JobSeeking and The Gambler’s Fallacy

rouletteLike many of us in the profession I have been looking at changing jobs over the last year or so. I am lucky in that I started my career at a time when it was easier to get that first entry level librarian job that is so elusive now but I have reached a stage where I need to make a change and move up. It’s been a long process as I applied for jobs both within my system and outside of it and altogether I have had about a dozen interviews of some kind or another and am still stuck in the same rut that I was in when I started the process.

This is obviously very discouraging. I spent some time beating myself up over it, going back over to consider how I “blew the interview” (something I am normally quite good at) or otherwise misstepped and didn’t get an opportunity. After a few months of this I had a realization, I was falling victim to the Gambler’s Fallacy and I needed to change how I was looking at things.

The Gambler’s Fallacy is a term for the belief that past performance will impact future results. As an example say you are gambling on the roll of one six-sided dice. You put your money down on 1 sure that it will win and the dice comes up 6. OK you lost, no problem, but this is where the fallacy sets in. If you then think “OK no problem that will just increase my chances because we’ve already rolled a 6 so now my odds are even better” then you are falling prey to the Gambler’s Fallacy. The fact of the matter is that the next roll of the dice has the exact same probability that the first one did. There is just as good a chance that it will hit 6 again as there is that it will roll 1 for your win.

This is also called the Monte Carlo Principle after a really famous incident at the casino at baccarat-9Monte Carlo when a wheel at the casino hit black 26 times in a row. People lost millions of dollars that night predicting that “this time it HAS to land on red” when each subsequent spin of the wheel (25 times over) had the exact same probability as the first one. Each spin of the wheel is unique, each spin has the exact same conditions and odds and each spin has the complete range of possibilities. It doesn’t matter how many times it lands on black, the chances of it landing on black the next time around are exactly the same.

I will admit that I like to gamble, I don’t do it much but I do OK when I do. I love roulette but have mixed results, have been doing well of late with Baccarat, and while I enjoy craps I am no good at it, just ask Carson Block. I’m actually amazed that it took me this long to make the connection here.

crapsIf you have been on five interviews you still do not have a tick list that you are working down/ There is no punch card where you go on ten interviews and you get your job for free. It’s discouraging to go out on interview after interview and not get hired. This can start to be a self-fulfilling prophecy though as you go into interviews gun shy and nervous for reason the interviewer does not understand.
I would like to submit to you that the Gambler’s Fallacy can actually be very freeing as you look at your job hunt. Each roll of the dice is unique and different. You have just as good a chance of getting that great position on the 15th job you apply for as you did on your first. Try and see each application, each interview, each opportunity as a unique one and apply yourself to it wholeheartedly. Your chances are just as good no matter how many times you spin the wheel.

Newbery Thoughts – Because of Winn-Dixie

winn dixieDiCamillo (2001 Honor Book) Because of Winn Dixie is all about making connections. It’s about finding friends in a new place but there is a lot more to it than that. It is about reconnecting to the family that you have and letting go of some ghosts and burdens you have been carrying. It’s about finding allies where you don’t expect them and about how even the people who are being jerks to you may very well have more to them than you expect. It’s about letting go of a mother who is a mystery and about finding the man who has been hiding inside your father for years.

It’s also about a dog and Winn Dixie is my favorite of the dutiful dogs of Newbery fame. He’s loopy and sloppy and silly and just generally great. He’s a friendly nonjudgmental meeting point for everyone in the book, a source of boundless and non judgmental love with a heart so big that it has room for everyone in the story. People make their connections to one another based off of their connection with him and he creates a common space of love. He is a most disarmingly charming dog.

There is some great magical realism going through this book and it is achieved in a way that is utterly enchanting. It’s subtle but this is more than just a town in the South…it is EVERY town in the South. There is a deliberate timelessness about the story too. There are no cell phones and technology isn’t really talked about. This story could be happening at any point in about a fifty year span, it could have been the 60s, it could have been last week (and nobody is using their cell phones). The Littmus Lozenge, a candy that tastes like melancholy is another part of this. In another book that little candy would be the entire conceit of the narrative (and it would be much more limited as a result). DiCamillo is weaving a much subtler tapestry than that though. This stuff adds to the mis-en-scène of the book but it never overpowers it. This is ultimately Opal’s story, hers and Winn Dixie’s.  
I reread this one right before I read The Great Gilly Hopkins and I thought it was pretty interesting to completely randomly chose two Newberys where the mother ran off. There are LOTS of dead mothers in Newbery books and dead parents about in children’s lit across the board. It’s an odd conceit, that you have to have to have a dead or absent parent to  give a story depth. It makes for a strong conflict and we all like to read about stuff that scares us. If you ever do any book talking to the YA crowd you know that sometimes the sadder the story the better it is going to move off your shelves (ie those horrid horrid books by Ellen Hopkins). I get it but there are times when I really want to just read a kids book that has happy well adjusted parents. It seems like it would be so refreshing.

Newbery Thoughts – It’s Like This Cat

NeviIt's_Like_This,_Catlle (1964 Winner) – This one is one of my absolute favorites. I think it is tone perfect and captures that wonderful/ delicious/ horrific/ awkwardness of adolescence. This is the 1964 winner so there is a lot of quiet rebellion without the full bore revolution of the later 60s. The narrator pushes back against the rules around him but he never really breaks any of them. It’s set against a background of middle class New York in the Sixties and the setting and extended cast of characters are so subtilly yet so vibrantly limned out that it reminds me of a watercolor.

For all that there is no dreaminess to this narrative. It is a clear cut story of a boy trying to make his way in the great big world with New York City as his local town. He talks about going over to Brooklyn and crossing the Staten Island Bridge, he sneaks his bike onto the beltway to meet up with a friend and makes calculations of his pocket change with bus fare in mind. He meets a girl and he is clumsy and charming and an idiot but never malicious or mean. Mary’s mom is a beatnik and it is hilarious to see the depiction of the alternate household of pre hippie Coney Island. Of course he also adopts a cat who is partly our surrogate and partly the walking incarnation of Dave Mitchell’s transition into adulthood.

It’s easy to make a comparison to good old bad old Holden Caulfield. Both are rebellious children of New York City, both are adolescent men. Granted Holden is older and much darker but they are only two years apart. Both stories are told in the first person and both of them are pushing back against the world that surrounds them. Davey is just so much nicer and kinder and less jaded. His parents are middle class and would never send him away to a boarding school when there is a perfectly good PS around the corner. He’s younger than Holden, sure, but he seems much more mature in a lot of ways and frankly the writing while less literary certainly is a far sight easier to take (and this from a Salinger fan from way back).  

cat1While this is one of my all time favorite Newbery winners it has the title that I like the least. I get the conceit that the cat is his outside audience for his inmost thoughts. I understand that Cat is his first foray into adulthood and the perils and hazards of responsibility that come with it. I get that Cat sums up that note of quiet rebellion that is the period tone undertone of the book. Cats are independent and go their own way, not like all those unnamed Dogs to duty of Newberys past. I get that in so many ways it is a perfect title for the book and that its very awkwardness is part of the appeal, part of what makes it unique and interesting. I guess I just think it is a clunker, I don’t like how it scans, and I feel like it is a phrase not a concept. I suppose I am the one trying to make the title, like the protagonist, fit into a box.

Dave’s relationship with his father is one of the main themes of this book and is also cat2emblematic of the theme of gentle rebellion that marks the book and puts it in the context of being forethinking in the mid sixties. It was a time of great change in America and that change was only picking up speed. The conflict between a demanding and strict yet ultimately deeply loving father and his son who’s gentle forays into independence are adventures fraught with stumbles is a classic conflict that Neville manages to make compelling and, again, uniquely subtle. Over the course of the book the two find deeper wells of respect for each other and in the process find their conflicts happening less and ending up with better results in the end.

JTZIt reminds me of a special few years I had with my dad whom I miss a great deal. Reading this book I think again how I knew everything there was to know in the world when I was 14 and how my Pops could always show me where maybe I was missing the bigger story. That there were people tied to those facts that I was so interested in and feelings that drove those people to take those actions that made those facts. There’s a lot of that in this book too. People do unusual things and turn up in unusual places and while it would be easy to call them “College Dropout” or “Crazy Cat Lady” or “Some Girl from Coney Island” that there is a lot more to everyone than you really might expect, even a lot more to a stray cat that you bring home partially to piss off your dad.

I got a lot of gifts from my pops, a great set of hair, a strong public speaking voice, but the greatest gift he gave me was empathy and he taught me a lot of lessons in that course when I was about the same age as Dave Mitchell. This book is all about empathy which is perhaps why I find it such a gem. It is, for me, a luminous pearl, a work with a quiet cool radiance. Nothing too flashy not much to grab your attention, just a steady pure light and the faint reflection of yourself upon its surface.

NB be sure to get an edition with the illustrations by Emil Weiss some of which are shown here. They are lovely and add nicely to the story.

Programming for Seniors

Senior programming is a hugely important and hugely under valued part of modern library work. We have had children’s librarians for forever and over the last decade or so YA librarianship has taken a huge leap forward. We have adult librarians sure, but librarians who specialize in service to our elders are few and far between and tend to be system level specialists (overseeing services for multi-branch systems or library consortiums. There are not that many local libraries with frontline staff who specialize in programming for seniors and this is something that needs to change in the profession. I think that every library should have an elder library services specialist.

When this finally comes to pass here are a few of my suggestions of programming.

Physically active programming – this is hugely important and can be done well with the support of local services and trained outside programmers.

  • Tai Chi
  • Chair Yoga
  • Gentle steps (low stress flexibility & strength calisthenics)

Senior games days

  • Standard board games are good here. I would stay away from bookshelf games until you have a group of dedicated gamers who might be interested in new adventures. Stick to the “family game night” standards to start
  • There are a LOT of games that could have their own dedicated clubs
    • Checkers
    • Chess
    • Dominoes
    • Bridge
    • Mah Jong
    • Scrabble
  • Seniors/Juniors meet ups – this is an ideal setting to do cross generational programming. Pair up some motivated young folks with seniors then sit back and watch the magic happen

Health & Wellbeing – it’s critical to get public health agencies to help out with this.

  • Health checks including screenings for diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Health seminars – including nutrition, mobility, drug conflicts, and how to find health advocates in your family and how they can help you at the doctor’s office
  • Health discussion groups – information and resource sharing for common health issues
  • Grief support – counsellors and discussion groups

Crafting Circles – these should be largely self-sufficient with more experienced/skilled crafters teaching and guiding others

  • Knitting
  • Quilting
  • Crocheting
  • Painting
  • Scrapbooking

Senior Cultural Activities

  • Bookclubs for Seniors – let them pick the titles
  • Movie Day – classic films
  • Music – get local musicians and high school bands to perform classics of yesteryear

Pet Therapy

  • Get some service animals in there for Reading with Animals programs
  • Set up senior pet adoption days with local shelters
  • Having an animal companion can significantly improve quality of life for seniors, you can be the vector for that happening.

Technology Training for Seniors – My friend and Colleague Lauren Comito is the one who got me thinking about this stuff a lot with her focus on applicable technology training that is tasks and results oriented. Anything clever or interesting in this section should probably be attributed to her putting it in my head over beers.

  • Tablet Based – the act of mousing is a learned skill and acts as a barrier to accessibility for people who are not comfortable doing it. If you have vision issues, limited manual dexterity, arthritis, or shaking in your hands then mousing can be very difficult indeed. Tablets avoid this by using  a direct touch and go interface which is actually much easier for first time computer users to adapt to.
  • Results Oriented – most seniors are not looking to learn Word for a job application or Excel to start their small business. They want to be able to use the computer to watch movies, read the news, play games, and be in better touch with their families. Don’t do programs like “Introduction to Facebook” instead do programs like “How to be in touch with your grandchildren” and make them very practical – this is how you set up an email, this is how you make a FB account, this is how you get your grandkids to friend you on FB and how you can save a photo from their page and put it on your computer desktop.
  • LOTS of consumer education – seniors want to be up to date with the times but often have very limited experience with computers. Purchasing a computer can be a very stressful experience and one where it is easy for them to be taken advantage of. Teaching a class which explains just what they need in a computer (and possibly even more importantly what they DON’T need) is invaluable in itself even if they never touch a keyboard or a tablet.
  • Directly address technophobia – we have all helped that person who tells you “I don’t know anything about computers” before they have even sat down. This can be a self fulfilling prophecy and often is as we serve that same patron with the same question repeatedly because they are simply afraid to mess around and learn how to use this strange foreign thing that they feel like an interloper at to begin with. Address this directly and use play and low pressure exercises to free them up from this.
  • Senior only intro classes – let them have a class with their peers and let them drive the pace. It might be slow or repetitive to you but they will have an easier time not feeling like they are behind and don’t know all of these very skills and abilities which we take for granted.
  • Peer instruction – if you have a senior who is really computer savvy and comfortable with new media see if they can be an instruction aide in your classes and provide peer instruction and support.
  • AWAY FROM – Word, Excel, Intro Coding
  • TOWARDS – Social Media, Entertainment, Ebooks, Youtube
    • How to connect with your grandkids
    • Genealogy answers
    • Finding movies online
    • Encouraging your friends to use the computer as a means to set up social networks even when you are not able to get out of the house

These are all part of the The One That Got Away