Archive for March, 2009

Rhume for improvement

Posted on March 31st, 2009 Be the first to comment

I know that I run the risk of being accused of being one of those celebrities who don’t stand behind a cause unless it affects them personally. The general line of questioning goes: Would Reagan have stood so vehemently behind Alzheimer’s research if he wasn’t starting to get a bit sketchy himself? Would Chris Reeve have been so supportive of stem cell research if it hadn’t been for his own accident? Doesn’t this mean they’re just self-serving pricks who don’t really care about moving the cause forward except when it comes to them?

I say “hell no!”  on their behalf, and and also for me by way of corollary (pure logic, baby). There’s a million and one things to get behind, from diseases, to famine, to war. Expecting anyone to get behind them all of them really just mirrors the decrier’s own lack of sanity. It’d be easy enough to clam up anyone who decides to go down that path by scaling the question  down to pleb level and asking which local charities they themselves haven’t contributed to. The only correct follow-up to their answer is, “well why not, jerk face?”  — that usually pacifies everyone.

Oh, and also, I’m not a celebrity. So with righteous aplomb, I continue.

I have the flu. If it isn’t the flu, some bacterium is a master of disguise. I have all the classic symptoms; chills, intermittent fever, headache, sneezing, snotting, and otherwise expelling pus. I’m writing this from my convalescence couch (eh, who am I kidding, by convalescence I mean just regular ole’ life. I just like alliterations).

“Oh, big whoop,” I hear you say, “everyone’s had the flu. My four-year-old niece doesn’t blog about it when she’s sick; what’s so special about you?”

What a loaded question, dear  imaginary interlocutor. Let me start by casting doubt on your niece’s ability to write a multi-paragraph expository work of any kind. That is all. I guess I shouldn’t have started that without a second point. Oh well.

My aim wasn’t to heap aspersions on your nieces or nephews anyway,  but rather to draw attention to the fact that Influenza is probably the world’s deadliest communicable disease and, since it’s affecting me, to try to encourage you to do something about it.

The statistics are a bit fuzzy at the upper end of the scale because Influenza is lumped into the “Lower respiratory infections” group (basically lung problems). A bit of reading reveals that yes, the flu can cause this type of complication, but not always. Usually this happens in the elderly or infirm, but there’s always one variant or another that has the ability to be more profoundly harmful to everyone.

On top of all this, apparently the influenza group hasn’t budged from its number one spot in the charts for decades. H5N1, the bird flu; that scared quite a few people because of the possibility of another pandemic, but once all the birds were dead, people pretty much forgot about it. Getting all lathered up does nobody any good, but there should be a level and ongoing discussion on the topic of Influenza in general (including all its variants, not just the few in the spotlight).

The government is quick to point out that flu vaccines are not entirely effective (roughly 80%), in staving off infections. This stems from the virus’ ability to evolve and change outfits before going out on the town.

The virus essentially wears a chemical mask which it uses to sneak by our body’s bouncers and get in. By the time the bouncers realize what’s happened, the virus has already taken control of the bar.

Vaccines work by providing the door security with photos of the virus’ newest disguises, but that 20% miss rate indicates that two in ten virii still manage to sneak by undetected. The other problem is that, in a typical season, we provide the bouncer with snapshots of only three of the most common viral disguises (which are many and growing each year). If any one of those variants decided to bring a weapon, that would really suck.

In other words, flu vaccines are a stopgap solution to a potentially deadly and widespread problem.

Academia and government are definitely concerned over this, but I don’t remember the last time someone marched up Yonge street waving a “United against the flu” placard. Don’t remember the last time I saw that for HIV/AIDS neither, come to think of it.

We need to get out there and rally against this horrible, horrible disease. It’s making me not enjoy Ren & Stimpy and I can’t taste hot dogs. I can’t imagine how it could get worse, but apparently it can. The flu must be stopped now.

Please, for my sake.

Filed under: Why I'm Right

Big Red’s gold

Posted on March 27th, 2009 2 Comments

It’s innocuous and mostly ignored. It just stands there performing its function as best it can, providing a vital service to thousands of Torontonians each day without so much as a mumble, and lately it’s been spitting up gold.

like snowflakes

Here is my accumulated trove from the past few days, complete with a likely reconstruction of the sequence in which they came out →

Aren’t they great? Each one a unique fuck up; some mis-cut, some mis-printed, and most that didn’t fully make it through the rollers. Then there’s Blue Mountain of messed up transfers, the double-print. Super gracias, TTC!

These will find a home somewhere on my shelf, lovingly enshrined in my homage to the quirks that make the city great. MiCkie Dick’s and towers don’t a shelf make nah more.

Big RedShould you care to brighten your own morning, visit the right-hand machine at the Dundas southbound subway platform, when it’s “fixed”. I’d be just chuffed to share your own sunny treasures here (comment or email, whatever floats your boat).

Filed under: B Sides, Pictures

Will work for nybbles

Posted on March 26th, 2009 Be the first to comment

A few days ago I received a heartwarming email correspondence from a guy I’d never heard of. It brought unintentionally good tidings regarding employment in Toronto (at least in my field of work), as well as reaffirming my disdain for that barnacle of the professional world, the head hunter.

First the employment.

I don’t want to paint an unnecessarily rosy picture; there are certain sectors out there that are getting beat up left right and center. These seem to be mostly in old, established manufacturing jobs with most of them tied to car makers. However, many emerging and newer fields are on a broad upswing. Consider the letter I mentioned above. What makes that email uplifting is that it’s for the job in which I’m currently employed; I know because I helped to write the job description. We could chalk this mistake up to ignorance (more on that later), but le’s say for a moment that this was for a job that I wasn’t already in; what does the email say about the job market in my field (Flash developer, if you didn’t bother)?

First of all, the employment agency went to the trouble of describing my employer as a “Medium Sized Trendy Company”. In a brief discussion about this, my fellow developer and I came to the conclusion that we most certainly are the heppest things since hep became a word.

Going to the bother of adding trendy words indicates that a little bit of extra oomph is needed to attract candidates, something to which I can definitely attest. We’ve been trying to fill this position for about a year now. There have been a lot of dismal, head-shake-inducing entries and unfortunately, those that have been good were poached by competitors.

I don’t think that this job situation requires any heavy analysis (like this helped any “experts” forecasting our current monetary troubles); it’s a simple matter of supply and demand. Most high-tech skills, especially really nerdy ones like programming have large gaps between what employers need and what they can get. Sure, the learning curve is pretty steep but I think that an intensive six month course in your technology of choice should be enough to get you in on the $60K/year gigs. More often than not, there will be good room for negotiation.

Most developers I know are aware of the current global economic fiasco by name only. If you’re looking for a job, Toronto is probably faring a bit better than most places, but it’s hurting just as bad in those areas where people are getting axed globally. Despite this, it seems to be smooth sailing for all the fields that are opening up either because of changes in technology, ageing of the population, or recognition of global problems like the environment. By new, I mean somewhere in the neighbourhood of five to six years. I’m considered senior for God’s sake!

Don’t poopoo jobs because they’re different. Work environments are bound to change; if you’re freelancing now you probably have a better idea of what the workplace of tomorrow will look like than the standard nine-to-five guy. Keep your mind open when looking for a new job; the opportunity may seem unlike anything you’ve ever tried, and that’s usually what makes it the one to go for. There is an element of uncertainty, but as a general risk-averting pussy, I can honestly say that it’s a lot smaller than you think (mostly just an excuse).

In closing, I wanted to just touch on head hunters in the employment maelstrom. You can do without them! After all, their modus operendi is to make money off of you in exchange for providing a job seeking service as well as backing you up when you’re on the clock.

At least, that’s the theory.

In my experience with about seven different agencies, most fucked off after my first day on the job. In most cases I had to hunt down my rep who, more often than not, would be generally unavailable because of “meetings”, and that didn’t go down well on payday when the cheque didn’t show up. For the forty-odd bucks they were charging on top of my hourly, you’d think they’d be able to actually do what they say they’d do. Besides this, I had better luck finding good jobs myself ; they exist and agencies usually don’t have exclusive dibs. My delicate feet never hit pavement either.

And do keep in mind the level of competence exemplified by some of these chuckleheads; like the one who sent me a job offer for my own job. I wonder if he has opposable thumbs.

Filed under: Pictures, Why I'm Right