Category Archives: Job Hunt

Heinlein Had The Right Idea

Robert Heinlein had a LOT of right ideas, but the one that I’m trying to remember the source for tonight deals with frustration, intelligence, and balance. I’m sure someone out there will see this and immediately go, “You simpleton! It’s ‘____’ of course!!” I am, in fact, counting on you.

I think it was one of the opening scenes or chapters of one of the “Heinlein juvenile” novels. (I’ve ranted here before – “Starman Jones” is still one of my all time favorites, bar none.) In it our plucky young hero wants nothing more than to go to space and has an opportunity! They’re taking applications for some job or the other and he goes in, along with thousands of others, to take some sort of preliminary written test. The questions are not trivial, so fairly early on he sees other test takers who bail and walk out. He presses on as the test drags on and on. The questions never get too difficult, but they become increasingly repetitive and just downright stupid. Why the hell do they need to know these things? And why do they need to know it ten times? Finally he has had his fill. It doesn’t matter how much he wants the job, this is freaking ridiculous. He storms out while hundreds of others continue to answer increasingly pointless questions with no end in sight.

Of course, our hero gets the job. The test wasn’t to get the answers to the questions. The test was to week out the quitters who gave up way too soon and the drones who would follow mediocrity right into the pit of Hell without bothering to think for themselves. But there was a sweet spot for those smart enough to be able to answer the questions, but not sheep-like enough to follow along without questioning or purpose, people who had the correct balance of independence and discipline, intelligence and the ability to take action.

(This is where you call me a simpleton and tell me what book it is…)

Regardless, the principle’s the thing tonight.

How does one balance stability, both economic and lifestyle related, against stagnation?

How does one balance passion and purpose against caution and “responsibility?”

How does one balance “I’m too old for this shit” against “What do you mean? Never give up! Never surrender!”

How does one balance fear of change against fear of not changing?

How can you know the difference between the act that you’ll regret for the rest of your life and the one that you’ll regret for the rest of your life if you don’t do it?

This shit makes my head hurt.

Leave a comment

Filed under Deep Thoughts, Job Hunt, Space

Karma’s A Comedian

Wasn’t that a Culture Club song?

Let’s just say that in light of my long, long period of unemployment, it was highly amusing when The Long Suffering Wife stumbled across a job listing today that I had a reasonably close connection to. Scenarios opened up in everyone’s head that I won’t be touching with the proverbial ten-foot pole.

The response when I shared the “news” was also gratifying, and QUITE different from any responses I ever got in my previous career. That would also be a most excellent reason for not checking the color of the ground cover on the alternate surface of the barrier.

The world’s going to hell in a handbasket, folks. You’ve got to find your humor where you can.

Now if Karma could just do something about the mental midgets who are shooting off fireworks. Did we not just have a large brush fire just two miles from here three weeks ago? And that was before we had a week of triple-digit temperatures, with no end in sight. Just how stupid can people get?

1 Comment

Filed under Castle Willett, Job Hunt

A Day For Celebrating!

It was the first day at my new job and it was fantastic! I think this is going to be a great experience for me.

And, it’s the last day of NaNoWriMo 2015 and I’ve “won”! I’ve hit 50,257 words in fifteen chapters, and I even know how the story ends (I think) in about five more chapters!

What do we use for celebrations?

FIREWORKS!!!

IMG_2792 small

IMG_2886 small

IMG_2876 small

IMG_2865 small

IMG_2851 small

IMG_2844 small

IMG_2831 small

IMG_2818 small

IMG_2808 small

3 Comments

Filed under Fireworks, Job Hunt, Paul, Photography

The 400-Pound Gorilla In The Room

This is the article I’ve too embarrassed to write for over two and a half years.

While I’ve used this site as a place to have plenty of rants and to share oodles of personal information (hopefully not too personal), I’ve also tried to keep my bitching and ranting to somewhat “global” topics. Telemarketers. Cheap, disposable Christmas lights. People who drive like idiots. Politics! Airlines that give us lousy service. Ranting lunatics with a cause. Useless traffic signs. You know, that sort of thing.

It’s a fine line between ranting and whining. I think I give good rant. I’ve tried not to whine or be a real emotional buzzkill here. Or at least, when I do, I try hard to be vague.

When in doubt, mumble.

Once or twice over the past thirty months or so I’ve dropped hints and out of context comments that let on that “something’s up.” Those of you who are family or know me personally knew what I was talking about. Those of you who paid attention to the category tags probably had a pretty good hint.

Recently, more and more I’ve referred to the “400-pound gorilla,” as in the legendary and proverbial “400-pound gorilla in the room” which everyone ignores feverishly and no one speaks of. As I have been too embarrassed, frightened, and nervous to speak of mine.

Let me introduce you. It’s not a gorilla, it’s a Job. His name is Unemployment.

In January, 2013 the company I had been working for since 1985 (yep, that’s twenty-seven-plus years at one place) closed its doors. The company had done construction and property management, building houses, condos, HUD Section 8 assisted housing apartments, shopping centers, and commercial buildings. Many of these properties, particularly the HUD apartments and shopping centers, we held on to and managed. After forty-plus years together the President and Vice-President wanted to retire, so the whole portfolio was sold off for many millions of dollars in profit.

I was the company Controller, the number three person there, but a better job title would have been “jack-of-all-trades.” With a background in computer programming as well as accounting, and a college degree in physics (building nuclear weapons is cool but doesn’t pay, computer programming and accounting do), I ended up not only doing all of the accounting (with a small staff) but also the computer hardware, software, maintenance, training, not to mention all kinds of odd things that came up such as helping to design our new office space when we would move, coordinating those moves, and so on. Not to mention the towing tank drag tests on superhydrophobic coatings, but that’s a story for another day.

For reasons having to do with my father once being unemployed when I was a teen, my Catholic school upbringing (there it is again!), and just my general psychoses, being unemployed had always been a serious phobia of mine. There were a lot of sleepless nights as the end of the company’s days drew near, as well as visions of doom, gloom, and probably a rain of frogs and locusts falling from the sky with blood oozing from their eyes. As I said – it’s a phobia.

Then I was in it, up to my neck. Unemployed for the first time in my life. At a time when the economy still pretty much was in low gear, unemployment in California was at 9.7%, and we were grateful that it wasn’t still up above 12%.

Strike one.

At the time I was in my mid-fifties. Now, we all know that it’s illegal for an employer to discriminate against anyone because of their age. They’re not even supposed to ask how old you are. But in the real world, they can ask when you graduated from college and do the math. Or they can just look at you across the desk (or at your picture on your LinkedIn account) and be pretty sure you’re not in your twenties or thirties.

Strike two.

I had been at the same place, in the same job, for twenty-seven years. There were a lot of good reasons for that (more stories for another day) but in a society where that’s taken as a sign of something horrible being wrong with you, it can be a deal killer from the word “go” on a resume. It was common knowledge, everyone who has any regard for an actual career never stays the same place more than two or three years, right? If you’re not movin’, you’re losin’.

Strike three.

But there weren’t any options in February, 2012. The lottery folks kept not picking my magic numbers (bastards!) and any unknown rich uncles I have are apparently in perfect health.

I started my first job hunt in thirty-eight years, which was my first real job hunt ever.

You see, I got the Controller job because a friend worked there and got me an interview and a recommendation. I got the computer programmer job before that because my college roommate went off to grad school when we graduated. The college job I had working for Marriott was the last time that I had been actively hunting for a job. I was eighteen at the time (the unemployment rate then was 8% and rising, up from 5% at the beginning of the year), had just a high school diploma, and was looking for any minimum wage job I could find. This was going to be just a wee bit different.

I started learning about my enemy, doing research, taking classes. How to write a resume. How to write a better resume. How to apply online. How to find jobs online. How to use job boards. How to get unemployment benefits. How to interview. All of the do’s and don’t.

I had some severance pay. Then unemployment benefits. Then savings. Then retirement funds. Then?

I hoped sincerely that I could get something new in two or three months. That would let me still keep most of the severance package and have minimal financial impact. It could take four months. There might even be some long-term financial benefits! Okay, maybe five months.

Then it was eight.

Twelve.

Eighteen.

Two years. And counting.

As soon as the initial burst of shock and depression passed and the gung-ho optimism that followed was burnt to a cinder, I had to do something. Anything to get out of the routine, get out of the box, try to come up with some alternatives, find a way to not be the three-hundredth person in line for the same so-so jobs over and over and over and over. Isn’t that the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results?

In addition, remember this was a phobia of mine to begin with? So filling out applications every day and taking classes at the Employment Development Department and going to networking events and job fairs, all were like dipping me in honey and staking me to an anthill. Then, of course, there weren’t any results, so things started to get a bit bleak.

Almost in desperation, I started this blog.

I got a staff position as Finance Officer with the CAF SoCal Wing.

I got on Twitter and other social media sites.

I started applying to go to NASA Socials.

All of those choices probably saved me from the pit. I know that somewhere out there in the multiverses there are Pauls that gave up and are either watching “People’s Court” and soap operas while downing a pint of ice cream a day, drinking heavily, or both. But I dodged that bullet. None of those Pauls are me.

So that’s good! That’s great! I’m busy. I’m staying sharp. I’m getting out of the house. I’m meeting people. I’m doing some of the coolest things I’ve ever done!

But every day, the little Catholic school boy that still lives somewhere in my head reminds me that I’m a slacker without a job. And my bank account reminds me that there hasn’t been any income in months. The CAF gig is really cool and the side benefits can be fantastic, but it’s a strictly volunteer position. $0.00 annual income. (If I work hard and do well, they’ll double my salary.)

A lot of folks who know what’s going on have just assumed I’ve thrown in the towel and now consider myself to be retired. That is not true. As I tell any who will listen, I’m still too young and pretty for retirement. Almost universally, folks nod, smile, then walk away shaking their heads, convinced they are talking to a fool who will not face reality.

I still send out resumes online almost every day. I still fill out applications online all the time.  I still look for something to get me back off of the unemployment roles, hopefully without putting me too low on the “underemployed” role. I’ve even expanded my search to locations out of state, such as Vermont (remember, family there), Indiana (friends and family there), Virginia (ditto), and Kansas City (one of the places I grew up). At this point, everything’s negotiable, including a move out of Los Angeles and out of California.

Not that the job hunt has been a complete shutout until now. In response to literally thousands of resumes and applications online, there have been hundreds of follow-up emails, phone calls, and phone interviews. There have been multiple tests for civil service jobs with municipal accounting departments. There have been dozens of interviews, and even a dozen or so second, third, and even fourth interviews.

Soooooooooo close a few times. But no joy.

Looking back at this blog, you can see where the ups were (mainly interviews and hopeful days) and then the downs (“Sorry, but…”) If I was off for “meetings” downtown, or better yet, “follow-up meetings,” it meant that we were getting close. Down to the final few candidates for the job. Close.

But “close” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. And thermonuclear weapons, as my high school friend, Kevin MacNamara, always said.

So here we are, with an increasing number of “400-pound gorilla” comments, plus the cryptic comments of  November 12th, 13th, 14th. What’s going on?

I am happy to say that as of next Monday I will again be gainfully employed and a productive member of society!

I will be the Finance Director for Habitat for Humanity, San Fernando / Santa Clarita Valleys, and it is a job that I really and looking forward to. It’s an organization I’m familiar with, that I and The Long-Suffering Wife have been involved with for years, that is staffed by great people who are doing wonderful things for our nation’s veterans.

The stress level two weeks ago was made even worse by the gods having their little fun and games with me after all this time. At that time, not only had I interviewed for the HFH job, but I had also interviewed for another accounting job which looked extremely hopeful. Within about twenty hours, after all of those months of job searching, resume blasting, cold calling, wild goose chasing, and fighting off the occasional bout of terror, I got not one, but two job offers.

Proof positive that God has a sense of humor.

That choice meant that I got to choose the job for a company which I care for much more, which has good people I already know to work with, and not to be overlooked, which is a 0:15 commute from home instead of a 2:15 commute. Each. Way. Yep, my estimate was that I would be spending 20+ hours a week commuting. If the HFH job hadn’t come up I would have done it, of course, but the commute would have been a royal pain. Plus, you know, almost everything else being better at HFH.

It must be fun to be brilliant, or incredibly lucky, or just skilled beyond belief, but here’s a victory for those of us who are just too stupid to give up.

Finally, my undying love to The Long-Suffering Wife who was there always and put up with me through this ordeal.

It’s good to have killed the beast. Now I never, ever want to use that “Job Hunt” category tag again!

4 Comments

Filed under Habitat For Humanity, Job Hunt, Paul

NaNoWriMo 2015, Day Twenty

Two-thirds of the way through the month – am I two-thirds of the way to 50,000 words? Well… At least I’m not that far behind. It could be much worse. All crisis management is relative.

Once again, “life” has interfered over the last couple of days. Dotting T’s and crossing I’s on that whole “killing the beast / 400 pound gorilla” thing (I promise, the big reveal is coming up this week, we’re almost there!), plus prepping for my CAF SoCal staff meeting tomorrow. (Remember, I’m the Wing Finance Officer.) Funny how they just won’t be that amused if I’m totally unprepared because I was writing another chapter of NaNoWriMo. Visigoths!

While I normally put in a lot of  internal links to previous, related posts here, I won’t be doing that for what I hope will be this year’s thirty NaNoWriMo posts. If you have jumped into or stumbled onto this story in mid-adventure, there are plenty of other ways to navigate around the site to find previous installments. Actually doing so is left as an exercise to the student.

2015-11-20 Word Count Graphic

CHAPTER TEN (concluded)

The silence around the table was like a lead blanket falling over the room. Crystal looked from shocked face to shocked face, smiling her friendliest smile.

“Um, Ms. Reasoner…” Soichi began.

“Please, call me Crystal.”

“Crystal, you must understand that what you are seeing here is highly experimental and includes over a hundred million dollars in proprietary software development. I’m sure we can get you set up with a complementary version of our available commercial digital assistant software if you…”

“I’m very familiar with your commercial product. It’s very good, but it is still just a standard, top-of-the-line,” she at least got a smile for that, “digital assistant. It is one of many like it on the market. I understand the proprietary nature of the Sherman project and I will of course agree to all of the routine non-disclosure agreements. But if I am to give your product a proper evaluation for when it becomes available to the public, I would like to have as long of a baseline for using it as I can get. In addition, I would like to talk to you and your staff about getting an exclusive agreement to write the story of Sherman’s development from the inside, which of course would not be published until the product is released, and Homolacrum would have reasonable editorial control over the final stories. I want to work with you. I am not an enemy.”

“We do not consider you an adversary of any kind, I assure you, but we are not yet ready to allow Sherman to be utilized in the real world outside of the Homolacrum development environment.”

“Doctor Doi, all I am asking for is to be included now with your other alpha test users and then proceed through beta testing and so on. Wouldn’t it be useful for you to get feedback from someone who was not immersed in your development team, who did not have pre-conceived notions of what to expect?”

Again there was an uncomfortable silence. Pete finally spoke up.

“I think what Ms. Reasoner does not yet understand is that we have not yet begun our alpha test phase and allowed anyone outside of our development group.”

“Please, Pete, call me Crystal! Especially after, well… If you won’t, how will we ever get Doctor Doi to?”

Pete gave Crystal a slight not of his head and most convincing “yes, dear” smile, which did not quite make it to his eyes or his clenched jaw.

“Of course, Crystal,” Pete said. He turned to Doctor Doi.

“Soichi, despite Crystal’s misunderstanding of the current state of Sherman’s development, I have to agree with the point she has raised, as well as the opportunity provided for us to score a major public relations coup if we take her up on her offer for a collaborative documentary of some sort.”

“Pete, be serious,” Soichi said.

“Oh, I am quite serious. You know that for the past month there have been voices on the development team, including myself, that have argued for us to accelerate the implementation of an alpha testing protocol. We already have ninety-nine percent of the protocols defined as well as the training initialization routines. Even if we do not include a large number of people to begin with, Ms. Reasoner’s…”

“Crystal’s…” interrupted Crystal.

“Yes, Crystal. My apologies. Crystal’s qualifications as both an informed and educated user and as a journalist could be invaluable to our team. In addition, while I might not be involved with our financing and marketing, the one recurring theme we hear about from the C-suite is how we at Homolacrum are the little guys compared to the international megacorps and we need to be better, more daring, and more innovative in order to compete. This would be an excellent example of putting those policies and values into action. I recommend that we set this up and run with the opportunity.”

Again there was silence around the table, but this time a few expressions were thoughtful, and at least two heads were starting to nod in agreement.

“If everyone would excuse me for a moment,” Soichi said. He and two of the other department heads went out into the hallway for a few minutes and could be seen engaged in a spirited conversation. When they came back in they were all trying to keep their expressions neutral, but Soichi was neutral with a slight frown and the two department heads were neutral with a slight smile.

“Sherman,” said Soichi, “are the CEO, COO, and CFO all on campus today?”

“Yes, Doctor, they are all here.”

“Are they available to meet with us?”

“Yes, Doctor, at the moment there is nothing on their public calendars, although Mr. Daimler will be leaving soon for San Francisco and Ms. Wilson will be leaving later this afternoon for Washington.”

“Sherman, please contact them and see if they can meet with us in fifteen minutes. Indicate that it is an urgent matter.”

“Doctor,” said Sherman after a brief pause, “they all will meet with you in the C-suite conference room in fifteen minutes. They can give you ten minutes.”

“Fine, please send each of them a copy of the last half hour’s conversation here with Ms. Reasoner so they can review it.” Soichi was already holding up his hand to block Crystal from her standard interruption regarding her name.

“Pete, could you please give Crystal a tour of the server farm or something interesting for the next half hour or so? Please try not to do anything further to turn our schedules and preparations upside down and inside out.”

“Excuse me,” said Crystal, “Doctor Doi, if I’ve got time, would it be possible for me to meet with Doctor Meg Aoki? She’s working here and I’ve also been studying some of her previous work with non-human linguistics. If she’s available, I would be thrilled to pick her brain on another article that I’m working on.”

“Doctor Aoki is currently on vacation, I’m sorry. Perhaps Pete could assist you in leaving her a message and some questions for her to address on her return.”

Pete had to give Soichi credit, he had handled that curveball without a hitch. The message behind the look he got from Soichi was also clear.

Soichi looked around the room at his department heads. “Everyone else, grab coffee or whatever you need, we’re upstairs in ten minutes.”

Everyone hustled out of the room, each of them quietly talking to their individual Shermans, rearranging schedules and sending staff members off to cover for them on other tasks. Soichi left without looking at Pete or Crystal, clearly not thrilled with the way he was being blindsided and railroaded into something he wasn’t ready for. Pete took Crystal and headed toward his office.

Leave a comment

Filed under CAF, Job Hunt, Science Fiction, Writing

Killing The Beast

It’s good news, the 400-pound gorilla is down for the count. A few I’s to cross and T’s to dot, I expect I’ll have the full story, gruesome details, and all of the good news in the next week, possibly in the next few days.

Meanwhile, I see that sometimes I’ve referred to The Beast as a “400-pound gorilla” and sometimes as an elephant. With this being an ongoing metaphor, I found this back in September (“Reality Check” is one of the cartoons I get by email every day) and saved it for a day just like today.

Meanwhile, there’s a bottle of champagne in the refrigerator that’s been chilling for about two and a half years too long. Soon, my bubbly friend, very soon…

Leave a comment

Filed under Job Hunt, Paul

Wrestling The Beast

The trap is full, just trying to get the last few loose ends tied up on the Beast, sealing the deal, before daring to declare victory.

I think this time it’s really happening.

With all of the sickening events on the news it feels wrong to be getting ready to celebrate.

Premature celebrations are to be avoided at all costs. Get the ball over the goal line before starting that touchdown dance. Even when everything has been done correctly, I’ve still got stories to tell of past close calls and ancient defeats snatched from the jaws of victory.

I’ll let you know what’s happening as soon as I can.

But for right now, it appears this Friday the Thirteenth might be a very good day in our household.

Leave a comment

Filed under Job Hunt, Paul