Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Slacker's Guide to the Presidency

The Slacker's Guide to School began its life as an actual guide, for actual slackers, by an actual slacker. In those days it wasn't even written down, rather taking the form of a loose collection of impassioned rants directed at students who were either failing miserably despite lots of potential, or hapless misfits who had accidentally found themselves in positions or situations for which they were woefully unprepared. Interesting, then, that we return to the original purpose of this blog to deal with our new President Elect.

I will write the remainder of this directly to Mr. Trump, and I do hope that the forces of the Internet will help this to reach him. Otherwise, I could convert it to a 2,100-part Tweetstorm. That seems to work pretty well.

Mr. President Elect,

If this turns out to be too weighty and full of big words--as typical Slackerguide posts tend to--I'm going to hope someone will summarize it for you. That sounds pretty mean right out of the gate, but you've said that you don't have time to read and I get the sense that you don't like to receive advice, especially stuff you find redundant. This takes the form of a whole lot of written advice, so I have reasonable expectations of how this will be received. What follows are some humble--okay, not at all humble--requests for you to shape your presidency. I predict that there may be a need to check in from time to time to expand and modify this list between now and 2020--or when you get fed up with this whole thing, whichever comes first.
  1. On Staffing - As I write this, you're in the middle of assembling your team. Recently you went with both Reince Priebus and Stephen Bannon. Previously, you countered your own qualities with Mike Pence. It seems that you are already on board with the concept of balancing the strengths and weakness of people in leadership (see also: here) but there's a catch. You don't seem to like dissent very much--or even opinions generated outside of your own head--and are running the risk of being presented with way too many opposing views. You don't need to reward everyone who supported your campaign, much less those who simply held off saying mean things about you. False equivalency is a large part of how you got to be President, but when it comes to racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and the rest, not all opinions deserve equal consideration.You should start thinking "gift basket" rather than "Cabinet post" for the idiots, racists, and crazies who joined the Trump phenomenon. Due to the slow genesis of Slacker posts, it's been some time since this paragraph was originally written. By now, most of your cabinet has been selected. Maybe if the Senate grows a set and denies confirmation, you'll get another shot at this swamp-draining concept.
  2. On Taxes - You don't do your own taxes, which is understandable. I don't do mine anymore either. However, my wife took an H&R Block class many years ago and I listen to her. You need to take such a class, or ask Melania to do so, so that you also understand what things consolidating marginal rates, and repealing the estate tax, and ending Head of Household designation, would do to wealth and income inequality. Working class people elected you and you owe it to them to design tax reform that doesn't end up screwing them further. Surely enriching billionaires at the expense of your own constituency couldn't be your intention.
  3. On Republicans - Keep in mind, you didn't win because you were a Republican, you won as the CHANGE candidate. Many Republicans voted for you because they expected you to sign everything that will find its way into Paul Ryan's head, but honestly, what has that guy done for you? You got a good many Republican votes, but you also got lots votes from people who just wanted something different--including working class Democrats. Being Paul Ryan's rubber stamp isn't different. Veto stuff, even at random sometimes just to keep them guessing.
  4. On Speechwriters -You've had a complicated relationship with teleprompters. We all watched you try to talk yourself into reading those words, and we all heard you deviate from the prepared text to comment on it, as if you were seeing it for the first time and still trying to make sense of it, we've all heard you repeat simple concepts over and over again, apparently successfully hypnotizing the country by doing so. You do much better when you use words written by other people--for one thing, there are lots more to choose from.
  5. On Social Media - I enjoy your late-night Twitter rampages. I'm sure they won't let you do it while President, but maybe you can sneak a phone under your pillow sometimes, just for old time's sake. They can't be watching all the time, right?
  6.  On Obamacare- I know that Repeal and Replace is high on your to-do list--not high enough that you expect to have to work weekends, but high. Be careful, though. It's a quagmire. Republicans have been tilting at the windmill of "Obama's" healthcare plan since it was signed into law, but you'll find that it is more of a compromise than a truly Democratic plan. It's an ugly compromise that preserves the idea that free markets can make this work, that people should be able to get care (even if they've previously been sick), that young people should have some time to get their act together after college before they're really on their own, and lots of other conflicting interests. Read up, or talk to people who have. I suggest starting: here
  7. On Quitting Your Day Job - Really, you must. No one believes that you can refrain from having your businesses at the top of your priorities list for four years. If your kids are running things, and you're living part of the time in the same building as your corporate headquarters, incredulity is further strained. Even if you turned all of it over to them, much of the reason we build wealth is to enrich our children. Separating your assets by handing it to them isn't really separating your interests. Because the Trump brand is so easily recognized, by you and foreign interests, you can't be believably blind to it, nor it to you. Move to Washington. Appoint people to handle daily operations whose names we don't know, and have your kids spend this time enjoying their trust funds. You won't do it, but it was important that I point out that you should. 
  8. On Education - So far, not so good.. A full post on this topic will follow at some point. 
  9. On Climate Change - It's real. Honestly, check it out.
  10. On Nukes - Most of us spent the '80s terrified of global nuclear annihilation. You spent the '80s, well, not. Someone needs to get you a VCR and a copy of War Games, The Day After, and the British version called Threads. Really, get caught up on Russia, and mutually assured destruction, and the rest before they give you the codes. This really matters. Even more than items 1-9. Get it right.
I'm not entirely convinced that you ever wanted to be President. I think you wanted to run for President, but no one, including you, thought it would actually happen. Still, it happened, and now you have a job to do. You can push much of the actual work off on others, but you need to get involved enough that you can make important decisions. That's the part of the job you can't delegate, and while you may thrill at the idea of all of the power, there is a lot of work involved in getting ready.

So far, your transition hasn't given us much cause for hope. You seem more invested in billionaires and C-list celebrities than the people who elected you. You are making blunders on the international stage and not showing any interest in making corrections or apologies. You only seem happy when you're back to your old habits on Twitter and on the stage at rallies. This isn't the lifestyle you thought you'd be living right now, and you're going to need to come to terms with that. As mentioned several times in this post, you could turn this around by actually paying attention to the people who elected you. I hope that you do, because I honestly believe that if you get yourself impeached, that Mike Pence will be infinitely worse.

The Slacker's Guide to School

Sunday, October 30, 2016


Obamacare is a disaster. It doesn't it work as advertised, it's not equally beneficial to everyone, and worst of all, it's proof that compromise and bipartisanship are bad for democracy.

Most people don't think that the ACA is bipartisan at all--the fact that we call it "Obamacare" is an important indicator. The fact that the Republicans have spent a fortune trying to repeal and replace it with "something terrific" furthers the narrative that it was a Democratic scheme shoved down the American people's throat by an unchecked Democratic Congress and a radically liberal President. This narrative is nonsense, and it's a glimpse into why older people so quickly start muttering about history, and doom, and such.

As with previous Slacker Guide political posts (see also: here and here), there is a lesson about education in here. As with previous Slacker Guide posts, you're going to need to indulge me a little before we get there.

Obama isn't the architect of Obamacare. When Democrats do national healthcare, we do what's called "single payer." You think that single payer is evil because the political headwinds blowing in the face of healthcare reform have successfully turned it into a dirty word. Nonetheless, some version of it may be necessary to save us from the current crisis. Single payer is a concept in which the government actually provides health insurance. We didn't go for single payer. In fact, the ACA doesn't provide any insurance at all, but merely tries to keep insurance companies from doing some pretty evil stuff: denying insurance to those with pre-existing conditions, kicking sick people off their insurance for being sick, kicking young adults (aged 19-25) off their parents' plans, and a few other things. That's a good start, but it's not government health insurance. We didn't create national health insurance--in part because the attempt went badly last time. We compromised.

The compromise was built on the notion that industry can do this better. It's an argument we hear in education all the time, and we have the same visceral reaction to this line of thinking that you have to "single payer." I understand where it comes from, though. People outside of education look at Toyota, and Starbucks, and Amazon, and McDonalds and think that industry is pretty good at stuff, and by extension, will probably be pretty good at just about everything. We look at Kaplan, and ITT Tech, and PA Cyber Charter, and Trump University, and conclude quite the opposite.

Because for-profit business was put at the very center of healthcare reform, making health insurance profitable became in the national interest. When a nation is interested in profitability of specific companies, very sketchy stuff starts to happen.

Recently, the ACA hit another rough patch when it was announced that premiums would jump 22% this year. Turns out that profits haven't been quite as expected, and companies are pulling out of markets. Less competition has led to higher prices. Less competition has been brought to you in part by mergers and acquisitions, and... well, Millennials.

Another dirty word of the ACA is the "individual mandate." Bootstrap-pulling Republicans and snake-flag-waiving Libertarians hated the idea of mandating that people buy a product. It does chafe, I admit; mandated personal spending seems like a horrible expression of liberty. However, carefully avoiding anything like a nationalized single payer system guaranteed that we'd be shoveling money toward private insurance companies, as did letting them leave the bargain as soon as it didn't produce the profits they'd expected.

The individual mandate was crucial to this whole thing, however, and the fact that it has no real teeth is part of Obamacare's current predicament. As long as younger, healthier people can pay a small penalty instead of a substantial premium, they probably will. As long as the tax hit comes in the form of a reduced tax refund in April, while open-enrollment ends in January, they may never even see a correlation. As long as young people are permitted to gamble that they'll remain young and healthy and that accidents and disease are for other people, they'll continue to gamble. As long as there is some kind of safety net--emergency rooms in the short term, Medicaid and SSI Disability for bigger stuff--many people will continue to chance it.

There's a great way to increase competition, and it's quite a ways short of single payer. It's called "the public option." Again, you hate this because like "single payer," "Obamacare," and maybe even "healthcare"--think about that for a second--you think the public option is bad thing because it's had terrible PR. The public option, though, is nothing more or less than the government offering an insurer of last resort to those in markets where industry isn't providing a better option. The public option would would be different from corporate insurance in one important way: it wouldn't need to be profitable. It couldn't operate at a loss either, but it wouldn't need to appease shareholders, or pay executives bonuses, or even buy advertising. The reason that people fight the public option so strongly is that it's hard to imagine non-public options competing successfully against the government.

Here's the long awaited tie-in to education. Privatization has been a big problem in healthcare, and it's making an effort to become a big problem in education. Obamacare is like for-profit private charter schools (i.e. maybe a good idea in theory, but ultimately doomed to fail) in these ways:
  1. Money being taken out of the system for shareholders, CEO compensation, and advertising is not going toward making the system better. Private industry needs to be extra-supper-no kidding efficient to overcome this drag. So far, not so much.
  2. Human failings that sometimes plague public institutions (laziness, incompetence, greed...) do not automatically disappear through privatization.
  3. The target constituency is a big key to success. Health insurance works great on easy people (e.g. young, but not babies; athletic, but before their first ACL injury). Education works great on easy kids (e.g. smart, but not too smart, and smart in exactly the right ways; hard-working). This is true regardless of how well you're actually doing it.
  4. Subjective human improvements are often difficult to measure and chart. As a result, we tend to focus on things that are easy to assess and compare, just as we tend to ignore things that may be ultimately more important, but difficult to score. 
  5. Funding incentives can be perverse, and distort the mission well-meaning institutions--especially as they try to hit targets assessed in #4, above. As it usually works now, doctors get more pay for more treatment and teachers get more pay mostly through aging. This doesn't always work well, but alternatives too often make things worse.

Typical Slacker Guide posts use this paragraph to apologize for identifying problems and offering no solutions. Not this time. The path forward is clear: strengthen the individual mandate to compel more people into the insurance market before they get old and sick; offer a public option so that people can buy insurance regardless of industry's interest in offering good alternatives in that particular market; consider moving to a real single payer system that uses the government's economics of scale to actually put pressure on American healthcare costs. Certainly there are more sophisticated and nuanced approaches, but sophisticated and nuanced is part of what has made the ACA such a mess. Let's try those things that have made you so fearful of Obamacare before we declare that it doesn't work.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Ten-Word Answer

A couple of decades ago, or so, I started referring to the Limited Power of Discourse. Given that my life's work is conveying information--often verbally--it's an odd turn of phrase. Given that I grew up in an educational system that valued teacher oration quite a bit, probably because mimeograph machines made chalk seem like a pretty good delivery device by comparison, it's stranger still. Yet, I have to ask: When was the last time someone actually changed your mind through the power of their words?

The title of this post comes from one of the most important elections in our nation's history: Bartlet/Ritchie. Bartlet was an economics professor, with a worldview that simultaneously confronted all of the enormous complexities of everything. In a different context he said, "In my house, anyone who uses one word when they could have used ten just isn't trying hard." His opponent was the "fortune cookie candidate"--a Southern governor who rarely uttered a sentence that wouldn't have been suitable for a bumper sticker.

Regular Slacker Guide readers--Is it possible to have regular readers of a blog updated so irregularly?--know on which side of the ledger I find myself. I recently wrote 67,000 words for Messiah College in exchange for a master's degree. Just for comparison, that's a NaNoWriMo win with 17,000 words to spare. I am well aware of the fact that getting down to the nitty-gritty usually takes me about nine paragraphs.

In the years before I coined the Limited Power of Discourse, there was a time when I believed devoutly in the power of debate. Before we ever dated, my wife and I spend two years arguing. Not the kind of arguing that is more common these days, like which-cabinet-the-water-bottles-should-be-kept-in, but debating Life's Greater Mysteries--that still goes on, but it's harder to come by post-college. Maybe it was being young, maybe it was because we were secretly into each other and just never disclosed this to each other for two years, but I know that at times my mind was changed. And not just by her. I know that other friends and professors and even sometimes public figures could shape my world view by what they said.

I'm not sure that our political system is really even trying to persuade anymore. During the above-mentioned campaign, Bartlet also does a rant on the debate format--"That's not a debate. That's not a debate! It's a joint press conference." He believed in a debate format that could actually get candidates beyond their talking points and engage in a real exchange of ideas. The debates this time around, the entire presidential campaign for that matter, has seemed less like a battle of ideas and more a battle to demonstrate the purity of the candidates' Red or Blue credentials. That, plus dueling scandals and a personality contest that is sometimes a race to the bottom of likability.

Despite the Limited Power of Discourse, I recognize some ten-word answers from teachers that did nothing less than shape my life. I'm tempted to write three paragraphs on each explaining the complexity of what these things meant/mean to me, but that's not really the point, then is it? Instead, I'll just identify where each was said, and some idea of the topic at hand where that is not obvious from the quote itself. Not all are ten words long, but sticklers for this sort of thing should get their own blog (for more lousy Slacker Guide math, see also: here). This is by no means a definitive list of every teacher who made an impact on me, but in terms of efficiency of syllables, these are hard to beat:

1. "You've got the musicality and the ideas. It's clear that you've listened to this stuff. You just need to learn to play your horn."  - Tom Strohman, jazz improv lesson

2. "Teach right principals, and let the people govern themselves."  - Mark Mecham, Concert Choir rehearsal on making music sound good by developing students into musicians  

3. "Don't get cross; they sing wrong notes because they're incompetent, not wicked."  - Sir John Bertalot, Westminster Choir College

4. "I could make this piece sound good today, but I'd rather have them fight their way through it."  - Fred Otto, PMS (not to be confused with PMS) just before band rehearsal during student teaching

5. "You actually sing better when you're goofing around than when you're trying your best."  - Alan Wagner, West Chester master's program voice lesson

I'm sure that as soon as I hit <Publish> on this thing that I'll think of five more. By the way, it would also be a lovely thing for readers to post their own in the comments. Slacker Guide readers don't always do too much with assignments like that, but you know you've got yours--something that someone said to you that rolls around in your head and proves that saying things to people actually has value. Maybe you can make this shard of wisdom do the same for us. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Family Protection, Hunting Dangerous or Delicious Animals, and Keeping the King of England Out of Your Face

When I was in middle school, I was briefly fascinated by guns for the following reasons: some of my friends were fascinated by guns, my TV heroes used guns a lot, my parents were vaguely anti-gun, and I could envision using guns to defend myself against bad-guys. In other words, I was in more-or-less the same stage of development as today's gun lobby.

Let's take some of that apart. 

Having friends who were into guns made me into guns. They knew the difference between semi- and fully-automatic, between a straight clip and a banana clip, and between "caliber" and "gauge." I, as a result, became interested too. They knew which kinds of body armor were most effective, and which bullets were most effective against each kind. They knew how silencers worked and how to fashion your own out of groceries in a pinch. As a result, I needed to know, too. The constant game that we played as middle-schoolers of I-know-more-than-you-because-you're-stupid applied to D&D, video games, sex, and guns. Knowledge is power and power was a deep and relentless need. Consequently, I studied catalogs from the magazine racks at Walden Books and Nichols Department Store. I B.S.ed my way through conversations of Uzis, and "sawed off," and grips until I gradually came to know something about these things myself.

In addition, guns appealed to me at the same level as all small, well-crafted items did (and, in lots of cases, still do). I enjoyed Hess trucks that came with little hand-trucks, and working headlights, and removable tires. I enjoyed toy trains, especially the engines, with their surprising heft and ability to take electricity from the tracks and somehow turn it into locomotion. I enjoyed LEGOs, and Star Wars guys, and occasionally Barbie stuff--despite the wisdom of the age that stated that G.I. Joe and the Six Million Dollar Man were acceptable toys for boys, but Barbies of the same scale and general purpose were not. I was very interested in the intricate workings and meticulously machined working parts of guns. I wanted to know how they worked, and maybe more importantly, be the kind of person who knew how they worked. I may have joined the Marines in part from a vestigial desire to know how to disassemble/reassemble firearms, but that's another post

Meanwhile, I was consuming a good deal of TV, much of it with protagonists who were similarly interested in guns. This included, but was not limited to The A-Team, Riptide, Miami Vice, and Bret Maverick (I know, not TV, but stay with me here). It also did not escape my notice that characters who didn't have guns--Remington Steele (British, and didn't want to ruin the line of the suit) and The Dukes of Hazard (perpetually on probation, apparently at a time in the South when that would have made a difference)--were often in situations in which a gun would be very useful. That scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, in which the bad guy does an elaborate sword display, to which Indiana Jones responds with a single gunshot, may have sealed the deal for me.

Concurrently, back at school, I was the target of moderate and relentless bullying. As a result, I was vaguely interested in the potential deterrent effect on my enemies. I don't think I actually fantasized about shooting anyone, but people on TV rarely shot anyone either--holding a gun on someone was typically sufficient to get people to do what you ask. I may have also been vaguely interested in defending my people (home, town, country, planet) from the forces of Evil (bullies, Russia, and aliens).

Finally, I was definitely drawn to guns by the fact that my parents were on-again/off-again against the idea of us having toy guns. This policy waxed and waned, as they weighed the relative merits of us fashioning our own weapons from sticks, tent poles, and the like versus using devices designed for safety--well, '70s era ideas of safety, anyway--of devices made by Mattel. I know my parents' policy was that we wouldn't have toy guns, yet I also have lots of memories of toy rifles and cap guns with awful workings that never fired more than once. My parents were also opposed violent cartoons, Happy Days, Three's Company, HBO, and a number of other pop culture touchstones that became enormously appealing as a result.

And then I grew up.

At least that was the simple thesis that this post started with: Liking guns is perfectly natural, until you're not a tween-er anymore. The U.S. needs to simply grow up.

I'm choosing not to stop there, though. I'm choosing to acknowledge that guns are important to a significant part of our population, and like it or not, they form part of our national identity. Our inability to find any kind of middle ground on this topic is literally a life and death issue. Therefore, I make the following suggestions for sensible gun legislation that could fix some of the gaping holes in the firearms safety-net, and yet manage to avoid sparking a civil war.

Hunting rifles: Every time we try to ban assault weapons, people make a plea for the poor hunters. Whatever you may think about the aesthetics of hunting, if you eat meat you must come to terms with the fact that industrial-raised meat is much more morally troubling than a critter that lives its entire life in the wild to be snuffed out on a nice day in November. I don't know enough about guns to say which ones are reasonable for hunting and which are not, but I'm sure we can find some people who do. Guns are like pornography, both in that you know an assault weapon when you see it, and you'll have no trouble finding an expert more than willing to share his knowledge if you hold still long enough.

Collectors' items: Guns of every shape, size, caliber, make, model, age, and purpose should be legal. Just not ammunition. Guns don't kill people, bullets kill people. I can live with people owning guns, but we need to criminalize the possession of ammunition in any place other than a few designated areas. There are lots of lifestyle choices that are permitted in this country, but only behind closed doors. That way, the mass shooters could be discovered and arrested simply for amassing a stockpile before they've had a chance to put it to any use.

Militias: Nope. Forget it. Arming yourself against the standing government isn't okay.

Protection: Uhm, also nope. If we decrease the number of guns hanging about, the chances of an armed intruder will go way down and you'll be able to protect the homestead with a baseball bat, or chainsaw, or samurai sword as God indented.

This post was given part of its genesis from the armed stand-off in Oregon. (Related side note: Your Oregon Standoff Name is your middle name with a letter or two changed + the brand of your first band instrument. I'm Jaul Getzen.) The word "occupation" took on a fairly innocuous tone when a great many dirty hipsters took over some parks and spent a month of workdays for some old fashioned protestin' and singin' and chantin' and lovin' on Wall Street and other locations. What the Oregon guys did differently is that they brought guns with them. This meant that they were able to keep the Federal Government at bay for 40-some-odd days. By the way, they accomplished this not through fear of their guns, but through the Federal Government's greater fear: another Waco. There's a fine line in our culture between civil disobedience, undertaken to shed light on an important cause, and terrorism. That fine line may exist at the moment you choose to hold loaded weapons on law enforcement.

Perhaps the strangest thing about this post is that it wasn't written in direct and immediate response to a mass shooting. The paradox of our discourse on this subject is that the national attention span seems to only be able to care about gun violence for about 4 1/2 days immediately following a tragedy. Not coincidentally, this is much less than the amount of time that we are supposed to remain silent on the topic of gun control out of respect for the victims. By the time the funerals come around, we've long since turned our attention to the latest Jenner/Kardashian/Kanye news only to repeat the process a few months later.

So, let's do something weird. Let's talk about this now, in between tragedies. Let's also try to have a conversation without half of us opening the dialog by going out to buy more guns.

I don't know if we're ready for sensible gun legislation, but we're going to need to get ready. Mass shootings don't just happen, they just happen here. I think that if we can try to understand the underlying motivations behind good people clinging to their guns, we can work on some legislation that makes sense. If we as a country are going to outgrow our weaponized adolescence, it may be helpful to remember a time when we were all pretty much right there with them.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Apply Yourself

This one time, I applied for a music theory teaching position at the college I went to. I received the nicest possible rejection letter from my former professor, thanking me for applying and delighting in the fact that he saw a familiar name among the applicants. He informed me that they didn't interview anyone for the position who didn't have a doctorate...which I rather expected... in music theory...which I did not.

In response to this very kind professor's attempt to let me down easy, a task that no good person takes pleasure in, I said that I'd never gotten a job that I hadn't applied for, and while sorry that I had wasted the committee's time, I wasn't that sorry. Or something like that.

If that had been my entire experience with applying for jobs that I had no business applying for, this wouldn't be much of a post. As it happens, however, around the same time I also applied to be the director of the Hershey Symphony Chorus--an ensemble that at the time didn't exist. If you noticed a wee little gap in Slackerguide posts last spring, I can provide you with the excuse: The Hershey Symphony Chorus does now exist, and I landed the job as director, although not necessarily in that order.

Still not much of a post there, but once you have a job like that it's all about the shameless promotion. Related: If you have a larynx and can be in Hershey for about a dozen evenings in spring of 2017, we should talk.

The frightening truth is that applying for stuff is every bit as important as everything it takes to become qualified for that stuff. Having served on scholarship committees and hiring committees, I can tell you that sometimes there is such a wealth of qualified and appealing applicants that you're stuck just sort of picking one. At other times, you keep looking through the stack hoping there was a great one that you just shuffled past by accident. I can also tell you that that guy who gets up at awards night to receive thirty scholarships and awards probably applied for 300.

Whether I've so far convinced you of my general thesis, or you're one of those folks who just skip to the list (Hi, Kayla!), here are some handy tips:
  1. Apply for jobs you're not qualified for. - Not all of them for sure, but it turns out that men will apply for a job for which they're 60% qualified, women only if they're 100%. Rather than gain 40% more qualifications, I recommend applying like a man.  
  2. Neatness counts. - Sorry, but the application process is essentially distilling your entire self down to a single document. Type carfully.   
  3. Get help. - I applied for something like 100 jobs when I was first trying to land a job as a teacher. By "I applied" I mean that my then girlfriend (now wife, not coincidentally) painstakingly typed each individual application on a typewriter, moving the paper around to try to squash my entire transcript into the space provided--usually something like this: ________ . If you talk real nice, you may even find a ghost writer for your essays--though I never did that. Avid Slacker Guide readers know that throwing together a couple of thousand words isn't really a burden for me. 
  4. Apply for jobs that don't exist yet. - Yeah, probably not all the time, but if you see a need in the world, maybe others see it too and you can get in on something just as it's getting started. Making a job while trying to do that job isn't the easiest thing in the world, but the competition for non-existent jobs is way lighter.
  5. Gossip. - One of my axioms in the job search realm: Movement begets movement. In other words, an opening in one district (department, company, whatever may apply in your own case) may not be so appealing, or practical, but the person who fills that position may leave something more suitable. Finding out about openings that you're not interested in/qualified for sets you up for the next opening in the series of events. Scholarships have a corollary in that not all are well-advertised. Keep in mind, information works best as a two-way street, even if you are tempted to keep the best opportunities to yourself. On the other hand, if there is a scholarship for children of miners, who live in Shickshinny, who happen to be of Welsh descent, maybe pass that along in hopes of landing something a little less targeted. 
Full disclosure: this will mostly end in disappointment. In addition to that college teaching job I mentioned at the beginning, I have both breadth and depth of experience in rejection. I won't catalog all of them for you--in part because I have remarkable powers of amnesia where this kind of thing is concerned--but if you want to see what it might look like, check out this.

And yet, we must do it anyway. Nothing ventured, nothing gained; if at first you don't succeed, try, try again; God never closes a door without opening a window; opportunity knocks only once; and any number of additional horrifying sayings that they used to hang in guidance counselor offices--back when we could call them "guidance counselors." Fear of rejection is powerful, but it needs to be overcome with a greater fear: the fear that some other schlump is going to get something you're way more qualified for.