Song v. Deputy Minister National Defence

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I’m a government HR geek, and I like reading Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board decisions just to see what’s going on in the world of grievances that make it that far (many drop out earlier with simple alternate arrangements or the government realizing it did something wrong and reversing itself). One that made it that far recently was Song v. Deputy Minister National Defence. And mostly what I like about it was the unique outcome.

As is often the case, the issue started with a competition where a candidate was screened out at the application stage. It is always the applicant’s responsibility to demonstrate they meet the criteria and if they don’t, they’re out. This can and often is a pretty hard and fast rule. Many rulings are out there on this factor — if they don’t say it in the application, you don’t have to accept follow-up info or anything else, and if you do, it should only be in very unusual situations (for example, the person has to prove they did budget forecasting, and they say they completed three years work of budget updates in their current job — without specifying that it includes both reporting and forecasting for the coming year…when they follow-up, they find out that the screener’s department use different terminology, and so “updates” there doesn’t include forecasting, but now that they know what it means, and they may even look at a sample, they say, “Oh, okay, you do meet it” and might screen them in…or say, “Sorry, no, you didn’t prove it in the original application, not our problem, you’re out”). In this case, the applicant contacted the hiring manager, had some additional weak examples, and wanted a chance at the interview.

At this point, the hiring manager made an error. They thought, “no harm, no foul” giving them a chance — but says she really didn’t think they met the screening criteria. That shouldn’t happen. You meet it and you’re in, or you don’t and you’re out. Borderline is a different story, but here she said the applicant clearly wasn’t qualified and let them continue anyway.

The assessment phase seemed to be combination written+interview, with part of the written to develop a presentation that was then given as part of the interview. The applicant became ill during the session, so much so that they laid down and the Board actually discussed calling an ambulance. While testimony varies as to who decided to proceed after she felt better, this too was another error. They should not have proceeded.

The candidate failed two elements for the assessment that shouldn’t have continued, and she fought the decision as well as damages for suffering. Under the old PS Tribunal, that wasn’t an option, but the reformed PSLRB+PSTribunal = PSLREB has some extra party favours for participants. However, the outcome is a bit different.

The decision states that the first problem was letting the candidate proceed at all and the second was proceeding after illness. So the complaint is substantiated at that point. However, the candidate shouldn’t have made it to the assessment, and regardless of what happened, there was no evidence of malice or intent. So no damages. End result? The tribunal says “yes there was an error, you’re right, but I’m not telling them to do anything else about it”.

So for the complainant? She gets told not only are we not going to give you any money, not only are we not going to put you in the pool, not only are we not going to let you redo the assessment, but also you weren’t qualified in the first place. Or in other words, “Yep, you’re right overall. Case closed.”

While I don’t think she should have got any money for her supposed suffering (there was no bias, discrimination or malice, she just had a illness spell during the process), the outcome is a bit harsh for the complainant. Which is often the case — the government people felt from the beginning she was wrong, so they pushed through to the end to technically lose but still win.

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The burden of proof

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A couple of months ago, a case made the news here in Ottawa and it had lots of salacious details to peak people’s interests. A mint employee. Gold. Smuggling. And vaseline to tell you where and how he smuggled it. Earlier this week, he was found guilty, and it is an incredibly interesting case for a totally different reason — it is entirely comprised of overwhelming circumstantial evidence. On that basis alone, I would expect it to be appealed.

The basics of the case are pretty straightforward:

  1. A bank employee noticed a man depositing a couple of large cheques from the gold-buying store nearby. $7K apiece. Not exactly chump change. When she noticed on the account that he was an employee of the Mint, she flagged it for her boss and they flagged it for RCMP.
  2. RCMP investigated, watched him sell some more at the gold store and deposit the cheques, and then contacted the store to see what it was he was selling. Gold pucks, high purity. Not a collection of Grandma’s old jewellery.
  3. They checked with the Mint, found out he was in charge of testing gold purity with a label that creates small gold pucks. And he set the metal detectors off way more than any other employee, had more pucks in his safety deposit box, matched the purity and size of the pucks to the ladle, etc.
  4. He didn’t make enough money to have that gold through normal means;
  5. And finally for “evidence”, they found jars of vaseline and latex gloves in his locker which he could have used to place the pucks up his butt to smuggle it out of the Mint.

Now, if I recast it as per the judge’s decision, it gets a bit more pointed:

  1. Motive — he had possession of $160K worth of gold and had laundered $138K of it;
  2. Opportunity — worked alone, had access to high purity gold that matched the mint’s ratings, had Vaseline in his locker, no cameras to catch theft or insertion;
  3. Identity — he had the gold and the money, and he is the one who set off the metal detectors.

Seems like a slam dunk, right?

Except there are two things missing from the case, or maybe one-and-a-half if you ignore the right against self-incrimination.

The biggest one is that the Mint had no evidence that anything had been stolen. They don’t have weight measures to show that they put 10 pounds of gold in and it came out at 9.8 pounds, for example. They had no idea he was stealing because they had no idea anything had been stolen. In order to be charged and convicted of theft, you kind of need evidence that something has been stolen. And the Mint has no direct evidence of that…they just now have a theory as to how and why he set off the metal detector so often.

I know, I know, if you read this and see the evidence, you think, “Well that is what must have happened.” Except that isn’t the standard of legal proof.

The second missing piece is that there was no other explanation for the circumstances under which he could get the gold. Except there’s an easy one. What if someone else at the Mint stole the pucks and gave them to him. You might say, “No problem, he’s still guilty.” Except he isn’t. At that point, he hasn’t stolen anything. He is part of a criminal conspiracy, and guilty of a crime, but not of the crimes he was charged and convicted of, although the proceeds of crime would probably stand. Related to this is another half of a missing piece, except on his side. He gave no explanation of how else he came into possession of the nuggets. No alternate theory of the crime, so to speak, but more accurately, no simple explanation that could raise reasonable doubt against overwhelming circumstantial evidence. But here’s the kicker — the right against self-incrimination also includes the right not to be presumed guilty if you don’t testify on your own behalf. Sure, people want the accused to testify in every TV or movie case you’ve ever seen, but the law is clear — nothing can be inferred if he doesn’t testify and give an alternate explanation. The state has the burden of proof, not the accused.

So, let’s go back to the evidence. Opportunity is that he worked alone with gold. Hardly damning. The pucks matched the unique ladles the Mint used — evidence it came from the Mint, not that he did it. Had Vaseline in his locker — here’s a shocker, probably a quarter of the women in the Mint probably do too for hands or lip balm, or whatever, based on market share. A thousand innocent explanations or there are a lot of people out there who must be smugglers as they have Vaseline in their possession. No cameras — so the proof is that there was no proof? All of that is basically irrelevant.

What you are left with is he has gold that (likely) came from the Mint, and he can’t explain how. Ergo, he stole it. That is way below the standard of proof. What if instead he was part of a giant criminal conspiracy. Who hired him off the books because he worked at the Mint and knew how to purify gold. And they set up a lab to do the exact same thing. Or maybe he did it himself. And maybe, sure, the gold he was melting down was all stolen jewellery so he can’t admit to it. Could he have stolen a ladle? Sure. If he could steal all that gold, and he’s so amazing at it, he could steal a ladle. Or order one that matched the size and shape of the Mint’s.

Because, don’t forget, the MINT has no idea if anything was actually stolen. They have no evidence that a crime was actually committed. Yet here we have a guy convicted and about to be imprisoned for a crime we don’t know actually occurred. We know, or at least we’re pretty sure, a crime was convicted but we don’t know if it was this crime, or a different one, or committed by someone else and he was involved, or anything of the sort.

These are the cases that fascinate me…I don’t care about huge murder cases, DNA evidence, etc. I care about inferred crimes that don’t meet the standard.

Even if everyone involved thinks they know what must have happened. And that he’s guilty.

Feel free to read the coverage (Source: Mint employee guilty of smuggling $165K of gold in rectum – Ottawa – CBC News), I’m just ranting.

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My wedding speech about Panda Astronomy

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I’ve been promising myself for some time that I would go ahead and start uploading some of the stuff I’ve written, including papers, personal stuff, short-stories, etc. Under the personal category, if you exclude commentary on writing / news / civil service / etc., most of it is already on the site in terms of eulogies or tributes. One thing that is glaringly absent considering how much time I put into it and how important it was is my speech at my wedding dinner. My wife and I divided up some of the thank-yous, and so I didn’t have to cover everyone in the universe, but I also had a challenge. Talking about heavy emotion, particularly when it comes to someone like my wife, would completely wipe me out. So I had to keep it light, short in some areas that were a little misbalanced, and with enough pause areas and flow to get me through it.

For those in the know, my wife and I have initials that spell out “P and A” i.e. Panda. It’s our nickname for each other, and we organized our wedding around a panda theme — a panda logo for example.

Logo facing right

And I wanted a theme that would allow me some flow to the speech, I like astronomy, and a couple of the sub-sections lent themselves to talking about stars and universes, so I force fit it into a larger “panda astronomy” storyline. Here it is…

Introduction

I’d like to begin by saying I’m a man of few words.

No, seriously, it’s true – I have a small vocabulary, I just tend to use the same ones over and over a lot.

Instead, I do need to begin by telling you that there is something that is not in any of the speeches tonight, and that is reference to my father. After seeing Aunt Marnie wipe out an entire room at Bruce and Jenn’s wedding with a warm and loving speech, and the fact that I cried all through my father’s eulogy, there is no chance that I will get through the speeches tonight if we refer to my father. Instead, my brothers Mike and Will are going to help us out with a toast later to those who couldn’t be with us tonight. Thanks guys!

So, as I start the speech,  I want to introduce you to a little known field of study called PandA astronomy. Little is known publicly about it, and tonight I will reveal all. If you get bored, well, unfortunately, it’s my wedding.

I’ve got the microphone.

I aspire to being a writer.

You’re trapped on a boat.

In summary, it sucks to be you.

Chapter 1: Stars that dance in the sky

As you prepare for a wedding, you all know there are hundreds of decisions and one early one that is quite fundamental.

And it is quite difficult. I mean, you know how you feel today, and what your choice would be. But how will you feel months from now? You have to decide, but some doubt remains, it’s only natural. It’s a huge decision.

So you consult with friends and family, those who went before you. How did you know? When did you know? Did you both know at the same time or did one help the other make up their mind?

Even after the choice is made, you must wait. But if there is one thing that Sadler men are known for, it must be patience. I’m sure Sadler women would agree? So you’re patient, you trust in your instincts. You may even take a test drive, kick the tires as Uncle Rod described it. But eventually, the test drive ends.

Then the big day arrives. You’re standing there like a deer in the headlights. The big question looming before you:

Carrot or lemon cake?

Fortunately, Andrea and I got to have both. I hope your cake was as good as ours, and feel free as you mingle around afterwards to thank our two bright stars that dance in the sky, Izabella and Natalie, who made all our cakes tonight. Thanks to them, and to Bill, for putting up with us stealing them away for the last couple of months.

Chapter 2: Black holes

There are Black Holes in PandA astronomy. Black holes of responsibility. Gravity wells that suck in all the blame. The black hole even has a name – Stephan.

It was Stephan who…

  • was already friends with Andrea;
  • who got to know us both, worming his way into our confidence; and,
  • who decided that both of us were nice and that nice people should lunch together.

It was all Stephan…we were puppets controlled by the puppetmaster.

So, from now until eternity, everything is Stephan’s fault.

  • If I don’t do the laundry for a couple of weeks, blame Stephan;
  • If I forget to put down the toiler seat, blame Stephan.
  • If Andrea accidentally noggins a power bar, blame Stephan; and,
  • If Andrea hipchecks me on the side of my leg where I already have a giant bruise, blame Stephan.

So we want to thank our black hole, Stephan, for allowing us to blame him for everything. It really does make life much easier in general.

Chapter 3: Orbiting moons

There are moons that orbit and affect the main planets in the Panda universe.

For example:

  • today we had escort moons – Bruce, Don and Liam – who helped seat everyone;
  • we have speaking moons – Sharon, Mike and Bill who are helping with toasts;
  • my sister Marie is a moon with a somewhat elliptical orbit, intersecting lots of other moons, as she has been helping out with things from the beginning;
  • There are Carnivore Moons who joined me for golf and steaks! The poor cow never stood a chance;
  • We have also had a lot of friend moons who advised us, put up with us, and who are still speaking to us!

While Andrea has already thanked some of you, I just want to say that your pull on our orbits is definitely felt and appreciated.

Chapter 4: Star Clusters

In PandA Astronomy, we have star clusters – ones that almost always appear in groups.

First, there are the Hortons:

  • Doug, it’s been great getting to know you over the last few years, and I hope Andrea and I can follow your path to happiness;
  • We saw Aunt Barb last night, but we don’t see her near enough;
  • Some others like Beth and Jim, Matt and Kerry couldn’t make it;
  • But Keith and Jenny are apparently insane and think that a drive from BC to Ontario is an afternoon jaunt.

Then there are the Malcolms:

  • A quiet, unassuming family.
  • Shy almost. Withdrawn even.

My family got to meet most of them at the engagement party that the uncles and aunts put together for us, with great food and guests and presents, oh my!

But you can’t talk about the Malcolms without talking about the cousins – let’s see, I need to check my math here:

  • There’s the old cousin, the tall cousin, the younger cousin, three Inglewoods;
  • Multiply by the teachers, add in a doctor;
  • Carry the Whitaker, start a new Paige;
  • Double check Snuffalupugus;
  • Tick off a few more names;

So, if my math is correct, I’m not sure, but I think it comes to …

a CRAPLOAD of cousins.

And like star clusters, you never get one or two, you always get a bunch of them. And most of them are all quite sporty.

  • Down-hill skiing, water skiing;
  • Bicycling, marathons, swimming, kayaking, canoeing;
  • Rafting, rowing, ultimate, rugby; and,
  • Some more extreme sports like adventure racing or teaching.

But I know what you’re thinking: Paul should have no trouble fitting in. Because when all of you met me, I’m sure the same word went through your mind… athlete.

Oh, sure, there were other words. Like “Non-athlete” or “Not much of an athlete”. But athlete was in there, somewhere.

And I met them all at once. At a wedding, no less. Bruce and Jenn’s wedding to be exact. As an aside, for the friends who were disturbed to hear me talk about great bridesmaids dresses that I saw at a wedding in Toronto, those were Jenn’s attendants. So I want to say a special thank you for Bruce and Jenn…Six years ago, you had a tight venue with an equally tight guest list. When Andrea wanted to bring me, I’m sure someone asked “Who is this yahoo? He works at CIDA? Holy crap, he’s going to be some granola-eating Birkenstock-wearing hippie!”. But in true Malcolm fashion, you overlooked those challenges and found a way to include me.

Tonight even marks a special occasion for Bruce, one he probably doesn’t even know. After years of being teased, he no longer has to be the oldest of the group of cousins. Just don’t trip over my walker when you’re dancing. So, for Bruce & Jenn, we have set aside our fourth dance tonight and invite anyone who has gotten married in the last six years to join them.

Thanks to all the Malcolms for finding room for one more.

Chapter 5: Orbiting Planets and Dwarf Planets

As I look over the new extended family today, I think one of the phrases that comes to mind is, “Oh, great. More siblings”.

For my brothers, I admit I’ve been pretty lucky and each has their own unique story:

  • For Don, it is one really long weekend at the cottage where the radio only seemed to get one song – “Walk Like an Egyptian” by the Bangles;
  • For Mike, it is having dinner at the Elephant and Castle, having a long emotional conversation about family, and meeting his Base Commander with tears rolling down our faces;
  • For the brother formerly known as Bill, it would be doing stockings for Mom and Dad – or dart guns, or the elephant gun that shot those red balls, or just the fact that you let me tag along with you when I was a kid and never sent me home;
  • For Ken, it would have to be the shark dive, hands down; and,
  • For Bob, oddly enough, it is simply walking back to the store to get a package of gum that we didn’t even need on the day of my father’s wake.

Feel free as you mingle later to ask them about those stories.

I get another brother today, and the bar is pretty high, Dean. But you know what? You get to be the smarter brother. Oh sure, there’s a long odyssey about Dean, Andrea and I heading to the cottage one weekend with Dean navigating, and us ending up at the Haliburton Family Restaurant. But that’s not the story that I’m going to tell. One day, we were driving down the 417 with me in the backseat and Andrea in the front seat beside Dean, and like all good brothers, I was razzing him. We were talking about dating the Horton girls, and I teasingly said, “Yes, but I got the better sister.”

Dean opened his mouth to respond, and then he stopped. He said, “Dude, there’s nothing I can say to that. I can either slam my girlfriend or my future sister!”

I can tell you, most guys would not spot that trap. They would have walked into it flailing wildly. But Dean, the smart one, said nothing. And that is the reason we wanted him to be MC tonight. To show he’s plenty smart.

Just don’t ask for directions or how many letters there are in the alphabet. But he’s plenty smart.

He did, after all, manage to snag Becky, my new sister.

When Becky and Dean got married, Andrea talked in her speech about how Becky was crazy, emotional and violent. And I remember thinking, “Wow, now that’s efficient.”

I too have sisters who are crazy, emotional and violent, but they’ve divided up those responsibilities. I won’t say which is which, because Megan and Stephanie may not know that their mom Marie is crazy. And the emotional one Carolee is in Europe tonight and so she can’t cry in her own defense. And well, the old violent one Sharon who started the toasts might come up and swat me.

I’m happy to have Becky join the rank of sisters, including as our sister-of-honour today, but unfortunately, Becky, well, you get me as a brother. And I just want to say, “If you’re talking to my sisters, don’t believe them! They lie!”

Sure, Andrea got the better deal having Dean for a brother, than you do getting me, but well, I promise I’ll be the best brother you ever have! So, in that vein, Becky gets to be the sister with low standards for brothers!

In the PandA world, all these siblings are like orbiting planets. Sometimes leading, sometimes following, but always around. They’ve even added a dozen or so dwarf planets, with the extended family of nieces and nephews who helped out with a variety of tasks today like decorations and photography.

And let’s not forget the newest addition to the nieces, Grace, who was in charge of cuteness at the ceremony! Of course, with Grace around, there’s a reason why we didn’t ask Dean to help out with photos – we were kind of hoping Andrea and I would be in a couple of them – and he doesn’t take pictures of other people anymore.

So, thanks to all the orbiting planets and dwarf planets swirling around.

Chapter 6: Binary Star Systems

For those who don’t know, this means TWO STARS in the same system. For most prospective suitors, meeting the bride’s parents and getting to know them might seem intimidating. After all, these are your future in-laws.

But Ron & Marney are not much older than my sister Sharon. Not old enough to need to break a hip yet, but not likely to start wrestling me if they don’t think I’m good enough for their daughter.

Marney, you’ve welcomed me into your home and your family. You’ve raised a beautiful daughter who inspires me everyday. And if that weren’t enough, you even take me as a bridge partner.

Ron, I appreciate that you have never tried to intimidate as my future father-in-law. I have, after all, seen you golf. But as Andrea and I formalize our lives today, I don’t want you to think of it as losing a daughter so much as gaining space in your basement. Some day. And I promise not to beat you at golf until you qualify for the seniors tournament.

Chapter 7: An Anchoring Sun

Like any solar system, the “P” system includes an anchoring sun in the centre, my Mom. When I was writing my speech, I considered a lot of things to talk about…

  • The way my Mom makes tenderloin when I come home.
  • All the times she’s made pumpkin pies or peanut butter cookies.
  • Playing euchre
  • Garage sales
  • Salt and pepper shakers
  • Needing on-ramps into conversations.

Or the fact that I’m the golden child, the baby, the spoiled little brat that…oh wait, I think that’s Mike’s speech I’m reading. Hmm.

Instead, I’ve decided to tell you a different story. Some of the friends here are part of my monthly movie group called “Mid-Month Movie Madness”. It’s a group that I organize to go to the movies once a month, or at least I do when I’m not organizing a wedding! And I do it because my mom gave me a love for movies.

The year was 1972. I was four! And my mother took me to see a movie. A classic. It isn’t even available on DVD. Most of the actors, directors, producers never worked again. But in the summer of 1972, my mom took me to the theatres in downtown Peterborough.

I had to hold her hand as we walked down the busy street …

I know I got a drink. I think I even got popcorn.

We sat down and the lights dimmed.

And we watched…wait for it…The Lives and Times of Grizzly Addams.

Do I remember the plot? Nope. But you know what it had? BEARS! And not just bears, GRIZZZLY BEARS! And not just grizzly bears, but BIG ASS GRIZZLY BEARS that went RARRRRR!

Let me tell you. When you’re 4, and you can go to the movies with your mother, sit in a theatre, eat popcorn, the lights go down and you can see bears, you think it’s a pretty cool universe.

Thanks Mom for this, and a million other things.

Chapter 8: The A Solar System

For those who are wondering how we ended up on a boat tonight, and if this speech will ever end, we are coming to the close. We are on a boat because Andrea and I went on a boat cruise for one of our early dates. We cruised around the Parliament buildings, over by the Museum, and up the Gatineau river.

As we got close to the bridge where this boat left from, Andrea was sitting on my left, and we were watching the sun set. The light was streaming in from the side of the boat, and it was shining through her hair. I looked over at her, and it was like an electric jolt. I suddenly realized I was in love with this woman. And while I couldn’t have spoken then if I tried, Andrea noticed the look on my face during that same moment, and as she describes it, she went all melty inside.

From that moment on, my desire for Andrea has never been a secret. But what I didn’t know was what it also meant in the way of transformation.

Before, I was a PolyWogg. And most tadpoles turn into frogs or toads.

I must be the first to ever turn into a PandA.

But Andrea has that kind of affect on me.

She taught me to speak PandA. Words and phrases like noggin, fin, Bougainville, Moohaha, power bars, Rosedale/Rosemount, silly songs we sing to each other, “it’s a dog”, Orange!, bean and other bean…all these words come from the A Universe and now fill my world.

I can’t imagine my life without her influence, her presence is the atmosphere I need to breathe.

I’d love to go on and on about Andrea, but there’s no chance of doing that coherently.

Conclusion

So I’ll finish with a toast:

To bright stars, black holes, orbiting moons, star clusters, orbiting planets and dwarf planets;

To binary star systems, anchoring suns, and big ass grizzly bears that go RARRR;

and,

To the woman who reminds me each and every day that it’s a pretty cool universe, just because she’s in it.

To the PandA universe!

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Update on TV watching for the new season ….

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I gave some shows a try, but it is time to thin the herd.

First on my chopping block is American Housewife. I said initially that I wouldn’t try it, but gave it a go anyway. It was theoretically a comedy. I have no idea as I didn’t last three minutes before I was grinding my teeth. It was complete and utter pretentious crap.

I’m pulling the plug on Conviction. The show is okay, and could be a great Cold Case-lite clone, but it is just not pulling me in for the team. If it got down to just Hayes and the former gang ADA, I’d be watching.

I already pulled the plug on The Exorcist. Creepy, not sure where it was going for future episodes (freak of the week, or continuing intrigue of single storyline), but it just wasn’t there for me.

I wanted to like Frequency. Episode 1 was okay, and I liked the actress enough to come back for episode 2, but it too is just not jiving for me enough to keep going. Pass.

Lethal Weapon was just plain bad, done and gone in a single Ep for me.

Ditto for MacGyver.

No Tomorrow may be the one I hate myself for cutting. The main actress was SO charming in the pilot that it sucked me in. And I love the “change my life through a bucket list” premise, but not enough to work my way through the secondary characters who were driving me crazy. I’m out.

Notorious was the Revenge show for this year…scandalous, fast-moving, some interesting players, an overall mystery. But bad acting and bad writing. Cheesy. Enjoyable but you know it’s rotting your teeth. I’m going to improve my life and drop it.

This is Us may be them, but apparently it is not me. I watched the first, found a bit of it quirky, didn’t mind it, but two weeks later, I have no interest in what happens to any of the characters to watch Ep 2, except Gerald McRaney and he was only in Ep 1. Easy to cut.

Oh, and I totally forgot about Son of Zorn. Blech.

I’m sticking with Bull, Designated Survivor, Falling Water, Pitch, Timeless, Van Helsing for now, although I won’t be surprised if none of them make it to the end of the season.

I’m also still watching Arrow, Blue Bloods, Blacklist, BlindSpot, DC Legends of Tomorrow, Elementary, the Flash, Gotham, Grimm, Lucifer, NCIS, Quantico (barely), Rosewood, and Supergirl. In theory, I’m also tracking for future binging on 12 Monkeys, Dark Matter, Into the Badlands, Jessica Jones, Killjoys, The Librarians, Lucky Man, Marvel’s Agents of Shield, NCIS: LA and NO, Orphan Black, Scorpion, Shannara Chronicles, Shadowhunters, and Suits.

And I’m occasionally binge-watching Buffy, JAG, Moonlighting, Colony, and I just finished Luke Cage.

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Season premiere – DC Legends of Tomorrow – 2016/17

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I knew of Batman (for Gotham), Superman (for Smallville), Green Arrow (for Arrow) and the Flash (for, well, The Flash). But I am not a huge comics fan for either DC or Marvel so lots of the recent spates of shows go beyond my knowledge. DC Legends of Tomorrow is in that category, never having heard of them as a group. But I love time travel shows and was enjoying some of the characters before they went wandering through time, so it was a no-brainer for me to start watching. I confess though that the ensemble approach leaves me a bit spread out in my support for the show, and it hovers on the “watch this week” vs. “catch it on binge later” toss-up line.

When the season ended last year, the producers didn’t know yet the fate of the show. It ended up moving to the CW, but they didn’t know that at the time so the final episode ended with a cliff-hanger…the ship is headed for the sun, likely to be destroyed, etc.

Episode 1 of Season 2? Picks up as if that episode never happened. Reminds me of the end of JAG Season 1 where Season 2 started off as if that episode never happened. Took them another 20 eps to figure out how to write it into the show. Instead, DCLoT starts with the ship trapped on the bottom of the ocean, and a professor coming to see Oliver Queen as Mayor and Green Arrow to help save the ship (the professor is an amateur time detective). They go to the ship, find one crew member, hear the story of how the team chased time gremlins for six months after the death of the time masters, and then ran up against Damian Dark, the reverse flash, and Nazis, only to have the ship hit with an atomic bomb. The team got scattered throughout time to save them (totally ridiculous explanation, with Palmer hanging out with Jurassic dinosaurs) and Sara trying to get vengeance for Laurel.

The episode was okay, but *spoiler alert* it ends with the Captain presumably lost, and the team set to go forward without him but with the new professor as the historical expert. As much as I am unsold on the ensemble, it only works for me if it stays stable. Predictable. Knowable. I have the same problem with Arrow this season — they’ve recruited a new team. Most of whom are likely to be fine, but really, I don’t care about their issues and their eventually-to-be-revealed backstory. I at least like the new Professor, just hope it doesn’t kill the show’s momentum as they devolve into a constant state of bickering about what to do next since nobody will be in charge.

Okay episode, not great.

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Season premiere – Supergirl – 2016/17

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When Supergirl debuted last year, I wasn’t sure it was fully going to work. The “aw, shucks” innocence of Kara was hard to take without more backstory, but it was precisely that missing backstory that probably made it work. There are few “other” Supergirls to contend with…Laura Vandervoort played her on Smallville, and was decent but only amassed about a season’s worth of episodes overall, and often as a secondary character. And of course Helen Slater in the Supergirl movie. Let’s forget about her though. Which is easy to do. So, when Melissa Benoist started as SG last year, she had almost a clean slate.

But the first episode of Season 2? Her cousin stops by. Yep, Superman. Clark Kent. The Man of Steel. The big ICON that everyone knows. And honestly, I wasn’t that excited by it. Sure, the Flash stopped by last season, but that was Grant Gustin, who is already playing The Flash. This one is an entirely new Superman. A HUGE ROLE. For anyone.

I love Smallville, mostly as it focuses so much on the origin — how he learns to become Superman as opposed to “hey, look, I’m Superman today”. And Tom Welling was perfect in that role — not sure how I would like him in the suit, but as young Clark Kent, he was awesome. Other TV options include Dean Cain, George Reeves. In the movies, you have Henry Cavill, Brandon Routh, Christopher Reeve, or Bud Collyer. Sure, lots of others too, but those are the main ones. For me, Christopher Reeve was one of the few who got both Clark and Kal-El “right”. It’s really hard to not make Clark look “like” Superman, but not “like Superman”.

So who is the new Superman? Tyler Hoechlin. Wait, who? Sure, he might have been big on 7th Heaven or Teen Wolf, but I didn’t watch either. For me, he is brand new. And you know what?

I loved him. He is good as Superman…looks pretty young, almost a bit “youthful”. But he is GREAT as Clark Kent. Not bumbling, some steel in his role as reporter, confident, settled. The contrast with Kara was of course deliberate, but I was totally sold on him being Superman. Not like the others, all his own rendition. But believable. Totally in line with the way they have Kara written, with a bit more edge.

Overall, great episode. I’m not sure I want the entire series to be “Flying Cousins”, but for an occasional visit, it’s nice.

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Season premiere – Conviction – 2016/17

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Back in the day, I used to love watching Cold Case. The twists, the turns, the realization that something someone said was taken out of context, misinterpreted, and it led cops in one direction that ended up going nowhere. Some twenty years later, they get a new clue, a fresh perspective, something, and it leads them off in a new direction. Often, the solution starts with someone admitting something they knew back in the day but didn’t share…like maybe the dead guy might have been cheating, but his buddy didn’t want to drag it out and destroy the memory at the time, but now, 20 years later, he’s willing to share. Less emotional trauma.

Conviction has a bit of the same premise, but instead of a case that was never solved, these are ones where the case WAS solved…except the person claims, even years later, that they were and are innocent of the crime, despite having been convicted. These aren’t Innocence Project cases where DNA might save them, these are high intensity cases where the person was tried, convicted, and everyone went home to a good night’s sleep. Except the convicted still claims innocence. Not claiming “not guilty beyond reasonable doubt”, they’re still claiming they were completely innocent. So the D.A. in NYC creates a Criminal Integrity Unit to go back and look at the cases one more time. Five days of review, start to finish, see if there is any merit to the claim. And at the end of the five days, they either recommend the conviction be vacated, or that the case was likely solved correctly and the conviction stands. Note they aren’t overturning cases, it’s not a judicial appeal, it’s seeing if there is enough evidence to completely vacate the conviction.

So the premise, generally, is interesting to me. The rub is how they package it.

The premise is that a former President’s daughter (aka Chelsey Clinton mixed with Lindsay Lohan) got into a lot of trouble with the extra limelight growing up, went to law school, worked as a defense attorney and now teaches law. Busted for cocaine possession, she’s blackmailed into being the head for the new CIU. Of course, that’s not great news for the planned head, a former ADA with years of handling gang cases, or the other members of the team — an ex gangbanger who has expertise in forensics, a former witness who got an ID wrong when she was a kid, and a former police detective. She’s hoping to be a figurehead consulting from a beach, but her Mom is making a Senate run (aka Hillary) and wants her to clean up her act. Make it work for three years or they’ll prosecute her for intent to sell. At least that’s the premise.

Of course, you know by the end of the first episode she’s going to find her “calling” and passion and dig into the cases. Which she does. Of course, the actress (Hayley Atwell) is used to playing the hero — she’s been embodying Peggy Carter in the Marvel shows for several years now. I confess I liked her better as Peggy, but she has more available range here, which is either going to be great or just chaotic to watch. Eddie Cahill from CSI:NY plays the DA in charge of everything, but that’s not a huge plus for me…he was one of the weakest elements for me on CSI:NY.

Shawn Ashmore plays the ex-ADA in charge of gang cases, and I really like the Ashmore brothers. I think Aaron is awesome in Smallville and Killjoys, and everytime I see Shawn (the twin brother), I have to stop and remind myself it isn’t Aaron. Of course, when they are side by side, it’s obvious, but individually I think it is Aaron each time. I haven’t seen as much as Shawn’s work, but definitely a plus for me having him on the show.

Merrin Dungey, Emily Kinney, and Manny Montana round out the team, but they are all relatively new to full series status for me…although they were in other series, or guest starred on other shows, they weren’t on shows that I watched. I find all three a bit earnest in the first episode, but hopefully they’ll find their character.

When I did my early predictions, based on premise alone, I thought I would give it one episode, and I’m willing to come back for more. However, unless it kicks up the quality pretty fast or has some gravitas like Cold Case, I’m still holding on to my “half-season” prediction with no renewal.

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HR and switching classifications

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In my presentations about competing for public sector jobs, one thing I talk about is the idea of landing the “dream job” even though it is way out of your current classification. That doesn’t mean you’re not qualified, it just means that it’ll be a challenge. Here’s an example:

  • You work in administration at Health Canada (AS-02);
  • Your dream job in agriculture comes up at Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and it’s one level higher (AG-03).

Now maybe you have enough experience to apply, etc. Here’s the challenge (think of it like figure skating, gymnastics or diving):

  • Switching departments usually is about half- to one-degree of difficulty…there’s always at least some bias towards internal candidates because they already know the department;
  • Aiming for the promotion in level is always at least one degree of difficulty; and,
  • Switching categories is always at least one degree of difficulty and is often two degrees.

So the AS-02 trying to get an AS-03 in the same area would only be one degree of difficulty, but switching categories, increasing level and changing departments raises your challenge to four degrees of difficulty.

Does that mean you have no chance? No, it just means you need to prepare and practice a lot before trying to land it in competition. And, equally, you can try it in competition, but you also are going to need other lower level jumps/dives/routines that you can land more easily. And unlike the athletic comparison, you don’t have to land all three pieces at the same time.

Take, for example, a question I received by email this week and which is a type that people ask semi-frequently. The question is from someone who has an entry-level job in the PM category (program administration / management) and they want to find a way to switch to the PE category (personnel i.e. HR).

The first question I would ask is “do you have the background experience?”. Because that is the first thing that is going to screen you out. It’s a sad cliché that “I can’t get the job without the experience and I can’t get the experience without the job” but it is only partially true. In this case, the person may not be a PE, but if they had NO experience or background at all, I would recommend two things. First, beefing up the educational side of their resume (there are courses at colleges and universities, and certifications available in HR, etc.). Note these are not simply “hey, I did the course, now you’ll hire me?” because that’s not the way it works. The second part is you need some relevant experience. Maybe you ask your boss to let you sit on selection boards hiring more junior staff, or let you help out with the administration when they’re running a competition for other positions. Maybe you ask if you can manage the budget items for HR or a staffing request. What types of things should you do? Look at the poster for the type of job you want (PE-01, 02, etc.) and see which experience requirements you might be weak on, and get some experience related to those areas. It might not be “fixed” in a week. Maybe it takes you a year or two to find it.

The second question I would have is “are there any annual recruitments that you can apply for?”. The reason I mention it is because lots of people look and might see PE-02 jobs a lot, but no PE-01 jobs, and there are three reasons for that. They may only hire PE-01s when they do annual recruitments, rather than one-off competitions. And in those annual recruitments, the requirements are usually lower or at least more flexible / open-minded because they are targeting people who do not already work for government so they have to adapt to lots of different backgrounds. It also may be that the working level for the jobs is PE-02. I am in the EC category, which has 8 levels officially, but EC-08s are being phased out of use except in specific circumstances (they were supposed to be special advisor type roles but people have used them as director-equivalent roles and tasked them with management functions that are inappropriate to a non-pure-management category). In addition, EC-01 is virtually non-existent. The starting level is EC-02. Or the other reason why there might not be many PE-01 jobs actually opens up a new avenue and links into the degree of difficulty mentioned above — they use AS-01s and -02s for the PE-01-type work.

That last sentence is one that drives union-types completely batty. “AS should not be doing PE work, you have to get the classification right, blah blah blah”. Except here’s the issue…AS is a broad category including administration, filing, information management, finance, HR coordination, etc. What distinguishes it most is decreased “analytical work”, increased “coordination” and “process”, and usually, a broad set of files. I hesitate to use the word “generalist” (and you’ll see why in a minute), but a generalist function is part of many of the duties with lots of areas to cover.

So, when it comes to HR, there are AS-01s and -02s who might spend all of their time, or most of their time, working on HR files, coordinating all the input and sending it to HR. They aren’t doing the official “HR” that the HR branch does i.e. formal classification, analysis, applying controls, verifying delegations and checking the rules but they do put all the paperwork together to send it to them. So they coordinate it in the policy or program or delivery branch and liaise with the PEs who work in HR branch itself. The reason why I hesitate to use the word generalist is that some of those AS working in the non-HR branches actually have a fair amount of expertise they have developed over time or through extra education, so they are HR specialists, but they are not PEs and they do not have the same accountabilities as PEs.

A gross over-simplification is that the AS is responsible for following the HR rules, filling out the forms and sending it all to HR. The PEs in HR are responsible for actually DOING it i.e. posting the job, signing off that the box had the right classification, ensuring the person signing had the right delegations, verifying applicants were eligible, etc. Some argue it is the difference between simple coordination and actually doing HR, but the real difference is what each is accountable in a holistic HR process. While most wouldn’t call the AS world “informal”, the PE world is VERY formal. Almost rules-based. And in some organizations who are all about the rules, they may even act almost like auditors more so than enablers. It happens.

Sooooo, where does this leave the PM person who wants to move from PM-01 to PE-01 or -02? They should be looking at the AS-01 and -02 categories. PMs and AS positions are practically kissing cousins. Much of the wording in their classifications is virtually identical, particularly at more junior levels, and in fact, the Public Service Commission once described the difference between the two as simply “who are the clients?”. If the clients/stakeholders you deal with are mainly external, you get classed as a PM; if you deal mostly with other government people and internal clients, you are an AS. Which isn’t to say PMs don’t often also have lots of Gs&Cs roles that AS types don’t, and that AS types don’t have HR or finance roles that PMs don’t, but rather that the type of work they do in all of it is similar (coordination, consolidation, applying rules, handling processes, etc.).

Now if you go back to the four-degree of difficulty example at the top, what does that tell you? It means the AS-02 wanting to move to the AG-03 position can try to land a quadruple jump in one go, or handle it through three steps:

  1. Switch departments (Health to CFIA), stay as AS-02;
  2. Get relevant experience in AG work, maybe do an assignment, try to land AG-02 position; and,
  3. Try to get promotion from AG-02 to AG-03.

Three steps to land the quad, not just one jump. It takes longer, but it is much easier to land, and there’s nothing stopping you from still trying to land the quad or a triple or a double along the way. Still making progress rather than risking crashing and burning every attempt.

In the PM’s case that wrote me, that would be the same format for the advice, just a bit more detailed:

  1. Try to get relevant non-HR-branch experience in the AS world while also ensuring you have the requisite educational background needed…aim for assignments, help out on competitions, see if you can fill in for someone while they’re on holidays, etc…put it in your learning and development plan, for example;
  2. Try to switch to the AS category and aim to focus on HR…this is not that simple, I confess. There are LOTS of people in the AS category who hate general admin duties providing support to directors or divisions, handling correspondence tracking, etc. They too are doing what this person would be doing i.e. trying to get into general AS and then moving into an AS-02 position focusing on finance or HR (two of the areas within AS that often have enough work to have someone coordinating that mostly full-time);
  3. Try to jump from AS-02 to PE-02…this too, will not necessarily be that easy. Those same AS types who focused on HR above are may also be competing for PE jobs. PE-02s usually pull from one of three groups — PE-01 (obvious), AS-01 or 02 (laterals), or CR (clerical) who might have already been working in HR branch.

Of course, the person can still try to land a PM-01 to PE-02 jump, or look for open annual recruitments for PE-01s, but in the meantime, they can keep slowly edging themselves closer to the job they want and a little more away from the job they have.

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Season premiere – Frequency – 2016/17

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I should confess upfront that I didn’t see the movie that prompted this series. I thought, at the time, that it was some schmaltzy homage to fathers and sons, more Field of Dreams than Silence of the Lambs. “If you talk, he will answer” type storyline.Not so though. And apparently the similarities between the two storylines are pretty clear.

In both, it is a ham radio connecting across time. Child convinces Dad of veracity through knowledge of baseball games. Child tries to alter the past, succeeds, but it also changes other things too, including somehow increasing the success of a serial killer.

The real change for TV is Dad goes from being firefighter who died some years earlier to cop undercover who DIED TWO DAYS LATER in the original timeline. Randy Quaid as Dad gets replaced by Riley Smith, who has a long history of acting credits, particularly in shows where his storyline lasted last than a year (dun dun dun). The son though is now a daughter and played by Peyton List.

She first showed on my radar on the show Windfall (1 season and done) but the show didn’t excite me enough to watch. I was however watching FlashForward that was unceremoniously cancelled after one season and I liked her in it. Not awesome, but watchable. She showed up in Smallville as Lucy Lane, but wasn’t around long enough to really notice her. Then she made her big splash – Cara in The Tomorrow People. I have to confess though, she was one of my least favorite characters in the show…too angst-y for my taste, which is more about the character than the acting, and it shows here. She’s pretty good in this first episode. The writing has her overcome her disbelief pretty fast, but well, the show has to establish its premises early I guess.

I am, indeed, intrigued, but I am far from convinced the show has any legs. I said I would try 1 episode, and it’s good enough to keep watching, but I doubt it will get past the mid-season winnowing process.

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Season premiere – Arrow – 2016/17

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Did someone in Greg Berlanti’s organization replace the Green Arrow TV series with a video game? There are at least three sequences in the opening episode of Season 5 where it is basically CGI-like fight scenes, straight out of the latest spy/fight games. Cool looking, but almost looks animated. Very disappointing scenes.

Meanwhile, basically there are three things happening in the episode. First and foremost, there’s a new baddie in town who wants to take on the Arrow so kidnaps some people to do it. Second, Team Arrow is seriously undermanned on the street side, with Diggle, Thea, and the Canary all gone. Speedy is around, but she doesn’t want to be part of the Scooby Gang on the street side anymore. She just wants to be the Mayor’s right hand.

Neither of those storylines is particularly compelling, but the third one is how Oliver became a member of Bratva, one of the flashback story lines from his third year missing, when he went to Russia to keep a promise to kill someone. Highly entertaining and potentially character-revealing.

The rest of the episode? Not so much.

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