The Task of an American Writer

The task of an American writer is not to describe the misgivings of a woman taken in adultery as she looks out of a window at the rain, but to describe four hundred people under the lights reaching for a foul ball. This is ceremony.

Mar 17th, 2009

Down with Generic Resumes

One popular strategy for job hunting is to build a nice generic resume (or have some resume agency build it for you), then blast it out to all the employers that you can find. If you think about it for a moment, you’ll realize that this is about the worst strategy you could adopt.

A former colleague of mine hits the nail on the head with this one. As a hiring manager, I need you to sell me on yourself within 5-10 seconds of reading your resume. It should scream applicability. It should scream "fit". It shouldn't scream "Jack of all trades".

There's a time for a skills-based resume – when making a career change, for instance – but that isn't the same as a generic resume. A skills-based resume should still utilize your previous position, but when you describe your accomplishments, they should be phrased in a way that shows the applicable career-shifting skill, rather than the domain-specific skill.

Mar 16th, 2009

Book A Month - March 2009 (again)

I've been bad. Rather than getting along with finishing up The Confusion, (which I really want to do, really!), I let myself get sucked into another graphic novel. I mentioned to the friend that loaned me The Watchmen that I'd always been interested in reading V for Vendetta as I loved the movie.

Wow, was I shocked at the disparity! In as much as The Watchmen pledged allegiance to the original, V For Vendetta went its own way. There are entire major plot lines that were re-thought, entire character arcs dropped, historical elements shifted to be "less British", etc. I found this jarring, but after the first hundred pages, I had the same reaction I have whenever I read an original after seeing an adaptation for film - I end up thinking the book's way better. With V for Vendetta, it wasn't as strong a reaction, but what sealed it for me was the ending. Evey's final scene was far sweeter than just standing there watching fireworks, as she does in the movie. It was a pledge that the struggle for freedom didn't end with the death of the patient in room five. I liked that.

Anyway, now I have to watch the movie again, just because the story is so fresh in my mind.

Mar 16th, 2009

(I am) Speaking About (the new) Dragon (blog)

Recently, the Dragon Naturally Speaking team at Nuance launched their own blog – Speaking About Dragon. I can't resist reading (and sharing) a well delivered blog and based on the type and frequency of their posts as well as the resulting dialog, it seems like the Dragon team is finding this new social media outlet to be really useful. They also launched a Facebook Fan Page a few days ago, and it's getting off to a fair start.

Starting organic conversation with "the masses" is fascinating to watch, both as a consumer and as an employee. It will be interesting to see if this market encouragement causes any additional forays into social media for the Dragon team or other business units here. I try not to blog or tweet too much about work, but our products really are quite awesome, thus the plug.

Is it a bad idea to say "My awesome speech recognition software, let me show it to you!" ?

I think not. And, in case anyone was wondering, no, this post was actually not dictated using Dragon Naturally Speaking. DNS does rock, to be sure, but I recently re-imaged my laptop and haven't had time to install it just yet. I'll get there.

Mar 12th, 2009

Book A Month - March 2009 (For Real)

I knew I was going to see The Watchmen this weekend, so since I somehow missed the boat on the entire Graphic Novel genre when I was growing up, I borrowed the original from a friend at work and read it before going to see the movie.

This post is not going to be one of those reviews that lists the things I liked vs. the ones I didn't. It won't be a post about what was missing from the movie. Suffice it to say that I liked the movie, but I loved the book. The story was far easier to follow in print, even with all of the pirate comics mixed in. I thought Malin Akerman was mis-cast as Laurie Jupiter, but the rest of the ensemble worked really, really well.

It's been interesting walking around the office and discussing the move with other folks who saw it this weekend. Some liked it, some wanted their 3 hours back. So far, though, no one outright loved it. It was a successful adaptation, but to most, they were looking for a semi-faithful interpretation. I know why it wasn't, and I know about the ridiculous drama that has surrounded the decade-plus delay in getting this film to the screen. The film's ability to be "awesome" viewers who haven't read the book was far diminished, however. And, since it wasn't 100% faithful near the end, those who loved the book left wondering why the changes were made. I actually found the differences confusing, having read the last two chapters only five hours before seeing them on screen, but some thought that the modified ending was easier to understand on a wider level.

To each, their own, of course. I hear there's even more in the director's cut, so I'll have to acquire the DVD when it's released.

Mar 9th, 2009

Commitment

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness, concerning all acts of initiative (and creation). There is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin now.

Mar 2nd, 2009

Book A Month - March 2009 Update

No new book this month. I'm doing exactly what I said I'd do last month by taking twice the time to read, what is in essence, twice the book. Stephenson's The Confusion has proved itself to be quite the challenge. I'm certainly much more engrossed in the story than I was with Quicksilver. The more salient roadblock, though, is that it's been difficult to find chunks of time greater than 10-15 minutes in which to read. I will continue to push forward. If I'm able to complete this by month's end, I'll probably renew this effort with The System of the World for April and May. Here's to hoping!

Mar 2nd, 2009

Book A Month - February 2009 Kick-Off

Ok.

I said that I was going to force myself to get through the rest of Stephenson's Baroque Cycle sometime this year. There's no time like the present, so I might as well get started now! Besides, since I pledged not to print anything I could read digitally, Cory Doctorow's Little Brother will have to wait as I'd need to either buy it or print my electronic copy.

It's a little disheartening to find reading a set of books by my favorite author to be difficult, but in this case it's actually downright tiring. I have 100% loved every singly other book that Stephenson wrote, but TBC is exhausting. The characters' storylines interweave and circumnavigate each other (and all of Europe and North America, for that matter) for the entirety of these volumes. I bold a sentence of an excerpt to solidify my point:

This “con-fusion” of two distinct novels (Juncto and Bonanza), alternating between Jack and Eliza’s stories, is a must-read for Stephenson fans. Though neither entry in the Baroque Cycle has impressed the critics as much as some of Stephenson’s previous work, The Confusion proves his narrative skills are still in fine shape. Casual readers beware: many critics feel the lengthy scientific and historical digressions, however well researched and explicated, tend to hold up the story. If the book suffers from an information glut or stylistic terseness, then it is the cracking plot and rich milieu of the Baroque world that set the ship right.

Anyway, since Juncto and Bonanza are, as noted above, yet increasingly inter-woven (he breaks up each book into several sections and shuffles them so that the timelines are actually in order, which I must admit is an odd shift compared to Quicksilver), I may stretch this read across February and March. I mean, leave it to me to pick the shortest month of the year to read an 832-page book, right? Who knows, maybe it'll be different this time around. I hope to be surprised!

Feb 1st, 2009

Book A Month - January 2009 (2)

Ok, so I didn't intend to actually read more than one book in a month, but since the first one was so short, and I had a couple of plane flights this month, here we are.

I've read several of Gibson's books. Each was just a little weirder than the one before, but I like weird, so that's not a big deal. What strikes me is that in each one there's at least one person who is totally dependant on drugs. Like, cracked out of their goard. I'm fine with that, too, actually... it adds an interesting "lack-of-control" element. Though, in the case of Spook Country, it gives one character a measured level of control over another.

I started reading Gibson because it seemed like the natural following to reading, at the time, all of Stephenson's novels. I had to take a short break when Quicksilver, the first volume of the Baroque Cycle, was released, but it's been nice to get back into Gibson again. I'll have to try to finish off The Baroque Cycle at some point this year.

Jan 30th, 2009

A Promise To Go Green

FileDropper and SmashingApps are teaming up to do their part for the environment. Average American consumes more than 700 pounds of paper per year, highest compared to anywhere else in the world. Hundreds of thousands of trees are cut down per day to support the consumption of paper that can be easily avoided.

You can get in on the free storage action here.

I'll be honest... I'm already pretty green. I recycle and reuse as much as I can. Both sides of my family have always been pretty good about reducing and reusing any resources we can. I drive a fuel efficient sedan and make a (somewhat) good effort to drive at speeds which ensure high gas mileage.

BUT! I did sign up for a free account, so I'll make some pledges to go even further:

  • I pledge to start composting as soon as all of the snow is gone.
  • I pledge to never print something I can read digitally.
  • I pledge to make a (better) effort to drive at speeds which ensure high gas mileage.

I really enjoy the Paid Until date of 2038. Nice.

Originally via BeantownBloggery.

Jan 23rd, 2009