08 January 2009

The End...?

Well, as luck would have it, I'm now apart of the news. I was effectively laid-off on Monday from my job as a recruiter with the 14th largest bank in the United States. Times are tough, even for a well-run bank, and when they have to start making capital saving cuts the hiring slows way down. That effectively rendered my job useless.

I wasn't the only one cut. In all there were 16 of us across the footprint that were eliminated. It's the same story as just about anywhere-some were new hires like me and others were veterans with over 20 years of experience. In the end you know the company didn't do it based off of performance-either the employee or the company, since BB&T is still one of the few profitable banks-but rather because of all the mistakes made by other institutions that are now raining down on the economic machine as a whole.

BB&T is a great company. It was probably the first company in which I saw myself working there for many, many years and hopefully progressing through the ranks to only better myself and the company. I knew when I accepted the position that I would not want to stay in it for longer than 2 years at the maximum. But I saw it as a “foot in the door”, an entrance into a world I knew I would enjoy and one that, at the time, felt relatively safe. So, in the end I decided that this was the place for me. I actually started to decorate my desk (something I have only done once before) and started to branch out looking to make friends and connections that would help me in my career progression. If I saw an opportunity to better the Company I presented it to Executive Management. I wanted them to know that I wasn’t just here to collect a paycheck; I was here to work.

I think it showed too. My direct report would constantly send information for me to research. I got the impression she valued my opinion, knowing that I would tell her it was a waste of time and resources if the product was similar to what we already had, or I would put together a well-reasoned argument as to why this product would benefit the Company, both immediately and in the future. Now, this didn’t always mean that they would take my advice and run with it. BB&T doesn’t work that way. Instead, it meant they listened and would agree (sometimes) that the product was good-even if they couldn’t justify it at the moment.

Monday, January 5th.

I woke up after getting the first good night of sleep since before the move-which was before the holidays. I felt rested and revitalized. I was able to spend time slowly getting ready, sending a few pre-work emails to friends, a couple of Tweets on Twitter, update my Facebook status and read the Winston-Salem Journal. My son was in an extremely good mood that morning, having rested well too. I came into work with the outlook that 2009 was going to be tough, but that I would be able to really concentrate on things and hopefully make a huge difference. I was in the kitchen getting my second cup of coffee and my manager asked if I had a minute. “Of course! What can I do for you?” Then the train came barreling down the tracks and ran me over. I was laid-off. I was told that I was to be here until Friday the 8th or I could leave that day. I was given a 4 month severance package and told that if I wanted to look for other internal positions I would be partnered with a recruiter to aid in the search.
I decided that if there was a position that I would be reasonably qualified for currently open within a specific geographical location I would stay until Friday. I looked. There was. So, I set up appointments with the recruiter and continued to busy myself for the first three days of the week. I continued to come in wearing a suit and tie, and was always at least 15 minutes early-not that I was ever really late. I thought that if I presented myself as one who was willing to still work for the Company, even though I was officially laid-off, my presentation at the next interview would be even more favorable.

Thursday, January 8th.

Now, it is Thursday. My desk is clean. My hard drive has been erased of all items. My Outlook is barer than it was when I came on board. I ditched the tie and coat today, but still shaved. I have one more appointment with a Senior Manager at 10:30 a.m. and then I am left with nothing to do. I will talk to my recruiter one more time to today in order to set up a standard of communication regarding my search once I leave the office on Friday and then I will patiently sit at my cubicle for the rest of the day.

Friday, has the extreme potential to be short. My wife and I commute daily to work together, and I have already informed here that I will be driving separately just in case. My nerves are starting to get frayed. I have people constantly stopping by my cubicle looking to see “how I’m doing” which is getting old very quick. I know they mean well, but the repetition is nauseating. It also doesn’t help my nerves. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to keep up the fa├žade of: “I’m good! How are you?” always so cheerful, always full of hope.

If the truth were to be told I’m scared to death. We just moved into a house (rental, but still…), my son is only 5 months old, my wife is in a job that cannot support our lifestyle alone, I have two car payments, credit debt and student loans. I was going to sit up last night and watch TV, but then I realized I’d be all alone and my brain would have the time to think with undivided attention on all the negative possibilities. I went to bed at 9:30 p.m.

The only thing that does keep my brain occupied is my son. He’s a joy. He has no clue what Daddy is stressing about and personally doesn’t care. He smiles every time I walk into his view. He coos and even attempts to say, “Da-Da” His mouth makes all the motions and noises, but it ends up sounding like, “blah, ba”. It’s cute and I congratulate him all the same. But when he’s not around I worry about him. I want the best for him and the total lack of income the best will not come.

I am now writing this at work. I’ve been on Twitter all morning and I’m going to start going through my Facebook tonight. I know jobs are rare these days, but I’ve got to start the networking thing PDQ (=Pretty Damn Quick) in order to provide for my boy. In the meantime, I intend to update this blog frequently. I originally had no clue what to blog about, but it would appear a reason has come about. So, going forward you will start to see blogs about what I am doing to search for my new career. Feel free to comment, critique and suggest. Who knows, maybe this will help someone else out in the end.

30 December 2008

Robin Hood

I've been thinking about reading Ivanhoe again. I think now would be a pretty good time considering all of the problems the world seems to be facing.

As I'm sure everyone has heard, at least once, that there are some tragedies in the world that have more to do with money and greed than anything else. There are the riots in Greece, Bernard Madoff and his $50Bn, Blagojevich and the Senate Seat, AIG, pretty much any story you want about Wall Street and bonuses, Banks, Detroit 3, Newspapers...The list could probably go on, but it makes me dizzy to try to remember all of the bad news.

The thing that I have been noticing is the comments sections websites offer after each of these stories. The strings are full of hate, loathing, and annoyance that we shouldn't feel any empathy towards the rich or the well-to-do.

This is a complete turn around from even a few months ago. At the beginning of the year all we could consume was books, TV shows, and movies about stories of the uber wealthy. We had to know where they went on vacation; how much they paid a night for a room; what a private island looked like; how many houses they had; what a social gala looked like; what kind of car they drive; where they shopped; what a fashion showed looked like; what were the top chefs cooking; and pretty much anything else you could ever ask.

I watched friends and read stories about people who would buy more than they could afford. You couldn't have a pair of Target sunglasses-NO! You had to have a pair of Fendi's or Gucci's. Why buy a Jeep or a Ford, when you could get a Land Rover or a Lexus and look fashionable.

And then the bottom fell out.

People started having repossessions, foreclosures and bankruptcies at an alarming rate. Layoffs happened around the country-and around the world-and it was simply due to poor management of "Fortune 500" companies.

Now, we are faced with a growing "Haves" vs. "Have Nots". I can think of a couple of examples in which this didn't turn out to be good for the "Haves"-the French Revolution and the Bolshevik Revolution.

So, Ivanhoe seems like it might be a good read at this time. It's a great Medieval story that also introduces us to Robin of Locksley or Robin Hood.

Robin Hood is a personal hero of mine. Not because of his stealing and general "merriment", but rather because he did what was right. When good people are starving because wealth is being horded-not equally earned-then something has to give. Robin Hood is an ideal. He is something that cannot end. I'm reminded of the movie "V for Vendetta" and a couple of quotes given by the titular character, and for purposes of this blog I will edit for coherency.

Symbols are given power by people. Alone, a symbol is meaningless, but with
enough people, [a symbol] can change the world.

Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.

I'm not condoning a complete Socialist society. History has proven that doesn't work. But the Common Man needs a hero; someone it can look up to and Hope that the World will get better. And that is just what Robin Hood did for the English during a very difficult time, not much unlike ours now.

So, I think I'll be dusting off my paperback version of Ivanhoe very soon to be reintroduced to a hero we should could use a lot of right now.

10 December 2008

Review: "New Moon"

So, in my last blog I looked at the book "Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer and gave my thoughts on the book. I had to say, I debated for a day or two as to if I would continue with the series or stop where I was before I became too invested. After my contemplation was complete, I figured that I should give it a try because the Harry Potter series got better with each successive story and this had a similar chance. So off to Borders I went with my trusty debit card.

I've got to admit the storyline presented this time is slightly more compelling than the last. It's enjoyable for me to see the progression of an author's thoughts and style over time. I was also highly impressed with the four blank pages denoting only the months in which nothing happened. What a completely unique way of skipping forward in time without boring the reader to tears with monotony.

The story continues in much the same fashion as before and picks up exactly where "Twilight" leaves off. But within the first chapter all of Bella's life falls apart and she is forced to quit the perfect relationship she has with Edward. (I'm not giving away the main plot line too much!)

In the vacuum a new beau arrives and takes up the romantic post now vacant-and he's got a secret too!

Jacob Black, a Native American on a reservation town called La Push, WA is the direct descendant of two of the most powerful Werewolves in Washington state history. As he comes of age he too gains the ability to transform from a man to wolf.

Amazingly, Mrs. Meyer does a great job with the werewolf. She actually makes the werewolf animal in form, although slightly larger. In the book the werewolf is originally described as big as a Black Bear. This was to my great relief. Hollywood has truly destroyed the myth of the werewolf with its Wolfman. I guess it was too difficult or expensive to train and film actual wolves back in the 1940s.

These werewolves also transform, but they are not the long drawn out transformations of "Teen Wolf", but rather short "tremblings" in which the body simply morphs into its alternative form. They have greater sight, smell, hearing; they heal faster than normal humans and are capable of destroying vampires.

The only thing I was a little iffy on was the size of Jacob Black, the human, throughout the course of the story. All she kept saying was that he "grew." To me, this just became laughable. After awhile I began to picture a giant walking around town like it was no big deal. To top it all off, the other members of the pack (5 altogether) seem to grow together. How in a community as small as Forks with legends and myths flying around like confetti, would they not start to associate the 5 "large" boys and the spotting of 5 "large bear-like" wolves together?! This is like the Clark Kent/Superman belief that simply putting on a pair of glasses and covering the cape is a good enough disguise. Simply laughable.

On the other hand, the story was more coherent. She did a great job of foreshadowing events. This time, when there was an emergency trip to get out of Forks it wasn't so off the cuff. The ideas flowed seamlessly together and created a great ride I actually started to enjoy.

We were also introduced to some True Vampires along the way. While Mrs. Meyer still refuses to discuss blood and gore (weak stomach perhaps?) she did finally show that vampires were blood suckers and that they preferred it that way. The danger and suspense were there, and there was a slight hint at erotica as well. (Why would you go to a large castle during a festival, when a beautiful woman in the shortest mini-skirt asked you too?)

At this point, I can kind of get behind the sparkly skin Meyer's vampires have. It is becoming a unique twist on an old myth. I'm still not a fan of the fact that the Cullens do not partake of their natural prey and survive, but I'm assuming at this point Mrs. Meyer will not change this fact.

Last thought that I'm sure will be answered in the upcoming book or books: How does Edward and the Cullen clan plan to subvert the Treaty formed with Ephraim Black nearly 70 years ago. Namely that no one can be "bitten" by a vampire, not just killed. Obviously the underlying plot is Bella's transformation to a vampire and the only way one can become a vampire is to be bitten. I have one theory, but I'm sure Mrs. Meyer has a unique twist on this that will require a quick trip to Australia or some other remote and exotic locale. 

All in all, this book was good. I really enjoyed it and finished it in record time-or at least record time for someone who works full-time and is the father of a four month old boy. At this point I'm beginning to see what the fuss was all about. 

I've already picked up the next book, "Eclipse", and I will follow up with its review shortly. 

03 December 2008

Twilight's OK But Not Good

Let me start this with a little background on myself. I'm a 31 year-old male living in Winston-Salem, NC. In my lifetime I've read many books regarding vampires because, well, I think vampires are cool. They're the bad guy you want to like, but also scare the bejesus out of you. When I was in Third or Fourth Grade I asked my Mom to take me to the public library-because that's what kids did back in the '80s-to check out "Dracula" by Bram Stoker. As any vampire fan will agree, this is the Holy Grail of vampire lore. It was the first commercial success. After reading Stoker's story I eventually graduated to Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles during my high school years and completed them all a few years back. My personal vampire "taste" has been crafted around her version of the vampire simply because I think it is modern, well thought out, and if a vampire were to truly exist-this is the type I would like to...well...Be.

I'm also a huge fan of books like Harry Potter. I've read the entire series, and like many people I've seen all the movies to date. I will be honest: the reason I read the first book was due to all of the publicity it received from certain religious groups. I had to see what all the fuss was about. My first impression of the book was that people were talking about something in which they had never read. My second thought was: what about "Bewitched"? That was a huge hit in the '60s and no one complained then-or at least I never heard of it. In the end, the stories sucked me in. I appreciated how over the course of the series the writing style improved and became more complex. I appreciated the character development that J. K. Rowling to put into her work. I also appreciated a work that grew in maturity in the same manner as the potential reader.

So, like many Harry Potter fans I was left with a void once the series stopped. I think Rowling did the right thing by ending it when she did. I did have a problem with the ending of the last book, but that should probably be discussed in a different posting because this one is supposed to be about Twilight. So, let's get to it.

I read a couple of months ago about a new series of fantasy novels that had the potential to be the next Harry Potter. I was curious, but not enough to rush out and read the book. Then I heard that a movie was in the works. Now, I for one firmly believe you should always read the book before seeing the movie. I think it helps. Movies are on a tight budget and are limited in time. They have to edit because of this and sometimes the translations leave huge holes that are hard to fathom unless you have read the book before hand. It can make it annoying as the reader will always compare the movie to the book and end up with the result that the book was better. But it is nice to see the movie version.

In the end, my curiosity got the better of me and I picked up "Twilight". I was fully prepared for what some vampire afficionado's were calling its shortcomings. I figured I could go into this with an open mind because anything had to be better than "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. (More on that later as well.)
So, what do I think of "Twilight"? It's a great story for a 13 year-old girl-or someone who likes cheesy romance novels-but a vampire story it is not. Stephenie Meyer has taken the vampire myth and basically desconstruted it to fit some moral good. There is no real conflict with being a blood-sucking demon and wanting to be good. Instead, we never truly see the fight that Edward, the main vampire of the book, has in relation to his desires for Bella. What the reader instead gets is a watered down romance novel with some form of god as the object of affection. If Ms. Meyer were to write this again, I would suggest she not call Edward Cullen a vampire, but rather an immortal for that is what he truly is. Oh sure, he was bitten and transformed, but he is not a vampire.
I'm not a huge fan of the fact that the Cullens do not drink human blood. This is a huge departure from vampire lore. The act of drinking human blood is so much more than simply drinking blood. This "act" is about drawing energy from the prey. The Life Force. Vampires are the "undead" to put it as Stoker did. They have no life. They are damned to walk the earth forever. So, they need Life to survive, and blood is the analogy. It is like saying my heart is breaking when you lose someone. Your heart is fine. But the analigous Heart is broken. Without the right Life Force a vampire will grow weak-maybe not die-but will start to slumber. We see that in "Dracula" and in "Interview with a Vampire". In "Interview" we see Louis attempt to be what the Cullens have obviuosly perfected. He attempts for days to live off of rats and other vermin only to be mocked by Lestat. Unfortunately, he is unable to sate his hunger because he is not satisfying the demon inside. He never truly feels whole and is constantly in pain. Dracula too survives off of vermin in Stoker's novel, but when a human is present he relishes in this.

So, Ms. Meyer has it wrong. She believes that imbibing blood is the main motive for a vampire's feeding. It is, quit simply: Not. The reason a vampire is drawn to the bloood is for the energy only the human soul can provide. For Ms. Meyer to miss this point entirely is dissappointing.

And this is why I'm not 100% a fan of the work. A vampire is evil; pure and simple. This is the origin of the myth. This is what is known around the world, and the use of blood as it's source of Life is a must. This would have created a better conflict. I realize that the conflict is there. It is ever present, but only to a small degree. It would have been much more interesting if Edward were to truly love her and take out his blood lust on unsuspecting people in the town, in order to preserve the love of his life. In this case, the story would have taken a better turn instead of the random plot-surprise that comes as an almost disjointed story to what had happened up until that point.
So, in reviewing this book I'll state that it is a good read with a new twist that should not be placed on an old myth. I liked it for the most part, but the lack of blood in the book was dissappointing. I am intrigued as to the next book, so I have picked it up as well. Perhaps Meyer can redeem herself in the following works.

25 November 2008

Starting Over

OK, let's try this again. 

My first attempt at a blog was nothing more than the irritated ravings of one who had had enough of the election. Now that it is over I thought I would take this seriously. I've been thinking about what my blog should be about.

Should it be out my family? Nah, too obvious. I've seen a great many of those recently and they seem tired and boring-unless you are the guy writing it. Then it is just a journal. Which is cool in its own right, but probably something that shouldn't be read until you die. Isn't that what journals are all about-chronicaling the events of ones life in a book and then someone finding them after your dead to realize that you're not really the person everyone thought you were. 

So, what's next; politics? Seriuosly, if you can't find Huffington Post or Politico or even CNN you don't need to be on the internet. Political blogs are a dime a dozen. It's actually crazy. There are more political bloggers than there is news. If you go to Google and search the blogs for a political theme the results are astronomical. There is no way I could compete on that grand a scale.

So, what to write about? I'm only a recruiter for a regional bank, so I want have any financial knowledge to impart. I could talk about recruiting techniques, but again, I think there are a couple of blogs/sites out there already doing this by way more experience people than I. 

So, I think I'm going to create a blog that is my thoughts. This is not a journal in the true sense-that I'm chronicaling my life events, but instead a collection of impressions of the events of the day. So, if I were to start this right now I might talk about the economic bail-out, or the Detroit 3 drubbing, or Obama as the president-elect. But not about how it affects me; rather, it would be my musings on the events and how I feel about them, my questions surrounding them, how they relate to my family and if I agree or disagree. 

In turn, what I hope is that people will start to tune it, will want to listen to what is going on in my head-because I'm sure there are similar thoughts, and some will have their own answers and opinions that might help me formulate my own, and in the end a community will be born that will discuss the events of today. But let me be clear: a discussion board this is not. The hope is that instead of just wasted words on a webpage out of millions this will become a place of answers. A place people will come after the have digested the days news and will instead come to talk about how it affects us all and how to remedy it. 

In the end, I don't know if this will be successful. I'm less than optimistic. I have no clue how to go about promoting a blog, but I guess I will learn. Of course, if you read this and you have an opinion on how to make this successful, then let's hear it. Perhaps that is the first event of the day: How to have a successful Blog amongst all the others?