Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Crimson Velour

I made that Red Velvet Cake.

The cake is really good. The frosting is too sweet, for me, and turned out wrong. I must have screwed up because it's really runny.

If I have my choice, I'll stick to the Devil's Food.

Sunday, December 02, 2012


Along with that cake yesterday, I decided to make yogurt in the slow cooker. I did it over night.

This is what the cooker looked like this morning after a couple little taster scoops. I'm not a fan of plain yogurt. I wanted to add canned peaches, but this yogurt was too runny to add anything juicy to it.

I put a clean dishtowel in a colander and put that over a bowl and let it drain in the fridge all day.

 That's what it looked like when I pulled it out of the fridge tonight. You can see the rings where the yogurt started.

It's the consistency of sour cream and sort of tastes like it, too.

 There were at least four cups of water in that bowl.

On the left is starter for next time. On the right I will mix in my can of peaches.

Like the recipe says, I used a half gallon of milk and it gave a half gallon of yogurt. After draining I have a lot less yogurt, but it's at a consistency I really like. I think that on the weekends I could do two batches a day and get a lot made. Plenty for the whole week.

Of course, since this isn't my house I don't think I should go this crazy, but in the future...

Hooray for cooking!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Because I Wanted To

I made cake.

It's devil's food with a butter cream frosting and I made it without a package mix. The cake is chocolaty and moist and so dark it's nearly black and quite wonderful. The frosting okay, but next time I think I'll use a bitter-sweet chocolate chip so it's not quite so sweet. (I used Alton Brown's recipe. He's my cooking hero. I hope he makes some Good Eats specials soon, since he stopped making the show.)

I really like baking things and cooking things. I'd do it all the time if I had the time an the money. The problem is that I don't really want to eat much of what I make (especially full cakes), so that sort of stops me from going crazy. I guess.

Still, I'm bought most of the the ingredients for a red velvet cake. I'll save that one for Christmas. Maybe a little green coloring in the frosting for the holiday?

There'll be pictures.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

On How To Be Brave

To the best of my knowledge, there are three place a one, such as myself, can work for this State, but not actually work in The State. Houston, Chicago, and New York are where these jobs are located.

Four or five months ago, I did a phone interview to work in Houston. A week after that I was offered a face-to-face interview for the position. I didn't take the interview. I was interested, but at the time I had done a couple of interviews for promotion that I thought went well, so I turned down the second interview. At the time I was right. The position I interviewed for was the same position I'm in now. I would have been doing more receptionist work rather than clerical or analyst work and there was no room for promotion at this job unless I wanted to go back to school and learn some skills that I don't want to have. (Although I know I could learn them and then use them fairly well.) There was no money for moving and there was no pay increase.

Four weeks ago a position came available in the New York office. Again, not a promotion. But in New York. The office is in Manhattan. No moving expenses, but the pay goes up at least $350. And it's in New York City, which is one of the most amazing places I have ever seen.

Yes, I hate living in cities. I hate the idea of large cities, but I wouldn't have to live in the city. There are buses and subways and trains and plenty of places in all directions where the population density is at a more reasonable level for my sanity. For a week after the job was posted online I looked up rents in the city and its Burroughs. I looked at Long Island and New Jersey. I looked upstate thinking that it would be wonderful to be able to say I lived in New Rochelle. I found places with potential. Places I think I could live.


I hadn't sent the application. Sure, there were two weeks to get it out, but I hadn't sent it. Not because it's not a promotion. I've basically given up on that dream because there's no chance of a promotion for me where I am and the dozen or so interviews I've gone out on for a promotion have done nothing for me. I figure the best way for me to get a promotion is to get somewhere at my level and show them that I am so much more than just a file clerk or a receptionist. Out in New York I would have been at the same level with no real chance for promotion, but I'd be in New York City where so many things that I like are made or come from. Where there are more plays going on each week than I could afford to see in a year. Museums, publishing houses, food from around the world, music everywhere all the time if you look for it. Just the place for an aspiring hipster to be.

Three weeks ago, on Monday, I got out of my car and started to walk across the parking lot thinking about how I have to get the application out that afternoon and suddenly I knew that I wasn't going to send that application off, ever. I stopped and stood in the middle of the lot because even though I knew that I wasn't going to send the application in, I didn't know why. I had to figure out why. I stood there and thought about it.

I'd be living in a city, a gigantic city, where I didn't know, really know, a single person, 3000 miles away from those I do know. Now that wouldn't be a big deal because I've lived in cities where I don't know anyone and been okay, but it's always been in this state. Always close enough to people I know that if something went terribly wrong they'd be close enough that they could help.

The normal argument would be that I'd meet people and make friends. The problem is that, when it comes to me, it won't happen. I don't know how to make friends.

Okay, so logically I know how to make friends. You meet people who share your interest. You get to know each other and enjoy spending time together. Eventually you start hanging out talking about nothing, maybe sharing a meal or going to see a band at a bar or maybe looking at some art. You call or text or e-mail to set up one of these things and you go and you laugh and fun is had. Friends. My problem is I don't know how to go anywhere after the "meet people" stage.

Seriously, I don't know how to do or what to do anything after I meet people. I go to things where people share my interests and sometimes, rarely, I even talk with people I don't know. And then the talking stops. I don't know how to continue after there's a pause because I don't believe that the person I've been speaking with actually wants to speak with me. Crazy, I know, because we were just speaking and 95% of the time I'm not the person who initiates the conversation. Still, I have a hard time imagining. There's also the fear of becoming one of those people who become too much.

If you've ever been to a comic shop you know the kind of guy, and it's always been a guy to me, I'm going try to describe. It's the guy who knows you're interested in comics so you must be interested in the comics he's interested in and he will, if he can, corner you among the long boxes and tell you everything about what he likes and why the stuff your looking at is either brilliant or crap. If you're lucky enough to not get cornered he'll follow you around the shop. When you tell him that you don't like the Punisher because you don't think he's a hero the guy doesn't stop talking about the Punisher because the Punisher is who he wants to talk about. There are only two ways to shake the guy: one, pawn him off on someone else, someone else who was hopefully stupid enough to comment about the Punisher while the guy was blathering on. Or, two, pay for your comics and leave the store.

I try really hard to not be this guy because I know that he's in me. I can feel it every time someone at work talks about a TV show or movie that I like. I can go on and on about the story and the directorial choices and the writing and the acting because I like this stuff and I want to have a conversation about these things. Example: The Hunger Games movie came out and one of the women in my office saw it and liked it and we started to have a very surface-y conversation about it, but then I said despite all the violence I liked how the director would pull the camera away from the actual blood-and-guts moments leaving it to the audience to imagine how horrific the act is. There was a huge pause because this woman doesn't think of movies in the same way I do (just like I don't think of horses in the same way she does) and our conversation was essentially dead. I could have gone on. I wanted to go on. I didn't go on, though, because I don't want to be that kind of guy. He's in there. I know that because he's come out on occasion, fortunately it's mostly been with family and they just either put up with it or get into a conversation with me. I fear turning off potential kindred spirits by doing it, though.

To get back to the point, I wouldn't have anyone in New York. I wouldn't meet anyone in New York. Five years of not making any friends in North Bay proved that. And the vast majority of the time I'm fine with it. Being 3000 miles away from anyone I could depend on in a crisis, even if they have three hour drive, wouldn't work. I'm not going to change. I don't really want to change. I'm afraid that I can't change.

When I realized that, I could walk again. That afternoon I posted to Facebook: "I can state this with certainty: I am a coward." because being brave isn't doing the things other people are afraid to do, but pushing through your fear and trying to do the things you're afraid to do.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

It Begins, Again

This morning, at work, I realized that I finished my seventh year working for The State yesterday. Today began my eighth year.

I am glad to say that I did not cry, though I felt like it for a while.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Prop is Me

At work last week, I got to be a prop.

We're using an Access based database to schedule our doctors. An Access based database that can't run on anything but Access 2007, requires each person to overwrite on part of it individually to update, and that doesn't communicate with the two other databases being used to schedule the same people to see the other kinds of doctors. It's not great, but having it is better than not, trust me.

Anyway, the down the road plan is to have the scheduling programs for the Medical, Dental, and Mental Health departments talk to each other so we won't accidentally schedule guys for appointments at the same time on the same day. (I always knew this problem existed, but I haven't heard too many complaints. Maybe we're just not told because it's too late by the time it happens and they know there's nothing we can do about it? That doesn't seem likely, though, because the doctors in all the departments like to complain to schedulers. Like we're the ones who make policy, rather than just follow it.) Each department, however, is making their own system on their own timeframe.

Ours is coming along, but the guys building it, and they are all guys, wanted to come and see how the current database is used and what we like and don't like about it. We were their first stop because a lady who works in our department, but not the supervisor even though she should be, pestered and pushed for the department to create the database we're currently using. So, as long as she's in our department she'll probably be on all the computer committees. We were the first stop and she elected me to show the guys how we do it.

Me. I've been with this department for about ten months. The person at my level who's closest to me has been with the department for nearly four years. I was flattered. Her choosing me showed that she had confidence in me. And that's nice because, unlike our supervisor, she smart, pays attention, thinks before she acts, and doesn't praise people lightly.

She told me that my job would be to sit there, do my work, and answer questions. Sounded okay to me. When the time came, I did the job and did the job well. I know enough about computers that the techie guys didn't feel like they had to treat me like a baby and I could suggest, in general terms, how to maybe do certain  thing in what will be a web browser based system. When people got hungry and my part was over, almost all of the guys came over to me and thanked me for what I did and told me that I did a great job.

Excellent, right? So what about the prop thing? Well, at the time of the thanks, I was very pointedly not invited. Not "pointedly" as in they were rude about it, but "pointedly" as in there was never even a thought that I was a person who might want lunch out. Therefore, prop. An inhuman object. I'm not saying that I would have gone to lunch because I probably wouldn't have and I was glad that I didn't have to do my sheepish and uncomfortable, for me, "no thanks." Still, it would have been nice to have been thought of as a human, you know?

Oh, well.

On the bright side, the next morning, on her day off, the not supervisor called me to tell me how wonderful I was. She said that she was surprised at all the work I did. She was surprised at the things I knew how to do, even though they weren't my duty. And she was surprised that I knew as much about how and why our database worked the way it works. She thanked me again and told me that all the guys kept saying how impressed they were with the job I did. (Which makes me wonder if my fat face and body makes people just assume I'm stupid somehow. Maybe I look like I have Downs Syndrome?) Of course, she's not my supervisor and she's in no position to help me professionally.

There is hope, though. A supervisory position in the personnel office has come open. She has applied for it. She deserves the position and they'd be stupid not to put her there. An analyst position or two has come open out there, too. With luck they'll hire her before interviewing for the analyst and she'll remember that I am a hard and conscientious worker.

With my luck... Let's just say that I've not gotten hired three out of three interview since last I've written about work.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Too Damned Long

When I first saw The Avengers a few weeks ago I walked out of the theater having enjoyed myself, but by the end I was tired and, horrible as it is to say, bored. The end is pretty much non-stop action, how could anyone get bored? My theory was that the final fight was too damned long. Today I put that to the test and I was right.

See, the movie's built up on exciting moments. They start out, relatively, small, after that opening sequence. The opening is a teaser, though, and announces right off what kind of movie this is. Then the film slows down. We meet our main heroes, minus the one were were already introduced to, in short vignettes so we understand who they are and what they want. From there the action slowly gets bigger, with nice breathers in between so the audience can relax and laugh which should help to clean the mental palette for the next action set piece. Joss Wheadon, who wrote and directed this movie, understands that the brain needs the break, that's why all his actiony/horrory TV shows used comedy to help break up the tension, if only for a second, to make room in the brain for more excitement. The action also get longer as the movie goes on, but it's short enough that it didn't wear me out.

Until that last fight.

**Here's where I get a little spoilery, in case you haven't seen the movie yet and still care.**

I had my watch with me and turned on the stopwatch to time the fight. I started when the first aliens came through the portal, that seemed a fair place. The specifics aren't really important because I was engaged. I was on the streets with Captain America, flying through the city with Ironman, and smashing armored fish/lizard things with the Hulk. And then, suddenly, I wasn't.

I looked down at my watch. Fifteen minutes had passed. Cap was just about to rush in to rescue people who had been cornered in a bank, or whatever, by aliens. Here's where this fight scene became agonizing. The punching, shooting, zapping, and punching became boring. Yeah, that Hulk scene with Loki made me laugh, but that was way past the point where I wanted something else.

I just thought of the end of Return of the Jedi, where it bounces between the three fights: one on Endor, one around the Death Star, and one in the Emperor's throne room. It's long, but all the fights have such different tones and tickle different parts of my brain that it doesn't get boring. It also cuts from the exciting World War II style space battle to the point on Endor where it look like the Rebels have lost and seem to be surrendering then cuts to Luke and Vadar fighting. Did you see the break my brain got there? During those few minutes on Endor! That sort of pacing kept my mind shifting gears kept my brain active and attentive.

The closest thing to a break during that last fight in The Avengers is when Fury is talking to those shadowy faces. The problem is that it comes to late. Just a few minutes after Fury's conversation that professor doctor guy who was in the Thor movie wakes up and that's where I hit stop on my watch because I correctly remembered that there was no other alien fighting after that. Twenty-six minutes and one second of fight. Ten minutes too much for my brain, apparently.

The movie's still a lot of fun, but the final fight is so relentless.

And I can't even say how I might fix it. My gut reaction is shorter, make it shorter because there are no good subplots to cut away to. At that point the helicarrier is safe and they'd already killed the best character to come out of these linked movies, so I don't want to go there. The best New Yorkers are for is short reaction shots to the horror around them and that's the only way they're useful to the movie.

Maybe the next one will leave me feeling energized in the end rather than bored. I'm rooting for you Mr. Wheadon. We all are.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

"What are we going to do without you?"

To get it out of the way, I have been told that I "suckle at the government's tit."

I've worked for the State as a low level office drone for almost seven years. For most of my years I've pushed paper and answered phones. I've done piddly-ass work so that the "real" work, the "important" work, can be done by those higher up.

I used to work for a different department, but there was no place to go there. My boss told me that. So, I moved where I thought there would be opportunities. I moved where the money was. A month later, the money was gone and so were the opportunities. Plus, I hated, HATED my boss and the work that I was doing. It wore me down.

So, even though I had sent out a bunch of applications for a position that's a step higher I took a job at the same level within the same department, but with a different supervisor. Stress level, better. Sleep, no longer full of creepy dreams about babies. It took 13 months to get out of it, though.

After a couple of month of working in the new position, sometime in January, my boss took me aside and basically asked me what the hell I was doing at my level. I told her that I'd been trying to get a different job, but that the few interviews I'd gone to hadn't done anything for me. I don't think I screwed any of them up, just got the feeling that the people I interviewed with wanted to promote from within rather than give the fat, geeky guy a chance. (Yes, I am bitter. Why do you ask?) Still, I told her that I was trying, just nothing much was coming from all the applications I'd sent out.

She gave me a speech about how she supports upward mobility blah, blah, blah, and that I should keep trying.

Of course, I have been trying. In the past three months I've sent out over 50 applications. (I know because it takes two friggin' stamps to send an application and I've use up a roll of 100 and then some.) Most of them have been for the promotion, a couple for the same level. Last week was the first interview I had since March (February?). It was for my current level, but I need to keep in practice and it's for a place that will, eventually, be interviewing for that next level. I thought it would be good to get my face out there.

The interview went well. I made the panel laugh. I had a good story about teamwork. I took a half hour when they had penciled in 15 minutes and they didn't try to hurry me. I had a decent answer to the "best and worst" qualities question. I watched them fill up their papers with my answers. I was full of very specific questions about where the job will be. I felt good. (Of course, I've felt good about all the interviews I've had in the past year.)

Today, my supervisor came and told me that she was called for a reference check. Then she says, "I don't think we'll be able to get along without you."

A little later the second in command, a woman who I respect and admire, told me about the reference check and asked, "What will we do without you?"

After the staff meeting, where I take minutes, I told my boss not to worry about the room because I'd already been in contact with the people in charge and I'd taken care of it. She said, "I don't think we can let you go." Sure, she was smiling when she said it, but she said it. I was glad the call came in before the meeting.

While I was cleaning up my office a different supervisor, not in charge of me, but in charge of people I work with, told me that I can't leave. They need me.

The thing is, if offered, I probably won't take the job. I want, and finally believe that I deserve, a promotion. I know that I'm a problem because I don't understand the game. I don't know how to get my nose all brown. (I have a problem of answering the questions I'm asked honestly.) I don't want to move two hours away for no movement in my employment, start a lease, then get an interview and an offer from a step up that's in another town entirely. I can't afford two leases. If I could I wouldn't be looking for a step up.

Of course, this leads to the question of why stick with this whole system, right? Well, I've never been hired by a place that wasn't desperate for someone until this last move. My first job in college I got because two of their staff members quit during the first week of school. My next job was at a Starbucks that was opening and they only started interviewing people a month before the opening and we were understaffed when we opened. (I haven't had many jobs. I stay where I am for a while.) When I got hired by the state the office had been short five people and were eager to finally get staffed. When I moved to this department they were interviewing for three positions and, I found out later, only interviewed six people.

Plus, I'm vested in the pension program. Sure, I have more than thirty years until I retire and by then the more conservative elements may finally have their way and eliminate the pension because those of us in the state obviously people like me don't work, but I'm vested. Every year I get closer to a retirement that a person can actually live off of and medical benefits that won't punish me for going to the doctor as I age. These are the reasons I was willing to work for the state in the first place.

None of that matters, though. What matters is how my coworkers, people who have told me that I do good work, that I should be working at a higher level, are trying to make me feel guilty for wanting to move on while attempting to make it sound like a complement.

It, literally, makes me feel sick to my stomach. I felt fine until my boss ended our first conversation with  "I don't think we'll be able to get along without you."

And so I end my rant. I apologize, but I needed to get it out there. To ask if it's just me being a paranoid asshole or what. I just don't know anymore.


Tuesday, June 05, 2012

A Talk at Work

We started by talking about the change in attitude by the dental people who work third watch. She said she remembered when everyone was fairly happy and got along and worked together. I asked her when she thought the attitude changed. She said the major difference happened in February when just about everyone on third watch thought they were going to be laid off and then in March when one of the assistants actually was let go. Then she moved into how much it bothers her when people say that there’s no work out there because she’s worked two jobs for a large part of her working life. “There are jobs,” she said, “if people are willing to look for them.”

“The ones that are easiest to get are at places like KFC,” I said, “where the turnover is high. How can you support a family when you’re getting paid just above minimum wage?”

“Inflation’s a problem,” she said.

I agreed.

“It got so bad,” she said, “because all those women wanted to go to work in the ‘50s.”

I was shocked and a little bit outraged. To blame increased cost of living on women working? Absurd. Right?

I didn’t say that though. I just listened. She believes that because women started to work and households started to earn more money that when they started to spend that money prices on everything were raised. “It’s supply and demand,” she said. “If people weren’t willing to pay the higher prices then prices would go down.”

“But,” I said, “almost all families were single income until the mid ‘80s.” -- I don’t actually know if this is true. It sounds true enough, though. -- “By the mid ‘90s most were double income families. Most families can’t survive comfortably, or at all, without two people working.”

“They could if prices go down.”

“But they’re not going down, even during the mess that’s been going on for the last five years.”

“Prices are going down,” she said.

“What? Like car prices?” I asked.

She said that car prices are going down because so many people have started to buy used cars. The car companies have to lower their prices on new cars. I said that I haven’t noticed a difference. There’s not much below $20,000, I said. She said that everything that lasts has come down in price.

“Does that really matter if wages haven’t kept up with cost of living?” I asked.

She looked at me.

“I mean,” I said, “that when they take out the price of food and fuel it looks like prices haven’t gone up much.”

“But everyone has to eat,” she said, smiling.

“Exactly. How can a family do anything if the price of food and the heating and how they get to work keep going up?”

“They can’t,” she said, “but if they refused to pay high prices--“

“How can they pay less for food?” I interrupted. “Grow their own food? Most people can’t even have a garden. Food prices have nothing to do with women going to work.”

“It’s like this,” she said. “When one person works they only make this much money” – She raised her hand up a little. – “and can only spend so much. When two people work they make this much.” – She raised her other hand higher than the first. – “What do they do with all the extra? They spend it and that make prices go up. Better to have only one person work.”

My jaw hung slack. “I’m not an economist,” I said, “but I don’t think that’s right.”

“I haven’t studied economics,” she said, “but I grew up in the 60s and 70s and I remember my mom saying that everything was getting more expensive and this was when lots of women started to go to work. If just a few had gone to work everything would have stayed the same, but when most of them started working prices went insane.”

And if I start to pay you to protect me from tigers and I never get attacked by a tiger living in California then you must be protecting me from tiger, I thought.

“If all the women just quit their jobs” – She smiled and chuckled for the first time during this conversation, as if it were all a joke. – “prices would get better.”

For a second I thought about mentioning the insane inflation of food prices in China, but knew that she would just point out that more women are working there, too. It’s hard for me to point to any recently successful economy in this world where prices on food are going up where women aren’t a large part of the workforce. I think they have to word as much as they want to work. She’d just argue that all the prices there were cheaper before so many women started working.

“They wouldn’t go down,” I said, instead of speaking my thoughts.

“I think they would,” she said. “You know, people can survive with only one person working. They just have to make sacrifices.”

I let the conversation stop there. I had nothing more to say to her. She’s not going to leave her job even though she just married one of the officers here. We talked about that a while ago, long before she told me inflation is because women work. She’s going to work for a least another 10 years, she told me. She’s going work, even though he brings home a nice salary and will get a good pension when he retires, because she wants buy some nice things and fix her place up and live comfortably.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

How to Make Friendship

Found this picture over on *shudder* Facebook. It explains so much about my life.

More Out

Sent out nine applications last week. One of them still works for the state, but the job's in Houston. Which is cool. (Not as in the weather.) It would be cooler, though, if it would  be for a promotion. Still, if I get an interview, I'll be happy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Life's Distractions

When the mail goes out tomorrow I will have sent out eight applications this week. Most have been to Cowcity, another was sent to Hell-A.

Every day I want to quit my job. My mother keeps telling me I should and go back to school. Get my MA and teach at a JC. I feel like I can't though.

And I don't understand... It's that word "can't." Of course I can. It'd be easy. I just write a letter to my boss saying my last day will be payday then fill out the paperwork and leave.

...And then go back to school?

I want to go to school. I'd like to get my Master's, but I don't want to not be working while I'm in school. The degree needs to be for me first, not the possibility of a job. Besides, if I quit I lose over four hundred hours of sick leave. (If they fire me, pardon, lay me off it'll keep for five or seven years, depending on the person I speak with, and will be waiting for me when I start back up with the state.) Mostly, though, I want to make sure I have a job before I go and spend thousands of dollars as an excuse to write about fanfiction.

As usual, thinking about all of this deepens the valley my brain sits in. And so I go for distractions.

A while ago I wrote (at least I'm pretty sure I wrote, but I couldn't find the post) that I think most people find something important to them to keep them too distracted to become too... thoughtful, as if full of thought. People distract themselves with other people, be it a lover, friends, children. People distract themselves with work. People distract themselves with hobbies. People distract themselves with TV or video games. People distract themselves with drugs, sometimes hardcore and sometime perfectly legal. People distract themselves with sex. Distraction helps keep us and the economy going.

I've been trying to find something to distract myself with to get rid of the thoughts. When I was still living in North Bay I was coming close to being distracted by writing. I got to the point where I was writing a little every day. Just notes, mostly. All of it silly fanfictions. Nothing great, but I was writing. I was on my way to being an amateur writer. (Sure, someday I was hoping to go pro, but that would be sometime after I competed in the Olympics.) Then I got a new job and moved.

I thought I'd be cool with new job. Just move in, move on, and keep going. And then it turned out my job was built around misery and dreams about finding babies to care for. And I couldn't write fiction of any sort. Sure, I could still blog, although not much, as seen by the paltry number of posts in 2011 and thus far in 2012. The hole got deeper and the deeper it goes the harder it was for me to write. But I got out of that craptastic job last fall, everything didn't get better. Oh, the stress and the baby dreams disappeared, which was great, but they were replaced with an all encompassing feeling that my position will never change. My work life will never get better. I'll always be on, or near, the bottom, ignored because I am the way I am and physically feel ill when I try to be different. These past seven months and dozens of applications and at least five interviews only reinforce the horrible things I believe about my professional life. And I'm tired of thinking about it. Hence, distractions.

The thing is, though, that I don't care for people, don't plan on having a lover, don't often feel like I have any friends, and don't want kids. I hate my work and that won't change unless I can move up a little. Video games work for a day, maybe, but not longer than that and only two or three times a month. I argue with the TV and dissect what I watch to myself all the time. Drugs cost money that I don't want to spend. And I'm not having sex with anyone anytime soon.

That leave a hobby. But I have no hobby. Writing was a hobby, but from deep in the hole I can't write what I'd like to write; I can only write narcissistic, nihilistic nothings like this. What can be my hobby?

Well, last week, I bought a ukelele (you may pronounce it either way, I'm cool with that). So far it is only mildly distracting because I can't play songs on it. I can read the music and I've sort of learned how to read tabs, but I can't move from one chord to another within the space of a beat, yet. Practice is what it'll take. Patients is what I hope I have. I really need... I really hope that it'll be distracting enough.

Monday, May 14, 2012


There are three 5-year-old kids in my brain. And I talk to them. Not out loud. In my head. Which is where most thoughts should be kept.

Two of the kids I explain stuff to. I break things down into the simplest terms I can. They ask questions and I try to answer the questions the best that I can in ways that they understand. They tell me when they don't understand what I'm explaining. I don't know who these kids are and I don't know what their sexes are. I just know that they are human and not much older than 5.

The third one, I know. She's my niece. I talk to her about me and her and living life. I talk about why I am the way I am and why she shouldn't just assume that one way of living, mine or someone else's, is the right way to live. She listens to me and she's pretty sure that I'm an idiot, but for some crazy reason she still listens. I do my best not to make her sad. I happens, though.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Even though we all knew...

I did not get that job I interviewed for a week-and-a-half ago. Shocker!

However, one of the people doing the interview came to me personally and said that I was in their top three (or five, depending on when I listened to her). She also said that she and the other woman interviewing me saw that I was ready to be put into an analyst position and that I was being wasted (my word, not her's) at my current level. She also hinted that there may soon be more analyst level position being introduced where I'm at.

I thanked her and didn't roll my eyes.

I have depressing and sad questions I want to ask, but I think I'll keep them to myself this evening.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Like a Hippo in the Desert

The usual complaint: I don't like my job.

The surprise: I don't HATE it like I did my last job.

The unfortunate truth: I can't seem to settle into a comfortable loathing.

I didn't like my job when I lived in the North Bay. Just scroll through, oh, just about every post I wrote from September 2005 through September 2010 and you'll see how much I didn't like the job. With the exception of the time they forced us into using a horrible, horrible computer program (seriously it was "paperless," but my office used twice as much paper after we started to use it and even though the page for a person had their address it neglected to show their zip-code, to find the zip-code you had to click five different links), I didn't hate where I was. Eventually I settled into a comfortable loathing of the situation and my biggest frustration was that there was no where for me to promote to.

So, I moved to the physical location I'm at now. I thought that if I came here there'd be opportunity. I'd work hard and do a good job and when a position for a promotion came up I'd get a good shot at it because I'd have an in. Except that since I got here there have only been two openings for the next step up. One I didn't interview for because I could be closer to the asshole boss I had at the time and the other one I really wasn't qualified for. And so for the next six months I tossed out applications to other places with no response.

Eventually I had two interviews. Both at my current location. Both in the same class that I'm in now. I was offered both jobs and jumped at one of them because I had to get away from the job that was giving me stress dreams. And it is so much less stressful. (I haven't had any dreams about having babies forced on me for months.)

The biggest problem with this current job is that there isn't enough work for me. I know that sound's crazy, but it's the way it is. There are three other people in my classification in this group and we all do the same work. One of us has her own special location, so her work isn't horned in on. The other two and I all deal with the same pile of work and it isn't enough for three people. I think it's just the right amount for two people though. When one of us is on vacation there's plenty of work to do, but not so much that anyone becomes overwhelmed and we're only occasionally bored.

And I've been continually sending out applications for a promotion. Since I got this job I think I've been on six interviews that would be a promotion. Obviously I haven't gotten any offers. I have another one on Friday, but I'm not going to get the job. (I'm not just being negative. There's been a woman filling in for the past three months. She's going to get the job because she's been doing the job.) Part of me doesn't want to go to the interview, but I need to for the exposure, if for no other reason.

I'm hoping that I'll be good enough in the interview that maybe the next time an out-of-class appointment comes up I'll be thought of because I don't know how else to do it. There's some sort of game to the situation, I know that much. The problem is that I don't know what the board looks like, let alone know any of the rules. How can I play the game? Do I even want to play the game? If it has to do with schmoozing can I play it? Maybe there's some way around the game. Maybe if I am good enough at my job someone will take notice and give me a shot.

That's why tomorrow I'm mailing out an application for my current level at a place that's even bigger than where I am. I hope, but don't really believe, that if I get in I can dazzle through my work ethic and when I get an interview I'll finally have been able to help myself. Is it possible to get people to notice you by doing what you're supposed to do really, really well?

I hope so.

I wished I believed so.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Over the last two day's I've watched the six episodes of SMASH out there, as of two-thirty PM PDT.

For those who don't know, SMASH is, theoretically, about the development of a new Broadway show based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. Like most TV shows that are procedurals, though, it's really about the characters and their lives. And that's where it falls flat, for me. Right now I only really like two characters. The first is Eileen Rand, played by the deliciously scene chewing Anjelica Huston, the producer of the play trying to pull together the backers and money to put on a workshop of the play. The other is Derek Wills, played by Jack Davenport (which is fun because I've been slowly working my way through the original version of Coupling where he plays Steve), the plays director.

The problem with these two characters is that they are so buried in the world of Broadway that they don't provide a way into that world. They know the tricks and rules so they don't explain anything to the audience. Maybe that's part of why I like them so much. They know. They're inside. That's the world I want to know.

There are two characters that are new to the Broadway world: Karen Cartwright, played by Katharine McPhee, and Ellis Tancharoen, played by Jaime Cepero. Ellis is the assistant to Tom Levitt, played by Christian Borle, a co-writer of the play and Karen the the wide-eyed mid-west girl come to the big city to be a star. These are characters designed to lead an audience into the weird world of plays. I don't like them, though.

Karen is too naive. She's constantly shocked at, well, everything. (Except for one time where the director wanted her to sleep with him and she didn't. That was a great moment.) She's exhausting.

Ellis was who I hoped would be the audience surrogate. He's the assistant to one of the writers. He has a front row seat to the creation of the songs and book. He can ask all the questions about how the songs are written and help the audience see how plays are created. Unfortunately, it looks like he's going to is a villain, and he never asks questions about the creative process.

The fact that I don't really like any of the characters isn't my real problem with the show, though. I want to delve into the behind the scenes creation of a play. I like to see how the sausage is made. I want the boring dirty details that go creation.

It seem to me that SMASH moves too fast. The songs are too finished. Where's the revision? Where's the evolution the the music? The alteration of the lyrics? The dances are perfected. Where's the choreographer practicing by himself in front of the mirror finding the perfect step, turn, turn, step, kick, step? Where's the frustration at teaching the chorus the step? Yes, I like seeing the dance numbers and hearing the songs, but when they come out complete it makes everything seem too easy. I don't just want to hear about Julia Houston, played by Debra Messing, having trouble writing the book and lyrics. I want to see her agonizing over finding the perfect lyric, the perfect line. (There was a moment in the third episode when Julia was trying to figure out how to write "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," but it was only a taste of the agonizingly beautiful frustration of creation I want to see.)

And then there are the musical numbers. They are so polished. So finished. I don't just mean the choreography. I mean that the songs are very finely produced. Example: In the first episode Karen sings the song "Beautiful" while she auditions for the part of Marilyn. It starts out with her singing with only a piano accompanying her. Then in come stings and whatnot. Yeah, the lighting changes, suggesting that this is a bit of a fantasy sequence, but why can't it just be a simple audition? Oh, yeah, the people in charge of the show want to be like Glee and make a shit ton of money selling covers, and originals. Still, when they're rehearsing and the only instrument is a piano and then I hear drums and strings and horns I get pulled out of the show and wonder where the orchestra is sitting? At least in Glee they always magically have an orchestra with them.

I plan to keep watching this show, even though it bothers me. I don't hate it like I do Glee. This show was built for a person like me. I love theater, including musical theater. I love TV shows that go behind the scenes. So I'll keep watching.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Something I Want To Be...

I would really like to be the person someone runs lines with as they learn them. The lines, I mean.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Really, Only I Care

I've been watching too much YouTube and it led me to decide that when they make a Wicked movie, based on the play, not the book, Anne Hathaway should play Elphaba. She can act. She can sing. And she'll probably look really nice green.

Still not sure about Galinda/Glinda, though. The idea of Heather Morris as Glinda amuses me, but I don't think she has the voice for it. (Of course, whose voice could compare to Kristen Chenoweth? No one.)

At least I have the main character cast. (I even have a back-up actress in Jenna Leigh Green. She'd be good, too. Although I don't think she's "bankable" enough to be cast.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Screw It

Here's a few more:

(Couldn't find a live version pre-1983 so I thought we should go with the original recording.)

I guess I'm just in a mood tonight.

Not even close...

...to the song I wanted to post, but these are two that I never skip.

I grew up in an era without variety shows. I think I missed out on something.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Another Fucking Presidential Election

Okay, well... I wondered how it would be to work with someone who actually cared about... I mean... It couldn't always have been the way it is now. It must have been different in my grandfather's time. You were there. You had Kennedy. I didn't. I've never heard a president say "destiny" and "sacrifice" without thinking, "bullshit." Okay, maybe it was bullshit with Kennedy, too, but... but people believed it. And I guess, that's what I want. I want to believe it.
That's from the movie version of Primary Colors.

Yeah, I watched that movie again. I like it. But that bit up above really stuck with me this time.

Do you remember the US presidential election of 2008? Do you remember all the people hoping for hope? I think the character of Henry, from the movie up above, would have like that election. He would have been out there with the "Hope We Can Believe In" signs like so many others were.

And even though I wasn't one of those people. Even though I called it all bullshit early on, I'm a little bit sad that no one's going to believe, really BELIEVE in a candidate this year.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Julia Nunes Videos

This was the first thing of hers that I saw:

It's an excellent video, I think, especially since it all seems to be done with a web cam. I like the song a lot, too.

This is her newest video from her soon to be released album:

Much more slick, but still wonderful.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Mild Case of Turmoil

Today some people in the department where I work were notified that they will be laid-off as of Wednesday.

I wasn't there when they were told, that would have been inappropriate, but I was told that some people were taken into the head supervisor's office and were in a closed door meeting. (There aren't many closed door meetings, so this was unusual.)

Then, on my way out, there were many tears and hugs and red eyes among the women.

I just walked through, signed out, and left for the day. It was awkward. At least for me, I really wasn't noticed during the eye wiping.

The thing I started wondering, as I drove away, was how am I supposed to feel about all of this? The losing co-workers, I mean. I've been with this group of people for three-and-a-half months now. Mostly I sit at my desk in the little office tucked behind the inmate bathroom (There's a vent, I hear the pissing, pooping, and singing. There's a surprising amount of singing in that bathroom.) with the two women who are the same classification as I am. I don't really deal with anyone else. And, being me, I don't go out of my way, ever, to try to get to know them. Yes, I brought corn biscuits (outstanding) and honey butter (too much vanilla) to the potluck, but I just slipped in for a plate then back to my desk. I barely know these people by name. (Although the cute one, who I thought was cute when I first saw her last year, I learned her name pretty quick.) I recognize all their faces now, and I smile and greet them in the mornings, but that's it.

So, how am I supposed to feel about the lay-offs?

Yes, I'm angry and sad that people are losing their jobs when The State has no fucking clue how this "re-alignment" is actually going to shake out. (I have predictions, but now's not the time.) But I'm not sad or angry about the individuals who are leaving. In fact, one of my first thoughts was maybe I can be moved to the desk in the clinic so I'm not trapped in the hole behind the toilet. Of course that mean's I'd be in the clinic and I'd actually have to deal with all these co-workers and a regular basis. That's a plus and a minus.

And then I thought that wasn't how I was supposed to react. Which led me to the question I keep asking.

How am I supposed to feel about the people who are losing their jobs?

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Three Down... Seven To Go

Two-ish weeks before Thanksgiving, my grandpa was sent to the hospital and had a toe amputated. It was massively infected. A few days later they decided that it was too infected and took another toe and some bone and splayed the foot open to hook it up to a wound vac. After picking up my brother, sister-in-law, and niece from the train station the Sunday before the holiday we stopped by and visited, that's the day they first hooked him up to the vac.

Eventually, the vac did it's job and cleaned the infection from his toe, but as it pumped, other stuff happened.

My grandma was left alone. She's starting to lose her marbles, to put it indelicately. She doesn't remember people. She doesn't remember much of anything. She doesn't feed herself because she doesn't. She may think she ate so she insists that she isn't hungry. So, people started having to stay with her. Mostly my asshole uncle who's been unemployed for the last fifteen years and fleecing his parents for rent money. (He was a contractor and said he couldn't find a job during the housing boom. He's a fucktard.) He manipulates people with half-truths and full lies. I've never trusted him my whole life. In the first two weeks he stayed with my grandma he conned her out of more that $4000.

My parents have been working to keep he from pulling his shit and keeping his lies away from my grandma. The problem is that they work while he doesn't. He's there and they're not. They can't be. When they get to him on the weekends she's more confused and angry than she should be. She's gotten better in the last two weeks because my parents have been out of school and been with her. They've spent most of the last week with her. They went down Tuesday and got back today only for my dad to go back down this evening.

The asshole's going to be with her tomorrow night through Wednesday. My mother has taken six or eight weeks off. Leave of absences. She'll be spending most of that with my grandmother.

Back to before Christmas:

While my grandpa was in a rehab place with his foot hooked up to a vacuum, my other grandma, not his wife, went in for hip surgery. It went great, but she was at the surgery center for three days, during which time her husband was having stomach aches so severe he wasn't eating food or drinking beer, and he's a guy who usually has four beers in a day. Oh, and he had blood in his stool. Oh, and he had chest pains. This all came out after my grandma got home, about a week after her surgery. My uncles basically abducted him and forced him to the VA in Palo Alto where the doctor found a blip, as my uncle called it, in his colon and the doctor diagnosed his pain, on a scale of 1 to 10, as a 7.5 to 8. They gave his some anti-acid meds to calm his tummy and he's eating again and apparently he's not bleeding when he craps anymore. He hasn't been back to the doctor to have a camera jammed down his throat to check for ulcers and he hasn't had a camera crammed up his ass to snip the polyp. Hopefully soon.

My other grandpa, meanwhile, had his foot cleaned of infection so to finally, after a month, seal his foot they had to take another toe. He only has the first two now. All though this ordeal he's wanted to get home. Every time someone has seen him in the hospital or spoken to him on the phone he says he wants to come home. He's never had strong legs. He's always sat most of the day. He fell out of his chair -- cutting open his head and breaking his nose -- because walking from the rehab thing to his room wore him out so he fell asleep. The walk is maybe 150 feet. The guy can't piss standing up anymore; he could barely do it while he had all his toes. He can't pull his pants up. And he wants to go home.

He claims that he can take care of himself and my grandma like he was before. Back then he had my aunt coming over every Saturday, though. She'd take them shopping. She'd clean. She'd bath my grandma. She did as much as she could on that one day to set them up for the whole week to come. My parents visited them about every third Sunday. My aunt has taking this horrible situation with the toes and decided that once my grandpa gets home she's going to cut them off. No visits. Not even a phone call. My dad keeps saying that my grandpa can't go home. The thing is my grandpa's mind is totally sound. My dad isn't willing to cancel his appointments with students. My mom has taken time away from work to be there when my grandpa gets home. She's mostly there to make sure that when he falls she can call someone and, hopefully, then convince him that he can't do everything alone anymore.

He'll need someone to help him with my grandma. He'll need someone to help him help himself. That means they probably won't be living in their 3 bedroom ranch home and into a tiny 2 bedroom really expensive apartment in a nursing home.

Happy New Year.