Vacation Time!

It is August 1, 2014.  Normally, this is vacation time for owner, staff and editors at David's Musings.  Our present course of action is to take two weeks vacation.  That could change to the entire month of August.  It just depends on a set variables we have no control over at this time.  August is the traditional month of vacation in Europe.  So, if it is good enough for Europeans, it is good enough for us. We are embarking on year seven of David's Musings.  On April 5, 2015,. this blog will be all of 7 years old.  That's a long time in the the blogging world, folks.  So, time for rest and relaxation.  We have another guest poster who will share a post on the paranormal/supernatural theme when we get back.  In fact, we may post that story while still taking the month of August off.  Until next time, enjoy the remainder of your summer!


Life In The 16th Century

I've often wondered what life was a hundred or even a thousand years ago.  What was their daily life like?  What did they do if they got sick?  By most accounts, if they got a sudden illness, they died.  Medicine was based on superstition and barbaric practices back in those days.  The Middle Ages or the Dark Ages was best known for the Bubonic Plague that wiped out about 25$ of the population in Europe. Life was anything but routine as people scratched out an existence in small farming communities.  There was mining of coal, tin and lead.  But, most people made their living farming.  By most historical accounts, the 16th century saw the rise of the West as Spain and Portugal explored the seas.  But, by most standards of today, life was exceedingly harsh back in the 16th century.  Let's take a look of a few examples of what life was like during this time in history.

Most people married in June because they took their yearly bath in May (imagine that). Some smelled pretty good in June. However, they were starting to stink, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence, the custom of carrying a bouquet when getting married.  I had often wondered why brides had the bouquets. 

The floors of homes were dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt; hence the saying, "dirt poor."

Some things never change.  In 1506, a riot in Lisbon, Portugal caused the deaths of over 2000 Jews.

Most homes had a big kettle always over a fire. Few could afford to eat meat.  Most people ate vegetables, eat the stew for dinner and leave the leftovers in the pot. Then the next day they would start over.  Food stayed in these pots for days, weeks even.  There had to be a lot of food poisoning back in the 16th century.

 Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

People during this time were also quite small due to a poor diet.
The men only grew to be about 5'6" and the women were 4'8". So in their house they had 27 people living. Most homes were quite small.  So, just try to imagine living conditions if you will.
Bread was divided according to status. The workers would get the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family would get the middle and guests would get the top, or the "upper crust".

England is so old and small they started running out of places to bury people. So they started digging up some coffins and would take their bones to a house and re-use the grave. They started opening these coffins and found some had scratch marks on the inside.  Obviously, it was difficult to detect if someone was actually dead back then.  This brought on placing coins over the eyelids of people considered dead.  If their eyes opened, the coin would fall off.
Young girls couldn't choose their husband, it was the father who decides who she should marry.  Often times the father would make sure his daughter was a virgin by threatening the life of any young stud who sought the sexual pleasures of his daughter.  A virgin would bring forth a large dowry to the father.  

Ever wonder where the term "room and board" came from?  Probably not.  But,
if you were going traveling and wanted to stay at an Inn they usually provided the bed, but not the board to eat off of.
Now, life was harsh in that era of history.  So, if you ever get to thinking about the good old says of long ago when life was simple, you might want to think again.  We are living in the "good old days" right now.



Puppy Day - 25 July 2014

It's been over two months since I did a puppy day on this old blog!  That will not do!  Puppies fill your day with laughter and always seem to bring a big smile on your face even when you are down.  I don't have a puppy now.  My "puppy" is over six years old now.  Ralph, my beagle, is something of a celebrity on this blog.  I made an entire series on our travels to civil war sites last year.  I doubt Ralph will be going with me next time.  But, as cute as puppies are, they soon grow up into adult dogs like my buddy Ralph.  If you want a puppy, why not consider rescuing one at the local animal shelter.  They are the best dogs in the world. 

Now, without further adieu, here are puppies for this day. As always, click on the pics to expand them.

Snug as 3 puppies in a rug
German Shepard puppy
Did I mention I love beagles?
Four pals


Some Basic Tips on Job Interviews - Part III

I have learned in email that two people who took my advice in my first two posts (Some Basic Tips on Job Interviews and Some Basic Tips on Job Interviews Part II) were able to get employed in the field from which they had been laid off. I was extremely gratified to learn this. Basically, I gave some "old school" ideas on how to get employed even in a tough economy. I'm not saying it will help you. But, I feel there are people who can take the approach I talked about to gain employment. As I said, in the previous two posts, I was an assistant superintendent of a regional industrial controls company for five years prior to my going into the federal service. My main purpose, in that position, was to hire people. So, if someone I hired turned out to be a dud, they knew who to blame. I was not fond of the job for that reason alone. I did the interviews and made the final hiring decisions on all white collar and blue collar positions. Today, I'm going to talk more about the interview process. I'll also give you an inkling what that interviewer may be thinking when you are in that interview room.

During my five years of hiring people, I went through thousands of resumes and job applications. I learned one thing in those five years; the flashier the resume, the least likely that person would fit the criteria of what I was looking for to fill that position. It just seemed that way for some reason. Now, that was not always the case, of course. But, here is something to remember...keep it simple. I didn't have time to go through a five to ten page resume. There were literally dozens (if not hundreds) of people applying for a particular job. Now, our HR department was outstanding. But, on some highly technical positions, they were of no use to me. I had to go through the resumes myself. Just remember this when you start to send out another resume.

If you came through the door and saw someone else in the interview room, other than me, that was a good sign for the job applicant. I doubt they knew it. The reason for that is because I had a strong belief this person was someone that could help us. Rather than reschedule them for another appointment with HR, I had the HR department head present. As bad as you want a job, a job interviewer wants to hire you even worse...as long as you fit his or her criteria. You see, that job interviewer has a job to do also. He has to get the right personnel in place to fill positions for the company. Believe it or not, he is a bit nervous also. Just not for the same reason you are, the job applicant. The job interviewer is always being evaluated on how well he or she is doing their job. So, they have to get it right. If they screw up and hire the wrong type of person, that is money spent on someone that has gone down the drain. I was told they (the company I worked for) didn't expect me to be perfect on each hire. But, just don't make a habit of hiring the wrong people on a consistent basis. If that happened, I would quickly go from a job interviewer to a job interviewee. Lots of pressure in this type of position.

Now, some more "don'ts" when you go into the job interview room. My secretary would let me know when people would call to inquire about the job or jobs we had available. Most of the time the calls were about if I was male or female. They would then ask for my name. I never had a problem with that. One thing for the ladies; while I am a great admirer of the female form, showing lots of leg or cleavage didn't work for me in the interview. Sure, that works with some men who really don't care about their job. They don't usually last very long. Don't smoke in the interview room. Now, it may be that the interviewer is a smoker. I do believe it is now a federal law prohibiting that during any job interview process. I could be wrong about that. So, correct me if I am wrong. Anyway, even if the interviewer offers you a cigarette (and you are a smoker) turn it down. Today it could be their way of testing if you are a smoker. Like it or not, smokers are discriminated against. I'm not taking a position on that either way. But, it was done back when I was interviewing. I suspect it is being done today also. Don't appear meek and timid. Speak with a strong, clear voice to the interviewer. Sometimes I had to ask people several times to speak up!

Don't make any sexual innuendos during the interview. My secretary was what one would call "hot" using today's nomenclature. Several men who came into the interview room would make note of that with some rather crude language. They were usually toast from that point on in the interview. I would not tolerate sexual harassment, nor would anyone else in the company. The following I never had to experience since it was before my time. Don't bring your cell phone into the interview room. If you forgot to turn it down or off, you have just mortally wounded yourself. Don't smile all the time like you are a cheshire cat during the interview. Sure, it's good to convey you are nice and friendly. But, smiling like you are happy you are unemployed or underemployed makes one wonder.

Do bring paper (preferably a small notebook) and pen. If the interviewer gives specific information about the job and what he expects, it would do you well to remember them in a second interview. It also shows how much the job means to you. Do use proper language. Avoid, hmmmmm...well, aaah.....like man....you see what I'm saying? No, I don't see what you are saying! Do arrive on time for the interview. A good rule of thumb is to always be there 10-15 minutes early. Whenever I was scheduled for a job interview, I would arrive 15 minutes early in case I had to fill out any paperwork. If the interviewer says something you didn't understand, do ask him or her to clarify what they just said. For example, I asked a man applying for a high-level security job if he had an arrest record. I remember he looked confused and then said, "Yes, I do!" Clearly, he didn't understand me. Finally, do sit still in your chair. Turning and twisting in the chair is distracting to the interviewer. This happened more often than you would believe. Frequently I would ask if they were alright, if they needed another chair. Most would just stammer to say, "No,I am ok." One more do...at the end of the interview, most interviewers ask you if you have any questions. DO ask questions at that time. Even if you make crap up, ask questions!

During the interview, you are being evaluated. I bet you already knew that. The interviewer is trying to determine if you will fit in with the company. It is up to you to make him think you are qualified for the job. You literally and figuratively need to put your best foot forward during the interview. The interviewer is on the spot. He needs to fill positions quickly as feasible. Jobs not filled hurt company productivity. Unfilled positions also hurt the bottom line. So, the interviewer is under pressure just as you are. As I stated previously, it is just a different type of pressure. You both are under the gun in that interview. You need a job. The interviewer needs to fill that job. He's thinking that he has X number of days to fill the position. If he can't, the company will find someone who will. So, remember that when you go into the interview room. You need to think you are not alone when it comes to pressure during the course of an interview.

Job interviews are always stressful.  There is no hiding that fact.  It is just something you have to accept.  But, by reading all three parts of this job interview series, it will help you possibly get the job you want.


Some Basic Tips on Job Interviews - Part II



More Questions in the Interview

After looking over my first post on the job interview I realized there were some things I wish I had added. As I related in that first post, I was in charge of hiring for five years at a regional industrial controls company that was spread throughout the southeastern part of the United States. I'm going to toss out a few more things to prepare for before you go into that interview room. Plus, some "old school " ideas on finding a job in today's terrible economic/employment meltdown.

Another question(s) that I always asked was one that I dreaded myself when I was interviewing for a job. "What are your weaknesses " is a question I always asked. I didn't do it because I wanted to see the interviewee sweat. I knew they were already nervous. But, I asked them this for one basic reason; I wanted to see if they were honest. Now, other people may say they had different reasons. Mine was I wanted to see them admit they had weaknesses. Hell, we all have weaknesses. Anyone who says they don't is a liar or an egomaniac. If the interviewee says he "can't think of any" or "he/she doesn't have any," that told me a lot about that person. That wasn't a deciding factor in my hiring them. But, it certainly did not put them in a good light. Some people gave great answers. One I remember is a young woman telling me her biggest weakness is that she was impatient . She said she had trouble with people who weren't as demanding in doing their job as quickly and as well as she did. That may sound like BS to you. But, it was the kind of thing that told me this lady could think on her feet under pressure. I didn't hire her for that particular job. But, I remembered her and hired her about two months later for another job. Of course, "what are your strengths " is another that would catch people by surprise. Most people didn't have much trouble answering this question. Everyone seems to know what they are good at doing. Sometimes, I didn't even bother to ask this particular question because of that fact.

Another question I had was one concerning problem solving. Problem solving is always a good indicator of what kind of employee this person might be. I asked the interviewee, "Over the course of your career, you certainly have had conflicts with either your boss or a co-worker. How did you resolve that conflict?" Now, there is no way the interviewee could convince me they had never had conflict with someone if they have been in the workforce for at least five years. If they told me they never had conflicts, it told me they were being dishonest or couldn't answer the question. Most of the time, it was the latter of the two. You see, one of the most important qualities a potential employee must have is his ability to get along with other people. You want to know if they have social skills that will enable them to resolve any future conflicts in the work environment. It also tells me if that person can work with others, including his boss. This is an area you need to be prepared to answer. Most employers still ask this question during the interview.

There are some things you need to stress during the interview if the interviewer doesn't bring them up. Always make sure you let your potential employer know you have had great attendance and have been punctual throughout your working career. If you do not have those qualities, I suggest you keep quiet about it. If you are asked about your attendance with other employers, you need to be able to explain why your attendance was poor. This is very, very important to employers. Showing up for work, showing up on time is considered part of your job description in every job in America. If you don't show up to do your job, you aren't of much value to the employer. In most cases, this is cause for termination. Something else; say for example if the interviewer asks "Did you have good evaluations with your last employer? " Don't answer this or any other question with a simple "yes" or "no." If you say no, you must certainly are going to have to explain that one. Even if your answer is yes , be prepared to tell why your evaluations were so highly rated. Better yet, bring some copies of your evaluations with you and present them. If your evaluations are poor, do not criticize your former employer. That reflects badly on you as well. It also makes the interviewer consider you would do the same to his company.
Now, some more don'ts I left out in the previous hub on this subject. Don't use slang or profane language when in the interview room. There is a time and place for everything. This isn't the time to use four letter words in front of someone you just met. As I stated in the previous hub, know something about the employer. That is vital. Just as vital is asking questions about the job. Just don't sit there and not bother to ask questions about the job. I guarantee the interviewer is waiting on you to ask questions. Don't act like you already know everything about everything. Egomaniacs have a tough time getting a job. If they get one, they don't usually keep it for long. One final thing; when the interview is over, don't just shake the interviewer's hand and walk out the door. Make sure you thank the interviewer for his time. Let him or her know you greatly appreciate them taking the time to interview you for the job. That speaks volumes about how much you want the job. Also, remember the interviewer is human just like you are. He has been in the same position you are sitting in that interview chair. Everyone has, at one time or another, been looking for work. Just because you unemployed or underemployed, doesn't make you less a person than that interviewer or anyone else.

Finally, I stated at the outset of this hub I was going to talk about some "old school " ways of looking for a job. Now, I encourage you to continue to doing all you do now insofar as companies as Monster.com and others of that nature. Use every conduit available to you, including the classifieds in the Sunday paper. But, what most people are not aware, even if a company doesn't advertise they have jobs available, that does not mean they don't have open positions. I don't think I am going out on a limb by saying that 80% of companies that say they are not hiring still have positions that need to be filled. Now, there are a number of reasons they don't advertise those positions. It may be they are in a financial crunch. It may be that someone has asked human resources to save a particular job for a relative. It may be they are waiting for better economic times. Regardless of the circumstances, that company is hurting by not filling that position. During the late 70s, I got laid off from a job I had in the chemical processing industry. This was during the Carter recession days. There weren't even minimum wage jobs available most of the time.

What I did was go to every company in that chemical processing field and ask to fill out an application. Invariably they told me they were not hiring. I would still push the matter. They would usually let you fill out an application if you push them on it. After I filled out the application, I would ask if I could speak to a supervisor over the type of work I do. 90% of the time, that isn't going to happen. So, I asked if I could speak to someone in human resources about potential future job opportunities. I would estimate the chances of that happening at about 50%. It really depends on the receptionist or whoever greets you when you walk into a company. Human resource personnel are more apt to talk to you. After about the 8th company (which had not advertised about any jobs, remember), I got an interview for a job that paid almost as much as the one I had lost. Two days later, I was hired. It wasn't as good a job as the one I had lost. But, I had a job when most couldn't get minimum wage jobs at McDonalds. It's a bit nerve wracking to walk into a company that doesn't advertise any jobs being available. But, if you are truly wanting work, you'll do whatever you have to do. These are truly times that try men's (and women's) soul. You have to get out of your comfort zone in regard to seeking employment. Be brave, be confident and be tenacious . You will find that job you seek. Always think that way. I wish you all the very best.

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