Sunday, April 28, 2013

Was it Something I Said? - Book Review

Was it Something I Said - The Answer to your Dating Dilemmas, by Jess McCann.

I have to say, this book mainly gives dating advice geared towards women. It's another reason I decided to take it out. So I could see how the "other side" thinks.

Jess McCann is a dating coach based in the U.S. who's written previous advice books in the past. She has a long list of clientele, both men and women, who range in age from 19 to 67. In a previous life she was a top salesperson at her own company. She is married to her wonderful husband, Erik.

Ms. McCann has some really good advice in her book. A lot of it is common sense, but sometimes you need someone to guide you just the same. Because love or what you consider to be love can blind you to reality. The need to be in a relationship can sometimes lead you to overlook your own needs in order to appease your partner. Ms. McCann cautions against this because it will lead to imbalance in a relationship and, thus, someone will be unhappy.

On the topic of dating she discusses many things like - What to talk about on a date; or What to do when the check arrives?

On the topic of what to talk about on a date Ms. McCann suggests asking your date questions about himself. She says that everyone likes to talk about their beliefs and interests. And she says not to shy away from so-called sensitive subjects like politics or religion because they can sometimes "spice up" a conversation as she puts it. Ask about his goals, passions or his philosophy on life. Ask "why" questions. Instead of just asking him where he lives, for instance, ask him why he chose to live there. Why questions are much more interesting.

What to do when the check arrives - If it's the first date the guy always pays. You (the girl) can reach for your wallet, but if he lets you pay that means he's not interested and you should move on. On the second and third date you (the girl) should still reach for your wallet or ask if you can pay the tip, but the guy should still pay the bill. By the third or fourth date Ms. McCann suggests that you start reciprocating. She says you can offer to pay for pre-dinner drinks or coffee or ice cream afterwards. That way the guy won't feel like you're using him just to get free dinners. As well, you must say a sincere, thank you, at the end of dinner to show your appreciation. As the relationship progresses you (the girl) should offer to pay for things every now and then.

In developing a relationship she also talks about leaving your date wanting more. You should always end your date on a high note. Even though you may want to stretch things out and hang out longer you should resist the urge to do so. When you end the date on a high your partner will be anxious to see you again. It sounds kind of mean, but I believe it would work.

On a similar note, don't return his calls or texts too quickly or make yourself too available too soon after your last date. You need to build up some anticipation. If you make him wait a couple of hours for a return call or text this will achieve that. In the same way, after a date, if he asks you to see a movie the next day, tell him you're busy but you'd love to go the following weekend. You should wait at least three days before meeting up again. You have to make it seem like you have a life and that you have other things to do and that life doesn't necessarily revolve around him (at least not yet). Not moving too quickly will keep his interest level up.

This book covers many subjects. Too many to talk about here unfortunately. The chapters include - Texting and Calling; Dating; Hooking Up; Handling Sticky Situations; Social Networking; Internet Dating (which she is in favor of); Finding Commitment; and All the Right Moves. I'd highly recommend it to anyone (either guys or girls). Ms. McCann gives sage advice. And while it may not apply to every situation you find yourself in, it still is a good guide towards making smart decisions in your dating life/relationships.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

FoodShare Fundraiser

My friend and I attended a fundraiser for FoodShare here in Toronto (Bloor and Dufferin area). It was in memory of our former co-worker, Shelagh Gordon, who passed away a year ago from a brain aneurysm.

The fundraiser was supposed to be a lunch that ran from 12 noon to 4:00 p.m. What I didn't realize was that it was to be a sit down lunch and that everyone would be served. So I made plans to go with my friend after church and after I had had lunch in Chinatown. We didn't arrive there until about 2:30. Just in time to have dessert.

When I first went in I saw a couple of former co-workers, Sue Norman and Nancy Lutz. They were a couple of the original Auto Trader photographers/salespeople from when I first started back in 1989. As well, Dave Wilson, (another one of the original Trader photographers/salespeople) was there as was Shelagh's sister Heather Cullimore and brother-in-law Jay Cullimore. Those two were also photographers/salespeople, but they started later.

It was great seeing them all again and catching up. Sue has been doing a variety of things since she left Trader seven years ago. If I remember correctly she said she ran a bicycle touring company for awhile and was also involved with trade shows (I have such a bad memory). Nancy is involved with interior design. She mentioned something about her company importing Scavolini kitchens. Jay is involved with some former Trader employees who publish other magazines. And Dave is one of the very few original Trader employees still there. He's been there for 34 years so far. Incredible.

It was a wonderful, unexpected surprise to see them. Out of the bunch only Nancy and Dave are on Facebook. So I haven't seen or heard from most of them in at least 5-10 years I believe (I left in the summer of 2009).

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Some Closure in Boston

The events of the past week in Boston have been very disturbing to say the least. Last Monday, April 15th, two homemade bombs made from pressure cookers filled with nails and ball bearings exploded near the finish line of the 117th annual Boston Marathon killing three spectators - 8-year-old Martin Richard who was watching with his family (his mother and sister received serious injuries, his father minor); 29-year-old Krystle Campbell of Arlington, Massachusetts, a restaurant manager; and 23-year-old Lu Lingzi a Boston University graduate student from Shenyang, China. 176 others were injured, 17 severely. Many of the victims lost limbs due extensive damage from the exploding shrapnel.

This appalling act of terrorism which shocked the world led to an intense manhunt for the two suspects, 26-year-old, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and 19-year-old, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The Chechen-born brothers were captured by surveillance video and their images broadcast worldwide. They had lived in the States for about 10 years up until this point.

On Thursday evening at about 10:30 p.m. a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer, 26-year-old, Sean Collier, was shots multiple times in his car at the university. He was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital where he was pronounced dead. It is believed he had encountered the two suspects wanted in connection with the bombing.

A short time later a Mercedes SUV was car-jacked by the two brothers. The driver was driven around for about half an hour before being released unharmed at a gas station in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He said the brothers admitted to him that they were the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.

Police were called and chased the vehicle into nearby Waterdown. During the pursuit a number of explosives were thrown from the SUV. Some detonated while others failed to do so. Intense gunfire was exchanged in the area of Dexter and Laurel Streets in Waterdown. In this exchange the elder brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed while the younger one, Dzhokhar, escaped in the vehicle.

The city of Boston and the surrounding area was put in lockdown for the majority of the day (Friday) while authorities searched for the remaining suspect. Residents were advised to lock their doors and remain inside and not to open them to anyone besides uniformed authorities with identification. Both the Boston Bruins and Boston Red Sox home games were postponed.

On Friday evening an injured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured after a brief firefight with police. He was hiding in a 22-foot dry-docked pleasure boat behind a home in Waterdown. One of the residents of the home discovered him there after going to the boat, noticing blood on the tarp and lifting it and seeing him inside. He quickly ran into his home and called 911. The authorities immediately dispatched a helicopter with infrared sensors which confirmed the presence of someone inside.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Midas Auto on O'Connor Drive

I bought a voucher from one of those online companies for 3 oil changes for $35 (plus $5 disposal fee each time) at Midas Auto on O'Connor Drive in Toronto. As well as the oil changes you could have other inspections and diagnostic tests done (supposedly for free).

One of the extra services on the voucher was a free tire rotation. Since winter is all but over my sister asked me if I could go get her all seasons put back on. Normally I go to a Chinese place in Markham where they do it for $20. But I thought I might go over to the Midas Auto to see if I could get it done there since I had the coupon.

Now, technically, a tire rotation isn't exactly the same as changing winter tires to all seasons or vice versa, but, really, it's pretty much the same. Instead of taking the tires off and rotating them from front to back (or whatever they do), they would have to take the old tires off and put on the ones from the trunk of the car. Still, I thought I'd call ahead to see if they would do it.

When I got the guy on the phone there he told me there would be a $20 surcharge if you had the coupon or it would be $30 otherwise. He mumbled something about it being extra work saying they had to "take the tires out of the bag" (the ones from the trunk of the car) or something ridiculous like that. Are you kidding me? You're going to charge someone an extra $20 for taking tires out of a bag? I thought, if you're going to try and scam somebody like that then I'll just take my business elsewhere. So I went to my regular place and had it done there.

I'm going to have to deal with this Midas service centre again for the oil changes. I just hope they don't try to add on all sorts of mystery surcharges charges or recommend any unnecessary work. Stay tuned...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

On the Road with Nadurra

My friend Rob works at Nadurra. They're an eco-friendly hardwood flooring supplier. Last Friday he wanted to go out and shoot some places that the had supplied flooring to. In hindsight maybe we should have called first.

Our first stop was the Ontario Science Centre. They had ordered some reclaimed wood flooring for one of their projects there. It was while we were waiting for one of the department heads there that I bumped into my former colleague, Reay, and his daughter. They have a yearly membership to the Science Centre and Reay takes his daughter fairly regularly because there's a kids' section there that she likes.

After a short wait the Science Centre contact met us. He told us they were using the flooring in the Banting and Best display they were setting up. Frederick Banting and Charles Best discovered insulin in the early 1920's. It was used to treat diabetes.

Unfortunately the display (which was supposed to be a recreation of their lab) was still under construction. The only thing that was finished was the flooring. Rob mentioned it normally should be installed last so it wouldn't get damaged by anything else falling on it during the construction process.

While we didn't get to take pictures here the department head (whose name escapes me) took us on a behind-the-scenes tour of his department. It was a large workshop area where they made all the displays for the Science Centre. They had all sorts of woodworking machinery and a graphic design shop. They do everything in house. In fact they even make displays for other museums or galleries and ship them overseas. Neither Rob nor I had any idea they did any of that stuff there. It was so neat to see. The area was huge.

Our next stop was a Regent Park condo project called Paintbox (by Daniels). Unfortunately after speaking with the onsite property manager we were informed we would have to submit an application requesting permission to shoot whichever areas we were interested in and the board of managers would have to approve it.

Next we headed to the University of Toronto Mining Building at 170 College Street. They had installed some flooring on the fourth floor in one of the public areas of the student lab.

At first we tried taking the elevator up. But, you needed a card to access certain floors. So we tried the stairs next. Same deal. As we turned to leave down the stairs from the fourth floor one student was on his way up. Rob asked him how we could access the floor. He told us you had to sign out a key fob that would allow you entry. He mentioned he didn't have one either. But, he was going to call a friend (who was already inside) to open the door for him. Before he did that another one of his friends opened the door and we followed him in. We spent about 20 minutes there taking pictures.

Next stop was a private residence in the Bloor and Christie area. A young couple was in the process of renovating their house and had used some of Nadurra's reclaimed flooring. It looks great, but costs an arm and a leg (at $9-$10 a square foot).

While they were still living there, again they were still in the process of renovations. So, like the Science Centre, they weren't finished either. The couple had installed the flooring both on their main floor and upstairs. Rob and I moved some of the clutter around and I got a few reasonable shots of the dining room/kitchen area. We may return later after they finish completely.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Not Working by DW Gibson

I just finished reading Not Working by author DW Gibson. In the book he crisscrosses the U.S. conducting 59 interviews with various people who've recently lost their jobs. From recent grads to those who had worked for their companies for over 30 years, they all had stories to tell.

One sentiment many of them expressed was disillusionment. The American dream of security, prosperity, independence was a distant and now unachievable goal. Lives were crushed along with all hope of a financially secure future.

The stories of the older folks were the saddest - The dedicated ones who loyally served their employers through thick and thin for 20 or 30 or more years. Many were turfed with little or no compensation after a merger or because of the economic downturn. Most of them were over 50 and had little or no hope of finding a new job. Who would hire someone that age after all? Meanwhile their CEOs walked away with millions in bonuses in recognition of their cost cutting measures.

To top it off most had no health insurance after being laid off (This was America after all - Land of the free and now desperately poor).  No savings, no job and no way to pay their mortgages. Many ended up selling the very homes they shed blood and tears to purchase. That and they drained whatever retirement funds they accumulated to that point just to put food on the table. The American dream had turned into a brutish nightmare.

I could relate to many of them. My story was eerily similar to some. So, instead of rehashing any of their interviews I figure I could share mine.

I was laid off Friday, June 26, 2009 - The day after Michael Jackson died. I remember driving home in a state of shock after the morning meeting and hearing on the radio that he had just passed away. The whole situation was so very surreal.

I had been working for my company since the summer of 1988. I had it in my mind it would be my summer job after completing my first year of Graphic Design at George Brown College. Little did I know I'd still be there some 21 years later.

Back then we were privately owned by the Francis family. Bill Francis founded the Ontario version of Auto Trader. His son, John, succeeded him after he retired.

At the end of 2005 Yellow Pages Group (YPG) bought Auto Trader (Trader Corporation) from the Francis family for $436 million ($135 in cash, the rest in stocks). That was the beginning of the end for most Trader employees.

Shortly after announcing there would be no layoffs the layoffs began. It was a complete shock at first. After all, through thick and thin, the Francis' never let anyone go. We were a family back then and were treated as such.

After the first wave of layoffs people began to settle down. But, then it happened again. And again. And again.

We noticed a pattern. The people who had been around the longest (and therefore were earning the most) started disappearing first.

I suppose I was pretty lucky. I lasted a whole 3-1/2 years after the initial takeover. But, on that fateful day back in 2009 I was let go along with one of my co-workers, Dawn, with whom I worked on our New Homes and Condo Guide magazines and, Steve, who had served with the company for about 28 years. He was one of the longest serving employees there.

I can't remember which one of us was called into the small meeting room first. I just remember meeting with my boss Stefan and an HR lady. I don't even really remember what was said. They gave me a envelope with some papers in it. There was a severance package and rules about what I was supposed to do and not supposed to do (like not contacting my friends who still worked there or not revealing how much my severance pay was which I still did anyway).

I was escorted back to my desk by the HR lady to pick up my belongings. Quite a few of my co-workers were shocked and started crying. I have to admit I was sad about that. I had a lot of friends there (though I have to say most of them are now gone due to more aggressive layoffs). That was the worst thing about leaving.

The corporate culture has changed. There is no loyalty from company to employee. It's all about the bottom line. We'll drop you like a hot coal if we can find someone new who is willing to do what you do for half as much. There is a lot of selfishness and greed out there. In a way I can understand it, but I can't say I agree with it.

In the days immediately after being laid off I was sort of in a daze (which is how many people in the book described themselves feeling). After going to work day in and day out for so many years it felt weird being home on a weekday. I sort of felt like I was playing hooky.

Also I was kind of scared. I remember going downtown on the weekend and feeling thirsty at one point. But I was too scared to buy anything to drink because I thought, do I have enough money saved up to dare spend any of it?

Of course, being the frugal person I am, I was financial sound. I don't think I could have actually retired at that point in my life. But I figured I should be able to get by even if I earned minimum wage until retirement age. That lifted a huge weight off my mind.

Still, I couldn't go out and spend money irresponsibly. I had to be a lot more cognizant of my spending habits. There would be no more going out and buying clothes on a semi-regular basis. I'd have to stretch out purchases a little longer. I had to balance my wants versus needs. So those perks were gone. It wasn't a major adjustment, but one I had to make nonetheless.

I have to say I'm a lot luckier than a lot of folks out there (which is scary). Especially the ones in the book. To live with such uncertainty can be debilitating. You can never been too prepared. That's why you have to save, save, save. Because you never know when you might become the next statistic the next time some corporate head honcho decides he want another multi-thousand/multi-million dollar year end bonus.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

OOTC - Dishwashing Crew 2013

This is our Out of the Cold dishwashing crew v. 2013. Joe is the only holdout from last year (and the year before that where he was helping in the gym). Young-Wha, Di, Sam and Angela are recent additions to the team.

Joe is Mr. Reliable. He rarely misses a week. He pre-scrubs an endless number of dirty pots and pans. Young-Wha and Di are great at quickly putting away all the clean dishes that I give them fresh (and steaming hot) from the dishwasher. Sam and Angela are reliable back up if either Di or Young-Wha are away.

Without these guys clean up would be impossible. I truly appreciate all their hard work!