Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Last Post

5 for 5.

"Good Morning, Mr. [FSOWannabe]:

The Department has decided to schedule a Junior Officer Class for November 7, 2011. That said….the Registrar's Office is pleased to extend an appointment offer for the November 7, 2011 - Junior Officer Class."

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Sorry to say, but life has interrupted my quest for the foreseeable future. This blog is going dark. Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Still no news

Still no results on the QEP. So I've decided to make my own news and tell you all that I'm 99.9% positive that I will get an OA invite. Egotism? Perhaps. Maybe likely. Tired of waiting, though.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

So...Still Waiting

Although there is still much waiting going on in FSOWannabeland, there are some things I am not waiting on.

Like this!!! Mike Doughty's new album arrived yesterday. Very happy.

The State Department ended language testing for candidates pre-OA passage. Not sure what to think about it. Some people on the A-100 boards are running around thinking the dire-est. That this is the clearest sign that hiring is about to drop precipitously. They're probably right. Or it could just be budget-cutting.

Also, ran across this. The comments on this seem way overblown. I can't imagine any job that doesn't have its stretches of boredom/non-challenging moments. You should see me when it's time to grade the 1L's legal memo's.

Anyhow, hopefully we'll see some results soon. Whatever they may be.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My Big Girl!

She had her first day of kindergarten last week! I can't wrap my mind around the fact I have a school age child now.

On another note, not much time to blog. My apologies for appearing and disappearing. I'm currently knee deep in hornbooks and powerpoints as I prep a course for our LLM students. Hopefully, things will ease off over the next week.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Never Thought I'd Live to See This

Despite decades in the finance world, and being disturbingly familiar with rating agencies and their rating requirements, I never thought this would happen. Not in my lifetime. Even though it's been inevitable, literally inevitable, for a couple of years now. The only thing preventing an earlier downgrade has been political pressure. And, obviously, even that won't work anymore.

Expect Moody's to downgrade the US in the next six months.* And I'm not even really sure what's going to happen next. There are literally BILLIONS and BILLIONS (maybe even TRILLIONS) of dollars that are required, absolutely required, to be invested in AAA debt - particularly pension funds. And there's not a lot of AAA debt to be purchased anymore. So who the hell knows what's going to happen when the Moody's downgrade comes (most finance/debt investment deals need downgrades from 2 or more rating agencies before triggers require the money to be invested elsewhere). I have no idea what money will chase - maybe German debt? This will impact the banking system - expect banks to get downgraded, too. And I imagine on Monday the market will sink (unless the last couple of days it has been pricing this in).


The only positive things I can see about this, which doesn't help my FSO dreams at all, is that this might...maybe...God I hope so...get the politicians to get their heads out of their asses and manage both the debt and the budget in a meaningful way. Also, counter-intuitively, there might be a flight to treasuries - a lot of investors will go where they think there is safety, no matter what the return may be.

Can I say it again? Never thought I'd live to see this. But then, I never thought I'd see Lehman...frickin' Lehman, go the way of the dodo bird.

*For those not familiar with rating agencies, S&P is generally the leader in establishing ratings and Moody's generally rates in lock-step or soon follows S&P - Fitch, in my opinion, is a me-too rating agency that does whatever the other two do.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Another of my old OA study buddies has left the States for his new post in Beijing. The last of my study group leaves for Sao Paulo in a couple of months. I'm now waiting for the results of the PNQ, and I can't imagine I'll have much to post about until I find out.

On a related note, ITMTGP has the greatest (and saddest) post on seeing one's time on the registry come and go with no offer. I'll probably re-link to it when my current candidacy expires, sometime in September.

Mission: Foreign Service, who had disappeared after not getting through the QEP stage, has made a reappearance. Hopefully for some time to come.

Coincidentally, Valdesse also has a recent posting on his immersion program in Turkish. Sadly, the Mrs. and I are also thinking learning a .4 language might be the only route to go to be "guaranteed" an offer over the next couple of years.

No real plot or purpose to this post, I'm just waiting. Anyhew, best of luck everyone on getting through the next stage.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

PNQs Done

So the PNQ's have been filled out and sent on their merry way to the QEP. I chose to re-use my previous narratives, because I had no new major stories that worked better than what I used two years ago. We'll see if that was a wise decision or not. Now the wait begins....

Friday, July 15, 2011


So the ineffable Ms. Walton at State shot me an email today confirming that all Econ offers for the September A-100 went out and have been accepted. It's not a surprise but it's hard not to be disappointed.

On another note, I've been thinking of analyzing the FSOT questions published by ACT (or State), and putting down a list of things that you should study. The trick is whether that's NDA compliant or not. Have to think about it.

Ah well, off to work on the PNQ's.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

FSOT: Personal Narratives

So you've passed the FSOT and now have six "simple" questions to answer standing between you and an invitation to the Oral Assessment.

My big picture advice on the Personal Narratives:

1. Read the directions and answer the question that is being asked. Sounds simple, but people have a tendency to go off-topic. The Personal Narratives are a chance for you to show the QEP how awesome you are. Don't throw that chance away by answering a leadership question with an experience that's more appropriate for an intellectual skills question.

2. It's a narrative, so tell a story.

3. Be specific. Don't be big picture; get into the details of your narrative. 1300 characters per Personal Narrative is about 200 words or so. Make them count.

4. Use a variety of experiences. Don't show how you fulfill all 13 Dimensions by detailing a single experience that you just re-write for the five Personal Narratives.

5. Use your best stories (no matter how old a story is).

6. Get your writing done early, at least a couple of days before the deadline. This will give you some time away from your writing so you can self-edit more effectively. And you will need to edit.

7. Think very hard about the cone you selected and what life experiences you have had that match the work/responsibilities of that cone. If you've picked the Consular cone, don't demonstrate a bunch of experiences that are more suitable for Public Diplomacy.

8. Think about the structure of your answer. I'm partial to a 3 paragraph format: first paragraph for the set-up (what the problem/challenge/whatever was), one paragraph for the action/solution (daring, dashing FSOWannabe to save the day) and one paragraph on the conclusion or result (peace and harmony/free ice cream throughout the land).

Disclaimer: These are my suggestions. I have no idea if they "work" or not, and I've only gotten through the QEP stage once.

Additional disclaimer: corrected number of essays referred to above (there were only 5 the last time I answered the PNQ's).

Friday, July 8, 2011


My doctor reads my chart.

So I had surgery last week. Well, surgeries. Not exactly fun. Definitely nothing long-term nor life threatening, but for someone who has always been in decent health despite a profligate lifestyle, it has been a wake-up call.

I hurt. And I'm not recovering the way I expected. And I feel old. Especially when I can't play with my daughters. And they need a lot of playing with. Anyhow, I apologize for the whinging.*

Once I feel better, it's time to start eating my broccoli and hitting the gym. It will definitely distract me from the pain of starting the FS process all over again.

*But I will never apologize for loving the word "whinge."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Musical Interlude

This song has just been in my head the last couple of days. And I dig the video's tribute to "28 Days Later".

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sake Gorilla!

We're interrupting this OCD-ish obsession with the registers to discuss something far more important....BEER!

Slate has an interesting article on the craft beer industry in Japan. For those of you who don't know me, and I imagine that would be everyone, I helped my father brew beer when I was a child. We typically made porters and stouts, with the occasional bock. Although I might have received the occasional sip once the beers were ready, I never really partook of the beer - even during my more rambunctious high school years.

That changed drastically when I went to college. Let's just say I never really needed a fake ID. My roommate and I would just brew the beer in the dorm kitchen and let the beer ferment in our closet. Now that I think about it, that was probably much worse than having a fake ID. Oh well.

Although it's been decades since I brewed my own beer, I have a deep fondness for craft beers. When I lived in Shimane, Japan, I was lucky enough to live a couple of blocks away from the greatest liquor store on Earth, Sake Gorilla:
Picture courtesy of Torie and Erik. Thanks!

It was there that I first purchased chili beer. Yes, I said chili beer. It's a tasty, tasty lager with a little bite to it. Much like tequila with the worm, chili beer has a "surprise" in the form of a chili actually in the bottle itself.

In my law school years, I was a big fan of Celis, an independent brewery in Austin that sadly went out of business in 2001. They made the greatest white beer. The brand name was purchased by Miller, and then subsequently sold to another brewery. Sadly, I think that has meant that it is not the same beer, and not as easy to find. And then there is the national beer of Texas, Shiner Bock, that has become fairly ubiquitous over the last decade.

When I lived in Edinburgh over a decade ago, I became a big fan of ciders. Although it's hard to find any craft ciders, most places seem to specialize in the typical Strongbow and Woodpecker fare.

Nowadays, the Mrs. and I are members of a bar that specializes in bringing new craft beers every week. She's a big fan of IPA's. I'm going through a stout phase, and have really been enjoying coffee stouts like Southern Tier's Jahva.

So does anyone out there have any beer favorites of their own they'd like to introduce?

DISCLAIMER: I swear I'm not an alcoholic, I typically have less than 3-4 drinks per week.

PS: Don't Drink and Drive.

PPS: At the risk of ruining my disclaimer, next week I'll discuss my favorite wines.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The End

So September offers for Econ have all gone out, and I didn't get one. The news on the shadow register seem to indicate that calls didn't get past the double-digits. I guess there's still a last minute chance, but I think it highly unlikely. Unless there is a new A-100 in November (which I doubt), my time on the registry is over.

So, thanks to a spur of the moment decision, I took the FSOT a couple of weeks ago with the Mrs. We both passed. So at least we're on the path to getting on the register again. Wish us luck on the PNQ's for the next round.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

FSOT Results

Two years after taking the FSOT for the second time, I took it again.
My Bio kicked @$$ this time around. It pays to leave your humility at the door to the testing office. And despite not finishing the essay, I still passed.

Bio 70.36
Job Knowledge 59.91
English Expression 59.58
Total 189.8

Your essay score: 8

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

September offers going out...

I'm not a nervous-person by nature. So imagine my surprise when I felt an adrenalin rush at hearing the September calls going out. It's really weird. I'm actually nervous about it. It's...disconcerting.

Well, since I really can't do anything other than wait (and hope?), I will listen to some tunes...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Language Exam Results

So the results are in and I passed!

Given how quickly the exam went (maybe 7-9 minutes total), I guess I shouldn't have been worried. So that's good news. At least I haven't lost all my Japanese.

With the .17 boost, my new score is a 5.67 according to the inestimable Ms. Walton at State, I'm in the high 20's on the Econ register. That's a lot higher than I expected to get after the free-fall of last week. Sadly, however, I think it's still unlikely that I'll receive an offer for the September A-100.

Hope springs eternal, though...

Monday, June 20, 2011


So no word back on the Japanese test. According to BEX, I have one more day to wait before I can ask for my score. Not sure how long the response might take. A day? Another week?

Waiting sucks.

I'm not even really sure why it bothers me. Given my recent freefall on the register, I can't imagine I have much of a chance at this point of getting a call for the September A-100, even with the extra .17. So I'll have to start the process over again regardless. Starting over doesn't bother me. I knew when I had to say no the first time that time was not on my side. I figure if I made it once, I can do it again.

What bothers me now is the likelihood that even if I got back on the register in a year or so, I might not get an offer. I'm exceedingly pessimistic about the economy. Once the drastic budget cuts come, and they will come, the State Department will be in the cross-hairs. I don't know what that would look like, but I could imagine hiring freezes on top of the pay freezes, and even shrinking the FS with closures of consulates.

Despite those fears, there is no question that I will start the process over again. But it still sucks. At least I know I have some very fine company.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Future is Not so Bright

Bad news...I just found out I've experienced a sudden free-fall on the Econ register. Not good. Sad to think that if I pass the language test I might end back at the spot I was at right before the test.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

9 Minutes

So I took my language test this morning. It lasted a total of 9 minutes. 9 minutes that included talking to the BEX operator, acknowledging the NDA rules, and hearing the test instructions from the tester. 9 minutes that also included getting hung up on and having to call BEX back. 9 minutes from the first dial-in to hanging up.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Musical Interlude

So those who passed the June FSWE should have QEP results in the next 3 months or so...

Gotye reminds me a lot of Peter Gabriel...

I've been watching a lot of Tangled lately with my daughters...

She reminds me of a female Manu Chao...

The American version of XX?...

Update: grammatical errors fixed - I should not try to blog before 7am.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

T-Minus 7 Days

My Japanese language test will be next Wednesday. When I look at this, I feel pretty confident. Since Japanese is considered a difficult language, I only need to pass the ILR Level 2 (which corresponds to FSI's standards, I believe).

ILR Level 2 Speaking - EXAMPLE from DLIFLC on Vimeo.

But then it's been a decade since I used my Japanese on a daily basis, and it's shocking how much I've lost. And there are days when the Japanese won't come out - it feels like I have a swollen tongue and a crippled brain. The smart thing would be to push it back a couple more weeks. But, I just don't want to wait any longer. So...smart move or not, it's pretty much all or nothing for next Wednesday, because the way the register has been going it's a slim chance of getting the call for September even with the language bump.

I'm not sure what I'm more depressed about - the slim chance with my candidacy coming to an end, or that I've lost so much of my once formidable language skills. Le sigh.

Anyhow, thanks to a poster on the A-100 boards, if you are interested in checking out the various ILR levels, go here.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Geek Interlude

My last geek interlude wasn't that great. But this one is definitely going to be awesome - it's got James Franco! Freida Pinto! Gollum!!!

Love and Hate

I love the A-100 yahoo boards for all the great info. And boy do I hate the A-100 yahoo boards, too. Especially for the gunner posts. I thought I left gunners behind in law school, but the posts by people worrying about getting a call when all they have is a 6.2 score is a bit ridiculous.

Anyhow, given the current economic situation of the US government, maybe the gunner-monkeys should worry. The Senate hasn't passed a budget in over 2 years (gotta love that partisanship). We've been running on CRs for, what, a year now? I can't imagine the House is going to improve any increase in the US debt limit without some budget cuts. And we all know what politicians like to cut first and deepest - those areas where constituents are not likely to be be affected. In other words, any funding that has the words "foreign" attached to it.

For those of us wanting to join the FS, continuing resolutions would at least keep hiring stable at current levels. That might not be the best thing for the country, but there you go. Once a single party has control of Congress and the presidency, or when the adults start running things, then we might get a new budget. Basic math will tell you that everyone should be expecting deep, deep budget cuts in the future once that happens.

I know a lot of FSO's are concerned by the HR1 bill that would cut locality pay for FSOs serving overseas. I agree, it's pretty ridiculous that junior FSOs are essentially the only part of the US government that don't seem to get this. But, I'd also be worried about future layoffs of untenured FSOs and closings of smaller embassies and consulates and a general shrinking of the Foreign Service overall as the politicians look to cut whatever they can that will have the least ramifications for their re-election. And let's not forget long-term pay freezes.

I'm going to have to go re-read this so I can remember why I'm trying to do this.

Monday, May 30, 2011

What Ever Happened to FSOWannabe?

For those of you who might still see my blog from time to time and wonder if I'm still alive...I am.

So what the heck? It's been about ten months since my last real post - quite slacker like. Well...there's good news and bad news. the good news is that EVERY single person in my FSOA study group received an offer to join the FS.

The bad news is that I'm the only one that said no.

As some who used to read this blog may know, or at the very least not be surprised by, the Mrs. FSOWannabe had some deep reservations about the career change. And when the chance to join the Foreign Service became real...things got pretty bad. And the career was (and isn't) worth my family, so dream denied.

And if that were the end of it, this blog would still be languishing.

Since last August, I started a new career as a law professor. It's...okay. I really, truly enjoy teaching, and I enjoy working with law students. That being said, I generally feel a lot of guilt being a law professor teaching law students that have a very small chance of being employed right out the gate. FULL DISCLOSURE: I have no idea what the graduate career statistics are for my school and I have no interaction whatsoever with our career services office. That being said, I know where my school is ranked (low) and I know how the economy for lawyers is (terrible). It's also difficult because my law career was completely different from my law students - I was big law working for Fortune 50 companies. Most of our law students hang their own shingle or become public defenders/DA's. Very different worlds.

And don't get me started on faculty politics. Rarely have I seen so much pride for so little accomplishment.

And I think the Mrs. has also noted my mixed feelings about being a law professor. In the interim, she also made a career change and went in-house for one of the last of the big banks. Going in-house was one accomplishment she needed. Although I think she would be the first to admit she'd be happy to stay there, I think she also realizes that no matter how far she might advance, there are other things to live for. Earlier this year, she had a chance to travel to SE Asia to spend time with a friend who works for the CDC. While out there, she had some experiences that opened her back up to the idea of the FS life.

And now we're back.

I have one more offer available and only a couple months left on the register. Not sure I have much of a chance with my current OA score (5.5), but I'm taking a language test in a couple of weeks for the .17 bump (wish me luck). So it's pretty much resting on a July offer for the September A-100. And I'm registering for the June FSOT for just in case the July offer doesn't come my way.

Observing Memorial Day

Wednesday, May 25, 2011