Monday, June 30, 2003

Oh, and incidentally: as long as I'm taking this cough syrup, and am being left half-asleep as one of the side effects, shouldn't I at least stop coughing?

The dosage instructions are "every 6 hours", but the cough seems to return before three hours have passed. Argh.
AOL tech support confirmed that they've got Gremlins on their end, causing AOL Mail to give error messages when a user attempts to log on. It's a relief to know that it's a system problem they're working on, rather than corrupted files or something else wrong on this end. I hope they have it repaired soon.

In the meantime, one blog has led to another for me. The comments on the Salam Pax Photo Log included a link from a Sgt. Sean, who is stationed in Iraq and was inspired by Salam to create a blog of his own. Sgt. Sean's blog had a link which I followed,

I'm finding it very interesting to read the various perspectives of people who are actually THERE, rather than limiting my reading to the voices of people who've never set foot in Iraq (but in some cases, feel convinced that they know what's best for people there anyway). I can't literally walk in these other people's shoes, the ones who are LIVING what I only am reading about, but at least I can listen to and learn from their perspectives.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

I spent the day reviewing the contents of the good-sized file box that was given to me, which comprises the PPPC Secretary's archives. One of the first things I discovered was that some of the folders in the box are sorted in chronological order, and some are in reverse chronological order. This drives me bananas, since I like consistency. It also makes it more difficult to locate items, or to determine what, if anything, might be missing.

I am creating a text file of questions that I'll be asking at the next board meeting. I also will decide which sorting method I find easier to use, so I can sort ALL the folders that way.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Success! I have got the Atlantic City pictures online now. Do feel free to check it out. :o)
We got back from a bus trip to the Hilton Casino in Atlantic City a little while ago. We have two friends who have coordinated a few trips per year from Philly to AC. This one might well be the last one that our group of friends attends, though, for reasons that I'll soon explain.

I took pictures, but instead of posting them on here, I want to upload them to the new photo log I created on Fotopages. At this moment, it's empty, but it will have the Atlantic City trip photos on it before long.

Tonight, not a single one of our group had one ounce of luck. The only reason I didn't lose anything was that I stopped playing before I ran out of the money we got as part of the package. (The trip cost $26 and we got back $20.) I only play at the slot machines, since at least I understand what the rules are. The other games are not only far more expensive, but I don't even know the rules. I have this personal philosophy that if I'm going to lose money, doggone it, I want to know why. ;o)

Anyway, I decided that enough was enough after losing $14 of the money that we got as part of the bus trip package. Technically, since Mark is the one that paid for our tickets, that left me $6 ahead for the night. Oh, and there's also the $5 I won on the way down, when we all played a miniature horse-race game in the bus (of which there will soon be pictures posted: stay tuned). So overall, I came out of this night $11 ahead of the game. Of course... the reason I accomplished this feat was that I stopped gambling within the first hour of our arrival. We got to Atlantic City at 8 PM, and I stopped playing at around 9 PM. From then until our bus left at 1 AM, all I did was people-watch, sit with friends, and take a walk with Mark and Joe to the next-closest casino that was 2 blocks away. (Incidentally, tonight I discovered that I can walk about 2 blocks before getting exhausted. That's a major improvement from a week ago, when I was worn out after walking half-a-block. I'm making progress bouncing back from that darn strep throat episode.)

In any event, the fact that Mark, Joe, and Joe's mom all lost money on this trip is not the sole reason that I don't think our group of friends will be going on this particular bus trip anymore. The late hour that bus leaves Philly and arrives back home plays a part, too: getting back to the city at 2 AM and then ferrying some of our non-car-owning friends to their doors takes time, and gets us to OUR door pretty late.

But even THAT wouldn't be enough to deter us from going; after all, we've already attended three or four of these trips that began and ended equally late. There's a much more pressing reason to make us think twice about attending again: there were some people on the trip who got VERY drunk while they were in Atlantic City, and unfortunately two of them were sitting at the table with Mark and me. (This bus has tables in it instead of regular bus seats, and four people can sit at each table; two are facing forward and two are facing the back of the bus.) Not only did Mark and I have two men for table-mates who both got extremely inebriated, when they got on the bus they started arguing and shouting at each other. There were a lot of big-ticket four-lettered-words involved, and they were undoubtedly audible from one end of the bus to the other. At one point, there was some concern that the two of them would come to blows. Fortunately, the two of them shifted abruptly into an "I'm sorry, man, I really am so sorry" sort of weepy mode and forgave each other for about ten minutes.

After this, the drunker of our two table-mates, who referees for kids' basketball games, started asking questions of Joe, who is a music director for a local church. This guy has officiated at games in the school that's attached to the church where Joe works, and he just couldn't understand why Joe had never been in the gym of the school. No matter how many times Joe and a few other people tried to explain that Joe works in the CHURCH, and his job has no connection whatsoever with the SCHOOL, this man just couldn't wrap his mind around the concept. He repeated the question, stated in various ways, for at least 20 to 30 minutes, and every time he got the same answer, he exclaimed "I can't believe that! How could you never have been in the gym? It's right across the street..." and so on.

Actually, I feel more sorry for this man than anything else. His wife, who was age 47, died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack less than a year ago. The man is still grieving her loss deeply, and mentioned on the way down to AC (when he was still sober) that he is attending bereavement group meetings twice monthly. He also stated outright during the trip down that he intended to drink once he got there, and boy, did he ever follow through with that statement. After observing his behavior on our ride home, it crossed my mind that maybe he should be supplementing those bereavement group sessions with AA meetings. But I certainly wouldn't have the nerve to make a suggestion like that to a complete stranger. Even if I were bold enough to offer that sort of opinion to a person I met a few hours ago, he was in no fit mental state to heed the advice anyway, so I just kept my thoughts to myself.

It's 4 AM now and I'm nothing remotely resembling ready to fall asleep. That hour's ride home from the casino, with all the uproar going on across the table from us, has still got me very wound up. Even the cough medicine, which I took the moment I got in the door, hasn't made me drowsy yet. (Sure, that figures! When I don't want it to make me drowsy, I start dozing off right away; when I DO want that side effect to kick in, nothing happens. Murphy's Law strikes again.) I hope to heck I start getting sleepy soon.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Happy freakin' New Year! Literally! I saw in this week's South Philadelphia Review that the Mummer's Parade will be moved back to its traditional location on South Broad Street!

Hooray! No more hauling our backsides to Market Street like we've had to do for the past four years! I was Decidedly Unhappy about the parade's decision to move from its traditional Broad Street parade route when the change was first announced. But to be fair, I gave it a chance. I really did.

What I discovered was that the "four minutes between string bands" flow, which had been established on Broad Street, was completely destroyed by the new, circuitous route that the parade took through Center City. I missed being able to WALK to the parade from home, instead of having to take SEPTA there. The neighborhood atmosphere present in South Philly, where the parade was born and where it marched for 100 years, was totally absent in among the closed-for-the-holiday office buildings in Center City.

And speaking of those office buildings, one major drawback to having the parade on Market Street is that the tall buildings not only intensify the wind, but they totally block any sunlight from reaching the sidewalk. Translation: you could freeze half to death standing there to watch the parade. At least on Broad Street, the two- and three-story buildings allowed for plenty of sunlight to reach the crowd. You wouldn't mistake the temperatures on South Broad Street in January for springtime weather, to be sure, but the sunlight really does make the temperature noticeably warmer (or perhaps I should say "less cold").

Yay, hooray, the parade is coming home! It's jolly well about time.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Well, Blogger is currently migrating my blog to the "new version of Blogger", whatever that is. I suppose I'll find out soon enough, when it's available for update again. Right now, all I see are error messages when I try to edit the blog, bearing the directive to try again in a few hours and apologizing for the inconvenience. Here's hoping that it'll still be possible to post updates from a Windows CE device after the migration has taken place. For now, I'm writing to a text file, which I'll attempt to post once the blog is available again.
Ya know... here's a little example of how AGGRAVATING it can be to pursue a job in this fouled-up market. I just received a phone call (at 8:26 PM on a Wednesday, no less!) from a law firm I faxed a resume to this afternoon. They seemed interested until I answered, honestly, that I have not used macros in Word Perfect. Frankly, since my former employer switched from Word Perfect to Word some years ago, I haven't had much recent opportunity to use anything in Word Perfect, other than the week I spent on one of my temp assignments. In that place, I used Word Perfect to create letters, update some legal documents that had to be posted in the rental office at all times, and create ad flyers. But there was no need to use macros during that assignment, and I wasn't about to BS my way through the question and pretend that there was.

I was a freaking PROGRAMMER for 15 years before I got downsized, for gosh sakes, and the final 12 of those years were spent with ONE firm. Considering that word processing programs are designed to be learnable by people without 1.5 decades of computer experience, I surely could be up-to-speed on macros in no time flat. Heck, I think HARMONY would be up-to-speed on macros in no time flat.

But I have a feeling that I'm out of the running. Because of macros, which my cat could learn. [insert string of expletives here]
The good news: Blogger appears to be back up. The less-than-good news: AOL Mail for handhelds is acting screwy. Man! As soon as one thing starts working, something else acts up. Doggoned Gremlins! I got the tech-support-for-handhelds number from Member Services, but they're not open yet.

I swear, I didn't break a mirror within the past day or so. Honest. It just seems that the Gremlins have taken up residence around here. I wish the Gremlins would go annoy someone else for a while -- two
days' worth of them is quite enough.

I hope the rest of this day goes better than yesterday and this morning have gone. I feel like all I've done in this post is gripe.

OK, here's something positive. Now that I'm on a regular computer, and able to edit the blog, I like the new screen for creating/editing posts. And I L-O-V-E the new screen for editing the template.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Last night, I was all set to post this blog address to one of the hockey sites where I'm a regular (and an assistant moderator). Lo and behold, what did I see? A post from the OTHER assistant moderator, providing the address of HER blog. Great minds and Goalie Junkies must think alike. :o)

I hope Rusty doesn't mind, but when I tweak my template to include a section of blog links, her blog is going to be listed there. So will a link to The Other Donna's Doris's World. ;o) I'm also including the Where is Raed? blog, since that's the one that drew my attention to the phenomenon of weblogs in the first place.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Well, beans! It appears that the blog template can't be edited from the Windows CE device. For whatever reason, Pocket Internet Explorer can't handle the job. As soon as I'm on a regular computer, I need to add the following links to the template:

National Association of the Deaf
Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf

Attending the Deaf Expo last month (not to be confused with the Deaf Worldwide Expo, a separate event) made me realize that I miss the involvement I used to have with the Deaf Community back when I was studying interpreting. In fact, I'd also like to team with a mentor interpreter for a while, as we did when we were taking the Practicum class at CCP. If I can get the rust off, regarding entering new situations and interpreting for new people (instead of people and settings I've known for years), then I'll feel comfortable going into freelance interpreting. As it stands now, it's been about 10 years since I've headed into a brand-new setting to interpret for complete strangers, and I feel that I'd benefit from a bit of preparation before I voluntarily do that again.

As the links I want to add to the blog will attest, lately I've been surfing the web for deafness-related sites, to reacquaint myself with what's out there.
Holy cow! Three days of sun in a row. The weather-alert radio sure looks nice without the yellow WARNING light illuminated -- it appears that ALL the flood warnings have finally expired, and haven't been replaced by new ones. Thank goodness.

Yesterday, I learned the code that permits a new window to open when a hyperlink is clicked on. I went through the entire blog and updated the links accordingly. If you catch any errors, let me know.

At last, I got one project finished that's been nagging at the back of my mind forever. I uploaded the pictures from Juliet's baby shower AND Angela's Christening to Club Photo. What a relief! Even with the DSL connection, uploading that many photos at one time takes eons, so I'm glad it's taken care of.

Finally, a banner ad I actually have use for! The Deaf Worldwide Expo is coming to town, and its banner ad cropped up while I was using AOL mail. Its original Philadelphia date was slated to be in June, but it has been rescheduled for the middle of November. I'm glad it wasn't cancelled entirely rather than being postponed. I look forward to going.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Oh, my gosh! It's a UFO! Call NASA! Call the Department of Homeland Security! There, see it? A big yellow spherical thing, glowing so bright that you can barely look at it for a moment because it hurts your eyes. Feel that HEAT it's throwing off -- you don't even need to wear a jacket today!

What are we waiting for? The public must be warned! Call CNN! Call the local news stations! Call the newspapers! Call the...

What's that you're saying? The big bright thing up there is just the SUN?


That's different. Never mind.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

AGAIN we have rain on a weekend. Un-freaking-believable. Mark and I are on our way to the double-graduation party being held at my sister-in-law's home. We have one nephew graduating college and one niece graduating high school this year. I'm looking forward to it, though I'll be sure not to get too near the baby. According to the doctor, I shouldn't be contagious anymore, but I'd rather be careful anyway. There'll be plenty of time to dote on the baby when I'm entirely recovered. ;o)

Fortunately, the Schuylkill Excessway isn't too congested going westbound, though we have been running into isolated pockets of slow traffic. It's still better than the other side (heading into the city), which has a 10-mile jam even as I type. Yikes.

Oh, no! we have KYW on the car radio, for traffic announcements, and it was just broadcast that former Flyers coach Roger Neilson has passed away. I'm so sad to hear that. :o( Roger is one of the all-time class acts in hockey, is highly respected by people at all levels of the sport, and will be missed. Much was written about his devout faith in God, and I believe that if anybody is ushered to the Express Elevator Up, it's going to be a person like Roger. I'm so glad he was installed into the Hall of Fame this year, when he was still with us to enjoy the honor. But I *so* wish the Senators had won the Stanley Cup. I know that they wanted to win it for him. I'd hoped he might be with us long enough for another Sens playoff run next year, but it wasn't meant to be. That's unfortunate.
Home again. I found out this evening that this was the first day of summer. Say what? There was no SPRING this year, just a rainy season. Surprisingly, though, this year did not break the record for rainfall during spring. This year's 17-point-something inches of rain falls short of the record, set in 1983, by about 5 inches.

All I know is that my umbrella is tired and wants a vacation, my weather-alert radio is going to wear out if it has to keep signaling flood-warning alerts every few hours, and most people in this time zone have forgotten what a sunbeam or a shadow looks like. There was a movie on this evening that showed an outdoor scene with blue sky and fair-weather cumulus clouds, and I thought, "Oh, wow. Remember those?" Would the sun please come back and stay a while? We're waterlogged over here.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Well, that was an interesting job assignment. The second temp service I work with had a mock jury project. We all signed a confidentiality agreement, so I can't share specifics, but the upshot was that there were 12 of us who heard an abbreviated version of a real civil case that has not yet gone to trial. The plaintiff was a person who sustained serious injuries on the job, and the defendants were the two companies responsible for the the establishment and enforcement (or lack thereof) of safety procedures on the site where the injury took place. Our job was to determine what, if any, responsibility the defendants bore for the plaintiff's injury, and if they were at fault, to award damages accordingly.

During the course of the "trial", several times we paused to fill out questionnaires. For example, we had to answer questions after the "neutral statement", which was a flat-out telling of the events of the case by the judge. Then we heard the plaintiff's attorney, and had another questionnaire. Then we had witness testimony from the person who was injured, and answered another set of questions. Finally, the defendant's attorney (who, in real life, is the partner of the plaintiff's attorney and was playing Devil's Advocate today) questioned the plaintiff, and we had to answer the final set of questions. After that, we deliberated. We split into two groups of 6, and the other group moved to an adjacent room for their discussions. Both deliberation sessions were videotaped.

First of all, each group of jurors had to select a foreman/foreperson. When I saw the other five jurors, I suspected I was the eldest of the bunch. (One other lady might have been close to my age, *maybe* even slightly older. But chances are I'm older than she is.) I also know that of the six of us, during the mock trial itself I was the most outspoken as far as asking questions , which we were permitted to do at the end of each stage of the trial (prior to filling out the surveys). Probably the fact that I know several people who are living with different disabilities was the reason that I asked some of the things I did. For example, one question I asked was regarding whether one particular type of modification could be made to the house to make it more accessible, rather than having the plaintiff move to a new house. It turns out that that possibility had been researched, and the answer was "no".

In any case, I had a feeling that I'd be asked to be the foreperson by the other five, and at first I thought, "I'm tired, I hope they ask someone else". But then I considered it a bit longer and thought, "On the other hand, if I really am the oldest and have the most life experience (such as it is, lol), then maybe I *should* accept that duty if they ask". Sure enough, they did ask me, and I agreed to do it. (I didn't mention that I'm tired, though I was and I still am.)

There's not much I can say about the actual deliberations without bending or breaking the confidentiality agreement. I'll only mention that the person who appeared to be the youngest, who seemed to be college-aged, offered several opinions at various times that seemed to strain the limits of credibility. For example, "What if, years in the future, they come up with some operation that would completely cure [the plaintiff]? You can't say that medical advances won't ever happen..." and so on. I answered, "We can't bank on that happening, we can only consider what's in front of us, and it's EXTREMELY unlikely that they can ever restore [the plaintiff]'s health completely. Besides, even if they DO discover a miracle treatment, maybe by then [the plaintiff] will be too old to be considered as a surgical candidate". That was the most extreme of the young juror's offerings, to be sure, but he put forth a few other "What ifs" that were similarly impractical or unlikely. I was sorely tempted to say, "What are you, 20 years old? Come back in about 10 years when you have some life experience under your belt", but I didn't. After all, anyone who's old enough to vote is eligible to be a juror, and so people as young as he is CAN be a part of a deliberating process. I just hope that he doesn't get selected for a real jury until he's a bit more grounded in The World That Is, instead of The World of Hypothetical Examples.

When all was said and done, and we not only reached a verdict, but explained to the judge and attorneys WHY we felt as we did, we got to talk to them briefly. The attorneys even gave out their card and said that if we had any questions, to call. I *do* have a question. I want to find out if this trial will permit spectators when it goes to court in a few weeks. If they do, and if I'm between assignments, I think I'd like to attend the trial just to see how it goes in Real Life. (Considering that the judge, attorneys, and plaintiff were viewing our deliberations, courtesy of the camera, from another room, and considering that I got compliments afterward from them about how persuasive of a speaker I was, maybe I ought to call these attorneys and ask for a job. And I'm only half joking.)

Oh, well. For now, I've had a very tiring day and I desperately need a nap, so I'm off to get some rest.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

The good news: the meds are helping. The so-so news: when they say that the cough syrup has a side effect of drowsiness, MAN! They're not kidding!

The bakery finally got the signed timesheet for the two days' work back to the temp service. Unfortunately, somehow the fact that I told the temp service I worked until 5:15 one night, and 5:00 the following night, got lost in translation. They turned in a timesheet that ended at 5 PM both days. Grrr... At least the vast majority of the two days' pay was submitted as of yesterday. I have a feeling I can kiss the pay for that bit of extra time worked goodbye, because I can't imagine that the bakery will sign off on the adjustment. These are the people who wanted to know, during the first week of the assignment, if I was interested in working OT for free. (Um, NO, not without being a permanent hire with a salary that'd compensate for working long hours.) Fortunately, it's not a large block of time we're talking about. Good thing I didn't hang around an extra hour...

The biggest concern right now is that I want to be functional by tomorrow, when I have a one-day assignment as part of a mock-jury project. With any luck, I'll adjust to this cough syrup well enough not to be asleep on my feet tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Hooray! I've found the code that will permit displaying pictures in weblog posts! So here is Hat Trick, on our trip to New York City on May 22. Since the REAL Statue of Liberty was closed to the public, he was the only one who got to climb up and see anything from *a* Statue of Liberty. :)
So, here I sit in the doctor's waiting room. He has a salt-water fish tank, and wouldn't you know it? I think I found Nemo. :o) Well, this is an adult fish, so maybe it's Nemo's papa, Marlin. I pointed "Nemo" out to the parents of a little tot, who are also in the waiting room, but they have no clue what I'm talking about. Oh, well. I tried.

I hope I get called in soon. I'm tired and I'm not entirely delighted that I have to drive to/from the doctor's office while feeling like this. At least it's a short commute.
Strep throat. That certainly explains why this darn bug has been so hard to shake off, and is such a drain on my energy. A combo of prescription nasal spray, antibiotics, and cough syrup ought to help knock this darn thing out. The sooner the better!

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Apparently, my own personal "Friday the 13th" has decided to arrive four days late. I called this morning to get a doctor's appointment. They gave me one for 3:30 PM. They proceeded to call me at 1 PM and reschedule me for tomorrow morning, because the doctor I was supposed to see won't be in.

Then, my check never arrived for the two days' work I did last week. It should have been in today's mail. I called the temp service. Seems that the bakery I worked for on Monday and Tuesday has not sent back the signed time sheet to the temp service. I'm fed up. I worked those freaking two days and I deserve to get paid promptly for them. I will be on the phone every day to the temp service until this straightened out, mark my words.

Well, at least I can think of SOME good aspects of this day. Maxime Ouellet turns 22 today, and it's Barry Manilow's birthday as well. (In Barry's case, there is some debate about whether the birth year he has publically provided for all these years is accurate. He's either 60 or 57 today, depending on whose camp you belong to.) I hope THEIR June 17 is turning into a day even more terrific than they imagined.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Well, it's official. Our new terms begin on July 1. I got a bunch of files from the previous secretary tonight, and Mark got the official attendance book and some other Sergeant-at-arms-related stuff.

I'll go through the past copies of the minutes, just to be sure that I have an idea of what formats have been used in the past. That way, I can stay consistent with what's already been done (except for any tweaks I think might improve the format).
Tonight is the election night at the PPPC (Philadelphia Phantoms Phan Club). Even though I'm STILL fighting this virus/cold/whatever, it's pertinent that Mark and I should be there, as the elections for the new officers is being held tonight. Mark is up for Sergeant-at-arms, and I'm up for Secretary. Since it doesn't appear that we have opponents at this time, chances are the election will go through all right. However, I have to check the bylaws on this one, but it's possible that an incumbent COULD volunteer to retake the office, in the event that someone else is running unopposed.

I suspect I'm safe from having this happen, as it appears that no one else is all that enthused about being the secretary, lol. Well, it's about time I put those 70 wpm typing skills I recently found out I have to good use, anyway. ;o)

To be on the safe side, however, I'm going to follow the example of some predecessors of mine, and AUDIO-tape the meeting. I have a tape recorder from the days when I was taking interpreting classes, and I've just put fresh batteries in it. All I need now is a supply of blank audio tapes, and I'm set.

Friday, June 13, 2003

The latest adventure... this morning, I awoke from a fever-induced nap on the sofa, to the sensation that a purring ice cube was touching my arm.

It was just Harmony's cold little nose, as she gave my arm a sniff prior to curling up next to me. I'm a more popular kitty nap site than usual lately, since I've become a human-sized heating pad that doles out skritches. Of course, she DOES return the favor, applying her little sandpaper kitty tongue to my finger now and then.

I think Harmony knows that her Meowmy's feeling under the weather.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Well, I've discovered one way to discern if I'm running a fever, without the use of a thermometer.

As long as the cat keeps parking herself on my spot on the sofa, the moment I get up, I'll know that I'm still feverish. Leave it to Miss Harmony to pinpoint a nice, cozy warm place to curl up for a nap.

Monday, June 09, 2003

So there I was, driving to work this morning. This commute includes making a right-hand turn at an intersection where a business that has its own parking lot is located immediately adjacent to where one makes the turn.

As I executed the turn this morning, a silver-blue sports car suddenly came barreling out of the lot. He turned onto the street a few feet in front of my car and and drove swiftly away. I couldn't help but notice that the business whose parking lot he'd exited so rapidly, without regard to oncoming traffic, bore a sign reading "COLLISION CENTER". Surprise, surprise. :o/

Sunday, June 08, 2003

June 7: Well, we're here at Belmont Park. :o) It's about 20 minutes till the 9th race as I write, and the Belmont Stakes is the 11th race. It has rained nonstop all day. Not surprisingly, the track is classified as "sloppy". Personally, I think that doesn't even BEGIN to describe it. The track is so waterlogged, it's as reflective as the surface of the ice in a rink, a few minutes after the Zamboni has passed. I've been praying to St. Francis of Assisi to keep all the horses and humans safe on this treacherous-looking surface.

I noticed something interesting: after the horses run across the wet ground, birds flock down to where their hooves disturbed the earth. I think they're looking for worms that might have been exposed when the clods of earth were dug up by the horses' passing. They forage in the hoofprints until the tractors drive through with big flat plates behind them, to smooth the track out again. (Mark and I were calling those things "track Zambonis".)

Mark bet $5 on Funny Cide. If Funny Cide wins, he'll be the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
OK, it's now the next day (June 8). I was able to begin writing June 7 post while I was at the track, but I didn't get the chance to finish composing it until now.

I finally got Blogger to post my Friday 6/6 entry, and on top of that, my experiment worked. I posted it from the car as Mark drove us home. Toys are fun. So are wireless modems whe you find them at a REALLY low price on eBay. There's a certain amount of amusement in being a geek, when you realize you're sending posts to the internet from I-95. ;o)

Anyway, as the history books will show, Funny Cide did not win the Triple Crown. His fellow NYers are still downright proud of him, though. After the race, everywhere you went in Belmont Park, you could hear people dissecting what happened.

On the concourse:
"Funny Cide is STILL the superior horse!"
"Yeah, but the superior horse doesn't always win..."

In the line for the ladies' room:
"I bet on Empire Maker to win. I'm glad I won, but I feel bad for Jimmy 'cause that was HIS horse, ya know?"
"Well, he only knows a good bet after the race is over, anyway."
(both ladies burst out laughing)

In the gift shop:
"I don't know what happened to him. I just don't understand it!"
I was tempted to volunteer that the sodden weather and the wretched track conditions are probably what happened, but this fan was so distraught that I decided to just keep my mouth shut. The poor guy's tone was reminiscent of the fans of any favored team that's eliminated from the playoffs by a lesser rival; anyone who tried to interject logic at that moment would have been at risk of getting any souvenirs within his arm's reach flung at them.

Anyway, the Belmont Stakes were by far NOT the only excitement we had yesterday. We were watching the races from the concourse, in the standing-room-only area behind the grandstand seats. There's a rail after the last row of the grandstand, and fans can stand there to view races. There were fans who'd come early and staked their claim on the places immediately behind the railing, hours before the featured race of the day. Mark and I (and Hat Trick :o) ) were in the second "row" of fans, standing behind the people who'd claimed spaces right at the railing. Fine. The people in front were considerate about making sure that short people like me had a decent viewing angle.

The Belmont Stakes were the 11th race, but the concourse adventures began shortly before the 10th race. Some drunk, pudgy, medium-height guy must have scoped the crowd to see whom he might be able to barge in front of. Apparently, he settled on the area where I stood, with three women in front of me (including two who are as short as I am). Maybe he thought he could shove small women aside without difficulty. WRONG.

Just before the race began, suddenly I felt Mister Barge-In trying to muscle his way past me and the small women in front of me. "EXCUSE ME", he declared loudly, as if that made it all right to shoulder his way to the railing, displacing people who'd been standing there all day.

I just looked straight at the guy, and didn't give way for him even one inch. "The stairs", I stated flatly, "are over THERE". I indicated the stairs that lead down into the grandstand area, about five feet to our left. I was implying that SURELY he was looking for the stairs, and not trying to bully past the people at the rail. Mr. Barge-In seemed to halfway get the hint. He paused a moment, then said, "Excuse me" less loudly than before, but with another tentative push.

That did it. My Calabrese temper rose to the surface. I have a particular glare which I reserve for obnoxious drivers, the sort of baleful look that causes a layer of frost to form where my gaze falls. I also have a corresponding tone of voice which causes the temperature within a five-foot radius of me to momentarily drop about 10 degrees. I turned both of these full-force on Mr. Barge-In. "The STAIRS are over THERE," I intoned ominously, with the most frostbite-inducing demeanor I could muster.

The Glare of Death and the Voice of Mayhem did the trick. Mr. Barge-In gave up, as all bullies do, when he realized he faced actual resistance. "Uh, I'm sorry", he mumbed, "I [foul]ed up". He backed away (yes, backed), and quickly vanished into the rapidly increasing crowd of people on the concourse.

And what a crowd it was! There were about 100,000 people in attendance, and it seems that the vast majority of them were on the concourse. For most of the afternoon, the people standing watching races at the railing was about three and four deep. When the pre-race post parade began, the crowd rapidly surged in number. At least four additional rows of viewers suddenly formed behind us. They all pushed forward hard, simulteneously, trying to create a viewing angle where they could see the track. It was like standing in the ocean, facing the beach, and being swamped abruptly from behind by a large, strong wave; it's a wonder that I didn't see anyone get knocked down by the suddenness of the crowd's forward press.

Fortunately, I didn't lose my balance, but I did collide with the people in front of me. "I'm sorry about that,", I told them, "but I was just slammed by people behind me". They understood. I got the impression that they've been to Belmont before and the crowd's behavior didn't surprise them. From then until the race was over, I divided my energies between watching, cheering, and standing my ground so I wouldn't be shoved into the people at the rail again. Heck, at least I *could* move forward if I had to. The people standing in front of me had no such option, and would be squashed against the railing if the crowd behind us all got out of hand.

Even though I was partly focused on dealing with the yahoos behind me, OH, that race was exciting! Just being part of such an enthused crowd was amazing. When Funny Cide took an early lead, the crowd's roar was deafening. "Aah, look, he's in the lead!", I yelled to Mark.

Mark's enthusiasm was tempered. "It's a LONG race." I knew he was right, but I hoped Funny Cide could keep right on outrunning the rest of the field. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Empire Maker turned into an empire breaker, and denied Funny Cide a Triple Crown victory. I felt sorry for Funny Cide's fans, who were pretty glum after seeing their horse lose. However, I don't follow racing closely enough to live and die with various horses' results, so I was able to just enjoy being there no matter what happened.

I'd definitely go to Belmont again. However, next time, if we're unable to get reserved seats, and avoid the mob scene on the concourse, then I'll have to invest in some hockey elbow pads. That way, I can lay into people behind me who shove forward, if I need to. That ought to be an effective deterrent. ;o)

P.S. Here's my mortifying moment of the day. We were searching for the gift shop after the Belmont Stakes race ended. I thought I'd ask the long-haired, blond teenager at one of the concourse concession stands. The concession worker's back was to me originally, and so I *presumed* that the slender kid with the lovely, long, straight blond hair was female. "Miss, where is the gift shop?"

Imagine my astonishment when the concession worker turned to face me and answered in an unmistakeably deep MALE voice, "I don't know". Aieeee, how embarrassing of a mistake was THAT? LOL. Fortunately, the kid seemed totally unaffected by my gaffe, so either he's skilled at keeping a straight face in all circumstances, or that's not the first time he's been mistakenly adressed as "Miss". Yikes, though -- I beat a hasty retreat from the concession stand, believe me! LOL, from now on, I think I'll just begin my requests for directions with "Excuse me", instead of "Miss" or Sir". ;o)

Saturday, June 07, 2003

June 6: Good news. I am returning to this assignment on Monday even if the person I'm filling in for comes back. Which, even though she did finish her phone call with "See you all on Monday", she was still out-of-it from anesthesia at the time. The theory is that maybe once the anesthesia completely wore off, she might not feel so ready to return to work, so there are no guarantees as to whether she'll be in or not when Monday rolls around.

What IS certain is that they need someone who can research the tons of address info that needs to be added to their computer records. There are some sites which have the bare minimum of information, because they needed to get all the customers onto the computer system ASAP. To my surprise, they've only recently switched over from a manual/paper recordkeeping system to a computerized system. It appears that they were in a hurry to get the customers onto the database, so they could be assigned customer numbers.

That haste might have served a purpose at the time, but NOW it's clear that it can come back to haunt them. Two drivers left at the same time, and they took their knowledge of all their routes' sites with them. There was no record of the precise addresses of some of these places; the drivers were carrying that knowledge between their ears. This caused a mad scramble for a few days, to put it mildly. Some sites got no deliveries for a couple days, because there was no way to get a driver to cover them on such short notice. My contribution to putting this fire out was to go into "Gabey, Queen of Search Engines" mode and track down addresses from online. And BOY, have I ever been treasure-hunting online for information. I've found that combinations of Google, Mapquest, and parent companies' websites have been a superb resource.

In any event, at lunchtime today, I looked at the vast number of addresses that I still had left to track down (and this was after spending the past three days engaged in this research, practically nonstop). I realized that it wasn't going to be possible to look up that entire list of addresses before the workday ended. The office manager agreed with me, and asked if I was available to return to work on Monday. Well, I sure am! I'm glad, because not only will I get to return to an assignment I enjoy, but if all goes well, I will be able to finish all this research that they desperately need to have done. I would have hated to leave the project uncompleted. Heck, I hope they give me ALL the addresses on ALL the routes to look up. That should take several days, but it sure is something that will help them a whole lot. I stay working, they get a really large and necessary task completed: this is a win/win situation.

Tomorrow, Mark, Hat Trick, and I plan to go to the Belmont Stakes. At least, I'm HOPING we can get in. I have some concerns that there will be a mega-mob waiting to snap up the remaining unreserved seats. I really hope that the weather holds out. For something like the 15th or 16th weekend in a row, there is rain in the forecast. It would be reeeeally nice if we got some unexpected sunshine for once, or at least if we got just plain clouds with no precipitation.

As it is, everybody's feeling waterlogged and sunlight-deprived after having rain more often than not for the past month. We just completed the most sunless month of May in Philadelphia's history. I'm surprised that I haven't seen animals start to line up in pairs yet. Here's hoping that the only animals I see lining up tomorrow are the horses at the Belmont race track. ;o) In the meantime, I'm charging my camera's batteries, in anticipation of this outing.

So, who is Hat Trick? His full name is Hat Trick Hunter, and he is my little mascot. He's a Ty Teeny Beanie Bopper that I have been bringing with me on my travels (such as they are, lol) and photographing at all sorts of landmarks since I got him last summer. Incidentally... yes, I realize that home page is for the regular-sized beanie bopper. There's a separate page for the teenie beanie version of Hat Trick, but frankly, I like the regular page better, so that's the link I put in. In any event, I think he'll enjoy the Belmont stakes, don't you? :o)

P.S. Good thing I created this in a word processor. Blogger is having problems permitting logins. I might have to post it on Saturday (6/7).

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Well! How cool is it when you get to create a couple of letterhead templates for the pretzel company whose products are a South Philly institution? :o)

How much COOLER is it when you get the chance to show the person you're reporting to how to set her new (to her) adding machine so it defaults to having two decimal places at all times? She was missing that feature that she'd enabled on her old adding machine, and I'm glad she happened to say something about it in my hearing. It wasn't hard to figure out how to change the settings.

How about when the office manager asks you to use that new letterhead you've created to compose a letter to a customer (who had inadverdently sent a check for an outdated, too-small amount to cover an order)? The letter's purpose was both to advise the customer that their order was shipped, and to find a diplomatic way to inform them that the prices for shipping have gone up. To my surprise, creating the content of the letter was left almost entirely up to me. And then -- and this was the part that *really* blew my mind -- barely read over the letter I'd created pretty much from scratch before pronouncing "You can just send it out. I trust you". Holy cow! That's some compliment, especially since I've only been there for three days.

Well, all I can say is, if I keep making a good impression, maybe I will either get a call-back from this company if they need another temp, or maybe if they decide they want to create a long-term opening, I can be a candidate for that. Here's hoping!

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Amazing. The person who I was supposed to interview with actually FORGOT that he'd told me to come in today. GRRR... if not for that, I could have worked a full eight-hour day. Instead, I went in an hour early and left at 2 PM, after explaining to the temp service that I had 'an appointment' this afternoon. Fair is fair, though: when I originally scheduled this interview, the temp assignment was supposed to start on Wednesday. Only after the plans were made did I get a call back from the temp service, asking if I could begin the assignment a day early (today). I agreed to start early, once it was established that I would be allowed to leave early, in time to get to the interview.

When I originally got the call from the guy in Bala Cynwyd, I asked him if next week would be all right when he asked when I could come in. He answered that next week was too late to schedule an interview, as the client he was already conducting interviews for this position, and it would be best to interview as soon as possible. Well, I knew I had an assignment that began on Wednesday 6/4 and would continue through the rest of this week, at least. I thought Tuesday was a free day for me, so I suggested that and he agreed. What he didn't mention was that this hinged on whether or not the client responded when he faxed them my resume. They have not responded yet, and so he wasn't able to REALLY conduct an interview. At least I got to talk to him about my background and what kinds of assignment I'm looking for. (Full time and either temp-to-perm or long-term lead the list.) Too bad that I had to drive on the Schuylkill Excessway in the rain, just to find out that it wouldn't be possible to have an official interview. Oh, well. Life goes on.

In any event, do I ever love the place where this assignment is! They make, IMO, *the* authentic soft pretzels in Philly, and all others are just pretenders. It's both a benefit and a drawback that the office is right next to where the pretzels are being baked, and the aroma of freshly-baked, hot pretzels is in the air continuously. The benefit is obvious -- it's hard to imagine a better scent than that. If I could figure out how to make air fresheners that smelled like freshly-baked pretzels, I would be rich. :o) The drawback is that it can make you escalate from being a little bit hungry to downright ravenous in a moment. I was good, though -- I only ate one pretzel. It was so freshly removed from the oven that it was almost too hot to handle. Oh, my gosh. Nirvana. :o)

I can see that this will be a week where I get to exercise self-control. Otherwise, before long I won't fit through the door. ;o)

Gee, now I'm hungry. I wonder why?

Monday, June 02, 2003

Holy cow! After not having a temp assignment from the end of February through mid-May, finally there's some activity. I have an assignment that will run from Wednesday through Friday, and possibly into the following week. I also have an interview on Tuesday for a possible long-term and/or temp-to-hire position in Bala Cynwyd. Of course, I've been disappointed before, so I'll believe the temp-to-hire aspect of the job when I see it. However, it's nice to have the *potential* of something working out, after a 10-week drought. Here's hoping something comes through.