Photo Friday: Soft

(Click the picture for a larger, clearer image.)

Here's my entry for Photo Friday's "soft" challenge of either last week or the week before, depending on how you look at it. The current challenge (or the next challenge, or possibly the previous challenge) is "fancy." I haven't had time to do the rounds of the photo memes lately. That whole slightly crazy and sometimes stressful job search thing, you know? Even I'm bored of the topic, though, so I'm not going to post anything else about my job search. I promise.

Well, except to say that I got an offer. And that I accepted it. And that I'm happy and relieved and excited and terrified and worried and a little sick to my stomach. And that I start in one week and that it's a great job with great people (I think I met them all ... eight interviews!) at a great publishing company very close to my home. I might even be able to sneak home and walk the dog on my lunch hour, although I'm not going to try it right off the bat.

Boy, that creative visualization stuff really works, doesn't it?

You Know You're From Massachusetts When ...

I edited this list for length, accuracy and clarity and because there was a lot of crap about the Bulger brothers that I didn't agree with and also some crazy shit about the curse of the Bambino and hoping the Red Sox would win the World Series in this lifetime. What's up with that? Everything that's left on the list? Yeah, that's me to a T. (Get it? The T?)

You Know You're From Massachusetts When ...

* The person driving in front of you is going 70 mph and you are cursing him for going too slow.
* When ordering a tonic, you mean a Coke ... not quinine water.
* You consider driving around rotaries a sport.
* You know how to pronounce the names of towns like Worcester, Billerica, Haverhill, Barre and Cotuit.
* You have driven to New Hampshire on a Sunday in order to get beer.
* You know what they sell at a packie.
* You know at least one bar where you can get something to drink after last call.
* You can actually find your way around Boston -- even with the Big Dig.
* You've ever had Evacuation Day off from school or work.
* You know that Boston is a city of firsts, including the first gay prom and the first First Night.
* You know at least one guy named Sean, Pat, Whitey, Red, Bud or Seamus.
* You think the rest of the country owes you for Thanksgiving and Independence Day.
* You have never been to Cheers.
* When you say "wicked" you don't mean "evil."
* You own a "Yankees Suck" shirt or hat.
* You know the difference between a frappe and a milk shake.
* You went to Old Sturbridge Village, Plymouth Plantation (or both) on field trip in grammar school.
* You've been to Brimfield, home of the biggest outdoor antique market in the world.
* You pride yourself on the fact that you can drive to the woods, the mountains and the ocean ... all in one day.
* You know that Route 495 is some sort of strange weather dividing line.
* You know it's not "Nantasket."
* You do not recognize the letter "R" as a part of the English language.
* You've ever had to perform your accent by saying the phrase "I parked my car in Harvard Yard (and went across the street to the bar for a beer)."
* You've called something "wicked pissa."
* You have driven to either Rhode Island, New Hampshire or Vermont for a tattoo.
* You've slammed on your brakes to deter a tailgater.
* There's a Dunkin Donuts, ATM or CVS within eyeshot at all times.
* You keep an ice scraper and can of de-icer on the floor of your car ... year 'round.
* You know what candlepin bowling is.
* You've pulled out of a side street and used your car to block oncoming traffic so you can make a left.
* You've bragged about the money you've saved at The Christmas Tree Shop.

Get Your Own "You Know You're From" meme here.
[Via StuckHereWithNoTV]

A Wild Goodbye

Wild Women Outfitters, a locally-owned and operated business in Arlington, MA, is going out of business after 5 and a half years. Terry Austin, the store's owner, blamed the economy and competition from big business for the closing in an e-mail to customers today. The store had great active-wear and sporting gear and also ran fun seminars, author signings, and other events, as well as sponsoring fund-raisers for breast cancer research.

Sadly, I no longer live near the store, but I used to love going there. It's where I first learned about quick-drying underwear. So if I were to go hiking in the Alps or something, now I know I only need to pack two pairs: one to wear and one to wash and quick-dry. Who knew? Plus, how do you not like a store that caters to wild women?

I'm not sure what will happen with the website. But if you live near Arlington and have even a mildly active life, you should head down there see what you can get for 50% off. The doors close when the walls are bare. The address is 397 Massachusetts Ave. (877) 345-9453.

New(ish) Journalism

Should journalism schools forgo instruction on the inverted pyramid, ledes, nut graffs, objectivity and balance and instead teach students the new(ish) brand of on-line journalism (a la blogs)? Media Hack Adam L. Penenberg ponders the question for Wired News in "The New Old Journalism."

And speaking of new(ish) media, what do you think about Al Gore's new television network for the MTV generation, Current TV? Do you think it is going to be the next great thing, or a gigantic flop? Seems to me like there's not a lot of buzz about it. It also seems to me that there's a lot of exclamations on their home page. That's lame!

Harebrained is my Middle Name

During my career make-over, I've been using the Knock 'em Dead series of job-search books and have found them to be mostly helpful. I wouldn't copy any of the sample resumes or cover letters word-for-word, but they're good to generate ideas about content and for answers to questions about formatting. The Knock 'em Dead book about interviewing contained some good advice and reminders, too. Don't forget to smile. Don't forget to breathe. Don't smell. Don't ask about salary and benefits and sick days at the first meeting. And so on.

But a lot of what was in the book horrified me.

The sample questions in the book range from those that are simply ridiculous to ones that verge on hostility. Rate yourself on a scale of one to ten. In hindsight, what have you done that was a little harebrained? What would you say if I told you your presentation this afternoon was lousy? They're designed to throw you off balance, trip you, and expose your weaknesses while you lay helpless on the ground. But what's worse is that the book gives you all the answers, which you are supposed to recite whether or not they are true.

So, for example, if the interviewer asks you what sports you play, you are supposed to say you love all team sports. If you can't bring yourself to say that, the next best thing is to say that you enjoy duration sports such as long-distance running. Apparently, you are not supposed to say that sometimes you fall down for no discernible reason whatsoever.

I wouldn't want to work for anyone who would point to a yellow highlighter and say, "Sell me this pen." (That's an actual example from the book. And it's not just a question asked of candidates for sales positions.) And I wouldn't want to be the kind of person who would recite the sales pitch that they read in a book the night before.

An interview is hard enough without adding lies to the mix. And a scripted exchange in which both sides are testing and posturing and basically play-acting couldn't possibly result in finding the best candidate for the job or the best job for the candidate.

Yesterday I interviewed for an editorial position at a publishing company. The interview lasted three hours and I met with five different people. No one asked me to sell them a pen or asked what sports I play or tried to trick me into revealing my personal and professional weaknesses (not that I have any).

They did ask thoughtful questions that were clearly designed to test not just whether or not I'd be a good addition to their company, and whether or not I would do my job well, but whether or not I'd be happy there, if would be challenged and if I would be interested in growing with the company.

And that alone answered every question I had about working for them.

Creative Visualization

Do you believe in creative visualization? You know, the idea that you can make something happen by creating a vivid picture of it in your mind? My mom does. Of course, when you're an extremely creative person, your visualization has extra oomph.

This is my mom's vision of me at my new job, hunched over a computer, while my new bosses look on. They are so excited at how great I am that they are actually hugging each other with joy:

Let's hope it works, because I just transferred the last of my savings into my checking account.

Potty Shots

I get mad when people let their dogs poop on my lawn. I can't imagine how I would deal with this.

[via Your Town Tonight]

The End of a Dry Spell

It's said that Rockporters "drink wet and vote dry." But no more -- by a vote of 1,939 to 1,562 , Rockport residents voted to end the town's 150-year ban on alcohol yesterday.

I covered this issue when I was the Rockport town reporter for the Gloucester Daily Times, but I wasn't sure how yesterday's vote would turn out. I guess I was a little surprised. Rockport has a very strong and active business community, and Rockport is a tourist town after all. But most of Rockport's population is older, they far outnumber the business owners who live in town, they vote, and they tend to be conservative on this issue.

Then again, I haven't lived or worked in Rockport in about ten years -- of course things must have changed. I wonder if soaring real estate prices have caused a shift in the age of the population there. And if younger people are moving to town, you just know they aren't going to be as passionate about the town's alcohol ban as the old-timers they replaced.

I'd like to see the Times' take on it, but they're an afternoon paper, so they won't be out 'till later today. When they do publish, I'll post a link. Meanwhile, here are links to the Globe and Herald's stories on the historic vote.

Shift that Paradigm Outside of the Box

There's an interesting and well-written article in this Sunday's Globe by Kate M. Jackson about a supposed backlash against corporate jargon. I don't know if people are really going to give up on phrases like "win-win" and "get on the same page," though. Once words and phrases get a toehold in the English language its hard to, like, root them out, even if they are as stupid as "value-added" and "think outside the box." It almost seems like wishful thinking on the Globe's part. But maybe corporate America will pay attention to some of the finer points in the article. For example: using big words in order to sound smart usually achieves the exact opposite result.

There are some great quotes throughout the story. My favorite: "Copernicus's revelation that the Earth revolves around the sun brought about a paradigm shift ... Your revelation to outsource the payroll department probably shouldn't carry equal cachet." (Jon Warshawsky, co-author of "Why Business People Speak Like Idiots.")

Click here to read Jackson's article, "Buzzword backlash looks to purge jibba-jabba from corporate-speak."

The Dog Gets Girly

The kids who live two doors down from me are totally in love with the dog. Recently, they brought her a bag of presents, including some dog treats, a ball, and a cheerleader outfit.

What, you've never seen a dog with blond ponytails?

That Guy

It turns out the owner of The Atlantic Monthly, David G. Bradley, who told staffers when he bought the Boston-based literary magazine that he was "the man who is not moving The Atlantic to Washington," is that man after all. Ugh. How would you like to be a staffer at one of the nation's best magazines, with sweet editorial offices in the North End, and find out your boss is moving the company to Washington, DC? And, if you want to keep your job, you're moving, too? I lived in DC for a year and I cried every day. It's a nice place to visit, but ... Read about it in today's Globe, which has some interesting history about the magazine, and The New York Times (the Times requires registration).

[via MediaBistro]

Is It Spring Yet?

I've been having trouble with the Hello program, which I usually use to upload photos to Blogger, then I remembered (duh) that I can use Flickr to upload and post pictures, too. So to make up for the dearth of color around here of late, I offer these three pictures of the pussy willow tree in my side yard in all of its spectacular bloominess against yesterday's blue, blue sky.

Now it'll probably snow tonight.

Life is Just a Box of Lipstick

I wrote this back in February and submitted an excerpt to a contest in Glamour magazine. You were supposed to describe your first kiss. The prize was $400 worth of lipstick. It's actually probably a good thing I didn't win.

First Kiss
A secret spot, not far from home
And yet a world away we roamed
Side by side, his hand in mine,
Up wooded paths we slowly climbed.

We sat upon a rocky ledge
And swung our feet over the edge
And then our lips grazed quick and prim
My first kiss; the same for him.

I spoke my first thought in a rush
“Your lips are soft,” I said, and blushed
His blurted words made mine less dumb:
“And yours taste just like bubble gum.”

The Date That 8. New York

Oh, that Jennifer 8. Lee. It's not enough that she has a number for a middle name, insuring that her byline will always be noticed and recognized. It's not enough that she's made a stunning career for herself, landing a job as a staff reporter at the New York Times when she was 24. Twenty-four! OK, so she has her detractors. But that's only because she's so popular.

This latest Jenny 8. feat takes the cake: In an article for the Times, she coined the term "man date" to describe the awkward social situation that occurs when two straight men go on an outing that would be considered romantic if they were with a woman. Writes Lee:
Dining together across a table without the aid of a television is a man date; eating at a bar is not. Taking a walk in the park together is a man date; going for a jog is not. Attending the movie "Friday Night Lights" is a man date, but going to see the Jets play is definitely not.

"Sideways," the Oscar-winning film about two buddies touring the central California wine country on the eve of the wedding of one of them, is one long and boozy man date.
The man date. It's freaking perfect.

I wish I had an unusual name. If I did, I bet I'd be coining phrases for the New York Times by now.

Spring in New England

Ah, Spring. The earth smells fresh and musky as it thaws after a long, harsh winter. The crocuses and johnny jump-ups have pushed their pretty faces through the warm soil, seeking out the sun. The pussy willow in the side yard is already in full bloom, its soft little brown buds exploding into yellow puffs of fluff. The grass turned from mostly brown to almost green overnight. And the snow is drifting down in big, fat, lazy flakes.

That's right: I said snow.

But Not Funny Ha-Ha

You know what's funny? When you spend a week (or more) obsessing over your resume and clips, fretting over what kind of paper to use, making sure everything looks just right and then making three trips to the photocopy center to make a few hundred photocopies and then seeing the very job you want advertised in the classified section of the very paper you want to work for ...

And they only accept electronic applications.

24-Hours Later: A Short Story

This weekend I participated in the Writers Weekly 24-hour short story contest. You sign up, pay $5, and on the day of the contest, at noon central time, they send you a topic/prompt and a word count. Then you have 24 hours to write and submit your story.

The word count was short, just 1,100 words, and I wrote the story in about four hours yesterday afternoon. I'm waiting for my brain to wake up so I can give it one more read before I submit it today. I won't win (I never do) so when the winners are announced a month from now and I'm not one of them, I'll post my story here.

I enjoyed the exercise and I'm pleased with my story. Having the deadline (and having spent five bucks, after all) really made me focus. God knows I love a deadline. I don't know how I get anything done without one.

To sign up for the summer contest, click here. Participation is limited to 500 people and the contest always fills up, so grab a spot if you want one.

I Was Told There Wouldn't be any Math

I have this recurring dream, that tends to recur whenever I'm feeling uncertain about my future. In the dream, I find out that I never actually graduated high school, and I have to go back to finish one last class. No matter how hard I try, I always end up failing.

Sometimes it's because I forget to go to class and suddenly it's the last week of the semester and there's no way I can make up the work. Sometimes it's because I forget to study and my grade depends on passing one final test for which I am unprepared. Sometimes I fail because I can't understand the material. Sometimes I just get lost and can't find either the school or the way to the classroom.

Last night I dreamed I failed high school because someone murdered me and my teacher didn't think that was a good enough reason for turning in my assignment late.

The dream always ends the same way: with me deciding that I don't care if I never finish high school, I'm not taking effing algebra ever again.

Good Source

I want to plug this great site that I found through Bumps and Bruises called Ask the Recruiter. It's written by Joe Grimm, recruiter at the Detroit Free Press and offers all kinds of solid advice about print journalism careers. It's worth a look, as is Grimm's JobsPage, which has a ton of resources and advice on everything from clips to newsroom politics to improving your writing.

Even if you're not interested in writing jobs (in which case, wow, this blog has been really boring for you the past week or so) check out "Job-Interview B.S. Bingo." Because B.S. is totally universal.


Does anyone out there know if people still use fancy resume paper? The thick creamy cotton fiber paper just looks a little stuffy to me, especially since my clips are printed on plain white paper. I have bright white inkjet paper that's 24 pounds or a 22 pound all-in-one paper that's a more subtle white. What do you think?

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog

I've been telling my mom she should do a painting of the dog, mostly because I really wanted one, but also in part because I know it's annoying to tell an artist what she should paint. I'm kind of fresh that way.

But look -- she did it. And it's a sweet little painting, too. I'm going to hang it right in my front hallway so you see it as soon as you walk in the door.

In these pictures, the painting isn't finished yet. She's checking the dog's markings and deciding where to position the dog's legs. I'll post another picture when it's done.

"I'm Breezy"

So yesterday afternoon, feeling confident because my clips and resume are finally done and looking stellar, I decide to start making phone calls to local editors to chat them up a bit, see if they're looking for anyone, and to make sure I've got their names spelled right. I decided to start with the easiest phone call: to a paper I used to work for and an editor I used to work with. I got his voice mail and left what was, at the start at least, a halfway normal message.

And then realized I couldn't remember my phone number.

Arts and Crafts Session

I am almost finished with my clips (the packet of stories that you send out when looking for a job as a reporter). There are a few last wrinkles that I have to iron out before sending them out, though. One is that almost all of the clips I chose are news stories. And a disproportionate number are breaking news stories.

There's two reasons that so many of my best clips are newsy. One is that I like writing hard news and breaking news stories. But the other is that feature stories are harder to turn into clips because they tend to be bigger. The one I'd most like to use takes up almost a whole broadsheet page and I'm struggling with how best to shrink it down to fit on 8 1/2 by 11 sheets of paper.

If I only had to worry about a resume and cover letter, I could have applied to the local papers two weeks ago. In fact, I'd probably be working by now. Instead, I'll be spending the day on what basically amounts to an arts and crafts project, complete with scissors, scraps of paper and no-wrinkle rubber cement. And then another trip (my third) to the Staples photocopy center.

But, thank goodness, the end is in sight. I finished my resume this morning. Next step: phone calls and cover letters.

Fifty Words: Open Season

This week's Fifty Words challenge is up. I'm basically letting people submit whatever the hell they want this week. If I get the same response that I got last week, I'm going to chalk it up to a good idea that just didn't work and move on to bigger and better things. Or at least different things.