Monday, August 24, 2009

Job Applications

When you submit your cover letter (consider including one when it is requested!) and resume:

  • Don’t tell me that, although you don’t have the particular skills needed for the job, you still think you’d be a good candidate.

  • Don’t write that you didn’t pass your Spanish course, but you really did try hard and that is a good quality to have as an employee.

  • Don’t send in your meaningful-to-you-and-your-success-as-an-undergraduate poetry. Especially when the open position is not “poet”.

  • Refer to your interest in an interview, not "coming in for a sit down."

  • Don’t rush through your cut-and-paste job and leave “Dear Ms. McCarthy” in your cover letter when you are actually addressing “Mr. Plummer”.

  • Don’t generically refer to the position for which you are applying as “the position being offered within your company.”

  • Don’t begin your letter about a minority population by stating that you believe “it is the weather that brings them here.”

  • Don’t sign yourself as being my “humble servant.”

  • If you have to misspell or leave out a word, at least don’t do this in the sentence touting your writing skills.

  • Don’t list getting an annual raise as one of your big achievements in previous jobs.

  • Don’t write in your cover letter that you were dismissed by doctors as having no chance for rehabilitation and then list “dementia, schizophrenia and multiple personalities” as “areas of expertise” in your resume.
Yes, these are all actual things I've seen over my years of hiring people. At least it brightens my day with a good chuckle.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A local hair salon in having some signage problems; an "S" has fallen off of their title. I like the new message. It reads " HEAR MADNESS".

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Celebrity Status

I remember a somewhat slightly subconscious process that I used to go through when I would make trips back to my hometown from college. Prior to departure, I would mentally compile a list of everyone whom I should contact while at home. These were the people whom I could not miss visiting with whenever I should pass through town. They were close friends and former teachers who would all want to know what I was doing, how I was and to hear of the new and exotic places I’d been since away.

If I saw Chris, then I’d have to call Joe. If I called Joe, Ellen would want to see me. It would be rude if I didn’t check in on Mary and Darrin. And so on it went. I would have to schedule my time very tightly between group gatherings and individual coffees. After all, I owed it to everyone to see him or her if I was in town. They even said that they asked to see me when they heard that I was coming for a visit. I was popular.

Of course, when anyone from out of town visits, one wants to see them. It isn’t so much that you are dying to hang on every word of their time away. It is more a matter of it being nice to see someone you haven’t seen in awhile. When someone comes from out of town, it is fun to hear about the doings and goings on of other places.

But, at the time, the requests to see me all seemed as if obligations to fulfill. It wasn’t that I really thought about it. I didn’t analyze my motives. But, somehow there was a strange mix of my feeling that I owed it to others to see them and that I needed them to see me. It validated my own sense of having succeeded away from home. Hometown boy made good.

Consciously, I thought that this was about other people. I was doing them a favor. I could impart to those who had been living day-in and day-out old lives stuck in one place pieces of the great adventure that I called my life. It was incumbent upon me to share my adventures to enlighten their dull lives.

So they all asked for some of my time while I was visiting and, voila, I was a celebrity.

Nowadays, I view visits differently. I spend time seeking out those whom I wish to know. What have they been doing? I seek out and make time for the people whom I need and want to have in my life. They are the gift to me. I am no longer the celebrity gracing their lives.

That seems more real and accurate, and I like it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I am trying to eat more and more within my home state of New Mexico. This practice has connected me to my life here more than anything else in my six years here. I like it best when I am part of the history and culture around me: part of the bounty of New Mexican earth, its food, traditions and native cultural life. It is a tasty land.

The complexity of Native Americans living with Spanish-lineage Mexicans living with Aztec/Mayan ancestral lines living with transplants from all other parts of the world (including this Hoosier) yields a fascinating mix of experiences. Catholic saints are celebrated alongside sacred mountains. Creator and Coyote slip seamlessly in and out of one another. Fry bread and sopapillas alternate as dessert. Today it is the corn dance of Pueblo Indians, tomorrow we dance Day of the Dead commemorations. We burn Zozobro, then turn and crawl with penitence eight miles to Chimayo. We sing rancheros with the mariachis, chant in pow-wows and listen to European operas.

It is as fluid as the air around us. When breathed in, when taken in as local food, the molecules of our bodies change. Food and oxygen naturally convert into energy within us; so is it that our very selves become unique to our particular time and place. Our habits conform to the surroundings in which we place ourselves.

I am choosing to forego the imports. The pre-packaged convenience. I do not want to become someone else’s energy from some unknown and distant other.

Instead, I stand on this soil. I eat its flesh. I soak in the lifeblood of this people and allow it to shape and connect me to the ancients before me. To some young Anasazi boy who danced by the banks of the Rio Grande in 1107. To the curandera who shared her herbal healing by candlelight. To saints who surround us, unseen. To bison almost extinct. To rhythms that have pulsated throughout generations and back to me. I become part of it. I connect again with myself.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Coming Home To Eat

By author Gary Paul Nabhan.

"No wonder that some of those who survived the depression and the Dust Bowl later indulged themselves in conspicuous consumption, in being proud of the fact that they had the leeway to "eat out" now and then. It is as cut and dried as an obituary column in a small town newspaper. For the three decades following the depression, Americans used their hard-won prosperity to purchase more and more of their food in ready-to-eat fashion....

"But the generation of kids raised by survivors of those dark and dusty times accepted that luxury as the norm. From the seventies through the nineties, as the average American's disposable income increased by 40 percent, so did their consumption of processed food. Even though they had the economic slack to immerse themselves in the pleasures of gardening and fishing, baking in wood-fired ovens and fermenting their own home brews, Americans spent less time preparing meals, and more time buying precooked packaged foods." p. 258

"...folks of Italian descent gain health benefits from integrating elements of ancient Mediterranean cuisine into their contemporary diet...cholesterol and blood-pressure levels plummet when Mexican Americans...return to the nopalitos and baked mescal of their Nahuatl ancestors...native Hawaiians lose weight and control of their diabetes when poi and tropical fruits regain prominence on their dinner tables. of course, some are hurt by the absence of traditional foods more than others are; although my mother's family suffered through famine and feast cycles much like those that O'odham neighbors did before government food assistance arrived, only one of my cousins suffers from diabetes, while nearly all my Indian neighbors do." p. 260

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I grew up in Delaware County, named for the Delaware tribe. We shopped in Muncie, named after Chief Muncie. I attended Wapahani High School. Sometimes we would drive south to play in Mounds State Park, so named because of the mounds that remain from the Mounds Indians. There were no Indians around. I never met one growing up. In fact, there was not even any Native American culture around.

Here in New Mexico, history is alive and pervasive and wonderful. I spent last Tuesday at Santo Domingo Pueblo celebrating its feast day. Over 400 dancers and 200 singers filled the long, rectangular plaza between two very large Kivas and danced from sunrise to sunset. The length of the dances, the steady boom of the drum, the native chant and the unrelenting blaze of sun on a barren, dusty desert floor without so much as a blade of grass or even a cactus, all combined in a meditative and trance-like experience.

Besides traditional dancing, a feast day is about, well, feasting, of course. Friends from the pueblo had invited me to stop by their home. This host family kept huge quantities of food--pots of posole and chili, tamales and horno-baked bread and mutton stew filled to the brim and steaming--on the table. Guests and friends flowed in and out of the house throughout the entire day, filling our stomaches before returning to the dances, the artisan booths and the carnival.

Just before sunset, as sweat trickled salt down foreheads and burned into eyes that were squinted half shut against a blazing desert sun, the winds came. Dust swirls appeared and swept the length of the plaza. Plumage of head dresses and rabbit furs faded in and out of sight. Our mouths tasted grit and still the drummers drummed on. Moccasin-clad feet kicked sand as the dancers continued snaking patterns before the statue of St. Dominic, shaking rattles of honor each time they crossed the path before him. The toll of 12 hours of dancing seemed to reveal itself, not in the noble faces of dancers, singers and onlookers fixated by rhythm and sound, but rather in this final surge of heat and light. The defiant adrenalin of a desert that was itself a participant of the festival.

Clouds then. And relief from the heat. Breeze cooling. A respectful hush as bells jingled to a stop and everyone present held his or her branch of pine with appreciation for the blessings of the Creator and saints, the good earth and its bounty and the communion of friends and family.

Monday, August 10, 2009

I lost my camera. Perfect timing. The last two events that I would have wanted to have photographed both prohibited cameras anyway. The first was a pueblo feast day (tomorrow's post). The second was last night’s concert. Since there are photos in this post, I've obviously and without scruples picked and plucked from around the Web. (Which I'll probably continue to do until I find or replace my camera.)

Opening act at 5:30 were TheWiyos, a sort of Cajun-influenced Squirrel Nut Zippers with a front man whose body antics made it apparent that he misses vaudeville. Willie Nelson followed. The 77-year old pot-promoting man still has a fantastic voice and is quite amazing on the guitar. He was the only lead, but as my friend said, “I kept looking for another guitar there was so much sound coming from him.” (Check out the wear and tear on the guitar!)


Then John Mellencamp blazed onto the stage. Short, and probably with a Napolean complex, this guy projects attitude to the back of the lawn seats. Just pure rock n roll, complete with staged choreography of all four guitars fronting the lip of the stage as the electric violin and accordion players wove in and out. The drummer had enough crispness and volume to match Nelson’s guitar. Mellencamp built a great wall of sound, pounding out mostly classics, one a capella, and one new one that was recorded during this tour.

Then came the act which had attracted me: Bob Dylan. As far as I can remember, this was my eighth Dylan show, and it was among the top three performances. He seemed to take energy from the three previous acts and actually enjoy himself. He even struck a pose from time to time while playing harmonica.

I also realized that a lot of people want to see Dylan, but they don't really like his music or want to hear it. About a third of the folks left after his first song. Gravely and often undecipherable words is not everyone's idea of music. But I enjoy coming to a concert to see how he lets his voice become part of the sound of the music. He doesn't focus on being the front man with the voice. Instead, I find that his concerts are explorations of textures.

Dylan opened with “Mr. Jones” and moved on to such a grooving rock interpretation of “It’s Alright Ma” that, even after it was finished, I still wasn’t sure what I had heard but knew that I liked it—a lot. I wish that I had a copy of last night’s rendition of “Highway 61.” The innovation and re-interpretation of his own music is what makes a Dylan concert so interesting. He opens up the music and you can see him as the great conductor improvising on the spot with his impeccable responding with on-the-spot precision. He closed with “All Along the Watchtower.” I’ve heard him do this one before, and tended to like the Hendrix and Bono versions better. But last night, Dylan made it clear that he owns this song. It was dark and mysterious as his pacing of lyrics and progressive chord structures emphasized the emotion of the song.

The sky was a soft, pastel blue. The air cooled with a fiery-orange sunset. The wind added adrenalin as it billowed through the huge stage curtains. I was outside listening to Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp for 5 hours.

Need I say more?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Hooray! It's a Bumper Crop of Chili

Perfectly timed and amounts of rain has brought us an early and big crop of green chili - the real reason for living.

I was excited by news of the bumper crop. Then my excitement turned to curiosity. What does the word "bumper" have to do with a crop of anything?

Ah, never fear. There is always The Word Detective to consult.

From a November, 2000 column, titled "IS IT OK TO PET THE COW?"

Dear Word Detective:

We recently moved out into the country and have heard the phrase "bumper crop" thrown about. Where did this phrase originate? My husband thinks that there must be something called a bumper at the top of a grain bin and when the bin is full there is a "bumper crop." What do you think? -- Marcia Timmerman, via the internet.

Well, I think the first thing you should do is to warn your husband not to mention his theory to any of the local farmers. Take it from me, nothing launches the average farmer into gales of helpless laughter like the innocent antics of city folks. The first autumn we lived in the country I happened to notice that they were harvesting corn in the field across the road and went over to watch. So shoot me. I was curious. Two years later I am still known around here as "The weirdo who likes to watch corn harvesters."

Of course, if you just leave out the "gizmo in the grain bin" theory and ask your neighbors what "bumper crop" really means, I'll bet they won't know the answer either, because the "bumper" part really doesn't have anything to do with farming.

"Bumper" in this sense is just a superlative, meaning "unusually large or impressive." What makes "bumper crop" seem mysterious is that this "jumbo" sense of "bumper" is now very rare anywhere except in the phrase "bumper crop." But back in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was common to hear shopkeepers talk of "bumper business" in the holiday season or even "bumper traffic" on city streets. "Bumper" as a noun was even used as theatrical slang for a sold-out house at a performance.

The logic of this "large" sense of "bumper" is a little hazy, but a clue may be found in its earliest use. A "bumper" in the 17th century was a large glass of beer or wine that was filled to the brim, i.e., with the liquid literally bumping against the rim of the glass. Such abundance was obviously considered a good thing, as "bumper crops" of just about anything have been ever since.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Growth and deterioration are exponential.

But the exponent of growth is 2, while that of deterioriation is 10.

(Image: Sam Brown.)