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Rob’s Listening Club – Week 0

Sometimes, you find yourself wanting to recommend cool things to friends and acquaintances. At times like these, I like to blog about them. My music and podcast recommendations of the week are:
Ed Sheeran: x (Deluxe Edition) – Music on Google Play

Episode 98: Underwear (with Thomas Middleditch)

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The World’s Most Honest Cover Letter

I really despise writing cover letters in 2014. For online applications, they are worse than useless. If you already know the person doing the hiring, or have a reference/connection, they are probably not even read. If you don’t already know the person, you have NO idea what to say that might compel a complete stranger who has never heard of you to want to talk to you more, least of all by spouting platitudes.

Here is what I wish I could write every time somebody says “Why do you think you’d be a good fit for XYZ company?”:

Why do you want to work for XYZ Company, and why do you think you would be a good fit?

Well, right now, I don’t have a job, or perhaps I’m unhappy with my current job. Either way, I want a different job. Unless you’re hiring me to write cover letters, I don’t see what possible benefit me writing this could give. This isn’t a job where I will be asked to write. Anyway, here goes.

I post pretty much everything I do on social media or on my website at, which I designed myself by hand. It’s not amazing, but it gets the job done and gives me something to put on a business card. I’m pretty into technology, and so you can also find me on all the social networks by searching my name. Yes, I make jokes and post silly things on there sometimes, but I’m rarely, if ever, offensive. Please don’t hold that stuff against me.

I’ve done web design, some programming, video production, podcasting, writing, and data analysis. I was a researcher at the University of Ottawa through the tail end of a bachelor’s degree and a Master’s in Chemistry, so I know my way around a chemistry lab, and I’ve mastered Microsoft Office.

I’d love to do some work for you, I will work very hard at any task you give me, and I promise I will approach my work in a creative and interesting way. I might even see something you or your other employees missed from time to time. I’m pretty fun to talk to.

So that’s me. If you are interested in hiring me, that’s cool. I do need to make a living. Otherwise, no hard feelings, I’m probably just not right for the job. I’ll find something.

Thanks for your time,

Rob Attrell

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Who Am I…and What Can I Do?

There is substantial scientific evidence showing that nature and nurture (ie. genetics and environment) both play an important role in determining our personality, intelligence, and our tastes as adults. That being said, I thought it would be interesting for me (and hopefully for you) to look back at where I came from, and how it shaped me into who I am today.

I have spent the vast majority of my life not taking things seriously…

My parents were excellent role models who guided me gently through childhood and adolescence. I was always taught that nothing was out of my reach if I really wanted it badly enough. My mom and dad also showed me that there is a time to push and show what is really important (like eating stupid vegetables), and times when it probably doesn’t matter so much (like eating spicy food). It was always very important to my parents that I take responsibility for my own decisions, from a very early age. I enjoyed the freedom this afforded me, and it also taught me a lot of very valuable life decisions.

I have spent the vast majority of my life (if not all of it) with not taking things seriously as my default. There are obviously a few exceptions where things need to be taken seriously, but I find they fall few and far between. Instead, my experiences have shown me that having a good time is what’s most important in terms of living a fulfilling life. I’ve written previously about getting along well with people in life, and in especially relationships, as in a game of Hollywood Squares. Let a joke (even a stupid one) be a reason to smile, relax, and laugh a little. We’re all friends here.

…little else can help you understand life better than a bit of satirical humour.

My dad was probably the person who introduced me to sarcasm and satire, as well as to homage. I think I learned from him not to take anything too seriously, as the people you love and who love you back will forgive mistakes and accidents as a part of life. Growing up with TV like the Simpsons, with reruns on every night as a teenager, I learned that little else can help you understand life better than a bit of satirical humour. That idea has continued with me throughout my life, from the Office, to Parks and Recreation, to TV personalities like Stephen Colbert. There is no better way to learn about the intricacies of something than to have a great writer deconstruct it and make jokes at its expense.

Mostly, what I have learned from my experiences living punchline to punchline, is that not taking life too seriously is one of the absolute best ways to avoid stress. While the rest of the world keeps on spinning and taking itself FAR too seriously, one of the best things you can do is sit back and laugh to yourself about how silly self-importance is. There are SO many very serious and extremely contentious issues on planet Earth to worry over, that an escape from that, even a brief one, is all I need to stay grounded.

Or maybe I’m wrong.

I wonder pretty often whether the world we live in now is going to be the final reality, in terms of science, geopolitics, religion, climate, technology, language, behaviour, communication. It seems to me that it is almost impossible that that would be the case, seeing as how things have changed and been updated so frequently in the far and recent pasts that it has probably been said and recorded throughout history that things will remain the way they are and that we have basically arrived
at humanity’s endpoint. Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is essentially as good as it’s going to get, and we should all start learning quantum mechanics because it affords us an understanding of the way the entire universe works (although dark matter and energy would suggest that our current understanding probably isn’t even near complete).

Any way you look at it, even in our most peaceful years as a species on Earth, there are still terrible things going on all around the world. There are an estimated 25 million people in the world who are basically considered slaves right at this moment, because of low or no pay and abhorrent working conditions. At least 50% of the North American population is dealing with subjugation, sexism, homophobia, human and civil rights violations, inequality, ignorance, abuse, violence, war, and innumerable other problems. In the rest of the world the percentages are much higher than that.

…pay a little more attention to “funny” people…

We have the ability as a society to right these inequalities. We have the technology to cure most diseases, we can generate enough renewable energy to power our world several times over if we sat down and hashed out the details. We could severely limit the power and motive of individuals to commit violent acts if we simply did away with outdated prejudices and assault weapons, and stopped abusing belief systems to prop up atrociously unfair political systems. Humans’ ability to stop these injustices exist right now, and the people doing the most to expose these systems for what they are are the satirists who unravel the complexities of everyday occurrences and use humour to inform and to make us aware of what is going on.

Therefore, I move that we all pay a little more attention to “funny” people, because you have the most to learn from somebody who is lightheartedly trying to show you how wrong the world is. Short of visiting everyone in the world to see that we’re not so different, this is probably the best thing you can do to make the world a better place.