Monthly Archives: September 2012

Oxtail Soup Recipe

Oxtail was once considered by many Americans as “gutter” meat, meat for the poor, even though it’s one of the most flavorful and texturally complex beef cuts.  I remember purchasing it for $.99/lb, using it to make a slightly gelatinous and deeply flavored stew w/rice and vegetables that would last me for like five days, two meals per day.  Fine dining chefs, aided by growing popularity of Food Network,  began reintroducing oxtail to diners 10-15 years ago and now, it’s one of the pricier cuts of beef ($5/lb, much of it bone and fat).  Argh.

So it costs too much to serve at Alive Juice Bar.  A two pound Costco package of oxtail costs $10, and the amount of meat on them would satisfy two, maybe three customers.  So we decided to add beef cheek meat at $2.69/lb. because its texture is most similar to that of oxtail meat — a combo of gelatinous, fatty, and lean meat that is extraordinarily tender when cooked at low temperature for like 50 hours.  So our oxtail soup is made with oxtail and beef cheek.

To cook, we braise both at 160 degrees for 50 hours, or in the case of the oxtail, whenever meat is fall off bone tender.  Remove oxtail meat, esp. the fat.  Use oxtail bones and juices to make stock, which we cooked at a low boil for 24 hours.  Then cool stock in fridge until fat solidifies.  Skim fat off and put stock through a strainer to clean the stock.  We then add assorted braised veggies and oxtail and beef cheek meat once stock has been brought back to a low boil.  Keep on warm — 160 degrees — and serve.  We add lots of veggies, typically carrots, potatoes, and celery. It’s meant to be a satisfying soup for meat eaters who don’t get enough veggies.  The broth makes the veggies taste meaty.

Comments on Fall Applications

Entrepreneurs told me that the toughest part of running a business, especially a start-up, is the search for and the management of human resources.  It took me awhile to figure out just how tough it is to find coachable and competent employees.  I was often delusional about my leadership abilities and willfully ignorant about how people, including myself, think and live life. I didn’t realize how difficult it is to change and motivate someone.  Frustrated, I’d hire the best person available — my mind conveniently blocking out obvious flaws and highlighting the few (imagined) strengths and potential rewards — even if person is clearly, in nearly every way, incompetent, self-absorbed, and devoid of basic, basic skills. I was like the insecure and fearful looking for love and marriage — easily infatuated and more in love with love than the love interest.

I gradually learned that hiring the wrong person creates a lot more work and stress.  Better to work multiple jobs on one’s own, just as most business owners and CEOs do throughout their careers.  I’d be 40-50k richer if I’d understood from the beginning what I was told about human resources (takes experience for wisdom to make sense).

So I’ve shifted my approach to hiring and I should probably do the same with my approach to firing (be quicker to fire instead of expecting a miracle that’ll never happen).  We search for those who we think are coachable and have basic kitchen, observation, and social skills. In many ways, it’s gotten easier to attract candidates because we’re now considered an established business and we have pretty good Yelp reviews.  But it’s gotten much more difficult to find someone who is a good fit because standards keep getting set higher and higher.  A lot of people who we won’t hire now would’ve been hired when we were six months old.

What we’re looking for.  

At any rate, we use our application not only to gain deep insight into candidate personality and character, but also to reduce number of applications.  We can’t handle 400 applications.  We aim to attract 50 aps with each craigslist post (posted three times this past round) and will spend one to two hours reviewing the ones we’re interested in.  Out of 50, we’ll look closely review three.  We’ll even take a close look at someone who we think is a sociopath (hired).  There’s no formula.  We trust our intuition.

Interest and knowledge is irrelevant.  We prefer to instill our brand of knowledge anyway.  The main trait we look for is coachability.  To be coachable, one has to be mentally tough (based on our definition) and be unhappy or bored enough with life to be receptive to change.  (The complacent are not coachable.  Why should they change?  They’re satisfied, especially with themselves).  There have been a few candidates who don’t need much coaching, as their mindset and values are already in line with those of the owner. These candidates just need to refine certain skills.

Main skills we look for are observation skills (peripheral vision, court vision), basic kitchen skills (knife, prep, clean-up), and social skills.  We strongly prefer those who are aggressive and competitive.  We train baristas to be controlling and many regular customers now expect to be controlled (we decide what they eat and drink and will deny them something they order).  Our baristas also won’t give up a sale.  An acquaintance told me that while she waited in the store for me, the barista tried to sell her a juice FIVE times.  “She would not let up.”

Creativity, imagination, reading comprehension, logical reasoning, and learning style — all secondary concerns.  We work on those skills by discouraging linear thinking and encouraging learning with one’s senses.

Who the applicants are.
Don’t know for sure but based on analysis of address, resume (high school, , and questionnaire responses, we think most are from working class background.  Education ranged from high school drop-out (hired) to a 2006 graduate from a highly ranked University (12th, according to US News).  Mostly community college, a good number from regional colleges such as Seattle U, SPU, Western Washington, Evergreen.  University of Washington Seattle too.

Everyone is and wants to do something special.
Every applicant stated that they want to do something special, something great.  But very few applicants have the attitude and mindset and skills to do so.  Nor are most familiar with what it takes to achieve greatness.  Very few applicants realize that there’s a mismatch between their desire and their mindset/skills/attitude, so there’s little effort to develop mindset/skills/attitude.  Some implied that they just need to be discovered.  If you think there are a lot of mental health problems today, wait 20 years, “normal” society is going to be a nuthouse full of people bitter about unrealized dreams.

I’m trying to figure out who is putting so much pressure on young adults to achieve something “great,” without preparing them to do so.  The worst thing to tell a child is that he or she can “be whatever he or she wants to be.”  Trite encouragements as these MUST be paired with activities that instill discipline and mental toughness and the competitive spirit necessary for them to achieve their goals.  Without such activities, they’re basically being told that they’re losers and lazy if they don’t achieve something great.  At some point, the inflated self-esteem that comes from everyone telling them that they’re so talented so special so wonderful that they can do anything will implode the fragile ego, leaving a person destroyed, devoid of self-esteem and self-confidence.  I see so many of these kids with so much self-esteem, yet they have little self-confidence because deep down, they know that they haven’t achieved enough or have the skills and mental toughness to justify their sense of self.  I’m convinced that those with inflated self-esteem will never have the self-confidence to face failure and difficulties.

According to some sociologist, in a post-industrial society such as ours, there’s been a shift among the working class from seeking confirmation from church and community to seeking esteem.  Working class kids used to work to not become a burden, to take care of their family.  Now, working class kids dream big and will pay a lot of money to acquire, for instance, a formal education or whatever else they think it takes to realize their dream.  They don’t, however, realize that it’s not degrees or the right clothes and car that will get them to where they want to be.  It’s all about skills, mindset, and attitude.  By the time they figure that out, they’re pushing 30 years old, are aimless and unfocused, and have nothing to show for their college degree (in social science or humanities from middling school).  It’s sad to read a resume from a 28 year old who makes a big deal out of junior year abroad in Spain.  That year abroad will likely be the peak of her life.

There were a few who understand what it takes to achieve greatness.  In all cases, they either came from Upper Middle Class neighborhoods with highly competitive high schools, or in one case, grew up in a small town but attended a highly competitive college.  Doesn’t mean they’re not lazy and unfocused.  The one who attended an Ivy League type college had a spotty resume and admitted to being lazy and unfocused (we liked him a lot).  It just means that he won’t die from envy because he knows what it takes to get something.  He knows what the competition looks like, he just can’t motivate himself to compete with them.

We don’t produce employees who eventually go crazy from envy.  We generally try to get employees to put away pipe dreams and to focus on not becoming a burden to society by matching skills and interest with a realistic career path.

Quick summary of findings:
Suspect a quarter of applicants are borderline sociopaths (hired one, doing well).

Mentally tough applicants tended to have upper/upper-middle class and lower class backgrounds.  Applicants from working class backgrounds tended to score lowest on mental toughness.  Suspect this is because the poor grow tough from being poor, while the wealthy make sure their kids develop mental toughness by sending them to highly competitive and stressful schools like Lakeside.  Middle class parents, desirous of the best for their children, mistakenly believe that the wealthy coddle their kids and thus do so with their own.

Applicants with highest standards tended to come from upper/upper-middle class applicants.

Applicants with highest sense of entitlement came from working class backgrounds.

Upper class background applicants and those who’ve been exposed to highly competitive environment (attend a top 20 college) were most likely to describe themselves as “lazy.”  They also had best leadership potential.

The most arrogant applicants were the also the most inept and lazy, failing to even google “Kofi Annan.”

Most applicants have trouble researching for facts.  Many, for instance, were unable to distinguish between political propaganda and fact when searching for number of hours Walmart CEO works.  Some were simply too lazy to google “Kofi Annan.”

Half of applicants came off as hippies.  We’ll hire hippies, but we make it clear that we’re more blue-collar intellectual than a hippie establishment.

Business Partner Profile (Politically Incorrect Version)

Seeking business partner who is hard working and passionate about and dedicated to making available healthy nutritious yada yada…alright, let’s cut the trite bullshit and get to what really matters.

Work Ethic and Passion
Has worked at least 60 hours per week continuously for at least a year, at some point in life (school counts).  It’s unlikely someone who has never worked such hours can suddenly work 80-100 hours a week.

Doesn’t waste leisure time, uses entertainment for education, not escape.

Doesn’t work for vacation, retirement, or security. Works solely to realize a vision.

Sociopaths preferred.  (Need a balanced ticket).  Asperger’s not ok (not a good business for Bill Gates types).  ADD ok.  Hyperactive a plus.  Anyone who gets sick more than 3 days a year doesn’t have the mental toughness to handle the pressure. I won’t work with anyone who can’t scare the shit out of me.

Prefer those who have experienced deep humiliation, rage, and shame.  Deep feelings of hate and fear optional. Also prefer those who have competed against or have been exposed to high level competition, such as attending a top school or playing on state championship team or performing at Carnegie Hall.

Values must be rooted in some variation of New England Puritanism (see Max Weber’s Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism).  Strong preference for those of Mormon and Mennonite faith.

High school drop outs preferred.  Also prefer those without MBA.  For those with college education, prefer graduates from top schools — Ivy League, Seven Sisters, Potted Ivies, MIT, CalTech, etc.  Unlikely to work with anyone who graduated from Duke University or Bard College.

Must have a track record of self-education.

Age, Gender, and Sexual Orientation 
Lesbians preferred.  Prefer woman over man.  Keep in mind that like most sports, this is a young person’s game.  There have been professional athletes who play at the highest level until they’re 50.

Future Plans and Expansion

Several have asked us to expand to their neighborhoods.  A few customers have offered substantial amount of investment funds to help us grow.

At this point, it isn’t money that’s keeping us from expanding, it’s the lack of a business partner who can work with me to expand the business into new locations.  So until I find one — and I nearly did earlier this summer — we’ll stay put.

Even with a business partner, I don’t think I’d ask for investment money to open a second location.  Personal loan, maybe.  Entrepreneurs tell me that the second store is the toughest.  That’s when we test the reproducibility of our workflow processes, figure out what really works.  If the second store thrives, we’d open a third store to test our leadership skills, our ability to motivate people to reproduce products and processes without our presence. Only if the third store does well would we think we’re ready for the responsibility of handling investor money.

I have no idea if I’ll ever find a business partner.  I’m not aggressively seeking one — I lack ambition — but I try to not miss opportunities that are in front of me.  As Branch Rickey put it, “luck is the residue of design.”  Luck is just the ability to not miss opportunities.

Application Questions version 10.1

Below are our application questions.  Boldface your answers, like this:

Which color ball do you prefer?
a) This one
b) That one
c) This is a stupid question.

Send answers with cover letter to  Pick one answer only. Don’t make up your own answers.

Pay is $11-$15 plus tips unless you’re an Assistant.

Perks: free dance classes in our dance studio.  Free use of dance studio when it’s not used. Free juice and food.


What’s Plato’s Republic about?
a) Why we’re all dumbasses
b) The meaning of life
c) How to be happy

Do you believe in self-love?
a) No, only those who are chronically unhappy and deeply troubled believe and need that shit.
b) Yes, in this time of hate, we all need to love ourselves more so we can love others more.
c) No, self-love is a moral flaw, like vanity and selfishness.

How many of your close friends routinely preach “self-love” philosophy?
a) 0
b) 1-5
c) 6 or more

Do you consciously practice self-love each day?
a) Yes, of course!
b) Nah, don’t have time for that, got better things to do.
c) I jerk off every day, does that count?

Why are you so stupid?
a) I’m lazy and obedient, so I don’t ask enough questions.
b) I’m confused and bored, I don’t see the point.
c) I’m not stupid, I’m brilliant!

Why are you so smart?
a)I’m not smart, only stupid people think they’re smart
b)I’ve always worked hard and set the highest standards for myself. I took the most challenging courses and tasks and wouldn’t accept anything less than an “A” at school and at work.
c) I’m naturally smart, it’s God given.

How often do you screw up?
a) Rarely, and when I do, it’s someone else’s fault.
b) Never. Hire me and you’ll see my awesomeness.
c) All the time, I’m such a fuck up.

Why are you so lazy?
a) I daydream a lot.
b) I’m not lazy.
c) I make excuses and blame others when something goes wrong.

Why are you so stupid?
a)I don’t know what I don’t know.
b) For the last time, I’m not stupid, I’m brilliant!
c) You’re the dumbass for asking this dumbass question.  This is some fucked up shit, I’m out, motherfucker.

Someone leaves knives in soapy water.  What do you do to make sure that person never does it again?
a) Tell her that doing that can hurt someone, that she needs to think about the consequences of her actions.
b) Lock her in the freezer for an hour.
c) Fill sink with soapy water and knives. Have her wash knives.

How do you produce kids who will become confident adults with healthy self-esteem?
a) Tell them how amazing, wonderful and special they are.
b) Set higher and higher expectations and expect them to achieve them.
c) Try to build a stress free environment for them so they can achieve their goals.

How do you produce kids who will become batshit crazy as adults?
a) Tell them how wonderful and special they are, all the time.
b) Beat the shit out of them every day.
c) Ignore them, that’s the worst kind of abuse.

Who is most likely to become batshit crazy?
a) White trash girl who knows she’s White trash
b) Rich kid slumming it with the hobos
c) Middle class girl who thinks she’s high society

What do you work for?
a) Praise and Reward
b) Sense of Achievement
c) God’s grace

Hypersensitive people are:
a) Special and Deep
b) Self-absorbed and Narcissistic
c)  Insightful and and Empathetic

What happens when school district gives middle-class high school students their own laptops?
a) Playing field is leveled, they perform almost as well as those rich privileged kids at elite private school like Lakeside.
b) They use it to watch movies and play games, no change in academic performance.
c) They perform worse, laptops make people stupid.

Your 8 year old is new at school.  He gets shoved out of lunch line and is told to get to the back.  He responds by beating the shit out of the kid who bullied him.  What’s your response?
a) Ground him and make him apologize to kid he beat up.
b) Tell him he did the right thing and to never worry about lawsuits, you’ll take care of those if they come up.
c) Have your kid apologize to the kid he beat up and have them talk it out.  End with hug.

Your daughter loves gymnastics and is about to enter her first meet.  She’s confident about winning and even thought about the perfect place to hang her blue ribbon.  While she did well, she didn’t medal, and was devastated.  What do you, as a parent, tell her?
a) Tell her you thought she was the best
b) Tell her she has the ability and will surely win next time.
c) Tell her she doesn’t deserve to win because she didn’t work hard enough.

What effect does raising teacher wages have on teacher performance?
a) They don’t perform any better or worse, people are creatures of habit
b) They perform better, money improves morale
c)  They perform worse, money corrupts.

How do you improve academic performance at a school?
a) Increase funding so facilities can be improved.
b) Increase number of (real) Asian students
c) Increase salaries so teachers work harder

How do you get someone to love you? 
a) Go out of your way to do things for that person.
b) Get them to do something for you.
c) Hire a witch and cast a spell.

How many hours a week does the CEO of Walmart work?

How many hours a week does Eminem work?
a) 100

How many hours a week does 50 Cent work?
a) 100
b) 70
c) 40

What was Eminem likely doing on random date, 2003?
a) Getting high and smacking his hoes
b) Working alone in recording studio, repeating same three lines over and over again because he demands perfection from himself.
c) Getting his dick licked by two of his dancers.

What does the CEO of Walmart do all day?
a)Figures out new ways to exploit hard workers like me.
b)Sets strategy and vision, negotiates partnerships, builds company culture, and manages supply chains to ensure consumers get what they want when they want it.
c)Recording himself banging his hot secretary.

What was Tupac Shakur most likely doing during a typical evening?
a) Reading Machiavelli’s The Prince.
b) Drinking his 40 and smacking his hoes
c) Having a threesome and some cocaine.

What was 50 Cent doing on a random Saturday night, 2006?
a) Getting fucked up his ass by his trainer, who resembles Justin Bieber
b) Working out, writing songs and negotiating business contracts.
c) Sucking your mom’s big black dick, what the fuck does this have to do with this stupid job?

What’s most important to most customers when they order food?
a) cost
b) taste
c) health

Earthquake during math class! Big enough to topple bookshelves. Nobody is hurt, everyone is okay, just jittery. What do you, as teacher, do?
a) Stop class, act jittery and anxious because that’s how you feel.
b) Have students clean up mess and continue class as if nothing happened. Assign double amount of homework and quizzes for rest of the week.
c) Stop class, bring in school psychologist to discuss how everyone is handling the event and “post-traumatic stress disorder.”

What percentage of business fail within 5 years?  
a) 50
b) 20

Are business owners entitled to a living wage?
a) Yes, everyone deserves a living wage
b) No, it’s her fault she sucks at work and life.
c) No, but there should be programs to help business owners succeed.

Communication Skills

Pick best sentence:
a) Would you mind bringing me some beets when you get a chance?
b)  Get beets now.
c) Hey fucktard, get your ass over there, get some beets and bring it over here.

Salesperson calls, asks “Hi, how are you doing today?” How do you respond?
a) What do you want?
b) I’m fine. How are you today?
c) I feel like shit.  I want to beat the shit out of someone.

Pick best sentence for love-text:
a) Your scintillatingly luminous presence inspires and captivates my yearning heart to take an unsolicited leap of impossible faith into the great unknown of the comfort of your arms.
b) My darling, my heart aches for your presence and to finally be in your arms
c) Let’s cuddle.

Pick best sentence for first sentence of novel:
a) Dreary black skies loomed as the violent waves crashed onto glittering rocks that have never met such punishment.
b) It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets.
c) Fucking hurricane knocking down trees.

Technician finally calls you back.  He asks: Hi, how are you doing today?” How do you respond?
a) I’m fine, how are you today?
b) How do I fix this problem?
c) This problem is driving me crazy.  Because of your fucked up system, I can’t get my kids to school on-time, my cat took a dump on my pillow, and my husband is a lazy piece of shit who wants a divorce.

Your partner tells you you’re lazy.  How do you respond?
a) Takes on to know one, asshole.
b) Why am I lazy?
c) You never see all the things I do for you.

Fall Application Questions Explained, Part VI

Open ended questions gives us an opportunity to get a more nuanced look at how an applicant thinks.  First question intended to get applicant to think about the value of a person’s work so we don’t end up with victim-employee who mistakenly thinks pay should correlate to how much one (subjectively) “suffers.” Pay depends on amount of value one contributes to a business.  Those unable to calculate the value they produce are more likely to be bitter employees and weak negotiators.

Mary hires Peter and Paul to dig two ditches, assigning one to each. Peter finishes in one hour because he used his latest invention, the super-duper soil remover zapper. Paul, using a shovel and hard work, finishes his in 8 hours. How much should Mary pay Peter. How much to Paul? Who should she hire if she wants a third ditch?   

Nearly all chose to pay both the same, arguing they completed the same job, and how “hard” one worked is irrelevant.  Many stated their appreciation for “smart work.” One emphasized the intrinsic value of physical labor.  One paid both the same hourly wage, giving the guy who spent 8 hours eight times more pay than counterpart.  Several made this simple question much more complicated than it is, inserting their own variables such as environmental degradation that may result from using invention and Peter and Paul’s relationship with each other.  While environmental impact and personal relations are important real world, inserting these concerns into hypothetical situation may suggest that one is indecisive, is easily distracted and overwhelmed, and lacks focus when confronted with everyday real life problems.

Nearly all invited faster worker to return.  One invited the slower worker because “he probably has a hot body” (what is with women from Christian colleges?).

Next question gives applicants an opportunity to review their life decisions and to ask themselves if they’re living the life they deserve.

Person A from age 5 to 25, attends school 6 hours a day, studies 4 hours a day, spends 6 hours of leisure time learning to build and building, with like-minded friends, random things, like a tree house, a bridge, a dog walking robot. A also spends an hour per day daydreaming of building something that will improve world’s standard of living. At age 25, he graduates with a Masters degree in electrical engineering and is offered a salary of $150,000 to work as a product developer for a green tech company. He gets 3 weeks vacation, full benefits. He accepts the position and works 60-80 hours per week, and is expected to be available for phone calls and e-mails during his vacations. He pays Federal Government 30 percent of his earnings.

Person B, from age 5-25, attends school 6 hours a day, studies 1 hour a day, spends 6 hours of leisure time passively watching TV shows and films like Jersey Shore and Twilight, 3 hours a day daydreaming about being wealthy and pampered and adored by everyone. At age 25, he graduates with a degree in Socks, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. Unable to find a job in his field of study, he takes a job as a cashier at McDonald’s, making $10 per hour, 40 hours per week, or $20,000 for the year. He doesn’t have to pay taxes.

Nearly all picked Person A.  One person stated that both are underpaid.  A few stated that Person B — composite of Average American — is underpaid because they don’t think he’s making a living wage, implying that everyone, regardless of their productivity, should make a living wage (didn’t occur to them that if he doesn’t feel he makes enough to survive, he can take a second job and easily double his salary).  One felt that Person A is underpaid but may be too greedy and develop psychological problems from overwork.  Which is a bizarre assumption, as this person is simply doing what he’s always done — having fun while helping the world become a better place.

This question is important because most of our applicants have never been exposed to someone like Person A.  They have no idea what it takes for someone to become like Person A.  Nor do they know how Person A works, lives, thinks, behaves.  They’ll grow to become envious, passionless, and lazy (many already are) if they think Microsoft engineers work low-stress 40 hour a week jobs they landed only because their wealthy parents paid for their education and maids and toys and unlimited resources.  They need to realize that these people come from a wide range of backgrounds and are who and where they are now because of the amount of effort, since childhood, they put into learning and being productive.  Applicants who don’t understand this point are likely to think that securing a “good life” is about lucky charms and having wealthy parents, and not about being responsible and not wasting time pursuing  trivial pleasures.  It’s extremely difficult to motivate someone who thinks that life is fundamentally unfair, that we ultimately don’t get what we deserve.  While we don’t demand employees to become Person A, they are expected to understand the mindset, attitude, and work ethic it takes to become such a person.  We have zero tolerance for envy.

We’re not expecting to hire Person A.  After all, none of us at Alive are Person A, we’re lazy and lack grand ambition.  However, we will only work with those who can appreciate those like Person A.  We’re not superstars.  We’re not expecting superstars.  We only want to work with those who understand what superstars go through to become who they are.

Application Questions Explained, Part V

Final part of multiple choice section.  A few more chances for applicants to reconsider earlier responses.

Kofi Annan is:
a) Select grade coffee bean found along Owa Tagu Siam river, used by locals for medicinal purposes
b) Some black dude with cool name.
c) Some white rapper whose real name is George Smith

Most picked B.  All who picked A also picked “I’m not lazy” and “I’m good at researching facts.”  One who picked A wrote about her time at Kona, Hawaii, where she learned “all there is to know about coffee.”  Those who picked A were the most arrogant applicants.  Nobody picked C.

Why are you not special?
a) I am special. My mom thinks I’m special.
b) I haven’t done anything extraordinary.
c) Everyone is special. We’re all unique.

Most picked A.  Second most popular pick was C.  Decent number picked B. We’re concerned about the inflated self-esteem of those who pick A, likely self-absorbed and difficult to manage.  Those who pick C are probably nice and caring, not particularly competitive.  Those who pick B probably have either competed at a high level or have been exposed to high level competition.  Also more likely to have a more realistic sense of self in relation to others.  Less provincial too, so understands competition in international, not local, terms.

Paul Ryan
a) Looks like Anthony Wiener
b) Is a renown health food guru with his own TV show
c) Is a dickhead.

Question assesses one’s familiarity with national events and political leanings and biases.  A few picked A (what I would’ve picked).  Most picked C.  Nobody picked B.

Are you good at researching facts?
a) Yes
b) No
c) Don’t know, you tell me.

Most picked A, even though most proved to be poor to adequate at researching facts.  A few picked C.  Nobody picked B.

Why are you so smart?
a)I’m not smart, only stupid people think they’re smart
b)I’ve always worked hard and set the highest standards for myself. I took the most challenging courses and tasks and wouldn’t accept anything less than an “A” at school and at work.
c) I’m naturally smart, it’s God given.

A few picked A.  A Cornell University study showed that the incompetent tend to not realize that they’re incompetent, while those who are most competent tend to not realize how good they are until they’re exposed to the incompetency of larger population.  One becomes “smart” by realizing how ignorant, or “stupid” one is.  Stupid people think they already know it all, so they don’t ask questions and challenge their own assumptions.

B was the second most popular choice. Everyone who picked B also chose to congratulate child for getting a “B.”  Which makes no sense.  Anyway, most picked C, which confused me.  I’m not sure how to read it.  We tell employees that talent isn’t natural, it’s the result of effort. I’m concerned that those who think they’re “naturally smart” will have poorly developed work ethic and will become bitter about not being given a chance to show off imagined “brilliance.”

Open ended questions explained in final part of series.

Application Questions Explained, Part IV

Previous three questions give respondent a break from thinking about their work ethic.  These three give them one more chance to think about it, to reconsider their responses to earlier questions.

Realize that many aren’t doing what we want them to do, which is to reflect deeply about themselves and their surroundings.  For all we know, most applicants are plowing through the questions, wondering how it’s relevant to the job, and figuring out ways to “outsmart” the questions, to provide the answers applicant thinks reviewers want to hear.  Many may think this is some funny shit, must be chill place to work.

Anyway, for the third time, we ask:

Why are you so lazy?
a) I daydream a lot.
b) I’m bored.
c) I make excuses and blame others when something goes wrong.

Asking this questions for the third time to give those who answered “I’m not lazy” earlier to reconsider.  Are you being lazy when you’re daydreaming (on the job)?  YES, because you’re not observing, learning.  We’re starting you out with low-stress robot work not so you can become a bored robot, but so you have an opportunity to observe your surroundings so you can eventually do something more challenging.  (Marco Pierre White, the youngest to achieve 3 Micheline stars, became a great chef because he was (and probably still is) unusually observant and is intensely focused enough to have a photographic memory for food).  We’re also trying to point out that boredom and laziness go together.  Seems like nobody makes excuses and blames others.  Glad to know there are so many responsible people applying.  Maybe they can teach me and my staff something, because we’re always making lame excuses for why something goes wrong.

Why are you so stupid?
a) I’m lazy and obedient, so I don’t ask questions.
b) I’m confused and bored, I don’t see the point.
c) I’m not stupid, I’m brilliant!

As with most questions, we deliberately offer three unattractive choices.  We do this to force applicants to consider who they really are instead of repeating platitudes about themselves they learned in school or at home.  Pressure is on if you pick C, meaning you’ll have several chances to show off your brilliance during the interview.  If owner doesn’t break you within 20 minutes, we may offer you a job.  A few picked B.  B we can work with.  It’s normal to be confused and bored, especially when you have few responsibilities.  Nobody picked A, yet we see A everywhere.  We prefer to work with those who pick A or B.  We’re also uneasy working with those who brag about their talents.  Makes us, the less talented, feel bad about ourselves.  Can’t have that at work, right?

Why do you hate poor people?
a) We hate those we’re afraid of becoming. I’m afraid I’ll become or am one of them
b) I don’t hate them. I want to help them by showing them how to become better, someone more like me.
c) They’re lazy and have bad habits that are ruining society. They’re hopeless.

Again, three unattractive options.  Choose A and you admit hating poor people, in spite of education that tells you to never feel this way.  Choose B and you’re arrogant.  Choose C and you’re mean to the less fortunate.  We’re now pushing applicant to be honest, and perhaps reconsider how they answered earlier questions.  We’re also trying to get applicants to understand the double sided nature of the choices we make.  We want them to recognize the struggles (within) one has to overcome to become truly compassionate.  Question based on interview we had with a an applicant:

Interviewer: What would you like to do for a career?
Applicant: I dunno, I just know that I want to help poor people.  Maybe work for WIC (Federal food stamp and nutrition program).  Help them eat better, healthier.
Interviewer: What do you think of Roger’s Market (favored by those on food stamps).
Applicant: It’s awful, gross.  I’ll never go back there.
Interviewer: So you hate poor people.
Applicant: [priceless expression]
Interview: Roger’s is where those on food stamps shop.  If the place bothers you so much that you won’t shop there, you won’t survive two weeks working with those on food stamps.  Work at the WIC and you’ll hate people people even more than you do now. You’re not ready for that kind of work.

(Applicant was hired and is doing well).

Part IV coming soon.

Fall Application Questions Explained, Part III

Next three questions are used to gain a more complete sense of character and personality of applicant.  As with other questions, they’re primarily used as conversation starters during interview.  We also use questionnaire internally so employees are familiar with our cultural  sensibilities and how the twisted, lunatic owner thinks, operates.

Why are your friends boring?
a) They’re not boring. They’re a lot of fun.
b) They never want to try anything new. They talk about and do the same things over and over again. They’re really conventional.
c) I don’t know.

Just trying to get a sense how changeable and adaptable one is.  We’re wondering if those who pick B would have an easier time adapting to our work culture (assuming they’ve been working and living in completely different culture).  Those who pick A may be more likely to be firmly entrenched in a set of standards and values, and if those standards and values are radically different from ours, they may have trouble adapting.

Most picked A.  A few picked B or C.

How many years should you spend in jail?
a) 0
b) 1-3
c) more than 6

Everyone picked A.  Which is disturbing because it means applicants are either dull or sociopaths who by definition have no sense of guilt, shame, remorse, original sin.  We don’t want to work with Jesus.  We just want to work for Jesus.

What is the middle-aged guy w/moustache driving a Corvette having for dinner Thursday evening?
a) Store bought lemon meringue pie over kitchen sink
b) Organic quinoa-kale salad and Perrier at Putain de Merde
c) Medium well steak and dressed baked potato at Outback Steakhouse

Should probably get rid of this question because we never have time to talk about it during the interview.  Point of the question is to get a sense of respondent observation skills, life experiences (exposure to different standards and values)  and how they categorize people and styles.  Most picked C.  A few picked A.  Even fewer picked B. I can imagine A and C.  Corvettes tend to be coveted by those who start with a Camaro then upgrade to Mustang.  It’s a blue collar car.

Review of Anthony Bourdain’s Get Jiro!

Food isn’t just the center of life – what we must have to survive – it’s also central to understanding who we are as individuals and as a nation.  “Tell me what you eat,” declared epicure Jean Brillat-Savarin, “and I’ll tell you what you are.”

In Get Jiro!, Anthony Bourdain’s first graphic novel, where one eats is as revealing of oneself as what one eats.   To emphasize this point,  Bourdain imagines a dystopic Los Angeles (much like present day New York City), where where and what one eats are the ONLY sites for identity building.  Forget sporting, music, dance, and academic events. In this lunatic world, they’re no longer relevant and have largely “fragmented and died.” Eating out is the only opportunity for people to express who they are, to accumulate the cultural capital necessary to maintain and improve social status.  That’s why the people in this world are willing to kill to get a table at a certain restaurant.

The city is ruled by two rival gang of chefs — the cosmopolitan modernists and the localvore hippies.  Cosmopolitan modernists ship in the best ingredients from around the world and rely on post-modern technology and narratives to create, for instance, molecular gastronomic experiences such as eating whole (bones, innards) ortolan, “a small, delicate eurasian songbird, endangered, all but extinct” with “diner’s head…covered by a cloth napkin allowing the diner to inhale all the roast bird’s rich, earthy aromy.”  (Think Mistral Kitchen and Bisato in Seattle, or Grant Achatz’s Alinea in Chicago).  Localvore hippies insist on only the freshest “local” produce harvested by “a very nice, very conscientious farmer.” Animals must be “happy, free ranging, fved organically and by hand — the same feeder each time.” (Think Thrive, Local360, Tilth, all in Seattle).  Caught in the middle are old school chefs like Jean Claude, who serves simple and rustic French food in a shanty space in an impoverished “outer ring” neighborhood dominated by obese citizens and bad fast food; Jiro, a sushi chef whose humble establishment is also located in such a neighborhood.

Get Jiro! is a rant about and a primer on today’s food politics, how it’s a reflection of socio-economic class fault lines too few food critics are willing to openly discuss.  Bourdain is angry at both the Cosmopolitan Modernists and the Localvore Hippies, accusing the former of greed and selling out, while declaring the latter as being too narrowly focused to be practical and as ultimately the more dangerous of the two.  Both, Bourdain discerns, prey on people’s fears and insecurities, are narrow-minded and fail to communicate to its audience (customers) an adaptable and flexible love of food, especially food cooked simply.  In the end, Jiro inspires people take to the streets and the revolution begins.  Heads of gang leaders are on stakes and people are free again to enjoy food without an overwhelming sense of fear and guilt.

The graphics, to me, lean more on the realistic side (as compared to characters on South Park) so the (gratuitous) violence and gore — there’s a lot of that — may be difficult for some.  There’s murder, torture, a few gratuitous sex scenes and food porn. The storyline feels rushed, it was like a 30 minute read for me (but I didn’t focus much on the graphics), and I was left wanting to know more about, for instance, how we arrived at this dystopic world ruled by competing faction of chefs.  Or how some main characters became who they are.  Perhaps Rose, leader of the Localvore Hippies, became a hippie nazi because of childhood trauma, where her father punished her by beating to death her beloved kitten.  Or she was forced by a group of bullies to eat 30 hot dogs.  I wanted Bourdain to get inside the head of the characters, to explore what drives them to believe what they do, and not just use them as straw men and women to be derided as out-of-touch and maniacal.

In spite of its lack of depth and numerous distractions (gratuitous sex), Get Jiro! is worth reading for those unfamiliar with but interested in contemporary food politics– the basic, basic pros and cons of each argument.  The story is accessible to most who can handle the gore and hopefully will get people to think about their relationship with food instead of mindlessly sampling each style of cuisine without understanding what’s at stake.