Monday, October 16, 2017

Education and continual learning

You hear so many young people say that when they have finished high school or university that they have finished learning. I always laugh when I hear that because I don’t think you ever finish learning new things.

For some people once they have finished school they are finished with the formal learning but that may change over time. I know that when I finished college I was immediately looking at what else I could be taking to further my education. Now I didn’t take full time school any more but I was one of those people that found going to school, even night school enjoyable. Now that courses are offered online it means that I am taking online classes instead.

I always joke with people and say that I am not sure what I going to do when I grow up because I have taken a variety of courses through the years. I have taken Accounting, Fundraising, Instructing Adults, Project Management and other courses along the way. I find that when I am not learning I am one of those people that gets frustrated. Sure I don’t enjoy the stress of the exams at the end of some of the courses but the reward is nice.

Having the variety of courses behind me means that I have the knowledge in a bunch of different areas and that makes me happy. I recently decided that I wanted to try for a certification that I had heard about and so that is what I did. It was a bookkeeping certification offered through the Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada and to become a Certified Professional Bookkeeper you needed to understand some material and then write an exam to achieve your certification. With having my accounting knowledge from before I figured it might be something that would be useful to have for work so I did some checking into the certification and figured out what I needed to learn and then when I could take the exam. I took the exam in September 2017 and passed it which means I now have the initials CPB behind my name but in order to maintain my certification I am required to take 20 hours of courses each year. So, even with a certification it means that the learning isn’t over but that doesn’t bother me because I enjoy the continual learning.

Learning is something that happens even when you finish school because there will be things that you are going to learn on the job and learn for hobbies. Sure you might not take any more formal courses but the actual learning will not end.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Conferences

There seem to be more and more conferences now and maybe being in IT means that I am a little more aware of the various events. Conferences can range from 1 day to an entire week and how you handle them will basically be based on the length of them. A one day conference is easy to handle because you will be attending some lectures during a day and then after maybe a bit of a networking event you can go home. Now it is the longer ones that are going to be entirely different. I have gone to two and four day conferences and they are both entirely different experiences.

Two day conferences

Now a two day conference or at least the one that I have attended may have early pick-up of your badge and all the attend stuff so that is something that is good take advantage of if you can. Picking up your badge prior to the official start of the conference means that the lines might be a little shorter.

The first day is normally pretty full of lectures, some key-notes and then a networking event in the evening. Yes, the first day of the event can be extremely long and it is up to you how you handle everything. You may want to find a place to hide for a few minutes to ensure that you have the energy for the rest of the event.

Day two is normally a little shorter but again there are going to be lectures, more key-notes and yes the vendor area that has been part of the two days of the event. It can mean that you are going to be running around a lot over the two days but at the end of the second day once the closing remarks have happened you are on your own.

Four day conferences

A four day conference can be similar to a two day conference with regards to the early pick-up of your badge and all the attend stuff. This also gives you time to go over the schedule prior to the actual start of the event and maybe figure out the sessions you may go to. In the case of the conference that I was at there was a dinner set up as a meeting of the attendees. Sure the attendees had to pay their own way at this dinner but it was a great way to start meeting some of the other attendees, especially those staying at the hotel.

I can sum up the first two days of my conference as extremely busy because there were the key-notes, sessions and then there are the evening events that are normally hosted by some of the sponsors. These days can be extremely long and on day two is when the vendors had their booths so they were added to the amount of running around that was involved.

Day three was once again busy with the key-notes, sessions, vendors and then the evening cocktails and banquet. Again another long day but fun as it gave everyone more chances to network. By now most of the attendees were starting to feel the exhaustion set in but everyone still wanted to try and keep going and not miss things.

Day four now this is the wrap up day and for us it was a half day and we were all glad to be heading home after the conference. Again there were sessions, a couple of vendors still around and then the closing key-note and prize draws. By the time the final key-note was delivered people were realizing that the conference was coming to the end and it was sad because some people were heading off to a quick flight home and others were waiting until the next day to fly home depending on their flight schedules. For others it was time to pack up the hotel room and drive home.

General feelings

I have now been fortunate to attend one, two and four day conferences and they are different in some ways. The four day conferences are exhausting and if you aren’t prepared for the crazy schedule and lack of sleep you will be exhausted. I think even with being prepared you hit the point where you can’t learn any more and are ready for the conference to end.

Having the opportunity to attend the longer conferences means that you will also have a chance to network a little more and I realized that being able to stay at the host hotel or a near by hotel can be a great benefit at these longer events. The hotel gives you the opportunity to have a home base and if you want a quick escape even for a half hour you have your own private hiding spot.

Conferences are great for networking and learning new things and I will continue to go to the various conferences and learn what I can.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Scam

Everyone knows that there are hundreds of different scams going on around us and it can be through emails, mail, phone calls or the knock on the door.

Recently we had someone knock on our door and try and sell us something. Of course, we are both very cautious about people knocking on our door especially in the evenings. On a Friday evening we received a knock on our door at around 10 pm so that was a sign of something different. As we live in an apartment building I was able to do the entire conversation through the locked door and was looking through our peep hole at the person.

Now the person on the other side of the door let me know that they were with a major internet provider and asked if we had internet in our home. I asked why he was asking and he then said that this provider had a wonderful offer on internet service for our area and he could give me a good deal. Well if the personal had of been with the provider that was knocking on our door he would have had a list of the units that he didn’t need to knock on. I reminded him that there is a no solicitation notice in our building and he would have to leave and I was going to call someone on him. He did walk away from our door but continued to knock on the doors around us. Yes, this is 10 pm and a lot of people will either be getting ready for bed and some will already be in bed for the night.

The person did have the correct colour shirt on for this internet provider but there was still something that bothered me about the knock on the door, so I decided to call the internet provider to see if they did door to door campaigns. The support and customer service is open until midnight so that meant that I would be able to talk with someone to see if this was a scam or not.

The lady that I ended up talking to with the internet provider was very friendly and was immediately unhappy when I let her know about the knock on the door that we received. Once I explained the situation she put me on hold for a couple of minutes as she wanted to speak with her manager to check to see if door to door campaigns were something that were done and especially at that late a time. When she came back she let me know that they do not do door to door campaigns and especially not at that time of the evening. I thanks her and she did let me know that there were going to note this so that if people from our building called in later that they would be away of the issue being raised right away.

I had a feeling that this was a scam because this internet provider has done a table in our lobby offering the internet service but they haven’t come door to door before. I am thinking that this may be one of the individuals that we get flyers from where they say we can get internet through them at a reasonable price but they have the major internet providers logo on them. I think next time I get one of those flyers I am also going to call in just to see if they really are a reseller for the provider.

People are trying to get smarter and smarter in the ways that they do the scams but we just have to remember to always be cautious when dealing with people. For us, if we want to investigate new services we will either walk into a store front for the store or we will do the reaching out either through the website or phone the company. Knowing that we have done the initial contact gives us a better feeling because then we know it should be the actual company we are talking to and not something just trying to get our information.

When you get that email, phone call or knock on the door remember to use caution when dealing with them. It might be the real company but there will be a lot of times that it isn’t and it is someone just trying to steal your identity.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Fish and chips and the challenge

Recently we went on a vacation up towards Tobermory in Ontario and everyone was telling us about the wonderful white fish that is used for the fish and chips in Tobermory. As someone that enjoys good fish I was looking forward to trying this out and we were told that the restaurants understood the shellfish allergy so I should have a problem.

Once we arrived In Tobermory we found that there were at least four different places that served fish and chips so that should mean an easy time for us to have a meal of fish and chips. I should have figured it was too good to be true because it didn’t take us too long to start to figure out that my wanting fish which was fried was going to be a challenge.

The first restaurant we went into had white fish as the fish and chips so that started to make me happy until I saw that shrimp and calamari was also served that this restaurant. We sat down and looked at the menu and when the server came over we asked if the fish was cooked in the same oil as the shrimp and calamri and it was confirmed they were so that meant that fried fish was out of the question for me. They did let me know that they could pan fry the fish if I wanted but again it wasn’t fish and chips. We left the restaurant and let them know that we were leaving because of the issue of the fish and shrimp being cooked in the same oil.

The second restaurant was a small restaurant so I didn’t even sit down when I saw that shrimp in a basket was another option on the menu. We once again asked if it was fried in the same oil and were told that they were. We left the restaurant after letting them know that they had lost our business because of that.

The third restaurant we decided to just look at the menu and quickly discovered that shrimp was once again being offered as an option so we didn’t even ask question but did say we were leaving because of the shrimp being an option on the menu. It was getting extremely frustrating because of course after hearing about white fish I really wanted to have it as I don’t get to have deep fried fish very often because of the shrimp and calarami being good in the same oil.

Now it left one last restaurant as an option for lunch so we figured that we were going to go and have something to eat there even if I couldn’t have the fish. We arrived and looked at the menu and once again found out that they server shrimp and calarami so that meant I was once again going to have an issue. We asked the server if the fish was fried in the same oil as the other items and she said she didn’t think so but would confirm that for me. I started to feel a little happier but of course didn’t want to get my hopes up because I figure she was going to tell me that after checking with the kitchen everything was fried in the same oil. Well, she came back to our table and gave us some good and bad news. The good news was that the fish was fried in a separate area but the french fries were in the same oil as the shrimp. So that meant that I could have the fish but not the french fries but I could have a salad with the fish so that is what I decided to have. The fish was wonderful and it went down way too quickly so now I know that there is at least one place where I can have deep fried fish.

During this trip we wanted to let restaurants know that they were losing business because of serving fried shrimp and calarmi as well as the fish and chips. I understand that we are only two customers but the more of us that let restaurants know about the issue of cross contamination and the issue of serving shrimp and calarmi also with fried fish may help moving forward.

I am very thankful that at least one restaurant in Tobermory was able to help me have the deep fried white fish that I wanted. There may be others there but I know of the four restaurants we checked only one was able to really accommodate the shellfish allergy in a way that was great for me. I hope to go back to Tobermory next summer and I know that I will be checking out this restaurant and one other restaurant that we saw after we had lunch.

Shellfish allergies can be a real challenge for someone eating out and especially when fish isn’t an issue. If a restaurant promotes something that is very local maybe they should think about not serving something that isn’t local so that more people can enjoy the local specialty. I enjoyed my white fish and now to see if I can have it again next time we are back in Tobermory. I am happy that one restaurant fried their fish differently because it meant I got to enjoy something local.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

If you want my help ask, don't assume

So many times you hear someone mention something that they would like to do and you are not sure if they are asking for help or not. If you want my help ask for it and don’t assume I am available to help or if I will offer to help.

I have run across times especially as a volunteer that you hear “oh, I figured you would be available to help”. I can only be available to help if I am asked to help and you give me some lead time about an event so that I can see if I am going to be available or not. I think this is one of the biggest frustrations for me and that is making the assumption that I am going to be available to do something just because you need the help. The other issue is when someone thinks just because I volunteer to help that it is automatic that my husband is going to be there as well. There have been times when one of us has the time to help with something and the other one is busy.

There are times that you listen to someone talk about something and it sounds like they are basically asking for help and when you offer you hear, “oh, no I don’t need the help you are too busy.” This is something else that people need to understand that if I am offering to help you, I am willing to help and just need to figure out things. Sure there may be times when we are just too busy to help with something but then we wouldn’t be offering to help but would be saying “I would have loved to help but given our schedule right now it isn’t possible.”

The other fun one is when someone is talking and sounding like they need the help and when you offer you hear, “oh no I am planning on doing this myself.” This is one that makes me laugh because the person has made it sound like they need the help and when you offer they want to do it themselves. At least I have offered to help so the person can’t complain that no one offered to help.

I have heard people complain that no one was willing to help them and it either was they never asked for help or when it was offered they didn’t want it. Now if you are going to say that no one was willing to help please make sure that you have asked for the help and not just assumed that people would be there to help out on your schedule.

It can be interesting when you know something is going to be happening and you figure that your help is needed but you aren’t asked until the last minute. We deal with this sometimes and it can be frustrating because you knew you needed the help at the beginning of your planning so even if you don’t have a plan totally figured out at least start asking people if they are going to be available around a given date to help. Just getting the date when something is and then hoping that people are going to be able to jump and help doesn’t always work. Also it can be a challenge to get people to help even with the notice but at least you have a better chance of getting the help.

So remember, if you need my help ask for it and don't’ assume I am going to be available to help. Volunteers are volunteers for a reason and one of those is because they only have a limited amount of time to give to a cause so respect that and ask for the help ahead of when you will need it.

Monday, September 11, 2017

September 11th

Where were you on September 11, 2001?

I think for a lot of people September 11th is a day that we are going to remember for a very long time no matter what. For me, I will always remember September 11th and the next few days with some very mixed feelings. September 11th was the day that the World Trade Centre in New York was hit by two planes. September 14th was National Day of morning in Canada so yes a lot of emotions that happened during that time. September 14th also have another meaning for me and that is because September 14th, 2001 was my wedding day.

September 11th will always be in my memory as I day that I was sitting in my office and was listening to the radio and trying to make sure that all the things that I needed to do for the wedding had been doing. Little did I know that within an hour of arriving at work that day was going to be changed and the excitement about the wedding was going to be changed to sadness and worry. The sadness and worry were for all the people whose life had been changed that day. There were all the people that lost their lives and then there were all the people that last loved ones and also the first responders that had to deal with the overall impact of what had just happened.

As we were in an office it meant that we were trying to function and continue on with our day but then we walked into a boardroom and turned on CNN to see what was really happening. Hearing that a plane had hit a building you always figure it must have been a small plane and never would have thought it was a jet until you see it. The morning to me is still something that I will remember because we sat as a rather large group just staring at a television and we watched and saw the two World Trade Centre towers disappear from view. Seeing the towers go down is something that I remember so clearly because the vision and the reaction of the media was total shock.

The impact of that day has an impact not just in New York but around the world as people realized it could happen any where. Planes that were heading to the United States got either cancelled or if they were in the air they were diverted to Canada or turned around and landed where they had left. Also planes that were even flying within Canada were cancelled for security reasons so that meant that life for a lot of people were changed.

Working in downtown Toronto also meant that all the office towers were going to be evacuated in case there were something planned for here. The office towers were cleaned in a very orderly fashion with the tallest towers being the first ones to get notified and then the smaller towers got told to evacuate after that. I was in one of the lower towers so we were told that the building was closed and everyone was asked to leave around noon so it was time to head home and realize things had changed all over the world.

Life in Toronto got back to normal the next day but it was a new normal for a lot of people because they saw things a little different then they did before. I tired to get back to normal and continued on with work that needed to get done before I left to get married. Now the one question that we had and that wasn’t going to be answered for a few days and that was were we leaving on our honeymoon that weekend. Sure it may found a little bad to say that but the world was trying to get back to normal as quickly as possible even with all the news stations still covering New York City and Washington.

The good news is we got married on the 14th of September and left on our honeymoon on the 16th. Sure life changed on the 11th of September in a lot of ways and it did impact our day but we decided that we had to try and forget all the sadness and enjoy our day. Our small wedding stayed small and our honeymoon was a little different but at least life got back to the new normal for us even with the thoughts of New York and all those that had lost loved ones in the back of our mind.

Everyone has a memory of where they were on September 11th, 2001 and for some it was just another day and for others their life changed forever. Whatever that day means to you that’s ok because we all deal with the impact of that day a little different.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Allergies and how I deal with them

Allergies to me are something that I have been dealing with for a long time. When it comes to my allergies I find that I have learned to deal with them differently depending where I am and also who I am with. When I am talking about allergies I am referring to my severe allergies and not just the seasonal allergies that are easy to deal with in a lot of cases. The severe food allergies can be a challenge at the best of time and you just have to learn now to deal with them.

At home
Dealing with the allergies are home is probably one of the safest spots for me but again it isn’t an easy spot when it comes to grocery shopping and buying the ready made meals. Grocery shopping is a longer process for us than a lot of other people because besides looking at some of the health content (salt, sugar, etc) we are having to read the labels on everything that we buy each time we go grocery shopping. It does mean that a quick trip into the grocery store really doesn’t happen unless it is to pick up things like meat, vegetables and eggs. The ready made meals are the things that are a challenge because some of those don’t come with ingredients on them and some do so that is another thing that we deal with is the constant checking of those meals.

At other people’s homes
In a lot of cases we don’t go to visit friends that don’t understand my allergies because it can be a risk for me. We have friends that each time they invite us over will ask for a confirmation of the allergens so that they can ensure they are getting things right. If we are somewhere and I am not certain about a food I will just pass on it to be safe. We have found that a lot of our friends will even confirm once we arrive to make sure that things are going to be safe. There has been a couples of times where I have had to miss eating something because they have purchased an ingredient in error and that doesn’t bother me so I just don’t have that item. I would rather someone let me know there has been a mix-up and then we continue on.

Restaurants
Restaurants have always been a challenge and that is one of the reasons why we don’t eat out very often. We have found a few places that we visit for special occasions but normally we find it is just as easy (and cheaper) to make the similar meal at home where we can verify all the ingredients. There are times when we have to eat in a restaurant and that is when I will ask the questions that I need to ask to ensure my food is safe or I will have something simple like a salad.

Conferences
Conferences are like restaurants in some ways but can also be a bigger challenge. Most conferences have a preset meal and you aren’t sure what you are getting. Some conferences provide a boxed lunch so that will be a sandwich of some sort, a salad and then some type of dessert. These can all be a risk and it means that I just have to be extremely careful and watch what I eat and as I always say go with my gut feeling. If my feeling is something isn’t going to be safe I just avoid it and always ensure that I have munchies with me to make up for the meal or food that I haven’t eaten.

Overall
In a lot of cases it is just a matter of communicating my allergies and then hoping the person receiving the message and the person preparing the meal understand. Allergies can be a challenge for the person that lives with them and all of their family and friends. Understanding the impact of a severe allergy can make a big difference and your safety is the most important thing to consider.