Friday, November 28, 2008

My first mondegreen

Thanksgiving was yesterday, and with it came memories of my first mondegreen.
There was an ad for a department store that I can't remember that used the song "Over the River and Through the Woods." This song is also on the Alvin and the Chipmunks album, "Christmas with the Chipmunks," which I had when I was little. (Yeah, the song's about Thanksgiving, but they grafted a bridge onto the song that mentions Christmas to make it fit the theme.)
It's easy to mishear the Chipmunks. When they talk, I usually can't understand a word they're saying. But on "Over the River," one line stuck out:

WRONG: It sees the nose and bites the nose as over the ground we go
RIGHT: It stings the toes and bites the nose as over the ground we go

So since it's officially the Christmas season now, I'll leave you with Alvin...Alvin...ALVIN!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

career ur doin it rong

Today I learned that I did not get a position at work that seemed perfect for me.
This is the eighth interview I've had at my company without a single offer. My current position is adequate, but provides little chance for advancement and is not where I want to be in five or 10 years.
Why didn't I get the job? The only reason I can discern (aside from any one of several full-blown conspiracy theories) is that I was a bit lighter on technical skills than they wanted, although I was assured during the interview that I would be trained on any technical applications I might need.
It's the ultimate career conundrum--you can't get a job because you don't have experience, but WHERE IN THE HELL ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO GET THE EXPERIENCE? (And I'm a bit old for the Army! Navy! Air Force! Marines! Just the fact that I remember that ad ages me terribly.)
This is a big problem in information technology because the field changes rapidly. I earned a subsequent bachelor's degree in Management Information Sciences in 2002, and what I learned in school already seems dated. I can tell you the difference between ring architecture and bus architecture, but nobody cares. IT job openings make my head spin nowadays. C#? J2EE? WTF?
I haven't done myself many favors. As far as my career goes, I have always had a bad habit of jumping on every bandwagon right before it goes off a cliff. I got into IT back in the good old days, when every other ad on TV was for a dot-com. By the time I graduated, the dot-com boom was gone. Hard to believe that it was only nine years ago that Newsweek ran a cover of a cartoon woman crying and asking, "Why aren't I rich yet?" Now they could have her ask, "Why did I lose my house?"
Also working against me (for most positions) is that my pre-tech experience is in journalism. I once worked for the Daily Racing Form, which makes many techies react as if I'd been in prison. (Seriously, one interviewer actually started to get up from the table when he read that paragraph on my resume.) One person told me that my background had nothing to do with data. Anybody who thinks the Form has nothing to do with data has obviously never read one.
So where does this leave me? Do I keep trying to find another position in my company, hoping that the ninth, 15th, 28th time will be the charm? Do I keep sending resumes out into the black hole of cyberspace?
Or do I just clean up my cube and assume I'm going to be sitting in it for a long time?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A damn good generation

Not many people were shocked that Barack Obama won the Presidential election, but most were at least surprised by the decisiveness of the victory.

There is no one reason why he won. The cynic and the racist will argue that the black vote put him over the top, but African-Americans are only 12 percent of the U.S. population—not enough to account for a landslide.

Obama’s appeal spread across many demographic groups, but one in particular was vital to his victory.

Throughout the campaign, I tried to judge who was ahead based on what I heard on the street and in the media, and the number of campaign signs I saw. Popularity seemed to go along the usual, stereotypical lines—more Obama signs in poor neighborhoods, more McCain signs in rich neighborhoods.

Nothing prepared me for what I saw last month when I went back to Otterbein College for homecoming.

I graduated from Otterbein in 1987, and I remember it being as apolitical as a liberal arts college could get. Perhaps it was just the general ‘80s zeitgeist, but most of the students there in my day couldn’t have cared less about politics. Given the choice between Reagan and Mondale, most of us would rather have had another beer (provided it was off-campus—read on).

First, there was the Obama sign in the second-story window at my fraternity’s house. Then there were the multiple chalk scrawls of “OBAMA” I saw all over the campus sidewalks.

Then came the homecoming parade. A group of cheering young people walked through the staging area passing out stickers reading, “I voted early for Barack Obama.” Most of my frat’s contingent wore them, as did many other people in the parade. (I did not take one, not because I didn’t support Obama, but because, as a Pennsylvania resident, I could not vote early.) It was almost an Obama parade, full of upper-middle class white kids, hardly radicals.

Bear in mind that this happened at a dry college in a town that was dry until about 10 years ago. Also bear in mind that the surrounding area has elected Republicans for as long as I can remember. Nobody would confuse Otterbein with Cal Berkeley.

Obama’s victory belongs to young people—people the age of my stepdaughters (24 and 22) and the students at Otterbein. What they see in him varies. Some are drawn by his undeniable charisma. Some are concerned about various issues—the economy, the environment, civil liberties. They are the people who voted early in states that allowed it. They are the people who lined up around the block to vote. They are the people who cared.

I came away from homecoming convinced that Obama would win. I also came away with a great hope for the future that goes beyond electing one President.

The generation in its teens and 20s is showing a great interest in the future of the nation and the planet. They have the potential to be everything the children of the ‘60s could have been had hard drugs not entered the equation.

This is not the greatest generation. That mantel goes to my dad’s generation for winning World War II. But if this generation stays involved and continues to care about things outside themselves, they will go down in history as a damn good one.

Monday, November 3, 2008

It's not all about you

On the eve of such a crucial election, I thought of asking why politics have become so divisive lately, but that assumes that politics have never been as divisive as they are now.

Sure, politics might appear to be more controversial now than they were when I was little, but I think that’s because I wasn’t aware of how high the stakes were back then. Can I take even a cursory look at history and say with a straight face that politics were bland and inoffensive in, say, the 1960s? Nope.

Politics have always divided people, but I think it’s fair to talk about one reason why they are so divisive now—the tendency of people to put personal, short-term interests ahead of what’s good for themselves, and the nation, in the long run.

If you ask someone why they insist on voting for Neanderthals (apologies to the Geico cavemen) who would destroy civil liberties and thrust the country back into the dark ages, the answer usually has something to do with taxes. Mr. Fascist Thug said he’d give me a tax break, while Mr. Progressive Liberal wants to give all my money to illegal immigrants. Given the vehemence with which this litany is delivered, you’d think that electing the wingnut would somehow end all taxes overnight.

Get real. Taxes exist. They aren’t going away. And if you want lower taxes, you may want to ask why $500 billion has gone toward a war that has benefitted nobody but Halliburton, while a similar amount is going to bail out failed corporations.

Then there are people who are screaming liberals on every other issue, but always vote Republican because they’re afraid that the government will take away that $20 peashooter that they fired once on New Year’s Eve. Hey, the Second Amendment is important, dammit! Who knows when you might need an AK-47 to keep those trick-or-treaters at bay?

In this election (and all others), it’s important to think about what issues are truly important, not just to you, but to the world.

For example, one of my voting issues is abortion rights. Why does a woman’s right to choose matter to me? I’m not a woman. My wife’s kids are grown. Abortion is not directly an issue to either of us in our daily lives. But the abortion issue matters to me on principle. If you don’t have the right to your own body, what rights do you have?

My Sitemeter tells me there’s not much traffic here, except from people who want to find out what a luleelurah is. So I may be talking to the wind here, but I felt like I had to do it anyhow.

I won’t tell you who to vote for (although you can probably guess). Just remember, when you enter the voting booth, that it’s not all about you.