Posts belonging to Category Personal Life Stuff

Gainful Employment

I accepted a contract position as a Systems Analyst this morning.  It’s not my ideal job, as it’s not as technical as I have been in the past.  But it’s a relief to know that I have somewhere to go when my current job ends on the 28th.  Total days I will be unemployed: 1.

The Corporate Ax Falleth Upon My Neck

I got word yesterday morning that I am being laid off (1) at the end of March unless I can find another position in the company.  Of course this is a bit like the corporate version of musical chairs, except that instead of taking away one chair they’re removing hundreds.  After perusing the internal job postings, I didn’t see anything that fit my needs(2), so I expect that March 28th will mark the end of 19 years with the company.

I’ve halfway been expecting this for nearly a year.  They weren’t giving us any significant new work due to constant budget cuts, and my primary mission is to turn requirements into designs and guide them through the development process.  Hence I was pretty underutilized, and ended up working on some on-going support tasks and some Java development.  I am guilty of just not taking it seriously enough, I suppose.

Anyhow, I am trying to look at this as more of an opportunity than an obstacle.  They’re giving me six months of pay as well as medical and life insurance, so I have a bit of cushion.  I’ve got my resume out to a couple of people now for review and will get it out on the major sites to get the ball rolling on something regular.  The upside is that I am seeing a lot of openings.  It just appears to be a matter of getting my qualifications across in the best light for each one.  And if nothing is forthcoming I’m considering going freelance, perhaps even starting my own company.  There seems to be a lot of work available if you can build up your reputation.

Updated to add: They are also offering up to $2500 in reimbursement for training.  I’m contemplating whether to get a Project Management certification.  My work has always been intricately linked with the project management role, and I’ve even filled in as a PM on a fairly large project when the PM was injured and was away for several months.  But I’m open to suggestions on other skills that might be useful to acquire.  I’ve got more than 10 years doing J2EE apps, so I have lots of experience in Java, servlets, JDBC, database design and implementation (DB2 and MySQL), JSPs, etc.  Also web services using SOAP.  I’ve got some personal experience writing in PHP and Perl for the web, and I know my way around Linux (actually, Unix in general) pretty well.  But I’ve never done .NET, C#, or any of the Microsoft stuff.

(1) Isn’t it interesting all the euphemisms and rhetorical contortions that are required in corporate speak to avoid saying the “l” word?

(2) I find myself in the unenviable position of owning a home in a down market, which severely limits my mobility.  I suppose I could try to rent it out if I had to move somewhere else, but the logistics of that are messy.  Additionally, the D/FW area has one of the better job markets in the country, so I am hopeful for a good outcome.


I’ve been dithering over what to get to replace the Avalanche since well before I had it paid off.  I was looking for something that could carry at least four people and two dogs and that would be easier for the dogs to get into and out of, particularly since Malcolm (the Collie) is not coordinated enough to climb like Boots can.

I finally got serious about it last week and decided to take a really close look at the Ford Flex.  It’s lower to the ground, has room for 6 or 7 people (depending on the chosen options), and the rear seats can fold down for the dogs.  After checking with my credit union to line up financing, I went to Five Star Ford (NRH) last Friday afternoon and spent about three hours with a lady from their credit union/fleet department test driving a couple of models (the SEL and Limited).  She was very easy to work with and (unlike the ‘regular’ part of the dealership) didn’t try to pressure me into taking what’s on the lot or any particular options.  She took the time to look around the area and find a Flex with the exact options that I wanted.  In particular, I wanted a Flex Limited with the 40-40 second row but without a console (and especially without that silly refrigerator option).  I also wanted the dark blue (what Ford calls “Kona Blue”).  It turned out that there was exactly ONE model within 300 miles, located at a dealership in Houston.  She called them and arranged a dealer trade.

So, as of 6:00pm yesterday, I traded in the Avalanche and I am now the owner of a 2011 Ford Flex Limited in Kona blue with silver roof:

Flexter?  Needs a nickname... Flex from the back.

It’s a little strange to NOT be driving a truck or SUV, since I’ve been driving them since 1993.  But I think this is a good compromise.  It’s got nice upright seating, and you can see fairly well, but you don’t have to climb into and out of it.  Another plus is that the second row seating has a lot of legroom.  I put the driver’s seat all the way back and was still able to easily get in and out of the second row (and had lots of room to stretch out).

Besides, I wasn’t using the capabilities of the Avalanche to its fullest: I haven’t towed anything in many years (since I moved to Keller) and I used the AWD maybe twice in the 7 years I had it.  So I really couldn’t see getting another SUV.  If I need to tow or haul, I can rent a truck or get a hitch fitted to the Flex when the need arises.

No Good Deed Unpunished

While I was at the ATM this evening I noticed someone pull up behind me just as I was finishing.  Rather than hold them up I pulled forward enough to let them access the machine while I put away my card, cash, and receipt.  But no sooner than I’d pulled forward and folded the receipt the asshole pulled up and started honking.  He hadn’t even tried to use the ATM.

So I went ahead and finished putting stuff away and started to put the truck into gear when this guy started honking again along with the addition of yelling something or other that I couldn’t make out.  It was bad enough that he’d honked at all, so his escalating bad manners tripped my passive-aggressive frack with assholes gene.  I put the truck into reverse and held it there for a few seconds, then put it into drive and waited a purposely languid five-count.  This sent Mr. Impatient Rage-Head off the deep end and he really started losing it so I went ahead and moved forward, but at the slowest possible speed that an Avalanche can attain (so slow as to be unreadable on the speedometer).

I think what really happened here is that Mr. Impatient Rage-Head was trying to drive through instead of going to the ATM and misinterpreted my moving forward as being done rather than as doing him the favor of allowing access to the machine.  I say this because he immediately went to one of the nearby parking spots and someone got out.  Frankly, though, if you’re going to get into the ATM lane, you should expect some sort of delay.

I get a real kick out of annoying assholes, especially inconsiderate ones.  I think I need a bumper-sticker to that effect.  Although that might take some of the fun out of it.  Anyhow, the more you push, the more I resist and dawdle and delay.  It’s a natural and ingrained reaction.  But assholes never learn, so I seem to have a never-ending source for amusement.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

And… something which needs no additional verbiage from me: Celtic Woman’s rendition of O Holy Night:

And… We’re Back

What? You thought you were rid of me?

No such luck.

While I may have taken an unscheduled sabbatical, I found I just couldn’t stay away. There’s too much to say and Facebook just isn’t cut out for anything longer than about two lines.

The signal continues… (just as soon as I figure out how to operate the rest of this shiny new WordPress install).

Pinnacle Security: FAIL

I am finding of late that despite my “NO SOLICITORS” sign a number of people are still ringing my bell during the day.  One of these days I will get another one for the religious people (as they all seem to think they aren’t solicitors, but are doing “God’s work” or something).  Anyhow, most of the remaining non-religious solicitors are ones who want to argue with you as to whether they are a solicitor or not.

Today’s award for “reading comprehension FAIL” goes to the representative for Pinnacle Security who rang the bell even though he clearly saw the sign.  I opened the door and he immediately launched into his spiel about how he was visiting with people in the neighborhood who had security systems.  I immediately stopped him and asked if he’d seen the sign and knew about Keller’s soliciting ordinance.  His answer was that he was not a solicitor and he didn’t need a permit because he didn’t take money; instead he was just doing “marketing.”  I told him that I a) I considered him a solicitor, and b) I had an alarm and didn’t need or want any “upgrades.”  He tried once again to launch into his spiel, but I stopped him and told him to leave.  He gave me a strange look like he was considering something, but instead said, “I’ll leave whenever you want.”  Which had me thinking, Why are you still here, then?, but I didn’t say it, as he finally got the message from my expression that he was quickly moving from annoyance to potential threat and decided to leave.

It only occurred to me afterwards that perhaps he got a glimpse of the Springfield XD 40 that I was carrying.  It was not intentional, but earlier I had been fiddling with the radio in my truck and my garage was hot so I took off my outer shirt.  When he arrived I was just wearing an undershirt and I had to scramble to get my shirt to cover the gun.  I left it unbuttoned, though, which is why in hindsight it’s possible that he saw it.  Of course, this being Texas, if you freak out when you discern that the resident of the house has a gun you’re probably not cut out for door-to-door solicitation jobs.

Going Round-and-Round With My Tires

Last week I finally bit the bullet and bought a new set of tires for the Avalanche.  While the OEM Goodyears still had decent tread depth (they only had about 35K miles on them), they sucked in the rain.  Further, the right rear tire had a plug in it from a previous encounter with a screw, and the left rear had a slow leak.  They were due for rotation soon and I didn’t want to rotate the plugged tire to the front, but at the same time the fronts had developed an uneven wear pattern, so just swapping them from side to side wouldn’t probably be enough.

Anyway, all things considered, I thought it was time to replace them.  So I started looking online at the various brands and models of tires and all of the reviews on them.  The wealth of information that was available (some tires had over 1000 reviews on Tire Rack’s website) was what really led me down a rat hole.  After about a month of dithering, I finally narrowed it down to specific models from Hankook, Continental, and Michelin.  All were fairly expensive, with the Hankook’s being the least expensive at just over $850 installed, up to the Michelin, which were quoted on Discount Tire’s website at $1049 installed. 

After a final round of dithering due to the cost, I called Discount Tire on Wednesday and they suggested I come into the store to see the tires in person.  They didn’t have the Hankook in stock, but did have the Continental ContiCrossContact LX and Michelin LTX M/S in stock.

Wednesday was also the dogs’ yearly vet visit day, so after picking them up at about 5:30 (and dropping $560 into Parkside’s coffers), I rushed over to Discount Tire.  I got there about 5:45 and after looking at the tires and discussing it with Aaron (the sales rep), I decided on the Michelin tires (which came out to $997 in the store; I wasn’t completely sure what was different from the online quote, but I wasn’t adverse to keeping the extra $50).  By then it was just about 6:00pm and they were supposed to be closing.  Because of the delay with the vet, and the fact that I had the dogs in the truck, I wasn’t really expecting to have the tires changed right then, but the manager suggested that they could install them right then and that it wouldn’t be a problem.

I have to say that they were very quick and efficient about it all.  They even let me bring the dogs inside while we waited.  They had the tires installed and I was out the door by 6:15pm.  If you should be in the market for new tires, go see Aaron at Discount Tire in Keller.  Other than the hit to the pocketbook (and just when did tires get so damn expensive?), the process was pretty painless.

Now to wait for the first good rainstorm to see how these tires handle.  In my short time with them so far they seem to ride smoother and quieter than the old ones.  Although I should note for the record that my garage now smells like a tire store. 

On The Wrong Foot

This is looking more and more like one of those days I should not have bothered to get out of bed (if I could have slept, that is).

It started around 4:00am when I woke up and couldn’t sleep, although I must have drifted off somewhere south of 5:00am because my alarm finally woke me at 6:00.  Once I got out of bed I discovered that an old foot injury has reappeared, causing me to gimp around (it’s a little better now, but not great).

During my morning routine the bathroom radio quit, so I started looking around and finally figured out that I didn’t have power to any of the outlets in the master bath.  Since the breakers weren’t labeled (I guess that will be my next project) I flipped all of the 20-amps off and back on.  Unfortunately, that didn’t restore power to the bathroom, but it did manage to wedge the Tivo, all of my Squeezebox players, and the FiOS ONT’s internet and TV functions.  shut eye

So, I determined that one of the breakers is probably bad.  But since my first meeting of the morning was approaching, I really needed to get the internet access going so I could use my VoIP phone.  After an hour of fidding, unplugging, rebooting, and various diagnostics I figured that it must be the ONT and I called Verizon.  They rebooted the ONT and the phone and TV started working again.  grin  For all of five minutes.  blank stare  Then everything but the phone went offline and the ONT started beeping (something it had never done before).  After a bit of further fiddling it turned out that the stupid GFCI* outlet in the garage that is used by the ONT had tripped.  Once I reset it, the beeping stopped and the internet and TV started working again.**

I’ve since called the home warranty company and opened a ticket and the electrician is scheduled to come take a look at the breakers tomorrow morning.  But my Squeezeboxes are still discombobulated and are turning themselves on and off at random intervals.  confused   I suspect I’m going to have to go to each one and do a factory reset at some point.  One of these days this sort of thing will sufficiently motivate me to put the Tivo and the Squeezeboxes on UPSes to avoid all of the fuss whenever there’s a momentary power hit.

And to top it off, I really need to go to the store, as I’m running out of a lot of important stuff (like dog biscuits).  But between my foot and my luck, I think I’m just going to order a pizza tonight and stay in.  There’s no sense tempting fate.  Or gimping around more than I have to…

*And why is it that this house has a GFCI outlet in the garage (next to the breaker panel) but none in the bathrooms?  I know that current code requires them in bathrooms, so I’m guessing that the old code didn’t when the house was built in 1986.  But if it didn’t require it in a bathroom, why would there be one in the garage?  If it’s required because there’s a water heater in the garage, then it would seem to have made more sense to put one in the outlet next to the water heater.  But no, that one doesn’t have a GFCI outlet.  blank stare

** If you’re considering getting FiOS, you should note that unlike the older copper-line phone service, power for the equipment comes from an outlet in your house (usually in the garage).  The equipment has a battery backup, but the ONT gives preference to the voice service and drops TV and internet services when running on battery for more than a few minutes (it will keep them running for a short time so that you won’t notice small power hits, though).

Spared The Axe… For Now…

There are layoffs going on in all the divisions of my company right now, but I got some good news this morning that none of them will be in my department.  So, for now at least, I can set aside one concern.

My spider-senses have been tingling lately, and while this was a relief, it didn’t completely silence the warnings.  I don’t know what is coming, but I can’t help but feel that there’s still another big shoe hanging out there somewhere, waiting to drop.