Thursday, December 29, 2011

Virginia is for Lovers


They say Virginia is for Lovers.  Apparently, it's not for Newt Gingrich.

Newt Gingrich failed to get himself the 10,000 valid signatures necessary to get on the Republican primary ballot in Virginia as reported in this article from the New York Times.  For whatever reason, people often sign fake names so candidates typically get twice as many signatures as are necessary to make sure they have the minimum number of signatures covered.  According to the 2010 census, the population of people living in Virginia is 8,001,024.  Of those, 23.2% are under the age of 18, which means that approximately 6,144,786 people over the age of 18 live in Virginia.  My calculator says that 20,000 people is less than 1/3 of one percent of Virginians of legal voting age. 

Clearly the outline of the State of Virginia, clearly

Apparently, Newt couldn't get less than 1/3 of one percent of Virginians to request that he be included on the Republican primary ballot.  

Let's Get Serious

Let’s get serious for a moment.

The political system is flawed enough to allow for horrific wealth and income inequality to exist; not a week goes by without a story concerning one of our sports stars being into drugs, domestic abuse and violence aimed at members of the public: In short, we need heroes.

Thankfully, we now have just such a man.

I humbly present Hamblor, the God of Hamburgers.  Hamblor has a number of things going for him:
  • Hamblor has a pair of golden bull statues
  • Hamblor can shoot fried onion strings from his fingers 
  • Hamblor's voice crumbles bleu cheese
  • Hamblor rides a giant St. Bernard, with a barrel of A1 Steak Sauce around his neck
  • Finally, Hamblor has a harem of scantly clad women who share in his kingdom in the clouds
I'd like to know more about the burger god Hamblor. 

Sadly, it looks like Carl's Jr./ Hardee's has given up on Hamblor.  The website only has a static image which mentions a movie that came out in the middle of November.

You get out of that tub and back to work Hamblor!

At 1,060 calories for each Steakhouse Six Dollar Burger 
I'm guessing these girls don't sample the product much

Also where did the golden bulls, shown earlier flanking the flames, go?

Finding Bigfoot

While on the subject of commercials, I would like to point out that more than one person living in America decided it would be a good idea to produce not just one but now a second season of a show called "Finding Bigfoot" about, well, finding Bigfoot.

I on the other hand do not

Here is the link to the promotional video for this ridiculous show.

I'm writing this from a coffee shop while wearing shoes that are coming apart at the seams instead of working at any one of the real jobs I've applied and interviewed for recently.  Meanwhile, advertisers are writing checks to these guys to play around in the woods?  I believe something is terribly wrong with a system that allows this to happen.

Updated on 12/30/11 - Removed a grammatical error from the paragraph on the Virginia Republican primary

Sunday, December 25, 2011

It's Time

Holiday Shopping
I think about time some... well... times.  Last Tuesday, I wrapped up my holiday shopping.  In less than five minutes from thinking "I should really buy them something because the big day is less than a week away" I had finished placing an order for a piece of electronics, which would be delivered in time for Christmas.

The day before, I spent three hours driving from one store to another trying to find slacks in my size. To my dismay, I discovered that not a single one of the stores I visited carried anything with an inseem longer than 32".  Finally, because a late afternoon meeting that day was the reason I was driving around looking for pants, I visited a slightly fancier caliber of store.  After hours of searching, I found a decent pair of pants that fit well enough.

If there is anything worth taking away from this story (and I'm not sure there is) it's a suggestion/ reminder to plan ahead and shop online.

Whatcha Talkin'Willis,
Whatcha Talkin' 'Bout Everyone
(Ah, Simpsons, I remember when you were consistently funny)

Today is Christmas and that means that it's the perfect time to enjoy the following:

Skip ahead to 1:02 if you like

No, no I was wrong.  It's too soon for us to watch this.

Errors in Posting Recently

I goofed recently.  I allowed a pair of posts which I partially drafted but never finished to be published.  I would blame the editorial staff but this is a one man operation.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

I have a lot of thoughts about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

I personally have not yet physically participated in the Occupy movement by tent camping anywhere.

I do believe that it's impressive and admirable that such a large number of people have taken to sleeping in the cold streets- allowing themselves to pepper sprayed, tear gassed, verbally abused and beaten to show just how serious they are about demanding fundamental change be made to the current system in this country, which serves to funnel vast amounts of wealth into the hands of an increasingly smaller and smaller number of increasingly wealthy individuals. 

I have found the television and print news coverage of the Occupy movement to be severely lacking in depth in terms of presenting the legitimate demands of the Occupy protestors.  From what I've seen the typically coverage highlights only spectacular displays of police force and the most bizarre looking of the members of the protest.  Any serious discussion of the economic realities that have driven people to occupy the streets or specific suggestions as to how wealth could be better distributed in our post-industrial world have, to my knowledge, not yet taken place on the 24 hour news channels or nightly network television news. 

Thankfully, the New York Times recently published an article describing what the founder of Adbusters magazine, Kalle Lasn, has to say about the protest.  To my way of thinking, the following offers an excellent statement of purpose for the Occupy movement:

Mr. Lasn [Founder of Adbusters magazine] has long believed that Wall Street and vast corporate wealth have sent the United States into what he calls “terminal decline.” But unlike many people involved in the protests, he also has specific goals he would like to see reached. He wants to see, among other things, “a Robin Hood tax” on all financial transactions, a restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act that erected barriers between banking and investing, a ban on certain types of high-frequency trading and the overturning of the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case
 Here is a link to the full article.

TL;DR: I'd suggest giving the indented paragraph above from the New York Times a quick read.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Adventure Stories

Adventure Stories

One of the things that comes to my mind frequently are thoughts of narrative, writing and storytelling.  The adventure genre has always been a favorite of mine.  Here are some of the adventure stories and series that I think are worthy of being enshrined in the canon of adventure literature. 

Indiana Jones Series

Remember kids, the inside of a refrigerator is a better place to hide than under the covers, especially to escape the effects of a nuclear blast.

Seriously, don't ever close yourself inside a refrigerator,
people really have died from doing this

Zork Grand Inquisitor

The Librarian Series 

 The blonde behind him in line is probably going 
to need someone to console her after she finds
out she didn't get the job...
Or, perhaps, I just have a one track mind.

National Treasure Series 

The first film and the first half of the second movie had a lot going for them in my opinion.  These movies managed to blend American history and entertainment in a way that I enjoyed.

Pirates of the Caribbean 

The way Johnny Depp plays Jack Sparrow in this entire series is fantastic:

"There should be a Captain in there somewhere"

The only thing I remember from the fourth movie in this series was Captain Jack Sparrow tripping over a bit of foliage, stumbling to his feet and using his sword to hack wildly at the plants that caused him to trip.

Early Days of Adventure Movies
Prior to all of these were the 1930s to 1950s serial films in which adventurers would go on... well... adventures, mainly, that would often end with the hero falling over a cliff or otherwise dying in some spectacular fashion.  Of course, at the beginning of the next episode, it would be revealed that the hero had actually survived. The Indiana Jones films certainly drew from these serials as the produces noted in a documentary I recently watched on the making of Indiana Jones.


Prior to the serials from the early days of film, there were travel narratives that date all the way back to Marco Polo.  According to his biographers, poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge read extensively from travel narratives, which allowed him to include detailed information about travel on the open ocean in the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner prior to his ever having been on board a ship at sea.


Hopefully, I'll have more original content next time.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

There Will be Basil

I've decided to plant basil seeds in the hopes of improving my pasta dishes.

Plus, I'm now living out my fantasies from The Professional.

Watering the owl, done.
Dusting my plant, in progress.

Assuming I remember to water these little guys every few days and that the terrible soil we have in Southern California has any nutrients in it at all, I should have leafy green things to eat in a few months.

Updated: November 7, 2011:
Here is a photo for Electric Addict who made a note in the comments about my not including a photo. For the record, I haven't seen leafy green things emerge from this pot yet myself:

Soon, I hope

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fun with Software

Currently, one of my favorite computer programs is Belvedere, which you can download here.
I should want to take Mr. Belvedere out to a nice dinner.
I shouldn't want to cut up Mr. Belvedere and serve him for dinner.
Sometimes Saturday Night Live is just bizarre
but Phil Hartman was always funny.

This elegant piece of software keeps my desktop tidy because I setup a rule inside of it that automatically sweeps everything that hasn't been modified in the last three hours off my desktop and into a folder titled "00_Inbox", which is itself inside a folder that is automatically backed up to an external hard drive.  From the 00_Inbox folder I can manage the material, much like one's impulses must be managed:

TL;DR: Things get bizarre when I present both the strange Saturday Night Live sketch about a support group for people that want to violently harm Mr. Belvedere and a computer program called Belvedere, which I use to keep the files that exist inside my computer tidy.  

All you need to know is that Belvedere is a solid piece of software for organizing your hard drive(s).

Update 2/28/12: I updated the link to the Lifehacker website where the Belvedere software care be found.

Monday, September 19, 2011

It Be International Talk Like a Pirate Day, Matey!

Story Time:

During my days as an undergraduate, I was involved in the sport of rowing.  In order to get a jump on the competition, one of the other guys from the crew and I checked a boat out from the dockmaster at the boathouse before organized practices began.  At least we tried to check out a boat when the dockmaster interrupted us with a hearty "Arr, yee be wantin' a boat do yee?"

The eye patch let me know that the dockmaster 
took his pirate talk seriously

"Hmm, yes?" the rower I was with replied with a confused look on his face.

"It be International Talk Like a Pirate Day, it is" replied the dockmaster who had evidently been spending too much time at the boathouse.

"OK, well we just want to check out a pair to row in the marina for about an ho-"

A little waving of a plastic saber from the crazed dockmaster cut off my partner and gave me the idea that this was not going to be settled in regular English.  "We been needin' a schiff for my matey and I to paddle 'round these waters for about a one and a half turns of the hourglass" I offered.  A moment later we made our marks in the log book and were in possession of a boat to row.

Anyway, in honor of today being International Talk Like a Pirate Day I present the breakfast of pirates, which comes from here:

Man the crow's nest!
Let down those top sails!
Fry the Jolly Roger!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Put It In There!

Things to go inside your dwelling, Part 1 - Clocks:

I often see things that catch my eye and make me think "that's something I would like to have when I grow up and have a place of my own".  Well, I am grown up (physically, not so much in terms of maturity) and I can put whatever the hell I want to inside of my place.  Unfortunately, this thought is often soon followed by sticker shock so I typically don't buy any of these things.  

Part one of this compelling series on things I would like to own and may someday make myself in order to get exactly what I want at a price far lower than what a retail store would charge me explores the fascinating world of wall clocks.  Here I will compile photos and links to products that I would like to either purchase or better yet knock off and construct by myself.  

Why do I bother thinking about making my own clock you ask.  Well here is how it plays out inside my head:

Any girl ever: "Nice clock."
Me: "I made that myself using parts salvaged from an old steamship."
Same girl: "I must have sex with you right now."

Anyway, I'm pretty sure that's how this will play out.

Also, clocks are easy to make.  There are lots of stores out there that would be happy to sell you the mechanical devices that power the hands of an analogue style clock around in circles.  The challenge is to find the right display to go with the store bought clockworks.

Below are some of my thoughts on existing clocks available for purchase these days:

I'm not sure why the image of the American Flag appears to be painted on a piece of old wood.
Our Flag tends to be, well, you know, a flag.  Also, having the numerals overlay with the stars
on the flag bothers me.  I think the designer could have just used dots to indicate the hours.
Found here

Black and white goes with anything so your future girlfriend
probably won't insist on throwing this away when the two of you move in together.
Still, the chunky 12, 3, 6 and 9 marks just strike me as being wrong somehow.  Why
make these marks bigger?  Why are these marks even present since the hours
are designated with circles instead of dashed lines?  I find this very busy for a 
minimal design.
Found here

Apparently it's time to eat
Found here

Apparently it's time for more hallucinogens
Found here

It lists an address in London so you know it's fancy
Found here

At the risk of being labeled a steampunk nerd, I'll admit that I kinda like this.  
The problem I see is that the metal hands don't really stand out from the metal back 
of this piece, which, if I have to stare at it for more than a few seconds to tell the time, 
kills the functionality of the clock.
Found here

Again, I would like to see more contrast between the hands and the dial behind.
Found here

Why have three clocks all in the same place that all
tell the exact same time?
Found here

Do I add them up and divide by three to get the average current time?
Found here

I like the metal look.  I like that the hands contrast with the multi-colored backgrounds. 
It would bother me to have the 5 and 11 angled the way they are when all the other
numerals aren't angled at all.  Also, the multiple colors on this one might not gain the 
above mentioned significant other seal of approval.
No product page available
Pic used as a category shot but 
doesn't exist in their catalog

To summarize, I prefer Roman Numerals over Arabic in most cases.  The idea of having three clocks all done as part of one display piece intrigues me but only if they can be set to the time in three different areas, say the U.S.'s East Coast, West Coast and some foreign city.  I like the idea of constructing such a clock out of metal.  Gears are being used everywhere these days to make clock dials, which is a good enough look but I bet one could go further in sourcing materials from which to make a good looking clock.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Skyscrapers and Sports


Today I learned of the national pastime of Columbia, a game in which players throw a metal disc 60' towards a slope of mud in the middle of which is a ring lined with explosives.  The game is called tejo (Pronounced "tey-ho", remember that "j" becomes "h" in Spanish) and apparently is played by virtually everyone that lives in Columbia.  The goal of game is to throw the metal disc and hit the tejo, which are triangles of paper lined with a bit of gunpowder.  Players score points for successfully hitting a tejo and getting the gunpowder inside to explode.  Additional points are awarded to players who manage to land their disc inside of the ring after causing the tejo to explode.

Any competition that involves exploding gunpowder sounds fun to me

Here is a link to a good video on tejo produced by the Washington Post, which, sadly, I can't easily embed here.

Here is another good video on tejo from the people at Lonely Planet:

¡Me Gusta!

Much like bowling, bocce, or horseshoes, the game itself is often little more than an excuse for the players to drink beer.  There are also plenty of YouTube videos out there that show that the official rules are often thrown out the window as players move just a few steps away from the target to increase the chances of their throws resulting in the satisfying pop of exploding gunpowder.  Still, the basic elements of the game remain the same: people throw metal discs at a slope of mud in the hope of setting off a small amount of explosives.  Sounds fun. 

Torre Bicentenario:

Continuing the south of the border theme, I came across a description of the Torre Bicentenario today.  The tower, a quartz clad skyscraper 984' tall built to celebrate the bicentennial of Mexico, would be the tallest building in all of Mexico, if the builders ever get around to finishing the thing.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Let The Randomness Commence

My Hero:

Warren Buffet is my new hero because he wrote a statement titled "Stop Coddling the Super Rich" in which he claims that he would like the United States government to tax him and the other super wealthy more in order to make America a better place to live.  Go Warren!

No, I don't know of a bird named Kevin.
I'm fairly certain that Paradise Falls is a fictional place.
Does anyone have a question that does not relate to the movie Up?

Here is the full text of Buffett's opinion piece.

Fancy Book Learnin':

I'm tempted to sign up for the free online Stanford Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) course that starts on October 10, 2011 because it might be a way to interact with intelligent people.  Actual A.I. strikes me as being a pipe dream but researching the subject might lead me to learn something useful.  Here is what the New York Times has to say about the course.  Here is a link to the course web site.

Come with me if you want to learn

The New York Times article also references the Khan Academy web site that features thousands of video tutorials on all sorts of smart things as the inspiration for the pair of professors that will be putting together the Stanford A.I. course.  From what little poking around on the site I've done, the videos seem to focus primarily on covering math and science for middle school age folks.  I might watch some of these to fill in the gaps left by my public school education at some point in the future.

Also, Stanford is offering a free online course that provides an introduction to database software, which also sounds intriguing.

Quest for the Perfect Coffee Shop:

I've begun a quest to find Southern California's best coffee shop.  I'm trying to find the following:
  • Free WiFi (a must have)
  • Good view (the ocean, beach goers, a park, an urban location if there is either a lot of foot traffic or a dramatic view)   
  • Upgraded furniture inside (granite, comfy sofas, wrought iron, etc.)
  • Employees that don't bother me if I want to post up with my computer/ notebook/ book for hours
  • Oh, and coffee that tastes good would be nice
Adbusters has long written about the power of coffee shops as a gathering point for individuals looking to create a positive change in the way the world work.  Perhaps it's time for me to find a coffee shop.

Updated on July 7, 2012: 

Sir, you're doing it wrong:

Missing the point of mobile computing

I was a little shocked to see this well dressed man (note his white collar shirt, tie and what can't be seen in this photo is his suit jacket that matches his pants) walk into Starbucks carrying a bulging backpack.  He sat down and started breaking out all of the above.  My first reaction is that when you're wearing a suit you should probably be able to just use your smartphone these days and ask someone else at your office to do anything that requires a physical keyboard.  Apparently, this guy didn't get that memo. I think the craziest thing about his setup is the fact that he plugged a full sized keyboard into his laptop at a coffee shop.  If the built-in keyboard and trackpad don't work, why not just buy another computer I thought.  How is it that he seems to have the money to buy a decent suit but not $300 for a netbook?

End update

Hello Little Boys and Little Girls:

Yesterday, I saw several dozen kids playing on a basketball court below where the cardio equipment at the gym where I workout overlooks.  Before I began getting my heart rate up, the kids had already covered the surface of the court in chalk drawings that resembled a mind map or visual outline with circles and squares connected by lines.  Inside each of the circles and squares the children had written words- simple labels of locations or results.

The children had drawn and labeled a "Mountain" connected by a line 
labeled "Rope Bridge" to a circle labeled "City" with a line drawn to a jagged
edged object with the word "Dynamite" inside.  Coming off of the mountain in
another direction was an oval labeled "Cave"

Looking at the court it was impossible for me to determine where the game/ story that the children had been telling/ playing began.

I would have liked to have taken a photo of the court with my cell phone but the thought of having to explain to the Director of the kids summer activity program or someone's parent why I was snapping photos of their children prevented me from doing so.

What struck me about the children's drawings were the similarities between the structure of what the children were doing and the structure of links on the internet.  The choose-your-own-adventure style of fiction that merged storytelling with game play renewed my interest in a project that I've been gathering material for during the course of the last several years.  I'm now thinking of pushing forward with publishing a choose-your own-adventure style fictional story online.  I'm planning to set the story in the contemporary world and to take advantage of the capability of the internet to transmit text, photos and video in order to tell what I hope will be a compelling story.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Death Penalty and the Start of NFL Football

A Reason to Live:

The NFL kicks off a new season today!

It feels a little like this

Amazingly, of the five NFL games taking place today the only one that is being nationally televised is the game that I care about the most.  At 5 p.m. PDT the San Diego Chargers will host the Seattle Seahawks.  While this is only a preseason game and even though I expect that the starters will play very limited minutes given the shortened training camp resulting from the prolonged  labor negotiation, I'm thrilled.
Before you say anything negative, remember that Picasso made 
a lot of money from abstract art.  This is from my 
incomprehensible period.

Give Him a Pistol with One Shot and the Chance to do the Right Thing:

At long last, the corrupt asshole who abused his power as a Pennsylvania judge will finally be sentenced today in Scranton.

For those of you would aren't up on this case, former Judge Mark Ciavarella was convicted in the "Cash for Kids" scandal.  Basically, the State of Pennsylvania thought it would be a good idea to contract out to a private company the task of jailing kids under the age of 18 who committed crimes.  Once this company had a financial incentive to put kids in jail, they conspired with Judge Ciavarella, who was illegally paid nearly one million dollars from the private jailing company, to place any and every child that came in front of him for sentencing in their facility no matter how minor their crime.

One kid sentenced for marijuana possession never got over the shock of being tossed in jail.  His Mother, Sandy Fonzo, claims that his suicide was a direct result of Ciavarella throwing him in jail for what should have been a slap on the wrist.  Here she is confronting Ciavarella on the steps of the courthouse immediately following his being found guilty.  Skip to 1:01 on this video to hear the boy's Mother:

I would have thought that for his own safety he would
have been jailed immediately following the guilty verdict.
Shockingly, for the last six months after being convicted,
Ciavarella has been free while he awaits sentencing.

One retired school teacher had her barn and another building burned down by a pair of kids that were sentenced by Ciavarella.  After he was found guilty of accepting bribes in exchange for issuing detention sentences, the Supreme Court ruled that everyone who Ciavarella sentenced would have their convictions overturned.  This left the 100 or so people that lost property to the small percentage of those Ciavarella sentenced that actually deserved to be locked up shit outta luck.  In this case, the teacher estimated her loses at $173,000, which insurance will not cover because it was ruled as arson and therefore, they claim, up to her to recoup her loses from the person responsible.  Originally the two kids that committed the arson were told to make restitution to her but since their convictions were thrown out this woman has to bend over and take it.  The state of PA has authorized two $1,500 checks, one for each of the two arsonists, to cover her $173,000 loss.  Here is the article.

I sincerely believe that Mark Ciavarella deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Updated August 15, 2011: Ciavarella was sentenced to 28 years in prison.  Hopefully that means he will die in prison.

TL;DR: The NFL is back!  The NFL is back!  For me and millions of other American football fans today is like Christmas morning when you were a small child, plus a birthday all wrapped up in a lengthy hug from a hot member of the opposite sex.  I'm a little excited.

Also, a Judge who abused his power is going to be sent to prison but for how long?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dog Sitting

I recently dog sat for a woman that grew up with my Mother.  She just so happened to be traveling back to visit her Mother in Memphis, TN and wanted someone to look after her two Chesapeak Bay Retrievers while she was away.

I setup camp in her home the first night.  A VGA cord and male to male 3.5 mm audio cord brought the video and audio from my Asus EEE 1000HE netbook to her flat panel LCD TV.  With a wireless mouse I was able to navigate around the computer from the comfort of her recliner.  Sadly, she didn't have wireless internet.  I was able to survive by using the painfully slow Verizon cellular data network to access the internet but only just barely.  I did manage to get around to viewing the movies I have been putting off watching.  I alternated between these videos, a handful of educational type podcasts that I had been putting off watching and regular TV.  I also hit play on a slideshow of the funny images I have saved on my hard drive and let that run in the background while I listened to music.

I watched Exit Through the Gift Shop, which despite all the hype didn't live up to my expectations.  If you're into watching young artsy types do rebellious things I suggest Bum Fights Volume 1.  Yes it's offensive, rude violent, destructive and appeals to those who are into drinking, drug using and disfiguring violence.  Bum Fights makes a documentary about guys who spend their time pasting Andre the Giant's image on the side of a building after bed time seem tame.  The Bum Fights videos certainly brought more questions to my mind than watching Space Invader post 8-bit video game monsters on a wall in a public space.  The guys that produced Bum Fights offered homeless guys beer in exchange for facing off in what amounts to outdoor boxing matches.  This made me wonder what is different between what they were doing and an official, licensed boxing match or a mixed martial arts fight, the kind that takes place virtually all the time and s broadcast everyday on TV for our amusement.  What is different from what these kids were doing with their video camera and the promise of alcohol and what Dana White does for the UFC?  Why is White in charge of a billion dollar company and the kids that produced this video the subject of criminal charges?

I also watched (horror movie).  While I enjoyed a few of the "nau-my-god" moments when spooky things appeared right behind one of the characters, I just didn't find the supernatural premise all that imaginative and the special effects left a lot to be desired.  They made this movie as a supernatural thriller, not a horror movie.  Since there was never any real blood and guts the underdeveloped fire faced villian didn't freighten me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Milk Campaign

Thursday, Bloody Thursday:

The New York Times ran an article yesterday describing a failed advertising campaign run by the California Milk Processor Board that was intended to promote their claim that drinking milk can help alleviate the severity of PMS.   The ads were created by the Milk Board's advertising agency, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.  You can read the full-text of the article on the New York Times website here.
Kids, these things were called newspapers.

A site was setup at, which is no longer active and, based on my searches,  can't be found cached on Google or in the Internet Wayback Machine.  According to the New York Times, "The content of the microsite included 'preapproved apologies' from men to the women in their lives with PMS like 'I’m sorry for the thing or things I did or didn’t do' as well as features like an 'emergency milk locator."

Apparently, a few people found the the concept of an advertising campaign aimed at telling men that the best way to quiet the monthly torrent of incessant criticism coming from the mouths of their bitchy girlfriends is to force feed them milk offensive.  Go figure.
The Milk Board and their ad agency view PMS 
the way I imagine having an episode of 
"Keeping up with the Kardashians" playing out 
in real life inside my home would feel.

Both the California Milk Processors Board and the ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners apologized for the campaign.  But that's not what makes this article noteworthy for me.  The way Steve James, Executive Director of the California Milk Board, phrases his apology in the followings quotes from the New York Times article bothers me (italics below are my edit):

"The goal now is 'to turn down the heat,' Mr. James said. 'There’s no sense in keeping up a Web site that’s like waving a red flag to some people.”
Pad seen here the only thing I could possibly think
of when I read an article about a PMS related
issue that mentions the words "red flag".

"Taking down is 'not a failure in any way,' he added. 'I don’t see it as ending it or pulling the plug.”
(Tampon not drawn to scale)

Perhaps Steve James should contain his similes and metaphors to baseball references.  For example instead of "waving a red flag" perhaps he could mention that "it's like the site is being sent down to the minors for retooling".  Instead of describing taking down the site as "pulling the plug" perhaps he could say that they're "trying a different approach at the plate in hopes of hitting one out of the park!"  Using baseball in figurative language is safe and when speaking to men it builds a connection between speaker and audience.  I have no idea what the female equivalent would be but I'm fairly sure that in this case it doesn't have the word "red" in it.

Wealth?  Career?  Firmness of ass?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Job Interviews Part 3 of 3

The recruiter I spoke with originally to setup my third interview mentioned that the dress code is business casual.  Wear slacks and a button up shirt or even a suit he suggested.  This recruiter had an out of state area code and during the course of the conversation I was able to confirm that this recruiter worked out of a different office than the one where I would be interviewing and possibly working.  While I certainly don't know every aspect of the culture, I've been around San Diego long enough to know that a suit is rarely appropriate.  If a family of four in San Diego hosted the President for dinner, I would bet that at least one family member would be wearing sandals.  I decided on wearing slacks and a button up shirt, which is at the low-end of appropriate according to the recruiter.

Before I went to my third interview, I reviewed my list of Frequently Asked Interview Questions.  Over the course of a discouragingly large number of unsuccessful job interviews, interviewers have asked me the following questions, or slight variations on them, most often.  I suggest having answers to these questions ready so that you're prepared when they are asked.  I'll  read through this list of questions and think about how to tailor my answers to fit the job I'm interviewing for and trying to create mnemonic devices to remind me of the answers and things that I would like to emphasize during the interview.

  • Tell me about yourself. - Stick to your professional accomplishments and educational background.  Leave the information about your pets, your lunch and how your day is going for the next time you talk to your Mom.
  • Why did you leave your last job?  I'm always asked this question.
  • What would you say are your greatest strengths?
  • What would you say are your greatest weaknesses? Resist the urge to mention that "More than one young lady has complained about me being too big, if you know what I mean."
  • What in your past work experience would you say you are most proud of doing?  Or, what is your greatest accomplishment?
  • Describe a difficult situation that arose with a customer and explain what you did to solve it.
  • Describe a conflict you had with a co-worker at your previous place of employment and what you did to resolve it.
  • What's you favorite book? - Back when I was interviewing people at one of my previous jobs, I would ask applicants what was the last book they read or what they were currently reading.  I imagine that the interviewers that have asked me this question are trying to determine the same thing I was trying to determine, which is if the person I'm thinking about hiring is more interested in the cast of the Real World or things that matter in the real world.   
The building where I interviewed was an upscale three story office building in a fairly new business park- big on glass and clean round lines with palms trees dotting the perimeter of the building.

It was more impressive in real life, I assure you.

Inside, I read the directory and found that all the floors were rented out to multiple tenant except for the top floor, which was all rented out by the company where I would be interviewing.  I took an elevator up to the top floor to find two young women sitting at a large frosted and etched glass reception desk that would look at home in the lobby of an Intercontinental Hotel.  Two flat panel monitors running promotional videos for the company flanked the reception desk.  

I introduced myself to one of the receptionists who buzzed the person I was to meet with and let him know I was there.  I had arrived ten minutes and killed time by watching the videos.  While I sat waiting, several employees, all wearing jeans, walked around.  I made a mental note that were I to be hired, jeans would be the appropriate attire.  Still, I felt confident that what I was wearing certainly well within the range of appropriate attire given that I was inside an upscale, modern office building interviewing for a full-time job at a company that employs tens of thousands of people in nearly 100 offices around the world.

Ten minutes after our scheduled appointment time, or 20 minutes since I arrived, I sat down with the person that I would be reporting to if got the job.

I don't think I've ever heard more jargon used to describe a fairly straight-forward job function.  It seemed that the person I was interviewing with was intentionally making everything as difficult as possible to understand.  It threw me off a bit to not quite understand the lingo used in their office.

Once I waded through the jargon, the position seemed straightforward enough.  Basically, they have a sales force.  That sales force generates money by selling advertising that runs in thousands of locations nationwide.  If hired, I would be setting up and monitoring those ads.  These two flowcharts make it even more simple:

Nothing to it.

The slightly longer version of the job description is that I would be in charge of making sure that the data from all those advertising campaigns are being properly being fed into the company system.  About the most challenging thing about the position is that there is a large volume of advertising campaigns, each with hundreds or thousands of data feeds to setup, and to red-flag any of the feeds that aren't profitable.    

To me, it sounds like they need a system that will monitor for any advertising campaigns that are more than a couple of standard deviations different from the mean.  The sales force would probably like to know about those campaigns that are significantly out-performing those run anywhere else as that might be a good way to get clients to open up their wallets to run more ads in those markets.  What I imagine is the more frequent outcome, the markets that aren't generating sales need to be flagged and the ads pulled before the client's dollars disappear without any return on their investment.

Based on what I've done in the past and what I would like to be doing in the future, I believe I would be a good fit and I think I did a good job of making my case to the interviewer.

I noticed that the person conducting my interview and the person I would be reporting to, was wearing an untucked slightly wrinkled shirt, wrist watch and jeans.  In an era when everyone has a cellphone that doubles as a calculator, calendar, holder of contact information, and, of course, clock, I don't understand why anyone feels the need to lug around a wrist watch.  Shortly before things wrapped up, he mentioned that I was "really overdressed".  I thought about mentioning the old saying about how "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people" and ask what he thought about what that means for those who discuss what people choose to wear.  I also thought about saying that I would have worn a bath robe if he would feel more comfortable interviewing a guy that showed up looking like he didn't give a shit about being hired.  In the end, I kept my comments to myself and decided that venting my frustrations via blog later would be more appropriate.

Sadly, it has been about three weeks since this interview took place, which leads me to believe that I won't be hearing back with positive news.  I'm thinking about calling or emailing this interviewer and the people from part 2 of this series to ask for an update.  I'm not holding my breath about securing either of these jobs anymore but there is always a chance.  Plus, I might get some feedback about why they didn't hire me, which might help in landing another job in the future.

My hunt continues.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hope Solo

While the U.S. prepares to take on Japan tomorrow in the Women's World Cup Final, I would like to take a moment to introduce Hope Solo, the keeper for the American team and the latest object of my desire.

I only just discovered Hope a few days ago during the American victory over the French women's team.  I managed to save the following screen caps of Hope Solo from the U.S. v. France broadcast, which, sadly, aren't the most flattering:

Pay for high-speed cable internet, get blurry images


"I'm excited too but you don't see me screaming in your ear."

I pulled the rest of these images from the internet:

If you want to go to dinner with me tonight, 
just keep smiling that row of pearly whites.

Great, I'll pick you up around 7 p.m.

She's already into wearing gloves and playing inside a net.
How tough can it be to transition that into handcuffs and ropes?

I certainly hope that if the American women win the World Cup tomorrow, Solo will at least consider celebrating the way Brandi Chastain did when she won the Women's World Cup:

Just a suggestion

TL;DR: Hope Solo, the keeper for the American Women's Soccer (Football for all you non-American folk) Team, caught my eye recently.

Also, if anyone is wondering, I haven't forgotten the third and final Job Interview post, which will be coming up next.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Job Interviews Part 2 of 3

Next, I found a job posting that screamed for my application.

Hmm, it seems they might be trying to tell me something.

Naturally, I was excited.  So I applied.

Rectangles clearly represent the back of a netbook monitor.
Also, I forgot to draw my large beard again. 

Less than one hour after I emailed my cover letter and resume, I got a call from a woman that sounded excited about setting up an interview.  I've never had someone respond so quickly to an application and only the people that have actually hired me in the past have been so upbeat.

Why are we using phones when we're nearly touching?

I scheduled an interview with the woman who called, who works as the Office Manager, and the General Manager, the man who would ultimately be making the decision about hiring me or not.

Thinking that my Tom-Hanks-In-Castaway-Before-Rescue-Beard had perhaps cost me the previous job and because this is a full-time job that I would really love to have, I decided to shave.  

With the beard gone, I rediscovered my mouth.

On the day of the interview, I load my car with a simple navy blue folder with pockets that hold three extra copies of my resume and a typed sheet of questions designed to make sure I'm covering all my bases during the interview and to prevent me from drawing a total blank when the interviewer asks if I have any questions for them.  I remember when I was interviewing people at my first real job, I would knock them down a point or two for not being inquisitive when presented with a great deal of new information.  I've compiled these questions from a number of articles that provide tips about the interview process.  I tailor these questions and things that need to be covered to each interview but the points that are common to most interviews are:

General Conditions
  • Who would I report to?
  • Who would I be working with?
  • Would anyone else have the same/ similar job functions?
  • What are the typical hours?
  • How many people work in the office where I would be working?
Past Performance
  • Why is this position available?
  • What have been the primary reasons for people leaving this role?
  • What are some of the difficult problems one will face in this position?  How do you think these could best be handled?
  • How is one judged?  What accounts for success?
Interviewing the Interviewer
  • What do you like most about working here?
Before Agreeing to Start Working
  • Salaried or hourly?
  • Agree to an hourly or annual rate of pay before agreeing to start
  • Agree to start date, time and location
  • Optional - Ask for a business card (It's always wise to put important agreements in black and white, i.e. the start date and time so that you're covering your ass right from the start)
  • 100% commitment (especially for full-time positions, I usually like to mention something about how I really dedicate myself to the work I have been hired to do and will exceed expectations.  There must be a way to say this without sounding lame.)     

Usually most of these questions, except for the one about what the interviewer likes about working at that company, have been discussed during the interview and before the Q and A at the end.  This question doesn't really apply when the person conducting the interview is also the owner of the business, so it's a good idea to come up with a few job specific questions to have ready to go so that you have something intelligent to ask about before the end of the interview.

I also have a list of interview questions to be prepared to answer, which, if you're good, I'll touch on next time.

On the scheduled Friday, I drove about 45 minutes to their office.  I sat in my car with my blue folder and felt nervous and anxious despite the fact that my bank statements have been increasing insistent about the necessity of income and the fact that in the past I've convinced myself that I'm not in the least afraid of contacting anyone.  I thought about driving away and getting a cup of coffee instead of going into the interview at all. I thought back to a time when I actually had a full-time job and was not hesitant about meeting with strangers in unfamiliar and uncomfortable settings to discuss problematic and uncomfortable things.  For a few minutes, I felt just how extraordinarily awful and small it makes one feel to not have a well defined role in the world.  Finally, mastering my anxiety and mustering the same courage that has sent men off to do far more bizarre and dangerous things throughout history, I stood up and marched into the office reassuring myself with the notion that "It can't be that bad."

Unfortunately, right at the beginning of the interview, something told me that this experience might be that bad.

I suppose I would be upset too if someone had neglected to include
two simple vertical lines that would allow for breathing and eating.

The Office Manager was convinced that I would do well.  The General Manager apparently hadn't bothered to look at either my resume or cover letter until I was standing right in front of him.  The Office Manager and I tried to convince the General Manager that I was the best person for the position, which is an odd thing in an interview.  Occasionally the Office Manager would answer questions posed by the General Manager before I could respond.  Still, I did manage to project myself in as positive a light as I know how and was able to answer all the questions posed to me reasonably well.

Sadly, the interview was short, about fifteen minutes, which gave me the impression that I won't be hearing back with positive news.  Please keep your fingers crossed that I do!

After it was over and I had returned to the familiar environment of my car, I thought about practicing answering common interview questions with another person to get their feedback on my responses and body language.  I also thought about filming myself answering such questions so that I could make adjustments before I go into another interview.  Then, I thought to myself that I'm not applying to be the CEO of Coke and that this seems like a helluva lotta effort to get a job suitable for someone with 4-5 years of experience.

Will I get the job?  Can my anxieties be better managed?  Will Batman foil the Joker in time to save Gotham?  Did anyone else watch Dharma and Greg specifically because they found Dharma's above average height, face and figure attractive?  Tune in next time to hear the thrilling mundane yet hopefully informative conclusion to this exciting space-filling three part series about the fascinating world of job hunting!

TL;DR: I interviewed for a job that I am very well suited for doing and share my Questions for Interviewer sheet.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Job Interviews Part 1 of 3

Recently, I've had three memorable experiences interviewing for work.  What I've found is that it's stressful to visit someone else's office and go through the process of trying to convince someone that you're a good fit for doing a job they want done.  I've come up with a system to take as much of the stress out of the process as possible and to do everything I possibly can in advance so that I'm not in a rush on the day of the interview.

First, I'll walk you through my boring pre-interview process and then I'll get into the marginally less boring experiences I've had recently while interviewing for work.  When I speak to the person setting up an interview, I pull the following information up on my computer screen and am sure to fill in their information for all of the blank spaces or am sure that the information is being emailed to me.  

First and Last name of the Person I spoke with: ___________    __________________
Address being emailed? If not, take it down:__________________________________
Phone Number: ________
Interview Time: ________
Interview Date: ________

As soon as I get off the phone with the person or receive the confirmation email from them, I look up directions to the office where I'll be interviewing.  If I'm not familiar with the area, I'll often look at the Google Street view image to help orient myself when I'm driving to the office on the day of the interview. Then, I email myself the directions to the office so that I will have them on my phone the day of the interview.

On the day of the interview, I pull up this short checklist to be sure that I have everything i need for the interview:

  • Directions to job location
  • Name and number of the person I will be meeting with
  • Shave your face
  • Wear appropriate clothing
  • Blue folder
  • Two extra copies of your resume
  • Pen
  • Copy of your interview questions

My first of three recent interviews was with a company looking for someone to work for them part-time taking data from various sources and converting and entering the data in a proper format inside of Excel.  The data would then be run through a program to insert all of the fields I would potentially be entering in Excel into the blanks of a form letter which would then be emailed out to people to drum up business.  

I applied for this job because I kick ass using Excel. I can type quickly and accurately, know the ins and outs of the formatting paintbrush, can sort multiple columns to put data in the proper order, can turn huge lists of data into useful, digestable information by setting up Pivot Tables and have picked up on all the ways to get things done quickly and effectively using Excel. In short, I am an advanced Excel user so a job that requires heavy Excel use is something I would be well suited to do.

I went to the interview and met with two young women who told me that 99% of the job would be using Excel and, after a half hour of discussing my background and skills, agreed that I would be a great fit for the other 1% of the job as well.  The words that came out of one of their mouths verbatim were:
This seems encouraging...

Then, one girl said that she would sit next to me while I performed a series of tasks inside of Excel.  If that test were a woman, she would have been delivering a diagonally cut a roast beef sandwich with fresh romaine lettuce, tomatoes and onion that she just prepared and placed on a plate, which she then carefully balanced on her back and crawled on all fours to my spot on the sofa to deliver.  When I take the plate from her and smack her on the rump to say thanks, the test would say on her knees at my feet with her eyes downcast to avoid making eye contact with me.  In other words, I made that test my bitch.  My misogynistic fantasy life aside, the young woman that was administering the test really did say the following:

I forgot to poorly sketch in my very large beard and the 
fact that the woman interviewing me could actually 
see what was taking place on the monitor.  Opps.

99% of the job is Excel, which according to the person conducting the interview, I am better at than anyone else that applied and I am a great fit for the other 1%. So it came as a surprise when I got an email a few days later saying that they had gone with someone else.

Tune in next time to read about quickly scroll past the somewhat exciting tale of my second of three job interviews!

TL;DR: Despite my excellent ability at using Excel, I failed to secure a job that required heavy Excel use.