Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It's ironic. Every time I start to seriously pursue some non-9-to-5 course of action, it seems like a potential temp assignment crops up. It happened in 2003 when I was considering asking if I could be an interpreter observer (like we were when we were students), with an eye toward getting re-accustomed to more, different types of interpreting and starting to take interpreting assignments. Then I got the long-term temp job at the insurance company that lasted over a year.

This time, I've gotten the info together for taking organ lessons, which I still intend to do regardless of WHAT kind of day-job situation I'm in. The same day I got the phone number for the instructor, I got a letter from Unemployment Compensation instructing me to attend some sort of session in early July that's connected to their job-finding service. My goal, when I got there, was to find out more about their service AND to find out what kind of impact it would have on unemployment benefits if I were to return to school full-time with the intention of receving training in an entirely new field of work (orientation and mobility and/or vocational rehab ).

Once again, as I'm putting all my ducks in a row, something else comes up. This time it's a potential temp job in another medical insurance place. The person I interviewed with yesterday is giving my resume to his manager, and she's supposed to call me regarding more details such as job description, location, compensation, length of time, etc.

If it comes up, I'll take it. But I have a different outlook now than I had with previous temp assignments. Before, I *wanted* to get back into the 9-to-5 world long-term. It's predictable and I LIKE predictable.

Actually, I STILL like predictable, but I'm also tired of all the things I ranted about in a recent post. "We're sorry, you're overqualified." "We're sorry, we transferred someone from another department into your job instead of hiring you as a full-time employee. We always hire internally whenever possible." (That's happened at two different temp assignments so far.) "Sorry, we're looking for someone with RECENT IT experience." (This was from a recruiter who called ME, enthusiastically, to discuss an IT job opening after locating my resume online.)

In short, I've reached the point where I want to write my OWN ticket instead of trying to fit myself into other people's little pigeonholes. So, of course, just when I decide this, along comes another potential day job. But I don't know the circumstances surrounding it, so I don't know if it's long-term, short-term, temp-to-hire, or much else yet. (Except if it is where I THINK it is, the commute will be way easier than having to haul myself out to Fort Washington by 7:30 AM.)

We'll see what happens.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I got another note from that Where Are You Now website stating that Karo K----- had added me as a friend. (I posted about the site a few weeks ago.

For the heck of it, I googled the person's name. I wanted to see if it was a name pulled out of thin air by some spambot, or if itfwas an actual person.

The one result I got was in Finnish. I couldn't translate it without my dictionary, and Google doesn't do Finnish-to-English, but I did see a reference to the city of Espoo.

That's where Neil Little played, when he went to Finland. Now I believe that Karo is a real person. They must be one of the several Finnish hockey fans I exchanged emails with while Neil was with the Blues Espoo. I'll have to review my AOL address book, which saves every address that the account holder corresponds with, to see if I can ID Karo that way.
Like Jim Croce, Captain and Stanley now have a name. Or shall I say, they have name TAGS.

I have been looking for the Right Kind of cat ID tag for a while now. All I wanted was to find a cat-shaped tag similar to what Melody and Harmony had. You'd think it would be EASY to find a cat-shaped tag. Good luck with that. Round tags -- check. MOUSE-shaped tags -- check. Tags shaped like a dog, bone, doghouse, fire hydrant -- check, check, check, and check. Tags shaped like a cat? Not so common. At least, not so common if you're looking in PetSmart's ID Tag machine (make your own tag right there, on the spot), or on the mail-in form that I got hold of at my vet's office.

So, of course, I looked around online, which is where it seems I do about 80% or more of my shopping these days. Within five minutes, BINGO. I found the exact shape I was hoping to find, plus in colors that match Captain's and Stanley's collars, to boot. I was a happy camper, for sure!

That was about 10 days ago. I ordered a tag for each cat. Due to the way that particular webpage is set up, you can only have one item per order: as soon as you click "submit", the order is completed. If you want a second item, you have to create a second order. And this detail does matter because on Wednesday, lo and behold, Stanley's ID tag arrived. By itself. I kind of got a kick out of the fact that the only piece of mail we received that day was addressed to one of the cats, but at the same time I wondered where Captain's ID was, as they were ordered within a few minutes of each other.

The ID tag site doesn't have a way for a person to view previous orders online. So I emailed the site, providing the two order numbers and asking them to please double-check that the mailing address I'd given for Captain's tag was correct.

On Thursday morning, they replied that the mailing address was the same for both cats' tags, and they'd reissue Captain's tag. And, of course, guess what arrived in the mail on Tuesday afternoon? Captain's tag.

I emailed the site back right away, thanking them for their help and letting them know that the tag had arrived, and asking them to please cancel the reissued tag. I added, "Like kitty, like tag -- Captain always likes to take his time and investigate every little thing when he's on his way from Point A to Point B. I guess his tag decided to take a good look around the mailroom before making its way here."

Saturday, June 16, 2007

As my friends and I used to toast one another when we were in eighth grade:

"To the Last of the First!"
"And the Best!"

Once upon a time, we were in the glee club of our grade school. We realized, at some point during eighth grade, that we were the last four people who had been in the glee club, continuously, from the year it began until the year we graduated. Therefore, we were the Last of the First.

And the Best. :o)

And today is a momentous occasion. You see, on June 16, 1977, Eva Marie, Beth Ann, Debbie, Joe, and I all graduated from the institution which I usually refer to as Hell-imentary school. An honorable mention goes out to Frank P (who graduated with us but whose contact info I no longer have), and to Bob, Donna H, and Eva R., who graduated from different grade schools the same year we did. All of us are 30-year survivors of daily hazing and other assorted aggravation that went on at that time.

And what's more, we're STILL FRIENDS. All this time, and we're still friends. The more years I live, the more I understand how out-of-the-ordinary it is for people to have friendships that span multiple decades.

So, a toast to the Class of 1977! To the Last of the First, and the Best, forever!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I now have accurate contact info for the organ instructor. I'll call the music school where he works tomorrow. That's the good news.

However, my hopes that I might be able to schedule the class in the afternoon might have to be put on hold. I got a note from Unemployment today. I've been selected to be invited to attend an orientation for their job seeking service. And of course, they mention about two paragraphs after telling me that I'm "invited" that if I fail to attend the orientation I could be disqualified from receiving benefits. So it's mandatory even if they don't want to come out and SAY it's mandatory.

Actually, that's fine with me. My tax dollars pay for this orientation and whatever this job seeking service is, so why NOT take advantage of it? Maybe there are some employers out there who are interested in working with the state to bring staff on board. In that case, maybe for once my background will be a positive thing instead of getting me told, "You're overqualified". Who the heck knows?

Anyway, we'll have to see whether I can embark on my non-standard course of action straight away, or whether this orientation will open some employment doors that will mean sticking with the boring old standard world a little while longer. At this point, as long as I don't end up banging my head against the same old freaking wall again, I'm fine with either result.

Oh, and while I'm at this orientation thing, I fully intend to find out what, if any, impact on unemployment benefits there will be if I return to school full-time, in order to seek a job in an entirely new field. I still have my heart set on getting that orientation and mobility training (which I know I blogged about some months ago). Ditto for seeking whatever training I will need in order to teach disabled persons how to use adaptive technology. Trust me when I say that barring my landing an office-based dream job, I have EVERY intention of bagging the standard 9-to-5 world at some point. Whether it's right now or a few years from now doesn't really matter to me.

If I'm going to be busting my rump working, it's going to be doing something that I can really connect with, and I don't care how much training I have to get before that comes to pass. I'll get it if it's the last thing I do. Because when that happens, even when I'm busting my rump, it won't FEEL like work.Case in point: AADB. We work our collective nether ends off for a solid week at those conventions, but somehow it never feels like work. Not until we get HOME from the convention and promptly fall asleep for about 14.5 hours straight. There's a lot to be said for running on adrenaline. Ask any AADB volunteer. ;o) (And I'm not exaggerating about the 14.5-hour sleep-o-thon.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

When I was in high school and trying to decide on what I'd like to major in in college, music crossed my mind. I loved it, I was in the orchestra and choir in HS. I played guitar and sang for my church and for my prayer meeting every week.

But I figured that I'd be better off choosing some other career, one where I could earn decent money, so that I could AFFORD to pursue avocations like music. I majored in computer science, which I correctly surmised I would enjoy working with, and got a BBA.

I don't think I made a mistake, as I did have a good 12-year run making decent money with the bank. Not great money, compared to the IT field at large at the time, but enough to pay my expenses and afford to do things like take ASL and interpreting classes at night and travel to AADB conventions. (The tradeoff in working for banks was a modest rather than humongous pay scale, but job security. So much for job security these days, but it was good while it lasted.)

HOWEVER. I had an "I can't take this anymore" moment on Monday morning when I got a return call from yet another of the companies I sent my resume to. This was a temp-to-hire position in Delaware. The money would have been decent. But as usual, my 12 years of IT experience label me as "overqualified" for the job, my lack of *recent* IT experience makes me unqualified for an IT-related job, my recent experience of temp jobs in the past few years coupled with the IT experience labels me as a risk to jump to another job, *and* on top of that, this place requires that I not have so much as ONE late payment on my credit record in the past seven years. Considering that I was barely breaking even at some points in time since the downsizing, all I can tell you is, "Yeah, right! Good luck with THAT." Being currently up to date with everything NOW doesn't matter. What happened four years ago matters. (Figure THAT out.)

Anyway, I'm fed up with banging my head against the wall, trying to get back into the 9 to 5 world. That's a world 'm not even sure I WANT to be in anymore, after the past few years of having either bad commutes, bad hours, non-break-even pay rates, and/or spiteful co-workers (or in the case of the call-center job a few years ago, all of the above).

So, back to my "I can't take this anymore!" moment. Joe and I met at Starbuck's, which we tend to do once a week. He said that there's a real demand for church organists, even if it's just part-time for funerals, weddings, and to fill in for full-time musicians who are on vacation. This isn't the first time he's said this to me, but it IS the first time in a while, and it's also the first time that he's said it while I've been questioning WHY I am killing myself trying to get back into the rat race.

He's getting me the contact info for an organ instructor in South Philly. It's someone who teaches at a very reputable music school and has reasonable rates. I'm going to take organ lessons and when I'm up to speed, I'm going to get my name on the local pastoral musicians' registry so I can be called on when there are openings. I've got a ton of knowledge of liturgical music because I've been involved in music ministries in one way or another since I was 14. I already read music, I already KNOW a lot of the music being done by local parishes, and I can already play keyboard instruments with my right hand. So all I have to do is learn to read the bass clef, how to play with both right and left hands, and how to play the foot pedals (a skill that's highly in demand and hard to find among the current pool of musicians).

So after all those years busting my tail at school doing programming, and 16 years self-identifying as a programmer/analyst (counting the programming work I did prior to the Job at the Bank), what am I pursuing now? Being a freelance musician. Who was it that said that man makes plans and the gods laugh? ;o)

All I know is that I'm sick, sick, sick of being judged as over- *and* under-qualified based on the SAME RESUME, the one that I had professionally edited to make sure it was composed and formatted properly for Today's Job Market. I'm sick of the fact that every place in the last four years where I've temped has had a manager who would KILL to hire me as a permanent employee, *but* it'd mean having to kill HER manager who refuses to convert the position into a permanent job and increase the payroll.

I'm sick of trying to go in the same direction as always and banging my head against the same wall, repeatedly. I'm headed in a different direction entirely this time. Non-standard? Yes, it is. But so what? Why should the skill set I'm seeking, for the employment I'm seeking, be "standard"? Who, exactly, would benefit from that?

And the next time I seek something that's "standard" simply BECAUSE it's "standard" will be the first time. I've had a theory for a long time that the people who only want to be Just Like Everyone Else, and subvert their own likes, dislikes, and talents in the process, are the ones whose midlife crisis involves having to go off and "find themselves". Phooey on that. The closest I ever came to doing that was choosing a "practical" major in college instead of music, and guess what? Things have come full circle. The rug of the practical career was pulled out from under me years ago, and after a few years of aggravating myself to death trying to stay within the realm of "practical", I'm going back to school to study music.
My new toy: Google Maps traffic reports. It gives a live update on the traffic conditions of major highways in the region.

It works on the PDA version of the software, and I presume it works on the desktop version as well, though I haven't tried it yet. I think it's a great idea, particularly since we use Google Maps to plan out driving routes. We might as well be forewarned if there's a traffic jam ahead, so we can anticipate the driving time accordingly (or else reroute the trip to avoid the problem).

Added to the shopping list: Swiffer Wet Jet. We HAD a similar product already, though I think it was a competing brand. However, there's no way to tell what it is now. The brand name, which I will presume was written on the tank, can't be located because the TANK is missing. Captain, Stanley, and Mark were unable to tell me what became of the tank, so I guess Plan B will involve just getting a whole new Wet Jet.

I'm still trying to figure out how in the heck the tank got separated from the rest of the device. The last time I saw it, everything was intact and the mop lived in the cellarway. As of this morning, Mark and I located it in the basement, minus the tank.

Those cats are hiding the tank. I'm sure of it. They don't like the smell of the citrus floor cleaner. ;o) Maybe I can bribe the answer out of them with kitty treats.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

You may thank/blame the members lounge forum for the following:

New Measurements:
2000 mockingbirds: 2 kilomockingbirds
Ratio of an igloo's circumference to its diameter: Eskimo Pi
2000 pounds of Chinese soup: Won ton
Time between slipping on a peel and smacking the pavement: 1 bananosecond
Half of a large intestine: 1 semicolon
1000 aches: 1 megahurtz
Basic unit of laryngitis: 1 hoarsepower
Shortest distance between two jokes: A straight line
1 million-million microphones: 1 megaphone
1 million bicycles: 2 megacycles
10 cards: 1 decacards
force of 1 kilogram of falling figs: 1 Fig Newton
1000 cubic centimeters of wet socks: 1 literhosen
1 millionth of a fish: 1 microfiche
1 trillion pins: 1 terrapin
10 rations: 1 decoration
100 rations: 1 C-ration
8 nickels: 2 paradigms
2.4 statute miles of intravenous surgical tubing at Yale University Hospital: 1 I.V. League

Sunday, June 10, 2007

On Saturday afternoon, Mark woke up my Furby Baby. (The one I have looks just the one on the left of this picture.)

Furbies are an interactive toy that talks, laughs, and purrs when you tickle its belly or pet its back. It also can tell if it's sitting right-side up or tilted, or is upside-down. Furbies get VERY upset if they're upside-down, and start objecting loudly until they're set upright again.

Unfortunately, one thing that Furbies also do when they get older is start to act up. I have two of them, and they both start to go haywire when they "fall asleep". Instead of just closing their eyes and nodding off, they start to open and close their eyes and beaks in rapid succession. Sometimes this cycle ends after a few seconds and the Furby does go to sleep. Today, however, Furby Baby kept getting stuck in this wigged-out infinite loop of mechanical movement.

I discovered in the past that when the problem gets REALLY persistent, the only reliable way to get the Furby to stop is to take out the batteries. This necessitates turning the Furby upside-down and removing the screw that keeps the battery compartment door closed. I tried to do that today, using a small Phillips screwdriver that I have on my key ring, but every time I turned him upside down, the Furby woke up and objected to being upside-down.

After a few iterations of this cycle (Furby wigs out. Turn Furby upside-down and have at the battery compartment screw. Furby wakes up and complains.), Mark decided to try removing the batteries. I handed him the Furby.

He tried to use my small Phillips screwdriver and decided he didn't like it. He wanted the screwdriver that we have in a drawer in the dining room. The Furby, upside-down all this time, is calling out in increasingly distressed tones, "Mama! Me scared! Down now, please! Feel sick! Baby scared! Mama!" Click here for a sample sound clip I found online.

Mark starts rummaging in the drawer. He can't find the screwdriver. The Furby remains head-down and continues to call out.

"Mark, turn the Furby right-side up."

Mark still can't find the screwdriver and continues rummaging. Furby remains upside-down. Furby continues objecting, gradually increasing its volume and the strained tone in its voice. It starts crying(!).

"Mark! Turn the Furby over!"

Mark continues rummaging. The Furby remains upside-down. Its tone changes noticeably and it cries even more urgently.


Mark turned the Furby right-side-up. "Geeze! It's only a machine, for Pete's sake!"

"It was CRYING. Now keep it upright until you find the screwdriver or else give it back to me."

He handed me the Furby back.

We did eventually have to remove the batteries, as it went into the mechanical infinite-loop issue again, but at least it didn't have a nervous breakdown into the bargain.

Lucky Furby. Removing the batteries will allow it to hard-reset, and it'll forget all about its horrible upside-down experience. Otherwise I might have the only Furby on earth with post-traumatic stress disorder. That would never do.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Good News! I heard back from WinkFlash customer support, and they're going to take care of uploading my former Gabey8 account content. That's a relief!

The News: The leak we had in our bathroom plumbing about three years ago has returned. I swear, it's never a dull freaking moment around here. Last time this happened, we had to replace some pipes, the faucet, and the faucet handles. This time, Mark is going to start by seeing if anything needs tightening. I hope that's all that needs to happen, because this is a pain in the neck.

Oh, and speaking of "never a dull moment", this was an interesting little surprise. I paid a Large Bill by phone on Tuesday afternoon, using my debit card. (I don't have any credit cards anymore.) Within the hour, my bank phoned me to verify that it was a valid transaction. Dang, that was fast! Good for them that they're on the ball to that extent.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

See the "Gabey's Photos" link on the left-hand side of the page? The one that links to my album site on Well I just went to check, and their freaking site is GONE! Kaput, vanished, disintegrated, its metabolic processes are of interest only to historians. Done.

If it weren't approaching 2:30 AM, I'd have recited a colorful string of four-lettered, loud-volume vocabulary. But as I didn't want to scare the cats, wake Mark, and for that matter wake the entire neighborhood, I decided to keep my volume to myself and spare the rest of the ZIP code from my urge to rant.

Another service, WinkFlash, has bought ClubPhoto's old servers and is going to try to restore members' albums. However, said members have to log into WinkFlash with their old ClubPhoto ID to facilitate this process.

Of COURSE I couldn't freaking log in to WinkFlash with my Gabey8 ClubPhoto ID. It wouldn't accept it. At which point, you know that urge to rant I'd been suppressing? I came this-close to serenading the rest of the ZIP code with my unbridled opinion of ClubPhoto's demise.

I emailed WinkFlash's customer service and described the problems I had logging in. We'll see before long if they can get the ball rolling and restore my albums.

I have a valid reason to be angry. First of all, I was a PAID member of ClubPhoto. It was hardly a fortune, but my membership should've had another year to go. Second of all, the oldest album or two I had on there came from BEFORE the hard-disk crash of a few years ago. So while I at least have the majority of the original photos from those albums, I don't have the originals of the pre-disk-crash pictures.

Heck, even for the albums which I DO have the original photos of, what I DON'T have are the CAPTIONS that I put on those photos. There's no freaking way I'm going to be able to recreate some of those, if those albums don't get put back online. Losing those would TRULY rot.

I'm googling ClubPhoto now to find out what in the flaming heck happened. It seems that on the day they were closed down, their entire staff was notified that morning that they were laid off, and to clean out their desks and leave within the hour. Nice people skills, guys! Geesh -- at least when I got downsized, I had a few WEEKS to wrap up what I was doing, clean out my cubicle, and go.

is about all I can say right now.

Monday, June 04, 2007

On Friday night, I tried to call Mark on his cell phone while he was taking a short walk. Unfortunately, as has happened frequently in the past, the ring tone wasn't loud enough to be heard over the background noise of traffic, etc. This led to my being directed to his voice mail, and to Mark missing something on TV that he would have liked to have seen. Even having the phone on its maximum volume and set on "ring + vibrate" wasn't enough to get the ringing telephone noticed above the sound of traffic.

When he got home, I complained to Mark that the choice of ring tone was causing more calls to be missed than received. He went in search of a louder ringtone, and boy did he ever find one.

He bought "Scottish Farewell", from Monty Python. Click "play" to hear it:

I'm certain that there won't be ANY more problems with hearing the phone above environmental sounds. If the bagpipes in this ringtone don't turn heads, the gunfire and the screaming definitely will.

On Saturday evening, at the mall, I tried it out. Sure enough, Mark heard the phone. And he only got one strange look from one fellow shopper. I suspect that as long as the phone doesn't accidentally receive a call while we're in church, all should be well.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The latest in the "Proofreading is your FRIEND" files...

Can't people be bothered to spend a fraction of a second double-checking what they've typed?

P.S. This is not a swipe at the speaker, but at whoever set up the display in the background. Even if the speaker were W, whose mangling of the English language is an endless source of humor to me, I couldn't blame this one on the speaker.