Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho…

I have to remember to stop for gas.

I’m going to work this morning! I’ll be sharing the road with other Commuters, going to their Jobs. I spent all last night updating my corporate vocabulary (‘downsize’ is now ‘uptick’, ‘leverage’ is ‘offshore’, and the phrase ‘work smarter not harder’ has been reduced to just ‘work harder’). I also spent a considerable amount of time in the last week reciting the Astronaut’s Prayer.

I’m hoping to find a ride share after a week or two. My commute is going to be pretty long, and I won’t be able to take a train like I could when I worked in Seattle. Getting into a carpool would be ideal – even reducing number of times I drive by 2 days a week would be awesome.

Last night, I told the girls I wouldn’t see them this morning. It didn’t register right away, that this is the day that I’m going to be at work. But then Panda hugged my neck hard from her bunk bed and said ‘have fun at work, Papa!’

I’m taking the hug with me.

It’s off to work I go…

Employed

It’s official – I’ve got a job. I start on Tuesday. I’ll be working for a contractor for a large software developer, which has an office about 30 miles from where we live. While I’m not looking forward to the commute, I am definitely looking forward to regular income, and paying the bills and stuff. The company has strict policies about blogging, so I’m not sure what I can blog about. The NDA I signed said something like, “If you have questions about the content of a blog post, you probably shouldn’t post it,” or something like that. So what can I blog about now? Is everything off limits? I need some kind of rubric for determining what’s still valid content for my blog. Like this:

  • Do not post any content having the words Jar Jar Binks anywhere in the post. Actively hunt down other blog posts with these words and try to delete them.
  • Do not post any technical content, or parenting content that has to do with robots (e.g., robotic nannies, automated changing tables, or child robots, like Astro Boy).
  • Do not post anything about rainbows. Even if they are double rainbows.
  • OK to post about left-handedness, peanut butter (generic), unicorns, and parental opinions as they relate to non sequiturs.

That makes tomorrow’s blog post pretty easy:

Opinion: left-handed unicorns in the peanut butter again? That’s OK with me…

This week I’ve been trying to finish up the various projects I’ve been working on. I’m also spending more focused time with the girls. It’s funny how the prospect of leaving makes me evaluate what’s important to me: I’m really going to miss being here every day. For two years, I’ve been here every morning. Now, I will have left long before the girls get out of bed. I’ll miss the routine we’ve built (cacao, feeding the dogs, walking Panda to the bus stop).

To my readers who have encouraged me these last few months, thank you. Your words have helped me more than I can express. This has been a difficult time for all of us here (Beautiful Wife included), and knowing that there are people out there pulling for us, has kicked my ass on more than one occasion. I’ll let you know how the job goes, without disclosing any real information.

Out! LED Flashlight Dispenser

[Job update: background check has not been completed yet so I’m still waiting to hear final confirmation on my job. However, my contracting agency has assured me that, barring something unforeseen (I robbed a bank, and didn’t tell them about it because I forgot), I will be reporting to work in a couple of weeks. I should hear something final in a day or two. I hope… ]

We love our dogs. Sawyer (named for the character on Lost) is a Lab mix, and Josie (Jo-Jo) is our King Charles Spaniel (a beautiful gift from Oma). My job is to feed and clean up after our canine friends, and maybe provide them with some additional exercise every once in a while. BW used to take them to the dog park, but Sawyer has some kind of chronic injury to his hindquarters that we don’t have a handle on quite yet, so short walks through our neighborhood is all we try.

Last night, we got the kind of weather forecast I was expecting: dark, with scattered light toward morning. If you’re like me, you dread the thought of going outside in the dark, while it’s freezing cold, to walk your dog who may poop right on the street. To even think about doing this, you’d want a good LED flashlight, some easily accessible plastic bags to pick up any poo, and a nice warm jacket. Enter the Out! LED Flashlight Dispenser and Pick-up Bags:

The Out! LED Flashlight Dispenser and Pick-up Bags is a compact unit that attaches to your dog’s leash, providing you (the designated dog-walker) with a super-bright LED flashlight, AND, convenient bags for picking up your dogs’ gifts to the world. Assembly of this tool is super-easy – just remove it from the package, open it by removing the flashlight (it just unscrews), and ‘starting’ the plastic bags by taking off the tape and pulling the first bag through the slot on the side of the dispenser.

Screw the flashlight back onto the dispenser (there are guide marks on the flashlight and the dispenser that show you where to line it up), and then attach it to your leash with the handy carabiner.

And now, you are ready to walk your dog!

After a little convincing, Sawyer was totally up for a little walk. I couldn’t find Jo-Jo’s leash, so I left her at the house. The LED flashlight is bright, and stayed attached to the leash without any trouble.

Sawyer didn’t poop, so I’m saving you that image, but the bags are thick enough to handle dog waste and disposal. This gadget worked well, and if we lived in a city in a condo where walking the dogs was mandatory every day, I would buy one of these, no question.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

Back where I’m from (the 80s), Tom Petty was huge. And, for better or worse, his songs carried me through some of the most difficult moments of my angstacular teenage life. I certainly felt like a Refugee in 1980 as a sophomore in high school, before finding my place as a band geek. After my parents sold their house in Spokane, Don’t Come Around Here No More played in my head whenever I smelled lilacs or burning aluminum (we lived near Kaiser Aluminum’s Trentwood facility). Free Falling perfectly described how I felt in 1989, between jobs and trying to make it in Seattle. And in 1990. And 1991.

Today, Tom Petty is once again keeping me company at a critical time in my life. As I wait, I’m reminded of how many people have helped and encouraged me, and kicked my butt when I’ve needed it. I’m positive that I’ll have good news to share, soon. To my bloggy friends, RL friends, and family, thank you.

The waiting is the hardest part.

10 minutes

I work in a fast-paced environment. My employer (it’s a contract) is a website builder, and the team is made up of five people who all communicate over IM and email. My ‘b0ss’ is very demanding, and I’ve noticed that he really likes instant status updates. Looking through my chat logs, I have lots of messages that look like this:

Boss: Try to connect to the server
Me: OK, trying to connect…
Me: Server error, trying a different login…
Me: Connected, running server scripts…

Instant status reports, handed out on a minute-by-minute basis. Crazy! But it seems to work. I’ve learned how to Get The Job Done Right Now, even if I only have 10 minutes to get something important out. Or, just a blog post. Like this!

5:07 PM

My high school band director used a great metaphor. He said that the secret to a great performance is emulating a duck on a pond: on top of the water, the duck just seems to glide serenely across the water. Underwater, however, the little web feet are paddling like crazy. My own Father (a physicist) has studied paddling a canoe, and can tell you that there is a fairly massive amount of science that goes into ‘paddling’, so it’s not quite that easy.

And THAT is how I feel: it’s not easy to crank out work that is correct, on-time, and FAST.

5:11 PM

But that’s what I’m doing, both at work and in my own personal life. I had an assignment due at the University of Phoenix last week, with only 40 minutes left before the deadline. So, I just waded in, learned the material as quickly as I could, and aced the assignment! OK, the acing part was a bit of a surprise, but it was proof-positive that it can be done.

Boom Boom Pow

I’m a big fan of gimmick rock. I loved bands like Kiss, who would use any excuse to set off a flash pot on stage – not to mention the awesome makeup that was imitated faithfully by the boys in my neighborhood every Halloween during my early teen years. I also loved the ‘glam bands’ of the eighties – the bigger the hair the better. Poison comes to mind, as perhaps the greatest hair band of all time, in my opinion.

I had a couple of ideas for gimmicks of my own. One was based on the ever-increasing trend to overuse bass in music production. Always one to jump to the logical conclusion of a trend (no matter how ridiculous), my plan was to invent a 5-story bass drum with a hydraulic hammer. In a live concert, the effect would be incredible, the sound from the drum literally causing everything within a square mile or two to vibrate. I’d call the new musical style (sure to copied by everyone) “Boom,” and a new musical genre (or fad) would be born.

My second idea would take a bit more work. Imagine a Youtube hand-held video of a deserted corn field somewhere in Kansas. Lights appear in the sky, a UFO descends, and an alien band beams down and plays a couple of alien-sounding songs, that somehow conform to the conventions of “Earth” music (I-IV-V chord progressions, instruments that sound vaguely like electric guitars, etc.). The only audience would be a small group of fifty people that happened to be driving by the corn field that night, and also happened to spread the word via Youtube or their own blogs. The goal would be to perform in an open-air stadium, complete with the UFO effect. I guess I should contact David Copperfield…

Hey, I’ve been gone for a while. I was hoping to blog about how I’ve found a job, and everything is A-OK, but this is not the case. My most recent interview was with Amazon.com, and while I thought I was a good fit, Amazon.com thought otherwise. I checked their whole site, but was unable to even buy a job. Seriously. But my job search presses on, and we are no immediate danger of losing everything we own and love. I guess I felt a little embarrassed about still not having a job, but it feels good to blog the truth – show my face again, warts and all. I can’t promise I’m back for good, or even that I will have interesting blog posts, but I’m here today. To my faithful friends who have tried to keep in contact with me over the last year, I’m sorry I haven’t returned more love until now. Thank you all. I have no idea of where I’m going from here, or what our little lives have in store.

Share/Save/Bookmark

Possible new direction

‘I have an idea, forming in my head.’

– Og, Time Bandits (1981)

Time Bandits is one of my all-time favorite movies. Directed by Terry Gilliam, it also stars fellow Pythoners John Cleese and Michael Palin (who also co-wrote the movie). And it’s really the writing that makes this movie, in my opinion. The special effects are great for 1981, and the story is interesting and unique — a true dark comedy — but the writing is spot on:

Wally: Lads! Here’s to stinking rich!
All: Yeah!
Fidgit: And to Kevin.
All: Yeah, Kevin!
Og: Stinking Kevin.

In the midst of my job hunting, I’ve started to shift gears a little. My beautiful wife already runs a website selling ‘alternative’ clothing (think urban hippie). A friend of mine supplies the clothes and accessories, and it’s really her website, where she can refer her store customers and potential wholesale customers. Our business arrangement is pretty cool for us: she gives us what she wants to have online, and if it sells, we pay her the difference between the wholesale price and the retail price. This last weekend, we went to an indoor/outdoor flea market in Tacoma (about twenty minutes from our house). It got me thinking: what if we bought more clothes at wholesale prices from my friend, and then sold them at the flea market every weekend? Could we make enough money to survive and make our own business profitable?

Julia loves going to the flea market, and I kind of like the idea of having a booth. The fee is $20 a day for a space (almost nothing), and I think we have enough cash in our business account to get started. I wouldn’t give up looking for a job, but if we can make decent money at the market, maybe that could become my new career. ‘Flea Market Guy’. ‘Marketing Flea Professional’. ‘Retail Flea Sales Consultant’. Hmm, I might have to work on the verbiage for my resume…

What do you think? Has anyone tried selling at the flea market/swap meet? Any tips for newbies?

Hide and Seek

Quick run-down of the rules of hide and seek:

  1. A ’seeker’ is chosen through an agreed-upon method (e.g., ‘not it!’)
  2. The seeker goes to a designated spot, hides his or her eyes, and counts to some number. This must be a set number for an adult seeker, but can be totally random for a small child. No peeking is allowed from the seeker during the count!
  3. The ‘hiders’ hide during the counting process, picking places the seeker is not likely to find them.
  4. Finishing the count, the seeker tries to find the hiders.

There’s some other stuff about a ‘home base’, where a hider can make it back to without getting caught and not be ‘it’ for the next round, and probably hiding strategies for moving between places to avoid capture, but that’s all pretty advanced. Our version played here is much more focused on the hiding and finding process.

And peeking. Lots of peeking.

We played hide and seek as a family last night before the kids went to bed. ‘Not it’ wasn’t a well-understood choosing strategy, so Julia and I took turns picking who would be the seeker. Panda’s favorite hiding strategy was to pick a place, hide there, and then start announcing where she was, alternatively laughing and giving clues. Having no pride whatsoever, I hid in IB’s crib once, and I blatantly cheated by peeking at where Julia was hiding, which she found so funny she almost fell down laughing. It was a new low for me, but hey, I’m a cheater. It’s the truth about me.

My Dad called last week. He and my Mom are concerned about us, and he offered to help with our finances if we need it. I was floored. He and my Mom are enjoying their well-earned retirement, and I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that he would be willing to help us at this point in our lives. I immediately swallowed my pride, and told him we would all be on the next flight with our stuff to move into their condo. He laughed (I think), and told me that it was financial help he had in mind, and something else about no way in Hell we were coming to live with them (my cell phone cut out during the last part, so I can’t quote directly).

  1. My parents don’t read my blog that I know of, so I’m going to copy and paste this next part into an email to them. Here’s our current status:
  2. I’m still sober. Although some parts of my life seem like they’ve been kicked in the head, my sobriety has not been one of them.
  3. I’m receiving unemployment while I actively look for a job. Leads have picked up in the last two weeks or so, but I haven’t found a position that matches my skills yet.
  4. We’re OK financially. We have some money in the bank — combined with unemployment payments and careful budgeting, we’ll be solvent for the next five or six months or so. Mom, I know I’ve joked about it, but this does not involve selling any of my organs on the black market.
  5. I’ve gone back to school at the University of Phoenix. I’m currently at 97.5% for my first class.
  6. Julia and I are making a go of our clothing business, and plan to attend our first flea market in two weeks.

Thanks, Dad, for your incredible offer to help us. I know it’s directly contrary to your philosophy of people standing on their own two feet. In fact, that’s how you raised me, to stand on my own feet and take responsiblity for myself and my family financially. We’re holding out for now, and I’m determined to restore my income, either by finding a job or through our business.

Share/Save/Bookmark

Recalibration

One of my favorite movies of all time is The Color of Money. Say what you will about Tom Cruise (who I thought was decent in this movie), the film won an Oscar for Paul Newman, who was outstanding as the alcoholic has-been Fast Eddie Felson, who still wants a shot at the big time. This movie was my introduction to the game of 9-Ball, where you’re shooting pool with nine balls, and the object is to sink the nine. The hitch is that the cue ball has to hit the lowest ball on the table first, before striking any other ball.

The movie was also an awesome tutorial on the art of the hustle.

Vincent: Don’t worry. I’m not gonna lose that often.
Eddie: Yes, you will. That’s what I’ll teach you.

I haven’t been posting regularly to my blog. I have to admit, I’ve lost my focus. My beautiful wife has been at a loss, as I’ve sort of lost my me, if that makes any sense. My job was a huge part of my life, but in losing it, I stopped doing the things that are important to me. Things that I care about. Things that made me who I was before I lost my job. It took me a while to realize that. It’s taken me even longer to get back on an even keel. I loved my job, and being an Adobe employee was one of the most excellent experiences of my life.

This is my recalibration post. I’m returning to my blog with renewed gusto because I simply love blogging. It’s one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done over the last year, with or without a job, and it helps define who I am. I’ve also realized that I’m in good company: more and more people are joining the ranks of the unemployed. If I can offer any beacon of light in the grim wasteland of our economy, even if it’s just to say ‘I’m still here,’ then this is it — the summation of my recent job-hunting experiences and mental health exercises as (of course) a Top 10 list.

Vincent: Eddie, what will you do… when I kick your ass?
Eddie: Pick myself up and let you kick me again.

Top 10 ways to look for a job and keep your sanity:

10. Check out Craig’s List for job postings. Seriously. Tons ‘o jobs.

9. Tailor your resume to fit a job posting.

8. Don’t stop doing the things that you enjoy, even if you have to scale back the time or money you have to put into them.

7. Tell absolutely everyone you know that you are looking for a job. Everyone.

6. If a friend needs a place to crash for a month or two, and you have room, take him in. It might be your turn soon enough.

5. Look on the bright side: your plight is probably not as sad as an unemployed clown’s (no offense to any actual unemployed clowns).

4. Think of cashing in your 401K as ‘getting out of the stock market while you still have some money left.’

3. Two words: O BAMA!

2. Play the lottery. Baby needs a new pair of shoes. No, seriously, she does. Even an old pair. Anything.

1. Launch a contest on your blog offering $150 to the person whose job lead lands you a job.

Hey, I like that last one. Hmmmm…..

Eddie: If I don’t whip you now… I’ll whip you next month in Dallas.
Vincent: Houston.
Eddie: Houston, Dallas.
Eddie: If not, a month after that in New Orleans.
Vincent: What makes you so sure?
Eddie: Hey, I’m back.