Things I Saw This Week April 14

mst3k

In the late 90s, before the days of torrents, Netflix, and YouTube, if you wanted to watch something that wasn’t available in your country, you had to rely on an underground network of people willing to tape it onto VHS and pass it around. That’s how I discovered Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Now it’s back and perfectly accessible on Netflix with a new cast but the same concept: a man in a jumpsuit is forced by mad scientists to watch bad movies with his robot friends and hilarity ensues. Now that I’m not a university student who runs on irony, we’ll see if the appeal is the same.

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This week, the Trudeau government unveiled plans to legalize pot by July 1st of 2018. It seems ambitious to meet that date, especially as it will be up to the provinces to figure out how to enforce the laws. But most Canadians are on board and few politicians on the opposition side seem willing to go against the proposed law. I worry that once it’s in place, those who do indulge will go so over the top with it that Canada will just smell like one big summer music festival for a year or two until everyone calms down.

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Because bombing always, always works President Trump dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb on ISIS targets in Afghanistan this week. The weapon used is called the “Mother of All Bombs,” or the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast. And now terrorism is over forever. The end.

Russia has a bigger one which they call the “Father of All Bombs” because #masculinitysofragile.

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coe

I’m currently reading the latest Cormoran Strike novel, Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling). I’m a late arrival to the detective genre. Perhaps because I find the subject matter too gruesome, I’ve just avoided it. Rowling doesn’t avoid the gore here but it’s handled well and she doesn’t revel in it. The books are character-driven and well-plotted enough to keep me coming back.

8th

Last summer I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m not one for self-help books or management books and I heard the author was a devout Mormon. I had this idea that the book was some kind of lesson in financial success while being a good Christian. It’s nothing of the kind, of course. He does, from time to time, touch on his faith but really, it’s about being an honest, principled person. The 8th Habit is a follow up for the contemporary age.

 

aftermath

Because I want something light to read on the train to my new job downtown.

Yes! I’m burying the lede but I’ll be starting a new job on April 24. It’s for a law firm. It’s a manager role in an emerging field. I haven’t updated my LinkedIn or said anything on Facebook yet. I’m waiting until I’m actually in the office and they haven’t decided they’ve made some terrible mistake.

But I’m working again! Hooray!

Job Update

As Mr. Richard Ross once declared, everyday I’m hustlin’. While Mr. Ross’ song was about expanding his cocaine dealing network, my hustlin’ is more modest in that I’m just trying to get someone to hire me.

This month I’ve had a few interviews, all of which have been very positive but with varying degrees of follow up from the employers. I used to simply wait for HR to confirm if I had the job or not. However, an employment counsellor once said to me, “Did your previous employer ask your permission to cut your job? No. So don’t ask someone’s permission to inquire if you got the job you’re applying for. Just call or email them.”

There are a couple of options on the table, depending which, if any of the jobs I get. One of which would be to return to Saint John (this has a whole list of pros and cons) and the other is to stay in Montreal but most likely work in the city.

Three weeks ago I had an interview for what I’d call “the fun job,” which is at a major brewer. It went pretty well. My French was shaky but not disastrous. But despite a recent assurance from the HR rep the job has not been filled yet, it seems the process is taking a long time.

Last week, someone I met a networking event for Olds Without Work mentioned my name to her new employer. They were hiring someone with my skills so I sent my CV and ended up having two very positive interviews within the space of a week. It’s for a big law firm and in an emerging field where my experience would be put to an interesting use.

It highlighted to me the importance of networking. I’ve always bristled at the practice because it always seemed as though I would be just connecting with people who could do something for me. I don’t like the idea of forging relationships which are just transactional in nature. But in reality, it’s more than that. It’s about building a social network that is going to help you in your career, even if it’s just putting you in touch with the right people. And if your company needs someone with specific skills, you may be able to call on someone from your own network so it’s mutually beneficial to build and maintain these relationships, provided the intent behind them is always genuine and based on good, solid principles.

Yes, I even had business cards made up.

tenor

So I’m getting pretty good at searching jobs now.

But I’d really like to get good at landing and keeping them.

Blog Round-Up: Things I Saw This Week

Tanya from Dharmage points out the very real and very frustrating problem of HR simply neglecting to follow up with you even after you’ve been in for interviews.

I have a hypothesis as to why this happens: After the final interviews are done, a decision is made within about a week or two. Then, the offer is made to the successful candidate. There is a period between the time the offer is accepted and when the candidate actually starts the job, which can be anywhere from immediately to a month, depending when their current job can release them. Until that new hire can start, HR cannot inform the unsuccessful candidates in the event the new hire is somehow unable to take the job. They may want to keep the runners-up in reserve. But by the time the new hire actually begins, they simply let the other candidates drop. Hence, the “ghosting.”

It is an HR practice that really needs to stop.

Hey, speaking of HR, I’ve had a few interviews in the past few weeks, both in person and over the phone. They’ve all gone well but I believe I’m in that zone between waiting to hear back and being ghosted myself.

I have another tomorrow that came together at the last minute. It would be in an industry that I’ve never worked before and doing a few things I’ve never, ever done like matter budgets. But they want to interview me anyway. It was one of those “invisible job market” things where someone I met at a networking group got on with this firm and suggested my name to them. So who knows? I’d be working downtown so there’s that.

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deadder

Cartoon by Michael de Adder.

I am terrible at predicting political outcomes but here goes nothing: If reality TV star Kevin O’Leary becomes leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, I think Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can breathe easier in 2019, despite my own misgivings about his leadership. My family back in the Maritimes, who are generally Tories, are perplexed by O’Leary’s popularity. He’s done none of the work one would normally expect a successful leader to do: win a seat, become Opposition Leader, serve in a government, read the Constitution. Lisa Raitt, Michael Chong, Deepak Obhrai, Erin O’Toole, Maxime Bernier, and Steven Blaney have all done, in most regards, have done that work. Even Kellie Leitch has done that work and she’s a nutty racist. What O’Leary doesn’t know about government would fill a book that he would never read.

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Former fellow YULblogger Frank went and lost a truckload of weight. That’s no small feat because for dudes in their forties, when that fat is on, it will fight every inch of the way to get off.

As I mentioned last time, I’m on a bit of weight-lifting kick so it’s harder for me to lose weight when putting on muscle at the same time. Still, as I’ve gotten better at the exercise part of it, I’m now seriously monitoring my food intake with my trainer. Apparently, you can’t just go lift 300 pounds and then go to Five Guys for lunch and expect your waist to shrink. And there’s nothing like doing a deep squat and seeing all that fat pool around your midsection.

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Finally, here’s “Once They Banned Imagine” by Drive-By Truckers. A song I’ve been listening to since, oh, about November.

Are you now or have you ever been in cahoots with the notion that people can change
When history happens again if you do or you did you’ll be blamed
From baseless inquiry
To no knocking entry
Becoming the law of the land
To half cocked excuses for bullet abuse regarding anything browner than tan

Cause once they banned Imagine it became the same old war its always been
Once they banned Imagine it became the war it was when we were kids

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Speaking of America in crisis, I finally started watching The Americans on FX, in which a pair of KGB spies go deep undercover in Reagan-era America. It’s so good, I have to put my phone down while watching it!

The_Americans

Lift

Last year when I lost my job*, I decided to make some changes in my life. One of which was to get into better health. For the past several years, my weight has increased while my  energy and focus has decreased. I simply chalked up the latter two things to middle age and a general dissatisfaction with office life.

But it seemed clear that I could do with a change and, with my days suddenly free, I went back to my gym. My usual gym routine had been cardio-based but cardio isn’t really the best thing for burning fat. You need to lift weights for that.

I initially started some strength training programs based on some forums I found on the internet. The problem was a lot of it was unfocused, contradictory, and full of broscience and bizarre misogyny (“If you insist on using [weight-lifting gloves], make sure they match your purse.”). So I signed up with a personal trainer for weekly lifting sessions to get the basics right and start racking up big numbers. She co-runs a small gym in my neighbourhood and almost played in the CWHL so I figure she knows what she’s doing. And she’s been fantastic.

Since then, I’ve made some huge strides in my strength and I’m now switching from weekly to monthly sessions with her while going to the gym on my own for regular sessions.  It’s made a difference. I do feel better and my shape is certainly changed, even if my weight hasn’t. I’ve since learned through my doctor that I’m a bit anemic as well as having low testosterone. That can be a vicious circle: belly fat can reduce your testosterone and having low testosterone can reduce your ability to lose belly fat.

But I’ve been at it a year now and it’s become My Thing. Normally, this stuff fizzles out on after a few months but it looks like I have a physical activity I don’t hate at last.

In the meantime, I’ve been following a few new fitness writers who, I think, offer good advice and get away from, let’s say, a lot of the aggressive posturing you see on a lot of weight-lifting blogs.

Stephanie Lee at Lifehacker. She travels the world and contributes to their health and fitness blog.

Ask a Swole Woman. The Hairpin’s fitness advice column. It’s aimed at women but I find a lot of it helpful.

Greatist.com. A new (to me) fitness blog that, again, offers fairly sensible advice if you can get past the pop up ads for luxury snack goods.

Triforce Montreal. My trainer’s gym.

*Still not working but I had a really good interview a week ago so …fingers crossed?

 

Of Teachers We Knew

An old friend of mine recently uploaded this video to YouTube. It’s my Grade 7 teacher at the age of 16, lip-syncing to Etta James’s “Stop the Wedding” on our local TV station’s Saturday afternoon hit music show.

She had a big impact on the lives of those of us she taught. My friend and I started a school paper at her urging. He went on to become the founder of a literary journal and magazine editor whereas I went on to other things. But she was the one who told us to find a passion and run with it.

She often went off the prescribed coursework and often told us of the real history of Canada and the US in that she made sure we were aware of slavery. She had a YA novelist come in to read from her book about the Underground Railroad. Every day began with 15 minutes of self-directed reading. She saw I was reading, at 12, George Orwell’s 1984. She encouraged me to keep reading it, even if I honestly didn’t get all of it.

I have increasingly vague memories of a lot of the teachers from those days but the memories of her have always remained sharp.

She passed away in 2011.

It’s Everyone’s Problem

It’s been an awful week in Quebec. On Sunday, a man opened fire in a Ste-Foy mosque on attendants as they were praying, killing six men. Alexandre Bissonnette has been charged with six counts of first degree murder and faces possible terrorism charges. The victims were Azzedine Soufiane, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Aboubaker Thabti, Ibrahima Barry, and Abdelkrim Hassane.

In the flood of think pieces that come out after an event like this, there was some attempt to frame this as something unique to Quebec, that somehow this province is more prone to violent outbursts than others. This bizarre piece from the Washington Post by J.J. McCullough cherry picks some events to suggest Quebec is somehow more prone to gun massacres than other provinces. Others have suggested there is more bigotry toward Muslims from white, francophone Quebeckers than other Canadians.

Certainly, the accused is reported to have extreme views on Muslims and is a fan of Donald Trump and Marine le Pen and their views on Islam are well documented. And, indeed over the past number of years in Quebec politics, there have been a number of proposals put forward by politicians that views as targeting the Muslim community. The views heard on Quebec’s talk radio stations, radio poubelle, as it’s known, are often extreme and derogatory toward Muslims.

But I would say it’s a mistake to lead people to believe Quebec is somehow more than Islamophobic than anywhere else in the world. I think Islamophobia is generally a Western problem. In Canada, the far-right news website Rebel Media spent the week trying to prove the attack was done by Muslims. (I won’t link to that site but instead you can read the Beaverton’s take on it here). In Europe, far-right, anti-immigration parties are making gains partially based on a fear of Muslims. So this is by no means unique to Quebec.

I don’t know if this event will make people behave a little more decently to each other and stop fearing the “otherness” of them but it was gratifying to see so many people coming out to vigils and the funerals of the victims. If nothing else, people should know that those who hold such extreme views represent a only fringe minority of the population.

For my part, I donated to a fund for the victims’ families here.