Monday, October 5, 2015

Damn it I liked that Job.

It looks almost but not quite like work

This is the first regular work day since December where I have not made the trip to Annacis island.
My contract with Preflight has ended. It was no fault of my own, the simple truth was I could look down the aisles of the warehouse and see they were clean and empty of new orders. The work dried up.

Since it has been nine months of constant work a sudden day off is largely welcome.  I have been stretching my resources thin with the doing of many things.  It has been a busy summer and fall. In the last three weeks I have been camping twice and ran an obstacle coarse in Whistler.  The doing of the camping involved much running around to find the food things, or in more than one case running around to not find the food thing.  For the first trip a evening was spent making noodles for the camp meal.  All of this was good fun but it left me tired and my cat stressed and lonely.  That is why a day off is needed.  Now I have to make sure they do not become common. 

So back to the job I did not hate.   My life has shown that it is easy for me to hate a job.  When it was geology the hate grew from the being away from home, and I just cannot live a healthy life when I am sequestered in a work camp.  My later experiment with office work proved I simply do not have the patience to sit still at a desk all day.  So why did I like that warehouse.  Lots of good reasons.

In contrast to my time making maps where I struggled trying to match my output with a variable and poorly explained set of parameters, I had a crystal clear set of outcomes.  When my job was assembly, the outcome was clear, the parts go out of their boxes get screwed and wired in, if the machine fires up and no error codes come up I did my job right.  So I could be confident I was doing the right job by the simple fact that there was a simple binary, the thing I built worked, or it did not.  And sometimes it did not, but that was never a huge problem because I worked with good people. 

I worked with good people both in the sense that they were friendly, polite, and easy going, and in that they were good at there job.  The crew in that shop had been there a long time,  properly experts in field of photocopiers. Preflight's job was to make absolutely sure the machine on the order would work when it was delivered. This demand created an atmosphere that I enjoyed, it was more important to do the work correctly than to do it fast.  This is in sharp contrast to many places where haste has dominated the work flow.  This changed how errors were handled. 

Mistakes get made at jobs, doubly so as a temp where you have to learn new versions of jobs and new sites regularly.  At many places errors are met with chastisement, and the surprised anger that you did not know the thing that was obvious to the experienced crew.  There is a correlation with the supervisor being near the upper bounds of their abilities and wrangling a temp is an unwelcome stressor. At Preflight I was faced with a suite of technologies I could not be expected to know anything about, and working with experts. Work is better when your supervisor has time to teach.

I learned things.  Often my work was repetitive, in fact it was often so.  For many days at a time I would install the same common accessories on the same common models, but inside of this routine I still learned things.  Some things learned are useless beyond that office, I don't know when I will need to know how a colour copier works. I just don't, but learning about that dance of lasers on photo conductors, and brushes made of iron filings and electrostatic charge made things interesting. Other things learned, or refreshed have more direct value.  What I can take away is time spent learning the language of machines. 

 It was the first time mechanical things were the core of my work.  When I was first handed the 5.5mm hex driver I was intimidated.   I believed mechanical things were not my thing.  It was a slow start, initially painstakingly following the printed instructions, carefully checking all the things, and occasionally getting a little lost.   After literally hundreds of parts installs and many removals things became easy.  At some level it became rote learning, but not exclusively.  I learn things be because I get board, I start to look at how things are connected, because what else am I going to do when turning a screw driver.  So I started to read how things were put together, learning what would move and stay put if I removed any given set of screws and wires.  Perhaps it should come as less of a surprise that I could learn to see mechanical things, it is not unlike geology. Geology demands that you practice the art of seeing below the surface, and seeing the third and fourth dimensions from the second.  

That the work was repetitive could have been held against it, and in some weeks it was too much, but it was also comfortable.  It varied comfortably with a theme, and that kept me confident and happy.  What also kept me happy was I was trusted.  I had a small collection of borrowed tools, a workspace for the tools, manuals and checklists.  By and large I was left alone, but I was not isolated, the shop was shared with the four full time techs, most of whom largely kept to themselves.  So I was trusted to read the orders, build things in the order that best met the deadlines.  The work I did worked, and on the odd occasions it did not, the worst that happened was I went back and fixed it.  

Ok I’m getting tired and bridging paragraphs together is too much work so I will end this soon. I have a take way from this.  One of the better incites into what makes me happy at work.  The short list. Work with a clear and obvious outcome, access to competent people in the same field, comfortably repetitive, but not fixed tasks, the chances to solve problems and to be trusted to do some of my own thinking.  I am good at repetitive tasks that require mindfulness. This ironic because I also bad at those things, but I know how I am bad at them and build my workflows around cancelling out my known errors.  My biggest frustration at the end of these 9 months was, I was only ever allowed to learn and do a narrow slice of things because I was a temp.  I wanted to learn more, damn it I was good at was I was doing.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

On Politics.


In Canada there is an election on. It will go for sometime, I already tire of it.  Like most of my friends I have no love for government of British Columbia, or the current federal administration.  It took a few things for the frustration to hit a level where I had to do my own ranting.  The first trigger was that wasteful and counter productive transit plebiscite.  It proved that if asked to vote for a tinny tax increase for their own good enough people would reject a sensible plan.  My anger at the plebiscite was not the result but that it happened. 

My knowledge of the mechanics of Canadian politics is simplistic and limited, but enough to highlight why bringing things to a vote was a bad idea. The fundamental is this is a representative democracy.  MLA's and MP's are elected to represent an area, to vote in the interest of the residences of that region. There is the assumption that in taking on a portfolio the representative will gain enough specialization on that topic to make informed and balanced plans.  

The plebiscite was a government shedding its responsibility by turning a complex matter over to the public. I honestly want the government to be making infrastructure investments, and I know full well that there is demand for transit.  Now they can not beheld to account for their failure to represent because they turned it over the masses. 

I came here to have words on the federal election.  Having vented about the transit vote my brain now has the resources to take on the national situation.  Canada has been under the rule of a bland pseudo-dictator for at least 10 years.  The list of things done that anger me is as long as my arm, your own list may be longer still.  We are in desperate need of a change of government.  From the trickle of news that passes through to me it looks like that desire is wide spread.  That same news trickle irritates me with endless comparisons of the standings of the leaders of the three national parties, a tiresome aspect of modern politics. 

I believe I was taught at a young age that your vote should be given to the candidate who can best represent your riding.  The resulting government would be cobbled together out of the missmash of elected members.   Sadly in the age of televised and internet news, Riding level politics gets lost under noise from from the nation scene.  This fails the electorate, that’s you the ones eligible to vote,  because it leads voting for the national brand in place of judging the local candidate by what they bring in for you.   If you are lucky the party whip will lay off enough for your representative to vote in your interest not just their parties. 

What got me to write this and what made me release I hated this election almost before it began was a slide show from the Orange formally socialist party, attracting the leader to the Liberals for not supporting a $15/hour minimum wage for federally regulated employees.  I am decidedly for a $15/hour minimum wage everywhere, and calling out your opponent’s stance on an important topic is fair play.  No what drove me to anger was the style.  It mirrored the „He’s just not ready“ attack adds that have been pounding my ears since before the election was called.   I do not like this long bloody election, and that one of our best hopes for a new government is too willing to ape the nearly fascist incumbent. 

In my bubble the election looks like this.  The Conservatives draw all the attention to the Liberals, trying to ape the American meaningless binary.  The NDP is attacking the Liberals and Conservatives, but aiming most the orange artillery at the blue fortress.  Meanwhile the Greens are demanding a chance to be seen and heard at the national debates.  

 It is the Green Party that brings me to my final point of frustration.  It was in the news this week that the Greens gained a third seat in the House of Commons.  Included in his reasons for crossing the floor was the demand to follow the party line.  The demand to vote for the party interest at all cost, damages your MP’s ability to represent your riding.  And I can’t stand the notion of MP’s being stripped of autonomy and opinions.  Yet that is becoming the new normal.  Under the Harper regime his goons followed a tight script. This sets a precedent for his successors, form any party, govern from the top down, with the MP’s being vote casting machines.  

I could hope that it would be a conservative habit. Linda McQuaid’s keep oil in the ground comment, and fuss that this known fact caused, one should doubt that policing of the MPs is isolated to one party.  And this brings me back to one.  This is a representative democracy, on paper.  It is crippled by and endless focus on the national leaders, an antiquated ballot counting system, party whips, and too much America influence.  I want to be able to vote for the person who stands out as the best voice New Westminster, not making a strategic vote in the hope of creating a change of government. I want that same representative to have the freedom to speak the truth, to stand up for what their riding demands is important, especially if that differs from the national parties view.  

In writing this, in my head at work I realized something.  As someone who is angered by Canada’s inaction on climate change, and addiction to Tarsands, and angered by relentless top down politics of the traditional national parties, I have little choice but to move closer to alinement with the Green Party.  I am sure there are flaws in their platform but the others are a large collection of old Ideas. Heck Tom Mulclair basically admitted to believing in magic when he suggest we could mine the tarsands and reduce carbon emissions.  You lost me then and there Mister. 

Today was an angry day, and I was bored at work.  This happened. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Accidentally Running

It seems almost by accident I have taken up running.  Ok, it was not accident but it has sunk up on me. And now I like it.

I will blame hiking.  The last year has had the right combination of people to form the core of an informal hiking group.  At some point in some of the adventures conversations turn to things done for fun. Running came up as one such activity. My go to was, well thats for other people and I moved on.  It took a new hat and a big hill get me to push myself.

Despite having a solid collection of technical garments, I am not one to immediately suggest buying a new thing to start a new endeavour, but when you have my UV sensitivity and hair line somethings are needed, hats and sun block for a start.  The hat in question is a quick drying ultra compact cadet cap, picked up to take up a mountain.  Lindsay Lake loop, was our early go at a big hike, at 1km of vertical and about 15km round trip it was bigger and taller than anything done before.  I was not going to do it in a sweltering black felt outback hat, a hat that blocks the view as much as it blocks the sun.  The new cap proved to do what it needed tom stay on and keep the sun off the baldest bits.  The staying on part proved important for the whole running thing.

It was during the climb at Lindsay Lake, and conversations about exercise that I pondered if I would continue to keep up if my regime remained the same.  It likely did not matter, our hiking style is one of steady paces and a time budget for random breaks.  But the idea set.  Not long after that I gave it a go.

Run one was jarring. With no clue as to how fast I should go, I went too fast, and quickly dropped to a walk.  The whole business of breathing while my thorax was rattling did not work out well.  Of the 2km I covered that first time less than half of it was spent running.  Future efforts were delayed as a massive muscle not in my back made me rethink the whole business.  Half a week later I decided to give it a retry, I can be a little stubborn.  This second try went better, it was still run walk, but the breathing thing got figured out.  I built up to longer distances by learning how fast I could go without getting out of breath, and going a little slower than that.

To my coworkers, and perhaps to many others my 12km bike commute to work over New Westminster sounds like more than enough exercise. When I started it was, and in the past I would have found away to make it so.  The truth is I have developed a set of riding habits focused on energy efficiency.  My goal is to arrive at work, or home, relaxed and as cool as the weather allows, I don't want the energy spent riding to define my day.  The side effect is I would have to ride rather far to get a more satisfying workout.  Riding is not without other costs, too many mile, or too much power for too long and my knees complain.  The wrists and elbows don't want to spend too much time in the saddle. A modestly paced 120km a week avoids the worst side effects but I still want more movement.

Work is one of the reasons I continue to run.   My current contract is some of the better work I have had, despite the impractically low wage.  Even as  good gig it gets under my skin just a bit, especially the endless FM music stations.  There are only so many times I can hear a dopy young man sing about how much he needs someone.  Dude get your shit together.  There is for me an on going demand to clear my head.  Though I could go for more recreational bike rides, the demands of traffic always get in the way of the moment.  On foot, I can afford to pay less attention.  On foot I can look up and around, my mind can wonder or zone out.  It feels good to relax and still be moving fast.

Its amazing what you can do when you learn your high school gym class is not watching you.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Traumatic insemination and other crimes.


The other day I saw a scurrying form in the bedroom. I took it to be a beetle and went to bed. I leave the window open and there is no screen, bugs can get in.  Today I confirmed the fear that was ignored at the time. BEDBUGS.  

The plan was simple, go for a nap. The simplest plan there is really. Since it was bright out I used the other wise entirely decorative curtains above the head of the bed to shade me some. Sleep has been in short supply thanks to the heat and early mornings.  There is a lot of early morning sun here, it is not a bad thing but it keeps me from getting all the hours I could want.  So colour me shocked, and very much awake when a creepy crawly falls from my personal blackout curtain to my face.  It came to a rest on my pillow.  The nap was canceled. 

It was flat, reddish black, segmented and it had a family and a collection of moulted exoskeletons.  An act of science was committed on to it, the abdomen released evidence of its feeding, in a long red stain.  So now I have an ugly problem. I need to kill them, kill them all.  I can't do that all today. 

The offending curtains were double bagged in plastic in the vain hope that that was the main home.  But that will not be good enough. I know I saw some crawl into the mouldings.  This is a situation that requires chemical warfare, it is a situation that requires professional chemical warriors. 

I write this not to tell the news that I have a pest problem.  Facebook already knows that.  This is a proactive counter attack. Not against the bugs but against my brain.  In the winter of 2013 and 2014, during my cat's recovery fleas got into the house.  And worse into my brain, this during the worst of my unemployment.  It ate at me.  Anxiety and depression played with my vivid imagination, all this against a pest that never fed off me.  Now I have spots on my pillow that point to my entry into the food chain.  So I write to fight from them taking over my brain.  So, faced with the option of anxiety and depression, or anger and action I am going to try for anger.  I am not good at anger, never thought it was safe to play with, but when directed at the world, not people, it has value. 

I don't want anxiety to eat at me taking away what little capacity I have to function as an adult.  As a deeply underemployed bachelor work and self care eat too much time and leave me with little money.            A few things are different from the flea war.  One I like the apartment.  Where the old place dragged me down with its crumbling darkness, this place is bright with cheap but new repairs, the balcony alone brings pleasure.  So I want to fight to get this apartment back into a state where I feel clean and safe.  To do that I am going to have push myself, I am not going to like it, not at first.  I will have to ask for favours, an act I hate.  I don't know what shape the favours will take, but to keep moving forward and to keep it from eating my brain I will have to.  So I admit that I will in as yet undefined ways be needing help and support to make sure I win this war. 


Monday, March 9, 2015

Looking forward again.


I had a slow day at work today, it left me room to leave my brain running. It ran back to a post I have been trying to write in one form or another for ages. The drafts folder here is littered with half written and deeply incomplete fragments of what has been leading up to this. 

About a year ago I started doing temp work. There was no choice about it at the time, I needed work, the EI was going to run out and cash was needed.  The time preceding that was rough.  The short spent of productive creativity that gained me most of the 60'000 words of the novels first draft was a brief time. The oppressively sunny days of summer came a long and the cat ran away.  The emotional cocktail resulting from the bitterness of having been let go again, the stress of both the search for cat and the recovery consumed much of my energy.  So what job hunting I did was quite mediocre and largely dooming myself to failure. 

Now a year into being professionally underemployed I am starting to think about how to get out of the underemployment.  Ironically I started with moving.  There is a finite amount of stress I am willing to take,  if the home is a stressor, as the old one was, I am more inclined to retreat and fail to try.  So I fixed that. Years of thinking about what a better home for me would entail lead me good decision.  It was relatively easy for me to learn what I wanted in a home, learning what I want out of a job has proven to be a tougher prospect.   Data was needed, I have more now.

Learning what made up a bad workspace was easy, all it takes is for people to fail to care about the work.  In the mix of good bad and mostly half bad I started to find what makes work satisfying.  And in that same process it became clear that the few career oriented jobs were bad for me in many of the same ways I see the temp jobs getting to me. 

After many hundreds of words of either not knowing or only knowing what did not work for me I can start to list what does.  For a start having a clear scope, clear and limited key responsibilities, next to that is a clear output.  A project must have a recognizable end, too much uncertainty about this stresses me.  Within that constrained frame work independence is welcome. Being left alone with the tools I need and puzzling things out for myself.  

My current placement is the best example of a good workspace I have to go on.  The mechanical nature of it gives most tasks a definite start and end state.  Things are being learned, the challenges may be small, but for a natural klutz building control and mechanical insight is kind of a break through for me.  Learning and problem solving are part of job, not all the time but enough to stave of repetitive brain injury.   Mistakes which I try to minimize happen, but they are responded to not with anger or condescension, but as teachable moments.  It helps that what I am doing is specialized enough that an outsider can not be expected to know much of anything. 

Coming back to the new apartment.  As I said a list of qualities that I needed grew out of all the good and bad places I lived in.  And so when a place was seen, and found to hit on the major points a seriously stressed and sleep deprived version of me was still able to make the right move.  A list like that for work is forming in my head.  It can be better articulated but is not finalized.  The question of do I try to return to an environmental science job crosses my mind.  The answer is I am thinking about it but...

The buts are. I don't know how. 
I don't know what is you are supposed to research when researching a company, I just don't know what they expect you to know. 

I don't know how to network without feeling fake.  

Assessing the relevance of job postings is still black magic to me. 

This is very much like the list I ranted on at the start of my job search full of bitterness and hopelessness. I still don't know these things but I am starting to admit I need help learning them. 
It is also known that I can trust my instincts more now. The biggest shock of all, I am getting more confident, it does not come naturally to me but it is happening.  


Monday, February 23, 2015

Catching up.


I have not written anything in a long time, as a result this will no doubt ramble.  My head is full of partly collected thoughts, any one of which could become a rich post if I had found the time and discipline to crystallize them.  In truth the things that needed written about the most happened at a time when writing was hardest to fit in.  Thought that is ignoring the truth, which is in December and January I knew I needed to write badly, and choose not to. It continues to be difficult for me to write about and or during the worst emotions.

About December.

The gig I had hoped to last well into that month ran dry when the company simply did not have enough orders to demand extra manpower.  This was a disappointment, at all levels, it was interesting the job took me to different sites and kept me engaged, it was making better money than the last few gigs and occasionally overtime was achieved.  An important feature of the job was it started to frame more of what I wanted in a job I could do long term.  Come to think this contract ran short at the end of November, but its failure set the mood for the following month.

Other work was arranged.  This took me back to a warehouse with a broken and toxic atmosphere, I was prepared to ride it out and move on to the next thing once that dust settled.   The flu changed my plans. Two weeks into the warehouse gig I found myself feverish and lacking the strength to reliably cross my apartment let alone leave it.  This took me out for a week.  The lost wages meant even the low budget christmas gifts I wanted to arrange were out of the question.  New work came my way, it took me to Delta with an nearly 90 minute commute.  This was exhausting but the work is comfortable.

In this long tiring daily scramble I managed to get the wrong stuff down the sink, plugging it up real good. This only days before christmas. For more days than I am comfortable admitting I came home to a stagnate sink which I bailed into the toilet. No where was this a good alternative to calling the management.  I came home from christmas dinner to that undraining sink, it did nothing good for my mood.  In the aftermath it two things became clear, the rent was too high and I was too vulnerable to lost income, and no amount of cleaning was going to make that apartment anything but dark and dingy.   So I made the choice I had been avoiding since May of last year I gave my notice on the 1st of January.  This of course filled me with dread.

On January.

Still recovering from the flu, and making the three hour round trip from work I set out to free myself from the old grey box.  Added to the slow healing from the virus, I had developed insomnia, waking too early in the morning and staying awaking stewing in worry and dread. For at least a month feeling absolutely toxic from long term sleep dept was normal.  It was in this syrupy mind set that I tried to do one of the more challenging things in life, plan a move.  

When it came to finding a place I was lucky, but did not believe it.  Over the years since I moved to the old place, I had built a list of qualities that would make moving worth while. This was embedded in my thinking, and had I not internalized it as deeply as I had I would not have made the snap decision to apply for my current home.  It met the criteria I had set up, it is off of the ground floor, close to skytrain, bright, a better kitchen, simply newer and better.   Yet a pathological doubt took root, the part of me that always wants me to fail refused to accept a good thing was happening.

Against evidence and logic, after the application was approved and even after the damage deposit cheque cleared, I somehow believed I would not end up here, that something would go wrong.  I spent January, not properly preparing for a move but exhausted form sleep lost to worries not worth having. Every day I feared something would derail the application, and I would be forced to scramble for a new place at the last minute.  This crippling illogical mind fuck kept me from doing the proactive things.  In believing things would fail I failed to try to get my shit together.  The abyssal cluster fuck that was moving day is proof that I should have had enough faith to plan.

I won't say much about the move. It went badly and things found extra special ways of going wrong.  But thanks to heroic efforts from family and friend it got done.

On February.

After 6 to 8 weeks of sleep shortage, long commutes, endless packing, the flu, a cold, I was moved.  Suddenly I had light, I could walk to skytrain in 10 minutes, I could stretch out, no upstairs neighbours thumped and squeaked the floor boards.  Gone was the tiny grey hole with the fridge that scared the cat.  In its place a imperfect laminate floor and a view of the Golden ears mountains.

Slowly I relearned to sleep through the night, the panics in the wee hours subsided.  It took time but the cold cleared up too.  Money remains tight, I may have saved some on rent, but my addiction to independence, and the need to keep the Lady in a big enough home kept me from cutting as much as I would have liked from the costs of living.  That said, I can get some milage out of the money saved and can relax just a little bit.

In leaving the old place I realize there were a lot of bad times tied to that place.  The frustration of the layoff and the fruitless job search that followed.  The Lady Baroness von Softpaws of Gallefrey ran away from there.  Her disappearance, rescue and recovery kept me in some form of big stress from July 30 2013 till February 2014.  It was not until February of last year that I was confident that the house was free of fleas.  And perhaps just perhaps a home that lets me shed my stress a little better will in the end leave me with the ability pick a new stress to manage.  Because it is dawning on me that I have to do some work to getting back into work for the long term.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The plans so far.

So I am moving.

My budget is less than the last time I took on such a task, this time I will not be hiring movers, even though I had a perfectly good experience with them the one time I did.  Currently I have a Uhaul booked for morning of the 30th, which I noticed after the fact is a Friday, damn it.  However, the current lands lords want the place empty by 1pm on the 31st so being gone and done early is fine by me.

It is only a 10foot truck, but the biggest thing I have to move is the bed and tv cabinet. The TV cabinet is more than able to hold many smaller boxes and even has room for my small book case.  Now I am partly packed, for no good reason, and want out of this dark place.  Come on month, be done with already.