Friday, December 22, 2006

When the sleigh is in the shop, Santa rides the Zamboni. Here's the proof! :o)

Finally, I think the saga of the cell phone is just about over. The *second* replacement arrived on Wednesday. (The first replacement was the NON-camera model of this phone, plus it wasn't quite working right -- it wouldn't write to the memory card.)

This time, the replacement phone is the CORRECT model AND it's writing to the storage card just fine. So why do I say the saga is "just about" over? For two reasons.

1. The good news is that this phone came with the upgrade pre-installed (Yay!) The bad news is that I now have to make a few tweaks to get some of my pre-upgrade stuff to behave properly. I'll do that over the long weekend, if all goes well.

2. In the box that I had to use to return the SECOND replacement phone to Verizon, there was a return form to fill out, to ID this device as having come from me. Unfortunately, the box for the FIRST replacement phone contained no such form. I wouldn't have even known the return form existed, if I hadn't had to send back another phone. So I'll have to talk to Verizon yet again, to ensure that they do, in fact, acknowledged that the first returned device came from me.

Eeeeee. There's never a dull freaking moment around here, what can I say?

In other news, today is my first day of flying solo with my job. Renee's maternity leave begins today. Fortunately, there's only ONE enormous shipment of medical cards that hasn't arrived yet. And we wouldn't even have THAT if the dodos who produced the original shipment had a clue how to proofread. This is Round Two for this particular mega-shipment. The first one, all 4000+ cards of it, came in fouled up; they had the subscriber's name where the ID number should be, and vice versa. (Think "NAME: 12345" and "ID NUMBER: John Doe".)

They should have caught that blatant error the first time they created a test card, and it should have been corrected before we ever set eyes on a card. Snafus like that make me nuts. And these pinheads who can't proofread their way out of a paper bag still have jobs in IT, while I got downsized. GRRRRR...

Oh, well. At least we had both Renee AND me for the vast majority of the Humongous Avalanche of Cards. That saved a lot of time.

We get out early today. :o) I love holidays.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

YA KNOW...

Did I break a freakin' MIRROR on Wednesday or something?

The good news: I did, in fact, get *a* working phone from Verizon.

The bad news: They screwed up and sent me the model WITHOUT a camera. The original phone I had was the one WITH a camera.

Is it a bad sign that I have Verizon's 800 number for tech support, as well as the three menu options I need to enter to get the kind of support I need, memorized?

I called them back. They'll send me yet another replacement phone, WITH a camera this time.

At least this time, I actually HAVE a telephone that I can use while I'm awaiting the arrival of the next one. So I'll only be annoyed instead of seriously POed.

Gaah. Yet another example of the weakest link in the technology chain not being the silicone-based components, but CARBON-based ones. It was a human error that caused whatever bug made my upgrade fail. It was another human error that I never got a freaking door tag notifying me that there was an attempt to deliver the parcel. And now it's a human error that sent me the wrong kind of telephone. Hey, I realize that nobody's perfect, but do I have to deal with the mistakes of every person on the planet, all at the same time? Good thing I'm already nuts, because the past few days would've driven me crazy for sure.

I'm not only nuts, but I'm half asleep. Rather than doze off right on the keyboard, I'm going to sign off now.

HOO-freaking-RAY, the phone is here! I'm posting from it now.

Thank God *that's* resolved.

What a week! It appears that neither high-tech nor low-tech wants to cooperate with me.

Obviously, the saga of my original cell phone's demise is the trouble I've had with high-tech. But even the lowest of low-tech, a piece of paper with information written on it, has failed me when I needed it.

FedEx DID attempt to deliver my replacement phone yesterday, but no one was at home to receive it. When this happens, they're SUPPOSED to leave a door tag to notify the residents that they tried to deliver a package.

Did they leave a tag on YOUR door? That's how they left a tag on MY door. Apparently, we're supposed to psychically GUESS when the delivery person has paid us a visit. Like I said, even low-tech has its failure points, and apparently I've discovered where one of those points is. The written note actually has to EXIST, and you actually have to have it in your possession, before you're able to read it.

Long story short: I called Verizon to enquire after their shipment, got the tracking number from them, and found out that FedEx has the phone at their local facility. We'll be picking it up this afternoon. Thank God. The sooner this aggravation is done with, the better I'll feel.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I came home from the Phantoms game tonight to find that the replacement cell phone has not arrived yet.



I hope it gets here tomorrow. If I have to wait until Monday for an item that should have been sent overnight, there's going to be Hades to pay.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Someone at either Verizon or Audiovox needs to be smacked upside the head. I'm just not sure, yet, who it is. But I volunteer to knock some sense into the guilty party(-ies) as soon as they can be IDed.

Verizon murdered my cell phone. They required users with several different kinds of devices, including mine, to download an upgrade from their website and install it. They provided detailed instructions that DON'T WORK.

Why? Because their upgrade failed partway through and transformed my phone into a paperweight. Their recovery instructions are useless... they say "if the upgrade is interrupted, reconnect the device to the PC and resume from Step 6." But once the upgrade fails, the device is totally hosed and the PC doesn't recognize it as something it can talk to anymore. Since all the PC will do is provide error messages that boil down to, "What the heck is THAT thing you just hooked up? I can't communicate with it", you CAN'T restart the upgrade once it's been interrupted.

[insert long, colorful list of expletives in English, Italian, and ASL here]

I was on the phone with tech support from Audiovox and Verizon until the wee hours last night. Since I get up at 4 AM, it basically means that I've had about three hours' worth of sleep.

Verizon is overnighting me a replacement phone, which should arrive tomorrow. Not a freaking moment too soon, either.

Until then, I've set up the extended absence greeting on my cell phone number, alerting callers (what few of them I get) that for the next couple of days, my cell phone is out of order. They can leave a message on the cell phone voice mail (which I will check), or on the voice mail at my home telephone number.

I am so freaking aggravated. You have no idea. Or maybe you do, if you know how often I use the wireless internet on a daily basis. What a BORING commute I had today going to and from work! I usually use that time to surf and check email. Not today, I didn't! GRRRR...

The good news is, if Verizon keeps their word, then my phone will arrive tomorrow and life can go back to normal.

Oh, and I'm going to take the phone to the VERIZON STORE and let THEM do the upgrade next time. This is what I get for following their upgrade instructions on the same day I got the notification in the mail... mark my words, I won't be alpha testing their darned upgrade procedure again. Let them work the problems out first, and THEN talk to me about upgrades.

I'm going to take a nap now. I need it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Captain and Stanley, our two-year-old pair of stripey critters, are puzzled.

They can't understand why Meowmy and Paw would go to all that effort to set up a big, green cat toy display, right in the middle of the living room, and then refuse to let them play with any of the toys. I don't know if they remember that we did the same thing at this time last year. Judging by the way they're openly coveting the tree ornaments, my guess is that they don't recall last year's tree. Yet. By the end of Christmas season last year, they were aware that they at least had to employ some stealth when attempting to play with the tree decorations.

Fortunately, Mark and I have plenty of unbreakable Christmas ornaments. So even if the Kitty Committee does knock anything off the tree, the ornament probably won't be damaged. We left all but two or three of our fragile ones off the tree entirely.

I just hope they don't knock the entire tree over, in their zeal to examine every object in this time zone. That'd be a mess.

Since the squirt bottle and I have been thwarting their attempts to turn ornaments into toys, the cats are getting the frustration out of their systems by playing their favorite game, Chase My Brother All Over the House. I hope they tire themselves out and forget about the tree for a while.

P.S. The appearance of the squirt bottle seems to have jogged a couple of kitty memories, regarding not being allowed to stalk and kill the Christmas ornaments. Now they're being a bit more covert about it; they're trying to keep the tree between themselves and me when they get into mischief. Of course, the fact that the whole tree suddenly starts moving and rustling generally blows their cover. ;o)

I expect to make frequent use of the phrase, "You're lucky you're cute!" over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Captain thinks he's Cheerios... here he is in an empty, jumbo-sized cereal box. :o)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

That was fast: for about a week after the return to Eastern Standard Time, by the time my subway train came above ground at Fern Rock, the sun was fully up and the streetlights (which I believe are activated by the light levels in the environment) were off. But of course, the sun is continuing to rise a bit later and set a bit earlier, every day, so the level of daylight decreases every morning.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, as I departed Fern Rock on the regional rail train, the sky was so dim that the streetlights were still on. In this case, it's because the clouds were so opaque that they blocked most of the sunlight. (I know this because on Thursday and Friday, when skies were clear, the streetlights were on when I arrived at the station, but they'd turned off by the time I caught my train.) However, I guess if my assignment lasts far enough into December, I'll see days when the sky is still fully dark when the regional rail train pulls out. Already, I'm seeing only a tiny bit of twilight when I leave in the morning and arrive home at night. I'm resigned to seeing sunlight through the windows of my own house only on weekends for the next few months.

Returning for a moment to the subject of Fern Rock: if anyone here has a favorite Philly-area investigative reporter, email me the person's name because I have a task for them. My screen name on AOL.com is the same as the six characters that precede ".blogspot.com" in this blog's URL.

The task I have in mind is for someone, somewhere, to convince SEPTA to do something about the mess that pigeons have made at Fern Rock. Both the subway and regional rail portions of that station have some areas where it's obvious that pigeons have roosted in the rafters for some time. It's as disgusting as it is unsanitary to have to walk through areas of pigeon mess all over the floor that are so widespread as to be unavoidable. This is especially true on the huge (higher than two stories tall) stairs that extend from the inbound regional rail platform up to the Subway fare booth. Pigeon droppings under one particular beam not only extend the entire width of the stairs, but cover a portion of the RAILINGS as well. I was so revolted by this, the first time I saw it, that I became unwilling to touch ANY of the railings in the station from then on. Anyone who knows me offline is aware that I normally rely on the rail when I navigate on stairs, due to chronic knee pain, but not
at Fern

Anyway, I should think that a good investigative reporter would welcome the opportunity to educate SEPTA, and any other operator of an outdoor area used by the public, on the need to clean up after unsanitary hazards. I don't dislike pigeons at all, but if they've taken up residence anywhere that their mess could make people sick, they need to be evicted from that location.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

When I arrived at work this morning, I discovered that my cubicle (foreground), as well as the cube of the person I'll be filling in for when her maternity leave begins, are decorated for our mutual birthdays. :o)

What nice people work here! What a complete turnaround from the way that people behaved at my previous job!

Mark and I will celebrate the Big 4-3 by going out to dinner when I get home.

Friday, November 03, 2006

This [EXPLETIVE OMITTED] train operator is trying to kill us. This train station is at ground level, so we have to take a giant step up to reach the entrance of the train car. There are platforms... actually, they're more aptly described as blocks made of 2x4 planks, in place to help us reach the train.

Too bad the unprintable dunderhead in charge of applying the brakes hasn't stopped the bleeping inbound train even ONCE this week in a place where the doors are anywhere near said wooden blocks/platforms/whatever the heck they are.

My knees have been KILLING me all flipping week, and the megastep I've been taking every afternoon is responsible for a good part of that. Imagine trying to step up from ground level onto a step that's waist high to you. Now imagine trying this feat with one borderline arthritic knee and one that's having sympathy pains because you're favoring the bad ("worse", really) knee. If your mental image includes knee pain that leaves you wondering if you've done some sort of soft-tissue damage, then congratulations. Welcome to my world.

I'm all kinds of sore after a week of these contortions and as you may have surmised by now, I'm NOT happy about it! They either need to instruct the train operator where to stop, or if he's stopping where he should, then they need to move the &#$%* blocks to the place where the doors will be. The way they're doing things now is a flat-out hazard. My knees are screwed up enough as it is from the combination of my injury history and heredity. I don't need to mess them up worse than they already are.

LOL! There's a jewelry vendor in the cafeteria today, and they have this sign on display. :o)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

As long as I'm ranting anyway, let me continue. I process incoming faxes, as well as incoming mail. This means weeding out spam like "Lowest Mortgage Rates Ever!" and other unsolicited ad faxes (which are supposed to be illegal, so why are we still receiving them?).

Today, I had to filter out multiple copies of ads for two business seminars. One was "Get Organized!", and the other was, "Managing Your Time: Work Smarter. Not Harder".

How ironic. I'd have more time and be more organized if I didn't have to weed out multiple spam faxes from the valid documents every freaking morning. Go figure.

Oh, and we have a new record-holder for "smallest change-of-address letter". Yesterday, I received one written on a 3"x3" post-it-note.

I hope I don't get one that'll break *this* record. If the freakin' papers come in any smaller sizes than that, I'll need a magnifying glass to find them!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My car battery appears to be on its last legs. First of all, there's a momentary delay between the time the ignition key turns and the time the engine turns over. Then, although the car seems fine at first (once it's actually running, that is), by the time I drive the mile or so to the park-and-ride or to my home, when I use the turn signal, the radio "blinks" on and off, in a pattern that's the opposite of the turn signal lights.

Last time I had a "turn signal and radio are mutually exclusive" situation, I wound up stuck in Norristown with a dead alternator before the day was out. This time, I'm crossing my fingers that it's only the battery (since no warning lights are coming on), and Mark will take the car to the mechanic tomorrow.

In other news, it's a small world. I overheard a conversation at the next desk over, which concluded with, "Run that by Tim S[...]s and see what he thinks."

I thought, "Tim S[...]s? That's the name of someone who was in my wedding party!" I looked him up in the company directory and found that he works in another office, one that's close to where I know our former groomsman lives.

I emailed Mark about it, and sure enough, it's the same person. How funny is that? :o)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

You see some interesting things when you process the incoming mail for an entire department.

One of the tasks our department performs is taking care of customers' change of address requests. If they send a letter stating their new address, one of our processors takes care of updating the customer's information.

I got a letter yesterday that makes me wonder if the customer's first attempt to have their address changed got lost in the shuffle before it ever reached us.

The letter itself was written on a 3"x5" piece of paper that was obviously taken from a memo pad. In fact, it was on the BACK of the piece of paper from a memo pad. The pattern on the front of the page was so obtrusive, it left very little blank space on which to write, so the customer flipped it over and wrote on the blank back of the memo sheet.

The actual content of the letter was similarly memorable. "To whom it may concern: My address is [address info]. If you get it right this time, I'll appreciate it. Sincerely, [name]."

My first thought was, "This person is sending their information on a piece of paper the size of a sugar packet, and they're telling US to "get it right"? How much do you want to bet that *IF* they previously sent information scribbled on a miniscule paper that looks like scrap, it somehow got accidentally lost before it ever reached us?

Here's a helpful hint: If you're sending IMPORTANT CORRESPONDENCE with information like your NEW ADDRESS to any company with which you are dong business, use a sheet of paper that's larger than the POSTAGE STAMP you're using to mail the letter.

At least the good news is, THIS time we actually did receive the information, and it's definitely going to be processed. The customer can rest assured that this time, we will "get it right".

Thursday, October 26, 2006

O say can you see, by the dawn's early light...

that the sun has not yet cleared the horizon, nor have the streetlights turned off yet, at the time when I get OFF the train.

As the sun rises later every morning, I was wondering if there'd be a day when I arrived in Fort Washington prior to sunrise. As of today, the answer is "yes".

We revert back to Eastern Standard Time this weekend. After that, I expect the sun to already be up by the time I exit the train. But this concept of witnessing sunrise fron the inside of a SEPTA bus is a new one on me.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sunrise over Fort Washington. Did I mention that it's early?

Sunrise over Philadelphia. DogGONE, but this is early! And I still have two more segments of my commute left to go, to boot. I'd never have believed it possible, but I actually woke up before the alarm this morning. I'm nearly over the jet lag, I guess.

Last night was a good news-bad news kind of game for the Phantoms. The good news: we had yet another come-from-behind win last night. The bad news: two of our players left the game injured. In the first period, it was Riley Cote (see the myspace link on the left side of the screen), and in the second period, it was Martin Houle, our starting goalie (and one of the two players whose scrapbooks I did last season). From my seat next to the tunnel, I could see that each of them was having trouble making his way up the tunnel once he got off the ice. In Riley's case, he was having so much difficulty maneuvering, I took a closer look because I was afraid he was concussed and "out on his feet". But he was perfectly lucid, thank goodness, and when he flat-out roared an expletive, I was sure his head was fine. Nobody who's half-dazed could have summoned that much vehemence. Unfortunately, since dented players don't tend to fly into a rage about it, and since Riley's not prone to losing his temper, I fear that he could tell that whatever was wrong would put him on the sidelines for a while. I hope I'm mistaken, but fear I'm correct. This rots: he was supposed to get called right back up to the Flyers after getting some playing time in with the Phantoms this weekend, or so I read. If my fears are on target, this will delay his NHL debut, in which case it's no wonder he was furious. DId I mention that I hope I'm mistaken?

So I posted a well-wish on his myspace page. On checking the site again this morning, I saw some other posts from people he knows face-to-face, and their tone leads me to believe that he's headed to the IR. Sigh.

OK, signing off. I want to rest my eyes before I spend a whole morning reading small print.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Yet another video. I got the link to this from a Flyers fan board, and laughed myself silly when I watched it.



What can I say? "You're the shih-tzu!" cracks me up.

In other news, I'm almost recovered from the jet lag that my new, radically different schedule is causing. Of course, that could be because I got a ton of sleep yesterday. We'll see how I feel tomorrow when the whole "crack of dawn wakeup call" cycle starts rolling again.

By the way, on Friday, I had my first migraine since May. Was I carrying Imitrex with me? No, of course not. Because I hadn't had a migraine since May. [mumble grumble]. So I put up with the headache, starting from late morning, all the way through until I went to sleep on Friday night. (I went directly to the Phantoms game after work, so I didn't have the chance to stop at home and take any meds.) Once I got home, I hoped that just going to sleep would be enough to make the headache go away.

But on Saturday morning, I woke up, and no dice. I still had the migraine. At that point, I figured that 22 hours was more than enough time to deal with feeling like my head was about to fall off, so I took Imitrex for the first time since I got the prescription last spring. It's a nasal spray, and it took me a little while to determine how to use it. The problem was that the dosing instructions are hidden somewhere on the package insert. That would be the giant sheet of paper, folded like a road map, that's covered on both sides with freakin' MICROSCOPIC print. I don't know about other people, but an enormous page full of miniscule print is just what I need to try and read after putting up with a migraine for 22 hours. (Grrrrrrrr...) It's a miracle I even found the *%$#& dosage instructions at all.

In any event, as I said, the med is a nasal spray. And it turns out that the dosage is pretty straightforward. It's a little tiny spray thingy that, when you press the plunger, sprays one dose of medicine into your nose. No fuss, no muss.

But, as with everything, it comes with good news and bad news attached. The good news: it really did work on the headache, and fast! Within the hour -- more like within the half-hour, actually -- the migraine faded away. I've NEVER had a med that worked that well and that quickly before! This freakin' stuff costs a fortune, but it definitely works as advertised. The bad news: you know that saying that what goes up must come down? In this case, the nasal spray is what comes down after a few minutes, and it leaves an absolutely AWFUL aftertaste in the back of the throat. This lasted several minutes, until the medicine finally finished succumbing to the force of gravity. Oh, BOY, was that nasty... imagine what it's like to chew up an aspirin, and you'll have a decent idea of what I'm referring to. But when the options are having a few minutes of "Bleah! Yecch! Bitter!" or having a migraine, the horrid aftertaste is definitely the lesser of the two evils.

In other news, the cats are in a major state of culture shockn now that I'm working. They've gone from having me home to dote on them all day, every day, to being left alone all day, and they are NOT liking the new arrangement one bit. I have two furry, stripey critters literally shadowing my every move from the moment I walk in the door... they want their daily dose of attention, and they want it NOW. :o) If I'm not attentive when I'm walking, I'm sure to trip over at least one of them.

I'm going to have to figure out a way to ensure that I fall asleep early tonight... because I sure as heck am going to be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow, regardless of HOW much sleep I actually log tonight. I have a feeling that I'm going to be in Jet Lag Mode again by the time tomorrow's out. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

You know, one benefit of commuting at this UNMERCIFUL hour is the chance to sit in my *favorite* seat in the whole train, for the entire length of the subway route.

I do have to say, though, that this is a bit of a shock to my system. When I walked out my front door, crickets were chirping and there was no hint of imminent sunrise. That, I expected to see.

What surprised me is that by the time I got to the regional rail station, crickets were STILL chirping and the eastern sky was only slightly pale. Dang, this is early.

As I sit on thr boarding platform now, the sky has become noticeably brighter, but not bright enough to trigger the streetlights to turn off.

I really could use coffee. Caffienation is high on my to-do list for when I get to work.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Well! THIS trip home couldn't have worked out better!

I took the regional rail train from work to Fern Rock and connected with what I *thought* was an express subway train. It was actually a train for the Broad-Ridge spur line. For kicks, since it runs to 8th and Market, I took it. To make a long story less long, this unplanned decision allowed me to connect with one of the FEW buses that stops across the street from my house. Those run maybe once an hour, so whenever I catch one, I feel like I've hit the jackpot.

This cuts at least ten minutes off my commute home, since the closest buses other than this one all stop at least that far of a walk away.

Thank you, God. Color me happy. :o)

Oh, boy. In order to accelerate my training, I've been asked to come in as early as the person I'll be filling in for. That way, I can shadow her all day and learn her job more quickly.

She begins at 7 AM.

I'll be aiming to catch the subway at Pattison at (are you sitting down?) 5:41 am.

[I am gonna be a ZOMBIEEEE... thank goodness I can vegetate on the subway and the train.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Oh, BTW. I was wondering what kind of desk situation I'd get. Would it be Someone Else's Desk, full of Other People's knickknacks, with the photos of their family, friends, and pets staring down at me all day? Or would it be Nobody's Workspace? Which could be anything from a totally empty cubicle with the half-broken chair that someone swapped for a functional chair, no computer, no phone, no pens... or else it could be the official dumping ground for spare stuff that there's no room to store anywhere else?

It's the latter option, which I prefer, as it's depressing to look at Other People's Decorations every day. It has a nice chair, desk supplies, a PC, and a phone, but they're going to have to do something with the megaton of report printouts stacked 6 inches high on every inch of available desk space. I?ve been promised the reports will be gonr in a few days.

Lunchtime.

Yes, the bus waited. Yes, this building has a cafeteria. And yes, the dress code is business *casual*, not business professional. ::happy dance::

I got a reminder that the mindset of the 'burbs is noticeably different from that of the city. At the train station, there were a bunch of campaign ads on little signs stuck into the ground. The candidate's slogan, apparently, is "SECURE OUR BORDERS NOW!", as though this particular area was being overrun by undocumented aliens. Then the bus pulled away from the train station, and within a minute we passed two car dealerships located, across the street from one another.

They were a BMW dealer and a Mercedes Benz dealer.

Ya think this area has anything to fear from illegal aliens taking away the residents' jobs? I sincerely doubt it. If anything, people who live in ritzy areas will be worried that their "don't ask, don't tell" maids, nannies, and other staff, the ones they're paying inder the table, will get caught up in the dragnet if this candidate has his way. Then the affluent cheapskates of the region might have to pay their staff a living wage (or at least the minimum wage), perish the thought.

He'll probably get votes with his scare tactics, too. Nothing like worrying the constituency about the big, bad illegal immigrants when they SHOULD be focusing on the fact that the number of our dead military in Gulf War II has exceeded the number of casualties at the WTC. How many people from the US and other countries are dead because we went after nonexistent WMDs? I'd like to see some campaign posters with THAT slogan on them, but I won't.

7:33 am: SEPTA = Society to eliminate Public Transportation Altogether. Here we sit in the train at Melrose Park station, with no power. So much for getting to
Fort Washington at the time I was expecting to. FA NABLA. This could get interesting.

Kinda like that Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times".

[I can handle anything for three months. I can handle anything for three months.] ;o)

7:41 am: Oh, good. We're moving again. I wonder if the 201 bus will wait at Fort Washington for this train to arrive?

6:35 am: OK, this concept of leaving for work while the streetlights are still on is going to take some getting used to.

[Pause to repeat mantra: I can handle anything for three months. I can handle anything for three months.]

The good news is, if I arrive earlier, I can LEAVE earlier. Meaning I'll stand a chance of getting home before midnight.
----
7:04 am: It's nice to know that leaving that all-fired early will allow me to arrive at the station in time for the 7:11 train. The tradeoff for leaving at th8s unmerciful hour is that once I'm IN the train, I can vegetate. Or blog. Or read. Try THAT while driving! (Or better yet, don't*!)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Animusic-Pipe Dream

From the first Animusic DVD. Pipe Dream has been voted one of the 50 greatest animation projects ever (by 3D World magazine).

A group of percussion instruments perform music by way of metal balls that fly out from pipes.


OK, I'm back with another video. This is a fascinating animation that leaves me wondering how Fantasia might have looked, if Walt Disney had had access to today's computer technology.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I got the good news as I was walking in my front door this afternoon. The phone began ringing just as I got home from the Flyers/Phantoms training camp sessions. The temp agency called to say that I got the assignment and I start Monday. So yay, things look like I'll be working through the end of the year.

I look forward to the job. I *don't* necessarily look forward to the commute, but for three months, I'll survive. Goodness knows I've survived far worse things than a long commute, and for a lot longer than three months. Just look al how long I put up with the nonsense at the hospital job.

Speaking of which, I found out a little while ago that the new practice manager, the one who took over three weeks before I left, has resigned. NOW the higher-ups seem to finally realize just how messed up some of the goings-on are in there, *and* just who's causing the problems. Too bad it's too late to do me any good, and too bad it took the resignation of a person with a long and distinguished career within the health system to finally bring the real problems to light.

According to the little birdie ;o) that informed me of this development, heads may roll as a result of what's happened in there. I know just which harridans should be first in line, if that's the case. I guess I'll find out eventually if upper management agrees with me.

For now, I'm glad to know this so I can take the former manager's name off my list of references. I only worked for her for three weeks, anyway. At least I still have my original manager's contact info; she's the one I worked for during the first 11 months I was there.

I've already gone through my "business professional" wardrobe, which I haven't had to use regularly for a while, and a lot of it will do, for the time being. But I'll need some more blouses to go with the suits I have. Luckily, I also have dresses I can wear, so I won't need to wear blouses every day. (Meaning that the blouses I do have will last longer, so to speak, before I?ve worn them all to work at least once.)

It's been a heck of a day. I need a nap.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hockey - Goalie Dances

Hockey goalie Hartie from EHC Munich (Germany) dances after game was won 5:2


LOL! Too funny! I saw the "post to my blog" feature on google videos, so I thought I'd give it a try with one of my favorite clips. I hope you like it as much as I did.

In other news: in the past three weeks, I've registered with three different temp agencies, plus had one interview for a part-time job. Today, I had another interview, this time for a temp job that should last until the end of the year. Because it's a job where the temp will be filling in for someone who's going out on maternity leave, they want the temp to come in and be trained by the person before she goes on leave. Also, due to the detail-intensive nature of the job, they're taking the unusual step (for them and for me) of interviewing prospective temps. They have one other person to interview, and they'll come to a decision next week.

The interview went well, as far as I could tell. It lasted nearly an hour, which according to the rep at the temp agency was a good amount of time.

There's just one drawback. The job is out in Fort Washington. I drove it today, and while I COULD do it on a regular basis if I had to, SEPTA serves this office complex and I'm going to take advantage of it if the job comes through. I can just imagine trying to drive on a few of those stretches of road in bad weather. No thanks. SEPTA here I come.

Not much else is up, at least, not yet. So I'm going to try and take advantage of what MIGHT be my last few free mornings, and hit the Flyers/Phantoms training camp sessions. That'll help me get back used to getting up early, and on a regular schedule, instead of the haphazard excuse of a sleep pattern that I have now. And I'll also be able to buy gas in NJ, where it's a lot less expensive than it is in PA. (Try $2.03 on the White Horse Pike vs. $2.63 not far from where I live. THAT'S a heck of a price differential!)

Cross your fingers that this job, or a job like it but closer to home, comes through.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Mark and I are waiting for the taping of "Meet the Flyers" to begin. It starts at 4 PM but the place is already a mob scene.

Friday, September 15, 2006

There's an ad on TV for a new prescription sleeping pill.

They list *drowsiness* as a side effect.

HELLO? Isn't that the entire point of taking sleep meds in the first freaking place? To feel drowsy? Hopefully drowsy enough to fall asleep?

Our "CYA" culture has gone too far.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years Ago Today


As I sit here and think of the 5th anniversary of 9/11/01, I still can't believe it happened.

I'd been looking forward to that day forever, because it was the first day of the Flyers training camp, an event which is always open to the public. I'd been downsized out of my job of 12 years a few months before, and I was depressed and looking forward to the resumption of the hockey season.

Actually, I had been a regular at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ for a week or two prior to that. There were players who were practicing together on their own, to prep themselves for training camp, and those practices were also open to the public.

As I got ready to leave for camp, I caught sight of a St. Christopher medal with an image of a hockey player on the front. Joe M. had given it to me a few birthdays prior to that day, and I'd worn it regularly up until a few months before (when I'd bought a necklace I particularly liked online, and realized that I couldn't wear both necklaces at once). This day, in honor of the start of hockey season, I decided to put the St. Christopher medal on. (St. Christopher is the legendary patron saint of travellers.) I figured it'd be my little way to state my hope for a safe, healthy season for all of our players.

So I got in the car for what I thought would be an ordinary drive to Voorhees, one I'd made multiple times over the course of the past weeks. And everything SEEMED normal, right until I got to I-295. Unlike my previous trips to the Skate Zone, THIS time I encountered a major traffic jam from the moment I came off the on-ramp and merged into the traffic on 295N. Oh, crud, this was just what I didn't want to see.

I stewed for a while as the traffic crawled, but after a few miles of inching along, I could stand it no more. I had to find out what was the matter, if I could. I switched from my usual FM station to KYW AM, our local news radio station. They have "Traffic on the Twos" (2 minutes after the hour, 12 minutes, 22 minutes, etc), so I figured that if there was some kind of accident on 295, they'd announce it.

As ill luck would have it, I tuned in at 8:43, JUST in time to hear the last sentence or so of the traffic report and its segue into the garden report.

"Freaking @#*$&#@$, I don't need a freaking garden report. I need to know what's the matter with 295! Aaaaarrrgh..."

Oh, well. There was nothing to do but stew in traffic for another nine minutes and wait for the next report at 8:52. What really had me aggravated was that I'd left in plenty of time to make the 15-mile drive and arrive at the rink at 9 AM, but it looked like I was going to be late anyway.

What I found out later is that at rush hour, 295 can abruptly get congested with commuter traffic, an instance which is not predictable nor is it necessarily caused by anything like a broken-down car or a fender bender. But at the time, I just sat there thinking a wide variety of imprecations against traffic jams.

At one point, in exasperation, I thought, "These have to be the nine longest minutes in the history of the world! Where is that @(#*$& traffic report?", and looked at my wristwatch. 8:51. Thank goodness, we're a minute away from the traffic report.

It never came. Seconds after I checked my watch, KYW broke into their reporting with live coverage from New York City. An airplane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers and the building was on fire. At the time, there were some reports that it was a small plane, like a commuter plane or a private plane, so my first thought was, "Oh, my God. Some poor pilot had a heart attack in the cockpit or something. How horrible for whoever was on the plane and whoever was in the building". Close upon that thought came, "Just what we don't need. An accident like this could inspire some malicious scumbag #&$% to do something similar on purpose."

As traffic continued creeping along on 295, the live radio coverage continued. A female reporter was describing how the fire was visibly spreading upward in the building from floor to floor. As I listened, the report triggered a thought process that, to this day, I flinch at remembering. First of all, as a person who'd worked in various tall buildings full of cubicles over the years, I could easily picture what it must have been like in that kind of environment. And it was unbearable to think that there were people who'd been sitting there, doing their jobs, who without warning had been transported a Hell on Earth. Understand that even in my worst nightmare I could never have imagined the real level of devastation that struck those buildings, not until I actually saw images on a television a while later. I was still operating under the premise that a SMALL plane had hit the building and started a fire.

As she described the fire, I was reminded, painfully, of the skyscraper fire that had happened in Philadelphia several years earlier. One Meridian Plaza caught fire late on a Saturday night, and the live reports showed the fire moving upward from floor to floor, inexorably, until it reached a floor where a sprinkler system went on and stopped its progress. Due to that tragedy, which caused the death of several Philly firefighters, laws were changes to require EVERY tall building to have sprinklers on every floor. One Meridian Plaza had not been legally required to install sprinklers on every floor; as a result, the loss of lives and property was far worse than it might have been. But the thing that stuck with me most (until the following morning, when I heard the reports that firefighters had died), was that as SOON as the sprinklers came on, the fire stopped spreading.

I thought, SURELY buildings the height of the Twin Towers must have been required to install sprinklers. They're just too tall for firefighters to easily reach the upper floors, and there'd have to be SOMEthing in place to control the spread of flames until emergency personnel could arrive.

So I sat in the car, already worked up because of the abysmal traffic conditions, and now listening to reports of an airplane crash and a spreading fire in the World Trade Center. The mental image of being in a cubicle farm in the midst of a huge explosion, and the memory of how our firemen died in One Meridian Plaza because of the lack of sprinklers, was getting me more and more upset. "WHY is the fire still spreading? Why haven't the sprinklers come on yet?" I couldn't bear to imagine what it must have been like to be in the building at that time, but at the same time, I couldn't get the hideous mental pictures out of my head. Now I recognize that what was going on in my head, and what was happening with my stress levels, was the precursor to an anxiety attack. But since I'd only knowingly suffered one of those in my entire life up to that point, I had no idea that that sort of biological event was about to take place.

The reporter on the radio continued to describe what she was seeing, and the fire continued to spread and worsen. By now, I had a white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel. "WHERE are those @#$*&ing sprinklers? This is unacceptable, that those things haven't come on yet! Didn't safety engineers learn ANYTHING from OUR fire in Philly?" By this point, I was so keyed up that I was shouting these things out loud at the radio.

Through my increasing level of distraction, I realized that I FINALLY was at the exit I needed and could exit the parking lot known as 295N. And as I pulled onto the off-ramp, still listening to the live radio report, the female reporter exclaimed, in a horrified voice, that a second plane had struck the other tower. THAT was the last straw -- if I'd been in borderline "anxiety attack" mode, I was in a full-blown anxiety attack now. Everything else literally stopped existing for a few seconds. I can't describe it any other way than that it seemed the world went temporarily blank. As I was in the process of driving a CAR at the time, I don't think I need to describe the level of danger this entailed.

There's a yield sign at the end of that off-ramp, and for good reason. The road it's leading onto is a busy one, and the off-ramp places you right in the traffic stream almost immediately. So if you're not attentive to oncoming traffic, you're likely to be broadsided.

As I nearly was by an oncoming truck. The mental white-out that I had for a few moments came just as I SHOULD have been yielding to traffic. Thank God, the driver of the large delivery truck was alert enough to jam his brakes. He missed slamming into the driver's side of my car by maybe ten inches, at most. If that truck had actually HIT my car, particularly the area of the car that it narrowly missed, I am positive that I would not be here today. That collision, had it happened, would surely have been a one-way ticket to meet my Maker.

If I'd been too worked up to safely operate a car before, that was NOTHING compared to the way I was feeling now. The traffic jam, the report of the first plane crash and spreading fire, the live report of the second plane crash, and the avoidance of a serious traffic accident by mere inches. This was the point where I realized, without doubt, that I was in fact having a full-fledged anxiety attack. Some part of my brain was aware that I was experiencing adrenaline-induced tunnel vision (a description of that biological phenomenon is here. Abruptly, I felt an immense, borderline-irrational-level need to be around other people. Actually, forget "borderline"... it was way beyond a normal urge to be in the same room with other human beings. I knew this on some levels, but overall, I was too upset to think straight. I absolutely HAD to get where people were, and I knew that the rink was a 4-mile drive away; my entire goal in life became "arrive at the arena as close to immediately as humanly possible". It was a straight shot down Rt. 561 from where I was, and thank God there was little to no traffic on THAT road because I sped through those four miles like a raving maniac. I was really pushing my luck with my guardian angel at that point, given the near-miss car accident I'd just avoided, but I couldn't help it.

Finally, by God's mercy, I arrived in one piece at the Skate Zone. I think it was about 9:15 or 9:20 by this point, and part of me was still ticked that I was late for the start of training camp. As I parked my car, grabbed my things, and hurried toward the building, I wondered if anyone in the arena had any clue about the horrific story that was unfolding in New York City. I was torn between needing to talk to someone about it, and not wanting to break the hideous news to someone who hadn't heard it yet.

The instant I entered the building, I realized two things. First, not only had the training session not begun yet, but there was no evidence of its imminent start. Second, every person in the VERY large group of fans in attendance was clustered in the lobby, grouped around the several TV screens which were broadcasting live news reports. Various individuals who saw me enter the building started telling me right away, "Airplanes hit the World Trade Center...". Each time, I told them that I'd heard what happened on my car radio, all the while thinking, "I guess I won't need to break awful news to anyone in HERE. They all know."

I called Mark at work, from my cell phone, to ask if he'd heard the news yet. He had. But I couldn't stay on the phone long because my battery was nearly out of power. Eventually, I picked a few familiar faces out of the large crowd, and stood next to THEM to watch the TV reports.

The timeline of what happened next is kind of a blur to me. I know that everyone remained in the lobby, watching the news, until we were informed that the players would soon be hitting the ice for training camp (over an hour after the originally scheduled start time). Then, nearly everyone tore their attention away from the televisions, and went into the rink on the Flyers' side of the building to watch the players. I did, too... my brain was pretty much overloaded by tragedy, and I was desperate to think about something else for a while. I knew that the horror stories would still be on TV in an hour, when the first part of the training drills was over.

I know that the fellow fan I was sitting with was an online friend of mine whose screen name is "Zeke". We watched the players on the ice, and I tried to take notes as best I could so I could post online about it later. My notes weren't as detailed as usual, though, because I was so distracted. I spent a lot of time looking at the drills without actually seeing much, and I suspect I had plenty of company among my fellow fans.

I remember praying that the players hadn't gotten the news yet. "Let them have one more hour of thinking that the world is a normal place". I should have realized, when the practice started as late as it did, that the reason for the delay was the players and coaches were watching the news, calling home, and in some cases trying to contact loved ones who lived worked near the scene of the attacks.

Over the course of the first segment of the practice, I spent most of the time watching the drills with Zeke. However, it's always pretty cold in the rink, and the cold bothers Zeke's back, so occasionally he'd go to the lobby for a few minutes to thaw out. Every time he came back, he had an item of news illustrating how conditions had deteriorated further. A plane had hit the Pentagon. One of the World Trade Center towers had collapsed. Another plane had struck in PA and the OTHER tower had collapsed. By "collapsed", I mistakenly thought he meant that the buildings had separated at the point where the jets had struck them, and that the tops had somehow fallen down. If only that had been the case, instead of what really transpired! It really felt like every few minutes some new hideous thing was happening, and the question became, "When is this going to stop?"

When the first practice session was over, everyone gathered around the televisions in the lobby again. This was when I saw that the not just the tops of the towers, but the ENTIRE buildings had come down. I didn't think it was possible to feel more appalled than I'd already been all day, until I saw that. I was deeply troubled at having seen the second plane crash multiple times, and now at seeing the two buildings fall, because I realized that I was witnessing the moment that people were losing their lives. I felt like it was some kind of intrusion, somehow, and a total stranger had no right to watch them at a moment like that. I thought, "God rest their souls, I apologize to these people for watching what it's not my place to see. But we're all witnesses to this devastation and we'll all work to make sure it never happens again. That's the only way I can think of to make reparation for intruding on what should have been their privacy". (That prayer was reinforced later in the day, when I saw the appalling, heartbreaking video of people jumping from the widows of the World Trade Center. :o( )

Mind you, everyone was waiting desperately to find out WHERE in Pennsylvania that fourth plane had gone down. Philadelphia is right between New York and DC, so the first thought of just about everyone in the building was that it'd been on its way to strike some major landmark in Philadelphia.

Eventually, the announcment came out that the airplane had gone down not near Philadelphia, but near Pittsburgh, in the western part of the state. (Pittsburgh is about the same distance from Philly as Boston is, roughly 300 miles away, to give some idea of scale to my non-PA friends.) My immediate (and mistaken) impression was that Pittsburgh was actually the target, because I'm well aware that several very large banks have headquarters right in Pittsburgh. I figured that if the terrorists were hitting the World Trade Center, they might have been trying to cause additional financial disaster by destroying some bank headquarters. I could imagine that the destruction of a big bank's headquarters, or of the datacenter where its main computer system was housed, would cause an unspeakable mess for every part of that bank, right down to the branch level and the ATM system. Yes, offsite data backups would be able to be trucked in, and the computer system could eventually be restored to at or near its previous state. But the restoration process would be a full-blown nightmare, particularly if the actual COMPUTER was obliterated and they had nothing to restore the backups onto. Plus, any transactions that had taken place between the time of the last backup and the time of the computer's descruction would have to be recreated manually. Had all these things happened, I can only imagine the unholy amount of government-related paperwork that would be attendant upon the bank's attempts to restore their operations to their pre-disaster state from the ground up. I didn't want to think about it, but at the same time, I couldn't HELP thinking about it.

Speaking of things that I didn't want to think about: while most of the people in the building breathed a sigh of relief at the news that the airplane had not crashed in the Philadelphia region, I still had significant anxiety. The bank where I'd worked for 12 years, which I'd recently been downsized from, has *ITS* headquarters in Pittsburgh, and I knew numerous employees who worked out there (if only by their voices on the phone). I couldn't bear the thought that any of those former coworkers might have been hurt somehow. It felt like forever until the report finally came out explaining that Flight 93 had gone down in a field, not in an inhabited area. Thank GOD. God rest those people's souls, obviously, but at least the chance was greatly reduced of having additional casualties on the ground.

Eventually, we fans became aware that the second practice session was about to begin, this time in the rink on the Phantoms' side of the building. Again, we tore ourselves from the news reports and took our places in the bleachers to watch the goings-on. A second time, I did all I could to MAKE my distracted brain focus on the session well enough that I could take notes. I still don't know how I did it, but I actually did manage to come out of that day with coherent enough notes to post a report online later that night.

On a side note: once I posted the training camp reports from that day, I had to make SURE and do the same every day for the rest of that week. Newspapers and TV had diverted ALL their energy to covering the national tragedy for several days, and all pro sports events had been temporarily suspended. NHL training camps around the league were continuing, but as they weren't really sporting EVENTS, they were getting minimal-to-no coverage in the national and local media. My inbox was filling on a regular basis from people who read on the message boards where I posted the camp information I'd taken; they were asking me to continue to post my notes, as they were all in dire need of a distraction from the more somber news of the day. I couldn't blame them -- we ALL needed to Think About Something Else, even briefly, as the week progressed. But I digress.

When the second training session ended, it was early afternoon. Reports were that most employers in Center City, Philadelphia had sent their employees home for the day (understandable, since so many of them work in tall office buildings). Mark was among the people who'd been sent home early; I called home and found that he was already there. There were rumors that traffic jams were a problem everywhere, as workers around the area made a mass exodus from their places of employment and were clogging the roads. There were even some rumors that the bridges between NJ and Philadelphia were closed. Oh, crud, I needed the bridges to be closed like I needed a hole in the head. So I decided to wait around at the Skate Zone a while longer and watch TV in the lobby, to give the roads time to clear. I'd had my fill of traffic jams for the day, to put it mildly.

I was joined by Zeke and another fellow poster on the AOL Flyers board, whose nickname online was HotTub. Soon, another fellow AOLer arrived, whom I'll call "B". She lived and worked near the Skate Zone, and stopped by in the afternoon once she was finished working. We all watched the TVs in the lobby together. Then I realized that we had one more person with us watching the news; I recognized the Flyers' beat reporter from the Inquirer, Tim Panaccio. Tim P. knows both Zeke and HotTub, two fans whom I also know. Due to their acquaintance with him, I'd had the opportunity to speak with Tim P. a few times the week before, when the informal practices were taking place. I supposed he was taking the opportunity to watch the news with some familiar and (in my case) semi-familiar faces.

I couldn't help but think that this was a pretty interesting group of people to be chatting with, and that if we'd been watching ANYTHING other than the horrific tragedy that was on TV, it would have been pretty cool to be watching television with the lot of them. Maybe sometime, there'll be a practice at the Skate Zone when we can all stand around, watching and discussing something happy and upbeat.

Eventually, I decided that I'd given the rumored traffic jams long enough to clear up. I hadn't seen any evidence of traffic issues reported on TV, whenever the networks broke away for local coverage, nor had there been any mention of bridges between NJ and Philadelphia being closed. Moreover, the usual traffic patterns of commuters meant that I'd be heading in the opposite direction of the worst traffic; normally, the heavier traffic is going INTO the city at the beginning of the workday and LEAVING the city when people are going home. So I said my "See you later"s and "Take care"s, and left for home.

On my way back to Rt. 561, I passed an office building that has several flagpoles outside. They were displaying one US flag plus a few other kinds of flag, and all of them had been lowered to half-staff. There hadn't been any official national declaration of mourning yet, but this company had apparently decided not to wait until there was. I sighed, blessed myself, and agreed with them. Had I been in charge of any flag displays, I'd have done the same thing.

There's one other event that I can recall from that day. On my way home, I realized that my gas tank was nearly empty. I decided that the day had been difficult enough to bear without having to push my car home from New Jersey into the bargain, so I'd better stop and fill the tank. I pulled into the first gas station I encountered... with the WRONG side of my car facing the gas pump. I stil can't believe I did that. I'd had the car for ten years at that point, and I know darn well that my gas tank access is on the RIGHT side of the car. I hadn't made that error since the first time I pulled into a gas station with that car. I haven't made that mistake since, either. It's just one more example of what extreme distress can do to a person's thought processes.

Once I got home, Mark and I watched the news on TV together. Harmony, innocent little kitty that she was, of course had no idea why Meowmy and Paw were at home in the middle of the afternoon. All she knew was that her humans were home, and she liked it. I looked at her and said, "Harmony, you're so lucky you're a cat. You have no idea what's being shown on this TV. I wish *I* didn't know."

By the way... you know that St. Christopher medal I mentioned earlier? The Patron Saint of Travellers? Well, once I realized that I'd had it on at the time that I narrowly avoided a serious car accident, I decided to keep right on wearing. I've worn it every day since then.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Rats. I'd *wanted* to go to rookie camp today. But I've slept so poorly over the past few days, that I decided I needed the rest more. I have a LOT to do at the AHL booster club convention over the next couple of days, so I figured I'd catch up on rest now, while I have the chance.

I *still* feel like I need a nap, but if I do that now, I'll probably be up all night (again). So I won't.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

87 words per minute! Holy cow! That's the score I just got on my typing test this morning. Whew... that absolutely shatters my previous top score of 75 words per minute.

I mentioned a few days ago that I'd heard from a temp agency whose sole client is the health system I just left in May. They were the ones who gave me the typing test, as well as other skills tests, this morning. I also heard back from the place whose part-time job I had applied for on Craigslist. I managed to set both appointments up for today. The one with the temp agency went well (did I mention the 87 words per minute?), and I got a good vibe from the part-time place, too.

Maybe I'll be able to do them both... the part-time job 3 days per week, and the temp agency on other days.

In any event, I'm back in Wait Mode for all three of the places that contacted me last week: the temp place in the 'burbs, the medical system temp place, and the part-time place. So tomorrow, I'm rewarding myself and going to the Flyers rookie camp. :o) I?ve earned it.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006




This morning, Mark called me to the front door to take a look at our new, eight-legged neighbor. A spider, about 1/2 to 3/4 inches in length, had built a big web under the awning that's above our front door.

It was such a classic specimen, I absolutely HAD to try and take a few photos of it. To make the web stand out more, I took a personal water mister that I have, and sprayed a fine mist of water all over the web. (And the spider, who was less than enthused about the instant dose of human-made dew.) Here are a couple of examples of the photo that came out best. Blogger is going to automatically show the first image at a reduced size, to save space. But you can get a look at the full-sized image here. Once you click on the link, and bring up the image in a new window, click on the image itself and an even larger version of the image should appear. That might be the only way to see anything of the actual spider's web, since it's almost invisible in the reduced-size photograph.

Or, to save time... here's a cropped version of the image, showing just the spider. This one should appear at or close to full size on blogger.

Mark was actually able to get out the door and head to work without disturbing the web. However, if the wind and rain that are due to arrive any minute now don't send Charlotte and her web packing, I suspect it'll become an ex-web once the mailman arrives. Which is all the more reason why I'm glad I photographed it when I had the chance.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Edie demonstrates how her cochlear implant works.

Elijah the guide dog

We're having a party for Jay's retirement as well as three other attendees' birthdays.

The guys grill food, grappling with intermittent showers from Tropical Depression Ernesto, for the deaf-blind party.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Boy, it's either a drought or a monsoon around here. While I was out at the temp agency yesterday, taking their tests and discussing a possible temp-to-staff position, I got one email regarding a part-time job I'd applied to on Craigslist. I also got a call from a company that'd found my resume on one of the local job placement sites.

The part-time place asked me to email them back if I am interested in an interview, and I replied saying that I am interested.

Then I called back the company that'd left the phone message, and found out that they are a temp placement agency. Not a problem.

However... they work EXCLUSIVELY with the very hospital system that includes the rheumatology clinic where I worked. To myself, I thought, "Oh, my freaking God, this is all I freaking need." But for kicks, I made the appointment to take their skills testing and whatnot. I can always politely decline the assignment if they try to send me anywhere near that rheumatology clinic again. Did I mention that the clinic has yet to fill the job opening that was created by my departure? And, of course, this is presuming that I'll even get ACCEPTED by the temp service, given the spitework that led to my being driven out in the first place.

Who knows? It certainly won't add up to any LESS work than I have now, since there's nothing less than zero. So I'll go. And I'll also arrange an interview with this part-time place. If nothing else, working with them will mean that maybe my unemployment benefits will last longer. I'll be able to file and get a reduced amount of benefits per week, when I report whatever it is that I'd be earning if I got a part-time job. The way unemployment works, if you don't work at all, your benefits will last for six months before you max out. If you do work, and you get a reduced rate of benefits, then you will take longer to max out on your unemployment earnings. Also, you have to have worked and earned at least six weeks' worth of whatever your weekly unemployment benefit rate was, before you can file again. Working part-time would help me earn that amount.

Going back to the appointment I had yesterday: they want to submit my resume to a temp-to-staff position that's right across the street from the building where the temp agency is located, in the suburbs. If the price is right, I'd consider that. For now. It all depends on what they're paying, how close SEPTA will get me to the building (pretty close, I think), and what kind of gas expenditures we'd be looking at if I drove.

So in other words, everything's still up in the air. What else is new? But at least there are three companies that I'm talking to... hmm. I guess there IS something new, after all. :o)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

FWIW... I've finally tried Coca Cola Blak. The verdict: I like it.

I hope that it becomes so popular, that it convinces Pepsi to put Pepsi Kona back on the market, because I liked *that* even better. Too bad Pepsi marketed their coffee/cola beverage years before Starbucks took over the planet. IMO, Pepsi Kona was ahead of its time. If they'd test-marketed it AFTER coffee became a national obsession, I think it'd have been more popular.

I'm still processing the fact that I've *finally* gotten a response to one of the ton of resumes I've sent out in recent weeks. It figures that the one I heard back from is a temp agency. Regular companies looking for an administrative assistant take one look at the 12 years of IT experience on my resume, say "Overqualified", and move on to the next resume. Regular companies looking for an IT person see that I haven't worked in IT since 2002, say "No recent IT experience", and move on to the next resume. TEMP agencies look at my experience, see someone who can hit the ground running, and call.

Not that they necessarily have an *assignment* available, mind you. But they do call. I hope this company does better for me than the two I (re-)enrolled with last year. I got diddly-squat from either of them in the months between the end of my temp job at the insurance company, and my starting work at the hospital.

To be fair, THIS agency says they have multiple openings to fill ASAP. I'll believe it when I see it, but at least they're *saying* there are assignments available.

We'll see.

Eeee. The Paperwork Monster almost made me delay that appointment I have set up for tomorrow.

They called back to ask me to bring my Social Security card. I didn't think I HAD one, since the one I had disappeared in a purse snatching about 16 years ago. And even if I did have that one, it had my maiden name on it anyway, so I couldn't have used it.

In my aggravation, I called Mark at work to tell him all this. Imagine my surprise when he told me that I do, in fact, have a valid Social Security card. Huh?

When we got married, I had to go to the Social Security offices and have them change my name. Apparently, they sent me a new Social Security card at that time. Mark normally got the mail, as he arrived home from work before I did. He filed it with our Important Paperwork, which I didn't realize. I checked where he told me to look, and bingo. Instant Social Security card.

I'm still not sure why they absolutely, positively HAVE to see the physical Social Security card as a part of the interview process. I would have thought that bringing my passport would be enough to definitively prove that I am who I say I am, AND that I'm legally permitted to work in the USA. But at least I have a card to show them, and therefore I don't have to postpone my appointment tomorrow afternoon.
NOW we're talking! I just heard back from one of the temp agencies whose job opening I applied to.

They're located in King of Prussia. Unfortunately, I suspect that their JOBS are also located in the suburbs. But if the pay warrants a significant commute, I'll take it.

For now.

I still have the "go back to school and get trained to become a trainer" goal in the back of my mind, and that goal is NOT going to go away. But back-to-school means paying tuition, and paying tuition means I need a steady income to save up some money.

I have an interview with the temp agency tomorrow afternoon. We'll see how it all plays out.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Yep. There goes the weather radio alarm. They're announcing a severe thunderstorm warning for Philly now. There are also flash flood warnings being announced for Chester County, meaning that "flooding is imminent or occurring". Translation: Fasten your seat belts; it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

Say, remember the live streaming webcam I found for NYC's Times Square?

Well, I found a site that has TWO streaming webcams from Philadelphia International Airport. Have a look at the links on this page:

Philadelphia International Airport

Actually, if you review the links at the top of the page, you'll find lists of other webcams, too. There are all sorts of things in different countries, including weather cams, cameras at famous landmarks, pet cameras (gerbils seem to be a popular topic), and others.

I'll have to wait until the Christmas season to see one that I'm very interested in. Flyers defenseman Joni Pitkanen is from Finland, and he described in an interview that he grew up very close to Santa's Workshop, which is in Finland near the North Pole. Apparently, it's quite a big tourist draw, too. I'm all kinds of interested in seeing Santa and his elves in action at their world-famous workshop, but unfortunately the camera's not available year-round. But that's one link I'll gladly be visiting once the Christmas season rolls around. :o)

I just hope that nobody who's looking in on the Philly-based webcams see a TORNADO today. We have a tornado watch in effect until 8 PM tonight. That's less severe than a warning, which would be called if someone had actually SIGHTED a tornado. But even though odds are not in favor of having a tornado go through here, it doesn't bode well for the overall weather forecast today and I'm not looking forward to it.

And even as I type, the weather radio is sounding with the warning of a severe thunderstorm warning in Chester County. That means it'll be on its way to Philly; I expect the warning to be sounded for Philadelphia county within the hour.

What's really nasty is that we've had a lot of heavy rain during the past few days. Not only is our ground pretty well saturated, but we're expecting whatever remains of Tropical Storm Ernesto to be sending ITS rain to us over the weekend. I'll be keeping an eye out for pairs of animals lining up to board an ark in the near future.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Don't people ever proofread anymore? I mean, EVER?

I've been wandering through the Philadelphia section of Craigslist, just to see what job openings are listed with the ability to telecommute. I'm interested to see what, if anything, I can do to earn money from home via my own computer.

The list of possibilities wasn't all that long, so it was easy to spot the one with the title "Shampoo Person".

Um, what? Surely that can't mean what I think it means, can it?

So I clicked on the link. Sure enough, it's a job shampooing hair in a salon.

My mind boggles at the thought of how, exactly, a person could perform that particular task via telecommuting. What does the employee do, reach through the telephone until their hands come out of the phone receiver located in the salon? Wouldn't that entail the risk of electrocution of the employee and/or the customer? Do they have to pay someone else to stand there and position the phone receiver so the shampoo person can properly wash the customer's hair? And wouldn't it be easier and more practical to just teach the "Phone Receiver Holding Person" to do the shampooing, and forget about having the telecommuting "Shampoo Person" on the payroll?

Or maybe it'd be even easier for someone to PROOFREAD the freaking post before finalizing it for publication on Craigslist.

Nah, that last one would be too logical. Forget that.

I've regretfully decided NOT to apply for this particular telecommuting job. I don't think my carpal tunnel problems would withstand all that reaching through phone receivers, not to mention the repetetive stress injuries that could result from doing that job for hours on end.

When you run across a pasta sauce -- or "gravy", if you're from South Philly -- and its name is JUST the same as the original spelling of your surname (before one wing of the family Americanized it), it's a sign. Buy it. :o)


P. S. That would be "Mammarella", not "Coppola".

What's even funnier is that we were specifically looking for tomato/basil sauce when we found this. Did I mention it was a sign? ;o)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Interesting. I was just listening to 104.5 FM, the one that was simulcasting content from 106.1 (see my post from a few days ago).

At noon, a man's voice counted down, in Spanish, from 10 to 1. Then he declared, "RUMBA!", followed by a song in Spanish.

Doggone it, I *liked* Sunny 104.5. Now, the final vestiges of doubt are erased; it's definitely gone. :o(

Monday, August 21, 2006

I've just seen my first definitive sign that summer's winding down.

Starlings a few feet from me, in the front yard, have molted a lot of their iridescent, black summer plumage in favor of their duller, brown, spotted winter coloration.

Also, their bills have completed the switch from being bright yellow to dark brown.

There are still some hints of their summer plumage remaining. One bird ventured into full sunlight, which revealed that it still has some of the summer iridescent feathers remaining. But I know those won't be around much longer.

When I was a kid, I'd see my first glimpse of starlings with summer plumage, in February or so, and be pleased to realize that spring was coming. (For that matter, that sight still makes me feel that way NOW. :o) )

But at the end of summer, my first glance of winter plumage, in late August, would feel like seeing a "Back to School Sale!" sign. It'd serve as a reminder that summer vacation was nearly over, and all too soon I'd be back in school with those bullying, miserable excuses for human beings I called classmates. And even though school and summer vacations are things of the distant past, I still feel some lingering sadness when I'm reminded that summer is nearly over.

Or maybe it's just a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder, caused by the ever-decreasing amount of daylight that marks this time of year. Who knows?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Hey... wanna take a peek at what's happening in Times Square in New York City, right this second?

Of course you do. So visit this link and you can watch the live webcam that's streaming video 24/7:

http://www.ppcvidz.com/small/watch.asp?pro_id=639&speed=100

Have fun! :o)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Color me aggravated. I don't have all that many favorite radio stations as it is, and I hate it when one of them falls off the air. I just got a call from Joe M., asking me if I'd seen or heard anything about programming changes to 104.5 FM, as it's currently simulcasting with 106.1 FM. I hadn't, so I took a look online. This was in the Philly Inquirer a few days ago. Let's have a moment of silence for Sunny 104.5, shall we?

Changes in the air at two radio stations

By Michael Klein
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Sunny 104.5 and Smooth Jazz 106.1 went dark at noon today as Clear Channel Radio set up changes at the stations.

WJJZ-FM (106.1) - longtime home of mellow tunes from artists such as Dave Koz, David Sanborn and Spyro Gyra - became "Philly's 106.1" with a bouncy format known in the trade as rhythmic adult-contemporary. It's an uptempo mix of music aimed at adult women. (Sample: Michael Jackson's "Rock With You," Rihanna's "Unfaithful," Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie," and Madonna's "Sorry.")

Philly's 106.1 also will get comedian Whoopi Goldberg's new syndicated four-hour morning show, Wake Up With Whoopi. It starts at 5 a.m. Monday.

Clear Channel, the nation's largest radio operator, is not expected to disclose plans for 104.5 until next week.

In the meantime, the new 106.1 signal is simulcast on 104.5.

"There's an open lane in the Philadelphia market for Philly 106.1," said Manuel Rodriguez, who runs Philadelphia's Clear Channel stations. "We're targeting women - but to try to describe the station with typical demographics doesn't do it justice. We're going for the woman who is too young for B101 and too old for Q102 - both great stations. The station is about women for women. We're talking to - not at them. That's why a superstar personality like Whoopi Goldberg is perfect for Philly 106.1."

Brian Check, Sunny 104.5's program director, is now program director at 106.1.

Smooth Jazz program director/morning personality Michael Tozzi was working today, but many WSNI/WJJZ staffers were let go Wednesday.

A rock format is not considered likely for 104.5. One rumor says 104.5 will be a Spanish format, which would make it the city's first full-time Spanish FM station. A Jersey Shore station briefly tried Spanish dance music a few years ago on 104.9, but it hardly made a rumba in the ratings. Another rumor is a talk format.

Smooth Jazz - featuring a mellow mixture of light pop and jazz instrumentals - started at 1:06 p.m. March 12, 1993, replacing a top-40 rock station called Eagle 106.

Smooth Jazz was 10th in the city in the overall spring Arbitron ratings. The station's demise may leave doctors' waiting rooms silent, save for the murmuring of patients complaining about long waits.

Its last song was the soulful Daryl Hall solo version of "She's Gone." After a pause, 106.1 blared forth with the Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get It Started," followed by 2 Unlimited's "Get Ready for This" and Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Starting Something."

Sunny 104.5 - known as a light-rock or "adult-contemporary" station - began Aug. 1, 2002, and replaced a marginally livelier rock format called Alice. The Sunny 104.5 moniker had a previous incarnation, from 1980 through 1990.

Sunny competed directly against WBEB-FM (101.1), Philadelphia's highest-rated music station. Its ratings were middling at best.

Sunny's last song was Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," a tip to "Here Comes the Sun," which the station played for 21 hours straight when it went on the air four years ago.

Besides the stations at 104.5 and 106.1, Clear Channel also owns urban-contemporary WUSL-FM (98.9), top-40 WIOQ-FM (102.1), gospel WDAS-AM (1480) and urban adult contemporary WDAS-FM (105.3).

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Pittsburgh? PITTSBURGH?!

They filmed a movie set in South Philly in PITTSBURGH? Gaaaah! Somebody flunked geography, big-time!Arrrrrgh!

Read it here: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/s_243687.html

Hip, hip, hooray, Blogger fixed the problem I was having with posting by email! I never did hear back from their tech support, but something told me to just TRY sending the kind of post that was causing problems a few days ago.

FWIW, the photo of the trailer hauling a bunch of yellow taxi cabs is one that I took the day before I left for the AADB convention. I'd just finished making a deposit at the ATM, and noticed that the truck transporting all the taxis was pulled over for I Know Not What Reason. It made for an interesting sight, so out came the camera phone and I took a few pictures of it from different angles. (Since I had to pass the truck on my way out of the parking lot anyway.)

So, since blogging by email appears to be repaired, here's a comment that I've wanted to send for the past couple of days. This week, the Flyers' longtime defenseman Eric Desjardins retired. I tip my cap to him for being a complete credit to the Orange and Black, both on and off the ice, for the past 11 years. I can't say enough about how I respect him as a player, for being our best defenseman for years, and as a person for being the epitome of class, be it during games or in Real Life. If every athlete was like him, there'd never be another bad headline about another sports figure, ever.

Right now, I'm watching Captain and Stanley figure out what to do with a bagful of old cat toys I found, toys that had belonged to Melody and Harmony. I'm sure that at least some of the toys are catnip-scented, even after all this time, because the moment I set the bag down, the boys made a beeline for it.

Captain has been knocking toys out of the bag one by one, and the kitties have commenced cautiously sniffing each toy as it makes its appearance. I can't help but laugh. Right now, they're sitting in the midst of five or six toys, trying to decide which one to play with first. I think they've had their fill of retrieving toys from the bag, in fact, or at least Captain has. As it is, they're already outnumbered about three to one by new (to them) toys strewn on the floor near the stairs and I think that's about as much unfamiliar sensory input as they can deal with for the moment.

Hmmm. As I look at the toys they've retrieved from the bag, I'm thinking that I will have to take that cloth mouse's tail off before I really let them play with it. Both of the cats have been known to eat the tails off toy mice, and we REALLY don't need an unexpected major vet visit.

Oh, and speaking of cat toys. Remember that I posted a few days ago that the new vertical blinds had passed the Captain Test? Well, not only is he not intimidated by them, but he's quite willing to bap them into submission when he needs to. See, when he jumps on the windowsill, sometimes his arrival sets the vertical blinds swinging like a bunch of pendulums. (Or is that "pendula"?) Of course, when he does this. the blinds will then swing back and bump into Captain. When the blinds swat HIM, he swats them right back. Not surprisingly, this causes a chain reaction where Captain ends up jumping around and bapping various blinds that are bumping into him from every direction. I don't know when I've laughed so hard. :o)

The blinds are taking a bit longer to pass the Stanley Test, however. This could be partly because Stanley takes longer to adapt to new things. It's also probably due in part to the fact that Captain has figured out how to hide behind the blinds when Stanley comes and sits on the window ledge or near it. Then Captain comes pouncing, seemingly out of nowhere, through the blinds and onto his brother. I think Stanley will acclimate to the blinds more easily once he figures out how to detect when the Captainator is lurking behind them.

What a pair of fuzzy comedians. I should just videotape them all day. They're far more entertaining to watch than a lot of the series on TV these days. :o)

Yay, joy to the world... My test post went through.

Now let's see if a picture post also arrives safely on the blog.

Test Post. Let's see if this works. I hope it does.

Monday, August 07, 2006

More testing

Test post. If this works, I have found a different way to post by email, which I hope will let my posts arrive without having a fouled-up format.

On a side note, I can't BELIEVE the aggravation I've had with post-by-email for the past few weeks. AOL is still not sending outgoing mail from PDAs. I've had two emails from their tech support saying that the problem is on their end, and that they're working on it. Unfortunately, at this time it's been a month and there's been no visible progress from my end.

The alternative program I've been using to send/receive AOL mail on the PDA is definitely working... EXCEPT that it decides to insert line breaks in strange places. That's why some of my recent posts have looked like a mess, until I edited them tonight and cleaned up the format.

In English: the email Gremlins have been running rampant for the past few weeks, and it's been driving me freakin' bananas.

I hereby cross my fingers and hit SEND. Let's see what happens!

WHAAAAAAT the heck is THIS?

http://imdb.com/title/tt0360323/

Ya know what it is? I'll TELL you what it is! It's a movie called 10th and Wolf, which Joe M. ran across on the Internet Movie Database while he was reading about something else.

People who know me offline and are familiar with the 19148 ZIP code will be well aware why the name of that intersection bears meaning for me. For those who don't know Philadelphia well, that is the name of the intersection where I lived for several years. "Lived", as in "gave that intersection when asked 'Where in South Philly are you from?' ", as well as "gave it to friends as the primary landmark to look for when they were driving to my home for the first time" . I also grew up and spent the first 20 years of my life describing an intersection a block away from there (10th & Ritner) as the Place Where I Lived. (As you can see, when my family moved out of the house where I grew up, we stayed in the same neighborhood.)

In fact, as I have three relatives who live within a block of 10th and Wolf today, I *still* have strong ties to that very intersection.

So when Joe M. called me to let me know that this movie is in existence, I went to check IMDB for myself. It is set in South Philly, right in My Old Neighborhood, and it's about a neighborhood guy's troubles with a mob boss in the area.

Let me tell you how much I DON'T appreciate having my former home depicted as Mob Central to the rest of the world. GRRRRRR!!!*$%#*&!!!

I will, however, make an attempt to see the movie, if only out of curiosity. I'd like to see just HOW much of the portrayal is from the Land of Stereotypes vs. an attempt to represent a neighborhood full of hard-working people, many of whom are of Italian-American descent, who just want to live their lives in peace, and desire neither to cause trouble for other people nor to have trouble caused for them.

I'm also curious to see just how much on-site filming was done. I certainly did NOT hear from any of my relatives, two of whom could stand on their house's front step and look right at the real 10th and Wolf street sign, about the presence of any film crews in the neighborhood. That makes me think that if they DID film in the area, they probably did so during off-hours like late at night or VERY early in the morning, the way the first Rocky movie was filmed.

Sigh. Of all the intersections for them to use as the namesake of a movie that describes mob problems. Dang Hollywood, taking My Old Neighborhood's name in vain. They'd better have given the area a fair shake, or I'll be seriously PO'ed.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

What part of "NO fishing from dock" do these people not understand? Sorry if the resolution on the camera phone doesn't make this clear, but everyone in the above picture except the toddler was either in the act of fishing, or preparing a fishing pole for use. The third sign on the left reads, "NO FISHING FROM DOCK".

Good news. I just took a look at The Other Donna's myspace page. Her profile picture is repaired. It now bears a photo of her, instead of some stranger (emphasis on STRANGE, believe me).

A pox on the fargin' bastages with no lives who play these kinds of prank. I hope their computers blow up.

Well, how do you like that? I just spent quite a while, until about ten minutes ago, trying to troubleshoot a problem that cropped up on The Other Donna's myspace profile. Somehow, it got hacked and was showing the wrong photo in the profile (some complete stranger), and all her profile information was blanked out.

The same wrong photo was listed in The Other Donna's pictures page, instead of the things she originally had there.

Donna was able to get rid of the unwanted content on her pictures page. Unfortunately, neither she nor I has been able to track down how to get rid of that unwanted profile photo... yet.

I'm flying a little bit blind here, because although I do have a myspace page, I rarely actually log in. For the most part, I joined because the Phantoms Phan Club has a page and we have someone who's doing her best to keep it current. I figured that since I'm on the board of the club, I ought to be on myspace, add the Phan Club as one of my friends, and keep up to date with what's posted on the PPPC myspace page. So that's basically what I did.. What I *haven't* done is navigate much on myspace, so trying to determine how to fix a screwed-up profile was completely new territory for me.

What I want to know is, how in blazes did someone tamper with her profile to begin with? So I've been using google to see if I can find any reports of problems with hacked profiles, or solutions for repairing them. The drawback to this quest is that perfectly legitimate alterations to the profile are described as "hacking", and so are underhanded attempts to vandalize myspace content. This is resulting in a lot of unusable (for me) information showing up in the google searches.

So far, I haven't found anything in my searching that fits the description of the kinds of tampering that were done on Donna's page. But I'm going to keep lookiing. If it's a widespread problem, it's bound to become public soon, if the information hasn't already been spread.

BTW, speaking of irksome things happening on the internet... I'm kind of aggravated to see that this email program I'm using to post to this blog is inserting line feeds in odd places. Sorry about that: as long as the problem with AOL's handling of outgoing Windows Mobile mail continues, this is the only program I've been able to use to send email from the PDA. I can't edit blog content from my PDA, I can only post it from here. But when I get online with a regular computer, I'll try and edit out any unwanted line feeds so the format of my posts will look right.

Whew, is it late! On the other hand, although I'd LIKE to say that it's unusual for me to be awake in the wee hours of the morning, unfortunately, that's not the case. Lately, I'm awake at this hour more often than not... and then once I finally do fall asleep, I have a bear of a time waking up in the morning. Well, the Princess of Insomnia will now attempt to get something that resembles sleep. Wish me luck.