Friday, November 11, 2011

Hmm, what font to use?

Experts recommend font Times New Roman or Arial in size 12 for business use.  But where it comes to social writing, whether it be an email, a Word document or a blog entry, we can play with fonts to our heart’s content.

Is this kind of creative freedom a pro or a con?  It can be a con.  Here’s why …

A few years ago I worked for an organization who looked after the interests of dentists.  Toward the end of the year a few of us got together to plan the Christmas party and brainstormed a few ideas.  In the end it was decided that Betty and I would be responsible for the design of the invitations, menus and table cards.

Betty set straight to work and seemed very serious about the task at hand.  I saw her typing, deleting, retyping, followed by intently peering at her computer screen.

Every now and then she would print something, look at it while pinching a frown, holding the paper alternatively at arm’s length and close up.  This was followed by more typing, deleting, printing and inspecting.  Things were not going well, I could see it.  Betty was shaking her head, biting her nails and sighing so hard I could hear her all the way in my cubicle. 

I felt guilty.  Betty was giving it her all while I had decided to catch up on my filing before giving my attention to the Christmas project.  I didn’t know that filing was going to take me this long.  I had started at 10:00 and oh dear, now it was 11:15 already.

“So sorry Betty,” I said after I was finally finished.  “I had to do the filing first or I can’t fully concentrate on the Christmas designs.”

“Oh no problem,” Betty waved, slightly irritated.  “I haven’t done anything either.  I’ve been looking at fonts and for the life of me I can’t decide which one to use.”

That’s the problem with fonts, they’re all so pretty and deciding can be difficult.

Look at the following

Kunstler Script for instance … beautiful,, isn’t it?  But it’s so hard to read.

Monotype Corsive, one of my favorites for casual writing.

French Script, it looks so … sophisticated

Informal Roman for when the mood strikes you

Chiller, suitable for Halloween

Lucinda Handwriting, could pass for something hand written

Lucinda Sans Typewriter, for when you long for the typewriting days.

Vladimir Script … hm, sounds Russian

Palatino Linotype, looks good and clean

As for colors … also important.  

For when you’re feeling blue

Red gets the attention

Orange is popular around Halloween

Yellow is so cheerful, isn't it?

Green when you want something different

Turquoise for the romantics among us

Royal blue for the sensible types

Burgundy when feeling a little depressed?

Pink for the girls

Oh so much to chose from.  I think I'm just going to stick to Century Gothic in black.  Or should I?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Car vs. public transportation

Once upon a long, long time ago I had a car.  Wherever I wanted to go, my car would take me there quickly and efficiently.  Since coming to Canada I have to rely on public transportation and it sucks.

Not only do I miss driving, not having a car limits my traveling possibilities.  Most of the time I’m fine with taking a train or a bus, as it gives me the chance to read while getting from A to B, but today I do miss having my own wheels.  

Last Tuesday I went for an interview at a law firm.  The lawyer who interviewed me called me this morning, letting me know that she had gone with another candidate but that she was so impressed by me that she referred me to a colleague of hers.
I was a little disappointed, having missed the job I interviewed for, but it seemed that when one door closed a window opened.  Being referred by a lawyer to another lawyer had to be a good sign, right?

When I received the lawyer’s email, inviting me for an interview I was all geared up, I could just feel it in my bones that this was going to work out.  Unfortunately, there was a snag.

In the signature line of the lawyer’s email I noticed her address … oeh, all the way out west.  When I Googled the address and queried how to get there, it turned out I would have to take two trains and two buses.  Oh no, that was just too much trouble. 

I don’t mind taking the train to get downtown, millions of Torontonians do it and we’re used to it.  I don’t mind taking the bus for short distances.  But taking two buses in addition to two trains … no, not doable.

Years ago I did a temporary assignment for a hospital.  By car it would have taken me 10 – 15 minutes to get there, but having to rely on public transportation it took me 1,5 hours because I had to take no less than three buses. 

It was the middle of winter and I remember standing by the side of the road, waiting for the bus, freezing my butt off while slowly but surely getting covered in snow.  I vowed there and then that when this assignment was finished I would never take on another one that required me to take a bus.

Commuting by train is less of a hassle.  Not only do subway stations give shelter from the freezing cold in winter and the scorching sun in summer, there are more trains than there are busses.  Subway trains arrive on average every 3 – 5 minutes.  Busses on the other hand can take as much as 15 – 30 minutes to make an appearance, with the chance that a bus is full in which case a commuter has another wait.

When I see cars going by I miss the days that I was able to drive from here to there.  I didn’t have wait for trains or buses to arrive, I knew more or less how long it would take to get me there, I was warm in winter and cool in summer and I could listen to music and sing along with Bon Jovi.

I can still listen to Bon Jovi on my iTouch, but singing … no, that would be pushing it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Can pigeons understand us?

Enjoying the last reasonably warm days of the year, I decided to have my lunch outside today.  It didn’t take long before I got the company of three finches.  They landed behind me on the ledge of a raised garden and sat there chirping up a storm, all the while eying my sandwich and moving their heads from side to side.

Who can resist such charm?  I certainly couldn’t, so I broke off three pieces of bread and placed them on the ledge.  Two of the finches hopped a safe distance away, but one stayed put.  He hopped towards the bread and started nibbling.

When the other two saw that the coast was clear, they too came hopping back and pecked at the bread.  When they were finished they started chirping again and turning on the charm with their little heads.  So I gave them some more.

When the finches belly was full (I guess it doesn’t take much to have their hunger satisfied) a pigeon took their place.  He too sat eyeing me, cocking his head and clearly waiting for some crumbs.

From experience I knew that, if I gave this pigeon something to eat, his friend would join him en masse.  Still, who can resist those little black beady eyes?  I certainly couldn’t.  So I have him something.  While he pecked at the bread, ten or so other pigeons landed at my feet. 
I gave the pigeon behind me some more and also gave something to his friends. 

The pigeon behind me got braver and braver, coming closer and closer, until he had positioned himself an inch or so away from my shoulder.  Even though I continued to feed the pigeons on the ground, he did not join them, but waited patiently for his share.

When my sandwich was finished and I brushed off my hands, I turned to my grey feathered friend and told him “All done.  See, no more.”
The pigeon cocked his head, looked at me and flew away.   

Had he understood what I said?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How to keep personal issues from affecting your career

(Cartoon inspired by Diane Q.) 

If life were a bed of roses, we could all show up at work without a care in the world. Unfortunately nobody enjoys carefree living.  Whether we had a fight with our partner, difficulties with the kids, fighting an illness, facing financial challenges, struggling with a divorce or the death of a loved one, we all have personal lives with ups and downs.  The question is, how do we keep those cumbersome issues from affecting our careers?

It is never a good idea to share personal issues with colleagues.  Unless you have known the colleague for years and trust the person completely, it is better to keep personal issues to yourself.  Whether intentionally or accidentally, the colleague might let something slip in which case your personal issues could become common knowledge.  If you feel the need to talk, talk to a professional such as a doctor, a lawyer, a bank manager or a career counsellor.  Not only might these professionals actually be able to help you, but they are bound by the code of privacy.

If you feel that your personal issues weigh you down to the point that they start affecting your career, consider taking some time off.  Going to work despite personal problems is commendable, but not always advisable.  Your mind may be on something other than work which, directly or indirectly, could affect your career.  One mistake could ruin an otherwise perfect reputation, and the last thing you need is to worry about your career while dealing with personal issues.

If you are gay or lesbian, carefully consider if you want to share your sexual preferences with your boss and colleagues.   Over the years the gay community has made tremendous progress in its acceptance, but there still are old fashioned people who might have trouble with your sexual orientation.  Before coming out, consider if this information might affect your career?  In some cases it’s better to be enigmatic than exposed.

If personal issues frequently cause you to get angry or even fly off the handle, consider doing something about that.  You may have good reason be angry, but your temper could be affecting your career.  To cool off go for a walk or if a change of environment is of no help consider an anger management course.  You could also try taking up yoga, martial arts or simply buying a punch bag.  If you can’t roll with the punches, throw some punches at the punch bag, you’ll be amazed at its calming effect.

If you are on the other hand a very shy person who wouldn’t say boo to a goose, this shyness could be affecting your career too.  To get more self-confidence, consider joining a self-help group who deals with this type of personal issue.  Shyness has a reason, something caused you to lose your confidence and it’s important to get to the root of that problem.  Once you found the reason for your low confidence you can work on it and overcome your shyness.

Regardless of your personal issues, you are not the only one with a particular problem.  If the problem starts to affect your career, get help, but be careful where to look for it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Why today's society does not encourage hard work

Every now and then an article comes along that is so on the money it makes you go a little quiet.  Every now and then a writer comes along, it makes you want to cheer.
Such a writer is Alexandra Heep, a woman who can write about anything and everything and does so with a style all her own.  To sample Alex’s work, please visit

As a guest blogger at 9 – 5, I found this article of Alex rather appropriate.

Why today's society does not encourage hard work

 Today's employment society, when it comes to encouraging and rewarding hard work, can be summed up in one phrase: "The right to work (for less)".

I am not that old, but there used to be some simple concepts when I started out in the workforce. If you followed these concepts, monetary rewards were automatic:

* Work Ethic
* Seniority
* Promote from Within

Work ethics are pretty self-explanatory. If you worked hard, showed up on time, and made steady measurable progress, you got evaluations and, in turn, raises. A very simple concept really.

What changed all this? Good question. We all have had to call places or deal with organizations and received poor customer service. We get frustrated, because we wonder: If I acted like that at my job, I would not have a job!

While these people who give poor customer service are not necessarily bad people, they are simply bad employees. What makes them that way? Their employers think them of as expendable, and so it shows in their attitude. They know, even if they give good customer service, it won't matter one bit in the future as there is no such thing as job security.

Let's say for some reason they give excellent service for a year. Does that automatically guarantee them anything? No, it does not. Matter of fact, they become too good at what they do and too expensive for the company to maintain. Instead of eventually getting paid what they are worth, they simply get replaced by someone younger, with less experience, who will accept lower pay.

The notion of seniority in the workplace has simply become archaic. We can all relate to this one. Have you ever had a job where someone 20 years younger trained you? Have you ever had a manager that you thought did not even look old enough to buy alcohol in most places?

The concept of how to achieve a supervisor or manager position used to be simple: You worked your way up from the mailroom (or the equivalent of). This no longer applies. Achieving a position with more responsibility and the appropriate job title and compensation nowadays has become a game with rules known only to the employer.

Oh, there is still enough responsibility to go around. Do a good job at what you are doing and you will find yourself up to your eyeballs in more work. Will that lead to obtaining the job title and increased salary you deserve? If you ask your crystal ball this question you are just as likely to receive the correct answer to that question.

Promoting from within no longer applies either. You would figure that it would make sense to promote people who know the company best by having worked there for a while. However, "fresh blood" and "new ideas" are usually brought in to fix when a company fails to make enough profits to satisfy investors. Looking for those profits in the executives' paychecks would be far too simple an answer.