Sunday, June 27, 2010

LotD 2

It's easier to find a job when you have one, the old adage goes, but for some companies, if you want to work there, you better already be employed. Check out this job posting by The People Place in Angleton, TX. I'm guessing the People Place is a staffing agency, which makes it even more crazy that they would write "Client will not consider/review anyone not currently employed regardless of the reason..." in their posting. I don't know how widespread this is, but it's definitely a cause for concern.

It's an oldie, but you can find the script for Yahoo!'s 1,500-employee layoff here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Imagining a Liberal Court is a rather high-brow analysis of conservative versus progressive thinking and how it has evolved over the years. The title, I think, is misleading because it's not really imagining what a liberal court would be like; it's more a look at various landmark Supreme Court cases over the years and the contradictions between conservative and progressive thinking upon the actual case outcomes.

Today, we are moving toward a contemporary version of this debate between liberals and conservatives about what we need to fear most — an overreaching state or unconstrained market forces. The positions in this debate today are not identical to what they were three-quarters of a century ago, but there are important similarities. Progressives today view regulation as the necessary response to the market failures that led to the present economic crisis. Many conservatives fear that taking regulation too far will cripple the possibilities of economic recovery and long-term growth.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Prep time

The last few days have been a little intense in terms of cramming. Not for an exam, but for interviews. I've been fortune to land several interviews recently and so I've spent some of my free evening time just getting ready.

Things I like to do to prep for an interview:
* Research the company by reading the website, rereading the job description, checking out recent PR, and doing a google search to see if anything comes up. I'll also checked LinkedIn to see who works at the company. If they're given any presentations or papers lately, I'll review one or two of those, maybe even print it out and take it with me to the interview so I have something to read while waiting in the lobby.

* Get my resume printed on nice paper. I usually go to Office Depot and make 5 to 10 copies on the heavier cotton paper. It's been rare that I've actually had to give an interviewer a copy of my resume, but I like to have it. Also, it's good to be able to pull it out and review it at the same time as the interviewer. Honestly, I wrote my resume, but I can't always remember off the top of my head what's on it.

* Prep my questions. My rule of thumb is always to ask three questions at every interview. I don't have a good reason for the number, it's just what I've always done and in general, has been successful. In order to have three questions to ask, I brainstorm and write down at least 10. I've found that the majority of those get answered during the actual interview, but if my list is long enough, I'll be able to get at least 3 questions in.

My go-to questions are as follows. In fact, I think I've used this list pretty consistently over the last 5-7 years, and the questions have worked pretty well. Keep in mind, these are the 'general' questions -- I like to have at least one or two questions written down ahead of time regarding the job in question.

1. What do you expect the person who is in this position to accomplish in the first three months? First six months? Nine months?

2. How do you measure success?

3. What is the toughest challenge facing the person in this position?

4. What percent of the time will this person be expected to travel?

5. What skills do you think are the most critical to be successful in this position?

6. How would you describe a typical day in this position?

7. What is the management organizational structure?

8. How many people are in the team? What groups will the person in this position be expected to interact with?

The remainder of my brainstormed 10 questions usually have to do with the job posting itself. These questions give me a good idea of the pace of the organization and how the manager works. I never ask about salary, vacation, or other benefits on the first interview. During the second interview, the benefits usually come up for discussion and I may have a question or two at that time.

Most people advise not disclosing salary information. I gave up this tactic a while ago and now I just tell the employer up front what my current salary is and what my expectations are for a switch. I've usually been in a situation where I'm switching from one job to another, so it's never been a problem. I also don't fudge the salary number or do a range; it's super easy for HR to check if you fudged your salary and it might be grounds to rescind an offer in the future.

In general, it has never hurt me to reveal my salary expectations ahead of time. Could I have done better if I didn't? Sure. But I've never been disappointed in the results. Also, because what I do has such a wide range of salary based on experience level and education, I found it best to let people know where I'm at the beginning of the process or fairly early on. It definitely has thrown me out of the running for a couple of jobs but I don't think that's a bad thing.

In general, I don't like to play games, I like to be honest and up front, and I like to be uber-prepared. So far so good. I'll keep you posted on how all this plays out.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I was googling Direct Buy "just because" and came across a bunch of sites panning the site. I have no experience with the business at all, just curiosity because they are running soooo many ads on television right now. I did find this article from Consumer Reports, which I feel is a pretty reputable source. Per Consumer Reports , you'd have to spend at least $20,000 to recoup your membership fee (which is around $5k). The other thing is, you get a one-time shot at it: show up for the open house and cough up the membership fee or you can never return. Sounds kinda dire to me. Also, Consumer Reports says it's not possible to return items, cancel orders, or even terminate your membership. Definitely sounds like a scam to me and I think I'll pass on this one.

When I'm President of the World -- president, because it sounds more benevolent than "dictator" and I do intend to be benevolent -- I plan to enact legislation that will:

* Make it mandatory to return your shopping cart to the little shopping cart stalls in the middle of the parking lot. No more of this leaving the cart anywhere for the vissicitudes of wind to take it away and crash into someone else's car. No more leaving the cart in the middle of a perfectly good spot that makes it unable for anyone else to use. No more blocking someone else in "just because".

* The yield sign will be used correctly, that is, one will stop when one is merging into traffic. A yield sign is essentially a stop sign when moving into traffic, yet it's an oft-ignored sign. It's almost like yield means "go fast, dang it, and heck with anyone who is coming up behind me." Yield. It's the right thing to do.

* Blinkers will be used so everyone around the car in question will know where it's going. And while I'm ranting about blinkers, outlawing left turns from the right lane will be a step in the right direction (I know this last one sounds intuitive, but you'd be amazed at how many times drivers in Sweat Sock City suddenly realize they need to make this left turn while they're in the right lane and they make it, never mind that they nearly get t-boned by the people in the left lane who never saw the turn coming).

* You'll be able to select which channels you want in a cable package so you don't have to buy the whole package, just the ones you want to watch.

I'm sure I'll have other legislation to implement but this is a nice start.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

How to write a misleading headline

Dr. Dre Loses Round In Death Row Court Battle. When I first saw this headline, I thought, "What? Dr. Dre on death row? What? How? Where? Is this another Dr. Dre?" Turns out I can step down from red alert; Death Row is the name of a record label. Some of you may have already known that. But for those of us who were unaware, definitely this headline is unclear. I'm not sure what the spacing/character count constraints were on this headline but I think "Dr. Drew loses in record label court battle" would be a more clear headline as to what's actually going on.
LotD, part 2

I read a lot of HR blogs these days, looking for that magic winning formula that will propel me into my dream job at my dream company and where I'll totally be able to put my rock star moves to good use. I've recommended Ask a Manager before as a good source of advice and things not to do (or to do!) and I think it's a great blog to read. Today I found Punk Rock HR, which is chock full of good ideas and advice but rather snarky in its delivery. Which I love, because I'm all about the snark. And also, it reminds me not to take this situation too seriously (okay, so I am taking my situation seriously, but at least I'm *laughing* when I'm reading interview advice).

You should totally apologize to BP, if you haven't already. And when you're done that, you can check out the death of the desktop computer.

Friday, June 18, 2010

LotD, double the fun edition

This analysis on what we learned from Tony and Joe amused me greatly.

And writers, what's your narrative rest stop? Mine is food, descriptions thereof, but this article says one of the more popular ones involves the barking dog in the distance.

And bonus: The cheapskate next door. I think describing pennypinchers as "heroes" is a bit much though. Okay, a lot much.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

LotD, BP edition

A bunch of links today. I've been meaning to weigh in on the oil spill, but haven't had a chance to do so. The always observant Dana Milbank describes what happened when Tony Haywardwent to Washington. Anne Applebaum talks about how the oil spill isn't Obama's Katrina. The NY Times talks about a five-decade old spill in Nigeria here. And Joe Barton got his "shakedown" comment from a GOP memo. Slate takes on the WSJ's review of Obama's speech here. And what would be a post about energy without Sarah Palin?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I found this website, Adventures in Fake Meat, which reviews a variety of meat substitutes. The writer has a good sense of humor and attitude towards trying all of these products. It was kind of fun to check out the reviews and compare them to my own perceptions. I am intrigued by the Gimme Lean sausage; another friend recently recommended it and now this site is giving it an A+, so on my next grocery trip, I'll pick it up. We definitely disagreed on the Morningstar buffalo chik'n wings though, as I really like them (though the assessment of spiciness is indeed true). Anyway, fun site for those of you who enjoy fake meat and a good pointer for those of you thinking about trying some.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Interesting article on Rwanada's national health care plan here. Not much offered for what $2/person/year, but what minimal services they do offer seem to be paying some dividends. Rwanda's come a long away since its genocide days.
Sweet dreams or beautiful nightmare

Lately I've been having "exam" dreams. You know, the ones when you're rushing late into a classroom on the day of a final exam or you forgot your homework and the teacher berates you in front of the class?

Last night, I dreamt that I had an assignment due and I showed up with a 3-page paper on some subject unknown but it had the random exclamation, "I'm going home!" in the middle of the text. I think there might have been charts too, but it's a bit foggy. In my dream, the teacher was collecting the papers from all my classmates and they all had these the thick piles of paper to hand in, with lots of supporting documents and evidence. They all pointed to my three-page paper and laughed. I panicked and somehow managed to find more paper in my class binder, attached it to the paper, and turned the whole mess in. I woke up then so I have no idea how this all turned out. I'd like to think I got an A.

I don't know what these dreams mean. I have been thinking about taking a class or two to hone my skills for this competitive job market, but that's a rather vague connection. My stress level is actually very low, the lowest it has been in a couple of years (aside from that whole job situation, but that's another story entirely). So I'm at a loss really as to why I'm suddenly sitting in a classroom, scrambling. One thing for sure, the dream does make me grateful though that most of my formal schooling is behind me.

Monday, June 14, 2010


I can't remember if I've pointed y'all to I Will Teach You To Be Rich. This is a PF blog in a different vein; written by an Indian-American, Ramit Sethi, the blog focuses on defining value, negotiating skills, boosting earning power, automating finances and saving for what you want. I like this blog because it's different than most blogs about frugality or personal finance; no recipes for making your own detergent and not a big emphasis on clipping coupons. It's probably the only PF blog you'll read that makes the argument that buying a new car isn't necessarily a bad thing or if you want a $28,000 wedding, go for it. Frankly, it's a breath of fresh air.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


The NYTimes published an interesting article, In Sweden, Men Can Have It All. This is a pro/con (mostly pro) analysis of Sweden's leave policies and their effect on the working world and gender equality. I found it fascinating (and attractive!).

Sweden had already gone further than many countries have now in relieving working mothers: Children had access to highly subsidized preschools from 12 months and grandparents were offered state-sponsored elderly care. The parent on leave got almost a full salary for a year before returning to a guaranteed job, and both could work six-hour days until children entered school. Female employment rates and birth rates had surged to be among the highest in the developed world.

The question to wrestle with is whether paying nearly 50 percent of your income in taxes to get what Sweden would be worth it. The article seems to imply that Sweden does have it together in terms of economy and productivity, but I think there would be extremely stiff resistance in the US to implement any kind of policy like this here.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Worst case

I hate looking for a job. It's mind-numbing, pedantic, and can be overwhelming, depressing, stressful, and agitating.Plus, as a job hunter these days, the power is with the employer. So that makes it even harder. The employer can let you go at-will (my state is at-will employment) and they can hire you at will.

Lately though, I've seen people who never saw it coming being let go from their jobs. To be honest, if you'd asked me if those people would be let go, I would have said no. That's why it's so important to always have a resume at ready, to constantly check what's out there -- even when you have no intention of looking for another job -- "just in case."

The best time to negotiate a new position is when you have one. We don't always have the luxury of picking our own timing, but if you have an inkling that things might not go as well as you'd like at your company, it's time to start writing/reviewing/updating the resume and sign-up for alerts at some job hunting sites like or

The thing is, looking for a job is free (well, except for the time investment), and just because you're looking doesn't mean that a) you'll get an interview or b) you'll get an offer. And even if you get an interview, it doesn't mean you have to go and just because you get an offer, doesn't mean you have to accept (though I think if you get to this last step in the process, you should have a fairly good idea at the last interview as to whether you want to proceed or not; it's only fair to let the hiring manager know your interest level).

"Looking" is not a commitment to do anything. It's a step towards securing your own future and perhaps gaining a modicum of power. Okay, maybe not so much the last, but you get what I mean. I always feel better when I'm in action, like I'm doing *something* to make sure I'm taking care of me.

The employers have all the power now, so the only thing we can do is keep our eyes open and our ears to the ground and keep renewing our network, letting people know casually that you're looking or you have some interest in case they hear of something. Regardless, it's important to understand what the job market in your field looks like, to understand how qualifications may or may not be changing, and to just get out there the minute you hear a hint of trouble.

Easier said than done, I know. I've been floating on the longest river in Egypt for a while now just because. But time is ticking and since I very much prefer to be employed than not, it's time to get back out there.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Computer update

So I froze the hard drive. Well, before I did that, I dropped it from 2 to 3 feet on to the carpet. It landed with a nice thud, which I consider payback for the downstairs party hearty folks. Unfortunately, the drop didn't jolt the motor into action so into the freezer the hard drive went. It spent a day in there, hopefully thinking about what it had done and hopefully forgiving me for hitting the power button prematurely. But alas, the freezing technique did not work either. Now there's only one thing left to do -- take the drive apart and transfer the heads into a working hard drive. Surgery will probably commence this weekend.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Semi good news

So far nothing has really worked to get my computer up and running. This afternoon, we headed to the local tech store and picked up an adapter for the hard drive. I removed the hard drive from my computer and hooked it up to J's laptop. Nothing. The drive did spin up but there was no recognition. Disconnected it and tried another hard drive from another desktop. That one not only spun up, the laptop also recognized it and we were able to access the files. When we tried hooking up my hard drive up again, it refused to power on. So now we're going with the last ditch resort of putting it in the freezer to see if that will help.

The upside of all of this is I did find a back-up from August of last year. I checked that disk and the good news is I did have presence of mind to back up all of my iTunes music (also available on my iPod), all of my stories, resumes, and tax information to the CD. I've probably lost some data and email, but eh. What can I do? I just need to be more dilligent about backing up, especially given the age of the computer. But the story I was worried about -- the sequel to Fugue in Blue Minor -- is indeed on my disk so WHEW! (of course, I haven't worked on it since March 2009, but at least I don't have to start on it from scratch).

Oh and it goes without saying that there will be no website updates until I figure out what to do about the software etc. I'm using J's laptop for now, but at some point, I'm going to have to get another solution.

20 Worst Charities in America -- worth looking at. "Worst", however, seems kind of a harsh term though -- I'm thinking "inefficient" would probably be a better term.

Seems like everyone and their brother has a charity these days and I personally never know who's legit and who's not. I do have my favorite, but every now and then, smaller ones catch my eye for one reason or another. Luckily, none of mine are on this list.

Saturday, June 05, 2010


So after 9 years, or more precisely, eight years and 10 months, my beloved Dell Dimension 2100 has given up the ghost (or so I think). I got impatient with the computer yesterday when it hung up uploading photos and hit the power off button. Big mistake. Now the computer refuses to boot or recognize the hard drive. I'm hoping this is just a temper tantrum, nothing serious, but if it is, I'm kind of wondering how to get my data off the hard drive. My last back-up was in August of 2009 (I know, I know), but I haven't created many new files since then. I'm most worried about my next story in the "Lines in the Sand" series and my resume/job checklist spreadsheet.

I was planning to get a new computer in August but it looks like I'll need to get one sooner rather than later. Sadness.