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It's been an eventful past couple of weeks here at basic training. First off, the week before last, we went back out into the field for another 5 days. The purpose of this trip was Exercise Grizzly, which is basically the final test of our "Initial Assessment Period" of basic officer training. This is basically where they figure out if they want to spend any more money on us. The gist of it was that we were all put in command of a squad of 8 people, and given some equipment, and told to perform some task such as building a rope bridge, or setting up a fake mine field. So while we were doing this, we were being evaluated. Not on if we actually finished our task correctly and on time, but on our leadership potential, and if we took the "correct" steps when going about planning the task.

Long story short, I screwed it up the first time around. I was given the job of lifting a concrete block onto a platform. The task itself went well, and we got the thing up there just fine. However, the Sargeant who was evaluating me though that I wasn't directive enough when supervising my troops, and didn't like the fact that I let them make some of the decisions on how to lift it. That'll be a side affect of having 5 engineers in the group.

So, anyways, I didn't pass the first go around, but thankfully, they gave us a 2nd chance. I had to throw together an improvised toboggan. I ended up having them lash together a frame, and we were just about to attached the water jerry cans that I was going to use as runners, when the Warrant Officer who was evaluating me stopped us, and told me that he had seen enough, and that I had passed. The actual task itself wouldn't have worked. I had forgotten to ask what terrain the toboggan would be going through, and it was much too wide for the forest it was intended for. It actually looked more like a catamaran than a toboggan.

But, it didn't matter, because they didn't really care about a toboggan. He thought I was on top of things, supervising closely, and issuing new orders when needed, and keeping my troops motivated when they were starting to slow down. Hey, yay me. Passing is fun.

The next day, the Thursday to be exact, I had a not soo good day. We were doing a Maritime Crossing, basically a zip line across a river. While waiting in line to do so, I decided I was hungry, and pulled a Vector bar out of my pocket. Opened it up, and bit into it. It was of course, almost frozen solid, so I had to give it a little force. Bad idea, as it turns out the bar won.

Now, I'd had a root canal on one of my teeth, and the dentist had screwed it up. Basically, within a year of the surgery, the cap or crown or whatever it was had started coming apart, chipping away a bit at a time. This tooth wasn't in the best of shape, so I'm not all shocked that it came out. However, it's rather annoying, when it's like the one next to the middle teeth on top. Interferes with smiling greatly.

But, we've got a dentist in our platoon, so I went to go talk to her about the tooth I had just lost a few seconds ago, and she said that since there was no pain, due to the aforementioned root canal, that I shouldn't worry about it till we got back to base. Long story short, got it looked at by the base dentist, and I'm getting a temporary crown put in tomorrow. 2 weeks later, not too bad I guess. Especially for being free of charge.

So, our platoon finished off the week with a 13 km march, complete with a 50 lb rucksack loaded onto our back. Took us 2 hours, 9 minutes to complete, which was definitely a nice pace. We were also the only platoon to finish with everyone, even if we did have to get some people to just grab onto the person ahead of them and get towed most of the way. Our staff was rather impressed with our performance in that regard.

The next week was uneventful until Tuesday, which was our course party, down in the Officer Cadet's mess, with our staff invited. It was the only time so far (Yes, including St. Patrick's Day) when we were allowed to drink on a week day, and also the only time we've encountered our course staff in a casual setting. While the Warrant and the Master Seaman weren't drinking, our Sargeant and the Master Corporal may have somehow obtained beverages of an alcoholic nature.

It was at this little shindig that we were told the big news. For the BOTP portion of the course, in order to even out the numbers between the 3 English speaking platoons, one of them would be disbanded, and split off into the other two platoons.

Thankfully, it's not out platoon that is getting broken up, likely due to the fact that we are, so far, the best platoon. Every time we've gone head to head with the other platoons, we've won, and we only had 1 person fail the re-retest for Grizzly, as opposed to 3 from each of the others.

So, anyways, we've gotten 19 new people, mostly pilots bringing our total to 57. They moved in last Friday, and much of this week has been spent getting to know them. So far, they're a pretty ok bunch, but I know it'll be tough integrating them fully into the platoon over the next 4 weeks. They've spent the last 9 weeks forming their own friendships, as have we, and you can't expect that to change overnight. Heck, I'm just having a hard enough time remembering their names, and I've got half as many new people to meet than they do.

We'll pull it off, I'm sure. Or at least, we'd better, considering we're going to have to to make it through the next 4 weeks, which are, quite frankly, the most critical step in most of our careers. Actually getting your commission does help if you expect to be an Officer in the Canadian Forces.

Palpz's Basic Training Adventure!

Farewell, Bronchitis, Inspections, Montreal, Tear Gas, and Guns, Camping, Canadian Infantry Style, Broken Teeth, A Brand New Tooth, A Fall From Grace, and Redemption

Ever have one of those job interviews that goes too well, like you're just waiting for your prospective boss to tell you that you'll be working a nine to five in their Sri Lankan office and that you'll need to pay for your own tetanus boosters? I just did, and I'm still trying to figure out what the catch was.

For those unfamiliar with New York City museum culture: the Museum of Modern Art (or MoMA) is far more than an art institution - it's a retailer operating three design stores in Manhattan that cater to the trendy, pseudo-art crowd, the kind of people who think salt and pepper shakers in the form of two hugging people, one black, one white (racial tolerance! Get it?!?) are worth plopping down thirty bucks for. The stores also have extensive book departments, which is what drew me to them in the first place, having done that particular job a few times before.

I get called in for an interview. Meet with the manager in the Soho store's break room. She asks me how the trip down was. I tell her that I live in Gramercy Park (about fifteen minutes away by train with no transfers - as straight a shot as one can hope for in the city) and she smiles, presumably because that means I won't be calling in from Brooklyn unable to get to work, or that's what I thought - turns out, she's just incredibly friendly.

Right off the bat, she says 'unfortunately it's retail, so we can only give you 24k a year.'

I blink at her, trying to keep my jaw off the table. Apart from the directness of her approach (most HR people I've dealt with hate talking about money, as if that were only a side effect to working instead of the reason most people get up in the morning) I begin to think that she's looking at someone else's resume - the last real job I had paid me 6.50 an hour (barely above minimum wage for a job that, let's be honest, requires a certain level of intelligence to pull off - you can't sell books if you don't read), was part time, required me to work until midnight and generally just sucked the life out of me. And then it hit me, and my jaw did hit the table.

She didn't say 'twelve bucks an hour'. She said '24k a year'. That means I'd be...I'd be salaried. That means...vacation days. sick days. Benefits. Oh dear god, benefits. And...she was apologizing.

She went on to explain that she needed someone with a heavy retail and art background, which I've got. I offered to sketch her to prove it and she laughed. She also mentioned that my schedule would be fixed from week to week, that I'd be automatically considered for a promotion to a desk job at 30k a year after 90 days, and that the job entitled me to a full museum membership at MoMA and a few museums in Washington D.C. - The Corcoran, the Phillips, the Museum of American Art. When I told her that I'd spent a good portion of my childhood running around the Smithsonian and playing frisbee on The National Mall, and that I had considered going to the Corcoran for college (it's a school as well as a museum) it was her turn to blink.

This was the point where I really thought I'd been duped - it was too good to be true. Had to be. I waited for the death blow, the thing that would make the job totally unbearable - Hot coals in the bathroom maybe, or extremely stupid uniforms, or a dude with a whip behind the registers (it's SoHo - it could happen). Maybe picking up my paycheck required the sacrifice of a virgin to the god of the fire mountain. But no - She set me up for an interview with their HR department on Monday. No "I have a few more people to see before..." and no "Don't call us, we'll call you." It was like she had decided to hire me before I even stepped through the door.

Maybe I'm just used to being kicked in the shins by potential employers. Maybe it's all the sleep I haven't been getting recently or possibly it's my ingrained New York City cynicism, but I have a hard time believing that the rug isn't going to get pulled out from under my feet. I'm trying not to think about it.

Suffice it to say, it's not working.

I don’t journalize any more. Often I don't when I am happy and content, but that is definitely not the case these days. Maybe E2 took away the need for self-expression, but I'm not noding any longer, either.

Dead in the water, that’s me. Becalmed, but in the nautical sense, not the emotional meaning. Not going anywhere, no wind beneath my wings.

Funny how a year plus of Everything2 affects my journalizing. The above paragraph has mixed metaphors and that disturbs me. As does the fact that it is contains incomplete sentences, strictly speaking.

I just spent a few minutes making the last paragraph more accurate, more grammatically correct. Damn E2! I started out for a little self-pity session in my private journal and now I’ve forgotten what my gripe is.

I played with 150 words for a while and my mood changed. Well, duh,dummy!.

Today is Maundy Thursday, the start of an especially intense period in the Christian calendar, focussing on the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. I have to confess that I'm not exactly in the best frame of mind for this holy season right now. This morning we had a staff meeting to discuss extensive changes to the organisation I work for. The mood of the meeting was a bit pugnacious. The CEO wasn't there, so people felt a lot more confident to ask awkward questions which have needed asking for a while. The finance director was giving the presentation, and after several of these awkward questions he remarked something like 'Keep going - I'm quite enjoying being crucified.' This witty remark was illustrated by him flinging himself back against the wall with his arms spread in the manner of a crucifix. No-one found this very funny, because the man has no comic timing and a very unhumourous demeanour. I found it especially insensitive, given the time of year.

So I wasn't in the best of moods, both from the tenor of the meeting and the crassness of the remark, when the time came for me to attend today's service. I had previously decided not to serve today, but I felt that it might after all be better if I did. Otherwise I would sit quietly fuming in the congregation and not enter into the spirit of the service. I put on my robes and the service began. I carry the processional cross, which for some obscure reason is veiled at this time of year with a purple cloth. The overall effect is to transform this rather fine devotional artefact into something that looks like a big purple kite on a stick. As we paused before the altar, I was distracted by an unexpected movement from one of the other servers, and crashed into the sanctuary lamp hanging overhead. This nearly gave me a heart attack, as the lamp is effectively a nightlight hanging on a chain, and I could easily have either set the veil of the cross alight or poured hot wax over myself. Fortunately neither of these things happened, but I was pretty rattled all the same. Although the rest of the serving went fairly well, and the singing was much better than it has been throughout Lent, the experience still wasn't what I'd hoped for.

After the service I met a friend who had various love-life difficulties to tell me. Then back to the office, although I didn't feel at all like focussing on my work. I called my bank, to pursue my now long-running complaint against them. They hadn't got any explanation of why I hadn't had a letter from them within the time they'd said I would. The phone was initially answered by one woman - let's call her A - who listened to what I had to say, and then passed me over to a colleague - let's call her B - who'd written to me before. B then told me that a new letter was with their boss's 'EA', waiting to be signed. I asked what an 'EA' was, and was told that it meant 'Executive Assistant' - and that A was the boss's executive assistant! A had gone off to a meeting in the mean time, and couldn't be got hold of to tell me what was in the letter. I think they do it on purpose.

Addendum: I eventually got a call from the bank at 7pm this evening as I walked home from the station. The first paragraph of the letter was read to me, and it turns out they've completely ignored some important and obvious details in my original letter, and are trying to avoid blame. Bastards. Do not bank with the Royal Bank of Scotland. I mean it.

I have always been curious why someone who has a reputation as lone wolf would surround himself with children.
Lex Luthor on Batman, Superman/Batman #5.

I’ve wondered about posting a daylog for March, because I’ve experienced a lot of March: visiting my widowed mother who is afflicted with a variation of the same disease that killed my father, attending my wife’s first fencing tournament, attending a party hosted by the university’s fencing team (four of us old people and a slew of twenty-somethings), deciding to attend a largish nodermeet, being the recipient of an entirely gratuitous racial slur, hearing a stunning and disturbing story about a Canadian Olympic athlete I vaguely know, meeting once more with Cletus the Foetus, preparing a complicated cancer fundraiser, spending a night drinking and bowling with Singularity Girl and a twenty-four-year-old helicopter pilot whom I directed, when he was a teen, in the original When Shadows Fall. And, of course, the revised and revamped play itself, Shadows. The problem? Many of the stories aren’t mine, and I don’t know how much I want to blog my life and the lives of people I know all over the web. Besides, the Olympic athlete story necessarily has the status of rumour, not fact.

One tale, however, had to be told:

Adam, who played Kevin, a central character in Shadows, became quite ill the week before the play. He remained determined he would be onstage, and actually came from the hospital, where he had just been hydrated on intravenous, to our dress rehearsal.

Unfortunately, he lacked a voice.

Desperate, I contacted Brian, who originated the part in 1998. He lives in Toronto now, and has since accumulated a fair bit of acting experience. He agreed, most enthusiastically. For the first two nights, Adam acted the very physical part but, through the miracle of modern technology, he spoke with Brian’s voice. The audience adjusted quickly, as Brian, up in the lighting booth, looked down and read from the script, which we’d e-mailed him earlier in the week, into a mic.

The first night was a little rougher than we hoped, though still pretty good. The cast needed time to adjust to the Kevin ventriloquism effect, voiced by someone most of them had just met that afternoon. And for some of my actors, it was their first time before a sizable audience. The rest of the run went significantly better, and Adam made a dramatic recover, speaking for himself by Saturday night.

I don’t know that anyone has handled this situation in quite this way before.

The show must go on.

Final note: Much mirth had been made because Adam's full name sounds very close to Adam West, the actor who played Batman in the campy 1960s show, which the kids still know. His efforts on behalf of the show suggested a different superhero, however, so on closing night, we presented him with a customized Superboy figure, with black leather jacket and Adam's curly blonde locks.

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