New Music – October 2016

Music I’ve discovered in October includes:

Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos
Conor Oberst – Ruminations
D.D Dumbo – Utopia Defeated
R.M Hubbert – Telling The Trees
Lady Gaga – Joanne
Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
SURVIVE – RR7347
Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
Banks – The Alter
Amanda Palmer – Piano is Evil
Goat – Requiem
Mac Miller – The Divine Feminine

I blame American Horror Story for my love of the Lady Gaga album, and Stranger Things for the discovery of SURVIVE. In fact, there is a lot of overlap between the music I’ve listened to and what I’ve watched on TV this month, with Kate Tempest and Danny Brown being a good soundtrack to Luke Cage and the new Goat album complementing American Horror Story quite nicely.

Working to music

I remember writing a blog post ages ago about how I’m one of the few people I know who doesn’t appreciate the presence of music when I’m working. This now isn’t true, and probably hasn’t been true for a year or two. Generally if I’m working (and music is an option), then I’ll listen to one of two playlists. One contains a great deal of post rock and other such things, and very much takes me back 15 years or so when I listened to very little else. There other one is a newer playlist, that is derived from a blog I read called Free Jazz (http://www.freejazzblog.org/). I don’t always find what they are blogging about on Spotify (some of it is fairly obscure), but I’ve built up enough of a playlist to make it worthwhile now, and I’ve found myself listening to it more, especially early in the morning. Both of these playlists contain largely instrumental music, and I find that it is the presence of words, rather than the presence of music, that I find distracting.

I’m sure I’ve linked to the post rock one before, but I thought the other one was worth adding here, just in case anyone is interested.

10 things beginning with K

This is another old post that never quite made it here. It’s probably about 3 years old at least, and is a response to a meme where I had to choose 10 things beginning with the same letter and write about them.

1. Knowledge. I’ve always liked to know things, and to learn as much as I possibly can about any subject which holds my interest. I have quite a few odd specialist knowledges, and I would like to hope that I will never stop learning new things.

2. Kafkaesque. Not only is it a great word, but it also reminds me of the time when I started ready properly, and devoured everything Kafka had ever written in a period of a couple of weeks.

3. Ka. In Ancient Egypt the supposed spiritual part of an individual human being or god, which survived (with the soul) after death and could reside in a statue of the person. This word (and many other words) reminds me of how much obscure Egyptology knowledge I have squirrelled away (despite never actually having studied it formally), and I remember being fascinated by the Egyptian concept of souls as a small child.

4. Kismet. A tricky one to explain, so I’ll go with the dictionary definition first “fate, destiny, fortune, providence, the stars, God’s will, what is written in the stars, one’s doom, one’s portion, one’s lot, one’s lot in life, karma, predestination, pre-ordination, predetermination, what is to come, the writing on the wall; luck, chance“. The idea of fate, destiny, and free will fascinate me, and probably also crop up a fair bit in things I write.

5. Kings and Queens. I was the strange child who learned the names of all the Kings and Queens of England and Scotland and could recite them in order and come up with random facts about each one. I probably still have this knowledge somewhere, but it may have now been replaced with other things.

6. Karma. Ties in with Kismet a little, and is just one of those words I like the sound of.

7. Kurt Wagner – Lead singer of Lambchop, who are a band I’ve liked for many years and always keep coming back to. I love the fact that at the height of their popularity he still worked sanding floors, and he’s always struck me as a totally down to earth bloke who just happens to make very good music.

8. Kid A. My favourite Radiohead album, which takes me back to my early days of working for the University where I had a lot less money but still somehow managed to buy more music and travel more. I like it when a band takes their sound in a new direction and takes their fans with them, and I think this record is a classic example of how to do it well.

9. Knives Don’t Have Your Back. And for my final musical choice, the (as yet) only solo album by Emily Haines of Metric. There are some days where this is the only record that makes sense for reasons I’m not sure I can articulate except to say that it is a thing of beauty.

10. Keys. My keys are one thing I always know the physical location of. They get me into my house and my office, and act as a sort of symbol of having a home, having a job and having responsibilities. I sort of like the idea of biometric keys, but I’m not sure it would be quite the same.

Tongue in cheek recruitment feedback

I was talking on G+ earlier this week about recruitment, and I was reminded of something I wrote a couple of years ago that I posted to a limited audience at the time. I figured it was worth posting a slightly edited version here, seeing as G+ isn’t great for finding historical posts, and everything here still very much rings true.

The following is a list of handy hints for people who apply for jobs in our team. It’s not aimed at anyone who currently works for us (or has ever worked for us), but is instead a collection of feedback I would love to have given to unsuccessful candidates (but didn’t).

1. First impressions are important. The initial greeting is a good opportunity to build rapport with the panel, and if you can’t manage a smile, eye contact (the floor does not generally have eyes), and some sort of handshake then the panel might already be questioning your basic social skills.

2. Try and wear something that is both smart and comfortable, but that also fits (if you do not know what fits then ask a friend). Also, if the weather is very hot (like is often is in August) then perhaps a three piece suit with an overcoat may lead to excessive sweating, especially if you are nervous. Excessive sweating is generally a bad thing.

3. At some point in the interview you will be asked to talk about yourself and your past achievements. It happens in most interviews so it’s probably worth having something prepared. It’s also worth bearing in mind that keeping it concise and relevant is a good thing, as is maintaining occasional eye contact to ensure the panel are still awake.

4. Interview panels will contain at least two people, so maintaining eye contact with only one of the panel for the whole interview comes across as rude and slightly creepy. Maintaining eye contact with someone’s chest is both of these things and a few other things as well.

5. If you’re interviewing for our team, then your interview panel will contain at least one woman (I’m the only male manager and we have to interview in pairs). This means that you will need to be able to deal with a woman asking you technical questions that you might not know the answer to. You’ll also have to deal with the same woman being your boss if you get the job, so being rude and patronising to her is probably not a good start. Nor is directing your answers to all technical questions to the male member of the panel, regardless of who asks them.

6. Read the job description for the job you are applying for. We might ask you hard questions like what sort of work the job involves, and if you can’t answer simple questions about what we do then we get the impression you’re not too interested in working for us.

7. We do not appoint candidates based solely on the length or the brevity of an interview. Although in some cases we do appreciate the brevity. We do say at the start how long we expect the interview to take, so that should act as a guide.

8. If you are late then acknowledge your lateness, apologise, and then move on. That is how we will expect you to deal with it in the workplace, so you might as well start during the interview. Of course, not being late at all would be better.

9. Listen carefully to each question. We are very unlikely to ask things like “tell me everything you know about connecting Windows 98 computers to a wireless network” or “tell me about every job you have had since 1980”. Answering such questions when they have not been asked is not helpful and just wastes time.

10. At the end of the interview we will ask if you have any questions for us. Again, this happens at most interviews so have a few things prepared. It’s probably best to only ask two or three though, and eight is probably too many, especially when you have to pull out a notebook to remember them all. Also, we are unlikely to tell you how many other people we are interviewing, or anything about our current hardware or software suppliers, or anything else that isn’t any of your business.

11. If you are unsuccessful in the interview, and especially if you are unsuccessful for the 4th time, then ask for feedback. We will give you detailed and constructive feedback which is not quite as candid as what I’ve written here, but which will highlight how you could have done better. Also, once you have received your feedback don’t sign the email address it was sent from up to loads of porn sites and religious newsletters and other such rubbish. We will find out, and we will know it was you.

On a more serious note, I do really sympathise with anyone who is currently job hunting, and I am generally happy to read through applications and CVs for jobs in areas I know at least something about (IT, project management, anything to do with education or Universities), because sometimes it helps to see the application from the side of the person doing the recruiting and shortlisting.