Friday, June 27, 2008

A kick in the stomach

Just heard about this on our public radio station:

Not only is this bad news for classical music fans in Oregon, and for the people of Bend in particular, but this is really bad news for me.

I am (was?) the program annotator for the Cascade Festival of Music, and I've been working on the notes for their festival, which was scheduled to take place the week before Labor Day. I have a Tuesday, July 1 deadline, and I've been hard at work over the past few weeks getting these notes done for them. Now I am out of a job, like all the administrative staff and the musicians, and I assume I won't be seeing any of the money they owe me, even though I have a contract with them.

I've been looking for a full time job for eleven months; in the interim I've been surviving (barely) on my freelance work. This news is a real blow. 

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Food: a user's guide

While I've been searching for a job in food, people have naturally asked me what motivated me to look for work in such a radically different area than music. The answer to that is involved and I am pressed for time just now, but I will address it in a future post. In the meantime, I wanted to share what I was working on for the formerly-thought-to-be-cool-but-really-not-so-much environmental organization.

It started when they asked me to write Web content that they could post on their site about food and sustainability certifications. You've all heard of organic food, but "organic" is in fact a USDA federal certification as of 2002, and you can't call yourself an organic producer unless you meet a number of stringent protocols that are verified by an independent third-party certification organization. In any event, there are a number of other types of certifications, and the terminology surrounding food these days can be quite confusing, so I was asked to write a short explanation of the various types of certifications currently available. You can check it out here. (Apologies for the weird formatting; Google Docs doesn't seem to like text in boxes.)

As I worked, I realized there was a lot more to say than just defining terms, and the project swelled to include discussions of food security, food safety, nutrition, GMO foods, CSAs, growing your own food, carbon "foodprints," food and global warming, and food as it relates to issues of economic and social inequality. You can read it here. I also included a suggested reading list at the end, for those interested in learning more. If you have any suggestions for additions to this project or the reading list, please let me know. I sent in my final revision to the expletive deleted organization in question earlier this week, but there's always new information coming out about food these days, and I intend to keep adding to this report as new information becomes available.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Feeling ill-used

I found out late last week that I didn't get the internship I'd applied for with what I thought was a really cool environmental organization I've been volunteering with since last September. That was disappointing enough, but the way I was treated during the decision process was really unprofessional, and I am feeling frankly ill-used at present. 

Last week I met with the person for whom I've been volunteering (I'll call her Michelle) to discuss my volunteer project.  During this meeting, which was NOT about the internship, Michelle made a point of telling me how much she liked my resume and the answers I'd sent in to three follow-up questions she'd sent out to the finalists.  She mentioned this several times throughout our meeting, which understandably gave me encouragement. She told me she'd be making her decision in a couple of days and that she'd call me to let me know.

It's not that I assumed because I was volunteering for this organization, and Michelle in particular, that I would automatically get the internship. I think my volunteering puts me in a good position, but nothing more than that. What bothers me is how she handled the process. Decision day came and went and no phone call. A few more days go by with no news, and I assumed this was bad for me, but she still hadn't told me anything. Finally I called Michelle and asked her to let me know her decision. She emailed back that the decision had been delayed and she'd call me as soon as she'd made it. Again, the promise to call.

Instead, I came home the next day to find a form email rejection in my inbox, sent from someone else in the organization who was handling the logistics of the application process but who doesn't know me (or, presumably, any of the other applicants). The email said the usual stuff about how there were many qualified candidates and they were sorry they couldn't hire me, but hoped I'd consider volunteering for the organization anyway.

This was the last straw. I've been working on a project for Michelle since September of 2007. I put in a lot of hours on it and Michelle seemed really pleased with the work I've done, and as thanks for all my hard work I get a form email. The very least Michelle could have done is send me an email personally, if she was too busy or too chicken to call me as she'd promised. 

Again, it's not the internship itself that's bothering me, although I am of course disappointed not to have gotten it, especially when I'd been led to believe I was the leading candidate, or one of them. What I resent is being treated like a number, like just another applicant, after all the hours I've put in doing research for this person. I deserved a phone call. In light of what's happened, I certainly don't plan to continue volunteering for Michelle or her organization. They don't deserve my efforts. I did complete my project, though, because I am a professional even if she is not, and because I like to finish what I start.

It's hard to keep a positive attitude about job hunting when I am doing everything conventional wisdom and my career counselor has advised me: I'm networking constantly, going to food-related events and meetings of organizations on sustainable food practices, volunteering with several organizations in order to meet the people who will be in a position to hire me when an opening comes along. Looking for a job, as every job seeker knows, is a full-time job in itself. I am putting so much energy into finding work, any work, even a two-month internship, and I don't seem to be getting anywhere. It's really discouraging. I'll get over it; it's not the end of the world, but this was the first opportunity I'd had to apply for something I had a real shot of getting, that I was really suited for. And to be so shabbily treated on top of that is adding insult to injury.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Grosbeaks everywhere

Our blackheaded grosbeak has returned with two girlfriends. I'm pretty sure the female grosbeak is the one I mistakenly took for a western meadowlark last month. The females are quite different from the males, which is perhaps why I couldn't find them in my bird book.

The bright orange bird with the black head is the male, and the more subltly colored bird with the white stripes near its eyes is the female. There must be a flock flying around; I saw two females at one point on the feeder.

It's amazing I actually get any work done...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Portland Rocks!

On Saturday Sweetie and I did two unrelated things that together epitomize some of what's so amazing about Portland.

In the afternoon we attended a Slow Food event at a farm in Gaston, OR (southwest of Portland about an hour) to learn about bees and pollination (just as an added "why Portland rocks" aside, when Slow Food got started in the US, its first chapter-they call them convivia, actually-was begun in-you guessed it-Portland). We met a commercial beekeeper and he introduced us to his 250 hives of honeybees, including one that had escaped and had swarmed on a nearby tree. Wish I'd brought the camera because you don't see a sight like 20,000 bees swarming every day (check out the picture I found online). While we were watching them and eating fresh pollen, the swarm suddenly left the tree and flew away. What was surprising to me was that the bees were incredibly docile around us, including the swarming ones. They basically ignored us in favor of all the tasty nectar in the farmer's fields. I've never been so comfortable being surrounded by so many bees. When we got out of the car the air was literally humming.

We also learned about Oregon's many native bees, which are also important pollinators for commercial crops. One thing we learned is that numbers of pollinators on a farm is directly related to how much area is given over to weeds (weeds are common on organic farms that don't use herbicides, but you see few on conventional farms). I had no idea there were so many native bees in Oregon (can't seem to find any good pics online to show you, sorry), but there are a number, and they are quite different from honeybees. For one thing, they are solitary creatures (no hives, no honeycomb). The bee people provided us with a list of plants native bees like to pollinate, and I'm happy to see we have a number of them growing in our garden already, or will whenever our wildflowers decide to come up.

After the Slow Food event, we raced back to Portland for the annual Starlight Parade, the one Rose Festival event I enjoy attending. For those of you non-Portlanders reading this, you can check out the link, but suffice it to say I'm not usually much of a civic booster, in the traditional rah-rah sense. Plus I have problems being in crowds, so parade watching is problematic for me, but the Starlight Parade is special. It's funky, for one thing, and features lots of local area high school bands (Sweetie taught drumlines and band for many years and is still an unapologetically proud band geek) and wacky human-powered vehicles and related fun stuff. It's much more fun and less stuffy than the big Rose Festival event, the Grand Floral Parade, which decided a few years back to market itself to bands and organizations outside Portland in order to attract corporate and tourist dollars. Result? The Grand Floral Parade features few area high school bands, instead importing groups from Taiwan and Japan (nothing against these groups specifically, but this is supposed to be an event that celebrates Portland, after all), and it's so heavily corporatized that you can't avoid being bombarded by corporate logos on floats, horseback riders, and even float riders like the Rose Festival Court. Oy.

See why Portland rocks?