We celebrated another great holiday here in the ‘Ville with our folks and local family; this year featured a dry-brine turkey with stuffing, potatoes, homemade (read: alcoholic) cranberry sauce, beans, and lots of red wine. We set the table with a new set of plates from Target, which marks the first upgrade of our tableware since we moved in, and the four chairs we bought from IKEA came in very handy. We even had snow the night before, which made our last-minute errands more interesting but the whole day very festive.
Once again, it was great to have everyone around our table, and we have much to be thankful for.
About two weeks ago, I got a LinkedIn digest email with career-related job openings. On the top of the list was an opening for adjunct professors in UMBC’s design department, which caught my attention. So quickly, I put together an updated resume, made some updates to my portfolio, and sent it in.
Last Friday I found myself wandering a chilly campus looking for the Fine Arts building (all gray brick buildings from the 70’s look the same), and the ensuing interview went very well. Today I got an offer, and cleared it with my boss: this spring, I’ll be teaching a lecture class called Word and Image, where “Students apply their knowledge of typographic and visual forms to projects that encourage the introduction of word and image with visual hierarchies.” It’s going to make for an interesting schedule, as I’ll be getting up super-early to get into work and out by 2, then be on campus by 4. The nice thing is that UMBC lies almost directly between my train station and home, so it’s not a painful commute either way.
I have no idea what to expect, and this may very well kick my ass. But I have a lot of fun teaching, and I’m hoping it goes well.
It’s not quite how I wanted to get into the show, but the video I produced for WRI, Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change, made it into Society of Illustrators 54, a peer-judged competition held in New York.
However, this means that I’ve already met one of my stated work goals for the year. Sweet!
Here’s where we are as of this morning. One layer of primer down on the wood, and it’s looking good. There’s some slight warping on the right side, which I need to look into–probably a quick hand sanding to buff down the edges will do. The walls are all ready for a couple of final coats of paint as well, and it’s nice to have the cracks all but gone from view.
I brewed the Irish Stout last night and set it up in a bucket to sit for a couple of months; I got within .002 of the original gravity target, got it chilled to exactly 75°, and the yeast started working sometime overnight.
Part of owning a home is the reality of constant repairs, and part of that is seeing the flaws in things you’ve worked on in the past. One of the things that’s been bothering me for years is the way the edges of our mantel haven’t matched up with the rest of the facade as a result of the way I built it. Now that the rest of the room has a clean coat of paint, the mantel stood out in even greater relief, and temperature and humidity changes have cracked the bondo I used to cover the seam several years ago.
When I put it together I didn’t allow for the top to be wider than the rest of the box, due to changes in the plan while it was being constructed. I’ve been thinking about fixes for this issue for eight years now, and I bought a sheet of veneer from Amazon last week with the aim of fixing it before Thanksgiving.
The first step was to sand down the face with a random orbital sander, which went easily enough. I figured I’d simply apply a layer of glue to the box and then lay the veneer over top of it, then place bracing across the face to hold it in place. Using our heavy-as-bricks coffee table/chest, I built bracing out of 2″x3″ and put things in place.
After letting that sit for about an hour, I checked on it and was alarmed to find a huge bubble in the middle, as well as warping on each end. Fearing I’d never be able to get it off after it dried fully, I pulled the whole sheet off in two pieces and started researching plan B.
Several YouTube videos presented a different solution: the unorthodox approach of spreading the glue over both pieces, letting it dry, and then using a clothes iron to heat and activate the glue. So, I went back out to get different glue and set things up. First, I sanded the box clean again, then applied two coats of glue to both pieces with a rubber Bondo spreader.
In the meantime, I put four new IKEA chairs together, which should supply sturdier seating for our Thanksgiving guests. For years, we’ve been using a mixture of two old rickety oak chairs and our desk chairs for dinner, which is unappealing and unsafe. The new chairs are remarkably similar to our current chairs–they look like slightly shorter cousins, which is better than we could have hoped for.
Then it was time to bust out the iron. Starting at the center, I worked my way out to the left and then the right, using a damp rag to add some steam to the wood. It worked out better than I’d hoped. Once I went around the edges to make sure there was nothing peeling upwards, I hit the whole thing with 150 grit paper and cleaned up both the veneer and the woodwork around it.
Then I used my chop saw to trim both overhanging edges so that the veneer was as close to the box as possible. Using a piece of sandpaper stapled to a long flat board, I smoothed the edge out flush to the box.
I did some more cleaning with sandpaper and a sharp chisel, and then used caulk along the top and the bottom to seal the edges. I’m going to let it sit and cure overnight, and then hit it with primer tomorrow evening before applying two coats of trim paint to match the rest of the mantel.
While I was working in the area, I sanded down a bunch of raised cracks in the wall on either side of the mantel bumpout and hit them with a skim coat of drywall mud; they’ll get sanded smooth and painted at the same time as the box.
The other thing on the menu for tomorrow evening is some brewing. I bought an Irish Stout and another session IPA, and I think I’ll get the stout working first for Christmas and then do the IPA to replace what’s in the cooler. I haven’t had two beers on tap since early summer, which is a sad state of affairs, but it’s mostly due to the last of the Belgian Dubbel taking up space. I may just bottle the last of that and clear the keg out.
I finished running wiring in the garage last week so that one switch inside the door now controls four lights, which makes a huge difference out there. It’s easier to be out there and not trip over extension cords hanging everywhere, and it makes me want to rip the rickety workbench out completely and start building a newer, better one with storage and organization. I’ve got some stuff to move out of there (an old cast iron sink, a box of slate shingles, old dumbbells) and some roof repairs to make (shingles on the far side are disintegrating) but it’s getting a lot more usable.
Finally, there’s something exciting afoot professionally, the details of which I’ll keep quiet until I know more.
It doesn’t show up in the user manual, and there’s no mention of it on the front of the machine, but it turns out there’s a drain plug at the bottom of Kenmore front-loading washing machines. We found about $3 in change and a bunch of lint down there. Glad to know the thing isn’t broken.
That’s right. On our way home from a celebratory pizza dinner (good news for Finn, good news for me) we drove through fat flakes that melted on leaves still waiting to fall.
This is the second installment in a series of posts geared towards designers getting a job. The first was Resume Help For the Design Professional, based on a nonscientific sampling of actual resumes.
So you’ve gotten a callback. Congratulations! Your resume, cover letter, and portfolio have passed the test. That’s pretty amazing. In my experience, you’re 1 out of of 50 to make it this far, which is a harder hurdle to clear than direct mail responses. This means you wrote a great letter, your resume was excellent, and your portfolio contained work that spoke to the job description and showed your proficiency and talent. Or, you had two elements of the trio that made up for a weak third–for example, a stellar portfolio will always make up for a lousy cover letter, but you better ace the interview. So how do you do that?
- Show up on time. No, better yet: show up 1/2 hour ahead.
- Come prepared. This seems like a no-brainer, but really. Come prepared. I’ve had two candidates empty yellow packing envelopes full of printed work onto the table and sort of slide them around to find something. Another had a bookbag full of loose printed pieces, but he was the rare exception to the rule–his work was excellent and he had both the chops and the interpersonal skills to help me overlook the presentation. He got the job–but I still give him shit about being very close to losing it. If you’re going to bring me printed material (and you’d better) I expect to see something great. This is a matter of pride; if your stuff is bumping around in the bottom of your bag and the corners are all bent, that shows me you don’t care about your work, and I’m already put off. If you have a ton of stuff, bring your four best pieces and show me the rest online.
- Show up. For fuck’s sake, bring your A game or don’t come at all. I shouldn’t have to chase you out in the interview. You might be painfully shy, but show me some personality, please.
- Be prepared to talk about each of your pieces. Here are some sample questions I might ask:
- What was your role on this project? (designer, layout, photo selection, etc.) How much?
- What was the hardest part of this project?
- What did you learn while working on this project?
- Ask questions. Your questions are as important as the ones I ask; if you just sit back and let us control the interview, I’ll know you’re not proactive enough for the job.
- Do some research. I’ve invested time in you before you walked in the door–I’ve checked your LinkedIn profile, looked through your resume and portfolio, and maybe even Googled around to see if you show up anywhere. Do some homework on the company you’re interviewing with and be prepared to ask some questions. It shows you’re motivated.
- Tell the truth. If you show me a piece that you only did 30% of the work on, explain why and tell me what you learned while working on it. Find a way to turn it into a positive or don’t show it to me.
- Prepare to leave a spare resume and a business card. Always. Remember, there are 50 other applicants trying to get in the same door; any reminder you can leave behind is a good one.
- Always send a thank-you email. It shows you have class and good manners, and it’s a good way to remind me who you are. Don’t pester me every day with a request for an update. Some employers are bad at keeping applicants up to date with developments; I try to be the exception.
- Always leave the interview with a clear idea of next steps. If the interviewer doesn’t mention this, bring it up and ask them what will happen next. Something like, “So, when should I expect to hear back from you with next steps?” Blunt, but what can I say to that?
Make an impression on me. If you can’t do that, you’re in trouble, right?
Last week was quiet but full of activity. Work is moving along briskly, and there’s more work coming in than we can handle. One big change is that I’m now officially a Creative Director, with a merit raise and yearly bonus—something that actually happened the week before last, but superstitiously, I wanted to have my business cards made up first.
We wrapped up a big project in the house on Saturday, after weeks of jumbled furniture and chaos in the main living space. The walls in the living room are now white, and the bumpout over the chimney is a bright blue and the ceiling a very light blue. All of this took several weeks because the white paint we’d bought to cover the brown wasn’t going on evenly, so I had to roll a bright white over top of that. The ceiling took two weekends because it’s hard to roll a finish coat on with no direct sunlight to see where the bad patches are.
I wired a second breaker in to the panel in the garage, ran a line to a switch by the door, and started putting outlets in along the ceiling. So far there’s one switched light and two outlets, and maybe if the weather warms up just a touch I’ll put on my long johns and go out there one evening this week and get the other four lights hung.
Finn’s final soccer game was on Saturday, and instead of getting clobbered by the Yellow Butterflies they merely got beaten. But who’s keeping score? They all had fun, and we met some more kids in the neighborhood, including the other Finley.
Also, I took Finley out for pizza and a movie on Saturday night: We saw Big Hero 6 and had a blast together at a little movie theater down in Arbutus, which is surprisingly cheap and current in its selection (they were playing Interstellar in 3D the same evening). The movie was very good–I’d say it wasn’t quite as good as How To Train Your Dragon, but the characters were all well-drawn and the story was propulsive.