Monday, April 28, 2008

"Would you like to eat or screw?" It all depends upon how hungry I am.

Hello, my two to four readers. I've been reading Stick To Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain! by Scott Adams, creator of "Dilbert", of late. The title of today's entry is an example he gives of how to sum up the universe in one sentence. Apparently there was this empty drawer at one of his jobs years ago, and a debate was initiated as to how to use the drawer -- keep the shop's tools in it, or a place to store snacks (ergo the "eat or screw?"), and when one particular person was asked for his opinion of the drawer's purpose, the title was his thoughtful response. As verbose and explanatory as I am much of the time, which I credit to my parents because "why did you do that?" was always meant as a rhetorical question and they weren't after any actual information no matter how much the context of why something was done was necessary to state (don't you hate it when people interrupt you while you're answering their question with demands that you answer their question?), I like succinctness when I can find it in me. My history professor in college said many a time he'd like to award me the "Golden Shovel Award" because I'd fill out the answers to his quizzes on the back of the quiz paper, rather than going on for two separate pages like my classmates. (This is where I have to note that I never bought lined paper while I was in college, thereby necessitating that I write on the test papers.) In retrospect, it's amusing that the name of his award was the opposite of what it was recognising, that my quiz answers were not stacking the bull like everyone else's. Back to the book, it's mostly compiled from his blog (which I don't read) so it's very observation and witty, with only a handful of cartoons; the strips are ones that either didn't get run at all, inspired some debate by viewers about intended meaning, or were edited for newspaper publication so he shows us the Before and After versions. I'm not used to reading so much at a go so I've been tackling it in 50 page chunks several days apart.

I try to be green (as in earth-friendly, not like Kermit The Frog since as he said "it's not easy" but neither is being earth-friendly in our disposable society), which suddenly became a big word a week ago even if most people or businesses flaunting it were totally misusing it. One of the Sunday insert papers, possibly Parade, had an article with six or seven items: things that sound green (like using paper bags instead of plastic when shopping), and things that actually are green (like bringing your own canvas bag). So the place I'm about to start working at -- first training day is Wednesday, but I have an orientation tomorrow (Tuesday) which, like I said in the previous entry, "who is paying for the gas?" -- claims that they try to be green. Which would be why they handed me a plastic cup of water that went into the garbage when I was done with it, rather than a paper cup that may use renewable tree products but actually will biodegrade and/or go into the paper recycling bin. Anyhow, here's a stupidity that came up a day or three after the previous post. I was emailed these forms in MS Word and Adobe PDF format to fill out, the standard stuff when one starts at a modern business, and told to fax them back. That sounds like an all-electronic method, sparing some trees, right? Uh, for most it really means you print the form onto paper, fill it out, then fax the pages over, so now there's a messy-looking paper copy on that end too. I attempted to save some paper on this end and took screenshots of the forms' pages, pasted my scanned signature and the date onto those images, then used a fax program to send those over. [This is why my dialup modem is still attached to my computer, for whomever asked.] So I sent the stuff over, and didn't put breaks between the pages so 9 pages arrived there as 6. I got an email asking to resend. I inserted the page breaks, sent again, and now 9 pages arrived as 10 pages. But then I got an email saying that they couldn't be read, so she asked me to email the image of one form she needed immediately (this I had, it's what I put into the fax document!) and print out the other documents to bring to work on Wednesday. So the end result: Earth-friendly company goes through 17 pieces of their paper before deciding that they really wanted one email and 7 pieces of my paper. The fun never ends.
And on that note... click the cartoon to enjoy this Retail strip from last Wednesday larger:
Retail, by Norm Feuti - 4/23/08
In other stupidities, perhaps I've mentioned this cabinet available at Crate & Barrel that I've been wanting for a month or two. Every time I'm there, I want to get it but get the spousal statement that we need to wait because of my employment situation, despite the facts that a) we have the money, b) we're going to buy it anyway, c) it's on sale now, and d) merchandise selection gets changed regularly there so if we dawdle it's not going to be available any longer. This is the same spouse that will open up a new container of milk when there's still one glass or bowl's worth of milk left in the old container... she won't finish it but she won't throw it out, or until a week later once it actually does go bad. Anyhow, so I had the weekend to myself and I thought, "I'll surprise her by going and buying that cabinet on Sunday." I checked the website, it's still listed and still on sale, and the shipping data screen says it's in stock at the Bellevue store I always visit (there are only two stores within 500 miles). So the next day I clean out the car, put $10 of gas in for the trip, and drive up there to buy it. Cute Michaela with the cute accent checks the system. Their computer says there's one in stock. Their stock manager, however, can't find the damn thing. Michaela checks the computer to see if the Seattle store has one I can go get, and they don't have any of them there at all. She offers to do a backorder, so I'll be able to come get it in 7-10 days. Since I now work about three miles away and my car is cleaned out, sure, what the hell. I hoped she'd call today to say "oh, we found it!" so I can have it now but that didn't happen. Like I said, we should have bought it before but no...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I've already forgotten what that funny bumpersticker said, sorry...

It's been a remarkably busy week for me. I've always been told that you have to go out and look for work, businesses aren't going to try to find you. But that's the opposite of what I've been seeing. Quite literally agencies have been crawling all over each other to get to me, and I've not put out even one application in order to get anyone to look at my profile (there wasn't anything to jump for last time I looked). So let's itemize the items on my plate:

• Mentioned last week that I interviewed with Agency #1. Haven't heard another word from them.Please show me Courtney's boobs
• Agency #-3 (the one that helped me 3 jobs ago but never responds when I try to inform them I'm looking) emailed to ask me if I was interested in something, but it was a place I've worked for before so I asked if they had anything else. Through a series of emails, she says she does have something then the next day she doesn't have it anymore, and asks me why the place she's representing churns through techs so quickly.
• Agency #2, which isn't an agency but the HR department of a major domain name registrar, calls me to ask for a phone interview. The next day, we talked and I was invited in to meet face-to-face.
• My friend Illiterate's employer (let's call them Agent #0) calls an hour after #2's phone interview, asking for a phone interview the next day. Let's see, 3 weeks elapsed between my applying and them replying? So at 10am I did a phone interview with #0 and then went to meet #2. They liked me, so invited me to come back the next day -- hey, who's paying for the gasoline here?! -- to do a second interview with a couple managers.
• I get home from that trip and there's a message on the answering machine from Agent #3, asking for a call. But wait, there's more...
• Minutes later I get online and check my mail, and not only is there an email from #3 with some nebulous job details, there's an email from Agent #4 who wants to talk to me. I've responded to neither.
• I had my second interview with the domain people, and half of this process was like no other job interview I've ever been to before. Like mental acuity tests similar to the ones they gave in school ("what's next in the series? 2, 3, 5, 8, 12, __") and some interview questions that challenged my listed experiences (I'm guessing it's a way to see how much grace I have under fire). I wasn't sure what to make of my performance, but I kept it together. They said someone would get back to me before long, not sure when that would be because neither are the hiring folks.
• I get home from that trip and there's a message on the answering machine from Agent #2, asking for a call. But wait, there's more...
• Phone-tag time, and about twenty minutes later she returns my call. With an offer. Which I accepted before she even spelled it out. I start next Wednesday.

So hey, Illiterate, they snoozed and they losed. Thanks for trying! :) Oh, still talking to you -- remember Matt from that place we used to work at, the semi-sullen senior tech from my end of town? He works there. Will let you know what other faces I see, and am told there are several. Am also told the headhunter there goes searching Monster's résumés for keywords like "Earthlink" for candidates, so there are said to be other people I know there. Bonzer!

Above is Jimmie "JJ" Walker, remember him as a lanky guy in a denim bowl hat in the 1970's show Good Times? He was at the Paradise Bowl doing a standup set last night, and he was astounding. He's not the same "Kid Dynomite!" he once was, he's Grownup Dynomite. Fits him well. I don't necessarily have any stupid things to report on this time, unless you consider all these employers cold-calling me when the agencies I have worked through -- and I've been in touch with three of them -- say there's nothing out there for me, even when they contacted me first to ask if I was interested in some job they had minutes earlier.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

in a world full of stupid, a shrub is president

Sorry about the delay, I've intended to sit down and write this for days and have had the time, but... So last time I pledged to share some stupid stuff. Where to start? rain down on me Well, so far I've not got any job leads, and I've received unofficial confirmation that the place that hasn't called me in the last three weeks isn't going to. No surprises there but it's nice to at least hear that while I'm just as qualified and experienced as half the people already working there, the HR people don't think I'm qualified or experienced enough. (Ask them to do the job...) I spent a few hours in Seattle yesterday at an agency to get myself some possibilities, and won't twiddle my thumbs waiting for them to get on the ball since the dude asked me the same questions in person as he had on the phone the day before and as were on the online application. Was rather comical when he asked for my résumé since he'd gotten my name and details to get in touch with me in the first place off saidsame résumé... and how I didn't get an email from him asking for it because he passed that duty off to a receptionist who, surprise, didn't do it. I didn't catch the name of who had called me in for an appointment (call me at 10am while I'm sacked out and dreaming about being a mercinary, complete with a Bon Jovi soundtrack, and these things happen) and there are twenty-some male agents there, but I think the receptionist figured out who I had my appointment with when I mentioned not getting the memo, causing her to think "okay, who didn't I send an email for again?"

Break for a moment: The above reminds me of a funny story from probably fifteen years ago. Lance from the old 'hood called me, first time in many years, asking for my address because he lost his addressbook. I asked where he got my phone number, and he said it was on a postcard on his desk (of a French soldier at a pissoir on the street in Paris, circa World War I), to which I added, "...which also contains my address." He looked. Yes, indeed, there it was. Lance is like that. Like the time I sent him an email talking about how Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode was putting out his first solo album, and ran down a bunch of details about it, and his reply days later was, "Hey, did you know Dave Gahan's putting out a solo album?"

At this moment I'm listening to the hot-pink MP3 player that I bought from two weeks ago and arrived yesterday. Pepto-player! $5 for a gigabyte and it's got very good sound quality. The stupidities are numerous (and half are geeky so I'll spare you) but the top two are: #1 - Know how you skip a song on a CD or other music player because you don't want to hear it? You can do that here, but as soon as the song you chose is done, it goes back to the one you skipped and moves forward from there. And even if you didn't skip anything, it jumps back and replays stuff! Funny how you can't put a play-list file of your own on the device, but when it generates one on its own it sticks to it no matter what. #2 - Whomever designed the controls for this should be institutionalized. This has to be one of the only electronic toys I own where reading the pidgin-English manual is actually a necessity due to where they've hidden basic functions and what to push to get to them. Pepto-pink, you ask? That's the color they had, and the reason why they're $5 (okay, along with the fact that the maker got out of the consumer electronics business after being acquired by a car audio/video products maker and deleted all references to the players and support info from their website).

I had an odd confluence last weekend: My bestie Chrome was spending the weekend (and we did get some good conversation in this time) and on Saturday my dear friend Wayne showed up with a couple rather pricy Dave Gahan import records (singles from his second solo album). Odd having two friends who've never met materialize in my home at the same time since, you know, I only have like two friends. I haven't done anything to improve my home in a couple weeks, beside getting a plant shelf from IKEA and some slide-out racks from The Container Store for the kitchen cupboards -- which I can't install until those cabinets get de-shelf-papered and painted, a task my wife has put dibs on but not a start or completion date. Oh, speaking of the import singles, here's a bonus stupidity: One of the records came with a CD of the same eight songs as the record had plus three bonus songs. I played the CD for the first time on my way to Seattle yesterday and it was okay, especially the tenth (exclusive) song. I played the CD on my way back and it died during the tenth song... eject, huge circular gouge made by my car's player for unknown reasons!! No amount of repair tools I have is making this playable, so I've mailed the CD back to Wayne, who works at a used music store so has access to a professional disk buffer.

to Livros e Revistas: Please stop spamming people's blogs. My Portugese is good enough to know the book you're trying to promote is total bullshit.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

a fortnight can come and can go

Hey there. Sorry about the delay in blogging, but plenty of stuff has happened in the last week and while I've probably had the time to sit down and write I've had other things to attend to. capped fencepost Let's ignore that last full week of March because there's not much to say about it, so starting with one week ago...

• Monday (3/31) I got a call at 8:05 a.m. from my agency, saying not to go to work. My contract was terminated a couple weeks early. My agent seemed disappointed that I wasn't all busted up about it, but a) we all knew the end was coming and when, b) I was already aware that I wasn't going to be sticking around there since the new agency for PleaseGoAway didn't invite me to come join them, c) she'd already told me a week or two earlier that she doesn't have anything new for us yet. No flowers please, I'm rather enjoying being able to get 8 hours of sleep a night and have finally been able to move forward with home projects [ugh, did I just use the phrase "move forward with"?!] that have been avoided over weekends.

• Tuesday (4/1) I updated my résumé and submitted it to a friend (hi Greg!) to pass along to his present job's people, as he'd wanted me to do for a couple months. Of course I haven't heard anything back from those people a week later, but my my résumé has now been updated so I can do good things with it... eh, next week, I'm busting out some home projects this week. Starting with cleaning and priming the empty ceiling space where the soffet had been (see image in previous entry), and applying wallboard joint compound over the wonky fissure between sections of wall (apparently that soffet was put up before the drywalling was complete?). I decided not to clean and prime the wall part of this juncture just yet, only spackle over that fissure, because the window casement was put in so bad that we're going to have Paige's brother, a general contractor, have a look to see what can be done to make that whole space prettier first.

• Wednesday (4/2) I attended to applying texture to the ceiling section then hours later giving it a coat of bright white paint so this span would match the rest of my new ceiling. It's not an absolutely perfect match but it's also not dead obvious from a distance that there was something different here. Not much thought has been given to what new light fixture should go here yet.
look ma, no soffet!• Thursday (4/3) I bought a reciprocating saw, a Black & Decker 'Firestorm' 8.5 amp for $50 at Lowe's. This allowed me to finally trim down the tops of those fenceposts I erected last year and put on the pretty caps (see image at the right of the first couple paragraphs). And while I was at it, I tried to level out the boards on the fence I replaced long ago due to a tree going through the fence, and my aim wasn't quite true *sheepish grin* but that's how life goes. That may be the neighbor's fence, technically, but I paid for those boards and I can screw 'em up if I want.

• Friday (4/4) was my wife's day off so we went up to Bellevue to scope out Crate & Barrel and IKEA. We still haven't bought the buffet or cabinet we were looking at in a catalog, but after much roaming we're now pretty certain that if we're gonna get that piece of furniture we're going to get it from Crate & Barrel because no one else seems to have one that fits the space we intend to put it in, looks as good, or is as well priced. Of course, we'd like to have a word with whomever is in the design department about how the white ones have brushed nickel hardware and the black ones have copper -- when what we want is black with brushed nickel. I suppose this is why they make paint?

• Saturday (4/5) and Sunday (4/6) were spent on a surprise project. When the house was built in 1959, back when that section of the house was a garage, there was a door between the utility room and the kitchen. Previous folks took out the door and slopped paint over the frame, but it still looks like an old doorframe, complete with bolt hole filled with bathroom caulk. (Crackheads!!) So I bought some drywall and taped corners, and spent all of Saturday cutting those to size and putting them in place. By the end of Saturday I had mudded the corners into place. Sunday saw me apply two layers of wallboard joint compound, sand things smooth, and put a coat of primer over the spackle so it'll be ready (after a light dash of orangepeel texture) when we get around to painting the kitchen. Here's the Before & After:
new entryway!I don't really remember yesterday, Monday, other than applying for unemployment (which took all of one minute, updating the state's website with that last job, because I was re-opening my claim from last October) but what I should have been doing, and will hopefully do today, is run a Swiffer through the house! Seems the sanding I did when I got the drywall strips up in the doorframe so the edges would be flush with the wood, then the sanding I did once all the spackle over the drywall was ready, produced a rediculous quantity of white dust that has drifted down onto every surface within a twenty foot radius (I say "radius" because this includes the far corner of the livingroom, on the other side of the kitchen wall, somehow). Gypsum doesn't taste so bad, if you wondered.

That's the update on me. Next time I'll have stupid things to report.

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