Monday, January 31, 2011

Sprouting Wings

Today was a bit of an odd day. I woke this morning to my alarm, and in truth, I dreaded rolling out of bed. If I got out of bed, that meant that I would be heading to my last day of work for a while. I pushed my snooze button a few extra times, but ended up rolling out of bed and getting to work at a fairly respectable time. Knowing that the day could either be relaxing or emotionally draining, I rummaged through my sock drawer to find one of the last pairs of new socks from my Christmas present. I had recieved about 12 pairs, and I had a sneaking suspicion that one of those pairs still hadn't been worn. Never underestimate the power of a new pair of socks.

As I drove into work, I started thinking about the day. Is it going to be the last time I got to see those that I work with, or is it going to be the last time I see them for three months? The answer to this question could drastically change how today goes. So, as I pulled into the parking lot and clipped on my name badge, I felt no different than I had on Friday when I walked through the doors.

I got to work to find that my coworkers had (once again) made a little potluck. In my anxiousness, I forgot to pack a lunch, so the potluck satiated me nicely—homemade cheesecake, chocolate-coconut bars, and fresh chips and salsa. If you eat the cheesecake and chocolate-coconut bars at the same time, you get quite a yummy taste going.

I was also told that I would need to leave by noon because my supervisor needed to be elsewhere when I was planning on leaving. He told me that he would pay me for the rest of the day, but that I needed to leave.

This put my day completely out of whack. I started frantically trying to get everything taken care of. I had a few loose ends that I was planning on tying up today, and it ended up that I had five hours less to get them all done in. Not wanting to dump any of these tasks on my poor coworkers, I frantically started typing. I got to a point where I knew I wasn't going to be able to finish everything by 11:30. So I asked my coworkers to decide which of the two options are the lesser of two evils. They chose one, and I ran with it.

About 11:15, I was done with my task. The other task that was left could be taken care of piecemeal, so I started looking into the requests. By about 11:30, my supervisor started hovering around my desk. Thinking that he wanted to hurry me on my way and kick me out, I started to release the requests back to my coworkers. I told him that I was releasing these items, and he said, "Oh, no rush. I have a few things that I am going to wrap up over at my desk, and then I'll be back."

Then why were you hovering?!

I fired off another quick email, hoping to have it finished by the time he came back. Another success! Today has turned out to be pretty good. I get to go home early, get paid for a full day's work, completed a lot in the daily piecemeal work (although I didn't completely knock everything out of the park), and I could go home and surprise Wifey and have lunch with her (since I had forgotten mine).

I got up to get a quick drink, and realized that my supervisor was heading my way. He asked me to come chat with him in the other room just as one of the people that I work with was coming up to wish me well. I asked him to hold on, and that I would be back. I offered my suggestion of chocolate-coconut cheesecake bars, and trailed my supervisor out of the room.

He informed me that too many people on his staff had heard that he was going to pay me for an afternoon that I didn't work. So he was going to be returning around 4:30 to come collect my things. After laughing when I told him that I was planning to work until five, and working really hard to get everything done in the condensed time frame, I was staying all day after all.

And the kicker comes when he told me that he didn't want to get fired for giving me an afternoon of paid time. This man was telling me that he didn't want to lose his job as he was letting me go for a furlough.

So, I returned to my desk, accepted my well wishes from the waiting coworker (who didn't take my advice and ate only cheesecake), and picked back up everything that I had reluctantly released to my co-workers. Looks like the afternoon was not mine, and that it really was too good to be true.

With all that being said, I was reminded of something that I was thinking about as I lay in bed this morning. I got thinking about the persistent pain in my upper-middle back that comes from tight muscles whenever I get stressed. After knuckling it for a bit (as best you can in the middle of your back), I got to thinking about how I felt like I had gone through a rigorous workout the day before (which if you didn't know yet, I clearly didn't do with my gym track record). I got to thinking about what kinds of exercises would cause that type of pain. The only logical answer was flying.

I realized that, if I had wings, that would be where they would connect to my body (assuming that I wasn't more like Hermes with ankle wings). So instead of taking this furlough as a bad thing, I decided that I was going to take it as an opportunity to figure out some things in my life. Now is a good time to figure out what I want to pursue for a Master's degree. Now is a good time to write more. Now is a time to pursue my hobbies. Now is a time to hang out with Wifey and Munchkin. Now is a time to learn new tools to make me more valuable in the work place. Now is a time to get all the items off my honey-do list.

So instead of taking the time to feel sorry for myself, I figure that the pains in my back are there because I am sprouting wings. I Who knows where they will take me? I hope you will stick around for the journey.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Remembering Gramps

Here is a man who spoke four words to me over the course of time that I knew him. When I was at his house one time, he asked of me, "You been here before?" Even though this was the only personal message I have received from this man, I still learn from him quite frequently.

Five years ago, he passed away. Wifey's grandfather left quite a legacy. When we spend time with Wifey's grandma, conversation naturally goes towards the good times she had with Grandpa. When we talk about parenting with my in-laws, tales of Grandpa come up as well. But I see a lot of Grandpa in my father-in-law. They each play the banjo equally well.

Here's to remembering Grandpa, who in his last days ate only black licorice.

I Feel...

A new video caught my attention on TED today, so of course I started perusing other content because you can't watch just one TED video without finding something else that looks riveting as well. From a various string of videos that all started with a ukulele, I ran across this one (that is kind of long, but good) by Jonathan Harris:

I liked the first part best. I have been looking for a way to find bloggers who I might be able to connect with online. I want to find blogs that are meaningful to me. And this tool offers a unique way to visualize this type of information. You can connect directly with the blog to learn more.

I went out to the site to test it out, and the We Feel Fine project works as expected. I was a bit surprised that I didn't have the option to select Boise, but both Meridian and Eagle were in the list. I guess Boise doesn't have a lot of bloggers who discuss their feelings.

Now it is story time.

We had a great farewell luncheon yesterday that was arranged by two of my co-workers (and fellow contractors) that was very nice. We had a large and varied group come and take a lot of time out of their normal day to wish me well. I was surprised at first to hear that 17 people had RSVPed. In fact, I felt quite flattered that so many would join us. Sadly, there weren't very many from my the company that is forcing me to take a furlough (including my direct manager).

I had a manager from another company that I work with contact me to wish me well on my hiatus. She told me that a lot of her employees were talking about my furlough and saying really negative things about it.

I have been quite bitter about this furlough. I have worked very hard to make myself valuable to this company, and for thanks I get a kick out the door for three months. I have come to a realization that this isn't a reflection on me, or on my work—this is a reflection on managers who see me as a title and probably don't even know my name (unless they are familiar with the famous singer from the 80's). The reflection on me and my work comes from the fact that I was invited to return after my furlough. It makes the horse pill a bit easier to swallow.

To tie this all together, I got thinking about the end of the video. I got thinking about the mythology that would be around me by using the new Universe tool. I felt like I had been feeling like my own little planet was having quite the violent upheaval while the rest of the world went on. And to an extent, that is true. But by hearing that the group of authors I work with have been up in arms about this vindicated me. By explaining my furlough, I have found many people who are willing to look for positions for me, including some who are trying to pull strings and break the rules. We'll see if anything comes of it, but for now, I know that this moment in my mythology reaches far beyond me. It might not have the impact that it needs in order for me to find a position, but I can be hopeful that it does.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Something Is in the Air

Last night I woke up to the moanings of Munchkin. I was in the middle of a dream that was quite entertaining, and I secretly hoped that I could re-enter the dream once I sleepily slid back into bed. Let me know if you have any interpretations on it.

I was in my parents' house looking at their split level staircase. I was getting ready for my wedding at my parents house—well, it was being pitched to me as my wedding. It seemed more like a wedding reenactment than my actual wedding. I was standing there waiting to get my tux, but all the males from my wife's family (father, brother, brothers-in-law, uncles, and cousins) were processing up and down the stairs while giving me advice. My father-in-law was holding Munchkin as he walked (which was part of the reason why I knew that it wasn't my real wedding that I was preparing for).

As they all talked and walked, I realized that my tux was hanging off the railing at the top of the staircase. The group tried to get me to climb into my tux while it was still hanging there. I caught on that this was a sneaky way of trying to kill me, thus leaving Wifey free to escape my clutches and not to marry me. I told them all that I needed to use the restroom so that the crowd would disperse.

They all left out the front door, and I went to retrieve my tux. When I touched it, I was transported into a car that was in an urban area of a city about the size of Portland. As I was driving along, time froze, but my car was still moving. I swerved to avoid a couple of frozen cars, but ended up having to pull over into a parking spot so that I didn't cause any accidents should time unfreeze.

As I got out of the car, I noticed a strange cloud pulsating in the sky. The cloud looked very cosmic, much like the pictures you see of nebulae. I started walking towards it, and after a few steps, I was hovering inside the nebula in space. I realized that the nebula was sentient, and it was recreating representations of Earth for me to try to recreate my life. I wasn't sure why this smart cosmic dust cloud decided to be doing all of this for me, but I started to try to communicate with the cloud.

Then Munchkin woke me.

I know$mdash;I have CRAZY (in all caps) dreams. But this is the first one I have had that stayed with me in a while. Any thoughts? If it is an omen that I am going to get a job, please let me know.

Update: And how does that fit in with this article I found today? ACK!

Friday, January 21, 2011

I Wish You the Best

As my time is (too) quickly coming to a close at my current job, I keep getting people who are sending condolences or trying to tell me to keep my chin up. These are generally people who I have developed a good relationship with who are sad to see me go.

Most of the people who are employed as full-time employees of the company I work for say something like this:
I wish you the best. But we would love to see you back in 100 days.

Call me crazy, but that isn't wishing me the best. If I am returning in 100 days, I am still a contractor. I still don't have benefits. I still don't have a company that matches any funds I put towards my retirement. I still don't have income for over three months. I still don't have a company that will help me get my Master's degree.

And I could go on.

But then I got this email from one of the authors I work with. This is all it said:
Hey, I heard about your 100-day leave of absence. Silly rule in my book. Hope you find a better job at 3 times the salary during your furlough.

Take care

Call me crazy, but this guy is wishing me the best a whole lot better than any of the full-time well wishers. So, in case you hear about anyone in my situation, feel free to give them the latter response instead of the first one.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Learning in College

My dad was big into education. When I say big, I mean he got his Ph. D. and worked as a professor of education teaching instructors how to teach better big. By the end of his tenure, he was in charge of placing all the potential teachers for elementary and secondary student teaching. He served on academic approval committees across the state of Idaho to make sure other colleges were up to snuff when offering their programs.

This being said, it goes without saying that he did a lot of reading on education and the decay of education in the US. There was a big push to save money for businesses by outsourcing jobs to other countries where the labor was cheaper. It quickly became ingrained in me that the only way to get ahead in life was to get an education.

I took a college course between my junior and senior year in high school and came out alright. It was a history course, and I got an ice cream cone out of the deal from the teacher when he canceled class to head to the bar, so I was fine with it.

Then I landed in college. I had looked forward to this day because I felt like I had been coddled through high school. I never studied and was able to pull off A's and B's without a problem. I got one C in Chemistry because I told my teacher that I wouldn't do the same math homework for four days in a row after I had the concept down.

I felt repeating the same problems with different variables was a waste of my time, and so I spent my time the first day doing my work and learning the concept of how to do the math problem, and used the other days for more productive things. He decided to try to teach me a lesson by making homework super important in the syllabus, but when I ended up getting A's on all my tests, he realized I had learned the concepts, but wouldn't budge on the syllabus. So I got a C.

He never really answered my questions that I asked in class either, which at the time seemed odd. I even asked after class. His excuse was that he didn't want to confuse the rest of the class. I think he just didn't know the answer and didn't want to look dumb in front of his students.

I was a bit disappointed when I got in college. I got into a bunch of general courses that were pretty much the same thing as I had seen in high school. Sure, there was an improvement in the pace of the information that was being presented, but I didn't feel like I was being challenged.

So I floundered.

In fact, I floundered through ten majors (chemistry, vocal performance, music business, math, psychology, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer programming, English, and finally technical writing). I got into classes, hoping to find something that really engaged and challenged me. By the end, I had gotten married and decided that I just needed to buckle down and choose a profession, so I stuck with technical writing. I wasn't particularly engaged by the lower division courses, but once I got into the upper division ones, I found that I enjoyed myself. I started to like learning.

That is why I was particularly interested to read this article in the Economist about the new book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. Here are some stats that piqued my interest:
  • 45 percent of students "did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning" during the first two years of college.
  • 36 percent of students "did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning" over four years of college.
  • Those students who do show improvements tend to show only modest improvements. Students improved on average only 0.18 standard deviations over the first two years of college and 0.47 over four years. What this means is that a student who entered college in the 50th percentile of students in his or her cohort would move up to the 68th percentile four years later -- but that's the 68th percentile of a new group of freshmen who haven't experienced any college learning.
  • Students who study by themselves for more hours each week gain more knowledge -- while those who spend more time studying in peer groups see diminishing gains.
  • Students whose classes reflect high expectations (more than 40 pages of reading a week and more than 20 pages of writing a semester) gained more than other students.
  • Students who spend more time in fraternities and sororities show smaller gains than other students.
  • Students who engage in off-campus or extracurricular activities (including clubs and volunteer opportunities) have no notable gains or losses in learning.
  • Students majoring in liberal arts fields see "significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study." Students majoring in business, education, social work and communications showed the smallest gains. (The authors note that this could be more a reflection of more-demanding reading and writing assignments, on average, in the liberal arts courses than of the substance of the material.)
 This really rang true to me, because I didn't start really getting engaged in my studies until I was a senior. I started researching topics outside of class and bringing them up in class. I found topics that weren't covered in the syllabus and asked about them during class discussion. I wanted to know more because I had a purpose of getting a job, and it drove me to want to succeed. There were people who were coddled through college, just as they had been through high school. I didn't want to be one of those people.

I was glad to see that people are starting to debunk the myth that if you get a Bachelor of Arts that you are not going to be able to get a job. I have one in English, and granted, I am losing my job in a little over a week for a short amount of time, but I see things in my organization that other people with an MBA don't see because I definitely had a liberal smattering of all sorts of topics in college. They stretched me in ways that I didn't think that they would, and I learned from those experiences. And learning to write has been a great springboard for other things.

This brings me to a quote by Albert Einstein that I like.
If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.
Granted, not every college professor is a great orator, but if you can't explain concepts to your students, it might be because they are like my high school chemistry teacher or my college business teacher. Mr. Einstein has called their bluff.

So, for those noble people who have decided to teach for their occupation, please take the time to engage your students. Make them read. Make they write.

I had one business teacher that understood how important it was to write. She taught a leadership course that I took as an elective. She asked the class to go around and give a brief introduction including your major. When I stood up and introduced myself as a technical writing major, her eyes lit up. Before I could finish, she embarrassed me in front of the class by saying, "This is the guy that you all should be sitting by. He will pass the class with a good grade because he can write well." She knew that I could assimilate information into something that others could understand and use. And it gave me hope for the future that I wouldn't be pushed out of the workplace by all the business majors.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


After many emails and contacting multiple people, I finally heard back from the company I was interviewing with. And it was a negative response. After months of careful planning, the stars would have been magically aligned and I would have been offered the position just in the nick of time, but I learned that recently the Zodiac signs were changed, so the stars weren't aligned as I thought they would be. Silly astrologers. Don't they know that they are messing with my ability to feed my family?

This means that I am back at square one. In exactly two weeks I won't have a job, and at this point, there are no promising prospects. If I need to, I'll go get a job at McDonald's or something. I am hoping that it doesn't come to that, but there are mouths to feed and bills to pay.

So now I start applying to all the positions that I qualify for, but would be just a job instead of a career—secretary, office assistant, peon, etc.

The bright side of things is that we only need to survive for three months. The position I currently have will still be here for me when I am done with my 100-day break. The bad news is I have to find something to fill my time and pay the bills in the next two weeks. In case you know of anything or hear of any positions that are focused on writing, editing, the Internet, or computers, please let me know. I'll take what I can get, and am a surprisingly quick study... 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pink Is the New Black

Or is it black is the new pink? I don't remember. I'm not up on my fashion statements.

Munchkin quickly picked up the term, "No"quite a while ago, but this week she has decided to add some non-verbal communication into the mix instead of just saying no. You might think that she would shake her head, or hold up a hand. Instead, she had decided to do something different.

Munchkin has decided that if she blinks at an incredibly slow rate (like three to four seconds for one blink) that she will be able to respectfully decline whatever you are offering or asking without having to tell you no. I was trying to give her a bite of yogurt. She has been wanting to feed herself with her own spoon (or sometimes by just diving a hand into the yogurt cup and sucking it off her cupped hand). We were in a bit of a hurry, so I tried to help her.

She responded by tucking her chin down to her chest, furrowing her brow, and blinking really slowly. I smiled and attempted to encourage her to eat the (slightly too) large bite from the spoon. And she repeated her reaction.

Now she does it all the time. If she sees someone who she doesn't know very well and they are trying to coax a smile from her, she blinks slowly. If she doesn't want to come over to you to get her diaper changed, she blinks slowly. If she doesn't like what you are saying, she blinks slowly.

It will be interesting to see how long it lasts. She is starting to learn new words, and enjoys babbling all the time, so it surprises me that she doesn't want to just use her words. "No," is one of the more frequent words in her vocabulary (surprise surprise for a fifteen month old). But for now, the slow blink is pretty entertaining.

The real headline should be Slow Blinks Are the New No.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Will It Be You?

As I was reading through my daily list of blogs today, I ran across this little gem. Apparrently, Apple is giving away a $10,000 gift card to the person who downloads the 10 billionth download. I'm glad I got my gift cards for Christmas. Now I can watch and try to get that download.

If I win, Wifey will definitely be right in her advice to her mom. When her mom asked if it would be a good idea to get me an iTunes gift card, Wifey said, "With Johnny, music is the gift that keeps on giving." If I win a $10,000 gift card, it will definitely keep on giving! And I would be willing to share should lightning strike.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I've Been Gouged

We got a letter from our insurance company telling us that they were going to raise our rates because we were renewing our policy. We were a bit surprised to find that our policy was increasing by over $100 (over 30%). That smells foul to me, so we called them up to see what the deal was.

After being on hold for about 20 minutes, I finally got through and talked with this young woman (who put me on hold for about ten minutes after I asked her why my rates had gone up) who informed me that my rates went up because I was renewing my enrollment on the plan. But the main reason for the increase, according to this woman, is the rising cost of health care. She went through a list of things like perscription medications, doctors visits, and medical tests that increased over the past year.

After a quick Google search and selecting the first item about health care costs in 2011, I came up with this article from CNN stating that health care was expected to rise 9% in the next year. I get the fact that things increase in cost. I don't get the fact that there is over 20% of that cost that has nothing to do with the increasing costs of health care.

This is why I don't like dealing with insurance. You pay a premium religiously every month, and when you really need it, they fight you all the way to pay for what you contracted them to pay for. The lack of transparency is appalling. I tried to go find the financial report (which is more like a marketing brochure) from our company's web site from 2010 to get a rough estimate on what they might have made over the course of the last year. The report for 2010 was not available, so I went with the 2009 numbers instead. I guess the public isn't allowed to see their profits though. Here were a few interesting graphics which were side by side in the 2009 Annual Report:

2009 membership numbers
2009 total reserves
Membership increased by 22,066 people. This is a about a 4 % increase. Total reserves (which I interpret as profits because they won't give me a bottom line if I'm not a share holder) increased 99.1 million. That is a 27% increase. This tells me that someone is making a substantial profit with at least a 23% markup (assuming that the membership and profits are correlated in a linear fashion). Now I'm no math whiz, but I can see that someone is making a quick buck on me. Actually, in my case, they are making about 60 quick bucks on me in 2010, and in 2011 (assuming that everything stays equal which is probably not the case as the Total Reserves chart looks more like an exponential function rather than a linear one) they will be making about 85 quick bucks on me. And this doesn't even cover the markup that is already inherent in the current figures.

I understand that businesses need to make money in order to survive. I also understand that if you bleed everyone dry, they won't have the funds to pay for your services. I also have a sneaking suspicion that the people who are on the right end of the graph on this page are the ones who are increasing my rates an additional 23% because they didn't get the opportunity to go on a week-long paid vacation with each of their friends this past year because they had to tighten their belt.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Technology Savvy at 15 Months

Today I received my first unassisted call from Munchkin. She loves playing with Wifey's phone, and because Wifey's speed dials don't work as expected, she generally doesn't call anyone. I guess she was successfully able to navigate to my name, push the green button to call me, all while jabbering. When I started talking to her, I don't think she realized I was on the line, mainly because it hasn't happened before. All the button pressing gave me a hint as well. Either that, or someone was censoring all the baby expletives on my wife's phone, which would just be creepy.

Munchkin did know that I was on the line by the time she left though. She said , "Bye bye dada," before hanging up. So it is legit.

For being 15 months old, I think a fifteen second conversation is pretty good on the phone.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Weekend to Forget

We had a really great weekend away from everything. Our friends invited us up to their family cabin above Lake Cascade to enjoy the snow and scenery. It allowed me the opportunity to forget:
  • Impending job loss
  • Impending job interviews (hopefully)
  • Job seeking
  • Bills
  • Work
  • Shaving
  • Waking up to an alarm
  • Phone calls (no reception—WHOO HOO!)
  • Sundry responsibilities
Our days consisted of waking up when the kids did, sledding, playing board games, napping, cooking, eating, and laughing. I am happy to report that my earlier fears were allayed. Munchkin enjoyed the sledding if someone was in the sled with her. After the run was completed, she would get up and run around in the snow. She also thought that it was pretty funny that we could throw the snow up in the air and it would fall back down in so many pieces (it was pretty powdery). She even took the time to explore it with her tongue a bit when she saw it on her gloves. And it was a good thing for her.

I guess I can claim her as mine without the paternity test.

We did have a pretty rough night with Munchkin not wanting to sleep. She kept waking up and crying, pointing to the door. It is her way of letting us know that she wants to play instead of sleep. Usually we win. But Saturday night, we didn't.

We ended up caving after about two hours of off-and-on waking up with her, accompanied by crying. Munchkin didn't want to lay down in her port-a-crib (which is a bit too small for her now), be rocked while being held, nor be held while being bounced. At one point, I had a dream that I was sitting in the rocking chair in the bedroom and holding her because I was up so frequently in the night with her. It was kind of hard for me to grasp that I was laying in bed when she woke me up the next time. It was even harder for my sleepy brain to grasp that she wasn't in my arms.

We were glad our friends had brought up a video of Mickey Mouse Playhouse, because I ended up going into the other room and turning it on for her while attempting to get her back down. It took a while, but she eventually fell asleep laying by her mommy on the bed. I got kicked out, but at that point, I didn't care where I was sleeping as long as I was sleeping.

But all of that was overshadowed by all the fun we had. I'll have to just forget that portion of the trip, and if I do, my memory of the weekend will be perfect.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Experimental Instruments

It turns out that people are printing instruments now. I don't know exactly what media they are using, but working for a company that sells printers, this amazes me. I really wanted to see the part where they folded the material and sealed it together into one circular piece, but evidently that part of the process is secret.

The flute doesn't work quite as well as a normal one, but it could lead to new types of instruments because you can make them relatively cheaply without having to spend an arm and a leg to create a mold.

What type of instrument would you want to make? I would love hear a piccolo oboe. It might be really annoying, but it would be fun to see someone playing an oboe that was the size of a tin whistle.

Friday, January 7, 2011

What I Wished I Had Seen Before I Interviewed

Kate just sent me this link. If only she had sent it one day earlier, I might have been offered the position on the spot yesterday instead of having to wait to hear back on whether or not I get a second interview! Especially the last frame...

A Post-Interview Surprise

The interview went quite well (in my opinion) yesterday. I had a couple of people in the room with me, and one on the phone (remotely from the Denver office). Even though they all had names that started with a "J" sound (one had a spelling that started with a "G"), I was able to keep them all straight.

There were no real surprises in the interview for me. The only question that I would consider maybe being a minus for me is the fact that they asked me if I had any HR experience. I am hoping that the question was mainly a nice to have instead of a must have. The job description didn't mention it as a requirement, but you never know what people might read between the lines when they are trying to create a job description.

The biggest surprise came as I was walking out the door. One of the authors that I edit for was attempting to come in through the secured door while I was trying to escape. Because I knew her, I let her in. I said a quick hi in passing, but I thought that she was just ignoring me because I received no answer. She didn't look up, she didn't acknowledge me in any way, shape, or form. I figured that this was because she was coming to an interview, and felt a bit awkward that the both of us happened to bump into each other.

Maybe it was how the earlier part of Cautious Thursday turned out, but Cautious Thursday turned into Paranoid Thursday for me by seeing her there. I know that she just graduated with her Masters degree from my alma mater in Technical Communication, which will be a leg up for her over me. My interviewers don't know that there is a 60% overlap in the curriculum between the bachelor's and Masters programs, so I spent the evening with a gnawing in the back of my brain while comparing her writing and what I knew of her credentials to my own.

Before leaving work yesterday (and to ease my troubled mind), I decided to send her an email wishing her well. I thought it would help diffuse the semi-awkward situation of me saying hi and her completely ignoring me. And I ended up getting a response from her this morning, profusely apologizing for not noticing me. She had come to visit a friend who just started working there, and her friend wanted to show off the new place. She had a really bad headache/sinus infection, so she was trying to avoid looking into the lights and things. At least that's what she said.

Needless to say, my worries were unwarranted. With that being said, now I have a gnawing in my brain that she is going to go looking on all the job boards and find the posting for this position and sneak her resume in before the position closes and I'll find her sitting in a room with me during a second interview as we try to battle it out. She has ammunition against me, and I have ammunition against her as to why we are the better of the two writers.

For my sanity's sake (as well as my pocketbook's sake), let's hope that this daydream remains nothing more than a thought.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cautious Thursday

Today I had to be very cautious. I woke and got ready, but instead of my normal jeans and long-sleeved shirt, I put on my olive green suit and tie. I drove cautiously, as I saw three policemen along my normal route.
If you are like me, the minute I see a police car, you look at your speedometer to check your speed, followed by no less than fifteen glances into the rear view mirror to make sure that you aren’t being followed. I’m generally not doing anything wrong, but it just puts me on edge.

After arriving at work, I walked cautiously over the frozen parking lot, remembering that my dress shoes don’t offer the same grip as my normal shoes, thus making them prone to unexpected slips and slides in an attempt to topple me. Arriving at the door, I breathed a sigh of relief as my badge worked and slipped inside.
I passed my cube mate on the way to my desk. He didn’t recognize me until I was past him, and muttered a surprised, “Oh, hi!” when his mind caught up with his eyes. After getting settled in, I went to my first meeting. And this is why I had been so cautious.

I had a meeting this morning with the vendor manager, who I had not told yet about my interview. Needless to say, in three weeks, I would be out of this job, but they are not-so-secretly hoping that I’ll return after my hiatus. It is nice to know that there is a backup, should this new position not work out, but it drives me crazy to have to take off three months.

I saw one of my co-workers leave her desk, so I waited a few minutes, expecting that she was headed directly to the meeting. I was wrong.

I walked into the room, and the vendor manager was sitting there waiting for me. He is nothing to dread, and he is very good at what he does. He would make a great politician, as he has the skill to make everything sound like it has been carefully scripted before he speaks. He never makes a situation uncomfortable, and can smooth-talk with the best of them without consciously smooth-talking.

He was (of course) surprised to see me in a full suit. He asked what the special occasion was, and I told him that I had an interview. I could see the look of terror flash behind his eyes, but he quickly recovered. And that put a damper on the rest of the meeting. Both my co-workers had it dawn on them that three weeks was all they had left with me, even if I don’t get this position. Come February 1 my contract is up.

Part of me felt good to know that I have an interview. But part of me felt like I was betraying the people who have taught me a lot while I have been in this position. The uncomfortable discussion always comes up that people wish me the best, but secretly they don’t want me to leave. It is hard all around.

So I have remained cautious throughout my day. I cautiously ate my baked potato and chili for lunch, careful not to drop any bites off my fork—spills just won’t do today. I cautiously tell people that I have an interview, and notice the quick glances at me when I pass by their cube on my way to the next meeting.

And I’ll leave cautiously early in order to make it to my interview on time at 2:00. It isn’t very far away, but I am making sure that I have at least 20 solid minutes to get there. I don’t want to arrive too late, or too early. In fact, I kind of feel like I am on my first date with a girl. In a way, I am being courted, so I can see how similar feelings are elicited from me going to an interview as when I went on first dates.

So I’ll just have to remain cautious so that I don’t ruin the evening.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Doctor's Appointment

Yesterday I skipped out of work a little bit early. I told my co-workers that I had a doctor's appointment that I had to go to. One of them had their mother instinct kick in and worriedly asked me if everything was fine, so I told her that it was just a routine checkup.

That isn't entirely false, but it isn't entirely true either.

You see, the appointment wasn't for me. I met Wifey in at the doctor's new office near the hospital. Munchkin was a bit surprised when I got her out of the car, but she didn't mind (As a side note, she did mind when I didn't get back into the car after the appointment. She has been liking me more and more these days, despite the fact that I don't bribe her any more or less than I used to with sweets). We walked up to the door and snaked our way through the tight hallway of the old building into an elevator to head up to the office. Once we got in the office, we checked in and got put in a waiting room quite quickly. I think we were pretty much the only ones there at the time.

The reason why we were headed to the appointment can be summed up by the following picture:

Can't you see the excitement on her face?
Don't let Munchkin's enthusiasm fool you—she doesn't really understand at this point that she is going to have a full time "beebee" around the house. But she does get really excited when she can go see her cousin who is still mostly non-mobile. She gets in his face and grabs his arms, just like her older cousins did to her (and occasionally still do) when she was non-mobile.

All-in-all, I think she'll be a good big sister. She hasn't gotten too sassy, likes to poke you in the eye and inform you verbally that it is your eye, and promptly drops the dolls she carries around under one arm when something more interesting comes along. Sounds like a recipe for success, right?

Until the time that Munchkin II comes along and can defend him/herself, we'll have some teaching to do. In the mean time, I had better start coming up with some snappy names for a new baby, as Munchkin II is quite unexciting (and completely non-creative). Once we know a gender, it might be easier.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Database Prophecy

Today was my first day back in the office. While I worked over the break, I was able to sit lay in my bed and work in my pajamas. In fact, I even gave up shaving for a week. It was quite nice.

Well, when I arrived at work, I pulled into my usual parking lot and approached my usual door to enter. I pulled my badge up to the door sensor, and hear the usual beep. When I pulled on the handle, the door was still locked.

Thinking that it was a fluke, I tried again. I got the same result.

I thought it must be the door. The guy who just went through it in front of me must have messed with it. But that wasn't the case. I tried another door, and got the same result. The sensor kept turning red, either trying to tell me to go away, or mocking my fingers that were reddening from the cold.

I called up a co-worker and asked her to come let me in. She gave me a hard time, but let me in without having to offer any promises of goodies or favors. I told her that my badge wasn't working, and then asked the question that was on my mind—Is there something I should know?

I know that my contract expires at the beginning of next month, but I didn't expect that I would be banished from the building a month early as a strange form of hazing. It turns out that I was right.

I went and checked with my supervisor, and he informed me to go talk to the security office. After waiting in line for about 15 minutes, I handed my badge to the nice lady sitting behind the desk. She started looking up my information, and then asked me if I had another badge (which I don't). Then she asked who my supervisor was, and started a little investigation of her own.

It turns out that the database ate me. My picture was gone, major parts of my information was gone, and I had been given another badge as part of it. The lady turned my badge back on, and then told me that she turned the other one off. I feel bad for whoever has the other badge, because they are going to have to go through the same process as I did tomorrow when they try to come in and find that the light is red. I hope they aren't late to their meeting.

After all this tomfoolery, I started to wonder if this was a sign of things to come. Was this the company's way of saying, "You're not wanted?" Does this mean that I am not destined to work here? Does this mean that I am going to get one of these two jobs that I am applying for?

I hope that the answer to the last question is yes.

On a completely unrelated note, today I received my 1,000th visitor. If I knew who you were, I might give you a prize. But since I don't, you'll just have to have the satisfaction that on January 4th, 2011, you might have been my 1,000th visitor.


Yesterday was a good day. I decided to take the day off work (at Wifey's suggestion) because the company I work for had a holiday. While I could have worked from home, Wifey convinced me not to worry about it.

We spent the morning taking down all our Christmas things. Wifey was happy to get it down, but I could tell that she didn't want Christmas to be over. While we got everything cleaned up, that wasn't the best part of the day.

I had a preliminary phone interview for a position. After applying for positions since August, I finally have an interview. I felt the interview went well. I was able to answer yes to everything that needed a yes, and didn't get any curveball questions that curved too much.

They liked me enough to schedule me for an in-person interview (which I didn't know existed anymore) on Thursday, so wish me luck.

The position would be creating content and web sites. I have always been intrigued by the Web, but never had the opportunity to really delve into the HTML and coding. Maybe I'll have the opportunity to do that, and get paid for it now. And the company offers education assistance as well. This means that I might be getting a Master's degree. I had better start delving more into what I want to study if I am going to get this position...

But before I put the cart before the horse, I also want to mention that a former co-worker of mine is meeting tomorrow for another possible position. I don't know why, but after the drought of not hearing anything from any company for five months, now I have two very likely possibilities on the horizon. Hopefully I'll be getting two offers within the next week, and I'll get to pick which one I want.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Change of Plans

The Monday after Christmas we were going to go sledding. The only problem was the fact that all the snow around Boise melted, so we were kind of out of luck. There wasn't much to be done, except change plans. So we did.

We decided instead to take a trip up to some hot springs that Wifey's sister had been to on Memorial Day. They charged a bit more than I wanted to pay ($8.00 per person), but we decided to make the hour and a half drive anyway since the rest of the family was going.

On the way, we stopped for one of Munchkin's cousins to take a quick potty break. We learned that the name of the place we were going was Gold Fork Hot Springs, so we started looking for signs. We thought originally that it was on the south side of Cascade, but after driving for two hours, I realized that it was a lot closer to McCall than it was to Cascade.

And I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived. I was expecting some rinky-dink stone pools patched together with poorly-mixed cement. Instead, I found a steaming, three tiered pool occupied by some Japanese tourists. Then, I learned that there were two other pools, both equally appealing.

After changing in the confines of about 1/6 of a yurt (the most unpleasant part of the experience) and securing our things in a locker, we slid into the main pool. And the water was very nice. In fact, it was pretty much like a warm bath. I generally get cold in the water while swimming, but I was plenty satisfied to spend my time in basking in the warmth of the water. I didn't even get cold.

We spent a few hours moving from pool to pool and making sure that we had something to eat for lunch on the patio furniture that was sitting on the decks around the pools. After spending some time in the pools, I found that I was fine spending the $8.00 entry fee. The hot springs were just the right temperature, the drive up was quite scenic, and the facilities (except for the changing rooms) were excellent. I later found out that the springs are closed every Tuesday because they empty out all the pools and clean it out. I felt much better about my $8.00 after learning that.

We had a bunch of people (including a youth camp) show up while we were there, and while I fearedt it was going to get crowded, I found that I still had ample room to spread out and frolic in the warm water. I felt soothed, relaxed, and found that I would probably be returning in the future.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Christmas Captured

After a long hiatus, I am now back and ready to blog. This will be the first of a few posts about Christmas. As promised, I attempted to take pictures of my day on Christmas each hour, as challenged by Andrea, a friendly Canadian blogger from Ottawa. You can see her day in pictures here. I snuck a few in from Christmas Eve as well, just to help you get back into the spirit of Christmas.

I hope you enjoy!

Munchkin showing off her sparkly dress/bellybutton
Munchkin (the cute cow) and cousins perform the Nativity

Grandma and Grandpa with all the grandkids in Christmas jammies
Santa came. I guess we were all good. And Munchkin loves her shopping cart.
I woke up. I really did.
The aftermath. And Wifey loves her lime green Kitchen Aid.
Munchkin's cousins taking a spin in their new Power Wheels.
Christmas breakfast cereal of choice (even though it comes in a small box).
Playing with Munchkin on the new train table at Grandma and Grandpa's.
Getting ready. The berry wreath in the background really added to my saintly appearance before I got cleaned up. I figured that you didn't need to see the rest of me.

Watching Clash of the Titans. No, you won't be able to tell, even if you squint.

The only Christmas Casualty—my middle toe that got stepped on. Don't worry, it didn't hurt.

The Santa cheese tray I created from muenster, provolone, chipotle jack, and pepper jack.

The Christmas snack spread.

Munchkin going for a spin with the most dangerous driver ever. I'm afraid for when he turns 16.
Having a Christmas chat with my sister.
Munchkin listening to her uncle sing. When he opened his mouth real wide, she would try to stick her pointer finger in there.
Christmas relaxing before returning home as I lay under the tree.

From this point on, I didn't take any more pictures. We got home at about 8:30, and Munchkin was so happy to be home that she started exploring her toys she hadn't seen in 24 hours instead of going to bed. From shortly after we got her home until about 10:30, the pictures would have been mostly of Wifey or I trying to test our nerves against a wailing Munchkin who wanted to have more fun instead of sleep. No one wants to see that.

And no, her sleeping schedule hasn't returned to normal yet. She is still fighting going to bed at night, but it is getting better.