Monday, July 28, 2008

July 28: Xanadu

It seems that every superhero has to find someplace where he can be himself. Batman has his Batcave, Superman has his Fortress of Solitude; The Living Wonder has his Xanadu.

Note the difference in purpose. The Batcave is an isolated laboratory. The Fortress of Solitude is, well, a place of solitude. But Xanadu? The “stately pleasure dome?” Hardly an isle of solemn contemplation. The Living Wonder thrives in the public eye.

Some joke that he draws his super-strength from his massive ego, which is powered by the mention of his name in the papers.

But even Charles Kane fell eventually.

Apparently I am writing about superheroes and their flaws; that's cool, it's in vogue these days.

Stirrings in the kitchen

...That's a pun, isn't it.

Anyway, that IS the other thing I've mostly been up to this summer: cooking. I'm cooking pretty regularly, and learning what the appropriate amount of food is to cook for two people. I've discovered how to cook steak, I've been making omelets every weekend, and I made a cheesecake this past weekend (and egg salad during the week); otherwise it's been a lot of standards: risotto (bacon spinach, beet), Thai curries and salads (green curry with chicken and zucchini, red curry with beef and butternut squash, pork salad, tuna salad); guacamole; pizza (bacon and spinach with ricotta). Tonight we had round eye steak with spinach and arugula salad with homemade yogurt-vinaigrette.

Another new dish I tried recently was quiche.

Italian sausage with mozzarella, roma tomatoes, and oregano; I found the recipe on Epicurious and used some the suggestions offered by reviewers; it turned out quite well (Andrew ate half of it that night).

I admit that it's a frozen crust, but I've never made a pie crust before.

I have been doing some baking, though. First it was chocolate chip blondies that were deliciously cake-like. Next it was these:

I just used the traditional Toll House recipe, but I took some advice from an article in the New York Times and chilled the dough for a day before baking. The result was evenly-browned, very consistent, rich cookies. The trick was making the batter late enough at night that I didn't feel like baking and eating them right then.

At the beginning of the summer I purchased a basil plant. Apparently they are considered good luck in Mexico, and I wanted to try my hand and growing something.

Unfortunately, that's the prettiest it's looked since we used all the large leaves in Andrew's pasta sauce; the porch here doesn't get enough direct sunlight for the leaves to really grow. It's still healthy, though, just not very useful right now.

Aaaand that's enough for now, I think. Andrew's constructing a new blog and it's gotten me motivated to pay a little more attention to this one. We'll see how long this competitive burst of energy lasts. Drabble sometime later tonight.

How to get an interview

This is only tangentially related to writing, and not at all related to fiction (I hope!), at least because I deal with this every day at work.

I'm currently working for a non-profit organization, hiring new staff (please ask me about this if you're curious, but I'm leaving it vague here to avoid any possible awkwardness). I pretty much run the application process in our office: I review applications and resumes to decide if candidates should be interviewed; I conduct preliminary phone interviews; I set up and sometimes conduct in-person interviews; I collect references (this is harder than it sounds; and I confer with my supervisor to make hiring decisions.

I've been doing this for almost two months now, and I feel I've gained some insight as to what makes an attractive application/resume, and what will get your application dismissed. Interviews are a little more difficult to box in, as there are more factors to deal with, but there too I've developed some pet peeves that automatically make me wonder if I am wasting my time. For most of these suggestions, I feel like I shouldn't have to say anything, but you'd be (unfortunately) surprised.

So, speaking as someone who currently hires people for a living:
  • Proofread your resume/application materials. Duh. Corollary: especially if you say you majored in English or Communications.
  • Tailor your resume to the job you're applying for. Seriously, if you are applying for a job as an after-school instructor I don't need to hear about your experience as a cashier at Panda Express. Being selective about which job experiences you list should also help you
  • Keep your resume short. I'll read two pages; I would rather not. I do not want to read three or four pages, especially because if your resume is that long, I'm probably having to hunt for the experiences that are relevant to the position you're applying for. Speaking of which,
  • If you include a cover letter with your application, it had better match the position you're applying for. Relatedly,
  • If you insist on printing an "Objective" at the top of your resume, it had better match or be related to the position you're applying. If you say you're looking for a data entry position with a company with international ties, I'm going to think you didn't care enough to change it, or that you didn't read the job description, which would be silly. Oh yeah--
  • Read the job description and memorize it. And if the company has a website, read the website, learn some details. In your interviews, when we ask you why you'd like to work for our organization, we're checking to see if you've done your homework. If you can't point out how this job with this organization is different than any other job (or even a similar job) with another organization, I'm going to question your ability to be thorough in general. I don't want to hire someone who is going to be half-assed about their responsibilities. As someone looking for a job, it's your responsibility to present a polished, professional image of yourself to the people who might be hiring you. Yes, looking for a job is hard, tiring work, but if you don't put in the effort here, for something that presumably matters to you quite a bit (getting paid), then why should we assume that you're going to put in the effort once we've agreed to pay you?
  • Your mom is not a professional reference. Neither is your cousin, or your best friend, except perhaps if you worked with him or her. List references that you can speak about you in a professional capacity, and who you are confident will actually bother to submit a recommendation.
Obviously following these guidelines won't guarantee you an interview/job, but it will probably at least keep people from thinking you're wasting their time.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Superhero of the Day Drabbles

Inspired by Elizabeth's drabbles based on the Word of the Day, I've decided to do something similar: I'm going to write a drabble about a superhero, inspired by Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day. The word might be reflected in the superpower, or it might come out in some other element of the story. I can't promise I'll do it every day, but I'll try.

July 27: Permeate

The terrorist had sealed himself and his hostages inside the warehouse. He had no intention to release anyone until his demands were met.

So, they sent her in.

Atomic Girl slid through the wall like a knife through butter; unlike a knife, however, she left no trace of her passage. She could not carry the hostages out with her, but she could take out the dissident and unbolt the doors from the inside.


Her date later that night ended early, like they always did. Just once she’d like to go home with someone, but she always slipped through their fingers.

Holler at ‘em down these hallowed halls

From the song "Tables and Chairs"

Playing for Keeps




“You do know this game is usually played by children, in a swimming pool, instead of a pitch-black cathedral?”


“It’s just…” Mark shrugged. “When you said I could challenge you to a game for my soul, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind.”

The Devil paused. “You would have preferred hide-and-seek?”

“Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of chess, or Go.”

An ominous chuckle reverberated around the sanctum. “What, and give you a fair shot at winning? Besides…”

Mark screamed when the heavy hand grabbed his shoulder. “This gets a much better reaction.”

Elizabeth's story

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My dewy-eyed Disney bride what has tried swapping your blood with formaldehyde

A very literal take on this line from "Fake Palindromes"

Until Death Do Us Part

Soft lips on my cheek woke me, and I found myself staring up her.

“I want you know that this was the happiest day of my life.” She smiled sweetly before turning to the tray of instruments beside her.

She bustled around the table in her white gown; the train dragged across the basement floor, gathering grime. I tried to call out to her, but my cries were muffled by the duct tape.

“I just want to preserve this moment,” she said as she inserted the IV.

The formaldehyde filled my veins the way Mendelssohn’s Wedding March filled the chapel.

Elizabeth's story

Monday, July 21, 2008

I drive everywhere now

Not by choice, believe me. And one of the side-effects is that I don't take many photos anymore. I managed to snap this one a couple weeks ago.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

We'll give you a complex and we'll give it a name

From the song "Measuring Cups"

Road Trip

“I’m not touching you.”

Suzy’s finger hovered in front of her sister Sharon’s face. Sharon didn’t even blink. It didn’t phase her anymore, not at this point in the trip.

“I’m not touching you I’m not touching you I’m not touching you.”

Sharon closed her eyes. A billion colonization vessels were making this trip—why did her parents have to book passage on the one hunk of junk that didn’t have functional sleep automators?

Above Sharon’s shut eyelids, Suzy was dangling a loogie. “Ahm nod tod-jing oo…”

Nine hundred miles down, only one-hundred-and-ninety-nine million, nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine thousand, one hundred to go.

Elizabeth's story

Monday, July 14, 2008

He deals in commodities of the abstract sort

from "Banking on a Myth"

Card Tricks

“Pick a card, any card!”

The Astounding Karloff grinned widely as he fanned the deck. Michael stared back, mouth gaping slightly, as he stretched out his hand toward the middle of the fan.

“Are you sure that’s the one you want?” Karloff asked, giving the child a knowing look.

Michael hesitated, then let his hand drift to the right, never taking his eyes from Karloff’s, looking for a sign that he was making the right choice.

“Good!” Karloff exclaimed, once Michael had settled on the third-to-last card from the conjurer thumb. “Now, don’t show me—your parents are getting divorced?"

A in a bizarre twist of something, Elizabeth and I wrote about different lines. You can still read her story, though.

Also, I have blogger's guilt. I can make excuses like, "I was out of town" and "I was apartment-hunting, and those bastards are good at hiding," and I really was busy all last week, had only night at, yes, I guess I will make those excuses.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

For those who are curious

I'm currently in the process of writing the longest piece of fiction I've written in ages. It's somewhere over 2,500 words right now, with a ways to go yet. I'm not exactly sure which way that is anymore, and I'm at the point where I'm going to have to start experimenting with plot lines. Taking this much time to write something is new-ish for me (as is the length); I usually know exactly where I'm going--or think I do, anyway, and if I get stuck, that often unfortunately the end. But I really like what I've written so far so I'm committed to seeing this one through.

I'm not writing quite every day; the current drabble project with Elizabeth is helping, though.

Anyway, just an update. I'm in Austin this weekend for some blues dancins. Have a good holiday, everyone!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Whiskey-plied voices cried, "Fratricide!"

From the song "Fake Palindromes"

Fair’s Fair

Armed with pitchforks and axes, Bramford’s menfolk raced up the mountainside to rid their town of the menacing beast, each ready to do his part—once they’d agreed to divide up equally any loot the monster left behind.

They found the demon asleep and fell upon it. Their work was bloody but quick.

Behind the vanquished beast they saw no jewels, no gold. Instead, a maiden, unconscious, lay amidst a pile of bones.

The men began to grumble. “What about our agreement?” someone yelled. Old Sal, their leader, sighed. With a shrug, he removed the hunting knife from his belt.

Elizabeth's story