Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Monday, October 27, 2014

One Of Those "The Shoe Is On The Other Foot" Experiences.

Ever had one of those pieces of good news that you've been wanting to tell everybody about, but you can't because one or two things haven't been confirmed yet?  Well, that's kind of been my situation for the last three weeks.  I knew I had the job, was told I'd for sure be getting an offer, it was just a matter of someone being back in the office long enough to do something about it, so hold tight and don't take any other offers.  Well, I wasn't going to, because they came looking for me and not the other way around, but anyway, everything finally fell together so I can now tell y'all that I have a new job.  Yay!  

I'm very excited.  It's a good job with a very good firm, their reputation is excellent, I got to spend about 20 minutes with my future boss and I think we will work together very well, and all the positive signs are where they should be.  The downside was having to tell my current boss, whom I like a lot, that I'm leaving.  Fortunately, he took it pretty well, though he was obviously less than thrilled.

The other downside has been that I'm mostly in charge of hiring my replacement.  We placed an ad, and after a few hours of getting just one resume, then another and then another, we suddenly got something like 85 all at once.  I'm not sure where they were hiding, but they're here now, and so over the last couple of days I've had the joy of reading 120-odd resumes.  And some of them were very odd indeed.  

People, I have mailed resumes and I have mailed resumes.  I have drafted clever cover letters and I have filled out online forms.  I have, in other words, done my share of job searching, but I've never been on the other side of the desk before and I had no idea how utterly weird it could be.  How weird?  Well, here's just a smattering of the things I've come across.

  • Quite a few resumes had really obvious spelling and grammatical errors.  If you're applying for a "legal assistant" position, you might wanna know how to spell "assistant." 
  • And then there was the guy who misspelled the name of a FORMER EMPLOYER.  Let me get this straight; you worked there three years and never learned how to spell the name of the company? 
  • There were also resumes that addressed the wrong law firm, referenced the wrong position, or addressed to "Dear Mr. Smothers" when there was no "Mr. Smothers" in the job ad.  I mean, that's just not paying attention, people.  
  • And speaking of not paying attention, try not to apply for the same job twice on two consecutive days.  You ARE keeping a record of all this, aren't you?
  • It's nice that you're looking for an evening/weekend position, but, uh, that's NOT WHAT WE'RE HIRING FOR.  
  • And then there were the creative email addresses.  Like "" and one very memorable ""  People, no potential employer is going to reply to an email address like that.  Please, for the love of God, get a Gmail or Yahoo address that's just your "lastname.firstname@..." 
  • I'm glad you were born again in Christ on July 2, 2012, but it doesn't need to be on your resume.  Honest.
  • Nor do I care that you've been sober for 12 years.  In fact, I'd rather not know that.  
  • And I just love getting your resume not from you, but from your academic advisor.  Because that's classy. 
  • Odd statements: "I prefer a salary that reflects my ability, experience & commitment.  Of course, I am willing to address that as necessary."  Well, I would hope so? 
  • "My present job is not a legal assistant job, but it pays the bills."  Um. Okay? 
  • "I am a fast learner and will be able to transfer fundamental skills like organization (spelled wrong), customer service, negotiation (spelled wrong) and case preparation to your office." Great, but I suspect that's your way of telling me you don't have any litigation experience and...hey, I'm right.
I'll admit I went to business school a long time ago, but for the love of God, have things changed that much?  I mean, I hope this is just a case of not knowing any better, because honestly, I'm becoming depressed about the fate of future generations and all that.  Of the 120-odd resumes, we got exactly nine that we're considering.  Nine.  I mean that's about 10%.  Which, I discovered after a couple of quick Google searches, was about average.  That's even more depressing. 

Look, people, it's your resume.  It will get you, or not get you, a job interview.  It needs to be perfect.  If you aren't good at noticing misspellings and typos, get someone else to look at it for you.  Get more than one someone else, if you have to, and listen to what they say.  You probably know someone who has occasion to look at resumes once in a while.  Even if you don't, you probably know someone whose education went further than yours, who works in a higher position than you do, who majored in English or literature or something and can at least tell you if your resume is written in the right language.  Even if you end up having to pay someone, just do it.  Again, it's your resume.  You deserve to have a good one.  Or at least one that won't embarrass you in public.  

I know of what I speak. Back when I first got out of college, I was writing resumes for all my friends and getting paid in pounds of coffee. (All my friends worked at Starbucks.)  I still do it from time to time, sometimes for actual cash money.  And if I had to sum up the elements that make a great resume, the list would look something like this:
  •  Put the most important information first.  The average hiring manager is going to glance at your resume for about ten seconds, so make sure your most critical skills are on top.  If you've had a few jobs and been in the workforce for a while, put your job experience first. If you're brand-new to the job market and just graduated from someplace, put your educational experience first.  If neither of those apply, you might want to lead off with your most important job skills--which tend to be computer skills these days, but it depends on what job you're applying for.  Talk to somebody in the field to get a better idea of what should go where.
  • Don't be afraid to vary your resume according to the job you're applying for.  A lot of companies use screening software to look for specific words, and if those words aren't in your resume, you'll get skipped.  The best way to avoid this is to read the job ad carefully and look for terms of art like "civil litigation" and "appellate filings" (because I'm in the legal field; your mileage may vary).  Make sure those terms appear somewhere in your resume.
  • Don't go over two pages.  Even if you've been in the field for 30 years, nobody's going to read more than two pages.  It's okay to sum up the first ten years of your career in a sentence or two, and then provide details for the last ten years (which is primarily what a hiring manager wants to know about). Things change very quickly these days.  A "legal secretary" when I first started working was using a typewriter and carbon paper.  Obviously that's no longer the case, so a "legal secretary" job from 20 years ago is going to be pretty meaningless to your current job skills.  Or I hope so, anyway.
  • Use bullet lists and keep the format consistent.  This makes it easier for the hiring manager to pick out the important stuff in a hurry.  And they're always in a hurry.
  • Use a nice, clean readable font, like Times Roman, Arial or Bookman Old Style.  If you want to vary the look of certain areas, try bolding and underlining, or changing the text size.  Don't use more than one font; it looks sloppy and like you forgot to read it over before you submitted it.  And please, please don't use script fonts.  Yes, I know they're pretty, but they're very hard to read.  Save them for party invitations.  Please. 
Finally, here are a couple of tips for job hunting in general:
  • Apply fast.  I got 120 resumes in one day; if you're applying three days out from the day the ad appeared, you're probably too late.  Focus on the current day's ads, then go back a day or two days if you have time. 
  • Most job ads appear on Friday or Monday, because that's when people tend to give notice.  So try to set aside extra time for job hunting on those days, because you'll need it.
  • If you haven't been there lately, your local library has a ton of resources for job hunters, from books about how to put together a good resume to computers you can use to apply for jobs if you happen not to have one at home.  A lot of libraries even have programs like "job hunter's boot camp" available for free or for a nominal fee.  Be sure to ask.  Remember, your librarian is your friend.
  • Talk to people. Tell everyone you know that you're looking for work.  Keep a couple of resumes in your car with you, because you never know when you might run into someone who knows someone who is looking for someone.  
  • Above all, take good care of yourself. Get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, eat a good diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, and try to have a little fun every day.  Job hunting is hard work.  It's physically draining and mentally grueling.  You'll be more up to the challenge if you're feeling physically well.  
Okay, I'm getting off my soapbox now.  I'll resume commentary on Buddhism, writing, things legal and the sorry state of the planet with my next post.  Meantime, soldier on. And remember, you can't get Ebola without doing something that's pretty gross.  Cheers!

Friday, October 17, 2014


EBOLA HQ, Texas -- It was the cruise ship that did me in.

Like everybody else on the planet, I've been watching the public meltdown of Texas Health Presybterian Hospital Dallas and just kind of shaking my head.  Presby is a respected institution with a lot of recognized programs, but you'd never know it if you're watching TV.  And honestly, I have seen some BAD PR emergencies in my time, but this is a clusterfuck of such monumental proportions that I've never seen anything like it, except maybe when the Space Shuttle blew up, and I doubt I'll ever see anything like it again.  I mean, it's just astounding.  Every time I think we've hit the bottom of the barrel, it turns out that underneath it is a whole 'nother barrel.  Emergency rooms turning away patients with potentially fatal diseases.  Nurses treating a contagious patient without protective equipment.  Piles of biological waste accumulating because no one knows how to deal with it.  An entire pneumatic tube system possibly contaminated because some idiot sent a sample that way instead of walking it down, per protocol.  Next up I'm expecting a couple of the nurses who treated the poor Ebola guy will get sick. Oh wait, that's already happened.

To some extent, people's fears of catching Ebola are reasonable.  It is, after all, a highly fatal disease (this strain is 50-70% fatal, which is bad, but it can be and does get worse; some strains of Ebola are over 90% fatal).  But  what's infecting Dallas right now is a little thing we call mass hysteria.

Mass hysteria has an interesting history.  In the Middle Ages, a number of outbreaks occurred among cloistered nuns, including an episode where an entire convent full of women began meowing like cats.  In Salem in the 1600s, mass hysteria over suspected witchcraft led to the deaths of 27 people. In 1835, an erroneous news report suggesting that "bat men" had been discovered living on the Moon led to sightings of bat men all over Europe.  More recently, in the United States, pandemonium broke out when a radio broadcast of H.G. Wells's  The War of the Worlds was mistaken for news reports of an actual attack.  And now, in Dallas, we have the Great Ebola Panic of 2014.  Splatter everything you touch with hand sanitizer and don't come within three feet of anybody who might have once been in a graduating class with somebody who once worked at Presby.

As I was saying, it's the cruise ship that did me in.  Okay, an infected nurse who was showing symptoms flew on a public plane.  Yeah, that was bad, and yeah, I can see the people who sat near her on the plane being a little freaked out and maybe wanting to stay at home for a while to make sure they're not sick.  But now we've got schools closing and buildings being scrubbed down with bleach.  We've got people being kicked out of their offices.  We've got elder statesmen howling about banning all flights to and from Africa.  We've got a motherfucking cruise ship, for the love of God, being held off the coast of Belize because one passenger worked as a lab tech at the hospital where the first Ebola patient was being treated.  And the United States Government is going to pay to air evac this person, who is not sick, has no symptoms, and who wasn't really at risk to catch anything anyway.  I mean this is not reasonable, people.  This is insanity.  No, worse.  It's mass hysteria.  Next thing you know all the nurses will start meowing like cats.

I'd like to point out that it's actually rather difficult to catch Ebola, unless you're a nurse or someone else in close contact with the patient.  You have to be splattered with bodily fluids of some kind to be at risk.  This is gross, so I'll decline to elaborate, but shaking hands will not get you Ebola.  Somebody sneezing in your vicinity will not get you Ebola.  Touching something someone with Ebola has touched will not get you Ebola.  You have to work at it. It's not as hard to catch as, say, AIDS, but the science is getting thrown out the window in favor of, once again, mass hysteria.  And the more CNN drones on and on about the same three or four points of fact it's been droning on and on about for the past three days, the longer it's going to continue and the worse it's going to get.  If this continues for long enough, anybody with a cold is going to end up arrested.  We do NOT want to go there.

So.  Everybody take a deep breath.  Let it out slowly.  Very good.  Take another one.  Yep, just as deep as the last one.  Let it out slowly.  One more ought to do it.  Deep breath.  Let it out.

There.  Feel better?  I thought so.

Now STOP WATCHING THE EBOLA COVERAGE.  Just stop doing it.  Turn off the TV, don't listen to the radio, ignore the newspapers and do not, I repeat do not get on CNN and troll the chat boards.  Just don't do this.  It's very very bad.  I speak as one who knows.  In all seriousness, the more the media hypes this thing, the worse it's going to get.  The best thing that could possibly happen would be for all of us to just accept that life itself comes with certain dangers, that probably 99% of us will never have to worry about catching Ebola, that the few who do already know who they are and are probably monitoring themselves, and that the rest of us would benefit hugely if we would all just chill the fuck out.  Immediately.

On a point of personal irritation: Anderson Cooper's been in town for three whole days now, and he hasn't once been to my place for dinner and cheap sex.  The nerve.  I wonder if he's seeing someone else.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

...But No One's Home

Back in the far wastelands of 2010, when the Affordable Care Act hadn't been signed yet and so we had all these different and exciting things to fight about, an ice storm blew into Dallas and knocked out our power for four days.  This was four days in the coldest part of winter, I might add.  I think a couple of nights it got below zero, or very close to zero, and I smuggled in neighborhood cat Orange Guy so that he could sleep somewhere warm. (He was a perfect gentleman, too.)  We kept the house sort of warmish with our gas fireplace, and everybody slept on the living room floor in a pile of cushions close to the fire.  It was dark and cold and altogether not fun.  So you'll pardon me if, every time the power's gone out since, my anxiety skyrockets and I start pacing the floor.  On some level I'm just absolutely convinced it's going to happen again.

And as it turned out, I was right. Last Thursday, a storm blew through Dallas.  It wasn't really that much to write home about; just some rain and a lot of wind.  Fierce wind, but not unusual for around here.  I mean, we do get storms here, people.  We're at the very south end of Tornado Alley, and just because Dallas County's never been hit with a tornado higher than an EF-2 doesn't mean that it couldn't someday happen.  Anyway, 300,000 people across five counties lost power.  Including yours truly and Joan, of course.

I will say, losing power in the summer beats the hell out of losing it in the winter.  No gas fireplace required, for one thing.  We just braced open a couple of windows and got a cross-breeze going.  We still had the gas stove upon which to cook, the hot water in the tank stayed relatively hot (seeing as it wasn't cold out), we packed the refrigerator and freezer full of ice to preserve the food, and apart from a total lack of TV, radio, Internet and Words with Friends, it was a lot more survivable.  But, again, not exactly what you'd call fun.

This time the power stayed off for three days.  I would just like to say, what is up with that?  Once again, we get these storms.  They happen. Trees get knocked down. Power poles lose their moorings.  Why in hell do 300,000 people have to lose power for three days in a situation like this?  I mean, I'd suggest we've learned absolutely nothing from past experience, but I personally had all our trees cut back that came anywhere near our power lines (and had one tree removed altogether).  And people frequently write outraged letters to the editor when the electric delivery company around here, Oncor, comes around and chops off the tops of their trees.  They can do that.  It's their job.  To gauge from these letters, though, you'd think that Oncor stomped onto their lawns, shotguns drawn, whacked the trees in half, spit on the porch steps and mooned the homeowners on the way out.  Honestly.  If it were me I'd be thanking them. The last time our tree service came over and did some major work, the bill was well over a thousand dollars.

(And I could point out that if you take care of your own trees and don't let them get tall enough to mess with the power lines, Oncor's never going to bother you, but I get continually reminded about the utter uselessness of attacking a problem like this with logic and reasoning.)

I'm beginning to suspect that we in this town might have what is known as a hopelessly antiquated electrical delivery system.  Newer cities do things like bury their electrical lines underground, where they're basically immune to falling trees.  (Though I suppose you might find the occasional deep-fried gopher.)  I'm wondering what it would take to get our power lines buried here in Dallas. A miracle?  An act of Congress?  An act of the City Council, anyway, and since that would require spending some money, I'd be tempted to write if off as totally impossible.

I'd also be tempted to get a bunch of my neighbors together, form a special district, apply for grants and see if we can get it done for a fairly reasonable amount of money per homeowner.  Which is something else that might be written off as totally impossible.

Except for one small thing.  I've done it before.

Or something similar, anyway.  Granted, I was the de facto president of a homeowner's association at the time, but I managed to get a heavily Hispanic population of homeowners to pack up all their living beings and move out for termite tenting over EASTER WEEKEND.  You know, the biggest religious festival of the year.  That thing where everybody has relatives over and throws lots of parties.  And no, I didn't pick the weekend.  I just got stuck with having to implement it.  And implement it I did.  Some of them even still spoke to me after it was all over.

Do I miss being the de facto president of a homeowner's association?  No, I do not.  I'd rather be dragged naked through flaming walls of rabid rattlesnakes.  So don't worry, I'm not going to start signing up homeowners tomorrow or anything.  But this is an ongoing problem and I don't see it getting any better.  What's worse, it's a big problem. The kind you need other people to help solve. I do not want to go through another three-day blackout, no matter what time of year it is.  Besides the niceties of existing in the 21st century when you're powered for the 19th, there's the joy of driving to work through traffic caused by flashing red traffic signals. It took me an hour and a half to get to work Friday morning.  And it's only a frick'n 20 minute drive.