Random Things You’ll Like

UBC-completed

I wanted to thank everyone who stopped by during the Ultimate Blog Challenge last month. I posted at least once a day, every day during the month of July, and have no plans to stop now. So, keep coming back for more. Please?

Stephanie Chandler has a post up at the Nonfiction Authors Association titled Why Writing Non-Fiction Could Be Your Calling. I talked about this on Monday, and she seems to have followed a similar path. It’s an excellent article, if you’ve either decided to write nonfiction or are trying to decide. Or not. In any case, it’s a good article.

Finally, Kristen Lamb (another one of those bloggers I read faithfully, and so should you) posted a piece to her blog called The War on Fun—How Modern Culture is KILLING Creativity. She recently started homeschooling her son because, as she puts it, he was “fired” from preschool for being more concerned with fighting zombies than with reading at a college level. She talks about summer vacation when she was growing up, and how the current obsession with getting kids into top colleges and universities is destroying what little creativity the kids are allowed to have. I’m recommending it because (a) Kristen is a fantastic writer and (b) it has inspired me to write my own memories of summer vacation. Kids in my county start school again this Monday, and it blows my mind.

How’s your day going?

The Thursday Ten: Career Advice from someone who screwed his up (#blogboost)

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About ten years ago, the wheels came off my career. I had jobs after that, and while I did all right, it was never as good as it was before I left the job I held for almost twenty years (missed it by one month). What follows is a list of ten things that I would tell someone looking for a job. I wish I knew these things back when I first started working. Too soon old, too late smart.

  1. Network like crazy. Anyone you know is a potential source for career assistance. As much as I disagree with the decisions made by their management, Facebook is a good way to stay in touch with people you used to work with, went to school with, or knew from the old neighborhood. LinkedIn is another good site for staying in touch, and it’s specifically for professional networking. And don’t forget your family. You’d be amazed at how much help they can be. I was out of work in 1980 (along with a lot of people) and having trouble finding a job. One day, I get a call from my mother. She had been at a party where she ran into a recruiter, and he gave her his card. A couple of weeks later, I was back to work, thanks to the guy.
  2. Keep your resume up-to-date. In the last management class I took, the instructor advised us to always have a current copy of our resumes handy, and I never took his advice. I wrote my resume when I had to, when someone asked me for it, because it meant dragging out the typewriter, and I was a lousy typist. Thank heaven for computers. By the way, companies expect that you’ll tailor your resume to match the job description. I’d have a full resume with all your experience (more of a curriculum vitae, or CV) and use it as a starting point for the resumes you send out. That way, you don’t forget anything.
  3. Cultivate good relationships with recruiters. When I was getting established, I used to hate when recruiters (we called them headhunters) would call, because they’d keep you on the phone and try to browbeat you into making a job change when you didn’t want to. To put it bluntly, they were a pain in the ass. The truth is that companies hire them to pre-screen candidates. They hear about openings that don’t make Monster and CareerBuilder, and they’re valuable members of your network.
  4. Don’t be shy about quitting. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that people born between 1957 and 1964 have held an average of eleven jobs between the ages of 18 and 44. That averages to about 2.5 years per job (2.3636…., if you want to be exact). I’m sure the average has gone down since, so say 2 years. Companies expect you to leave after a couple of years. They might even be pushing you in that direction. Better to leave before they start thinking, “will So-and-So ever leave?”
  5. Don’t get too comfortable. I worked for a company that would have a good year and hire a bunch of people, then have a bad year and lay all of them off. If you get any sense that the company might be looking to downsize, it might be time to update your resume and start putting out feelers.
  6. Know what else you can do. Or, make sure you have a Plan B. And a Plan C, and as many plans as you can make. What’s going to happen when you can’t find work doing what you’ve always done? More importantly, what’s going to happen when you don’t want to do what you’ve always done? It’s never too early to start thinking about what’s next. You might even want to get a head start on your next career. A lady I worked with left her job when she sold the novel she was writing in her spare time.
  7. Keep track of your accomplishments. This goes deeper than knowing what they are so you can put them on a resume. Keep a journal of everything you do: every meeting, phone call, and email has some details that a prospective employer or client might be interested in. Details that you’ll forget if you don’t write them down. It’s good for another reason: You’ll be able to tell when your career is stalled.
  8. Save, save, save. You want to have at least six months’ worth of savings that isn’t tied up in an IRA or a 401(k) (or whatever you call them where you live) that you can put your hands on if you find yourself out of work. More than six months is even better.
  9. Don’t put too much faith in your employer. Benefit plans change, departments get reorganized, job descriptions change, people leave or get promoted (or “kicked upstairs”), and promises made one day can vanish into thin air the next. I had a friend who got a new job, and on her last day, she came back from her farewell lunch and had a message from the new company that they had eliminated her job (the one she had been hired for), and their offer was being rescinded. It happens. Be prepared.
  10. Manage your career, or your career will manage you. Things are always changing, and what’s true today won’t be true tomorrow. If you go with the flow, you could end up doing something you don’t want to do. You always have a choice, to decide whether to stay or to go. Trust your gut; if it’s telling you to go, listen and put the wheels in motion.

Finally, I’m confident that the day will come when everyone works and no one has a job. Daniel Pink calls it the “Free Agent Nation,” one in which employers become clients and employees become independent contractors. We’ll need a whole new set of skills when that happens. Times change, and we’ll have to change with them.

Now it’s your turn: Is there anything you’d add to the list? Is any of this advice way off base? I didn’t prioritize the list; what order would you list these in? Let me know in the comments!

Welcome back, Vin Scully!

Like a fool, I stayed up until 2 AM watching the Braves lose to the Dodgers 8-4 last night. Maybe the best thing to come out of the game was this announcement.

Vin Scully to return for 66th season in LA in 2015

I’ve heard a few of the Baseball Hall of Fame announcers (Bob Elson, Jack Brickhouse, Mel Allen, Harry Caray, Tim McCarver, and Bob Costas) and a lot of other great announcers (Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren, Bob Uecker, Joe Garagiola, Ken Harrelson, to name a few), but no one has been with one team as long as Vin Scully. I heard him a lot when he was on CBS and NBC in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but the game I remember the most was a weeknight game in Los Angeles. I was there on business, and my first night there I got in the car after dinner and looked for something on the radio. Vin was calling the game, and all I could do was drive around for three hours listening to him. He has always had the ability to sound like he was talking right to you, but when he was calling the Dodgers game on a local radio station, it was like I was sitting in his living room, watching the game.

Vin’s 86, and every year it’s a question whether he’ll be back in the spring. You can see how the crowd at Dodger Stadium reacted when they heard the announcement. The Braves announcers, Chip Caray (whose father Skip and grandfather Harry were friends of Vin’s) and Joe Simpson (who played for the Dodgers), spent as much time talking about the news as they did talking about the game. They should have taken his advice: “Let’s get back to work here.”

WEAR SUNSCREEN! (#blogboost)

I had no idea what I was going to post today. Then I saw this in my Twitter feed.

…a new report found that the deadliest form of skin cancer has jumped 200 percent in the last four decades.

The acting U.S. surgeon general is asking Americans to give up their love of sunbathing and indoor tanning beds, given the alarming rise in melanoma cases diagnosed since 1973.

There are 63,000 new cases of melanoma in the United States every year and 9,000 people die from it. I don’t know why. Could be that we spend less time outside, could be the atmosphere has changed, making the ultraviolet rays from the sun stronger. Whatever the cause, that’s too many preventable deaths. I’ve watched someone die from melanoma, and it was an awful death. I don’t want to watch anyone else go through that.

Please, wear sunscreen if you’re going to be outside, and cover up whenever it’s practical to do so. Avoid tanning beds. And, if you see any changes in your skin, a new mole or one that’s changed color or shape, run, don’t walk, to the doctor and have it checked out. The chances of something getting out of hand are reduced the earlier you catch it.

Okay?

Two for Tuesday: Level 42 (#blogboost)

I’ve become a Two Dots fanatic. It’s like Candy Crush and all the other games for smartphones and tablets. You connect dots of the same color, which removes them from the board and moves all the remaining dots down. You have a certain number of moves to complete a task (e.g. remove thirty red and thirty green dots in twenty-five moves). If you do, you get points and can move on to the next level, i.e. a tougher puzzle to solve. If you run out of moves before completing the task, you’re offered five more moves or a “bomb” for the low, low price of 99 cents. If you choose not to do business with them, you lose a life. Lose five lives, and you have to wait about two hours before you can try again. The creators of the game have said they have completed all of the levels without having to buy anything, so I don’t. Currently, I’m stuck at level 42, and it reminded me of Level 42, the rock/jazz/funk/fusion/Euro-pop/sophisti-pop band from the Eighties.

There was an issue of Bass Player magazine in the early Nineties (when I was playing bass) that had a feature on Mark King, Level 42’s bass player and lead singer. It talked about his bass-slapping technique, where you hit the strings with the side of your thumb rather than plucking them. I could never master the technique, but I enjoyed the band’s music. They started in 1979 with King, brothers Phil (drums) and Boon (guitar) Gould, and Mike Lindup (keyboards and vocals). Their first hit record in the UK was “The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up).” It reached the Top Ten in the UK in 1984. Their 1985 album World Machine was their breakthrough in the US and UK.

In the US, the hit single from that album was “Something About You,” which reached #7 on the Hot 100 in 1986. It’s our first song today.

In the UK, the hit single from the album was “Lessons in Love.” It hit #1, and is our second song.

After the release of Running in the Family in 1987, the Gould brothers left. Alan Murphy, Boon Gould’s replacement on guitar, died in 1989 after the release of Staring at the Sun, and was replaced by fusion guitarist Alan Holdsworth for their next album, 1991’s Guaranteed. They released one more album in the 1990’s, 1995’s Forever Now. Mark King’s brother Nathan joined the band in 2001, and the band released Retroglide in 2006. They’re still active, having just played the Castle Concerts in the UK two weeks ago. Their website is Level42.com.

Level 42, your Two for Tuesday, July 29, 2014,

What sort of writer do I want to be? (#blogboost)

When I started telling people I was a writer, naturally they asked, “What kind of writing do you do?” I’d be stuck for an answer. I’d tell one person that I wrote thrillers, another that I wrote mysteries, and finally I just told them “literary fiction.” Mostly, what I wrote was characters standing around waiting for something to happen. It was like reading the phone book: no plot, but a hell of a cast.

Well, last week, Eden Mabee wrote a thought-provoking sponsor post on the ROW80 blog called “Honoring Who You Are.” Right up front, she asks

Do you know who you are as opposed to who you want to be? Do you respect that person’s needs and passions? Do you even know those needs and passions?

You know what? I didn’t have a clue. So I thought and prayed about it.

Turns out, I was telling people I wrote various kinds of fiction, but in truth I didn’t want to write fiction. I don’t even like to read it that much. I wanted to write stories about my family. I wanted to write humorous essays. My heroes were newspaper columnists, not novelists. I don’t (intentionally) write fiction on this blog. It’s why I like doing it so much. I like to persuade, inform, and entertain, just as I did when I was a trainer for all those years.

Persuade, Inform, Entertain: PIE. Made at Quozio.com
Persuade, Inform, Entertain: PIE. Made at Quozio.com

In short, I write creative non-fiction. That’s where my passion is. That’s what I want to do. Does that mean I’ll never write fiction again? Of course not. I’ve just come to the conclusion that’s not where I belong right now.

Thanks for listening.

How about you? Are you doing what you want to do?

#ROW80: An even better week than last.

Click to visit the challenge!
Click to visit the challenge!

It’s been a good week. I did well on my goals this week, and I think I might have solved a mystery. But first, the recap:

  • Blog every day: Done, again. With four days to go on the Ultimate Blog Challenge, I’ve put a post that’s more than a ROW80 update on the blog each day. They are:

    The real test of my dedication to blogging will begin when the UBC is complete (this Thursday). I plan on going with the blog-post-a-day thing as long as I can. Definitely through the end of this round, though.

  • Learn Evernote: I’ve been accumulating stuff out in my INBOX notebook (I read somewhere that I should set one up for items coming from outside sources, e.g. email) and my “IFTTT Pocket” notebook (a notebook established by IFTTT for items it gets from Pocket). I’ve spent the last couple of days moving things from those two temporary places to the permanent notebooks that I established when I started using EN. I’m also considering tagging strategies, whether I even need Pocket, and what use I can make of Pinterest in all of this. I’m sure I’ll be detailing this whole process here, so watch this space for further updates.

Tune in tomorrow for the answer to the musical question, “What sort of writer do I want to be?” That’s the big mystery.

Straight ahead!

It’s Hall of Fame Sunday! (#blogboost)

I try very hard not to spend too much time on the blog talking about baseball, because I know that a lot of you aren’t baseball fans, and this really isn’t a baseball blog. But I’m a baseball fan, and today is the day The National Baseball Hall of Fame holds its induction ceremony. I’m proud to say that they are inducting six men, three as players and three as managers, into the Hall this year, all of whom have a connection to at least one of the teams of which I’m a fan, the Chicago White Sox and the Atlanta Braves.

THE PLAYERS

  • Tom Glavine: Tom pitched for the Braves from 1987 to 2002 and again in 2008 and for the New York Mets in 2003 to 2007. He is fourth in career wins by a left-handed pitcher with 305 (maybe the last pitcher to win 300 games), a ten-time All-Star, won the NL Cy Young Award twice (1991 and 1998), and the Silver Slugger award as the best-hitting pitcher four times. He pitched the first Braves game I listened to in 1988, and if you had told me that he was a future Hall of Famer after that game, I’d have laughed at you. He was the winner in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series, which the Braves won four games to two over the Cleveland Indians. He now does analysis for Braves telecasts. Tom and I share a birthday (March 25).
  • Greg Maddux: There were many who considered Greg the greatest pitcher of all time. He won the NL Cy Young Award four consecutive times, from 1992 through 1995, an eight-time All-Star, and earned seventeen Gold Gloves. He won 355 games overall, 194 with the Braves, 133 with the Chicago Cubs. As such, he’ll be entered into the Hall without a team insignia on his cap.
  • Frank Thomas: Frank hit 448 of his 521 home runs with the White Sox, a team record. Primarily a designated hitter, he was AL MVP twice, earned the Silver Slugger four times, had a lifetime batting average of .301 and OPS of .974, and is one of the few recent players to walk more than he struck out (he only struck out over 100 times in a season three times). Frank is from Columbus, Georgia, and played baseball and football for Auburn. White Sox announcer gave him the nickname “The Big Hurt.”

THE MANAGERS

  • Bobby Cox: He led the Braves to 14 division titles, five NL pennants, and one World Series title from 1991 through 2005, and led the Toronto Blue Jays to a division title in 1985. In total, he won 2,504 games and lost 2,001 as a manager. He also managed to be thrown out of 163 games (162 regular-season and one postseason). Despite that, he was named AL Manager of the Year once and NL Managter of the Year three times. He had a brief career as a third baseman with the New York Yankees (1968-69) before bad knees ended it. He hit his first home run against Gary Peters of the White Sox in 1968. I never forgot that. I ran into Bobby at Starbucks one Sunday, and he is a truly nice man.
  • Tony LaRussa: Tony’s playing career spanned eleven seasons (1963-1973) but he only played 132 games in six major-league seasons in that span. Tony’s first major-league managerial job came in 1979, when he was hired as White Sox manager. The highlight of his eight years with the White Sox was winning a division title in 1983. That was the first time the White Sox went to the postseason since 1959, for which all of us White Sox fans will be eternally grateful. He was fired by the Sox in 1986 and hired almost immediately by the Oakland Athletics, who he led to four division titles, three AL pennants, and a World Series win. He left the A’s for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1996, and led them to seven division titles, three NL pennants, and two World Series wins, retiring after the second with a career record of 2,728 wins and 2,365 losses. He was named AL Manager of the Year three times and NL Manager of the Year once.
  • Joe Torre: Joe had the best playing career of the three managers, and some feel that he should have made the Hall as a player. in eighteen seasons, he had a batting average of .297 and an OPS of .817, hitting 252 home runs and driving in 1,185, was a nine-time All-Star and NL MVP in 1971. He played for the Braves from 1960-1968, the Cardinals from 1969-74, and the New York Mets from 1975-1977 as a catcher, third baseman and first baseman. He managed the Mets from 1977 to 1981, the Braves from 1982 to 1984 (winning one division title), the Cardinals from 1990 to 1995, the New York Yankees from 1996 to 2007 (winning ten division titles, six AL Championships, and four World Series), and the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2008 to 2010 (winning two division titles). In all, his record was 2,326 wins and 1,997 losses.

Congratulations to all of them!

Time Management Secret: “YES Makes Less” from “Writers In The Storm” (#blogboost)

Time-clock-clip-art

Jenny Hansen is one of my favorite bloggers; I know I’ve said that before, but it’s worth repeating. She has an excellent post on the Writers in the Storm blog about time management that is worth your while to read. She explains the phrase “Yes Makes Less.”

Go on over to Writers in the Storm and give it a read, and let me know what you think. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Picking on Facebook Again… (#blogboost)

Everybody here loves social media, right? And, if I had to guess, nearly everyone is on Facebook, right? Let me ask you a question, then…

Have you noticed that, the less time you spend on Facebook, the better you feel? I know I do. I signed off of Facebook on July 2, and except for a couple of times, mostly to research this post, I’ve stayed off. And probably will.

Why? It all has to do with some psychological experimentation they decided to conduct on a small segment of their users a while back. Evidently they were curious about seeing more positive or more negative updates caused people to post more or less frequently. So, rather than asking people if they’d like to participate in their experiment, they just sort of conducted it on 700,000 randomly-chosen users. The results of the experiment were published earlier this year.

Well, the crap hit the fan at the end of June, and on July 23, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, apologized… not for doing it, but for “poorly communicating” that they were doing it. It seems that, buried somewhere in the terms of service, Facebook has said that they can do this. They just never did a good job of telling people that. Oops.

It’s one thing to know that you’re part of a psychological experiment. When I took Psychology at Northwestern back in the paleolithic period, part of the deal was that you had to sign up to be a part of a certain number of experiments to pass the course. You knew that you were being experimented on. This is a different story: I don’t know if I was made a part of this experiment, and if so, which group I was assigned to. Like a lot of Americans, I have dysthymia. I don’t need some social media company deliberately manipulating what I see to make me feel better or worse. If someone was already depressed, how could this have made it worse? What if someone took their own life or harmed themselves or others so Facebook could see how to manipulate their newsfeed for advertisers?

I’m not naive enough to think that Amazon, Google, et al. aren’t using the things I do online to tailor the results I get based on what I’ve done in the past. I expect that. In the case of Amazon, I almost welcome it, other than the fact that they keep recommending Regency romance novels to me because Mary and I share the same account. What Facebook did is different: they deliberately pushed positive or negative news to people who didn’t know it was being pushed to them, all because they were afraid that too much negative stuff in your timeline might cause you not to use the service and that the advertisers who are paying big money for Facebook to push their ads might take their business elsewhere if people stop using Facebook.

This is why I don’t add a social media link for Facebook here. You see links for Twitter and Google+, but I refuse to add one for Facebook. I won’t be spending much time there anymore, anyway…

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