Man vs Nature: How my dog outsmarts me every time

26 Mar

Author’s note: Charlie is my energetic and lovable 2-year old goldendoodle..

Today Charlie got a hold of two of my socks. Being the bad trainer that I am, I grabbed them back and started teasing her with them instead of saying “No” and putting them away. I placed them just far enough so she couldn’t reach, and then snatched them back when she went for them. I then decided to try a test. If I held two equal socks an equal distance from Charlie, which one would she go for? How would she decide? She always uses her natural instincts to take the path of least resistance, and always makes logical decisions to choose either something that is easier to get, or tastes better. But if the two items were the same, and equally difficult to get, which would she choose?

So there I was, sitting cross legged on the bed with my arms splayed out holding one tempting sock in each hand. It was a stalemate for a good five minutes. I stared at her while she stared at me. I could tell she was waiting for me to become bored or tired and bring one closer than the other, making the game easier for her. After awhile my arms were growing weak but I wasn’t going to be the first to give in. I saw her eyes flash from left to right and back to left, could feel the gears churning in her head, assessing which sock was the best bet. She then leaned slightly back, readying herself for her signature pounce. I looked for cues as to whether she was going left or right, which hand I should jolt away as she jumped, but alas, my human instincts were inferior. I swear I saw a flicker of a smirk on her lips as she had finally made her decision to jump……. right into my face. I immediately recoiled in self-defence, dropping both socks. Charlie then happily snatched both of them up and went trotting out of the room.

Canine Intelligence: 1. Humans: 0.

Making the Most of out your University Experience: Must-Have Skills for the Real World

19 Mar

Majoring in business administration with a concentration in accounting would lead many people to believe that I am excellent with numbers and Excel spreadsheets and am a big nerd who loves making balance sheets balance.

Although one of the three is true (I am surprisingly good with Excel spreadsheets), I actually didn’t learn a lot about accounting during my four years at university. What I actually did learn were far more relevant skills than how to prepare a cash flow statement. A company or firm in the real world can mold you into whatever they want, teaching you the technical aspects are you go, but the skills that university provides are something far more valuable.

The following is a summary of skills that you should focus on acquiring during your time at university in order to maximize your hiring potential:

1. Working in Teams – This is the most important skill you’ll learn in university. No matter how much you hate the annoying tasks of having to coordinate, lead, project manage and deal with the conflicting attitudes of your group, you will learn some very good coordination, leadership, project management and people skills!

Being able to work with people is extremely important in any business or workplace. It is extremely rare that you will be working for yourself, by yourself, with no outside contact. You’ll have to order a pizza at some point and will realize that pizzas are yet to be delivered by non-human robots.

Every workplace works in teams in some way or another, no matter what the job, so you’d best learn the tricks of the trade while in university, where it is okay to mess up. Everyone has something unique to add to a team dynamic, you just have to figure out what yours is.

2. Researching – At some point during your professional real world career, you will need to look up how to do something or what something means.

Your boss may come into your office one day and say, Can you write up a memo on the due diligence we should be doing for this acquisition? Instead of staring at her like she just slapped you across the face, you will smile and say “yes, of course. I’ll have that on your desk by 3” while simultaneously typing “definition of due diligence” into Google.

These researching skills will also come in handy when you’re living in your swank little downtown apartment, with its European style toilets, and you need to clean the damn thing but you can’t figure out how to remove the seat cover for superior cleanliness. Your superior research skills will eventually lead you to Youtube, which has an excellent “how-to” video.

3. Networking – All those nights procrastinating studying, going to concerts and events, and getting ridiculously drunk with hundreds of other people will not only lead to hundreds of dollars spent on Advil and Powerades, but will also allow you to meet many different people doing completely different and very interesting things with their lives.

The majority of the people you meet at parties, in study groups, and in extracurricular activities will end up with university degrees, of which will allow some of them to get pretty cool jobs. Although with all the skills learned in this article, you yourself will have a pretty cool job, at some point in your career, you may consider trying out something new or even doing a side-project or two. That nerdy guy in your accounting club that you worked on that random project with? He just may end up starting his own consulting business and be looking for successful applicants to hire.

Keeping in touch through regular coffees and lunches could lead to some excellent opportunities in the future. Linkedin is also a very useable tool for this purpose.

4. Presentation Skills – The benefits of being forced to present in front of hundreds of other students are not only that you will lose weight from being extremely stressed out, but that you’ll learn to present! It is unlikely that your career will lead you to a position where you’ll be presenting to thousands of people on a regular basis (think Obama), but you likely will, on a more regular basis, have to present your good ideas to other people for their feedback and ultimate approval.

Presenting in university is like training for a competition. No one cares if you mess up in the practice run. Sure, people might laugh and you’ll want to crawl into a corner and hide for the rest of your life, but those mocking kids weren’t even watching the good parts of your presentation. In between texting and picking their noses, the only time they reared their ugly heads to look at you was to notice the one minor mistake you made in your speech and to throw you off guard.

Use this as an opportunity to improve your communication skills and learn to keep going if you make mistakes. Being able to present is a key skill looked for by employers.

5. Getting Feedback – In the real world, you have to ask for feedback. You don’t get a nice report card telling you how wonderful you are and areas that you need to work on. Although you’ll probably cry (or just drop the class if you’re too cool to cry) when you get your first “C”, use this as an opportunity to improve.

Maybe you were the best in high school, but now you’re in university with all the bests of the high schools around. This only gets worse in the real world, because not only are the bests of the high schools working at the same firm as you, but the bests of the universities!

Although in the real world you have to ask for feedback, knowing how much it can help you improve is key knowledge to be learned in university. Think about that one mid-term that you failed and how you hated the teacher and hated the class and hated the lecture hall the class was taught in, but you studied your ass off the rest of the year and caught an A- on the final? Oh yeah, that’s feedback for improvement. And it works.

So it doesn’t matter whether your degree is in accounting or science or liberal arts, there are some skills learned at university that should not be overlooked when preparing for jobs in the real world.

Project Management: Things To Consider Before Diving In

3 Jul

I don’t know if this is a regular occurrence in the work of project management as my job is generally based on projects that have been done before. However, recently I got to experience my first real project where I had no idea what the hell I was doing.

The following is a list of things I wish I knew before I set off into the wilderness to be eaten by lions, chewed up and spit out, and then finished off by vultures:

1) Figure out the scope and required deliverables. Although these may change during the project, you can’t start do anything if you don’t have that final image of completion in your head. Confirm the scope and details with the client via an engagement letter. See below.

2) Write an engagement letter and get it signed! This should include scope of the project, fees, deliverables and any disclaimers that you would like to add. It’s also usually good to include the phases of the project and roughly the timing of them. This can be derived from a Gantt chart. See #4 below.

3) Get a good team together. A project will have significantly less issues if you put together a good team right off the start. There is a good article I found on putting together a team at: What Forms a Good Business Team

4) Google what is a Gantt chart. A good template can be found at the following link: Excel Gantt Chart Template . This is a high level schedule that allows you to track progress. This should include all phases and sub-phases of the project that are worthy of keeping track of. You should also ensure you and your team update actuals on a regular basis, so you are able to state your progress at any given time.

5) Your scope is likely to change during the project. Do you have a process for dealing with a scope change? Is there room in the budget for change? Do you need permission from someone (ie is it going to increase the fees)? Is your timing flexible? What if a phase of the project gets delayed? Is there room for contingencies?

6) Most importantly, hold people accountable for results. You can’t do the project alone and even if you could, it wouldn’t be half as good if you didn’t use the varying skills and experience of all the people involved.

The above list are some good tips prior to starting a new project. Do you have some experience in project management? What are some other good tips? Share your experiences in the comments.

Buying a New Car: What You Should Know

9 Jun

Getting your car stolen from outside a rec centre and trashed has both bad and good points… The bad being that you’re stranded outside in the dark with all your sports gear at 10:30pm and the good obviously being that you will get a new car.

Assuming you have enough money lying around, buying a car is pretty simple, right? Wrong. There are a number of things that you need to be aware of and prepared for. Here are the some things I learned while purchasing a new car recently that I wished I had known going in:

1) Business Cards – the salesman wants the sale more than he leads on. Never accept the price he’s offering. This is obvious, but how do you use it to your advantage? After he doesn’t accept the price you’re willing to pay, thank him for his time, hand him your business card and walk out – even if you want the car badly and are willing to pay his price.

Walking out shows that you’re not desperate, and are willing to look around for a better price.

The salesperson will wait a few hours or even a day before calling you up saying to badgered his manager down a couple hundred dollars and that you should come back in.

This tactic saved me over $1,000.

2) Additional Expenses – make sure to budget for all car costs, not just the list price and regular taxes. This should include:

-freight costs – even if buying directly off the lot you need to pay this additional amount. This was approximately $1,500.
-car insurance – a brand new car will cost more to insure than your 1989 honda civic. For me this was an additional $800 annually for insurance.
-upkeep costs – if your car has a warranty, it is likely you will need to get oil changes and maintenance done at the dealership (or other equally expensive certified place) every three months. No more having your dad or brother change your oil. This will set you back about $250 a year, at least.

3) That Out-of-Your-Budget-Range Beauty – do not test drive a car that is beyond your means. It can only lead to one of two things -1) complete and utter overall disappointment at the cheaper crapbox you end up purchasing or 2) no college fund for your children. Both are no good so do your best to resist the temptation.

4) Paying For Your Sweet Ride – cash or credit? Most dealerships allow you to put some money on a credit card ($3,000 for me). This is great if you get points on your credit card.

If you’re a baller and want to pay for your car (or a portion of it) by debit, note that most banks put a limit on how much you can withdraw in a given day (anywhere from $500 to $2,000). This means that you’ll have to call your bank in advance to set up the funds.

Further, if you’re financing a portion of your car, there may be a minimum finance amount. This means that you may only need an additional $2,000, but you’ll have to finance (and pay interest on) something like $7,500 minimum. Double check your financing agreement to ensure there is no penalty for early repayment. This will save you on unnecessary interest amounts.

Does anyone else have any good advice when buying a new car? Share that wealth of knowledge in the comments.

Today’s Special: A Ticket and a Tow

29 May

Parking on the street downtown is always a risk for a ticket and a tow, especially when the no-tow time is within such a limited window. What makes the parking situation downtown even worse is that the ticket and the tow always come as a two-for-one deal. They’re like one of those sickening couples that are glued at the hip, finish each other’s thoughts, and are constantly canoodling together. You never get just a ticket, or just a tow. It’s always both and it’s always annoying.

My latest experience with this infuriating couple started on a late night in February when I was too lazy to walk the ten cold minutes from my apartment to my boyfriends. Instead, I take the elevator down to the parkade five stories underground, spend 10 minutes driving up from the deepest depths of the earth, and drive ten minutes in late night traffic to park outside my boyfriends place on a main street downtown. Since the parking is free after 10pm and it’s already eleven, I take little notice of the signs, walk to the entrance, and buzz in for the night.

Seven thirty a.m. rolls around after the snooze button has been hit for the 5th time. I roll out of bed and head for the warm and steamy shower. Ten minutes later with towel on head and toothbrush in hand, I’m standing in front of the closet, looking for something to wear.

I guess that towel and toothbrush must have looked pretty damn good because before I know it, I’m being thrown onto the bed and the towel and toothbrush are strewn carelessly across the floor. I mumble some words about being late for work and needing to move my car but I’m assured there is no need to worry, parking is free until 9.

Thirty minutes and another shower later, I’m throwing on a pencil skirt and heels and am finally out the door with a smile on my face and a skip in my step.

Stepping around the corner, I didn’t need to even see the empty space where my car had once been before I knew that parking was not actually free until 9am. I only needed to see that all the other spaces were empty, and that there was a flow of cars coming down the end of the lane where my car had been parked the night before.

Taking in the scene more closely, several signs indicate in bold red font that there is clearly no parking after 8am. Having lived in the building for over three years, and having parked on the street multiple times, it seems odd that my boyfriend would make such a mistake…

The sound of a register “ka chings” in my head as my good morning feelings turn to annoyance. It seems that good times are not cheap.

Cab to tow-yard: $15
Ticket: $50
Tow: $90

Total Cost to my Boyfriend for Lying About the Parking Time in Order to Get Sex: $155

How to Contract Strep Throat… Again

27 May

Strep throat is not like the chicken pox. You don’t just do your time and be done with it. I didn’t know this until recently. Two days ago in fact.

The last time I got strep throat, I was on my deathbed, alone, waiting for my mom to come pick me up and save me from the 17 killer chainsaws in my throat.

But this time, however, I was able to take someone down with me.

I woke up on Thursday morning with bad breath. Not a big deal, right? Doesn’t everyone wake up with bad breath? Sure, but when you breathe on the person in bed beside you and the horrified look on their face physically melts from the toxins in your Good Morning, you know something is possibly amiss.

Having experience with throat bacteria in the past, I look for a flashlight to check out the situation. Being unable to get the right angle, I ask my boyfriend to shine the light down my throat and see if anything looks weird in there.

How the hell am I supposed to know what strep throat looks like? He asks. I grab my laptop and google some images. He leaves the room, unable to proceed with the task at hand due to ultimate disgust. Whatever. I find a compact mirror and ackwardly try to assess the situation. Looks okay. Nothing is swollen, no white dots. Good to go.

A couple days pass and it’s now Saturday morning. My dragon breath is getting worse and worse so it’s time
to hit up the ol’ clinic and get swabbed. Wait time is one hour and the waiting area is filled with disease ridden monsters. I try to hold my breath but an hour is a long time.

After about 45 minutes of iPhone scrabble, my phone battery is dead and I’m left to my mind’s own devices. I begin to look around the room and check out the crowd. Every once in awhile I catch someone’s eye and I know that they’re thinking what I’m thinking: What is this person waiting to talk to the doctor about and could I possibly catch it by sitting here near them in the waiting room?

An hour and a half into my wait, my name finally gets called and I go in. I tell the doctor that I have terrible breath and I think I have strep. Popsicle stick in the mouth and he shines a light for about 3 seconds. He says that’s probably true and writes a prescription.

Although I’m obviously not happy with the result, after waiting for so long I’m relieved to finally be leaving and book it out the door. I start up my car and pause. This guy didn’t even swab, didn’t even do any tests, he just wrote me a prescription for antibiotics. Are they allowed to do that?!

I contemplate my two only options: go back and ask for a test, wait for the results, possibly get worse strep while waiting… or just go to the pharmacy and get the prescription. Plan B it is.

En route to the pharmacy, I call my boyfriend to give him the good news – that I was finally finished at the clinic.. oh and you’re going to have to get checked for strep, since it’s highly contagious. Needless to say, he was not impressed. And as he’s reading this over my shoulder right now, he’s equally not impressed that a) I gave him the strep and b) I’m laughing about it.

Running on E: The Hidden Dangers of the Suburbs

15 May

Contrary to popular belief, being downtown at night is just not as dangerous as being in the suburbs after dark.

Of course there are a number of murders and stabbings, muggings and drug deals downtown at any given time, but that is only because the amount of people per capita is high. If instead of a two-storey house with a small yard housing a family of five in the suburbs, you built an apartment building with 22 floors and ten people living on each floor, you’d find you had more people doing creepy things than your small family.

When you walk downtown at night, there are people everywhere. The later into the night it gets, the less likely these become people that I would generally befriend or even make eye-contact with, but none the less, I feel that if I were to scream bloody murder while bear masing a mugger, someone would come to my rescue. Or at least help the police later with a good description of the culprit.

This is not the case in the suburbs. Take the average suburban street – let’s call it Chestnut Street – or any other type of tree or noun relating to a tree. Walking down the street there is the odd street light, barely illuminated a three foot radius on the block. Lurking just beyond the reach of this circle of dim light are numerous areas for potential muggers and rapists to hide – trees, shrubs, old sheds, parks. And it doesn’t help that the wind is almost always blowing when you alone in the dark in the suburbs. Not only does this wind bring movement to creepy, rusty forgotten tricycles, but it also helps to mask the scratching and dragging sounds of the escaped convict as he limps toward you in the night.

But normally these things don’t concern me. Now that I’m a high class professional living downtown, it is not very frequent that I’m alone in the suburbs, especially not outside in the dark. But such luck can never last, and one Saturday night I did find myself alone in the suburbs.

It all began last Saturday night as I was visiting my parents in the suburbs about an hour drive away from my chic downtown apartment. Having been fed an unnecessary amount of food, my body gave me no choice but to succumb to a quick nap in an attempt to wake up from my food coma. A couple hours and a good pool of drool later, it’s already midnight and under no circumstances do I want to stay in the guest room out in the ‘burbs.

Yawning above the steering wheel, I pull out of the drive way and start heading east towards the highway in my recently purchased and fresh off the assembly line new car. Not used to all the gauges and buttons yet, it is awhile before I realize that the gas gauge is below the E line and the car is running on empty promises.

Now, when you buy a new car, there are some things that seem to slip the mind of the salesperson that they neglect to tell you. These things are quite important, especially if you are going to be filling up gas at midnight in a sketchy suburban gas station. But we’re not there just yet.

The first gas station I see is situated at the start of a dead end road. There is a forest behind the station and the trees move like ghosts. Locking my doors, I continue onwards, knowing that there are two more gas stations in a more well lit area a few miles up before the highway.

Pulling into gas station number two, the lights are off and the metal window covers are locked in place. But since I’m paying with a credit card and wouldn’t need to go inside anyway, I pull up to the pump and insert my card. After the fourth time trying to enter my pin and having it fail, I get creeped out, jump back in my car and drive to gas station number three, which is directly across the intersection.

The lights at gas station #3 are on, but again the metal window covers protect the attendant station. I cross my fingers and insert my card. It works! I lift the nozzle, hit regular, and insert the nozzle.

Now back to what the car salesman neglected to tell me. Click, plop. $0.03. Five seconds go by. Click, plop. $0.07. Another five seconds. Click, click, plop. Six seconds. Click, plop. $0.09. Had it been a nice sunny day, this hour long fill up would possibly have been okay. But it was not sunny, it was not nice, and it was not daytime. At no point did the sales person mention that not all gas station nozzles will easily fit into this car. Cursing that sales person, I continue with my three-cent per minute pump.

Somewhere to my left I hear a slow scratching sound. My palms start to sweat. I slowly move my eyes to take in the scenery while not moving my head. Trying to look inconspicuous. Nothing but the wind. I continue the agonizing process of willing gas into my tank.

I suddenly hear something to my right and whip my head around. Rustling tree leaves. Moving shadows within the trees. With only $0.20 on the receipt, I shudder, jump back into my car and lock the doors.

Damnit. I will not make it back downtown on only $0.20 and although good on gas, my brand new car will likely not make it to a further gas station either. I will have to go back to gas station number one.

I slowly inch up to the pump, taking in everything but not moving my head. Trying again to look inconspicuous. Not noticing any direct murderers or rapists, I get out of the car and insert my card. Success. Insert the nozzle and the gas is flowing. As I’m waiting for the car to fill up, whistling a tune, I notice a car parked in front of the other pump. How did I not notice that before? Squinting to see better, I notice there is no one in the car. Hmm. Odd..

I look into the gas station store but see no movement, no people. I look over to the gas station bathroom, but the lights are all turned off. Why is this guy parked beside the pump and not in one of the parking spots if he’s left his car here for the night? I scan the empty dark parking lot. Where is this guy? Could he be hiding somewhere? My gaze goes from left to right and then slowly behind me. My already clammy hands again begin to sweat.

An unnatural sounds infests my ears from the left. A crinkled candy wrapper scrapes across the ground, molested by the wind. Across the street, an open gate bangs against a fence.

I hear a crackling fuzz coming from behind me and my hairs on my neck prickle outward. Breathing heavily I take a slow look around and see nothing. Cautiously, I put the nozzle down then fumble for my keys. They’re not in my pocket. My eyes frantically search the seat of the car for the elusive keys.

Suddenly, a voice booms behind me. Without even looking I defensively grab open the door and slam my body inside my car, locking the door mid-stride.

Within the safety of my car, I slowly crack the window, looking and listening for my potential murderer, one hand on cell phone, 9-1-1 ready to go. Again I hear the low crackling pitch. Breathing heavy I put the car in gear and hover my foot over the gas, ready to burst forward at any given second.

“Ma’am” a faceless voice crackles “You’re using full serve”. My eyes zoom to the meter and it is about 20 seconds before my frightened brain can function again. $90 is slightly higher than usual… even with the current ridiculous gas situation.

Not caring, I roll up the window and speed away, en route downtown at 100kms per hour. I don’t care how safe people think the suburbs are.. My sanity can’t handle that kind of stress.