On Podcasts

So the new job gave me an iPhone for work. They gave me the choice of transferring over my current line to theirs but instead I decided to separate church and state and now I go around my work week with two phones like some kind of weirdo.

Because I now take the train, I’ve taken to listening to podcasts on the iPhone because Apple recently separated their podcasts from iTunes and I find it’s easier to find podcasts on the iPhone.  But also, I’m just coming back to podcasts now that I have a little time in the day to listen to them.

I’m not the most adventurous podcast listener as most of the ones I subscribe to are just the podcast versions of public radio shows like CBC’s The Current, Q, Spark, BBC 4’s In Our Time, and NPR’s On Being.

But I’ve discovered  a few new ones I like:

StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson is a weekly live show on the topic of science and astronomy. It’s aimed at general audiences and usually has celebrity guests. It’s not going for a deep dive here but it’s a fun talk on big science topics.

Trumpcast is Slate’s almost daily report on the comings and goings of America’s 45th president until he resigns, gets impeached, dies while tweeting in the bathroom, or, I don’t know, goes on to serve two terms. They’re not fans.

Women at Warp is a Star Trek themed podcast from a feminist point of view and with the female-led Star Trek Discovery coming out, they’re bound to have brand new material to cover.

Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly, a podcast about the economy, technology, and culture. A recent favourite episode was “What We Talk About When We Talk About Jagoffs.”

CANADALAND (yes, all caps) This one I struggle with because, while I usually enjoy the topics, I don’t really know who this is for. Is it a general audience or is it for a closed circle of broadcasting and publishing professionals who want to hear what host Jesse Brown thinks of the job they did this week. I get my news from CBC Radio in the morning and I usually catch the TV news at night and read a bit of online news in English and French throughout the day but my schedule doesn’t really allow me to consume that much news. So it’s weird to think I would be that interested in media criticism and yet, I listen.

So that’s what I’m listening to. What are you listening to these days?

Also, here is some Nirvana played on the Gayageum, a 6th century Korean string instrument because you need that in your life.

 

 

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

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!

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?

 

The New Not Normal

 

I’m spending this month in a series of group counselling sessions for management people past forty who are “in career transition,” as the euphemism goes. In general, it’s been pretty helpful. I’m terrible at networking and cold calling so it’s helping me with that. They say 80% of jobs out there are not advertised so networking is how you get them.

But an interesting thing happened yesterday. We’re in the suburbs of Montreal and as a group, I’d say about 30% of us are immigrants. If I was in the city’s core, I imagine that percentage would be higher.

One participant made a comment, beginning with “When I came to this country…” and when he finished the moderator said (I’m paraphrasing because it was in French, mostly):

“OK, here’s a thing. On Friday, in the United States, they are going to inaugurate an IDIOT. Because of this, on both sides of the border, and I’ve lived in Boston and Montreal, there are bigots who think it’s now ok to discriminate against immigrants. You may want to focus on your experience and education and not your background. When you’re talking about your background to an employer, just say I have a PhD. Or, I worked for Coca-Cola. You don’t have to say my PhD is from Spain or I worked for Coke in Colombia. That can come later when they find out how really great you are.”

Now, this moderator was an older guy so maybe he was erring on the side of abundant caution but it surprised me that he suggested that. Last year, Canada welcomed 25,000 refugees and only the most conservative of our politicians suggest heavy restrictions on immigration. But perhaps he has good reasons for suggesting it. Canada is not immune to this kind of dog-whistle, anti-immigration rhetoric and some of our own politicians are taking a page out of Trump’s book.

It’s a frightening and sad thing to imagine something as banal as employment counselling can be poisoned by this new political atmosphere.

On the Language of Business

As a Quebec anglophone, I am what is known as bilingual*. I can read, write (with assistance), and understand what is being said in person or on TV or radio.

The * comes in when it comes to speaking. I am incredibly shy about speaking in French knowing that the French in my head sounds a lot better than what comes out of my mouth. So, afraid that I’ll make mistakes, I speak quickly and nervously and because I speak quickly and nervously, I make mistakes. If I slow down and think about what I need to say, I do better.

This makes job hunting in Montreal a bit of a challenge. Montreal has plenty of companies that operate officially in English. I worked 19 years for a company that did its business in English. But others are French only or bilingual. And that’s natural. This is, after all, Quebec. You know you can do the job you’re applying for but if you can’t communicate through the selection process, and knowing you’re up against people who speak four or five languages effortlessly, you’re going to be a disadvantage in a major way.

I have a phone interview in French on Wednesday. I can do things to prepare, like write down some anticipated responses in French (phone interviews are great that way – they’re like an open book test) but my spoken French really needs to improve. There are things I can do to help with that: MeetUp groups that specialize in French conversation, etc. But until I get it up to a better standard, I’m always going to find myself at a disadvantage.

It’s the reality of employment. You always need to upgrade your skills and learn new ones if you want to stay relevant.

Clearly, I have some room for improvement.

But at least I’m not Wayne Gretzky.

Can Blogging Come Back?

The title does not, by any means, suggest everyone stopped blogging suddenly but on a personal level, and for many bloggers I used to follow, the habit started dying off about five years ago, perhaps longer.

Social media had a lot to do with it. Facebook allowed you to sit in a space with most of your friends, family, and co-workers and share things that you might have shared on a blog but were really too short to elaborate on. Twitter allowed you to share quick thoughts or links to things you thought were important or just amusing without having to write an entire blog post about it.

Image result for google reader

But for me, I think it was when Google shut down their Reader, one of their best products. Opening up Reader first thing in the morning was a great way to get my fix of writing, find a conversation to be part of, and find content for my own blog, all in one place. When it died, part of my own blogging habit died with it. I tried the alternatives like feedly but it just isn’t the same. WordPress has its own Reader which is great for, well, WordPress blogs but, again, does not offer the same experience. Around that time there were other platforms like feedburner in addition to an explosion of blogging. When you have that kind of combination, it inspires your own writing.

Perhaps a lot of people also stopped blogging so much for the same reasons I did: life changes. You get married, you have kids, you buy a house, you’re focused on your job (or getting one, in my case) and the priority to write about that thing that interests you gets reduced.

But with Twitter having turned into a Cuisinart blender of Pepe frogs, angry eggs, and proud Neo-Nazis chasing away everyone who dares to suggest we act decently toward each other, and Facebook that place where I behave myself like my mother is watching (because she is), surely there is room for thoughtful, engaging writing on the web. The forums are still there, free for anyone to use. Maybe more of us will use them and we can have a slightly better internet.