Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Random Thoughts 3

Christmas is coming.  What I'm thinking of doing is predominantly decorating in the house specifically for the meaning, not Santa and all that.

Enjoying work, though there are days that it wipes me right out, like the day I'm typing this.  Worked a ten hour day today with one 1/2 hour break, and a 12 hour day Friday with a 1/2 hour break then too.  I stay voluntarily for extra time to help the boss, who's a real good guy.

Don't watch a lot of TV lately.  Nothing on much that I like besides Dexter and Survivor.  The Amazing Race sucked out loud this season.  I do like Question Period on Sundays though.  I'm a politics junkie.

I like Rihanna's new song.  Good to see it looks like she's having fun with music again.

We got a new 2010 Hyundai Elantra after bringing back our 2006 Accent near the end of the lease.  Drives like a dream, with air, power locks and windows, remote starter, cruise, tilt, spoiler, just about everything, for the same payments as our Accent.  And we've been wanting an Elantra for awhile.  Big Red is here.

Going for the clean shaven look for a bit and seeing how I like it.  Pictures will help me decide if I can stand the look of myself or not.without the stache or beard.

My wife is getting stronger every week!  She's really working the weight program hard with me at the gym.  I had to skip a couple of workouts because of work last week, but my shoulder healed up good in the interim.  Feels good now.

Papa John's is awesome.  Especially when it's free for a facebook comment.  God bless 'em.

The wife and me have been married 12 years as of  November 28.  Celebrations to ensue this weekend coming, as we were both working on that actual day.  I love the yoga pants she wears to the gym.  ;)

Looking forward to watching "Inception" several times on Blu-ray when we get it soon.  Director Chris Nolan works on "Batman:  The Dark Knight Rises" next, which is going to be awesome when it comes out in summer of 2012.

I love church on Sundays.  Very, very rarely do we miss it.  For those who think it's boring... you're not 'getting it'.  Come to St. Bernard's here in Moncton and listen to the readings (you might hear ME doing that) and the Gospel, then listen to the Father talk about them.  Fr. Carroll and Fr. Toner are excellent speakers who bring wonderful light to the scriptures.

Tough times may be ahead as we try to reign in our daughter's 'maturing' ways as she approaches 15 in April.

Prime Minister Danny Williams.  Could it happen?  If he wants it, I bet he can have it.

My good buddy Marshall has upped and left Vail's.  So has another friend, Karen.  'Shirley' the owners must realize what's wrong at that place and fix the problem once and for all, but I don't care anymore now that Marshall's out of there and is moving on to much happier endeavors.  Karen too.

The Y has gotten its act together over the last couple of months.  We are indeed staying and endorse membership for anyone.

I hope everyone who tunes in here to Ragnar to read my humble thoughts keeps coming back from time to time to see what's going on in my head.  I appreciate your interest.  Back at least once more before Christmas.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Random Thoughts II

Nice to hear at church Sunday morning a parishoner approach me and compliment me on my reading during mass.  I do rehearse before Church on Sundays and try to say what I mean and mean what I say.

A job opportunity is floating in the air for me just out of my grasp, but I need someone from the other side of it to nudge it towards me.  Next time I post here hopefully it'll be good news about that.

Going for counseling via my job coach supplied by Services NB about confidence issues on my part.  I requested the help.  I'm aware of my lack of self worth and want to fix it.

Thinking of switching gyms because of affordability issues, but probably won't.

Could a truck driving education be in my future?  Might be closer than we think.

October 30th a band called 7 Come 11 is playing at Cheers Bar here in Moncton.  My old buddy Wayne plays guitar.  Might check them out as I haven't done so yet.

I'm annoyed that the media takes jabs at Catholics every chance they get.  Brother Andre from Quebec was just canonized into sainthood by the Vatican yet all they seem to talk about is what's wrong with us.

Dr. Oz is going to lecture us via his TV show about aspartame this week.  Doing my own research on the subject and reading various sides, I have no fears.  Sorry Ozzy.

For some reason, I see my daughter running her own Shoppers Drug Mart one day as a front store manager, unless she has even higher aspirations.  We sure are proud of her work ethic.

Considering getting into my drumming a bit more seriously.  Let's see what's on the horizon.

Janice is a bit frustrated at her shrinking without seeing the numbers on the scale dropping.  For a woman in her mid 40's, she can show most women her age what being in shape is all about.

TNA (Total Nonstop Action) Wrestling is fun to watch these days.  More so than WWE.  But the women there are especially fun to look at!  Not to mention they're far more athletic.

But speaking of athletic, the women at the gym I admire the most are of the heavier set.  They're there to make change, and getting through those doors time after time is commendable.

Listening to my cat Crocky woof his cookies as I type this during the night hours.  Almost makes me want to woof myself.

The newest season of Dexter certainly rocks.  If you've never caught this show, find season 1 online or in a video store somewhere and sample it.  I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

David (Awkward) Alward is now running the province.  Into the ground.  Starting off by what looks to be privatizing NB liquor stores and appointing a PC buddy to get the job done.  Surprise, surprise.

The KFC Double Down is finally here.  Don't be scared of the sky high salt and fat in it, that's in all fast food.  What you have to be scared of is the $6.99 they want for it.  NOT a combo.  But, they are good.

I don't like Stephen Harper.  But I do want our military to have those planes.  Yes, it is $16 billion, but in classic Canadian form, are we going to wait until what we have falls apart?  Can you say... Sea Kings?

I know I'm in the minority, but every... single... time... I hear "New York" by Alicia Keys and the talking guy, Jay-Z or whoever, I'm filled with a feeling similar of what I get when I hear nails on a chalkboard.

And I thought some conservatives in Canada were thick.  Have you seen... no, heard... that Christine O'Donnell chick running for office down in the States?  WTF doesn't just stand for the end of the week folks.

The Amazing Race is a downright bore this year.  Survivor was good until they screwed around with the tribes yet again; no more young vs old as advertised.  I'll keep watching though.  What else is on, right?

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  Your time could have been spent doing something else, but you chose to read my thoughts, and I deeply appreciate it.

Till next time....

Monday, October 4, 2010

Random Thoughts I

When I don't feel like posting a long, well-thought-out blog but I still wanna talk, this will probably do the trick.  Anything that pops into my head that I want to share with whoever wants to know, I'll stick it in these Random Thoughts posts.  Kind of like Twitter I guess, but I ain't joining Twitter.

That Fibre 1 commercial with the talking bike seat... where do I get one of those bike seats?  She sounds motivating.  And hot.  Just sayin'.

The Hasselbot... incredibly annoying and seemingly blind to the world, yet hard not to stare at and immensely entertaining.

When will skinny models go away?  What kind of guy likes a really skinny girl anyway?  Are those guys afraid of the meatier girls who will kick their ass?

Chocolate covered almonds rock... my bowels.  But damn they're good.

I might start a blog page documenting David Alward's imminent screwups over the next 4 years.  I hope that page has enough memory on it.  Shawn Graham screwed up colossally too, but the DA scares me.

I don't hate "Glee", just the fans.  No wait... I hate "Glee" too.  Sad that McCartney, Coldplay and even my mighty KISS has sold out to that crap.

Being unemployed really, really, really sucks.  Trying to find work sucks worse.  But, I have traded in work stress for the worrying kind that accompanies Hyperventilation Syndrome.

Nice hearing from Aly, an old AOL buddy when I was on that network way back.  She's actually an inspiration.

Looking forward to "Caprica" tomorrow night.  What a show.  Taken place on a planet in a galaxy a long time ago far, far away like Earth, but not entirely.  Draws parallels that will make people talk.

This blog here does NOT mean I have Attention Defic.... LEGS ARE ON TV!!!!

If you haven't seen me a lot lately, bear in mind I'm an introvert.  It's not you, it's me.

I'm worried about hatred that's bubbling to the surface among some that I know or know of.  Extremists exists among all religions, including Christian.  And none of those extremists are justified.

Speaking of hatred... why is the word "liberal" so reviled by so many?  I'm a liberal conservative.  Or a moderate.  I believe in socialism to some degree but not abortion or capital punishment.

By the way... if you hate "liberals", I AM one.  In other words, find a better outlet for your hatred.  You never know who you're going to offend.  All you need is love.  Love is all you need.

I've been saying it for a long time now, but I believe my brother Rick is pretty much now the official gatekeeper of the Cooks.  And so deserved.  He is the model for what all of his siblings should be.

My daughter is the smartest, hardest working 14 year old I know of and the sweetest.  I might be biased because she's our kid though.

I really like the Dr. Oz show, but it freaks me out a bit.  Is everything around me going to kill me or what?  And does any of his advice apply to men or is he strictly for the ladies?

The Afghan war can not be won and won't be won.  Never in history has democracy been successfully forced upon a society that doesn't have it by a foreign country or countries.  This is no different.

Did Ann Coulter disappear?  I know she's really thin.  Maybe she just turned sideways.

If you think church is the most segregated hour of the week, you haven't been to St. Bernard's here in Moncton.

I wish my daughter wasn't into so much crap music.  But, I do hope one day at least she'll redeem herself by saying "I can't believe I used to like that!"

I said to my wife last night that I believe she is the most reasonable person, man or woman, I've ever known personally.  Strong as an ox mentally... and physically, it's best not to piss her off either.

Here's hoping good luck holds up in my friend Sara's love life.  She deserves happiness.

Thank God for my cats.  These times at home by myself wouldn't be tolerable without those furry little monsters running around.

That'll be all for now I guess.  Any questions or comments?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bombs the way


It has been tough finding work.  Tough, in particular, to find something that will actually please me, and not take me away from my family life.  My past jobs have allowed me that much.  But, I'm not just particular about that.  I don't want to do something I know I'll be miserable doing either.  This includes working in hardware stores.  I'm not one of those He-Man Master of the Home Universe types.  I don't get an erection at the mere mention of power tools like some guys do.  Look, I wish I DID like that stuff, because it serves a mammoth purpose in the practical world.  But alas, it bores the snot out of me.  Anyway, I'm exploring some options this coming week.  I'm going nuts here.


The three of us here in the household waiting a long, long time for August 7 to finally get here.  Me especially, because I needed some kind of a stress outlet and a way to relax at the same time.  What better remedy for that than a KISS show?  The show scheduled for that day at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts near Boston (think of what Dieppe or Riverview is to Moncton, only bigger) is an outdoor show, which worried me a bit as to how the weather was going to behave.  But we were to be armed with ponchos in the event of such a crisis, so no worries.  We were also to graze the hallowed grounds of baseball, where I first acquainted by admiration for a team led by the mighty #14, hall of famer Jim Rice, he the heroic left fielder of the Red Sox whom I followed on WLBZ TV on weekends on cable.  When I played baseball for that one year when I was a kid, my number was 14 too.  I considered that an honor, because Jim Rice OWNED #14.  He da MAN!!  I wouldn't want to wear a sports jersey or shirt with a name on it other than my own unless it was Rice, but I was convinced there was no such shirt anymore in this day.


Our buddy Marshall's been doing a bang-up job with our bedroom, in the meantime.  What looked like an impossible objective at the outset and increasingly more so as more problems were uncovered has turned out to be a very satisfying result, as he's into the home stretch of getting the thing done.  Maybe the most odd thing is Janice and me lying in bed at night with a lamp on, with us staring up at the ceiling and walls in veritable disbelief, even going so far as to waking up at night sometimes to wonder if we were actually in the same room we've been sleeping in for the past 11 years.  We're hopeful that perhaps Thursday night it will all be finished, but it might be a bit longer.  Alexandra's room will be next.  I know she's looking forward to that.


Janice's vacation has been going on for the past week, and it's been very nice in that in a way, we've had our vacation together, although I'm not really on one.  But we've been together and not working for the past week, let's just call it that.  Of course, the end of her vacation time is to culminate with us going to Boston for the KISS show.  As Thursday night came around, the day before departure, everything was ready and set to go so that when Friday morning came, we were going to split town and not look back.  Our longtime pal Sara assumed the task of babysitter for Crocky and Marbles, dropping in on our little furry family members over the two or three days we wouldn't be home.  We got up Friday morning, got a few essentials thrown into the car with our Triptik from CAA along with Kevin (our GPS), and we were on the road.


And what a day it was Friday, warm and sunny, kind of humid, and really pretty much ideal driving conditions.  It might be somewhat of a surprise to some the route that we'd decided to take.  Rather than go through southern New Brunswick to get to St. Stephen and into Calais, we went northwest through Fredericton and Woodstock to get to Houlton, taking the I-95 South all the way through Maine and the rest of New England.  What resulted in taking this road was a whole lot less headaches, and a lot less time, believe it or not, because there aren't even close to as many stops or slow-downs or diversions along the way.  Distance-wise, it's longer, but timewise it's far shorter.  We did encounter some heavy traffic on the interstate as we approached the more populous cities, but as we came into them during rush hour or close to it, it was to be expected.  Nonetheless, despite fumbling the directions on a minor level as we closed in on our hotel in Attleboro, near Mansfield, we got there in about 9 1/2 hours.  We got Alexandra a book she really wanted and presented it to her as we began the road trip, which kept her completely satisfied the whole trip.  I drove the whole distance while Janice provided all my navigation, via Kevin and CAA.  We found the hotel relatively quickly - a motel, to be fair - and it served its purpose quite nicely.  Two double beds for two nights, a washroom w/bath, TV with cable and air conditioning.  That's it though, but nothing else was necessary.  We wound up buying a hardshell cooler that we dumped ice into and kept drinks in, and we ate mostly on the run anyway.  However, the first order of business upon arrival that Friday night was, yes, you guessed it.... the KFC Double Down.  Enter the search for a KFC... found one, in Rhode Island.  Off we go to Rhode Island.  No I'm not joking!  It was only a ten minute drive or so from our motel.  It was not our first experience with the artery-threatening delicacy.  We'd had one on our last jaunt to the U.S. a few months ago, and decided then that it needed an encore when we returned.  We got to the KFC and chowed down.  Good stuff!  Though I think it should come with a complimentary dose of Aspirin to thin the blood for dessert.


After a brief pit stop to a drug store to get some liquids for life (aka Pop in the Belmont Cook household), it was back to the Super 8 motel to unwind a bit before passing out for the night.  It was a pretty good night's sleep actually, and we woke up, got dressed for KISS Army duty and set out to explore our surroundings further.  But first on the agenda, I insisted, was to pay a visit to the home of my baseball heroes Boston Red Sox since 1978, Fenway Park.  Getting to Boston wasn't that hard, but hair raising when you're just a small town guy like me from Moncton driving into the traffic jigsaw at high velocity that is Beantown.  Hearing Janice relay via Kevin that I have to turn right when there are up to three options to turn right was hair raising at times, but once I got acclimatized to it all, it was slightly easier.  We kind of wound up going around Fenway in circles a couple of times as I tried to figure out what I was doing and where I was going ("Hello!  I'm from Moncton!  Stop for ME, because I'm a foreign driver bewildered out of his mind!"), but we did find a place to park and then set out on foot to find things the good old fashioned way.  Just to be sure though, we brought Kevin with us.  You just have to laugh at yourself if you're Janice with a GPS in your hand talking to you telling you where to go as you stand waiting for a walk sign at traffic lights with others around you.  But it was all fun, and funny, and memorable.  And we're together experiencing all of it.


After walking along for a bit, we gaze up and see it.... Fenway Park, the stadium lights defined against the blue sky dotted with clouds, with the multiple entrances below and the legendary Lansdowne and Yawkey Way streets outlining the perimeter.  There were more than a handful of charming, earthy restaurants, shops and eateries surrounding the area, buzzing with life and streams of patrons milling about glaring at the architecture just like we were.  Lexy and I are snapping photos on our digital cams lots as we go.  I'd felt better.  When I got up, I took too many of my daily supplements at once, I suspect, and it may have wound up setting the table for a rather unsettled day for me gutwise.  But I was not about to let that spoil the day for me.  We marched across the street and headed into the Red Sox shop, where everything that ever existed with a Red Sox logo on it was for sale.  This is the holy grail for Red Sox fans!  You name it, it's in there.  As I walked in, there was a ticket booth just to my left where you can buy tickets for a tour of Fenway, which we really had no time for at all.  The thought of this saddened me, because Fenway Park is a place I've only dreamed about being at or in all of my life, practically.  Now this carrot had to dangle in my face and I had to turn down taking a bite of it.  But, I chose to focus on what I had, not what I can't have.  To the right, team jerseys and shirts line the wall, and I spy something I could not deny myself.  The New England-accented clerk behind the counter presented me with my very own Red Sox t-shirt, with "Rice" and "14" adorning the back.  This shirt was made for ME.  And it's been waiting for me since 1978.


We ventured further into the store to look at the various merch, which was staggering.  If it was a Red Sox player and he was a hero from any era, then his number and name existed on something in there.  Alexandra spied a foam finger with the Red Sox logo on it and I picked it up for her, along with a keychain of the famous socks on it.  I got some decals for the car, and we were on our way.  The next place I wanted to go to, out of curiousity if nothing else, was Costco in Boston, just to compare to our own.  After doing a bit of negotiating with Boston's somewhat confusing roadways (to a guy like me anyway), we landed at Costco and patrolled the store.  HUGE.  This place was massive compared to ours, not that we did not expect that.  I got a couple of things, like a pair of jeans for $12, and a big-ass bottle of prostate supplements and an equally huge bottle of D3 supplements, recommended to me from my bro Pete.  Got some good 'ol American chocolate bars too.  Never let anyone tell you the Canadian Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are the same as the American ones.  They aren't.  Same with Hershey's chocolate.  Anyway... we got these cinnamon stick things from the canteen that were pretty good for a buck each, about a foot long of pastry with cinnamon sugar sprinkled on them, and we ventured around the corner to take a peek at the massive Target store adjacent to Costco.  We looked around to see things but didn't get anything outside of a few t-shirts and a new laser pointer toy for the cats, and a floor toy for them.  We split from there to head back to Attleboro to touch base with the motel.


Shortly after that, though, I decided that the best thing for me to do was probably venture out to a drug store to get some Immodium before I exploded in my pants, which is what I felt like might happen at any time.  So we got in the car and headed down the road to find a giant Wal Mart, where we picked up said meds and I took them, and we got a few cases of Diet Cherry Pepsi, Diet Cherry Dr Pepper, a funky flavour of G2 Gatorade I wanted to try, many bags of Pizza/Ranch Collisions Doritos and a case of our buddy Cindy's favorite pop (let's see if she reads this blog...Cindy, get in touch with me to get it).  Alexandra got some things for herself, and Janice spied a Red Sox Kevin Youkilis jersey that she balked at getting, because she wanted a KISS shirt at the show.  The jersey was kind of pricey at around $40.  But it was nice.  I felt a bit guilty not getting it for her.  Back to the motel to drop off all this stuff we got, before it was time to head out to Mansfield once and for all for the Comcast Center.... and KISS.


The three of us finally decided to find a Quizno's Subs place and get our supper there before taking off.  We did find one, right down the street from the motel we were staying at, and we went up to the doors to find ... it was closed.  The next thing we decided on was to say screw it and get something to eat near the venue.  Soooo, off we went.  As we neared the venue, the roads were strewn with police cars and pylons with officers directing traffic.  People were offering their properties for parking for a cool $40 for the night... which we absolutely completely turned down in favor of free parking at the venue itself.  The price we pay for that, however, is in patience, because there are hundreds upon hundreds of vehicles.  We roll into the parking area, among the hundreds of cars filing in, and secure our spot amidst the massive throng of KISS fans, many of whom very evidently had been there long before the time we'd gotten there.  The three of us stepped out into the parking lot, absolutely full of people lined with various kinds of vehicles, many equipped with barbecues, tables, lawn chairs, stereos, mini fridges and coolers, and other unexpected amenities of life you wouldn't expect to find at such a locale.  There were seniors, there were adults our age or slightly older, there were people of ALL ages between 5 and at least 70.  It was an amazing sight to see.  This wasn't just a parking lot of concert goers, this was the KISS community.  Read that again, because I mean it.  This was the KISS Community.  People were in makeup, dancing, drinking, smoking, talking, laughing... it was just amazing.  No sign of fights or even any kind of argument.  Strangers made friends, and strangers helped strangers which made for friends.  It was a feeling that I hadn't felt in this kind of setting before quite like this.  One example; we came upon this beautiful car that had the KISS faces from their 1978 solo album covers airbrushed onto it, along with other famous KISS iconography.  We took pictures of the car from each angle, and Janice wanted to take a picture of Alexandra and myself in front of it.  Then a tall, Italian looking guy with that classic New England accent got up from his chair with his buddies from across the way and introduced himself to us.  "Hey, you wanna picture?  How 'bout I take-a pict-cha of the three of ya?"  "Oh would you?  I'd really appreciate that, man!"  I replied, showing him the button on the camera.  "Whose car is this?"  Janice asked.  "It's my cousin's," her offered, "and he's chargin' people fifteen bucks to have their picture taken wit his car, that's-a fulla shit.  I'm gonna take as many pic-chas as I can before he gets back, fuhgeddabout dat!"  So he took the picture of us, shook my hand and bade farewell, telling us to enjoy the show.  This was the type of interaction that existed at every turn in the place.  What an amazing group of people.  This was KISS country.  And we were there by the thousands upon thousands.  If KISS isn't your favorite band, you can only wish you had other fans of them like this.  We went from that point to another place in the massive area where the Gene Simmons Family Jewels tour bus was, where everyone was taking pictures of themselves in front of it.  Including us.  A friendly gentleman kindly took a picture of the three of us beside Gene's face on the bus, and we got other pictures of it.  No doubt just about everyone there got pictures of this thing.  From there, it was a search for some kind of nourishment.  We found it... in the form of $5 (American funds) hot dogs.  We each had one, and we shared a $5 bottle of Diet Pepsi, before venturing into the grounds of the Comcast Center itself.


From the sounds of it, the first band had already hit the stage.  We walked in out of curiousity to see the staging area and how the seats were laid out, and much to our surprise, it was almost like a massive theatre.  With a roof!  It wouldn't matter if it had rained or not, though it didn't.  It was open air, but the roof covered the entire seating area, and there were trees all around.  Talk about cool looking, I think this is probably the most intimate amphitheatre I've ever seen.  There were probably around 15 to 17 thousand seats plus lawn space at the back, which kids 14 and under were allowed to be on for free.  The seating area was sloped like a hockey arena, only in a theatre-style configuration.  It was something to see.  The next night, Rihanna and Ke$ha were to play there, and just in the past week was the Lilith Fair and Tom Petty, among others before then.  Green Day is supposed to go there later this week among many others.  Anyway.... the grounds very much reminded me of the entranceway to Marineland at Niagara Falls, with a paved pathway lined with trees and kiosks dotting the various courses leading to the entrance of the performance area.  One kiosk was selling vouchers for $25, redeemable to pick up a USB stick at the end of the show of KISS' performance that night that you can download into your computer and play on a CD or mp3 player or whatever you want.  Obviously I got one of those bad boys.  We took a look at other merchandise and I got a tour shirt, Lex got one and I insisted on getting Janice what has become a bit of a collection of hers, a KISS concert zip hoodie which she put on and never took off until we got back to the motel.  That eased the guilt I felt for not getting her that Youkilis jersey.  She beamed from ear to ear!  And of course, Alexandra loved her new shirt (which she's still wearing now as I type this on Sunday night).  I got a bandana too, which I tied around my freshly crew cut head.  We found a much better deal for food at a kiosk just before the entrance to the theatre area, roast beef/swiss sandwiches with fresh chips for ten bucks.  Janice and me had that and Alexandra opted for nachos, and then we headed to take our seats.


Apparently, we'd just missed The Envy, the first opening band, who I'd actually wanted to see.  I knew there were two opening bands, but I thought they'd be the second one.  Instead, the second band, The Academy, we caught start to finish.  KISS is giving local bands a break by getting them to open for them  all throughout the tour, I guess, and The Academy was the chosen one this night.  They weren't bad.  But we were all there for one reason really and one reason only.  We took our seats, which were very good mainly due to the reason that Alexandra had a paid membership to the KISS Army which gives us access to up to four tickets in a presale.  We took advantage of that and got these seats, which were about 20 feet from Paul Stanley's platform, which he flies out to during the encore to sing "I Was Made For Lovin' You".  There were families all over the place taking their seats, and as it was about 3/5 full, the remainder came in to fill the rest of the place up during the intermission leading up to KISS' set.  The lights finally go out, and the deep hum rumbles through the P.A. -- then, "ALLLLL RIIIIIGHT BOSTON!!!  YOOOUUU WANTED THE BEST!!!  YOOOUUU GOT THE BEST!!!  THE HOTTEST...BAND IN THE WORLD... KIIIISSSSS!!!"  The entire throng of fans in the building reciting each and every word of this with the announcer, then a blinding explosion, a giant video screen lights up in kaleidoscope colors, and the three guitar members of the band ascend up and over the pounding drummer on a smoke spewing platform that brings them to center stage, they come off while playing "Modern Day Delilah" and the platform rises to pull a 10 foot high lighted KISS logo up from the floor in front of the drums.  More smoke, more fire, more bombs, and the band tears through a setlist of favorites through the show to sate the desires of all of us.  I don't care what anybody says, Paul Stanley is THE quintessential rock and roll frontman, and there is and will be none better.  No one works a crowd like he does.  Alexandra is to my immediate right, and Janice next to her.  All of us soaking in every moment and reveling in this moment, one of those rare ones that is a KISS concert.  This is Alexandra's second, Janice's fifth, and my ninth.  And who knows when and if it may be our last.  We savour every second of it like it might be the last time.  Moments like Gene Simmons' fire breathing stunt, or his blood spewing just before he flies 80 feet above the stage to a platform above us to sing "I Love It Loud", or drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer's tandem solos where Tommy's guitar blew rockets from the headstock just before he and Eric rose 30 feet up on hydraulics, where Eric grabbed a bazooka and blew off a piece of the lighting rig, or when Paul flew to the platform I mentioned above to play right beside us where we snapped countless pictures, or like seeing KISS perform "Rock and Roll All Nite" with confetti cannons firing a continuous barrage of party paper while bomb after bomb after bomb goes off to blast the ending of the set, with "Thank You Mansfield" lighting up the screen to wish everyone well at the end of the show.  Bomb after bomb.  I mean that!  Those bombs at the end were...well, loud!!  Janice's ear, coicidentally, like mine, are leaving us with the constant sound of...

EEEEIIIINNNNGGGG.... in our left ears.  I've dealt with this before.  A lot!  I've been to a lot of KISS shows.  But speaking for myself, I have to get through a few days until somebody turns off that damn test pattern signal in my head.  But hey.... all for rock and roll!!

We headed back to the motel after that, once we'd gotten ourselves a cool refreshing beverage and a snack, and we crashed into bed to get ready for the voyage home the next morning.    We got up around 10, signed out of our humble motel, and pulled into a Rotten Ronnie's for another dose of artery clogging goodness.  From there we got a smattering of donuts from a place called Honeydew Donuts for the trip, and we hit the highway.  I forgot to mention along the way that we DID have a fruit tray for breakfast Saturday morning, along with orange juice and granola bars, just in case you think we only eat crap all the time.  This is just us on vacation!

The ride home was fantastic.  We stuck true to the I-95 north until the NB border and just rode highway 2 all the way home.  From Boston to Moncton, it took us nine hours.  And here we are, safe and sound, on Belmont Street early morning Monday.

Thanks for taking the time to read about our humble adventure.  Let me know if you did if you kindly could.

Fire up those colortinis now and watch the pictures once they're uploaded fly through the air.

Good night.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

136 Memory St.

It's the wee hours of July 14, 2010 in this present time.  I'm watching the lovely Lisa giving the news on TV with the wife at my side, and our newly installed fan exchanger in the livingroom window sucking and blowing in an effort to keep us cool.  What a hot and muggy couple of weeks it's been, though I will not complain too much about it.  The last few summers were ridden with rain and lousy temperatures, so if this is how it's got to be, so be it.

But I wish other things could be better.  The job hunt is still on, and it's been frustrating to say the least.  Back in the 90's when Janice and me left Green Gables management (she was the brains there, make no mistake), I went through a nasty spell of unemployment despite going back to school and taking computer courses and putting out dozens upon dozens of resumes.  Then I had the choice of going to BJ's Subs to drive or working at a call center.  I decided to drive, and did for eleven years.  I went to Shoppers Drug Mart for a year and a half, then switched from there because of shortened hours to go to Vail's, which I left under less than amicable circumstances.  Now here I am, waiting and watching, biting at every opportunity that comes to me, however without much success.  The worst of all of it is not doing anything.  I love to work, if it's a job that I like doing and for a good boss.  The trick is I won't compromise my time with my family.  This may mean going back to school again if something doesn't materialize soon.  It's scary waiting, that's for sure.  It's hard not to feel like some kind of lazy freeloader. It doesn't help any, either, that I'm a giant softhearted sap.  I decided last week it was time to start wearing a tank top and shorts to the gym, where the weather's pretty much approaching melting status these days.  I have bike shorts that I like that double as swim trunks, and they're pretty snug lycra material.  I don't go for the plaid and cargo borderline skorts that guys wear these days.  Anyway, after a workout I went to a Tim's to get Janice an Ice Cap, and the instant I walked into the empty store at the time, a teenager at the counter giggled and walked back to her friends, where the bunch of them peered over and collectively chuckled.  As I placed my order, she could barely contain her amusement at my appearance.  I know I'm pretty fair skinned as a family trait, but wow.  Back to jeans or track pants and baggy t-shirts.

Anyway... the biggest source of pride in my life, our big little girl Alexandra, is having an okay summer, but my not working put the kibosh to what was supposed to be a fun time in Ontario in August.  The saving grace is that we do everything as a family and won't give that up for anything either.  We're as tight a unit as you can get, and although times might not always be pristine, we at least have each other.  Lex is coming off a stellar school year, her best yet, bringing home an 'A' average and getting ready now to go to Harrison Trimble for grade 9.  She's getting back into taekwondo now as of this week to keep herself active.  It's a little bit tough because there aren't many kids around the neighbourhood, and of course we don't have the kind of funds to enroll her in any sports programs.  But she's very strong of mind and body and she has a healthy attitude.

Janice is doing great at work, having finally fixed her staff problems she had managing her post office and getting terrific support from her bosses.  I think everyone wants to work for the kind of people that she works for.  They listen to her ideas (which I actually sometimes suggest to her!  point!), her concerns, and do everything they can to make her happy.  And that's how you run good business.  Her post office's revenues have tripled if I'm not mistaken, because she's that good at what she does.  You should see her in action with her customers!  She treats them the way they want to be treated, plus even better.  You don't get the kind of service she delivers from a whole lot of places.  She's been dedicated to her gym routine too.  She goes every day, with an aim to burn off at least a pound on cardio, or around 1100 calories.  That's not to say the pounds are melting off.  That's a tough challenge, but she is shrinking.  Just tonight she bought herself a pair of size 16 pants, which for her is a monumental achievement.  I couldn't be more proud of her accomplishments.  If I could even approach her level of success I would be happy.

I've been upping my gym activities lately myself.  I mean, not working makes me pretty antsy, so I go everyday now myself.  There's a facebook group for weightlifting that I subscribe to, and it sent out a link for a chest workout that I've been trying.  As it is, I do weights every third day, and cardio every day like Janice.  On the non-weight days I'll do an hour and a half or more of cardio.  The weight days, I'll do between 15-30 minutes of cardio and another hour and a half of weights, although the chest workout is only once a week because it's kind of intense.  And I do stretching everyday of course or I'd snap like an overstressed rubber band at some point.  Going to the gym has actually become more of a hobby than a chore, because I leave feeling refreshed and recharged.  I honestly don't know how some people can go to the women-only fitness clubs though, how boring is that?  I know the members turnover at those places is high.  No wonder!  Hey, I'm a red blooded man, I appreciate the sights surrounding me.  I mean, I go to the Y, and everyone that goes there generally goes with someone else anyway.  It's big and open and is the best atmosphere of any gym I've ever been to.  Going has certainly paid off with me; I hover around 180-185, and my heart rate is around 56.  I hope a year or two from now I'm still gushing about going to the gym, but I'm at the point right now where I actually enjoy going.  Janice too.

And hey, speaking of fitness, have you tried those Cheeseburger Doritos yet??  Holy livin' Lord, those are the cat's ass.  Janice came home yesterday telling me that it's just like a McDonald's Quarter Pounder in a chip bag.  If a crunchy Quarter Pounder doesn't sound appealing to you, think again.  You wouldn't believe how much this tastes like one.  With the ketchup, mustard and hamburger and cheese and everything.  Unbelievable!

This weekend the movie "Inception" comes out.  I've had a countdown on my facebook page for the last year and a half or something.  Chris Nolan is one of my favorite all-time directors, and I know this one's gonna be the talk of the town.  Nolan, of course, directed "Batman Begins", "The Dark Knight", "The Prestige", "Memento" and "Insomnia", all first rate films that are meant to be seen lots of times each.  I don't think a movie is good if you walk out of it and you don't want to see it again.  That happened this past weekend when we went to the Neptune Drive-In in Shediac, the three of us, and saw "The Karate Kid" for the second time and "Grownups" for the first time.  "Grownups" had its funny moments, some really funny ones, but it grew tiring and oh-brother-ish less than halfway through and I really have no desire whatsoever to watch it again.  Janice and Alexandra felt the same way.  The friggin' mosquitos provided a sideshow, creeping into the car despite the netting and making a full course meal out of us.  Especially Janice who's still itchy from bug bites today.  Still, it was family time, and we had fun in spite of all that.

Our bedroom is getting an extreme makeover, for the past few weeks.  Right now drywall compound is going on it, from a guy we hired to do it that I used to work with at Vail's named Marshall.  To any of my siblings who are reading this, you owe it to yourselves to come see this room when it's all done, because I had it built to look virtually identical to the boys' room at 136 Emmerson.  Right down to the sloped walls to the windows with the ballpark lights shining through at nighttime and the storage attics at either end of the room, and the closet even.  I wake up at night sometimes even thinking that I'm back at the old house.  What a magnificent job Marshall has done at creating this for me.  And the guy's heart is as big as his brains are, which says a lot, because he's a sharp dude.  He did the electrical for us too.  He'll move on to Alexandra's room next, hopefully I'll be working by then.

In closing... I did promise my facebook friends that I would post a recipe for a broccoli casserole that is now in the oven as I type this edit in before I publish the blog.  So, here we go....

What you'll need:
*2 heads of freshly chopped broccoli
*1 pouch of Uncle Ben's Fast and Fancy rice... I chose Country Homestyle Chicken flavor
*2 cups of Uncle Ben's brown minute rice
*2 chopped sweet red peppers... you know, those long skinny ones, or if you want, one of the big fat ones, but those long skinny dudes are BITCHIN'
*About half a bunch of green onions, chopped
*1 can of Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup
*Kraft Tex Mex Cheese
*I large bag of Spicy Quesadilla Tostitos
*Olive oil and garlic powder

-Steam the broccoli... careful not to make it soggy
-Prepare the Fast and Fancy rice, letting it stand as long as you can
-Prepare the two cups of Uncle Ben's brown minute rice
-Sautee lightly the mushrooms and peppers in olive oil... be generous with the oil, it's good stuff
-Sautee about 2 cups, or one of those fresh blue packages, of chopped mushrooms in olive oil, and let those suckers soak up some of that yummy tasting oil, just be careful not to heat the oil too much

Combine all that stuff and stir it up real good, and sprinkle some garlic powder in there.  Be careful not to use garlic SALT, that'll overwhelm things.  Then, add in a can of Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup (or, Cream of Mushroom, but my experience showed me that the chicken one was tastier).  Stir that up real good, and put it in a medium sized casserole dish, or one that'll fit.
Next, you're going to sprinkle some Kraft Tex Mex Cheese (today I used shredded marble because we ran out... s'all good, but Tex Mex rules).  Not too, too much.  Then, the big secret of the dish... Spicy Quesadilla Tostitos.  Take those rounds and neatly and evenly distribute them over the casserole, then stick them in on the sides of the dish -- that will make for awesome little dipping chips when you serve the finished product, plus hold all the stuff in when you put it in the oven!  After you're done with the chips, put lots of cheese on top of the chips you laid out on the dish.
Bake it in the oven at 350F for about 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese begins to brown.  Careful not to burn the chips too.

Let me know how you made out with it if you try it.  

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ice Cold.

I changed my mind.  What I was going to do was a time capsule kind of blog thingy, where I'd release blog entries one year from the time I'd authored them.  But, as time would have it, things have changed a lot in my life to the point where I perhaps have more time on my hands than I would wish.

I'll explain that right now.  As most of whomever is interested enough to read knows, I'm unemployed at the time that I write this.  I have been now for a few weeks.  It's not from a lack of looking for more work.  I've e-mailed and brought resumes and applications to plenty of places, only to be met with virtually nothing.  I've yet to see an interview materialize from my efforts, but as I've been told, if I want the right job for me, I'm going to need to exercise patience.

It was just a few weeks ago that I was still at Vail's Dry Cleaning, my last job, where I was working my floor job with my partner whom I was training.  Until I was called into the office on that last day.  "Ray," I said to one of my bosses, "I can't believe you're telling me you don't trust me!  I've been doing this job for a year and a half, and you're only telling me now that you don't trust me?  Then why was I ever here to begin with?"  His cohort/brainwasher/plant manager (or, mangler as I put it) Shirley stood by his side, arms akimbo, and reassured that a 'problem' was about to be erased.

"I don't want you on my lines screwing up my work, like you've been doing for the last year!  You can't tell me it wasn't you making those same mistakes over and over."  "There was TWO of us, Ray.  I know what mistakes you're talking about.  I know I made them in the beginning.  I don't make those same mistakes now, and the new guy is only learning..."

"I'm stopping you right there."  Well, at this point, I knew where this was all going.  "I know for a fact you've been making those same mistakes because they're out there on the line right now that you were working on."  I wasn't responsible for the work he's talking about that particular week.  "What do you have to say about that?"

"Nothing."  I crossed my arms.  "Nothing?  So you're admitting you made those mistakes."

"No, Ray."  I looked at Shirley square in the eye, then back to him.  "What I'm saying is, I know I can't win here.  I know what's going on.  She doesn't want me here, and now you don't either."  It became clear to me in my final weeks that Shirley has been the puppeteer of her superior officers at the plant.

Five weeks beforehand, my last partner, Kim, left the job on the spot because the owners basically had her choose between her young son being home from school ill alone, and her job.  Naturally she chose her son.  She walked away and never came back.  The following 3-4 weeks saw me managing my department by myself, with some help occasionally from others, but I was in charge of thousands of uniform garments being sorted numerically, separated by days and driver numbers.  This isn't a job you can take any Joe from the street and expect them to have it down in a week.  Or even two.  Before Kim, her brother Darren was my partner, and he walked because of being completely and utterly under-appreciated.  Darren was better at the job than I was, one of the smartest people to work in the plant.  Before Darren, I worked with Craig, who wasn't cut out for the job at all, but got shafted by management with the classic layoff, telling him when the work picked up they'd have him back.  That's four partners I've worked with during my 1 1/2 year tenure.  Yet I'm the one who was making all the mistakes, apparently.

After Kim left, for those 3-4 weeks I was alone, I had that department humming.  I explicitly asked the drivers, who deliver the rental garments after they've been assembled in order, to inform me of any mistakes, so that I might learn from them and not make them repetitiously.  During that near-month, I never heard from any of them.  Things were done on time, in fact most often far ahead of time.  A two person job, done by myself, with efficiency.  I have eyewitnesses who will attest to this.

Sometime in the middle of this period, Shirley informs me that I have to choose my vacation time.  I'm brought into the office to see the calendar, to find the entire summer wiped out because it was taken by everyone else.  Shirley herself took three weeks during the summer.  I could take time in June or September, which was absolutely no good to me, because Alexandra is in school then, and I'm not taking vacation without my family.  I tell Shirley there's no point in me taking vacation, then.  "Well, around here you have to have time in to get your vacation."  No joke, that's what I was told.  Later, though, she reconsidered.  She asked me to pick the time I would want to take.  I said the last week of July, and the first week of August, and she said she'd talk to the boss.  I never heard back.

Enter Mike, a tall, slender, tattooed fellow whom one might guess on first impressions is far less smart than he really is.  But he is instantly likeable, and once you've conversed with him for some length of time, you realize how worldly and intelligent he really is.  I have to believe that management underestimated his brainpower when they hired him, thinking perhaps they hired another puppet.  Mike learned fast; perhaps not fast like Darren, but faster than I had learned, though experience and time would have to be taken to hone his skills in this department.  Plus, he learned through techniques that I had developed after I had taken over that department.  Had I learned via my own methods, I might have learned just as fast.  I authored a booklet when Darren was there with specific instructions and pointers to keep the lines in good order, a booklet that Darren swore got him through a lot of tight spots.

Shirley has her stool pigeons in the plant, those who will watch for any movements or missteps to be reported back to her, whether they were actually wrong or not.  There's a clique of hers that she has protecting her, and newer employees are to be grafted into her network or wind up being canned as soon as she felt they were a threat.  All those I mentioned above that came and went were all threats in some measure.  And I was looming as perhaps one of the bigger ones.  Rules persistently changed, seemingly daily, and they seemed to be designed to make her workers look inferior, to build a case for the point in time that came she wanted them gone.  It was part of her puppet-master scheme.

Frequently, one of Shirley's stool pigeons came into our department and broke just about every single rule Shirley ever made for managing the rentals.  Taking shortcuts, disregarding guidelines, and completely blind to the standards that I had set since I took over the department.  I took more pride in my work than most there will ever know.  I could never be perfect at my job... but that doesn't mean that I had to stop trying to be perfect at it.  Still, "G" came into my department and made an utter mess of it.  She would frequently give me 'pointers' and tell me what had to be done for her standards, which I absolutely had to disregard.  Of course, since I did things so radically different, and superior, to her, she ran to Shirley with a whole ton of problems she had with the way I did things, none of which ever amounted to a hill of beans.  Anyway, Mike continued with the methods that I had shown him, asking me for assistance whenever he hit a roadblock, with which I always graciously helped him with and put him at ease about, because I was once where he was.

One day I came in from a mid morning break, to find Ray and Shirley with Mike on the lines.  I knew something was up, so I went and stood with Mike, as I'd done before, whenever he screwed up and had a talking to, just for support.  I know I'd have wanted it.  As they proceeded to explain to him what was wrong with one particular line he had worked on, they turned to me, and told me that they were MY mistakes.  Mike insisted it was him because it was his line they were talking about, and they insisted it was me.  Incredible.  Shirley and Ray tag-teamed with their finger pointing at me, saying I'd done all this stuff wrong and that we have to clean up our act, and as I proceeded to just say that it was just Mike making a few rookie mistakes like I made when I started, they insisted I was still making them!

I stood there when the area cleared, just looking into space.  I got a piece of paper, after some soul searching, and wrote my letter of resignation.  "To whom it concerns:  This is a notice of my resignation from the company.  My last day of work will be [five weeks from that date].  Sincerely..."  I wanted to leave immediately.  But, against that judgment, I opted to give plenty of notice to find a replacement, so that I might train them and get them used to the department for when I left.  This isn't an easy job to catch onto, but, I felt I was best equipped to train someone at that point in time.  No one knew it the way I did. During that five weeks, I would make my job search while I trained a new guy, I figured.  This is all without a net.  I didn't have a job to go to.  I was leaving because, like Darren, I felt underappreciated, not to mention unjustly condemned for faulty workmanship.  This was my last bid at being a nice guy before I left.

Since the boss had been away, I left the notice with Ray, who was next in charge.  "What're you giving me this for?"  "Because you're in command when the boss is gone, right?"  And I left him with my notice.  "Do you have something else to go to?"  "No, I don't."  This was around 10:30am.  I went back to my work with Mike.

"Well Mike," I informed him, "this is it for me.  I gave my notice."
"That just sucks, man.  That really sucks.  I don't get why they said that."  Mike knew exactly where I was coming from.  His remorse was deeply emoting and heartfelt.

Lunchtime came, and I headed out to MacArthur's Nurseries to get my wife some roses and some lunch. I brought it in to her, told her what transpired very quickly, then headed back to work.  I went back into the plant and began to work on the lines, when I was paged to go to Shirley's room.

"What's this?" she said, holding the yellow paper I'd written my notice on.
"That's my notice."
"Well, this is you telling us when you're leaving."
"Right.  I'm giving around five weeks notice."
"YOU don't tell US when your last day is.  WE tell YOU when you're done.  Not you."

I'm standing there, obviously with a "WTF?!" look on my face.  "Well, wait a minute now...."

"No no.  If Rodd (the boss) had gotten this note first, he'd have told you to leave on the spot.  He wouldn't be taking any of this."
"Taking any of what?  I'm supposed to give two weeks notice, by company rules, and gave five to give YOU more time and help train a new person."
"You're not gonna be training anybody."

Wow.  Once again, she's twisted and contorted everything to make it something that would best serve her, and not for the good that it was intended.  I'd just been doused with several gallons of Instant Bad Guy.

I leaned on the counter across from her and looked her square in the eye, something she rarely does to anyone.  "So this is what you want, then.  This is what you've wanted ALL along.  I guess I should have known better.  You wanted me gone for a long, long time, and this is your chance to have it your way."  I turned, shut the door and went back to my station.  For about five minutes.

"Mike come to my office."  Ray summoned me this time.  I took a look at my Vail's jacket hanging by my station, looked at Mike, and headed to the office.  I peeked into my buddy's room, said farewell, knowing full well what was happening, and marched on.  I stepped into the office, with Ray holding the yellow paper, and.... Shirley standing right beside him.

"So what's going on here?  What do you think you're doing?"
"Well that's the notice I gave you this morning."
"What are you doing telling us how long you're going to be here?  It's up to us how long you're here."
You see what happened here?  The puppeteer was at work.  Ray got the same notice at 10:30, over two hours earlier.  He asked me, seemingly concerned, if I'd had something else lined up!  And now...

"Ray, I'm just trying to help out before I go."
"What, you can't take being told you made mistakes?"
"I didn't make those mistakes you said that I did."
"I was there on the line!  I saw the mistakes!  The driver showed me!"

I stood there in silence.

"I'm not going to argue," I said.  "I know it's something I can't win.  The writing's on the wall."

"You're not going to be doing this for another two weeks.  By law, we only need to keep you for another two weeks, because that's the law.  None of this five weeks stuff.  Shirley will give you stuff to do around the plant, but you're not gonna be working my lines.  I'm not gonna let you fuck it all up just as you're about to leave.  I don't trust you."

"Ray...I can't believe you're telling me you don't trust me!  I've been doing this job for a year and a half, and you're only telling me now that you don't trust me?  Then why was I ever here to begin with?"  

"I don't want you on my lines screwing up my work, like you've been doing for the last year!  You can't tell me it wasn't you making those same mistakes over and over."  
"There was TWO of us, Ray.  I know what mistakes you're talking about.  I know I made them in the beginning.  But I don't make those same mistakes now, and the new guy is only learning..."

"I'm stopping you right there.  I know for a fact you've been making those same mistakes because they're out there on the line right now that you were working on.  What do you have to say about that?"

"Nothing."  I crossed my arms.  "Nothing?  So you're admitting you made those mistakes."  

"No, Ray."  I looked at Shirley square in the eye, then back to him.  "What I'm saying is, I know I can't win here.  I know what's going on.  She doesn't want me here, and now you don't either."
"So you're going to be here for two weeks."

"Try two seconds."
I turned and slammed the door shut on the two of them and walked through the plant to gather my belongings.  I got my radio and my lunch bag... and my Vail's jacket that was hanging up, as Shirely stood there watching, I threw in the garbage can.  Then, I picked up the booklet I'd authored, and tore it into shreds, while Shirley watched in a panic, her stool pigeon at her side ready to take over my duties.  

"What are you doing!"  
"I wrote this.  This was MINE.  What good is it to you if all I ever did was make mistakes!"  I threw it in the garbage with the jacket, shook Mike's hand and wished him well, and left.  

The anvil was off my chest.  

As I drove back down Mountain Road that day, to see my wife at work to inform her that her husband is out of a job, I felt a mix of an odd sense of freedom, and a feeling that I let my family down.  Though I knew Janice was going to be supportive of everything I had done.  But that kind of support doesn't pay the bills.  And that's what worried me.  But Janice actually congratulated me on leaving.  So did just about everyone I told.  It seemed it was the popular consensus that Vail's is a dirty, backstabbing place to work, and that a lot of people waited to see if I could go the distance.  I went as long as I could.  

The last time I was at my doctor's before then, I was tempted to ask to sign off on stress leave, because it had been bad at that time too.  It was tough to take a lot of times, but this was just the last straw.  Maybe I should have asked for some kind of exemption, in retrospect.  But, here I am now.

With all due respect to those who have had to claim EI at any time in their lives, it's not a place I ever wanted to visit.  But after I'd applied to business after business for work, all in vain, I realized that I may need that cushion of support.  My aunt Bernice was so gracious so as to leave me money in her will, which arrived shortly before I left my job.  I'd paid off all of our debts, but it left me with enough to help us get through a month or two while I continued my job search.  Still, it's slow going.

I entered the Services NB desk with my wife at my side, and asked how I would go about applying for benefits.  I was directed to a wall of cubicles with computers where I would fill out my online application, with a rather unexpected questionnaire.  After filling out my essential information, the questions began...

"Do you feel you were forced out of your workplace?"
"Did you feel that you were abused in any way?"
"Were you discriminated against for any reason?"

What is the old Klingon proverb, "revenge is a dish best served cold"...