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Archive for December, 2010

Laser-focused blocking and tackling

I just got off the phone with a corporate recruiter and, well, I just feel like venting about the conversation. I’d venture to say that 50% of the hiring managers and recruiters are not much unlike shoppers. To me, there are 3 types of shoppers:

  1. the impulse buyer: you “want” something, or you think you need something, and you buy that something half-cocked. In a short time span it is realized that the purchase was a mistake, or you truly didn’t need it and it was probably a waste of time and money because you didn’t do your research or you bought on a whim.
  2. the researcher: this person researches their pre-purchase ad nauseum. They may or may not know what they want. If they do know, they do their research before going into the store or clicking the ‘buy’ button. They know the value [to them] of the product or service, and they know the fair price.
  3. the quick buy implementor: you know what you “need” and you just go out and get it. You might pay a little bit more because you didn’t do the same research that the researcher did, but you bought it, it does what you need it to do and the purchase is done. Over with.

I received a call from this recruiter early last week. When she told me who she was with, I immediately knew that I didn’t actually want to work there. I’d sent my resume to them because 1) based on the job description, I knew I could do the job and 2) it’s always good to practice interviewing skills. I went ahead and scheduled the call with the hiring manager after making it past the “pre-screening.”

I seriously thought about just blowing off the interview that was scheduled for last Friday. I thought about doing the courteous thing by calling the recruiter back, just being honest and telling her, “I just don’t really want to work at your company” [note that this is a large, corporate entity and I am not a corporate guy as I abhor meetings, meetings, meetings, Powerpoint, meetings, red tape, politics, meetings, bureaucracy, egos, meetings, name badges and meetings]. Instead, I decided to keep the date. I thought, “who knows, maybe this is the best job in the world and my preconceptions might be completely off-base.”

The hiring manager called me at 1 p.m. sharp on Friday. He was the first of countless interviewers who called me on time. That alone spoke volumes. The interview lasted a good 45 minutes and I really enjoyed the conversation that I had with my potential boss. He didn’t ask the “explain a situation where you took criticism and implemented that feedback in a constructive fashion” or “explain a time where you disagreed with your supervisor” corporate questions. He asked about me, my previous and current work experiences, my ambitions and about how I could use those experiences and acumen to help him do the job that was advertised.

The hiring manager and I talked a lot about a little business I started 6 months ago. This business sells a simple Windows-based desktop application that compares two sets of data (in this case email addresses) and returns a sub set of data (matching addresses or non-matching addresses). Everyone that I speak to, especially in interview scenarios is really interested in my business; not so much the business itself, but how I built it from the ground up in a month’s time, and how I set it up to run itself and generate passive revenue with very minimal involvement from me. It’s worth noting that this business is outlined on my resume, the same resume that I sent to this particular company as well as every other company who has advertised a position for which I’ve applied.

Fast-forward to today. I was outside, watering the yard (yes, 4 days before Christmas – it’s Texas!) and my phone rang. I let it go to voicemail. I came inside a few minutes later to listen to the message. It was the recruiter. She said, “Hi, Josh. Just wanted to touch base and provide you with some feedback from your interview last week.”

“Provide you with some feedback” does not equal “I wanted to schedule an in-person interview.” Elise was curious about the feedback, more so than me. I already knew I didn’t get the job based on her voicemail, but curiosity was kind of getting to me as well. I called the recruiter back and the feedback was, “the business that you’re currently running would be a conflict of interest in what we’re doing.”

That’s when the conversation got interesting. I asked her if the company engaged in data cleansing, data encryption, de-duplication, or deploying emails on behalf of their clients. Dead silence. I said, “hello?” and she said, “uh, I don’t know, I’m just relaying the feedback that I received in this email.” In her defense, perhaps it’s not her job to know what her employer does. Hell, I couldn’t tell you what her employer does. I think their tagline is something like: “We do innovative things to innovate innovation. Oh, and we streamline things, too.

Even knowing it wasn’t going to get me anywhere, I defensively told her about how interested the hiring manager was in my business start-up and operation process (again, not the nature of the business itself) and how I found it interesting that there was never word of there being a conflict of interest.

Really no big deal to me but the frustrating part is that it was just a big waste of time for both parties (more so for the company). They could have saved a lot of time and money by being a “research shopper” first. They should have looked at my resume and, after just a smidgen of research, would have realized that there might be a conflict of interest. That company probably lost $500 in processes and resources to have a 45 minute conversation with me. That could have been completely avoided. My little company would LOVE to have that $500!

It could have happened at any company of any size, but it seems like it’s always the larger ones, or the ones who are getting “too big for their britches” that are so wasteful with their resources. And that’s the #8 reason why I avoid the corporations.

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How to print address labels on your Mac using Address Book

Pretty straight-forward process. I guess there’s still a part of me that’s used to things being more complicated or cryptic when trying to do something simple on a PC.

Here’s how to print address labels on your Mac using Address Book.

First, select the contacts in your address book (you can create a new Group, or just Command+click to select multiple contacts in your address book):

Next, click File > Print:

Lastly, select “Mailing Labels” from the Style menu, select your address labels from the “Page” menu and click ‘Print':

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Pumpkin crème brûlée kolache


After successfully making traditional apricot and prune kolache yesterday, I decided to try something a little more creative and sweeter today. While crème brûlée might seem intimidating, if you look at core ingredients that makeup the creme fraiche, it’s really just cream and sugar (same as ice cream). Add egg yolks and you’ve got crème brûlée!

I used my [now] handy kolache recipe and instead of fruit filling, I made the crème brûlée and, after it baked, stirred it up with spoon to dollop into the kolache.

    Bohemian crème brûlée
    1 pint pumpkin ice cream (room temperature)
    5 egg yolks

    Mix yolks and ice cream
    Bake in water bath (ramekins, baking dish, etc. – I used a 8″ oven-safe loaf pan) at 375° F for 30 minutes (or until custard firms)

    * If you want to make traditional crème brûlée, allow custard to cool, then generously top with granulated sugar and slooooowly caramelize with a torch. [Rule #2 applies here: "You can always add (heat). You can never take away." Don't burn your sugar].

And it never hurts to have a 4.5-year-old pastry chef in your employ to do your kneading.

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White CrackBook

In my opinion, Apple’s notebook designs are usually flawless — except for the plastic MacBook whose palm rest has a tendency to crack. And the cracking and breaking is caused by normal wear (i.e. having your palms on the palm rests). It happened to my first MacBook, and it happened to Elise’s MacBook as well. Of course, she’s dropped hers a couple times, so her MacBook’s palm rests had a little bit more cosmetic damage.

I recently upgraded her MacBook with 2 GB RAM and a 500 GB hard drive, which were relatively inexpensive upgrades, and easy to do after having upgraded the Mac Mini.

While I as at it, and since we were going to take Maly to the mall to see Santa Claus, I scheduled an appointment at the Apple store to inquire about getting Elise’s MacBook’s palm rest replaced. The salesperson told me it was “around $80 for the part and $30 for labor.” In unison, Elise and I sang, “no thanks.” She then said, “Hang on and let me see what I can do.” After some poking around on her iPad, she asked if the MacBook’s data was backed up and if we could leave it overnight. Elise had some photos that she needed to work on, so we couldn’t leave it. The salesperson told us we could bring the laptop back within 30 days and they’d take care of it for us.

When we got home, Elise put the photos she needed on an external hard drive and I scheduled another appointment at the Apple store first thing the next morning. I had to go back to the mall anyway because Maly had left one of her toys at the mall.

I got to the mall at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. By 9:30, Elise’s MacBook was looking good as new. And for free. It’s almost too good to be true how Apple operates their online and retail business as well as customer service. I just don’t think it’s possible to be so pleased by any other computer manufacturer.

Before

After

The only time I’ve been upset with Apple is when I find myself in an over-crowded retail store. But that’s okay. I want those people to buy, too.

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Recipe for homemade kolache

After finally figuring out how to smoke a brisket, next up on my culinary bucket list was to learn how to make kolache (koláče is plural). After a quick search, I decided to try the recipe from the Homesick Texan.

Be warned that they take a while to make (proofing dough 3 times), but on my first attempt, I think they turned out pretty damn good. I followed the recipe verbatim, however, the next time I’m going to make a couple modifications (which are already incorporated into the recipes below) as Elise and I agreed that the dough wasn’t quite sweet enough, and I like my posypka a little thicker, sweeter and crumblier.

So this is my kolache recipe:

    Kolache dough
    
1 package of active dry yeast

    1 cup of warm milk
    
1/4 cup sugar
    
3 cups of all-purpose flour

    2 eggs

    3/4 cup of melted butter
    
1 teaspoon of salt



  • 
In a large bowl, combine yeast and warm milk and let sit for 20 minutes. [photo]
  • Slowly incorporate sugar and one cup of flour. Cover and let it rise until doubled in size — 30-60 minutes.
  • Beat together eggs, 1/2 cup of melted butter (reserve 1/4 cup for brushing on the pastry) and salt.
  • Add egg mixture to yeast mixture and mix thoroughly by hand with large spoon or spatula.
  • Stir in about two more cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time. The dough should be soft and moist.
  • Knead dough for about 10 minutes on floured countertop. [photo]
  • Put dough in a greased bowl and let rise covered until doubled in size (about an hour)*. [photo]
  • After dough has risen, press down and pull off approximately 1/3 cup-sized pieces (recipe should make 18 kolache). Roll into balls and then flatten to about three inches in diameter. [photo]
  • Brush with melted butter.
  • Place flattened pieces on a greased cookie sheet, cover and let rise again for 30 minutes. [photo]
  • After proofing, use your fingers to gently make a large indentation (do you like fruit in each bite?) in the center of the dough and fill with a heaping tablespoon of fruit filling (recipe below) and sprinkle with posypka (recipe below).
  • Bake in oven at 375° F for 12 to 15 minutes until dough begins to turn golden.
  • Brush with melted butter and top with more posypka
 if desired.

  • Kolache filling

    
1/2 pound of dried fruit such as apricots or prunes.
    
Sugar to taste

    1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon

    Lemon zest



    
Reconstitute dried fruit by simmering in a pot with enough water to cover the fruit. 
 Add sugar, cinnamon and a squeeze of lemon. Puree in blender, boat motor or mash with a potato masher until you have a puree.



    Posypka
    
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

    1/2 cup sugar

    2 tablespoon butter
    
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

    Mix all ingredients until crumbly.



    Yield: 18 kolache

    * I proofed my dough by covering and putting in the oven and keeping the temperature around 90° F.

Now that I’ve successfully made “traditional” fruit-filled kolache, I’m going to try something a little more adventurous in the next batch(es).

Photos can be seen here.

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We have a plan

Click the image above.

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Morning brainstorming

I happened upon a name that I’d unfortunately forgotten about for many years on Facebook the other day. I looked through this old friend’s profile photos of himself and saw one that he’d creatively manipulated. He’d taken multiple exposures of himself in different positions in his living room while the camera stayed steady on a shelf or a tripod. After looking at the photo for a minute, I thought it seemed like a creative project for me to do.

This was my first experiment:

Here are the images that I used.

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Bohemian Rocky Road


They ain’t pretty and they ain’t healthy, but they’ll eat!

I wanted to make something like “the ultimate Christmas cookie” because… that’s just how I roll ever since having been stricken with this wicked and insatiable sweet tooth. I did a couple Google searches and nothing struck my fancy, so, I again turned to Anna’s CookieMadness.net! I happened across her recipe for Lake Travis Mud after a search for “Christmas.” I’m not in it to win it but was told a long time ago that if you change 3 ingredients, you can call a recipe your own, so I’ve just made it a habit of doing that (whenever I can) and I modified this recipe as well.

I thought about calling it Bohemian Rocky Road, but I don’t think this recipe quite earns the Bohemian part (don’t ask me why… it’s just one of those things).

    12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
    8 oz butterscotch chips
*
    3 heaping tbsp chunky peanut butter*
    
6 oz dry roasted peanuts*
    
6 oz pistachios*
    
6 oz toffee bar chunks*
    8 Oreos, smashed*
    
2 cups miniature marshmallows

    * indicates my additions/modifications to original recipe

    I created a double boiler by using my handy stovetop smoker (I guess that would classify this as a Bohemian technique ;-) ) filled halfway with water and put an 8×8″ baking dish in the water to melt the chips and peanut butter.

    Once chips and peanut butter have melted, add peanuts, pistachios, Oreos & toffee chunks. Let cool slightly and add marshmallows.

    Cut to desired shapes/pieces and refrigerate. I’d recommend eating them for breakfast with 20 oz. of Jolt Cola!

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