Sunday, July 27, 2008


Before anyone else I know personally, I'd trade places with my friend Scott. He's my friend Rob's brother, and simply put, he is living a life I envy.

Scott is no longer a member of the workforce. After graduating from Stanford, Scott got in with Yahoo! on the ground floor, back in the day when there were actually investors who wouldn't put their money into the Internet start-up because it was named so frivolously. Scott vested himself fully in his employee stock options, worked into his late 30s, and decided that he could retire comfortably a couple of years ago.

Now he travels Asia and Europe full-time, visiting far-flung family and friends as whimsically as someone with an unlimited international calling card might phone them. Part-time, he maintains a blog "Where's Scott?" chronicling where he goes and (often exclusively) what he eats and drinks when he gets there.

Like many, I've spent more time than is healthy wondering what I would do if I had the money. Scott has the money, and he does exactly what I would do if I were in his position-- anything he damn well pleases.

I've always wanted to spin a globe, close my eyes, stop it with my finger, and call my travel agent with my other hand, not looking at where my finger is pointing until asked, "What is your destination, Todd?"

I've always wanted one of the many dingy, aluminum-sided houses that you find in Pittsburgh, but with a Hefner-esque, grotto-style basement beneath. It would have a conversation pit with plush, Italian leather chairs and enough fauna and flora so that you couldn't see the walls or ceiling. The sole source of light in the basement would be the blue fluorescence of an enormous fish tank as its centerpiece, which would be tended exclusively by a staff of half-a-dozen 18-year-old girls. I would recruit them from the local high-school through listings in community and church flyers, avoiding online classifieds that might come off as sounding creepy and perverted. I would pay them $50 an hour, and they would only be asked to work for a couple of hours a day after-school. There would be no uniforms required, and their only job would be to comply with my requests to feed the fish some fish flakes whenever I tapped one of them on the forehead. My only other requirement would be for my employees, when they left the job, to list their job title as "Fish Feeder" on their resumes, and (I would insist upon this) list me as a professional reference.

I would do this for the simple reason that if I had the money, I could do anything I damn well please. Since I grew up vacationing in a lakehouse with an obsessively fish-themed decor, if I want to provide fish feeders with professional references, and I've got the money, then so be it.

I've always wanted to witness a total solar eclipse, too.

According to today's paper, the next solar eclipse will be occurring in a few days on August 1st. Its path will arc from eastern Canada, across Greenland, and into northern China. Though air quality is supposedly going to bollocks-up the Olympics to the southeast, the atmospheric conditions northwest of Beijing near the Mongolian border are projected to be favorable for eclipse watching. At least, that's what "Mr. Eclipse" has to say on his website. By the time I get around to publishing this post, though, it'll already be too late to switch your travel plans.

The last time you could see a total solar eclipse in North America was 1991 when it could be viewed on the beach of the Baja peninsula. I remember reading accounts of the viewing. In the path of the eclipse--precisely underneath where the moon passed in front of the sun--the beach at mid-day became dark as night. To the north and south, you could see people off in the distance, still sunbathing and swimming in the ocean. At that specific viewing spot on the beach, though, you experienced cosmic sunblock. How wonderfully surreal that must have been.

I was not surprised to read afterwards that there are clubs of "eclipse chasers" who travel to all corners of the world (even Antarctica) to witness these "moments of totality" first-hand. There is even a travel website that caters to those either curious about, or addicted to, the experience.

If I had the money, I could see myself joining one of these "umbraphile" clubs and spanning the globe with its members. In fact, it wouldn't be much different than spinning a globe to choose my destination randomly; I would just be allowing the sun and the moon, instead of my finger, to determine where I was going. The only drawback, of course, would be that I would have to deal with being in a club whose membership, I'm sure, includes a good percentage of new-age whack jobs who'd be preaching to you the whole time about how some astrological energy was flowing through them. Or they'd just be total astronomy geeks, like Mr. Eclipse & friends, pictured below:

Yes, they are drinking beer, but notice it's Corona--and you just know they're smiling not because they're loaded, but because they're giddy about drinking a beer named Corona while observing a solar eclipse. You can see that none of the three poindexters has even taken a sip, and you can be sure that every one of those pieces of equipment is a telescope of some sort; not a chance in hell one of them is a tripod-mounted bong.

Friday, July 25, 2008

my morning biertje

Anyone who knows me knows how strange it is that I've taken up blogging. To sit in front of the computer outside of work, as long as I do now, is simply out of character for me. I don't dig on the Internet and technology, in general. In fact, every hard drive of every computer I've ever owned, dating back to the first Macintosh I used in college, has been named, "Technology Sucks."

So I wanted to examine my recent embrace of web-logging and try to understand what about this particular sort of writing has caused me to take this uncharacteristic turn. Obviously there is a direct correlation between my frequent number of blog postings this month and my lack of job (+blog = -job) but I suspect there is more to my interest than simply having nothing else to do. When I eventually rejoin the workforce, I'm betting that I'll still be blogging like I was born to.

I use the word "workforce", remembering hearing it used frequently on a local radio station (WDVE) during its weekday morning commute broadcasts. I don't remember precisely how it was used-- whether WDVE declared itself "workforce radio" or "the choice of Pittsburgh's workforce in the morning"-- I just remember how strangely socialist the term sounded. It used to make my morning commutes more pleasant, though, back when I worked in Pittsburgh for a brief time, feeling this unity with everyone else backed up in rush-hour traffic on I-279. I wouldn't be getting to the office late alone; I would be arriving late, along with all of my other comrades in the workforce.

Some feel this sense of being a part of the workforce; others don't. A while ago, when I visited my friend Jaz in Amsterdam, I got to experience the sense of how an entire city (and, by inference, an entire nation and continent) does not. After having worked in the hyper-kinetic world of advertising in New York City, Jaz found herself shocked by the lack of dedication and drive of her Dutch co-workers in Amsterdam.

There is no office culture that implies you should continue working after official business hours. Unless there is an urgent project or campaign launch requiring the presence of her co-workers, Jaz finds herself alone in a room of empty desks after 6 o'clock most days. They have no qualms about taking vacation time on a whim, even if it inconveniences their co-workers in doing so, and just try to get in touch with them once they've left on holiday. Unlike Americans, the Dutch sever their connection to the office while away, and since they get 5 to 6 weeks paid vacation (compared to our 2 to 3) on average, it could be a month until you hear from them again.

Jaz told me that it's not only the Dutch, but all of Europe that operates this way, and she left me believing that U.S. and Japanese workers make the world turn while the Europeans sit outside their cafes, drinking beer and smoking pot, wondering if they're just buzzed or if that's the world they feel turning beneath them.

In the Dutch spirit, I'm going to walk away from the work I had intended to do in this posting. I'll put it off for another time; instead I'll just post this poem:

Postcard from Amsterdam

Soaking up a chill autumn
sun in the rolling of foreign
tongues outside the café, I sip
from my morning biertje
as bicycles everywhere turn

The gears of this hub city
in simple machine motion
like a timepiece frictionless
as the Amstel flows, I steer

Lazy eyes over oude architecture
traipsing across raised-neck
gables and the sexy hourglass
shadows they stretch
into the straats below

Where the mongers
are willing to haggle while I
take tactile pleasure
in a pocketful of coins

After loosing my mind
in a shop off Leidesplein
like a kanaal boat
free from its mooring, I wobble

Over cobblestones
through the Red Light district
where the women wave
while shaving their legs
in their windows, shameless

Tourists snapping pictures
like the one in this postcard
worth little more than
a hundred, not a thousand
words as the saying goes.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


This was my first (and perhaps last) attempt at a prose poem:


I meet another writer at the writers’ conference. He asks what I think of the conference so far, and I tell him I don’t have much in the way of comparison. He asks how many others I’ve been to, and I tell him this is my first. It’s my fifth, he says, and he’s curious--How you would rate this among others you’ve attended? I tell him it’s not only my first writers’ conference but my first conference whatsoever. Really? He looks me over, approximating my age. Never for work? I tell him I’ve never held a job that required conference attendance, and he looks me over again. What do you do? I tell him how I just finished studying at the University of Pittsburgh, but he doesn’t seem to care. Nonetheless he asks, Who did you study under there?

And I tell him I didn’t really study under anyone; in fact, I wouldn’t say I’ve ever studied under anyone, but there was this Asian girl I knew in San Francisco who had one breast that was noticeably smaller than the other, and when she’d ride me the nipple on the one would trace a much larger circle in gyrating than the other, and I suppose if I ever studied under anyone it was her. But I don’t remember her name, and even if I did, “study” probably isn’t the word I’d use because it’s not like it was the Rosetta Stone or the text of Ulysses; it was just a pair of cock-eyed titties. “Gawk” would probably be a better word than “study,” but you gawk at not under someone, I ask, Don’t you?

To which he replies, Pittsburgh’s a much cleaner city than most people realize, just before excusing himself to meet the famous writer he’s spotted on the other side of the hotel bar, which is, by the way, where we are—the conference’s hotel bar, which shares the name of this poem and was probably named to reflect the kind of networking that takes place at such hotel bars, at least that’s my guess until I notice all the framed photographs of New York City’s bridges upon the walls, at which point I realize I may have been reading more into the name than I should have.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


From a few miles back, I could see the plume of black smoke in the air. It rose so high in the sky over the turnpike that, not for a second, did I think it could have been caused by a traffic accident; I was thinking someone's house near the road caught fire, or some yokel was burning a pile of tires in his backyard, when the traffic stopped moving.

As I learned more than five hours later, on the 11 o' clock news, a tractor trailer jack-knifed on the eastbound side of the pike and exploded. I was on the westbound side, a 1/4 mile back from where debris from the explosion had blown across the road, causing the five-car pileup that ground westbound traffic to a halt.

From behind the wheel of my car, I stared out my windshield with the same exhausted expression on my face that I'm certain every other driver on the turnpike was wearing. Within the first ten minutes after the traffic had stopped still, emergency vehicles of all sorts started screaming down the shoulder of the road. Fire engines. Ambulances. Tow trucks. Platform bed trucks. Police cruisers. Undercover police cruisers. They started whizzing past on the other side of the turnpike, too, going west on the eastbound side of the road. Once people saw this-- that traffic had been stopped in both directions--they started trickling out of their cars to try to get a better look up ahead, around the bend where all the smoke in the sky was coming from.

One stout, tan man, wearing an Outback cowboy hat and a U.S. Navy Seals sunglasses band, soldiered forward with his son in tow with the purpose of finding out what had happened. He was back in a half an hour, stopping at any car that lowered its window upon seeing him, in order to inform its driver and passengers what he had discovered about the accident.

I didn't lower my window for the guy. That kind of take-charge personality has always put me off. Very reminiscent of my father's. I looked to his son, wanting to sympathize with him, knowing his plight, but the kid was cut from the same cloth as pop. He was eager to contribute to his father's account of the accident, pitching-in a detail or two that his father had overlooked. Standing behind him-- where I would have had my eyes lowered and my mouth half-open in a yawn-- this kid aimed his eyes where his dad's were and kept a stiff upper lip to boot.

The three guys in front of me-- in a Dodge Ram Charger, Michigan plate, with decals over the tail lights that said something like "Nuw Ride" or "Nuw Skool" in stylized lettering-- didn't get out of their car for almost two hours. Then they all got out together and proceeded to slouch against the east-west divider, talking on their cell phones until traffic started moving again.

The cell phones were out like we were waiting for an encore at a pop concert. People were taking pictures of one another standing in the empty turnpike lanes on the other side of the divider. The lady in the car behind me had her door open, was standing on the driver seat, and was holding her cellphone up as high as she could, taking video of the black smoke in the air.

On Star Trek, I always thought "away teams" looked stupid, waving their tri-corder devices around, whenever they beamed down to a strange planet, and I think the same about people with their cellphones today. I admit to being dumb with my cellphone, too; searching the picture folder on my phone, you will find dozens of random photos-- many attempting badly to be "artsy"-- but at least I'll make an attempt to take my pictures discreetly.

As our traffic stop ran past two hours, a girl in a pair of Penn State athletic shorts, with a pawprint on each asscheek, breezed past on rollerblades. Three cars back, someone had unfolded a sunchair on the roof of their minivan and was catching the last of the late afternoon rays. A young couple (in the car one up, and to the left from me) had gotten out a mini-football and started it passing to one another in the empty turnpike lanes over the divider.

Meanwhile, a 1/4 mile ahead, corpses were being pulled by the jaws-of-life through twisted metal and burning rubber, or so I was thinking, through a mild wine hangover.

As I watched the football rise and fall in an arc between them, I realized this young couple, in all likelihood, would be having sex once they got home. If they could play catch while waiting for emergency personnel to clean up a catastrophic accident, there wouldn't be a chance of him or her saying, "I just can't...thinking of those poor people...I just can't."

She was wearing a denim miniskirt, faded at the buttocks, and I wondered if they would even bother with taking it off beforehand.

With my girlfriend in India, perhaps never moving here, I leaned over my steering wheel, jealously watching the football being passed between them. Suddenly, everyone was racing back to their cars. Traffic started moving, and at slow speed I got to see the remnants of the wreckage. It had been a box (not a tanker) trailer, in three pieces blown open like black, popped popcorn seeds. No bodies, no cars, not even the cab of the truck-- these must have already been hauled away.

Remarkably, the news next day reported that, despite the severity of the accident, there was not a single fatality. Instead of relief, or astonishment, I was mildly surprised and nothing more. I could only think that if I hadn't pulled in-and-out of a rest stop--just to have a few slow rpm moments to cool my hangover in front of my dashboard AC vent-- mine might have been one of the five cars wrecked in the wake of the explosion, and--I don't know why I think this but I do-- I wouldn't have managed to survive.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

liam juhn

Pictured here, at two days-old, is Liam Juhn Carver.

The process by which Jon and Janine Carver went about naming the lad is, itself, an exercise in mophunquisness. For the record, Jon wanted to name him Zod (after General Zod from Superman comics) who, according to Wikipedia, was rated by Wizard magazine as the 58th greatest villian of all time.

Zod is the kind of guy you want leading the team, spear-heading the initiative, etc... in short, Zod would be sought-after in business and social circles. By name alone, he would need to be factored into the equation, accounted for in advance... All hail Zod!... or so Jon's argument for the name went.

Janine, to her credit, put her foot down. She wanted their son's name to be a product of their collaboration. She agreed to Liam, from what I understand, because her surname "Li" could be found therein. I like to think her reasoning here was since she took Carv's surname in marriage, it would be nice to have their son's first name include the surname she gave up. So, in effect, by choosing the name Liam, Jon and Janine creatively compromised around the phallocentric tradition of the wife abandoning her surname for her husband's.

Liam's middle name, Juhn, typifies this compromise. It's parts of his father's (John) and her father's (Jun) names spliced together.

I suspect that when Liam gets a little older, he'll think it was pretty cool that his dad initially wanted to name him after the 58th greatest villian of all time. However, as he grows up, I'm sure he'll come to appreciate the collaborative effort behind his name even more.
And if he absolutely wants some bad-assitude to his name, Liam can tell people his middle name is spelled "Jhun" instead of Juhn, and thereby claim it was inspired by this character from the King of Fighters video game, pictured here.
He's got feet and fists of fury, and with a father whose as big a video game fan as Carv, no one would doubt him for a minute. All hail Liam Juhn!

Monday, July 14, 2008

mophunquis, etymology of

Back in the days shortly after college, when my friends and I thought of how awesome it would be to own a bar, we came up with ideas that would distinguish our bar from any other we had been in. My friend Carv liked the idea of a bunker-style entrance so that patrons would have to dive and tumble over a wall of sandbags to enter--you know, a first-date kinda spot.

I always liked the idea of having a penalty box in the bar, off to the side, and a bartender with a ref's whistle that would be blown to call out a bar foul. He would point to the offender(s) and banish them to the penalty box. In order to insure compliance, two bouncers in zebra-striped muscle shirts would enforce the bartender's calls and make sure the offenders remained inside the box until their penalty time (major or minor) had expired, or in the event of a bar misconduct penalty, shown to the bar's exit. It would have been the kind of place you loved to get in trouble, though, and for that reason, not a practical bar idea at all.

Our bars had names, too, but I can only remember my own. Mophunquis.

Though its origin lies in the contemplation of a debaucherous haven, the name has come to take on a different meaning. It now refers to the process of thinking about things like what the perfect bar would be. It is a state of mind that the best of my friends slip into with ease, and it is with this state of mind that I approach the writing of these blog entries. If everyone were a little mophunquis (adj.) in their approach to life, I think the world would be an easier place in which to live...more jovial, more creative, more frivolous. Mophunquis.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

umbrolli cutco

While visiting the Bay Area this week, I watched a great deal of BBC America television programming, having stayed with my friends Rob (who spent his early childhood in England) and Kate (from Scotland). They tivo shows like Hell's Kitchen, Top Gear (brilliant), and Dragons' Den. Except for Top Gear, a show with genuinely hilarious banter between its three hosts, none of these gripped my interest and held it fast.

However, a portion of Dragons' Den inspired this post and the tangential thinking therein. For any reader as unfamiliar I had been with the show, each contestant in Dragons' Den pitches a business idea to a panel of investors (the "dragons") in the hope of impressing one or more of them enough to invest in the idea. In this particular episode, one of the contestants on the show sought enough start-up money (150,000 pounds) to get his umbrolli (British for umbrella) vending business off the ground. He intended to place a vending machine in several hundred London tube stations that sold disposable umbrollies for 2 pounds apiece.

He thought of the business idea after getting caught in the rain once on his tube commute home. With as much as it rains in London, a disposable umbrolli vending machine in each tube station sounded like a good business idea outright, but he took it a step further. He intended to sell ad space on the front of his vending machines, placing them within line-of-sight of the commuter traffic exiting each station. He estimated the ad revenue that he would generate from his machines would be 2x that of the umbrollies he sold.

Rob, Kate, and I declared the idea genius. Kate wished she had thought of it, and I was thinking the same. It really was a good idea, but it wasn't just that. As Rob correctly pointed out, when this contestant ended up successfully negotiating with the dragons for his start-up money, his success was due as much to the work that he did around the idea as the idea itself. He had proprietary rights, valuation estimates and expense projections. He had already solicited the London transportation authority and signed a 12-year renewable contract to place his vending machines in several hundred tube stations. He had an artistic rendering of his vending machine design and even had an umbrolli prototype, airbrushed with the company logo, to pass around for the dragons to examine for themselves.

Just as I was letting myself slip into Kate's envious line of thinking regarding this guy's idea, it occurred to me that if I had indeed thought of it, I would never have brought it to the stage that he was presenting it now. I got a headache thinking about the paperwork required to file the proprietary rights to the idea, not to mention the spreadsheet work involved in making all the sales projections and estimates. For the record, you'd have to force me, at gunpoint, to petition any kind of authority at all. I can't even bring myself to ask a police officer on the sidewalk for directions.

More than this ancillary work, though, what would have sunk the umbrolli idea (if it were mine) was the mere thought of having to stand before the "dragons."

I suppose I just don't have an entrepreneurial nature. Or perhaps it is a case of nature vs. nurture. After watching the show, I thought about something I hadn't thought about in years. It was the very first time that I ever made any kind of sales pitch. This early experience may have been formative in developing my general aversion to the business world.

One summer in high school, I sold Cutco knives for the Vector Marketing corporation. I went door-to-door in my neighborhood, giving my rehearsed sales presentation. It involved cutting an empty Coke can in half with a carving knife, finely slicing a tomato with a bread knife, and then scissoring through a penny with a pair of kitchen shears. Getting through the penny was the toughest part of the presentation. Though the shears managed this feat, I was never able to make it seem as effortless as it was supposed to. It always required a visible effort on my part, often requiring the use of both hands to force the shears through the penny. In retrospect, my lack of hand strength may have ultimately been responsible for my failing to meet my sales quotas, but it was not directly responsible for the aversion I developed for the act of selling.

Every week, as I recall, I was required to attend marketing meetings at our regional office, and after my first, I left wondering why I was bothering with the job in the first place. Part-pep rally, part-bitch session, part-capitalist indoctrination, these meetings conflicted with an idealistic, artistic worldview that I had already begun to cultivate.

I remember one occasion when a Marketing VP from the corporate office surprised our regional sales manager by showing up for one of these meetings. He gave a speech that could have come straight out of Alec Baldwin's mouth in Glengarry Glen Ross. He dismissed our sales numbers as pathetic, instructed us how to "go the extra mile" for the sale, and he actually pulled his car keys out of his pocket, jingling them in front the conference room. "That's my Porsche outside," he said. "Trust me, you'll never own one unless your numbers improve."

But it was the beginning of his speech that made an indelible impression upon me. The gist of his opening remarks were, "In any sport, you know who is the winner is by who has the most points on the scoreboard. Life is a sport, and the points are dollars. At the end, whoever has the most-- wins."

(I just realized why a recent Nike ad campaign has always left me feeling unsettled. I couldn't say what it put me off about it until now; it had to be their use of the tag line "Life Is A Sport," resonating in my subconscious.)

What astonished me most about his speech was the nodding agreement the Marketing VP got from almost everyone seated around me. A few actually looked like they had experienced a revelation. "Yes, life is a sport!" their expressions seemed to be saying.

Watching the "dragons" on Dragons' Den, I would have a difficult time believing that any one of them, at that early age, would not have been nodding their heads in the same situation. Their career successes in business imply an espousal of this worldview, and thus my aversion to them-- I wouldn't want to stand before the dragons now anymore than I would have wanted to be seated next to them then.

Here's a poem.

Happy Hour at the Bull Run

The businessmen,
all business in the boardroom
are all men here

after the closing bell,
after the contract’s been
Fed-Exed to the client

they brawn up to the bar,
sleeves rolled to elbows,
Windsors loose in their collars,

thick studs in lust
with the big bucks they push
to the bartender in the low-cut

top, downing pints and
throwing back shots amid high-
fives and shouts.

I try to squeeze between
their broad backs, slipping
an arm through

waving a few dollars
with so little
hope for her attention

it may as well be
a white flag, a pink hanky,
this yellow poem in my hand.

Todd Christopher Cincala

Friday, July 11, 2008


A synonym for "human". I think it describes precisely what each of us is.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

human resources

The decor of my family's lakehouse is predominantly fish-themed. Ducks and geese are prevalent, as well, but fish dominate. We have a fish print blanket on the sofa, fish pillows, fish-shaped coffee mugs, that awful singing Billy Bass on the fireplace mantle. We have baseball caps, keychains, and wall hangings inscribed with "gone fishin'" related wisdom.

A great deal of this fishy paraphernalia was gifted to us by an uncle who keeps his fishing boat underneath the deck of the house. He is retired now and has more time to fish so he is often up at the house when no immediate family members are using it. I was up there recently after he had just left, and when I turned on the television, it was tuned to a station broadcasting a bass fishing tournament. I watched it only long enough to learn that there are actually people making a living fishing professionally, and even more surprising, there are enough people interested in watching professional fishing for the sport to be televised.

As interested in fishing as my uncle is, I don't believe that he entertains the possibility of becoming a professional. Maybe it is something that he fantasizes about now in his retirement years, but I've never heard of him entering any fishing competitions nor expressing the desire to do so. His interest in fishing is more than just a casual one, though, at least more casual than what I would think of as casual fishing, where the fisherman is more concerned with "goin' fishin'" than actually pulling fish out of the water. I think of casual fishing as having less to do with fishing than being alone on a lake or river, ensconced in nature, and set adrift from the demands of the workaday world.

My uncle may appreciate this aspect of fishing, but make no mistake about it--he fishes primarily to catch fish. He applies tactics acquired from the professionals on TV and articles in fishing magazines. He upgrades his rods, reels and tackle to give him the latest technological edge over the gilled. He motors out of his way to specific spots on the lake that he has learned are more likely to yield a catch, and he obviously takes pride in his catches, as evidenced by the number of photographs of him, grinning as he holds fish up to the camera.

I've been traveling up to the lake more recently in an effort to escape the frustrations of searching for a job, and I recognize that my early attempts at job searching were akin to casual attempts at fishing. Having shifted my career path from academia to corporate America, I abandoned my CV for a resume, with which I had forgotten what to do. I had to re-learn how to look for a job, i.e. I had to become more professional in my approach. I've researched resume advice postings on the Internet. I've read through a Dummies book on the subject. I revised and re-revised my resume and learned how to edit my cover letters to highlight my strengths relevant to the particular requirements of the jobs to which I've been applying. In many ways, my approach to job searching is analogous to that of my uncle to fishing; though I have yet to make a catch that I can hold up, grinning. Frustratingly enough, I've barely had any tugs on the line. When there has been something there, the job has been so meager that I've had no choice but to throw it back.

More and more, I've come into contact with individuals that make a professional living in HR, and while I am doing my resume song-and-dance for them, I wonder what their jobs must be like day-in and day-out, listening to variants of the standard resume story over and again. Is their interest purely professional, or is there a casual interest in the job, as well? Is there a pleasure in getting to know the job candidates as people, or a personal satisfaction in matching a person to the perfect job in addition to the professional one?

Since I am not a "people" person by any stretch, it's difficult to imagine anyone wanting to pursue a career in HR. But people do, and they must get into it because they are "people" people. There must be a personal, or human, interest there in other people, or else you'd get into another career. The HR profession interests me insofar as it requires its practitioners to balance professionalism and humanism-- two -isms which appear to be antithetical. If you are strictly human as an HR person, you can't lay off your co-workers and be able to sleep at night. If you are strictly professional, you don't lose a wink and are as close to a functioning android as exists today.

One HR person I met with never took her eyes off my resume as I gave my hire-me spiel. I could tell what I was saying fell on wooden ears as she scanned my resume, circling and underlining my skills and the jobby buzzwords that I chocked my resume full o'. I felt like a standardized test under the grading laser's eye. Another glanced at my resume only when I paused in my spiel to say " you can see in my resume..." She listened intently, responded jokingly, and established such a casual atmosphere in the conference room I would not at all have been shocked if she asked if I would like to grab a drink afterwards and talk some more.

After interviewing with the latter HR professional, which was my most recent face-to-face, I wondered how many years she would last with that same jovial approach to work. She was young, and I wondered how many more hirings and firings it would take before her effervescence started to go flat. I began to wonder if she, in particular, and we, as people in general, have a quantity of humanity that is finite. A reserve of human resources that, once consumed, leaves a person inhuman-- only professional-- like that first HR person I mentioned.

I'll have to revisit the concept of finite "human resources" for a poem later, though, as I have yet more job-seeking work of my own to do, as well as a curious idea for a Ginsberg-inspired poem I've started composing called "Shrike" which I'm sure I'll find cause to speak of in a later posting.