Jaq hits birthday, Birthday hits back

There are birthdays, but then there is the birthminute.  The former is public, but the latter nobody really knows unless they’re privy to your birth certificate, and can remain blissfully private.

Every milestone birthday — the ones ending in ‘0’, that is — has had its birthminute celebrated in solitary contemplation of the past decade.  It’s a silly, random birthday tradition decided by a ten-year old way the hell back when, but I’ve managed to maintain it with minute precision.

We’re talking about a period of minutes, all together totalling less than an hour, selected out of an entire lifetime in progress.  But they’re pretty important minutes.  Here are some of the findings from the most recent review:

For the first time, it’s dawned on me that my birthday falls, technically, almost at the end of summer.  It’s suddenly poignant.  Sure, “you can get older but you never have to grow up” and all that, but the fact remains that you’re getting older.  When does middle age start?  At what point is the arbitrary dividing line between youth and non-youth?  I could be pithy and say “ten years from now … whenever now is”.

That would only work as self-deception, though.  Even as I type this, my right thumb is malfunctioning.  There’s no better way to describe it.  It randomly straightens or bends on its own, which is downright unhelpful when trying to manipulate the space bar, or trying to perform “stunt typing”.  There’s no overt injury to that thumb, not since that incident with the hacky-sack in high school, and no unusual recent stresses, and isn’t one of the more common RSI symptoms.  And believe me, Jaq has had firsthand experience with all of the more common RSI symptoms to know.  What the hell is it?  No clue, but it’s not unique in it being a weird, random phenomenon that I’ve come to live with.

Since the last milestone birthday, there has been an accumulation of new injuries and other medical indignities.  Each time, there’s some extra, residual reminders that persist even after the original complaint is gone.  That simply wasn’t even in the operational vocabulary ten years ago.

Okay, battle scars.  But what about the victories that accompany them?

Really, what about them?

Yipe.

I don’t think you can have an entire decade without having high points.  And that’s true here.  Becoming a parent each time definitely qualifies.  Watching tiny lumps of screaming, crapping fury slowly transmogrify into humans being far different from either parent is far and away the most fascinating experience ever.  Being an active participant in the process of helping getting to know themselves is almost indecently satisfying.

And there were other great moments … but most of those are not fit for public consumption, even behind an anonymous filter.

But the low points?  A quick mental catalogue of what happened each year since the last decannual review was pretty depressing.  Bad decisions early in that decade led to worse decisions, and these, like that old back injury, just won’t go away and keep on accumulating.

My goal is to never have any regrets,  I arrogantly told one the two former b.f.f.’s from about ten years ago.  Ha.

Former.  Chalk up one for the regrets!  Two, if you count the other b.f.f. way back when who never quite forgave all the way.  Mea culpa, mea culpa.  Mea maxima culpa.

And so it goes.  Sometimes I wonder how different history would have been if a scant few choice words from years ago had gone unsaid, or said more diplomatically, in a few choice circumstances.  Or said when they went unsaid instead.  Or had waited to say it until other parties were ready to hear it.  Or “opportunities” pursued when they should have been left well enough alone.

Experience has taught me that close friends are harder to come by as you get older.  New people you meet tend not to be in neutral circumstances, like thrown together by chance of going to the same school, or joining the same club.  Schools end, and there is less time for social experimentation when careers grow.  You get caught up in the games like, what does this person really want from me that I’m not going to fully appreciate?  and What is their agenda that they should suddenly take a liking me? and God help me, what is it that I really need from this person?  That last one scares me … by my own rules, I’m supposed to be the one who never starts those kinds of games.

Yesterday I was in this room with all kinds of pithy quotes written in beautiful handwriting all over the wall.  One of them was along the lines of “All regrets come not from actions taken, but from failure to act,” or something like it.  I’m here to tell you that just because it’s pithy doesn’t make it true.  You can come to regret actions taken, believe you me.

And the rest of the decannual inventory?  The work.  Work has gone pretty well.  The old resume has gotten meaty enough that some of what used to be considered heady accomplishments have been trimmed off for length.  But is it work to leave a mark of a life well spent?  Is it worthwhile in the larger scheme of human affairs?  No?  Well then, I must have been building up that grand fortune that will allow time to take on some of these bigger activities later in life, right?

Er…

I am reminded, writing this, of the quote, “one regret you never have at the end of your life is that you didn’t spend enough time at the office.”  The reality of that is starting to sink in.  Took long enough!

Ugh..  This is all far more maudlin than I actually feel.  Maybe I’m just not getting enough sleep.  Too many all-nighters this week, including the night before the birthday.  (The price of not working on a Friday birthday?  Do all the work for the day the night before … and yer little weekend too!  Mwah-hah-hah-haaa.)

Of course, all-nighters are getting harder to pull too.  Four in a row used to be possible.  I can barely stagger through one in a row nowadays.  Of course, when you have children who are morning people (and all children under a certain are morning people, for our collective sins) who seem to want to be fed breakfast, like, every day, this might have something to do with morning difficulties, but still…

Should I survive to complete the next decannual review — one never knows what will happen — I’m hoping to address all of these concerns.  Work smarter, not harder (work less, be creatively lazy, that is.)  Exercise more, see the damn chiropractor more often.  Travel more, take the kids places geographically as well as mentally.  Find new friendships, repair old ones.

As soon as I finish the next project at work I’ll get started.  Right?

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Recipe For Mental Health

Jaq lost 30 pounds / 14 kilograms the first three months of the year, and has been keeping it off since.  One of the most interesting piece of materiel in the varied attack on the outer bulk was the home-made health shake.  While the vast majority of Jaq’s diet involved highly unprocessed foods, the idea behind the shake was to fill up any nutritional cracks that might accidentally develop in meals.

The shake took quite a bit of experimentation to balance out health vs. taste.  Jaq discovered, among other things, that while flax oil may be more potent than ground flax, it’s a bit more expensive and tastes utterly nasty; and that dried psyllium husk may be revolting when taken per instruction, but is unnoticeable in a bigger mix.  But the most surprising thing was discovered in the timing of when you drink this sucker.

Taken last thing before bedtime, this thing actually noticeably improved sleep, improved Jaq’s ability to wake up the next morning, and produced a noticeable increase in mental focus the next day.  Of all things, even Jaq’s morning breath has nearly vanished.  The rest of the diet may have been a contributing factor to this, but mornings after a shake are always preferable to the alternative.

So, without further ado:

Jaq Phule’s Shake Yerbouti

  • 1 scoop of your favorite protein powder.  1½ if you want to eat it like ice cream.  Currently Jaq uses some soy – spirutein combo thing because of its high vitamin content, but on advice of a local health store owner will be trying a whey concoction.
  • 1 cup unsweetened soy milk.  Jaq’s diet avoided sweetener like the plague.  You really don’t need sugar in this anyway, it’s superfluous, because of the
  • 1 serving of stevia powder.  All natural hyper sweetener, currently snubbed by the FDA but still legal.
  • Tbsp. Brewer’s yeast.  This is the sleeper ingredient!  It is extremely protein-dense and also very high in several often-overlooked vitamins like folic acid.  It has a rich, dark flavor that is quite addictive.
  • 1½ Tbsp. ground flax seed.  Good fat for good use.  Surprisingly tasty, too!
  • 1 Tbsp. toasted wheat germ.  High in minerals and more B-complex.
  • 1 tsp. high-concentration vitamin C powder.  Pile it on, don’t be shy.
  • 1 Tbsp. dried psyllium husk.  Trust me, you’re intaking some very nutritionally dense stuff — this is necessary.  Surprisingly enough, you can’t detect the nasty grit amongst the other shake particles.
  • Fruit.  Fresh if available, frozen otherwise.  Berries and bananas taste best.  Mangos, pineapples, plums, pluots, grapes, and oranges fall a bit flatter on the palette.  Take apples and pears if nothing else is available.  Avoid lemons.  An occasional scoop of concentrated frozen orange juice works well as a fruit flavor supplement, but not as a substitute.
  • Crushed ice.

Blend and enjoy!  It’s surprisingly tasty!  When visitors see the concoction being assembled, the full array of vaguely scary looking ingredients is a little off-putting, but so far no one has ever not asked for seconds…

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Alternative Music Video, ca. 1940

I’LL MAKE YOU WEAR RED SHOES!It’s fairly well established that without African-American influence, American music would be, shall we say, different?  Professional music companies would have kept foistering last year’s model on the mainstream audience, in the certainty that it sold yesterday, therefore it or something quite like it will sell today.  Tack on prevailing racial uncertainty and you have a recipe for musical conformity across generations.

Black musicians always had a small audience, but without larger marketing, and no major outlets willing to help out.  So what happened?  Jaq is here to tell you.  Enter the Soundie!

In the late 1930s, Jimmy Roosevelt, the son of FDR, created a company that would essentially vend music videos.  For a thin dime, a mere tenth of a dollar, you could watch a three minute video of the latest bit of music on this jukebox-looking device called a Panoram, shown above.  To save money on this new enterprise, J?R did not hire “top” talent, but had to settle for low-rent musicians.  No doubt, he was expecting that as money rolled in, he would be able to hire more and more famous players.

Jimmy never got past stage one.  Initially fascinated by the new technology, jukebox watchers’ began to be interested in these lower-end musicians themselves.  In an early example of the Long Tail phenomenon, the musicians’ markets grew — not to superstardom, but to far more than they had been previously.  (Today, youtube fulfills the same function for even cheaper than a dime; who says prices must always rise?)  This change in the overall market was among the driving forces that led to Rock ‘n Roll.  What was Elvis singing?  Nothing too terribly different from what some of these small-time black artists were.  Here’s one of the more famous examples of “Sex and drugs and rock and roll music that broke the rules,” by Fats Waller:

There’s this vid that Jaq saw a long time ago, where Frank Zappa explained what happened next.  According to Frank, stuffy cigar-munching corporate record executives decided at the start of the Rock era that they couldn’t remotely tell what was going to be popular anymore.  Music they personally loathed was selling like the proverbial hotcake.  They gave up and hired anybody in the hopes that they would find the next big thing by throwing as much shitake into the fan as possible to see what would stick to the whirring blades.  It was only later, when the “hip” and “with it” crowd became music company producers themselves did the business, perversely, get all conservative and closed again.

Television was the death-knell for the soundie.  Who would pay for video when you could get it for free?  And so the Panoram is today all but forgotten.  But think, would the push for civil rights come later, or even much later, without the Soundie?  Who can say for sure?

Would Rock ‘n Roll have happened without the Soundie?  Without Rock, would have there been anything like hippidom?  And hence to the anti-war movement?  Did FDR’s son inadvertently contribute to the end of Vietnam?  It’s a fun idea to play around with.

Soundies truly rock.  But even if you don’t like them, you could mix them into your standard playlists, where they act almost as palette cleansers.  If you listen to fairly homogenous music (which probably isn’t good for you anyway) then how do you keep the songs from all blending together into one big mush?  Soundies can break the monotony.  Imagine if you can, Reg Kehoe and his Marimba Queens (and one very insane bassist) wedged between heavy scream metal and your favorite ’80s power ballad:

Soundies… one more tool in your mental box for stretching the mind through dissonance.  And a good piece of history too!

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Jaq’s Ultimate Secret to Ending Procrastination…

… will be posted once Jaq gets around to contriving one.

Hail and good night.

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In Soviet Russia, Subtitles Read You!

Soviet-era films are only slightly less confusing with subtitles.

From the moment the scary looking production logo comes on screen (saying, I kid not, to the effect of “this film was ordered by the General Secretary of the USSR”), these are so alien to anything produced by Hollywood as to amaze and astound.

Foreign film in incomprehensible languages in general is a great way to strain the brain, to stretch mental muscles that you didn’t know you had.  Sci-fi films work the best in this regard.  You can forget all about trying to learn the language, because it is Jaq’s experience that even with subtitles provided, the movies make absolutely no sense.

                                               This says it all, really

Today’s foray into the odd is one “Гостья Из Будущего”, which translates pretty literally as “Guest from Future”.  (and is pronounced “ghostya eez boodooshchyevo”.)  While this version has no subtitles, Jaq was fortunate enough to have a native Russian speaker available for assistance.  This would have been quite difficult without — the little Russian Jaq remembers is largely useless in complex situations.  At one point while sneaking around trying to find something, a leading protagonist starts talking to his companion about “циплëрнок”, which while spelled wrong, for whatever random reason Jaq remembers means “chicken”.  Why are they talking about chicken?  The plot is confusing enough without adding weirder verbal ambiguity!

This is a miniseries composed in five one-hour parts.  Pacing in Soviet films is on a pace with a snail plodding through aged molasses — in a Hollywood variant, this thing would be over and done in 90 minutes tops.  Part one contains not even the remotest hope of a plot, but merely the random adventure of a boy who accidentally finds a time machine in the basement of a typical Soviet-era slum.  Transported one hundred years into the future, “Boy”, whatever his name is, discovers a technological communist paradise.  Hovercars abound.  Transporter technology has been perfected.  Economic transactions as such no longer exist — vending machines dispense free delicacies, and anyone of any age can simply pick up any one of hundreds of hover cars laying around idle and drive off.  The “Guest”, who is billed as the star of the show, doesn’t even show up.  The last words in the first part are between the “Boy” and the space transport computer.  Computer insists it’s closed for the day, but Boy manages to persuade it to give him one more ticket.  “Where do you want to go?”  “Uranus!”  And with that the credits roll rather abruptly.  This would be funny, except that “Uranus” has no amusing connotations in Russki Yasik.  This soon proves to be the worst cliffhanger, possibly ever.

Part 2 introduces a plot about ten minutes in, after Boy loses his apparently tepid interest in seeing Uranus.  Jaq’s not really sure what the plot is, but it involves shape-shifting alien space-pirates intent on stealing an artifact called a “mellowphone”, and the wacky hijinks that ensue.  Jaq has mentally filed “mellowphone” next to “sampo“.  The “Guest” is introduced — barely — but does not actually yet become a “Guest from Future”.

                                                 In Soviet Russia, Future Visit You!

Along the way, the viewer encounters:

  • A talking goat, being fed delicacies by a man wearing a tuxedo.  This character does not seem to have any purpose toward advancing the plot, nor does there seem to be any real explanation for their decidedly memorable existence.
  • No, wait!  That’s not the real goat and tuxedo-feeder!  That’s really the shapeshifting alien space pirates masquerading as the talking goat and official formalware dude!  The real goat and tux are gagged and bound to a nearby tree.
  • A tragically “romantic” robot who always seems depressed.  Given to bouts of seemingly pointless maniacal laughter, except that I think he’s supposed to be a good guy.  Despite existing in the year 2084, this rather dumbass robot must make a careful analysis of the Boy to ensure he’s human.  Much careful effort goes into establishing that he is not a sponge or an ape.  Not making this up, folks.
  • A modern day (1984) medical doctor who doesn’t remotely notice that the shapeshifting alien has taken on his exact appearance on the other side of the extremely small room.
  • Three empty buttermilk bottles, which the Boy never, ever puts down.  After the analysis of Boy, these are in turn analyzed to ensure that they aren’t really ancient Grecian urns.  Eventually, they are finally successfully filled.  With buttermilk.
  • Russian-speaking, gay communist aliens with bird feet stamped on their heads, seeking the Pushkin Museum for Fine Art.

In part 3, the cute little girl starring in the whole monstrosity finally becomes the Guest and gets actual speaking lines.  The most interesting part of the pacing is watching the films in company with people who grew up with it.  Jaq has seen this phenomenon before, when watching Solaris.  Not the George Clooney Solaris, but the original CCCP version.

To anyone out there, a dire warning.  Take extreme caution when watching the original Solaris.  It’s obviously a high-budget film from the Soviet era, and the special effects are not embarrassing for the era, but the story line is incomprehensible at best.  At worst …. well, there’s this scene where someone is driving down the freeway.  It lasts twenty minutes.  There is no dialogue.  You see no actors at all.  There is nothing remotely like an advancement of plot in any way, shape, or form.  You only see cars passing and being passed.  The cars are not driving terribly fast.  It’s the sight you see when you run your daily commute.  You want to watch this instead of a movie?  Go ahead.

In any case, the most interesting part of the movie was the audience.  They were terribly excited at seeing this epic film from their roots.  At the end, they all looked puzzled.  “Why do I remember this as such a great movie?” they ask.

Jaq observed a similar reaction in the native-language watcher of Гостья Из Будущего.  “I remember this being an action-packed film,” they sez.  “What happened?”  This person has been fully americanized, and this reaction provokes an interesting question.  Is film the metronome marking the pace of people within a culture?  Could be…

 Jaq may yet watch parts 4 and 5 and report.  Anything is possible.

¿¿¿ Donde esta mi SAMPO ??!?!?!

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Lexicofascism

Two related news items today.  One is the Larry Craig scandal.  The other is the Iowa gay marriage crisis.

Frequently, members of the media show signs of bias.  While not a great thing, to some extent it cannot be helped.  Some folk complain about the “liberal media bias” as though it is some kind of great conspiracy.  Fewer folk insist that it is really a “conservative media bias” — these folk pretty much all insist that yes it really is a conspiracy.  Jaq can’t comment on this, never having worked in media.  One of these days, Jaq will have to ask their one journalist friend for the inside scoop on the inside scoop.

Often times, it’s hard to say in what manner exactly that media shows bias, and these are among those cases.  But it seeps through nonetheless.  The … feeling … is that Craig somehow did something horribly wrong, but that the possibility of gay marriage licenses being granted is a good thing.  Jaq believes this all to be an effect of wooly thinking.

Craig alledgedly made an easy-to-ignore pass at an undercover cop.  If he had pushed his claim into rejected territory, then clearly he would have passed into the realm of harrassment, an infringement on someone else’s rights.  But not even the cop is saying that this took place.  If the soon-to-be-former Senator had made a pass at a human of female persuasion, there may have been some minor fallout, but this is expected behavior out of Senators.  It’s practically compulsory, and a sex-drive in overdrive seems to be one of the requirements for that particular job.

But no, Craig’s offense, while termed as “lewd behavior”, really just means “bein’ gay outside a gay bar”.  Democrats aren’t exactly screaming for his ouster — Butch Otter is certain to appoint another Republican to fill the soon-to-be-vacant post, after all — but there is no end to the scorn being heaped down in the blogosphere.  Are they happy because of an act of alledged justice?  Or because someone on the Republican team got caught?

Meanwhile, Republicans are screaming about the Iowan constitutional crisis over gay marriage.  Some few lucky couples managed to tie the knot in the few hours the ban was lifted.  Civilization did not fall, but Republicans insist that this kind of thing undermines traditional American family values.

This has the virtue of being true, but it’s not the whole story.  Far from!  American family values have always been in flux.  In the late 19th century, families had far, far more children out of agricultural necessity.  Everyone was poor, worked long grueling hours on the farm, and froze their derrieres off in the wintertime.  The basic political unit was the family, and the closely related clan.  The assembly line and the spinning jenny changed all this when all those spare chillens were tempted away from standing behind a horse’s ass to move into the city for better pay.  They were still poor, and worked even longer hours, but they weren’t as poor as they had been.  Because of the interlocking opportunities of commerce to be had in the cities, they were sure that if they worked hard, their children would have even more opportunities and live even better.  And to this end, since children were no longer productive members of society, families began to have far fewer children, and stuffed them into schools where they were supposed to get a scientifically created education.  And what do you know?  Life slowly improved — not perfectly, but hey, you can’t beat a hot shower on a cold dark winter’s day.

American family values changed.  Civilization did not fall.

There’s a disconnect in this even closer to home.  Once upon a time, within Jaq’s living memory, “conservative” groups were all in favor of “keeping government out of the bedroom.”  Jaq’s not entirely certain how this particular issue switched polarity, but switch it did.  Larry Craig wasn’t hurting anyone by looking for love in an airport bathroom.  I mean, all kinds of ick for the venue, but who was injured and required a legal remedy to solve their injustice?

No, now the Republicans are in bed with the Democrats.  In YOUR bed, actually.  And they’re having their typical tiffy tryst.

“How do you mean?” Jaq hears you cry.  Or not, since no one is actually reading this.  “Democrats are in favor of gay marriage!”

That’s not really the point.  The point is that both sides want to legislate about it.  Republicans want to define marriage as “a union between a man and a woman” and the Democrats fight for other definitions like “between two adults”.  The problem is that it needs to be defined by some “authority” at all.  The power to tax is NOTHING like as to the power to define terms.

Once you’ve defined a thing, each word in the definition is subject to interpretation.  If it’s been long enough, this bizarre idea called “framer’s intent” takes over, and judges speak to what the original definers might have meant if that judge were them.  Someday, one might insist that “adult” has implications about one’s socioeconomic status, or racial background.  (“Boy” is still used as a racial epithet, after all.)  “Union” might come to mean any form of sexual activity, or economic activity, or anything.  Many states recognize a hotel register as sufficient evidence of a common law marriage — at one point in Florida, since overnight cohabitation between unmarried men and women was illegal, they were considered married if caught, whether marriage was wanted by the newlyweds or not.  Sort of a shotgun marriage with Big Brother standing in as father of the bride.  Is any of this right?

An even creeeepier problem with the Republican definition is that it says nothing about marriage being voluntary.

And might someone who attempts a non-officially sanctioned marriage, who is in violation of the “highest law of the land,” should a Constitutional amendment be passed, be guilty of treason?  Of being redefined as a “terrorist”?  It only sounds goofy until you see what the current feddle gummint’s definition of “terrorist” is…

Ohio law defines marriage as a union with three parties; the happy couple, and the state of Ohio.  Oh what, they weren’t invited to the ceremony?  Too bad!  They’re there anyway.

And then of course there are the problems raised by voluntary polygamy.  Sure, when it’s between scary dude and his twelve year old nieces, this is a problem — the union ain’t fully voluntary.  But Jaq is certain that it happens all the time, and informal surveys hint at the possibility of thousands of such relationships.  Jaq is even fairly certain there is an extremely clandestine example within Jaq’s own family tree, several generations back.  (And no, they weren’t living in Utah.)  No one living anymore can confirm or deny.  But it all seemed to work very happily for all of them.  Why should they have been made to suffer for someone else’s definition of marriage?

No matter what kind of theological proclivity Jaq is feeling at any time, it never ceases to piss them off when at weddings, the words “by-the-power-vested-in-me-by-God-and-the-state-of-Whodafunk” are uttered in one breath, as though they are supposed to be one and the same, or at least equals.  Jaq can see marriagees inviting God into the union.  But not all the potential gubernatorial administrations for the next several decades.

Marriage should be defined by the parties getting married.  And as that is true, the operational definition of anything in your life should be defined by you and the people around you.  Be very, very wary of bureaucrats bearing dictionaries.

You never know who they’re going to define as a terrrrrist yet.

Gay Marriage Does Not Scare Me, War Does!

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Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey

Vodka and Orange JuiceIt never ceases to amaze Jaq just how many people don’t know that rule.  It’s simple, it’s been around for ages, and it works just about everywhere except in plumbing, or when designers want to be sneaky.

It’s a good excuse as any to inaugurate a new feature.  The practical tip du jour.

Today’s tip is about resumes and the job interview.  Jaq did someone a favor and conducted a crapload of interviews in the last couple of days.  Jaq is thinking of starting a whole sideline of doing these kind of interviews, because finding good people is very hard, especially when a prospective employer can’t figure out from a resume who is a good employee.

But the people who really need the help, but aren’t willing to pay for it, are the prospective employees.  And man do they need help!

The tip is in several parts.

Part 1.  Write your own damn resume.

Jaq is astonished how many supposedly seasoned professionals don’t write their own resumes.  Some recruiters give advice on how to alter a resume.  Other recruiters just write it for buzzword compliance.

Jaq can’t figure out this practice.  This works on the front end, when you have drones from the department of “Human Racehorses” who don’t know how to read a resume.  Not their fault, it’s not in their training.  However, Jaq has spoken with many of these folks and they honestly think they can evaluate a good candidate for a job with the basis of no experience with the actual subject whatsoever.  It’s not about what you know, or what you can do, or even who you know, but about “what you’ve got”.  They say, “Do you have xxxx?”  Their little world begins and ends with the resume.

This works on the backend too, when meeting with executive types, who just want to get to know you personally.  There’s something to be said for good chemistry, but the very best, brightest, and most capable need to be kept happy in their little rubber rooms.  In standard hiring practices, they get hired only by accidentally missing meeting with the Veeps.

Where it fails is in the middle, when the candidate is going to get interrogated by the cranky SOB who doesn’t have time to do another interview.  For this individual, a resume is as a red sheet waved in front of a bull.  What’s between the ears?  The interviewer comes to the interview completely unprepared — they were busy working up until five minutes before the big event, at which point they go, “Aww shit, I’d better print this out and get ready.”  The result is, no questions are ever really prepared beforehand, and to hide their unpreparedness, the interviewer is going to be staring at that resume a lot and going “Hmmmm….” in an ominous tone of voice.  This person is preparing to ask you questions about your past, because that resume is the only thing giving clues on what to do.

Which brings us to the second point.

Part 2.  If you absolutely can’t write your own resume, at least read it!

Today’s shortest interview lasted four minutes.  It was Jaq’s lifetime record, and the impetus for this rant.

Acceptible answers to questions off items on your resume (especially items in the first three bullet points) should not include the following:

  1. Huh? 
  2. What do you mean?
  3. That doesn’t ring any bells.
  4. Does it really say that on my resume?

Jaq is not making any of these up.

It’s like this.  If you advertise that you know some technology or have some skill at some nontechnology thing, be prepared to answer basic questions about it.  And if you don’t know the answer, just admit it — don’t try to dazzle the interviewer with bullshit.  Even if they don’t know the answer personally, there are many sample interview questions one may choose from available anywhere Google goes, and answer keys are provided.

If you put a company you worked at on your resume, be prepared to talk about what they do.  Be prepared to talk about what you did, in itself and even more importantly, in terms of what that company does.

Part 3.  Communicate skillfully.

Jaq cannot remember the last time “excellent communications skills” was not written on any resume to cross Jaq’s desk.  For once, Jaq would like to see something that actually exemplifies that, like saying, “Scintillating verbal skills — Able to stop speeding bullets with naught but charm and persuasion.”  But no, everyone must have “excellent communications skills” or else it cannot really be a resume.

Instead of just that crappy throwaway line, you must be prepared to demonstrate it.  If you’re in a phone interview, do not take other calls and place your interviewer on hold.  Do-not-speak-in-a-monotone.  Particularly do not speak in a monotone if you only speak in sentences longer than the most rickety run-on ever constructed by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Do not use the word “and” more than fourteen times in a single sentence, because if you do, your interviewer is no longer listening.

When you are asked, “Tell me a little about yourself,” do not respond, “What do you want to know for?”

To the same question, don’t respond by giving a long and storied history of your education, which you end with “and then I went into industry and did stuff for six years.”  What this tells the interviewer that you have been an absolute catastrophe in the real world, post academia.  If you truly have those “6+ years of strong experience” doing whatever, be most prepared to talk about the last couple of these — not what you did at school a decade ago.  The one person who made it past Jaq’s patented gauntlet interview process did so mainly because they were able to speak coherently about their latest couple of posts.

Don’t interrupt.  Don’t keep interrupting.  Really, shut up so you can hear the followup question.  What, do you just like to hear yourself talk?

Don’t call the interviewer back to harrass them.  Really, it takes longer than twenty minutes after the interview to find out if you got the job.  If you’ve really been an industry professional for years, surely you would know this by now?

Particularly over the phone, don’t mumble.  Speak clearly and Enunciate.  Your.  Words.

Part 4.  Remember what you’re doing at the interview.

You’re trying to get hired, dummy!  This means that you need to convince the interviewer that you’re not a flake, and that you meet or exceed the expectations set in the resume.  Your primary job in the interview, the first job you will have, and the one you will need to return to your whole life is that of a salesperson.

What are you selling?

You.

No, that’s not quite right.  The idea that you’re “selling yourself” belongs to the realm of “Human Racehorces.”  The idea of persons as inventoriable, commoditized resources creeps Jaq out.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

You are selling the benefits that the hiring entity would garner with you as a member of the team.  Your resume is your one and only billboard.  A billboard must be good enough to interest your prospect in giving you a call.

But picture this.  Have you ever been in driving down the road after a long day’s journey, looking for a place to stay?  You find your night’s lodging with a billboard.

And then you drive up to find a crumbling, roach infested structure with rust-colored water coming from the tap?  What do you do?  You get back in the car and drive another couple of miles, that’s what.  Your resume will likewise not get you hired any more than that billboard will incent you to stay.

As a collorary, be prepared to articulate what it is you’re looking for in an employer.  The street goes both ways.  Are they good enough for you?

Part 5.  Ditch the professional headhunting agency.  Employers, you too!

Professional headhunting agencies are there to match up emnployees with employers.  No one ever said they had to do a good job.  They aren’t really incented to do a good job, just a fast one.  Employers keep coming back because they have nowhere else to go.

Prospective employees, these headhunters will really screw up your income potential, by taking a sizeable fraction of what the employer would be paying you, and paying them instead.  If you learn to network, and market your own services yourself, you can cut out the middleman.

Employers, it’s not an absolute rule, but these headhunters mainly place people who can’t take charge of their own careers.  Do you want to hire these kinds of people?  Jaq has certainly known exceptions from this rule but not many.

Headhunters are people who throw large stacks of resumes at the wall, hoping one will stick.  Someday, technology will improve to the point where we can all print our resumes on the same material as the Wacky Wall Walker.  Until that time, this strategy serves only to waste your time.

Don’t let HR prepare the job description either.  Strangely, it is Jaq’s experience that this eviscerates the pool of good candidates.

6.  Stop thinking like a Human Resource

If you don’t like being treated like a small cog in a great unwieldy machine, don’t act like one.  When you follow the script prepared by corporate HR and the headhunters, you accept their rules and end up imprisoning yourself.  It took Jaq a very long time to finally learn this lesson.

Free your mind, and get hired!

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