Thursday, March 31, 2011

Moved by Television

Generally, I'm not moved by TV. I rarely watch enough to follow storylines (especially sitcoms or dramas). We watched a bit of Mobbed tonight (which had Wifey in tears. I blame the pregnancy hormones), and during a commercial break, I was truly moved by television.

Wifey changed the channel to Grey's Anatomy, and after seeing about ten seconds of the show, I stood up to change the channel. I guess someone on the medical drama's writing team decided that they would try to gain from some of the success of Glee and had a bunch of their actors decide to sing for the show. I was waiting for that kid in the wheelchair to roll into the ER and start spinning in his wheelchair to "How to Save a Life."

Seriously? What makes the writers of Grey's Anatomy think that having their doctors sing every few minutes and turn the episode into a Broadway musical? I'm probably more for musicals than the average straight guy because of some of my musical tastes, but this struck me as utterly ridiculous. I know enough about Grey's Anatomy to know that they use a lot of popular music in their episodes. That is all fine and dandy. But it is quite the stretch for every ER doctor and their lover to have to sing songs while keeping the drama in the operating room. You can only have so much drama in an hour (which many shows like this already push the envelope), and adding a dramatic ballad doesn't help it out.

The little part I saw seemed so forced and awkward, misconstruing the meanings in the songs. But maybe I'm too ________ (fill in the blank here: old, young, conservative, uneducated, anal, etc.) to get it. Maybe my perceptions don't match everyone else's. Maybe I see the images in column B in this post while everyone else is seeing column A. Am I completely off my rocker here folks?

The Day Munchkin Will Always Remember

Munchkin was incredibly happy today. It helped that she slept 12 hours the previous night. She woke up super happy and that carried her through most of the day.

We first went to story time at the library. The Meridian Public Library has a great story time for toddlers that is more of an activity time than just reading time. They sing songs, they have stuffed animals for the kids to play with, and read stories as well. Libraries are great places, but that is besides the point. This is about Munchkin.

Today's experience at story time started off better than normal because we walked to the Library. We pulled out the stroller and she got to ride. Munchkin likes loves experiences Nirvana whenever she is outside. She doesn't want to go back in. Even though she loves story time, she put up a bit of a fuss that she had to go inside. She probably doesn't remember much about nice sunny weather in the low 60's from last year, but since she had it today she didn't want to go in. She wasn't even wearing a jacket. Less encumberment = better playtime for her.

She didn't get into story time as much today until near the end. I think it was the weather distracting her.  She did like it though.

We walked home and got ready to head over to the park. Since it was spring break, our friends invited us to the park to play with their little boy. We spent a couple of solid hours at the park running, sliding, playing outdoor instruments, and swinging (her favorite). After a picnic (where once again she was incredibly distracted) and some more playing, we parted ways and got Munchkin down for a nap.

She slept for about an hour and a half, and then she started "helping" me fold the laundry. She ate half a pint of green beans and half a strawberry Nutrigrain bar, followed by a tour of the outside world. This includes walking around the yard with yours truly looking at all the plants and flowers to make sure that everything looks healthy and happy. She runs from the hyacinths to the tulips to the raspberry plant to the bonsai trees to the daffodils pointing out all the plants. Sometimes we throw the lilac bushes in there too.

After this, she ran around outside while I grilled a chicken breast for our chicken ceasar wraps for dinner. She chased her ball around the yard and only injured one daffodil, which I consider quite a success. I think it will live, but it was bent over. I'm glad it is still young and supple, and I am hoping that it is still in the stage where it is more flexible than anything else. It leans now, but didn't appear to have any breaks in the stems. I guess I'll have to wait and see when we get back in town  how it fares.

Tonight we read some books and watched a bit of Mickey Mouse's Clubhouse (which we bought as an Easter present for her, but we forgot to hide it, so she gets to watch it). All in all, a good day for her.

I don't think that she'll actually remember today in the grand scheme of things. But it is the type of day that was ingrained into my memory as a child. Plenty of time outside, plenty of fun activities, and even a slight sunburn. I would make a great Jeff Foxworthy joke right now. Well, maybe not so great. Only half of my neck got burned, so I would only be half a redneck.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

One to Go!

I guess my intellectual muscles still work because I just got a call inviting me to a second (and final) interview. WHOO HOO! And it won't even interfere with out weekend getaway to visit family in Utah.

My parents decided to take a weekend trip to go visit my brother. Knowing that we had nothing better to do, they invited us along. Knowing that we had nothing better to do, we accepted said invitation. With this said, I probably won't be blogging much until after we are back (sometime on Monday). You get what you get, so don't throw a fit.

We are pretty excited to go see them. Munchkin will be able to play with her cousins (one of which is only six months her elder), and I am pretty sure that she will have a ball. The only thing that would make it better for her was if there was a baby.

We spent some time with some friends last night who have a seven week old baby. As soon as she saw the baby, she walked over to him and started patting him. She just kept on saying, "Boy! Boy!" between and during the patting. Wifey introduced the baby as the little baby boy, so she parroted the last word of the phrase right back at her.

Even though there was another kid to play with, the baby had her attention for about the first half hour of the night. Then she got distracted by the hunger in her belly, but did her fair share of playing as well.

Since there is no baby at my brother's place, she'll just have to make do with the dolls. With two little girls, I am sure we can find an extra one lying around somewhere...

Two Down, (Hopefully) One to Go

This morning I got a written test from the company I interviewed with yesterday. I knew that the test was going to be timed, and I knew that it would be gauging my writing skills, so I thought it was going to be a breeze.

I was wrong.

The test ended up being a good challenge for me. I was given some rough notes from an SME and asked to convert them into a process document. I had one screen shot that showed the software, but beyond that, I was on my own for an hour and a half.

It took me quite a bit of time to wrap my head around what the software actually did. I was trying to figure out what task the person was trying to accomplish, and could nail that down pretty quickly. It was mainly the how that was an issue.

The person who created the test probably just took something that he had received from the programmer who made the changes. Since I had no idea what all the acronyms were (as well as having no idea how this fit into the larger picture), I did my best to try to get it all completed. There were breadcrumbs that described how to do something in the user interface (driven mainly by the function keys like F2 and F7), and then later in the document, you found out that the bread crumbs were not comprehensive.

My 90 minutes was almost up when I remembered that I also had to create a document to detail what I had updated. Needless to say, that got rushed a bit.

All in all, it is something that I would have sent over. I just wish I would have had about 10 extra minutes to look it over or have someone else take a quick peek before I sent it off to be final. After all, everybody needs an editor (even editors).

We'll see if this lands me another interview. I realized that I am a bit rusty on my authoring skills since my previous job was focused mainly on editing and information gathering. I guess this would be a good fit to stretch my core writing muscles once again and get working on things. It should keep me sharp.

Now, I'll just wait for that phone to ring and hope that it is a number that I don't recognize...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

One Down, (Hopefully) One to Go

I was excited and nervous for my interview today. I know this because I had my alarm set, but woke up about an hour and a half early. It was almost like going to school again.

I got up and got ready to head out the door by 8:00, expecting traffic to be a bit of a bear. Surprisingly, it wasn't. I was able to make it in to Boise in about 20 minutes (which is generally a 15 minute commute), so I felt like I was doing pretty good.

I went and parked in the hospital parking lot. I found it kind of funny that the secretary had told me to park there or feed a meter (tell me which one you would have done) and then walk over to the building. Because I still had about 25 minutes to kill, I decided to do a bit of strolling through the city on this chilly spring morning.

I immediately started wishing I had a camera with me. There are some old buildings that have unique features in the heart of Boise—the type of stuff you don't see everyday in my neighborhood. I noticed that there was a building that must have been an old factory of sorts that had been renovated to be an office building. The smokestack was a dead giveaway.

I had a good opportunity to wrestle with myself. I want a stable job that is full time that will offer good benefits. This job does that. The only downside is the fact that the job doesn't pay as much as I would want it to. It was a tight squeeze for the person who is currently in the position, but it is stable. It is with the government, for goodness sake. How much more stable can you get?

As I meandered, I came to the same conclusions I always arrive at—don't count your chickens before they hatch. I need to have a job offer before I make the decision if this is the job for me.

I took a peek at my phone to see what time it was, and found that it was an acceptable time to head over to the building. I walked inside to find the security guard sitting at his desk. I was also pleased to see a copy of The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (which happens to be one of my favorite series of all times). I had the chance to chat with the guard for a bit which put us both at ease. I wasn't sure why the guard was nervous. It must be my 6'2" 140 pound frame that set his knees knocking. Needless to say, at this point, I was pretty sure that it was going to be a good interview.

I got my name tag and headed up the elevator into the lobby of the second floor. I was greeted by the admin assistant who was there and he phoned one of my interviewers to let them know I was there. And then I sat quietly and rifled through a magazine without feigning interest.

She came out to greet me and walked me back to her office where I found another one of my interviewers (who happened to invite us up to their family cabin not too long ago). The third interviewer (and my potential boss) was actually missing. I expected him to come in, but was informed that his wife was in the process of having a baby at the moment, so he wouldn't be joining us.

Excuses, excuses...

Needless to say, the interview went pretty well. I should be hearing back either way from them before too long. The only problem is I have to go back in for another interview. It isn't that I dread interviews, I just want to know the resolution. I've been jerked around a few times and hope that this isn't going to be one of those times. This group is a lot more professional, and I would be able to carve a niche out for myself there as the only tech writer in the group, but it still makes me wonder if this is going to come to pass. Until I know, I am just going to have to wait it out until I hopefully get another interview.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I Believe in Spring Because...

These plants are telling me that it is time for spring to come.
Our hyacinths

The biggest one

Our tulips

More tulips around the tree we planted last year

My bonsai collection. Please note that the one that has nothing in it are apple seeds I planted, not just a pot of dirt I'm watering.

Fresh buds that will hopefully turn into branches.

Our lilac bush start we stole from my parent's house last year.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Come on, Tuesday!

Tuesday morning I have an interview with the state for a tech writing position. I know that the position would probably be pretty good for me, as well as offering me something new and exciting to do. I have heard that the job doesn't pay as much money as my previous job, which puts a bit of a damper on things, but I'm willing to go to the interview to see what I can do.

I got a call from the other company that employs me, and they gave me some feedback on the work I did for them earlier this week. They told me that they liked it, and that they thought I would be a good fit for their company. The only thing is that they aren't sure that they could keep me occupied enough to feed our family. That made me feel good about the work that I had done. It also gave me hope.

You see, it would be ideal if I got this state job and was able to get my foot in the door there. Even though the pay isn't the greatest, I would hope to have smaller projects from this other company as a freelancer that would allow me to make some extra money on the side to make up for the lack of funds at the state job. With a baby coming, it would be great to switch over to the state benefits instead of the private insurance that is charging us an arm and a leg for poor coverage. Changing insurance alone will save us at least a couple hundred dollars a month, let alone any medical expenses we incur.

But, before I put the cart before the horse, I need to actually go ace the interview. The job uses skills that I knew in college, but I haven't used in a couple of years. I don't doubt that I can come back up to speed quickly, but I also know that technology changes. Different organizations like different writing skills and soft skills, so we'll see what ends up happening.

Please cross all appendages for me, including your appendix. It has to be an appendage, because it doesn't have any other function except to get infected.

Friday, March 25, 2011

What I've Been Waiting For

Wifey and I started reading the Artemis Fowl series quite a while ago. The first one was pretty good, although a bit lackluster. I had just finished reading the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull (which is excellent), which probably influenced my tepid feelings toward Artemis Fowl.

I started reading the second book—The Arctic Incident—and lost interest pretty quickly. I wasn't so sure that these books were for me. Wifey urged me to keep going in the series, and since we had them sitting on the shelf, I decided to read them at a later date.

I have run out of things to read, so as I was browsing through our bookshelves, I ran across the Artemis Fowl series again. I didn't want to start into something familiar, I wanted something I hadn't read yet. So I picked up the book and decided to dedicate some time to it.

I got past the second, and third, and fourth books (although not in that order). Again, I was feeling a bit meh. I mean, the story is good and all, but it is a bit formulaic (Yes, I realize that I'm an adult reading books written for tweens/teens). There just wasn't anything new and exciting in the books. There were new gadgets and gizmos, but it all seemed run-of-the-mill.

I started into the fifth book (the last one we own) and ended up really enjoying it. Finally I had a book that was mostly devoid of Mulch Diggums (who isn't my favorite character if you couldn't guess) and a new species that was introduced. The best part was the fact that the demons weren't formulaic. Well, most of the demons were, but the one we interacted with the most offered something fresh and new to the normal idea of a demon. He wasn't buffed out with large horns and wings, ready to eat everyone's soul. He was a misfit, which I think all tweens/teens can relate to. In fact, I think a lot of adults can relate to it as well. I know I do at times.

In short, I am pleased to announce that I enjoyed Artemis Fowl, The Lost Colony. It renewed my hope in Eoin Colfer's ability as a writer to make a story that is engaging and fresh. With that said, I think I'll have to check the next ones out of the library to see if I would be interested in buying them. I'll let you know.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

National Honey-Do Day Update

After much of a hiatus on this, I finally got around to uploading some pictures. Okay, so Wifey did the uploading onto the computer, but I'm doing the uploading onto the blog.

As part of National Honey-Do Day, we ended up refinishing a Lane cedar chest. Here is the chest after we had tried to strip the paint off the top. As you can see, the chemical stripper did some of the work (hence the yellow top) but didn't do a very thorough job of removing all the paint. Some extensive sanding was required as well to get rid of the yellow tinge.

Before

Drumroll please. Ta-da!

Tucked in place in the play room

A closeup of the knobs and the color
The part that Wifey likes the best is not the sassy color, but the fact that most of Munchkin's toys fit inside. There were a few things that were a bit too large to fit in (like the shopping cart she got for Christmas, a car-ish thing to sit and scoot on/walk behind, and a rocking horse), but the disheveled mess that once was the playroom is now kept mainly in the box.
Munchkin and toys
When Munchkin needs to get into the box, she ends up going over and knocking on it. She likes that part. And we like the fact that she can't just dig into her toys whenever she wants. We get the control of our house, and it is easy to have her put away the toys she is done with when we are going to get something else.

The Angry Red Car

Yesterday was quite a mixed bag. I checked my email to find that I had some work to do. WHOO HOO! The place that hired me on in the middle/end of February ended up hearing back from the individual they were waiting on. I was excited to get to work on it, so I worked really quickly and got it done in the morning, sending a draft to them that afternoon.

We went out to run some errands and to get Wifey's car (a red 2001 Hyundai Accent) an emissions test. The errands went well, but as soon as we pulled up to the emissions place, the check engine light went on.

Uh-oh.

Needless to say, we failed. I had tried to get it tested last Saturday, but it ended up that the engine was revving too high, so we got it fixed. There was a big hole in one of the hoses that connects to the engine, so it was letting in a lot of air where there shouldn't be air coming in.  I thought I was in the clear after getting it fixed once, but evidently not.

I'm usually not one to be angry. But this really got my goat. The reason why is because this car has been notorious for failing emissions. When Wifey bought it, she found out that there was a problem when she went to get it tested the first year. The schmuck who sold it to her had removed the check engine light so that she wouldn't know. He also neglected to tell her that the car had been in an accident and had the engine rebuilt. With this in mind, it is better that I didn't post yesterday, otherwise I would have inserted some more colorful language into this post...

Every year when we get emissions test notices from the state, a pit starts forming in my stomach. I dread having to pull up and have them plug in their computer to test it. In my mind, it means that we are going to have to spend a couple hundred dollars in order to try to get it fixed. In years past, we have replaced the camshaft sensor and the gas cap. This year was the hose.

Today I went back after unhooking the battery. After praying to everything holy, the light went off and didn't come back on when I had to start the car back up.

I was almost in shock when the guy handed me my results saying I passed. But I'm not one to bring up the fact that it has not passed in previous years, so I drove away while being unsure what to do next. I'm sure the light will come on in the next few days, but for the time being, we are in the system and can officially drive the car.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Get Ready to Have Your Rice Steamed

In my profession, there are many positions out there for contractors. Lots of people see customer support as an expenditure instead of a cost-savings (or profit producing) measure. I disagree with that idea based on the fact that no product is perfect. If you cannot create a perfect product with all that money that R and D teams get, you might as well cover it up with a lot of money to your marketing department. If that fails, then your customer must not know how to use your product.

My take on the whole thing is that once your customer runs into an issue, if you don't offer them information to fix the issue, they aren't going to buy from you again. Former customers should be future customers.

As a contractor, I am often told—either directly or indirectly—that there just isn't enough money in the budget to hire me on as a full-time employee. I was also told that the reason why I couldn't get hired on was out of the hands of my boss.

This article makes me wonder if the real reason why is because my boss' boss' boss' boss is spending their bonus in Maui.

Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of pay for performance. It gives you the opportunity to make a little bit of extra money on the side should you work hard. I believe I do work hard. I invest a lot of myself into a company when I work for them, even if I am just a contractor. But I don't delude myself that I am worth a one million dollar bonus, let along a four million dollar bonus.

If someone tried to hand me a check for four million dollars on top of the paycheck that I already received, I would have to laugh at them. Don't get me wrong, I could use four million to shove into my bank accounts. I don't think any work that anyone does is worth that much money in one year. Period. No matter how talented you are, no matter how much money you saved a company, I think there is something very conceited in the fact that you would accept that kind of money. It says that the work you do is 20,769 times more important than the rest of the people who actually take care of the everyday things that are too menial for you to acknowledge, like helping customers figure out how to fix their issue.

On the team I worked with, there were about 20 contractors who did various tasks to manage the day-to-day operations of the department. Their manager was also a contractor, and valued what they did. I was managed by a full-time employee of the company who didn't understand my value. He asked our team to fix a problem that we had, and I ended up doing the leg work for it. In a meeting about three months after our problem was fixed, we were meeting to talk about our plan for when I was gone. The other two contractors told our boss that we were not going to be able to have someone cover for one of my functions because they didn't have the time to investigate it (it took me six months). He told us that we could just ask one of his staff for help if we needed it.

What he didn't know was the fact that when his staff come to him with answers on this topic, they had first come to me for the answer to report to him.

I fear that this is the way business is going. People are getting credit for doing work that they don't do. Also, the people who are doing the work aren't getting credit in the eyes of the management. Because us contractors could see the writing on the wall, we tried to create a plan to help us become more visible, but since I have left the company, I am not sure if it is working or not. I guess I'll see if/when I return.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Breathing Easy

Today has been pretty packed up until now. To celebrate, I thought I would take a breather and write a blog post.

I work up this morning and waited for my sister-in-law to drop off her kids. She was singing in a church thing today, so we watched them while she was there and her husband was at work. Munchkin loves playing with her cousins, so we don't mind.

Wifey was there to help out for the first few hours, and then she left to go to watch her sister sing. We just about finished watching Alladin before the kids got picked up by their dad. Munchkin and I went outside to check on the plants (more brainwashing on my part) and see if our daffodils are coming up yet (the answer is they are thinking about it). We removed a bit of sod from the yard to make sure that the year-old lilac bushes have enough opportunity to get their roots in without having to fight the grass. We had a hand trowel, so Munchkin thought she was helping out just as much as I was.

Then she got bored.

So we decided to get her ball out and kick it around, followed by a stint of chasing each other while she screamed and I growled. About this time, I could tell that Munchkin was getting tired, so I put her down for a nap. She told me that she didn't want to, but I put her down with Monks and her binky, and she was more than happy to fall asleep. It took her about 20 minutes, but she did. About five minutes before she fell asleep, I overheard her talking to herself. She just kept saying, "Happy" over and over again, making me believe that this morning was a success.

Wifey got home from the church thing, and then I put on a suit and tie. I was headed to a wedding to sing while the bride and groom walked down the aisle (not at the same time). Another sister-in-law was asked to sing at the wedding, and needed a boy to sing with her, so I was voluntold that I was that lucky duck. We sang "Can't Help Falling in Love with You." and it ended up not being awkward.

And now it is now. I'm sitting in my normal clothes and hiding from some of Wifey's high school acquaintances at her parents house. There is rumors that we are going to go to Mongolian Barbeque tonight, so I'm willing to hide myself for a few more hours until dinner rolls around. Nothing like gorging yourself on misnamed ethnic food to end your day.

I hope your day is going as well as mine.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Brainwash Initiated

Munchkin is turning into quite the parrot. It seems like she is using new words every day. And not only is she repeating the words relatively accurately, but she is also starting to form her own ideas. For this reason, I was delighted when we went to the store today.

Wifey was driving, and as I was putting Munchkin into her seat, she immediately said one of her favorite phrases: "By you!" She loves to have someone sit beside her in the car, so I obliged her whim this time.

Wifey began flipping through the radio stations, and upon finding nothing of interest, turned on the CD that was in the car. King of Anything by Sara Bareilles came on, so I started singing along. When the chorus came around, I was very surprised to hear Munchkin start to say, "Oh" and hum until she knew a word like me. When those words she knows and use came around, she sang them out loud and proud.

I might just be a proud daddy here, but I didn't know that kids started recognizing and singing songs at 18 months. I know it wasn't a fluke either, because the next song—Haven't Met You Yet by Michael BublĂ©—yielded the same response with special emphasis on the word yet.

I will continue my research, and possibly try to get a recording of it. She is soaking up songs like a dry sponge. Getting video of Munchkin is difficult at this point because she just wants to see the picture on the back of the digital camera. If we are using the video camera, she just wants to have us turn the screen around so that she can see herself and wave.

On a completely unrelated note, Wifey pinched me while we were walking into the store because I wasn't wearing green. Rude, don't you agree?

Doing the Impossible

I had every intention of blogging yesterday. I really did. But I knew that it was going to be a tight squeeze, and it ended up falling off my radar.

Two days ago I had my wife's aunt send me an email. I could tell she was a bit nervous. A church group she is involved with are having a big event today and they asked someone to make them a presentation that had narration and all. The result they got from her wasn't what they were looking for, to say the least. The audio sounded tinny, the video cut people out, and there was much to be desired.

The email asked me if I could fix the audio on it. I asked what program the woman had used to record the thing, and I was told that it was Windows Movie Maker. Uh oh. I don't have access to that program, even though I have used it in the past. I now only own a Mac. I told her that I would give it a try, but that we would have to recreate it the best we could on my Mac. Tuesday night rolled around and I didn't hear from anyone, so I thought we were in the clear.

Needless to say, I was a bit surprised when I got a call from a number I didn't recognize Wednesday morning. It was the woman in charge of the event. She told me that she was wondering if she could have an hour of my time to fix whatever was wrong with the video. I told her that it would probably take a bit longer than an hour, but that I would see what I could do. She just wanted to make sure it would be done by 8:00 PM when she was meeting with someone to test it out on the big screen.

We picked up the stuff at noon yesterday on the way home from the mall. Munchkin needed a sweater to go with her Easter dress, and we had a coupon in the mail for ten bucks, so we found her one. After arriving home, I started Wifey recording the audio from the script. I've never done any sound editing, but after going through all the sound clips and having some internet search tutorials, I was able to split them up into different tracks in GarageBand and export them to iTunes so that they would be accessible from the iMovie. And as I looked at the time, I realized that three hours had already passed. Yikes!

The pictures were in a PowerPoint presentation, and when I went to open the file, PowerPoint kept freezing on me. I don't know why, but it must not have liked my Mac version. Wifey suggested that I open it in Keynote (the Mac version of PowerPoint), and that worked like a charm. Phew! I was able to export the individual slides as images and pull them into iMovie. Another half hour down.

Wifey jumped in and ended up fixing the Ken Burns' Effect (where the pictures zoom in or out a little bit to keep visual interest) for all the pictures. And another hour had flown by. ACK! It was now 4:30, and we still had to get all the sound files imported in the correct locations. Thankfully, it took a lot less time than expected. By 5:30, we had all the audio in the proper places (including background music), and levels mostly set.

We took a quick break for lunch, and then hopped right back into a preview and realized that we needed to adjust a few more audio levels, so we did. And then the rendering began. We had a finished product by 8:00.

The video is only 25 minutes long, but I was happy to report that it took us about 6 hours to complete the thing. While it isn't perfect, it is pretty good. They are coming to pick it up in about a half an hour, and I think they will be pleased.

I know I am.

I'm glad I could help out and do this. But it also made me realize how much I love doing something different. I wish I could find a job that let me use all my skills. I realize that there are people who are far more advanced than I in this movie-making stuff and audio editing, but I had a good time doing this yesterday. I didn't feel stressed, even when it was coming down to the deadline. I knew we could get it done, and I learned a bit on the way. It made me want to start recording music in GarageBand. So maybe I will. That way, I'll have something to add as background music in the video I want to create.

Boy, my list of things I want to do for this blog just keeps on getting longer...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Free Music!

Coldplay has a free live album available for download. I found it from their twitter feed and has some good numbers on it, mainly from Viva la Vida. If you are interested, go find it on their homepage.

Free music is always good. Free Coldplay music is even better.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Impacts

I feel like creating something right now, but I'm not sure what. You'll just have to deal with it.

I have been thinking lately how much of a dent I make in the world (which isn't much). I left a job that has only called me once to ask a question, which tells me they can make do without me. I apply for multiple jobs a week and hear back from an automated email server somewhere maybe once or twice a week, which leads me to believe that I am insignificant enough to not worry about even applying. I'm in charge of a mens organization that isn't going the direction I feel it should, which tells me that I am expendable. All in all, I'm not really putting a dent in anything by staying inside and taking care of my family while our cash savings slowly disappear during my joblessness.

Then I had someone that I knew back in college leave me a comment on Facebook. She commented on what I had talked about, and then said, "Think of you often. :)" This was a girl that was in the music program with me when I was first in college. I accompanied for her voice lessons. She played quite well also. I remember wanting to ask her out to a dance, and I was going to do it right after we had our weekly practice session.

We didn't really practice much that day. Instead, she asked me my advice on boys. She had started liking a guy in the band (she was a floutist and was on the flag chor as well) who happened to be a drum major. He was a bit older, but she thought that she really liked him and wanted to ask me some questions about what would be the appropriate way to go about getting his attention.

Needless to say, I didn't ask her to the dance. Instead, the drum major did, and they ended up getting married.

Don't get me wrong—I'm not publicly pining for someone who I once knew. I was just surprised by the fact that, with all the rejection I have been getting lately, someone from over ten years ago in my life still thinks of me and the impact I made on their life.

This baffles me.

I mean, I wasn't all that different back then. I was a bit more crazy, but knew when to buckle down and have a serious conversation with people. I wanted to have genuine relationships with those around me, much like I do now. I'm a more mature version of me, but about as unsure as I was back then of what I want to be and what I want to do. I've got a few things figured out, but I'm not where I want to be—or where I thought I would be.

But then, life never goes according to your high school plans. It rarely goes according to my plans, period. So I guess I'll just keep on being befuddled and wait about ten more years before I can look back on someone I know right now who will mention that I really made an impact in their life, and then start scratching my head all over again.

Update on The Crud

Wifey's tooth is still bothering her. Despite the best efforts of the dental genius in the family, her mouth is still sore. The odd thing is it comes and goes at certain times of the day. She will wake up in the morning feeling fine and start going about her daily tasks. About 10:00 in the morning it starts to bother her. If she lays down for a few hours, it goes away. Sometimes it hangs on until about 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon. Pain medication doesn't help, so she has stopped her daily intake of Tylenol.

This has led to an increase in Munchkin wanting to play with me. If her mom is not feeling good, she knows to come to me. That has been fun for me. Well, until The Crud hit.

Munchkin woke up crying very loudly on Thursday night/Friday morning. I ran in her room to see what the deal was, and was immediately accosted by the bitter smell of bile. She had thrown up all over her pillow, sheets, Monks, and jammies. Poor little girl. After a few more hours of heaving up bile, she fell back asleep.

Since then, she has not been very hungry. She hasn't thrown up since then, but we have been changing a lot of diapers. It is amazing how loud your digestive system can be, even when you are that little. We have been keeping the pedialyte in her and trying everything we can think of to keep her fed, at least a little.

And the answer has been mini muffins. Wifey made a bunch of them (like 50 or so) one day and froze them and we have gone through a few bags in the past few days. When nothing else has sounded good to Munchkin, she has taken bites or eaten mini muffins. Blueberry, of course.

I'm hoping that she is on the mend, because tonight she kept asking for food. That is a good sign that she is hungry. We ended up getting a few pears in her tonight, and hopefully they will stay in there instead of launching their way out at high rates of speed. She fell asleep on Wifey tonight, and hopefully she will sleep like she did last night (which happened to be until 11:00).

Munchkin has been quite happy throughout the whole ordeal. Even when she feels terrible, she puts on a happy face. She got that from Wifey, not me.

We're mending, and I'm just hoping that I don't get any of The Crud. Wifey is more susceptible than I as the baby is stealing all her nutrients/immune system support at the moment. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

The Worst Alarm Clock Ever

First off, I just want to say that daylight savings is evil. Now that that is off my chest, I'll get on with my story.

Last week, Wifey and I were peacefully slumbering when we were both rudely awakened by a very annoying noise. It was repetitive, loud, and would go on for longer than 20 seconds at a time. The alarm went off for about five minutes. And it was a duck.

This dumb animal decided that it wanted to be a rooster for a day and perched itself right above our bedroom window. It was barely light outside and the duck started quacking. And quacking. And quacking. It made me really want to own a gun.

Last fall, we came home from a walk to find a duck couple hanging out on our roof. We went inside, and before we could get a picture they flew away. I considered them our guardian ducks. It seemed like a good (if not odd) omen.

I don't know if ducks mate for life, but if this guardian duck has returned looking for his lost mate, I would encourage him to seek out another one in a different location. She's gone. Get over her. Reminiscing about old times where you used to hang out will only bring pain.

And duck, if you come back, I'll have to take more drastic measures than staying in bed with a pillow over my head.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Technology: Friend and Foe

As a job hunter, I have a lot of opportunities to apply to positions online. While this can be quite great at times (I can find out about all sorts of jobs and quickly send my resume to them), I find it quite frustrating as well.

Most every job hunting website out there includes an option to upload your resume and have it autofill fields in your profile. It is very bothersome to have to complete a detailed form when that information is already on your resume. I realize that computers aren't people, but I also realize that it wouldn't be that hard to add a button that says, "Already on my resume" and let the user point to the information. This would give the computer an opportunity to learn what types of information are standard on your resume, and where it might look to find that information. It would also save the user time from having to recreate their resume in a form.

While many companies post their information on generic sites like careerbuilder.com, many of them want you to complete a profile on their own page. Why must a potential employee insert the same information that is readily available on the Web into yet another form? Couldn't the computer ask to verify your identity on Careerbuilder (where you just came from. And yes, the computer can tell this) and then sniff the information from your public profile? It seems like a good moneymaker for Careerbuilder as well as a time saver for other companies.

I know that there are other sites out there, but if you had the same information with the same generic names (like address, job responsibilities, job title, etc), the computer should be able to do the legwork. All the info is there. Why aren't companies using it?

In a corporate world where employees are asked to do more with less, this seems like a prime instance where you could shave some money off the hiring process. Given, the potential employee is supposed to fill all this out (which is why this doesn't happen today), but the infrastructure is already there. Why not use it?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Over My Head

I applied for a job last week as a forms developer. The job description said that you would need to know how to create forms in HTML and have some XML experience. I have used some XML and HTML editors in my day, but I don't know a whole lot about the coding. I thought I would apply anyway.

And to my surprise, I was called in for an interview. And the interview went well. The recruiter asked me some questions that I was able to field. And then she told me that she wasn't really a technical person, so whatever I would have said would have been great to her.

I left the interview feeling quite good about the whole situation. She said that there would be a lot of learning on your own time to get things figured out, which is fine by me, as the position is only part-time. After getting home, it really sunk in—I was applying for a position as a programmer, and was being seriously considered.

I have had a bit of experience programming, and am trying to learn more about programming, but at this point, I am still quite a novice programmer. I think that I might be over my head a bit, but it will be good (should I get the position) for me to learn more about programming. I have played a bit in VBA scripting, and wrote one simple macro in Excel to help gather everything for our metrics, but I have never created and saved files. I hope I will be able to learn and get paid for it.

It is kind of odd for me to think that I might have a position to add to my resume that labels me as a programmer. It will probably be a bit of a headache to have such a steep learning curve, but I have nothing better to do with my time right now, so I am going to go for it. I'm hoping the call comes through that lets me know that the company wants to talk to me. The recruiter thinks that I might be a good fit with the company, but they let the last person go after about one week because she was asking too many questions. My mental note during the interview was not to ask a whole lot of questions, and just figure things out on my own.

It looks like I'll become a member of some programming forums. If nothing else, it will get me a jump on my iPhone programming.

On a semi-related side note, I have decided to create a video to introduce myself on my About Me page. I have never done any flash programming, but I think I'll try. I have a script in mind, but now have to learn a lot about Illustrator and Flash before I can get the actual video going.

Off to the drawing board (literally)!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Playing Nice

Never underestimate the power of being nice. During my time off, I have been doing my fair share of job hunting. I have been quite unsuccessful up to this point, but I have happened to find some positions that I thought would be good for other people, so I have sent them a note or two along the way.

Invariably, I have found that people are very happy that I would think of them for a position, especially if it is one that they are interested in (which of course they all are. I only hand out perfect fits to people). I know I am always happy when people send me postings that might be a good fit.

The best part about it though is the fact that once I send them a job to look at, they have all immediately replied with something to the effect of, "Hey, aren't you looking for a job?" It gives me the opportunity to tell them that I am looking, and then I can tell them exactly what I'm looking for. So far I haven't had a lot of success hearing back with new leads (just a few bites), but I know that others are looking for me. That makes searching for a job much better.

On that note, I have an interview tomorrow for a position to create forms online. It isn't something that I am an expert at, but they are looking for someone part-time (which I could fit into my busy schedule) that would work under someone more senior. If I land the position, I think it will get me learning more about web design and programming. I would be fine with that. :)

I also decided that I'm not playing nice in my blogging. I have my comments restricted so that you have to log in to make any remarks. So I am going to be revoking that. Feel free to comment, even if you don't have an Open ID. And I will try better to be more interactive with comments. I don't often reply to comments, so I'll see what I can do about replying to them a bit more frequently. I do, after all, like knowing the twelve people I am writing to. OK, so it might be a few more than that, but not many...
 
So, next time you are looking for a job, do some hunting for other people and they might be able to send some bites your way.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Excited?

If you are Wifey, the answer is a resounding YES! She is on the way to get a root canal right now.

And I'm not being sarcastic. Her mouth has been bothering her ever since Saturday night, and even though she had some work done Sunday afternoon, she has still been in pain since then. She told me that she would rather be in labor than have this pain in her mouth. I'll have to ask again when after she has Baby II which was worse.

But I am excited for the fact that we have tulips coming up. The weather here keeps teasing us that it is going to be warm, and then it snows and the wind blows. Today is pretty nice, so when Munchkin gets up from her nap, I think we might venture out into the sunlight and go play. It might just be running around the back yard, but it is better than nothing.

The other day while Wifey was trying to nap through the pain, Munchkin and I decided to go out into the yard. She was having so much fun running from me as I snuck up behind her and growled. She ran for about 30 minutes straight. Needless to say, I think Munchkin is going to be an outdoor girl. She craves being outside. Last night when it was raining, Wifey let her stick her hand outside and feel the rain coming down. She cried when we closed the door and kept pointing to the door while saying, "shide." It is her best version of outSIDE with only a hint of a drunken slur.

I have one more thing that I would like to post about, but I need to take some pictures first, so I'll go snap some pics and come back. Of course, Munchkin will probably wake up from her nap by then, so I might take some pics of her outside instead. We'll see.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Testing My Black Thumb

I have a sister who has a green thumb. In fact, she is studying to be a botanist in college right now. She used to come over to my mom's house and dig up the dirt to put flowers in it just so that she could get her hands in the stuff.

If you read the title, you would probably have guessed by now that I don't follow after her.

I started a few bonsai trees a couple of years ago. I finally uprooted my oldest one last year because I just killed it. When I tried to repot it I think I clipped off a bit too much of the roots. Oops.

Today I ended up potting a small tree (I think it was a maple, but can't remember. I'll let you know when the leaves come on) in one of my pots. I don't know if it is going to live, but I am guessing that I can probably keep it alive through at least one year. The best tree lasted a whole three years. Wifey called it "the stick" because it was about 18" tall and just split out in two different places within 4" from the top. This new one has a split much farther down, so I am hoping that it will look more like a tree than a stick.

Should said tree live, I might try manicuring it a bit next year to see if I can't get it to look even more tree-like. But for now, I am just going to test out my black thumb and hope that it might be a hunter green thumb. Maybe a hunter green is going a bit far—I'll settle for green that you have to look twice at to tell that it isn't black.

On a completely unrelated note, check out these advertisements. It makes me glad that I didn't take the selling job. I would feel like I was crammed into these boxes like these poor folks.