30 June 2005

Breaking-up is hard to do

Ending a long term relationship isn't like taking off a band-aid, it's like getting gum out of your hair. My little sister is going through just such a break-up. After five years, her boyfriend broke her heart - over the phone long distance with no tact or compassion. He as good as told her he doesn't love her anymore and she's not marriage material. He wants a summer free to drink, screw, sleep and not be held accountable for even one action. The little troll still calls her with half-hearted delcarations of platonic love mixed with disrespectful digs at her emotional state. They both still have the same crowd of friends that are understandably sympathetic with my sister, but probably (as would be the case for most people's peers) have no intention of black listing him in her honour.

I'd really like to take his clothes and furniture (we've been babysitting his belongings assuming that when he came back to Victoria in the fall they'd be living together) and fuel a beach bonfire in Caddy Bay. Still trying to retain some dignity, my sister wants to give him every consideration and remain civil. So a friend of mine suggested my energy would be better spent helping her recover. We put together a package for her.

The Break-up Basket:

Bath Bombs - to perk her up
Kleenex - because she'll still be sad from time to time
Trashy Tabloid - there are worse stories in the world
Pocket Book of Women's Wit and Wisdom - where else would it come from?
Chocolate Truffles - self-explanatory comfort food
Face Mask - for pampering at home until the world seems nicer
Crowned with a Tiara - because she still rules

While I have to concede that I've been writing a spa newsletter for too long now to sound as much like a journalist as I once did, I'm glad the girly mindset comes in handy. The basket had exactly the desired effect and she's feeling a bit better.

25 June 2005

My latest acquisition

These should be on their way from Philadelphia.

4g or 5mm carved black horn. $4.99 USD for the pair. E-bay rules!

21 June 2005

A Visa works just as well

Travel-size shampoo, shave gel, toothpaste and deodorant: $10

Pacific Coach Lines tickets: $44

Sky Train ticket: $2

800 speed zoom film: $6

2 gin and tonics @ Steamworks: $12

Pizza by the slice: $1

Interior design goodies from Ikea: $50

White chocolate mocha @ Starbucks: $4

2 strapless tops from Urban Planet: $30

Dinner and drinks @ the Earl's on Robson: $50

Approximately 40 pay & talk minutes: $11

Roast chicken and fruit salad at a BC Ferries cafeteria: $13

Fabulous weekend in Vancouver at an old friend's new place: Totally worth it!

(but really $233)

15 June 2005

Some little part transmission fluid flows through

"$320 for a freakin' coolant leak? You've got to be kidding me! How did this go from a $50 oil leak to a monumental financial disaster?"

My sister stared back at me blankly, blinking slowly. I'd asked her to take my car in to have an oil leak examined.

"I don't know why you're freaking out at me. First he said $50, then he said it was going to be more like $320 if he had to replace the coolant tank. You know this stuff is never cheap. It's not my fault."

I knew she hadn't poked holes in my coolant tank or conspired with the Canadian Tire mechanic to rip me off. I could afford the repair and I knew that allowing the splotch patchwork on my driveway to grow wasn't an option. And I'd paid more in the past for other repairs to my littlest SUV.

So why was I so livid? I realized that if any other business conducted itself the way some automotive shops do, it would cease to function quickly. No wise business person indifferently tells customers that there is no certain price or expected completion date. In that light, I feel a little more justified and a little less irrational in my frustration.

After I calmed down and called the Canadian Tire mechanic back, I found out that playing the telephone game over car repairs is a bad plan. It wasn't the coolant tank, it was some other little tank (the guy said a mini radiator as though that gives me a mental picture) and it would cost $185 for parts and labour, before tax.

Now I get to roll the dice again to have weather stripping on the side of my windshield replaced. Maybe. I hate driving anyway and I'd rather take the bus.

09 June 2005

Post-secondary paths

Watching my sister graduate from university and my partner plan for trade school has forced me into reflection mode. Not just looking at my own post-secondary choices, but on the entire system. Last night I listened to Matt Damon's fake North Eastern US accent chastise a yuppie. "You’ve dropped $150 grand on an education that you could have got for $1.50 in late fees from the public library." I'm still not sure - even at the bargain price of $25,000 CAD - if the cost of getting smart is worth it.

Anyone who grew up in a Canadian middle class home over the last twenty years was instructed to head off to university directly after high school. Parents and teachers told us that university was the right, respectable path and that our careers depended on it. Regardless of where the money came from, we all HAD to have a degree.

But disgruntled grads in BC and across Canada are starting to ask themselves and society about the validity of their degrees. Demographics insist that the impending baby-boomer retirement wave will save us all. Still, regardless of optimism and statistics, the non-existant return on investment for bachelor's degrees is not currently paying off student loans for many recent graduates.

The Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation reported that nine out of ten students over the age of 26 owed an average of $20,500 as of March 2003. In October 2002, the Foundation recorded that 93 per cent of university graduates and 85 per cent of college graduates in Western Canada had a job within six months of graduation.

But what jobs did they have? Statistics fail to capture a common problem experienced by recent graduates - underemployment. A university graduate with a major in philosophy is underemployed if he or she works in an entry-level retail position.

In October 2003, the Business Council of British Columbia released an update to the 2001 report titled The Third Option. According to the update, 69 per cent of parents want their children to go to university while about 20 per cent of students who complete high school actually go.

Not every student that wants to go to university is accepted. Even more unfortunate are the youth who are accepted by a university only to find very little career direction and perform poorly because university was the wrong choice for them. A huge waste of time and money.

Meanwhile, a looming trades shortage offers career options to the 80 per cent of high school grads who don't go to university. Although the process for apprenticeships is changing in BC, occupations requiring skilled labour in around 160 trades will still provide sizable incomes over the next couple of decades.

But what will young grads do with the degrees they already have? Retrain? Pursue a post-grad degree? Persevere until the right job opens up? Personally, I've never relied on the vague promise that someone, somewhere nearby will soon quit a lucrative job that I would enjoy and do well. Like the rest of my generation, I've tried to make myself as flexible, employable and thrifty as possible. Armed with a very expensive education that is less competitive in the labour force, I will continue to specialize and diversify at the same time. Hopefully the result will be something that feels like success.