Isn’t it ironic

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How to deal with people who don’t understand sarcasm

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 6, 2015

There is nothing better than someone who doesn’t understand sarcasm. Nothing. If you can’t tell, which so many can’t, I was being sarcastic. I wouldn’t say my sense of humour is of the highest level. But I would say a lot of it relies on irony.

In many situations, sarcasm is classified as inappropriate behaviour, as if I’m acting out of line or to offend. I’m not. It’s just my unique way of dealing with an awkward or uneventful scenario. I love using sarcasm to lighten the mood, especially in a social gathering or workplace. Work can get awfully serious if you allow it to, but I won’t. So, when someone tells me to do something, I say: “Never, I won’t! You do it.” Of course, I’m not refusing to do my task; I’m merely making light of the task and their authority. I’m pretty much saying that neither you nor I should take our duties too seriously. I’ll get to the work as soon as possible.

People who don’t understand sarcasm are often those who take everything seriously. Yes, doctors, lawyers, and police officers shouldn’t be making jokes during their job, and that’s what makes them such wonderful satirical characters on television. But, in reality, not all of us have serious jobs—even school is not that serious when you actually think about it. Will anybody die if you don’t finish your project? Maybe your parents, who invested so much into your life, but nobody else. Nobody cares. So have some fun.

Sarcasm is a great way to break the tension. It’s like a little splash of cold water for those who are serious. Once they realize that my little jokes will not harm them or the task at hand, they tend to lighten up a bit. If they don’t, you probably don’t want to develop any further relationship with them anyway. Their life is probably a straightjacket. You want none of that.

Like strong spice or perfume, sarcasm should be used sparingly when the situation calls for it. Over time, you’ll be able to detect when you are in a situation where you can use it. It’ll show that you are carefree yet daring. Nobody likes a sarcastic douche that can’t take anything seriously, just like how nobody likes an uptight jerk that can’t take or tell a joke.

If you are meeting new people and you want to identify who is conversational in the dialect of sarcasm, present some irony in a group environment first. “Wow! I sure love vegetables at parties.” It really is like another language, and if even one or two catches your drift, they’ll continue the trend and you’ll have suddenly developed a new channel of conversation that isn’t as boring as reading a textbook. Communication should have flavour and sarcasm is a unique spice—and an acquired taste.

For those who don’t get it, luckily for them, they’ll learn. That’s the wonderful thing about languages: they grow on people overtime. As long as it’s presented in a harmless way that is also engaging, people will continue to speak it. According to Smithsonian magazine, those who are sarcastic are highly intelligent, even more than those who are always sincere. If you are able to back it up with hard work, class, and respect, you don’t have to worry—be sarcastic. Yeah, right…

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Like a pro

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Why there is only one real measurement for professionalism

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in the Other Press. October 6, 2015

What makes someone professional? That is a question all up-and-coming employees want to know. They spend hours fine-tuning their resume, they buy a new wardrobe, they practice their handshake over and over, and they even show up 15 minutes early for meetings and interviews, but, in the end, none of that matters except consistency.

Being professional is not a switch you turn on and off when you are working. Being professional is an attitude towards all things, regardless if there is a paycheque at the end or not. The ability to treat every task—whether it’s finishing a report, communicating a business plan, or meeting a friend for lunch—with equal importance is what makes someone valued, and therefore professional.

There is nothing more prized in the workplace than an employee who is consistently accountable. If you say you’ll do something, it’s your job to make sure it is done. If you can’t accomplish the task on your own or in time, don’t feel bad. Being professional does not mean that you have perfect foresight.  And being accountable does not mean doing everything yourself. A professional needs to meet hurdles with competency, not expertise. When employers are hiring, they are rarely looking for specialists; rather, they are looking for those with the capability of asking for help when they need it.

If you think being a professional is being a perfectionist, working overtime, and straining over every little detail—like what to wear and what to say—then you will never operate at your fullest potential. The pros know that, given time, opportunities, and experience, skills will undoubtedly form and gaps will fill in. There is raw talent, sure, but in a workplace, repetition and routines rule, and learning a task and accomplishing it with consistency is often what makes you a pro.

Yes, you hate your job and you are finding it harder and harder to apply the same amount of enthusiasm you had the first few weeks after you were hired. I have one suggestion for you: quit. If you can’t apply consistency to your craft—and you should live in a world where every job is a craft, where improvement is as important as completion—you are harming yourself. If work ethic were a tangible object, you’d be smashing it into a thousand pieces.

You hear it every day: the job market is a scary, volatile place. Only the best get hired. That is not true, or in a way, only semi-true. When we think of the best athletes, we think of those who are consistently showing up to every game or tournament. They might be scoring goals, stopping shots, or just making par every time, regardless, you can always bet on them. When people look at you will they bet on you to succeed? Where’s your track record to show it?

Being professional does not start after you graduate or get your job or receive your first paycheque. Being professional starts the moment you wake up every day.

Do it for yourself

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Not volunteering does not make you a selfish monster

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. October 16, 2015

You used to do it. You used to commit your valuable time helping an event, an organization, or a cause. I know I did. I don’t anymore. I don’t volunteer, not because I’m busy, but because I recall that most organizations that don’t pay for labour are often disorganized, not so flexible, and ultimately lacking professionalism.

I have had bad experiences volunteering, and I believe many people have as well. But we dismiss all the bullshit because we want the goodwill, we want the work experience, and we want to participate and make a difference.

I’m not going to say that volunteering is a waste of time, because in the end, it’s up to you to define what your time is worth, and for you to decide how you would like to spend it. If you have a group of friends volunteering, you might love it—it’ll just be like hanging out. However, if you feel frustrated over the work or lack of communication, or that perhaps there is a high expectation for your role, be on alert.

There is a reason why unpaid internships are illegal now—it’s slavery. While as a volunteer you are there of your own free will, the organizers often make it seem as though they are doing you a favour. If you feel like you’ve been mistreated—whether by the leaders or your fellow volunteers—you can leave. There are literally a billion different ways to make a positive impact in the world, and many will even pay you to do it.

We live in a capitalistic society. If you are working for free, that means other people are working for free, and that is not fair for anybody. The least they can do is offer lunch or an honorarium. If an organization does not have a revenue stream, investors, donors, patrons, etc. why does it still exist?

Moreover, if we look at the world as a whole, we see many young adventure-seekers volunteering to build houses and orphanages in developing countries. Okay… cool… but those people don’t need some 20-something-year-old from Cloverdale to help them build shit. Give them material, and they can do it themselves. If you want to have an adventure, get a job, earn the money, and buy a plane ticket without interfering with other people’s lives. If you want to help build an orphanage in Cambodia, donate money and resources. Start a company that will hire local workers to do the job. Create a self-sufficient ecosystem, not one that nourishes your own self-righteousness.

Volunteering is not sustainable. Eventually you’ll have to eat. If organizations want help, they should apply for grants, have some marketing system, and have some incentive—it doesn’t have to be monetary, but it does have to be worthwhile. Volunteering is not for everybody, so before you think of someone else, think of yourself. You deserve your own precious time.

Top questions of the 2015–16 NHL season

Photo by Jeff Vinnick via http://thescore.com

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. October 6, 2015

Here’s to another year of hockey, and, like the start of every school year, we have to wonder who will excel, what surprises will occur, and how all the changes will affect the grand scheme of things. Overtime storylines will play out on the ice, and we’ll learn the answers. Until then, these are the top question entering the 2015–16 NHL season:

Will Connor McDavid lead the Oilers to a playoff berth (and beyond)?

McDavid is marketed as the next Sidney Crosby, but will Edmonton—with its poor development system and defensive support—drain the talents of another first overall draft pick? Will McDavid be able to do what Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Taylor Hall couldn’t? It took Crosby three full seasons before captaining the Penguins to a championship. How long will it take McDavid? No rush. The bar is low. For now, synergistically, Edmonton as a whole can aim for the next level and make it into the playoffs. Easy.

How will three-on-three overtime affect the overall standings?

The shootout has not been eliminated, but with three-on-three overtime, it might as well have been. I love this new tie-breaking format, however, I’m disappointed to see the end of four-on-four—if only there was some way to integrate that. Needless to say, with opening the ice for key players and reducing the flip-of-the-coin factor of shootouts we can see more skilled teams earning points. For example last season the Los Angeles Kings won 2 of 10 overtime shootouts. Those lost points could have ultimately gotten the former Stanley Cup champions into the playoffs, where they would have surely dominated.

Can coaching changes turn the tides for underachieving teams?

Mike Babcock to Toronto, Peter DeBoer to San Jose, Dan Bylsma to Buffalo, and Todd McLellan to Edmonton—these are a few of the high profile coaches standing behind new benches this season. The only reason coaches are moved is because their old teams are failing to achieve certain goals and their new teams have limited options. I don’t believe any coach can singlehandedly turn a franchise around, and as great as their track records are—especially for Babcock and Bylsma—I believe it’ll be a few years before they can make their mark. The thing is, will their new teams be so patient?

Will the Western Conference dominate the East again in the finals?

For five of the past six years, the winner of the Stanley Cup playoffs has been from the Western Conference. On top of that, those five victories were from two teams, the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks. These two “dynasty” teams will be hard-pressed to continue this pattern as many of the Eastern contenders have seen improvements. This might be the year the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, or Tampa Bay Lightning learn from their tribulations and win four series in a row. There are also a few dark horse contenders with generational players—Alexander Ovechkin and Jonathan Tavares both have optimistic teams ready to face-off—ready to take their legacy to supremacy. This year, I believe the two teams matched in the finals will be turning the page on the Kings’ and Blackhawks’ dominance.

Why NHL in Vegas is a low-stakes gamble—but is it most deserving?

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The ‘best’ cities for NHL expansion

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. Oct. 1, 2015

The National Hockey League has kept their cards close to their chest in terms of when and where the next expansion franchise—if there is one—will be. As far as competition goes, Las Vegas and Quebec City are the two frontrunners, being the only two cities to submit their $10 million application fee. While eyes are on the prize, both of those cities have things working against them when it comes to adopting a NHL franchise.

Las Vegas, known for its sultry heat and abundant amount of entertainment, may seem like a bizarre place to watch hockey. In addition, having never been home to a major sports team, Las Vegas doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. Bets are on for whether such a venture would be successful or not. We would hate to see it become another inescapable desert disappointment, (cough cough) Phoenix, I mean, Arizona.

All I can say is that the heat will not be what harms their chances; it will be the fan base. At the moment, Hockey Vision Las Vegas, an organization seeking committed hockey fans to buy tickets, is aiming to convince the league that there is a strong desire for hockey. I believe there is a fan base in Vegas, but not necessarily from the locals.

Las Vegas is a vacation hotspot with 40 million people visiting in 2014—many of whom came during the winter season, i.e., hockey season. This is a perfect opportunity to lure in spectators who would not have an opportunity to see hockey otherwise.

I know that Vancouver fans will happily drop $500 for flights and an all-inclusive trip to Vegas to see a Canucks away game against the Las Vegas team. But would those living in the Sin City bother seeing their own team? The fact is that any Canadian hockey fans would be excited to see their team in Vegas, but if that’s the case, why not have the expansion take place closer to home?

Seeing Winnipeg get a team back in 2011 must have given Quebec City a lot of hope. The reason they lost the Nordiques in 1995 to Colorado was because their facilities could not match the new NHL standards. That’s all changed now; the Videotron Centre gives the city some legs to stand on when trying to earn the NHL’s attention. It’s designed with hockey as its sole purpose. With that being the case, it’s just a matter of time before hockey returns to French Canada.

However, Quebec could get a franchise again via a different route: the Carolina Hurricanes have been rumoured to be on the move. This means the former Hartford Whalers franchise could possibly move north of the border… wouldn’t that be nice?

Las Vegas and Quebec City are as different as cities come, but for hockey, I believe these two places are apt choices. Nevertheless, I hate seeing so many NHL franchises concentrated on the East Coast. We are due for a couple of purely western teams. For selfish reasons, I would rather see an expansion team in Seattle or Portland before a team in Quebec City. One thing lacking for Vancouver fans is an opportunity to go on road trips to see our regional rivals. If Seattle can make a push when the next expansion round comes around, that would be exciting news. But for now we’ll take what we can get, and be happy we don’t live in Atlanta.

Level up the real way

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How to gamify your life

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Oct. 1, 2015

Why do we love video games? I personally don’t. I find them stressful and frustrating. More often than not, I drop the controller and tune it out. I love listening to people talk about video games with enthusiasm, though. But, because of my ineptitude, I choose to pursue more achievable goals in my life.

Hence, I reframe my question: why do they love video games? Well, I guess other people love video games because there are these little achievable goals. You go from one stage to the next collecting coins, building infrastructures, defeating bad guys, saving the princesses, and heroically winning. That doesn’t always happen in life. The game of life lacks the instant gratification felt in a video game. Life’s little achievable goals take years and years to accomplish.

Moreover, life’s little defeats aren’t as miniscule as video games either. If you lose in life—get fired, fail an exam, get dumped by your partner—you cannot restart; you have to live with it day after day after day. We love video games because a game is an escape. It’s our second life, where failure can be chocked up as a few minutes wasted.

Although video games are great escapes from the real world, the same way sports are for some, the same way television shows are for others, we need to understand that life is the ultimate game. Life is the only game that matters. But why then are we so content with being idle with our lives and putting all of our efforts and energy into a video game, where accomplishments seldom matter?

The reason is because we often make our goals in life too grand to accomplish; we set the bars and our sights too high. That is not how a video game works. In a game, you don’t start at the hardest level; you start at the beginning. You have little, surmountable tasks to accomplish first, they get incrementally harder, and then you fight the boss. That is how you should consider life. That’s how you gamify life. You do it by visualizing it not as a monotonous day-after-day grind, but reframe it as little surmountable tasks, which will ultimately lead to achievements.

When you think of work, you often consider the paycheque. Why not? That’s the whole reason for work. But if that’s the case, then you are always going to be disappointed. After all, you don’t play Mario just to collect the coins, right? Your job should be an avenue for your self-improvement. You should be growing with each day’s task. You should be becoming a better manager and a more skilled worker.

At school, we often dream about graduation, but what about the actual process of learning? Is homework just a means to an end? If it is, then it’s obviously not a game, it’s just a chore. Strive for improvement, yearn to beat the task and excel. If you are willing to waste five hours trying to level up on your iPhone game, you can very well spend that five hours beating your previous score for your homework assignment and retaining the information.

We love games because they’re an escape from reality, but we have to remember that we deserve to win in life too. So don’t waste all your efforts in front of the screen, save some for the real world.