Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 72: Bailey

Five signs that your much-anticipated visit with your daughter has gone well:

1) The seventh day of her visit seems like perhaps the second or third, and you realize that in less than 48 hours she will be gone and you feel like the time has just evaporated in an instant.
2) The way she carries herself, the things she thinks and says and the way she dresses remind you that she is young, but not a child. She's not watching Power Puff girls, or listening to Radio Disney, or wearing jammies with Yodas on them.
3) She's almost 18, and somehow your life that you think is mostly the same as it ever was is actually very, very different.
4) Because she seems all right, you forgive yourself a little bit for all the ignorant parenting screwups you think you've made.
5) You suddenly realize that you really want a picture together to remember this time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 70: End my lockout!

So the NFL is back in business. That's good news for us football fans. Now I need my personal work lockout to be over.

I didn't think I'd be 10 weeks into this and still looking. The bright side is that I still feel some optimism... I'm waiting on a callback on something here that would be so supremely good. And finding some interesting fits elsewhere. It is hard to be patient but you just really have no choice, because having agita over the situation will do nothing to help.

Had a very terrible sleep last night but that was not related to anxiety; instead we had some dog incontinence issues to sort out which led to early morning laundry. By the time all that started to settle down I couldn't sleep. It was the first time I saw a sunrise in a while. But now my sleep is totally gacked for the day. I'm hoping to have a normal night tonight.

File this post under the category of "mundane." All subscription cancellations will get a complete refund.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 69: Scattered

This was one of those lost kind of days. I am getting early starts but today that didn't turn into the kind of progress I wanted.

It's all good though, right? Actually, late in the day I found something interesting, researched it, felt discouraged and that chasing it would be a waste, then thought "This is exactly the sort of thing you envisioned doing 5 years ago; what's wrong about chasing THAT?"

So off ya go. I mean, as far as dream jobs go, there are the ones you convince yourself are dream jobs, and there are those few that actually *are* dream jobs. This is in the latter category. It'd be criminal to have that much fun and get paid to do it.

Who knows? Somebody has to win the lottery.


The buzz last few days concerns the debt ceiling. A WH rep today explained on CNN today how terrible this all was, that not increasing the debt ceiling would "prevent America from borrowing more money."

Umm... that's exactly the problem. We don't need to be borrowing any more money. It's called fiscal responsibility. Both sides are playing it like a hot potato. We need to spend less. We need more revenue. We could spend less if we weren't engaged in expensive military excursions in Asia and Africa. We could raise more money if the corporations and the super-rich would pay their fair share. I'm sick of hearing the whining about poor millionaires and billionaires. "More taxes means less jobs." Bullshit. They're taxed less now than they've ever been taxed and the economy is in freefall. Where are the jobs? Where's *my* damn job?

Millionaires, billionaires, call me. Get me hooked up and I'll sell you my vote.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 68: Quiet

So there are five beings in this home and four of them are asleep. It's quiet.

Just applied for a different job at a place I've already been turned down once. Gotta keep at it, right?

Yesterday I felt like I had at least perhaps lost some weight. But this morning I wondered: how much of that is mental? And how much of that is psychological in the sense of feeling smaller, feeling diminished?

Because this thing erodes you in ways. It'd be nice if it helped you lost weight! And I remember a friend talking about the "3D" diet: divorce, disease or drugs. I'm grateful not to be using any of those methods.

But a trauma brought on by stress and worry can indeed manifest itself in physical changes. Both WebMD and verify this; WebMD says 75-90 percent of doctor visits are related to stress. That seems high, but on the other hand, would it be shocking if that were true?

Are you stressed? I bet you are. The economy, debt, responsibilities, work, traffic, family issues, health issues, psychos with bombs and machine guns... Fear causes stress and everyone's worried about something. Or multiple somethings.

If there's an upside for me it's that somehow I tend to believe that things will work out. This isn't "faith" per se... I don't think some benevolent hand is going to move me or move events to a pleasant denouement. It's just a belief that I will do the things I need to do to get my life where it needs to be.

I've been laid off before so I've done this... looked for work, gotten turned down, finally landed something. When I think about all the job prospects I've courted and all the times I've been rejected, it's astonishing. It has to be in the hundreds. I remember one day applying for 18 different jobs. It was more of an exercise to see how many I could crank out. I don't think that's the best approach because you're only doing the most cursory attempt to make a connection. It's actually harder to send two or three really strong, tailored applications than to carpet-bomb 18 in a day.

OK, I've run this horse as far as it will go. Maybe today's the day.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day 66: WTF

So reading a little more about this Norway rampage. The guy's clearly gone.

Not to go all End Times on people, but aren't these horrible things a little unsettling when taken on the whole?

Just in the last 12 hours: 5 shot at Dallas-area roller rink. 8 shot in Seattle.

Listen, the heat's getting everybody irritable, but this is ridiculous.

It just seems like society is disintegrating bit by bit, although sometimes it seems like the pace is picking up a bit. We're destroying the planet. Now it feels like we're turning on each other.

The stuff in Norway... you know, to me almost every murder plea should be insanity, because a rational being could never think of willfully killing someone, much less the numbers this Scandinavian scumbag put up. At what point does the rational person think: "I'm pissed off, I think I must make a statement. Giant homemade bombs and killing dozens of kids at a camp seems to be the right response."

That's clearly insane, right?

Other things that are insane: flying planes into buildings. Shooting up campuses. Gunning down people gathered to visit with a congressional representative.

But these sorts of things have become almost expected, commonplace. How is that even possible? And what does it mean?

Day 66: Waste

Amy Winehouse is dead, the newest member of the 27 Club. Those coincidences are pretty weird.

Listen, while I was never in Winehouse's class of being ripped, I've had a few crazy nights over the years. At any point you can be unlucky... perhaps you get into that car with the person who might seem OK but is actually not. Perhaps you're the innocent late-night driver who meets the impaired driver at the wrong time. There's no excusing it or explaining it. It's wrong, and it's criminal.

I'm a long-time believer in individual freedoms: if you want to be a druggie or a drunk, that's your right as long as you don't hurt anyone else. I'm not mad at Amy Winehouse for killing herself, if that indeed is how this turns out (and I think we all feel pretty strongly that there can be no other method here than substance abuse). I'm mad at her because she had something that appealed to a lot of people, and now it's over.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day 65: Day 65

Wow, 65 days. It's closing in on August. Aug. 1 was kind of my outside target date, so I need something to happen soon to get there by then.

We've been pretty good to this point, money-wise, so the crunch isn't oppressive. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Probably a little of both.

Today's productivity gains will come from getting this house in order. I've got a lot of cleaning to do.

I'm pleased to have lots of writing done this week. I've got a book idea that I've been making notes over... the main thing is to make yourself write every day. So that's an additional value JJ serves, it's making me commit. You know how guys are with commitment!

Got the electric bill yesterday: $166. We haven't even been keeping it really cool. I figure the next two payments will also be unpleasant before the heat breaks.

I want to thank you handful of folks who stop by here. It means so much to me that someone listens. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It's also amusing to me that there are some truly random visitors, according to my stats tracking: Clearly accidentally, I've had look-ins from China, Malaysia and Germany. Big shout-out to my peeps in China, Malaysia and Germany!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

CD reviews: Nilsson Schmilsson and Son of Schmilsson by Harry Nilsson

Harry Nilsson
Nilsson Schmilsson (1971)
Son of Schmilsson (1972)
Both 3 stars

Harry Nilsson’s been dead closing in on 18 years now, and that’s a shame. His music was good, interesting and damned addictive, but very little of it was groundbreaking.

The guy had a knack for crafting hook-y pop songs.

He had big hits with “Everybody’s Talkin” and “Without You” (neither of which he wrote) and a few others. Nilsson also had a sense of humor that was obvious with even the most topical look at his catalogue: “Coconut,” “Joy” “Jump Into the Fire” and “Spaceman” got a lot of airplay but none of them had much of a message to them.

His like of critical accomplishment is overshadowed by the fact that commercially he did very well, and it also didn’t hurt that The Beatles, and especially John Lennon, worshipped the guy. In fact, Nilsson and Lennon were raging drinking buddies during the early 70s in LA. Nilsson’s other dubious claim to fame is that he owned the London flat where both Mama Cass Elliot and Keith Moon died. Top that for weird trivia.

Nilsson had a few other hits: “Best Friend,” from the TV show “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father;” a huge hit for Three Dog Night called “One;” and stuff he did from a 70s children’s movie, “The Point.”

For many fans like me, however, this early 70s two-album stretch was his best consistent work. For a pre-teen, perhaps some of the appeal was in lyrics from songs like “Take 54” with its innuendos and the refrain “I sang my balls off for you, baby” or the followup line from “You’re Breaking My Heart” (“so fuck you”) that could never fail to charm an adolescent boy. Throw in the comic dialogue interspersed on “Son of Schmilsson” as well as the lyric “I’d rather be dead than wet my bed.” And you’ve got something that people of that time likely still remember. But as far as depth, maybe this is why Nilsson if he is remembered at all is as sort of a footnote.

That’s sad, because his stuff is pretty good. Not everything has to be Dylan.

The first three songs of “Nilsson Schmilsson” are fun throwaways typical of his style… “Gotta Get Up” is about going to work, “Driving Along” is a nice followup about perhaps a weekend road trip. “Early in the Morning” is next and it’s pure silliness. I love them all.

Side note: Regarding the album cover art, I’ve always wondered if the notorious party-boy Nilsson, shown in a robe, is holding a hash pipe. Anyone have any idea? I’ve never seen this addressed.

Next up on the album is one of the best cuts, “The Moonbeam Song.” It’s got a languid tone to it and ends with a very Beatles-esque outro that somewhat mirrors “Strawberry Fields.” It remains a highlight to this day.

“Down” is a piano-driven rocker up next that closed the album “side” (ah, albums) but I always found it a little so-so.

The second half begins with what was probably his biggest hit, the lost love lament “Without You.” Nilsson didn’t write this one, either. But he did write the next song, the goofy “Coconut” which perfectly encapsulates Nilsson’s love of the silly. “Let the Good Times Roll” is next, and unmemorable. But the next effort, “Jump Into the Fire” remains a pretty exhilarating rocker. A mid-song drum frenzy from Jim Gordon highlights the song, as well as a pretty jaunty bass track laid down by Herbie Flowers. This was a huge, huge song in its time and one thing I remember was that when “Quadrophonic” sound was being pushed on the world, this song was often used as a demo.

A mellow love song, “I’ll Never Leave You” ends the album.

The next time we heard from Harry Nilsson, “Take 54” opens with a bleating sax played by Klaus Voorman (an old Beatles buddy from their Hamburg days) and Nilsson’s anguished pleas to a bitchy muse. It’s hilarious and unforgettable, though (also) completely silly.

Nilsson’s next song has gotten some extended shelf life because it’s really pretty and touching. “Remember Christmas” is a sweet, sweet song. Nilsson’s vocals sound so heartsick and earnest that it’s hard to listen to this song without getting a little misty. His family life apparently was pretty difficult and knowing that makes listeners understand and share the pain that the holidays sometimes elicit.

In fact, reviewing this period makes me wonder if Nilsson himself didn’t consciously pour his heart out then deliberately change the subject with some outrageous joke song like the next one, “Joy.” After all, it’s extremely common for people to try and salve their pain with a sense of humor. Tears of a clown and all.

“Joy” is a country-tinged goof. In fact, the entire rest of the album is kind of a goof. “You’re Breaking My Heart” couldn’t get airplay because of the F word (guess no one knew that they could emulate Cee Lo Green and make the F = Forget). “Spaceman” was amusing, and got tons of airplay. Keep in mind that this was the height of the moonshot era and space was a fair topic for music (Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” Elton John’s “Rocket Man” for example).

Three songs later is my favorite from the album, “Ambush.” In 1972 everyone was still rightfully freaked out about all the shit going down in Vietnam. Leave it to an unstoppable jokester like Nilsson to find a laugh in a song about something awful. A patrol is slogging through a war zone and the group starts singing. Hey, a catchy tune is hard to resist, so the soldiers all cut loose… and in losing themselves in the music, wander into an ambush:

“But by the time we stopped the song,
The enemy had opened fire.
Now, we ain't gonna sing that song no more
Ain't gonna sing that song no more.

Just don't pay to sing no more

Especially when you're in a war.”

The last two songs are “I’d Rather Be Dead” which in addition to having ridiculous lyrics has a choir of what sounds like retirees on backup. A full orchestra joins in on the last song, “The Most Beautiful World in the World” in which Harry uses gargling as a musical instrument and feels up Mother Nature. Yes, really.

The whole album is a lot of fun, including the short comedy bit between “Take 54” and “Remember Christmas” and a second one between “The Lottery Song” and “At My Front Door.”

Peter Frampton, who would become a global icon in a couple of years, played on 7 of the album’s 11 songs.

I gave both of these 3 stars because they’re technically strong, catchy and amusing. Enjoyment-wise, they’re closer to 5 stars, but as more-or-less pop-rock music, they can’t be held up to the same kind of standard as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Day 64: The Vision Thing

Spent a long time yesterday putting together not just a cover letter but a communications business plan for a prospective employer.

Today they sent the form letter saying "thanks, but no thanks."

Really? Barely 24 hours and that's it? They may have an internal candidate lined up and so the posting is a formality. That happens not infrequently; I worked one place where there was a requirement to post jobs internally, but learned that they had already hired someone before they had done that... and somehow I was the square peg because I raised the question of corporate procedure. Then again, that place never was great about pursuing excellence...

I'm just puzzled that they weren't even intrigued by my pitch. It went way beyond the run-of-the-mill cover letter approach; this was a well-conceived strategy.

So that's a little disappointing. And helps explain why Carlson has been shutting down restaurants and losing market share for some time. Just today, two of its hotel chains fared poorly in quality surveys from JD Power... Radisson finished next-to-last, and Country Inn and Suites finished in the middle of the pack.

Carlson has owned TGI Fridays for 36 years. When they bought in, the store in Dallas was a sensation. Now the Applebees-class restaurants are more known for their presence in airports than their stand-alone stores. Is that business model working? When I think of airport operations, I think of Sbarros and over-processed, overpriced foods.

An infusion of new ideas might be good. The local TGIF closed down in late 2009; I went there a lot and their staff was treated pretty poorly... just days before Christmas, everyone was called together and the plug was pulled. Happy New Year!

BTW, that Dallas store in Old Town has been shuttered a long, long time.

Alas. Carlson is privately owned so digging up performance data is a challenge. Wiki says they had $38b in sales in 2008. The company has also gotten some positivity for its diversity practices. It's a huge global company. I hope it works out for them.

But in my case, I pitched them *hard* and their response indicates to me they didn't even read what I sent. That's disappointing. For a company with some strong relatively recent press regarding its people, I expected more humanity. That's probably where I went wrong.

I suppose if I had gotten this notice after two or three days, I would have felt a little better about it. A rejection is a rejection, and at least they had the decency to respond to it. But I invested real thought into giving them some concrete ideas, and they just dismissed it with the press of a button. That's hard to take. It's obvious no one even absorbed what I proposed.

Oh well. Maybe that job in St. Croix will come through...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 63: Protips

[Expletives deleted]

The above was a phrase that permeated the initial official release of the Nixon Watergate tapes (sans, of course, the maligned Rosemary Woods' missing 18-minute gap). It was a shocking tidbit of a shocking saga - the president uses bad language! Scandalous!

Well, it was then. This was before people knew the truth about our presidents: that they are human. They lust in their hearts (Carter) and in real life (JFK and Clinton), they can be nerds (Ford, GHW Bush) or underachievers (W). They can engage in unethical (LBJ) if not downright illegal activities (RMN and probably a lot more).

But I digress. Today's topic covers some things to do and not to do when applying for jobs.

1) COMPOSE YOUR COVER LETTERS OFFLINE. Before today, I almost always did this. After today, I will always do this. Because I just had finished a long, killer cover letter moments before the thing timed out. And I lost all of it. [Expletives deleted] Write the thing in Word or whatever. Spellcheck it. Read it out loud. Seriously, that last one is important, because it provides a tone and you'll be surprised what you catch that spellcheck won't.

2) Research your target. Seems obvious, right? There are two jobs that I have had where I probably would have been better suited to do more homework on the front end. For one of them, I should have known from the start that this was a marriage that would fail. I love the NFL. And the opportunity to work in the NFL would be a dream come true. On the other hand, I don't know how I could go to work for someone like the Washington Redskins. They're the spawn of Satan.
Be that as it may, I would still work for them, and wear my Cowboys T-shirt beneath my burgundy and gold. But the initial point is key: know your target. What would be more frustrating than to actually have your talents appeal to a prospective employer, gain an interview, then blow it because you didn't understand the company well? Better to learn these lessons before finding them out through screwups. (See item 1.)

3) Start early. I made a point a few days ago to take on the day earlier. I had fallen into a languid "go with it" approach to sleep and it started to feel irresponsible. Yes, you *can* apply for a job at 3 a.m. But in most cases you won't be working that job at 3 a.m. So establish that circadian rhythm and mirror your expected work hours.

4) Be reasonable. I put in a solid 6.5 hours yesterday. No, that is not 8 hours, and yes, most work days are going to be at least 8 hours. But at the point that I decided I was more or less done... I was more or less done. You've got to know when you've hit the wall. Let's be honest here: Most people don't go to work and hammer for 8 hours. They find breaks. They do a walkabout, loiter in the break room, cruise the Web, chatter about whatnot around the "water cooler"... basically, they dither. It's generally accepted that people are going to have some productivity deadspots over time. While in a way this is disappointing, it *is* reality. People do this. Yesterday I had no additional brainpower after that 6.5 so I folded up the tent. I don't feel bad about it.

5) Vary the mix. I have not been as good about this lately, and it's time to alter the attack. That means if you keep going only to a few sources for your search, you're not giving yourself as good a shot as if you were hitting everything regularly. A great friend of mine is in sales. I like him anyway. In discussing sales once, he said being successful meant making 100 calls and hoping for 10 to hit, rather than uber-schmoozing 10 and trying to get them all. Duh, right? But apparently this is a philosophical argument among sales types... whether it's better to super service likely clients, or cut back on that a bit and try the shotgun approach.
Same with a job search. I don't think I can send out 10 resumes a day, the quality will suffer. But I need to at least expand my research habits. If I let a week go by without checking every lead, I might miss something. So spend time casting a wide net, but you only have to pull in the ones with fish. Get it?

Alas, I must go. I have to rewrite a cover letter. [Expletives deleted]

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 62: Dog Days

I've had some doozies arguing about climate change, but today... man, do I want some climate change. It's really too hot. This is the hottest summer I remember since the brutality of 1980.

Unfortunately too many of us know what it is like to be without work for an extended time. For those of you who don't, I hate to disappoint you but having this time off actually is not a "free vacation."

In fact, it seriously screws up your real vacations. For one thing, whenever I get a job, you can pretty much count on NOT taking any time off for at least a year. If you're married or otherwise involved, that means that your partner gets shortchanged as well. Or, they take time because they have to and their vacation is away from you. Which, in some cases I guess, could be a true vacation. Onward.

Now I see ads inviting you to come to the beach, and it looks great: summer sun, kicking back near the waves. Only... I can't afford to do that right now. I have to find work, not lounge around and spend money I don't have. I see mountains and cooler-temperature venues that look enticing and same thing: No mon, no fun. So you're stuck.

Every expense makes you feel guilty, like you're stealing. It feels strict. It even makes you feel guilty to keep the air conditioning a few degrees higher than you might normally. Since the extortionists at the power companies adjust their rates seasonally, you get hit harder anyway. You're just always looking over your shoulder about money.

I was given a ticket the other night, for allegedly running a stop sign. I'm thinking about fighting it, primarily because I think it is a bogus ticket, but also because I think I'm being robbed for $125 that I really don't want to spend. Honestly, if they could put me on a work crew for two days to pay it off, I'd do it. But this isn't about breaking the law, it's about generating revenue for a dink town. Everybody around here knows about this place. It's unavoidable if you're going to the local airport.

Except that it isn't. I'm considering altering my airport route to go a longer way but a way that ensures I never go through that town again.

If there's good news I guess it's that while the heat is beating me down, I'm not letting a lack of success on the job hunt do the same. l'm still fighting and being hopeful. There has not been a lot of super leads this week. I console myself that it is only Tuesday afternoon.

The best thing about oppressive summer heat is that day in the future when it breaks... either a cooling storm or even better, that first crisp morning of early fall when you wake up and the temperature is in the 50s and everything just feels wonderful. I'm thinking that this job search is like that... someday soon that cool change will come, and it will refresh you and make you appreciate the hard stuff you got through to get to that point.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Day 61: Dreams

Teachers used to ask grade-school students this question: "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Maybe they still ask. A lot of people now have taken this question and even later in life said "When I grow up..."

If you think about it, this question is probably one of the first probing questions asked of a child. It assesses the values and the dreams of a young person who hasn't yet experienced the limitations and roadblocks life will inevitably throw their way.

I wanted to be an astronaut. Space was a national obsession in 1960s America. NASA was located only a few hundred miles away. The U.S. was the leader. Launches and excursions dominated the news when they were happening. When Apollo I burned up on the pad, it was one of the awful events of the era, almost as bad as the murders of JFK/MLK/RFK, Manson or Kent State.

Reality set in later when I got too tall. Space flyers had to be shorter to fit into the confined craft. I outgrew my dream.

My heroes later became explorers of truth: Men with names like Woodward, Bernstein, Thompson. Journalism became something I was interested in before I knew it had a name. It took a long time for that dream to start falling apart, because it took a long time for journalism to lose its way. Now that game is dominated by bean-counters and charlatans more interested in making money than making history. Newspapers haven't lost their way because there's no interest -- the Internet and 3,000 TV channels are proof that information is a hot commodity. Newspapers have lost their way because they're too slow, and because they aren't trusted.

The speed issue can be managed. That's what the Web offers. The print product is a goner, but that's OK. It's slow, ecologically unsound, and financially wasteful. Why spend money on a print product? Paper costs money, then you have to distribute it. The Web solves those problems. Yes, people still like a physical product, but it just doesn't make economic sense for the producer. Create an online product and let the end-users print it out and carry that cost if they want it. They'll get over it.

But where traditional print entities have given way too much ground is with the credibility issue. And it's their own damn fault. The News of the World scandal is nothing. Stupid leadership has been around in newsrooms a long, long time. At one time the print media knew that the most important thing it had was its name, its credibility, its dependability. Somewhere along the way this got compromised. One factor was the increasing emphasis on profit. Print always made money but the greedheads always want more. So what did they do? The crude, simpleton approach was to cut the newshole. Instead of a product that was 70 percent news and 30 percent ads, that's now the other way around. There's so little actual news left that the value has eroded. What's worse is that some editor chooses which stories go in that small space. That editor now usually brings his or her own pressures from above and personal bias to the equation. If there are 20 stories but space for only six of them, what remains?

It should be the six stories that have the most relevance and impact to the reader, but that's not always the case. So the erosion of trust begins almost without anyone seeing. But because there are so many information sources, those other 14 stories ALWAYS find their way to light somewhere. And at that point readers realize they've been played. The odds are great that someone interested in some of those alternative stories are then going to wonder why these stories weren't given facetime. Regardless of the rationale, they're going to have suspicions. And so they no longer trust the newspaper.

When you lose someone's trust, it's damned hard to get it back. And almost impossible for them to forget.

I love newspapers and media, and when I was in that game I tried hard to tilt at those windmills and make people see this. I still think I'm correct. The six stories that make it into print should be the most important stories, period. The other 14 join them to feed your Web product. It's obvious, but not to the multitude of morons running most newspapers.

Yet somehow they have jobs (for now) and I don't. It will be of little consolation to me when these fools also become jobless, because in doing so they took a lot of good people with them. It's only noble to go down with the ship if you've gotten all the others safely to the lifeboats first. These dumbasses are instead aiming for the iceberg to prove how strong the ship is. They don't get it and it's safe to say that if they ever do, it will be too late.

So here I am in 2011. What do I want to be when I grow up?

I want to do something exciting, something that gets me enthused to come to work every day and that sparks my creativity and imagination. I want to see something in the real world that makes me think of adapting it in a natural way to my work.

I want to do something meaningful, something that enhances society. Providing important information was one way to do that, but the system has flaws. Those can be worked out, but only if there isn't resistance. Everyone has to share the mission. I've worked at a place where I was told, essentially, that slashing company expenses might not be a great idea. (You'd be shocked to know more of this story, but trust me, it is relevant to you.) I worked at a place where a part of the corporate advancement depended on very specific religious and political persuasions. Companies can easily discriminate... people don't think of this always. If you think that your constitutional right to free speech is inviolable, go tell your boss to stick it and then see if your free speech rights allow you to keep your job. I worked at a place where after the application of technology and social media tools began to produce results, management quelled it because it was creating too much work.

Do you know what you call a business that discourages growth? A failed business.

I embraced minimalism unwittingly by being involved in newspapers. People just don't make big money in some businesses. No one thinks of being the millionaire teacher, firefighter, reporter.

So while I need a job that pays a living wage, I don't need an exorbitant wage. The highest-paying job I ever had I walked away from after less than a year. It was a great job, great company, but I realized that I had to give it up and pay my soul. I miss some things about it but I know to this day I did what I should have done. Money doesn't motivate me, but some employers use this against you.

I am crafting cover letters that spell out my vision for each position. I look at it like this: if you go into something thinking you're going to conquer dragons but they're going to arm you with a butter knife, that's a ridiculous journey to set out on. On the wall 8 feet from me is written "Go Big or Go Home." If you know what that means, and you have a job opening, we should talk.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day 60: Connections?

Sigh, weird week. Happyland isn't that happy today. Moving right along...

I don't watch the crap on TV that too many people watch. Among the things I never watch: Two and a Half Men, Dancing With the Stars, Survivor, American Idol, The Real World... I did watch some late episodes of The Hills to see what that was all about (nothing, apparently) and I do watch Bethenny's show. What can I say, she's interesting.

Unfortunately, joblessness has freed a lot of time in my TV availability. I like A&E's programming... First 48 and Intervention are fascinating, and the "reality" in this reality TV does not appear contrived like the reality in most mainstream programming such as those above and elsewhere.

Lately I've caught a couple of other A&E programs: Storage Wars and Hoarders. Last night it hit me that there are connections between those two shows.

As some of you may know, I am interested in the tenets of minimalism. Both of these shows have links to this philosophy. In each, people have too much crap. In Hoarders they drown in it. In Storage Wars they abandon it.

There's a problem here. Why do Americans collect so much stuff? I remember George Carlin's routine about buying bigger houses to "hold your stuff." Carlin knew that we are bamboozled by consumerism. We're trained, indoctrinated to get more crap. And it's a sucker's game. I always love this quote from Tyler Durden in Fight Club: "The things you own end up owning YOU."

In both those programs, that's true. In Hoarders, consumerism has created a mental illness. The program says 3 million Americans do this. I can remember two neighbors growing up who had this problem. In some cases the hoarding is brought on by some other emotional/mental trauma, but consumerism has to share some if not all blame. We're taught that having stuff = success or accomplishment. So we go to work under any circumstances to ensure that we have enough disposable income to acquire "stuff."

BTW... who coined the phrase "disposable" income? That causes me to shake my head. Are we so callous that we trade the short time of our existence for something "disposable?" What's wrong with this picture?

In Storage Wars I wonder about the people who are having their former possessions treated as a treasure hunt. I've used storage before, and in almost every case the need to go that route was precipitated by a difficult event. People use storage because of a move, but that's usually the best case. Other times, they are having family problems, money problems, or just in general have made some iffy decisions that force the use of storage. Every time I see someone on Storage Wars throwing out boxes of toys and clothes it makes me uncomfortable. Because to them, that stuff is garbage. Yet to the person who put it there, it's the pieces of their lives. And that's not garbage. But it is very, very sad.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Day 55: Really? 55?

That seems like a lot of days...

Well, the bad news is that I got two turn-down notices today. The good news is that at least these places are bothering to let me know.

That's been just one more casualty of our societal slide the past decade or so... a lot of this is a downside of the wired world and "social" media. Really, it should be called "anti-social" media because the net (ooo, "net," clever!) effect has actually been to make us less connected. Now, we "connect" through the Web/e-mail/FB/Twitter et al... when was the last time you sent someone a hand-written letter? Writing a few lines in a card doesn't count.

I love the Internets, but for all the ways it allows us to interact, it also puts up some fences.

Professionally, and with the jobs situation being so dire, it's meant that job seekers carpet-bomb potential employers in a way that snail mail didn't. You can apply a lot more easily to the longshot job in Denver, LA, NY or wherever... you don't have the printing or shipping costs. Put a package together, hit send. Done.

So the recipients of this, who in snail mail might have gotten 90 percent local candidates, now get a lot more from beyond their immediate area. And whereas some people would not even bother to produce a physical application, now any and everyone can just e-mail a try. A lot of the bombarded HR people along the way have just been overwhelmed and so can't spend time sending personalized responses to candidates they pass over.

Some places send back an acknowledgment as soon as they get your application. A lot of that is automated, although yesterday for DreamJob I got a brief but direct response from (hopefully future boss). That's pretty rare.

The notices today, one was a form letter, the other was from a real person. Hey, the news wasn't what I wanted to hear, but I respect that they at least let me know.

A while back I had a series of interviews with GiantCorp. and I really felt like a contendah. Obviously I didn't get that but the process was without a doubt the most professional I had ever been involved with.


These are headachey times. I think it's the heat and a little bit stress. One of my favorite sayings is to tell people to get out of their own heads... it's basically a variation of the idea of "walk in the other person's shoes." I think it's a good exercise to get some different perspective, but it isn't easy to sometimes completely change your worldview. In my case I need to not be too freaked out about the fact that it really is Day 55. It's not easy, but by thinking of it and putting too much weight on it it can really serve to amp up the fear. Not like we don't battle that enough as it is.

With that in mind, today's song submission. Give it a chance, it works...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 54: Sunny with a chance...

OK, I've backed way off the details phase of this project. Probably a little superstitious about "jinxing" something. I know logically that is ridiculous, but still...

Today I heard back from someone about something. Yes, vague. I had an awesome interview a bit back that I was pretty sure was going to work, but I think I finished second in that race. It stung a bit because I think I was really close. And it would have been a great fit.

Not as good a fit as this, however. This would be an abso-fricking-lute HOME RUN, all caps, period.


I asked for a little help recently from someone who had access to some of my work that I no longer had access to. I asked for certain specific things, and I guess I'll just have to be thankful that I got any assistance here at all, but I didn't get but a couple of the specific things I asked for. Half of what I got was completely unusable. And I think most people would (if they knew the details) completely realize that these things were unusable from the get-go. Frustrating.


BTW, to the 2 or 3 of you who stumble across this (and I know someone is out there, because the stats tell me I get visitors and I have made sure to *not* include my visits on the scoreboard)... feel free to comment or provide feedback. If there's any way to make this a conversation or useful instead of just a rant, that'd be great.


It's hot as heck in Gawd's Country. The 100-degree temp didn't break until late last night. And we've still got two months of this ahead. It's reminding me a lot of 1980. I don't really think I'm a summer person. I like a lot of things about summer, but the heat is just not my thing. I got spoiled my summer in 00 when I was on the beach. That.


I've got a story idea, and I think it could be a book. Odd, I don't really love fiction and might read one work of fiction a year typically. But I've read two in the last three weeks. I think I'm looking for some pointers. I read "2030" by Albert Brooks and it was fun, rolled through it quickly. Sunday I finally got my hands on Stieg Larsson's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and finished it earlier today. It was a great "summer" read.


Another thing rolling through the brain pan yesterday was a rant of sorts about personal goals and what we should want for ourselves, or at least, what I want for myself. It's percolating.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 51: Caring?

Mini-rant TK...

OK, so, groovy job prospect out there. Something I'd be great at, matches my abilities, and for a great employer. In putting together the application, I need some recent writing samples.

Now, I've got tons of copies of things from 2+ years ago, but seeing as how I didn't anticipate getting laid off in May, I didn't actually preserve copies of the dozens of press releases I wrote the previous two years. Still, no worries, right? Contact former employer and ask for e-copies. I know they have them, I archived them. The entire process could take as few as 2 or 3 minutes, and at most 10-15 minutes.

Still waiting.

Is this caring behavior? Not to me it isn't. Color me damned disappointed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Day 49: Probed

Holy Toledo...

Just applied for a job back in Dallas that included two tests. The first was a timed aptitude test that had math and word problems. The second was the kind of psychological examination that had questions like "I am interested in the feelings of my co-workers."

Well, yeah, if psychotic co-worker is armed and dangerous, of course...

If any of y'all have seen "The Parallax View" and remember the test they gave to Warren Beatty, you might know what that felt like.

Anyway, heard from a West Coast prospect last night that was a no-go. Pity, I would have been great at that.

So, it's 10 a.m. and that was a grinder. Time for some breakfast. The good news is that I'm rolling so I'm going to try and knock a couple more out today.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Day 47: Independence

Threat of rain here in Gawd's country...

Found a good prospect out west this morning and did the do for that. Perhaps because it is Independence Day the karmic forces will align.

I've been sleeping heavily the past few days with very vivid but strange dreams. Maybe I should watch "Inception" again.

A high school classmate posted a group photo of my senior class and tagged me in it... except that guy doesn't look anything like me. Could it be me? He looks kind of snotty. I hope that isn't me.

Lately the muse has not been hanging around much. I expect better days this week.

Today's tune is "Something's Got to Give" by the Beastie Boys.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Day 45: Daze

It's really hard for me to focus the past few days. There's too much in my brain right now. One of the worst things a job search generates is this fear of rejection. It's like being a dweeb kid and trying to make those first steps to lose your awkwardness and ask out a girl, speak out in class, go out for the team... whatever it is that you're too scared to try.

I've heard from a handful of outlets who I have applied to. The good news is now I know. The bad news is that the kind of places that are professional enough to respond even with a rejection are the places you really want to be. LocalGiant is one of those.


I have to make myself write. It's difficult because a few days ago I got a little mad at myself for holding back. I think the people who are able to just rip it and tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but are the people who resonate. Yet I am fearful. Why? Because in some cases that truth follows you around and can be used against you. Ask Bill Clinton about "I didn't inhale" or "I never had sex with that woman." The truth-tellers get punished one way or another.

Geez. I'm gonna hit the bike in a little while. Hope to clear out the cobwebs a bit. I need a breakthrough.