Looking for a job – know of anything?

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m looking for full-time work, either as an employee or on a temporary/contract basis. My background is in IT but I’m willing to consider anything – I’m looking at this as an exciting opportunity to possibly break into something new, or build on the skills I already have.

Below is a summary of my qualifications. You can also check out my complete resume on my site.

Technical background

Have developed complete commercial application from start to finish using Visual Basic 6.0

Strong background in relational database design: Have worked with Access, some experience with SQL Server, ADO Recordset, Command, and Connection objects, DataEnvironment Designer in Visual Basic, MySQL

Have developed dynamic websites using Active Server Pages/Access, PHP/MySQL, server-side JavaScript/Oracle

Proven track record working with nontechnical people, taking their requirements and producing software that meets their needs

Teaching background

6 years’ experience teaching Computer Literacy, computer programming and undergraduate math at the U of M – 5 years’ full-time faculty + 1 year graduate assistant

One-on-one tutoring on various computer applications and in math; have tutored everyone from grade-school students to corporate presidents

Experience teaching corporate training classes

Management/Leadership

Director of Computer Literacy course at U of M for two years. Totally responsible for the success of a required class serving 500 students per semester. Hired and trained 12 lab assistants; rewrote in-class assignments to enhance student learning; redesigned lab grading system to eliminate errors and bubble sheet expense.

Supervised student workers at the U of M Tiger-LAN labs, 1993-94. Trained workers to improve quality of help in labs. Successfully lobbied for raises for student lab assistants.

Mpact Memphis – Board of Directors, At-large Member, 2004-2005

Organized Courting the Groove Squared, outdoor concert by Mpact Memphis. Oversaw hiring of bands, acquiring permits, logistics. Co-wrote a sponsorship proposal that resulted in a $2,000 corporate grant.

Helped organize Memphis Really NETworks, an Mpact Memphis program to teach college students how to network. Was responsible for the content of the program. Lined up emcee, networking experts, testimonials. Worked with logistics committee to ensure event went smoothly.

Getting out of the credit-card biz full-time

This week I have decided not to stay in the credit card merchant services business on a full-time basis. I just typed up a long post explaining why, but then realized I could sum it up in one sentence: It isn’t fun for me anymore.

So, I’m going to start hunting for a full-time job. Will make a post shortly listing my qualifications and the types of positions I’m looking for, in case anyone reading this knows of anything.

I’m not disappointed about this. I tried something and it didn’t work. That’s it. In fact, the minute I made the decision to give up full-time self-employment, my mood improved considerably. If anything, I’m considerably happier now than I was a week ago.

All right – I’m off to enjoy a beautiful weekend and will post more soon.

What the bums are drinking this week

(Based on the discarded boxes outside the liquor store around the corner, which caters to the $3-a-bottle-and-under category)

Wild Irish Rose (2 cases)

Burnett’s Vodka

Heinz Mustard (??? there was an empty case along with the liquor cases)

Calvert Extra

REDS “A Wine for the People” (never heard of this – let’s look it up online)

Wow, this REDS stuff has actually received praise from wine-enthusiast sites. It’s a mix of different kinds of California grapes. Hmm, the box was discarded not long after the first of the month; perhaps the bums who receive government checks decided to splurge on something a little bit better than usual.

A conversation with a Bush supporter

Last Sunday, while having brunch at the Blue Monkey downtown, a guy sat next to me at the bar, told me he was neither a Democrat nor Republican, then proceeded to spend two hours offering his unsolicited opinion why George W. Bush is the greatest president ever. Here’s an excerpt from the conversation.

Him: I’ll tell you why we should support the president. Kerry is weak on defense. No one will buy him as commander in chief. We can’t change horses in midstream. This is war. We have to re-elect George Bush because he will continue to invade countries and spread democracy to the rest of the world. (no kidding, he really said this)

Me: Like North Korea and Syria and Iran?

Him: Absolutely. George W. wants to spread democracy to everyone in the world.

Me: I see. So Bush believes that his form of government is the best in the world, and he wants everyone in the world to be able to experience it, at any cost.

Him: Exactly! You’ve got it.

Me: Well, in the ’60s Fidel Castro thought his form of government was the best, and he sent expeditions into South America to spread it. How is that any different from what Bush is doing?

Him: You’re not listening. We’re talking democracy here. There are women in Afghanistan who can vote now. They can go to school. They have the right to do whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else. That’s democracy.

Me: That’s democracy?

Him: That’s democracy.

Me: Well, why then, not in Afghanistan but in this country, does Bush oppose allowing two men to marry each other? They’re not hurting anyone. If we truly have a democracy here, I’d think Bush would be for it.

Him: Again, you’re not listening. Let me ask you something. (points at the bartender) Do you want to see me and her have sex?

Me: (as bartender moves as far away as possible) I don’t even know how to answer that question.

Him: That’s right. Because you have no answers. That’s what the world would be like if we allowed gay men to marry. People having sex in public. I’ll give you an example of democracy. Remember 1980? Iran was holding our citizens hostage and Jimmy Carter couldn’t do a thing about it. Ronald Reagan said, I’ll get those hostages free if I have to kill every person in Iran, if I have to blow them off the map.

Me: He really said that? I was just a kid but I don’t remember that.

Him: Reagan said it. And that’s why we kicked Carter’s ass and elected Reagan. He won the war against Iran. And it was a war, believe me.

Me: But I thought you said Americans shouldn’t change horses in midstream in time of war. If that were the case in 1980, it seems like you would have supported Carter.

Him: You’re not listening…

(After two more hours of blabbering, he paid his bill. He had previously paid a $40 tab, tipping NOTHING. However, he enjoyed talking to me so much that he re-opened his tab and drank an additional $21 worth of beers during our conversation, again tipping NOTHING. And then he proceeded to walk outside, having drank 10 beers in the past 3 hours, and he drove his car home.)

I think the Bush campaign should make this guy a spokesman. He embodies the intelligence, common sense, and people skills that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld are known for.

Does anyone know of…

…a site that breaks down the presidential election state-by-state? i.e. which states are pro-Bush, leaning Bush, neutral, leaning Kerry, pro-Kerry? I’m tired of polls that say one candidate is two or three or four percentage points ahead of the other nationwide. As the 2000 election taught us, it doesn’t matter which candidate leads the popular vote – it’s all about the electoral college. So if you know any sites that can shed some light on this, e-mail me and let me know. Thanks.

Downtown Walgreens needs to extend its hours

The downtown Walgreens at Madison and Main is open until 8 pm weekdays, 7 pm Saturday, and 6 pm Sunday. This type of schedule made sense when downtown was merely a place people worked. But now downtown is a full-fledged neighborhood with 10,000 people. Just within walking distance I can name several large apartment/condo complexes – No. 10 Main, Shrine, Echelon at the Ballpark, Porter Building, 66 Front, Exchange, 99 Tower, Claridge, Gayoso, Pembroke. Plus, there are a half dozen hotels within walking distance. We need and deserve the late-night drugstore service that every other neighborhood in town enjoys.

Many nights I have sat across the street in the coffee shop, and watched people walk up to Walgreens only to discover that it’s closed. What do they think this is, a real city with a thriving downtown? The last night I watched I saw at least 25 people walk away in frustration between 8 and 10 pm. How dare they expect service in the middle of the night!

Worse, the criminals know people do this, and prey on them. By now most locals know it’s pointless to make the trek to Walgreens after 8. But tourists (who are perceived as targets) don’t know any better. So when criminals see someone walk up to the door after 8, they know they have an easy mark. Just today some Iragi dignitaries in town visiting were robbed at gunpoint at 10:45 pm as they walked away after discovering the store was closed.

Two businesses on that same corner, Empire Coffee and Six50, stay open until 10. Why can’t Walgreens do the same? Madison and Main could become the late-night mecca for downtown residents (as opposed to tourists, who have Beale Street). But Walgreens needs to take the lead.

If you agree, please go to

www.walgreens.com, click on Contact Us, then click on Store/Pharmacy Inquiries. Fill out the form – the address is 2 N. Main St., Memphis, TN 38103. Don’t know the store number. Tell them they need to stay open later. Maybe if enough people do this they will listen.

Edwards rally, Ripoff, Plans for this weekend

The John Edwards rally on Beale Street this afternoon was positively PACKED. At four in the afternoon, during work hours, in 90 degree heat, and it was still packed. I’m really beginning to think that Tennessee is in play, and not definitely in the Republican column as has been predicted.

Interesting rumor I heard today: Microsoft declared its recent one-time $3 a share dividend (which caused me to get MSFT back in my stock portfolio) because they think Kerry has a better than 50-50 shot at being elected. If he is, he will roll back the tax cuts on the rich, which would cost the big shots at Microsoft a lot of money. So they want to go ahead and pay out before Kerry takes office.

Quote of the afternoon – this was from one of the dignitaries who spoke prior to Edwards’ arrival: “Voting is a lot like driving. If you want to go forward, move the lever to ‘D.’ If you want to go backward, move the lever to ‘R.'”

After the rally, I went to an Mpact the Vote event at BB King’s. This was planned before it was announced that Edwards was coming to town (Mpact is nonpartisan). I must say, I hope we never have an event at BB’s again. I bought a Corona there. Now, usually when I buy a Corona, I hand the bartender a $5 bill and say, “Keep the change.” Coronas and most imports are $3.50 off Beale and $4 at most bars on Beale, so they’re getting at least a dollar tip. But at BB’s it was an incredible $4.75. So the bartender got a quarter tip. Sorry, but I’m not paying six bucks for a bottle of beer. Not in Memphis.

Plans for this weekend:

Friday: Empire Coffee just got their beer license and is planning to kick off the first day with some cheap beer specials. Needless to say I’ll be there.

Saturday: Hmm, don’t know, will probably ride the bike to Midtown again and hope I don’t fall off.

Sunday: Champagne brunch, of course. I’m switching my brunch alliegance back to the downtown Blue Monkey at Front and GE Patterson. You gotta try their brunch menu (weekends between 11 and 2). My favorite: The prime rib (I get mine cooked medium rare) with aspargus and new potatoes.

Monday: Turbo 350 is playing a show at the Hi-Tone. According to the ad on the back of the Memphis Flyer, it’s a free show, so I guess I’ll make the car ride to Midtown to see them. Of course, if I drive that means I can’t drink, but I suppose I don’t need to be doing that on a weeknight anyway.

That’s it for now. Got my 7:15 meeting in the morning, so it’s time for bed.

Sleep

I want to experiment with my sleep patterns.

Currently, on the weekdays I go to bed between midnight and 1 AM. It just doesn’t do me any good if I hit the sack earlier – I’ll just lie there unless I’m extremely tired. When I don’t have morning appointments I tend to get up between 8:30 and 9. On one hand, I’m happy to have a job where I can do that from time to time. But on the other, when I get up at that hour it’s usually 10 or later before I’m fully functioning, which means I’ve shot half the morning, and since I’m self-employed that means the only person I’m hurting is myself.

Recently I have read that healthy adult humans sleep too much – that six hours should be the maximum, and four to five, with a nap in the middle of the afternoon if needed, is ideal. This supposedly gives the best interplay between conscious and subconscious minds and results in increased creativity throughout the day. Real-life experience seems to bear this out – some of the wisest, most creative people I know do not sleep more than four hours a night, and I remember reading that Edison slept only a few hours.

Trouble is, I’ve been conditioned to believe (like most Americans) that 7-8 hours is normal. So when I go to bed at 12:30, I expect to need to sleep until 8:30 to feel good in the morning. Now, there is evidence to the contrary. Every Thursday morning I have a meeting at 7:15 AM, so I rarely get more than 6 hours sleep (and often more like 4-5) on Wednesday nights. But I always feel great on Thursday, partly because the 7:15 meeting is one I thoroughly enjoy, starting the day on a good note.

What I’d like to do is forget what time it is and just experiment to see when I wake up. I tried turning my digital alarm clock around where I couldn’t see it, but that didn’t work – I can still see light coming in my bedroom window in the mornings, which tells me it is 6 AM or later. I’d like to have absolutely no clue what time it is – when I wake up, if I feel refreshed, I get up, be it 4:30 or 11 in the morning or sometime in between. If I don’t feel refreshed, I’ll fall back asleep. I just want to know how much sleep I really need without the pressure of when I’m “supposed” to be getting up.

Ideally, I’d love to be able to get by on 5 hours a night. Then I could stay up until 2 in the morning – I do some of my best thinking late at night – and still get up at 7 in time for a full day of business or pleasure.

There’s no possible way to totally block out my 12-foot-high bedroom windows to keep the sun out. Maybe I’ll have to buy a sleep mask. Not sure I’ll like wearing one but it may be the only way I can conduct this experiment.

Two political events worth a look

This is very short notice…these events will happen tomorrow, Wednesday, August 4, but I still want to mention them.

At 4 pm, John Edwards will hold a rally on Beale Street. Not sure exactly where, but I assume it will be at the Budweiser Pavilion at the corner of Beale and Third. I caught Edwards’ speech at the Democratic convention last week on TV, and was mighty impressed. If interested in attending, you need a ticket – you can get one online here – http://www.johnkerry.com/memphis/

From 5:30 to 8:30, Mpact Memphis will be hosting an Mpact the Vote after-hours at BB King’s club at Second and Beale. This is nonpartisan – Democrats, Republicans, and everyone else are welcome. Bring your voter registration card, or register there, to be eligible for door prizes. Kirk Smithhart will perform, and local politicians seeking office will be there to meet and greet. There’s no charge to get in, so come on down!

I will be at both of these events. Hope to see you there.

Gratitude and thanks, Part II: Teaching children about gratitude

(You might want to read Part 1 of this post – the journal entry immediately below this one – before reading Part 2.)



Right now, I want to put all of you on notice. If one day I have children, and you choose to send them presents, they will NOT be required to send you thank-you notes in return.

That does not mean that I will raise them to be ungrateful slobs. And they may well choose to express their thanks, but it will not be because I told them they had to. Allow me to explain…

When I was a little boy, I found that there were people who would come to visit me, give me nice toys for my birthday and Christmas, simply because they liked me. Wow! What wonderful people! How fortunate I was to have people like them in my life!

Then, around age five, I made a mistake. I learned how to write. And then I found that I was required to write thank-you notes to the people who sent me Christmas presents. Suddenly communicating with these friends and relatives was no longer a joy; it had become a bother. And I put it off and put it off. “PAUL…it’s January 26 and you STILL haven’t written Grandpop and Nana to thank them for the toy rocket they sent you for Christmas. I want you to write them TONIGHT.” To which I responded with a sigh and a resolve to get it out of the way as quickly as possible. Christmas presents were never quite as sweet after that. They were no longer spontaneous gestures that said, “Paul, we like you.” They were the source of an obligation that I was required to fulfill.

So, how would I handle it differently? Well, first of all, I’d teach my kids that one of the best things in life – even more rewarding and fulfilling than getting a new toy – is taking advantage of an opportunity to make someone else feel good. That would be the base on which I’d build. If you install the right beliefs, the behaviors should naturally follow, with a little guidance.

So let’s say that little Nipsey’s grandmother (I’ve always thought that if I had a son, I might name him Nipsey) sent him a toy piano for Christmas. What I’d do is encourage him to use it, enjoy it. And as he played, I’d remind him where the piano came from. “Wow, Nipsey, what’s that song you’re playing? It sounds really good! I bet your grandmother would be so proud of you. That’s why she gave you that piano, because she wanted you to have fun with it.”

Then I’d encourage him to find his own reasons to express his gratitude. “Hey, you know what we could do? We could call your grandmother on the telephone and you could play your new song for her. If we held the phone close to the piano she’d be able to hear it. I bet that would make her SO happy! What do you think, do you want to?” And if he said yes – we’d make the call. If he didn’t want to (THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT) I wouldn’t press him, realizing there will be more opportunities in the future to nudge him in the right direction.

Or, alternately: “Hey, Nipsey, you just learned to write in school, didn’t you? Yeah, writing is really good, because it gives you a way to tell people what you’re thinking. Hey, I have an idea! Let’s write your grandmother a letter and tell her about all the songs you’ve been playing on the piano she gave you for Christmas. Want to?” And again, I’d accept his decision either way, although I’d probably be getting out pencil and paper as I asked, to encourage him to want to.

This reminds me one of the most overused, stupid commands I hear parents say to their kids over and over and over again: “Say thank you.” (Or, alternately, “what do you say?”) A nice man gives the kid a cookie. “Say thank you.” And then the kid does what’s expected and says “thank you” and all the adults smile and comment on what a fine young man he’s becoming. But has he really learned what “thank you” means? Or has he simply repeated the rote response that he knows will earn his parents’ approval?

What I propose to do is simply to lead by example. I’ll make a point of saying “thank you” to everyone who does a courtesy to me. Children being curious as they are, hopefully at some point the kid will ask, “Daddy, why do you say ‘thank you’ to people?” If he doesn’t ask, I’ll look for chances to bring it up.

“When someone does something nice for you, it makes them happy if you say ‘thank you’ to them. It lets them know that you appreciate what they did. It makes them feel good. And it’s important to make other people feel good, isn’t it? Here, tell you what, let’s try it out. In a minute, I’ll give you a cookie, and you say ‘thank you.’ You ready? Here you go.”

“Thank you.”

“Now, see? That made me really happy. Now I know that you appreciate the cookie. Hey, you want to play a game?” (Hopefully the kid will say “Yeah!” What kid doesn’t like games?) “I’m going to touch my nose…like…this. See? That’s going to be our secret signal that only you and I know about. Now, the next time someone does something really nice for you, I’ll give you the signal, and then you can say ‘thank you’ and notice how happy it makes them. Sound good?”

“Okay.”

“And you know the really awesome thing? After we practice it a few times, you won’t even need me to give the signal anymore. You’ll be saying ‘thank you’ all on your own. And then you’ll be grown up.”

See the difference? The kid will be choosing on his own to say thank you. And he’ll choose to do it out of a sense of joy and expression and fun and connecting with other people. Whereas, most kids are taught to “say thank you” out of a sense of obedience and obligation.

Now, one problem would come up – it will probably take my kids longer to learn to say “thank you” on their own, because they’ll have to find their own reasons to do it – rather than being sternly ordered to. So, for a while, the other parents might think poorly of me because my kids don’t seem to have good manners. And you know what? That’s just too darn bad for them. I’m more interested in my kids’ development than their opinions of me.

And that’s basically it – install the proper beliefs about gratitude and the desired behaviors will follow. Pretty simple, huh? Of course, I don’t have kids. Comments from parents? Would this work?