaned up his dairy case, trained his student staff (who weren't at all lazy, they just didn't have a clue what they were doing), washed his shelves, reorganized his stockroom and even found the time to train the store manager on a few things, like how to provide proper customer service, how to set up promotional displays, and how to position product so it would sell better.

It wasn't long before my efforts were noticed. My roommates, who were scared to shop at that store before, commented on how much better it looked. The owner was happy, but I was frantically looking for another job.

After trying to find work at a bunch of employment agencies, one agency finally found me an entry-level administration job at a lease financing company. Thank God I'm bilingual (I speak and write English and French fluently), because that's the only reason I was hired - their old bilingual admin clerk quit, and they didn't have anyone capable of interacting with the dealers and sales staff from Quebec. Well, I wasn't exactly setting the world on fire, but it was a start. The salary: $12 an hour., at 35 hours a week. I went into that job with the biggest chip on my shoulder, especially once I met the complete tools I had to work with. Even though it was more money, it wasn't enough to quit at the grocery store. It was especially difficult to deal with, considering that my last student job (admin assistant to the chief librarian) paid me a government subsidized $13.25 an hour.

So, for all you math majors, I was up to working 57 hours a week, with an average wage of a shade above $10 an hour. A four-year honours student, second in my class in a professional vocation. Had I stayed at the old store in my home town, pay increases would probably have gotten me up to about $18 an hour, and I'd have been pulling a solid 42 hours a week.

So, had I decided at that point to cut my losses and beg for my old job back in my hometown (which I had given more than a passing thought to, but the store had switched management, so I didn't have any goodwill built up). The way I saw it, I could break off my long-distance relationship (with the girl I eventually married), move back into my parents' basement, start work at the store again, squirrel away some money to buy property while it was on the cheap (my hometown's major industry was cyclical, so many permanent residents had gotten rich buying low and selling high repeatedly), probably marry some failed cheerleader and spent my life working up to store manager and wondering whether that was all there was to life. My town was filled with people who had grown up waiting to get out, then saw that there were fish in the big pond far bigger than they were, and eagerly swam back to their goldfish bowl.

Had I done that, there's no way that I would have figured the "journey" was worth it, because I would have poured 4 years and $40,000 into an education that would have gotten me exactly where I had already been.

Fortunately, I stuck it out, but it wasn't easy. How did I do it? That's an entry for next time, boys and girls...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Piloting Projects into the Ground

"Is it coincidence that the craziest fools have the strongest belief that they're right?"

Ben Kenney - "Wrong"

12-hour days mean a lack of patience, blogging time, baby time, guitar time, and any other time other than eating, sleeping and working time. Even eating time gets compromised, which makes me very cranky. At my last unofficial count, I'm up to doing the work of 11 people. It's no fun being the manager when there's no one available to delegate to.

So, until yesterday, my team was taking part in a pilot project to test the effectiveness of a new piece of software to be rolled out in the fall/winter. It doesn't work all that well, and we were losing patience with it, but we were trying to make it work. Yesterday afternoon, I was taken off the project for a number of reasons, one of them being that I was unable (unwilling?) to follow the precise instructions I was given for operating the software.

Now, as manager, am I not ultimately responsible for the workflow in my unit? We tried things the way the project team wanted them done, and it didn't work. And it wasn't for lack of trying. So I asked my team (because I let my subordinates make decisions, shocking, isn't it?) what they thought would work. And they had a few suggestions. And we tried them. And they didn't work. But they didn't not work as badly as the original idea...follow what I'm saying? There was enough promise with the new workflow that with some tweaking, we had a chance at making it work.

So I bring this up to the project team, thinking they'd be grateful to have a second option. Nope, they want us to go back to what has no hope of working. Meanwhile, this is costing us time and money and people are getting upset and frustrated, so I draw the line in the sand and say no, this is how it's going to be. My youthful stubbornness getting the better of me, they thought. But then I went over the rationale for my decision, and people agreed that it made sense. BUT THEY STILL WANTED ME TO DO IT THE OTHER WAY.

Long story short, my director caught wind of the situation and pulled the plug for compassionate reasons, knowing that I was already overworked and apt to blow a fuse and that the project was doomed to failure because of the overall shoddiness of the software anyway. I feel sorry for the sucker who gets suckered into this job next.

So basically, because of my boss' intervention, I'm off the project, I don't have to do everything they want, but I still get to keep the software in case we end up finding a way to use it. Which is what I wanted in the first place. ;)

On a larger-scale, here's the question: how do you go about running a pilot project to test new software? We had it introduced into our workflow without even bothering to find out whether it was even STABLE (it wasn't) or able to do what it advertized (yes, but only in very precise and unrealistic conditions). We were given one set of possible directives, and if those directives didn't work, we were just to keep doing them until further notice.

If it were me, I'd have assembled a working group of people who are more comfortable than the average with various software packages in order to do some troubleshooting, and giving them free reign to find out what works and what doesn't, while working with the project team to record the strengths and weaknesses of said software, which would then lead to joint recommendations on how to incorporate it into the general workflow, while giving instructions to everyone in the workflow chain on how to provide feedback, which would be used to further refine the procedures. And if anyone found a better way, they would be welcome to keep working that way. But that's just me.

Am I the only one who thinks that makes sense?

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Curse of Longwindedness

So...if you haven't noticed, my posts are kind of long. That's ok, it lets me get a lot off my chest. But my longwindedness does have its disadvantages.

I write music. I don't aspire to be a rock star, or to sell millions of records. I just want some songs to call my own. I'm not even that good. But I can't write a goddamn lyric to save my life. Anyone have any ideas?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Vision of the Future...or...How Google Changed the World

The amount of information that is available to most people is astonishing. Through the power of Google and the Internet, we can find an absurd amount of information on any subject, and often, with a lot more detail than what we're looking for.

This has had a lot of impact on specialists in today's society. Doctors are faced with patients who tell them that their diagnosis differs from what they read on WebMD, lawyers are being quoted case law by those who they represent, and all of a sudden, everyone knows how to hotwire a car or defuse a bomb.

Knowledge used to be defined as "what you know". However, anyone skilled at the use of Internet search engines will tell you that knowledge is defined as "what you can find". I don't know how to change a tire on a car, but I know where to find out how to do it.

So what does that mean for today's business world? For starters, everyone is on an even playing field, because everyone has access to the same information. The Internet is a mine of information ripe for the picking. Since everyone, in theory, can find out the same things, what will set the best and brightest apart from the rest, is how successfully they will be able to pick out trends and patterns out of that information, and intelligently push the boundaries of critical thinking and innovation. These people, the natural problem solvers, will no longer be limited by their own knowledge and experience, but will be able to tap into the collective knowledge and experience of society through the Internet. I can't wait to see what kind of innovations we'll see in the future as a result.