Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 251: Views

I was born in West Texas and worked there for 19 months in the early 80s.

There's a stark beauty to that part of the world. The flatness of the terrain makes the sky seem enormous. But on balance I don't care for it.

I think it's important to get some feedback from your natural surroundings. It's one reason that I'm drawn to settings that have a view. You need inspiration.

This small upstairs corner room has two windows. The one behind this computer screen faces north and looks uphill. The adjacent home is very nice, it has a sort of "Italian villa" style to it that is appealing. The entire homestead sits on a lot of at least an acre. Were it not for the looseness with which the owners regard their responsibilities regarding their four dogs, it'd be almost idyllic. The house across the street from them is a majestic mansion that has been under restoration for well more than a year. It's a nice 'hood.

The window to my left faces west. With the leaves gone for winter it provides a great view of the dominant original building on campus. Looking south you can see the rolling mountains unfold... on clear days like today the visibility must be at least five miles.

I've been able to find some pretty nice views over the years. My favorite was probably California... I could see the ocean from three rooms. The first night I slept there I was awakened by the sound of waves, at first not knowing what they were.

A friend posted recently a picture of the view from his place in the upper midwest. It looked like Minsk. Or Sarnia. Not awesome. I need the stimulation that a good location provides.

The first time I ever went to Montreal I was stunned when I saw a homeless person who had notched a place out of the snow near a less wind-exposed nook at the Bell Centre. It was even more shocking than seeing the hundreds of people living in cardboard boxes on Skid Row in LA. Or the guys sleeping on benches in Santa Monica.

It gets pretty chilly in LA, but I think if I was a homeless guy living in a snowbank in Canada, I might be tempted to start walking west. Even the homeless can have a view.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 250: Anti-social media

Ah, duality!

Does that title mean being against social media? Or does it mean that media is anti-social?


Actually, I'm impressed with social media and have embraced it in a lot of ways. It's powerful. It can be a great marketing tool, it's done a lot to help people reconnect with friends from their past, it's convenient.

But the Internet, even with names attached, has a funny way of giving people a perceived permission to say/write things that they might not say in person. It's analogous to the way some meek folks get more aggressive behind the wheel of a car.

There's also an inability online to detect nuance, inflection, tone... the real personal cues that can only be deciphered by actual social contact as opposed to virtual social contact. A perfectly reasonable but alternative point rendered online can be taken as adversarial, when in fact it may be completely rational.

I'm tired of fighting these games.

One reason I've always liked the written word is its absolute-ness. If you write something the right way, it can attain perfection. And we all know there is little of that in the world. When something is written down, hopefully, the writer has considered what is meant to be expressed and it makes sense. Sometimes there is a place for "stream-of-consciousness" writing that is less considered and more just a brain-dump. The argument could be made that there is more honesty in that.

If someone writes something carefully, it's logical to assume that each word and the way they've been positioned is inherently manipulated for effect. Is that dishonest? It could be, because the sentences and paragraphs are constructed deliberately to convey a message. There is an agenda, and every word is enlisted to help the writer toward that agenda. The words are chosen to provide maximum support: in the previous sentence, I changed "enjoined" to "enlisted" because I thought enlisted was a better word. Why? Could it be that enlisted is a word more commonly associated with obtaining soldiers to support a battle?

One of the problems with social media is it actually tends more toward the verbal vomit of firing from the hip. So while you're getting a perhaps truer response, you're also getting an unfiltered response. I like that to some extent, but I've also found people get their feelings hurt (I have as well) and that can create a new set of unwanted problems.

It's all supposed to be communicating, and if we're all friends, we should all expect not only to get our feathers ruffled every so often but also to be able to shake it off after a while. Your results may vary.

I've dished it out, and I've taken it. I haven't liked all of it.

I briefly broke a social media connection recently because I had my feelings hurt. This person is unquestionably bright and interesting, albeit a little nutso at times. Part of this person's online persona is to be a little shocking and "out there." I like this person immensely although there are things I don't understand. But that's OK. Sometimes when you're around people who are very exceptional you want to be noticed, acknowledged. Everyone wants to be accepted, and even though having that recognition from others shouldn't be essential, you still want it. Right?

Maybe this is pathetic of me, but I've tried on many occasions to interact with this person in a way that communicates "Hey, I get it, I think you're cool, hey I saw this and thought you'd think it was cool. I'm cool too, right?" Something in that is embarrassing, that neediness to want some validation. But I don't think I'm alone in wanting that. Do YOU want it? You don't have to tell me, or anyone. But be honest with yourself: It feels nice to have someone respond to you.

Anyway, this was right in this person's wheelhouse: I sent something that I was sure would amuse and provoke and at the very least get a nod of appreciation.

But it got nothing at all. And it hurt. A lot. It was something carefully selected for this person, after a long time of watching from afar. I was sure it would resonate.

Nope. And I felt jilted. Spurned.

Is that lame of me? Maybe. But I wanted acceptance. And I didn't get it.

Sometimes it takes a while to get over something. There are some things in my life that I carry to this day. John, you piece of shit, you spat on my cool new coat when I was in 8th grade and it still makes me sad. And I still don't like you because of it. Paul, you ass, you and a circle of friends stole my glasses and taunted me and played keepaway.

Mike, at one time I was the jerk. I'm sorry. But you've never let me forget it, and now when you have the chance, you can't help but return the favor.

I am flawed. I'm working on being a better person. Right now, I don't think social media is helping me reach that goal. So I'm letting it go. If you need to reach me, you should be able to figure it out.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day 248: Fits

I look at job listings from a ton of different places. In the last century, one of the job aggregator pioneers was Monster. Now, Monster is one of the least useful search sites I have seen. It yields almost no decent leads. But I still look at it on the off chance it will have something interesting. It was once a lot better than it is now.

Today it had a single listing, for a "consumer jewelry magazine writer."


That's about as narrow a job as there probably is out there. Years ago I had a job where twice a year I had to produce copy for a section devoted solely to boat shows. I have to admit, after several years of boat shows, there aren't a lot of fresh topics available.

I imagine being a consumer jewelry magazine writer faces the same challenges. I'm reluctant to BROOCH the subject. After the first 10 stories, what's left? Some recycle of the same thing.

I have half a mind to apply for this job just to see what kind of response I get. I can only imagine the pitch:

"Jewelry is my life.

"It's been my dream to write about consumer jewelry. If clothes make the man, then jewelry makes the woman. And makes the man do things for the woman.

"Since the dawn of time, humans have been drawn to shiny rocks and elements. It's so important to adorn ourselves with these baubles. It is what separates us from the animals. When was the last time you saw a Bengal Tiger or a Bald Eagle or a Blue Whale wearing jewelry? Never. Because they're savage animals who have no sense of style.

"Jewelry is so important. Just think of how America turned away from the gold standard. That was the beginning of the end for us as a nation.

"The people who can most afford to buy and display fine jewelry are the best among us: celebrities, the wealthy, entertainment icons. The people we aspire to be are those who have bravely carried on the burden of showing the artistry and bounty of nature and those who can craft these raw elements into masterpieces. When I see a beautiful human like Sofia Vergara or 50 Cent, I think to myself: That's God's perfection on display. And the only thing that can make it better is a diamond earring or necklace. Well, in Sofia's case, maybe a pearl necklace."

Consumer jewelry. Jesus.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 247: Getting Back Up

OK, so yesterday was a down day. I was discouraged.

But that's over. I think one day to wallow every now and then is allowable. But I got a great sleep last night, and woke up today deciding that I couldn't stay down, I had to get back up.

This is the best thing anyone in this position can do. It's completely natural to get a little upset. It's OK to throw a pity party. But even the best parties have to end.

You can't give in to the discouragement. You really do have to pump yourself up and cheerlead yourself back into the game. Yesterday is over... I'm one day closer to the answer. So for that, I must be grateful. And I am grateful that instead of letting yesterday turn into two days or a week, instead it was just a rainy day, and it's over.

C'mon, future: Show me what ya got...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Day 242: Up the Hill Backwards

It'll be alright...

That's what Bowie said, and I'm gonna choose to believe him. There sure isn't a lot to believe in these days.

An irksome rejection letter yesterday. Local company which clearly only gave lipservice to my application, which was presented exactly 51.5 hours before getting a "no." And more galling, the rejection included writing mistakes... while the job was for a copywriter/editor.

I mean, if I am not qualified to do that, I am not qualified to do anything.

But I have to just flip the proverbial middle finger to this. I know how good I am. But man, that's a well-kept secret, apparently.

So just trying to shake it off, and keep fighting. As Thin LIzzy said, you fight or fall...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 238: Location, location, location

Does where you live hurt your job search?

It can. The smaller the population of the place you live, the fewer job prospects there will be. Your options are limited.

The current economic environment is making the situation worse. When the best jobs you're qualified for are going to require a move, companies might consider good candidates "geographically undesirable." When the economy is robust, companies will readily pick up the cost of moving for great candidates. Now, if two candidates are not too far apart skills-wise for a position, the candidate whose move will be easier/less costly will have the edge.

I'm in line for a great job, but it's 2,100 miles away. I've had good interaction with these people, but I know that the logistics are hurting me.

What do you do in these cases? For a handful of jobs that were especially appealing, I've offered to pick up my own moving expenses. That is going to be (conservatively) at least $1,000, and could be as much as $3,500. I've had employers pick up this tab in the past, but right now not many will. Some even say on job listings that they won't consider candidates who are not in the immediate vicinity of the opportunity.

Regardless, I'm trying to build savings so that we can have enough money to move wherever we want to independent of an employer.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Day 236: Energized

So I kicked off the new year with a vicious cold. Not a flu, but just a mess of congestion, tiredness, and the usual.

Today, I woke up early and feeling about 85 percent of full on. So I decided to just start making hay. It's been a productive day, and it feels good to accomplish things. So here's another thing to accomplish.

In the many days weeks and months of being without a "real" job I finally reached the conclusion that maybe an "unreal" job might be for me. What that's going to be, hopefully, is as a writer. Some people tell me I am OK at writing. I've actually been paid a lot of my life to write, so that's encouraging. But I've come to this conclusion based on a number of things:

1) Obviously, I have enough ability to have been paid to produce words professionally.
2) I have some interesting story ideas rolling around in my head. And I've been a researcher most of my life, so it's reasonable to assume I can dig out the information for what I want to write about.
3) If successful, I don't have to report to anyone but myself. I like being in a teamwork environment, but if the team doesn't have you on the team, then there's no teamwork. Maybe I should be on Team Me.
4) I'm undertaking an exercise to hone my writing chops. It's called Figment (http://figment.com). Check it out!

My other list of items done today include finding an interesting job prospect back home, completing some volunteer work that had been lingering, touching base with some other job prospects, a little housekeeping and just generally feeling like a contributing part of society.

I'm also going to use this forum as a "thank you" to those of you who engage with me on various social media platforms. I keep those circles purposefully small; I'm not the sort of person who wants 500 Facebook friends or Twitter followers or LinkedIn contacts... that strikes me as posturing. I want my group to be strongly representative of my values regarding personal and professional relationships. If you're a good person, honest, trustworthy and progressive, I want to be associated with you. If you're not...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Day 234: The Smell of Napalm in the Morning

Neighbor update:

A couple of days ago they had the power shut off. It's since come back on. They have left their window shades up on the shared deck; a peek into their domicile reveals three boxes of mac and cheese, the dried remains in a pan on the stove, some more on the floor. Also, an empty container of Hawaiian rolls, a half-eaten container of hummus (left unsealed and congealed), candle wax spilled on the 70-year old wood floors, and of course, the floor is also doubling as either a closet or a dirty-clothes pile. Maybe both.

This morning, the mac and cheese is now tossed outside over the deck rail near the trash receptacles. Or as I am now referring to them, the neighbor receptacles. Also conveniently nearby: several dozen Camel cigarette butts (Camel, chicky? Really?) Oh, and of course, a bouquet of rotting flowers.

Not too happy about it. Especially since we complained to the landlord's property manager the other day.

So bright and early on this fine winter morning, music. Loud music. Very loud music. Good morning!