Monday, December 19, 2005

'Tis the season

...for company Christmas parties!

To do:

1. Sip your wine like a lady.

2. Make sure you're dressed appropriately. Show off that new red top you just bought... it's not lowcut, it's flattering.

3. Greet your coworkers with a smile and a salutation. Something cheesy like "Happy Holidays!", cliche though it is, is acceptable.

4. Mingle, and spend a little time talking to everyone, especially those you don't see around the office too often.

5. Collect drink tickets. (Cannot believe this isn't open bar...)

6. For dinner, sample a little bit of everything to really develop your palate.

7. Enjoy the card trick guy's act.

8. Politely excuse yourself when you need to use the ladies'.

9. Listen politely during the company owner's speech.

10. At the end of the evening, bid goodnight to your fellow coworkers.

To regret the morning after:

1. Failure to refrain from grandiose hand gestures while holding a full glass of wine.

2. Err in judgment on the line that divides 'lowcut' from 'flattering,' and the newly-developed weird grins and poor eye contact from Ted down the hall.

3. In a drunken attempt to not be cliche, started greeting everyone with "Rowr" and the occasional "Me-yow."

4. Spent most of the night in a heated argument about the relative benefits of comb vs. spiral binding with that guy from that department that... actually, come to think of it, he might've been one of the waiters.

5. Used all the collected drink tickets.

6. Ate half of someone else's dinner after failing to notice that own plate got knocked off the table.

7. While the card trick guy was doing his act, started chanting "bullshit... bullshit..."

8. Wandered into the men's bathroom; mistook urinal for purseholder.

9. Heckled the company owner during his speech.

10. Last one to be forcefully ejected from the restaurant, and unsuccessful in finding out if there was an afterparty despite asking incessantly during the last half hour.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

How Working on the Client Side Can Jump-Start Your Career

A job with an established manufacturing or retail company is an excellent way to start your climb to the top! In such an organization, there will be set infrastructures and processes to provide you support and education as you take those first uncertain steps along your career path. Sure, the learning curve is steep, but as soon as you learn how it's always been done, and that breaking from tradition is frowned upon, you'll have no problem navigating your new "office space."

One of the most important lessons to learn is that of responsibility. You'll be informed, regularly, possibly even daily, of how your job (or potential loss thereof) contributes to the bottom line. If you're in marketing, you might be responsible for managing communication with an ad agency to generate effective marketing materials. This means you can boss them around and make them say "How high?" every time you say "Jump." Every time! But remember that responsibility can be taken lightly or not at all; one of the benefits of the many-tiered bureaucracy of which you are now a part is what's known as "passing the buck." Should you ever be accused of any sort of wrongdoing, simply blame your boss, or the ad agency, or the drugs. You'll get nothing more than a slap on the wrist, guar-an-teed!

And let's not forget the wide world of office politics! Staying late to work on a presentation for the VP is almost as important as making sure Susie's presentation deck includes a picture or two of her making out with the copy boy at the Christmas party. That's called getting an edge on the competition. And Mark, in accounting, who cut your budget last year? An anonymous tip about some illicit internet videos that mysteriously appeared on his hard drive should do the trick. It's all part of playing the game. A rumor here, an "accidental" reply-all email there, and now you're playing to win!

In sum, working at a large company is a great way to start learning the skills you need for a successful career. The 9-to-5, the water cooler, and the Casual Friday are all a part of moving on to that next life stage. Good luck!

Friday, November 25, 2005

My new favorite holiday

I have to admit, while growing up, Thanksgiving always paled in comparison with Christmas. Thanksgiving signified hand outlines that were forced into looking like turkeys, or dressing up like pilgrims and trying to navigate the historical difference between the Mayflower and Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria (FYI: of course I know now that Columbus discovered the New World on the Mayflower. That's how he met Pocahontas. Duh.) At best, it meant four days off, and at worst, it meant I had to spend those four days studying (or at least telling people I was studying) for all the finals that stood in the way of me and two whole weeks off for Christmas.

It's kind of inevitable that Thanksgiving always got overlooked. It didn't really convey much benefit beyond those four days and the vague promise of turkey and stuffing, which usually got lost in the shuffle of the family vacations we always took for that weekend. But Christmas, now: two weeks off from school, one of them spent skiing, the other devoted to enjoying all the new stuff we got for Christmas, or anticipating that enjoyment. And Christmas itself, and all the trappings: the decorations, the family traditions, the egg nog, and all the family that came over to enjoy the turkey and stuffing that my mom always cooked at Christmas (and she's no slouch of a cook, I look forward to that meal all year).

But how our priorities change. That meager four days off for Turkey Day is the longest vacation I've had in months, and is all the more remarkable in that I don't have to use any of my vacation time from work. My parents don't always leave town anymore, and so I got my fill of homemade turkey and stuffing (and gravy) yesterday. Plus it was my dad's birthday, and as much as I love pumpkin pie, I won't even give it the time of day if there's cake to be had. (Then again, it's hard to really enjoy your cake when you're that full of the aforementioned turkey and stuffing.) All this followed by three glorious days of nothing. Most weekends aren't much of a source of rest or relaxation because I spend Saturday still being stressed about Friday and then spend Sunday stressing out over Monday. But this weekend, I can devote an entire day to lying on a couch (today) and another day to doing something slightly more active (tomorrow) and then decide which of the two I like better (lying on a couch) and do that Sunday. And I'll finish the weekend feeling both productive and rested, whereas normally, the two are mutually exclusive.

Let's compare this with what Christmas is going to look like. I'll get the Monday after Christmas off, so I'll have a three-day weekend, but Saturday will be spent (let's face it) frantically buying and wrapping presents for people, Sunday will be Christmas Day and kind of interesting in that it'll be the first Christmas where I don't wake up in the same house as the rest of my family (we have a whole tradition centered around waking up, having egg nog/hot cocoa/hot cider together while we open our stockings, then breakfast, then opening presents... I imagine it'll lose something if I have to make a point to show up at a given time, wearing street clothes vs everyone else in PJs). Monday will likely be spent on my couch in a food coma, stressing out about how much work I'll have to get done on Tuesday given that I'll be taking the rest of the week off to head to Phoenix for a wedding. I'm starting to see why some people find the holidays to be so depressing.

Verdict: Turkey rules, Santa drools.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

More wallowing in 'Yay me'-ness

(because if you can't do it on your own blog, where can you?)

1. The company owner and president was not supposed to announce my promotion Friday. I guess he was just too excited for me and couldn't hold back.

2. New official title will be Account Executive. This rocks. Here's why: in the post where I talk about my initial interview (and bet myself I can get promoted in 4 months), the CFO said that one could expect to be promoted to Assistant Account Executive after 6 months. I get to skip a grade! (again--gotta love us RHPers)

3. My raise is proportionate to the number of rungs I'm climbing. Am very excited that my income is starting to exit the 'paying my dues' bracket.

...that being said, it is now past midnight and I'm still working on a client-requested presentation. I did take some time out to go to chorus rehearsal and stop at the market to get myself carrots for the anticipated stress munching, but still. 12-hour+ days suck.

being said, I'm totally billing the time I took to write this post to the client.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Local Employee Misses Announcement of Own Promotion

WOODLAND HILLS, CA--Adrienne Graves, a former account coordinator at a local direct marketing agency, was not present Friday when the company owner and president announced her promotion to basically everyone else.

"We have a staff meeting every month for birthdays and bonuses, and since a. neither applied to me and b. it's just a good idea for me to stay away from cake, I didn't really see a reason to leave the meeting I was in and go."

Despite Ms. Graves' error in judgment, she managed to smile and say thank you when she received congratulations from people who had actually been present, because "like, that's just what you do, even if you have no idea what they're talking about."

When asked if she had already known about the promotion, in which case one would think she'd have had the good sense to attend the meeting so she could at least brag about it to a larger audience, Adrienne replied, "I kind of knew it was coming, but my boss was out of town and hadn't said anything and I figured it wouldn't become official until the following week."

Ms. Graves has worked in the capacity of account coordinator since she started her job four and a half months ago, and is looking forward to the slightly more respectable title of whatever comes next.

"I doubt the day-to-day work will change too much, because we're hiring on an account coordinator to do the stuff I don't have time to do now. I'll totally get to boss them around though. Sweet."

Upon being asked additional questions, Ms. Graves started getting irritable and said, "Look, it's already past six on a Friday and I've gotta give comments on these concepts, okay? Go away."

Looks like it's going to the bitch's head already.

In all seriousness, yay! I got a promotion! And I wasn't too far off when I bet myself I'd make it in four months. Don't have details like new title, raise, etc., though I have my suspicions and definitely have my own ideas about what they should be. I find all that out next week during an official review process (scary).

Meanwhile, celebration plans look something like this:

(photo courtesy of this friggin' awesome website... don't be fooled by the german)

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Yesterday's game has to be the most intense I've ever been to. EVER. I'm going to have post-traumatic stress flashbacks every time time I see clips of USC playing Notre Dame until forever. Let's have a quick look at what these will entail:

Standing (no one sits) in the Notre Dame student section, wearing bright red USC gear that made us an easy target for all the Irish surrounding us. That and our lone cheers and screaming every time USC made a good play.

Complete shock over the fact that we were trailing most of the game, compounded by a sudden burst of penalties the likes of which we haven't seen since the days of Paul Hackett.

A raging battle between hope and fear, each to such a degree that it's a wonder I didn't spontaneously combust.

The whole 4th quarter, with the entire stadium on its feet, screaming at the top of its lungs no matter what happened.

The end of the 4th quarter: the clock running out, Notre Dame rushing the field, standing there believing we'd lost, and then watching it all happen all over again but with a different ending, and not being able to believe we'd won, then seeing the flag thrown and believing again that we'd lost, and then missing the extra point, and then standing there for the kickoff to Notre Dame in the final 3 seconds of the game convinced they were going to run it back for a touchdown and take our victory away again.

I can't handle shit like this. I'd still be in shock now if I weren't so hung over.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Gonzaga Karma, or, How I Got My Ticket to the USC-Notre Dame Game

I find it somewhat ironic that, now that I'm back living in LA and could theoretically go to every USC home game, the first game I'll be going to this season will be... back in the Midwest. Despite the best of intentions, a stressful job and lack of cable have conspired to keep me relatively in the dark when it comes to, well, current events of any sort (Supreme Court, what? Is that like a new Taco Bell menu item or something?) and the life and times of Pete Carroll in particular. I never know if games are home or away, if we're playing someone who might be worth paying attention to or not. And the quality of my trash talk when it comes to Pac-10 rival coworkers has suffered considerably. Comebacks now uniformly consist of a very forceful "So?!"

But no matter; I'm headed for Chicago next weekend, and will attend the USC-Notre Dame game all decked out in my USC gear, along with Brendan and Becky... the three of us will make a nice-sized red target in the green and yellow Irish student section. (I'll show you team spirit.)

Next week's brush with death comes courtesy of what I'm convinced is Gonzaga karma. Brendan has been a fan of Gonzaga's basketball team for years (and I have to admit that I would be too if I cared at all about basketball... I picked them to make it into the Elite Eight in a random pool back in high school because I thought they had a funny name: that was the year they won). And thus he has his share of Gonzaga gear to show his support, and asked me to pick him up something from the school, if I had the chance, while I was passing through Spokane on my way back to LA from Chicago back in May. And I did, and had planned to give it to Brendan next time I saw him. Am glad I didn't get him a t-shirt, because he already has one--at the beginning of this school year he became friends with an ND 1-L who was a Gonzaga alumna because she saw him in the t-shirt. And it turns out that she's the one I'm getting my ticket from.

Next weekend promises to be a good one (if I can stay awake for it--am taking the red eye on Thursday night and it includes a 4-hour layover in Vegas). I'll be at the Notre Dame game (and ESPN College Gameday, if the rumors are true), I'll see my friend Meredith's brand new baby, Roxanne Helen (the Helen is in homage to fellow Trojans Doug and Meredith's alma mater... if it was a boy he was was going to have Troy as a middle name), I'll get to see some of my grad school friends and I'll be back in my favorite city in the world.

...That is, if my roommate doesn't kill me when she gets back from her weekend climbing trip and sees the mess I made of our apartment in my attempt to paint my bedroom. (Am considering just leaving the primer and calling it a day.) DIY my ass.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

FireWatch 2005

News headlines like that make me wish that broadcast journalism would fuse with reality TV so that reporters aren't just watching the damn fire, but competing with other networks in structured little games like "Who can assemble a firehose and put out a campfire fastest" and "Who can keep a straight face the longest". Viewers could text message their votes for most white trash interviewee, which is announced at the end of the broadcast and accompanied by the presentation of an "I'm #1" wifebeater to the winner. I mean, journalism in this country could use a bit of sensationalism--how could the population at large possibly be expected to follow something that's, like, all serious and stuff?

But I'm watching anyway, largely because I noticed smoke (which I first took to be a rain cloud that was, um, coming out of the ground) out my office window yesterday. When I did figure out that it was a fire, I still dismissed it: we have firefighters to handle things like that. It was when I was driving to work this morning that I remembered that I live in Southern California, prey to the apparently arsonist Santa Ana winds, which had blown a huge plume of smoke all over the west end of the valley. A number of people at work had been evacuated late the night before, and the air outside got darker as the day progressed. By 4 o'clock, the outdoor patio smelled like a barbecue (note: there is no barbecue on the patio) and there was a distinct glow that looked like a nice orange sunset at first glance... until we realized that the sun doesn't set in the north. There were rumors running rampant that people wouldn't be able to get home because of road closures, or there wouldn't be a home to go back to at all because the fire was practically across the street, or that anyone who wanted to go loot the Target down the street should meet at 7 on the third floor. (Regretfully, I couldn't make it, but did put in a request for the Lost Season 1 DVDs, if anyone happened to wander through that section.)

I remember hearing about the fires last year, with the polluted air, the ash raining down, and (what no one mentioned but am sure was the case) the pervasive smell of charcoal. I was hoping the Westside would be smoke-free but no such luck. I was looking forward to sailing to Catalina this weekend, but a radar image (or whatever) showed the smoke being blown in a straight line from the fires to Catalina Island. If that wind holds to get us over to the island quickly, I'll try to make peace with it, but seriously, I don't think it's too much to ask for a little fresh air 24 miles out to sea.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Life after Katrina

While a mention here pales in comparison to Brendan's coverage, I've been reading all these stories about the anarchy that's taken hold of New Orleans (and, I'm sure, other hard-hit areas where there are enough people left alive to make each other's lives hell) and the questions that are beginning to surface about the future of the city. Will they rebuild? Starting when? Can the city ever become even a shadow of what it was a week ago today? I don't know the answers to any of these questions, or am even able to surmise an educated guess, but I do think that history is instructive, and came across an excellent article (subscription required...always is for the good stuff) in the WSJ that outlined 4 other such disasters and the aftermath. What follows is a wee bit of plagiarism:

1871 Chicago Fire

Whether Mrs. O'Leary's cow really kicked over the lamp that started the whole thing or not is still a matter of debate. But the fact is that somewhere near the O'Leary barn on the evening of Oct. 8, 1871, a small fire became a big fire that became an out-of-control conflagration. It had been a dry fall, and Chicago firefighters were already stretched thin. By the end of the next day, the city's "burnt district," as it became known, covered a swath four miles long and about three-quarters of a mile wide.

The fire killed perhaps 300 people, destroyed 18,000 buildings, left 100,000 Chicagoans without homes and caused some $3.2 billion in damages, at today's prices. Half of the city had insurance, but only half of those actually got paid from their policies.

Smallpox and cholera spread in an atmosphere of poor sanitation, close living and filthy water. "The city is infested with a horde of thieves, burglars and cut-throats, bent on plunder, and who will not hesitate to burn, pillage and even murder, as opportunity may seem to offer them to do so with safety," the Chicago Evening Journal advised the day after the fire, according to an essay published by the Chicago Historical Society.

[An artist's rendition of the Chicago fire of 1871 as people flee downtown.]
An artist's rendition of the Chicago fire of 1871 as people flee downtown.

The authorities declared martial law, and Lt. Gen. Philip Sheridan, the Civil War hero and a Chicago resident, led troops in to help preserve "the good order and peace of the city," in the words of Mayor Roswell B. Mason.

Yet almost as soon as the embers had cooled, Chicago business leaders deployed to New York to persuade investors that this was the time to put more of their money into Chicago, not less. Peter Alter, curator of the Chicago Historical Society, recounts the story of William D. Kerfoot, a real-estate speculator whose offices had burned. The day after the fire was extinguished, Mr. Kerfoot erected a crudely made painted sign: "All Gone But Wife, Children and Energy."

The stockyards had been spared the flames, as had much of the city's heavy industry. "Five years will give Chicago more men, more money, more business, than she would have had without this fire," John Stephen Wright, one of the city's most vocal boosters, said at the time, according to the Chicago Historical Society.

He proved prophetic. Chicago, on the shores of Lake Michigan, was a crucial crossroads of agriculture and industry, too valuable to give up. By the end of the decade Chicago was bigger and better than before. The city had a population of roughly 300,000 before the fire. In 1880 it was home to half a million.

"Chicago was both built and rebuilt so quickly because the rest of the national and international economy needed it so badly," says Carl Smith, a professor of English, American Studies and History at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. The rebuilding accelerated the division of the city into commercial and residential districts, and hurried the adoption of fire-resistant building materials. The city grew so quickly that many of the buildings put up after the fire were torn down within a couple of decades to make way for the new skyscrapers.

1906 San Francisco Earthquake

When the last fire was extinguished after the San Francisco earthquake of April 1906, survivors emerged from their makeshift shelters to find three-quarters of their city in ruins. All telephone and telegraph communications had ceased. There was little water for drinking.

[A man photographs the ruins of a building following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.]
A man photographs the ruins of a building following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

The railroads had been destroyed; the port was completely blocked by debris. Few, if any, hotels, restaurants or caf├ęs survived, and 300,000 people were homeless. Banks were closed, and would remain so for a month. Despite martial law, looters roamed the streets, and the mayor ordered them to be shot on sight.

"As regards industrial and commercial losses, the conditions are appalling," wrote Victor H. Metcalf, secretary of labor and commerce, in a report to President Roosevelt. "Not only have the business and industrial houses and establishments of one-half million people disappeared, leaving them destitute financially and their means of livelihood temporarily gone, but the complicated system of transportation indispensable to them has been almost totally destroyed."

Yet there was never any doubt, among either the survivors or their elected officials, that San Francisco would be rebuilt. Indeed, just five days after the earthquake, California's governor, George Pardee, told a reporter, "The work of rebuilding San Francisco has commenced, and I expect to see the great metropolis replaced on a much grander scale than ever before."

San Francisco's mayor, Eugene E. Schmitz, quickly appointed a group of local businessmen, lawyers and journalists, known as the Citizens' Committee of Fifty, to organize the recovery. In the first days and weeks after the disaster, that meant trying to feed, clothe and shelter survivors while raising money to repair the city's infrastructure. Private citizens from across America pledged $10 million, as well as train cars full of goods. The federal government voted to give the city $2.5 million, and Japan and Canada contributed to the relief fund. New bond issues were authorized, and Eastern financiers were encouraged to buy about $14 million of previously authorized but unsold municipal bonds.

Engineers, contractors and draftsmen were recruited from other parts of the country, and the city began trying to buy all the lumber, cement and glass it could find. Temporary structures were erected in several centrally located squares for use by architects, transportation and insurance officials and lawyers.

Labor unions quickly convened to mourn their lost members -- and set rules for the coming boom. The painters' union, for example, suspended many of its trade rules: "No overtime will be allowed; straight time for night or Sunday work. The brothers are requested to be satisfied with eight hours' work and give unemployed brothers a chance." Members of the Plumbers, Gas and Steam Fitters' Union, 80% of whom said they had lost their tools, voted to volunteer their services; about 500 plumbers worked around the clock for more than a week repairing broken pipes.

Obviously, all did not go smoothly in the three years it took to rebuild San Francisco. There were complaints of red tape and poor coordination among relief agencies. Unscrupulous building contractors installed new foundations made of mud rather than cement.

Some public officials, including some from the citizens committee, or "boodle board," as it was nicknamed, funneled donations into their own pockets. Yet just three months later, in July 1906, the St. Francis Hotel Annex re-opened, and hundreds of buildings were under construction.

Charles B. Sedgwick, editor of a newspaper called the British-Californian, described the resilience of the people of San Francisco the day after the earthquake. "Men and women came to see what was going on, gazed about in blank astonishment for a few moments, then went their way as though nothing extraordinary was transpiring," he wrote. "It was this indifference, or philosophical resignation to the inevitable, that struck me as the most marvelous thing in connection with the great tragedy. This, and the ease and quickness with which people grew accustomed to the changed conditions."

In both the Chicago Fire of 1871 and the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, people were left in similar situations immediately following: no water, no plumbing, no place to live, and no one to protect them from the looters who saw an opportunity and grabbed it. In both instances martial law was instituted and citizens set about the business of recovery as fast as they were able. Even now that's what's happening in New Orleans: no one's giving up. No one is leaving those stranded to their fate. No one is talking about farewell ceremonies in honor of a city that once was. All anyone is doing is talking about ways to help this city get back on its feet, what steps need to be taken and how to obtain the resources in order to do so. Everything is a mad scramble right now, but it was never going to be anything else. This is just how the first step goes.

The Onion never lets me down

Not only have they come to see the error in their ways and are making access to the archives free again, but they have a slick new look and one of those new-fangled "blog" thingies. And this week's lead story is tailor-made for my inner-SEM geek: "Google Announces Plan to Destroy All Information It Can't Index."

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Still alive

I realize it's been a little while since I've posted anything here--the truth is, it's been awhile since I've spent a significant amount of time online at all. My flakiness with respect to returning emails is bordering on egregious, I've fallen completely out of touch with pop culture and current events, and the only reason I'm even aware of what month it is is because of the scheduling I'm involved with at work. (We're getting behind schedule to mail something in November.)

So what do I have to say for myself? What enthralling experiences and neverending series of parties and elite cocktail receptions have I been attending? How far along am I in my marathon training? How many performances have I given locally and how many more are being scheduled for my nationwide tour? Because clearly I'm so busy that there's no way I could tear myself away to give my dear readers some idea of what they're missing, or a vicarious conversation or two with captains of industry or even a couple A-list entertainment personalities.

The sad truth of the matter is, there hasn't really been anything noteworthy enough to warrant a post. The details of my day-to-day life are mind-numbingly boring, and I can't really talk much about my job here, but not to worry--that's mind-numbingly boring, too.

Let's say I were to post here regularly: every so often I'd include some tidbit from the online marketing and advertising industry, because I've picked up reading about it again (I get about 20 daily emails in my inbox at work from various marketing sources)--I might mention a cool marketing ploy like the one at (click on the British flag), or talk about a new development in the search engine marketing (SEM) industry, like Google launching an instant messaging program. And once I've been reading these periodicals long enough, I might even be able to cough up an actual opinion now and again as to what's going on, how it fits into the grander scheme of things, what we can look forward to in the future, etc. etc.

But there's a reason why I don't have those opinions, why I don't read up on what's going on, and why I don't post it here: every day I get up and spend close to an hour driving to work, and spend the day there in something of a mad scramble to get things done and look responsible and stuff while I do it so I don't have to think about the fact 11 hours out of my day are dictated by my job (that's including my lunch hour, which you just can't really enjoy if you know you need to get back to work). And that when I get home I'm at a loss for what to do, because I'm too tired to really put much effort into anything. (Am really looking forward to the fall season starting on TV, that'll mix things up a little.) Particularly not doing stuff online, as I spend most of my day looking at a computer screen. What's different about today? I spent part of the day home sick; I left to go to a client meeting, so it's not like I had the day off, but I didn't put in 8 hours of making charts and sending emails and writing up change orders.

That's not to say that nothing's happened in the last couple months. Around mid-July, I was moved to a new account and a new manager at work: instead of working on 3-4 different accounts, all of them business-to-business, I'm now dedicated to working full-time on the agency's biggest account. Happily, this account is a well-known company that mails massive amounts to consumers every month, and we're tasked with coming up with new creative and new strategies every month, and my boss always allows me a chance to contribute if I want/am able to. Earlier this week she asked if I had any ideas for a contact strategy to reduce churn, so I wrote up a quick one for her. To me, this is very exciting. I have access to almost as much information as she does, and cannot tell you how much I have come to value the agency's overall attitude that information wants to be free. This is the first place I've ever worked where things have seemed so open.

Outside of work, there have been a couple of out-of-town jaunts to Vegas and San Francisco; I got myself a gym membership; I've joined a choral group called the West Coast Singers (1st rehearsal is September 12th); I had a particularly awesome weekend last weekend that involved partying till 5 am and then getting up the next day to go sailing, which has prompted plans to join the Women's Sailing Association of Santa Monica Bay on September 13th (and possibly attend Buccaneer Days at the end of September). My car now has only 2 (out of 6) working windows: thankfully, the a/c is fully functional and kicks ass.

That's about it in a nutshell; I will try to post proof of my continuing existence on a more regular basis.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Even the Swiss Army is geeky

A friend once commented that the fact that Swiss Army knives included tweezers was an argument for men plucking their eyebrows (Swiss Army knives as reflecting the cultural shift to metrosexuality... though I doubt tweezers are a recent addition). Well, if Swiss Army knives do in fact augment their offerings to support all possible manly pursuits, then sitting at a computer and typing (or whatever) now fits the bill. Behold, the swissmemory 1GB (also available in 'flight' versions that don't include airport security-confiscable knives).

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


I know I haven't posted anything about it because current events have never really been my forte, but I did hear about the London bombings the morning they happened, and was completely shocked and saddened to hear about them, the more so in contrast with the happy announcements about the 2012 Olympics the day before. I know that was probably what the timing was supposed to accomplish, and it worked, and it's depressing to think that joyous occasions like that in the future will be slightly tainted by the fear of retribution from people who simply don't want us to be happy.

The interesting thing about these bombings, though, is that people throughout our country felt their effect, and yet we've lost no time in turning an analytical eye on what happened and what the reaction was etc. etc. There was no such dialogue (none that sounded rational, anyway) so soon after September 11th, and in the aftermath of two attacks, now, I've heard a few things that have given me pause.

The first is in how people reacted to this event. In London, public transit was shut down, but there were several stories on how people were attempting to simply carry on, walking to and from work or school instead, and getting up and doing it over again the next day. There were quotes from people who took comfort in the fact that their country had survived worse from WWII and IRA bombings. It was as if there was that sudden intake of breath from the shock of the event and then a slow exhalation, and then everything went on as it had.

And unlike what happened during the IRA bombings, our country reacted too with that same sharp intake of breath. And there are a few reasons for it: it's a major bombing in another Westernized country, one that we feel particularly close to. It was coordinated. It was unforeseen. And most of all, it could've been us. When I first heard the news, I felt a tinge of guilt. Not just because I was so sad that this had happened after a day of celebration, but because I felt they had drawn this attack because of their involvement with us. I don't follow the news closely enough (or at all, beyond what I read on Brendan's website--I'm exceptionally well-informed about Gulf Coast weather) to have sorted out what I do and don't know and what my position is, and so I take my rather vague cue from the occasional LA Times headline and Hollywood liberal conversation, and sort of think at the back of my mind that we almost deserve terrorist acts here because of the war in Iraq. (Which I disagree with upon further scrutiny, but such scrutiny doesn't always take place.)

I also ran across this editorial in the New York Times, which made me stop and think for a moment. Thomas Friedman writes that the Muslim world needs to take action in its own self-interest, or rather the interest of Muslims already living in Western societies (a vast minority: 23 million live in the EU, we'll assume the same for the U.S., and after rounding up to 50 million, that's still less than 4%). Either they need to do their own policing, or we'll do it for them, in the form of ostracizing them. While this is certainly a good plan from our perspective, I wonder if they will feel the same way. The Muslim world is hardly encouraging terrorism as it is, though I don't know if they could be said to be condoning it (I tend not to think so). Out of 1.3 billion people, no matter how strongly the Islamic culture discourages it, you're still going to get a few who disagree, and unfortunately, that's all it takes.

On a somewhat unrelated note: Oliver Stone is making a movie about September 11th. I know I wasn't as profoundly affected by 9/11 as some, and even I feel that this is offensive. I don't care who the director is (and there are plenty who feel Stone is a particularly bad choice), the scope of that day cannot be captured in a two-hour film starring Nicholas Cage and the attempt to do so cheapens it and that is unacceptable.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Blog + Job search = More Job Searching

I finally got back to my good ol' web surfing habits (I should really click on the links in my sidebar more often, there's a reason I put them there in the first place) and found this article on job searchers with blogs, this one written from the employer's perspective. I've written on this before because I found the idea of one's online activity affecting one's offline activity to be an interesting one: people frequently feel freed to act how they want online simply because they assume there's no connection between those two worlds unless it's specifically created, in which case they believe they have control over it. Also I thought it more than usually relevant to me. But this particular article does an excellent job of outlining why blogs are a liability for those looking for a job. It's written by a professor on a committee looking to hire a new faculty member (pay attention Tom). Since blogs are gaining in popularity, academia is probably reflecting that in disproportionate amounts, and a number of the job candidates had blogs. No one was eliminated due to the blog alone, but they got dinged for any one of the following reasons:
  • They revealed an intense interest in something other than what they were being hired for, thus raising questions of loyalty and investment
  • They pose the potential threat of indiscretion in a public forum that could adversely affect the department or institution
  • They show evidence (or are linked to by a friend's blog that shows evidence) of previous questionable activities
  • They simply provide too much information about the candidate's personal life. Favorite quote:
    "It would never occur to the committee to ask what a candidate thinks about certain people's choice of fashion or body adornment, which countries we should invade, what should be done to drivers who refuse to get out of the passing lane, what constitutes a real man, or how the recovery process from one's childhood traumas is going. But since the applicant elaborated on many topics like those, we were all ears."
I think that last bullet is the most interesting, and most indicative of the split between online and offline. In the offline interview process, there are certain rules that must be adhered to. One must put one's best foot forward and hide everything else until the relationship has reached a point where it becomes appropriate to share more: so it is with most human interactions. It's thought of as rude, or gauche, or downright weird to share more about yourself than those with whom you're sharing this information are willing to share themselves, or even listen to in the first place. And yet online, many feel at liberty to ignore this convention and give free rein to, if not all, then a fair number of the thoughts that enter their head. But perhaps this is something that needs to change, unless one is conscientious enough to make sure that the divide between online and offline is complete.

In my own case, what I write here is far from uncensored because I know who's reading: it's not the anonymous internet user (for the most part), but friends and family. And that kind of self-censorship is even less restricting than that of people who have more than three readers, like Brendan or Chris, whose blogs are well-known and regularly read in their circles. You have to decide where the line is and make sure you don't cross it, and then hope that you picked the right place. As soon as I found out that a potential employer and some fellow students had found my blog, it led to a sudden reevaluation of the kinds of things I was posting. And then another when I told my family about it when I was going abroad. And I still live in fear of people I know now who don't know that I have a blog suddenly becoming as dorky as I am and googling my name and finding it. Those recent job-related posts have certainly been borderline with regards to TMI. Somehow I tend not to think of them as such because they don't seem to resemble the middle school diary-esque minutiae that attempts to answer very limited questions, like "Why doesn't Mark like me?" (answer: he probably likes Kimberley, I saw them talking and she's so much prettier than me and it's not fair cuz he's soooo cute) and "Why was Stephanie mean to me today?" (answer: Because everybody's mean. The world is mean. Everybody hates me. No one understands me. Except you, Diary.) Then again, I also think I was an exceptionally mature middle schooler. I suppose these things are open to interpretation.

Friday, July 08, 2005

iPod Flea

I know there's other stuff going on in the world, but as a marketing geek, I just had to share this, which is the funniest thing I've seen all day.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Visualization part deux

I know I've posted on this topic before, but I still think visualization technology is hella cool, and if it happens to be useful, so much the better. So I was really excited when I actually read one of the Search Engine Watch newsletters that I get and ignore everyday (one of our clients advertises in it occasionally) and it mentioned visualization for Yahoo! search results. It's from a company called Grokker, and this thing ain't half bad. At least, I'm sure it won't be the next time I actually do a general search (I only ever search for song titles based on lyrics and yellow pages listings, and you don't need visualization to categorize by topic: I know exactly what I'm looking for). It's a handy little interface though, very fast, and very easy to navigate.


I realize my last post (if one were to actually get all the way through it) doesn't show me to be in the happiest of states, and that's accurate--I'm not. (Where's Tahiti when you need it? Oh yeah, an 8-hour flight away.) I've just started my first job, just begun my working life, and I know that it's going to last for the next four decades or so. It's the notion that this is what the rest of my life is going to be, and the best stuff is now behind me, that really gets me down. But things are getting better. I'm learning how to do what I need to in order to fulfil my job responsibilities, I like the people I work with, I've decided to spend those lunches I can lying in the shade in a nearby park, I've started staying up late again (I just don't understand my life without that... getting up at 5 am to go swimming most mornings just isn't me). And so I think I'm going to be ok. I still look brokenheartedly at some of the tech job listings I get (marketing analyst for Apple? Sigh.), but I think that after a couple years of working where I am now, I'll be poised to actually have a shot at those jobs. (Whether or not my master's degree will ever benefit me remains to be seen, but AccessGroup tells me I have to pay my loans back anyway.)

In short, I'm adjusting, and I think I'm doing pretty well happiness-wise (I will forever be mystified by the mechanism that makes the world look completely different from one day to the next, even though nothing's changed), but when I get pensive, that last post is about what it sounds like. I still haven't managed to think my way out of having to work at all, but give it time.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The consolations of philosophy... or not

This may be the product of an addled mind (it is, after all, way past my bedtime), but I was just lying here thinking and it occurred to me that maybe a bit of catharsis was in order.

I’ve been a bit philosophical of late… a major life change can do that to you. You ask yourself why, and try to understand it with respect to all the other steps and missteps you’ve taken thus far. Which category does this fall into? How do you know? Me, I’m not crazy about my job, but then that all depends. Isn’t this how it’s supposed to be? Was I just spoiled before, and that’s why I’m unhappy now? Are there other things at work here? What would make me happy? How do I know? I always thought that a career in marketing would make me happy because I like thinking about the challenges inherent in that line of work. But I’ve since discovered that, while I like thinking about those challenges, that’s a very tiny (and often nonexistent) part of what a job in marketing actually entails. And sadly, I’ve ruled out other roles in marketing that might be a better fit because I don’t think I’d like them or because I don’t think I’d be good at them. For an example of the former, an academic career (I hate writing, and that’s kind of what it comes down to). The latter, consumer insight/branding (I simply lack the instinct necessary to read people: I can’t think of a single instance when I’ve made an accurate assumption about what other people think and why).

And then I have to wonder, why really have I ruled those out? It’s not like I knew what I was doing when I took my current job. It’s not that I didn’t have all the facts, it’s just that I didn’t read them right (see end of last paragraph… I don’t even understand myself, how could I ever purport to understand others?). Whenever I get into questions of happiness, of my perspective on life, I always try to imagine how things would be if I were living a hundred, a thousand years earlier. I continually ruminate on the effects of living in the information age because it seems to me that one’s happiness and/or contentment at any given time is proportionate to how much their current experience compares with what they expected to be experiencing. I don’t know if my dissatisfaction, my disappointment, is a product of having glimpsed something better on tv or in books, or if it’s inherent in the human experience. The grass is always greener, right? But is it greener some times than others? How and why does that change? What if envy and discontent are inherent (as I tend to think they are… part of what makes us human is our awareness of others, and where that exists, there exists the awareness of how they are different from ourselves) but the wealth of information we have today has exacerbated the effect?

I can’t answer that last question without defining what the measurable results of such an occurrence would be and doing a fair amount of sociological research to determine if anything’s changed. And then evaluating the research upon which that was based (for example, I recently read in The Bell Curve that violent crime has been increasing since the 50’s, but have my doubts about what those numbers and that conclusion are based upon). But my instinctive answer would be that society is not going to hell because there’s too much information. In fact, all that information shuts us up. Information is the new religion. There’s so much to sort through, and it tells stories of such extremes as you never even dreamed of (I’m reading Chuck Palahniuk’s new book, Haunted, and never even imagined such a plethora of horrors between two covers). And it desensitizes you. Nothing is too horrific that you aren’t sure that it’s happened to somebody somewhere. And at the same time, no achievement is too great that aren’t sure it’ll happen. Maybe we won’t have flying cars by 2025, like we’ve all been dreaming about for years, but that doesn’t discourage us from believing that it’ll happen someday. No challenge is too great that someone won’t find a way to overcome it. Look at Lance Armstrong. Is it inspiring, or depressing that you can’t hope to ever live up to that kind of example? All this information has sucked out our own passions, because how can my love of art compare to the starving artist who gives his life to it? How can my love of travel compare to the researcher who lives among obscure tribesmen for years, learning their language and customs? It makes my pleasure in such hobbies look like a cheap thrill. I see where I stand in the grand scheme of things and feel there’s no way I can measure up, so why try? Why not just sit back, watch the newly-released first season of Scrubs, and try not to eat anything?

And the questions just keep on coming. This from a girl who never questioned anything.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I never get to do anything fun

I grew up in freaking California and yet suffer from a significant lack of earthquake experience. Not only did I sleep through the 6.6 in '94, but just now we were hit by a 5-pointer and I, not asleep, my car. I totally missed it, and would never have known anything had happened at all if I weren't immediately asked if I'd felt it upon walking through the door back at work. The Allstaff email with a link to a news story about it (helpfully titled "Earthquake we felt!!!!!!") was my next clue.

Well, if there have been 3 since Sunday (I also missed the one on Sunday, which I was awake for), chances are good we might have a couple more over the weekend...

Monday, June 13, 2005

"It really makes you think" moment of the day

On my way to work this morning, I stopped off at Hollywood Video to drop off some movies I'd rented (In Good Company--good movie, almost like someone who loves warm fuzzies picked up on the Office Space idea of portraying corporate America--and Be Cool, which totally blew; I didn't watch more than 20 minutes of it). As I got out of my car, I noticed a shirtless homeless guy nearby leaning over an open dumpster nearby. I didn't care to look too closely, but he seemed to be rummaging around a bit, looking for what I don't know. He was pretty calm though, as if he was just checking out what there was here before moving on to the next dumpster. He probably does things like this everyday. Me, I got back into my Jeep, picked up my Starbucks vanilla latte, and drove to the 405 freeway, just like I do everyday.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The eighth day

To the point of comments on my last post, Kristy was dead right when she said that my contentment with my job situation had nowhere to go but up (it has), Ben was right when he said I had to learn to be a shark (grrr, I'm a big scary shark now... really. I swear. Look! I growled and stuff!), and my soul has made a complete departure (it was nice of it to leave me the note there) and appears to have been replaced by one that gets up at 5 am most days to go swimming, which is something I did not see coming. I wrote out a long, more philosophical post full of questions during a launch meeting today that I may or may not post once I have a look at it with eyes that aren't full of despair, but I have another that I'd like to post in a more timely fashion: what I did today.

4:55 am - Alarm #1 goes off. Hit snooze.

5:00 am - Alarm #2 goes off. Walk to the other side of the room and hit snooze. Get back in bed.

5:01 am - Alarm #1 goes off again.

5:07 am - Alarm #1 goes off again.

5:10 am - Alarm #2 goes off again.

5:11 am - Realize that I'm awake and even if I don't get up now I'll still have to in an hour. Bleh.

5:12 am - Actually get up.

5:13 am - Oh crap, forgot to turn off alarm #1.

5:22 am - Throw clothes for work in backpack; casual Friday means I'm wearing jeans and flip flops today.

5:39 am - Holy shit, I still can't believe it only takes 10 minutes to get to UCLA from West Hollywood. Taking Sunset at 50 mph rocks.

5:45 am - In the pool. Little cold.

6:45 am - Well that was an easy workout, only 1925 today.

7:25 am - Can't believe I'm using a locker room World Dry thingy to blowdry my hair.

7:26 am - Ooh, my hair's straight. Score.

7:40 am - Mocha from Starbucks. Mmmm.

8:22 am - Arrive at work. Shit, I hate 2-hour street parking, hope I don't get a ticket like last week.

8:23 am - Hmm, kind of have a hankering to look at art. Will bring in Bridget Riley book that's in car cuz I've been too lazy to bring it up to my apartment.

8:35 am - Uh oh, more people here now, need to look like I'm busy doing something. Now what should I do...?

8:48 am - Great, boss is here and I have something to do. Man, I don't like working.

12:34 pm - Dude, I've gotta get the hell outta here.

12:46 pm - Mmmm, Quizno's.

12:47 pm - Fuck the diet.

1:08 pm - Wow, I forgot how much I like reading the Bell Curve. I should really do that more often and maybe finish the book within two years of starting it.

1:34 pm - Sigh, back to work.

2:38 pm - Wow, I seriously zone out when I'm listening to music.

2:39 pm - Omigod, how is it only 2:40?!

3:32 pm - Omigod, how is it only 3:30?!

3:33 pm - Oh yeah, I was totally supposed to make sure that project got done in creative today. I wonder what's going on with it...

3:44 pm - Yay, got the .pdf and forwarded it to the client-done!

4:02 pm - Shit, they noticed the typo.

5:08 pm - Ooh, moving to an actual cube rather than this tiny exposed piece of crap desk under the a/c vent!

5:09 pm - Man, I hate putting stuff away. Make piles for Monday.

5:56 pm - Yeah, I've gotta get out of here. It's Friday for Chrissakes.

6:07 pm - Arrive Alcapulco.

6:46 pm - Finish first margarita.

6:51 pm - Order a Corona.

7:12 pm - Coworker that used to be a photographer and now gets invites to lots of cool parties says he'll forward me invitation to a Malibu Rum-sponsored party! Open bar! Dreams do come true.

7:44 pm - Yeah, itsh kinda time fer me to goo...

8:15 pm - Arrive at home. After a drive that only took 25 minutes. 25. Minutes. LA traffic is fucking horrible.

8:27 pm - And now I'm going to blog all of this on a Friday night like the super cool person I am.

Am actually waiting for my roommate to get home, then we're going to go see The Longest Yard. Review to follow.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The first day

So I've always kind of assumed that when people wish you luck on the first day of work, that means they're rooting for you to not call your boss by the wrong name, or give away the fact that you don't know how to operate a door. Basic don't-start-off-on-the-wrong-foot stuff. It never occurred to me that "good luck" might also mean "I hope this job doesn't make you hate your life."

I might be going out on a limb here, but I have a sneaking suspicion that mentally chanting "I hate my job I hate my job" to yourself by afternoon on the first day is not a good sign. Nor is the desire to break down in tears. Granted, my emotional stability is somewhat up in the air when I'm short on sleep, but I wouldn't have guessed that a day at the office would be something that would send me off the deep end.

After clearing my head a bit by swimming a mile (thank God for master's swim), it occurred to me that I might have overreacted. So when I arrived at work today (my second day), I was in a fairly good mood (thank God for venti mochas), and things didn't go nearly as badly. I could hardly say that I enjoyed myself, but at least I made it to the end of the day without wanting to cry.

So what on earth could possibly make me so miserable? People seem nice: even the company president is pretty accessible; the commute isn't totally horrible, thanks to my iPod and my capacity to zone out for long periods of time while driving (I mean, it doesn't require more than three or four brain cells to operate a car on a freeway); my food expenses could theoretically be zero during the week, as they have a fully-stocked fridge and cabinet from which anyone can pull their breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Here's the problem: I pursued marketing because I enjoy thinking about the challenges of winning sales from consumers. How can you best communicate to them the benefits of your product? Who is "them"? What kinds of messages are meaningful? All of this, of course, makes the assumption that the product you're selling is worthwhile, and that your customers are educated enough to know the difference between that and one that is a waste of money (don't we all wish we were those consumers... I know I still haven't figured out how to do that more than 50% of the time).

But what if you had to sell something that you thought was worthless, via shady or irritating methods that give marketing a bad name? It's like being a lawyer without the compensation. And it's depressing. Not only are you disappointed in yourself for lending any kind of support to such an effort, but you lose faith in the intelligence of people in general, because some of them actually fall for this shit. You feel like you're duping consumers into buying the product. And I never wanted to have that low an opinion of other people: I don't want to be one of those who takes consumers for granted, who thinks less of them because they bought the product I'm hawking. Maybe it's inevitable. Maybe I just hadn't expected disillusionment (does anyone ever?), or didn't think it would be this painful. Maybe I've just been spoiled by jobs that I loved, but I didn't think that was too much to expect.

Goodbye soul.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Road trip

I'm currently enjoying a short layover in Portland, Oregon, before I make my major foray southward. Here's a quick review of how things have gone thus far:

Day one
From: Chicago, IL (departed 11:30 am)
To: Minneapolis, MN (arrived 9 pm)
Distance: 400 miles

1- Went to the bathroom and picked up some Red Bull (just over the Illinois-Wisconsin border)
2- Visited with my former penpal in Madison, WI for awhile, walking over to the terrace on the lake and enjoying gorgeous weather (she had beer, I had an iced mocha).
2.5- Less than an hour out of Madison, pulled over by a cop for going 81 in a 65. I was cooperative, apologetic, and--the key--a bit tearful, and he had a change of heart and gave me a warning instead. Score.
3- Another pit stop to get some gas. Seems my truck's gas tank holds quite a bit more than does the one in my Jeep.

Lessons learned:
1. Tears work
2. So does espresso (for staying alert, not for getting out of tickets... well, that's an experiment I have yet to try, anyway)
3. Trucker's arm is tres sexy (but wear sunscreen next time, just for the hell of it)
4. Can drive and look at maps at the same time

Day two
From: Minneapolis, MN (departed 1:30 pm)
To: Dickinson, ND (arrived 11:30 pm)
Distance: 550 miles

1- Suddenly looked down and noticed the fuel indicator pointing at E. Oh shit. Filled up the tank and almost fell over when I saw the price. (eastern Minnesota)
2- Fargo, ND: just thought I'd have a look around. It's a cute town. Favorite part: the six protesters in front of the courthouse protesting the filibuster (realized I haven't really been paying attention to the news recently, as I had no idea what they were referring to)
3- Somewhere west of Fargo, ND: stopped for gas and food. Noticed as I went to remove the gas cap that it wasn't there: I'd left it on the ground at the last gas station (it's not attached to the truck the way it should be, that little rubber string is just hanging there). Had to hunt around for 45 minutes to find a replacement: was forced to make a purchase at Walmart. It doesn't really fit, but at least it stays on.

Lessons learned:
1. Always remember the gas cap (but if you forget and drive 250 miles without it, you'll probably be ok)
2. My truck should have a gas light
3. Somehow taught foot to act as substitute cruise control
4. North Dakota's a lot prettier than I'd expected, all rolling green hills. Also I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets, and there was light in the sky until close to midnight. Sure, complain about the flatness of the landscape, but you don't get sunsets like that in the mountains
5. Forgot to wear sunscreen again

Day three
From: Dickinson, ND (departed 10 am)
To: Missoula, MT (arrived 9 pm)
Distance: 650 miles

1- Painted Valley lookout in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, on the western side of North Dakota. Talk about unexpected after 800 miles of farmland.
2- Billings, MT: it's amazing how much you can see of a town while you're looking around for a Taco Bell.
3- Livingston, MT: cute little town at the northern entrance to Yellowstone. One movie theater that shows one movie at 7 pm every night. Made me wish I had the time to stop there and hang around for the night.

Lessons learned:
1. After driving 650 miles, you need a beer.
2. Or two.
3. I had one of the best burgers I've ever had at a bar in Missoula: my theory is that it's because they'd killed the cow that morning (I passed a few cows during my drive through Montana).

Day four
From: Missoula, MT (departed 9:30 am after a stop at the first Starbucks I'd seen in awhile)
To: Portland, OR (arrived 7:30 pm)
Distance: 550 miles

1- Took a picture of the Welcome to Idaho sign, because I've never seen one so dramatic. Most such signs are on a bit of straight road and look pretty unimpressive, but this one was next to a road that curves away along the side of a mountain, so behind the sign there's a steep drop-off and then trees and mountains on the far side of the canyon. You feel like entering Idaho actually means you'll be in a different place, not just ten feet away from where you are.
2- Wallace, ID: Another cute little mountain town.
3- Spokane, WA: stopped at Gonzaga to buy Brendan and Becky's wedding present (just kidding, Becky), then hunted around for another Taco Bell (bonus #1 of driving alone: there's no one around to get pissed off when I go out of my way to find Taco Bell... two days in a row) and then another Starbucks (I need that caffeine, and soda just isn't a reliable source).
4- Connell, WA: Now that's a one-horse town. The supermarket was slightly larger than a 7-Eleven.

Lessons learned:
1. Idaho is freaking spectacular up there: Coeur d'Alene was so beautiful I don't think I shut my mouth the entire time I was driving around it.
2. And then I entered Washington. The only dull stretch of my entire trip.
3. Thankfully, as soon as I got to Oregon I was driving along the Columbia River, which eventually became gorgeous (there were even waterfalls, and I loves me a good waterfall).
4. Beer is really good after only 550 miles of driving, too.

Tomorrow I head out for San Francisco, which will be another long day, Santa Cruz the day after that (kind of an easy day, that one), and then home to Los Angeles and my new apartment on Sunday. Where I'll have to say goodbye to Patty "The Badass" Penske truck. But not yet.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Everything is falling into place

So, I'm about to take another week and a half hiatus from blogging, as I leave tomorrow for Chicago and my last chance at travel for awhile. It's gonna be awesome. I'm flying to Chicago via Southwest, after which flight I will definitely need a friggin' drink (long Southwest flights make me want to claw my eyes out... I was totally spoiled by all those recent international flights). Thankfully, as soon as I get in, I'm going straight to a bar to meet a few friends. Thursday and Friday will be more of the same, plus breaking into my old apartment to take inventory of what's still in a condition to be worth bringing back to LA and hopefully packing said items. And when I say 'breaking in,' I mean 'walking through the unlocked back door'--it was locked maybe twice the entire time I lived in that apartment and both times I was blamed for the fact that my roommate had to crawl in through the window next to the door. Saturday I pick up the truck I rented from Penske (my ultra-cool yellow 'Ske and me are going to take this country by storm) and load it up with the help of whatever poor soul I conned into agreeing to do this for free. Saturday night, more alcohol-aided meet-and-greet, and then Sunday morning I head out going north. Hopefully I won't be too hung over.

First stop: Madison, Wisconsin, and lunch with the girl who was my pen pal growing up who I haven't seen since the last time I was in Madison, about two years ago. After lunch it's off to St. Paul, Minnesota, where I'm staying with a girl I knew in grad school and her husband: very much looking forward to seeing them as well, as they have the distinction of being two of the most cheerful people I've ever met.

And after I leave St. Paul: I drive for three days straight across Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Washington to Portland, Oregon. I hear it's beautiful country, and hopefully I'll find a couple of cute podunk towns in which to spend the night (unlikely off an interstate highway... will I get up the courage to leave the certainty of Taco Bell behind? All this and more in my next post!). It's going to be a long three days, though. Then visiting friends and family in Portland for a day or two, then down to San Francisco (another long drive) to visit more friends that I haven't and won't see for awhile, and finally home to Los Angeles a week after I left Chicago. And once I get there, I...

...wait for it... moving into my new apartment! That's right, ladies and gentlemen, I will be living in an apartment reasonably close to civilization, rather than at the end of a mile of winding road. When I give people directions, it will take less than 30 seconds! And I won't be giving up any of the comforts of home: free parking, check. Hot tub, check. Balcony, check. Deck to lie out on, check check (this place has a rooftop deck, so it's possible to get sun for more than an hour and a half each day). Own bathroom, check. Dishwasher, check. Close to a decent route to the valley (so I can commute to work without too much hassle), check. All for a very reasonable rent in West Hollywood, between Sunset and Santa Monica. And I'll have all my things back from Chicago: my clothes, my DVD's (I've really missed my DVD's), my duvet, my couch, my papasan chair. I feel a sigh of contentment coming on just thinking about it.

So where did I find this gem of an apartment? How? Who was I sleeping with? By complete coincidence, I was talking about my new job and the start date (June 1) while I was at work at Starbucks a week ago, and one of the people I was working with asked if I had a place to live, as she was going to have a half-empty apartment on her hand starting June 1. (I wasn't sleeping with her, as it happens.) It started off as a joke, but the more we talked about it, the more we liked the idea of me moving in. I came by and had a look, loved it, did a few financial calculations to determine if I could actually afford it, and we shook on it a couple days later. Bonus: I have all this friggin' furniture and she has none, so as soon as I arrive in LA, I have somewhere to put everything.

So now I have the job, the apartment... all I need is a new car to complete the material trifecta. Y'know, I was approached recently by someone who wanted to buy mine...

Friday, May 06, 2005

Happy (Belated) Cinco de Mayo

I'm not sure I've ever paid any attention to this particular reason to drink, as school generally prevented it, but it didn't this year, by God, and so I had big plans involving lots of margaritas and nachos.

And then there's what I actually did: saw Better Than Ezra perform (that's number four) at the Roxy on Sunset, and as expected, they totally rocked. You know it's been a good concert when you're hoarse and dripping sweat 3 feet from a stage where an audience member is up there with the band banging the shit out of a cowbell (and totally kicking ass, too). And the opening band, Ingram Hill, was damn good as well. And then I went home and watched the O.C. episodes that I'd taped. With a few snacks from Taco Bell. Mmm.

I've had birthdays that weren't half as good.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Sunday night TV rocks

Family Guy:
I had to bottle up the laughter so I could hear what came next. I think there were tears.

American Dad:
Also damn funny, but would be better if it wasn't, like, right after Family Guy. Drawing comparisons is inevitable and it was distracting.

Friday, April 29, 2005

"Now THAT guy got canned!"

So now that I have an actual small salary to complain about coming my way, I can turn my attention to making the most of my final days in food service. Having decided that giving notice is for pussies, I've begun brainstorming ways to piss off some of my favorite categories of customers:

To the groups of kids that order 8 different kinds of frappucinos so that we have to actually make them all separately:
Tell them we're out, and give them directions to Coffee Bean down the street. (Actually that'll just piss off the people in Coffee Bean, but at least it'll get rid of the kids.)

To the people who ask for a particular piece of cake or something out of the pastry case:
Try it. Announce loudly that it's kind of stale.

To the people who pay for a small cup of coffee with a fifty:
Start counting out change from smallest to largest, using lots of painstaking mental arithmetic. "Let's see, that's... thirty-three ones, plus three fives is... 37, 42, 47... wait, um, like... ok, 48. Let's see, I think I'm out of quarters, but I should have enough nickels and dimes... would you like a bag for all this?"
(Bonus: remarkably efficient way to piss off large numbers of people behind them in line, too)

To the people on their cell phones:
Zone out until they're waving their arms to get attention. Say wasn't sure they were talking to me.

To the people who ask for a cup of ice water:
Hand them mine. Tell them it tastes funny.

To the asshole who thought I was gypping him on his coffee purchase:
Fill the cup all the way up to the top. Don't snap the lid on. Be all "I told you so" when he finds out the burned way why we don't do that.

To the low talkers:
Yell. Someone has to lead by example.

To the parents who subject us to their indecisive children:
Constantly question the child on whether or not they're sure they want a piece of cake. Once a definitive choice has been made, tell their parent about its nutritional content.

To the grown adults who can't make up their minds either:
Ignore them entirely and start taking orders from the people behind them in line. Try to insert a lot of playful banter so can look irritated when the person skipped interrupts to try to get served. (Hmm, may also work for cell phone talkers...)

To the grown adults who only have their minds made up until right after they've paid for their order (what did you think that process meant?!) and then decide they're not in a latte mood and would rather go for a frappucino:
One word: firebomb.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


I realize I've been pretty quiet of late: a friend I'd met in Hong Kong was staying with me a few days and we kept ourselves pretty busy getting out and seeing the sights. I love having guests, it gives you permission to do all your favorite things in a city. In my case, that meant going to In N Out, CPK and BJ's, going out on the Sunset Strip (that was my first time, too), generally just going out a lot in general. She left this morning for San Francisco, and life seems really dull right about now (also the local Fox affiliate fucked up and The O.C. wasn't on and there's no point in even having Thursdays if The O.C. isn't on).

But while she was here, I had another interview--I was finally able to get in touch with the woman from the direct marketing and set up an interview for Monday afternoon after work. And as I was driving out there, I got a call from a recruiter asking for a phone interview on Friday. This was a company to which I'd sent my resume several weeks ago, and had kind of given up because I hadn't heard anything. I think my new motto is going to be "try not to look surprised," because that's become a rather consistent problem these days.

I'm looking forward to the phone interview tomorrow, because it would probably involve a job in Chicago, but I'm not ridiculously psyched about it. Because...

...I got a job.

I found out on Tuesday night that I'd been sent an offer letter by the direct marketing agency. The job is entry-level--account coordinator--paying a reasonable salary plus full benefits. I start June 1st.

Initially I hadn't been all that excited about a job there, but the more I think about it the more perfect I think this is for me. It's a direct marketing agency, so I'll learn how the business works. I'll be entry-level, but that's appropriate given my lack of experience: I have a lot to learn when it comes to project management and client interfacing, and this will let me get in slowly. It's a smaller company, which means I'll have more opportunities for filling different roles with respect to project execution. If the salary isn't exactly as high as I'd like, it's higher than it would be at an ad agency, and it'll go up pretty fast. One of my interviewers said that I could expect to be promoted after 6 months (I'll be I can do it in 4) to assistant account executive, and then full ae a year after that, and salary goes up every time. And at the end of the day, if I don't like it, employment is at will and I can leave to go somewhere else.

What this means for life as I know it: now that I'll be earning an actual salary, I have a fair amount of debt to start paying off. Credit cards from my trip, school loans, all that fun stuff. Shit. Guess I'll be living at home for awhile yet. It also means that, since I think I'll be in CA for awhile, I need to go get my stuff in Chicago and bring it back. And that means: road trip! Am still in the process of planning it, but since this'll be the last time I travel for awhile, I think I'm going to take the scenic route and make a few stops along the way. Very excited about that.

Also, I think it's about time I replaced that picture of my 16 year-old self on my driver's license...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The search continues

Truth be told, I'm pretty happy at Starbucks. No, I'm not planning on staying there forever, but my job search efforts have been, admittedly, somewhat half-assed. I do it when it's convenient, or when something falls into my lap, and somehow these methods appear to have a much higher return on investment. This perception does make sense, when I think about it: you're more likely to get a response when you submit your resume through personal contacts than otherwise, and since that way also happens to be easiest (a bit of conversation and emailing your resume, no cover letter required... I can do that), that's what I do more than anything else. I also get job listings sent to me everyday by my undergraduate institution (Annenberg has a kickass career services department), and every so often something on there sparks my interest and I apply for it as well. And I tend to apply for these jobs and then forget about them, so I'm really surprised when I get a call for an interview, the way I did today. It feels like a gift, like it just came out of nowhere.

Today's call was from a direct marketing agency. The position is that of a coordinator, which is entry level, but I would be working in direct marketing. This is very exciting to me, as I haven't had too many responses from resumes sent in for such jobs (save American Express, another heartbreaker). Also it's on the agency side as opposed to the client side, which is very attractive to me. The only downside is the place is located in the Valley. The fact that I don't really know where their city is is not a good sign; I looked it up and it's at the west end of the Valley. Using the oh-so-scientific method of fixing my fingers on the map and then moving them over to compare, I determined that it's slightly closer to my house than Pasadena, where I'm used to commuting. Downside: have to pass by the 405. Yech. Also, no pretty view of downtown and the ocean over Eagle Rock from the 134. I can't think of a nicer stretch of freeway in the LA area (and we've got quite a bit).

Anyway, when I returned the call the woman who called me had already left, so I'll try again tomorrow. I got a couple of other leads today, too: the girl I know at Campbell-Ewald said one of my interviewers had recommended that I meet with the top guy there when he gets back; he's been travelling for work for the last 2 weeks. Also another local ad agency is looking for an account executive, which I heard about through a friend of a friend and she said I could use her name, which was very nice of her. So I'm drafting that cover letter now.

In marketing we talked about being reactive and proactive: in the former position, your company simply reacts to current trends, trying to get the edge on the competition and take advantage of what's going on sooner than they do. In the latter, your company shapes the trends, and is thus the first mover with product introductions and all the benefits that entails. There are lots of examples to demonstrate this: one everyone can relate to is Apple's successful introduction of the iPod, which had a major impact not only on electronics and the computer industry, but on the music business as well. And now Apple is enjoying all the benefits of that: a ridiculous market share, successful introduction of spinoff products (the Mini, the Shuffle), increased sales of other products (Macs, software, etc.), and of course, the spectacular profits being generated by iTunes. I get a newsletter on product placement marketing every week that always includes the top downloaded song on iTunes: it's that popular that it's become a source of benchmark measurement. I've gotten carried away here because I love talking about this stuff, but my point is, Apple is in the proactive company. Everyone else is now reacting to the changes they caused: Dell was next to come out with a high-capacity mp3 player (that I saw), HP, Creative Labs, Sony all jumped on board, and they're all collaborating with different sources to get their own music download services up and running. And now Napster's back with a new business model that entails "renting" music, and I'm really curious to see how that goes. I myself am too invested in my iPod to change now, and I know I'm not the only one.

The downside of being one of those proactive companies is that you assume a great deal of risk when introducing new products like that. There are lots of things that can go wrong, and suddenly your R&D, marketing, and production investments are worthless. Another much-talked about Apple example is the Newton. It never made it past that 1% of the population that buys every new gadget that comes out.

I'm getting way off-track here. My point about the proactive vs. reactive companies is that, these days, I feel like the reactor. And that's ok, that's what's easy, I'm not in any particular hurry. That's one nice thing about being young: I don't have to hurry, I already did plenty of that. (Omigod I turn 23 on Sunday though, that's gonna be weird.) My job search is going on almost in spite of myself, because it has to. And that's where the analogy ends, thankfully: I could be missing out on fantastic life-changing opportunities because I'm not being more proactive about my job search, but as long as I find a job, it's going to be life-changing no matter what. I've been excited about everything I've gotten the chance to interview for, and don't see how that's going to change.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Scientific jargon

I knew a girl once who complained about the lack of sensitivity to cleanliness that prior roommates had had, except when they were under the influence. Then, they would come back to the apartment and clean it from top to bottom, and it was the days after such behavior that kept her sane. I can identify with the surge of productivity that comes from overimbibing: here it is. I had wanted to link to the text that follows awhile ago, because my education in data analysis has made me appreciate it that much more, but was unable to find it online. I found a copy that I'd printed out way back when (yes, I am that big a dork) and finally got around to transcribing it this evening. After minoring in psych, I think it's really funny, and think that at least one other person who reads this might find it somewhat amusing as well.

So here goes, properly credited and all:

Scientific Jargon
Dyrk Schingman

After several years of studying and hard work, I have finally learned scientific jargon. The following list of phrases and their definitions will help you to understand that mysterious language of science and medicine.

“It has long been known…”
I didn’t look up the original reference

“A definite trend is evident”
These data are practically meaningless

“While it has not been possible to provide definite answers to the questions…”
An unsuccessful experiment, but I still hope to get it published

“Three of the samples were chosen for detailed study.”
The other results didn’t make any sense

“Typical results are shown…”
This is the prettiest graph

“These results will be in a subsequent report.”
I might get around to this sometime, if pushed/funded

“The most reliable results were obtained by Jones…”
He was my graduate student; his grade depended on this

“In my experience…”

“In case after case…”

“In a series of cases…”

“It is believed that…”
I think

“It is generally believed that…”
A couple of other guys think so too

“Correct within an order of magnitude…”

“According to statistical analysis…”
Rumor has it

“A statistically oriented projection of the significance of these findings…”
A wild guess

“A careful analysis of obtainable data…”
Three pages of notes were obliterated when I knocked over a glass of beer

“It is clear that much additional work will be required before a complete understanding of this phenomena occurs…”
I don’t understand it

“After additional study by my colleagues…”
They don’t understand it either

“Thanks are due to Joe Blotz for assistance with the experiment and to Andrea Schaeffer for valuable discussions.”
Mr. Blotz did the work and Ms. Schaeffer explained to me what it meant

“A highly significant area for exploratory study”
A totally useless topic selected by my committee

“It is hoped that this study will stimulate further investigation in this field.”
I quit

Coping strategies

So, I was a just a little depressed about what seems a more and more miserable failure of an interview everytime I relive it. I wanted to go watch TV, eat a lot of chocolate, and verbally abuse anything and everything that caught my attention. However, I determined that that probably wasn't the most constructive solution, and opted to go swimming instead to get my mind off the interview. (For the record, I recently recommenced my participation in Swim Masters in an effort to, like, exercise and stuff.)

And it worked. When I first got in the pool, my mind was on how friggin' cold it was. Then it was on the hot male lifeguard I was sharing my lane with who looked a lot like Ben from Felicity. And finally it was on the calves and hamstring that were this close to seizing up and the all-but-dislocated right shoulder that resulted from swimming 2850 yards (over a mile and a half) on the exercise day known as "Fast Friday." (Ha! Those crazy swim coaches with their crazy alliteration.)

And now, clearly, some time in the hot tub is necessary to try and relieve my muscles. If I happen to be accompanied by a bottle of chardonnay, so be it.

The post-mortem

Ok, I've found another job that I want so badly I can taste it. We're talking dream job, here. Things that I've been interested in for years. The position I interviewed for today was that of an analyst at Siegel & Gale. I would would work in research, project management, contribute to brand strategic planning and ultimately help put together the client presentation. Basically, what I did in grad school a bunch of times.

And I so did not get it.

I interviewed with two senior level people in the brand strategy department, and was scheduled for an hour with each. I talked with the first person for about 45 minutes and thought it went really well. I was able to describe relevant experiences, give satisfactory answers to questions, and felt we just generally hit it off. At the end, I felt like I'd earned her stamp of approval.

Not so with my second interviewer. I thought it started off ok... he had done work with the market research firm where I used to intern, and I was able to speak well about some of my grad school and work experiences. But then I felt like it started to go downhill. I couldn't articulate my answers very well, and some answers that I'd just made up weren't very well-supported (it turns out that thinking on my feet is something that I cannot do. Talk, yes... reason, no.) I couldn't even define the essence of the Starbucks brand. I work there. It's probably in our training manual. List attributes, yes, but articulate that distinctive and unique thing that only Starbucks has, no. You know those computer tests where you get different questions based on whether you answer one right or wrong? It was like I was answering all the questions wrong, so he kept making them easier and eventually gave up altogether. My first interviewer had warned me that he would ask me a couple of case questions. Those never came. In fact, I was only there for about 20 of the 60 minutes that had been scheduled, and at the end he they were interviewing lots of people for these positions and were hiring all the time and said that if a position came open that they thought was a good fit for me, I'd get a call. Implying about as overtly as possible that neither of the two positions that are currently open will be filled by me. Nice to meet you. Have a nice life.

Deep breath. Be philosophical about this. If they don't like you, or don't think that your skills are a match with the job (which, after all, they know better than you do), or even think that you lack skills entirely, then chances are the job is not for you. However powerful your conviction is, however many times you make that wish over and over at 11:11, or however much that you complain to your parents that you were robbed, you're wrong. Y'know, the mature man's sour grapes.

But that doesn't mean you can't be pissed off about it.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


I know I said I was done with the exclamations, but I totally lied: I got another interview! It's with a company called Siegel & Gale, whose primary work is in branding: brand identity, alignment, research, communications. The kind of business you'd expect someone with a degree in integrated marketing communications to go into (because where else do you get to use all your knowledge but in branding?). I still don't know what kind of job I'm interviewing for, but I'll find out, and that right soon: the interview is at 2 p.m. tomorrow.

And how did this interview come about? Has sending out all those resumes, complete with matching cover letter, borne any fruit? No. And I'm beginning to think it never will, either. My experiences with obtaining internships while in college were apparently anomalies... all four and a half of them. (I can explain.) I suppose it was just a completely different pool of candidates. But it completely ruined me for the prolonged job search I'm undertaking now. Because all three of the interviews I've had were a result of knowing someone who either let me know about a job opportunity or saw to it that I was considered for one.

The person responsible for this most recent interview was not someone I happened to meet in a bar. Well, not quite. I met her over margaritas at El Cholo. Despite that, it was a very respectable situation. My mom signed our family up to attend a performance of "Anything Goes" at USC and go out to dinner at El Cholo afterwards as part of an event being hosted by one of the many organizations in which my mother is involved. I was the youngest person there, not surprisingly, but there was one other girl close to my age who attended with an older woman who used to be her house mom (she was in Alpha Chi Omega, and is somehow cool despite that). So adults do what they always do and get us young 'uns together, so I sat across the table from her and chatted during all of dinner and dessert. And we kind of hit it off. It turns out she works down the street from me in Beverly Hills, so she stopped in the other day and said a friend of hers from A Chi O worked at Siegel & Gale (which building I've passed by thousands of times, actually: as soon as she said the name I could see the logo printed on the side of the building) and they were hiring. She gave me her info, I had a look at their website and then sent her my resume to forward to her friend.

And today I got a call.

Scary how fast these things can work, isn't it? The interview's after work tomorrow. I hope my permanent coffee smell isn't too much of a distraction.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Beverly Hills

I just learned that Weezer's "Beverly Hills" is the #2 downloaded song on iTunes right now. I heard it for the first time on Sunday as I was in my car driving past the Beverly Hills Hotel and up Benedict Canyon, which is lined with palm trees. It was sunny. I was surrounded by mansions. My knee-jerk reaction when I heard the song was to think "Yeah whatever, this place isn't that great."

And then I thought about it.

Those 30 seconds were pretty fuckin' great.

Sunday, April 10, 2005


Work today was mostly same-old, same-old: work the register, get coffee and pastries, listen to my manager's rendition of that song that starts off "on top of spagheeeeetti..." The usual. (Well, last week's music selection was Gloria Estefan. She really knows how to mix things up.) With a few minor changes:

1. Ran into another middle school alumna as I arrived at work. On a Sunday morning! What the hell is wrong with these people, can't they just stay out of my way until the reunion? Huh?! Or at least stop frequenting my place of business and start accosting me in the mall or something? Sheesh.

2. Someone I currently associate with stopped by for the first time. I rewarded him with a free cup of tea. I totally owe him anyway after all the free beer I drank at his house on Friday.

3. I got my first paycheck. That was depressing. Two weeks of work = $268. Can kind of identify with how Becky feels, though I think I like my job a bit more. Most of the time, anyway:

4. A customer actually earned my hatred. Hatred. Irritation I know well, and can forgive it pretty easily because I'm as often the source of it as not. But I would never consider actually spitting in someone's coffee. Until today. I would make an exception for this guy.

I've been assured by a coworker that I'm overreacting, and he's probably right, but I still hate this guy. Let's set the stage: it's a sunny Sunday morning in Beverly Hills, there are a few people in the store but no line. I smile and ask him what he'd like to order, he says a grande coffee in a venti cup. It's a pretty common order for people who like a lot of cream and don't want to pay for coffee they're just going to pour out anyway. I always overfill them, though, because I forget that it's supposed to be a smaller size, and better to pour out extra coffee in the sink than in the trash can. It happened this time, too, so I pour out a little bit, put the lid on and hand the coffee to the guy. He immediately takes the lid off and pours the coffee into a grande cup he's just pulled from one of the stacks next to the register. There's maybe 3/4 of an inch between the coffee and the rim of the cup, which is about how I'd fill a grande cup (more than that and you're just asking to get a burn from spillover). He looks at me accusingly and asks me to fill the cup up to the top. While I'm doing this, he says, "I find it amazing that you would pour the coffee out rather than give it to me."

Asshole! As if I'm the coffee nazi, jealously guarding my stash and stingily measuring out the exact amount to those people I deign to do business with. The smile I used when I greeted him was part of my scheme to dupe him. I stammered out something about trying to give people the amount they ask for, and he just glares at me as if I represent all that's evil in this world and walks over to the bar where we have all the milk and sugar. I wanted to trip him.

He supplanted the guy that I previously had at the top of my pyramid of dislike (yes, there's a pyramid of dislike, and I have one), who also got there for accusing me of trying to gyp him. (And for asking for a specific piece of banana loaf and actually returning the first piece I gave him because I hadn't selected the right one. I mean, he didn't just correct me when I picked up a piece with the tongs: he actually walked away to his table, had a look, and then came back to ask for a different one. The one he'd been given apparently didn't have the requisite number of walnuts or something. wtf?) It was my first week and he ordered a venti tea, so I rang up a venti tea. But apparently if someone only has one teabag then we only charge them for a tall, a fact about which I was speedily educated when he started to complain that I was overcharging him without telling me why he thought so and another person I work with had to step in and fix everything. (This was over a difference of thirty cents, by the way.) The guy glared at me and walked off in a huff. Asshole.

Ok, that was really just an excuse to vent about customers that suck. Most of them don't, but there are those special few who make you wish for a rewrite of the Divine Comedy so you know there's a circle of Hell just for them. (Sidenote: I would think that a poet, of all people, would be sensitive to the impact of the words they choose, but I don't think 'comedy' means what Dante seems to think it means.)

Whole27: Seven (Eight?) Months Later

Breakfast this morning was cinnamon rolls. In fairness, I'm sick right now with something resembling that monster flu--hopefully it...