Sunday, January 28, 2007

and two more quart cans of stupid to kick over

There were a couple other stupidities to report yesterday but eluded me when I sat down at the keyboard. (Which is odd because I was at the keyboard when they happened. Rephrase as "sat back down at the keyboard after getting an orange juice" then.) decoration on a 1958 Ford Fairlane Airliner They're obviously Internet related but the fault of a stupid human.

a) I started up a peer-to-peer file sharing program to hunt up a song I heard on the radio ("Lady" by Little River Band, if you were curious) and the first thing the program did was pop up a window saying that the trial period of this beta version has passed, so please download the latest version. I went to the source website... and this is still the latest version; whatever update they thought they were going to be putting out by now hasn't happened. At least it still let me run the program after I clicked Okay -- I've seen a program or two which have closed and refused to budge, despite there being no 'required' update available.

b) This is a continuation of the irony section of yesterday's post: I mentioned I have an interview with Rectangulon tomorrow (Monday). The woman told me to go to Rectangulon Jobs Dot Com, then fill out their application. "You can't miss it," she said. I thought she was talking about a printable form, but as you read they have an online form which punted me out for being honest about my work history in the preliminary questions. So I go to the site to find the printable form, I can't find it, and when I log in I get a message saying that due to the qualifying failure I am ineligible to seek work from them through this site until March 27. This wouldn't be the first time Rectangulon has given me bad directions then acted like I was too inept follow them. (The first was when they gave me their address for a mall kiosk job two years ago. They outsource their email handling, believe it or not, and the person had transposed two numbers in their address in that email. Since I didn't print the email [I didn't own a printer], thus would have been able to prove that it was not my error, I got a sneer when I told them why I was 10 minute late to the interview and didn't get consideration for the salesdrone job... which is something I can't cry much over.) We'll see what happens tomorrow.

I spent my entire unemployment check today on a ceiling fan, a gallon and two quarts of paint, some track lighting, and about five hundred linear feet of wood trim... we begin the diningroom and hallway renovation shortly.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

upsetting the buckets of stupid

I've got so much Stupidity to share the I'm jumping in early (or actually making this blog's biweekly entry for the first time in months). First, an explanation of the graphic. On Thursday some advertising drones came by and put hangers on people's doors, and by some odd twist they put three up on my knob. I took them down around 2pm on Friday. triplicate plus one When I went out the front door two hours later, on Friday around 4pm, there was a new one!

Last night I was cruising through job listings on Misunderstood Differently-Created Creature Dot Com when I hit on something nearby, good pay scale, and workable timeframe, and decided I wanted to make today the day with this listing. Whatever business this be is being represented by the agency Rectangulon, so I click on their Blue Oyster Cult-inspired inverted question-mark logo to apply. Rectangulon's application site comes up and informs me that I need to answer some preliminary questions first. Okilydokily. Nothing too difficult...
• Are you legally able to work in this country? Sí.
• Can you prove it? Da!
• Had any customer service experience? A wee bit.
• Had any management experience? No, but this is a phone drone job.
• Ever seen a movie about gladiators, been in a Turkish prison, or seen a grown man naked? I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.
• Have you ever been fired from a job for misconduct? This has happened.
• Is that your final answer, or do you need to contact a lifeline? I'm locking in with that answer, Bill, now show me the money!

I clicked Next, and screen comes up telling me that there was a problem with my answers and I should click the link at the top of the page to try the Cosmo self-quiz again. (It reminded me of the HR person for an it's-sales-but-we-won't-admit-it's-sales job awhile back, who when I answered No clearly to a question she said "That's a Yes?") Second verse, same as the first. This time I click on Next, and I could hear that "wha-wha-whaaaaa" music: the screen now informed me that I wasn't the kind of candidate they were looking for. Rectangulon was chapping my ass for being honest without there being a human to review my responses! My theory is that they have no issue with job-hoppers who quit everything they start, but if you got canned for anything which might be considered misconduct (which is a pretty broad term)? Logic also dictates that if I say I've never been fired on my application, it will get me the interview but then the fact will come out in the interview or research, and then I'll really be a bad guy in their eyes. So the website impersonaly said 'bugger off, highly skilled scumbucket'. I seethed for a bit, wished a pox on their six facets, and after much happy browsing I went to bed.
So come the dawn I checked my email because I'd replied to a job interest request from some worthwhile agency (which 29 hours later still hasn't replied to me, hmm) and there was an email from someone at Rectangulon. She said something about how I'd applied for a job through them weeks ago (I must have been sniffing glue if I ever applied to the travel company they were mentioning) and that since they couldn't suit me with that one they wanted to offer a temp gig a few miles down the road. Hmm, okay, gimme an interview next week. Funny that they dismissed me without ever finding out a thing about my skillz the night before.
Double-ironic: The gig I'm being interviewed for is through LiveBridge @ $12.50/hr, a company which as you read some weeks back offended me by being firm that they only paid techies $7-$9. (Admittedly the two jobs are in different cities and different counties, but it's the same company and only about 40 miles apart.) I can only hope that Monday morning the douchebag that was supposed to get in touch with me today calls to say he'd gagged on a bagel so wasn't in the office on Friday, and ask if I'd still be interested in that $15/hr permanent position he mentioned.

I have wanted to send my dear friend Ariel a box of candy for about a year now. They just don't have Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in her neighborhood. Actually, I've sent her boxes of candy and stuff on a couple occasions but they never get to her home in Budapest, Hungary. (It's a known issue that Magyar Posta loses a lot of packages, though they deny any responsibility.) So we agreed that I would send her the sweets by UPS. I bundled up ten bucks' worth of Reese's candies of all sorts, plus a bunch of Brown & Haley goodies because I live in Tacoma, Washington, and went to the UPS office. And they break it down for me: I can send this box by the United States Postal Service (that thing I'm trying to avoid) for $8, plus $2 because a UPS store is handling this, or I can indeed send it by UPS for a cost of $167 -- I guess they wanted me to buy it a plane ticket. Much to my dismay, I chose the cheaper route. Good luck on getting your candy, Ariel, and if you see your local postman eating Almond Roca, kick him in the male-sack.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Unspoken rejection is the DrĂ£no of the soul

the sum of the partsYeah, I didn't write anything last week. I've discovered that if you don't leave the house, you don't encounter a whole lot of stupidity. Unless you subscribe to the newspaper or turn on the news, of course, and my household gets both the Tribune and the Times but I try to stick to the comics pages. Occasionally the stupidity will come to you, but the weather has improved and there haven't been any surprise houseguests in at least four days (we had one of Paige's coworkers who lives uphill in Bonney Lake over for a couple nights last week during the snowy period). I don't have anything employmentwise to report except for today's all-new tale of thrills, chills, and spills... which you have to wait a couple paragraphs for. Stay in this paragraph, I'm not done! No reading ahead! Okay, you may progress to the next paragraph, but no farther. This paragraph has ended.

A couple days ago a bunch of Flickr addicts from the Tacoma area met at a coffeehouse downtown, and though the announcement of the gathering was made less than 48 hours before the meeeting time nine people managed to show up. Our project was to take pictures in the Warehouse District downtown, which sort of evolved into wandering the Brewery District. One of my cohorts took a photo that defined the situation very well: it shows most of us on the second floor of an empty warehouse all looking and moving in different directions, exhibiting a human representation of Brownian motion (though with digitals, no Brownie cameras). We had a most serandipitous happenstance... Since we didn't have a direction, it was more or less by "let's go up just one more block" and "let's follow these train tracks" that we wound up behind a set of buildings, taking pictures of the writing on the backs and the pond life in the runoff stream which ran parallel to the tracks. We were halfway up this backstreet when a large red pickup truck pulled up behind us and a middle-aged couple stepped out. [Mushy's brain: prepare flight response] The woman asked what we were up to, and we told them we were a photographic group. She then told us that she and her husband own the building we just passed, which was the former Tacoma City Light & Water building that for the last twenty years had been used as a storage warehouse for an import/export business which just ceased operation so the space was now empty (the entire stripmall was bulldozed last year to build a new Lowe's Hardware, and the import place's owners decided they'd rather retire than find a new location)... and they asked if we'd like to see the inside. Hot damn! So we got a tour of the empty space and a history lesson about the building, such as that built in 1921 of stone and steel at a cost of $100,000 - which the owners considered too much and fired the contractor. We were invited upstairs, and we took a gaggle of photos of the city and each other standing in the shallow lake that was the roof. We received a history lesson about the area, such as how that very tall brick building katy-corner to this block was the brewery building for Pacific Brewing & Malting from 1888 until Prohibition came along, at which time it became a soap factory and was finally abandoned in 1959, and how the building next door which is now a power company (also built in 1921 but of wood so the contractor could avoid the wrath) is a private auto museum on the second floor. Then the man asked us if we'd like to see the 1958 Ford Fairlane 500 'Skyliner' convertable he's had for 46 years and keeps in the ground level. Oh hell yeah! I'm not much of a car guy but this vehicle was droolworthy... baby blue with fins and an acre of chrome, sweet inside and out, and at the push of a button the trunk of the car hinged at the tail and tilted up, the white metal top raised a foot and then descended into the back, and the trunk settled back down. ("One motor stops before the other motor starts, so it's foolproof; in all the time I've had the car I've never had the conversion system fail me" he said.) After a little more time with the couple we had to say our goodbyes, and wandered back to the place we had parked, where all spaces were marked 1 Hour but there was a vehicle with a missing front tire that'd been there since last year so we weren't too worried about being towed. It was the most exciting three hours of the year so far. My photos from the excursion are in this Flickr set, and while you're there if you click on the "tfg" (Tacoma Photo Gang) tag on the right side and expand the search to all users, you can see the rest of the group's pictures too. You now have permission to read the final paragraph of this blog entry.

Last Friday I got a call from Shelleigh Temp Services (hey, Kool-Aid!), asking if I was interested in a position a few miles away from my house that I had applied for. Testing for the job was scheduled for this afternoon, and I considered their asking me to show up without giving me the testing office's address (and I asked!) part of the examination. So I made it to the place with a couple minutes to spare, it was only the third building I tried, and after the attitude test (counter person asking what pay rate I expected, and I said "usually I expect $14/hr but since there's no commute involved I will accept the $10-$11 the listing stated", which she accepted) the tests were administered. Excel: "basic"... which is impressive since I've never used it before. Works: "proficient"... again, just plain luck or intuition since all I've ever done with it is type letters without screwing around with any of the options beside font formatting. Typing: "needs training", the computer said, while admitting I typed 72 words per minute with 2 mistakes, and the test person was impressed with my speed. Data entry: the numerical data had zero errors and the alphanumerical data (based on filling out the contents of an invoice -- item number, description, price, quantity, total -- manually) had two errors, which was impressive but again rated "needs training". So I was feeling pretty good about the results... I rock! the parts of the sum The woman comes in and asks which job I was here for, I told her the one nearby, and she asked me if I was interested in one a rediculous distance away (out past where that stranded coworker lives) and I said no. [Greg: Kirkland I can handle due to 167 and 405. Going to Enumclaw? Not unless I lived in Buckley; the two-lane traffic in that area makes 405 at rush-hour look good.] This concluded the interview for her... seems the job I applied for which is in customer service requires twice the speed in ten-key typing that I exhibited, the desired rate being ten thousand characters per hour. She suggested that I do some ten-key practice at home and come back someday. [Mushy's brain: You can take a flying jump, lady! Mushy's mouth: "Okay, thank you for the suggestion."] I said that since she knows where my office skills are she can keep me in mind for other customer service jobs [Mushy's brain adds: ones that actually are customer service, where knowledge means more than typing skill], and she had one of the best no-thanks-I-won't responses I've ever heard: she said that she deals with a lot of potential personnel so is unable to keep anyone in mind for jobs they're suited for unless they find the listings online themselves and apply. Still smiling and giving polite acknowledgements that she was speaking to me, I left when she let me know she was done with me and wandered the mall for a little while to digest. I can't feel too bad about not being a ten-key typist or Excel wizard; I'm pretty sure the people doing the job at this moment and their supervisors are neither either. So life -- and the search -- goes on.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Here comes Suzy Snowflake

manThe weather in the Puget Sound area has been abnormal lately. I've already told you about trees going down and lights going out from wind, which is something that usually happens once every few years -- the previous major storm everyone here speaks of was on President Clinton's second inauguration day, so most Seattle-area folks missed seeing the ceremony on TV. Well, we have had two big (but not as big) windstorms since the major one, and two days ago we received an inch or two of snow followed by sub-freezing temperatures since then so stuff isn't melting very fast. We've also had a lot of rain and subsequent flooding. The snow is common in many areas, including where I grew up (I stood at the back door watching it because it's been awhile since I've seen an honest snowfall), but here? We're not prepared. In Yakima County there'd be no school closures for that small amount of snow and the week of ice and slush that follow; here, most stuff just stops for a day or two. The flooding we had in my neighborhood subsided right before the snow, though I have one neighbor right on Clover Creek who gets a swimming pool for a backyard every year. This all is what most people here consider a big ol' stupidity, the weather.

I'm still not employed and haven't had any nibbles lately, which leads to the stupidity anecdote in the next paragraph. I however have been quite busy with stuff around the house, some of which is worthwhile, so I feel fairly good. I've put away all the Christmas stuff, which if you know my household is a major undertaking, and this time it includes the two boxes of stuff in my office which have been accrued over the previous year (or didn't get put away last year!). You've already seen my new gutters. I've had some digital photos printed and have been framing them. (No word from the art place about the framer job, by the way.) Paige bought three little cans of paint -- "smoke screen", "orchid blossom", and "faint flicker" -- and splotched sample stripes in various places in the livingroom and hallway to see what we think of them, so I take this to mean that we shall be painting those two spaces in the near future since she's not one to leave light grey, dark grey, and light lavender shmeres blatently on the sickly-yellow walls for very long. (The "orchid blossom" was my choice, and she thinks it'd be better for our yellow-on-yellow kitchen. I think "smoke screen" is too dark for a livingroom but she disagrees.) I have taken pictures of the samples but won't post here until I've made sure the colors onscreen are correct. I've done other fun home improvement project and craft stuff around the house too which vaporizes from my head when I sit at the computer.

machineI applied for this job in November with a local company that fights phishing (and charges business clients whose good domain names are being sullied by phishers a pretty penny to shut the bastards down) but heard nothing more. The job is still open, and one of the employment sites sent me notice of this so I applied again. Let me interject something here: The sites send a digital copy of your résumé to the prospective employers with a few bonus tidbits, including a "Career Objectives" line (which I think is stupid), and mine says that I want to work with computers and would prefer to be behind the scenes helping coworkers and systems rather than in a customer-facing capacity. I boldface the word "prefer" here for a reason (it's plain on what's sent), because it's where I'd like to go. Back to the story: Half an hour later the antiphishing place's HR department replies:
Thanks for getting in touch with us about the position. It looks like you've got a lot of experience in entry level tech support, and are looking to move away from that altogether. Unfortunately, we don't have an opening that you're looking for right now. Providing a high level of quality customer support is a critical aspect of the job, among other things. I'm keeping your résumé on file in case we have an opening down the road that does not require some client interaction.

Ahem. I'm a pretty easygoing person, but I have not been so pissed about a brush-off given for ersatz reasons since my days in the dating pool. I spent 45 minutes regaining my bearings and debating whether I should respond, and if so how. I decided that I wanted to fight for this and came up with a business-friendly way of requesting they take a second look, which included saying that every business must be entered from the ground floor, while my eventual goal is to get off the phones my experience is being on them, and "if my qualifications meet your requirements then please advance me to the next stage of consideration; my experience and desire to learn are the criteria by which I want to be judged." I haven't heard anything further, but I feel better for not giving up so easily (and for such non-reasons).

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

For each and every one of us, it's a brand new day

Happy 2007, y'all! I rang in the new year doing something close to nothing; I was on the computer doing Flickr things and email until about 11:55 p.m., then wandered in to join my wife on the couch; she set aside her book, we checked Dick Clark's recovery progress at midnight and kissed, watched some fireworks on the Space Needle, and got back to whatever we were doing previously. You may think that sounds boring but people say "have a safe new year" and you have to admit, I was doing just that. There were no resolutions made by me, I don't believe in them. Inaugurating the new year was a change of bedding; we bought a mattress and boxspring set at the auction mentioned last entry when we went back a couple days later. not what is implied It's a brand you haven't heard of which is made locally, queen size, pillow-top, quite firm but not like plywood, both came new in thick plastic bags, and a steal at $300 plus 10% auctioneer commission and 8.8% state sales tax. [The bowling ball in the picture is a joke, and bless you if you get it.] And now, the story of how we got it home...

After cutting up those large chunks of tree and debris from the yard, the husband of one of my bride's coworkers was going to come over to take a couple pickup-loads of wood. We figured that since we had a mattress to haul and a yard to clean, we might as well do both in one go and rented a U-Haul truck. I laid down a tarp in the back, we jam-packed the truck with yard effluvia, and once the wood-totin' hubby had departed we went to the county landfill (yard waste is free to get rid of through this month) and took a dump. The back came clean quick 'n easy because of the tarp, so after a minute of brooming we went over to the dead furniture store to pick up our winnings. This was the only scary part of the day because there had been such a lineup at the landfill (to dump garbage then pay the fee) that we were afraid we wouldn't make it to the auction place before 4 p.m.; we arrived at 3:30 p.m. We brought the mattress & boxspring home, then took the truck back to the dealer. We weren't inspired to take it out of our livingroom and swap out the bunk in our bedroom until yesterday afternoon. The coworker's husband did us a big favor and took the logs that we had accumulated from the previous two trees we had taken down months or years earlier, so we've reclaimed part of our yard! There's still a bunch of debris piled left to go (maybe we should have got the 14' truck rather than the 10' truck, they're the same price) but it'll be eliminated within a couple-three months and we got rid of the parts we can't put in the bin.

Today's continuing saga of state-issued stupidity: I mentioned last entry that I had fun trying to file my weekly claim due to logical issues. I tried to file my claim on time this week and it wasn't giving me that option. Turns out that if you skip a week (I didn't skip! It didn't let me file!) it closes your claim and you have to call them to reopen it. I did that today, and the phone system was talking like I have to wait a week before I can make a claim. Er, this won't do, I put in my three applications last week, thank you. [#3, the community college techie thing, was harder than you'd think because they later sent me lotsa forms to fill out, including an essay question about how I handle diverse populations.] I called their office this morning, and their phone system said "call back later, *click*". They meant Thursday-later. I tried an hour later and got through, waited through some soft-rock favorites (and inevitably they played Chris DeBurgh's "Lady In Red"), grabbed the newspaper, and just as I sat down with the paper the guy answered. Another person from the Indian subcontinent. hee hee So I explained what the deal was, and he asked why I didn't call a week ago to reopen my claim. Er, how about because I didn't know they'd closed it? He explained I could not be paid for two weeks ago because I didn't apply for anything, I said I didn't expect or ask for that week's money, and it's last week I'm trying to file. He punched some buttons, told me that I could go online and file my claim as usual tomorrow, and all will be back on track. He illuminated to me (in so many words) that in order to keep on the state's good side you have to lie -- either you say you made 3 contacts and risk punishment for fraud, or you say you didn't look for work at all and look like a lazy slacker (and I'm sure there's a penalty for that), but doing anything else that is honest or accurate will make the system implode. My dear friend Chrome, R.A.T. #1, once told me that the purpose of politics (and by extention, any bureaucrasy) was to give the politicians (or bureaucrats) a livelihood.
[update, 12 hrs later: I'm not there yet. Douche-nozzle mistakenly updated my account to December 31, Sunday, rather than December 30, Saturday, so the system now won't let me claim for last week. Fuck. Gotta call 'em again.]

Today is a sudden national holiday, a day of mourning for recently-expired president Gerald Ford. I was fairly young when he was in office (his successor, Jimmy Carter, is a more vivid memory to me) and don't remember what I thought of the man at the time. I probably didn't know jack about him at the time, since in all honesty I didn't know about the Vietnam war for several years after. Time and a broader view has made one thing clear to me, thirty-some years later, and that is that he did a better job than a lot of people give him credit for. I don't know all the intricacies of what he did while in office, but I do know that when he became president without running for that office, he was handed a huge shitty mess by the crooks who were leaving power and an unjust war to wrangle. He had to undo Nixon's dubious works and get us out of 'Nam, and those were tall orders. I read an interview with him the other day that said he was always bothered by the people who claimed he was the only president to lose a war. That bothers me too, since a) he didn't start that war, he inherited it, and b) we weren't "winning" in the first place and the only way to come out ahead would be to quit. In that way, he DID win the war and save lives, along the lines of the old phrase that says the only way to win certain games is to not play them. May Gerry rest in peace and may history be kind to his legacy. While I was thinking about all of the above it dawned on me that whomever succeeds GW Bush will have to pull the same kind of coup, of fixing the damage and ending an unnecessary war, but that person will have [at this rate] a little more time and notice to do it in.

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