Ching, clunk, stamp, zip, woosh

So… I’m trying to go back to school.

Being “categorically unemployable” has really crushed my spirit, but I need to fight on. About the only thing I can think of to do this with is more education. If the menial jobs won’t hire me for being too educated and the educated jobs won’t hire me for being under educated the only response I can think of is to increase my education.  The opposite just seems too… paradoxical and destructive.

To that end I’ve applied to SAIT for… well, I don’t want to say what I’ve applied for just yet. I was thinking Accounting initially but got lured away by another topic. We’ll see if we can get in. If not, then I’ll try Accounting.

As it turns out Alberta has a new system in place that unites all your educational records under one student ID number, so once I filled out my information online the process to apply to SAIT was practically automatic. Just a few mouse clicks and they already had my college transcripts and my application is almost complete.

Now I just have to prove I can read and write English.

There’s a new Requirement for submission. In addition to having adequate marks in your transcripts you must now also meet the English Proficiency Standard.

What is the English Proficiency Standard, you ask? It’s a standard that proves you have the minimum required ability to read and write English. It’s proven either by having successfully attended an English speaking school for three consecutive years or by writing an English Proficiency test.

Oy.

So I call SAIT up to find out how I can meet this requirement and get my application rolling. The lady on the other end of the phone asks if I’ve graduated high school. I have, I reply, graduated from high school. In Alberta, she asks? No, in Saskatchewan, I say.

Oh, she says, and verbally stumbles about for a few minutes. I interrupt her shuffling by telling her that I did, in fact, attend SAIT a few years ago. She brightens up at this and says Oh then we might have your high school transcripts on file. Some mumbling and shuffling later she comes back with the result that, yes, SAIT does recognize that I completed high school (in 1983, god I’m old) but it doesn’t have my actual marks. As such, they can’t use that for the English Proficiency requirement. I’d have to get them a copy of my official transcripts.

How do I do that, I ask?

Three long, dry minutes of fumbling and muttering follow after which she finally conjures up a phone number for me to call.

No web site? No central database of scholastic records? No single student ID to cover all of Saskatchewan’s great students?

No, just a phone number. And the wrong one, at that. I called it, started in on my spiel, and was quickly interrupted by the lady on the other end who informed me that I totally had the wrong number. After two or three minutes of audible page shuffling she finally found what she believed the correct phone number would be.

I dialed that number and was promptly greeted by a thick east Indian accent. I suppressed the urge to ask if the person had every managed their English Proficiency Standard and instead started asking about getting a transcript of my high school marks sent to SAIT. The fine fellow at the other end informed me that it wasn’t the sort of thing they could do over the phone for me (with, I felt, a tone of someone who feels he’s explaining the obvious to an idiot) and that I would, instead, have to apply in person or via their web site.

Finally, I thought, a helpful web site hosting all the information I could need complete with a nice, simple, everyday form to fill out with my appropriate visa number or paypall address to complete the transaction in a matter of minutes.

Well, no, actually. As it turns out I had to delve through a number of confusing pages (not quite as bad as the Canadian Government web site, but built by similarly minded individuals, I suspect) to finally arrive at one .pdf page to fill out and either mail in (as in with an envelope and stamp, possibly carried by dog team) or fax in.

That’s right, you read it: fax in. That’s their high tech solution. Makes me wonder why I ever left the province.

So I download the form, print it off, fill it out… then I scan it back onto my computer, insert the image into a document, save it as a .pdf file, and then use my e-mail to fax it back to them. Felt like I was using modern machinery to send  a document back in time.

I now wait for the scribe in Saskatchewan to compose my transcript and attach it to a pigeon leg or something.

a pigeon with no hole

I’ve tried to go out into the world with a mixed bag of success. I did do some shopping, and found a few things I’d love to buy, but haven’t bought anything. I didn’t find what I’d set out to look for and I’m trying to resist buying stuff I don’t actually need. I’d love to have a 100 candle mag light that I can palm in one hand, but I don’t actually need it. I’d love to have bought the larger stainless steel mug for just nine dollars, but again I don’t need it.

I bought a big pot of tea and a piece of cheesecake. The tea is nearly done and the cheesecake… well, more than half of it remains on the plate. It’s far too jellied and far too sweet for my tastes. I’ve eaten the graham crust and the chocolate coated cookie bits attached to the outside, all of which was much less sweet than the cake itself. I predict the rest of the cake will linger in the bakery display case for a long time and then be thrown out.

I wrote a brief character interaction but I’m not happy with it. In fact I’ve pretty much struggled with it from the start. I’ve written numerous descriptions of the main character, a result of a gaming character concept I worked on last year, but I haven’t fit her into the world yet. A big part of that problem is she supposed to not fit in with the world as she literally lives outside of it and only visits on occasion.

[… long pause …]

Okay, just writing that previous sentence kind of inspired me to go back and add more detail to the character description and I got two more paragraphs out of it and I’m a little… less dissatisfied with it.

I’ve been struggling a lot lately. Nothing new, the same old struggles… no real job and no real future… but they’re starting to really mount up. I am working which had, at one point, lifted my flagging hope, but the part time job feels akin to a dixie cup of water for a dehydrated man; just enough to make him aware of just how thirsty he is. Having the two shifts take out the two most common social evenings hasn’t helped either.

But we persevere.

I’m quickly becoming aware of my troublesome marketability. I have an education but it’s out of date and not adequate to any of the jobs it was originally designed for. I do occasionally look at job postings for IT work but they’re becoming increasingly arcane to me, talking in acronyms and jargon I’ve simply never heard before. It just highlights how stressful that career path was for me. It’s one thing to avoid stagnation, quite another to be running a constant marathon in which the rules change semi-annually.

I apply for other office work but nobody wants to hire someone without either significant experience or specialized training. Long gone are the days, it seems, when you might hire someone and train them yourself. Even something as mundane as filing has an educational certification for it. Even those small, independent offices who are interested in taking someone new and training them “their” way aren’t interested in me because I’m far too old and set in my ways. They want someone young and malleable. Someone who isn’t scheduled to retire in twenty years.

The menial jobs rarely if ever get back to me because I have far too much education and, again, I’m not young. They can’t believe I’d be willing to work in any menial position and, even if they are willing to accept that I’d be willing to take that position on, they’re not convinced I’d be fit enough at my age to handle it.

I avoid using Workopolis entirely. Not because they aren’t a good job search web site, but because I don’t fit any of their pigeon holes. The first question asked is “what job are you looking for?”, not “what sort of work do you want to do?”. I don’t fit any of the definitions they have available and, quite honestly, I have no idea what sort of definition would ever suit me.

It feels like I’m making excuses but when even McDonald’s doesn’t show any interest in your application it becomes pretty evident that I just no longer fit into any recognizable societal role.

So remember, kids, make sure you pick your career niche early and cling to it for dear life or you could end up like uncle Joel here… categorically unemployable.

Just a short blurt into the darkness

With both ladies out of town I’m definitely beginning to feel the lack of human interaction, so it was nice to have coffee with Elizabeth yesterday and to drop in on Mary Ann and Tony tonight, and I’ve got Shane coming over for video games tomorrow. See? I can socialize.

I still need practice at initiating social contact. Not sure where the deficiency lays. You’d think someone who grew up alone would be well practiced at calling out to others but that just isn’t the case. I’m perfectly capable of standing up on a stage in front of hundreds of people and speaking on any number of things, but getting myself to pick up the phone and talk to one person is like trying to pick up a magnet with a similarly charged string. My brain refuses to stay on track and slips off to do just about anything but pick up the phone and make the call.

I’m not socially stunted. Put me in a group of strangers and I can be all gregarious and anecdotal, or at least make polite conversation until the food arrives. I’m not the sort of person who naturally hangs out with the people he works with but I do manage to mine out the occasional rare gem from the common gravel that end up being friends in their own right rather than “friends from work”.

A big part of it is my deep seated aversion to bothering people and I worry that if I call someone I’ll be putting them in the position of having to decide whether to entertain me or to politely let me down and keep the time for themselves. I know a lot of people will reply with “but you’re never a bother, call any time!” but then voices in my head tell me that’s the polite and supportive thing for them to say. In reality I know I treasure much of my alone time and that makes me assume others do too. My mother has long since trained me that people who love you will lie to you and so it has become a difficult for me to trust when people whom I believe care about me tell me they don’t mind me calling. I know that’s convoluted but that’s how my mind works. Or, more accurately, that’s how my mind overworks.

Paradoxically this winds up meaning the people I have the least trouble calling are the people who are most likely to turn me down. Knowing that they have no trouble saying “no” means I can trust their “yes” that much more.

It’s interesting how so many of the Truths that resonate with me come from comedy. Something about the court jester being the one to point out the obvious things that everybody else either overlooks or wants to ignore appeals to me. George Carlin can be so brilliant sometimes. Not all the time, but some times. Here are a few good quotes of his:

“I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don’t have as many people who believe it.”

“Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.”

“If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe, then I’d have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.”

“I love and treasure individuals as I meet them; I loathe and despise the groups they identify with and belong to.”

“The Earth is just fine. The Earth isn’t in any danger. We are.”

“Honesty may be the best policy, but it’s important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy.”

Ramblin’ Man

It’s late in the afternoon and I’ve only been up for about four hours, thanks in part to a rather unexpected call from Kim. Thanks, Kim, I might have slept the afternoon away otherwise.

I’m thinking several things, today.

One, I’ve got to get back on a regular sleep schedule. That will be difficult, but not nearly as difficult as when I was younger. Something about age makes you value a night of good sleep, with at least part of then emphasis being on “night”.

Two, my conversational skills over the phone, when they’re not related to some specific task (ie. when it’s social) are pretty much gone. Makes me wonder. It’s not that I don’t like talking, but I’ve lost what little phone conversational skills I’ve had over the years. I can phone someone up about a specific topic, like when I called EI about my claim, and I have no trouble maintaining a rich and productive conversation, but when it comes down to just “chatting” my mind goes blank. Have I become spoiled by the convenience of internet conversational styles?

Three, I should get out of the house at some point today. I have DVDs to return, and I need to pick up some draino for the tub drain (it blocks every time I shave my head, go figure) but I should try and get out for the purpose of getting myself out. Not that I’ve been a hermit. Far from it, in fact. The very reason I slept in so late this morning was because Dianne and I had driven out to Brooks to visit with Ronya. Ronya and I did some shopping and went for tea with Kim and Tremaine before Ronya started her current tour. We did a quick road trip out to Black Diamond and back, stopping to visit with her mother on the way home. I’ve been out and about, visiting, shopping, and just generally being out of the house.

But some part of me feels I should ensure I keep it up, and for a variety of reasons. And by that I need a variety of reasons to get me out of the house, not just the usual ones. I just need to get out more.

I’ve been lamenting the loss of some of the social circles I used to hang around in. The all-too-brief boys’ club we had going for a while there, with the three guys doing the radio show and upwards of six of us doing Halo online on the weekends. The fart jokes, the impromptu belch contests, the… cameraderie, I guess.

I’ve long since let my Xbox live account lapse. Unless you’ve got an established group of friends to game with you’re left joining up with random players, and there are just far too many squeakers for me to ever bother.

I’m never going to subscribe to any particular sport, partly out of a lack of interest and (I’ll admit) partly out of a stubborn refusal to join with such a mob mentality, but I do miss that comeraderie of guys. I’d never really had that, growing up. Having it, even briefly, over something as mutually gleeful as blowing each other’s virtual heads off with sniper rifles filled a need I didn’t even realize I had. Who knew I actually had testosterone in my system?

Anyway, I’m rambling. Time to go make some Lupper before heading out to return those DVDs. Maybe I’ll take a quick side trip to a coffee shop or something.

Very brief update

Well I suppose I should update at some point before people begin wondering.

The last week and a half has been rather… eventful.

Most recently I spent four marvelously decadent and unstressful days visiting with Connie and Colin in our frigid north country. While I fully expected to find heaps of snow up there when we arrived, I wasn’t quite prepared to have it follow us all the way home. I swear we had as much snow following us on the road as we found at both C&C’s place and in our driveway.

You’d almost think it was winter.

The whole week and a half started, though, with my being laid off of my old job. On the one hand it is a little stressful to be looking for work again, but on the other it did allow me to take time for a visit with friends at least.

Now, though, I guess I should turn my hand to finding myself another job.

Got sick…

Originally published at rookblog. You can comment here or there.

Got sick today. Actually I suspect I’ve been “getting” sick for the past day or two. I had horrendous aches and stiffness yesterday that I attributed to a combination of working out Tuesday night and not sleeping well.

Weighed myself on Tuesday when I went to the gym, too. Found out I’m 347 pounds, not much more than I was when my doctor weighed me back in the fall.

Today I was exhausted from the moment the alarm went off and spent the morning at work either staring into space or fading out. Combine that with a bit of nauseau and I finally decided it was just simply time to go home. Spent most of the afternoon sleeping (an excellent way to spend the afternoon, btw. I highly recommend it.) and finally convinced my stomach to empty what was left of its contents about half an hour ago. Now I’m shakey but less nauseated. The shakiness is no doubt due to the fact that I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast.

I was rather perturbed at my illness today, falling as it does on the eve of my departure for Connie and Colin’s place. As some of you may recall I canceled my very first planned trip up there because I had food poisoning. I really don’t want this to become a trend.

But I think I’m fine, now. Morning will tell for sure. In the meantime I’ve got some packing to do.

Guns and Ammo

So as others have already noted in their journals we went to the shooting range for Ronya’s birthday last Saturday. Being the Birthday Girl, Ronya got to shoot first. The range marshal was impressed with how close her grouping was given it was her first time shooting, ever. After her first round of five shots Ronya’s brothers Wildor and Dorin joined her with the other two guns we’d selected.Wildor was on the 9 mil, Dorin on the 40 caliber, and Ronya playing with her eventual favorite, the 45 caliber. As all three of them shot their set of five rounds the range marshal noted their grouping.

“Are you *sure* none of you has shot before?” he asked.

I had to laugh.

“No,” I told him, “you’re just dealing with the Bollhorn siblings. They’re rather… unique.”

True to my word all three of them had some rather consistent groupings with their shots. I was pretty good myself, but only with the two lighter caliber guns. The 45 tempted to jump too much to be able to keep aim. And by “pretty good” I mean my shots were fairly consistent at being low and to the left for some reason.

Actually keeping track of the shots really showed just how touchy aiming with a handgun is. The slightest deviation was greatly exaggerated by the time it reached the target. Handguns are definitely not precision instruments. Makes all those action movie shots just that much less believable.

Doesn’t make the shooting any less fun, though. 🙂

However the expense is a bit… much. Even for renting. Worth it, but not cheap.

As we were signing up and waiting for our turn I scanned through the various hand guns they had on sale, checking out the prices. Over the past month or so Ronya and I have been shopping for a new PC to replace the old box I’ve had since the late nineties. The prices between the guns and the shiny new PC were comparible.

“A new gun or a new PC…” I mused, “both are fun… but with the PC I get unlimited ammo.”

That pretty much decided it for me. Tomorrow Ronya is using her company’s purchase plan to buy us a new computer in Medicine Hat. Not that prices are any different in the ‘Hat, but the ambulance service has payment deals with the local retailers. It kind of limited our options but the payment plan is unbeatable.

So sometime tomorrow night I should be setting up our new home computer system, hopefully with a new wireless router to add to the mix. Once that’s up and running I figure I’ll copy all our MP3’s over to the new system and then reformat the old computer with some Linux distro.

Any suggestions?