How to be Unemployed

There’s more to being unemployed than searching for a new job. You have nothing but time; use it for self-reflection and improvement. Focus on all the things your job made you neglect, like your personal relationships, your health, and your hobbies. A lot of people can’t find enough to fill the time they find themselves inundated with. Here’s six things to focus on if, like me, you’ve lost your job.

  1. Sleep. Go to bed at a reasonable hour and let yourself wake up without an alarm. It may take a few days, but your body will adjust to it’s natural rhythm. I’ve found sleep for about seven and a half to eight hours without setting an alarm. Also, learn to take naps. There’s a time mid day when you naturally feel your energy slump. Try napping for a little bit when that happens.
  2. Exercise. Get back into a good workout routine. My work schedule at my previous job varied enough that I couldn’t have a set workout time. I’m using my new free time to get back into a workout rotation that will become habitual. Get back in shape!
  3. Eat better. Enough of the fast, prepared meals! Slow down, cook from scratch. Find a couple recipes and learn to make them well. Sorted Food is a great place to start for easy recipes.
  4. Read. Head down to your local library and get a membership if you don’t already. Read fiction and non-fiction. Become an expert on a subject. Read the latest popular book so you’ll have a little something extra to talk about when you go on a job interview.
  5. Hobbies. Use your newly acquired free time to focus on your favorite hobbies. Mine are photography and music. I’m spending a bit more time taking pictures and developing film, and practicing guitar and piano. What hobbies do you have? What would you like to take up?
  6. See your friends. I never been one to go out with co-workers after work. I’ve done it, and always enjoy it, but I don’t see the point when you spend up to forty hours a week in someones company. I’m lucky if I see my close friends ten hours a month, let alone in a week. When you’re unemployed you can spend more quality time with the people most important to you.

When you’re unemployed, it’s important to look for new work, but it’s also important to develop ways to increase your value to a future employer. Don’t you want to hire someone who’s read interesting books, bicycles, kayaks, cooks from scratch, brews their own beer or cider, plays music, and values time with close friends? Sounds way more interesting and valuable than someone who only sits in front of a computer screen looking for work.

 

I’m Afraid of the Dark

For as long as I can remember I have been afraid of the dark. It’s not a logical fear that a burglar or a serial killer may be lurking in the shadows, but rather that various types of monsters are waiting to rip my face off. Many of these particular fears have been inspired by movies. I’m writing this instead of sleeping because I went to the bathroom and saw the shower curtain shift, so it got me thinking about what might be lurking in my shower. Then I remembered watching a movie or television show where a murderous creature was lurking under a woman’s bed and kept reaching out to grab her as she got in and out of bed. Now, I need to turn on some lights before I get back into my own bed. This incident made me think of the constant narrative I have going on in my head. I’m always telling stories to myself, and all too often, they give me a good scare.

We all have a narrative playing in our heads commonly known as imagination. It’s from this narrative that the best stories are derived. Sometimes the imagination serves to fill in gaps of knowledge, like what a particular sound is, like a creak or a groan from an old house. Sure, it’s probably an old house merely “settling,” but it’s more fun to assume some supernatural creature is prowling about you home. Otherwise, you just live surrounded by the ordinary, and who wants that? Imagination gives us possibility, and possibility gives us some damn good stories.

Several of my stories are inspired by nightmares that I’ve had, the few that I can remember or am able to write down. One of the first nightmares I remember was when I was with my dad when he was on a business trip to Montana or somewhere and we had watched a movie about some tentacled monster lurking in someone’s basement. It pulled a puppy through a heating vent. We were still living in Spokane so I must’ve been about five or six years old. I wish I could remember what movie it was because I’m sure it’s something totally cheesy, but it caused a recurring nightmare lasting for years. Still, it would be intriguing to watch it now and see if it inspires the same fear it did a quarter century ago. It certainly made me afraid of going into basements, which was unfortunate because my bedroom was in the basement.

Another recurring nightmare developed after watching Jurassic Park. In the dream I’d always try to evade a T-Rex that apparently liked to hang out down the street from our house at nighttime. I always encountered it on the street, and in the same dream I keep ending up outside and barely make it back into the house before it snaps me up. Fucking Spielberg, he’s ruined my sleep too many times now. Not too long ago I had one of my most vivid nightmares ever, in which one of those little grey aliens was in my bedroom. Only it wasn’t really my bedroom, it was the room Celine Dion runs through in her music video for “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.” I could just barely see it in the darkness of the room. My dream self must be a badass because I just lunged for the thing and it ran away and leapt out of the window. My friend Heather insisted I must have been abducted but I don’t think aliens would be active in the part of North Portland I was living in at the time.

Not all my stories are derived from my nightmares or movies. Many are just the accumulation of legends and myths I’ve read about over the years. One of my favorite theories is that magic and supernatural creatures existed at one time, but something, perhaps science or rationality, killed it all off. Can all the magic that has been written about be explained rationally? There are mundane etymologies of certain legends that can account for their existence, but that’s just no fun! If the simplest explanation is usually correct, than one of these legends has to be true! Even if they’re not, the fact that all these myths and legends exist is magical in itself. Maybe my own narratives will take on a life of their own someday!

Most of my day at work is spent in a darkroom, which, unlike the classic darkroom with the red light, is actually dark. You enter the room through one of two revolving doors designed to keep light out, and behind the main room is another room with a door between the two. My job is fairly mundane, and I make up stories to entertain myself. Being a sane, rational person, I logically assume that there must be some sort of inter-dimensional gateway in constant operation in the back room that lets in hideous demons that are evidently thwarted by door handles seeing as how none have ever actually made it through said door. (That I know of anyway.) As a result, I scare myself silly several times a week and end up rushing out of the darkroom into the light before some wicked nasty disembowels me. It’s great fun.

Still, in all my thirty-three years I have yet to actually encounter the monsters lurking in my parent’s basement, or aliens in my bedroom, or a werewolf that almost certainly lives in Council Crest Park across the street from my parent’s house. (Let me tell you, that makes for a long walk between a car and the front door after visiting them, especially late at night when the neighborhood is quiet, and you can hear the animals from Washington Park Zoo carried on the wind that makes the trees creak in a rather stereotypical manner.) I have yet to be accosted in the darkroom by a demon, and I’ve never been chased by a T-Rex, and to be perfectly honest, it makes me a little sad. Every time the lights come on, and there’s nothing there, I find myself wondering why I was so afraid and why I had bothered to arm myself with a kitchen knife just so I could go get a sweater from my bedroom. I open the door to the darkroom at work to let in the light and there’s no gateway or demons, just the same boxes and spare parts that have been stored there.

In the rational part of my mind I know that there aren’t monsters lurking in the dark, but my imagination leaves me wide open to all the magic that’s in the world, and the effect on me is incredible. In those moments anything seems possible. Just once I would like to see one of those things so I could know that there’s some magic and mystery in the world; that there are things that don’t just vanish when the lights come on because they were never there in the first place. Some small confirmation would go a long way with helping to understand and rationalize my fears. I could face my fears in the real world where they would have substance, and not just in my head where I can’t do battle with them.

And then I’d crap my pants.

5 Guidelines for Training New Employees

I’m six weeks into a (temporary) job that I found on Craigslist and find myself in awe at the staggering lack of procedures and guidelines this company has for training new employees. I trained a lot of people over nine years at Fujifilm North America, so I set my own expectations for how I think employees should be trained, although they were sometimes hard to meet because of management.

For the first two weeks at this new place, I had nothing to do for the first thirty minutes of my shift simply because no one would tell me what I should be doing. They also started training me in a new area, but keep pulling me away to help out elsewhere, so my training has been inconsistent. I decided I’d share a few of the guidelines I created for myself when I was training other people.

  1. Make sure your trainee knows what’s expected of them. Give them a list of things they’ll be learning, and what they should be doing for at least the first day, even if it’s just watching someone. It’s quite frustrating for a trainee to be standing around not sure of what to do. If you have a designated trainer (and you should) set expectations for them on what you expect the trainee to learn for the first two weeks.
  2. Make sure they have the materials and equipment to do their job. This applies to all employees. Along with guideline number one it’s talked about in First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, a fantastic book about employee engagement by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. Not having something that you need, even a pen, can be as frustrating as not knowing what to do.
  3. Provide a dedicated trainer.Having one person train your new employee helps to eliminate confusion and gives consistency. Make sure your trainer is spending time with the trainee and not using the extra body as a way to take a break from work. Training is tedious, but it’s important that someone be there to troubleshoot issues and answer questions. It also helps to have someone build a rapport with new employees to make them feel welcome in a new place.
  4. Provide feedback. If I don’t receive any feedback, I assume I’m doing a great job. A great trainer I had once told me: “If you have a problem and you don’t tell me, it’s your problem. If you have a problem and you tell me, it becomes our problem.” Feedback can be positive or negative as long as it’s constructive and the employee can learn from it.
  5. Be patient. Don’t expect someone to learn the job in a day. Even if it’s a simple job, people learn at different speeds. Allow for differences in personality and learning ability. Be realistic in your expectations. Focus on accuracy first, and productivity will naturally increase as well.

Have any horror stories about being a trainer or trainee? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear about it!

Furycraft!

Blizzard Entertainment asked me to write a press release when I was applying for a position with their offices near Paris, France. I was reading Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series at the time, and I thought his world would make a great game.

BLIZZARD ENTERTAINMENT ANNOUNCES
NEW GAME

Blizzard Entertainmentprepares to redefine online role-playing with Furycraft, a game based on Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series.

IRVINE, Calif. – November 27, 2010 – Blizzard Entertainment®, Inc. announced today that it is teaming with fantasy writer Jim Butcher to release a new online game worldwide next spring based on his best-selling Codex Alera series. Furycraft is an online role-playing game based in the fictional world of Carna, where descendents of the lost Ninth Roman Legion control powerful elemental forces called furies in the nation of Alera.

Players harness the furies of water, earth, wood, fire, air, and metal to craft the elements to do their bidding. Characters use their furies to give them incredible strength and speed, control the weather, fly, heal wounds, and even influence people and animals. Fight as a Knight of the Realm in the Legions, or defend steadholts from marauding hordes of other races, including the wolf-like Canim, the Icemen of the north, the savage Marat, or the insect-like Vord. Scheme and plot through the world of politics and intrigue in the ballrooms and Senate halls in the capital city of Alera Imperia.

Furycraft allows players to be immersed in the rich world of the Codex Alera series,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment. “We’re happy to provide a gaming experience that remains faithful to Jim’s vision.”

Furycraft builds on the massively multiplayer online role-playing game engine that World of Warcraft® users experience all over the world. Players may join forces to perform feats of furycrafting that one character couldn’t manage on their own. Work together to build and improve steadholts in rural lands, or form cohorts that fight together in Alera’s Legions. Players can also participate in solo quests to increase their furycrafting power, or to call more powerful furies to them. Use furycrafted causeways to travel across Alera in a fraction of the time it would take to travel on a normal road, or fly on coaches carried by Knights Aeris. Buy, sell, or trade goods and services in real-time marketplaces.

Furycraft will be released in multiple languages. Release timing and details such as system specifications and pricing will be announced at a later date. For more information, please visit the official website at http://www.furycraft.com.

About Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.

Best known for blockbuster hits including World of Warcraft® and the Warcraft®, StarCraft®, and Diablo® franchises, Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. (www.blizzard.com), a division of Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI), is a premier developer and publisher of entertainment software renowned for creating some of the industry’s most critically acclaimed games. Blizzard Entertainment’s track record includes thirteen #1-selling games and multiple Game of the Year awards. The company’s online-gaming service, Battle.net®, is one of the largest in the world, with millions of active players.

Pangaea Organica

Here’s a producer profile I created for People’s Food Co-op in Portland, Oregon last year. Founder Rick Riehle showed me how they roast their beans and made me a delicious cup of French press coffee. No cream or sugar needed!

Pangaea Organica, an artisan roaster of organic fair trade coffee, operates in a commercially zoned live/work space in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood. A consumer cooperative with four member-owners founded in November 2006, Pangaea imports their organic green coffee beans only from fair trade certified cooperatives, including Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union, the Ethiopian company featured in the 2006 documentary Black Gold. Pangaea also sources beans from Brazil, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, and Sumatra. Green coffee beans are roasted in a vertical stream of hot air, which distributes the heat evenly throughout the bean preventing scorching and the development of bitter flavors. A vent over the roasting chamber vacuums away the chaff, the thin outer membrane of the coffee bean; in other roasting methods the chaff turns to ash as the beans heat, introducing unwanted flavors into the final roast. A fine water spray followed by air-cooling prevents the beans from over-roasting. Pangaea also provides equipment, repair, and consulting; home roasters can purchase green beans from their website.

The Board of Trustees for Pangaea is composed of two classes of members: voting members and advisory members. Voting members are employee-members of the company who exercise votes. Advisory members are non-employee-members of the company. The employee-members of the company, via instant runoff election, elect both classes of members of the Board of Trustees.  Pangaea uses Policy Governance at the board level. “Cooperatives tend to operate with a social conscience as a consequence of several factors,” states founder and president Rick Riehle, “they eliminate investors who have no other interest in the company other than investment returns, they align the interests of their constituents, and they operate from a paradigm of multiple bottom lines.” Pangaea believes in a triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. Its primary purpose is service, not profit. “We’ve gone one step simpler than a mission statement,” says Rick, “Organic, Fair Trade, Cooperative.” Their core philosophy can be distilled even further in the meaning of their name, Pangaea: entire earth.

Pangaea Organica

2311 N 45th St. #325

Seattle, WA 98103

1-(206)-632-2432

www.pangaea.coop