Sunday, September 20, 2009

Update - Recent Activities

I haven't blogged since June 22, and I think only once since we moved to Red Deer from Washington. Since I spent the summer bumming around my parents place like I was still in High School, you might have thought I'd have had more time for it. Not sure why, it just didn't happen. Here's what did happen, however:

I got a job. I start my training tomorrow. It's a very exciting opportunity for me, and I hope I enjoy it and show at least an average level of aptitude for it.

Michelle, Norah, and I may have a new home in Red Deer. Our first house! We made an offer, agreed on a price and possession date, and are only waiting financing and a clean home inspection. Keep those fingers crossed.

It has been a great summer. There are not many fathers who get to spend a full 3 and a half months with their firstborn.

Monday, June 22, 2009

J&M Garage Sales Inc

I think this week I'm going to test out a little business idea Michelle and I have been talking about for awhile. It's a garage sale running business. We advertise, set up, price, and run the garage sale in exchange for 50% of the earnings. You provide the clutter you want converted into cash. Could get some interesting responses. I'll let you know how it goes.

PS In case you hadn't guessed, no new leads on the job search front.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

I Wish I Could Blog

I've had a number of things rolling around in my head to blog about, but the opportunity hasn't been there. Norah and Michelle keep me busy and free time is quickly devoted to outdoor activities (read: fishing) leaving little or no time to blog. Here is the stuff I wish I had time to post about:
  • "Cletus, Take the Reel", a hilarious reprisal of Carrie Underwood's "Jesus, Take the Wheel".
  • Hanes Brands' environmental and human rights record. No sooner had I passed judgement and posted the Hanes post than they emailed me back with more details. I really need to get the updated info up there.
  • My disenchantment with both major US political parties. Recently, the reasons I'm in favor of less government and more personal responsibility have been resurfacing. Too bad the GOP has such an awful environmental record and too bad the Dems will inevitably increase the size of government. Big brother's not the answer. Sigh. I stand by my choice of hope, diplomacy, and environmentalism even if it comes with big government. It's not a perfect world I guess.
I think that's it for now. I'm also trying to find time to post some pictures on Flickr from the Tulip Festival. Very fun!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Brand Impressions - Hanes

Recently I bought a package of Hanes T-shirts at my local Target. The tag indicated they were made in Honduras.

I sent an email to Hanes asking about both environmental and human rights issues. I mentioned that their response would go a long way to shaping my impression of their brand. Unfortunately, that was over a week ago and I still haven't heard anything. I also checked their website - no mention of an environmental, human rights, community involvement or any other type of corporate responsibility program or policy. Unfortunately, no information doesn't equal no message.

In the last few years, my buying habits have changed and I've begun taking into consideration:
  • where products are manufactured;
  • the amount and recycle-ability of packaging;
  • my perception of the brand's environmental conscientiousness; and
  • my perception of the brand's human rights impacts.
The last two are almost purely conjecture based on what I see on the product packaging, and my perceptions of what environmental and human rights conditions exist in the country where the item was produced. Relying on my own perceptions leaves plenty of room for incorrect assumptions. I had hoped that brands like Hanes could give me some real information to accurately shape my perspective of the brand. Alas, I'm left to assume the worst about Hanes and their products.

It's a shame, because the shirts are really nice. Guess I'll try Fruit of the Loom next time.

Living with Open Hands

"The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Big Bonus = Poor Performance

-- NOTE: Post taken from The Smart Supervisor, a blog for front line supervisors --

Yesterday on Marketplace I heard some fascinating new research that shows excessively large bonuses are associated with poorer performance. The researcher noted that higher at-risk compensation motivates us (the desired effect) but also acts as a stressor (an undesirable effect). At a certain point, huge bonuses create more stress than motivation resulting in poorer performance.

This research adds to a growing body of empirical evidence supporting what smart supervisors have known all along: people don't leave, stay, or work hard because of money. Employees are retained and motivated by the vision the leader casts, the accountability the leader creates, the responsibility the leader gives, and the empowerment the employees feel. We are entering a period of time in which soft skills will be far more critical than hard skills. Or as Tom Peters puts it, "'soft' is the new 'hard'". So work on your soft skills, especially listening and communicating.

Check out the full Marketplace report. The researcher sounds a bit like Dr. Nick on the Simpsons.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Misconceptions of Cleanliness

I would like to dispel a common misconception about cleanliness which has unnecessary environmental and health impacts. We are inclined to associate the color white with cleanliness. Now, initially that seems fairly innocent. However, this misconception leads to the bleaching of nearly all paper products, from paper plates to toilet paper to diapers. And this otherwise unnecessary bleaching process produces some very harsh chemicals as by-products. Not the least of these is Dioxin, or polychlorinated dibenzodioxins to be exact, which cause birth defects, cancer (you knew that was coming) and other ailments. The worst part about these chemicals is that they build up quickly in the food chain and they aren't naturally metabolized. A large portion of the dioxin produced and released into the environment is used only to satisfy (and perpetuate?) our inaccurate misconception that white = clean.

Many of our activities cause environmental damage. Driving around in my '93 Honda releases all kinds of terrible stuff; but at least I get the clear benefit of fast, convenient travel in exchange. The "benefit" of having our paper stuff artificially colored white doesn't seem worth the environmental impact it creates.

Other misconceptions in a similar vein often lead to inaccurate judgments. For example, deformed/dark/black = evil and beautiful/proportionate = good (reality TV should have dispelled this one). There are others, I imagine.

Anyhow, all that to say maybe part of going green is going brown.

The English Patient

Some time ago I picked up a copy of Michael Ondaajte's book The English Patient. I was inspired to pull it off the shelf after a recommendation from Malcolm Kenyon. I'm only a few pages in, but I remember why I so liked Ondaajte's In the Skin of a Lion, which I read in college. He has a powerful way of making me feel. His gift is not in creating the emotional feelings like sad, or angry, or happy; he can make me feel a desert, make me feel exhaustion, make me feel delirium. Many authors can describe buildings, rooms, gardens, relationships, accidents, and injuries. Few can make me feel them. Ondaajte is one of the few.

I mentioned Malcolm recommended The English Patient to me; he is quite the guy himself. He works with Michelle teaching English as a second language here in Bellingham, and he's a poet among a great host of other things. We had a chapbook of his poetry on our bookshelf (I am proud to say, meager though they are, my bookshelves hold untold treasurers!). He is a very gifted poet and a fascinating person to listen to. You can hear him reading some of his poems at poetry night in Bellingham by going to poetry night's podcast site. Two of Malcolm's readings are about a quarter of the way down the page.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

News from Immigration Canada

Last Sunday Michelle and I got her passport back from Immigration Canada - with a visa inside. Unfortunately, they decided not to answer any of the questions we asked in the two letters we sent them. Actually, I don't think they sent us one thing that was personalized throughout this whole process. Anyhow, you'd think we would be excited - well the visa expires on April 25th. Just enough time to move - but we'd be rushed. Really rushed. It was overwhelming to think about having a new baby, trying to pack our house, arrange a move, and look for a job in Red Deer all at the same time.

We decided to just drive up to the border and ask them all our questions. I'm really glad we did, because it turns out that "landing" in Canada (which is what we had to do before April 25th) is not the same as "moving" to Canada. Which we can do whenever we want, because we "landed" on Sunday. Our plan is to have the baby, get into a bit of a groove with her, and move in late May. There you have it - the big news!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Simpsons and Louis CK

I found these two movies really funny. I originally saw them like a week ago, but life's like that.

Lisa finds heaven at Springfield's new Mapple Store. (Thanks to Jeff G for this one)

Louis CK on the technology generation. It's so funny because it's absolutely true. They don't want me embedding it, so you'll have to be happy with the link.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On the Reduction of Errant Whizzing

I recently read through a presentation by Tom Peters, which I downloaded from his blog. It mentions a significant reduction in errant whizzing through the seemingly small act of etching an insect-like target into urinals. Tom calls slight changes which have proportionally large results "nudges".

I thought of this today when I visited the bathroom of the Black Drop. They have innovated in their bathroom space in a different way. Being counter-cultural (or anti-establishment, or something like that) they have placed chalk boards in their bathrooms, presumably to encourage graffiti rather than discourage it. Would-be vandals probably don't feel cheated that their work can be wiped away effortlessly.

Speaking of the Black Drop, I hope to hear from them after this post. If they have Google Alerts set up, they will get notified that someone (me) is blogging about them. I set up Google Alerts for my name. No one is really talking about me. At least not yet.

That is all for now.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I Want to Work at Twitter, Or...

What Makes for a Good Job

Recently I had the chance to read @dom's post about how twitter got started. It was both interesting and inspiring, and it illustrates a number of the things that make for a good job.

1. A Smart Team
I love that the Twitter team works together so much. They brainstorm, design, dialogue, and meet in big open warehouse type places. I want to be part of a team like that.

2. A Clear Vision
Part of what creates such a compelling team atmosphere is the pursuit of a clearly defined vision. Nothing brings people together like a common problem, and vision is the anticipated solution to a problem. It would be great to be part of a team pursuing a clear, meaningful vision.

3. A Continuous Learning Opportunity
If I were to work at Twitter it would put me alongside people who know WAY more than me about technology, creating software, starting companies, and a whole host of other things I'm interested in. I'd be surrounded by really smart people. No matter what the job, the opportunity to ask questions and learn from smart people is very compelling to me. Maybe that's why this job opportunity intrigued me so much. My dream job: working as part of a brilliant team pursuing a clear, meaningful vision with continuous learning opportunities.

4. A Sense of Achievement
Twitter's creators must be incredibly proud. Their brain child has millions of users and Venture Capitalists are falling all over themselves to invest in their company. I hope to find work which I can look back on and feel proud of. For me, the impact of not getting a sense of achievement from my work is that I have a really hard time relaxing. I feel a built in need to improve, create, learn, and grow something - and when I don't feel like I am accomplishing this at work, I take that desire home. I get restless and anxious and I try to work at anything that will show progress when I should be recreating, laughing, and enjoying life's truest pleasures: coffee, The Office, comic strips, sunrises, camping, fishing, crossword puzzles, friends, sunsets, gardening, etc. I can tell this is becoming a problem based on the movies I want to watch. My favorite movies, the ones I truly enjoy, are rarely acclaimed. They are cliche, funny, and predictable. Like Emperor's New Groove (yes, the cartoon). When I don't feel like I'm accomplishing anything, I try to relax and achieve at the same time; so I pick movies that are critically acclaimed, or that I think will make me smarter, or that I can blog about later. Also, I start trying to work on my lunch breaks. I go to the library, research business ideas, bring books to read, and above all, I find myself asking "What can I do with this time? What can I get done?". I feel restless. All that to say, I need to feel a sense of accomplishment at work so that I can enjoy my family and friends and my life.

Basically, I want to work as part of a brilliant team pursuing a clear vision that provides continuous learning opportunities and a sense of accomplishment.

There, I said it. If you know of any opportunities like that, let me know.

PS That job I linked to above might still be available.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Starting a New Blog

I haven't even reached 100 posts yet and here I aPunk Rock HR and Brazen Careerist. There is a whole social network cloud of blogs and bloggers adjacent to and around both these sites. To see what I m

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H.

George Steiner's book succeeded in shedding new light on a subject that was, for me "all part of a school syllabus and television past." Thanks to the history channel and Schindler's List (and our culture's propensity for reducing things to the lowest common denominator) I had a very one dimensional perspective on WWII, Hitler, and the holocaust. I can't say this book reshaped my understanding of those events, but it gave me a new and unique perspective on them.

Steiner describes the places so well you can really feel what's it's like to be there. I enjoyed the structure of the story; many chapters and characters have only the thread of A.H., and the possibility of his existence, connecting them. I think this allowed Steiner to set a variety of scenes, further highlighting his ability to really put you somewhere, and still keep the book focused.

I'm going to have to read the ending again. It would have been nice to be in the dark until the end, because it's quite a climax.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Learning From Tim O'Reilly

I mentioned in my initial post about Twitter that one of the first people I started following was Tim O'Reilly. It's been one of the best following choices I've made. I've only read two of his blog posts, but I learned something from both. And not the kind of things that just make you think "oh, that's kind of interesting". The type of things I will try to remember and apply in the future. Things that, in a small way, shape who I will be in the future.

The first was posted shortly after Bernard Madoff's giant Ponzi scheme hit the news. Tim's post included a quote from Herman Daly differentiating between a growth economy and a steady state economy. The idea that stuck with me is that we need to transition from an economy based on using things up to an economy based on taking a fixed amount of things and constantly remaking and improving them. In Daly's own words: "Growth is more of the same stuff; development is the same amount of better stuff (or at least different stuff)." This idea builds on what I learned from The Story of Stuff: that a linear system with a limited amount of resources is unsustainable.

The second was a little more recent: an explanation of Tim's "work on stuff that matters" mantra. In particular I like the second principle: create more value than you capture. In summary, he insinuates that creating and capturing value are more or less mutually exclusive activities; if you're focusing on capturing every last cent of value, you'll find yourself creating less and less. On the other hand, if you capture some of the value of a constantly evolving value creation string, you'll actually end up capturing more value in the end. And you'll have a stronger sense of accomplishment.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Reflecting on a Big Day

I've been working in Human Resources at Whatcom County for almost two years, and yesterday I told my boss and several of my coworkers that Michelle and I are planning to move to Canada soon after our daughter is born. We are due March 11, so that means some time in April we will be moving (most likely). I was nervous about sharing this, particularly because I decided, with Michelle's help, that we were confident enough about the timing that we couldn't keep it a secret any longer (even though it's still almost 4 months away).

Both my actual boss and my practical boss were incredibly gracious in receiving the news. Both of them communicated that in life you need to pursue dreams and go after the things that you want to do, and they wouldn't want to hold me back from that. It was refreshing and encouraging to have their support, but also nice to know that both of them felt that I had made significant contributions in my time at the County, and that I would be missed.

Telling my work really adds a sense of finality to the decision. We are for (almost) sure that we are going, and more than likely it will be sometime in April or May. I can now start the job search process in earnest. Wow - lots to process. Better start working on the 'ol resume.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What Brazen Careerist Should Do

I'm taking a page from @ev's book. Evan recently wrote a post about what Blogger should do; I'm going to try to do the same for Brazen Careerist. The main difference here is that I didn't start Brazen Careerist, nor did I sell it to Google for like a gazillion dollars. Evan did both with Blogger. So, for what it's worth, here goes:

I joined Brazen Careerist a few weeks ago, sometime in that pre-Christmas blur. Since then, the number of "careerists" has probably quadrupled, which is a good sign. Anyway, I found Penelope Trunk's blog, which I usually enjoy, and she started Brazen, so I decided to check it out. It's a place for Gen-Y type people to discuss work, share their thoughts, and develop their careers. And there's also something nebulous about interacting with companies looking to hire bright people. Which is what initially interested me. More on that later.

What Brazen Shouldn't Do
I'm a little worried, because a lot of the features ("Fans", Profiles, Blog Feeds, etc) are reminiscent of all the other social networking sites, including Facebook, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, etc. Don't focus on the social networking thing. Why? All those other sites have been doing it a lot longer than Brazen, and they're doing it better than Brazen. So Brazen must be more than a place for people to connect and get to know each other. Which I believe it is, or can be.

What Brazen Should Do
The thing that attracted me to Brazen in the first place was the opportunity to interact with potential employers on a personal level. That's a revolutionary idea, and I don't know anyone else who is providing that. Unfortunately, as a Brazen Careerist I haven't been able to connect with any companies or their representatives (so far). So, as a first step, if individuals from sponsor companies haven't joined Brazen, they need to. Get some young recruiter-types from each company participating in the community. Then:
  1. Help me find them. Set them apart, so I know who they are. An icon, a different font, a different color, their company's logo, something. And differentiate their contributions throughout the site so everyone knows a company's response or opinion from a Careerist's.
  2. Give them a different profile template with info about the company, the individual representative's job, personal and corporate goals, mission statements, etc.
  3. Feature their blog postings about their company, it's culture, their personal as well as corporate struggles, successes, and problems. Help them solicit feedback from the community, and allow them to provide input (and value) to the community.
In a sentence, Brazen should facilitate personal interaction between companies (reps, recruiters, marketers?) and the Brazen community. In fact, in addition to finding a source of great people, participating companies may gain new perspectives, innovative solutions, and access to critical feedback. And Brazen Careerists can get to know the companies offering the opportunities they're looking for. Imagine having a window into the decision making process, culture, and environment of a potential employer. That's what I hope I can get at Brazen Careerist.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Flooding in Whatcom County

Warm weather, melting snow and heavy rain combined to cause earlier-than-usual flooding in our neck of the woods today. Lucky for us, we're on the fourth floor. Stay high and dry!

Photos from the Bellingham Herald