On the workforce

Back to work today, and things are moving at a rapid pace. It strikes me that in my particular workplace there almost is a frantic-ness associated with “staffing up”. We’ve heard for years how the baby boomers are hogging the “big” jobs and it’s time to make way for the new generation. While now that appears to be happening and it’s a matter of be careful what you wish for.

Years ago, 10 maybe 15 years past, where I work there were jobs that one would aspire to. You’d set your sights on a particular job and build your skill set in all the foundational areas, all to set you up for eventually having the competencies of handling and applying for one of those “big” jobs. You knew your competition, they knew you, you pushed and pushed to be that much better, a better writer, a stronger researcher; a friendly rivalry, and at the end of the day a healthy one.

I’m just not seeing that now. We have people landing those “big” jobs that have little to no corporate track record, no corporate awareness and more alarmingly, with no interpersonal skills. Freshly churned out from whatever academic institution they attended, they arrive full of themselves, determined to change a corporate culture they haven’t even bothered to learn. They want no help, because, in their worldview, the old guard is the source of any and all problems. They push forward and when something derails it isn’t their fault – because they are new; because they didn’t know there were extenuating circumstances, or associated risk, someone should have told them. Not their fault.

Whose fault is it? What’s the obligation of the employee and the employer here? I say if you wanted the big job, then as the employee be prepared to work hard to learn it. As the employer, make sure your new hires understand they don’t operate in a vacuum, they are part of a team with the goal of making the organization look good and function well, not the individual.

I am an observer in this game. My work seldom intersects with these newbies, and so I have the ability to watch and wonder at what is happening. And worry about where we are going. I can retire in as few as three years, and some days when I see the lunacy happening around me, I think three years is an eternity. Then there is the other part of me that says I’d be crazy to consider retiring when there is so much free entertainment around me. Drama, comedy and mystery; I just hope that I don’t find myself adding tragedy to the list.

Back to work

I went for a visit with the doctor today, to see if I could return to work tomorrow.  After a good listen to my lungs, she stated the obvious, I still have pneumonia in the right lung and she can hear the wheezing.  Her thoughts about the workplace were fairly rigid.  I can return IF I have an office and can close the door AND if I agree to only do telephone meetings and no face to faces.  Have other people run errands for me, no gadding about in any of the shared spaces, just the washroom and my office.  If I find I am too tired then no going in the next day.  Honour system here, after all, it’s my health not hers we are talking about.  Oh, the doctor can be stern when she has too.

So I tell my daughter the doctor’s terms – and she laughs and laughs.  Ya right mom, that’ll happen.  You have been away for a week, a week – do you know how much stuff has gone done?  It will take you a day to get caught up, and people are not going to want to talk on the telephone!  She’s right, a ton of stuff has occurred, staff movement, new work underway – it’s part of the reason I want to get back!  Why does stuff always have to happen when I am off?  It’s one of life’s sure mysteries.

This last week was a tough one, I must have read 10 paperbacks – a couple of which I had hanging around for a while.  Read some new authors as well –  two of note:  Kate Lord Brown, who wrote The Perfume Garden; and Jo Nesbo, who wrote The Bat.  I was particularly pleased with The Perfume Garden, not my usual genre, so I had expected to struggle and didn’t at all.  Loved that book.  The Bat was more my type and style of book, crime/thriller, and I found it full of twists and pits I didn’t see coming, so a good read.  Add in the usual John Sanford, David Baldacci, Harlan Coben, Robert Tanenbaum and I was pretty much entertained.  It is always nice to find a new author to add into the mix.

So tomorrow, back to the grind.  I have to find a way to stay upright and not nap for at least nine hours. This should be fun.

The Cruise, part 2

Our itinerary included four stops:  Roatan in the Honduras, Harvest Caye in Belize, Costa Maya in Mexico and Cozumel, Mexico.  We had the first day at sea and each of the four following days we stopped at a port, ending with another at sea day.  Three of the four ports were fairly pasteurized, ports created for the cruising industry.  Beautiful spots that did allow for excursions and sightseeing but nothing quite like the port in Cozumel.  This was at the city centre, you walked off the ship into the real lifestyle of the community.  For those who wanted authentic, then this was their stop.  Lots to see and do.

For those who didn’t care to sightsee, that was me this trip, the ship offered plenty to do onboard.  We even found a bowling alley.  There was something for everyone, movies everyday, live action game shows, dance lessons, yoga lessons, the whole gamut.  So if you were disappointed you had no one to blame but yourself!

For this vacation, I had decided to throw caution to the wind and live a little.  To try and break out of the humdrum that I have become and make my own fun.  I figured what better place to do it than on a ship with strangers you never have to see again!  I had packed my suitcase for just about any eventuality, took way too much stuff, and sadly needed little of it.  Unfortunately getting sick undermined my whole plan.  I think there is at least one lesson here – don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today, life is unpredictable, nothing’s guaranteed, and so on.

Regardless, the sunshine was awesome.  Add some heat to that and it was super awesome.  As we settle into winter weather here in Canada it can be quite overcast and gloomy and the sunshine scarce.  It was a nice treat to spend a week with brilliant sunshine and the warmth of the sun’s rays on my skin.

The Cruise

This was my fourth time cruising.  All three previous cruises had been with Carnival.  The last one had been an unmitigated disaster on Carnival’s behalf and really was off putting.  Rather than let one rather lack lustre cruise line ruin the whole experience, we had decided to try a different cruise line.  We chose Norwegian.

Preferring to cruise out of Miami we were somewhat restricted in our selection, but no matter, we had decided on the Caribbean and selected the ship, the Getaway.  On paper and in brochures it looked lovely.  I was good for one more try at cruising as a vacation mode, having reasoned that Carnival was entry level, Norwegian had to be better.

I was a little concerned initially, Norwegian’s embarkation process was not smooth, it was disorganized.  It turned out that there was an equipment malfunction which made registration of patrons slow.  They weren’t good about communication in this regard, leaving us about ten minutes at the registration desk wondering if our little lady had gone on break.  Once that was sorted out it was upstairs to a waiting area.  Then once our number was called, onto the ship.

It was a pleasant surprise.  The ship is not quite three years old.  It sparkled, the windows were clear, the floors shone.  Clean was the first word to come into my mind.  Carnival’s ships always felt worn and tired without that clean sparkle.  So score one for Norwegian.  We couldn’t go to our cabin yet, so off for a bite to eat.  The buffet was enormous, but to get to it you had to go through a hand sanitizer station.  Mandatory and nice (not that it helped me unfortunately, but it definitely helped everyone else), to go near the food you had to have your hands spritzed. Certain stations were self serve, but others, particularly the ice cream station, were served out by a member of the staff.  No one touched the cones with their bare hands until it was handed to you.  This impressed me.

Then there was the overall layout of the ship – it felt spacious.  There was room between tables in the dining areas and spacious walkways around the ship.  Tons of stuff for kids to do, there was no need for them to be around the adult pool because there were water slides, a kids pool, lots of stuff.  For those not wanting the noise of the main adult pool they offered a quiet retreat one deck above.  I don’t want to sound like a brochure, but I was impressed.

The only problem, and it was annoying, seems to be poor administrative communication from head office.  Here’s how this looked for my group.  My sister had bought two on board credits prior to the cruise.  Two $100USD credits or $200USD.  She had brought her paperwork, she’d purchased the credits well before the cruise date.  They weren’t in her onboard account when she checked in.  We went to the client service desk and were told no problem sometimes it takes a day.  Give it time.  After a couple of days went by it was apparent it wasn’t going to show up.  We went to the service desk armed with the papers.  Apparently during the conversion process, a penny went missing.  Head office advised the ship’s customer service desk that my sister hadn’t bought $200, instead she had bought $199.99, she owed a penny before the funds could be transferred, but they were willing to write it off, and graciously put $200 USD in her onboard account.  Not good.

Second story – again with head office involvement.  My coworker was on the same cruise and it became a bit of a joke as the days passed as to whether or not her room key would be suspended for debts owing.  It had been a schmazel for them as well when registering to board the ship, and the clerk setting them up with their sign and sail cards had neglected to obtain a credit card to put against the account.  No worry they had prepaid everything -gratuities, alcohol package, dining package, stateroom, everything was paid. One would think.  Apparently, while the ship is docked at the port of Miami any alcohol served is subject to another tax that isn’t covered in the alcohol package – about 76 cents per drink.  My coworker had a drink or two.  The tax went on her onboard account, there was no credit card associated with it.  Her room key, which is the sail and sign card would be locked – which meant she couldn’t get into her room.  Anyway by day 3 or 4 I think they had it sorted out.

Would I travel Norwegian again, sure thing.  But I would be prepared to bring copies of every bit of supporting paper with me relating to what I had prepaid for the cruise since their administrative services are not as professional as one would expect. Would I travel Carnival again – not a hope.  The last trip on Carnival left me feeling like I’d been duped out of my money: substandard room, aging ship, poor onboard service, just disappointing.



Post 2: The flu shot

So I will take one more kick at the flu shot and then move on.  It’s a personal decision as to whether one gets the shot and so it should remain.  (However, and notably, one of my sisters who works in a hospital not too far from where I live informed me that it is not an option for employees at that facility, they are required to take the shot.  I have to think that there is a huge human rights violation in this stance, it just hasn’t been challenged.)

It hasn’t been hard to fill the time that I have been off – all my body wants to do is sleep.  When I am awake I try to do something that gets me out of bed and that’s not a bath, the two things I craved while I was away (my bed and tub) just don’t have the same appeal.  So over the course of the last week I thought that I would look up the product monograph for the flu shot in general to see if the warnings or contraindications had changed much over the years.

What probably surprised me most was that it wasn’t easy to locate the individual monographs. I’ve spent years doing this stuff and have a whole assortment of ways to search.  In a nutshell, going to big pharma and reading about their trade name flu shots gives you some information and generally the PR version as to why the shot is necessary. Most websites usually refer you to the product insert in the packaging for more details.  Hmm that’s not very helpful.  Even when you get the shot, the nurse or doctor doesn’t say “oh and here’s the product insert, be sure to read it.” Actually, it’s one of the few instances where you get nothing detailed. In Canada when you pick up any prescription it is always accompanied by lots of paper outlining potential contraindications.  So no product monograph on the couple of individual sites I visited.  No problem.

The information has to be available to the public and it is.  Even better, it’s nicely captured on one website:  http://www.vaccinesafety.edu/package_inserts.htm.  The list includes those pharmaceutical companies supplying this year’s product.  I’m not entirely certain what vaccine I got, because I got nothing when I had the shot, but I tend to think a GlaxoSmithKline is most likely.  Interestingly, in this instance, on this centralized site, the GSK link to a product monograph doesn’t offer up the information immediately, rather the link takes you to a request page. Anyway, lots of the others are available, read a couple of them, they are all formatted in the same manner, so after a while you can skim through them.

One common element is the following clause:

Nonclinical Toxicilogy:  Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility

“TRADENAME” has not been evaluated for carcinogenic or mutagenic potential, or for impairment of fertility.

This is a mandatory disclosure in Canada, and I am sure if it wasn’t big pharma would have that out of there in the blink of an eye.  Regardless, I get that it is a seasonal product and therefore long term evaluation of the effects of the specific product are problematic due to the changing composition of the vaccine. But likely there are some elements that are constant, how and in what is it suspended and preserved?  My rational mind says we are playing with fire here.  Shooting ourselves up with a vaccine that may or may not help based on a scientific guess as to what the flu will look like.  Creating a man made version of it and then hitting up half the globe with it because people are frightened of what could happen if they don’t get it.  Regardless of where we live, we all start to hear the media buzz – the stories start in September every year about how this could be the worst year ever.  Hmm, wonder who may have a special interest in getting that messaging out?  We are sheep, just a flock of sheep.  Drive us straight to the edge of the cliff and watch us fall over.

My thoughts have tormented me on this.  When did I get sucked in?  I got sucked in when Kevin got sick, I didn’t want to expose him to anything, so I got the flu shot.  I didn’t get sick while I looked after him but it had nothing to do with the shot, and everything to do with the measures we implemented and the diet we maintained.  Feet are firmly planted back on the ground, it only took this hellish experience to get me there.  Enough on this, so much more to cover relating to the cruise.