Sunday, September 25, 2016

Can You be Useful to Me?


When networking first became a thing lots of people loved it.  (Here's a definition by the way:  Interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one's career.)    Sure, this type of thing has been going on since the beginning of time.   I visualize an early hominid chatting to a fellow hominid about matters that generally concern  both of them before enquiring whether his new friend had discovered a new way to make fire.   Something that didn't involve waiting for lightning to strike a tree.

Friends have always helped friends and nepotism (the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.)  has a long history.  These are people with whom you have a known for a long time and they would be your friend (sister-in-law, cousin, co-worker) even if did not have any useful job leads.

But have you ever been introduced to a charming and attractive person at a social gathering and had the suspicious feeling that you were being evaluated, not for your character and sense of humour, but to see if you could be useful to them at some point.     Do you own a truck that could be used to transfer a garden shed?  Do you work for a large corporation that always has job openings in various departments?   Are you a computer nerd who could be called upon for network meltdowns?  Are you a good prospect for their home sales party next month?  Or, is your conversational partner's interest starting to wane as to your future usefulness?   Are their eyes starting to scan the room for more promising prospects?

Consider your escape fortunate.    Network friends may not understand the concept of reciprocity. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Perhaps you have visited a small town or country museum at some point in your travels.  They are full of relics from the past, lovingly curated, labelled and displayed.   Old milking cans and school slates, tin washboards and rusting disc plows suitable for the sticky soil of the area share the space with yellowing theatre programs, ornate ladies' hats and sturdy travelling trunks.   All recaptured from someone's attic, scrapbook or shed to show us how people of this area used to live and work.

Rust aside, they would still all work today, should the need somehow arise, but they do require manual labour to perform.   We may congratulate ourselves or feel grateful that those labour-intensive, backbreaking days of our ancestors never applied to us.   Some can still be purchased today;   the washboard above is available through Amazon.

But the list of items that are fading into obscurity and will one day grace museum shelves and walls is not static, rather it is growing.   That we have used some of the items might make us feel like relics ourselves.  True,  all are still in use, more or less, sometimes, when all else fails, but transitions happened gradually in the past, too.  The moral is, if you own one of these items, especially if it is in pristine condition, wrap it up carefully and put it in your attic.   One day a  museum might come calling.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Think about it for a minute.   Or survey those in your immediate vicinity.    Where are you likely to get the worst customer service?   . . . Right, a Government monopoly.   The Department of Motor Vehicles,  the Passport Office,  the government Medical Services Plan, the tax department.    There are no qualms it seems when the in person waiting time is an hour or more or when you wait on hold for thirty minutes.   No, a disembodied voice on your phone cheerfully advises that wait times are estimated to be 40 minutes.   How can they be so cavalier about this situation and without fear of losing business or declining revenues?   Because you have no choice;   they are the only game in town.   You need them; they don't need you.   You want a:

a)  Passport
b)   Driver's License
c)   Answer to a question about the government medical plan
d)    Information about your income tax deduction that was disallowed

Be prepared to wait! 

Following on the heels of government monopolies must be  organizations and institutions that have your money.    You've paid your University fees for the year, talking to you will not generate them any more revenue.    The bean counters have taken over.  Your local cable company, which has you on a 2 year plan,  has high call volumes and, of course, no plan in place to deal with this.   Why bother?   You're committed to paying them for another twenty months.    Credit card companies can be guilty of this as well, especially annoying after you spend five minutes replying to a circuit of menu options, involving entering your account number and various other options.   It doesn't help when the person who eventually answers doesn't seem to have access to the information that you diligently entered and starts the question process confirming your identity all over again.

But try to remember:  The person you eventually end up speaking to has little or nothing to do with the unacceptable service.   Customer service doesn't generate revenue and is prone to being the victim of budget cuts.  He or she is doing the work that three people previously shared.   Their hours are cut and calls are monitored to ensure 'quality' as in how quickly did they get you off the line. 

If only a small portion of what  is spent on government publicity/photo-op budgets was spent responding to citizens/residents queries, much improvement would occur.   The ads are so clever, the promises so profuse, the self-congratulation is ubiquitous.   The multitude of happy smiling faces must be residing in an alternate universe.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Vacation Read

The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquinn Hall

      I found this book in the library on a recent cruise and enjoyed it very much. Looking at the cover now, it seems very busy to me as if it is trying to incorporate every aspect of the book.   I don't recall any elephants though.

      But, aside from that small quibble (and I have read that traditionally published authors have little control over the covers chosen by the publisher) this was a delightful book.   It distracted me from both the cruise ship buffet and scenic delights of the Inside Passage to Alaska.     I love books that immerse the reader in the sights, sounds, smells, foibles and culture of another country.  The main character, detective Vish Puri, known as Chubby to his friends is delightfully described and developed as smart, quirky, vulnerable and clever.   The details of Indian society reflect the time the author spent in the country.   The book reminded me of the earlier books of the No. 1 Ladies Detective series by Alexander McCall-Smith, set in Botswana.

    The plot moves quickly, the violence is minimal.    The supporting characters, Chubby's undercover operates  with names like Tubelight and Facecream  as well as his mother and wife, add to the drama.   Yet the book at times is light, almost humorous even while not shying from depicting the poverty and misery that is the plight of this very stratified society.

     There were quite a few Indian words and phrases employed with fortunately a glossary in the back to refer to.  I suppose it would be handier to have a footnote on each page but many recur.   I think it added to the authenticity.  

      The corruption of everyday life including the police and judicial system was discouraging but Chubby seemed to know how to work his way around it.  He was firm about not working for peanuts (I think he referred to the Indian equivalent) but from his results, he was worth it.   

     I want to read more of this series and am enjoying the small frisson of excitement of looking forward to reading a book I know I will enjoy.