Month: December 2014

Friendly Fire

Wikicommons public domain image of dynamite. The image is used as an accompaniment to the blog topic and was submitted by the user Dynomite on August 15, 2008.

My job search hasn’t been a strain just on me, but also on others that care about me and had to deal with what I’ve gone through. Some (and thankfully the most) of those relationships were tested yet remain unbroken like a well-forged chain. Others have snapped but were later repaired through a better understanding and a willingness to both forgive and apologize.

Sometimes, though, relationships can be fractured beyond repair. Two friendships, both that lasted for a long time, ended on a bad note in 2014. I’ve tried to reach out to these two in an attempt to try to start over before the New Year. Both have decided not to respond. My text messages, Christmas cards, Emails, and voice messages remain unanswered.

I can’t say I blame them. I’m generally a kind person but being out of work for so long can make me a very angry and bitter man. I said things to them I wish I can take back. I did things to them I would have never have done to anyone in the past. It was a horrible way to thank them for the kindness they shown me and the supportive words they spoke. In my war on my unemployment, they were casualties of friendly fire. I’ve not only lost two good friends, I’ve disrespected that part of my personal history they played an important part in.

I was originally stuck for ideas for the New Year’s Resolutions I always make each New Year’s Eve, aside from “try my hardest to find work”.  Not any more. I’m adding “Keep your problem your problem“, “Remember those who help you”, and “Don’t be such an ass to others”.

Thanks for reading!


P.S. To those two friends, the door is still open.

More For Less

One example of a job opening that demands more than what the title means and a product of the “We Must Do More With Less” era.

I’ve stated often that it’s an employer’s market only to be told by a few I’m full of it. While I respect everyone’s right to their opinion, those who say that haven’t walked in my shoes over the past few years, nor have they come across examples such as this gem (click on image).

This is an advertisement for a dishwasher job I found during my job search. Call me wrong if you like, but to me a “dishwasher” is someone who washes dishes. That’s it. Not wash and peel vegetables. Not clean and sanitize the entire kitchen. Not unpack and store food. Not take out the trash.

The post-2008 recession years have seen a rise of consolidation and compression of responsibilities where the job title no longer matches the duties expected. This “dishwasher” position is a result of that consolidation. It probably meant those who only washed dishes before the 2008 recession, but I suspect the layoff of staff that followed tacked a few extra tasks to the description. I guess I’ll never know, since my inquiry to the company about this position remains unanswered as of this post date.

Look, I understand businesses have to watch their bottom line in this Age of Austerity and the jobless recovery, since consumers are being frugal in their spending. The least they could do, though, is change the title of the position to match the duties. Unless, of course, it’s so employers can respond when an employee asks for a raise: “You want a raise? For a dishwasher job? You must be out of your mind!”

Thanks for reading!


High Ground

One example of a portrait used by online trolls in opinion sections such as Disqus.
One example of a portrait used by online trolls in opinion sections such as Disqus.

Before the Internet became available to the consumer, there was a chapter in cyberspace history where companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Netflix did not offer products and services online, videos took hours instead of minutes to download, and bulletin boards offered a spartan text interface instead of the flashy mouse-click animation and icons our tech-savvy young generation enjoys today.

It was also the Wild West days of cyberspace. If you were computer savvy and had a modem and a phone line, off you went in search of files to download or message bases to post on. It was an online adventure in an era where you truly had the freedom to do anything you wanted and say what anything you had on your mind without consequences. With the exception of some local Sysop (short for system operator of a bulletin board) enforcement, there were no limits to what you could do online. Those were heady times and I admit I miss those days, even though the Internet offers far more than what I had available back then.

This freedom was a double-edged sword, however. While it laid the foundations of an open and liberal exchange of ideas and opinions that exists today on the Internet, it also allowed participants to say and do things that would get themselves arrested if not beaten up in the real world. This freedom gave birth to the “troll”, not to be confused with the original definition of the word. Trolls were those who delighted in starting arguments or upsetting people by posting inflammatory comments or images online. Why they do this is beyond my understanding, but psychology experts agree that most trolls share common traits of sadism, narcissism and psychopathy.

Just as the real Wild West disappeared with the advent of large urbanized centres such as towns and cities, cyberspace became mainstream and the need for personal accountability for online behaviour became important. Law enforcement agencies got caught up in their understanding of the sociological and technological workings of cyberspace and those who committed crimes online such as child porn distribution and fraud were arrested. When companies established an online presence, they had to adhere to the same consumer protection laws that existed in the real world. The days of safeties-off, open-season, take-no-prisoners freedom of expression disappeared.

The trolls, however, did not. They adapted by understanding how far they could legally go and by using technology that would make them harder to find. On the other hand, they had no problem finding me.

Quite a while ago, I posted in this blog the reasons why I made my job search visible. While it has helped generate supportive comments and gave me interviews for job openings, it has also given ammunition for those to attack me with, all from behind the cloak of anonymity that cyberspace still offers. This has been the case on Disqus where I post not only to offer my two-cents worth about the news, but also to draw some attention to my job search. Trolls there have called me a bum, lazy, not wanting a job, a drunk (interesting since I rarely drink alcohol) and those are just the nicer terms I get called. Some comments have also been racist and homophobic (because of my last name).

When I find myself in a situation like this, I try to remember that the insults and remarks hurt me if I let them. In other words, if I were to respond, “You’re a liar!” or “How dare he says that about me!”, I’m also creating the emotions that come from that remark. The technique I use to not get sucked into an argument with a troll (an argument no one can ever win) is to rebuke with the closing line “Conversation terminated”. This states that I’ve ended the argument even before it has a chance to devolve into a flame war, depriving the troll a source of sadistic gratification and attention. They can post a reply to that or find another post I’ve made to reply to, but my response will remain the same: nothing.

It’s a necessary step not just for my peace of mind but also because employers check social media for comments a job applicant has made that describes what that person’s character is like. While I’m not always successful in following my own advice, I like to think my conduct in dealing with trolls is professional, as well as showing ownership and accountability by showing my real name and photo along with my posts.

That’s something no troll can ever take from me nor something I will willingly hand over.

Thanks for reading!


Inspiration Technology

One of the ads from The Salvation Army’s Time To End Poverty winter campaign. The logo and images are property of the The Salvation Army

It’s rare that I come across a media campaign so powerful that I can’t say anything more than a subdued, “Wow”, and I’ve been around long enough to have seen plenty of them.

The Salvation Army has released a “Time To End Poverty” media campaign that includes images like the one in this post, as well as this video. Without the use of fancy computer animation or graphic content, TSA drives home their message like a stake through the heart. Thunk-OW. It’s just like that. 

I’ve been that guy with the laptop many times, mostly for job searching while sitting in a warm coffee shop. I’ve also been that homeless guy sitting outside a few times, wondering with that same look on his face, “What did I do to deserve this?”

I’ve also been that guy who has worked in Information Technology for over 20 years, doing his part to help implement hardware and software for my co-workers and companies to use. During that time I’ve seen computers become more powerful, smaller, and easier to use. Each generation is made better than the last. The question that begs to be asked —  and raised by the “Time To End Poverty” campaign — is if this marvelous technology is making things better.

In my humble opinion, I must answer no. We have social media that brings everyone in the world closer together only to have NIMBYism push us further apart, preventing collaboration on social issues. More wealth is being generated thanks to automation and improved retrieval, manipulation and storage techniques of big data,  yet that same wealth is not being distributed equally. The creation of transnational computer networks has allowed corporations to expand into new market areas around the world while at the same time accessing cheaper forms of labour that shuts out the local job market and increases unemployment. Teachers can educate students more efficiently and in less time through overhead displays, E-mail, and web-sites, but postsecondary education costs still go up and up and up, and further out of reach of our young people.

It’s like building a house. You can own the best hammer, power drill,  or saw in the world, but if you can’t build a house with a solid sound foundation, the house collapses. Our current way of life, our society, has come to this point. We can make these wonderful tools that could improve things, yet do not know how or are unwilling to.

Seems to me it’s our social awareness that needs an upgrade, not the tablet or laptop.

Thanks for reading!