I Wrote This for a Grad School Creative Writing Exercise. The Entire Class Ended up Falling out of Their Chairs Laughing.

Quickly: the setup. Our CW professor told the class to write a couple pages entailing a fictional character professing their love for something, and diving deeply into why they love it so much. Ideally: “I love it when it rains at night without warning. Something about the gentle reminder that outside of ourselves…” Something like that. I wrote this. We all ended up passing our stories around to everyone else. One by one, just about every member of the class ended up laughing so hard, a few tipped over in their chairs. And every time, it was when they had my story in their hands:

Update: I designed a Why Choos Choos are the best t-shirt. (I can’t believe I’ve learned to do this now.) It’s in our Etsy FunnyDripDrop Shop with other funny shirts, and abour 110 more designs planned.


My first experience with choo choos came at an early age. Back then my family and I lived in a suburb of Chicago. One afternoon my mother and father wanted to take my brother and me to the city to a festival with food and music that was very good.

“Say gang, let’s all motor downtown,” my father said.

“Oh shove it along, Daddy,” my mother said. “You know we’ll end up tight, and then motoring won’t be safe. We should take the train. And Jason has never been on the choo choo before. Why, isnt’t that right, Jason?”

Mother and Father

It was true, I had never been on the choo choo. And so we took the choo choo. I remember the man on the choo choo who punched the tickets, the conductor, was very nice to me. It has been many years since that day, but I still remember him. He was a very tall and handsome man with a blue hat and a good smile. I remember he gave me a small model version of a choo choo. I was very happy and I still have it today. My first thought on the choo choo was, “This thing is not moving, this is dull,” but then my father said “Here we go!” and the trees and the telephone poles began moving past the window. My mother said “Chooo, chooo!” and then we were going very fast. I laughed and put my face to the window to watch everything going so fast, and I was not scared at all. I was happy and did not want the choo choo ride to ever end. In fact, I remember that I was sad when we got downtown because I wanted the choo choo to keep going somewhere, far past the city, so that I could stay on the choo choo for many days.

Ever since then I have loved choo choos. The reasons that I have continued to love choo choos have changed over the years, but the one thing that does not change is that I love them. They are called “trains” by most adults but I still call them choo choos. At first I was stubborn in calling them “choo choos” only because I thought it sounded good, much better than “train,” since “train” is not at all the sound that they make. Recently I was calling them “choo choos” because it made my college friends laugh. But now as I write this sentence I think that I call them “choo choos” because it is what my heart tells me is true.

There are many reasons why choo choos are still the best, even today, so long after that afternoon. You do not have to be a child to think choo choos are the best, or have a good experience in the past that makes you think they are so.

First, choo choos are better for the world. Studies show that automobiles are bad for the air and that we cannot keep using them without the land becoming one where we live only to pillage and hunt one another. I have seen places in Asia and Europe where choo choos are used more often. Sometimes they go faster than America’s choo choos. I think America is a good country, but when riding a high-speed choo choo from Madrid to Barcelona it is not hard to think that other countries are better.

Second, choo choos are safer than automobiles and jogging, because when you motor there is a good chance that you will be killed by another automobile, and when you jog to get from one place to another, there is a good chance that you will be hit by one or many automobiles, but on a choo choo there is no danger of being killed by any automobiles at all. A choo choo will defeat an automobile every time, and a person jogging on account of a choo choo is always going to be jogging very fast either from it, so as to survive, or toward it, so as to jump on it and hide inside of it.

This is why choo choos are the best and how I came to know it.

A Thing I Published #22: Vanity Fair

Writing for Vanity Fair was pleasant. Very nice editor, smooth process. So smooth I no longer even remember any of it, to be honest. But now that I just read this again, I realize I was writing about the potential of viruses breaking out at airports and measures to stop them. In 2014. I believe I was right: they were searching for symptoms of Ebola, with largely useless tactics, which is a completely different ballgame from COVID. Anyway, here goes another blast from the past.



OCTOBER 31, 2014

On Monday, New Jersey governor Chris Christie defended his decision to detain health-care worker Kaci Hickox under a New Jersey Ebola quarantine policy similar to ones adopted by several states with this cheerful quote: “Any of us have seen people who are traveling and they’ve been stopped, whether they are late for a plane or whatever they are doing, they get upset and angry. That’s fine. I have absolutely nothing but good will for [Hickox] going forward. She’s a good person and went over and was doing good work over in West Africa.”

For six years, I was one of the Transportation Security Administration agents who stopped airline passengers at checkpoints, regularly making them both upset and angry. Often, as Christie suggested, they were late for their planes. Usually, I was stopping them from doing important things for very stupid, federally mandated reasons. For instance, over the course of my duty I sometimes had to look airline pilots in the eye and tell them, with a straight face, that it was necessary to confiscate items from their carry-ons due to the possibility that the items could potentially be used to hijack their own planes. I did this supposedly in the interest of the safety of the American public. After such confiscations, I used to turn to my fellow T.S.A. agents and speculate about the chances the pilot would swing the plane around and crash it into the airport for revenge.

The nail-clipper confiscations, as with most official actions on airport checkpoints, were security theater, much like the quarantine measures that health-care workers such as Hickox are now being subjected to at some entry points around the United States.

If I were a federal agent at a U.S. airport tasked with enforcing some of the recently implemented policies that travelers arriving from Ebola hot zones be checked for Ebola-like symptoms, the first thing I would wonder is if my job even made any sense. We know that Ebola is not terribly contagious until the patient is quite ill. A passenger like Thomas Eric Duncan, who flew to Dallas with Ebola incubating in his body and lied about his close contact with a dying Ebola patient just days before, could not have been singled out by any kind of Ebola spot-check: the infected exhibit virtually no symptoms when the virus is incubating. In yet another example of an airport security measure straight out of Catch-22,the fact of the matter is that a traveler carrying the Ebola virus in its early stages cannot be identified by superficial security checks (and is not much of a threat to the general population), while a person carrying the Ebola virus in its advanced, contagious stage can be detected by travel security checkpoints (but is often too sick to travel anyway).

All of this would perhaps be less absurd if the tools with which officials were attempting to detect the virus at airports weren’t completely useless. Much like the largely ineffective full-body scanners we employ at T.S.A. to attempt to detect concealed weapons on passengers, finding incubation-stage Ebola in a crowded airport amounts to a taxpayer-funded search for fleas conducted through a shattered magnifying glass.

The thermal no-contact fever detectors in place at a lot of airports report an alarmingly number of false positives, as one 2011 scientific study reported. The scanners do not measure body core temperature, the essential indicator of a febrile response to infectious disease; rather, they detect skin-surface temperature, which can change based on many factors unrelated to illness such as sunburn, room temperature, and even emotional states, as an enraged Hickox claimed when her skin temperature reportedly rose, right along with her temper, as the wheels of bureaucracy creaked into motion and deposited her into a quarantine. Back in 2010, we at the T.S.A. quietly used thermal imagers on crowds at O’Hare airport. Agents I spoke to who were in charge of running the scanners at the time used to say that thermal-imaging duty was a joke: they claimed the technology was so poor as to make it all but a complete waste of time.

Governments have tried in the past to utilize airport security as a means by which to contain viral outbreaks, and we have studies to prove how ineffective those efforts were. A 2003 Canadian report on the SARS outbreak and the accompanying airport-screening measures put in place to stop the contagion showed that the extra security didn’t detect a single case of the virus. At best, the Ebola spot-check would work if all passengers behaved honestly at all times. As soon as someone hides or chooses to opt-out of disclosing the fact that he or she was recently in the vicinity of a potentially Ebola-infected area or person, the integrity of the security system collapses (fevers controlled through the use of medication could similarly foil these efforts). In essence, Ebola interrogations amount to a new iteration of, “Did you pack your own bags? And have you been in possession of your bags at all times?,” asked of passengers by airline security since the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. No one is likely to want to admit to having been near an Ebola hot zone at an airport security checkpoint knowing that such a disclosure might lead to a three-week quarantine. The only thing that such honor-system questioning really accomplishes is hassling people and causing delays.

And the biggest problem with quarantine measures, like the grandma and grandpa full-body pat-downs mindlessly administered day in and day out by the T.S.A., is that we are hassling and delaying precisely the wrong people. The one problem I’ve always had with the term “security theater” is the connotation of playhouse harmlessness. We all have to put up with a little annoying bureaucracy in times of national danger. So goes the typical rationalization offered by politicians. But, as any cost-benefit analyst will tell you, the bureaucratic tangles that result from such security theater can have very real, even deadly effects.

study in Applied Economics on the unintended consequences of post-9/11 airport security found that the substitution of driving for flying by those seeking to avoid the ever-increasing security inconveniences likely resulted in more than 2,000 road fatalities from 2001 to 2005. Senseless attempts to make air travel safer by confiscating the carry-on items and bottled water only gave people incentive to road-trip to their destinations, greatly increasing their chances of death. Security theater isn’t just some harmless bureaucratic placebo and fact of modern-day life: it can discourage activities and behavior in such a way as to have real, pernicious effects upon society. The health-care workers upon whom the senseless quarantine measures have fallen the hardest are angry, and rightfully so. The measures will do nothing to secure the U.S. from the threat of an Ebola outbreak; they will, in fact, only hamper the very real efforts of the people we’re depending on to quell the outbreak.

Like telling a pilot she can’t be trusted to safely maintain control over a pocket knife while she flies a 747, whisking courageous health-care workers away into quarantine on the pretense that they are incapable of monitoring their own health is not only absurd, it is downright insulting, and possibly even dangerous.

Sample: Journalistic piece (And good CBD Article Simulation)

I wrote this for the Chicago Reader, originally. Was published there way back in 2002. This is my first ever publication! A good idea of how I’d handle a CBD article.

The K2 Rush

Chicago head shops brace for the impending synthetic marijuana ban, while an unlikely group of smokers place their orders to stock up.

by Jason Edward Harrington

“Gimme’ 10 Blondes,” says the hoary man in a knit cap, as the employee behind the counter unlocks the glass cabinet in Secrets, a smoke shop in Lakeview, “Time’s running out!” the man says to the employee, his manner as vibrant as the varicolored paraphernalia which deck the walls like psychedelic Christmas ornaments. “Better enjoy it while we got it, right?”

The kids call it spice. Older users give it the more dignified and literal moniker, “synthetic.” It’s sold in 3 gram packets at 30 bucks a pop. The label on the packet says “For fragrance purposes only. Not for consumption.” The label is being sarcastic: it’s an herbal blend sprayed with a chemical compound designed to, when smoked, mimic the effects of THC. In fact, it’s much more powerful than THC. It may be “fake weed” but it will really get you high.

K2 has been on smoke shop shelves in Chicago since 2006. On January 1st it will become illegal in Illinois, officially categorized as a controlled substance. It’s the first such ban on a substance since the state outlawed pure-form powdered Dextromethorphan ( DXM, the ingredient in cough syrup that can make having a cold kind of fun) in 2007, and, most recently, in 2008, salvia divinorum, a plant with hallucinogenic properties. It’s not a new story: too many kids getting high on something, so state and local governments outlaw it. But the little-known secret about K2 is that it isn’t just kids using; in fact, most of its users are adults– many of them even government employees, themselves.

“Before I got hired on, I smoked weed from time to time,” said one CTA employee, wishing to remain anonymous. “But with the random drops they give us, smoking weed…too risky. Once I tried K2, I realized it was the next best thing. You piss clean with it, too. I’m just going to stock up before the ban.”

In these weeks preceding the ban, “stocking up” seems to be the key phrase for Chicagoans who, for one reason or another, have turned to K2 as their marijuana substitute.

“I warned all my customers to start placing their orders in November. There’s a lot of interest in buying in bulk,” said one employee at Pipes and Stuff– a smoke shop with locations in Wicker Park and Lakeview– where the K2 is displayed front and center, right next to the register, as it is in most head shops where K2 is sold. “There’s definitely going to be a big rush leading up to the ban.” 

Another employee at a popular smoke shop in Uptown acknowledged that his customers run the full gamut of adult professionals.

“We get nurses, army guys, government employees…anyone who gets drug-tested, really.”

The main draw for these unlikely users is the money-shot substance drizzled on the K2 herbal mix, the chemical JWH-018, named after John W. Huffman, the organic chemistry researcher who developed JWH-018– along with hundreds of other synthetic cannabinoid compounds– during the 1990s to aid in medical research. It didn’t take long for people to pick up on the recreational drug-use potential of Dr. Huffman’s work, and it was JWH-018 that was honed in on as the compound of choice for best replicating the THC high. For users, the most attractive quality of JWH-018 and other similar compounds is the fact that it will not show up on any standard drug test. Among the first groups of people to realize the urinalysis-circumventing potential for such a drug were members of our very own armed forces. The military is now screening for the compounds commonly found in K2. Government and private institutions, thus far, are not, meaning that for now, K2 and its many variations are considered by many to be the closest substitutes for individuals who wish to enjoy a marijuana-like high, sans the risk of termination.

Short term, the most commonly-reported effects of K2 Summit (the most powerful blend in the K2 lineup, which includes Blonde, Standard, and Citron) include increased heart rate, paranoia, mild hallucination, and an enhanced appreciation of music (seriously). Sounds pretty familiar. The only thing missing are reports of increased appetite. The high is much shorter-lasting than your typical marijuana buzz, but much more intense: many users report heavy trips well outside and beyond the realm of any marijuana high.

The long term effects, on the other hand, are the biggest problem with K2: namely, the fact that nobody has any real idea what they may be.

“People are taking a huge risk when they smoke this stuff,” Dr. Huffman said, when asked about people’s abuse of the chemical compounds created in his lab. “We really don’t know what the health effects might be.”

Scrolling through the K2-related posts on Bluelight.com, a forum of often-times freakishly knowledgeable recreational drug users, one comes across an alarming 13 page mega-thread, devoted entirely to one undesirable lingering K2 side effect in particular: severe, chronic headaches.

“I smoked it on only about 5 occasions total, the last two it totally took me to a bad place. The feeling is indescribable, but I remember I could only sit there with my hands on my face, my brain in intense pain, feeling as though it was just melting into itself. About a week later I started getting horrible headaches. They got worse and worse and worse, “ one user writes.  A deluge of sympathetic user comments follows.

It is for this reason that a few smoke shops will go unaffected by the ban, having ceased selling K2 long ago, or having never sold it to begin with.

“We miss out on a lot of money by not selling it, definitely. We’ve gotten 10-15 calls per day asking for it, especially in the past few weeks. ” said Seth Fox, an employee at Adam’s Apple in West Rogers Park, a smoke shop that refuses to sell K2 or any similar products.

“We’re just not willing to sell a drug that has never been scientifically tested on humans.”

Whether K2 is a relatively harmless marijuana substitute, or a yet-to-be-uncovered highly toxic death herb, worthy of the government’s reefer-madness-like condemnation, one thing is certain: it sells in Chicago, especially right now. Come January 1st, Chicago smoke shops will be taking a big hit.

“The owners of other smoke shops tell us they’re profiting ten to thirty thousand dollars per month off K2 alone,” said Fox. “After the ban, they’re all going to be scrambling for the next JHW-018 substitute. But even after JHW-018 goes illegal, it’ll just go underground, anyway.”

As the dusty Prohibition-era tunnels crisscrossed beneath it attest, Chicago has always been somewhat of an underground city– a city with no shortage of opportunistic spirit– and so, of course, the synthetic marijuana trade will go on, black market. Every K2-selling head shop is already inundated with bulk orders from users eager to exploit K2’s upcoming scarcity, and even non-selling shops are assailed by offers from enterprising individuals shopping homemade K2: JWH-018 can be easily ordered online.

“We get people coming in from the neighborhood sometimes, trying to sell us pounds of synthetic marijuana they made in their basements ,” said Fox. “That’s another problem with people getting high off this stuff: it’s unregulated, so people have no idea what’s giving them that rush.”

The rush is on indeed, and, every day, as the ban deadline approaches, a search of “K2” on Craigslist’s for sale “general” forum brings up more and more ads such as this one: 

“I noticed the news of the banning of synthetic marijuana in your state as of Jan 1. 2011.
I have about 60 packs of 3gs a piece I am willing to sell for a low price. I have too much!
Please contact me email or txt phone. Go Cubs!”

Alienation of her Sox fan market aside, one must admire the entrepreneurial instinct.  

Sample: Barbary Lions, as seen in Game of Thrones

Lions appear often in Ancient Greek and Roman art. This may seem strange, as the capitals of these two empires were both located in Europe, with most of their major cities in northern Africa— nowhere near southern Africa, where we now exclusively find free-roaming lions. But did you know that as of very recently, there were free-roaming lions in northern Africa, which are the lions we see in Greek and Roman art? They were called Barbary lions, and they were greatly admired. 

When we think of lions today, we think of flowing, golden manes. But Barbary lions had darker manes, giving them quite a distinct and exotic look from the south African lions. Despite people’s admiration for them (they are found depicted in Greek and Roman murals, were chosen to battle the gladiators at the Roman Colosseum, and once lived at the Tower of London, along with other royal north African families), it was people’s obsession with them that eventually caused their extinction.

It is commonly thought that the last Barbary lion was killed by a French colonial hunter in 1922. However, some people think that small populations of Barbary lions may have survived, hidden from humans in Morocco and Algeria. Two conservationists were able to find reliable accounts of Barbary lion-sightings up to as late as 1956. These conservationists believe that the Barbary lion actually saw its extinction in 1958, during the French-Algerian war, when the forests near this last sighting were destroyed by warfare.

Whatever the date of the last free-roaming Barbary lion’s death, what is for certain is that now, they live only in zoos. So will we ever be able to take a safari in Casablanca, Morocco, and see the old Barbary lions roaming freely? Possibly, although it will take a lot of work. The first problem would be the need to make sure a conservation area was populated with enough prey animals for the Barbary lions to eat, such as gazelles and Barbary sheep, which are already too close to extinction. With enough effort, it could happen. We owe it to them, since it was humans who took them out of the wild.

Sample: The Most Dangerous Hiking Path in the World

Until recently, the hiking path named “El Caminito Del Rey” (“The King’s Little Way” in Spanish) was widely considered to be the most dangerous in the world, though it was not originally designed to be a hiking trail. In 1905, the boss of an engineering project decided to connect two nearby power plants, by way of a maintenance path. The walkway, less than a meter wide, clings to the side of cliffs with one-hundred-meter drop-offs. In the beginning, the path was safe enough for local school children to walk. The King of Spain at the time even came for a little hike, giving the trail its name.

However, people stopped using the path in favor of other routes, and the maintenance on the path stopped. What made this walkway so dangerous was that most of the wooden guardrails rotted away, making the four-hour trek down the thin path a deadly balancing act. Several hikers died over the years.
Because of this, the Spanish government closed the path down to the public for many years. Recently, though, the government decided to renovate the old walkway, since it did offer some of the most beautiful mountain views in all of Spain. In 2015, the renovation was completed.

Now, every inch of the path is hugged by sturdy guardrails. It has been deemed 100% safe,  300,000 people visit the new, safe El Caminito hiking trail every year. The average visitor still reports that the hike is thrilling, and even frightening, at points. The government— not wanting to completely rob the path of its thrilling reputation— made a section of the trail out of hardened glass, so that hikers find themselves standing on a floor with a clear view down to the deadly canyon floor. Now, hundreds of thousands of people can enjoy the spectacular mountain views that the trail has to offer, without the risk of anyone getting hurt.

          (1) Why did maintenance on the El Caminito path come to an end?

1. The power plants were closed, and worker transportation was the reason        

    the path was originally built.

           2. The path was so dangerous that even maintenance workers refused to    

              walk down it in order to make repairs.

 3. People chose different ways of traveling between the two power plants,

    meaning the path was less and less used.*

           4. World War I drained the area of its maintenance workers, who had

             been drafted to do work on war-related structures.

          (2) What made the El Caminito path so deadly?

            1.Casual hikers went to the trail without knowing it was dangerous, as it

                maintained its reputation as a safe pathway for decades.

 2. Broken planks: the heavy foot traffic of school children’s thick shoes,

     combined with the worker’s boots, began causing planks to break.

            3. The area was prone to sudden thunderstorms, which brought strong

               winds to the trail, occasionally blowing them off the trail.

            4. The rotting away of the guardrails that were originally along every                  

                 inch of the path, preventing people from falling to their deaths.*

          (3) The government decided to renovate the old pathway because

 1.the power plants were reopening, now as nuclear power plants, and

 workers would need to use the path again.

  2. it offered some of the prettiest mountain views in Spain, and would    

  likely attract many tourists, if it were made safe.*

  3.the King of Spain commented publicly that the pathway was an ugly

  embarrassment to the country, and needed to be fixed.

 4.there was a heritage conservation prize being offered in 2015, for Best

  Renovated Hiking Path, and Spain wanted to win.

(4) How did the government keep a bit of simulated danger and excitement alive on the new, safe pathway?

1. It used a hard glass material for sections of the path, giving hikers a clear

  view, one hundred meters down, to the canyon floor beneath their feet.*

2. A flexible material was used for sections of the pathway, giving the path a      

  shaky feeling as hikers walked.

  3. It made the path rise and fall in areas it previously had not, giving the hike                   

     more of a roller coaster feeling.

4. In place of guardrails, the government used tightly spaced rope in

  sections, to give a slightly less stable feeling at hikers’ sides.

By the Way: I’m Been Living in Colombia for 6 of the past 8 years

Right now I live in Medellin. the home of Pablo Escobar. Not only do I live in the same city as El Padrino did, I live in the same neighborhood he lived in most of his life: Castilla. I live in the ghetto. Even the majority of people from this city refuse to come to my house, due to the reputation of my neighborhood. But I’m a very friendly guy who loves to make people laugh any way I can, so the people of this hood have taken me in as one of their own. I am the only English speaker within a 20 mile radius, mas o menos.

I haven’t seen much of the legendary violence of this neighborhood, save for one shooting I witnessed literally directly in front of my building in which a young man was hit in the chest five times by a man with a revolver. Drive-by. The victim lay there, blood pooling on his chest, as the police took their sweet time taping off the crime scene. And another time I heard what must have been a shotgun go off just a few blocks away, followed by dozens of cops. I’m not going into many details about the utter insanity that has been the past decade or so of my life: to start, you can read my Wikipedia page to get an idea. The two-part autobiography I’m working on tells the rest. But I figured I should make this clear, because in the future I might make some references– like tomorrow’s post, for instance– that will take place in Colombia, and I wanted to make it clear. Also, there will be some pictures coming of my neighborhood, soon.

Well I found a picture of me holding a stack of big Colombian bills like some kind of playa. I need to get beautiful pics on here

Editing Sample

So with this, we needed to get this short informative article in at a tight 150 words or less. The writer first handed in 500 to give you an idea, and it didn’t feel bloated at all. The client wanted these articles very short. I ended up just cutting this way down and rewriting it to get it to the exact word count.



In Russia, a system called “district heating” is used to heat both the radiators and water in homes. With this system, every neighborhood has its own power plant. A system of underground pipes brings heat to neighborhoods. This system has a couple good things about it. For one, there is no chance people will lose heat in the winter due to reasons such as failing to pay their bills. Second, it is cheap for residents.
     However, there is one big disadvantage. The systems are old, and some have not been updated often. In some plants nearly half of the energy produced is wasted, experts say. Also, a two-week repair job is needed every year. During this period, in summer, no hot water is available in any of the homes being serviced. This means cold showers for all. Now, however, the government is thinking about starting new programs to help reconstruction.

The Veteran Career Strategist Certification: Is it Worth It?

Oops. I guess I should have been writing “certified” career strategist the whole article. Sigh.

So. The Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PARWCC) is just now offering a certification to help military vets in their quest to get public employment. Is this certificate worth 870 dollars?

The Pros

Be Among the First

It’s a new certification, targeting an underserved group. As of this writing, a few lesser organizations have followed PARWCC’S lead and are putting out Certified Veteran Career Strategist Certification of their own, with one shamelessly charging 2400 dollars. An underserved niche in the career coaching world, it could be priceless to get in now, before this becomes oversaturated like the general resume writing industry (every writer, including yours truly, has resume writing services advertised). There are something like 3 million vets in the country, on top of their family members who would quickly be referred to you if you did a good job for the vet, totaling out to somewhere around a 7 million count client pool. That’s a healthy number of clients. And you’d be pitching in that crowd mostly alone, few other pesky writers in sight! You may get in early with a name and reputation as the best veteran career strategist!

Advertising Ease

Vets tend to stick together in groups online. You see vet forums, vet groups, vet meetups. This is priceless: you can target those groups for guerilla advertising, as opposed to relying on Google to find your demographics scatttered all over the place and target them one by one. Honestly, this and the above pro are about equal in potential ROI. The fact that there are two pros this huge is about enough to call this a “yes, it’s worth it” (oops, spoiler warning).

It Might be the Kind of Job You Actually Enjoy

First of all, Certified Veteran Career Strategist requires all the skills and duties of a career coach: making those conference and phone calls, going over paperwork with the client, searching for job matches as posted, rewriting resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and at times, playing a little unofficial therapist. Then on top of that, these are vets: there is a notorious trust barrier between vets and the rest that you’d have to become adept at breaking down. Those unofficial therapy sessions? Well, depending how you look at it, either much more exciting to listen to, or much more traumatic. And, you’d be giving back to your country; serving those who have served you. With all this, you may have yourself a recipe for actually having some fun while earning that title as the best veteran career specialist out there!

The Cons

There’s a Reason This Certification is Just Now Emerging

It’s often said that there is a wall of mistrust between vets and civilians, and it’s true. I just experienced it myself while talking to the people behind the Career Veteran Strategist program (long story). Vets will often attribute the worst, least charitable intentions to you. You’re going to have to break this barrier down before even getting them to talk to you, which won’t be easy.

Brand New, No Track Record

While it’s a plus that this is brand new territory with little competition, it’s also a minus. Will getting this certification really be worth your money and time? And speaking of which…

You’re Not Just Paying For This Certification

First, you have to become a member of PARWCC, which will set you back 127 dollars. Then, as far as I know right now, you at least have to get either a resume writing certification at 300 dollars, or a career coach certification at over a thousand, before you can plunk down 715 dollars for your veteran career coach cert. That’s, at minimum, 1200 dollars with tax, and two certification courses to complete. Not a small investment

The Conclusion

I’m thinking about it. If it weren’t for the required PARWCC membership and the prerequisite course (s), I’d be signed up now. It could be a great opportunity, but it won’t come cheap.

Sample: Short, Informative, Historical

The Influence of Linares

(Here I am on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jas0nharringt0n?lang=es)

Inspiration often comes from strange places, and for the Mexican artist Pedro Linares, that place was his near-death bed, in 1936. Dying at age 30, he found himself trapped in a scary dream world full of mountains populated by demons. They were mostly red demons, with horn-cropped heads. Others looked different— so scary Pedro could not even describe them upon waking. Luckily, he survived both the illness and the nightmares, and began a mission to share his visions with the world.

Pedro had been making art since childhood, mostly crafting judas monsters for the world-famous painter Diego Rivera, husband of yet another world-famous Mexican artist: Frida Kahlo. The judas monsters were red carton demons that people burned during Holy Week in Mexico. All of the art that Pedro made was made of “papier mache,” a cardboard-like material made of paper strips, held together by a mixture of water and starch. So, when Pedro set out to bring the red demons from dream to reality, it was natural for him to use papier mache. They gained the name alebrijes. At first, they weren’t popular, as people considered them too scary.

Then, Pedro began making the alebrijes more colorful, which caught customers’, as well as the art world’s, eye. Soon, Pedro gained the reputation as the best artisan in Mexico, and thousands of other artists began imitating him. Diego Rivera himself bragged that no one could make alebrijes like his student, Pedro. By the end of his life, Pedro received the National Arts and Science award in the Popular and Traditional Arts category, the highest award for artisans given by the Mexican Government.

Pedro’s death in 1992 didn’t bring an end to his colorful, nightmare vision. Instead, it made the alebrije style even more popular. Over his life, he had personally taught his method and style to many aspiring artists, and people who had never even met Pedro adopted and made variations of the style. One such artist is Susan Buyo, who makes alebrijes with more human-like features, making them less scary. Another group of artists making alebrijes today stick a little more closely to the classic design: Pedro’s own children.

Sample: Educational Test Material

For a while I worked for an edutech company. My job was to come up with articles for foreign students to read, and then formulate questions to test their comprehension. Only one answer was correct; circle it! Here is a short sample of a test I wrote:

Shipping Container Living

     As far back as the 1950s, people found ways to use shipping containers— steel boxes used to transport items on ships— as homes. Lately, however, shipping container homes are gaining popularity. This is because movements that promote living with fewer necessities—“minimalist” movements, such as the “tiny home” movement— have risen in popularity. Some people think shipping container living is minimalist housing at its best.
     However, some experts say that container-living is not good minimalist living. There is more steel in a shipping container than necessary for a living structure, because containers are built to survive rough seas on ships. By melting shipping containers to liquid steel, many small houses with wood framing could be built from just a few containers. Also, steel containers need a lot of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) materials for comfortable living. These utilities would leave little overhead space given a container’s low ceiling. (150)

What do “minimalist living movements” aim for?                     

  1. Living in tiny homes like shipping containers.
  2. A more 1950’s-like way of simple life.
  3. Living with resources that are easily transported.
  4. Surviving with less resources wherever possible.*

What challenge does HVAC pose to shipping container life?

  1. A wood frame installation is needed.
  2. Steel interferes with HVAC’s functioning.
  3. It would leave little headroom for people.*
  4. Heating would make the walls too hot.
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