Archive for June 2008

Seattle: Rainier Avenue on a sunny day

June 30, 2008

Rainier is a major artery in Seattle. Interestingly, it’s a road designed by Frederick Olmstead, who created public spaces back east here in Rochester. The name comes from the fact that on clear days, like today, Mt. Rainier is “out,” as they say in Seattle, looming loud and clear at the end of the road looking north, although the mountain is actually 60 miles away. These are the business and their signs I passed walking a one-mile stretch of Rainier, from Loews, in what is referred to as the Rainier Valley:

·         Wells Fargo – More than free checking

·         Firestone

·         Starbucks

·         Chief Seattle Council Boy Scouts of America

·         Me Cay Da Restaurant

·         Columbia Physical Therapy

·         El Mexicano Seattle Video

·         Rainier Hair Salon

·         Van Loi Lo Bun Banh Hoi Banh Beo Restaurant

·         Saigon Printing (with second sign in Vietnamese characters)

·         Waste Management truck stops dead pulling out of a driveway fifteen paces ahead of me; motions me to go; he will not pull ahead; pedestrians have the right of way here – its enforced

·         Mai Tinh Thu Gift Shop

·         Samoli Community Services of Seattle

·         Saigon Moi Restaurant

·         Chubby & Tubby’s Discount Store – serving Seattle since 1947

·         Really messed up homeless man across street trying to pull himself up from the sidewalk groping at empty air

·         Mekong Seattle – Oriental Groceries and Gifts (with signs in Vietnamese, Chinese and Farsi)

·         Berean Church of God in Christ

·         Phoi Auto Co. – Used Car Sales

·         Old school bus painted white with awning extending from it: “Open” neon sign in window; sign hand-painted on bus: Tacos el Asedaro

·         Homeless man now vertical with aid of shopping cart

·         Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union

·         Thuy’s Vietnamese Bridal and Tailor Shop

·         West Coast Auto Body

·         Homeless man horizontal again

·         All City Auto Sales – Get Approved Here! (100 used cars; 50 still have license plates: “WashingtonEvergreen State”)

·         Fine Line Window Tinting, Car Stereo and Alarm

·         Taco Bell

·         Starbucks

·         Game Craze

·         Radio Shack

·         Safeway (supermarket)

·         Hollywood Video

·         Northbend Nails – Walk-ins Welcome

·         Nguyen Xuan Thanh Law Offices

·         Ta Luu Anh Dung, CPA, CMA

·         Cac Djch Vu Ve Thue, Di Tru Income Tax

·         Quan Phuoc Le, MD Medical Office, Physician & Surgeon

·         Sweet Pot Body Oils & Incense

·         QT Nails

·         Sign tied to tree: Stop Foreclosure – Call 1-800-444-4444

·         Hollywood Nails

·         Ky Van Tran, MD, Primary Care Clinic

·         Ethio Grocery and Smoke Shop

·         Gambia International Gift Store

·         Northwest Community Service Food Bank

·         da Pino Italian Café & Roganao Sausage

·         Global Furniture – Italian Design

·         Top Spot Chinese Restaurant

·         Jumbo Chinese Restaurant

·         Johnnie’s Nails

·         Walgreens

·         Tully’s Coffe

A perfect Seattle day. The magnificent Rainier is “out,” as is the cultural landscape, I’ve got my Tully’s coffee and the screws I need to fix the kitchen faucet.

Telemarketer from Hell: Part III

June 27, 2008

My office phone rings…telemarketer. Not just any telemarketer – the telemarketer, the one I do want to talk to; the one who bounced a check when he paid for my resume writing service. When I called him on it he told me in a shamefully obvious ploy that the resume was no good, thereby eliminating the need for him to make good on the check.

Now he’s singing a new tune. He has a job interview and wants to come over right now and make corrections. I can’t believe he has the audacity to call me, even though I offered to fix whatever was wrong with his resume, after he told me I did crap work. But I think I’ve figured him out – he has no pride.

I don’t really want to see him again, even though he’ll have to pay me the balance if I “fix” his resume. To my disappointment, he arrives, and on time for once. The “mistakes” to which he vehemently alluded – that rendered his resume unusable – are the use of bold font where he wants italic, and italic where he wants bold. Then it comes out. His computer couldn’t read the resume I’d sent him as an attachment and so these “corrections” are just another ruse to get me to print out a copy for his interview.

“Corrections” made and new copies in hand, he stands to leave.

“The money?” I say.

“You already got it,” he smiles. “They resubmitted the check; charged me thirty-five bucks for it!”

As he walks out, my first impulse is to check my bank account; then I stop. I’m not ready just yet to find out that this guy has duped me again.

Telemarketer from Hell: Part II

June 25, 2008

I wrote a resume and cover letter for a fifteen-year telemarketing veteran who missed one appointment and showed up late for two others, reeking of alcohol.

He paid me a deposit with a credit card and the balance with a check. It bounced. Being in business for myself, I learned early on to handle bounced checks (I get about one a year) quickly and positively; this takes advantage of the personal rapport I have with my client after having spent an hour-and-a-half with him or her over two sessions.

I immediately called him. Ring…ring…ring… Someone answered. “Rochester Police,” they said.

I hesitated. It sure sounded like my client. “Brian?” I ventured.


I identified myself and said, “That check you gave me didn’t go through; can you give me a credit card number or…”

“Ha!” he fired at me. “For that piece of crap resume? It’s full of mistakes. I can’t even use it. I’m going to have to re-write it myself.” Then, “It’s karma that my check bounced!”

I couldn’t believe his lack of ethics and personal dignity, or the pathetic transparency of his strategy. Clearly, he wasn’t going to make good on the check, not to mention the fee my bank charged me. Not to be deterred, I said, “I like to be part of the solution, not the problem, so If you want to come over I’ll be happy to go over it with you and fix it.”

He mumbled something about having to arrange a ride and we hung up. I immediately pulled up his resume on my computer screen and examined it. I could find no mistakes.

Next post: this guy just won’t go away!

Telemarketer from Hell: Part I

June 23, 2008

As a professional resume writer, I interview people daily who are changing jobs. Running a resume service for twenty years is a little like running a corner store or a funeral home; eventually everyone comes through your door. In addition to all the “normal” jobs you can think of, I’ve interviewed comedians, a psychiatrist, a police sniper, and a sewer worker from an industrial park who boasted, “No one there knows the insides of those sewers like I do!”

One man played the organ for four different churches every Sunday. He said, “It’s pretty much church and drive, church and drive…”

I’ve built a referral base and now interview people from all over the world, by phone: an Oil Ministry employee in Qatar, a liquor executive from The Netherlands, a female prison guard from Ontario, Canada, and a mechanical engineer in the Philippines. His address was “second road past the building supply store.” I convinced his sister, sitting across the desk from me – and paying for the $60 phone call – that he needed an e-mail address.

I thought I’d interviewed someone from every possible job until recently I found myself sitting face-to-face with…drum roll…a telemarketer. Not someone who’d merely had a telemarketing job, but someone who’d been a telemarketer his entire adult life – 15 years. One of those people I’ve wished I could electrocute through the phone line. But he was my customer, here, not my adversary. Or so I thought.

He’d worked for a company selling real estate investment training packages, including the Trump Investor Training Program. The packages were $1,300 to $1,900. To me, paying someone to show you how to buy a double house sounds bogus. Apparently it did to many of his customers; a large part of his job was convincing people to keep making their monthly payments. He said he was a good persuader. Basically, he was selling smoke, then coercing people to make their payments once they figured it out.

His business ethics, I would find, spilled over into his personal life. I got just a taste of this in the beginning. He missed one appointment and arrived late for the other two, smelling of hard liquor. He’d gotten a ride to my office from someone who apparently wasn’t too happy about it. “They’re outside waiting – gotta go,” he said, rattled. I thought it odd that someone who claimed to earn $65K had to bum a ride.

Next post: This telemarketer just won’t go away!

Old Books: Cowbird 1904-style

June 20, 2008

My aunt’s cottage on Keuka Lake has been in the family since my great uncle C. C. Cunnings built it 90 years ago. There are many interesting old items lying around; rowboats, antique fishing gear, tableware, and books. We found this description of a cowbird in a 1904 Field Book of Wild Birds and Their Music:

“This disreputable character, parasitic in habit and degenerate in all moral instinct is famous for the abominable habit of laying its eggs in another bird’s nest. It is not handsome either. The cowbird has no song; his nearest approach to music is a sort of guttural murmuring, produced with an apparently nauseous effort. These guttural chirps are an index to the character of the bird; they are harshly metallic, without rhythm or sentiment. Why should they have either? The bird has no mate to call. He is a polygamist, a bird of no principles, a low down character. He usually goes with a flock of other evil spirits just like himself, and their favorite resort is the pasture where the cattle graze. Very probably they have one redeeming quality; they keep myriads of insects in check which otherwise would worry the life out of the cows; but no one seems to be positively sure about that. It is certain, however, that the young cowbirds do no end of harm to the bird families upon which they are foisted, for there is many a dainty warbler or vireo pushed out of the nest or starved to death by reason of selfishness of the loutish (cowbird) foster brother.”

For comparison, a description of a cowbird from a contemporary field guide: “Common on farmland, often feeding in mixed flocks with Red-wings, Brewer’s Blackbird, or Common Grackles. The plain mouse-gray female lays its speckled egg in the nests of other species, especially of warblers, vireos, and sparrows. The young beg noisily for food from their foster parents. Song is a thin whistle.”

The faraway front porch

June 18, 2008
My Aunt's cottage - center - on Keuka Lake, NY

My Aunt's cottage - center - on Keuka Lake, NY

Every home seems to have its favorite gathering spot. At my aunt’s cottage on Keuka Lake that spot is the front porch. I drove there recently and took down a tree for her. She then made dinner and we retired to the front porch, overlooking the water on a sunny evening. It’s amazing how far away and peaceful this porch is, just an hour from the city.

A flycatcher had built her nest in the porch eaves; she swooped in toward the nest, saw us, and swooped right on out the other end of the porch. We lowered the porch blinds, little by little, as the bright sun dropped in the sky. I glimpsed what looked like a beaver swimming. It dove under and my aunt didn’t see it. As we waited for it to re-surface, she  speculated it might be the muskrat that was wreaking havoc in everyone’s gardens. I watched a chipmunk on the roof of the next-door cottage inspecting the chimney for possible channels of entry.

We forgot about the beaver-muskrat. We discussed who might be coming for the weekend, including a review of sleeping arrangements and what tools my cousin Ellen would bring. We forgot about the world, a skill gleaned from spending many summer days on this very porch. I was watching swallows dive-bombing insects above the water when the old table phone rang – a bonafide Mayberry RFD Kaaa-riiing!

“That’s probably Ellen,” my aunt said, hurrying inside.

“Tell her ‘Hi!'” I called after her.

She returned a moment later. “It was a telemarketer,” she said.

I haven’t felt that invaded since my new truck was broken into.

“Don’t worry,” she said, “the overhead wire isn’t live.”

June 16, 2008

I’m sure everyone has tackled a home repair or landscaping project themselves instead of calling a professional. You don’t have the right tools. So you use the wrong ones. Or borrow the right ones. And damage them. Honestly, how many people on this planet are really qualified to safely operate any kind of power saw? Imagine the accident possibilities.

When I set out to take down a 30-foot tall tree at my aunt’s cottage last week, I never got to the point of firing up my cousin’s chainsaw and I’m thankful the overhead wire wasn’t “live.”

The idea was pretty simple: widen the mouth of the driveway by taking down a tree at the edge of the road. It made sense on paper. When I actually studied the tree and the lay of the land, I realized the entire tree, stump and all, had to come out.

Without cutting the tree (an American Hornbeam) I started digging around its base, using successively smaller shovels as the root system became further entwinded with that rocky Finger Lakes soil. I finally bared a root enough to sever it with three or four blows of a very sharp, borrowed axe. Many grunts and curses later, I’d managed to sever three roots. I pushed my hand against the tree. It was as solid as a telephone pole and I’d been working at it for over an hour.

Thinking I might be able to tilt the tree a bit with my truck – exposing more roots for chopping – I retrieved some heavy rope from the cottage. I tied one end to the tree, six feet up for leverage. I backed my truck up to the tree, straddling the little-used lower lake road. I tied the other end of the rope to the undercarriage. I pulled forward in my truck until the rope was taut. There was a stretch of about twenty feet. I pressed the accelerator and to my joy the tree yielded. To my utter surprise it really, really yielded. It caught the overhead wires; tree and wires fell toward me and my truck. I floored it. I was, of course, like a dog running from its tail, since the tree was tied to my truck. The tree popped out of the ground, roots and all. I’d dragged it all the way across the street before I realized I was going to ram an embankment if I didn’t slam on the brakes.

Miraculously, only the top half of the tree, with its lightweight branches, landed on my trunk. Thankfully the wires weren’t live. As my aunt had assured me earlier, they were defunct cable television wires.

I sat silently in my truck, thankful I wasn’t electrocuted and my truck wasn’t damaged. I suddenly laughed. I was glad it was off-season and no one had been here to witness this farcical performance. But I was too glad too soon. There stood the nextdoor neighbor, hands on hips, watching me trying to climb through branches and wires blocking my driver’s door. Sensing, perhaps, that I might be embarrassed, he quickly retreated to his cottage before I had a chance to tell him I’d planned it this way.

Amazing ‘wakeup’

June 13, 2008

My officemate has a new Buick Enclave with many amenities including a miles-per-gallon indicator. She also recently moved and her new home isn’t on a direct route to the office. Her commute requires taking several diagonal roads. So she’s been trying different routes to see which is quickest. In the process she noticed something significant. The difference between gas mileage on the expressway – doing 65 to 70 – and side roads – doing 50 to 55 – was more than five miles per gallon.

With that in mind I decided to try something. I had to drive to my aunt’s cottage on Keuka Lake. It’s 65 miles; mostly country roads. I recorded my mileage and gas usage. Instead of doing 60-63 mph like I typically do, I drove 50-52 mph all the way down and back, with a couple exceptions. It did take me about five minutes longer to make the trip, and on the way back I did occasionally pull over enough to let faster traffice pass, but the savings in gas was a wakeup call.

My truck’s gas mileage is typically around 12 to 14 in the city, 15 to 16 on the highway. On this experimental excursion I wound up driving 160 miles on 7.2 gallons; that’s 22.2 miles per gallon, an increase of 6.6 miles per gallon, or almost a 40% increase in fuel efficiency. I’d always heard that if you drive slower you get better gas mileage. However, I had no idea the difference was this great.

Unfortunately, 90% of my driving is in the city. But if you’re reading this and driving on the open road, consider the gallons and dollars you could save over the course of a year by knocking 10 miles per hour off your top end.

Raise your hand if you have a solution!

June 11, 2008

I think the impending shortage of natural resources is worse than many of our leaders believe. If the price of a barrel of oil has doubled in the last 12 months, it stands to reason that the price of gas will follow the trend, doubling in the next twelve months. I think this will happen even if nothing else bad happens, like Israel invading Iran.

To me the proposal by some to find other places to get oil, like Alaska, is playground logic. That will dry up eventually. “More oil” is addressing the symptom, not the cause. The proposal to develop alternative fuels is more creative, but sixth or seventh grade logic at best.  We need to change the way we live. We are greedy consumers.

We are an automobile-centric society building to a crescendo, while at the same time two other variables have entered the picture: we are or will be running out of virtually every resource necessary to sustain a society who lives to turn the key and hit the road, and there are other societies who would now emulate us. Imagine what gas will cost when a billion Chinese get cars.

We need to take the automobile out of the center of the equation. We need to stop bowing to Detroit-Mecca. Can we relocate closer to our jobs, do our jobs from home, work four ten-hour days instead of five? Can we find ways to use the technology of computers or the internet to “travel” instead of putting pedal to the metal on a daily basis? We need to start walking and cycling, to eliminate “gasoline” from our vocabulary.

Did I see someone raise their hand?

Real men don’t read advertising supplements

June 9, 2008

I went to my favorite diner for breakfast yesterday. Out front sat two police cars, engines running, while four cops sat inside eating breakfast. Opening my newspaper at the counter I found yet a second newspaper’s worth of advertising inserts. I don’t know how much gas an idling squad car burns in 45 minutes, or how many trees get pulped to make newspaper supplements (which I never read), but both situations are repeated citywide, and in cities nationwide. You’d never know we’re running out of oil, trees and other natural resources.

I asked all my friends to forward their thoughts on the impending shortage of natural resources. Their three responses are below.

Diane Tucker, a US-born attorney who emigrated to British Columbia and re-established herself professionally, responded: “How does one decide if, A) Life as we know it is about to change apocalyptically; or, B) This is the environmental equivalent of Y2K?”

Frank Paolo, creator of the blog, Everyone Is Entitled To My Opinion, said, “America: we will NEVER again have cheap gasoline and heating fuel. GET USED TO IT and STOP SNIVELING! We are still the only country in the world where the poor have color television sets and cable. FOR CHRISSAKES – if you can’t appreciate what we have, at least be thankful we don’t get what we deserve.”

William Nowik, a musician/artist/dharma bum/cowboy Buddhist who has lived, labored and performed in emerging and Third World countries, like Afhganistan, replied: “We Americans should understand we don’t live in a country, we live on a planet,” referring to our head-in-the-sand national self-interest.

I personally think it’s time we take a good hard look at our unchecked consumer mentality. Maybe you have your own thoughts.