Category Archives: Little Nuggets of Wisdom

Cheap Fun Things (For Winter)

P1230011

After being married for 6 months, Tara and I finally sat down and took a serious look at our finances.  I’m slightly ashamed that it took us 6 months to get around to this, but then again, 6 months late is better than never.  To our alarm, despite honest efforts to be frugal, we discovered that we’ve been spending too much money.  This had gone unnoticed thanks to a substantial amount of borrowed money (student loans) that pads our account.  What can I say?  The money just goes faster when there’s two people spending it.  In an effort to better emulate responsible adults, I fired up long-forgotten MS Quicken and we developed a budget.  Now we know how much fun money we have in a month.  It’s a decent amount, but it’s certainly not enough to go skiing/boarding every weekend.  Anyway, mostly for ourselves, I’ve compiled a list of free or nearly free wintertime activities.  Suggestions are welcome.

Snowshoeing – 4hrs — $0-7 (rental)
Cross Country Skiing – 4hrs — $20 (rental)
Snow Hiking – 4hrs — Free
Blogging – Too much time to admit — Pretty much free
Working Out – 1hr — Free
Watch a Movie – 2hrs–
Free On-Demand (Cheesy 80’s Film) – Free
Red Box — $1
Blockbuster — $4
Theater Matinee — $12
Sex – 30min – Free
Cuddling – 30min – Free
Reading – 1hr
Library books – Free
Newspaper — $5 subscription (after I kept trying to tell the salesman no)
Rolling Stone — $1 subscription (Amazon special)
Blogs – Free
Photography – Free (once you have a camera)
Perusing Barnes & Noble – 1hr – Usually Free
Video Games – 1hr
Sim City 3000 (me) – Free
Tony Hawk’s Underground (me) – Free
Diner Dash (her) – Free
Music — 30min
Piano (her) – Free
Guitar (me) – Free
Visiting the famous Salt Lake City Library – 1hr – Free
Board Games – 1hr – Free
Scrabble
Phase 10/Skipbo (Nice because you don’t have to think)
5 Stone
Watch the athletes practice arial ski jumping at Olympic Park – 2hr – Cost of gas to get to Park City
Peruse the photo galleries/specialty shops in Park City – 2hr – gas
Sledding – 1hr – Free
Pretend Furniture Shopping – 1hr – Free
Go to the Coffee Shop that has a greenhouse – 1hr — $6

Ignorance is Flirting

This past weekend, I went to Wells Fargo to deposit checks.  The drive-through at the Sugarhouse branch is unique in that there is no window to see the teller.  Instead, there is a camera and a little screen.  Thus, when the teller talks to you, you can see him/her on the screen just as they can see you on their screen.  It is horribly awkward.

Anyway, lately, that particular branch of Wells Fargo has been aggressively pushing their credit card on me each time I go (and each time in the drive-through, with the awkward “web-cam” scenario).  It’s ridiculous: I just want to deposit my checks, and they attack me like car salesmen.  Naturally, I tell them that I already have a credit card, to which they respond that it’s such a good offer and you need to have it so you can build your credit score.  Did you hear what I said?  I-ALREADY-HAVE-A-CREDIT-CARD!   Anyway, it’s really not that dramatic, but it’s funnier that way.

I have to confess that on this occasion, I did give in and concede to sign up for the stupid credit card.  The girl in the screen was quite excited.  “OK,” she says, “I just need your mother’s maiden name.”  So I tell her.  It’s German, it’s odd, naturally she’s confused.  “Can you spell it?” She says.  I spell it.  She still doesn’t get it.  She wants me to do it military style, or whatever it’s called.  As I begin, it occurs to me that I don’t do this often, and it does not come naturally.  I’m frantically trying to think of words to go with the letters: “L-uh…Love, O-Orangutan, E-everything,” and so on. 

By the time I finished, she was laughing her ass off.  I wasn’t embarrassed, it was pretty funny.  But then she says: “Aww, you’re so funny!”  I was taken aback.  I learned long ago that when a girl says: “You’re so funny”, she actually means: “I want to do you” (or maybe not quite that extreme, but still).  She asked me if I needed anything else, and I told her no.  Thus she sent out the canister with my receipt and 3 Dum-Dums.

I left the band somewhat confused.  This girl must have mistaken my awkwardness as an attempt to amuse her, and she obviously liked it.  All of this means nothing.  I’m a married man—I have no intention or desire to go around picking up bank tellers by struggling to spell my mother’s maiden name.  It did make me realize, however, that at least 90% of the successful flirting I’ve done in my life was oblivious luck.  Any time I was actually trying to flirt tended to be largely  unsuccessful.  I refer to the over-referenced “Your nuts are delicious” line I used to accidently catch the attention of the girl who would become my first serious girlfriend senior year of high school.  Then of course, there’s the countless beds I shared (hey, it beats the floor), bras I unclasped just to demonstrate how fast I could do it (as a young boy with the mind of an engineer, I analyzed the mechanism to determine the most efficient way of removing it), and suck-and-blow games I played in which I pulled the card away at the last minute (OK, maybe that one was intentional flirting).

When I became interested in Tara, I pulled out every trick in my book, and they all seemed to fail.  I tried to be smooth and kiss her neck, but she was wearing a hoodie (and we were under the table at one of the famous fort parties my roommates and I threw).  I tried to be romantic, and kiss her on the couch, but when I tried to transition from “vertical” to “horizontal”, a blanket fell over her face. I tried to wow her with my lighting fast bra removal skills, but, for the first time ever, I could not get the damn thing off (at least not lighting fast, anyway).  Unintentionally, I imagine all this worked in my favor.  I’m sure she was less interested in “Andrew, the Master Seducer”, and more interested in “Andrew, the cute guy that honestly tries, but clumsily misses”.

Anyway, all I’m really trying to say is, if you want to pick up that cute bank teller, use the words, Love, Orangutan, and Dynamite in the same sentence.  This will get you at least 4 Dum-Dums for sure!  Go back the next day and tell her you’d like to deposit your Dum-Dum, and ask her how much interest it would gain in a mutual fund.  You’re in!

The New Job

On December 9th, I had a very exciting interview.  The company is Procerus Technologies.  They make small unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), which are basically model-sized planes that fly themselves, take surveillance, and what not.  The position I was being considered for was  hardware engineer.  I left the interview feeling good about it, but they had informed me that they had a long list of applicants, so I was trying not to get my hopes up.  Nothing happened for a week, but then they called me for references.  Some hope restored, I immediately gave my KZCO references.  A couple more days passed, and then they called to make sure that I was still interested.  Several more days passed and then they called to ask when I could start.  Getting excited, I said that I could start whenever.  They quickly told me that they were still figuring things out.  Damn it!  Finally, the following morning, 3 days before Christmas, I got the offer.  It was easily the best Christmas present I have ever received.  Tara and I hit the slopes the following day to celebrate.

I started work this past Tuesday after getting back from Omaha Monday evening.  I can already tell that I’m going to love this job.  My coworkers are all very friendly and welcoming.  I’ve already been invited out to lunch twice and to go night skiing after work next week.  The actual work is exciting as well.  I’m currently working on a hardware/software mod for a custom order.  Naturally, we’ll have to test it when we’re done which means going out to a wide open place and test flying an airplane with the changes on it.  Sounds pretty boring, doesn’t it?

***

I’m not sure exactly what parts of my personality, skill set, and experience managed to get me to the top of the applicant list, but I’m going to describe my approach here.  Perhaps you’ll find some of it useful.

They started with a fairly in-depth phone interview for which I was in a conference call with the engineering manager and the senior hardware engineer.  This I particularly appreciated, because too many times I’ve had phone interviews with someone from HR that knows absolutely nothing about engineering, and then advanced to the actual interview with an engineer only to unpleasantly discover that I was completely lacking the skills that they happened to be looking for.  So anyway, I told them about my experience, made jokes here and there, and even managed to give them some advice.  Thus the conversation ended up being more similar to a group of professionals casually comparing notes than an actual interview.  I think that this got me huge points.  After about 45 minutes (I had just finished my morning coffee when they called, so, by that time, had to go pee soooo bad) they asked me in for a face-to-face interview that afternoon.

I prepared for the interview by checking out their website (anyone will tell you that), and also gathering samples of my previous work: a couple PCB’s I designed, and for kicks, my LED graduation hat.  I daringly chose to wear a sport coat with jeans with the logic that everyone wears suits to interviews, and I want to stand out from everyone.  Also, I figured it would be more catchy than my “I really want this job” T-shirt.

The interview itself turned out to be one of the most enjoyable interviews I’ve ever been in.  Rather than quizzing me with generic engineering questions, they threw real world issues that they had faced or were currently facing and asked me how I would solve them.  I enthusiastically gave my best theories, and could tell they were impressed.  I also made it a point to inject a little bit of my personality every chance I got.  Everyone has experience, everyone has a degree, everyone got at least this GPA, no one has the same personality.  When it was my chance to ask questions, I mixed in some fun ones along with the “boring” ones: “Are you guys a fun company?”, “Do you guys do pranks?”.  These questions had everyone laughing and reminiscing their best pranks.

After the interview, they of course told me they’d get back to me.  I greatly wanted to send a follow up email, but they had not given me any contact information aside from a phone number, so I deliberated for some time on whether or not it would be appropriate.  After I didn’t hear anything the following day, I finally sent a follow-up to the “contact us” email on the website, admittedly to blow some more smoke, but also to genuinely commend their interview process and the company in general.  I was pleasantly surprised to receive several positive responses to my follow-up.

So, anyway, here’s my advice, in list form:

1.  Be enthusiastic—make sure your passion for your area of expertise shows.  If you’re not passionate, you need a new line of work.

2.  Let your personality shine—most employers aren’t looking to hire a closet engineer, and if they are, you probably don’t want the job anyway (unless that’s your thing).  Also, they got all the “boring” stuff off your resume anyway.

3.  Move Before finding the job—granted, it is more stressful, but if you’re trying to relocate, you’re probably not going to have any luck lining up a job before you’ve moved.  Especially it this economy, if you’re not local, you resume will get trashed immediately.  I should be clear here:  you should probably do some research beforehand to make sure that your target industry exists where you’re looking to relocate.

4.  Blow Smoke!—Everyone likes being complimented.  If you make observations about a target company that excites you, let them know that.  Also, ask plenty of questions and show genuine interest in what they say.

5.  Talk like you already have the job—It my seem presumptive to do this during the interview, but the way I see it, they’re trying to picture you in the position anyway.  Make it easier for them!

6.  Do NOT ask about pay/benefits during the interview—anyone will tell you this, but I wholeheartedly agree.  Asking questions like this will make it seem that you’re more interested in compensation than work.

7.  What is your target salary?—I think this is the most difficult, and almost unfair question an employer will ask.  Say there are 2 equally qualified applicants.  Guess who gets the job?  The one who asks for less.  After struggling with this for some time, I eventually started giving a range: “Well, my target salary is x, but I’ll go as low as y.”  Consequently, guess what my offer was?  Sure, they added a little on to not come off like jerks, but it definitely wasn’t x.  I didn’t mind though—I had gotten the job!  I figure once I have a little more experience, then I’ll have more leverage to demand more specific salaries.

8.  Do you barter the offer?—I’m hoping someone else can offer their wisdom on this one.  They give you the job offer with salary z.  Do you try and talk them up, or just accept the offer?  I’ve honestly never negotiated a salary—I’ve always been happy just to have the job.