Sunday, August 26, 2007

ho on the range

While browsing the DVDs at Target today, I noticed a copy of Garrison Keillor's NPR show-cum-mockumentary A Prairie Home Companion for sale. However, the shelf tag wasn't long enough to display the whole title, so it had been abbreviated simply to A Prairie Ho.

Um, did Target just call Garrison Keillor a ho?


Friday, August 24, 2007

find your center

I may not be the center of the universe, but my hometown is the center of the country. Belle Fourche, SD, has been officially designated the geographic center of the United States. If you draw a big circle on a map that includes Alaska and Hawaii, smack in the middle is where I grew up.

OK, technically, the exact center is a little way out of town in some rancher's pasture. (You know how mystics say the center of everything is nothing? This would be a concrete example of that philosophy.) However, locals have been referring to Belle Fourche as the Center of the Nation for years. No one has made much fuss about it in the past, but recently a visitors' center, complete with statuary, was constructed in hopes of attracting a little tourist traffic. I've seen it. It's very nice. You should visit next time you're in the Black Hills.

Click here for an NPR story on Belle Fourche — hit the "listen" button for 3:38 of audio. Listen for the name of the guy who designed the Center of the Nation monument: He was my date to the senior prom.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

his breath came in short pants

Watch this Finnish jazzercise cover of YMCA. You won't be sorry.

WARNING: Contains satin short shorts.

You're welcome.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

an incomplete list

Things I love today:

  • At 9:55 I remembered a Star Trek book I loved as a kid. By 10:00, I'd googled the title and completed the purchase.
  • Watching CNE jump on my couch
  • John Cusack movies
  • Root beer floats
  • The DailyLit service, which delivers Victorian literature to my RSS reader on rainy (and nonrainy) days
  • Gosford Park
  • Getting a little work done, but not too much. I don't mean plastic surgery, I mean doing some writing for a client.
  • Pesto


Thursday, August 16, 2007

playing possum

It's 10:15 p.m., and I just chased a possum off my deck.

A possum. In Minneapolis. Next door to the Maul of America. Three feet from the chair where I sit typing, lapping water from the dish I'd set out for my cats. A possum.


Friday, August 10, 2007

bad news: you’re fine

One of my jobs is to read and edit doctoral dissertations before the candidates complete their programs. In particular, I read a lot of doctoral studies by people pursuing Ed.D. degrees — Doctor of Education — and a lot of those studies focus on helping kids with learning disabilities do better in school.

That’s great and all, but I can’t help noticing that nobody seems to be looking for ways to help kids at the other end of the spectrum. No one is interested in what gains could be made by extra-smart kids given extra accommodation and individualized learning programs that teach them at their own pace. ’Cuz let’s be honest now, who really cares about people who are doing OK — or, god forbid, doing great?

Seriously, I’d like to know. Not the teachers I grew up with. Not my ex, who dodged stability as if it was jury duty. Not doctors, whose livelihood depends on people being unwell. Not lawyers or cops or armies, whose raison d’etre is people behaving badly. Not Oprah or Dr. Phil or the rest of the self-help industry. Not religious leaders who bank on sin, nor mechanics who only work when your car doesn’t.

Think about celebrity, too. Who gets rewarded with public attention: train wrecks like Paris Hilton or even-keeled people like . . . well, I can’t name any. And who gets mentioned first in family gossip — crazy cousin Harold and his latest brush with the law or the aunt who’s healthy and secure?

Right. “Messed up” trumps “OK” or “great” every time. We aim a lot of effort at making people OK, but if they achieve that goal, they fall off the radar. The message is clear: You can be OK, or you can be worthy of attention, but you can’t have both. No drama? No coverage.

That’s my bit of drama for the day. So look at me! Look!


Wednesday, August 08, 2007


I was offered interviews for two jobs today — one in Santa Ana, CA, and one in Reno, NV. Neither had read my intro closely enough to realize that I live and work in Mpls. Cuz that fact is in the first line, and who would look there? Ah well, it’s nice to know my madd skillz are still in demand.

Also, a client asked me to write four more newsletters for them, and I said I would. I hope they don’t balk at my slight rate hike.

Also, the documents I’ve been waiting all day to proofread have yet to arrive. What IS it with these people?

Also, I got my Dragon*Con progress report in the mail. The list of featured guests is unbelievable. The actors who play Fred & George Weasley and Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter movies will be there. Also Data and Riker and Dr. Crusher and Q from ST:TNG. Also James Marsters, aka Spike the hot vampire. Also two of the three Lone Gunmen from the X-Files. Also big-time writers Robert Asprin and Terry Brooks. Also the Ghost Hunters and the Mythbusters. Also some women from professional wrestling. Also Louis Gosset, Jr.

Louis Gosset, Jr.?

Yeah. Apparently he’s done some videogame voice work and had a recurring role in Stargate SG-1. Who knew?

Also, I just wanted to let you know that Jonathan Kellerman’s new novel kind of sucks. I’m terribly disappointed. The characters I’ve come to know and love over the course of about 20 books got no development whatsoever. None! What’s the point?

And to make matters worse, he name-drops the Sturgis motorcycle rally but says it’s held in the Black Mountains. MOUNTAINS?! Who the hell does this guy’s research? They’re the Black Hills, Jon. Hills. Trust me, I grew up there.

Also, I’ve upped my Sudoku difficulty level from medium to hard. My average solve time has doubled. So I'd better go practice.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

word up

Person: Aaron-san, author of this hilarious response to the ridiculous job application questionnaire I posted the other day. Take a few minutes to read it. It will make your day.

Place: New workspace. My department at the U moved to the St. Paul campus yesterday. We went from proper offices with walls and windows to a semi-subterranean cube farm. That giant sucking sound? My soul, fleeing.

Thing: Treo. I think it’s had a minor stroke; parts of the touchscreen seem to be numb, and the display is sometimes fuzzy. I’ve been holding off buying an iPhone, but I may have to purchase one soon.

Action: Read. A stack of various flavors of mystery novels awaits my attention. Should I start with the dark one, the funny one, or the crazy one?

State of being: Am. I’m not doing terribly much at the moment other than thinking about things; I simply am.

Under: In a few minutes, we’ll walk through the tunnel under the street to a campus coffee shop for a meeting. I love the tunnel system at the U, even if I get hopelessly lost trying to use it.

Near: I’m near enough to my cube neighbors now that I can hear them talking on the phone. About me. That’s a perk I could do without.

Behind: When I get home tonight, I’ll scratch my cats behind their ears and enjoy their simple, honest purrs.


Friday, August 03, 2007

apply yourself

Hey, creative writers! I'm applying for a contract/freelance proofreading job and received a 16-page application to fill out. 16 pages! Methinks some HR wonk needs to get the hell OVER him/herself.

Wanna help me? The application questions appear below. If you've got a minute, answer a few. I appreciate all the help — and cheap entertainment — I can get. Thanks!

UPDATE: As of 3:30, Mother Media and JA have turned in absolutely HILARIOUS riffs on "branding" (think cowboy thoughts) and "packaging" (think impure thoughts) respectively.

The Ginormous Application!

Please answer each of the following questions as concisely as possible. In other words, provide your most complete answer in the fewest number of words:

1. What is your philosophy on branding? How did you arrive at this position?

2. What “sells” brand strategy?

3. What is your philosophy on package design? How did you arrive at this position?

4. What “sells” package design?

5. How would you describe your personal work style? How does it differ from that of others?

6. How are you qualified for this job and how does your experience qualify you for this job?

7. What makes you more qualified than the other candidates?

8. What are some aspects of your experiences that specifically apply to this position?

9. Provide a specific example of a time you handled a very difficult, angry or unreasonable client.

10. Provide an example of a time you identified a need to learn something new (QC related) and took it upon yourself to do so.

11. What relationships have you developed in your proofreading position with clients, and professional channels that will help you develop new business in this position?

12. How would your customers describe you and your work style?

13. What would your customers say is the reason they requested proofing services from you versus someone else?

14. Please describe some of the important aspects in proofreading a package design.

15. What situation in your prior experience would demonstrate the level of confidence that you have in yourself?

16. What is the greatest risk you’ve taken that resulted in failure?

17. What is the greatest risk you’ve taken that resulted in success?

18. Why did you leave your last job or why do you want to leave your current job?

19. What is the primary reason you would like to have this position at this particular company?

20. What do you think you will like least about this position?

21. What do you think you will like most about this position?

22. What is your greatest strength?

23. What is your greatest weakness?

24. What trade publications do you read?

25. Describe the best day you remember having on the job.

26. Why do you believe you are the best candidate for this position?

27. What would your existing (or previous) peer group of employees say is the single area that you could improve in the most?

28. What did you love about your last job?

29. What did you dislike about your last job?

30. What did you like most about your favorite manager?

31. What did you like least about your least favorite manager?

32. What will past supervisors say are your strengths?

33. What will past supervisors say are your growth areas?

34. How confident are you that you can successfully perform the duties of this position and why?

35. Tell us about a situation that would demonstrate the level of confidence that you have in yourself.

36. Tell us about a situation that would demonstrate the level of expertise related to this position.

37. Tell us about a situation that would show the confidence your coworkers have in you.

38. Are you an implementer? Give us one example of what you have implemented in previous organizations.

39. Provide us with an example of your ability to work independently.

40. What experience have you had in pressure situations?

41. Tell us about a pressure situation you were in that would demonstrate your ability to work under pressure.

42. Provide us with an example of how you’ve asserted yourself in an emergency or high-pressure situation?

43. What are some constructive methods of dealing with stress?

44. Briefly describe the most significant responsibility you have had in your career and what it taught you?

45. How do you handle responsibility?

46. What training have you received that qualifies you for this job?

47. What have you done outside of formal education to improve yourself?

48. What training opportunities have you taken advantage of and why?

49. How does your current job qualify you for this position?

50. Describe a typical day at your present position.

51. What is the most difficult assignment you have had?

52. What steps have you taken to improve your job skills?

53. What significant contributions have you made to the operation of your work group?

54. How has your current position prepared you to take on greater responsibilities?

55. What steps have you taken in the past two years to improve your qualifications?

56. In the areas where your experience falls short for this job, what steps will you take to make up for this shortfall?

57. Recall an incident where you made a major mistake. What did you do after the mistake was made? What did you learn from this mistake?

58. What is the greatest failure you've had? What would you have done differently?

59. What action on the job are you the least proud of?

60. What questions would you like to ask about this position?

61. What questions would you like to ask about your future supervisor?

62. What questions would you like to ask about the company?

63. What compensation do you feel is fair and how should it be structured?

64. If you could create your own work day, what days of the week and what times of the day would you like to work that best fits into your life? And what is your most productive time of the day?

65. If you had a magic wand what would you do to earn a living?

84. Please fill in the following blanks:

1. Listen ____________________________________

2. Results _____________________________

3. Attention to ___________________________

4. Follow _______________________

5. Laser ______________________

6. Assume _____________________________

7. Agreements can be kept or ______________________________

8. When you don’t get the results you want do something _________________________

9. Where there’s commitment there’s no room for ____________________________

10. There are ______________________ possible answers to a simple question

11. Don’t make a decision based on a false _______________________________

12. EBITDA is an acronym for ______________________________________________


13. The Past is the Past and You Can Only Control the ___________________________

14. Plan _____________________________________

15. One successful sales strategy is based on understanding the Moving __________________

16. To close a sale you must have _____________________________________

17. Manage__________________ Manage_________________ Manage________________

18. USP is an acronym for ____________________________________________

19. Value your ______________

20. Test ___________Test


Thursday, August 02, 2007

give us this day our daily . . .

Ever wanted to read the classics, for free, in easily digestible little chunks handed to you on a silver platter? Well, now you can thanks to the DailyLit service.

DailyLit stocks numerous books in the public domain and will deliver your requestst to you, via e-mail or RSS feed, free of charge. Each chunk takes about 5 minutes to read. I've started on A Tale of Two Cities, and there are plenty of others to choose from. Check it out.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

35W bridge collapse

This evening at about 6:05, a bridge spanning the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis collapsed. Just gave out and fell down. There were cars on that bridge, and a school bus. Word is the kids on the bus were evacuated, but others were not so lucky. At least deaths have been reported so far, and numerous injuries. We're all just in shock here.

I was not on or near the bridge when it collapsed, so don't worry about me. Direct your thoughts and prayers to those who were.

No one knows what caused the collapse, but general opinion seems to be that it was a structural failure, not a terrorist attack.

CNN has coverage of the story, as do local news stations, including kare11.com.