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Closing the ‘Skills Gap’

A report released by the Oregon branch of America's Edge describes the cost of the state's skills gap

There have been many articles about the relation of unemployment and the so-called ‘skills gap’ recently and there have been lots of discussion about whether that’s real or just hype (check out these articles from the Harvard Business Review, the Economic Policy Institute, and Wharton Digital Press).  But regardless of where the real fault lies for jobs going unfilled in a time of high unemployment, that's the reality of hiring in the computer age, with the advent of applicant tracking systems, scanners and parsing software. Fortunately, there are measures you can take to adjust to the realities of computerized hiring and cut through the avalanche of job seekers applying online (and the software employers use to weed them out), to get to the actual people who still do the hiring.

First, you need the skills to actually do the job before you can convince someone you can.  We can help you brush up your computer skills with our library computer classes and labs, as well as books and other self-instruction materials. The library also offers online tutorials and practise tests on a wide range of in-demand skills, including preparing for many occupational skills and licenses and even connects you with career experts online. Let us help you navigate these options in person, by phone, email or chat.

The next step involves telling your story to potential employers...

Resumes and cover letters

Everybody talks about how choosing the right words to use in computerized job searches, resumes, cover letters, and interviews is the key to success, but how do you find them? QuintCareers.com shares several articles about using keywords to enhance your resumse’s effectiveness, how to find those keywords and even offers a worksheet to help you get at just the right keywords. This article from Wharton Digital Press is a practical guide for what can you do about parsing software.  You can find more advice and examples on websites like Susan Ireland’s Resume Site, Monster.com and the many resume and cover letter books we have at the library. Before submitting your resume to potential employers, it’s always good to have someone else review it - you can do this for free by posting your resume to the library’s Tutor.com service or MSN’s CareerBuilder site.

Networking

Because 'It's not what you know...' - well, actually it is, but it's also who you know who knows someone who needs what you know.  So you need to make those connections and here are some ways to do that:

  • LinkedIn: use that “six degrees of separation” thing to your advantage and put your best foot forward in a place where people who can help will see it.

  • pdxMindShare:  techies and creatives, this is your place.

  • CNRG:  networking and more for the local nonprofit world.

  • Network After Work - Portland: old-fashioned, face time networking events.

  • Meetups: because you have other interests, and so do the people who can help you get hired; and they have job seekers groups too.

Interviews

Now that you’ve gotten the interview, it’s important to prepare before you tell your story in person. Glassdoor.com has lots of examples of real questions applicants were asked in real interviews with various companies, as well as other insider tips.  They may not ask you exactly the same thing but it will probably be a similar kind of question - according to Forbes, all job interview questions boil down to three basic things:  ability, motivation & fit. The library also offers many books to help you prep for your interview.

Keeping all your ducks in a row  - organizing your job search

There’s a lot to keep track of in a full scale job search - industries and companies researched; networking contacts made; applications due and applications sent; jobs boards searched, results of different job titles, skills and attributes sought; followup, resume revisions; etc.  How do you keep track of it all?

Fortunately, there are a number of places that can help you:

  • Learning Express - this library database does more than provide a way for you to learn new skills, it also has a Job & Career Accelerator section which can help you with your job search in many ways, including keeping track of it all.

  • jibberjobber.com - a web-based way to keep track of it all.

  • this spreadsheet from the makers of Excel is designed to track various aspects of the job search and can, of course, be modified to suit your needs.

  • Do it yourself, e.g., a very simple Word doc with expandable rows & columns for keeping track of where you’ve looked, what you’ve found, and, most importantly, what new searches that leads to. Any calendaring system can be good for keeping track of deadlines, interviews, callbacks, etc.  You just have to pick one and use it consistently.

On May 30th, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced a new National Park Service initiative to explore the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history.  Jewell made this announcement at the Stonewall Inn, in Greenwich Village, New York City -- currently the only National Historic Landmark celebrating LGBTQ history.  

What’s this new initiative going to do?  A panel of 18 scholars will spend the next two years looking at the history of our nation's LGBTQ civil rights and liberation movements, and researching stories about how queer people and communities have impacted American law, religion, media, civil rights and the arts.  The panel will be evaluating historically-significant places for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, designation as National Historic Landmarks, or consideration as national monuments. 

The Queerest Places bookjacketOne resource the National Park Service panel on LGBTQ history is likely to turn for source material is the book The Queerest Places: A National Guide to Gay and Lesbian Historic Sites, by Paula Martinac.  If you’re an amateur historian, or if you’re planning a trip to -- well, to anywhere in the U.S. -- you might want to consult this book too.  It provides detailed descriptions of places which are important to both local and national queer history.  

For me, the highlights of the book are the listings of local pre-Stonewall hangouts, and information about sites important to the history of the struggle for queer liberation.  For example, reading the Portland section, I learned that Oregon’s first gay pride celebration was held June 28, 1971 -- a public dance in the second-floor banquet hall of the Pythian Building, at 902-918 SW Yamhill St. 


Want to learn more about LGBTQ history?  Browse through my reading list for some great book suggestions.  Or, take a look at Peter Boag’s Oregon Encyclopedia article on the history of the Oregon gay and lesbian rights movement.   And remember, librarians love helping you answer questions and satisfy your intellectual curiosity, so don’t hesitate to contact your librarian any time you have more LGBTQ history questions -- or questions on any other subject!

Also, be sure to check out the library’s booth at the Pride Festival, June 14 and 15 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park!


 

I was born in 1954. 

Here is Elvis bookjacketa snapshot of that year:

Elvis Presley paid to have his first two songs recorded in Memphis.                                                                                                                                    

The average cost of gas was twenty two cents and Lassie and Rin Tin Tin were keeping us safe from the bad guys.                                                                              

There was a new trend called DIY that encouraged citizens to decorate their own homes and fix own their cars through magazines like Popular Mechanics and Better Homes and Gardens .

It was also an exceptional  publishing year with modern classics likeHorton Hears a Who by Dr.Seuss and Live and Let Die by ex-British Spy Ian Fleming.

When I read the list of books that were published the year I was born it was like seeing a snapshot of my own personal history. For example, my dad carried a copy of Ian Fleming's books in his black metal lunch box to read at work. Among the piles of book we brought home from the library every week there were always at least one or two by Dr. Seuss. The families we knew traded stories and ideas for fixing up their hoHorton bookjacketuses and gardens and cooking with new and interesting ingredients, among them Jello.

Wondering what books were published the year you were born and what they might tell about your personal history snapshot? I would love to make you a list.

cover image of year of pleasuresI just read Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg for the third time. What books do you re-read? Is it a yearly thing or on an as-needed basis?

I read Year of Pleasures when I am feeling sad. Betta Nolan, the main character, is a recent widow (which you find out in the first few pages). She and her husband had planned to move from Boston Massachusetts to the midwest. John, her husband, requests that she still move to the midwest after he passes. Betta doesn’t disappoint and moves to a small midwestern town.

Elizabeth Berg is a bestselling writer because she knows how to tell a story. She finds all the intimate places of a character's mind. She knows what makes them tick. And what makes them ticked off! Her characters start over or refurbish their lives. At the same time they notice the simple pleasures of life. She is one of my most favorite authors. I look forward to her books every year. While Year of Pleasures is sad, it honors and celebrates those beautiful parts of the parade of life. Check it out!

Portland author Nicole Mones’ novels are so interesting. You get well-developed characters, a bit of romance, and good writing, but you also get to share in her wealth of knowledge including, but not limited to, all things Chinese. Ms. Mones owned a textile business for many years that required her to spend a lot of time in China. Between that and the research she's done for her books, she is such an expert on China that she’s now a member of  the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. Her novel, A Cup of Light is full of information about Chinese porcelain, and The Last Chinese Chef offers an introduction to the fascinating philosophy that guides Chinese cuisine.

Her new book, Night in Shanghai, introduced me to an astonishingly interesting and vivid city. Shanghai in the 1930s was an open port, with a thriving International District. It was full of money, jazz clubs, dangerous women and political intrigue. Communists jockeyed for position against Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalist party, powerful crime gangs fought each other, and the Japanese army had long been an increasingly menacing presence in the city. Black American jazz musicians came in multitudes because in China, they could escape from the racism and segregation they left behind in the United States and could earn a fair living. Shanghai also came to be a haven for Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, mostly because of one man, Ho Feng-Shan, a Chinese diplomat in Vienna. Jews were desperate to flee Austria, but no one was issuing visas for Jews anymore, and they were not allowed to leave without a visa. Shanghai, as an open port, did not require visas, but in order to help thousands of Jews escape, Ho set his staff to creating fake ones, as fast as they could, in spite of the fact that his superiors were ordering him to stop. His heroic actions didn’t do much for his career, but he is still honored in Israel for them.

In this exciting city, a  romance blossoms between Thomas Greene, a classically trained pianist turned jazz musician, and Song, an indentured servant and secret communist.  It’s ever more obvious that World War II is coming, and as Japan allies with Germany against the United States, we wonder if Greene will get out in time, and will Song go with him, or if she’ll stay in China to fight with the communists. And what will happen to all those Jews who have found refuge in Shanghai now that Germany is demanding that the "Jewish Problem" is addressed there?

Mones writes beautifully in this book about music, how it feels to improvise, and how music can change the world. More Portlanders should know about this local author. Give her books a try!

Remember Mary Stewart?  She may be best known for her Merlin Trilogy, which I devoured in school.  Recently however, her other novels have been re-released as rediscovered classics. These rediscovered classics involve a female heroine, an exotic locale, a little bit of mystery, and a gentle romance. They are just the thing for reading whilst on holiday, commuting on mass transit, are something fun and light for those summer days, and cozy enough for a winter evening.  In short, they are just about perfect anytime, anywhere. cover image of Wildfire at Midnight

Several of these novels are now available with new cover designs, but my current favorite is Wildfire at Midnight. A young divorcée from London escapes to a remote hotel in Scotland for a much needed break and discovers that not only has there been a strange murder on the nearby mountain Blaven, but one of the hotel’s guests is none other than her estranged husband. Some holiday!

Samuel Delaney’s 1966 novel Babel-17 centers on a language where the meaning is so perfectly expressed in so few words that it accelerates thought. This perfection makes it possible to solve previously insurmountable problems in a nanosecond. It is not just a language — it is a weapon.

Babel 17

In Jo Walton’s tor.com blog post about Babel-17 she relates that the plot grew out of a linguistic theory that was in vogue at the time. Called the strong Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, it posited that language shapes perception so deeply that thinking in a different language gives you a different perception. This has apparently been disproven.

Disproven or not, I find this theory deeply intriguing. If you have lived in another language, you know that translating is, well, a little lie. When you live in a language you live in a culture, and quickly need to transition from converting words using an equation to understanding the words as they are.

So, how do the words we use shape what we are capable of imagining? How deeply are we divided by culture and language? And, if the only tool we have to communicate are words, can we ever understand someone from another planet?

I’ve made a booklist of novels where the plots are driven by some of these questions, or by wonderfully playful insights into words and the nature of narrative: The words are the plot

And, incidentally, Jo Walton's blog posts on classic science fiction and fantasy, like the one linked above, have been collected into a new book called What Makes This Book So Great. She is insightful, informative, and has a contagious love of the genres. If you are looking for fodder for your summer reading, look no further.

Later this week, the thoroughbred California Chrome will race in the Belmont Stakes, in the hopes of becoming just the 12th winner of the Triple Crown in the United States.  After three great horses won the prize in the 1970s (Secretariat [1973], Seattle Slew [1977], Affirmed [1978], 12 horses have come to Belmont with a chance; 11 failed. The 12th will run on June 7.

Why is this prize so hard to achieve? According to a 2012 article on the races from the Daily Racing Form, the Belmont is a drastically different horse race from its two predecessors – the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. It’s longer by a quarter mile (which doesn’t seem like a lot, but to a racing horse it is) than most races and so thoroughbreds aren’t bred or trained to run it. The racing style (a burst of speed from the final turn through to the finish) that will win the Derby or the Preakness can’t help a horse trying to maintain that speed for another quarter mile.

But sometimes a horse can surprise us. Will it be California Chrome, with his bad-luck four white socks (feet)? Or will we have to wait another year (or more) to watch a magnificent animal that makes us hold our breath for that mile-and-a-half (approximately 150 seconds) to victory?

Interested in learning more about thoroughbreds and the Triple Crown? Check out the books on this list.

Look into the futureI have friends who are political junkies who count the days between each Presidential election. That’s four years of waiting filled with competitive yet non-athletic bluster, bloated hypocrisy, and stagnant idealism, not including the Congressional races. But I do know how they feel, because the cruel disappointment and heartbreak forced onto me by twenty-one years of loyalty to Newcastle United FC, fractured Yugoslavian teams, and U.S.A. soccer is lifted every four years with the angelic arrival of the holiest of holies in all of sport: the World Cup. Somehow, before, during, and after this soccer celebration, politics, both governmental and athletic (FIFA is no secret to controversy) always seem to pervade the social and cultural unification of the games no matter the host country. In 2014, inside the fascinating world of Brazil, this impending party-crasher will be no different.

Government corruption, political demonstrations, martial law, election scandals, destructive floods, terrorist bombings, and kidnapping. These issues are everyday and commonplace around the globe. For twenty-five days this summer, however, these same problems currently presenting hardship in nations represented within the Cup will briefly stand aside to the enthusiasm, optimism, and allegiance of the Beautiful Game. Floods and landslides in the Balkans will further motivate Croatia and first-timers Bosnia-Herzegovina. The mass kidnapping and subsequent bombings in Nigeria should emphatically inspire the Super Eagles. Russia will undoubtedly be playing harder than ever in proud fashion to prove they can adequately host the next Cup. Yet it is Brazil and it’s society’s turbulent clashes over the expenditures of hosting both the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics versus the lack of basic human social programs that face the toughest scrutiny. If ever the host country was to win it all at home, the Canarinho would be wise to do it this year. Teams representing countries in the news, especially negative news, tend to play harder with more passion and a greater sense of urgency. That’s when timeless moments occur and with one kick, an exhale or a blink, the entire conscience of an impoverished nation can be instantaneously and collectively transformed into pure hope and bliss. This is the power that gives names to snapshots such as “The Hand of God,” “Goal of the Century,” and the “Miracle of Bern.” Slayer of Lions

It seems that each day the news is consistently full of sorrow rather than smiles, but teams such as Nigeria, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and flamboyant host Brazil will all be trying to erase the crushing adversity pervading their societies (as of this post) for at least a brief ninety minutes. And every team desires as many successive ninety minute chances as possible, for each match pulls them one step closer to lifting not only the World Cup trophy, but glory for their country and symbolic spiritual triumph over the perpetual numbness of suffering. So soak it in as much as possible I say, it goes by quickly. Samba till you just can’t stand up anymore.

 

Adventure Time, a cartoon series created by Pendleton Ward on Cartoon Network, could easily be a favorite for all members of your family. Your kids might like how creative and goofy it is and you might appreciate some of the positive messages and varied references. Watch Finn, a human boy, and his shape-shifting brother/dog, Jake, save or be saved by friends in the land of Oo and other dimensions.

One of my favorite episodes,“Box Prince,” is about how Finn and Jake project their views of an ordered society onto a group of cats that appear to be living in the Box Kingdom. Who is the true Box Prince? If you look closely you might catch references to My Neighbor Totoro and the internet cat celebrity Maru. That season hasn't been released yet on DVD, but seasons one, two, and three, are ready to go.

I love the range of immature (fart) jokes to adult-ish jokes (Jake calls sweat pants "'give up on life' pants.") I can appreciate that it's a kid’s show with strong female characters and endless amounts of cute and colorful animation. Watching an episode of Adventure Time can be some of the best 11 minutes of my life.

If you’re just starting the first season, why not also read the first volume of the comic at the same time? The comic is cleverly written by Ryan North, author of Dinosaur Comics, whose humor remains true to AT style.

The DVD Adventure Time: It Came from the Nightosphere is a must watch for people who want to hear some indie pop. Sure, Finn can auto-tune like the best of them, but don’t miss out on one of Marceline the Vampire Queen’s best hits, “The Fry Song.”

If you could use a shake up, check out the graphic novel, Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake, a comic based off the episode “Fionna & Cake.” In this alternate version, all the main characters change genders and the characters are so good you wish it was a regular thing.

Whether want to share something with your kid/teen or you want to nurture your inner child, Adventure Time is worth checking out.

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