Thursday, January 22, 2009

For the Record

Okay, let me get the objections and arguments out of the way first, because some of my readers will want to make these points as they read.

1. I'm not whining or complaining. If you read this with a whiny tone, please go back and reread it with a dispassionate tone. I'm still rather upbeat and optimistic. I don't have time to whine.
2. I'm not sitting around, waiting for someone to offer me a job or a pile o' cash. I'm working hard, spending 60 hours a week on the job search.
3. I've heard all the advice. More advice won't fix the situation. Thanks anyway.

Now, for today's posting.

This economic downturn has created a job market different from all the job markets I've ever seen. In the past, when I've been out looking for a job, I have gotten lots of rejection letters, and a few rejection phone calls, that said: "Your qualifications are impressive, but we had lots of applicants for the position you applied for, and we chose one of them instead. Good luck looking elsewhere."

This time around, it's different. This time, what I'm getting in person and over the phone, is "We'd love to hire you. We need someone just like you. Unfortunately, we just got hit with a hiring freeze." Or "... our budget for that position has just been cut." Or "... our sales have dropped to near-zero and we may be closing our doors." Or, in the case of Avago, "... we just finished laying off 240 people instead of hiring anybody."

And nobody's lying about it. I've been able to verify most of their stories by independent means. Things really are tough all over.

The only people making money right now, I think, are the people writing books and articles and giving seminars and speeches with titles like, "How to Set Yourself Apart from Everybody Else and Get a Job in These Tough Times." I'm always wary of the people who write these things: what's their day job, and how did they get it? Did they follow their own advice?

One of the ironies of the current situation is that there are a lot of job openings out there. But those employers all require 3 to 5 years of experience in the specialized area that the job requires, and they're not willing to give a new hire 3 to 6 months -- or even one month -- to retrain and to learn the ropes. Employers used to be willing to take that chance, but not any more. Many of these job openings have been out there for months, some for a couple of years, and employers are still waiting for their Prince Charming to come along. It seems rather stupid to me: an employer could hire a versatile-but-obsolete professional and retrain them in less time than they've been waiting for Prince Charming.

The Northern Colorado Networking Group,, is a network of professionals who are either unemployed or seeking other employment. They meet every Monday morning in space donated by Faith Evangelical Free Church, in Fort Collins, Colorado. Normally their meetings are attended by about 80 people, and they normally get 3 to 5 new members each week. They consider themselves successful if they have a high turnover rate. For the last 4 to 6 weeks, however, their meetings have been standing-room-only, with between 100 and 200 people, and 20 new members each week. Like I said, things are tough out there.

It would be easy to give in to the discouragement, to fall into depression, and to sit at home all day in my grubby clothes, drinking (root) beer and watching the tube. To combat that tendency, I start each day by giving service to a group of high school students for an hour, running a couple of miles, eating a healthy breakfast, reading from the scriptures, and praying. I shave, I dress in business attire, and I spend the day doing all the things I can do to land a job.

(My wife keeps reminding me of what M. Scott Peck said in The Road Less Traveled, about insanity. He may have been quoting someone else, but it's something like this: insanity is when you keep doing the same thing, over and over, expecting to get a different outcome each time. I think there's a fine line between insanity and persistence, and I intend to stay on the persistence side of the line.)

I set aside some time in the evenings to work on a couple of entrepreneurial projects I'm involved in. But the payoff from those entrepreneurial projects is several months off, and I need a job today. So the job hunt takes priority.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Random observations on an inaugural celebration

The entrances:
Well, the Obama girls sure are cute. They're going to be the darlings of the media for the next four or eight years, no matter what their dad does. In fact, Pres. Obama's wife and his mother are going to share the limelight with the girls and steal it from the man himself.

It's 28 degrees Fahrenheit out there. Brr!

The invocation:

I laugh when a person offering a prayer starts quoting scripture to God. I keep waiting to hear a voice from heaven say: "Yeah, I know that one. I wrote that."

I also love it when the person praying dictates policy to God. Or tries to preach to God. It's a prayer, not a sermon. Sit down and shut up, already!

And who cheers in the middle of a prayer? I'm sorry, but that was silly. The guy was pontificating and politicking, not praying.

The music and the poetry:
The pomp and pageantry are necessary to impress on the citizens, all of us, the solemnity of the occasion. I liked the music, but I could have done without all the rest of it, even though I understand that it is necessary.

The poem got merely polite applause.

The swearings-in:
Biden's was without incident.

The chief justice muffed Obama's oath a couple of times. I think he was nervous. Obama's grin made it all better.

The crowd:
It was way cool that the crowd was so HUGE. I liked all the 21st-century giant-screen TVs set up along the Mall so that everybody could see what was happening.

That "O-ba-ma" cheer is gonna get really old, really fast.

Obama's speech:
This isn't a transcript of the speech, merely the parts that I thought were significant. I couldn't figure out a good way to reduce the parts on progress in racial equality, so I omitted them. Of course they were significant, but I can't do them justice.

"My fellow citizens."

"Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms."

"That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age."

"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."

"Our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."

"Everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do."

"What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them -- that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works."

"Programs will end." <-- That will be a first in Washington D.C.!

"Without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control -- and ... a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous." <-- This is intended to point fault at the greedy prosperous people; however, it can be interpreted to hint at Obama's intention to redistribute wealth in the good old Democrat Party way: rob from the rich, and give to the poor. Prosperity comes from greed sometimes, but it also comes from ambition, intelligence, and hard work. I think that we as a nation would be much more successful if we could find a way to curb or punish people's greed, and reward their ambition, intelligence, or effort. If Obama does this wrong, he will remove any incentive for Americans to be successful, and they will take their ambition, their intelligence and their effort elsewhere.

"We know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace."

"To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West: Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it."

"America is a friend of .... and we are ready to lead once more." <-- Dunno how realistic that is.

"Our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justice of our cause."

"We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense."

To the bad guys: "You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you. For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness."

To the leaders of terrorist nations: "Your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you can destroy."

About personal responsibility: "For as much as government can do and must do, it is the determination and faith of the American people upon which our nation relies."

About principles: "These things are old. These things are true. ...What is demanded then is a return to these truths."

He definitely invoked the blessings of God. There's no doubt about that. He acknowledged the "nonbelievers," even giving them that label, but he did not minimize or excuse his faith in God.

The benediction by Joseph Lowry:

Parts of it rhymed. Nice touch.

"While we sow the seeds of greed and corruption, and reap the whirlwind of economic disruption, ..."

"Tanks will be beaten into tractors?" That's the 21st century version of swords and plowshares.

He's much more eloquent and much less political than the guy who did the invocation. He was speaking to God and not to the audience, and he was speaking from his heart.

And parts of it were comedy! (Well, they were tuned to elicit some laughs, anyway.)

Wow. THAT was a cool prayer. I liked that!

Concluding thoughts:
Barack Obama is as gracious as his wife, Michele. (One l or two? Sorry.) So far, people have made mention of her gracious (and graceful) ways, but not his. The way he has treated all of his former opponents and the former president speak well of his statesmanship and his potential for bringing peace to the nation.

Let's hope that the goodwill that was so much in evidence today lasts longer than four weeks.

To all the Obama naysayers: give the guy a chance.

Now I have two cynical observations to make. They're not about Barack Obama, but about the rest of the crowd in Washington D.C.

The way politics in Washington works, the ruling party always becomes the irresponsible party. The gridlock that occurs when the president is of a different political party than the Congressional majority is always unfortunate, but at least it allows the checks and balances system to work the way it's supposed to. Besides, the problems associated with gridlock are nothing compared to the rampant irresponsibility that takes over the legislative branch when the president and the Congressional majority are of the same political party. I fear that the Democratic majority in Congress will now try to get away with as much as they can, as Congress has done in the past.

Also, I still fear the consequences of having too much Clinton influence in the White House. We elected Barack Obama to the presidency, not the Clintons or their minions. I am both irked and worried to see the Clintons and their minions back in the White House, this time by presidential appointment. Let's hope that Obama is both wise enough and strong enough to keep their ambitions in check; otherwise he will be reduced to a figurehead while the Clintons rule the country and make Richard Nixon look like a petty thief.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I Resolve ...

I have only one resolution this year.

1. Get a job.

Outside of that, nothing else matters.

To be successful, a resolution needs to have some priority in your life. Either it has to be something that fills a vital need (see my resolution #1, above) or it has to be something that you are passionate about. Without the vital need or the passion, it just won't happen.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Help for Gaza: Just an Idea

I know I'm not the first person to think of this, but I'm going to put it in print anyway. I really should have thought of this weeks ago.

Before the current crisis erupted in Gaza, these two facts were clear:
1) Hamas accused Israel's blockade of Gaza of keeping food and other supplies from getting through.
2) Hamas was using the smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza to smuggle rockets into Gaza, which they then fired at Israel.

So, um, why didn't Hamas just smuggle food and other supplies in through the tunnels, disguised as crates of rockets?

(No answer needed. The question is rhetorical.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I'm really sorry, Craig

My father's 75th birthday party was great. We had root beer floats and all of dad's favorite treats. Each of us six children had to write a memory about Dad and recite it to the assembled crowd of kids and grandkids. I decided not to share my essay about being a teacher. You see, Depews don't cry, and I intend to keep it that way. Instead, I shared this story. It brought the house down.

This is not just a memory of my dad, but also of my brother. Over forty years later, I have to say: I'm really sorry, Craig. I've felt guilty about this for years. But it's a really good story.

The basement of our house in Wilmington, Delaware, was a great place. We had a ping-pong table. We had a race track set up in the crawlspace. Dad built a workshop for himself, and one for the boys. He put an old radio up in the ceiling between the floor joists, and we used to listen to it while we worked. One time I reached up to turn it on while I was standing on the concrete floor in bare feet, and I experienced my first 110-volt electrical shock.

One day, Craig and I were playing in the basement. I must have been around 10 years old, so Craig was about 8. Apparently we were doing something we shouldn't have been doing, and apparently we were doing it pretty loudly, because Dad came downstairs and he wasn't happy. He took us over to one corner of the basement, got a yardstick out of the shop, and had a little talk with us. At the end of the talk, he told us that, rather than him spanking us, we would have to spank each other.

He handed the yardstick to Craig. That meant I would be on the receiving end first. I dropped my pants and assumed the position. I think Craig and I were both scared to death. Craig's eyes were as big as saucers, and his lower lip was trembling, as he stared fearfully at Dad, reached out with the yardstick and gave me a light tap.

Then we traded positions. Now, in my defense, I must say, honestly, that I was terribly afraid that if we didn't do this properly, Dad was going to take the yardstick from us and demonstrate to us how it was to be done. That's what Mom would have done. And I really didn't want Dad to do that.

So with Craig bent over and the target in clear view, I wound up and delivered. Hard. Just once. Craig jumped up immediately, clamped his hands over his bruised cheeks, and hopped all over that basement like a kangaroo, bawling and wailing, with his pants still down around his ankles.

Fortunately, that's the end of my memory of that scene. Craig or Dad might be able to fill in the rest.

I imagine that what went through Dad's mind while Craig was hopping around was something like, “Well, that didn't work out the way I planned it.”

Or maybe, “I hope I can get all the way upstairs before I bust out laughing.”

Or maybe, “Ma's never gonna believe this one.”

As soon as I started my narration, Craig said, "Hey, that's the story I was going to tell!" Afterwards, he said that my version was essentially correct, and added that "the position" involved bending over a sawhorse. Somebody asked him how long he stayed mad at me. He said, "About two minutes." Dad said he doesn't remember the incident anymore, but that his reaction would have been #2 above.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Did Barack Obama sell his soul for the presidency?

After Barack Obama won the U.S. presidential election in November, he immediately and prudently set about naming members of his cabinet and his White House staff. I say "prudently," because this nation runs a lot better when there's a smooth transition between one president and the next.

However, his nominations betrayed both his promises for change and the trust the American voters had placed in him by voting for him. We watched in dismay as he repeatedly named former members of Bill Clinton's White House and Hilary Clinton's campaign organization.

Our dismay was especially sharp when news leaked out that Hilary Clinton herself was going to be nominated for Secretary of State, and our dismay turned really sour when it was revealed that the leak had originated not from Obama's organization, but from Clinton's organization. Obama barely had time to verbally acknowledge the truth of the leak before Clinton's own people began issuing more press releases about the upcoming appointment.

Clinton's qualifications for SecState? Wife of a former governor of Arkansas, wife of a former (and disgraced) president of the United States, and junior senator from New York. Zero foreign-policy experience.

The latest in the parade of Clintonist appointments was Leon Panetta as director of the CIA. Panetta has no experience in the intelligence community, and no qualifications to lead the CIA. The best thing Obama or his people could say about Panetta is that Panetta is a good administrator. His qualifications: 16 years as a congressman from California; director of the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy at a university he co-founded; director of the Office of Management and Budget; and Bill Clinton's White House chief of staff.

Let me say that last one again, with a twist. The biggest thing that qualified Leon Panetta for his CIA role was that he was chief of staff in Bill Clinton's White House. That was enough to elevate him above all of the other potential nominees with years of intelligence agency experience, with heroic service records, or with useful intelligence contacts in other countries.

Wasn't Obama the guy who campaigned against "Washington insiders" and the "Same Old Way" of doing things in Washington? And where's the "change" Obama and his supporters have been crowing about for a year and a half? I see no "change." These people have been waiting in the wings for eight years for a chance to get their old jobs back: they're "insiders," and the promised "change" is just an eight-year deferred "same old way."

When you look back at the campaign, some seemingly innnocuous events from the campaign start to make sense. Remember the long, private discussions that Obama had with Hilary Clinton, just before the convention -- and, if I recall correctly, between the convention and the election? Remember the vicious remarks Bill Clinton was making about Obama, right up until the moment Obama won the nomination at the convention, and the conciliatory and supportive
remarks Bill made after the nomination? Clinton always was good at changing his tune in a hurry, depending on the needs of the moment.

I think that Bill and Hilary promised to give up the fight, and to throw their support behind Obama, in exchange for something. And that "something" was power - power in the executive branch, and power in the White House itself. I think that the Clintons have always been ruthless and power-hungry, and that Democratic voters were afraid of their naked lust for power, which is why they voted overwhelmingly for Obama in the primaries.

I think that the Clintons threatened to fight his nomination, unless Obama promised them power - LOTS of power - in his new administration. When he agreed to their terms, they channeled their power into getting him elected. And now that he's elected, the Clintons have more power in the White House than Obama does.

1. Obama sold his soul to the Clintons in order to gain the presidency, just as surely as Dr. Faust sold his soul to Mephistopheles for what he wanted most. And, like Mephistopheles and Faust, the Clintons are going to make sure he pays.
2. Democratic voters thought they were keeping the Clintons out of the White House, and boy, were they fooled.
3. If you don't agree with me, just wait four years. Elected or not, the Clintons will be running the country. You'll see.