Monday, October 31, 2005

The Halloween Blues

I've decided to be the Halloween grinch this year and not hand out candy to the kiddos. I just don't want to mess with it. I'll probably get egged. Tomorrow I will have to go to the store and get a bag of candy corn and a bag of Smarties for half price. That ought to hold me for a year.

It's been one of those days where you just want to stay in bed - rainy, gray, windy. We really needed the rain though. I've been trying to fight off a headache for the last 4 hours - I think I'm going to lose this round. I want a do-over!


Sunday, October 30, 2005

She's Baaack

No, not Mabel. >:(

Krazy Kroger. I saw her again today when I went grocery shopping. This lady really needs a publicist. I tried to read her sign as I pulled into the parking lot, but she's got so many words jammed on there it's nearly impossible. I could only pick out one word on the whole sign, and it was the N word. And yes, she's black. She really needs to boil her message down to its essence if she wants anyone to know what in the hell she's talking about. I had pretty much decided that I was still too chicken to go ask what her deal was, but I did consider it. However, by the time I left 20 minutes later she was gone. The mystery continues...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Pumpkin Mauling

I have been a total slug today. I just haven't felt very motivated. I need to work on setting some specific goals to work toward to keep me going.

One goal for today was to carve the pumpkin, and at least I accomplished that. I decided to kick it Star Wars nerd style. I narrowed it down to Yoda or Darth Maul, and I went with Darth Maul. The picture below is not of my actual pumpkin (no digital camera, you see), but mine looks pretty close to this:

If you want to see some of the other Star Wars pumpkins, check out this site.

The seeds are drying out for their eventual roasting.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Halloween Cookies

I can't believe it's come to this, but in honor of Halloween I'm actually going to post a recipe. Damn I'm gay. My mom used to make these every Halloween when my sister and I were growing up. I looked forward to these at least as much as all that candy. So, here goes nothing:

Owl Cookies

2/3 cup shortening
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1-1/3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup quick or old-fashioned oats
1 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate
chocolate chips
whole cashews

Beat together shortening and sugar until creamy. Add egg, vanilla, and peanut butter, blend thoroughly. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to creamed mixture; blend well. Stir in oats. May need to add a little milk to keep the dough from being too crumbly to slice.

Divide dough in half. Shape one half to form a roll 8" long. Add chocolate to other half. Roll out chocolate dough on waxed paper to form an 8" square. Place roll on chocolate dough; wrap chocolate dough around roll; pinch seam together. Wrap in waxed paper; chill at least 1 hour.*

Cut into 1/4 inch slices. For each owl face, pinch chocolate dough to form 2 ears. Use 2 chocolate chips for eyes and a cashew for a beak. Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 12 to 15 minutes.

* If dough is refrigerated for several hours, allow to stand at room temperature about 10 minutes before slicing.

Update: I made some of these tonight, the picture above is one of them. Mom will be so proud.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Raymond 'Carver'

I bought a pumpkin today. I have visions of creating a kickass jack-o-lantern this year. I tried to do one a couple of years ago, and after starting I figured out that you can't really do very intricate carving with only a steak knife. Last year I bought one of those carving kits on clearance the day after Halloween, so this year I will have to try it out. I'll keep you posted.


Salary Schmalary

I sent out a few resumes in the field in which I previously worked. In fact, I have to make 3 job contacts a week to receive my unemployment benefits. So far I have only heard back from one company. They replied to my email by saying 'Please forward a cover letter with salary requirements'. I ignored that part when I sent my cover letter. Everyone always tells you not to give this unless you absolutely have to. So, I sent a reply saying 'What do you have budgeted for this position?'. I got another reply saying 'Please forward a cover letter with salary requirements'. OK. So that's how this is going to work. Why do people have to play this stupid game? I guess they're trying to save some time by screening me out without bringing me in for an interview if I'm out of their price range. I guess they don't give a shit about hiring the best person, just hiring someone they can afford. Whatever. I'll send them a number because I don't really care too much about getting this job. It's in Fort Worth, I would have to move, and I know I don't want to work in that field long term.

Today I got my first check for unemployment benefits. Woo-hoo! Kegger at my house!

OK, not really. Daddy's got bills to pay!

Aimee Mann Pics

The first two pictures were taken at the in-store performance at Waterloo Records. It was really dark in there, I had to trick up these photos quite a bit to get anything to show up.

"Clap Your Hands Say Yeah" This was painted on the side of the Gypsy Tea Room in Dallas. This is either the worst band name I've ever heard, or the best. I can't decide. Photo courtesy of Holli.

Here is a picture of a homeless vagrant and Aimee

Here is a picture of two random people and Aimee. I told them I would email this picture to them. It kind of pisses me off that this guy framed the previous picture better than I did - with my camera! I'll chalk it up to nerves.

Here is the setlist that StoSto swiped for me. The signing of this preceded the Sharpie incident. This picture was taken with my webcam, so I'm not totally technologically ignorant!


Monday, October 24, 2005

Something Goofy

I've been watching these really old Disney cartoons lately. Now, I know I'm not the first person to think of this, but maybe someone out there has the answer. If Goofy is a dog, and Pluto is a dog, how come Goofy can talk and Pluto can't? Does it have to do with different levels of intelligence? If that is the case then I feel really sorry for Pluto. Or maybe Pluto is faking it so the other characters will do more things for him. Some people think Goofy isn't a dog, but if he isn't a dog what the hell is he? Anyone?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Aimee Mann Day 2

Originally day 2 of the Aimee Mann extravaganza was to be quite the local blogging convention. In the end, several people couldn’t make it, so as far as bloggers went it was Holli, Stori (I'll count you even though you aren't posting much, and can I call you StoSto too?), Anne, and me. Holli’s friend David from Oklahoma City also joined us. The plan was to get to the Gypsy Tea Room early enough so that we could stand right next to the stage. We didn’t end up being the first ones in, but we were able to stake out a place pretty close to the stage right in the center. Stori, David, and Anne went to get something to eat while Holli and I held the fort by the stage.

The whole shebang started about an hour late (maybe they had a flat tire on the way or something). I told everyone that Teitur was pretty good, and I think everyone agreed. Unfortunately there was quite a bit of noise coming from the bar area, and I think this kind of pissed him off a little. He didn’t banter as much as he did in Austin, and he played a couple of louder songs to maybe try to drown out the noise. There was kind of an awkward moment when I shouted out the name of one of his songs that he was about to play. I think it really caught him by surprise. I was hoping he might joke about that but he just seemed taken aback. Everyone around me was staring at me like I was some kind of mind-reading freak! I hate being the center of attention...

After Teitur was done, the roadies were preparing the stage for Aimee. They taped the setlist to the stage and we were close enough to read it. One of the songs I really wanted to hear -‘Guys Like Me’ - was on there, as was one of Holli’s favorites - ‘4th of July’. Even ‘Voices Carry’ was on there! Sweet. I really enjoyed watching Aimee and her band perform from that close. We seemed to have plenty of room around us, and the crowd seemed more into it than they did in Austin (especially creepy haircut, drunk or stoned, weird, fist-pumping guy). I don’t think Aimee bantered as much between songs as she did in Austin, I think they wanted to finish as quickly as possible since the show started late. Unfortunately they started deviating from the setlist after 11 songs, and we didn’t get to hear ‘Guys Like Me’ or ‘Voices Carry’. There was even a guy (heh) shouting for ‘Guys Like Me’ so I didn’t have to, but Aimee ignored it. Oh well. It was still a great show and that was the closest I have ever been at a concert. Holli wormed her way to the front of the stage. StoSto was nice enough to grab the setlist for me. Thanks StoSto! There was a very awkward moment for me after the concert when we were hanging out by the stage. The roadie was handing out unused water bottles to people who were by the stage. Even though I was right there in front of him, he literally handed a water bottle to everyone there except me. He even gave one guy two bottles instead of giving me one! What the fuck? Asshole.

Holli was bound and determined to get her picture taken with Aimee, so we planned to hang out after the show. The tour bus was parked right in front of the club. As we were waiting Julian came out and I talked to him again. I got him to sign the setlist. I’m sure he was thinking, "Who the fuck is this guy? Is he following me?". Anyway, if he was freaked he did a good job of hiding it! I was inside at this time, but just about everyone else was outside. Julian went outside where apparently he had a run-in with Holli and her camera. StoSto even got to touch Julian’s hair! I then went outside and we waited for Aimee to come out.

David and I were keeping an eye through the front door on the area where Aimee would have to emerge to leave the club. I saw her come down the stairs and told everyone that it looked like she was leaving. Soon we could tell that she was heading for the side door. David gets all the credit for sprinting like a madman to catch Aimee before she could get in an SUV that was waiting to whisk her away. We all went over there and Holli got a picture with her! Aimee seemed a little pissed that we had spotted her, but she still graciously signed stuff and posed for some pictures. I got her to sign my setlist. Then came what will be known as the Larry David moment. I had a brought a Sharpie for people to sign stuff. I handed Aimee my Sharpie to sign the setlist. She handed the setlist back to me and kept the Sharpie. She looked like she was about to sign someone else’s CD and I just kind of stood there going ‘Umm..." and looking at the Sharpie. Yes, I actually made Aimee give me back my stupid fucking Sharpie. I felt like such an asshole, but it just kind of happened. I don’t know what came over me. I’m sure I’ll be hearing about that one for a while!

Anyway, it was a fun night, and it was great to finally meet Anne, StoSto, and David. Holli got some great pictures (she has this device called a ‘digital camera’!) so be sure to check them out on her blog!


Aimee Mann Day 1

Friday got off to a bit of a shaky start. I had planned to get up at 8 and leave at 9 so I could get to Austin in plenty of time for the in-store performance at Waterloo Records. The day began with neighbor dog barking her ass off and waking me up. I tried to ignore it as best as I could, but eventually I decided to look at my alarm clock to see if it was close to 8. It was 8:25! Maybe I actually owe neighbor dog for waking me up before I really overslept. Thanks neighbor dog!

So, my 9 o’clock departure eventually turned into 10 o’clock. I knew I would be stopping for gas along the way, and I had to stop to get some 400 speed film for my camera. I stopped in Waco and got film and gas, and I wanted to get a couple of tacos from Taco Bell for lunch. There wasn’t a Taco Bell at the exit where I had pulled off. By the time I finished filling up my car I realized that it was already noon, and Austin was still 100 miles away, so I decided to skip lunch because I thought it would be the only way to get to the store on time. The time situation was getting a little hairy, but I tried not to worry about it since there was nothing I could do. Nothing that is except drive like a bat out of hell between Waco and Austin. I was going around 80 and people were still passing me!

I got to the intersection where the record store was located and found a Whole Foods caddy corner to the record store. This Whole Foods had a huge underground parking garage so I parked there and walked over to the record store. It was 10 minutes to 2, so skipping lunch turned out to be a good idea. I found a spot where I could see the stage pretty well. Aimee and band came out and played 5 songs. It was pretty cool to see them with such a small setup. They played for about 25 minutes. When it was over I heard someone bitching about how this was the shortest in-store he had ever seen. I didn’t really care about that since I was going to the concert later. I took a bunch of pictures, but I’m not sure how well they will turn out. I abided by the no-flash rule, and it was pretty dark in there.

I was under the impression that Aimee would be signing CDs after the show, so I stuck my copy of ‘The Forgotten Arm’ in my camera bag. This turned out to not be the case. I hung around waiting to see if she would eventually come out to sign stuff but she never did. I hung out in the store for about an hour. It’s a pretty cool record store. I was browsing the used CDs when I had my first run-in with Julian Coryell, the guitarist for Aimee’s band. He was browsing the CDs too. I told him that I enjoyed his work and about how I used to play guitar. He was very nice and asked me my name. I’m sure Holli will have some things to say about Julian and the camera incident on Saturday. I think the rest of the band members were pretty much browsing the store too.

By this point it was about 3:20 or so, and I was really hungry. I decided I would head over to Whole Foods and maybe eat something there. After entering the store, all I could think was ‘WOW!’. This Whole Foods is huge! Apparently this store is their flagship store. It makes the one that I usually shop at look like a closet in comparison. They had a lot more prepared food areas than the store I go to, including pizza, barbecue, and seafood. They also had their own coffee bean roaster so all of their beans were freshly roasted. The patio outside was actually full, so I decided to go eat somewhere else. I bought some of their coffee and a bottled water (I hadn’t had any water all day either!) And headed to one of my favorite restaurants - Freebirds! I used to always go to Freebirds when I was in Austin because they didn’t have any in Dallas. Now we have 2 in Dallas so it’s not quite the rare treat it used to be, but it still hit the spot.

I went and checked in to my hotel room. I’m glad the concert was on Friday instead of Saturday, because many hotels were booked Saturday night because of the UT football game on Saturday. I kicked back for about an hour and a half before heading out to the concert. I’ve heard a lot in the last few years about how traffic in Austin really sucks. Well, now that I’ve seen it first hand, I agree. I-35 going south was a parking lot as I made my way to my hotel about 6 miles north of town. I was actually planning to take side streets to the concert since traffic was so bad. By the time I left at about 10 minutes to 7, 35 didn’t look too bad so I got on it. Oops - about a mile south it was parking lot time again. I wasn’t worried though because we were moving a little bit and I didn’t have far to go. I made it to the UT campus where the concert would be and found a parking spot about 2 blocks from the auditorium.

The concert was supposed to start at 8, and it was about 7:25. I decided to go in and just wait in my seat, but I discovered that they weren’t letting anyone in to the seating area yet. So, I went outside and sat on a bench outside the auditorium until about 10 minutes to 8. It was a very pleasant evening. I scoped out where the bus was located for my stalking activities after the concert.

The opening act was something called ‘Teitur’. I had no idea what to expect. A guy who looked a lot like Beck came out on stage with an acoustic guitar. This was Teitur. I admit I was as skeptical as most of the audience, but damn if Teitur isn’t one hell of a singer. To me he sounds a lot like Paul Simon with a dash of Sting thrown in. His songs were great, and he was really funny in his between-song banter. I think he won most of the crowd over since the applause seemed to grow after each song of his set. I enjoyed it so much I bought one of his CDs and he signed it for me. I was waiting in line to get my Teitur CD when Aimee Mann took the stage, but I ended up missing only a couple of minutes.

The Aimee Mann show was great! She played a lot of songs from the new album and took quite a few requests as well. She actually played ‘Voices Carry’, which I didn’t think she ever did. She did ‘Save Me’ and ‘Wise Up’, and threw in ‘One’, which was great as I’ve always loved her version of this song. I wanted more stuff from ‘Lost In Space’ - she only did ‘Humpty Dumpty’ from that album. Altogether she played for about an hour and a half, which still seems a little short to me. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Ween’s 2 and a half hour extravaganzas. The fact that this auditorium had seating meant that everyone was seated for most of the show. This makes it easier on the concertgoer, but I think Aimee likes it better when people are standing. She got really excited when everyone was standing as the band came out for the first encore: "You’re all standing!...Now, you’re sitting down again..." Lame ass crowd.

I decided that after the show I would try to get Aimee to sign my CD and that maybe I could get a picture with her. I went back to my car to get my CD and camera, and headed over to where the tour bus was waiting. There were 5 other people waiting, which I thought was good. I felt like if there were tons of people Aimee might not take the time to sign stuff. The keyboard player was the first to come out, and he went in the bus for a while and then left with his ‘lady friend’. As he was leaving I asked if he would sign my CD, and he did. He seemed really nice. Then Julian appeared and I talked to him again. He remembered me from the store and I got him to sign my CD as well. Aimee finally came out about an hour after the concert ended. She signed my CD and also allowed me to take a picture with her! I practically floated back to my car and drove back to the hotel. The combination of being so giddy and being in a strange bed resulted in a night of rather fitful sleep.

Saturday morning it was time to drive back to Dallas for the next concert. On the way, I actually saw the tour bus broken down on the side of the road! I hesitated with whether to stop or not, but I thought it might be a little too stalkerish, so I decided not to. I figured they knew how to change a flat.

As far as pictures, I still use the antiquated system of film. So, I have to get my film processed before I can post any of these pictures. I'm very modern!

To Be Continued...


Friday, October 21, 2005

Lookin' Sharp

Here is the outfit I wore to dinner on Wednesday. The Superman suit was at the cleaners.

I'm off to Austin!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Ruby Wednesday

Last night's dinner was very enjoyable. Faith is just as cute as she appears on her blog. For that matter, so is Holli! I do want to mention that I haven't really read Holli's post today yet. I didn't want my post to just be a reaction to hers. I scanned it ever so briefly and the only thing that I saw was how it might be interesting to see the different view of whether Faith was well-behaved or not.

I guess my criteria as to whether a baby is well-behaved is whether they cry and/or scream a lot. And maybe throw things (other than just dropping them on the floor - that I expect). And as far as that went, Faith seemed to be pretty good. She did drop crayons, sugar packets, and lime wedges on the floor, but hey - who doesn't? She also poured half a bottle of milk on herself, but she was just thirsty. I loved her reaction to tasting the lime wedge - a classic sourpuss face. And I loved how she learned by watching Mommy to put a lime wedge in her milk bottle! I got to hear her say 'moon' and even 'light'! And Holli, every time that you left the table, she would say "Mommy?". I reassured her that Mommy would be right back. Faith rocking out with the balloons was great, as was the 'face game'. And even though it was a bit nerve-wracking for Holli, I loved watching her try to eat the balloons. And she even ate some actual food!

I felt like I was meeting a couple of blog celebrities. It was a little surreal to meet Holli and Faith after reading about them for the last few months. I can't remember the last time I talked to someone with such an enthusiasm for music. I learned about 'cell phone paranoia', the spider nexus, and many other interesting things. All in all I had a great time.

There was one odd moment, and it had nothing to do with the company. I ordered a veggie burger, and the waitress made a face as if I had just ordered a glass of human blood or something. Not sure what that was about, but isn't the customer always right? I would be willing to bet money that this waitress had never heard anyone order that before!

I've totally been talked into going to Austin to see Aimee Mann do an in-store performance and CD signing in Austin tomorrow. And since I will be there, I might as well go to the concert tomorrow night. So, I will get to see 2 and a fraction Aimee Mann concerts in 2 days. Which I never would have done if I was still working, so sometimes you have to pick out the positives.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

'Watch' Out For Weirdos

The focus group last night was pretty painless. In the hours leading up to it I was really dreading it, but I had already committed so I didn't want to back out. There were five of us total, all men probably 30-40. We went around the table and told a little bit about the watches that we own and why we chose them, our last watch buying experience, and where we would shop for watches. The facilitator asked us some questions about shopping for watches, and then he showed us 3 displays containing mostly Timex watches and asked which display we liked best. He showed us some boxes that the watches come in and asked our opinions. At the end he showed us some watches that were supposed to be like some of the more expensive type Swiss-made watches. He asked if we would be willing to pay $200-300 for them knowing that comparable watches might go for thousands. Nobody said they would (remember they asked for people who shop at Wal Mart). I can't really figure out if this guy worked for Timex or Wal Mart. Everyone seemed pretty nice and the 2 hours seemed to go by pretty quickly. I played the part of average joe consumer and didn't rock the boat. One weird part was the fact that there was a big one-way window at one end of the room. There were supposedly 3 people in the room behind it who were watching our discussion. I heard a couple of guffaws coming from there a couple of times, which was a little disconcerting, but I guess that's why I got paid the big bucks.

After I got home I decided to go running. It's been so damn hot here that even if I go at 9 in the morning it is too hot. I thought it might be better without the sun beating down on me. So, I ran to the track that I have been frequenting lately. This was at about 9PM. Holy crap, it was like Grand Central Station. There was one other person like me who seemed to be on his own. There was a big group of about 20 people who were all wearing red T-shirts and black shorts. There was something written on the front of the shirts and it appeared as though their names were on the back. I thought, "This is going to suck." I decided to try and stick to an outside lane while letting the weirdos have the inside lanes. Apparently they must have finished running right before I got there. The whole time I was there (about 30 minutes) they stayed in one spot on the track and did pushups, situps, and listened to their leader talk to them about who knows what. Maybe it's some kind of death cult or something! Or some kind of weird exercising vampire group. I don't know. At one point when I ran past the group their leader said "Sorry", I guess for being in my way. I didn't have any problem as long as they left me a lane. I'm thinking it may actually be some kind of thing going on with the police department because there was a police car in the parking lot. Maybe a citizens police academy or something like that. Damn, I was holding out for vampires!

And yes, blog worlds will collide this evening. I am meeting Holli and Faith for dinner. I may have to wear my Elephant Man mask so as to protect my identity.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sticking It To The Man

Tonight is my chance to stick it to the man. I am participating in a market research focus group. I have done this before although it’s been a while. I was pleased to receive the call because even though I’m not destitute I feel the need to be bringing in some money from somewhere. They’re going to pay me $65 for 2 hours, which ain’t half bad. I did have to stretch the truth a shade to qualify for this though. The focus group is about watches. They asked if I shopped at Wal Mart, Target, Neiman Marcus, and Lord & Taylor. While I’m not proud to admit it, I do occasionally shop at Wal Mart (but I have cut back A LOT from several years ago. If you want to know why I hate Wal Mart read Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich). Of course I shop at Target, I told the truth about Neiman Marcus (never), and I lied about Lord & Taylor (I said that I go there occasionally). Honestly, does anyone actually shop at Lord & Taylor? I also lied that I have purchased a watch at Wal Mart in the last year (In reality I purchased my Timex watch that I use when I run seven years ago at a Wal Mart). So, from what I can tell, it seems as though this study is being done by Wal Mart about watches. I was feeling a little guilty, so today I went to Wal Mart just to check out their watch section so I could maybe answer a few questions they may ask me.

So, I’m thinking that if I want to be a real ass I will tell them: no one asked if I needed help, I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I think watches are a tool of Satan, do they have any watches that run backwards, why do they have Spongebob watches when they know he’s gay, why don’t they have a Napoleon Dynamite watch, etc. But I probably won’t. I’m not feeling very mischievous today and I once heard something about biting the hand that feeds you or somesuch.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Fair to Middling

Yesterday I went to the State Fair. And yes, I went by myself. I know that's kind of weird, but I really wanted to go on a weekday. Last year I went on the last Saturday, and it sucked. It was so crowded that it was nut to butt, and I couldn't even get in to see the frisbee dogs because the arena was already full. I asked Mabel if she wanted to go to the Fair at some point, but I haven't heard back from her a week later. None of my other lame friends wanted to skip work, so I just went by myself. It was a lot better crowd-wise.

The first food stop was for a roasted ear of corn. They give you an ear of corn and you hold it by the shuck. There are all kinds of spices that you can put on your corn. I went with the Cajun spice. Damn that was good. The next stop was for the fabled corny dog. I went with the regular variety rather than the cheese and jalapeno. I figured there was no need to add insult to injury (I would change my mind on that later). As a kid I used to put ketchup on my corny dogs in the school cafeteria, but at some point I was taught that is a no-no. So, I slathered on the mustard and chowed down. The third stop was for a root beer from the cart with the giant root beer barrels. I like how the bees hang out around the root beer tap.

Next I did a walkthrough of the domestic part of the Auto Show. It's amazing what being jobless will do to your desire to even think about buying a car. I planned to go to something billed as a 'Tropical Greenhouse Tour' so I had to hoof it across the fairgrounds. I made it to the specified location but the 'tour' ended up being a lady standing in one location in the greenhouse who would answer a question if you had one. You pretty much had to tour the greenhouse yourself. It was very interesting though (at least to me) and then I looked at their butterfly garden outside. I am pretty fascinated by plants. I am thinking I may have throw that fact into my giant boiling 'potential career cauldron' from which I'm hoping my true calling will emerge.

The next item on the agenda was to go to the Top-Flight Canine show. They have some really hyper dogs who catch frisbees, jump over some big hurdles, and jump into a pool of water. One of these dogs jumped a hurdle that was 52" off of the ground, which was pretty impressive to me anyway. After that I caught about 5 minutes of the African acrobats, who did some pretty amazing stuff. Then I went to the import section of the Auto Show. I found further proof that I am getting old when I noticed that I spent most of my auto viewing time in the Toyota section, along with a healthy number of senior citizens. Yes! I am interested in the same cars as 75 year-olds! Sweet!

I then went to see the butter sculpture. This is something I do every year, although I think last year when I got to the usual location there was no butter sculpture. This year the sculpture is Elvis, along with a contingent of hound dogs. It was pretty cool. Not too many people work in the medium of butter so I have to give it some props. Although to me Elvis' face looked more like Robert Mitchum from 'Night of the Hunter'.

I swung by to take a look at the Budweiser Clydesdales. Those are some damn impressive animals. I then felt the need to further punish my stomach, so I decided to get some fried okra. I love fried okra. I didn't love this fried okra. It was way too greasy, and as a bonus I even got some oil in the bottom of the cup. Blech.

I should have left at that point, but I felt the need to try one of those disgusting fried desserts that everyone is always going on about. Fried twinkies, fried Snickers bars, fried marshmallows. I had my heart set on a fried Twinkie, but when I got to the booth I discovered they didn't have them. There must have been a lawsuit or something. So, I settled for the fried Oreos. They weren't nearly as bad as I was expecting, although I kind of wish I hadn't gotten them. I had a low-grade headache all day which blossomed into a full-blown one by the time I got home. I blame the Oreos. Or the okra. I almost didn't have to eat dinner since I ate so much crap at the Fair. But I did eat a bowl of tomato soup. This morning I caught sight of the organic honey nut 'Os cereal that I have and wish I would have eaten that instead. Since I've been out of work I don't really eat breakfast anymore and the cereal just sits there, forlorn. Poor cereal. Holy crap, I almost forgot the title of my blog! Anyway, I guess the Fair itch has been scratched for this year.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Nature Boy

Here are a few pictures from my 'hike' the other day. I'm using the quotes because I only walked maybe a total of 300 yards from my house. I lingered in certain spots though so I was gone an hour. It was a nice excursion.

This is the fruit of the Bois D'Arc tree, as kids we used to call them horseapples. When I was younger we had a dog who would play fetch with these in the park:

I didn't see any monarchs that would stay still long enough for me to take a picture, but this little guy was taking a breather:

This isn't the greatest picture compositionally, but these clouds reminded me of a giant fish fossil:

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Too Chewy I Guess

This restaurant recently went out of business. I can't imagine why.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Fight The Power

I forgot to mention that on Sunday outside the Kroger that I shop at a lady was protesting very loudly. She was telling people not to shop at Kroger because they did her wrong somehow. I was too scared to actually go talk to her, but it looked like maybe she used to work there and somehow got some kind of eye injury, and apparently she didn't feel like Kroger responded in the way she would have liked. I was parked at the other end of the parking lot from this lady, and I could hear her shouting all the way across the parking lot. She certainly seemed to be drawing a lot of attention. Things like that always make people feel tense, especially around here because you almost never see anything like that. However, this woman has a right to express her opinion. I think it's admirable that she has the guts to stand up for what she believes in.

The Golf Ball

This may sound cheesy to some of you, but one of the sections in the "We Got Fired" book that I read had a passage that spoke to me and I thought I would share it with you:

"The first golf balls were smooth. An avid-but-broke golfer couldn't afford new ones. He picked up nicked balls he found littered on the course. The funny thing was he kept beating his well-heeled friends with their shiny new balls. Today's golf balls have 432 dimples. These "rough spots" enhance the ball's distance and accuracy. The rough spots in our life sharpen our performance."

Look Kids, Some People Run On Purpose!

Yesterday I went for another run. I went back to the 'springy' track. I should have mentioned in my last post that I have to give Michelle credit for the track idea. I've never really been interested in running on a track because I thought it would be too boring, but the cushiony feel of the track more than makes up for any monotony. And it's still more interesting than running on a treadmill.

I was kind of hoping that kids might be out for Columbus Day, or Fair Day, and as I approached the track I thought I might be in luck that there were no kids on it. As I got closer, though, I saw what looked to be a P.E. class of girls doing laps. I wasn't sure if this was going to work out, as I'm not sure if the middle school folks take too kindly to a shifty-looking stranger running laps alongside the kids. If it was a problem, the teacher didn't say anything to me. The girls were pretty much in the first 2 or 3 lanes of the track so I just stuck to lane 8.

I tried to ignore the kids as much as possible. I forgot, though, that interaction is a 2-way street. As some of the girls finished and waited for the others to finish they were getting water at a water fountain by the side of the track. As I passed on one lap, one of the kids yelled "Hi!.....Hi!". Great. Way to go kid, make me a distraction so I can't run here during the day anymore. We'll see how it goes in the future. I should be able to run on that track all the live-long day if I want to. My tax dollars paid for that damn thing. And if you are a homeowner in Texas, you pay a LOT of school tax dollars.

I noticed as I was running that the monarch butterflies are making their annual flight back to Mexico for the winter. I have always been fascinated by this since about third grade when my teacher read us a story about the monarch migration.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The First Weekend of the Rest of My Life

Friday after my last post I decided to go for a little hike. It was such a nice day and there were some interesting clouds, so I brought my camera. I am supposed to get my film back tomorrow, so I will post more on this with pictures tomorrow. I enjoy photography, but I haven't gotten on the digital camera bandwagon yet. I started to get a headache right before I went out. Since I may have to get by without health insurance for some period of time I thought it might be good to try and fight through some of the headaches I get instead of relying on Imitrex. So I thought I would fight through it and go to bed early. When I got back from my hike and ate dinner I started to feel better, and the headache eventually went away. Cool.

For dinner I made mashed potatoes. I love mashed potatoes but I don't make them very often because it takes more prep time than I usually wanted when I was working. They were good and I even had the leftovers for lunch on Saturday. Let's see how many meals I can get out of this 5 lb, $3.29 cent bag of potatoes. Quite a few I'll wager.

Saturday it was time to run again. My leg still hurt some and I seriously considered Michelle's advice to give it a rest. But I didn't. I did one lap around the neighborhood and then headed for the middle school because I knew they had a track. I wasn't sure if was the rubber, squishy kind but thankfully it was! That track felt really nice to run on. It's about a 4 and a half minute run from my house, I think I will definitely be using it some more. My leg did OK and yesterday actually had no pain. Saturday morning the pain actually felt a little different than Friday, it didn't really feel like my hamstring anymore. I think it actually may have been my adductor. Not sure if it was the adductor longus or adductor magnus. And yes, I have too much time on my hands. I think I just wanted to say 'adductor longus'.

Saturday after my run was very nice. For some reason I was struck by a sense of quiet. Even though everyone in the neighborhood was home from work and I had to make a few phone calls, I just had a feeling of peace and quiet. I sat by the window in my kitchen reading one of my books. Maybe the quiet was coming from inside myself. Whatever the case, I'll take it!

Sunday I wasn't feeling quite as good. In the morning I found out my great uncle passed away. He's been quite ill with emphysema for several years now. He smoked for a long time in his younger days. It certainly wasn't unexpected, but it still makes me sad. He was a very interesting person and I'm glad that he's no longer suffering.

I finally talked to my parents last night and told them about my situation. They have always been very supportive of me, and this was no different. My mom is pretty gung-ho about my plan to find a true calling. I think I was apprehensive because it adds a different level of pressure. Now instead of having to remove the burden of being jobless for myself, I have to remove it for them as well. I think their support will help me more than the extra burden will hurt though.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Up and Down

The last 24 hours have been a bit of a roller coaster ride. I needed to register on the Workforce Commission website for their job search section in order to be eligible for unemployment benefits. I didn't really want to do this now, but I had to register within 3 days of applying for benefits. I didn't want to do it because I knew I would look at their job listings and I didn't think I was ready to do that quite yet. Well, I couldn't help myself. It brought me down a little bit because many of the jobs that are in my degree field have requirements that I don't meet (my last job was fairly specialized). And then in looking at some jobs that might be more along the lines of 'more fun' or 'things I might actually enjoy doing' or 'less pressure', I saw that a lot of these jobs don't pay enough for a single person to live on. Crap. Actually makes me wish I were married for maybe the first time. At least if your spouse is working too, you can possibly afford to have a poor-paying job. So, for pretty much the first time since I got canned I didn't sleep all that well (not counting neighbor dog's wakeup call yesterday).

Today I decided that I was going to tell my parents about this situation. Then this morning I get an email from my Mom saying that they are going to be out of town this weekend. I haven't gotten an answer when I try to call, so they may have already left. So, now I still get to worry about that all weekend. I guess that's what I get for not being in touch with my parents as much as I should. Serves me right. I need to be better about calling them on a regular basis. It may be better anyway to let them have a nice weekend without worrying about my crap.

I don't know what the deal is, but my hamstring kinds of hurts today. I don't know if it's because the weather was cooler when I ran yesterday or because I was running on pavement for the first time in a while, but I don't like it. I may try to run again tomorrow if it feels better.

As far as the up part of the roller coaster, I got a paycheck today. Even better, I got a check for 203 hours of vacation. I thought this was odd because I had a balance of 80 hours when I was booted, so this was what I was expecting. What I forgot about was the fact that I have been accruing vacation all year. So, when you add that to the 80 hours you get 203 hours. Sweet. The check amounted to about 2 months of my current living expenses, so that's definitely nothing to sneeze at. I am very grateful that financially I am in pretty good shape to weather this crisis.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Another Day

Neighbor dog woke me up earlier than I wanted to this morning. I'm not fond of neighbor dog, especially since I have been trying to sleep until 8 or 9. This dog has the deepest and loudest bark per pound of any dog I have ever heard (and he's actually barking right now). I love dogs, and I know it's not the dog's fault but the owners. I don't think they give this dog enough attention. I need to learn how to ignore the barking. I don't feel real comfortable with talking to my neighbors about it because over the summer they posted on our neighborhood message board that both of their dogs had been poisoned with rat poison (as determined by their vet). I'm sure they thought at some point that I did it. I would never do such a thing, and I don't think their other neighbor did it because he has dogs of his own. It happened right after they got back from a 2 week vacation (which they brought their dogs along for), so I think they got into something during that trip. I guess I'll have to deal somehow. Funny, their other dog is as quiet as a church mouse.

I did go for a run today and it felt great. The temperature was about 60 degrees, which was nice. The neighborhood is a real ghost town during the day. It's kind of scary, someone could rob somebody blind without too much trouble I bet. It was good to do something active again.

I finished the "We Got Fired" book and started on one called "Career Comeback". This one has a more practical kind of advice about job searches. I realized yesterday that when I do get a job interview I'm going to have to get a haircut. My hair is a little on the shaggy side. And I'm also thinking that I may have to lose my goatee, which will kind of suck. I think I look better with it, but I may look more 'menacing'. My upper lip hasn't seen sunlight in over 4 years, it's going to take some time to get used to seeing myself like that again.

I did have something bubble up from my subconscious today. I'm not materialistic at all, I think it's stupid to be concerned with what kind of car you drive and things like that. The company that I worked for was a somewhat large, public company. All this company cares about is how to make its stock price go higher. Of course the goal of any company is to make money, but there are different ways to go about it. I think I don't need to work for another company like my last one. If I don't care about making piles and piles of money how can I buy into that as the goal of the company I work for? Employees' well-being and concerns were not high on this company's priority list. It was everything for a buck. I think I need something that exists more to help people or provide a service, or a company that doesn't put the well-being of its employees as almost an afterthought compared to the greed of making as much money as possible. Sounds impossible, but there are companies out there where this is the case. I think this is a good sign, maybe without the pressures of the daily grind I can learn some more things about myself and want I really want.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


I haven't exactly been a Coffee Achiever in my first 2 days of unemployment. Not unless Coffee Achievers lounge in their underwear until 1PM. But that's OK. I think I need some time to just exist right now. I think it's kind of like when you get the wind knocked out of you and there's nothing you can do for a few minutes except just sit there and try to breathe. I'm trying to catch up on my 'Lost' season 1 DVDs and some of the other discs I have waiting to be watched. I've had 'Schindler's List' sitting around waiting to be watched since oh, about February or so. At first I didn't think that was a movie I should be watching now, but I was so tired of seeing it sitting there unwatched. The funny thing is, as potentially depressing as the subject matter can be, that movie is actually quite inspiring. You've got a story about one person who made a difference, and it was a person who didn't even set out to do so or know what he was capable of until the chips were down. And it also says a lot about the perserverance of the human soul. As bad as I have felt, it's nothing compared to what these people experienced.

I haven't been a total washout. I filed for unemployment benefits yesterday. I am now required to register on their job search site within the next 2 days. On the day I got fired, I stopped by the library on the way home to get some more books. I'm about two-thirds of the way through one called "We Got Fired, and It's the Best Thing That Ever Happened To Us". It's of the rah-rah variety, but it does have some inspiring stories about famous people who have been fired and then went on to bigger and better things. Most of the stories so far have been pretty good, but it's a little hard to swallow say the one about Michael Bloomberg, who got a $10 million severance check when he got fired in 1981 at the age of 39. Yes, he went on to become a billionaire, but to me this one doesn't count because he didn't have to try and find another job!

I have an inside source at my prior employer. Apparently the day I got fired my boss had a meeting with the rest of the group after it had happened to tell them and assign my work to others. At this meeting my boss said that she didn't agree with the decision to let me go. I'm not sure whether this is true or not - it may just be a way to make herself feel less guilty. It is possible though, her boss disliked me quite a bit I suspect (the feeling was mutual). In any case, that really doesn't matter now.

I was supposed to run today, but it's still too damn hot. I put it off by a day because it's supposed to get much cooler tomorrow.

It's kind of weird how I can spill my guts on this blog about this whole experience, but I think it's been a really good thing. I haven't told any of my non-work friends, or even my family yet. I feel embarrassed and I have somewhat of a sense of shame about it, which I think are natural reactions. It's been good to have this forum to help me work through this, and I say thanks to those of you who have expressed your support.

Once I get past the shock phase, it will be time to start thinking about what I really want to do. I have to get my mind in a quiet place to listen to what my inner self is saying. I feel like there's too much static in my head at the moment. But I do not have the type of personality that will let me be idle for too long, so I know that in the near future I will be ready to get off my ass and do something about this.

Monday, October 03, 2005


As Sam Elliott said in 'The Big Lebowski', sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes the bar, he eats you.

Today the 'bar' ate me. I got fired today.

As you will know if you've read some of my earlier posts, this was not totally unexpected. It still sucks though. What they claimed it boiled down to were a couple of projects that I didn't complete on schedule. And even though there were legitimate factors as to why these projects could not be completed by the deadlines, the time for arguing was over. There were so many things I wanted to say, but I just kept my mouth shut. I was dealing with it pretty well, I even went to the gym and ran my 5 miles right afterward. I realize now that I won't get off quite that easy emotionally. There will be good moments and bad moments, but I'm trying my best to deal with a difficult situation and stay positive. I think this can lead to a better and more healthy life for me if I do the things I need to do. As I've said before, this may be the push that gets me moving when I was too scared to take that step myself.

It was an interesting 10 years, but I feel good about moving forward. There are still some good people there, and I wish them the best but they now have their own set of concerns that I am happy to leave behind. I have no intention of becoming a total bum, but I need a few days to get my head right and figure out where I go from here. I still hope to post about stupid things, like how great the second episode of Extras was last night or the continuing genius of Arrested Development. Or how to stretch a package of Ramen noodles into 3 meals. I think I'm going to be watching lots of funny things in the near future to keep my spirits up. So, I guess them's the breaks. I'll see you on the other side!

Blue Store, Meet Red State

Yesterday was really great. I never thought that shopping could be so much fun. We ended up spending 5 and a half hours (!) at IKEA. About an hour and 15 minutes of that was eating lunch. I escaped with minimal damage, the only things I bought were a $10 wine rack, some chocolate wafer things for Mabel, and a box of cookies (I am not sure why I bought these cookies, no one else wanted to eat any of them and I now have a giant box of cookies that I don’t really want or need to eat - impulse buying sucks!). It was interesting how they have the Swedish names for all of the items. Some of them are really funny like ‘Muck’. The wine rack I bought is called ‘Vurm’. Mabel couldn’t stop laughing over ‘Skrud’. I guess it just goes to show you how stupid furniture names are because here they don't mean a thing. Usually it's "Yes, I would like to see the Buttress of Windsor in the Camel Hump brown" or somesuch. Whatever. I've also now been inspired to create a children's cartoon called 'Billy Bookcase': "Hey kids, want to read a book? Well, gather 'round 'ol Billy!" Just imagine the Mr. Hankey voice.

The store was pretty crowded, and usually I can’t handle being around that many people for that long, but I guess I was having too much fun to be bothered by it. Lunch was kind of fun, it was like being back at the school cafeteria where you get a tray and go through the line. I’m now up on Lingonberries, I had the Lingonberry Tort, Lingonberry Juice, and Lingonberry Jam. I would say that if you have any interest at all in furniture or home decorating, the trip to IKEA is worth it. To those of you who have had IKEA forever, you may think "Why is everyone in Texas making such a big deal out of IKEA?". Well, us yokels have only had our store for 2 months. I'm sure we'll become as jaded as everyone else after a while.

I pretty much went in with the attitude that I didn’t really need to buy anything right now, so I didn’t get my heart set on buying anything major. I definitely would like to go back sometime. Everyone seemed pretty exhausted at the end of the day. I thought I was feeling OK until I started my drive home, and then I realized that I was pretty wiped out too. I didn’t really learn too much more about what makes Mabel tick – a giant furniture store is not exactly the best place for intimate conversation. Hopefully I won’t have to wait 5 weeks to go out with her again (I need to ask about the Aimee Mann concert).