Sunday, October 28, 2007

don't try to live your life in one day, don't go speed your time away

Dear Diary... it's me again!
   The law of averages doesn't normally work for me, but oddly it had some effect... I only submitted one online application Thursday night. And at 11 a.m. Friday I got a call from that one application -- helpdesk, internal support telling coworkers to reboot, for an online travel company everyone's heard of, fifteen dullards an hour and no requirements on average handle time (I was told twice that 30 minutes per call is kosher). Which surprised me because every other position with that company I've ever seen listed was handled through a different placement agency; in fact at least one of the interviews with that placement agency I've done for some techie job in the past was conducted in the travel agency's office. I was at the placement agency's office in Bellevue at 2 p.m. to chat them up, and am told to expect a call from the travel agency's person on Monday since he wasn't available at the time. This gives the appearance of things going well, though I know appearances can be deceiving. this happens at IKEA too One word: Woot! More when I know it.
   Now I've updated the Spackle site. I think I'm a better writer of humorous captions when I first see the picture and still have some of that spark when I'm putting it on the scanner, but lose much of it however much time later when I'm putting together the page for the picture. I try to give them names that will remind me of what I found so funny when I first saw them, but it doesn't always work. I may have said this before (I know I have said it on the Spackle site itself), but after several months of not having a guestbook when the site changed hosts I finally got off my duff and implemented a new one, using the one Indeterminacy suggested. And after all these years and a few suggestions, Yahoo Groups still hasn't added Laughter is the Spackle of the Soul to their list of found photo sites. They added some others which may not fit the definition or are flash-in-the-pan sites, which only salts the wound. But I can't help it if they suck. Anyhow, have a gander, at least some of the captions are funny.
   A funny thing happened to me in the supermarket today... I was checking out and the cashier looked distantly familiar. I looked at her nametag to see if it matched what I thought it was... surprisingly, yes! This was Leticia, whom I haven't seen since the fifth grade! I didn't get the courage to confirm this with her (the nametag had the correct first initial of the last name though) but it was kinda neat and/or weird to cross paths with someone I haven't seen in about twenty-five years. The person I really want an update on is Cassie Garnes, the tall redhead I was dating for a short time in my senior year and whose family I took a liking to for being so kind. (It's odd, I lived 2 blocks away from them for 3 years while I was in college but probably only wandered over to say hello once at most.)
   Since my blog is "Everyday Stupidities" it'd be fitting to tell this story there. Do you know how hard it is to get rid of a fluorescent light fixture and tubes?! I found out on Saturday. I was under the impression that I could just waltz into the Habitat For Humanity ReStore and donate the light trough I took out of the kitchen ceiling plus the tubes, since I've seen tubes in thrifts or somewhere for sale cheap recently. It's obvious by looking at it this fixture was recycled itself out of some other building. So does anyone want it? Noooooooooo. Habitat, as well as St. Vincent de Paul, do not take fluorescent fixtures (or the ballast part anyway) because of PCBs, and don't take fluorescent lights because of the mercury. So where do contractors and regular people get rid of these things then? Seems that the best place to go is to a landfill that handles hazardous waste. The one I usually go to in situations like this met me half-way: they took the fixture (considering it household waste and charging the minimum dump fee of $19), but I'm going to have to take the light tubes to a different landfill which has the benefits of not charging to get rid of hazardous waste, specifically claims to accept fluorescent lights, and is open on Sundays. While I feel a little bad about getting rid of the lights because somebody must have a use for them and would probably like to save a few bucks over going to the store for new ones, and they do still work, they'll be out of my hair and properly recycled. But my research brought an interesting gap to light: The Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington Department of Ecology are very much in favor of recycling fluorescents and other mercury-using items. They encourage people to recycle them at every turn. IKEA (where I recycle the compact fluorescents) doesn't take the big tubes but also is big into having people recycle and has various links recycling resources which in turn have links to recycling businesses, one of which is just up the highway in Seattle. But does any of this info from the EPA, the WA DoE, NEMA, or Ecolights NW tell where and how to get the tubes recycled? No. Or not in any clear terms. I had to Google "fluorescent recycling pierce washington" to find out where in this county to take the tubes, and came up with two locations (one I'd been to and takes lights twice a week, likely with a charge; the other is where I'm going today and it's said to be free). With the increasing popularity of compact fluorescents, and the continued popularity of fluorescent tube lights (which have been around since the 1940's), you'd think this information on what to do with fluorescent lights -- and watch batteries, which also contain mercury -- would be widespread. Nope, so people put them in the trash. It's not the consumers who are stupid in this case, they don't know better because they haven't been given any info. The lack of widespread information and education by those who should get the word out, that is stupid.
   I haven't done any further home improvements (not even the sanding and final coat for the kitchen ceiling) but did have a look at a new flooring liquidator down the street, which it turns out we've visited before at their old location a few miles up the highway. The cat wandering around on top of the hardwood flooring stacks looked familiar. I need to finish that project today, as well as give the lawn a final mow for the year. But there has been no talk about when the patch jobs will be textured and painted, which you'd think my wife would be very eager to do or have done. Oh well, it'll come. And with that, I must go to bed. Goodnight, Diary... and you voyeurs of this, don't miss the previous entry, it has been one of those rare instances I wrote twice in a week.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

a room full of faceless strangers, here I am again

Dear Diary...
   Life is what happens when you had other plans. I always seem to stumble into that around my birthday, usually because I'm more acutely aware of the world around me or because other people just happen to pick that particular week to change things around. I'm flashing you This year, this last week more to the point, is no exception. The other day I downloaded Sheena Easton's "You Could Have Been With Me", which has always reminded me of Pablo Cruise's "Cool Love" because of the introductary line even though the two are going in opposite directions; Sheena's singing about a breakup due to never being on the same page, Pablo's singing about a meetup courtesy of finding yourself on the same page. The mind works in strange and mysterious ways. But so does the world, which is what brings me to scribble here when I should be putting together an update to Spackle or updating my resume on and
   It happened for the second year in a row and I-dunno-how-many-times in my life: Shortly after I emailed my mother on my birthday to tell about my excellent job, the employment carpet was yanked out from under me. I take pride in the fact that it wasn't because I was caught in a mop closet with a manager's daughter or a Girl Scout troop walked in on my nude calesthenics or because I'd packed more than a pad of purple Post-It Notes™ into my coat pocket. It was because I'd rated a clearly fraudulent site as phishing, when it was more like trademark infringement. If this sounds stupid, you're onto something. Some years ago I discovered that there are managers who enjoy the power of managing, and enforce the rules they create with an iron hand no matter what the circumstance is. I'm not saying anything bad about my workplace or my supervisor, I very much liked both; I'm saying that there are times when an action or a failure to act means more to the people who make the rules than to the business or world in general. I lost my job over a clerical misjudgement, in so many words, that didn't cause anyone to die or any business to lose money, and a supervisor or two was very much married to the concept of "final written warning" when a similar error (affecting a couple businesses for a few hours) was committed months ago. It's like they have chosen to ignore or deal with at another time the consequences of their actions, being that the coworkers on an already stretched-thin team now have to take up the slack and absorb the newly-vacant hours of the shift. Since I liked my coworkers I certainly wouldn't intentionally inconvenience them like that. Hell, I covered for their asses on many occasions when they had plans or emergencies, I wouldn't want this to be sprung on them, as it was. But this is all water under the bridge; I must look forward because there's no way to go back, and spite hurts the spiteful more than it affects the spited. I suck at spite so I don't carry that if I can help it.
   Filling out unemployment forms is difficult. Not because it is time-consuming, or requires research to get dates and data, or even because one has to find accurate yet muted ways to explain the situation to the state. It's difficult because it takes some mental hurdling. It's a concession that you have fallen down and you need help. People hate admitting they need help; that's one of the first things one learns in tech support, people don't want to call you but after looking at the situation and trying whatever they can they have to call you. It's an admission to myself that I lost a job, and in this case one that I was not unhappy with, and that I must now dust myself off and find a new steed to mount. But I still haven't found the space within me to complete the initial steps of getting back on, being updating my résumé and submitting for jobs. I have done some other contact work to let the agencies who have placed me before know I'm back in their fold, so I haven't sat totally idle on that front, but more people need to know. And will. Soon. Just not in the last five days.
   This has, bright side time, given me the opportunity to tackle some home improvement projects that I'd normally have to put off to a weekend. The huge fluorescent trough in the kitchen ceiling has been removed and the 4' x 2' hole has been patched over with drywall. Some electrical work has been done to make things safer. Two lights will be installed in the new panel as soon as the ceiling patch resembles the rest of the ceiling in color and texture. I have that sense of accomplishment that self-renovation brings. Now if only that could spread to other facets of my life that could use the moral[e] boost...
   I woke up this morning dreaming that I was 80 years old and conducting a yardsale. I was selling everything. The plan was to go completely nihilistic and move into some retirement village, hopefully not a nursing home (which I refer to as an "ossuary" because that's what it is, a repository of forgotten bones), so that when my number was up there'd be almost nothing to haggle over or dumpsterchuck. It was an interesting dream, not as depressing or morbid as one would think when one is frankly preparing for the inevitable. I'm not that keen on my mortality, and hate thinking about it, and find myself sometimes saying "shit, is the second half of my life going to be filled with this? uh, yeah, it is, and it just gets worse with time". But I have no say in the matter of getting old and dying, I just have a bunch of stuff to accomplish before then and like most people not a lot of drive to do the not-fun parts of it. (And if blogs have any power of attorney: cremate and scatter, dammit -- don't buy me a friggin' stone and bury me, I'm not that vain and my nutrients should be recycled!)
   Hmm, since that last paragraph was sort of a downer, Diary, let me make it up to you. There's this website full of colorful, family-friendly Flash games called which I stumbled across at work the other day... I'm writing this more or less between games of Bauns. If you can get past the soft cushy anime aspects of the page, you can have a lot of fun here. I'm pasting into this entry a photo of me wrangling with some aluminum flashing that I pulled out of the attic, which had been around the fluorescent trough to keep the insulation off. So I'm "flashing" you. Ahahahahaha! I'm done, so wish me luck on getting back on the horse. Any horse. So long as it's heading my direction. It's the mounting that's more challenging to my head right now than the riding.
   You're such a good listener, Diary... see you again on Sunday.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

upon reaching the big four-oh

I can still make your daughters gasp and squeal so ante 'em upI've been pretty busy with work and home improvements so I have been tardy with a post, plus decided that I wanted to wait to write something on my fourtieth birthday because I didn't get anything out over last weekend. You'd never know my age by looking at me, that's one thing that God has blessed me with, and people are always surprised -- even demanding to see my driver's license -- when I let them in on the fact. My youthful look has seldom gotten me anywhere with the female of the species (my beautiful eyes have though), which made getting married to the person who stuck around the longest waiting for me to grow up that much easier once I'd reached age 30. It's a strange place to me, I can't "act my age" and I can't act the age people think I am (I'd have to completely forfeit having any taste in music at all to fit in with that crowd)... I feel 25, but with more direction and income than I had when I was 25. And let me tell ya, I'm sitting at home alone in the suburbs with the cat right now -- that's a far cry from what I was doing on my 25th birthday, when I was living in a mobile home on a lake mostly alone, but the statute of limitations has not passed yet so I can't talk about that all-day dyonesian event; however one nice difference is that I had to work for six hours at Pizza Hut that day, where today was one of my scheduled days off. (Though the interruption of work was welcome that day so I could catch my breath!) I took this photo especially for you ten minutes before I started writing this. The white mark on my left cheek, which I didn't know about until I was adding the text, is from sanding the ceiling plaster an hour ago (see third paragraph).

I haven't opened or received any gifts yet, so there's nothing to report except to name the people who have emailed me without prompting or sent me Hallmark cards. My fellow blogger and longtime rainbow Ariel, my old buddy Wayne, my northern light Bertie, my mother (who made with a check), and my wife's Aunt Janet all gave me greeting. Coworkers are oblivious as far as I know (I'll find out tomorrow), which is fine by me but it is on the calendar. My circle on Flickr have it listed in the "our birthdays" discussion thread in the private group we hang in, but have said nothing thusfar. And I'm sure that girl back home who I'm shunning remembered, she always does. Don't feel bad for forgetting, Illiterate, you recall what happened at my last birthday... and I still have that unopened pint of vodka you gave me last year as a birthday sudden going away gift. :) Jamie and Indie, I don't think I ever mentioned the date to you so it's not an issue. Anyone else reading... uh, AFAIK there isn't anyone else reading, but if so now you know too.

A few seconds of home improvement notes: This week's project was to patch the hole in the diningroom ceiling, and that's almost complete. The square of drywall is in place, taped up, and a shortly ago the third coat of plaster was put over it. Pictures next entry, I suppose, or whenever it's totally complete with texture and primer and paint so it will be like it never happened.

For this week's stupidity, we turn to the computer. Note: It gets geeky here. I can't help it in this case, but anyone should be able to understand the basics. Okay, a coworker gave me this metal case so that a notebook computer's hard drive can be used as a portable storage device. [This is NOT the same story as a few weeks ago, when I bought my own case and salvaged the drive out of a dead Windows Millenium notebook.] So I needed a notebook hard drive to put in it, preferably of larger volume than the 6 gigabyte one I used the last time I did this. I went to the local computer recycler and they said the next largest drive after 6 gigs is 30 gigs, and after a check they said they didn't have any so offered me a 40 gig. I brought that home and... hmm, not powering up in the case, not powering up when plugged into my computer using an adaptor, and (after much screw-pulling) isn't powering in my laptop. It's dead, Jim. So I headed back to the store in the 5 p.m. traffic, explained the situation, and they exchanged it for a 30 gigabyte drive -- wait, an hour or two ago you didn't have one, so huh? -- and a ten dollar credit. Go home, put it into my laptop since it was already open, boot into Windows 98 off floppy, and prepare the drive with FDISK and Format. But I wasn't babysitting the process because I had housework to do and the format should have taken half an hour. Anyhow, so when I got back to the computer, I pulled the drive out of the laptop and put it into the case, the computer recognised it, and I start copying music over from the other portable drive and walk away because it's going to take ten minutes. I come back right before I'm going out to dinner and... there's a dialog onscreen saying that I'm out of room. How does copying 5 gigabytes of music fill a 30 gigabyte drive? Because the notebook only set it up as a 3 gig drive, not 30 gig. Fine, okay, I use the FDISK utility built into Windows 2000 under System Management, and it recognises it as a 30 gig drive and sets it up accordingly... er, no, scratch that, it FDISK'd the drive but doesn't give me the option of either formatting it OR doing another FDISK. It's just there. Okay, off with the gloves. I disconnected one of my storage hard drives inside my computer, plugged the 30 gig drive in, booted off the Windows 98 CD, did an FDISK and made absolutely sure the decimal point was after five digits not four, rebooted into Windows 2000, it sees the drive and offers to format it, it does the job, and then I was free to put it back into the external case and it works correctly. The end. There is one bonus stupidity that isn't too geeky to this business... The case I was given is of a weird design. Not only are there no brackets or anything inside to keep the hard drive from flopping around (I've got it cushioned by using some Post-It Notes on the far end), and there's no power switch like my other USB external drives have, but the indicator light which tells you when it's powered on and when it is transferring data is on the same end of the case as the cable. That's not the end of the beast you normally have facing you. But anyhow, it's all good. So thank you, my friends and strangers, for serreptitiously enjoying my birthday bash, even if you didn't get any cake. (I haven't yet either.)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

stupid in a deep shade of purple

the circle of cat    I'm sitting at my desk at work right now, with two piles of deep purple lights and one pile of light bases on the desk along with some other light string related effluvia, plus an empty black light string at my feet with cord from a power supply to some consumer electronics (3VDC) snaked across it. Let me explain the reason for this scene.
    Two years ago I bought a string of deep purple Halloween lights at Big!Lots for $1.59 and used it at my cellular tech support job until the Powers That Be said we couldn't use company electricity for light strings or heater fans. Last year I saw purple lights in Wal-Mart and they offered replacement bulbs, 5 on a card, but I didn't buy any. Welcome to 2007. I pulled out the box of lights from Big!Lots and they aren't lighting. This is not an issue to me since I've been playing with Christmas lights since I was like nine, all I need is some replacement bulbs and a little bit of time to test the individual bulbs. Halloween lights are special in that it's such a dark purple; the purple strings sold at Christmas in the last few years (it's not a 'classic' color) are several shades lighter.
    Big!Lots is offering orange lights this year only, and does not have anything with purple lights except some holographic bat figures. Wal-Mart has purple light strings but no cards of replacement bulbs. Fred Meyers has several kinds of light strings, including the sugar lights seen in the previous entry, but no cards of replacement bulbs. Kmart has some lighted figures but no light strings. The nearest Spirit store (a yearly Halloween specialty "chain" that materializes in abandoned stores for a month, if they don't appear in your area) offers orange strings, orange and purple strings, orange and purple and green strings, and some nice screw-in strobes along with the expected blacklights, but no purple strings for some unknown reason. And on, and on, and on, and I admit I haven't been to Target yet. [edit: Target no has either. But they do carry strings of tiny bulbs that are top-half-orange, bottom-half-purple.] And I still can't find 14W fluorescent candelabras in stores. So at this rate I may have to bag finding replacement bulbs, other than the kind one pulls out of dead strings... like the one at my feet, if I can't get things fixed.
    So I bring in the string and some spare bulbs from other dark purple strings which frame my office shelving, plus this power supply so I can test bulbs, and get down to it. My usual method is to plug in the string and start testing bulbs one by one. A few bulbs in, I haven't found one that lights. The spares light so it's not a problem with the power supply. So I've removed all the bulbs from the string and their bases, and tested each one. I have no idea how this works out since if one bulb goes out the string goes out which protects the rest, but I have TEN working lights and FOURTY that aren't. I think it's not a matter of them being dead but the copper wires at the bottom being oxidized and not conducting... but scraping them with my thumbnail and soaking them in window cleaner before wiping them with paper towels (which did remove some corrosion) didn't cause more than three of them to start working.
    I think it's all in industry's desire for planned obsolescence. I'm not a conspiracy theorist (no matter what I say about the auto industry regarding efficient cars because it's demonstrably true) but what's the standard response nowadays if a string of Christmas lights doesn't light? Replace the string. The two replacement bulbs and a fuse are provided with the string for the same reason there's a sprig of parsley on your plate in a restaurant -- just for show, an edible garnish, which you might use if want to take a moment but no one expects you to. And not providing spare parts for the product you sell definitely encourages a disposable culture mindset. And this is stupid.
    I guess for sure I have ten spare bulbs and three spare fuses for other strings now... technically I also have a spare string as well. I'm ready for the future.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

two illuminating images for Illiterate

My old buddy asked in comments here a few days ago what I thought of LED arrays. I'm for them economically even if I can't always deal with the spectrum of light produced and, in the case of some AC-powered ones, the 60Hz flicker (fluorescents bug me the same way). But there are a couple small LED lights that are new to the market which I like:
two before and aftersLeft: One of this Halloween's new items -- a string of 10 purple LEDs, powered by two AA batteries [yaay, DC!], available at Fred Meyers. Also available in orange. The "sugar coating" is a throwback to a style of Christmas light that was popular in the 1950's or 1960's, and the color is really very nice. (Digital cameras don't handle the color purple very well, but this photo is close to yet not exactly how the human eye would see the color.)

Right: Saw this at Walgreen's today -- a two-pack of C-7 base lights, containing three white-blue LEDs, for use in replacing the white/pink/blue/clear-crystal bulb in an incandescent nightlight, but since it's the same size base as a Christmas light it could be in the star on the top of your tree. The package trumpets that it's got a 50,000 hour life, uses less than 1 watt of 'lectricity, and costs less than 25¢ a year to operate.

Something more real and bloggy coming next time I post, honestly.

Monday, October 01, 2007

another car we need to see in America

If you haven't read yesterday's entry, please don't forget to do that!Audi A2

Car: A2 by Audi.
Mileage: 75 to 90 miles per gallon(!!) - 2 to 3 litres per 100km.
Where are they: 175,000 across Europe.
What happened: Produced from 1999 to 2005, discontinued due to consumer disinterest for being too forward-thinking (according to Wikipedia). The pendulum has swung back, small is in again.

Hope of return: Audi intends to market a similar car, the A1, in 2009, to compete with the Cooper Mini [hopefully keeping the A2's gas mileage, which is three times that of a Mini - 25mpg average].
Hope of it showing up in America: pppthttthhhhttt!

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