Tuesday, March 29, 2016

An unusual place to be

Good morning, all.  Tuesday morning here in central Kentucky, the sun is shining and the weather is warming back up after a brief cold spell.

I had not mentioned it here, but I recently became unemployed.  In keeping with my normal habit of NOT mentioning or describing work in this space, I won't elaborate, but suffice it to say that the change of status was not my idea.

So I'm on the loose and in the market, so to speak.  And I have always found the process of job hunting, applying, interviewing and hiring to be a strange one.  I should add here that I spent about twelve years where this process was a primary part of my work, as I was in the temporary (and somewhat in the permanent) staffing industry for about ten years, then worked in a medical facility as a human resources manager for about two years.

There was a time, not all that long ago, when anyone who'd had more than two jobs in ten years was loosely characterized as a job-hopper and therefore defective, or had better have a good explanation for his plight.  Not so anymore, as so much more of our economy rests on assignment-based work that has a designated end point than ever before.  In fact, in my exploration of the job market, I'm looking as much for that kind of opportunity as anything (benefits notwithstanding, of course), given how plentiful those types of jobs often are.

There was also a time that people could expect to associate with a company and be pretty well assured of a length of employment that simply doesn't exist anymore.  Those of you who have been laid off via a reorganization, as I have on numerous occasions, can certainly relate.

But today's job market is not without its contradictions.  Here are a few worth mention:

Job listings are so readily available via the Internet that if you can't locate something to apply for, you're just not looking.  I regularly check six job boards and am astounded to find that there are many that are unique to a single source, rather than listed everywhere.

Companies routinely use automated cyphers to sort through resumes, doing keyword searches to eliminate less qualified applicants.  This saves their own HR functions the time of sifting through the stacks of resumes that used to result from a job posting.

And a lot of companies, despite asking applicants to submit their resumes, have a detailed online job application process that MUST be completed in order for a candidate to be considered.  The thing has to work, though, for that process to be completed.  A case in point was yesterday, when I received a frantic call from a recruiter with a certain company.  She was calling to let me know that I had an incomplete online application and that they would be happy to consider me once I finished it.  Glad to, I assured her, but you have to fix this one page that I completed at least a dozen times, only to be told each time that I had failed to complete it.  She said she'd get right on it, but that's been a full day ago.  I have a feeling that she has other "qualified candidates" to consider!

And as has always been the case, word of mouth and networking does the most good for qualified senior-level personnel.

So I'm not reduced to sweeping the streets, at least not yet.  But this is an adventure in itself, and I'll report back on my progress periodically as time permits.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

I'm Irish EVERY day!

Top o' the mornin' to ye!

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all, whether you're Irish or not (and, yes, I'm about 1/2 Irish, with Welsh and English as well).  No green beer for me today, but soon I'll make my customary Guinness Irish beef stew, which my wife and I will enjoy with some Irish soda bread from a local bakery!

And today is also a day that some say should be a national holiday, given how it robs American business of so much productivity.  I'm speaking, of course, of the official start of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, also known as March Madness.  My Kentucky Wildcats play later tonight in Des Moines, Iowa, having been relegated to a #4 seed by the NCAA Selection Committee (who apparently had difficulty selecting their clothes for today as well).

Recently been spending some of my spare time painting here at the ranch.  Regular visitors to this space will recall that we had engineered hardwood floors installed about a year ago in our main living spaces and new vinyl in our hall bath and master bath.  The installers put new white-primed moulding in at the bottom of our baseboards, so that has been my project-du-jour of late.

Let me tell you a few things I've learned this time around about painting:

The type of paint you use matters.  Last time I painted baseboards, windows and doors, I used a semi-gloss variety of latex paint that was characterized as suitable for walls and other surfaces.  This time, I bought TRIM paint, which has a much harder finish, dries more quickly and covered better in one coat than the other stuff did in two.  Muuuuuuuch better!

I also have long been a firm believer in using lots and lots (and lots) of masking tape, in order to preserve the already-painted walls and new-ish floors.  I believe that more than ever, since all I've been doing has been trim work.  But don't be fooled into getting "good" tape.  I fell for that, and had more paint bleed under this tape than with the conventional masking tape (which has come in that lovely shade of Kentucky blue for a long time, of course).  And when you tape, it's best to run the edge of a putty knife between the newly painted surface and the tape, to ensure that it comes apart cleanly.

Section your job into parts that you can complete.  I did bathrooms on one particular day, doors and hallways the next, and then went room-by-room.  Each time I came to a logical stopping point, and that helped keep me on track.

Finally, it's important to clean up daily.  I used to try to preserve brushes and such by putting them into plastic bags, but now I wash them out each time I use them, and THEN put them into plastic bags.  Easier to work with the next time around!

All of this may seem obvious to those who paint more than I do, but, believe me, if you had seen how I formerly handled some of these tasks, you'd be amazed that our house ever got painted at all!

I also just stepped out to mow our lawn for the first time this year.  We seem to have a bumper crop of some sort of ground-based weed this year.  Time for some weed killer, I suppose.

So that's the story from this Irish household (not true, my wife has Austrian and German heritage, but today she's Irish, too).  May the road rise up to meet you, and may you be dead an hour before the Devil knows you've gone!


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Processes

Greetings, friends.  I'm a little off schedule but wanted to stop by to share a few things from a variety of sources.

I honestly think that the 2016 Presidential campaign has crossed over into the absurd, for both parties.    The Republicans appear to be banding together in some bizarre way to try to stop Donald Trump from winning their nomination.  The only problem is that someone keeps forgetting to tell the voters in so many states where Trump wins, and often wins by a large margin.  I read yesterday that now-departed candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has reached out to two of the remaining candidates in the Republican race in an effort to defeat Trump.  Frankly, I wish them luck.

I also saw that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided not to run for President as an independent, and his reasoning is that he would divert votes from the Democratic nominee and all but assure Donald Trump the Presidency.  Sounds a bit like Ross Perot's bid in 1992, which siphoned support away from George Bush and helped usher Bill Clinton into the White House.  Bloomberg could still change his mind, of course.

And I didn't watch, but saw that last night in a debate in Miami a moderator asked Hillary Clinton if she would withdraw from the Democratic campaign if she is indicted as the result of using a personal e-mail server.  In the clip I saw, she snorted and said that she wouldn't even answer the question.  Right or wrong, I don't much blame her reaction.  I think it should go without saying that a candidate who is under indictment for a federal offense is not going to do well if they continue their campaign, shouldn't it?

And in the other clip I saw, there was apparently some debate about the color of Bernie Sanders' suit last night.  Looked brown to me, but some are saying it was grey, others blue.  Like that dress from a while back, I suppose.

All of this is backdrop to my continued viewing of Netflix's political series "House of Cards," starring Kevin Spacey as an unscrupulous politician.  Very entertaining, and while I have no way to know if it's at all accurate, it's interesting.

But the good news for me is that baseball is right around the corner.  My grandson said yesterday, when he and his sister were here, that it was a great day to play baseball.   My son and I apparently have trained that boy well, so we went into the backyard late in the afternoon and played a little tee-ball whiffleball.  The little guy can really hit, too, and will turn five in May!

The Reds are only a little older overall, and reading about their spring training games is more than a little challenging, since I am so unfamiliar with so many players' names.  That'll get better over time, but for now, it's a matter of attempting to learn who everyone is.

It feels like spring has sprung here in central Kentucky, as we've had high temperatures in the 70s for the past several days.  Rain is moving in from Texas and the Gulf of Mexico, and apparently will be here for a few days, but it will remain warm.  So perhaps the groundhog was right.  For once!




Wednesday, March 2, 2016

I didn't vote (yet)

Good morning, friends  It's the day after Super Tuesday, so named because a few years ago numerous states decided they wanted a say in who would be nominated by each political party for President.  It's also the Wednesday after the Oscars, if that matters.

Let's address the political stuff first.  Hillary Clinton continues her march of inevitability toward the Democratic presidential nomination.  Bernie Sanders isn't going to go away, as he won two primaries and a caucus last night, but Clinton won the rest and opened up a pretty large lead on her challenger.

The Republican side is far more entertaining at present, as Donald Trump is still steamrolling his competitors for the most part.  Ted Cruz, the Tea Party Senator from Texas, won three states last night, and word is that Florida Senator Marco Rubio finally won a state as well.  But what's more intriguing is how the Republican Party is attempting to line up against a candidate that their own members are voting for in large numbers.  Former candidate and Senator Lindsey Graham yesterday offered the opinion that the party may need to rally around Ted Cruz as their last hope to stop Trump. Of course, Graham also said in a recent speech that his party had gone "batshit crazy."

Kentucky's Republican caucus will occur on Saturday.  It was arranged this way to allow Senator Rand Paul to run for President (he has since "suspended" his campaign) and still have an opportunity to be on the ballot for reelection to his Senate seat.  I'm not registered Republican, but the results will be interesting all the same.

Trump was in Kentucky for an appearance yesterday, and, yes, Chris Christie is still at his side.  From what I observed in news clips, it's an odd dynamic to have Christie standing behind Trump while Trump speaks, but they've been doing that since Christie endorsed Trump a couple of weeks ago.  One wonders what Trump has promised to Christie once he wins the general election this fall...

Now, let's talk about the Oscars.....

First, let me add my comments to the legion already out there about the surprises of the night.  I didn't think "Spotlight" would win out for Best Picture over "The Revenant" (I have seen neither, by the way) because the latter seemed so inevitable.  I felt that way because all we were hearing about that film was how difficult it was to make, how the cast and crew endured enormous hardships for the sake of authenticity, etc.  The Oscar voters often cannot turn down something like that, but in this case, they did.

I also assumed, as most did, that Sylvester Stallone would receive the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for "Creed," presumably as a sort of lifetime achievement award.  I have not seen this but those who have raved about Stallone's performance as Rocky Balboa.  The winner in that category, Mark Rylance, was superb in "Bridge of Spies," which I just saw last week.  He was most eloquent in accepting his award, which wins him extra points in my book.  And because I did not recall having seen him previously in any movies, it's possible we may not see a lot of him in the future.

To me the greatest surprise, and one that delighted me, was how many awards were taken by "Mad Max: Fury Road."  In fairness, they were the type you might expect:  sound, production design, costume design and other awards that most would consider "background" honors.  But let's face it, if you're trying to create a world that does not currently exist, you have to get those things right in order for the audience to be drawn in, and this film succeeded.  By the way, if you had not read this previously, it might interest you to know that "Mad Max's" editor, Margaret Sixel, is married to director George Miller.

Before I close for the day, I want to add a couple of comments about sportscaster Erin Andrews' lawsuit against a voyeur and the hotel that somehow enabled him to be so.  Andrews has been in the news over the last couple of weeks as a result of testimony in this case and her reaction to it.  Full disclosure:  I was never a fan of hers, never thought she seemed well informed or to be a particularly good reporter.  I also never thought she was nearly as stunning as so many men that I know felt she was/is, and her voice has always affected me much like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Here are some things to consider, most of which were already well known or have come to light in the trial:

Andrews has improved her status in the world of sports television since this occurred, as she is now the primary sideline reporter for Fox Sports' broadcasts of the NFL, major league baseball and other events

The man who spied on her and recorded her while in her hotel room was convicted and served a sentence for his crime

Andrews' suit originally named the Marriott Corporation as a defendant, but they were removed because it was determined that they could not be held responsible for the actions of their hotel operator, a franchisee

What will Andrews do with the $75 million she has requested in damages in her suit?  Is this money intended for a specific cause or purpose?

Let's be clear--if this had happened to me or someone close to me, my reaction would probably be different.  But frankly, I had pretty much forgotten about all of this until the lawsuit came to trial.  I'd guess that many others had, too.  But here we are, talking about it all over again.

Anyway, that's my two cents' worth.  Have a good Wednesday.

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