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September 04, 2003

The Scourge of Brevity

I am here.

That is bad.

I could be there but I am not. There is employment. It's going on six weeks and we're looking around the garage for things to sell.

This morning my wife and I were looking at her resume and putting together some cover letters. Also, I got a callback from one of the agents I spammed yesterday after hearing the bad news from a company that I have been dancing with for eight weeks only to get knocked out in the final seconds. That's a story that will not be told, but I will say this: ... never mind. I won't. I'm simply furious.

So looking at these sample cover letters I am rather shocked at how much time they take to say simple things that could be elided and understood by someone who knows. People who know things have shorthand ways of expressing volumes of knowledge. Such things fly miles over the heads of laypersons.

Having been in my particular niche going on 18 years, I have developed a way of speaking that I am probably not aware of, and there's the problem. I have become so good at what I do that it is nearly impossible for me to unpack what I know and explain it verbally to someone who doesn't. The interview process for those like me in the spot labor market is a series of twists and turns to get me in touch with someone who knows. At that point it's a binary switch. If I ever get that far, it's always a go. This last time it was a no-go; I spoke to someone who doesn't get it but he had the final say.

Abiola made some references recently to certain mathematical proofs over at Wolfram Research. (I can't remember precisely when I stopped being fascinated by ANKOS, but it was abrupt). I perused the Analytical Geometry section for my old favorites, Taylor Series. Funny, I really used to understand those things. In fact, I implicitly understood them when I was in highschool programming in FORTRAN and doing integration by parts or some such for thermodynamics equations. Now I'm not even sure that I am using the terms properly. Suffice it to say there was a time when I understood something like this expression, the soul of brevity:


It looks like gibberish to me today, a language long forgotten and unused. But there's something beautiful about the brevity and unambiguity of the language of mathematics.

I am missing that in my professional world. I spend weeks explaining for the opportunity to do. I wait around for the intermediaries and others to schedule appointments with people who know more so they can hear me out and know that I know.

Days like this I curse myself for not being a surgeon or attorney. I curse myself for not being in computer security. I've always been on the added value side, not the utility or the emergency side. My work depends on the desire for people to do better, to improve. In lean times, when people are willing to just survive, my value takes a nosedive.

I spent a rather miserable afternoon shopping with my wife at the 99 cent store. If I weren't feeling so shitty, that in itself could be quite a missive. But I am only in a mood to kick myself for not having shopped there for years instead of Target while entertaining fantasies like Lileks. It's all consumer junk anyway, at least 99 and Big Lots and Pic & Save and McFrugals have the honesty to price it at what it's worth, very little.

So today I am frustrated at the necessity of long blatherous explications.. like this. Getting through the fog of protocol cannot be done by someone like me. I need time to explain things that are complex. People who don't investigate well are useless to me because I am a completer, over years. Yet things that are simple for me, like multidimensional database design, I can't talk about out of school. I just do it.

My brother once said, all verbal musical criticism is moot. You need to hear something played right.

Eight weeks. Eight hours. Four appointments. Yes Yes Yes No. It's retarded. I never once saw the system. I never once talked to the people who designed it.

I'm still not over it.

Posted by mbowen at September 4, 2003 12:25 PM

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