Interview Questions

1.  Tell me about yourself

I’m a person who is driven to make things.

“Things,” you say, “ is a very ambiguous term.”

“Quite right,” I respond.

An ambiguous term is necessary when describing what I like, because my interests do not fit into any specific category. My projects range from websites to patch panels for a rust hole on the fender of my 1966 VW to small sculptures made from computer parts. What do photography, auto restoration, blogging, web design, strict file naming practices, and video editing have in common?  After a long time I realized that all the things I enjoy entail making, fixing or beautifying “things.” Most recently “things” has come to include ideas. I’ve been known to take classes like statistics and macroeconomics simply because I enjoyed working with the ideas so much.

2. What are your strengths

Brainstorming and research are probably my greatest strengths. When I need to learn new software, come up with ideas for a website, or figure out how to refurbish the sunroof mechanism on a (rather rare) 45 year old car, a combination of creative thinking and good search skills help me learn about others’ solutions or devise my own. Over the past few years, I’ve come to enjoy both of these processes. When presented with a new project or problem, I immediately brainstorm and research – it’s become a reflex.

3. What are your weaknesses

Perfectionism is the first thing that comes to mind. It’s easy for me to get fixated on little details. While this often produces good results, it also slows my progress. One of the ways I try to overcome this is by asking those around me for feedback – an external observer’s opinion often provides a new perspective and starts new chains of ideas. Another weakness is the tendency to jump headlong into something new and overwhelm myself. Pacing myself when learning or exploring new things isn’t one of my strengths.

4. Where would you like to be in your career five years from now

Ideally I’ll have a few years of working for a company under my belt and have branched out and started my own business doing web design, film making, and photography. I’m hesitant to go directly into business for myself for two major reasons. First, working for someone else will mean I get to practice my job, cementing the skills I’ve learned, without having to worry about running the business. Second, creatives can’t exist in a vacuum, and the water cooler conversations which take place in a larger (than one person) company will allow my skills to be honed through dialogue with co-workers. While I think a few years working for another company would help mature my skills, eventually I’d really like to run my own business. I’ve done this with film and photography work for the past few years, and I really enjoy the freedom it offers. My short career has been fairly geographically diverse so far, and I’d like to keep it that way. So geographically, my hope is that my career will have me somewhere unexpected in 5 years.

5. If I were your supervisor and asked you to do something that you disagreed with, what would you do?

For me there are two classes of “disagreement:” moral and amoral. Ask me to do something that I find unconscionable or unethical and I’ll flat out refuse, stating why I can’t follow your instructions. On other issues I’ll argue my point and then let you make the decision. In past jobs, I’ve had to work in ways that I felt were less efficient or made an inferior product, but I was fine with it because that’s what my employer wanted

6.  What’s the most difficult decision you’ve had to make in the past couple years? how did you come to it?

I had the opportunity to take a paid trip to all parts of the UK,  two countries in South America, and a wide variety of US cities. During the trip I would have toured castles all over the UK, gone to Machu Pichu in, and seen the sights in a whole bunch of US cities. I would have stayed in nice hotels, eaten at good restaurants, and enjoyed the company of good friends during the 2-3 month trip. Of course, there was work to be done – carrying camera cases, setting lights, holding boom poles, downloading footage, and the like.

Though the job would have been fantastic in every respect, I turned it down. Instead, I took two semesters of a very heavy class load. My rationale was that the long term benefits of education would outweigh the short term benefits of traveling. If this kind of opportunity was available to me without education, better things would be available once I could offer more skills and expertise.

7. What kind of personality do you work best with and why?

I find it easiest to work with people who are sincere and moderately serious.  While I don’t have a problem with kicking back and having a good time or making work fun, silly frivolity and empty talk don’t go over well with me.




Forty Two Days – Week Five

I have influenza A this week. Sitting in my bed fighting a headache and nausea has given me plenty of time to wonder if getting a flu shot would have prevented this illness. But I’ve always been a little leery of flu shots. I know that flu shots are not 100% effective – the vaccine is made to combat a certain strain of the virus, and sometimes the predictions about which flu strain will be most prevalent are wrong and the flu shot is not very effective. I’ve wondered if getting a flu shot gives one overconfidence – a feeling of immunity liable to make one less careful with hygiene. Perhaps, though, my hesitation to get a flu shot is just ignorance. Perhaps the benefits, not just to me, but to society as a whole, far out weight the burdens. I honestly can’t say, because I’m ignorant of any data about flu shots.

Though there have been major influenza outbreaks in the past, the illness somehow doesn’t seem to induce the fear and terror that diseases like measles or smallpox do. So while refusing a flu shot might not be a huge deal, these other diseases poses a much greater threat.

In the past few years, a variety of factors, including scientific and religious ones, have led to a movement away from all vaccinations. A couple of the more prominent factors have to do with the MMR vaccine and Autism.

The only vaccine for MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) was derived from an aborted fetus. Because of this, certain religious groups found it morally objectionable to use the vaccination. Correspondingly, vaccination rates dropped. Later, MMR suffered another blow after a poorly conducted “study” about vaccines and autism was published in “The Lancet” – one of the world’s premier medical journals. The study claimed that vaccinations could cause autism, but a closer look at the data debunks this. The study had a ridiculously small sample size which was not chosen at random. In the years following the paper’s publishing, a number of researchers took a careful look at the paper and thoroughly discredited it, finding that the author had conflicts of interest, had broken ethical codes, and had manipulated evidence. The author was tried, found guilty of serious professional misconduct, and had his license to practice medicine taken away. Although The Lancet published a retraction, it did little to reverse the damage done by the original paper.

Because of falling vaccination rates, we have begun to see small outbreaks of diseases formerly thought to be eradicated. The effects of the phony study hit the UK and Ireland first, where a drop in vaccination rates led to disease outbreaks and deaths. Though the study was retracted 10 years ago, the effects can still be seen. In the past few years a variety of disease outbreaks have taken place across the United States, including a couple minor outbreaks here in northwest Montana.

I once heard someone say that vaccination was like a  stone wall where each vaccinated person was a stone and each unvaccinated person was a hole. If everyone were vaccinated, the wall would be strong. But even a small number of holes would seriously weaken the entire wall. This brings up the question, “can we let freedom(to decide for ourselves about vaccines) jeopardize our safety?” Or more specifically, “can we let individual freedoms jeopardize group safety?”

This has been a rather long introduction, but bear with me. All that’s left now is to answer the above question by discussing ethics and my opinion (for whatever it’s worth!)

We’ll start with ethics. There are two classes of behavior or action: self-regarding (things which ONLY affect you, and others-regarding (things which affect other people). Ethics is only concerned with the second class of actions: things which impact others. Let us now consider vaccinations: do they affect self, others, or both? If one is completely physically isolated, self. But that applies to so few people that it hardly deserves consideration. There are very few proper hermits in this world. This means that for the vast majority of people, vaccination is an others-regarding action. It is the choice between being a stone or a hole in the wall.

In short, my opinion is that the social contract demands vaccination of diseases likely to cause outbreaks and death. Those who do not wish to be vaccinated should not be forced to, but by refusing vaccination also relinquish their right to be part of society – the community inside the wall. Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but at first glance, it seems like a good solution: no one is forcing you to be vaccinated, but at the same time, you are not permitted to let the consequences (illness) of your action (vaccine refusal) fall on others.

So what about the flu shot… is it a breach of ethics for me to refuse that vaccination?

(more) Deliverables

This week’s deliverables include:

1. A leave behind rough draft. Since most of my work is video, I figured it would be good to include a DVD demo reel in my leave behind. Although I considered printing up a mini portfolio, screenshots of videos don’t seem very appealing to me. A thumb drive would have been my first choice, but seeing as they’re about $15 each, a leave behind featuring a DVD seemed a much better alternative. The DVD will include samples of my video, web, and photo work. Additionally, the leave behind will contain a business card. I’ve seen leave behinds similar to the one I’ve made, but I don’t know where to get mine printed and die cut to fit the card and DVD… that’s why I just printed it on regular paper and cut it my self. The final product will be printed properly, though.

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My printer started giving me trouble today, so the colors on the DVD and business card came out wrong – once I get the printer fixed I’ll reprint so that the colors on the DVD and business card match those on the leave behind – orange and grey.

2. Business cards.  So far, I’ve got two main designs that I’ve been working with: a vertical card and a horizontal one. Regardless of what the front looks like, I’m pretty sure I’ll print a photo across the entire back of the card. To facilitate this, I’ll have to get my cards printed on semi-gloss card stock paper. Below is the front of the card and a few photos I’m considering using on the back of the card. (The grey border on this card is just the illustrator window background – it won’t show up when the cards are printed.)

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Business Card Back Photos:


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3. A resume final draft. Here’s a digital copy. I’m going to get this printed on 8.5×11 semi gloss card stock paper.

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Forty Two Days – Week Four

Perception and reality were the ideas that I enjoyed playing with last week. This week, the same topic of perception and reality has morphed into something totally different. Same subject, completely different content.

Rather than referring to how we perceive the material world around us, this week’s version of “perception” refers to how we expect a probable future state to feel, look, taste, or be. Reality, too, gets a slightly different definition. Rather than explaining how the perceived material world is now, reality’s new role has to do with how that future state will feel, look, taste, or be. In a nutshell, this week’s thoughts were concerned with what you expect versus what you get.

Perhaps you’re psychic or just downright lucky and your future perceptions and realities align pretty well. That’s not always the case for me. My previous futures (i.e. the past) have been vastly different from how I expected them to be. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining, because my previous futures have been pretty great for the most part. Anyway, I’ve been nurturing a perception for the past few months. The perception has to do with living in a small home on wheels and going out into the wide world to seek my fortune as a cameraman/video editor/web designer. The perception is really fun. I have this cool little house on a trailer. It has a kitchen, a bathroom, a living area, and bedroom in a loft. The floors are walnut. The walls and ceiling are cottonwood. There is a tiny wood stove that keeps the place warm. Somewhere in this small space is a storage area where I can keep my camera, tripod, and audio kit. My Mac lives on the little table in the living room, and I use it daily to crank out creative and artistic projects. The perception is liberating and creative. The perception sees me as a very happy person. But before getting carried away by this, I have to remember that the perception is just that – a perception: a preconceived idea about how the future might be.

But then there’s the reality. I can’t be sure what reality will be, since I’m not there yet. Perhaps I never build this perceived little house. Or perhaps I’m wrong about how fun it would be to live in a space smaller than my current bedroom. Would I be able to keep clutter to a minimum or would my tiny house become a giant waste bin, a cacophony of disorganized papers, dirty mugs, and clutter to which I’m emotionally attached? Where am I going to park a house on a trailer? Where will my water and electricity come from? Where will wastewater go? (Tiny house people have this shocking proclivity for talking about this one!) Will there even be space for my camera gear after I’ve gotten dishes, clothes, cleaning supplies and food crammed in?

These are pretty big questions that must be answered before flinging $15,000-$20,000 at a perception of a fun, creative life in a tiny house. To help introduce reality into my future expectations, I’ve been researching tiny house living pretty heavily. Most things have sane solutions. You can modify the layout of the house to keep all the pipes in one place and then put extra insulation in that place so your pipes don’t freeze. You can overcome trailer height restrictions of 13.5 feet by changing wall height and roof pitch. You can even overcome the waste problem by building in a composting toilet. But then there are grey areas. Building codes and insurance policies aren’t sure where to place tiny houses. Are these structures trailers, mobile homes, or what? It’s not legal to live out of one of these tiny houses inside city limits of most cities. But at the same time it’s perfectly legal to park a tiny house inside city limits. Likewise, insurance is a problem. Do you buy a home insurance policy, or insure your tiny house as a “load” of “materials” on your trailer? From what I’ve seen, everyone treats these solution-less problems a little differently. Of the tiny house people who’ve shared their philosophy about zoning, I get the idea that people just have to be courteous and hope for the best – apparently city officials don’t have much clout when it comes to evicting tiny houses from a yard. Even so, these are considerations which will vastly affect reality and may not be figured into a perception.

On the bright side, thinking about tiny house living has motivated me to do a lot of research, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the thought that’s gone into it. Now in the event that I do pursue building a tiny house, I can do so with a perception that’s not wildly out of tune with reality. Hopefully that’ll steer me clear of big problems down the road.




Forty Two Days – Week Three

Thoughts this week had to do with reality and perception. I’ve been reading through a layman’s explanation of some of the more unusual findings in quantum mechanics. My first response was amazement, my second, the question, “So what?”
From the reading I did, I gathered that “reality” and our perceptions are often vastly different. Consider findings concerning locality. Locality is the concept that physical influence requires a spatial connection. For one particle or thing to influence another, there must be a direct connection between the two particles or things. If particle one is completely isolated from particle two, then one should not be able to influence two. The mathematics behind quantum mechanics, however, suggest otherwise. Experiments on infinitesimally small particles (namely electrons) show that spatially isolated particles can be linked, and if one particle is acted upon and a change takes place, a change will instantaneously take place in another particle which is somehow non-spatially linked to it. Another example of the weirdness would be time asynchrony. Perception suggests that time is linear. Though we always feel as though we’re in the “present,” time moves from past to future. But apparently higher mathematics suggest that this isn’t the case, either. Though it sounds deceptively simple, motion bends time, meaning that “right now” for different entities moving at different speeds can encompass pretty much all of time.
That takes care of my response of amazement. Now on to part two: “So what?” Our perceptions of the world have been good enough that we humans are pretty functional. Does it benefit us to try and throw out our perceptions of how things are and instead force our brains to think of the world as working differently than it appears to? Back in the day, the mind bending new discovery was the spherical nature of the earth. That was hard for people to accept, just as non-locality and time asynchrony are hard to accept. But to what degree have people accepted the spherical nature of earth? Unless you’re atop a huge mountain or out at sea, you can’t tell the earth is curved. It seems flat. And for everyday living, it doesn’t make a big difference whether we think of the world as round or flat. Gravity holds us down as if the world is flat, so people “down under” in Australia don’t have to walk upside down. Other than not worrying about falling off the edge of the world, it doesn’t make much of a difference. Granted, airplane navigators have to take geodesics and the earth’s roundness into account when charting courses, and long range missile operators have to watch out that the curvature of the earth doesn’t interfere, but these situations are the exception, not the rule. The rule is that the earth seems flat, and as long as we can recognize that it is round and this applies to some situations, we can keep thinking of the earth as flat in most situations.
Perhaps the same is true of locality. We can recognize that time can be bent or particles can be “magically” linked, and yet continue living as if these aren’t true. Except in specialized situations, people can continue to live as if perception is reality, while recognizing that while a good approximation, this doesn’t always hold true.