Thursday, December 27, 2012

Things Are Looking Up!

When I got laid off in 2011, and having been down that path before, I hit the job search hard. Before landing a part-time job that I was grateful for but the chief requirement of which was being able to withstand six straight 12-hour overnight shifts, I must have applied for 500 jobs.


Most of those were in NWA, but many were not. I applied for jobs all over the U.S., including Hawaii and Alaska. I also applied for jobs in USVI and Europe.

Nothing. All that effort netted a total of only a few solid interviews. I applied for countless jobs at the Beloved State U., and only got a single phone interview for one of them. It certainly didn't make me feel the degree I had gone back to get in 2008 had exceptional value. I mean, if the U didn't think enough of it to hire me, what was anyone else going to think? I also had applied for the job the football coach wound up giving to his chippy (and hence leading to his firing), so maybe my "skills" weren't what was marketable.

Anyway. That was then. Now I'm in New England, and the market here is astonishing. It's so encouraging.

Less than three weeks here, I had an interview arranged for a substitute teaching job. (I tried to do this in Fayetteville, and couldn't even get a callback from the district.) On Dec. 10, I was working for them. I worked two other days, too, and could have worked another... however, I had another job interview that precluded that opportunity.

That interview is going to yield work; I met with a placement firm and they've got more positions than people to fill them. Starting next week, I expect to have even more options.

Today, I sent an application for a great job. Maybe I'll get it. But, I found it simply because I was interested in the organization and looked at their careers site. And I see usually more than one job a day that I am qualified for. And the best part is, there are so many possibilities that I can be a little choosy. I don't have to apply for *every* job I see. This is liberating. I can now work, hopefully, for a company or an organization that I respect and that has a compelling future.

In Arkansas, that was pretty much the U, and not much else. Of the few truly stable companies there, they each have issues that gave me pause. But, I still went after jobs there because I had no choice.

Now, in theory, I don't have that problem. I can pursue opportunities that pay not just a living wage, but  also are personally rewarding. It's exciting. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Interpretation

If you apply for a job that you are a good fit for, yet you're told within hours that you're not a candidate, how should you interpret that?

* Did they already have someone else in mind?
* Are you considered overqualified? In this case they cited "three+ years experience" and I am the "+" part of that equation?
* Are you overpriced?
* Are you delusional? (I'm not, but some cases that could/would be the case.)

I don't understand and never have why being "overqualified" is a drawback. Can you imagine a team of film school newbies having a casting call and telling DeNiro that he was "overqualified" so they couldn't use him?

Puzzled. Puzzled...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Where is Jobless Journal?

I've had a few reasons for not writing as regularly here.

One is a major move; that's taken most of my time for the last six weeks. Second is that prior to that, I was plugging in 36 hours a week with a part-time gig that involved overnights... that took a little wind out of my sails, especially because one component was a six-days-straight stretch of 12-hour overnights.

And then there's the fact that a couple of my haters (maybe more) were visiting these environs. I want to distance from those people as much as possible.

But, the job search has begun anew in my new location. Fortunately, the prospects here are abundant. Now that the move is over and we're settled in, it's time to get back on that horse. I've already applied for a handful, and in some cases gotten responses. Those were before the move, so I don't know if the lack of interest was because I was inquiring from a distance of half a continent.

Anyway. Here we go.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The LA job

Well, I got closer this time... but still no go. Second time with these folks. Today I got official notification about my latest SoCal fling.

However, this time it is not bittersweet. It was a great job and I would have loved it, and it would have gotten me back to my favorite city, Los Angeles.

But seeing as how I'm moving to New England in six days, there were going to be some problems.

The process took too long. There's really no reason why something should take four months to determine. There's following a process, and there's being bogged down. Pull the trigger for cryin' out loud.

But it's over, and now I will focus on what's ahead. Should be fun.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It's not me, it's you

So we're moving. A long way away.

I don't have a job yet, but I'm confident I will be able to do better there than I did here. The market is robust, and especially in my field. It didn't exactly rocket my self-esteem to have to settle after 15 months for an unskilled labor gig that a high-school graduate could easily muster. That's not why I went back to college.

I'm grateful for that work, however. And I had a boss who was a prince of a guy. Him, I'll miss.

But the people in the rest of this place... not so much.

There were many, many good people here. But there were also many, many cliquish, selfish and self-serving, unprofessional shitheads here as well.

Unfortunately, a lot of the latter types had the jobs.

The two places I worked here had some good people there; some will be lifelong friends even though we'll now have many miles between us. However, a team is often built in the image of its leadership. And in my experience, that created some problems.

I've come to look at my work experience here as similar to dating a seriously flawed but very hot girl (or guy, if you're into guys).

When you meet this person, you're reduced to your most basic state. Beautiful plumage, the Norwegian Blue. You get swoony and you start overlooking things, because you're just enamored with the physical. It's even worse if the sex is good, because then you start making more excuses.

But what if the person is a smoker, or a drunk? Lindsay Lohan is (or at least was) attractive. But she's a total train wreck. Do you want to deal with that on a steady basis?

What if they're rude or a jerk? Some women love the "bad boy" but that really works out long-term, does it, ladies? Being stood up, not having phone calls returned, being treated shabbily... at some point, you get tired of it.

What if they're criminally stupid? What happens when the crowd you run with gets wise to your date's ignorance and gives you that look when they do something embarrassing? What happens when you want to discuss something important and significant in the world and they want to non-ironically tell you about the hilarious thing they saw on Jersey Shore?

What if there are huge philosophical differences in things you like? There are things I like in my life that I feel make my life more enjoyable. I love watching sports and football. I love music and movies and books. I couldn't imagine myself long-term involved with someone who didn't like any of those things. It's just not a good fit. Someone who wants to spend lots of time gardening or going to church, or participating in Renaissance Fairs... I'm not against any of those things, and they could even be interesting at times. But in general, that's just not me, and it's not going to be me.

You realize at some point that the limited pros are significantly outweighed by the glaring cons. I suspect most of you know exactly what I am talking about.

It's beautiful here, the air and water is clean. The fall is the best time here... but like that ill-matched love interest, it's not enough. It's not progressive enough, it's not smart enough.

I see way too many confederate flags and symbols. (NB: You lost. Get over it. And, it's offensive. Educate yourselves.) I see too many people who cling to their guns and religion and shun peace and science. I see too many people who don't take advantage of a world-class library but spend hours repeating talking points they hear and see on right-wing media. I see too many people who are quite happy to settle for a mid-level job in a mid-level town. Many choose to do so because despite the flaws, it's generally OK here and "acceptable" to raise a family. It's not hard work to live here if you're willing to forgive some things.

I've never been able to do that. Is the grass always greener? I don't know. But, I know myself enough to know that I like the advantages a real city has to offer. Culturally, I want to be able to experience music, movies, art and other things as it develops. People here got excited when Blue Man Group did a show.

Blue Man Group started 25 years ago.

That's just one anecdote, but it's typical. When we scouted a place up there two weeks ago, we were able to order Chinese delivery late one night. That doesn't happen here. It's pizza. Or if you want late-night eats, there's McDonald's, Taco Bell, IHOP. That's not OK with me. The streets here roll up at 10 p.m. It's even worse in Bentonville.

It's not hell, but it's not me. It's you.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Transitions

Yes, this is still alive. But I've been busy planning a cross-country move so I'm kinda scarce around these parts.

At the same time I am juggling job prospects, still. One is scarily promising: two days ago I sailed through an interview. Tonight is my last overnight at the PT gig, and then I work days Saturday and Sunday and that will be that. I'll officially be unemployed again.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The difference

I'm writing my "Dear John" letter to this place, but one component that will probably be there is building its case today...

You've heard numerous complaints from this precinct regarding the unprofessional conduct of a lot of employers regarding responding to applicants. A sample of my applications within the last year showed that just 24.1 percent actually bothered to even let me know if they had received my information, or asked for more information, or extended an interview.

We're moving to the Big City soon. Today I applied for three jobs.

All three have already acknowledged receipt. This is how you do it, son.

Adios, Smallville.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Day... many: You're killing me

Typical.

Dream job finally resurfaced. They want to interview me. On the day I'm flying back from looking at places to live in Boston!

So as feared, the dilemma arises. This job would be too good to pass up, truthfully. I was tempted to bag on the last phase, or to just not apply myself. I couldn't willingly blow a good job prospect, though. I just couldn't. I've fought too hard to find something that was good, there was just no way I could be half-assed about it.

Dammit.

OK, so I wrote back asking them if I could do a Skype/remote interview. One thing's for sure, there's just no way I can be in LA on that day.

What do I do?

Well guess what? Problem solved. Just got a callback: We're on for a phoner that day.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Dempire Strikes Back

This election is being fought the Chicago Way.

My brother, Gawd bless him, decided to out-of-the-blue tweak me today about the presidential race.

He's not a super-vocal righty, but he leans that way. I guess he passes for moderate compared to the rest of that bunch these days.

I've been thinking about this race for a while. It's different in a lot of ways. And nasty in most ways. In fact, this is the most low-down, dirty race I've ever seen. I guess that's a good thing. Here's why:

For years, the below-the-belt stuff was always initiated by the right. Willie Horton? That was the work of GOP operative Lee Atwater, a ruthless SOB if there ever was one. Karl Rove probably has a shrine to the guy, who, thankfully, is dead. Rove's Willie Horton was the Swiftboating of a war hero in 2004 with the disgusting attacks meant to discredit John Kerry.

Kerry was a lousy candidate. Dukakis, not so much. But Kerry went to Vietnam and actually fought and actually got wounded. Meanwhile, pussies like Rove, Five-Deferments Cheney and a "W" ol George Bush were never in harm's way. Kerry didn't deserve to be slimed like that. The only time Cheney ever shot anybody was when he blasted his rich friend.

I believe the 2000 and 2004 elections were fixed. The SCOTUS voted for W; Ohio was stolen with Diebold machine fraud. I guess, though, as bad as W was, a Kerry presidency would have meant the despicable scumbag John Edwards would be VP. Ugh. Talk about a lose-lose situation.

Dirty politics has always been around, but the GOP has always been better at it. Atwater and Rove are the masters of the dark arts. But it's come back to bite them in the ass. The GOP pretenders cannibalized each other during the primaries. Gingrich savaged Mittens. The GOP desperately wanted anyone but Willard. For once, Ann Goatler was right.

But the biggest difference this year has been the left has finally, finally decided to play rough. Obama's team is doing things "The Chicago Way." They've fought hard, and perhaps even a little dirty. It's the first time I've ever seen the Democrats come out swinging. They've always let the other side slag them and refused to muck it up like this.

I don't know if it's a good thing. But it's at least a fair fight now.




Friday, September 21, 2012

Radio Silence

It's been unavoidable.

Some random thoughts...

As some of you may know, we're leaving Gawd's Country. Heading off for a great adventure as the Little Achiever in the family has been promoted. We're going nearer to the Great White North; can't say for sure because we have to find a place to live!

So that's exciting.

I'm excited because we're going somewhere that is a real city with real employment prospects. I've been grateful for my PT gig, it's been a life-saver in a lot of ways. We've been able to build a little bit of savings which is going to come in handy when we move to Expensiveville.

A longer post has been brewing in my mind about leaving Gawd's Country. I need to go back and count the number of jobs I have applied for at Beloved State U. I felt triumphant to come back and complete my degree after a 24-year layoff; but my very own Beloved State U. has minimized its value by refusing to hire me. I've landed precisely ONE interview out of all the jobs I have applied for there.

Alas.

Anyway, things are pretty busy right now. So I haven't had time to write. I'll try and correct that.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wow

Let me reiterate: WOW!

OK, then, something huge happening. H.U.G.E.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Job Drama

There's been a little stress in and out of the JJ household the last week or so.

I'm not really ready to go into details. Mistakes may have been made. On the other hand, it's important to be able to maintain your standards. Time will tell.

Stay tuned.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Money Honey

It wasn't that I was necessarily bad with money, but I was careless.

I guess that was a nice problem to have. Once I got to a place in life where I could afford some things, it wasn't something that seemed to be a big issue. There was always enough money to go around.

Each year now the IRS sends out a history of your income. My first job, I worked at a Minyard Food Store in the summer of 1974, sacking groceries and carrying them out to the car of old ladies. Those "old ladies" were probably younger than I remember. I made $428 that year.

My first eight years of income, I earned $2,192. My first full year of "professional" employment, I made $14,840. I had a rent payment and a car payment. I don't know how I survived.

Living here in Gawd's Country, incomes are low, but fortunately, so is the cost of living. Still, before I landed this part-time job, my last full year of work (2010) saw my income only slightly higher than it was in 1994.

Clearly, that's an indication that the economy is still weak. The numbers bear this out. Check the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or this relevant story in the Christian Science Monitor. (See? There are some news sources you can cite that can't be dismissed as the "librul media.")

American earning power has been sharply eroded. Sometimes it feels like we're having to live on the equivalent of $14,840 a year.

Consequently, I've learned to be much more aware of my financial situation. Thanks to Al Gore inventing the Internet (NB: He didn't, and never said he did; that was BS perpetuated by wingers who hate him), you can check your finances several times a day. It used to be hard to stay on top of your finances; you'd have to call or go to the bank, or keep a ledger, or wait for a monthly statement.

Now, I am almost always aware of exactly how my bank accounts look.

That knowledge makes you more... accountable... and responsible with your money. It only takes a little effort to be able to successfully manage your personal finances.

And the best part is, through the hard lessons learned by a less watchful approach and carelessly falling into the temptation of easy credit, we are very fiscally solid these days. Our total "official" debt is the $2,900 we owe on our car. M has a credit card with a zero balance due. I don't have a card, although I'm considering getting one in a couple of months just to have around.

We have also managed to build a tiny nest egg. Now that I'm getting a paycheck, we're hoping to save $500 a month (or more) to stash a good chunk of money away for an anticipated move.

That's a big thing: saving. You've just got to do this. It not only gives you an emergency stash if you have an unexpected expense, but it also represents real freedom. Our goal is to put away $25,000 so that we can go when and where we want.

FYI

My overnights are a grind, and the last one ended Thursday morning at 5:30 a.m.

It's impossible to write during that stretch, and the past few days are somewhat of recovery/return to "normalcy" (always a relative term) mode.

For that handful who frequents the joint, my apologies for not giving you anything. For those of you who don't stop by, also thanks for nothing.

But seriously folks...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hide and Seek



Sometimes the weight of life can really press on you.

This oppressive summer, adjusting to a weird work schedule, worrying about career, worrying about money, worrying about society, worrying about political ramifications... blah blah blah. The mind is insanely powerful, but it's also something that ... has a mind of its own. 

Think about your dreams. You have no control over them. You're just along for the ride. Those dreams can be pleasant, or very unpleasant. Deal, because you're not stopping them.

There's been a lot of loose madness this year. Aurora. Wisconsin. Syria. I think we're living in a really unsettled time. The latest insanity is the debate that flared up Sunday when a congressman who could become a senator issued forth some idiotic, anti-reality views about rape.

It's 2012. Yet we have people who are clearly out of touch with reality in a position to be joining others like him in determining the rules the rest of us have to live by.

People are arguing about whether or not rape is "legitimate." How can this be?

***

In a couple of days my daughter starts college. I'm worried about her. More worried than I know how to deal with.

I know that college can be a dangerous place. The world can be a dangerous place. Hell, it IS a dangerous place. I wonder if she's ready. And she is 18 and smarter than everyone else so the things I want her to think about are falling on deaf ears.

Never have the rifts among us been greater. For all the progress humanity has made, why is there still so much strife? Whites vs. Blacks and Browns. Men vs. Women. Left vs. Right. Religion vs. Religion. Rich vs. Poor. Straight vs. Gay. There's so much division. It's overwhelmingly sad.

How do we fix this? I feel like we're all so far apart.

***

I saw a guy yesterday riding a scooter with a phone pressed between his ear and his shoulder. Stupid, risky and... why? What could be so important? And I heard a story of a young girl looking at her phone and walking right into the side of a car.

Some people think the world has gotten smaller, and that technology has brought us together. With Facebook we are able to find long lost people and keep those links to our old lives open. Everyone has a phone so we can talk to anyone at any time. That's connectedness, right?

Right?

Right?

I'm not sure it is. This technology has put a cold layer, a fence, a DISTANCE, between us. Everything is done electronically. Very little is done with a truly human interaction. You don't see someone's face. You see a picture. You don't smell them, share their air, see them smile or unless on a phone hear them laugh. You don't notice how their hair is messed up or falls a certain way, you don't see their mannerisms, you can't touch them.

Instead they sit alone and you sit alone and try to pretend that you are together.

I'm not sure I like the way this has gone.

***

I read yesterday that half a billion people were "unfriended" on Facebook last year. I've contributed to that. But it's kind of cold. Click a button and someone is "deleted."

I know some people who have programs that tell them when and who has done this. They get pissed when their little collection breaks free.

But what these people don't get is that human interaction isn't a contest, and you shouldn't be keeping score.

***

This weird dynamic that is "just the way things are" today is part of what worries me about my daughter's impending collegiate experience.

Kids starting college this week are the 9/11 generation. My daughter was 7 when that happened. Probably one of the first things these freshmen vividly remember is this terrible thing, but at the same time... was it, is it, real to them? Even those of us who knew what it was about had this odd feeling that it almost seemed like a Jerry Bruckheimer action scene.

So within months we were at war, and within two years, another. These kids have lived during war almost their whole lives, but with one huge difference: Unlike wars past, they never knew that one day they'd have to be the ones fighting them. I think when it was a requirement that people had to perform military service, there was a lot more pressure to make sure that human capital wasn't wasted.

There's a significant disconnect among young people. That's another war: Reality vs. Perception. Kids today think "reality" is what they see on TV. They even call it "reality television" even when it's impossible for that intrusive and inherently artificial setting to be real.

With the erosion of journalism and the partisanship that's in place and on public display on TV and all around us, Michael Moore was prescient and right. We live in fictitious times.

It takes work to find the truth because it isn't readily available. If it doesn't come to us, we're too distracted to seek it out. And if it lasts too long, we're too ADHD to soak it in.

How does a young person fight through all this? What if they haven't had the guidance to know how to find out what's really real?

Clearly even a lot of people of my generation are disconnected from reality. Otherwise, there would be no need to use a term like "forcible rape."

***

Into this crazy world my daughter sets forth.

I feel like the stakes are higher for her, and that she and many others on her journey are unaware of the dangers.

I don't want harm to befall her. I worry about her being around Wooderson types and the other con artists in that world. And there's not much I can do about it. If I thought prayer would work, I would try it.

My daughter isn't stupid, but she's inexperienced, and you don't have to be dumb to make mistakes.

I made mistakes, and I did dumb things, and I was lucky not to get more burned by any of them than I was. But I wasn't a woman, so I already had an easier path regardless.

I had also seen, by age 18, a lot of negativity that I associated with alcohol. So I never really drank that much, and certainly less than 75 percent of the people around me. I don't like barfing, I don't like falling down, I don't like getting the spins, I don't like having to pee every five minutes, I don't like peeing on myself, I don't like drunks. So alcohol had less appeal. I preferred to be a little more in control. And there were other ways to maintain control and still have fun.

Nevertheless, when I went to college I (like a lot of kids) struggled with how to manage all that freedom. I allotted too much time to fun, and not enough to the goal. And I paid for that, for a long, long time. 

And I was lucky to live in an age that was a little less mean. And a lot more connected. You couldn't tell someone to fuck off on Facebook, you had to tell it to their face. And that inhibited some of that bluster and bravado.

So now you CAN tell someone to fuck off on Facebook, but the aftermath can be the same as if you did say it to their face. And as we've seen in recent years, there are plenty of unbalanced people running around out there.

I don't know if I could NAME 500 people, much less 500 I consider "friends." Try it. Name 500 people.

Hell, name 100. Don't count family. Go.



Thought so.



Yet we invite hundreds of more or less strangers into our lives. And the more you add, the more likely that some of those people are going to be ... out there.

That's why it was probably better when your "friends" were usually people you actually met.

Now, the online access has changed MY life. I met my M online, and have met some true friends online. These people I hope are in my life forever. So I'm not suggesting that the online world should be chucked, that's ridiculous. But there needs to be a balance, and there needs to be perspective.

And sometimes the perspective of the young takes a little more seasoning than they've gotten to that point.

***

All these thoughts were spurred by the song posted at the top of this, "Hide and Seek" by Ani DiFranco. When men can hold government office and not know what "rape" is, it should worry any man who has a daughter set to enter the adult world. Ani's song talks about the abuse men perpetrate against women. These women are then left to deal with the consequences, emotionally for the rest of their lives.

And, if the GOP has its way, the women who are raped would be forced to bear the children of their abusers.

That's INSANE.

And that's the world my daughter is potentially subject to. And it scares me, because she doesn't know.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Policy Papers: Politics

It's an election year.

If you don't know that, we've already got a problem.

There's a phrase, "intellectual curiosity," that is something I aspire to. I like knowing things. I hunger to learn more. Every day I read, trying to find out more, to be more informed, more aware. This is what drew me to journalism and why even today, as journalism struggles to reinvent itself, it is appealing.

I'm very troubled by the loss of journalism, and the loss of truth in our world. This is especially true of politics.

Like them or not, you're going to be affected by politics. It's easy to believe that politics on a national or global scale are too big to be relevant to your daily life. The irony is that you would not have the life you have right now if it wasn't for politics, because politics = government, and government provides your roads, power grid, communications, schools, law enforcement, public health and safety regulations... the list is literally endless.

Unless you live in a tent somewhere on an island that you own or no one knows about, you're touched by politics.

In my introductory piece, I talked about how important it is to me to be honest. This is also something that lured me into journalism. I believed that it was a place where honesty and truth were paramount; the kind of journalist I wanted to be didn't take sides. Instead, a journalist gathered as many facts as possible on a topic, and left the interpretation to the quotes from experts and the readers. A good journalist doesn't have to take a side; a good journalist just reports the facts, and the truth should be obvious.

Simplistic? Somewhat. Naive? I don't think so.

In 2012, we live in an age of propaganda. When I was in J school, "advocacy journalism" was a little frowned upon. Again, let the facts speak for themselves. Today, almost everything is advocacy journalism. It's gotten that way because of Fox News.

Fox News is NOT JOURNALISM. It's a political operation funded by right-wing operatives and meant to push a right-wing point of view. Check this piece on Fox mastermind Roger Ailes in a May 2011 Rolling Stone article.

And yet, a large percentage of people consider this outlet their main source of information.

My problem with Fox is that they are great at inflaming public opinion among the right-wing base, and not great about actual facts. And what are proclamations that are not grounded in facts? OPINION.

Newspapers used to clearly mark their opinion pages. You knew that someone was bringing a particular slant to a topic.

I just want a world based on facts.

So this is why I have a problem with some people at this time of year. A lot of people think of me as a "liberal." On many topics I have liberal views. I also have very conservative views on some things. I am amused at the things I think about... socially, I'm extremely "out there." Fiscally, I'm pretty conservative. I find wisdom across the board... I don't know many people who think that both the Occupy movement and Alex Jones have ideas worth pondering.

I've voted for Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Green Party candidates. I've voted for candidates with no publicly disclosed political affiliation. I vote for people who I think are honest, and who I think will do the best job.

I don't think America is best-served by the current almost exclusively two-party system. That is not freedom of choice. Gore Vidal said they are just different wings of the Money Party, and more and more he seems to have perfectly captured that reality.

I was in Dallas when Ross Perot made noise in the 1992 election. He wound up with almost a fifth of the popular vote. That's as close, by a huge amount, to a legitimate third party as I've seen in my lifetime. What undid Perot was some inconsistency in his attack -- he didn't have a machine like the Democratic or Republican Party behind him -- an out-of-left-field VP choice, and some personal idiosyncracies that were picked apart by the establishment. Had he been more strategic, history could have been very different. What would the world have been like without Clinton, or with a third party rising up?

The two-party system should be abolished. There should be no party machinery. It's too limiting. The Electoral College should be done away with as well. It's an antiquated idea that works against the "one-person, one-vote" concept. We're (theoretically) a much more sophisticated country than we were 200 years ago. Time to let some old ideas fade into history.

***

I vote the way I do because I value facts over opinions. Although I lost a friend last night over politics, he could have kept me in the dialogue if he hadn't merely spouted political postures and slogans, but instead came at me with facts.

You say Obama will cut $700 billion from Medicare? That's true, according to the International Business Times. It will do so by making the program more efficient, and turn those savings into funding for the Affordable Care Act. In other words, he's going to save $700 billion in the next 10 years.

The GOP plan is to gut ACA, and give seniors "vouchers" to pay for health care. In other words, privatize health care. Because that works so well, doesn't it? If health care costs go up so that the vouchers don't cover everything? Seniors will have to find a way to cover the difference.

Those are the facts. My opinion? That's not right. I've been around enough older people to know how tight most of their finances are. To me, the idea of a political action that puts their health at risk is unconscionable.

So I can't vote with the GOP on this one.

What about gay rights? Can't go with the GOP on that. Gay rights = human rights. You don't have to approve of anyone's sexual orientation, but you can't legislate against it. At one time, legislation existed against minorities, against women, against interracial marriage, against a lot of things that are matter-of-fact now.

What about abortion? C'mon now... is anyone FOR abortion? Not even pro-choice advocates want you to have an abortion. What they want is the FREEDOM to choose what you do with your body.

If you don't support gay marriage, don't marry someone of your gender. If you don't want an abortion, no one is forcing you to have one. Also, if you are a man and you think you have the right to legislate what a woman does with her body, then does that mean you would give women the same rights to determine what you do with yours?

***

Government should look out for us. Because government should BE us. Too often now it's portrayed as "us against them." TV and millions of Web idiots paint government as waging a "war" on women, Christmas, Christianity, etc.

HORSE.SHIT.

Government is us. We put these people there. If you don't like what they're doing, get off your ass and change it. Join Occupy. Run for office. Write a letter. DO SOMETHING other than just bitch about it for a few minutes before you sit down to watch "Jersey Shore" reruns.

Just be real about your politics, and your expectations. If you're too lazy to find out the facts, you probably shouldn't be voting anyway. It's not unimportant. Be a citizen. Respect your rights to vote, respect the freedom you have. Freedom does not come without a cost, but if you blow off your responsibility to know the facts, you're not respecting freedom. And if you can't do that, you can't be my friend.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Policy Papers: An introduction

Because of a significant amount of recent turmoil, and because it's an election year, I think it's important to be very clear about one's policies and positions.

For me, this is important stuff. I've been thinking a lot lately about my identity. Who am I?

For a large portion of my life, I was an accomplished liar and fraud. I'd say most of the people I have ever met have been equally guilty. People put on faces. Many years ago I spent some time visiting a quack therapist. This person should have never been in a position to help people, because this Doc just wasn't very good. Sometimes a rose is not a rose.

Anyway, although this doc didn't perform the work I needed, I did learn three things that were very useful. One was that to some people in the field of psychology, the concept of falling in love is seen as a sort of temporary insanity. It's irrational; people "in love" do some crazy-ass things. The doc didn't actually come up with this argument, but pointed me to a study conducted by two clinicians. I still have several copies of this paper, which I have given to certain folks.

The second valuable thing I learned was that when it seems like the world is in chaos, and you're buffeted by the storm around you... know that if you have no control over events, your efforts will be wasted. In other words, sometimes you just have to ride that thing out. Similarly, if you are someone who tries to manipulate results, you're going to have a lot of work to do, and those results may vary. Most likely, no matter how you try and shape the behavior of others to fit into your hoped-for outcome, you're likely going to fail.

Lastly, another interesting read (why did I pay this person $110 a session, exactly?) given to me compared our daily behavior to having a closet full of faces. At work we are one person, at home we are another person, on a date we are another person, behind the wheel we are another person, etc. We wear these personas depending on the situation, and in the process, we are not our true selves. We are instead either an extreme version of one particular facet of our numerous characteristics, or we are presenting an outward image that is false compared to the totality of ourselves.

On a date, guys often will open car doors, be exceedingly polite and charming, hold in farts, be chivalrous, and so on. In other social settings, guys often do none of those things. Same guy, very different results. And so, in some ways, false. Because you're not free to be fully yourself.

It is very, very difficult to be fully yourself all the time. Societal constricts frown on going barefoot in an office environment, for example. A guy I work with now has some visible tattoos. He has to hide them before he goes to work. He has to play ball with someone else's arbitrary standard. His body art has absolutely no affect on his ability to do the job. And he's not really in a public setting where it's likely he could be seen as representing the company. But still, he has to project an image based on someone's idea of appropriate.

This seems deeply fucked up to me.

Think of the energy we waste in stifling our true selves in these various settings. What kind of a toll does that take on our mental health? Subtle though it may be, by conforming to these arbitrary rules, we are being told that there are parts of our personality, parts of our worldview, that are unacceptable.

It's dishonest.

George Carlin joked, brilliantly, that if honesty was the best policy, that made dishonesty the second-best policy.

But dishonesty is not healthy.

It took me a long, long, long, long, too long time to learn this. For years... decades... I was a manipulator... a deceiver... I was not a good person. Most of the time I felt like no one was really being hurt by this, that what I was doing was not solely in my own best interests, but also in the "big picture" best interests. I might have been right, many times. Or most of the time. But the fact is, if we all weren't so goddam busy playing these stupid mind games, we'd just shoot straight with one another, and truth would win out.

That's where I am now, and I'm fortunate that that is where I have been for some time now. I was never good at office politics because they are counter to the mission, which is to do the best job possible. I always try and do the best job possible. I want life to be like the NFL: a meritocracy. If you are good, you will have success. If you suck, you will fail. It's just business.

When I interviewed in LA in May, it was the best process I have ever been through as far as objectivity was concerned. You had to nail three parts of the process and you either did, or you didn't. No charming people. No backslap/secret handshake. Do or do not; there is no try.

I missed that shot, even though I think I did very, very well. I was bummed to not get it, but I also know that it was fair.

Honesty is fair. It's sometimes hard to accept, but it's fair.

I strive to always be honest with you, and you, and you, too. It's important to me to be truthful and transparent. I'm human so sometimes I will fail, but I will always try and do the right thing and say what I think. I will always try and provide an accurate representation of  myself, because I respect you too much to bullshit you.

My policy starts with honesty.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Day 438: So Many Thoughts

So first weekend of work in 14 months is in the books. I wound up putting in about 38 hours in a four-day stretch, not including the cumulative three hours of round-trip it takes to get there and back.

Throw in the fact that the mornings require 3:45 a.m. wakeups and the evenings require finding a way to adjust to getting off work at 5 a.m. Later this week I'll do the zombie shift 6 straight nights... off at 5 a.m., with the commute, I'll have 11 hours between starting over again and I'll have to fit in at least 6+ hours of sleep if I want to have a chance to be sensible.

It's a new world, and I'm going to have to adjust. I slept about 12 hours last night. Hard sleep, too. But weird... I might have slept longer except that I was having a dream where a bunch of people kept telling me how great and how nice Cher was.

(Now playing on iTunes: "War Begun" by My Morning Jacket. YES!)

Yesterday at work we had a bit of an issue late in the day. We handled it and it required some adjustments that should be implemented going forward. I was worried because I want to do a good job, and I am learning as I go. But twice in interactions with my supervisor as the situation unfolded and was resolved, he told me "Good job."

In a lot of jobs I've had, praise like that never came. I do not feel that I did *not* do a good job, so not only should I have heard that I did a good job, but it would have been inspirational and encouraging to hear about it. But some folks have the Machiavellian idea that praise is the absence of criticism.

Those people suck, and are terrible bosses. I had a feeling on first meeting that my new boss was a quality guy. So far, he's completely validated that feeling. It's nice.

(Now playing on iTunes: "Time The Avenger" by The Pretenders.)

Naturally, it seems like being back in the workforce is a sure-fire way to open the job floodgates. So of course a moment ago I saw a plum position open with people I have interacted with before and who showed interest in a previous situation. Yes, that's intentionally vague.

But, I sent an inquiry e-mail to someone on the inside, and she was typically encouraging and informative, so another possibility opens up.

(Now playing on iTunes: "Beautiful Mind" by The Verve.)

Hope springs eternal.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Day 433: Truck You

***UPDATE II BELOW***

So even though I'm going to be start a PT gig tomorrow, I'm still looking.

Yesterday I read a story saying that the long-haul trucking industry was experiencing a shortage.

Well, hey, I like to drive, I'm a good driver, and there's a certain appeal about seeing the country. So I went to the Web site of a nearby firm mentioned in the story, JB Hunt Transport.

JBH has a pretty good reputation and stature within the industry. This is no fly-by-night outfit; this is one of the top trucking firms in the U.S.

Perusing the job listings, it seemed that the minimum requirement was at least four months of experience. But four months is not a lot of time. How does one get that experience, I wondered? Maybe JBH has an apprentice program.

About this time, a pop-up window: Would you like to talk to a JBH representative? Why, yes, thank you, I would.

Actual transcript of actual conversation follows:

Me: So, how does one acquire the minimum experience? Do you guys have programs for newbies?
JBH: no we do not train
JBH: not our thing
Me: Many of your driver jobs require only four months of experience. How does one break into the business then?
JBH: google
JBH: entry level class A CDL jobs
JBH: call the companies that hire rookies
JBH: JB Hunt is a career carrier you come here to retire one day not learn the ropes
Me: Wow, you've been incredibly helpful and condescending.
JBH: well all I can do is point you in the right direction
JBH: sorry
Me: Your bedside manner can use some work.
JBH: Good Luck

Color me stunned. Maybe I don't have the required skills to drive for JB Hunt, but I *do* have enough of a background in customer service that make me fairly confident that JB Hunt does not want to represent itself in such an obnoxious manner. Maybe I could train their customer service chat reps. Here's the script that this dude should have been using:

Me: So, how does one acquire the minimum experience? Do you guys have programs for newbies?
JBH: At present, JB Hunt does not have openings or training for beginning drivers.
Me: Many of your driver jobs require only four months of experience. How does one break into the business then?
JBH: Beginning drivers would be classified as entry level class A CDL jobs. Many companies will train. Once you have obtained the relevant experience, we hope you will consider JB Hunt for future employment. Good luck and thank you for your interest in JB Hunt.

I've written JBH about this interlude. Will report back if I hear anything.

UPDATE: It's been more than two business days, and other than an acknowledgement of receiving my concern, JBH has not responded. I'm beginning to wonder if their idea of customer service is just that they don't have any.

UPDATE II: It's been a week. Still no word... KARK reporter Marci Manley on trucking company pressure on drivers to violate safety regulations... Marci's story

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 432: Developments

On Thursday, I will end more than 62 weeks without work. Thanks to a dear friend's vigilance, I have found work that I cannot provide a lot of details about. It's a part-time, blue-collar job that is anticipated to last at least seven months.

Obviously, this wasn't why I went back to college to get that degree. But I am fortunate in many ways. The person I will be working for seems like an outstanding person, I'm already a fan. The hours are challenging... 12-hour, overnight shifts, including every third week working six straight days. Vampire hours, and I am not normally sparkly. However, I will be earning more than the government was graciously providing me in unemployment insurance, and I am extremely pleased to no longer be on the dole.

These will be long, weird nights, theoretically very quiet. I'm somewhat of a night watchman. Since that's one of my favorite Tom Petty songs, cool. On that stretch of six, I suspect that it will be like I am not even home since the days will consist of getting home at 6 a.m. and needing to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep before being back at work late in the afternoon. I'll be more or less absent all the time. However, after that stretch I have a week off. That's kind of nice.

But, I will be looking to do some "sleep stockpiling" until I become adjusted to the unusual hours. If anyone has performed under similar circumstances, I welcome your thoughts on how to thrive.

In 2001 when I was out of work seven months I took a job delivering pizza. At some point your pride becomes a luxury; it will not pay your bills.

Two of the four juicy local gigs I've recently been in the running for did not pan out in the last few days. Perhaps one of the remaining two will hit. In the interim, this is the first time an employer has made me feel wanted. I want to reward that with the best performance I can provide.

There was a team meeting of the group of others who have been hired for this. Only one was older than me, and the rest were significantly younger. Because of the solitary nature of this job, I will rarely see my "co-workers." I don't know what to expect, I just know that it's going to be a good thing to feel like I'm not just a lump.

There will be a physical component to this, and that's a little daunting as I am not in peak condition. However, a pre-employment strength and fitness test (I have never had to do that before) was passed with flying colors, so I am on the clock starting late Thursday. Can I still call this the Jobless Journal?

***

My social media departure has generated tons of concerned e-mails and texts... wait, did I say tons? I meant none. While that hurt my feelings slightly, on the other hand I think it indicates the predominantly false nature of "social" media. Someone who claims to have 415 Facebook friends or 303 Twitter followers is probably delusional. I've found that sometimes people create multiple accounts and cross-follow, that can build up numbers. (Are you listening, Mittens?) I always wonder if someone has hundreds of "friends" can they even name them? A lot of these numbers are collections meant to stroke ego, not an indication of actual friendship.

Things like that are why I decided that for the time being at least, social media isn't for me. I had something like 130 FB friends, of which less than 20 were family. Of the remaining 110, less than 25 were people who I interacted frequently with. That leaves about 85 who were people I had met in high school, college, work or randomly through life. Of those, most reconnected with a flurry... "hey, I remember you, how has your life been since ... ?" There's a blitz of catching up followed by the infrequent random dispatch about something or another.

In a way, I like that. As an example I think of my friends Dale and Ken and Randy. We have been friends since we were very young, and at times since, years or more have passed between us without contact. Facebook provided an avenue to end those lengthy voids, and to reconnect. I'm pleased that I did not lose my old friends forever.

Now, even with Facebook, we still only interacted sporadically, but the club membership has been renewed. We don't have to be engaged on a daily basis to maintain the investment.

I've learned a great deal about the meaning of friendship lately, about who places importance on the value associated with that word and those who do not. For that, I am indeed fortunate.

***

One factor that hastened my decision to abandon social media was some of the things posted in the aftermath of the Colorado mass murders in Aurora early on July 20.

There's a segment of "modern" society (can't call it "civilized" society) that just cannot help but snark and make fun of everything. EVERYTHING. I've certainly been guilty of gallows humor and poor taste, but as time has gone by I have lost my affection for it. I want to be open-minded, and have long held that what makes the idea of America great is that true freedom of expression means you can be a complete freaking idiot with what you say.

That doesn't mean I am going to like it, or that you SHOULD be that way.

The mass murder of a dozen people guilty only of going to a movie is just not funny. It's why there aren't a lot of 9/11 jokes.

IT'S. NOT. FUNNY.

One moron commented about the small children at the movie, specifically a baby, wondering how they paid to get into the movie.

I guess if you're really insecure and desperate to portray yourself as "edgy" this is the sort of thing you resort to. Yes, hipster, you're so above it and cool.

Actually, you're just an asshole.

This sort of thing is generally the purview of the too-young set. Although occasionally you will get the older poseur trying to "hang with the (self-anointed) cool kids" and get right in there and sling ignorance alongside them.

I've beefed about this previously. There's actually nothing wrong with a little decorum and manners, but it's a dying art. At a recent formal ceremony I attended, people hooted and howled like animals, essentially ruining the experience for everyone else. This rudeness is seen in locales as proper as a State of the Union address or a presidential press conference.

It's seen in movie theaters where attention-deficit dickheads decide to check their phone, or even ANSWER it, during a screening.

Jokes about the murder of 12 innocent people and the attempted murder of 58 more are just not acceptable. My participation in online forums that consider this fair game is optional; I opt out.

***

Saw "The Dark Knight Rises" yesterday and enjoyed it very much. A suitable end to Nolan's trilogy, and with enough things left open to extend or revive the franchise should he or anyone else choose to continue in that vein.

I appreciated the honor and respect Nolan showed to the franchise. He handled it perfectly. If you've enjoyed the series thus far, you have to see it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Day 429: Untethered

Ev Bogue takes chances. He's urged what he calls "untethering" -- a willingness to move on from things. Social media is one of them.

So I did it. A lot of things related to social media have been more trouble than they are worth lately. Alleged friends turned out to be anything but. Online drama sometimes mirrors the stupidity of bogus "reality TV" shows.

I don't want it. I just cut loose my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I doubt very seriously I'll be back. If I could pitch this cell phone into a lake, I would be tempted.

It's been a hard time in my life, going through this. No matter how many people try to be supportive, at the end of the day you're alone with your problems, fears and stress. No one can solve that for you. Social media, television, online games, whatever... these things are distractions and are consumed to excess.

I'm fed up, y'all. Had it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Day 426: Maybe

Well, this has been a busy, potentially very productive day.

Yeah, that's a little bit of a tease. I'll know more within 48 hours.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Day 422: Get Some Sleep

I haven't been sleeping as well lately. And some bad dreams, including one terrible one... you know, the kind where you start crying in the dream, and wake up and you are crying.

That was because of a dream I had where I saw my dog hurt badly. Fortunately, the image in the dream  was not actually possible to happen, so I can shake it off. But why do you even have an awful thought like that?

A lot of things can screw up your sleep cycle. Family stress. Work stress. Financial concerns. Health worries. Other ridiculous drama that can arise.

Throw in an abnormally hot summer, trying to bend around three dogs, and a bed that needs to be replaced...

If a few of these things are in your life, it can be a problem. If a lot of these things are around, you can pretty much count on feeling a little cranky.

Time for a nap...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Day 420: 420, huh?

Too easy...

Some random thoughts...

Went after two longshot jobs today. One here, one in the Pacific NW. Actually, the Pacific NW job is probably more obtainable. My background more closely matches it. Time will tell.

***

I pruned some of my social media contacts the other day. It's noticeably quieter. The only things I lost were a lot of sub-discussions and pissing contests. Much improved.

***

"Four Strong Winds" by Neil Young is an amazing song. This song reminds me of a spring night in about 1980 when I drove about 10 hours and listened to this over and over.

***

Big summer project has been to burn our entire CD library into iTunes. Past 12,000 songs now, and probably about 85 percent done. You'd think I'd be able to beat Serico in Song Pop more often.

***

August is less than three weeks away. Man, this year is moving kinda fast.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Day 419: Burnin'

It's been a pretty hot summer. I like summer but I haven't loved the excess heat for a while. I'm more of a "California summer" than a "Texas summer" kinda person.

I took the houndies out in the middle of the day one day last week. It was about 100 degrees, and I wanted to wear it a little. I was out there about 45 minutes, got really roasty. When your skin starts to feel like it's sizzling, it's time to go.

I'm wanting to just get through the next two months until it gets cooler. The heat, it just saps ya. But it carries over to other things. I've found motivation a little tougher to sustain. I'm good for a few hours a day, and then I just feel worn out by it. It's probably psychosomatic... I'm not applying for jobs out in the middle of the street. There's blessed a/c in here. So, it's hard to make a legitimate connection.

But, an interview this morning went well, and I should hear some more soon about next steps. And a few other things are developing, so there's tangible progress around. That's obviously exciting and encouraging. I just need to leverage that into a little more production.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Day 418: Keep Calm and Carry On

That phrase, used as encouragement from the U.K. government for British citizens at the outset of World War II, has enjoyed a second life in the past decade or so. It was meant to allay fears among a nervous populace alarmed by the escalating war on the continent.

In its second life, the malleability of the phrase has made it applicable to a wide range of uses.

Today, I'm using it to keep myself from getting too excited about two job prospects that advanced to a second stage within about two hours of one another. One is here, the other is over there. And you know how I like things over there.

But I like things here, too.

And I like the idea of being able to stop putting day number before most of these posts. I'm grateful to have an outlet to vent/muse/etc., and I plan to keep communicating via this format. But it'd be quite alright if the blog's name was obsolete.

So. I have a phone interview in the morning. And I just sent a mountain of clips to the other prospect. This feels like progress, and I want to leap like a certain fearless little dog I know right now.

But I can't. I have to stay on an even keel. I need to keep calm, and carry on.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Day 414: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

One of the hard things about life is that you lose people.

Figuring out how to deal with this is an ongoing thing. The experience of loss for most people starts in childhood with a pet, but loss isn't always a death. Soon enough, everyone will lose a family member.

Loss can also be of a life situation. Families splinter, or they move, or even a drastic event such as a job loss or a devastating illness can create a hard change in what once was. These are also deaths.

In your adult life you deal or have dealt with all of these things previously. But then you get into new territory: loss of a relationship.

The standard example of this is the loss of a love. Breaking Up is Hard to Do. My mother told me long ago that two people always agreed when to begin a relationship, but rarely agreed when to end one.

Personally, I have botched more than my share of breakups. My tactics were often terrible, sometimes clumsy and infrequently adult.

One of the worst was an incredibly tumultuous relationship that had become too heavy to continue. Both of us had invested a lot. A lot. But then came a time where I just couldn't handle the pressure. And I panicked. I didn't know how to continue and I was not mature enough to deal with it in an adult fashion. So I took a coward's way out and just withdrew. I didn't answer or return phone calls, I didn't respond to attempts to reach me. I just abandoned the thing.

Which was completely juvenile and heartless. How did I adopt this cruel solution?

Much behavior is learned, not everything is innate. I have had the exact same treatment doled out to me.

It sucks, and it sucked.

As for those who I foisted this BS on, I accept my responsibility and can only hope that this person's life has become so much better than it could have ever been with me. They deserved better.

Fortunately with lessons like that one and the painful experiences of losing family and other situations, you get better at the messy ending of relationships. The father of an acquaintance died just a few days ago, totally unexpectedly. In this scenario, I have been fortunate: the deaths of my relatives have almost always been exclusively anticipated. My father's mother died when I was very young, and I couldn't process it. But my mother's parents all had long battles with the things that ended up killing them. My stepfather and aunt also were lost gradually.

This, to me, is the way to go. You have a chance to say goodbye. You have a chance to put things right, if they need to be.

Then you have the end of a relationship with a friend. Sometimes they move away, that's just the way things go. It's easy to lose touch. The friendship is still there, but it's just not as good any more. Immediacy matters. Anyone who has been in an LDR knows how hard it is.

But sometimes a breakup happens with people you thought were friends. Friends becoming ex-friends can be as unpleasant as loves becoming ex-loves. Almost always, someone's feelings are going to get hurt.

There's nothing anyone can do about a death; you just have to fight through it. But when losing these other relationships, it's easy to misplay them. Even if the end is inevitable, you can make them less painful. If you're the one moving on, you should do everything you can to ease that transition. Since it's reasonable to think that you've been the one left behind at some point, why can you not remember how hard that was and be human about it?

This is a great regret for me, that in those situations where I was the one who opted out, I did not treat the other half of this equation with the dignity and respect I would have wanted for myself.

Sometimes things just have to end. You fall out of love, you fall out of like, your tastes grow and change, you're simply no longer stimulated by the relationship. The reasons don't really matter that much, although people will think they do. What's most important is that the transition from "yes" to "no" in a relationship needs to not be so abrupt and stark. A little communication and fair play can go a long way. No one wants to feel rejected or abandoned.

I thought I lost a friend this week, but I found out this person wasn't a friend at all. We had a falling out and I communicated directly and honestly about my feelings. I thought I was handling it maturely. The response I got was to instigate a giant amount of drama, to widen the war to bring in allies (not me... it wasn't about anyone else), and to rant and throw a fit. Adult conversation can't be carried on with only one participant.

So instead of reaching a reasonable conclusion that wouldn't destroy the friendship, instead I became the recipient of outraged blustering, potshots from randoms, and a ridiculous conflagration that I had no choice but to escape from. I couldn't allow myself to be treated so shabbily.

And it made me really sad for a couple of days. Instead of addressing legitimate differences of opinion and working something out, I was treated with condescension, belittled, called names and weathered snide comments about my age (can't do anything about that) and appearance (working on it!). That shit's just below the belt, man.

This is someone who I've shared experiences with and tried to share more, although I should have picked up the signals when the last two times we tried to get together, there were excuses. Fortunately that wasn't exclusive to me, that's just this person's SOP.

I've asked this person for advice, they've asked me. I've promoted and encouraged their work (a treatment I wanted in return, though did not get much of). We weren't lifelong buddies or anything but the vagaries of a friendship were in place. And in a moment of crisis, the response wasn't "let's work this out," but instead "how many of my friends can I enlist to support my position and throw barbs at someone I'm feuding with."

It was shitty. It was ugly. And it was small.

And it's over. After a couple of days of feeling betrayed and let down, today I am documenting this unpleasant event, and moving on.

I have higher goals. It's not enough for me to be the star of a little circle of sycophants, or a "big deal" on a little cubbyhole on the Internet.

Breaking up is hard to do. But finding out who people really are is worth it. When the journey is challenging, travel light. I've jettisoned some things that I didn't need. The voyage continues.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Day 413: Let's PRetend

Even though I was once a very highly paid PR professional, I always felt a tiny bit conflicted.

Some PR is great, but some is just flackery. Let's face it, if it's your job to talk about the importance of sugary snack foods, you're not really adding much to society. No one believes that a candy bar is important. (NOTE: My agency never had a candy bar account.)

Truly great PR has some major components: one, it's going to be promoting something that is meaningful and relevant, something that helps society. Within the PR business are categories; most of what is commonly considered "PR" is actually called "consumer PR" because it is about a product that is consumed.

Now, I still know some practitioners and real experts, so I might be oversimplifying this. Please correct me as needed.

Other elements within PR deal with issues and damage control. Lobbyists in some ways could be considered PR practitioners.

But this is not a treatise on PR, per se. What I'm interested in is reality, not someone's construct of it.

This topic is important to me because in life I have found, over and over, that there are people who are your real friends, and people who are your PR (as in PRetend?) friends.

The skilled PR professional can be so polished and slick that you really think you need that expensive automobile, jewelry or luxury product.

The PRetend friend makes you think you're part of the "gang" or that your thoughts and concerns are really very important to them.

Be not fooled.

You do not need that pricey coupe or that imported bauble.

And you do not need the phony PRetend friend. You do not need to promote the PRetend friend's work efforts ever again, even though the PRetend friend never promotes yours. You do not need to laugh at their inane jokes, even though they are grudging with acknowledgement of your accomplishments. See, the PRetend friend actually only wants to assemble an audience... because without it, they are left to see only their own smallness.

The PRetend friend does not make real attempts to engage in your life... they stiff you on get-togethers because they don't really want to be bothered with upholding their end of the friendship. It's all just talk. The PRetend friend blathers on and on about their lives and their sordid secrets that you are sworn to protect, but never ask about YOUR problems and fears and concerns, because, really, that's not about THEM so why should they care?

The PRetend friend pledges to be there when the chips are down, until they actually ARE down, and then, too bad so sad.

So, so sad.




Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Day 412: Regressing to the Mean

A lot of people are just... mean.

Years ago it seemed to me we started to become a nation of jerks. I saw it within six months of 9/11. I had fallen on hard times, and to earn money I took a job working in a pizza parlor. Between jobs where I made 70k a year and 55k a year, I made $7.50 an hour, plus tips.

We had an arrangement with a bar down the street to provide pies when the customers needed food. One sunny winter afternoon I ran a delivery down to the bar, and the outdoor tables were full. The patrons were loud, rowdy, Parkie-types. Clanking their beer bottles, talking too much and at too great a volume. To get in the door I had to navigate this crowd. One blond-haired dude with a toque was texting and smoking... oblivious. I needed to get by him to get into the establishment.

I said "excuse me" and he langorously tore himself away from his device and looked apathetically at me. Slowly, slowly he dragged his legs out of the way so I could pass.

It was a brief moment. But I felt right then that the terrorists had won. Just a few months before in the days and weeks after that terrible day, we were wounded, but we also knew that we needed to be in this together.

That day I knew that the spirits of tolerance and togetherness were dead. These people didn't give a shit. They just wanted their beer and smokes.

And look at what we've become in the last 10 years. We're selfish, we're greedy. The Wall Street abuses encapsulate everything that is wrong: it's all about get yours, and screw everyone else.

Not many people look out for one another any more.

Be realistic: How many people do you really trust out there? How many people do you KNOW who are real friends? REAL friends?

Instead, today we have a culture built on selfishness and stepping on anything or anyone to get what you want. This weasel-y dude I used to know used to have in his Twitter bio a note that he "wasn't responsible" if he offended you.

It must be nice to give yourself carte blanche to be a dick without repercussions. But I'm not going to live in a world where people think that their right to be obnoxious overrides my right to call them out on it. Yes, especially on 4 July I am grateful to live in a country where you are allowed to express yourself completely. That doesn't mean you are allowed to be a jerk, though. Well... yes, you're allowed, but when I shun you, don't wonder why.

I hope this prevailing atmosphere is reversible. And I hope it doesn't take another disaster to band us together. Because that would suck.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Day 408: Go There

The first time I ever went snow skiing was at a place called Pine Knob in Southeast Michigan.

Being a flatlander from Texas, it was a strange "fish-out-of-water" experience for a 14-year-old. After acclimating somewhat on the bunny slopes, I got enough nerve up to ride the chairlift to what seemed at the time to be the top of the world.

Great skiers would laugh at anything Pine Knob could throw at them. But for a complete amateur, it was daunting.

At the chairlift drop at the top of the "mountain" skiers mostly would turn left. To the right was a very narrow turn that bordered the most vertical run at the park.

This drop seemed to me to be the equivalent of skydiving. It's probably not much of a drop at all. But at that time, it was white-knuckle terrifying.

I got off the chairlift and turned right. The precipice was so close. I peered over the edge at certain death. Well, certain embarrassment for sure. I was so scared and realized I was too afraid to try it.

***

And that's what's pissing me off today.

I need to take more chances. I need to do more things that are scary. Especially with my writing. I've got some great ideas, but they are notes without the rug to tie the room together.

Wish me luck.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day 403: Scars

Not all scars are physical.

In fact, in many if not most cases, it's the scars you never see that take the longest time to heal. Some of them never really do.

These scars are mementos of something painful. They are images, songs, places, thoughts, tastes, smells... sensory reminders of something almost but never completely forgotten.

And they can come to you at the most random time, totally unexpectedly.

It's hard to see the good in these things, even though you desperately want to spin it into something positive. About the best you can hope for is accepting that no matter how something once sucked, at least you aren't there now.

The problem is, sometimes it might feel like the thing that left the scar is still too near, the wound still fresh. And that can be real or perceived as real. Something painful that happened years ago can still seem too near.

That's a tough one, because your mind sometimes resists letting go of something that can never be undone.

Ugh.

That's as far as I want to go down this road. Back into the sunlight...


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day 402: No Retreat, Baby, No Surrender

Day started off blue. I was discouraged, had an awful nightmare, awoke sad and frightened.

Well, pardon my French but fuck that.

There's no crying in baseball, and there's no value in licking your wounds. Put a bandage on them as needed, get up, and fight back.

Tomorrow, five bastards on the Supreme Court are going to tell millions of fellow citizens that they don't matter, that since they are poor or somehow disadvantaged, it's not right for their neighbors in society to help them. They're basically being told to just go ahead and die, and pipe down about it.

Bastards.

But what else would we expect from this court, the same group who decided who would be president in 2000, and the same group who declared that corporations were people in the Citizens United ruling... and the same group who had two members particularly (Roberts and Alito) who testified that they would let precedent rule (a rule of thumb for legal decisions FOREVER) and instead have ignored precedent over and over in their rulings?

Or a justice (Thomas) whose wife is on the payroll of the biggest Tea Party activists in the country?

We don't live in a democracy, folks. We live in a society that is ruled by money and those who have it. The rest of you (us) can just go to hell.

So stop feeling sorry for yourself. Find a way to fight back, because these guys are going to keep screwing you until you do.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 400: Let 'er Rip!

Just applied for a job I have maybe a 10 percent chance of getting.

I usually like better odds than that. I have a 100 percent chance of succeeding in the job, but that's almost never the bottom line.

Which is kind of crazy if you think about it.

I'd do well in this one because it's got a value system that aligns with my skills and personality across the board. The work, the voice, the mission, the location... all home runs.

A funny thing happened on the way to the future, though. For this one, knowing my odds were/are long, I decided to take some chances. I let 'er rip.

What I mean by that is, about 99+ percent of the time playing this damn game, you do everything by the book. You formalize the entire process. If you get to the interview, you wear a suit.

Now, I understand the idea of appearances, the business world, all that noise. But at the same time... it's inherently dishonest.

Like when you want to ask someone out for a date. And when they actually AGREE to go on the date. In all likelihood, you get gussied up. You may get a haircut. If you're driving, you clean up your car. You brush your teeth. You even floss. Then you do something to mask the taste of the blood in your mouth from flossing. You may pluck unsightly hairs.

You game the whole thing. And hope that you show the very best representation of someone very similar to you.

Because that ain't you. YOU are the person who doesn't fold the laundry, because what's the point in folding underwear? In fact, if you leave it in the basket, it's like a fruit-of-the-loom basket! Economy of motion!

Dates are mostly phony. And so is the job process. I crave a job where I can just be me, and let the work speak for itself. I promise: I'll kick ass. I may not always look good doing it, but I will never embarrass the company, and the work will be world-class.

Why would anyone care about anything else? But in the unreal world, there are a lot of considerations that have to be accounted for that having zippo to do with the actual work requirements. Mostly this is in the form of office politics.

I was never a good office politician, and I'm probably worse at it now than I've ever been. Or better at it. I'm better at it in the sense that even though it disgusts me and is completely phony, I also know that you'd damn well better learn that part of the job fast, and if office politics exist (almost always, they do) then you're going to have to play to some extent.

But I'm worse at it because I still find it reprehensible, and it's a burr in my unfolded undies that grates on me constantly. It shouldn't exist.

But whatever. In this case, I fired off a letter that probably better than anything expresses who I am and what I value. Whoever wakes up to it tomorrow morning will definitely have a laugh. I suspect they're going to call someone and share the letter. This will either be very promising, or very bad.

If it's bad, well, nothing ventured. If it's GOOD, then someone gets me. And if they get me, they know that I'm a truth-teller, and that I'll do what I say I'm going to do. And then things could get very interesting.

Ah, what the hell, they're interesting already. I had fun sending this one because the bullshit filter was switched off. It was kinda liberating, actually.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day 398: Make It Great

OK, I loathe the cheery, uber-chipper types. "Morning!"

I understand and appreciate the PMA approach. A Positive Mental Attitude is a good thing. In moderation. A lot of times, though, it just gets on people's nerves. Not everyone is down with that stuff.

Having said that... it's June 20. It's the Summer Solstice. It's the Longest Day. Enjoy it. Put it in your mind that today is going to be good, somehow. Find the bright spot. If you have a hard task or hard tasks in front of you, just know that by the time you close the door on it, you'll have made some progress. It may not be all you need, or all you want, but it will be something.

Try and find something to laugh about. Laughter is great... find something amusing, be it your child, a pet, a joke, whatever. It's June 20, 2012... one of maybe 80-100 solstices in your life. It's special, but really, every day is. No matter how shitty you think your circumstance is -- and it may well be -- at least for a moment today, treasure it.

Even you, Curmudgeon Cam.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

(Still) Day 397: All-In


I just labored over a job application for (another) Best Coast gig. It's got all the keywords as far as ...

OK THAT WAS CRAZY. I HAVE GOOSEBUMPS...

Seconds after I started this post, the song "The Only Place" by Best Coast came on my iTunes. I just finished a major upload... there are more than 9,200 songs in the library. That this song came on is just... eerie.

Just a moment...

This is one of those moments when it feels like the universe is SCREAMING AT ME TO BELIEVE.

Sigh. I just want to be back out there so much. My first try just caved in for a lot of reasons. I made the choice and I can't second-guess it, because a lot of amazing things happened in the aftermath of that decision that improved my life in so many ways. But it's been almost 12 years now, I'm a totally different person and I'm ready to get back to where I once belonged.

CanNOT believe this song came on. I believe in kismet, I believe in signs. This sure seems like one. Wow.

***

Anyway what I was going to write here was that, this job, which is in the right place, is a good fit. Not perfect. If I was scoring the match, I'd say it's about 85 percent compatibility. That's pretty good, but I have some gaps in my experience that I can't make up for except with enthusiasm and desire.

So. This kind of went off-course, but my point was that when you really tailor an application to a specific job... and you definitely SHOULD for every prospect... it takes something out of you. I described this to M, and she said "It's like asking 20 girls to marry you."

That's some intense speed-dating!

But, a good analogy. Hopefully, if you're ready to get married, you're invested. You need to mean it. You need to be all-in.

So when I write a cover letter, tailored job app, etc., it can be draining. It saps you a little. Or a lot. So be cool with taking a break from it if you need to push the reset button. Walk away, get some air. Come back later and climb another mountain.

***

I think this is an idea I could expound upon but my mind is a little blown right now.

Bob Break

If you don't love Bob Dylan, or at least acknowledge his extraordinary talent and contribution to American society, then we probably can't be friends.

I couldn't find a Dylan version of this song online, although I found many covers. Dylan is said to particularly like Elvis' cover of this, but I find it unlistenable. No Sweded versions for me.

Here are the words to the moving "Tomorrow Is A Long Time," recorded in late 1962. If it's available on iTunes, it's well worth $1.29 or whatever they want for it.


Bob Dylan
"Tomorrow Is A Long Time"


If today was not an endless highway
If tonight was not a crooked trail
If tomorrow wasn’t such a long time
Then lonesome would mean nothing to you at all
Yes, and only if my own true love was waitin’
Yes, and if I could hear her heart a-softly poundin’
Only if she was lyin’ by me
Then I’d lie in my bed once again
I can’t see my reflection in the waters
I can’t speak the sounds that show no pain
I can’t hear the echo of my footsteps
Or can’t remember the sound of my own name
Yes, and only if my own true love was waitin’
Yes, and if I could hear her heart a-softly poundin’
Only if she was lyin’ by me
Then I’d lie in my bed once again
There’s beauty in the silver, singin’ river
There’s beauty in the sunrise in the sky
But none of these and nothing else can touch the beauty
That I remember in my true love’s eyes
Yes, and only if my own true love was waitin’
Yes, and if I could hear her heart a-softly poundin’
Only if she was lyin’ by me
Then I’d lie in my bed once again

Day 397: Late-Night Snack

Well, it's nothing more than acknowledgement, but nice anyway.

There's a job back in Beloved Hometown that I applied to somewhat cavalierly a couple of days ago. I wasn't hopeful, mostly because although I am qualified completely, they'd prefer someone who can also speak Spanish. But outside of that, great fit.

Well lo and behold, a late-night e-mail says I've passed the initial screen.

Still a long way to go, but at least encouragement that I'm in the running. This one's out of left field, but would be an exciting job and a stimulating, historic organization. How about that?

So, that will make dreamtime better.

Monday, June 18, 2012

(Still) Day 396: Summer


I'm feeling summer...

A lot of things can mess with your internal clocks. It's like being in a Vegas casino... without windows you lose track of time. My extended workless situation has disturbed my natural rhythms. Some days seem to be Friday but are actually Tuesday. An irregular schedule has benefits... it creates situations where normally blah moments can be more special. But it also can make time seem a little imprecise.

May was such a crazy month... the trip to Texas and California, followed by another trip to Texas... and lo and behold it's June. May is usually a rainy month, but this one wasn't. Plus being on the beach makes it seem like summer, even though it wasn't. Argh. Confusing.

Summer has some very specific sensations common to most of us. You've got the heat, obviously, and the longest days. The smell of cut grass or a warm rain. Cookouts and chlorine...

But I haven't felt it much, until today. I don't know what it was. But it feels good. Maybe the end of this weird period is soon; it needs to be.

What are the things that make YOU feel summer? And we were talking earlier of "summer songs" that signify the season. For me, the Beach Boys are an obvious choice. And Sly's "Hot Fun in the Summertime."

Would love to get your thoughts, dear readers...

Day 396: Peeves

Just a coupla little things that drive me crazy. I know they shouldn't but...

"Loose" as "lose" -- Big difference. Loose is something that is not tight. Lose is the opposite of win (and also to no longer have possession of something). If you're going to make people who know how to spell "loose" their minds, then you need to know we have "loost" interest in talking to you.

"Your" misused when trying to say the contraction of "you are." "You're" doing it wrong means that you are doing it wrong, which means that while I guess you DO possess doing it wrong, it's still not right. Dumbass.

Carry on...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Day 392: News

Huh... that California dream just won't die.

I applied for a sweet position out there on May 2... almost three weeks before the LACOE interviews. I now have to adjust my percentages, because I got a note back today that the first step has been completed. Nothing indicating that an interview is forthcoming, but merely notification (from a real person, too) that I'm on the radar screen.

I'll take my chances with that.

What's particularly cool about this situation is that it's in a great location, and not in the maelstrom. That's all I'm gonna say about it for now, but of course, you the loyal reader will be among the first to know.

***

Any conspiracy theorists out there?

I am. Recent events have something percolating in my head about the way things are going generally and the nation's political atmosphere. Get out your tin-foil hat, because I'm all-in.

It's taking me days to write it, though. But I'm hammering away and when it's done, I'm hopeful for some feedback. In the meantime, where do you stand on these conspiracy theories?

1) The Reichstag Fire was staged by the Nazis.
2) The mob/CIA/LBJ shot JFK.
3) Courtney killed Kurt.
4) 9/11 was an "inside job."
5) David Stern rigged the Hornets' draft pick.

Stay tuned...