Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Disappointment and Hope

Near the corner of Jackson and 5th St in Downtown San Jose is a small storefront with a big sign out front reading "Health Insurance." This is the district office for UGO, the insurance agents for the National Association for the Self-Employed. Nestled in Japantown, surrounded by Sushi joints, Asian supermarkets and across the street from the Shisheido shop, the office itself is rather humble. After spending half an hour in their clutches, I've concluded the offer they're making future employment candidates is rather bold. Not in a good way.

On arrival, I was escorted into the "Conference Room." It was the only other room in building besides a common room. Sitting at a table were three other guys. They were dressed, like me, in the slick manner of professional salesmen. This would be a group presentation, but at least I wasn't being brought in here with a bunch of kids I though as I noted that I was about 10 years younger than the other candidates.

The office manager arrived and started discussing the company, what it does and its growth. Standard stuff. He asked if anyone in the room had experience selling insurance. One guy raised his hand and lamented how hard it was to knock on someone's door and tell them that you're there to talk about death. I guess he wasn't selling car insurance. The office manager then began talking about the costs involved in getting started in the insurance business. I had already gleamed from the company literature that this was a position for an independent contractor - you wouldn't actually work for them. You would be an independent insurance agent associated with their company. That's not what I'm really looking for, but I thought I would at least here them out.

The California insurance license costs $200 to take a 40-hour training class, and then another $190 to take the test and receive a license. Okay, I understand that the license would then be mine personally and add value to my resume. In all modesty, I'm a very talented salesman. In fact, I know I would be a significant positive asset to any company I worked for. I strongly believe that, and would expect any company responsible for my paycheck (regardless of the contractor/employee status), to believe that about me as well. If you believe in me, at least reimburse me for training I receive so that I can work for you. Doesn't that sound reasonable? I'm mulling this over, thinking that I'm not too happy with the offer so far, then they hit me with another one. After you get your license, you pay UGA another $175 as an "Establishment Fee." What? I should pay you?!? Isn't that kind of backwards. Again, I think as a prospective employment candidate, I'm pretty hot stuff. I think I should looking for someplace that would pay a signing bonus, not one where I pay them for the chance of selling their product. Utterly disgusted, I stood up, muttered a "thank you," walked past the office manager and out of room. The look I saw in his eye as I walked out was one of resigned frustration. He's the poor sap who had to try to hook these other guys. This was a horrible offer at best, an outright scam at worst.

One thing about professional sales is that there are lots of bad jobs out there. It costs a company very little to hire on sales staff, throw them into the field, and hope that they bring in more revenue. At worst, these recruits might convince some friends and relatives to buy the company's products, then they fall flat on their face and walk away. These jobs will occasionally be so bold as to ask for fees from their employees disguised as "training materials fees," or now as I learn, "Establishment Fees."

Today, I venture out on another interview. This one with Countrywide Home Lending. Touting itself as the leading provider of home mortgages in the USA, the position I'm interviewing for is that of a loan officer. This doesn't sound like it could fall into the category of "fake" sales jobs I described above, but one thing worries me. As part of what I was asked to bring today, I should recommend two individuals I know who I think might also make good loan officers. I was told to keep the diversity image of the company in mind when making that choice. This leads me to believe there are one of two things going on here. First, the whole thing is a multi-level-marketing (MLM) scam. The MLM company is another pot hole in the road of good sales jobs. Have you heard the good news about Amway? Second, they want to know what kind of people I know. Do you associate with people outside your ethnic group? That's the kind of people they're looking for. As it so happens, the two names I chose, Jamila and Damian, are African-American. After 7 years working in the Downtown Oakland S-Mart, I'm about as comfortable with diversity as a man can get.

We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Insurance Salesman?

I'm heading off to a job interview this morning with the National Association for the Self Employed. They provide benefits, insurance primarily, to those in business for thmeselves. At the job fair I mentioned two posts prior to this one, their presenter did a great job making the field sound exciting and full of money making opportunities. The latter may be true, but insurance sales exciting? I don't know about that.

I used to think the same thing about appliance sales, and that was from a perspective of selling electronics in the same store. Applinances seemed boring. It turns out I was wrong; they can be interesting and complex, and teaching people about them is the best part of my current job. Would I also find teaching people about insurance products equally and surprisingly interesting?

I may be putting the horse before the cart here, but I just wanted to write a few things about how I'm feeling.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Graphite Gazette

Metal Mistress

by Gil MacKenna

Chapter One:

Los Angeles, CA. 1993

Andrea lit a cigarette as the man in her bed put on his tight, black jeans. He had to lay there on the bed next to her to get them on, and she stared at the tiny ripples of stomach muscles beneath his smooth, tanned skin. She watched with erotic fascination as his small, but well-defined, chest rose when he inhaled sharply to get the zipper closed. She took a drag off her smoke. This one's name was Dave, and he was one of Andrea's favorites.

Dave turned, propped his chin up on his hand, and gave her a smile.  It was that satisfied grin he used on most of his band's album covers, and the one that was on all the posters.  Andrea briefly thought of the thousands of girls who stared at pictures of this smile, and dreamed nightly of the cute, mysterious guitar player who lay half naked next to her. He belonged to her this evening. It was one of the many priviledges of being Andrea Parsons, President of AP Records, and daughter of Andrew Parsons, founder and Chairman of the Board of International Media, one of the largest financial empires in the world.

"How long have we been lovers?" Dave asked, gently reaching for her cigarette.

"Ten years." she said coldly. Andrea didn't like to think of her rock stars as being 'lovers'.   They were fucks, nothing more.   They came here for her satisfaction, and because it was in their contracts.  She made sure that "twice yearly consultation meetings with company management" were a part of every AP contract. There was no 'love' involved. Andrea kept her cigarette away from his reaching hand.

"Shit, that's a long time." Dave rolled out of the bed and walked over to the liqour cabinet. Andrea liked the way his long hair fell over his back, almost reaching his tight butt. "Got any vodka in here?"

"Of course, Dave." she said sarcastically, "I sent for a bottle of the cheap stuff as soon as I noticed your appointment was coming up."

Dave opened the cabinet and pulled out a bottle. "Cool! Kamchatka! The cheap stuff tastes so much better."

Andrea quietly laughed at his odd taste; she knew he really did like the cheap vodka more. He liked it more, eventhough he now was rich enough to fly to Russia to get the real stuff if he wanted, thanks to her.

"Yeah, ten years is a long time." Dave was pouring himself a drink. "I'll never forget that night you picked me up. The Metal Princess in her Plastic Chariot. You were the only chick I'd ever seen who used her car to impress dudes."

Andrea remembered the Ferrari had plastic panels to make it lighter. A flood of images and emotions assaulted Andrea. That car had too many powerful memories connected to it.

"It was at that shitty little club in Hollywood," Dave continued nostalgicaly, although Andrea wasn't really listening.

She was thinking of her Uncle Paulo.

"and I still can't believe you were only fifteen! There ain't no fifteen year-olds driving two hundred thousand dollar cars."

Andrea turned away from Dave, closed her eyes, and tightly clenched the damp, satin sheets.

Uncle Paolo gave her that car for her fifteenth birthday, soon after she had returned from spending the summer with him and his wife in Rome.

"You were a real wild one, Andrea,"

There was a sound of ice being stirred in a drink, a sound Andrea associated with her alcoholic mother.

Mother decided that the private schools weren't teaching Andrea the importance of social graces. She still acted like a tomboy. She never paid any attention to how she looked, and all of the make up and hair products mother had bought her remained unused in her bathroom. The strange and noise-like music she was getting into worried mother to no end. A summer in Europe would straighten her out, it would teach her how to be a lady.

"You just sat there in that sexy car of yours, and watched us load our equipment into Stan's truck."

Andrea learned a lot that summer. She learned what it meant to be a lady, but a kind of lady her mother did not even know existed. She learned about power, how to use her money, influence, and body to get exactly what she wanted. She learned about marijuana, opium and cocaine. She learned how to drink massive quantities, throw it all up, and continue partying through the night. She learned how to fuck men, and how to fuck women. She learned there was nothing quite as sweet as a good, mind blowing orgasm. She learned how to look out for herself, sacrifice for no one, and take everything her position allowed her to. She decided then that she would not waste away in a big house like her mother, wife to a husband who was never there.

"Finally, you stuck one hand out your window, raised a finger, and slowly called me over." Dave took a long drink from his glass 'My father owns AP Records' you said, 'Get in. Lets go fuck.'"

Celine and Paulo were young Andrea's teachers. Paulo was thirty, ten years his sister's junior. His wife Celine had been a model in Amsterdam before coming to Rome. Andrea learned mostly from Celine, who whispered into her ear late at night, telling her to live each moment at its fullest. Andrea admired her beauty, and slept with her whenever Paulo was away on business. There was a never a shortage of young men, mostly actors, who wanted to seduce the successful movie producer's niece. Andrea went through them quickly, most of whom couldn't keep up with her voracious appetite. There was one man she wanted more then any of them, her uncle.

Chapter Two

Rome- 1983

The WeatherPixie

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Thursday Night after the job fair.

I am a salesman. That is my profession. In all modesty, I'm damn good at. People tell me that I'm good at my job. Customers. Its a nice feeling. Tonight I went to a job fair. I think I fared well. My current employer treats me well, but I've reached somewhat of a plateau in my earnings at Sears.

Gil the Account Executive... Selling financial services to individuals and businesses. I'd be good at it. I know I'd make more money. How will I know how much I will like it until I try it? I know I 'll always be a kick-ass appliance salesman/sales manager. Sears will always take me back. Its because of that, I know I can leave

Monday, March 21, 2005


The WeatherPixie

I remember the sky.
blue, yellow and orange.
I paused at the light.
Feeling like a schmorange.

thirsty with a headache
to the table for a banana
I hear Manilow far off
its the Copa Cabana

Thursday, March 17, 2005

SimCity 3000

Another program on my computer that has me wasting a lot of time lately is SimCity 3000 by Maxis. This is the 1999 version of the famous PC game where you zone your city, build roads and infrastructure, adjust your budget and taxes and then watch while your city grows from blank terrain into a megapolis. Once the city is built, one has to maintain decaying utilities and deal with earthquakes & tornadoes. Fun for fans of civilization building games like me,

In previous versions, the city would morph. Builidings would get more futuristic looking unitl finally, after about 300 years, great colonizing arcologies would form and launch themselves from the tops of your buildings. You had won. Well, in SimCity 3K, thats not happening. Im in the 2300's, and things are just sort of staying the same. I'm wondering if this game will ever have some kind conclusion.

I think the secret is in the name of the game. Maybe I've gotta run this city into the 4th millennium before things start to get interesting again. I want my city to succeed, but the game is kinda boring when you're just replacing old water towers and power plants. I've become invested in the fate of the neighborhhoods, parks and commercial districts I've spent hours and hours shepherding. I don't want to just abandon my city.

I need a third computer so I can blog, play online poker and run my SimCity game all at the same time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

PartyPoker. com

The WeatherPixie
I love playing online Texas hold'em poker. Its not something I've ever done for money, but I do covet my fake chips at It's an addicting little game that involves using math and psychological skills at the same time. You also have to strategize with an understanding of the personalities of the players at the table. Like many Americans, I started getting excited about Texas Hold Em by watching the Celebrity Poker Challenge on Bravo and then graduating to the World Poker Tour. If you haven't seen the WPT on the travel channel, its truly entertaining television.

Right now, at 11:32 AM, I've had a morning off by myself and have been playing poker since about 10. Like always, you start with $2000 in fake chips from your bank, which the site keeps track of for you. At this moment, I'm sitting at the table with $53K. Right now, at the table, I've won over 50% of my total bank from playing 5-10 hours a week for the last 5 months. I could lose it all back before I stop for the day, but thats not likely.

Whoops.... lost a hand... now I've got 48K...

If you haven't tried playing Texas Hold Em online, I suggest you check out this site. Unfortunately, its not Mac compatible, so you gotta use a PC. Its a nice place to learn, Look for me in the $2k Limit Hold Em fake money games. I go by Joko Londo.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Wardrobe Advice

The WeatherPixie

What is the ideal color of suit to wear to a job fair? Its going to be for sales professionals.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

My Marketing Research Project

I'm taking a course in marketing research at a local university. It's primarily for my own edification, but the themes I have chosen to vreate my final project on relate back to my profession. I decided to get some feedaback online, and I've been very pleased with the response of the general public.

Want to see my project grow?
Click Here

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Waking Up



ZZZZZZZ.....HUh? Wha? Whathyadoin.. HEY!! Get that camera out of my face!!

Okay pookies...Take my pic... Just turn out the light before you leave the room.

I found these images on our digital camera while purging the memory card. I have no memory of them being taken. My Dear Wife thought they were cute, so here they are.