Hard work is not always its own reward...

When I was younger, I worked as a cook. I started out in high school washing dishes and kept at it until I was making salads and desserts, then I was on the line. I eventually went to cooking school after high school and continued in that line of work until I had a health issue that prevented me from continuing. The job let me live in and explore some beautiful places but most of the time I was just working hard for long hours.
This is the first of what I think could be a series of blog posts based on the things I learned doing that job. It stands out in my mind because I was very excited about the culinary world when I was young and I wanted that to be my career, eventually leading to my own restaurant or perhaps working as an executive chef of a large hotel. I made it to sous-chef of a small restaurant by the time my journey ended. A lot of people glamorize the profession due to way its portrayed in the media. Watch The Bear for an honest look at the reality of the job.
The lesson this post concerns is "hard work isn't always rewarding". 
We are taught, growing up, that hard work is its own reward. This can be true. It feels really good to work very hard on something and see it through. Persistence and exertion can get you through a lot of difficult situations. Studying a new skill can lead to employment, working hard on fitness can increase your quality of life, and learning an instrument can be satisfying for you and entertaining for your friends and family. 

But sometimes, hard work isn't rewarding, it's just hard. I learned this lesson the hard way. I worked in a busy kitchens that had high standards and expectations both around the food and around the cooks. We worked long hours, often without breaks, and had to deal with constant pressure, criticism, and complaints. I thought that if I worked hard enough, I would be rewarded with recognition, promotion, or a raise. Those things did happen but not to the degree that you would think. Other than some time I spent working at a hotel in Switzerland, the most money I made in North America was $10 an hour. It's hard to live on that.

The lesson I learned was that if hard work that has no real reward is not good for you. It's stressful, it wears you down, it makes you angry and frustrated. For this low reward scenario, you really have to love what you are doing for it to make sense. There has to be some altruistic component. 

If you find yourself in a situation where work is drudgery but you have no way out of the job, the only way you are going to enjoy life is if you find comradeship there. That was often the case in kitchens. We shared a bond forged through hard work and being there for each other. While I don't miss being broke, living in rundown apartments, and have no social life because I worked when other people were out having fun, I do miss the comradeship and how good an ice cold beer tasted after a long night. But, at the end of the day, I could not build a life that way. I had no real future. I am lucky that I was forced out of that life as it let me grow as a person and discover that I was capable of doing other things, things I find more rewarding. 
Do I still work hard? Of course. But it's not as hard as cooking. It's different. I find the intellectual challenges of my job to be stimulating and there's compensation that allows me to live securely and safely with my family. That's the real reward.


Article - Deep in the Amazon, researchers have uncovered a complex of ancient cities — using laser technology

Deep in the Amazon, researchers have uncovered a complex of ancient cities — using laser technology:

> "Wow" was all archaeologist St├ęphen Rostain could say when LiDAR (light detection and ranging) laser technology revealed several ancient cities hidden deep in the Amazon rainforest.

I keep reading things like this. As technology is developed that can be used to look into the past, we continue to find surprising things about humanity that we previously hadn't considered. 

There are discoveries every year that push further back into the past the first use of tools, of agriculture, of large civilizations in areas we thought were populated by hunter gatherers. Is there any way to know how far back we go? How could you possibly know you have found the "earliest" of anything? All you know is it's the oldest thing you've found. And there could be a lot of evidence of previous civilizations and technologies that are simply gone due to the passage of time. 

One reason I want to live as long as possible is to be here to learn about all the fascinating discoveries that will be made by archeologists. In some way, it's more exciting that scientific advances that lead to better materials or new technologies.


Bitter cold

It is very, very cold here in Edmonton. Overnight lows will be below -50 Celcius.

If you have never experienced cold like this, you will be very, very cold regardless of what you are wearing in a short period of time. That cold stays with you once you are back inside. 

Now, consider the fact that there are people in this city living outside in this in tents. The sometimes will have two tents and some tarps over them which creates an insulating layer to trap body heat but we are talking about a cold so deep that best you are going to get in this situation is maybe -15 or -20 in the tent. Then next step is wearing as many clothes as you can get and wrapping in a sleeping bag, probably with your head inside the bag. 

And you are still going to be cold. 

So spare a thought for them.

I am doing some research on the problem of homelessness in Canada. It seems like the public money being spent on this issue is under 5% of what would be needed. It seems like we don't really want to fix this. 

Maybe one day we'll figure it out and spend more money on this and less on the military (which we don't spend that much on in the first place). 

The Canadian defense budget is about 26.5 billion. I estimate that to completely solve Canadian homelessness in 10 years, you would need about that much per year. This would pay to house everyone that would be homeless in that period in secure housing with appropriate care, security, and food. 

 The question is "how much of that military budget can we transfer over to the homelessness problem"? The military probably thinks this number is $0. Or close to it. But what if their primary mission was to solve this problem?


Hearing - Eustachian Tube incident

OK, there have been several times in my life where I had a bad cold with a lot of sinus congestion and ended up not being able to hear much out of my right ear. It's like I have an earplug in that ear. 

Apparently, this is a result of my Eustachian Tube being blocked.

In the past I have coincidentally gone on a trip involving a flight or a drive into the mountains which ended up fixing the issue. This might sound like quite the coincidence but I have had this problem go on for several weeks each time it happened before. 

This time, there was no trips planned. I did the usual googling of all the possible treatments. I was massaging below my ear, trying to force air into my sinuses, sipping water while holding my nose, chewing gum, and so on.

Nothing worked. 

I eventually decided I would try a nasal decongestant. I really don't like them but I did try this eventually and it worked. At the end of the third day (today) the problem cleared up. 

Drixoral Nasal Congestion Spray is the product I bought. Wow, so many warnings. I heeded them. I somehow survived the use of this product and by today (the end of the third day) I was good. I can hear again, the pressure is gone, etc. 

  • use as directed
  • keep a glass of water handy while you are inhaling this stuff as it will run down the back of your throat and it tastes horrible
  • keep a box of Kleenex handy, you'll need it for a few minutes after you use this as your nose will run like crazy
I am mostly putting this here so I'll remember what product I used next time but I hope this helps someone.