Monday, January 30, 2006

Oh, Charles Bergman. Will you never learn?

I had the Evil Death Flu of Doom this weekend.

Here's how it works: you wish you were dead, but you know that you're not, because no one who is dead could possibly be in so much agony. You can feel every molecule of air as it bounces of your body at an incredible speed. Your stomach is twisted in knots, and should be so bold as to try and drink anything other than warm, flat gingerale, you will instantly regret it.

Oh, and you're also running a fever. So, good luck trying to sleep, because the only thing you have to look forward to is crazy fever-dreams. These may include dreaming that you're driving around a completely full million-kilometer-square parking lot, looking for a space. Or that you're a mechanic on the Death Star that has to check every single fitting. There are a lot of fittings on the Death Star.

I'm feeling much better. I owe much of my continued existance to Andrea. It's (relatively) easy to stand by someone when they're feeling well, but another thing entirely to look after them when they're nauseous, feverish, and really really gross.

In any case, I'm feeling much better now. I'm still halfway moved into my apartment, and can't decide what I should do to become fully moved into my apartment. Part of it, I think, should include hanging curtains of some kind, or perhaps removing the leftover cardboard from the Ikea boxes. Don't take my word for it, though. I'm not exactly a professional decorator.

Still, photos to be posted once I actually finish decorating the place.

Andrea and I have booked our vacation for Reading Week. We're going to Costa Rica, where we're going to stay near Manuel Antonio, in a resort called Costa Verde. The web page is pretty great. My favorite part is a typo in the article about the monkeys:

"Costa Rica’s squirrel monkeys are adorable, charismatic, sexy and critically endangered by Charles Bergman."

If that doesn't give you a great mental image of some pasty white tourist tearing through the jungle chasing after monkeys, I don't know what does.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Amazingly enough, this whole "employment" thing is taking some getting used to. Don't get me wrong, this job is fantastic... but moving into a new apartment, combined with Reserves work, and a brand new job is running me a little ragged. I think an early night might be in order.

The place is starting to look pretty good. Now that I've all but decided to put off the house-hunting trip, I'm excited about the flexibility that comes along with having an apartment. I have to admit, though, while I'm not too bad about picking out big pieces of furniture, I suck when it comes to picking out trim.

Tonight, methinks, is going to include a break from furniture-arranging. It may include some book-reading, and scotch-drinking.

I wish that I had something intelligent to say in regards to politics, world events, etc. Unfortunately, I've been so absorbed with work and my apartment that I've barely noticed that we have a new government. Rest assured that I don't intend this to be the start of a slide into apathy (or blog-related laziness).

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Hello, Internet. I've missed you.

I'm back online, after a few days of Moving Hell. It wasn't so much the Moving that was the hard part, so much as it was the acquiring and assembling of furniture.

Oh, remember the $1500 budget? Well, forget the $1500 budget.

I decided to do everything from Ikea. It's a fairly economical idea, and leaves me with some reasonably nice furniture that can go into my basement when I no longer require it. But, as anyone who has ever dealt with Ikea knows, the assembly process is rather involved. In a make-you-want-to-kick-a-hole-in-your-brand-new-bookcase kind of way.

Andrea was up this past weekend, and thank goodness that she was, for otherwise I'd probably be sleeping on a pile of cardboard boxes instead of my nice, cozy bed. She is an Ikea-putting-together master.

The apartment is really starting to come along. It still needs a fair bit of work (and some decorating) but in the mean time, it's definitely quite liveable. This is the first time I've ever lived on my own, in my own place, and it's a good feeling. I think the house-hunt is to be put on hold nigh-indefinitely, though. I just don't think I need to buy a full house, and I'm certainly not in the mood to move again anytime soon. But we'll see if a few months change my mind at all.

Oh, and I've started work. And, you know what? I love my job. Love it. Worth every second of waiting, applications, delays, commuting, moving, furniture assembly... everything. I wake up in the morning, and am genuinely excited about going in to work. The people I work with seem great, and are very friendly to the new guy. Still early to say, but I think this is going to work out very well, indeed.

So, what does the future hold? In the immediate future, I'm going to do some laundry and then make a trip to Walmart to see if they have a decent price on a wireless router.

That's right, Future Shop. You heard me. WALMART.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Things I Would Do If I Were Prime Minister

In the spirit of the season... (Originally printed in Golden Words)

Every year, thousands of students enter the "If I Were Prime Minister..." competition. Some of them enter for personal glory, while most of them enter for the cold, hard $10,000 cash prize. We think the usual answers lack "creativity" and "spunk". We held a staff poll, and the following suggestions were drawn. You can pay us in a couple of weeks.

- Politely ask the "speaker of the house" to "pump up the volume."

- Find the lowest ranked member of the Canadian Forces. Take him to see the Defense Minister. Ask why his boots aren't shiny.

- "Inspect" government-run pot farms in a Volkswagen Microbus, adorned with pink and yellow daisies and filled with the Cabinet. Plan budget.

- To increase authenticity, force Molson to sweeten Canadian with maple syrup. Watch sales climb even higher.

- Add Greek bathhouse to House of Commons. Ask the Olive Garden to set up a franchise. Then, count seconds on watch until it's Souvlaki Time.

- Suggest that the House of Commons be called the SuperFriends.

- Insist that I be addressed as His Primeministeredness.

- Replace the senate with twelve mannequins and a vending machine. Enjoy the increased productivity.

- Every second that I'm not at the helm of this great country, productivity is lost. Hence, to save time in the morning, I'm going to simply have a suit tattooed on my body.

- Name poutine the Official National Bowel Clogger. Put it on the back of the dime, instead of that goddamn crap-ass sailboat.

- Change the National Anthem to "The Logdriver's Waltz."

- Refer to RCMP escort as Dudley Do-Wrong. Kick him when he isn't looking. Blame the Opposition.

- Refuse to floss. Tell that snotty dental hygienist, "You can't make me floss! I'm the Prime Minister! Now get that icing off my teeth!"

- When meeting President of United States, insist that the "down low" high five is the appropriate Canadian greeting. Pull hand away. "Too slow!" Hearty backpatting ensues.

- Triple the funding for the CBC, contingent on Peter Mansbridge entering a strongman competition.

- Measure the bicep size of all Cabinet members. Keep an accurate chart. Encourage them to "hit the iron." Give them weight-gain supplements for Christmas.

- Insist that all speeches in the House of Commons end with "Anyone wanna make somethin' of it?"

- Chase squirrels across Parliament Hill wearing only Superman Underoos and a cape made from rejected legislation.

- Replace the Prime Ministerial motorcade with a 1982 Kawasaki dirt bike and a flame-covered jumpsuit.

- Dial 1-800-O-CANADA and asked to be connected to the Prime Minister. When the call waiting kicks in, I can legitimately talk to myself for hours.

- Get rid of the "If I Were Prime Minister..." essay competition - replace with no-holds-barred jell-o wrestling.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


I couldn't resist doing this again, as I had a few good ones recently:

"fistman" (Germany) - Still creepy, after all this time.

"offer health insurance" (California) - My advice? Move to Canada.

"peter milliken's number and email" (Michigan) - Probably someone trying to follow the above advice. Really, you should move here. It's a very nice country. Poutine?

"neural networking project" (India) - I recommend learning how to use artificially intelligent neural networks to beat the house at Blackjack. Warning: May cause you to lose one or both kneecaps.

"quebec sovereignty" (Michigan) - I'll try and come up with a dictionary definition of this one. Quebec sovereignty (Noun) - A state wherein a slim majority of Quebecois gets to force all Quebecois to learn the hard way that you can't actually eat Francophone culture, nor does it keep you warm during your cold-ass winters.

"sandwich blog ryan ottawa" (Canada) - I had one today, actually. It was a ham and swiss, and it was delicious. Does that satisfy your curiosity?

"purpose of health insurance" (California) - Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's supposed to make you not sick.

And, my personal favorite:

"war conflict freelancers needed"

This last one, incidentally, came from Russia. Uh... no comment.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Move

Today I move to Ottawa, officially. This isn't a "house hunting trip" or an "interview trip" or "yet another damned interview trip". This, folks, is the Real Deal.

I'm going to blog about furnishing my apartment, because several friends / fellow bloggers have expressed skepticism about me being able to furnish my apartment for less than $1500. I hold true to this claim, and will keep you posted on the day-to-day drama of furniture buying.

I'm thinking of taking a step back from the house hunt, and letting myself get settled in before I make any rash decisions. I want to buy something, but everything's so damned expensive, and there have been few houses that made me look at them and say, "THAT one. Perfect." I think that should happen when you buy a house.

Okay, time to stop blogging and pack. Getting this bar packed up is probably going to take at least half an hour, all by itself. And don't get me started on cigar supplies.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

... But You Can Call Me Sarge

I have a new respect for homeless people. It's really not easy when you don't have a home. I'm not even out on the street - merely between places, with nothing to really call my own - and I still felt as though things had been flipped upside down. Getting tours of really expensive, really dumpy apartment buildings didn't help much, either.

It took me until the end of my house hunting trip (the last twenty minutes of it, to be specific) to find a place to rent. I ended up laying down a deposit on it before I'd seen all of it, that was how badly I needed to find a place. But, in the end, I found a decent 1 bedroom apartment in the Glebe for a price that's not nearly as bad as it could've been.

I'm in the process of trying to furnish the place now. Amazingly, at 25 years old, I don't own a single stick of furniture. I'd thought about renting a furnished place while I was looking for a house to buy, but the $1600+ a month price tag turned me off in a big way. The goal is to furnish an entire apartment with furniture from auctions, second-hand stores and Ikea for $1500. Can it be done? We'll find out soon enough.

In a twist that surprised everyone, myself included, I was promoted at my soon-to-former unit on Thursday night. I'd been told that it was "very important" that I attend that evening, but I had no idea whether they meant I would be getting a plaque, a promotion, or a court marshal. Okay, I figured it wasn't a court marshall.

I'm now a Sergeant, and have crossed that ever-important threshold between junior non-commissioned officer (NCO) and senior NCO. I asked a well-respected senior Sergeant at the unit what it would mean to be a Sergeant. He replied, "There's a lot less bullshit." I can live with that.

This week is going to be ridiculous. I need to finish getting my life packed up in Kingston, then start setting things up in Ottawa. I'm the proud renter of a completely empty apartment, that will need to be furnished in the span of three days. I start work on the 23rd. I start with my new military unit on the 25th. But, more than anything, I'm really excited to see how it all works out.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Get This Political Party Started

I was going to write a critique of the French language debate before I realized that most of the criticisms hold true for both debates. Instead, I'm going to describe my ideal political party. It's merely a shame that it's never existed. To date, at least. Perhaps some smart politician is scanning blogs at the moment, and will take a hint.

The Platform

The party should be one that is socially liberal, but fiscally conservative. While this may sound like a contradiction, I feel that there are a large number of Canadians who would vote for such a party. They're turned off by the corruption and spendthrift ways of the Liberals, while being suspicious of the social agenda of the Conservatives.

Health Care

Whether we like to admit it, there is always going to be a public system and a private system in this country. The reason for this is because you cannot put everything that's healthy into the public domain. Good nutrition, exercise, stress management, and many other aspects of preventative medicine do not fall under government purvue. I would argue that prevantative medicine can be the most effective medicine of all, and yet it is omitted from the public system.

The purpose of the public system is to cover all reasonable necessities for everyone. Things that go beyond the necessities (except those covered by employer plans or Blue Cross) would be considered luxury care. This might include a more elaborate hospital room, home care, or provisions that would not be considered essential.

The one thing that I feel Canadians have no desire to see is the emergence of private health insurance and HMOs. These are prominant aspects of the American system of health care, and the primary reason that American health care is less effective than Canadian, despite a higher per capita spending on services.

First and foremost, the way clinics operate needs to be re-evaluated. Salary caps and claw backs (the policy of taking back a portion of a doctor's salary when the health spending cap is exceeded) need to be stopped if we're to encourage new doctors to enter the fold. This should be done in concert with a program to recognize foreign doctors' qualifications as soon as feasible. Furthermore, a study in Alberta has shown that by making patients responsible for their own health prior to surgery, wait times can be reduced dramatically. This is definitely another method of treatment that's worth adopting.

The most contentious issue of health care is the private delivery of essential care. Should we allow someone who has more money jump the queue for essential services? I say yes, but only for conditions that are not life threatening. If someone needs to have knee surgery in one week rather than three, then they can pay for it - and pay an additional tax that will go toward improving the public system.

This is a difficult choice to make, but reflects the fact that there is already a private system available to Canadians: the United States. We must allow facets of our system to become competitive if we wish to retain Canadian doctors who would otherwise go south for a higher salary. The best way to do this is to do all we can to bring more money into the Canadian system, without compromising the essential services that form the backbone of the public health care system.


We have heard a great deal about putting more money into the education system, but little about how that money should be spent. The priority now should not be seeing that students have as many schools to choose from as possible, but that they make their choices in an educated manner. Too many times have I seen students that have rushed into one program amidst an absence of information, only to be forced to change their program once they realized that they were not in a field that they loved. Too many times have I seen a student pressured to go into university, when the trades are desperately short on manpower.

I feel that the most important way to improve education is to bring a national mentorship program directly to Canadian schools, and allow students to see first-hand what options are out there. Too often, guidance counsellors are forced to deal with students who are in danger of dropping out and being expelled to worry about finding the perfect program for the silent majority. By matching students with workers from the real world, they'll not only have a better sense of what work interests them, they'll also have a better sense of where the best opportunities lie.


Most of what Stephen Harper lays out in the Federal Accountability Act makes sense. He proposes the following:

-Ending the influence of big money in politics by banning corporate and union political donations, and limiting individual donations to $1000.

- Tough new lobbying rules and an end to the revolving door that allows former ministers, political aides, and top bureaucrats to turn around and lobby the government.

- Giving more power and teeth to independent watchdogs such as the Auditor General and Ethics Commissioner, protecting whistleblowers from reprisal, and strengthening access to information laws to give citizens the right to know.

- Appointing an independent Director of Public Prosecutions to protect criminal prosecution from political interference.

I would take this even further:

- Making campaign donor lists public domain.

Also, I would institute a 1-800 number that Canadians could call to report government ineptitude or inefficiency. Sort of like Customer Service for the Government of Canada. Any time you see government waste, you call the number to report it. Have to open a window in your government building because no one will fix the heat? Call it in. See an MP triple-parked while he runs in to grab a bagel? Call it in.

Too many Canadians feels as though government is a train wreck that's just going to keep going, no matter what they do. Bringing in tougher measures of accountability is the first step in making the political process more engaging for all Canadians.

Gay Marriage

This issue has already been decided. There' s no need to hold another vote.


Marijuana should be decriminalized.


It's clear that the federal government needs to take a greater interest in orchestrating Kyoto, and in reducing the growing levels of Canadian carbon dioxide emissions. I feel that the best way to do this is to offer cash awards to companies who are capable of reducing, storing or eliminating CO2 emissions.

One of the most basic economic principles is that the market responds to incentives. When companies can receive millions of dollars for an inventive method of improving the environment, that's when we're going to see real progress on the environmental front.


It's clear that the nature of warfare has changed greatly over the course of the past few decades. Canada is primarily engaged in asymmetric warfare, which is the kind of warfare found on most Peacekeeping missions. What the Canadian military needs most of all is support in becoming indepedant, and in handling existing and emerging threats.

First off, Canada needs its own strategic airlift capability. It's going to be expensive, but it's a blow to both national pride and military effectiveness when we need to charter airlift capacity from other nations. Or, in some cases, Air Transat.

The Canadian military needs to be given the resources and equipment to align itself with this reality. This means less heavy armour and artillery, and more intelligence and support for infantry. The new G-wagon and the LAV III are both excellent examples of real equipment that's making a real difference. Intelligence is not only a key aspect of Peacekeeping operations, it's also vital to ensuring arctic sovereignty.

Child Care

It's time to orchestrate a national childcare program. The most effective (and quickest) way to do this is to allow for parents to submit receipts from childcare facilities for reimbursement. This way, the government can regulate the type of services provided, but allow for the market to offer the services in an efficient manner.


One of the main reasons that the Bloc has done so well in Quebec is because the Quebecois do not feels that their views are being respected in Ottawa. This party would allow every vote to be a free vote. This would allow Members of Parliament to represent their constitutents before their party.

Crime and Security

Handguns would be banned. Stronger sentences for gun crimes would be encouraged, but not at the cost of imposing expensive mandatory minimum sentences. More resources would be devoted to dealing with organized crime, particularly relating to gang violence.

That's it. If anyone can think of any aspects I've missed, please feel free to drop me a comment. That's assuming that you're still reading, at this point.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Wading In

Well, I watched most of last night's debate, and I have to say that I'm not overly impressed. It felt too much like a series of commercials, rather than an in-depth exploration of any real issues. I still think that the Green leader should've been allowed to join in the debate. That said, when they released his policy, it seemed to be based purely on environmental issues - this isn't the case when you go to their webpage, I'm not sure why it's the case in the newspaper.

Here are some of my thoughts on each of the candidates.


Stephen Harper's math just doesn't add up. GST is a consumption tax by definition, hence the people who consume the most will benefit from it being cut. Most basics don't have GST attached to them, anyways. You don't pay GST on rent, most groceries or other essentials. So, how much is someone with a $8,148* income going to save, assuming they spend half their income on essentials? $40.74. All hail Stephen Harper, savior to the poor! Now we can buy a week's worth of heat for our house!

Someone with a $150,000 income who spends about 1/3 of their money on essentials and the rest on consumer goods, on the other hand, will save $495. I'd probably spend that money on scotch and cigars.

Finally, he didn't deny saying to American conservatives that they were "an inspiration for Canada" and that Canadians "were second rate." I'm not sure what the proper socio-political term is for that, but it scares the beejesus out of me.

* This is the basic personal exemption, and the income level that Harper said would receive maximum benefit.


"Mr. Martin, how many criminal investigations are going on in your government?"

I noticed that he didn't answer this one.

Paul Martin looked really nervous during the debate. He spoke fast, he stumbled over words, and generally didn't seem to be in control of the situation. On the other hand, his number actually added up. One of the benefits from being finance minister all of these years, I suppose.

The big issue for the Liberals this go around is the corruption charges. There has been quite the laundry list of charges this time around. Try as he may, Martin was unable to draw the debate away from the Gomery inquiry, the income trust investigation, and the newly published information on Option Canada.

His strong point was definitely national unity. I think he was able to stand up to Gil Duceppe, and make a very passionate appeal on behalf of the universal appeal of Canadian values. When asked to refer to Quebec as a nation, however, he looked a bit like a fish out of water. He didn't really know how to handle the question, and indecision is not going to help him win this campaign.


Jack Layton stood out as an intelligent man. He did his best to not get dragged into the personal attacks that were flying back and forth. However, if I hear the phrase, "You have a third choice..." one more time, I'm totally going to lose it. Ladies, what would you say if a guy came up to you at the bar and said, "I'm a really honest guy." Would you believe him? If Jack actually was a viable third choice, he wouldn't have to remind us every second sentence.

On a more serious note, I liked the way he called Harper to task for not getting much done as the official opposition. I also liked the way he spoke to national unity, although he didn't seem particularly passionate about the subject. I dislike the way Layton comes across as anti-business. It's one thing to be pro-working families, but he really comes across as being anti-corporate. I'm not saying large corporations are necessarily the nicest things in the world, but they do employ a lot of people. Taxing the snot out of them isn't going to be very good for the economy. That said, he deserves kudos for making education and health care a priority.


National unity issues aside, Duceppe handled himself very well. It's likely much easier to tailor your policy to your constituents when you have a smaller constituency. He clearly has done his homework on issues relating to health care, education, taxation, etc., etc. This has been ignored in the past, but it's the key to bringing Quebec back towards another political party.

The other political candidates need to speak to Quebecois values if they're going to make any headway. Emphasizing national unity is too much of a sound bite to really bring people over. Nationalists know that there's a referendum, so they can always shoot down sovereignty when the issue arises again.

When it comes to separatism, I think Duceppe hasn't really thought this one through. Quebec can separate from Canada, but Quebec itself is indivisible? That makes no sense. Yes, the Quebecois are different from "Canada". But, then again, so are Albertans. And Newfoundlanders. People in rural areas are different from those in cities, too. And, I'd be willing to water that the First Nations in northern Quebec are different from citizens of Quebec City. Surely you wouldn't deny them the ability exercise the same rights as the Bloc?

I'm still waiting for real substance in these debates. I think they've gone well so far, but they're really just scratched the surface in terms of what needs to be said.

French debate is on tonight (Jan 10th) at 8 pm ET.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Election Debate

Here are some bingo cards for tonight's debate.

(Suggested twist: Use one for each leader, not just Prime Minister Martin.)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

How to Deal with Large, Faceless Corporations

I've had a lot of dealings with faceless corporations over the years. I've had broken laptops, broken televisions, cancelled flights, stolen credit cards, etc., etc. Some companies are good, and some are bad. All have a system that can be worked for maximum benefit, should you have the knowledge necessary to play the game right.

Here are the rules, near as I've gathered:

1.) Save everything. Save your receipt. Save your warranty. Save your cardholder agreement for your credit card. Save your bank statements. Save you credit card bills. This is what we will later refer to as "ammunition."

2.) Ask about the details. Sure, they may be willing to replace your product three years later, but how long may it end up sitting in the shop for? Once you've heard a promise, get it in writing. Also, get your salesperson's name and employee ID number if it's a particularly large purchase. Whatever you do, don't forget to get the contact number that you should use in case something goes wrong.

3.) Enjoy your product (VCR, DVD, computer, flight, etc.) until something goes horribly wrong. And it will go horribly wrong.

4.) At this point, collect your ammunition. You should have your original receipt and the terms of your warranty in hand. Before you go in to the place to return something, call first and make sure that they agree with what they're supposed to do, and the paperwork that they'll require to get the job done. This way, you'll be less likely to want to throw something in the store, and possibly end up getting arrested.

5.) Put yourself in contact with the person who can help you. This could require a visit to the store if it's a physical device, or a phone call if it's a more ethereal product such as a credit card, airline ticket, or car rental. Be polite, and state your problem clearly (make advance notes if you need to).

6.) Take notes. If they make promises, write them down. Record the time of the interaction, and what was accomplished. If they say that someone will get back to you, ask for your case number. If they sound particularly incompetent, ask for their name and employee ID number.

7.) If your problem is successfully solved, file away all your paperwork (in case there's another problem with the same product) and pat yourself on the back. If not, then prepare for an extended battle.

8.) Call back, and see if someone else can help you. The odds of you getting the same Customer Service Representative (or some derivation of the name) are exceptionally remote. Start things over from scratch, and see if they aren't more helpful. Again, document everything. Time, date, name, promises, expectations, and results should all be recorded.

9.) If you're still not satisfied, ask to speak to the employee's manager. They won't like it, but they should put the manager on for you. If they don't, you have their name and ID number and you can probably find some way to contact their manager directly. With a bit of luck, you will eventually get a chance to speak to the manager.

10.) Speak to the manager. At this point, you can stop being quite so polite, and get a little indignant. Explain that you're not mad with them, but that the situation is ridiculous, and needs to be resolved. Suggest a reasonable compromise, and describe the consequences if you aren't able to fix things. "My friends know that I [buy computers/fly places/play videogames], and the next time they ask me, I'm going to tell them to avoid your company." They may play ball, they may not.

11.) Take it as far as you can, until they either give in or you give up. If you have the time (and the requisite lack of shame) you can even wear a sandwich board outside of their business, decrying their poor policies. Or, you can write numerous angry blog posts about them. The choice is yours.

For the record, here are the companies on my bad list:
- Creative Labs
- Future Shop
- Thrifty Car Rental
- US Airways
- America West

I hope you found this informative. If any of you have any suggestions to add, please post a comment.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Businesses I Hate and Love

America West - Hate

Thanks for cancelling our flight and putting us up in a low rent-motel. Jerks.

CIBC Aerogold Visa - Love

What can you say about a credit card company that covers your hotel, meals, transportation, and entertainment to the tune of several hundred dollars when your flight gets cancelled? I love you, CIBC Aerogold Visa, and I want to have your babies.

Future Shop, Ottawa South - Hate

What do you mean, you won't exchange my damned XBox? You want to send it off to the factory? For up to TWO MONTHS? And then, MAYBE you'll give me a new one? On second thought, why don't I return it to Kingston, where they'll give me a new one over the counter. Also, why don't I never shop with you again? That's right, Future Shop. You're THIS CLOSE to being replaced by Best Buy.

AquaTerra - Love

I don't think this needs explaining.

JetsGo - Hate

Maybe you thought I'd forget that you'd declared bankruptcy, and cost me several hundred dollars in additional airfare. Well, I didn't. Take a hint, JetsGo. Now that you're down - stay down.

The Business Inn, Ottawa - Love

Now, don't get me wrong. There's a lot that the Business Inn could improve on. It's parkade kind of smells like garbage, and there's a lot of paint missing from the door to my room. And Andrea would like you to actually have signs for your establishment, so she doesn't have to drive past 5 times before she finds it. But something you do to the bed can make me sleep for 14 hours at a crack, and you include a free computer for me to use. You also printed off MapQuest directions for me, for which I'll be forever grateful. Or at least until you screw up my room service. (Just kidding, Business Inn. You know I'd never order your room service.)

Delta Skymiles - Hate

I can't book a flight until 2007? Are you INSANE? What if I'm willing to take three stop-overs to cover a little over 2000 km? Oh, I have to wait until 2008 for anything less than four stop-overs? I'll tell you what, why don't you use my SkyMiles to fly your head somewhere outside of your ass.

Sunoco - Love

94 Octane? WheeeEEEEEE!

Microsoft - Hate

Listen, I know this sounds like a crazy idea, but how about you build a video game console that doesn't die after a year's worth of use? I know that you have a new console, and that it's having a little problem remaining solid, but could you perhaps fix the problems with your old products before you create new ones? If not, the next-next-gen console will probably set fire to your house when you plug it in.

VIP Chinese - Love

You have an all-meat, no-vegetable dish. And it's damned tasty. Also, any restaurant that serves "spicy tingly beef" deserves some pretty hefty praise.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

2005:Year in Review

On the surface, 2005 was the year of waiting. I waited for my contract to be up, and then waited for a new university program or new job to come through. I checked my voice mail, e-mail, and normal mail religiously, waiting for the results of any one of the numerous plans that I'd put into motion.

On occasion, I've used the term "Quarter Life Crisis". Before I finished my contract, that term had no meaning to me. I thought it was something cooked up by psychologists to sell books to the growing legion of directionless 20-somethings that want someone else to tell them what they need to do in order to get things back on track.

Then, when my full time employment wound down, I went through my own "Quarter Life Crisis". After having gone through potential careers the way most people go through socks, I was trying to figure out once and for all what it was that I wanted to do with my life. I'd looked at a number of jobs in the past, but they almost always lost their lustre once I was close enough to see the real nuts and bolts. Despite my earlier leanings, I learned the hard way that money and prestige aren't enough.

Then, by the time I had decided what I wanted to do with my life, I was in real danger of being told that I didn't have the necessary skills and qualifications to do the job. Meanwhile, the appeal of playing video games and working part time was continuing to lose steam. I was getting fed up with waiting, and wanted nothing more than to be able to get a job and move on with my life. Finally, when it seemed as though I could wait no longer, the waiting came to an end.

Had you asked me a year ago, I would've said that I'd want nothing more than to have a job lined up immediately after the summer came to an end. Looking back from 2006, I'm glad for every second that I waited and that I had the opportunity to experience a "Quarter Life Crisis".

Now I know that I won't have to stop a year from now and wonder what it would've been like to take some time off, or if I could've gotten another, better job had I just taken the time to find something that really spoke to me. I've had time off, and it has none of the appeal of being at work and putting my life's energy into something that has meaning to me. I've had the opportunity to pursue other options, but have always ended up right back where I'd started.

At the start of 2006, having gone through this, I'm confident in saying that I'm happy with where I am and what I'm doing. I don't think I could've said the same at the start of 2005.

So, if that's where I've arrived, this is what I've learned:

- I have to take responsibility for what I do with my life. No one else is going to make sure that I'm on the right track. I need to be able to advocate for myself and explain what it is that I'm capable of, without ego or modesty.

- If I want friends to open up to me, I need to be willing to open up to them first.

- Family is a wonderful gift, no matter how painful it is to settle old disagreements.

- A life of carefree luxury is no substitute for a life of challenge and meaning.

- The greatest expressions of love are what we say without words.

- If we don't deal with things now, we deal with them later. With interest.

And, perhaps most importantly:

- Life is too short to be spent doing anything other than what you absolutely love.

Happy New Years, and my best to everyone in 2006.