Absolutely Fabulous Movie Almost Here!

Absolutely Fabulous MovieAfter a long day on no sleep (dodgy oyster, don’t ask) I sat down to look at the news. Then BAAAAM! I discover that a US release date for the Absolutely Fabulous Movie has been set for July. Hurrah!!!

Absolutely Fabulous (or”Ab Fab”) represents a slice of 90’s UK culture that I hold dear. It reminds me of my early twenties. As with the sitcom, the movie is written by Jennifer Saunders of French and Saunders and Comic Strip fame. Ab Fab’s main characters are Eddy Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone, her alcoholic, pill popping, side kick, (Joanna Lumley). Each show poked fun at their outrageous, booze fueled, lifestyle and slavish dedication to fashion.

Even 24 years ago Eddy and Patsy were, ahem, “past their prime”. Eddy’s plain but sensible daughter and potty mother constantly frustrated Patsy and Eddy’s champagne soaked capers. The show’s other star is Eddy’s hilarious personal assistant, Bubbles. Played by Jane Horrocks. I still laugh when I think of her impression of a fax machine in an early episode. If you’ve never seen the show, think of a British version of Sex in the City (tough, I know). Then imagine the characters trying to behave the way they did in the first series but now they are 20 years older, drink a lot more, and are considerably funnier. Got it? Well then, you are sort of half way there.

Ab Fab has this mix of slapstick and funny, fast-paced dialogue. I loved watching two older women, dressed like 17 year olds, behaving really badly. It wasn’t just me who found them appealing. An entire generation of TV watchers loved the show. Now, 24 years later, they seemed to have pulled it off again.

The Absolutely Fabulous movie is said to have more than 60 star cameos including Stella McCartney, Kate Moss, Joan Collins, Jerry Hall and Jeremy Paxman. Even better (in my opinion), it features 90 drag queens!! Based on the premise that Eddy and Joanna accidentally push Kate Moss off a balcony into the Thames at a party. To escape the paparazzi, they run, penniless, to the South of France.

Oh how my day just got so much better (darling!).

The Oatmeal Dog and the Joys of Swearing

SwearingThis cartoon on Matthew Inman’s comic/blog page “The Oatmeal” has had me laughing to myself all week. I wish I could embed it in this blog.

I love it for two reasons.

The first is that he has exactly captured the behaviour of our youngest dog, Sprocket who is either in repose Sprocket1 or charging around like a thing possessed.

The second reason is because it introduced me to a new swear word. Even as I type “holy assbutts”, I am smiling.

Yes, I LOVE swear words. I can’t explain it. My Mum, or maybe a teacher, once told me that swearing showed a poor command of the English language and a lack of imagination. In other words, if you have to insert “f**k” or “s**t” in to your sentence it’s because you don’t know enough adjectives. That may well be true. But swearing is so much fun!!! I actually like learning new words, period, and then trying to fit them in to a sentence without sounding like a dork, and I don’t often swear in anger, more just because the words themselves make me laugh.

You’ll notice in a blog post below I start it with “holy shit balls”. That is also a fairly new one to my collection. I had wanted to insert a GIF that showed Tina Fey using it, but WordPress has a thing against GIFs and I couldn’t work out how to get around it.

Other recent favourites from a BuzzFeed article include “Fucktrumpet” and “Assbadger”. They make absolutely no sense, but that is part of their awesomeness.

Apparently the British are particularly good at swearing, so maybe that is where my fascination for the crude comes from. I tried to find swear words that Shakespeare used and came across this wonderful blog post by Marginalia, whose site I will be visiting again. She is obviously a scholar of literature (and a fan of profane language) and points out that while Shakespeare didn’t actually use directly foul language (there were all kind of Christian restrictions in those days about what you could and could not say on stage), he was really good at making rude references in a more subtle way. I won’t repeat the examples Marginalia provides, because you can read them for yourself in her post.

So there you have it.

Please do feel free to share your fave swear words with me, the more unusual, the better!

On Longevity

Old ShoesLast night I attended my organisation’s Annual General Meeting.

Apart from the usual business (approving minutes, electing Board members etc.) this meeting is also the time when employee service awards are given out.

People received awards for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 35 years of service. 35 years!!!! The lady who received her 35 year award started work as a student and has never left. She has fulfilled different roles and responsibilities, and the organisation has grown over time, but essentially she grew up with our organisation. She isn’t the only story like this. In some cases, this is the only work environment people have experienced.

This, to me, is amazing. The only thing I have done consistently for more than 10 years (other than the usual, you know, breathing and stuff) is to be married.

I’ve never stayed at a job that long, I’ve never lived in a house (or even one city) that long, heck, I only need one hand to count the number of friends I see regularly who I’ve known that long!

What is wrong with me???

This is not the first time I’ve wondered about this. Before I left my last job I agonized for weeks over whether it was the right thing to do after 4 years. And maybe it wasn’t. BUT I was working crazy hours, was stressed and miserable and no longer really believed that the work I was doing to support the institution was consistent with my values. I am sure though that I can’t be the only person who has faced those circumstances, and many people, I am sure, would hang in there for much longer than I, in the hopes things would change.

So I decided to do a bit of research and come up with a set of good reasons why someone should stay in their job for years and years, and reasons that would justify my flaky employment history. I expected to come out of this feeling like I was an odd ball, after all, I come from a family of loyal time-served employees (my Dad worked for the same company for more than 30 years and my sister has only ever worked for two companies over the course of her professional life). In fact I found the things I read validated my own behaviour.

The positive arguments for longevity seem to me to be good for the employer and not necessarily for the employee (unless they are somewhere that offers steady increases in responsibility and this is reflected in their salary). Employers who value longevity see the advantages of low turnover (hiring and training are expensive and time consuming) and a more “stable” culture. I put “stable” in quotation marks deliberately. In some cases I honestly think “stable” can become “stagnant” and if there are too many people with endless years of service, change gets harder and harder to implement.

What I was surprised to discover was that the definition of “longevity” is not at all “long” and that attitudes that once might have valued years and years of service, have changed. Longevity, in many articles I read, refers to over 2 years of service. Currently a North American worker stays an average 4.6 years at each job before moving on. In fact a new term for “job hopping” has been developed to name the under 25 year old tendency to move jobs every couple of years. It is now known as “Professional Pivoting”.

Another article I read said that you MUST change jobs every 3-5 years in order to learn and grow and move up in your career. Apparently the concept of loyalty is demonstrated through loyalty to an idea, a project or a group of people, and not by showing up day after day to do the same thing for the same company. I concur with this sentiment (I am, of course, a bit biased). At both the job I am in now, and the one I was in before, I bust my ass to make changes and leave the organization in a better place then when I joined. The reality of both organizations when I joined was that I replaced very long term employees (almost 20 years in both cases). Because of this there had been 20 years of some things being done amazingly well and some things were not done well at all. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and, over 20 years these become ingrained in to culture and practice, this is not necessarily always for the best. There again, I am taking the organisation’s perspective.

From the employee’s perspective, I completely understand that stability and familiarity are important to people at certain points in their lives. I get that if you are bringing up small children, or going through some personal crisis in your own life, then change in other aspects of your life is not welcome. However these things (one would hope) don’t last forever.

However, I also think that staying too long in one place makes you afraid of taking risks, moving on, becoming adaptable to new circumstances and working styles, and possibly learning new skills. One of the themes that has come up in conversations with individuals who have worked for very long periods of time at the same place, is that they don’t know what else they would do. Surely the point of dedicating all that time and hard work to an organization should allow, at the very least, for you to build a skill set that you could leverage if you ever wanted to change direction? Or, that if an individual feels they have stagnated, isn’t it their responsibility to gain new knowledge and skills for themselves?

I think this explains my “Professional Pivoting”. To use a cliche, I give 110% wherever I work, and I expect, as well as a paycheck, to be given the opportunity to take on new things and continuously learn. However if I hit a wall and I cannot see a way to grow (and by that I mean is skills not necessarily in dollars), and I’m getting no support, then it is time to move on with no regrets.

This is apparently a very Gen X/ Gen Y/Millennial way of looking at the world. They will be loyal to an organization, however they expect that the organization demonstrates some loyalty to them in the form of providing opportunities to learn and grow. As a ‘Gen X’r’ myself, this doesn’t make me all that different to my peers. Just different to a lot of the people I work with! But then again that’s probably why I was hired. So maybe I should just stop fretting and get on with the job at hand.

Rock City MTB, Ellicottville

Rock CityRob, myself and the three tiny terrors were bit pooped today after mountain biking in Holiday Valley on Saturday and Sunday. At one point last night, I had to poke Sprocket to check he was still alive. So the prospect of more climbing (which is pretty much a given when mountain biking in EVL) wasn’t that appealing and instead we opted to ride Rock City.

Rock City, part of a NY state forest, is gorgeous. Riding the trails there feels like you’ve gone back in time to when the dinosaurs roamed. JP & Rock CityHuge rocks covered in moss are everywhere and the trees are large and old, with enormous roots. It’s a fun place to ride when it is dry, although for those who are nervous of rocks and roots, there might be a bit of walking involved. That said, there are worse places to hike a bike.

Looking at WNYMBA‘s review of the trail, it gets five stars and I understand why. I think their review is of a much smaller section than the one I call “Rock City” as they say it is 1 mile long and I clocked about 6km from the entrance to the end where we joined the Tournado ByPass loop and rode out on to the South Pale Ale Trail to the road, making about a 9km loop in total.Rob & Terriers There isn’t a lot of elevation and so if you feel like working on your technical skills without coughing up a lung, this is a great place to do it. You may not ride all the sections, but the sense of achievement for getting through a rock garden that you’ve not managed before is unmistakable.

I’ve included the MTB Projects map of the EVL area below so you can get a sense of where it is if you’re interested in riding there. Or you could go to the MTB Project site and search for Ellicottville for more information.



Back At It Again

Where did the time go?Holy s**t balls – it’s been five years since I wrote a blog post! Where does the time go?

I’ve been writing a blog for a business venture that I am working on with a friend and enjoying it so much that I thought it was time to start my personal blog again. The business blog (check it out at blog.foodgrads.com) is fun but we are writing for an audience who is interested in getting a job in the food industry, so not much scope for my ramblings on other topics. I am also enjoying learning more about WordPress and I figured this was a good place to play in the WordPress sandbox without any consequences, since I doubt anyone is reading this at the moment!!

I’m not going to do a “catch up” type post since I think it will be really boring, but I may post a few things that relate to stuff that happened in the recent past since so much is going on at the moment. You can expect the usual mix of biking, dogs, and the odd rant. I’ve taken up quilting and sewing since completing my MBA, have this nascent online business going and have developed a bit of an obsession with becoming a goat herd. More about that in another post.

It’s good to be back, and I am making a commitment to myself and anyone else who is interested to post twice a week, even if it’s a few lines. The discipline will be good for me.

Hello World

When you start a new WordPress blog the default title given is “Hello World”. I feel this is appropriate and reserve the right to blatantly jabber on about myself in this first post after a very long time away from posting. Smiley Face

I have just ended my first week back at work after taking unpaid leave during the summer to complete five of the remaining six courses left to attain my MBA. I loved every minute of it and I’m lucky to have a boss and a husband prepared to take the hit while I played full-time student.

I’ve been doing the MBA program part-time since January 2009, two courses per semester while I’ve been working. I didn’t anticipate that adding an extra three courses when not working would require much additional effort. I was going to repaint the bathroom, landscape the back garden, rekindle relationships with friends I have neglected during the last two years and write regular, witty and insightful entries for this blog.

I had not considered that the summer term is only three, not four, months long (as with the fall and winter terms), that I would be taking Corporate Finance, a required course and the hardest and most contentious in the program, or that when you add in at least three extra doses of group work (a component of almost every MBA course), the increase in time required is exponential, not linear (read: even more people to try to motivate or compensate for). It was intense, very intense.

I think I went a bit squirrelly in the last couple of weeks. Sorry about that to all who encountered me during that time. I also found my first three grey hairs (NOTE: my hairdresser said if you pull them out, they will come back frizzy – oh dear).

Now, however, it is over (and I can’t complain about the results I got for my efforts). But for one glorious month before September begins, I have time to write, read things other than text books, knit, walk the dogs at a leisurely pace, cook and hang out. Hello world! Problem is, I have sort of forgotten how to do it. Hang out, I mean. Hence the reason why I am sitting at my computer at 6.30am on a Saturday morning, writing; I already cleaned the fridge, walked the dogs and made a shopping list. The dogs went back to bed.

Oh well, with only one course left to do in September I am hoping that these blog entries will become more frequent, and I’ll remember how to hang out again. I promise that future posts won’t all be about me. I know, I’m not that interesting.

Strengthsfinder 2.0

Strengthsfinder 2.0Most MBA programs (at least in North America) have some kind of introductory week for the students before they begin their program in earnest. It’s a time for the students to familiarize themselves with their new surroundings, and to learn about the faculty, services and resources that will be available to them during their program.

At DeGroote this week is called “Transition Week” (i.e. you transition from an undergrad to a Masters level student) and my department, which is responsible for providing career advice, professional development and running the MBA co-op program, facilitates several workshops during the week.

Our aim during this time with the students is to begin their professional development journey by encouraging self awareness and thoughtful reflection on who and what they want to become when they graduate and what needs to be done to get them there. It is a lot easier said than done. Not least because the average age of a student entering our program is 21. If I remember correctly, I wasn’t spending a lot of time on the larger, more pressing questions in life when I was that age and while there are many differences between Gen X (my generation) and Gen Y (the incoming class), I don’t think we differ much in the levels of self-awareness present at the age of 21.

In the past we have nobly tried to emphasize to students the need to understand personality, values, environmental preferences and interests and how these might apply to future career choices. However it has overwhelmed them at a time when they are already reaching information overload and although at a later date they may have come to appreciate the value of this wisdom, it hasn’t really hit home fast enough for the vast majority of students to be able to apply in their co-op, summer and full-time job applications.

This year we are planning something different and I am really excited about it. We are going to use a tool called Strengthsfinder 2.0. This tool was developed by the people at Gallup (the polling and survey firm), from surveying over 8 million individuals in 50 odd different countries. It identifies the presence of certain talents that their research has proven, when used constructively, can be leveraged to help people achieve what they want to in life. It’s quite revolutionary in that it is built on the premise that everyone is born with a unique combination of innate talents and the best way to be successful is by leveraging these talents and finding other ways to compensate for ways in which you are not talented. In the words of one of their consultants “you can’t be anything you want to be, but you can be a whole lot more of who you are”. Another way of putting it would be don’t waste time trying to be great at something where you do not possess an innate talent, at best you will achieve mediocrity. Instead focus on being great at what you already know you can do naturally well.

Refreshing isn’t it? It explains perfectly why I’ll never make a good navigator (having no sense of direction, despite serious efforts to acquire one), but I am a good public speaker. I’ll never make a great sprinter, but I am like the Duracell bunny, I have a lot of physical endurance over the long haul. On the other hand my husband, Rob, could find his way out of the boreal forest in the dark with a blind fold (I am actually not joking there), but has something of a reputation for being “the strong silent type”, with an emphasis in this situation on the silent. We were never destined for the same career.

I don’t want to go in to too much detail here but I would recommend reading the book. It is not much more than $20 and I haven’t met a single person who hasn’t got some interesting insights from taking the survey (a code for which comes with each book purchase). I’ll report back later next month about how the students receive this wisdom.

My Top 10 are as follows:

1. Input
People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more.
Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.
2. Learner
People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and
want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the
outcome, excites them.
3. Intellection
People who are especially talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their
intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.
4. Positivity
People who are especially talented in the Positivity theme have an enthusiasm that is
contagious. They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do.
5. Ideation
People who are especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They
are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.
6. Activator
People who are especially talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by
turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient.

7. Achiever
People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina
and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.
8. Maximizer
People who are especially talented in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way
to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong
into something superb.
9. Developer
People who are especially talented in the Developer theme recognize and cultivate the
potential in others. They spot the signs of each small improvement and derive
satisfaction from these improvements.
10. Empathy
People who are especially talented in the Empathy theme can sense the feelings of other
people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or others’ situations.

My fling with Keynes

keynesDespite aspirations to the contrary, it is a good long time since I last blogged. The problem with blogging so infrequently is that when I get around to it, my posts are too long. I’ll try to avoid that this time.

The main reason for my absence at the key board has been that during almost every significant slot of down time in the last two months, I’ve had my head buried in an Economics text book. Economics is one of the two courses I did this term as I crawl slowly to the completion of the part-time MBA I have my heart set on attaining. The final exam, which counted for almost all the marks for the course, was on Wednesday night this week.

Never having studied economics of any kind before, and because I didn’t go to many of the lectures ( for reasons that I am not about to clarify here) getting to grips with the subject has been something of an uphill struggle. It’s almost like learning a new language, once you think you’ve got a bit of an understanding, you go to apply it in the real world only to realize that your grasp wasn’t quite so thorough as you’d first thought. 

It’s been rewarding though.  Once you start to understand some of the basics, you can see their application everywhere you look and in many of the news items covered in the media. Consumer debt, the Bank of Canada’s interest rate, government stimulus packages, arguments for and against globalization, US balance of payments…..and how these things impact us as consumers, voters and taxpayers (assuming you pay your taxes).

While it is popular and completely justified to point the finger at the ‘fat cat bankers’ to quote a certain President, and blame them for the recent recession, so much of the economic quagmire we’ve experienced is because of the cumulative impact of our own day to day habits with respect to spending, saving, personal debt and consumerism. Also, as someone who has thought very long and hard about the benefits of a diversified local economy, I now understand more about specialization and globalization (i.e. where one country focuses a large portion of it’s efforts in to the production of one thing, say wheat, or coffee, then trades that thing with another country to get the other goods it needs) and although it isn’t good for the environment, this approach to production and trading has allowed us in the West the exceptionally high standard of living we now enjoy.

No fear though, the effort that it has taken to get me this far is a strong indicator that I am not destined for a career as an economist (although it would be an awesome job title) but I do think it is a subject that everyone would benefit from having a basic understanding of, since it impacts so much of our daily lives and environment.

Now, as so often happens just after my exams finish, I am sick. In fact I was sneezing and coughing all the way through my exam on Wednesday (I pity the poor guy who had to sit next to me) and I’ve been laid up on the couch for the past two days, sneezing and filling the waste paper basket with snotty tissues. It’s not the worst thing that could happen though as I’ve had the chance to tuck in to the big pile of reading that I’ve had on the back burner while I’ve been studying. And of course, now I get to blog again.

Full Steve aHed-ley

This time last week (it has been a crazy one) Rob, and I got up at 6am on a Sunday. It was one of those mornings when you hear the wind and the rain lashing against the window and think that it would be much wiser to stay in bed. Dave dropped Mari off at our place and took the dogs and then Rob, Mari and I drove 1.5 hours north of Toronto to Dufferin County for a mountain biking event.

I think if this had been just any event we would have all stayed in bed, but this had been organized as a fundraiser for the family of a fellow Hamilton cyclist (Steve Reynolds) who recently died in his late forties after a brief but brutal battle with cancer, leaving a wife and two daughters behind. As we drove further north the skies cleared and the sun came out and we experienced one of those beautiful autumnal mornings that make you glad to be alive (if a little chilly).

About 40 people turned up for the ride which was to be an all abilities 40km jaunt through the forests around Dufferin County with a stop for lunch. Afterwards we joined family members and non-riders at Steve’s brother’s farm for an amazing meal (a relation of the family has a catering company and the food was incredible), a few beers, a silent auction and then, the highlight of the evening, a private performance by the Flamenco guitarist Jesse Cooke who apparently lives just round the corner. All hosted on a beautiful property surrounded by forest.

Although I wasn’t close to Steve I felt privileged to be a part of the event. The speed with which the cycling community pulled it together, the atmosphere during the ride, and then the live music made it a day to remember.

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Rob  and Mari getting ready for the day. It was a cold start so we were grabbing as many layers as we could.

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Hugh Black from True North (the guy that made our bikes) was there. He donated a bike to the silent auction. Results to be announced in November!

 

Below left – Rob with dogs and beer, what more could a man want? Below right, Mari and I showing Jesse Cooke what great flamenco dancers we could be.

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Finished!

IMG_1623A friend at work just had his second daughter, Adriana. Having never tried knitting baby clothes before (I always take on large and ambitious projects that take me years to finish) I thought I’d have a go. This kimono was knitted as one piece and then I did the flowers and the I-cord afterwards (two new skills I learned when doing this). I got the pattern free from Ravelry (a great resource for anyone who knits), it was very easy and I have enjoyed knitting something that took four weeks to make instead of two years!