Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Back To School

Phase I of the next chapter of my life begins tomorrow - I start school. I am very glad that my 8 month "vacation" is about to be over. I did get some needed down time, and I got to goof off a bit, but I need a purpose in life! I hope that this will be the first step in finding a job that I really love someday. I have to go to classes on campus for 5 days straight. Each day lasts from 8AM to 5PM, which I'm guessing is going to be quite a shock to my system. You would think I might have gone to bed early last night to start readying my body for the early wakeup call. You would think, but you would be horribly wrong. Although going to bed early last night was my plan, early somehow turned into 1AM - I am so screwed! After the first 5 days the rest of the semester consists of online work. I won't be starting my job until about a week later, which I think will be good as it will give me a little time to get into the groove with school.

Thinking about my first day of school in 11 years made me think about how my mom used to take a picture of my sister and I on the front porch on our first day of school every year. Maybe I should do that tomorrow! I sure hope the other kids don't make fun of me.

I know that Kiki and Michelle are quite fond of posting poems on their blogs, and I enjoy reading them. So I thought of a poem of sorts that seems quite fitting. It's from the Oscar winning film "Billy Madison":

Back to school, back to school
To prove to Dad that I'm not a fool
I got my lunch packed up
My boots tied tight
I hope I don't get in a fight
Ohh, back to school, back to school, back to school
Well, here goes nothing!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

One Last Pic

Thankfully the giant spider did not make an appearance today or this evening. I had to apply fertilizer to my lawn, and I did not see any sign of said spider. I also sat outside for a little bit this evening and did not see it. That probably means it's under my bed. By the way, does anyone remember that episode of Gilligan's Island with the big 6 foot tall spider that lived in a cave? It was like that.

Here is one last picture from Arizona, for some reason Blogger wouldn't let me paste it into yesterday's post. Bitch.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Not So Nature Boy And Trip Pics

Well, Nature Boy (that would be me) decided he wanted to sit out in the backyard tonight and watch the birds. That is, until Nature Boy set up the folding chair and then noticed the tarantula climbing the side of the house. Nothing skeeves me out more than big spiders, and they don't get much bigger than this. The outdoor excursion was cancelled for this evening. And yeah, I know they're harmless, yada, yada, yada, but they still just freak me right the F out. Now I'm going to be a nervous wreck for a week. Gah!

On another note, here are some pictures from my trip last week:

This is my parents' back yard. I love that they have mountains nearby!

This is my parent's dog, Oreo. He's a border collie/chow mix, so maybe he's a chorder collie? Or a chowder collie? He's basically a big teddy bear of a dog.

Some of the local scenery

These are the blooms of the saguaro cactus. Unfortunately they hadn't quite opened into flowers yet.

My mom has several bird feeders in the front yard and she has created a watering hole for the critters. It's practically a zoo out there when the feeders are full.

There are a couple of different types of ground squirrel that live there, this one kind of looks like a prairie dog.

There are lots of quail around the yard. I also saw roadrunners, doves, cardinals, flickers, finches, cactus wrens, lizards, rabbits, and a coyote.

With apologies to Anne (just think of it as an homage), here is a prickly pear flower. These things only bloom for a few hours and then they shrivel up.

Yes, this cactus is really purple!


Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Taste Of My Own Medicine

I made it home OK, and the plane trips went about as smoothly as I could have wished for. No missed connections, no late arrivals. There was one thing about the trip from Phoenix to Dallas that struck me though. Normally I am the type of person who tries not to speak to the person next to me if at all possible. However, yesterday I noticed that the guy sitting next to me happened to have a ring from the same college that I went to. Most people that graduate from this college have these rings, and they are fairly distinctive. I thought it would be rude to not acknowledge it since he might have noticed my ring, so I struck up a conversation. We talked about our college sports team for a little bit, but it soon became apparent to me that this guy really wasn't in a chatting mood. I was actually a bit relieved. So, I went back to my CD and magazine. I'm not sure, but I think I may have been the only person in America yesterday who was listening to the Wu Tang Clan while reading Reader's Digest. I just thought it was very ironic that I was the person who actually tried to start a conversation and got resistance from someone else!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Please Pass The Lard

Well, part of my mother's diabolical plan has worked - it looks like I have gained about 5 pounds this week. I guess that's what a steady diet of potato chips, beer, trail mix, and chocolate chip cookies will do to a person. That's why I don't keep any of that stuff around my house. Except for the beer!

I decided not to go to Phoenix to go to In N Out burger. It just seems very wasteful in this age of $3 a gallon gas. Plus I'm lazy. And I learned that they are in the process of building one here, so next time I visit I will just have to drive a few miles!

Last night we went to one of my favorite Mexican restaurants here. The food is totally different than the Tex Mex that I get at home. In Texas tamales are tiny, here they are huge. One of the specialties that they serve around here is carne seca - which is basically beef that is dried out in the sun and then mixed with tomatoes and spices. It is then served in tacos, enchiladas, burritos, or by itself. It rocks.

It's been kind of a strange week. Every other time I have been here I have been working, so I kind of took the time here to relax. Since I haven't been working in a while there was no need to decompress this time. I still didn't do much but at least I got to do nothing in another environment! I have some pictures I will post after I get home.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Trader JC

My mom has put me to work! Yesterday we planted a couple of cacti (kind of like bringing coals to Newcastle, but you plant what will grow around here) and a couple of other plants. Today I cleared brush in the front yard. Now I know what the President does when he goes to Crawford! Fortunately the weather cooperated and it was only about 88 degrees yesterday and 89 today - that's cool around here. I'm feeling pretty tired at the moment.

Today I made the trip to the one place that I almost always go when I'm out here - Trader Joe's. I think TJs is my favorite grocery store in the world, and we don't have them in Texas. Seeing as how my income is a little light right now, I didn't want to spend a lot, but I ended up with more stuff than I had planned. Unfortunately it looks like they quit selling the trail mix that was my favorite. I stocked up on coffee, black mango tea, black pepper cashews, and some of their Hawaiian style potato chips. I discovered chile-seasoned dried mango slices (surprisingly tasty). I also got some of their red curry sauce and a masala simmer sauce that I can't wait to try. Chicken Tikka Masala is one of my favorite Indian dishes. Today for lunch mom and I tried their Carrot Ginger soup. It was really good, almost tasted kind of pumpkin-y. Trader Joe's is kind of like my version of the Hundred Dollar Store!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Sweaty Eddie

I'm feeling a bit scattered at the moment - I think the 2 hour time change is still sinking in.

I knew I was with my parents when they turned on "A Prairie Home Companion" in the car on the way home from the airport. They have listened to this show religiously for over 20 years every Saturday night, and I have to say it is my kryptonite. It renders me completely powerless. I don't know what it is, but I can't stand that show! I think part of it is the large quotient of what I call 'Dad humor' on there, which is basically really bad jokes. Hmm, kind of like the one I posted the other day (but that one had a little more 'edge' to it). I managed to hide my inner panic though and keep my mouth shut. I'm conflicted about the upcoming PHC film. I heard it was really good and it's directed by Robert Altman, who has made some excellent films, but if it's too much like the radio show I think I'll gouge my eyes out.

I fear I'm going to be a bit of a Sweaty Eddie this week. My parents keep their thermostat at 78 degrees!! As Paris Hilton once said: "That's hot." My Dad said if it was too warm I could turn it down. Last night I felt guilty for wanting to turn it down, but now I'm thinking I may just take him up on that offer!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Go West Young Man

I guess my book-sorting skills aren't as good as I thought they were - I got a letter informing me that I did not get the library assistant job that I interviewed for a couple of weeks ago. Oh well, I wouldn't have taken it anyway since I got a full-time job.

I've discovered that having baby mockingbirds in your backyard isn't so cute if you want to sleep past 7AM. There are 3 of them back there, and they are pretty loud and squawk a lot! I have put in earplugs after being awakened early and have had pretty good luck falling back asleep.

I am leaving later today for a visit to see my parents in Arizona. I'm looking forward to the trip, it's been over a year since I've been out there. I think a change of scenery will be good for me right now. I'm trying to figure out how I can finagle a trip to Phoenix - they have In N Out Burger there! Unfortunately Phoenix is about 100 miles from where my parents live, and my parents aren't hip to the INO goodness, so they may not understand driving 100 miles for a hamburger. I'll try to post if I can get mom off of the computer and if I'm not too worn out from all the chores that it sounds like she's got lined up for me to do!


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Thank You, I'll be Here All Week

I know that some of you don't really like jokes (cough, Holli), but I heard one yesterday that I thought was pretty funny, so I'm going to share it:

Did you hear about the flasher who was going to retire?

(Inviso-text on, highlight to read the answer)

He decided to stick it out another year.

In other news, I have one of those daily desk calendars that was given to me by my cousins for Christmas. This calendar has a trivia question each day, and I thought the one from yesterday was interesting:

What industry uses 90 percent of the licorice imported into the U.S. as flavoring?

The tobacco industry. Licorice is used in flavoring cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em!!!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Slogging Through

The last few days, with the exception of my backyard reverie, haven't been a whole lot of fun. Saturday was a struggle to remain upright, and by the time I went to bed I felt physically drained from doing battle with my own brain all day. I think I had a near panic attack too, I felt a tightness in my chest and I thought I was going to pass out when I closed my eyes to wash my hair in the shower. Yesterday I felt physically beaten again until around dinner time. Next Saturday will mark 3 weeks since I started the full dosage of my meds, if I don't feel consistently better by then I think a change may be in order.

Today I had to get fingerprinted for my new job, they're doing an extensive background check. I guess next time I kill someone I'm going to have to wear gloves. The cliche about government agencies being huge bureaucracies is no myth, so far I've had to submit seventeen forms since I was offered this job. Sheezus. And the lady who took my fingerprints told me I haven't seen anything yet! I had to be in downtown Dallas at 10 this morning, and since that is close to the time I have been dragging my ass out of bed recently, I had to get up a little earlier than usual. It was kind of weird to be up so early, but I guess I better start getting used to it again (and it will need to be even earlier than this morning). It was actually kind of nice to have to be somewhere for a change. It took me an hour to travel the 35 miles to downtown. Bad traffic is something I'm also going to have to get used to. I seem to do OK with it though if I know it's going to be bad, it's when it's unexpected that I get hacked.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

In The Moment

I remember reading somewhere once that the best way to live your life is to be 'in the moment', and I remember struggling with what that concept meant. I think I got a window into what that means for me last night. I felt like just sitting in my backyard for a while, so I did. I took a chair outside, sat in it, and leaned back against my house. I sat there for about half an hour as the sun was going down. I watched the birds in the trees, the planes flying overhead, the occasional insect flying by.

I saw a baby mockingbird squawking for some food, and then the mother catching a moth and feeding it to the baby. I watched a hummingbird regard me warily and then decide that she wasn't hungry enough to eat with me watching. I watched a bumblebee clumsily fly into my house several times before flying away. I watched the trees turn into silhouettes against the setting sun. As I watched these things, there was no past, no future, no worries. There were just those moments. And it was very calming. I don't know how you can live your whole life that way, but maybe the more you have moments like these the more you can be open to finding them where you might not expect to. And that would be a good thing.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Odds and Ends

* The weather here yesterday was absolutely sublime. Sunny, temperature in the low 70s, a nice cool breeze (or I guess wind was more like it). I'll take it! It gave me the rare opportunity to have my windows open all day. With the windows open I noticed that there are a ton of birds in my backyard. There are scissor-tail flycatchers, cardinals, and mockingbirds. I could also hear a baby mockingbird out there somewhere. There was one unusual call that I couldn't identify because I couldn't see the bird, but I want to try and figure out what it was.

* I just wanted to mention something about the season finale of The Office last night. That moment between Jim and Pam, even though if you've seen the British version you totally knew it was coming sooner or later, was just amazing. It's stuff like this that elevates this show above the usual sitcom. It has heart! Odd that I like that considering I've complained about that aspect of Scrubs, but I think it's much more deftly done in The Office.

* Yesterday was my Dad's birthday, and he hit one of the milestones - the big 6-0. It freaks me out a little that I remember when my Dad was my age. I also keep thinking about how he has now lived longer than his father ever did - my grandfather died at age 59. I hope he will be around for many more years! Happy Birthday Dad!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Match This

Addiction of the week: Yogurt Burst Cheerios. Tuesday night I ate about half a box, right from the box, of the vanilla flavor. I think I prefer the strawberry flavor.

I finally did a little work around the house that's been needed for a long time. When I moved into my house, the builder gave me 2 cans of touchup paint - one can of flat paint and one can of semi-gloss. Plain, boring-ass, white. I had used this stuff several times over the years to cover various scrapes and marks. A little over a year ago I pulled out the semi-gloss can to touch up a couple of spots in the kitchen. Um, I guess paint doesn't hold up too well after 3 and half years. It was now kind of a yellowish color, which didn't match too well with white.

Thus began my hell of trying to find a matching white paint for my wall. The cans that were given to me by the builder had no label on them, they were plain metal cans with 'flat' and 'semi-gloss' written in marker on the lid. I never had any idea how hard it is to match white paint. I got about a bajillion paint strips from Lowe's. I found one that seemed to match my wall pretty well and bought a quart. It didn't match. I emailed customer service for the builder and asked for the brand and name of the paint that they used. I actually got a reply and I thought my work was done. It was a brand they sell at Home Depot. So I bought a quart, tried it out - no match. What the hell? Did the old paint fade or something?

Anyway, I was really getting sick of staring at these white spots on my wall, so I used the brute force method and just painted the whole damn wall with the quart I bought last year. It looks so much nicer! You can't even tell that the walls next to it are not exactly the same shade of white. Next time there's a scuff mark, I'm using one of those Magic Erasers.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

Friday was just full of surprises:

* I got a call indicating that I will be offered the secretary job! I still have to pass a background check before I will get a formal offer. I pretty much told them that I would accept the offer. I wish the job paid more, but after considering the tax bracket I will be in, I may not be 'in the hole' as much as I thought each month. It will cover most of my expenses, and I will be able to stay in my house. I think it will give me plenty of time to study for school too. Hey, if it totally sucks, I'll find something better! I'm going to have to do some serious work on my sleep schedule, though.
* I got a call from a former colleague at my last job - she had just gotten fired! She asked if I wanted to meet at Starbucks to talk about it, and I said sure. (Time for a weird coincidence: when I heard about the secretary job I called 'Buck to cancel my job interview. I figured there was no point in wasting their time if I knew I wouldn't be taking that job. The person who called me suggested we meet at the same 'Buck! So, 40 minutes after I was supposed to be there for a job interview I was there as a customer!) I learned a few interesting things from my former colleague. After I was fired, they gave her part of my job. They basically fired her for a bullshit reason of attendance (she was actually sick). It seems pretty clear based on what she told me that our bosses' boss had it in for both of us. She had actually been on a guidance plan at the same time as me, but she survived that. I think she was better at arguing than I was, and that helped her stick around longer. I basically had been beaten down by that point and just gave in. She is considering a discrimination lawsuit, which I think would be a huge uphill battle. Call me a cynic, but based on some of the stuff she asked me I think part of the reason she wanted to talk to me was to see if she could get any information to help her with her lawsuit. Before she left 'Buck she filled out an application! I told her they were hiring.
* I got a call from a friend asking if I would be interested in going to hear Bono speak that evening. I immediately said yes because I had heard about this and looked into buying a ticket, but when I found out that the tickets were $50 I decided I couldn't afford it. My friend is a teacher at a local private school, and apparently the father of one of his students is a bigwig with the corporation that was sponsoring the talk and had some extra tickets. I didn't find out until we got there that these tickets were freakin' awesome. They were in the orchestra pit, about 3 rows from the stage. I would say that we were about 30 feet from Bono. Check out the picture of the ticket. Yes, the face value of these tickets was $500!!!!! No Bono pictures, they didn't allow cameras. Now I know that some of you roll your eyes when you hear about a celebrity speaking about a serious subject, in this case AIDS and poverty in Africa. But I have to say that I think Bono is really sincere in what he says, he's done a lot of good in raising awareness and gaining financial commitments from many countries around the world, and his speech was very impressive. I also think it's great that he approaches this issue in a politically nonpartisan way. Here is a link to the campaign that he is supporting.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Tell Me A Little About Yourself Again

As I mentioned yesterday, I did have another job interview today. However, this one was not one to get as excited about. I interviewed for a library assistant position at the local library. The good thing about this job is that it would give me experience in my future career field. The bad thing about it is that it is part time, only 16 hours a week, and does not have benefits. If I get the secretary job I would not be able to take this job since the hours overlap some.

I dressed pretty casually for this interview - Dockers and a long sleeve button-down shirt. It seemed to fit pretty well with what the interviewers were wearing. There isn't much skill involved in this job, it's basically checking in books that are returned, working at the front desk, and shelving books. I think it would be a good way to discover if I will like library work though.

Yesterday I mowed the lawn (yes, in full regalia). For some strange reason I got this blister on my thumb from pushing the mower. I can't remember ever getting a blister from that before. So today before the interview I'm filling out this form consenting to a background check. One of the interviewers was sitting at the same desk, and due to the angle of my hand this nasty-ass blister with a huge piece of skin hanging off of it is just sitting out there for the whole world to see. I hope he wasn't too grossed out!

At the end of the interview I got to do a fun little test. They had a cart with a bunch of books on it, and they told me to put the books in order according to the letters and numbers on the spines. Some of them were identical, for example there were 2 that had F, MAC on the spine so they told me in that case that you look at the author's full name to see which one goes first. The interviewers left the room while I arranged the books, and they told me to wheel the cart out into the hallway when I was finished. It was kind of like alphabetizing my DVDs at home!

I get to top off interview week with one more. Tomorrow I have an interview at 'Buck. That's right - Starbuck's. What does one wear to an interview at Starbuck's? I'm not too jazzed about it because when I talked to them on the phone it sounded like they would want me to work mornings more than nights. And when they say morning they mean 4:45 in the morning! Dear Lord...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Tell Me A Little About Yourself

First off, and maybe Anne is the only one who can appreciate this, but how about that ending on Lost tonight? Damn!

I had an interview yesterday for a job as a secretary with a government agency. Overall, I think the interview went pretty well. I was interviewed by 3 people, one of whom was participating via speakerphone. I may have committed a bit of a faux pas in deciding to not wear my suit coat. I wore my suit pants with a white button down shirt and tie, but the interviewers were wearing suits, so the suit may have made a better impression. And yesterday morning I had to iron the new "wrinkle-free" shirt I bought on Sunday. It's literally been years since I have ironed anything. Wrinkle-free my ass!

I didn't want to be unprepared for the interview, so I took the advice of several books and wrote a 2 minute commercial about myself to answer the question "Tell me a little about yourself". Best thing I ever did. What was the first question they asked? "Tell me a little about yourself". I actually didn't use the whole answer on that question, but I got to use the rest of it when they asked about some of the skills that I have. If your ever in an interview, I would highly recommend doing this. It's only about half a page of typed text. Of course they did ask why I would want this job when it pays so poorly, but I took the approach of telling them that I was going to school, and that I thought this job would allow me to take classes at the same time, unlike my last job where there were lots of weird hours and overtime. I told them it would take me about 2 years to finish school. They seemed satisfied with that answer. One good thing about this job is that it is 40 hours a week. Period. And no coming in on weekends. But I also learned that you can bank any extra hours you want to work and then use them later to take time off, which could really come in handy.

Another thing they asked me was "Don't you think you will get bored in this job?" I said no, but I'm not so sure I have convinced myself of that fact. One of the interviewers mentioned that there can sometimes be slack time during the day, but that just made me think "Hey, I can study during those times!" The subject of my firing came up, and I told them that I was fired for not finishing projects on time. I took the approach of telling them that it was my fault, I fucked up, it made me realize that I need to work on my time management skills. The funny thing is, they didn't believe me! They couldn't believe that someone who had an actual problem with time management skills would have been with a company for 10 years, survived multiple layoffs, and then boom - been fired all of a sudden for a reason like that. So, I mentioned that I had gotten a new boss about 9 months before I got fired. They seized on that and seemed to buy in to the idea that there was some kind of mismatch between my boss and I. Which was pretty much true. So basically, they saved my own ass for me on that one. These guys seemed like pretty nice people, which is good because I will be working for one of them if I get the job.

A bad thing about this job is that it doesn't pay very well. It looks like it would be about $250 a month short of my average expenses. (Damn that mortgage refinance I did 3 years ago! Even though my interest rate went down, I went from a 30 year loan to a 20 year, making my payment go up by $200!) And I can't get a raise for a year. I guess I could sell brownies on the side or something. Although I do have enough money in savings that this wouldn't bankrupt me over a 2 year period. I'm supposed to hear back within a week and a half or so, because they want someone to start in June. I have mixed feelings on it. On one hand, I feel somewhat overqualified and that maybe I would be frustrated with it, but on the other hand it would be 'temporary' and other employers aren't exactly beating my door down! Although, I do have another interview tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Say What?

OK, so Buffi asked about the little wheelchair button next to the word verification. This thing:

I noticed this yesterday too on a couple of blogs, but I wasn't sure what it was. So today I clicked on it to see what would happen. When you click on it you get audio of a number that you can type in instead of the word verification string. I'm sorry, I don't get this. If you are blind and can't read the word verification string, how would you know where to click? And how would you read the blog in the first place? Maybe it's useful if you can't read English but can speak it? Or if you only know numbers, not letters? It strikes me as being like the Braille numbers on a drive-up ATM keypad. If you're blind, how did you drive up to the ATM?! Am I missing something here?

I'll post about my job interview later!

Oh, and Anne, I saw the first hummingbird of the season in my yard yesterday!

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Day Without Cavities

I went to the dentist this morning. I don't know what it is with me and health care professionals these days - it seems like I have been to the doctor a lot lately! I was glad to see that the dentist didn't stay home for A Day Without Immigrants. It wouldn't have made much sense anyway because he's not an immigrant, but I was glad not to have to reschedule. By the way, A Day Without Immigrants makes me think of a movie called A Day Without A Mexican. Haven't seen the movie, just heard the name (and after seeing the metacritic score I don't want to see it!). Anyway, everything went well - no cavities! And no getting jabbed in the gums with the metal scraper! I asked about the teeth grinding (which I don't think I'm doing anymore), and he suggested that I get the mouthguard that they create there that doesn't cause TMJ. I'm waiting to see how much insurance will cover on it before I decide for sure, but I'm thinking I should do it because I don't want to ruin my only set of teeth. I'm not quite ready for dentures yet!

I do have one bit of good news. I have a job interview tomorrow. It's not a dream job - it's a secretarial position. But it pays a lot better than Starbucks, has great benefits, and I could probably do the job and go to school at the same time. Now I'm just trying to figure how to answer when they ask why someone with an engineering degree would want to work as a secretary.