the job interview post mortem

I had a first “phone screen” with another perspective employer yesterday. For those who haven’t been keeping track, I’ve been interviewing for other jobs off and on for the last two years. This process started because Mrs. Geek and I were thinking about moving out of state, and I wanted to find a job in our (perspective) new locale. That job never materialized. Instead, we finally decided to stay put last Spring/Summer. I’ve been occasionally interviewing for other jobs since then. I like my current job, but I am unsure that it is doing enough to keep my job skills sharp. I need new challenges to keep my career relevant.

These first phone screens drive me nuts. It’s like a blind date. You get a call from someone who talks to you for about an hour. I always end up being asked about my prior experiences and why I am interested in changing jobs. I am then usually given one or two design problems for which I must craft a solution. I then spend the 24 hours following the interview dissecting my solutions, trying to figure out if I made any mistakes. This is somehow inevitable… like walking out a school exam wondering how you did. I’ve given up fighting it.

The cure, in college at least, involved alcohol. A few drinks would calm those busybody brain cells right down. Perhaps this will dictate my plans for this evening… hmmmm.

that other thing and taxes

Life seems to be so full of various competing agendas at the moment that there hasn’t been much time to write. About the only thing that’s really been able to hold my attention lately is mix making for harri3tspy(whose verbal output lately threatens to sweep me aside). Actually, I’ve been doing a lot of wandering through my digitized CD collection lately. So much so that I was tempted to call this entry “walking the 670” (for the number of discs in my collection).

My health has been the focus of much of my attention lately. I was diagnosed with an inguinal hernia a few weeks back, and its correction will require surgery. When I mention to this to people, the question “Did you lift something heavy?” inevitably arises. I am told that the best predictor for getting a hernia is if a close relative has/had one. My Dad had his first hernia surgery when he was 39 years old; I turned 39 last December. Good to know that I’m running right on schedule.

I did our taxes about 10 days ago. I feared that we would somehow end up owing several thousands of dollars because of all that money we had to convert and move to make home buying possible. That did not prove to be the case where the Internal Revenue Service is concerned; state and local taxes and mortgage interest payments effectively canceled capital gains, making for a $70 tax refund. We weren’t as lucky with state taxes — we owe a couple thousand dollars there. So, we’re increasing the amount of state taxes we get withheld in each paycheck and hope for the best for next year.

Mr. Obama’s speech

Wow. Two entries in one day. Perhaps I am trying to make up for all my slacking during the last few weeks.

Mrs. Geek and I were discussing Barack Obama’s speech on race relations last night. I’d read it during the day as a transcript and then felt compelled to find video of Mr. Obama giving it… because it was just that good. Mrs. Geek had heard about it but had not yet heard or read it in full. I struggled to come up with words to describe it. After a few sentences that did not seem to capture the feeling, I finally found the shorthand that would convey exactly what I felt in a way she would understand: “It was a West Wing moment.”

(The term “West Wing moment” refers to the many times during the last season of the TV series The West Wing when Alan Alda or Jimmy Smits seemed to transcend all the dirty, petty, lowest common denominator politics of the Presidential campaign and raised the level of discourse to a higher plane.)

Judging from the reviews today, I evidently was not the only person who thought so. Words like “Senator Barack Obama, who has not faced such tests of character this year, faced one on Tuesday. It is hard to imagine how he could have handled it better”, “No matter what happens in the 2008 presidential campaign, it is an address that Americans will read and recall for generations to come”, and “It was a masterpiece to go down in history along with Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” and Kennedy’s about his Catholicism” suggest that this was Mr. Obama speaking for not just us, but the ages. The only question on the minds of (liberal) political pundits seems to be whether or not Main Street, USA will accept and approve of this sort of behavior. After all, it has been a long, long time since anyone running for President really asked the human on the street to receive a statement about a complex issue like race with vocabulary not found on the back a cereal box.

I voted for Mr. Obama in my state’s Demcratic primary. My reasons for doing so were complex, and best reduced to something like “Hillary Clinton is probably the best qualified and will probably eventually win, but Barack Obama deserves to stay in the race because he will bring something important to it.” I hope most of all that Ms. Clinton or Mr. Obama will thrash John McCain in the Fall, but in the meanwhile… this is exactly the sort of thing that I hoped in my best heart of hearts that Mr. Obama would do. Not often in this age of sound bites do I get to hear eloquence phrased with the ring of history. For that Mr. Obama, I thank you.

if it’s in Wikipedia, it must be true

I had a weird experience yesterday. I decided to look up the Wikipedia entry on one of my favorite jazz albums. From there, I decided to have a look at the page of the trumpeter on the album. Once there, I decided click the link to the page of a saxophone player who was interviewed in a jazz documentary I saw not long ago. Here’s where it turned weird: when I got to the end of the saxophonist’s page, I saw a link for the page of a guy I knew in high school. This last page had a bit of his history, including a passage describing the “Land Of My Birth scene” and listing five other names. I knew or knew of four of the five; the page subject, one of those five musicians, and I were groomsmen together in my cousin’s wedding.

The whole thing felt a little odd, going from a classic jazz album to my hometown, my high school, and my cousin’s wedding in three hops. I always knew that I was privileged during my days as a band geek to be walking among giants — but that always seemed to be a private, “home town” kind of thing. To find out that you went to school with half a dozen guys who have appeared on national TV, and toured with the likes of Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, and the Allman Brothers… that’s the real deal.

music and other auditory hallucinations

Ok, I haven’t updated in a week. I’ve been sick with some kind of cold or flu since last Thursday. I worked from home for a while yesterday… but I am otherwise sounding very hoarse and camping out all day on the sofa.

I’ve had the chance to see some very interesting new television and revisit an old favorite on DVD. In part on teranika’s recommendation, I have been watching Pete Seeger: The Power of Song. The documentary stirs up two rather contradictory thoughts in me:

Seeing both Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie play folk songs with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee — two artists I otherwise think of as part of the acoustic blues genre — reminds me of the fundamental interconnected-ness of the American rural song. Blues, bluegrass, and folk are really parallel streams that weave around and mingle with each other… in ways that a record store “genre” label can never adequately describe. Such labels and categories have more to do with ideas of race and class than what the musicians actually play.

The other thing I think of is the nature of the folk song voice itself. My parents enjoyed a certain flirtation with the folk revival in the late 50’s and early 60’s (of which Pete Seeger was the father). My Mom has some of the Kingston Trio LPs and some of the early work of Joan Baez in her collection. Yet for them, folk music always was about the pure, ringing voice. They don’t get why Bob Dylan is great… but I finally do, after hearing a lot of hearing a number of grating blues singers like Mississippi Fred McDowell and (to a lesser degree) Son House.

Whenever I get sick, I get out the DVDs (or VHS tapes) of parts of Ken Burns’ American Trilogy. This week, I’ve been watching Jazz. I find it fascinating to watch the series once every year or two, to see how my expanding knowledge of jazz informs my reaction to the series. The series was my original introduction to the history of jazz, and was responsible for me taking my first real look (and real liking) to the “bebop” and “hard bop” jazz of the 1940’s and 50’s. Now I see more and more how Mr Burns’ needs as a storyteller caused him to make certain choices about what to cover and who to emphasize. The series is a documentary, yes, but also an oral history of sorts… with certain more colorful characters included, and other more bland personalities excluded.

Finally, illness and cold medication has made for some interesting moments during the last few years. I awoke at 3:12am this morning after suddenly dreaming that the smoke detector in our room went off. That prompted me to get up and take another shot of Nyquil, and then spend 30 minutes listening for any odd sounds in the house. For a while, I thought I heard a sort of low hum in our room that had me concerned for a while. My ears also rang a bit. The ringing, the hum, and the smoke alarm may have been a hallucination induced by low grade fever, cold medecine, or both.