Job Hunting

About this time last year I was finishing up my first-ever job in retail. I was looking to pick up a few holiday dollars, the libraries weren’t hiring, and, as retail goes, a bookstore is the place to be. It was, however, a learning experience for a librarian with a degree in art history. I am firmly convinced that everyone in America should have to work retail at least once in their life. Community service is good too, but you learn things on the other side of the register that you won’t learn anywhere else.

So here’s a letter I sent out to some friends while I was still trying to get hired.


Yesterday I applied for some part-time/temporary/seasonal hours (could it be any more provisional?) at the local bookstore. I gave them a copy of my resume at the store, but the application itself was filled out online. Such an application! After all the usual stuff about work experience and “Are you a convicted felon?” and “When are you available?” there was a 37 page personality test. Five questions per page. By the end of it, I was really wondering.

There were the usual kinds of “I work best as part of a team.” (Strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree) and the “I feel confident about my ability to learn new skills” (Strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree) questions—asked repeatedly in slightly different forms to check for consistency and strength of feeling. But then there were some strange questions–

“It is wrong to fake being polite.”      (Strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree)

Now, how can you fake being polite? You are or you aren’t. You either say the words or you don’t. What you feel while you say them is irrelevant. If I am polite to a customer who disgusts me, my disgust doesn’t diminish my politeness or make it inauthentic. WHO THOUGHT UP THIS QUESTION?! Do they even know what polite means? What did they think they were asking?

And what about “I always finish my work no matter what.” Have these people ever had a real life? What if they’re locking the front door and closing the store? What if someone falls down and cuts their head open and there’s blood gushing? What if terrorists come in the front door with uzis? Should I finish stocking the displays before I put my hands in the air? What is this “no matter what” talk?

And then, right in the middle of a bunch of innocuous job behavior questions they come out with

“It is so annoying when judges let guilty criminals go free.” (Strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree)

I just answered the questions and clicked on submit. I hope they think my high school grade average was sufficient.

I’ll keep you posted.

Camo Nation

Camo Easter Eggs Camo Dog Tank top

Camo is the new Tie Dye. It’s everywhere: camo print shirts, camo print pants, camo backpacks, camo bedsheets (do these disguise the bedroom or just the clutter?), even camo Easter eggs (for X-treme hunts!), Camo comes in Forest, Desert or Urban Jungle, Blue or Pink, Brown or Green, Black and Grey.

But here’s my question: what does it mean? When I was a kid, folks who went hunting, or soldiers, or little boys who dreamed they were soldiers wore camoflauge. Now everybody wears it—on fashions that don’t look remotely like hunting gear or army surplus. Hard Rock Barbie wears camo (“Hard Rock’s Barbie® Pink steals the spotlight in a pink camouflage ensemble with skull and crossbone motif. She’s not your mama’s Barbie®!”) Babies can be fashionable in their “camonesies.” Even your dog can get a camo tank top.

Fabric patterns and prints are like wearable fonts-they convey a mood, an attitude. Is this communication a Comic Sans MS moment, or is Times New Roman more appropriate? How would you have to feel to wear a Houndstooth Check? Argyle? A Burberry Plaid?

People are talking all the time—even when they don’t speak a word. So what does it mean when a nation moves from tie dye to camo?

Camo Baby      Tie dye onesie

The case for dinos


I love dinosaurs—and not just because huge creatures roaming the earth is one of God’s coolest ideas ever.  Or because their variety and strangeness is endlessly fascinating.  Or because the story of their discovery is filled with colorful people and tremendous drama.  I love dinosaurs because they are a nearly perfect occasion for learning to love learning. 

Think about it.  Dinosaurs can motivate small children to master very big words.   Three and four-year olds have no difficulty at all with carnivore or herbivore or parasaurolophus or pachycephalosaurus.  They relish the challenge of specific knowledge.  They love being an expert.  And then, before you know it, they start to think about etymology:  “Did you know that “Rex” means “King?” And “–saurus means “lizard” and there are lots of “sauruses” to learn about, but there’s also velociraptor the “swift thief” and oviraptor the “egg thief” and did you ever wonder why they’re called raptors the same way eagles and hawks are?”  

I love dinosaurs because they open the door to lots of other fields:  animal behavior, biology, zoology, taxonomy, genetics, geology, fossilization, history, biography, climate change, and technical drawing.  With dinosaurs you can talk about how animals’ teeth are related to their diet.  You can talk about how some dinosaurs lived as solitary creatures and others organized into groups.  You can look at the layers of earth you see at a nearby construction site and think about the age of the planet. You can even talk about astronomy when you get to the part about giant meteors crashing into the Yucatan.  Dinosaurs lead children to ask, “How do we know that?” and the answer “Because of what we’ve learned about other things and applied to this field of inquiry” brings home the all-important notion that things are connected.  If you want to fully understand something, you’re going to need to learn about a lot of other things too.  If all you know is Victorian poetry, then you don’t really know Victorian poetry.

I love dinosaurs because our understanding of them is changing all the time.  You can read stories about new discoveries and new theories almost every month. When you study dinosaurs you learn that science is not a static thing.  What you “know” today may be modified, refined, or discarded in time, and a good scientist is not afraid to have his or her ideas challenged and tested. 

And I love dinosaurs because they remind us that we are not the only creatures to walk the earth.  Dinosaurs can keep us humble.  If something that big and powerful was once here and is now gone, then why should we think we’re always going to be here?  Why should we think that nothing’s going to change?  Why should we take this life and this planet for granted?