Friday, December 21, 2007


I've been meaning to write some things, but haven't gotten around to it. Work update: I'm still employed and am learning with each day. Everyone at the office is gearing up for the big convention in Anaheim in 2-3 weeks. I finished my article about the nascent years of the Stan Kenton National Stage Band camp. I spoke to two educators, Clem DeRosa and Ray Santisi, and Paul Erskine who went to the camp starting when he was 7. My other article should be published soon in Music Inc. about retailers in Texas. Aside from those articles I've been doing the news stories on every day and writing product summaries for Music Inc.

I will be going to the convention in California. My first work trip should prove to be exciting. I'll be gone for six days and, from what I've heard, the convention is sensory overload. I'm looking forward to my seemingly yearly voyage west. This trip won't solely be pleasure like my past trips.

With almost two months down, one to go, I'm somewhat unsure what the future has in store for me. I think I'm doing a good job. So we shall see if my contract gets picked-up. Otherwise it's back to the classifieds and Law and Order.

The publisher did tell me I'm doing a "great job" as he handed me a Christmas bonus check. I think I'm liked by most people in the office, so I got that going for me.

I'll hopefully write more tomorrow.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Here's the thing

One of my coworkers is an adamant fan of NBC's The Office. I watched an episode last night and have seen the first season and most of the second. Here's what bothers me about the office sitcom. Why would I watch a show after I get home that is about being at work? It seems to go against what I believe in: leaving your job at work.
Most offices have their oddities and quirks. At my last job there was a guy who discovered eBay about 10 years after everyone else and loved to spread the word and sing the praises of buying others garbage. He would gleefully tear open his packages with fervor usually reserved for Christmas morning. One day, the package was a woman's sweater with an American flag motif. After standing and saluting the sweater, I asked if this was for a friend or foe. The ladies garment was for his buddy who taught history and has a penchant for sweaters.

There's the compulsive gambler. The religious zealot with firm, unwavering views that will endlessly attempt a conversion. The moron who somehow earns more than you. The advice-giver, doesn't matter the topic, he'll tell you how to improve your love life, fuel efficiency, diet. The quiet one that everyone placates for fear of their going postal. The guy with no sense of volume modulation when speaking. The person who uses speaker phone too often.

Why do I need to watch other people's office lives? To view the oddballs that comprise their menagerie? The show's hyperbole allows you to look at your own environment and laugh, especially when the printer displays "PC Load Letter," and provides the environment to chat around the water cooler. This separation and parallel work situation enables workers to indirectly criticize their own situation. Their boss may not be as culturally insensitive as Michael Scott, or returning from a Jamaican trip with their attractive boss, but the fictional caricature allows the average peon to assert their supremacy.

Although my office life doesn't come with theme music and credits (it'd be cool if it did), I'll be content to leave my desk job at work and not tune in for the re-airing Thursday nights.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Week 1

Week one has come to a close. I made it through without napping. I've truly amazed myself. The job involves copy editing and some data entry tasks. Next week I'll start writing stories for another one of their publications that deals with the retail music industry. So I'm looking forward to writing again. One of the major benefits of working at Down Beat is the vast library of CDs. I've started to stretch-out my ears with the help of the editor to try new artists and explore the wonder that is jazz. The top of the stack for last week were:

There were some others that were good but I can't recall the specs. There were some vocalists. A little Freddy Cole which I found a little slow. I sampled a McCoy Tyner album as well. I listened to the debut CD for Hope Watts (I looked for info, but I must have here name wrong) which is a little edgier than what I usually listen to. I also checked out the batch of CDs being reviewed for the next issue.

One week down a few more to go. The people are nice and include me in their daily run to Starbucks. I go along for the exercise.

One downer is that they use macs. I'm not totally opposed to macs; I had to use them for film editing. I am anti-dirty macs without cd drives and no form of Office loaded.

Yesterday I went to ND with my uncle and his family. Miserable ending but great seats and a great game. I've seen some great games with unfortunate endings. Luckily the Tribune was merciful in their report about the game. They only had a few pictures and didn't dwell on ND's collapse.

Friday, October 26, 2007

At last!

At last
my job has come along
my beggarly days over
and life is like a song

Ooh At last

That's not exactly how Etta James sang it, but I think that was what she meant.

I have found a job at long last. It only took four months and two weeks. After being told I'm monotone, not lively and discriminated against for my cursed Y chromosome I have found a job I want. I will be working for Down Beat magazine as an editorial intern. Now you may be saying, that's not a real job, it's an internship. And you would almost be correct. It's a start and a chance to prove myself. The internship provides invaluable experience in writing and editing while working in a musical environment. Plus it's paid. So I can start spending money again.

I would like to thank (as if I've won an award) all of the alumni who have helped guide me. I think a helpful factor in securing this internship is that one of the editors is an NU alumnus. Go 'Cats! I also have to give some gratitude to my friends and family for putting up with me on this manic roller coaster of emotion. At least for the next three months that ride is closed.

One thing that I firmly believe sealed the deal was pouring on the prayers. None of the job hunting articles I read said anything about praying. I was pushed to the end of my sanity. I'm not one to quote from the Good Book on tape, but this is appropriate:

"So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you."
Last week we ran out of mustard.

So, this weekend I'm going to dust-off the party hats, pop open a bottle of the good stuff (sparkling grape juice) and toast to the road ahead. I'd say it's been fun, but it hasn't. Looking for a job is one of the most painful, futile, arduous exercises in this world (Though I do hear that childbirth and kidney stones are quite painful).

I will continue to post about my new intern experiences, quirky ideas that keep me awake at night and I hope you'll continue to read along for Stories from the Job Front.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The depths of depression

The other night my phone rang. Surprisingly it wasn't a debt collector for Susanne Lawson (if Susanne is reading this: please stop giving out my phone number) or some unknown number. It was someone I knew. The sad part is the first thought I had was that my friend must have misdialed.

I do think things are swinging upward. I am going to call a production company again Monday to see about jobs. Then Wednesday I am meeting with an alumnus to get some guidance. I fully anticipate having a job by the end of the week.

The key I've found in follow-up emails to employers is extreme brevity. Instead of a long winded email, I send a 2-3 sentence email stating I wanted to follow-up to schedule an interview.

I've also started studying for the GRE in earnest. I requested info from some New York artsy schools and some schools in Cali for their photography or journalism programs.

Friday, October 12, 2007

New Ad Campaign

In case you didn't hear it, a 6-year-old had such a strong hankering for Applebees that he "borrowed" and crashed his grandmother's car en route to the restaurant.

Watch this for the gripping video:

If I had the video resources I'd make Applebee's a new ad campaign featuring the young patron. After showing a little kid herding his diaper-wearing buddies into his gram's sedan they head out to Applebee's. On the trip he crashes the car a few times and we see the scraped up car in the lot and the kids teetering toward the doors.

Narrator voice over: "Yeah, we're that good."

Freegan Eh

From the Oct. 1 Newsweek:
Before June of this year, I thought only the sad and desperate ate garbage. Then I discovered the freegans. For those new to the term (free + vegan), a freegan is a person who has decided to boycott capitalist society by severely curtailing consumption of resources through reusing, recycling and Dumpster diving. Taking the expression "Waste not, want not" to its extreme conclusion, freegans try not to purchase anything up to and including food. Instead, they rely on bartering and what the rest of us leave for the garbageman.
Just a quick note here: the correct term is "homeless."

I shouldn't joke. I'm on the fast-track to being a freegan Dumpster diver.

Monday, October 1, 2007

This is a test

Not much new news to report on the job front. I'd say the enemy is weakening, but their resolve is strong in ignoring my resume submissions and follow-up emails. I'll have to employ some new techniques. I've checked out The Art of War to mine it for new tactics. I mistakenly took French not Chinese in high school and college so I am dependent on the Wikipedia translation for guidance.

So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will win a hundred times in a hundred battles. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you win one and lose the next. If you do not know yourself or your enemy, you will always lose.

That's what I like to call concise writing. Based on my success rate in the job hunt I don't know myself or my enemy. Subsequently, I've purchased a mirror and How to find yourself. Who knew finding a job would be so expensive?

A growing trend that I have discovered (Vasco Da Gama has nothing on me) is the proliferation of pre-interview screening. Some employ phone interviews. Others have doled out tests. In the past two weeks I've taken two tests. One was a writing exercise for a part-time job in Evanston to summarize stories off of newswires. The other exam was for a photo production assistant, which required a high school diploma. That test was a little more enjoyable than the writing test. I had to say what was wrong with pictures or say what I would change. They also worked in a riddle section. I swear I didn't take as many tests when I was in college.

Here is my gripe with the testing: the companies don't respond after you submit their test. I'm starting to wonder if it's some sick social experiment or research project for a dissertation. Whatever it is, it is cruel and unusual.

This job hunt has become a childhood game of hide-and-seek. But the other people playing aren't well versed on the rules of the game. They are playing like the kids who returned to their house down the block while you clamped your eyes shut and counted, then search the closets and crevices of your house. Frankly, I don't care for it. It's bad form.

I'm growing tired of looking for a job. No one tells you how frustrating it is. Ninety-five percent of the people you contact won't respond. After enough rejection and being ignored you start to take it personally. My latest desire is to fuel up my beast of a vehicle and drive away. There are a few problems with this revolutionary idea.
  1. My iPod battery only lasts an hour.
  2. I tire quickly from driving.
  3. Unless I get a different class of drivers license, driving isn't going to land me a job.
  4. Even with no intended destination I would get lost.
Still, the thought of running away has its appeals. I've always had that wanderlust. Whenever I drive by the airport and see a plane taking off I wish I were on it. I watch travel shows and wish I were there even when there is the south. But whenever I do travel it takes about a day before I miss the comforts of home.

One final thought. A few alumni have suggested I read What Color is your Parachute? As someone who is on the edge of being sent to a room where the walls are softer than the bed, who cares what color it is, does it work?

Listening to: Antonio Carlos Jobim - Children's Games
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad , spoke at Columbia University and the U.N. a few days ago. Last night he spoke with Charlie Rose.

Tonight the president of Bolivia was discussing the reforms he has led in his country.

This appeared September 19 in the LA Times about dying languages.

Over the past few days I'm hearing more and more about languages. Something I've never been taught with relation to journalism is how to handle a translator. I think I would be inclined to speak to the translator and not the interviewee. During Charlie Rose's conversation, he was persistent in trying to get the president to answer the question he asked, not the question Ahmadinejad wanted to answer. The beauty of a translated interview is one of the parties could feign misunderstanding. Perhaps something got lost in translation.

The L.A. Times piece is pretty interesting and thought provoking. K. David Harrison is the associate director of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.
"When we lose a language, we lose centuries of thinking about time, seasons, sea creatures, reindeer, edible flowers, mathematics, landscapes, myths, music, the unknown and the everyday," he said.
In my limited study of French, langue d'amour, I found that knowing another language, even in three word phrases, changed the way I thought and the way I described things. It did get me a date, but my poor command of the language didn't get a second date. I knew I should have taken Italian or aller a un restaurant français. So I suppose the note cards with scribbled french verb conjugations had their value.

Harrison discussed the dying languages on The Colbert Report. He said how in some places there is only one person who still speaks the soon-to-be-extinct language. Which makes me wonder: if a man is the only person who speaks a language and there's no one to talk with, who does he complain to? Do his complaints and conversations fall on deaf ears?
Listening to: Ray Brown Jimmy Rowles - That's All
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Baby, she wrote me a letter

Thanks, but no thanks.

Received a letter in the mail today with the company I interviewed with early last week.

I'm bitter when it comes to being rejected. Some people take it in style and cast a wide net. I prefer a more targeted approach, highly selective some call it.

Time to go over The letter. It started by thanking me for taking time out of my busy schedule. I appreciate the the insinuation that I have things to do, but frankly looking for a job and Law & Order consume my day. So, if you call that busy...

It goes on to say that while they were impressed with my qualifications they have decided to continue with other applicants. Here's the problem I have with that. To me it suggests that I looked better on paper than in person, which anyone who has met me knows I clean-up nice.

Here's what I have come to in my bitterness:
  • I don't like sentences that begin with "while." They just set you up for a one-two punch to the noggin. It reminds me of this girl in grammar school whose bread and butter was "no offense, but..." It's one of those things that aggravates me.
  • I am not dressing up for future interviews. Time to let the real Andrew out. The sleeveless shirt wearing-didn't-get-a-shower-in-yet, take-it-or-leave-it comedian.
  • From now on I ask "did I get it?" before I leave
  • I want to be refunded for my expended energy and time: gas, shower, tire wear, episodes of Law and Order I missed, wasted thought on the job
  • Why do they write good luck? I don't need their platitudes, I need a job. Last time I checked I can't pay for groceries with pleasantries.
Someday if I have hiring power or my own company this is how I would word a rejection letter:

Dear Job Hunter,

We have picked someone else. This is no reflection on you or your qualifications. As you may already know, we are inept at picking future candidates and the person we picked will likely leave us for a higher paying job within the next year making us regret this hire. But thanks for your time.

Job Hirer

P.S. We don't reimburse for gas or dry cleaning.

But hey, that's love.

The thing is no matter what you say in the reject letter the recipient is going to hate you anyway. You might as well give them some good ammo for their ensuing rants. I'd like to make the reject letter fridge-worthy rather than garbage-worthy.

Back to square one.

Listening to: Count Basie & Joe Williams - Every Day I Have The Blues
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Courting a career

"Interview?" the casually dressed man asked me after I entered the elevator.

As the only person dressed to impress in the lift it was a fair assumption.

"Yep," I responded.

He asked how it went and I told him I thought it went well, at least I hoped it did.

That was about a week ago. This semi-diligent job seeker finally landed an in-person interview. I vaulted through the glass ceiling of dreaded, impersonal phone interviews and made it to the real deal. Luckily no freight trains impeded my arriving on time.

I arrived at the office about five minutes earlier and shortly thereafter was greeted by one of my interviewers. She took me to her desk to show me some of their projects so I would have a better understanding of what they do. After sitting through a few and asking questions I met with another woman. She had a few prepared questions which I thought I handled well. In the days leading up to the interview I had printed out a list of common interview questions to expect and to ask. Thankfully, I wasn't asked about a time I failed or where I see myself in five years. The interview was rather relaxed. I closed the interview by asking what the next step was, as I read is strongly encouraged. This woman wasn't sure but gave me her card and said if I had any other questions to email her.

The next morning I emailed both of the women a thank you note and stressed my interest in the position and that I think it would be challenging but rewarding.

I anxiously awaited the email or call to schedule another interview but am still waiting. This tentative "did I get it/did I flub it?" mentality brings me to the topic of this entry: finding a job is like finding a mate.

Unreturned phone calls. That uneasy, hopeful feeling when you first meet. You painstakingly go over the minute details, what you said, what she said, body language.

With each day that passes more self-doubt creeps in. Initially I was pleased with the interview. Now I'm wondering what mistakes I made and what I could have done differently. I was thinking how I could have better phrased my experience at my internship last year. In general I tend to over analyze things and dwell on them for a long time if they don't go as I envisioned.

Dating is like interviewing in that you dress at or near your best with interviews requiring nicer attire than a date. You have to be on your game. Convey your interest, but don't talk too much. Listen. I utilize the head nod of understanding that clearly conveys "I'm picking up what you're putting down."

Conversion chart:
"I'll call/contact you." = "No, really. I'll pay for myself." = Thanks but no thanks.
"You're unique." = "I pray I never see you again."

Hopefully I will get some positive news Tuesday about another interview or, even better, a job offer. You have to think positively. I have an interview lined up with my previous employer for a sports writing job so we'll see how that goes.

So, this maybe the last labor day I'll be without a career!

Pleasant job hunting or enjoy the day off. Looks like my elevator is on its way up.

Listening to: Bill Evans - Minority
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Illegibly yours

Penmanship just isn't that important for most gen X-ers.

There wasn't much time devoted to teaching proper penmanship. While we had the lined paper and the uber-big caricatures of what the letters should look like, writing in longhand wasn't stressed. I always felt it was faster to print than write in cursive. I attempted to use cursive, but I never mastered it.

Sporadically you come across someone who still writes in cursive. I think they must have had the nuns "instilling" the importance of legibility.

Thinking about my previous entry about celebrity and requesting autographs I thought about how illegible autographs are these days. The musicians quickly scribble their name on the CD jacket. Perhaps this evolved out of signing numerous albums for fans and wanting to get through them quickly instead of distinguishing each letter of their name. Nowadays you're lucky to pick out the first letter of their first and last name.

I have fallen into this laziness/expediency as well. I blame a few things, seeing as it clearly isn't my fault but some external factor.

The digital age has led to more typing than writing by hand. Word offers a number of fonts if I really want to make it look like I wrote a note or paper by hand. The large shift to digital writing came around high school. Why write twice? I can type up my thoughts in the 'ole word processor, spell check, save and print. While typing seems more efficient I believe it removes a step from the writing process. Whenever I write on paper I have more time to reorganize and collect my thoughts. I am not focusing on the red and green squiggly lines under my prose. Instead I doodle my own "art" in the margins. Also by writing things out you are forced to edit what you wrote when you eventually type up what you wrote.

The other thing I blame is the credit card signing machines in stores. I used to try to distinguish each letter of my name but now it's a big A followed by one of those wavy lines, a break and another indecipherable line. It makes no difference in the store if my signature really looks like my signature. Unfortunately, my real signature now resembles the one on the credit card machines.

Go here and see if you would have been able to match the scribble to the scribe. My theory is that over time signatures have become less decipherable and more unique (perhaps to combat forgery). We surely have come a long way from John Hancock.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Sign here

Get it in writing they always say.

It's story time:

A young boy eagerly attended a Cubs game with his Uncle and cousins. Hoping to get his first signed ball. The ball was neon orange and green, slightly used. Once at the park the uncle took the ball and went behind the dugout to see about getting some autographs. The ball went unsigned. Derrick Mays didn't sign colored balls.

For all you sleuths reading this, you may have already gathered that the young boy was this underpaid, under-utilized writer. Go ahead. Get the Kleenex. I'll wait.

This was one of the first big disappointments from a superstar. One of many I could expect from the Cubs style of baseball. For the record I didn't want Mays' signature. I was after Sosa's.

I've never really been star crazy, hungry for autographs. It seems like by asking someone to sign something you are elevating them above you. Putting them on a pedestal. I'll admit there are many people with great talent in this world. Athletes, movie stars, comedians, rock stars. They all get bombarded to sign various things.

Recently I've deviated from my no autograph policy. While I still firmly believe that stars are people too, no better than most of us (possibly much worse), of late I have requested some scribbles. I feel awkward doing it. The past requests have all been of jazz artists I really dig. (I use the word 'dig' because Kurt Elling used it and I feel it's one of the ways I can show that I'm hip and "get" jazz.)

Now, I conceptualize autographs like photos. They commemorate an evening. When I saw "Fathead" Newman at the Jazz Showcase I purchased his CD and asked him to sign. I also asked the other band members. They stated that they didn't play on the CD. I wasn't concerned with that detail. All I knew was that I saw them play that night.

My second signing was the incomparable Kurt Elling at the Green Mill. I went up in between sets and offered up my CD to the altar of musical gospel. He signed and gave a smile out of the side of his mouth and returned to sorting through his sheet music.

The final one was Karrin Allyson also at the Mill. I went to her after the final set of an amazing show that I didn't want to end. She gave a sincere thanks and off I went. I think I said the show was amazing or phenomenal.

Despite saying earlier that artists/stars are just like everyone else there is something different. When I've gone up I am not quite sure what to say. Like conversations with strangers at a bar, you cant really engage in meaningful conversation. I have yet to say anything unique or distinguishable. Most times it's "I love your style" or "You're great." They respond "thanks" and that concludes the "conversation." There is a certain level of admiration for people who you hear on the radio or see on the screen. They are both like you and not at the same time.

I guess I have more respect for musicians, especially jazz, than I do for athletes, especially ones who don't provide their paying fans with autographs. I am not sure if someday down the road I want to be the one taking requests for autographs. In whatever I end up doing I want to be respected as a leader in the field (power napping?). In the corporate world I have a feeling signatures are only valuable on contracts. I doubt people run up and ask you to sign a TPS report.

I am looking forward to getting some signatures...on my paychecks!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

If I had a nickel

First read this if you haven't already heard about the latest Man versus McDonalds.

If you are lazy and don't wish to read here are the bullet points:
  • Man goes to McD's yearning for that greasy goodness
  • Orders quarter-pounder repeatedly telling staff: no fromage
  • Goes home and eats in "darkened room"
  • Gets ill and has to go to the hospital
  • Sues McD's for $10 million (for those fans of Wendy's that's 10 million frostys or 50 million chicken nuggets)
It is likely that most of us repeated connoisseurs of the nearly instantaneous have received an order that wasn't right. I surely can relate to this man. Unlike Jake Blues and the Lord, me and cheese don't have an understanding. While my temperamental tum-tum doesn't fancy the lactose offerings, it is thankfully not to the degree of this man. I have gone to restaurants and fast food chains and received my food with shavings of Parmesan or slices of American.

In our haste to feast, when do we usually figure out the mistake? Only when we free the burger from its constrictive foil wrapper and lift the bun do we spot the pernicious pickles or the melted, inseparable cheese. How do we respond? We respond as if this is some malicious catastrophe.

"I can't believe it! I told them no ________. I hate _____. Next time I'm checking the bag before I leave. I should take this back."

But we don't go back. At least not often. But why? Fast food is usually a last minute decision to put food on the table and quickly thereafter in the belly. We get the grub on our way home from work or during a lunch break. We simply don't have time to go back. By the time we get the food, after waiting in either the drive-thru or in-store line, we drive home wafting the aroma of a juicy burger or greasy, salty fries. The stomach juices start flowing; sustenance is near.

It's very logical, you see. The only thing you perform at the restaurant is a cursory count to see if everything you ordered is in the bag. You may toss in some sauce, napkins or straws. Rarely does someone check the food before they leave. Maybe it's because we don't want to disrupt the process of other people in line. If you think about it, we, the consumers, act much like the cattle that found their way to the "Burger Shack." We wind through the metal fencing/stockades and then take part in a routine transaction. (Sidebar: are we all really that tired that we ALL need to lean against the railing thing?)

One final point before I make a run to eat great, even late: cut the workers some slack. How many burgers do you think they make per day? Perhaps you are the lucky one that continuously gets the burger with mustard despite emphatically declaring that if a seed of mustard is on your food you may die. Sometimes they get your order right, sometimes not. I am not sure how accurate I would be after hours in a hot kitchen with the only reward being that huge check I could expect.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

1-Oh-1 your order is done

"Order 1-oh-1 your order's done," the matronly woman said with pep.

"104...wait no more," she declared in her standard-issue Portillo's uniform.

Sean answered the phone after I waited on hold listening to the soothing sounds of mechanical pre-recorded voices. He didn't sound like a Sean to me. His accent was heavy but he spoke English well. "Sean" was providing tech support for Internet service. If I were a betting man I would bet he was far away from the states.

Apparently we have outsourced more than just tech support. We have outsourced the demoralizing of our dignity to work. This man shouldn't have to Americanize his name to somehow please the American customers calling. I am not really sure if I want tech support from a Jimmy or Billy-Joe to help me "get 'er done."

When I worked retail I was often urged to "push" the extended warranty. The carrot they dangled in front of my nose was often a Snickers bar. They knew my weakness. I'd do near anything for that heavenly treat even sell needless protection plans. I also had to urge customers to put down a deposit on the latest Disney movie or video game release. I recall one of the summer's I challenged one of the female workers to a contest to see who could sell more. She worked later than I did but I felt I had a sizable lead. On my way out to my car I left a little note on her windshield (if that doesn't creep someone out I don't know what does). "You'll never beat me" or something similar was scribbled on a small piece of paper tucked under her windshield wiper. I later found out I had out-sold her.

During Christmas time we would have to ask customers about donating to charity. No one ever likes being asked questions at checkout. If they do they are probably the type of person that will leave a note tucked under your windshield wiper just to creep you out. Even the requisite "paper or plastic?" is annoying. "Yes, I found everything okay and no I don't need help out." A professor of mine cited a study that when we don't get asked these questions we feel like something is missing from our shopping experience.

Most of us have had to do something we didn't necessarily want to because it was part of our job whether it be convincing someone to buy an extended protection plan, urging callers to sign-up for a one-race challenge or denying our given name to attempt to convince the person on the other end that we weren't in a land far away.

My hope in my job hunt is that I'll find something where the list of current and future job responsibilities outweighs the required tasks that require me to "suck it up" and do what is asked of me.

Friday, August 3, 2007


So earlier this week I decided to take a bike ride. My days aren't full of much activity aside from looking at job postings and the intermittent narcoleptic spells so I figured I'd hit the streets. As I peddled my bike that screams to be featured on Pimp My Ride I remembered that there is a trail not far from my house. I started on the trail and could feel this strange thing they call exercise awakening my dormant muscles and getting the blood moving. My usual rides are about 1.5 to two miles at a brisk pace. First I went over a scenic bridge soon to be slapped in the face with a smell that can only be described as "zoo-ish." As the trail winded through the trees I was startled to see elk. That explains the smell. Luckily for me they were contained by a fence. Zipping along on the trail I began to wonder if I'd ever see my home again.

After a while, perhaps 30 minutes, I stopped to check a post that detailed the trail and its distance. I somehow managed to get on the eight mile trail. Did I find this out at mile two or three when I could have easily turned around and gone home? Nope. I figured this out on mile five, the point of no return. It would be five or six miles to reverse my route or three or four to finish. The way the trail was configured, circumscribing a huge lake, probably man-made, there was no shortcut. It was me versus the trail and the evil person that stuck a lake in my way. It should also be noted that this ride occurred during the height of the heat for the day when temperatures rose to around 90. Also, I had quickly gulped down my small supply, one bottle, of aqua leaving me peddling along on a quest for water.

For the sake of no other alternative I carried on. I made a pit stop to refill my bottle, but alas the pump was without a lever. At the next stop I pumped the creaking metal pump to no avail. A call to me mum led me to master the pump. Gloriously cold well water came sputtering out. My sleeveless t-shirt quickly became a soaked rag to cool myself. After a brief outdoor bath to the amusement of the geese, my water bottle was full and I was back on my way toward home.

Back at the ranch, getting up from being seated was difficult as my quads had taken on the consistency of Jell-O. But it was good to get some exercise and learn a good lesson. Check the signs before embarking on a possibly arduous trek.

In related news, I had some phone interviews this past week. How is this related? Mistakes, my friends. On phone call number two I got confused and thought the person calling was from another company. When asked if I had any questions I replied with a question about another company. So, when being interviewed on the phone it is a smart move to make sure what company you are speaking with.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A blog about nothing

Life without school is glorious in its way. As graduation neared I became a little reluctant to graduate. Graduation meant the end to writing term papers and signing over paychecks to the bookstore. It also meant the end to a lot of my stories. Now I don't have much to talk about.

While in school I would be asked about my classes and professors. I could share the knowledge I was learning in class. I could discuss films I watched and studied. The social element of college is underestimated.

One evening I was leaving the student center. On my way out two guys asked me where the parties were on-campus. After laughing to myself I told them they were at the wrong school. I instructed them where the frats were and off they went to play the thrilling maze game. (I say maze game because one of the few times I went to a frat party I felt like a lab rat traversing sticky floors in search of cheese. And I'm lactose-intolerant.)

Never confused with a party school NU still offered the opportunity to meet new people with each quarter change. Being at home waiting to land that dream job doesn't bring in a large amount of new faces. There are only two letter carriers during the week and we don't speak. There is always the hope of a Jehovah's or someone who is selling siding.

When I go out and meet-up with friends still in school the dialogue revolves around school and whether or not I've found a job. Conversation is soon exhausted and I repeat the conversation with someone new.

At least the weather is nice and I can talk about that for a whole minute.

Oh to be back in school and have something to talk about.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Filler words and phrases, etc.

Her speech was endless. I cringed every time she began to speak in class. Generally, I am not opposed to the open discussion of ideas, but this girl made the King of Siam look articulate. She is not alone. She is part of the growing throng of ramblers. It isn't just a plight among youth. It is spreading the nation. I had professors that used the same phrase repeatedly. Which brings us to the mot du jour: circumlocution. My good friends Merriam and Webster define the word as:
1 : the use of an unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea
: evasion in speech

Perhaps you have a rambler in your office. If you are in doubt there are some surefire signs to detecting the
incoherent one in the room. They rely heavily on the phrases basically, whatnot, etcetera and, their favorite, ACTUALLY. If you still cannot think of the rambler it is probably you. In which case your time may best be spent reading up on public speaking. Please don't read aloud.

The girl mentioned above loved to use the word "etcetera." She also adored a phrase she picked up in sociology. My personal belief was that you needed at least a few things to use "etcetera" to create some semblance of a link between items.

I fear I may sound elitist in this blog. We all use filler words. There is some underlying need to fill silence. We start out with the basics "Um" and "like" and move onto "basically, actually,"
etc." etc.

I would like to suggest that the next time you are struggling with what you want to say next simply pause. The silence may make the other person listen more closely.

A fun game to play with friends is to count the number of times the word "actually" is spoken during a program. Your best bet is a home-improvement show or a live talk show.

My word of choice is "so." It's how I start most of my stories. So...what's your word of choice or word/phrase that drives you nuts? In conclusion, omit the word "actually" and "whatnot" from your vocabulary. The world will basically thank you.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Living for the City

So after work yesterday I decided to venture out to the city. I don't often venture into the urban metropolis that is Chicago mainly for the preservation of my sanity and avoidance of the demonized, crime infested alleys. Perhaps I should explain previous excursions to unfamiliar territories. I have a track record of getting "disoriented" in new locales. You may be wondering why I didn't use the term "lost." I prefer not to use the term "lost" because rarely do I not know where I am. I am well aware of my location. The problem is I am not sure how to get to my destination from my current detour. Many of my friends and family have received calls asking them to play cartographer and guide. To them I say thank you. To you I say stay by your computer and phone I may need you soon. Despite past wrong turns I still try to go to new places and learn to navigate my way. The Christmas gift of an all-in-one compass/thermometer/rape whistle/magnifying glass (which ALWAYS impresses prospective dates) also has come in handy when I'm temperature curious in a dimly lit alley facing impending danger and need to know which way is north.

With printed directions in hand I departed work for Union Tavern. Turn-by-turn I was in the zone. I could feel the navigational gods
Cortés , Vasco da Gama and Magellan sharing their divine gifts with me. At one point I passed Lincoln Ave. In my defense, the street was not labeled and looked to be more of a pedestrian sidewalk than a road. A quick U-ie righted the ship and put me back on the path to my friends and an open bar. Lest ye fear, I found my way to the bar and somehow managed to secure a parking spot right outside the club. This may be where the gods got distracted and left me to fend for myself.

After visiting with school chums I was invited out to the Green Mill to continue the party. As a lover of jazz I enthusiastically agreed and offered a ride to some of those going. They opted for the train. I think my direction reputation preceded me. My cell phone battery was waning so I tried to make the call to my direction chief (mom) brief. Directions were delivered and off I went.

Life was good. I found a club AND a place to park. The skies were clear as the stars started to appear in the summer sky. Off I went up Halstead to Clark. The directions were simple. Clark to Lawrence and soon I'd be at the Mill soakin' up some soothing sounds. But the police had different ideas. Not the Chicago 5-0. I'm talking about the retiring rockers featuring Sting. They were holding a concert at Wrigley Field. The concert conveniently let out as I was on my way to the club. A detour and an hour later I was disoriented and defeated. Chicago had beaten me. Traffic had whittled down my will to live. I longed for the open roads of the 'burbs. Eventually I got out of the densely packed throng of middle-aged drunks.

Some wrong turns led me to more confusion. I turned on Broadway, but it wasn't the same Broadway that the Mill is located. Eventually I got to some street going North and was about to bail and head for home when my navi-mom told me how close I was. As the words registered in my brain I saw the sparking lights of the Green Mill.

The people I was to meet were still in the club and I was able to soak in some funk before heading back to my familiar home.

No matter how prepared I am with directions a road is always closed or there is some street festival. The lesson, I suppose, is that there will always be roadblocks. The key is how you handle them.

Future blogs include a commentary on a truly inconvenient truth, the excessive use of 'actually', french films and the ongoing job hunt which goes into week 3.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Now what?

Sixteen days ago I received that exalted piece of paper with Northwestern University in large script and my name in substantially smaller block letters. Contrary to my hope college degrees don't come with job offers. Instead of being welcomed into the real world with a firm handshake I have been warmly greeted with a proliferation of credit card offers and solicitations to consolidate my school loans.

The prospect of the end of required education was surely an enticing and exhilarating thought. No more dry history textbooks which lulled me into slumber after a few pages. Au revoir French homework that left me questioning "qu'est-ce que c'est". Goodbye midterm papers on Battleship Potemkin and Citizen Kane. My college days of rising with the sun for classes on south campus and walking on the lakefront bike path are sadly gone. While I didn't lose sleep over the tantalizing prospect of sitting in lecture halls it was what I knew. A large part of my life has been spent learning from others.

Now I rise a little later each day and look to learn some more. Shortly after coming home from school I stopped by the library to check-out a GRE book and some classical literature. I'm disappointed that one of my first actions after being emancipated from the education system was to get educational books. Each day starts with reviewing daily emails of new job postings. Each time you try to escape they pull you back in.

My hope in the creation of this blog is not to claim that my life is exciting and necessitates the journaling of my actions or my inner thoughts about the news. There are many people who are more insightful or intelligent than I am. My hope is to track the hunt for a job after completing college. This may be the only way to keep sane during the search. Also, I read this story the other day:,0,419978.story?coll=chi-classifiedjobs-hed

So logically I deduced that blogging gets jobs.

If you have tips feel free to pass them along. I don't consider selling all of my personal affects and moving to Idaho a tip. I'll try to share my interactions and hopefully the successful landing of a stellar job on this blog.

Finally, today at the grocery I heard a rather insightful remark from an older man when asked how he was doing. He simply said, "I woke up." That is a good day.