How blogging can kill your career (if you let it)

There’s a short article on The Job Blog about how one job seeker’s new gig was torpedoed by her personal blog. Apparently after a job interview the prospective employer Googled this person and read something that was awful enough to curl their toes and make them drop-kick the blogger from the applicant pool. The blogger/applicant apparently continues to blog, but has developed some self-imposed rules such as “not identifying her employer in online postings, not identifying colleagues, and not revealing proprietary information.”

When I read that I rolled my eyes so hard I almost lost my balance. You identify yourself by name, gossip about co-workers, and reveal proprietary information in a public space? Then you’re shocked that there are consequences?

I hardly think I’m special or insightful in this regard, but like most rational bloggers I long ago assumed that anything anyone writes in a blog can and WILL be read at some future point by prospective employers, girlfriends/boyfriends, co-workers, friends, and colleagues. Count on it. To that end, I not only avoid sharing scandalous secrets or competitive advantages, I try to come across as a decent person. I don’t curse here. I don’t express strong political opinions even when I really do hold them. I never EVER write about projects I do at work or the people I do them with, even if it seems innocuous on the surface. In short, I don’t write anything that I would be uncomfortable having a prospective employer, friend, or family member read.

In fact, I took things beyond that. One of the reasons I started is that I wanted to give prospective employees something impressive to read if they did an Internet search on me. And by the way, it seems to be working. Once in a job interview the hiring manager made positive comments about both and without my ever mentioning them, revealing that they had gone out and found the sites on their own.

I also extend this rule to other activities on the Internet. Even though I use a pseudonym, I always write on Internet bulletin boards as if that post would be at the top of a Google search for my real name. Because you know that veil of anonymity you think you have when posting under an online moniker like “Fluffybunnytoes?” It’s paper thin.

So sorry for the rant, but I’m just amazed that anyone would be amazed at this. And it’s just going to get more pronounced with time. I’m really curious to see what happens when the MySpace crowd grows up and starts applying for jobs and running for public offices. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to post those provocative pictures and stories about your personal life after all.

The Grapes of Wrath

the grapes of wrath

Man, it would really suck to be a character in a John Steinbeck novel. I read Of Mice and Men a while back, and that didn’t end well. The Grapes of Wrath not only doesn’t end well for the characters, it doesn’t start well and doesn’t …middle well, either.

It is pretty effective, though, assuming that Steinbeck’s aim was to provoke empathy for the thousands of farmers who were pushed out of places like Oklahoma only to find that their land of milk and honey, California, was full of cutthroat business owners who would not blink at the thought of watering their cash crops with the blood of the destitute “Oakies” who flood in to work in their fields. Steinbeck also makes some blatant overtones about community, repression, and the need for organized labor. I’d like to see him in a celebrity cage deathmatch with Ayn Rand.

But good book, overall. Kind of dragged on in places, but it really had an epic feel to it. Just kind of sad that it ends the way it does, and with the most uncomfortable breastfeeding scene I’ve ever come across.

Sam’s Story: Week 113

Kind of a slow week, actually. Sam continues to chat us up, and things are getting to the point where you can actually have rudimentary little conversations with her. Sometimes she’ll actually get the ball rolling by making spontaneous observations like “I like cheese” even though cheese was nowhere on either the conversational or literal landscape.

The funniest thing, though, has got to be what I’ve taught Sam in relation to one particularly weird Internet meme:

ME: Sammy, what movie do you want to see?

SAM: Snakes on a Plane! Snakes on a Plane!

If you don’t get it, don’t worry. You’re just dead inside. Picture Samuel Jackson screaming at terrified flight attendants about snakes: “I want these **********ing snakes off the **********ing plane! Now!” And you’ll get it, or close enough.

Here, here’s some pictures:

One other odd linguistic quirk that Sam has developed is constantly asking where people and/or things have gone. I think it started in earnest when I was playing hide-and-seek with her one night. I’d put her on the bed, then run out of the room and hide in one of the other upstairs room by the time she clamored down. She’d run out into the room and into the hallway, where she’d shout “Where Daddy go?” before starting to systematically check each room until she found me. Fun stuff.

Thing is, she’s developed a habit of posing this kind of question when the answer is completely self evident. This leads to conversations like this:

“Where did my doo go?”

“Your blanket it right behind you, Sammy. I just watched you drop it.”

“Where did Mommy go?”

“She’s upstairs.”

“Where Wolfgang go?”

“I have no idea. He’s probably hiding from you somewhere.”

“Where did Mommy go”

“Upstairs. Still. You should write these things down.”

“Where did Daddy go?”

“Um, helloooo? I’m right here. You’re looking right at me.”

Sam pauses here to give me an annoyed look.

“Where did my doo go?”

And so on. We never did find the cat.

How to save money on employment testing

It’s no secret that a lot of companies are looking to cut costs and increase effeciencies in their hiring processes. While pre-employment testing has demonstrated benefits in terms of getting better people in the job, it can be costly. Assessments for higher-level managers or executives can costs several thousand dollars per person, and even simpler tests of basic aptitudes like computational ability or language skills can rack up costs pretty quickly.

Fortunately, I recently found the answer to this problem while strolling through the “Everything’s A Dollar” store in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There on Aisle 3 between off-brand dishwashing liquid and various mass-produced knicknacks sat a rack full of these:

There were also booklets for math and spelling skills, and for simpler jobs like “Consultant” there were books that test your knowledge of shapes and colors.

Brilliant. I mean, you can’t beat that for a buck, and for an added bonus adverse impact will work in girls’ favor for once!

The NRA really has gone too far this time…

As someone on another board said, we’ve weathered their support for armor-piercing bullets and assault rifles, but this is really going too far:

Police Shooting Championship

I mean, are they being hunted for sport, or shot from a catapult like big blue skeet? The mind boggles.

Sam’s Story: Week 112

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve raved about Sam’s developing language skills, so I think I’m due. They have, as you may have guessed, continued to rocket upwards, with complete sentences now being the norm. She’s also making deft use of pronouns, which I thought was kind of unusual for her age. She still sometimes says “Sammy” (or rather “Harm-ee”) when referring to herself, but she’ll just as often say “me” or “my” or “I” or even “you” when refering to someone else. Apparently Elmo with his constant self-referential syndrome is not the perfect model upon which to mold expectations for a kid’s language development.

Below are some of Sam’s more recent and most elaborate vocalizations. The first one came totally out of the blue while we were just sitting on the floor, playing:

“I had a black rocking chair at Nana’s house.”

Which, it turns out, is true. Then there was this one when we getting dressed to go play in the back yard:

“Daddy needs shoes! [Looks at my feet] Oh, they’re already on.”

And then there’s this, her current coup de grace, said while eating a particularly messy lunch:

“Uh oh, cheese all over the floor. …That’s okay, momma will clean it up.”

Sam has also gotten into the habit of repeating just about everything we say, even when we’re not talking to her. This has made us quite self-conscious, and we’re dreading the day when Sam catches an errant F-bomb and lobs it right back at us. Geralyn and I have had some lively arguments about which one of us is most likely to be the perpetrator of this ugly bit vocabulary building when it happens, but these aren’t arguments I want to extend to this public space. So I won’t say much, except that one of us curses like a longshoreman on vacation in Deadwood when she overcooks Sam’s cream of wheat and it boils over inside the microwave. I’m just sayin’.

Now, pictures!

We’re still a little skimpy on pictures on account of not being in our normal routine, but things will pick up next week. The picture in the middle is of Sam wearing her lucky St. Patrick’s Day hat. Personally, I think she got ripped off when she bought that thing. It looks like somebody just stapled some strips of construction paper together and went at them with crayons. But what do I know?

Sam’s Story: Week 111

As I’ve mentioned, Sam has become quite possessive of her things lately, and we’re working on getting her to share with others. And I’m sorry to say that this week she took the lessons to heart –or rather, to stomach– and decided to share some kind of horrible flu bug with everyone she came in contact with.

It started quietly enough. Sam contracted the virus, then started throwing up and, well, you know …projecting from the other end, too. This was while she and Ger were still in San Diego and planning to come out for my dad’s funeral. Sam seemed to be better after a day and a half so they went ahead and came out, but then Ger started ralphing on Sunday night and was totally knocked off her feet the whole day Monday. Then Monday night I caught it and spent the whole night vomiting so violently that the neighbors probably thought I was strangling a moose in the bathroom. Then I had to fly back to California on Tuesday by myself, completely exhausted, dehydrated (none of us could keep even water down), and nauseous the whole way. Then I heard that my brother-in-law and my father-in-law both caught it and were repeating the hurl-and-squirt routine. From there, I’m sure the bug is infecting every member of the Madigan, Warren, Smith, and Sommer families that came in town for the funeral. I hope my dad will look down on me and forgive me for saying that for the first time in a long time, he was the only one who wasn’t sick.

At any rate, BAD SHARING, Sammy! BAD!

Here are some pictures.

Not much, since the travel and other activities put a crimp in our normally compulsive picture taking. The one on the right is Sam with her “Aun Hawn.” Who is, as I write this, probably vomiting as a result of being close enough to Sam to pose for that picture.

Harold James Madigan, 1935 – 2006

MADIGAN – Harold J., 70, passed away on Thursday, March 9th. Harold was born on New Year’s Eve, 1935 in Jersey City, New Jersey. He attended Fordham University where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics. Harold served in the U.S. Army Armored Division as a Tank Commander. After leaving the Army, he started his distinguished career as a banker on Wall Street before moving to Oklahoma where he worked at several banks, eventually becoming a Senior Vice President at the Bank of Oklahoma. He left the Bank of Oklahoma to start his own consulting firm, Bank Training Systems, which specialized in creating credit analysis systems. In his retirement, Harold enjoyed computer gaming, reading, studying history, and eating english muffins with coffee. Those who knew him will miss his dry sense of humor, his keen insights, and his fierce determination to persist in the face of adversity.

Harold is survived by his wife of 40 years, Sue Madigan, his daughter Shawn Smith and son-in-law Brent Smith, his son Jamie Madigan and daughter-in-law Geralyn Madigan, his granddaughter, Samantha Madigan, his brothers, Tom and Richard, and his sisters, Mary and Nora. Services will be held Monday, March 13, at 2:00 at Woodland Acres Baptist Church –5511 S. Harvard in Tulsa. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Woodland Acres Baptist Church.

Everything Bad is Good for You

This is one of the most brilliant books I’ve read in a while. Here, let me repeat that for truth:

This book. Brilliant. Totally.

But let’s back up a second and I’ll explain why. In Everything Bad is Good For You, Steven Johnson describes a phenomenon he calls “the sleeper curve.” Basically, it holds that the vessels of pop culture –mass media like TV shows, video games, and the Internet in particular– have grown steadily more complex and cognitively demanding over the last 30 years. What’s brilliant about Johnson’s arguments is that he divorces them from discussions about the content of the media as well as its artistic or moralistic merit. Sure, the artistic value of The Legend of Zelda is nill when you compare it to literary classics (save the princess AGAIN? are you kidding me?), but Johnson notes that that’s the wrong way to look at it. Instead, you have to look a the cognitive demands of the game and how it encourages the player to learn absurdly complex rules and follow them along while using cognitive functions relating to spatial intelligence, memory, and logical reasoning. What’s more, Johnson actually makes a pretty good case for how media like video games and television are, on average, actually making us smarter instead of dumbing us down.

This isn’t really new, either. “Everything Bad” opens with a discussion of how the author would use every ounce of brainpower he possessed to master dice-based baseball simulations with tables of tightly nested statistics and rules that make tax forms look like child’s play. And it’s a short mental hop from those games to something that resonated with me: Dungeons and Dragons. My mother always told me that if I put half as much interest into my school work as I did D&D that I would …oh, I don’t know, make the Dean’s Honor List in college and then go on to earn a Ph.D. in psychology. Which, as you may know, I totally did. But Johnson points out that it wasn’t in spite of my interest in all the arcane rules and statistics that were crammed between the covers of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, nor despite my later love for video games. It was, at least in part, because of them. Stretching the mind by subjecting it to the cognitive demands of today’s mass media actually makes people smarter and more capable of cognitive sommersaults in other areas. Yeah, I know, it’s kind of hard to believe, but trust me; the book makes its arguments very well.

One of the other interesting ways in which “Everything Bad” upsets preconceptions about even the lowest of mass media is in its discussion of reality TV shows, and I have to admit that this one even flabbergasted me a bit. At first, anyway. Johnson spends a good chunk of one chapter discussing how shows like Survivor and The Apprentice are taxing on our intelligence –specifically, our EMOTIONAL intelligence. Briefly, emotional intelligence is a construct that deals with how well we can read the mental states and emotions of other people, track relationships between and within groups of people, and use that information to understand and predict what people will do. Watching reality television shows like The Apprentice requires emotional intelligence to make sense of what the various contestants are doing and WHY they’re doing it. It’s more than Bob Barker ever asked us to do on The Price is Right. To understand why Contestant A hates Contestant B but decided to create an alliance with Contestant C is a form of intelligence, Johnson argues. You can legitimately debate the merits of constructs like emotional intelligence, but he’s definitely on to something I’d never thought of, especially relative to the simplicity of earlier shows.

There’s a lot more I could go on about, like comparing the narrative complexity of today’s most popular dramas with those of yesteryear (The Soppranos or the new Battlestar Galactica vs. Dragnet or Starsky and Hutch for instance) or the influence of the Internet on all of this, but I’m getting long-winded as it is. If you like video games, television, movies, books, the Internet, or puppies, you should totally read this book. It’s easily going to be on my “Best of” list for 2006.

Sam’s Story: Week 110

I’ve written before about how I thought Sam was getting into the “Terrible Twos” a little ahead of schedule, but it now appears that my pronouncement may have been a little premature. I apparently had no idea what “terrible” really meant.

Sam is still sweet as aspertane and I love her to death, but she’s really started to display some of those hallmark signs of independence that are, I guess, normal parts of development at this age. Can’t have pudding for dinner? To the floor! Kick! Scream! Need a diaper change? Kick! Squirm! See if you can make Daddy cry! The other trait that Sam has developed along these is possessiveness. She has learned the concept of possession, and we’re still working on sharing. In dealing with this kind of thing, though, the snarky part of me has learned to play off it to funny results. Take this recent conversation in my parent’s back yard as a for-example:

“That’s a nice stick,” I say. “Can I see it?”

Sam pulls the stick away and gives me the evil eye. “Mah sick!”

“Your stick? Okay, I’m going to play with this ball, then.”

“No! Mah ball!” She grabs the ball, still refusing to relinquish the stick.

“Oh,” I say, looking around. “I guess I’ll play with this fire truck.”

Sam grimaces on queue and lurches for the truck, still clutching stick and ball. “Mah fah tuck!”

“Okay, I guess I’ll just amuse myself with these pine cones.”

“No! Mah pah co” She’s now toddling around under the combined weight of a stick, a fire truck, a ball, and three or four pine cones. She keeps dropping various items and snatching them up again lets I make a grab for them.

At this point I have an inspiration. “Ooh, Sammy, look at this tree I’ve got.” I walk over to a tree and put my arm around a sufficiently large piece of the local flora.

Sam makes some kind of frantic noise from behind the pine cones and runs for the tree. Only she can’t see around her accumulated possessions so well, and she walks right into it, sending everything flying in all directions. I try not to laugh too much and remind myself that someday Sam will probably find a way to get even with me. Then we have a talk about sharing, which she ignores. There’s some kind of moral here, but it involves a kid running into a tree, so I’m not sure it’ll catch on.


I particularly love this one, which shows Sam inspecint a newly washed glass for spots. Some day she’ll make a fine waitress –in one of those fancy joints that don’t have any pictures of the food on the menus.

A Million Little Pieces

A Million Little Pieces

I’m still not quite sure what to think of this book, even with the revelations that chunks of it were totally made up. To me, that’s not its main problem. Frey’s entire work is hamstrung by a half-baked stream of consciousness style that is more often annoying than compelling. Sure, I can appreciate the style when he’s talking about how messed up in the head he is, but the inexplicable punctuation (he seems to capitalize words randomly) and the total avoidance of quotation marks doesn’t make it artsy or authentic. It just makes it hard to read.

The book is also hopelessly melodramatic and romantic in the classical sense of the word. True love at first sight saves the day, the author befriends a mob boss with a heart of gold, and there are more addict sob stories than you can swing a crack pipe at. Really, anybody who thought that this “memoir” was 100% true needs to go into gullibility detox themselves. Stuff just doesn’t line up like this in real life. Other “Oh you don’t really expect me to believe this” points include:

  • Getting on a plane covered in blood, in need of immediate medical attention, and unconscious. I can’t even get on a plane with an oversized bag.
  • Being told he can’t have Novocaine (a non-addictive, local, and non-mood altering anesthetic) for a double root canal because he’s an addict.
  • The author’s not getting thrown out of a substance abuse clinic when he freaks out and trashes a room.
  • Being told that the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory pegged the author’s intelligence as high (the MMPI doesn’t measure intelligence).
  • A dramatic rescue of a fellow patient from a crack house, accompanied by clinic staff.
  • One patient’s getting the clinic to allow him to have a private party, complete with catered food, gambling, and the setup of a satellite TV system for the viewing of a Pay-Per-View boxing event.

I could go on, but you get the point. So the book is poorly written, melodramatic, and contrived in several places, not to mention that big parts of it are billed as real when they are obviously not. But still, I kept turning the pages until I came to the end, because it’s an interesting story and I wanted to know how it came out. Frey also has some thought-provoking things to say about the nature of abuse and how he was able to deal with it –take personal responsibility for not only your problems, but for solving them. He eschews –even mocks– the whole 12-step program, calling it the replacement of one addition (drugs) with another (the program). While I think one addiction is obviously better than the other in this example, i can kind of see what he’s talking about.

But again, since the legitimacy of his whole tale is questionable, I’m not sure I’d recommend looking to him for anything more than an entertaining story.