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


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.


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.