Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Come on all you great fans and shake your caboose!

Pot LightsHello, each and every. It's been an odd week; we received proof once again that the two things Western Washingtonians cannot figure out how to do are drive on snow and irrigate their lawns. That's my way of saying it snowed a bunch and people who would not be seeing a problem the next day freaked out anyway. (Make no mistake, a lot of people were impacted and last I heard 10,000 people were without power to the distant north. Video of the road I used to travel to work on was absurd.) The news says that we'll be getting hit again tomorrow. Hopefully this won't be a very bad thing since I have a Josh Blue comedy show to attend in Seattle on Friday. (The bill also features Chris Porter, who is funny when he's himself but when he goes into that Ralphie May variety street character he's not very funny. Take a note, Chris.) Paige & Brian's ornament collection has been selected, for the fifth year out of the last six, to decorate the display case at the Parkland/Spanaway branch of the Pierce County Library, so if you happen to be in the 138th & Pacific area during the month of December come see this year's wonderment; the theme this time is snow and snowflakes, and it's gonna be wonderful. I will be assembling the goods to put it together today, as well as organize stuff for the tree in our livingroom. The tree will also have a theme for once (with a little overlap of the display case): green and white and clear lights and ornaments. I got the purple and blue house lights up on the eaves a couple days ago (and my fingers are still frozen) and I'll be posting a photo of them next entry, I need to take pictures at dusk today.

Employment pursuits: I've been interviewed twice by a point-of-sale computer dealer as an installer and trainer, and this morning I got a call from LiveBridge about some support gig in Olympia. Illiterate and other geek friends be amused to know that I failed LiveBridge's prescreening because I wouldn't acccept $9/hr for the same work I've been doing since 1999 for at least $12. When they say "entry level" phone monkey job they mean "bend over so I can get a level entry". [And no, LB was never mentioned by name in the job listing, only the company this position is for.] And now, for something completely different...

I wasn't denied benefits a couple weeks ago for not making it to the Unemployment Department's weenie roast; I presume that either they got my call or they took note that I claimed wages for the day they had me scheduled. So last week I got a note inviting me to a "how to get employed" meeting for yesterday. To my surprise, a quarter-inch of snow didn't cause them to cancel the event. So I went there after my interview with the POS company, arriving at 12:10pm for my 1:00pm meeting. Spaced off in the lobby, riffing with this old guy about everything going on around us. Hearth lights There's a big-screen TV over the front desk which displays job announcement. Yes, in the singular. I thought the computer needed to be rebooted because the listing for a machine operator didn't ever change... and apparently hadn't changed since it was listed in April 2006. Fifteen minutes later it did change, to a PowerPoint presentation about the department, services, and so forth, and it displayed information about a couple other jobs for 20 seconds each, including a cattle-call for some job that was going to have a screening meeting here in this office... in June of 2006. Doesn't anyone on the other side of the counter ever read this thing? There's a sign on the wall saying "no cell phones", yet every employee we see has a Nextel walkie-phone that's squawking. There's an office with 4/5 of a wall off to the side, and we can hear everything that the guy inside is saying -- or rather, he's laughing his foo' ass off every few seconds, he thinks he's alone and in private; I was waiting for him to say something embarassing and descriptive. I had parked on the next block, across from two buildings which are on the Tacoma's Noxious Nine list, because all the parking anywhere near the office is either 30 minutes or 2 hours but the meeting is scheduled to last 3 hours, so the assembled got to talking about that bit of discrepancy. Then 1:00pm rolled around, we went off to a meeting room within the bowels of the building named "Puyallup River" (funny, it didn't seem grey...), and plopped ourselves down. Kirk took our information so we could get credit for attending, he told us about some websites and programs, he waved flyers about things we might want to attend around and offered us some (but not all) of them, and then... he dismissed us. The time was 1:40pm or so, so I'd spent more time in the lobby than in the scheduled-for-three-hours meeting. Okilyfine, I'm gonna go toward home and buy Christmas gifts along the way. And speaking of: the local True Value doesn't have anything of a holiday theme so I'm gonna go to Federal Way for the annual album, I guess... last time I was there they were very much festive and heavily invested in LED light strings.

Quick special note: I got email from a friend and fellow Lazy F camper that I haven't seen in over 20 years, courtesy of him Googling himself and coming across his name in a blog entry. w00t!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Gobble Gobble! A Special Report

pureed fresh pumpkin I grewSince the communication lines have been down between us and the outside world, here's a brief message to the family and friends who wonder what my wife and I are doing for Thanksgiving this year. Simply put, we're staying at home and will be going to Stewart Anderson's Black Angus in the evening (couldn't get afternoon reservations, they were booked solid) for a turkey repast. We decided that as charming as going to The Arches, a real roadhouse up the street that I have had Thanksgiving dinner at -- twice, would be we wanted to go somewhere with more ambiance and fewer skanky people buying pulltabs.

* Why not my own family? Never heard from them. We don't want to travel across the state. And things just haven't been the same since Aunt Mayme left the table.
* Why not my wife's family in Yakima? Whole variety of reasons which shouldn't be addressed in a weblog on the Internet; what it boils down to is that they decided that I shouldn't come, and she decided that she didn't want to go alone and undefended. And we don't want to travel across the state.
* Why not my wife's brother nearby? One word: Gwen. We know that "spending the holiday with friends" means her friends and he's just stuck there seething. Plus the invitation was stated in the singular, not the plural, and that's not cool. If we were hosting a dinner we'd invite him and his kids so Gwen and friends would be undisturbed, but we aren't.

So along with our delicious dinner that we didn't have to cook, I made a double layer pumpkin cheesecake totally from scratch (pressed my own graham cracker crust, pureed the pumpkin I grew in the backyard - see photo). My wife thinks I'm nuts for preferring fresh over canned, since there is work involved to process the flesh, and some experts have said there's minimal difference in flavor... but I like the color of fresh over canned, fresh is orange to light tan while canned is always brown, and that's what makes it unique, along with the quantity of hands-on work it took to make that dessert ("the extra ingredient is love" as someone said). Happy Gluttony Day to my fellow Americans; happy name day to anyone bearing the moniker Kelemen or Klementína; have a pleasant feast day in honor of Saints Columban, Amphilocus, Wilfretrudis, Trudo, Rachilidis, Paternian, and Paulhen (plus Pope Saint Clement I and martyr Blessed Miguel Agustín Pro); and to the rest of you - our families included - have a nice Thursday.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Michael Richards and Mel Gibson walk into a bar to meet Sammy Davis, Jr....

[originally written 11/18/06]
Greetings from a motel room in Puyallup! I'm watching Food Network's All-Star Thanksgiving Special now that both Comic Relief 2006 (or: "Comedy Without Punchlines" due to a lot of unnecessary bleeping) and Iron Chef: Battle Cranberry (or: "Who is hotter, Giada DeLaurentiis or Rachael Ray?") are done.Pick Your Ass pulltabs There's plenty of stupidity and simple rediculousness to report, but I'm a bear of little brain so I'm not remembering most of them now that I'm sitting here typing. This first image is of a pulltab game at the Jason's restaurant (a sports bar without the bar part) where I always get deep-fried mushrooms. They have over 20 pulltabs yet this one caught my eye: it features noses, padlocks, and for the big money donkeys, and is titled... Pick Your Ass. As Daffy Duck said, "Ho ho, very funny. Ha ha, it is to laugh."

The holiday shopping season has deluged us once again, but this year I'm trying to keep it simple. Paige and I have more or less decided that we're not going to shop for anyone but each other and valued friends. Okay, I'm sure it won't really be so narrow, since she spoils everyone in her family stinking rotten no matter how little return she receives from them and how much they criticize her for having a life of her own. If I were working I'd be shopping hard and heavy through the Lee Valley catalog, to me it's the greatest thing since tire dealers had gift catalogs and comes off as far more interesting/practical than what you find at your local True Value Hardware. (Not dissing on True Value; any day now their 41st annual Christmas album should be up for sale, and I appreciate that this is a continuing tradition started by Firestone dealerships long ago. Lee Valley is low on recorded musical offerings.) As it is, I'm not as yet working. I did put in some time last week doing temp computer work for a janitorial sourcer, and last week I received two unemployment checks (one was overdue). I'm giving this site which has been heavily advertised in the Seattle, Tacoma, and Portland markets a try, and curiously the position with a Tacoma business that seeks out and shuts down scam/phishing websites [for a fee] which I applied for today wasn't listed in the daily email of available tech jobs but has been on the site for a week.

I'm still not going to explain what's been happening with me lately, but I have this report to make about some facets of the recent past. Last week I was in room 216, which has a kitchenette and is a good-sized room. I took a liking to the motel for that reason. The motel offers WiFi but my Win98-running Pentium 166MHz computer does not, and the ancient phone system allows me to connect on dialup at a maximum of 28.8kbps. This week that room was occupied, so I was offered 219. Okay, sure. I drag my bags up the stairs, turn the key in the lock -- and the bed is messed up, there's a Big Gulp on the turned-on television, and I sense that someone's in the bathroom. Er, quietly close the door, drag everything back down the stairs, and the counterperson is walking around trying to find me because she just discovered (gee, as did I) that the room was already booked. So now I'm given 226, which is just up the stairs and overlooks my car. It's a small room, there's no kitchenette (not an issue since I'm not going to use it), turning on the heater brings a distinct urine smell and there's this inexplicable stain in the middle of the desk chair (fill in the blank as to what it may have been and how it got there), and this room too lets me connect at late-1980's high of 28.8kbps through dialup. Continental Bakery breakfast I've decided to do the trick Shelley Berman proposed and put the "Sanitized for your protection" paper ring back on the toilet seat before I leave to make them wonder whether I held it all in. Also, before I leave I'll stop by their continental breakfast -- hey, do lodgings in Europe offer bagels and quarter-muffins and call it 'complimentary American breakfast'? -- and wonder out loud why Twinkies™ would be found on the tray. Checkout is at 11am and I've got some cemetaries to haunt (hehehe!) to take photos of old and unusual stones, plus I need to follow my new holiday tradition, my annual visit to Holland Nursery (near 86th & 144th in South Hill) to see their Christmas clutter; I appreciate they have tasteful and sedate style and somehow don't come off as containing kitch. [postscript¹: nursery not open on Sundays, must go Monday. postscript²: a shout out to CJD... loose lips sink ships and stay the hell out of other people's private business!] Today was the Pacific Lutheran University Yulefest, which seemed smaller than usual but was still as delightful, and as every year the thing that brought me wonder was outside the door: how the hell do they keep their violets healthy and blooming in late autumn?!

The Xmas-themed December update to Laughter is the Spackle of the Soul has been posted.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I think last night you were driving circles around me

it's the blaze across my nightgownWhen I said last weekend that I wanted to change my life, I only meant how I make money... not everything. There's a lot I'm not going to say about this last weekend. Such as why I was in a motel room alone on the edge of Puyallup, wrangling with a 28800bps dialup connection because I don't have a wireless card. It was an educational experience, where I learned that some people can take art photos of nothing in particular and some cannot, that a Twix bar and orange juice at 6am after not eating for fourteen hours will keep one from sleeping or thinking clearly, how you will see the damnest bits of sugar packet thievery at a continental breakfast. I also discovered how frail the bond between people can be, how everyone has some point where their nuclear fusion detonator gets tripped and the countryside will be devestated, and that the internal demons can't come out to play when other children are out on the teeter-totters and swings -- the little demons might scare park visitors of all ages. I felt like something out of a hard-boiled detective movie, minus the detective part and the chainsmoking (and the flashing neon sign outside the window). I'm terrible at biding my time unless there's a computer and decent Internet connection (gee, to think I used to live at 2400bps without complaint, but that was just text BBSs), and lousy at trying to catch lost zzz's in a Goodwill parking lot. But come the dawn of a new day, the morning after the night and morning, my world returned to its pleasant blue-green color scheme. you were in my dreams I have photos from my exile, some of which I like, and memories of standing watching the rain from a second story walkway wondering if I will see the sun again.

And with this look of "dammit!" from Cheddar Meatloaf, the more aesthetically pleasing description of my financial straits. Last Wednesday and yesterday, I did some contract work for a computer company's techie outsourcer. The first job was in Tacoma and it was nothing like what had been described on my sheet. Lotsa laughs over that one. Monday's job was closer to the letter, and while it was slated for two days I got my part done in nine hours. Yeah, aced myself out of another eight hours at $20 an hour for being efficient, but I am not complaining. Tomorow I'll be in Redmond, which should also be following the script, and having only five computers to work with I will likely be done by tea-time. I was awaken this morning by a call from the Unemployment people (good thing I had the day off afterall, since I would have been gone at the time) who asked about my vacation hours payout, which had been holding up benefits in previous weeks and disqualified me from getting anything last week because I finally got it, so I will finally be getting a check. Of course, since I'm skipping tomorrow's "how to get a job" manditory class because I'll be working a job (just that day and that hour, not For Real) they'll screw with my getting paid yet again. Hmm, beyond all that, I'm still looking (weakly) for work, and the friend mentioned last week admitted that when she began seeking income without boundaries she was still gainfully employed -- "I had my first and second books published while I was still at the law firm, so by the time I left the firm I was finally getting income from the books," she told me the other night. I am at least rich in friends, even if I can't freaking get ahold of them or get a response in a timely manner, and that's gotten me emotionally through some rough spots. (Hi, Bobbie!)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

How To Be Creative If I Never Thought I Could

Indeed I haven't been writing biweekly, and it's not like I've had that many distractions. Welcome to the Dude-Plex I do have one interfering with my endless freedom tomorrow though, and part of next week: an agency has granted me a temp gig replacing old computers with new for a few business locations. (I figured that company had their own people for that but oh well.) It's $20/hour and I'm scheduled for 8 hours each day, but tomorrow's gig I suspect will only take 2-3 hours. C'est la vie. It's a gateway drug, I should hope, into better things somehow and somewhere. I've received word that where I used to work is dismantling the department I was in, moving people either to the lower tier we have been making fun of or to different cellular providers' contracts. Looks like I got out of there (bum's rush fashion) when the getting was good. I still have not collected a penny in unemployment yet due to hoop-jumping and another hurdle was thrown in front of me today: they want me to attend a class about how to find a job, manditory attendance or no payment will be made, on a day & at a time that I have a job. I called their number to let them know I need to reschedule, but since I got voicemail I suspect they'll claim I didn't tell them. Shit's sake, it seems easier to get Welfare for not working than Unemployment for working, and having paid into the system for years it's not like it's THEIR money that I'm asking for.

The stupidity of the moment is the rainfall; while it's okay near my home (I live one block, in two directions, from a creek which flooded this last January -- it was empty for the first two days of rain, and is full now but not overfull... yet) ten miles away it's kinda nasty along the Puyallup River, and much worse on the Skykomish River, where the community of Index has been cut off from the rest of the world (guess they'll just have to play bar-darts and wait...) and the logging town of Sultan is freakin' underwater (which makes me sad because it's a nice place). dried luneria in autumn It's fairly easy to count your blessings when you turn on the TV and see places you recognise not far away with one or two feet of water running down the main street, ya know?'s tagline is "Today is the day"... meaning, in their context, now is the right time to get a new job. In my context, it should mean that now is the right time to find a new direction rather than seeking another office or menial labor job. I've been talking online with an author, artist, and journalist who visibly has few responsibilities and seemingly has income, and I find that to be the dream gig for me. I'm sure it's a different story when one is there, having to sing for one's supper at all times because doesn't have a steady employer and you do have to keep your publisher happy by having material to submit, but from this distance it looks like it's a hell of a lot more enjoyable than what I've been doing (or trying to do) for all of my adult life. This requires both risk and connections; the former I am scared of because of the fall - the latter I lack and would need something with which to prove I'm worth paying attention to. What's interesting to me, having come to know the person who is giving me this bit of food for thought, I've noticed that despite the books and TV shows and articles and inspiration others have claimed she has given them for their own art or personal direction... she questions her direction, her worth, and her worthiness. Success is not an absolute even if you have it.

Is today the day? I wish.

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