Thursday, April 30, 2009

How Did You Do In Your First 100 days?

Imagine you put everything on the line for the hardest job in the world. The kind of job that one can only dream of, but no one truly wants. A job that brings unimaginable stress - the kind that can kill you and will definitely age you five years for every one. A position where nearly every decision is monumental - decisions that can have ripple effects that aren't apparent for years, but are analyzed and reanalyzed, criticized, and held to standards no single human could ever truly attain.

Every word you say is recorded, repeated, paraphrased, interpreted, spun, taken out of context or simply fabricated. Every slip, simple or significant, is instantly echoed audibly, visually, in print and immortalized, often in late-night monologues.

You've gone through the longest, most grueling interview process ever. You've asked your spouse and your kids, who only want you to be happy and successful, to follow a path with you that will change their lives forever. They must give up everything for you for the next 1,461 days. In a world where they have to deal with constant worry for your safety as well as their own, and learn to handle unrelenting criticism, ignorance and pure hatred with grace. And where everything they wear, do and say is recorded, repeated, paraphrased, interpreted, spun and taken out of context.

A job where you're expected to clean up whatever mess was left by the last guy, within an arbitrary timeframe.

A job where half the "company" is hoping you fail, declaring every misstep a catastrophe they had predicted all along, tearing away at your self-confidence while pretending to be cordial yet talking behind your back to anyone who will listen, often with disdain, a closed mind and even anger. And the other half is just hoping you don't fuck up, and from a safe distance.

I was lucky to remember anyone's name and find the john without needing a map in my first 100 days. In fact, very little was expected of me other than knowing who to fear, learning the company acronyms and continuing to show up.

Give him a break. At least he's trying.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Getting TwitFaced on Social Networking

Warning: This stuff is addictive, and I'm actually starting to love it. Twitter and Facebook - they're not for everyone (some people think this is the stupidest stuff in the world), but they're welcoming to all. I'll be honest - originally I was pretty cynical, mostly because I didn't understand the potential of these various tools, and I'm always too cool for school (especially when I use dated expressions).

My friend Jessie has been into social networking for years, preaching the benefits, especially for businesses and marketing - now the rest of the world is catching up, including me. I didn’t really connect with the term at first - I knew there were online communities beyond chat rooms, a lot of narcissistic profiles on MySpace (got my own), dating sites, etc. But I didn't really see the potential and had a pretty negative impression and reluctance to join. Plus I'm a latecomer, not an early adopter - my first iPod was 4th-generation even though I was into WAVs before MP3s, and I bought my first mac last week. So let's just say I'm not a version 1.0 kind of guy.

But my attitude about social networking really changed when I learned you could control the access and I started connecting with family, friends, people with the same surname, colleagues, and even made some new friends. And I started participating - how much or how little is really your choice.

I'm not an authority so you can get real information from a better source, but I believe MySpace was originally for music before it became the personal profile site (I still use it for music). I thought Facebook was the same thing but learned it's quite different, and a lot of fun. Twitter is for micro-blogging or broadcast text messaging.

There are several features I don't like but I ignore them. Some folks have plenty of time but I doubt very seriously if I don’t take a quiz to see what kind of 80s Porn Star I am, or return the virtual biscuit, holiday greeting or drink, that anyone will be offended. And quite frankly, I don’t have time to worry about it.

Now, I'm especially enjoying Twitter. A post, or tweet, is brief. Say it in 140 characters or less. Here's one today from one of my personal heros, Al Yankovic, who tweeted: "I have to wonder what kind of names the band REJECTED before they settled on "Hoobastank." Gold.

This week Twitter made headlines when folks realized Ashton Kutcher was on his way to reaching 1 million followers before CNN Breaking News. As the numbers got higher they made a bet: donate mosquito nets for World Malaria Day (10,000 by the winner and 1,000 by the loser). And he won.

It isn't all about celebrities, but they're fun to follow and you soon learn they are (and always have been) regular folk. Actually, everyone in the community is on a level playing field. You can follow anyone and they can follow you.

As a writer, I am also always looking for a way to bring readers to my blog. The problem is there are millions of them out here and they don't cost a dime to start. I realized that one simple tweet of “This $hit is funny!" with my blog's URL by someone like Ashton Kutcher could bring me traffic I could only dream about.

But it's not all about self-promotion. You can read along or jump right into conversations with journalists, musicians, celebrities, smart folks, goofy folks, your friends or total strangers. You don’t have to book an interview. You don’t have to move to LA. You don’t have to have credentials...just an opinion and some decorum. Personally, I enjoy those who post a few tweets a day so I can also keep up with others. Minute-by-minute diaries I tend to avoid.

You can follow the hot stories, search on new topics, and read a history of one’s tweets if they spark your fancy. One of the powerful things about Twitter is the quickness at which information is shared, and the quickness a community responds - often in a charitable sense. You can tweet a simple text message from your cell phone and it's automatically sent to your followers. Which is why information can be shared so quickly - there are literally millions of on-location correspondents.

Here is a sample of the twitter accounts I follow:

Tina Fey - the one I aspire to be (see Tina Fey Comedy Litmus Test)

Nathan Fillion - loved him on Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, Firefly and now Castle. I enjoy hearing what he's up to and stuff he's doing for the show

Decemberists Singer Colin Meloy - artists always have a fresh perspective

George Stephanopoulos – I enjoy the Greek thrown into the messages he receives, and his polling of the community for good questions for his guests

Rainn Wilson - who doesn't love a fellow geek who also happens to be on The Office?

Ellen DeGeneres - she's always funny and loves animals, and I love her

Jason Goldman and Evan Williams - a direct line to folks that make Twitter happen

Dr. Isis the Scientist - Science!

NY Times best-selling author James Rollins - maybe some day I'll have a similar bio

Big Peter - my marathon-running Canadian cousin who's also a CBC writer - Big only refers to age (I have two cousins with the same first name) - Sorry cuz!

Steve - very active media and tech guru, colleague and friend

Kevin Rose - founder of and was a regular on one of my favorite shows The Screen Savers - he's like my smarter younger brother

Ryan Seacrest - great behind the scenes American Idol schtuff and is very active with the community

Liana Maeby - she posted a great blog article to Create your own NPR name. Mine is Michabel Klido. I found Liana through Colin Meloy. Connections. Cool.

If you're anti-social networking, you can skip the interactions and just get one tweet a day from places like Woot for their deal of the day or Amazon MP3 for discounted music.

I know the phrase "power of the Internet" seems cliche, and I've been on it for nearly 20 years, but it still surprises me. I have a blog that reaches hundreds of people and it's hosted for free, even if I start to reach hundreds of thousands; I'm reconnecting with friends, family, classmates and colleagues; and I'm informed on the issues that concern me with pre-linked email contacts to my local government representatives, governors, U.S. senators, and federal department heads, with my own contact information pre-filled.

And with the integration of wireless and portable devices, it's really starting to shine. Where this is going one can only imagine. Yeah, there's an app for that.

Wanna follow me? I’m GothamCityGeek - official Twitter account for someone you don't know but might like to. Humor blogger nerd guitarist rocking the midlife. Does speling count?

Of course one of my problems is having something interesting to say (much like in my radio days when the mic was on and I wasn't). Here's your chance, funny man. The world is listening. Tweet like a pro. "Why isn't it twit?" Yeah, that was lame. I'll work on it. Bet you can do better!

Friday, April 10, 2009

In This Economy…Bite Me

Is it just me, or are we blaming everything on the economy?

It’s bad enough that employers take advantage of people during this time with a virtual license to screw – kind of like we did to ourselves in the last real estate boom. Seven-figure-income earners, who can certainly weather a storm like this, make the bold decisions to stop hiring, cut staff, freeze pay, enforce furloughs, and expect employees to be grateful simply for the employment.

Many states like mine (Maryland) hire employees at will, meaning employers can eliminate anyone’s position (that isn’t under a contract) on a whim. And if you want your severance pay you just have to sign here and agree to leave (no one was fired), not sue anyone, and won’t work for any competitors.

Bite me.

Of course pointing any of this out while you’re still employed could be career-ending, so don’t try this at work.

And don’t get me wrong. There are many people truly suffering, or have been blind-sided (often unfairly) and are just trying to make ends meet. I’ve been laid off a few times and it sucks. Even when it isn’t your fault, it’s a betrayal and total blow to your psyche.

If you’re trying to retire and banked on stocks and your 401K, like we’ve all been told to do for eons, my heart truly goes out to you. But for many of us, it’s the idea of losing your job or your income.

A lot of us are suffering losses that are only on paper (stocks are down, 401K is in the tank, your overpriced house is under market value) – but the losses aren’t realized unless you trade those stocks, cash in your 401K or try to sell your house. Otherwise, in time, theoretically they’ll all recover and continue to rise in value. Hence, no real loss.

But it’s beyond the unemployment, the workplace, the banks and financial theory (which I believe is predicated upon keeping fat, rich, white people fat and rich – they’ll be white no matter how much money they make). It’s the constant bombardment of the same message, without anything new to offer.

The media (left-leaning elite liberal or fair-and-balanced-right wing) is hoping this "story" lasts longer than Octomom’s 15 minutes (which is up to about 492 hours, and that's just on television). Honestly, I think we’ll be out of the recession, through another golden era and into a new recession before we’ve heard the end of that family.

At least I haven’t heard “from Wall Street to Main Street” today.

The ECONOMY, if we’re all honest here, is something most of us don’t really understand. We understand our personal economy: what’s in my checkbook, how much do I owe, and that I live paycheck to paycheck, or maybe scam to scam, or on Daddy’s trust fund (turns out Daddy in many cases was just other people’s money).

But it’s in or on everything – news, commercials, radio, print, billboards, graffiti…it’s even making it into the scripts of sit-coms and television dramas. And it's non-stop. It is also, quite conveniently for some, the ultimate scapegoat:

At work…
--Johnson, we have to let you go. It’s the economy.

--But, sir, our stock is up and my team grew our core revenue 12%.

--OK, it’s your hair and I never liked you. Tah tah.

On the highway…
--License and registration. Do you realize how fast you were going, sir?

--I’m sorry, officer. I just can’t pay attention to things like speed-limit signs, school zones or the safety of others. You know, in this economy…

Even at home…
--Jasmine, why haven’t you finished your math homework? It’s time for bed.

--Well, mom, you know, it all seems so pointless, in this economy. What will be left for me when I graduate? Maybe I should just get a job now before you and daddy piss everything away. I can always go back to the third grade later, right?

OK, Jasmine actually has a point. For now, I’d just really love one day without hearing “stimulus package” innuendo or the actual word “economy”.

Last one, I promise…
--Mark, were you just kissing that other woman? Have you lost your freakin’ mind?!

--Come on, Peggy. Since the firm shut down, I’ve been adrift. I’ve lost my masculinity, my self-esteem, my edge, my moral compass. In these economic times, I feel totally emasculated.

--Moral compass? You were an investment banker.

--Point taken. But you do understand, don’t you?...Is that loaded?