Sunday, February 22, 2009


I haven't gone cross country skiing in a couple of years. Last winter between the massive amount of snow and the trip to Botswana in January, I didn't get there. This year I basically just didn't get there.

I enjoy cross country skiing on occasion, but it's hard to find a weekend day where there is decent snow on the ground, the weather is nice, and I'm not busy doing something else. (After work it is too dark to go unless you are going with someone else and you know the trails well).

Usually I drive to one of the NCC trails in the greenbelt and ski there.

Today there was a fresh snowfall and the weather was beautiful but I didn't want to drive to an organized trail, so I walked to the end of my street and went cross country skiing in the greenbelt behind my house. It's a short stretch, but I wanted something short since I haven't gone in so long.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

You want me to do that backwards?

I've talked about boxing before, but I'm not sure if I've explained how my boxing training works.

A typical class starts with stretches and a warmup. After that, you rotate around the stations (2 or 3 minutes at each one, depending on the week). The stations for level 3 and up are: heavy bag, heavy bag, speed bag, skipping, skipping, shadow boxing, heavy bag, heavy bag, reflex bag, skipping, skipping, and speed bag. (For level 1 & 2, the reflex bag is replaced with another shadow boxing station.) There is some variation from week to week, but that's the basic routine.

One other thing that I don't think I've mentioned is that I'm (naturally) the world's worst skipper. My class is on the observation deck around a pool. I hit myself in the face. I hit my arms. I get the rope wrapped around my neck. I get the rope caught on the railing of balcony.

I hate shadow boxing after skipping because I look like someone whipped me.

Starting in level 1, we learned crossovers. (In the video below, she starts doing crossovers at around 1:37. Note that I wear considerably more clothes while skipping than she does.) It took me 2 or 3 sessions to get one crossover. The most I've ever done in a row is 18, and that was once - usually I can only get 2 or 3.

Starting in level 2, we learned some backward skipping. I'm just as good at it as I am at forward skipping. :) In level 3, we started backwards crossovers. Friday I successfully did a backwards crossover. In fact, I did two in a row (although the second one was pretty shaky).

Since last week I didn't come close to doing even one, I was pretty happy.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Advice that's worth what you pay for it

I know a lot of people who are either actively job hunting or actively thinking about it.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but a couple of years ago I was laid off, and ended up unemployed for 7 months. (OK, technically it was 7 months and 1 day.)

While I was unemployed, I had access to an outplacement service. In the interests of sharing some of what I learned, here are some key things I would recommend. (Note that the job I got 1.5 years ago was the first job I'd actually applied for or had an interview for in 12 years, so I'm hardly an expert).

1) Figure out what you want to do. A lot of people skip this step, but what happens if you don't know what you're looking for is that you scatter your energy. Pick a direction. (If you pick a direction that turns out to be wrong, that's OK - re-evaluate & pick another direction. At least you're moving.)

2) On your resume, make it as action filled and measurable as possible. What sounds better to you: "Responsible for generating reports on the number of software bugs" or "Compiled data and analyzed problem trends, leading to process improvements that dropped the number of recorded defects by 10%"? They're basically referring to the same task.

3) Again on the resume, hiring managers don't want to know what your assigned tasks were - they want to know what you did with them.

4) Don't know what you're good at? Ask former co-workers.

5) Also, make a list of accomplishments (both on & off the job). What skills did you have to use to accomplish those things? What did you like doing What jobs could you get that would use those same skills and what you enjoyed doing?

6) Network.

7) No, seriously, network. Everyone hates it. A large number of jobs are never advertised, so you need people to know that you are looking. Don't worry, the secret is in #8.

8) Networking? It's not asking if someone is hiring. If you call me up and say, "Colette, I'm looking for a job, is your company hiring", you put me in an awkward position. If we are (but I don't think you're the right person for that job), I'm not going to want to recommend you. If we aren't, the conversation is over. However, even if I don't think you are the right person for that job doesn't mean that I won't want to help you out, or that I won't want to recommend you for a different job in the future.

9) Oops, forgot to put the secret in #8. Networking is talking to people - but not asking for a job.
  • "Colette, I'm starting on a job hunt and I'd like to talk to you about what process you went through when you found your current job. "
  • "Colette, I'm starting a job hunt. I know you went from working at a large company to working at a small company. I'd like to talk to you about how you found that transition."
  • "Colette, I'm investigating the different things that high tech companies are doing in Ottawa and I'd like to talk to you about what the company you now work for is doing."
  • "Colette, I'm working on my resume and I'd like to get your opinion on how I can make it stronger."

Any one of those questions will get me talking for 45 minutes. Asking if we're hiring ends will get me to say "no".

10) When networking, ask the person you are talking with if there's anyone else they can recommend you talk to - then follow up with whoever they recommend.

11) Before you start networking, figure out a quick way to introduce yourself. "Hi, I'm Colette. I'm a software developer with experience in the telecommunications and aviation industries, and I'm looking to move into ..." This is also the way to answer a "tell me about yourself" question in an interview.

12) Treat networking like it's your job. (It kind of is.) Dress appropriately, show up on time, stay focused on your objective, and don't run over time (without offering to wrap it up)- the person you're talking to is doing you a favour.

13) If possible, offer something in return. For example, if the person you're meeting with is talking about a problem they're facing at work, offer relevant experience you've had that might help.

14) Send a thank you note (e-mail is probably fine) after the meeting.

15) Networking will boost your confidence, which makes the rest of the job hunt easier. People wouldn't be making time to talk with you if they thought you were an idiot.

16) Proofread your resume. Proofread thank you letters.

17) An interview should, of course, be treated seriously. Prepare answers to common interview questions. Dress slightly better than you would have to dress if you had the job. Show up on time. Turn off the cell phone. Be polite. Look your interviewer in the eye.

18) Interview going badly? I had a horrible interview before I got this job. I knew about 5 minutes in that I wasn't going to get the job, so I treated it as a networking session. I asked about how much overtime people worked. It was a consulting firm, and I asked if their consultants went out to the client sites or if they worked in house. I asked about vacation and salary. It was a chance to get information about the industry.

19) My usual "how to get things done" method - set yourself goals. "I will get a job by June 1" is not a goal you control entirely, but "I will set up and follow through on 1 networking meeting a week" is.

I think that's my full rant for today. Feel free to share suggestions (or questions, which I will answer if I can) in the comments.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Family day

Today I celebrated Family Day. Family day is a new statuatory holiday in Ontario - basically created to give people a day off between New Year`s and Easter. It started last year, but last year I ended up working, so this is the first year I had the day off.

It`s a bit of an odd holiday in the sense that everyone has the day off except federal employees. However, they get Rememberance Day and Easter Monday off (when no one else does), so I won`t lose a lot of sleep feeling bad for them. :)

It was a great day. I basically wasted the whole day doing nothing. Since work has been so busy lately, it was time off I desperately needed.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


First of all, last week's contest. The winner is Peter for his explanation. (The Easter bunny was early, and his basket was full, so he was dragging it. He got tired of dragging it, so he took the eggs and threw them around (into the neighbours' yards) and then hopped away when the basket was empty.) Peter, your gift will be in the mail as soon as I find your address. :) Thanks to all of you who gave me explanations. They all made me smile. (Also, who is the "Anonymous" who is claiming they sound like Daniel? It's a mystery.)

Let's move on to this week, shall we?

Somewhere around the beginning of the year, I stumbled across Choosy Beggars. It's a website about cooking, and it's very entertaining. In fact, it makes me want to cook which - as we all know - is unusual for me.

A while ago, they had a recipe for kibbeh. It sounded really good. Today, I made kibbeh. It's tasty (but, deep down, it's still meatloaf).
However, to quote Homer Simpson, we can't go this far and not go a little further, so I also made homemade pitas. And hummus.

Admittedly, the pitas turned out more like flat bread, but they are very tasty.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Perhaps I should be building an ark

I've decided that I need to update more often, even if I'm not actually doing new things. (Sorry, I blame work.) Let me tell you about my day - or at least the portion that happened before my alarm went off.

I don't believe I've ever talked about this, but I have no problems washing dishes. I don't dry them - I stack them in the drainboard, and they stay there until a) I have to kill some time in the kitchen, or b) I need to use them again.

So it's winter, and naturally there is snow outside. We didn't get our usual January thaw, but yesterday it started raining.

This morning at 4 a.m. (exactly) I heard rattling in the drainboard. I was very puzzled. And sleepy, let's not forget that.

I got up, and asked my sister what on earth she was doing. She told me that the basement was leaking.

I went downstairs. There was water on the floor - not over the whole basement, but enough to get my feet wet as I walked around.

I helped Wanda get all of her stuff off the floor. (One would think that perhaps that the floor wouldn't be the best place to store stuff, but apparently Wanda disagrees.) While she finished up, I went upstairs and made up another bed for her.

I don't know what happened exactly. My theory is that the rain plus the melting snow caused water to leak in the windows. It rained all day today, and everything is dry now.

I still don't know how rattling dishes was supposed to help.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Another contest

This is the scene in my backyard. There is a long, relatively straight furrow in the snow, with rabbit tracks going out from the end.

My theory is that someone went rabbit bowling (i.e. using a rabbit as a bowling ball), and when the rabbit stopped rolling, he simply jumped away.
What is your theory? Explain how these tracks in the snow happened in the comments (before Saturday, Feb. 14). The most interesting explanation will get a prize.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A follow up

Back in November or so, I mentioned that I was thinking about buying a new table. In January I ordered a table, chairs, buffet, and hutch. They arrived today.
I didn't do anything new, I just felt like sharing

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Mmm, chocolate

I really wanted something sweet this evening. Due to someone (Wanda) eating all of the cookies, there was nothing in the house*.
Luckily, a couple of days ago I saw an article on how to make a cake in a mug on wikihow. Today I made a cake in a mug. I went for the second recipe. It puffed up while cooking, then went back down.

It was good, but I think I overcooked mine - it was a little dry in places.

* In the interest of full disclosure, she is the one who makes the cookies

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Look at me cooking

I think I've mentioned that I've been working a lot. We had a big deadline on Friday, so this weekend I'm mostly not working. (OK, there were a couple of e-mails, but that's it.)

As a result, this weekend I made homemade pierogies.

I started by peeling (& boiling) enough potatoes to make about 2 or 3 cups of mashed potatoes.

While they were cooking, I made the dough:
You beat 2 eggs with 1/2 cup of oil until they're light in colour, then add 1.5 cups warm water and 1.5 tbsp salt. Next, you gradually add 5 cups flour and knead until it's a soft dough. (I started by using the mixer, but finished kneading it by hand.) Cover the dough, and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Luckily, while the dough is resting, you can grate the cheese. When the potatoes are soft, mash them, then add the grated cheese. Let it melt, then mix. Let them cool a bit so they don't burn your hands during the next step.

Next, stop eating the cheesy mashed potatoes. You can eat the leftovers later.

Roll out the dough, then cut in diamonds. (The recipe says to cut with a round cookie cutter, but I'm too lazy for that - diamonds work just as well, you just end up with triangles instead of half circles.

Put a scoop of the potato mixture on each diamond, then fold into triangles and seal the edges.

Put them in a container separated by waxed paper, and freeze (if you don't plan to eat them immediately).

To cook, boil a pot of salted water, drop the pierogies in and stir. Let them boil for about 10 minutes, then strain. (You want to let them cook several minutes after they float to the top.) After that, you can fry them in butter & onions if you want.