Friday, March 28, 2008

pamplemousse heads west, (young man).

I’m at the beginning of a big adventure. It started a week ago with a plane trip out west to BC; a plane trip on which I got sick somewhere over Thunder Bay. It was gross and embarrassing. I rarely get sick and puking is the thing I’m worst at and in the confines of a plane bathroom I get progressively worse at it. Usually I travel very well, like apples or Styrofoam. That day I was traveling more like a mushy banana at the bottom of an 8 year old’s school bag.

It was an extra shame, because I happened to seated next to an older couple who were very friendly and talkative and it was interesting, until of course I turned green all of a sudden and had to travel with my head on my knees in a vain effort to suppress the strange nausea.

But that part of the adventure ended and after lying outside at the Swartz bay ferry terminal for an hour, I felt a lot better. Then I was on the boat to Saltspring Island – a strange place with many hippies and rich yuppies. Apparently there are American celebrities living here, but I wouldn’t know. No one cares for celebrity around here.

It’s been a pleasant visit, other than the usual family politics, which I’ve blissfully ignored as much as I can and would rather not write about. The parent’s hot tub with a mountain top view allows me to forget such things.

We all headed over to Victoria the other day so I could meet up with Jimbo Gordaneer who is a very fine artist (and the granpa of my two best buddies under 10). I also got to meet Mark Laver, another painter. Painters always impress me. Jimbo can’t explain how he comes up with ideas, and I appreciate that honesty. None of that art school pretension here. Just paintings… everywhere. No corner of that old house is empty of art, and there is a pleasant surprise every which way.

Since then, I’ve been puttering around the island. I met a float plane pilot that let me sit in his beaver plane, and was ignored by all the sullen looking goth like kids hanging around the harbour.

I did manage to fall through a hole in the porch of the cabin my father is renovating. For some reason it was covered over with black tar paper. This is the sort of trick the Viet Cong pulled on the Americans in Vietnam. I didn’t expect it from my parents. Check out that bruise. I’m reasonably sure they didn’t mean to do this.

You can almost see my butt. I cropped it out though, cause this isn't that sort of blog... yet.

I traded my computer hands for chainsaw hands for a few days, which is why I haven’t posted until now. Today, although I had left my winter boots behind, I find that 2 inches of snow have fallen over night. As a result we are house bound, sort of. It’s really pretty though, and the two stupid dogs are very happy.

Tomorrow I’m off to Vancouver and then the long bus ride to Hinton. Huzzah!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

cbc exam part 2 - the results.

Just moments ago, my email program happily chimed to let me know of my latest email.

It was the results from last week's attempt at the infamous CBC entrance exam.

As I had feared, it was a fail.

57%. Just 3 % shy of the cut off mark. I'm betting it was the grammar question that got me. That and the dozen questions regarding electricity and set building that I had no hope of getting.

I wouldn't have been proud with just a 60% either, but the test itself was unfair. How am I to be an expert at 11 different and mostly unrelated technical skills? There was no realistic way to study for this. Where do I start with computer programming? What level of competence are they looking for in my ability to put screws into a set?

So now I am supposed to wait a further 12 months before I will be deemed mature enough to try again.

Well think again, CBC. I will not be crawling back begging for a job.

Instead, when I've calmed down some, I will be sending a well written letter of outrage, and I expect to be listened to...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

the CBC technical skills exam.

I have been trying to get my little media savvy self hired on to the venerable Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

I wouldn’t call it a ‘dream’ as such. More of a desire for a job in a mostly non-profit corporation with generally good intentions. Not quite the same as working for Amnesty International, but at least I wouldn’t be actively doing things to wreck havoc on the environment and civilization. I also like the idea of a steady paycheck, union regulated coffee breaks, and, possibly, interesting co-workers.

Oh, how I would love to have co-workers again! I can almost hear you office drones groan. I’ve read (okay, heard of) the studies indicating how little work gets done in the average office due to interruptions by said co-workers. I still remember how the old, evil boss would phone in 5 minute intervals not allowing me the chance to finish any of the work in question.

However, work at home is no picnic.

First off, there is the television. Then all the books and magazines. Then the internet. And finally a pleasant kitchen were I can drink endless espressos. Sounds nice, right?

This merely extends the work day far into the night. The guilt is what drives me to stay up. A sterile office would leave me with nothing but work to do. It would possibly leave me annoyed and tired, but it would be over for the day at 5pm.

So imagine my joy at finally getting an invitation to an entrance exam at the CBC that I thought would never ever come.

The 4 hour exam is only to put me in the running for a temporary position during the summer... maybe. It also put me in a very bad mood. I had to force myself to smile when I handed in the exam.

One has to score at least 60% on the entire exam, which would be fair, I suppose, if all of the exam had something to do with my expertise. There was a first section to the exam which had a French grammar question first thing. This is remarkably ignorant, as I won't be writing material for the CBC and I wouldn't be able to read the exam at all without an appropriate level of French. That is the state of affairs regarding language around here. If I took the same exam in Toronto or Vancouver, there wouldn't be an English grammar question.

The French are so touchy. You'd think General Wolfe was still marching across the Plains of Abraham the way they go on.

Following that were a bunch of questions on general knowledge that included such gems as 'when did the CBC start colour broadcast television?' and 'Match the faces with the show on which these people are on.' and my favorite 'Pick out which photos are of labour leaders'. I tend to listen to the news on the radio, so that wasn't much help.

My chances of success were saved by the fact that I happen to have had a job in a very small and ridiculous newsroom where I watched and encoded news videos for 8 hours nearly every day for nearly a year. I can match up world leaders with the flags of their countries, no problem. I’ll be able to ace any exam involving world current affairs for at least the next 6 months without any effort. The newsroom in question didn't cover local labour leaders or Québec talk show hosts.

The problem was really the second section which was all technical, but covered 11 different technical jobs, none of which are related. So I found myself trying to answer questions regarding electrical wiring, set design, and computer programming. I know nothing about these skill sets, except that you should never, never put your tongue on a nail or an electrical outlet or a hard drive. None of the questions covered those safety aspects.

If I score less than 60%, then I cannot apply for a position at the CBC for a year.

So I figured that at least now they have a paper file on me. It contains all of the information I give to them each and every time I apply to the CBC, but it at least feels like a step towards employment. I was reasonably confident on over 60% of the questions, but multiple choice is not a good way to evaluate people, and I have always feared the silly trickery which examiners are so proud of. Such a cruel game.

I'm not sure I understand the modern hiring practices. Do these people honestly think that I'm sitting at home by the phone waiting for the temporary offer? What happened to the old fashioned job interview?

The happy news is that this is all moot. Back in November, in a fit of panic at not being gainfully employed, I decided to return to my old job forest fire fighting with the small twist of filming a documentary at the same time.

I’m about to leave this snowbound city for the entire spring and summer seasons. There will be bugs and annoying work related politics, but in exchange, I get adventure and pay. It’s like the army minus the guns (and hopefully getting shot at).

CBC will just have to wait on me. I know they’ll be upset, but there is the chance that I failed their exam anyhow. I’m not good at multiple guess.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

montréal snow.

When I was little, my favorite movie was The Empire Strikes Back. It was also one of two movies I had seen by the age of 7, the other being The Black Hole.

What I liked most was the scenes on the ice planet Hoth. I really wanted my winters to be just like Hoth. I wanted to walk to school in trenches made of snow, constantly wondering if some storm troopers might be around the next snow bank. That would mean that mom and dad would certainly have to provide me with a lightsaber or at least a blaster.

So here I am in Montréal, enjoying as close as I'm likely to get my childhood dream. There are no storm troopers, but the sidewalk clearing snow machines provide a similar level of danger and excitement.

Apparently this winter has give the province of Québec nearly the all time record for snow fall. It always seems to mostly melt between storms, because climate change has still provided above freezing temperatures most weeks. Still, this is how winter in Canada is imagined by the rest of the world.

However the bitching and whining has not stopped since the snow first flew way back in October. According to my landlady, 'ten years ago this snow would have been cleared as soon as it hit the ground. Where are the trucks right now?'

The peoples are never satisfied.

Garbage collection in Montréal occurs twice a week, even in the winter (in Edmonton, it is once every two weeks in winter - try missing garbage day in January... ), yet that's not good enough. Education is the cheapest in the land, yet that still isn't cheap enough - apparently it ought to be free. French is all around and spoken even by the majority of anglophones that have moved here. Still not good enough. I don't know what the proposed solution to that might be... but it makes me very nervous. Montréal has a brilliant transit system that assures that most citizens don't even need to own a car and can still access nearly every part of the city, but I'm still the only person who smiles in the metro.

And now it's the snow.

Marcel Tremblay is the man that most city folk are directing their rage towards. He is in charge of clearing the snow for the city, and I hope he takes the summer off. Just to be clear, he didn't ask for budget breaking snow falls. He has promised that by tomorrow most of the snow will be off the roads and sidewalks. I'm not sure if he can manage it. There just aren't enough shovels. I'm nervous for him, and I already imagine an angry lynch-style mob marching to his house come Thursday morning. I wouldn't be surprised to see pitchforks and torches. Francophones love clichés.

I can't imagine how disheartening it must be to see all the snow melt anyway as the sun effortlessly erases all the money spent just to move snow from one spot to another. Truly a job with absolutely no hope of satisfaction... ever.

I guess if you own do own a car and decided to use it this week, it must be maddening. The above photo is a visual representation of Sartre's statement 'L'enfer, c'est les autres' (Hell is other people). That snow blower travels at about the speed of a geriatric with a walker. And due to notoriously bad parking habits complicated by giant snow banks, the actual lanes available for moving cars has shrunk, like a fat man's arteries, by at least half.

But you'll note, on closer inspection, that the pedestrians are moving past the traffic, walking free and easy. That's because sometimes legs are better than wheels. Even Luke Skywalker and Han Solo knew to use tauntauns when the going gets snowy.

Monday, March 10, 2008

an open letter to alberta.

Dear Alberta,

What gives?

Do you not understand the theory of democracy?

Again, you voted for conservatives. I think that makes over 40 years of next to no change in political philosophy.

It isn’t so much that you voted the same greedy ‘man’ back in. There is some logic. Everyone is getting rich, except for the poor, so why fuck with a good thing, right?

Well, it more has to do with the fact that so few of you voted for a viable opposition. How can you, as a province grow culturally and intellectually, if any conflicting ideas are suppressed by the very system built to assure that all can have a say in affairs?

This isn’t a hockey game you know. An election isn’t about destroying the other political party. Surely some of you don’t entirely agree with the status quo.

You know what’s gonna happen don’t you? One day soon, the ‘man’ will do as he/she wishes, and when you try to find someone to bitch on your behalf, you’ll find it is the very same person doing as she/he wishes.

It is nearly a one party system. Enjoy your, so far, benign dictatorship.


An ex-albertan.

ps - 20% voter turn out in Fort McMurray?! Seriously, get off your collective ass! Surely you can climb down from your giant pickup for 5 minutes. You spend several times that amount of time waiting for your precious Tim Horton's coffee every day.

Monday, March 03, 2008

babysitting a turtle.

This turtle belongs to my friend Sylvie. I'm taking care of him for a few days. He's just about the coolest reptile I know.