Archive of January, 2003
January 31, 2003:
Got off the phone not too long ago with someone about an interview. And it's not even through the recruiters. Here's the thing: While I was on the phone setting up that interview, I got a call about a different interview. (WOO-HOO!) Do you have any idea how many different noises a phone will make for call-waiting? Five ring-bleeps. One missed-call-ping. And a voicemail-ping. During which I couldn't hear the conversation.
So I got the lady's work number, and the place's address. But all the beeping happened while she was saying her name. I'd already asked her to repeat it once, so I couldn't ask again. But, wait! We have the Web available!
Step one: Go to Yellow Pages. Type in what I remember of the name ("Allegheny") and the city and state. Return several hundred possibilities. Step two: Get the ZIP code from the Postal Service. Use that to narrow down the Yellow Pages search. Doing good. Now, start looking for an address match. Nothing on page 1, but page 2 is good. Get the name, go to Google. Type in the name of the place and get their URL.
Go to their Web site and get into their directory. (Ah, public offices -- everybody's contact info is public domain so it's all on the Web.) Do a find for the last four digits of the lady's phone number. After all this, it turns out my guess was right. But at least I won't ask for the wrong name and sound like an ass.
As I was writing this I talked to a lady at CMU about another interview. "Are you familiar with the Carnegie Mellon campus?" "I got my bachelor's there." "Oh, then we're in [building and room]. See you Monday."
Five opportunities, and five interviews, in three weeks. Kick ass.
January 30, 2003:
Went to an LJ Meetup Tuesday night, and this time people showed up. While at the 61C Café I saw a girl who's one of Htet Htet's classmates, and who she suggested I go out with.
Well, my regular readers know exactly what happened: I didn't do a goddamn thing. Oh, I justified the hell out of my wussiness too. Well, she's doing homework, and she's got a friend working with her. And I shouldn't bail on these guys here, even though one of them is pretty pretentious.
Wow. Shocker there, huh? I wonder if I could convince Htet Htet to help me out a little. It's not like she has anything more important to worry about :/
Anyway, we eventually left 61C to go to Dave & Busters, the least-fun place on Earth. Oh, I suppose if you like Dance Dance Whatever-the-Fuck and 85 different types of racing games you'd have a ball. But all I had to content myself with were a couple of broken pinball machines and a shooter or two. Yay. That, and everyone was crowded around the dancing game like it was the Second Coming.
Enh. Everyone pretty much seemed OK while we were just shooting the breeze, which is what I'd have preferred anyway. Maybe next time someone will think of a place that has enough seats for everyone that isn't an overhyped Chuck E. Cheese.
Update: Mentioned to Htet Htet that I'd seen her classmate at 61C. She told me that she'd actually mentioned something to the girl last semester, but was told that she wasn't interested in going out with anyone. Didn't pass this nugget along to me because it "wasn't important."
So if I'd worked up the stones to go talk to this girl I would've gotten gunned down. As it is, my cowardice actually served me well this time out.
Why doesn't that make me feel any better?
January 28, 2003:
Had a few interviews recently. Two of them were with recruiters to forward on to their clients, one was with one of those clients. In every instance I was asked at some point about why I left my last job. I give my usual answer: I was dissatisfied with the variation in the workload (from 55-hour weeks to days with only 30 minutes of work) and I had a conflict with a new manager they brought on.
Both these things are true. But the person interviewing me always ends up asking me point-blank: Was I fired?
Now, I realize that if they call my former employer, they'll only verify employment dates for fear of getting sued. I could tell them I quit to be a freelancer. I could tell them I was laid off. But I always answer "yes, I was fired."
Part of me isn't comfortable with lying during the interview, for ethical reasons -- I like to think of myself as an honest person, regardless of any other flaws I might have -- but ethics don't put food on the table. I also know that if I lied about it, it'd come back to me later when I started talking about the old job, I'd get bitten in the ass by it.
But I always feel like I've blown the interview when that happens. Even though I wasn't entirely in the wrong myself. (I'd say it was a 50-50 thing. I didn't try to bend very much, but neither did she.) With the second recruiter I found a way to mention that I'd found a way to work with one of the project managers after a while by reaching a compromise between his management style and my work style. It worked so well I even did a little work for him over the summer.
So, maybe I'll bring that up when a future interviewer asks about my skills -- it wasn't much of a negotiation but it at least shows I'm willing to meet in the middle if the other person's being reasonable. Then when I answer the question of Why I Left truthfully it may not seem as bad.
In the meantime I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I have a total of three opportunities up in the air at the moment (two for recruiter #1, one of which I interviewed for, and one through recruiter #2 that I have to wait to see if they get a budget for) and if I'm lucky one of them will pan out.
Then I can get back to not living from paycheck to paycheck.
Update: Just got an e-mail from recruiter #1 about the interview. They decided they wanted someone with both design and programming experience, and my design work isn't exactly extensive. So, that one's out of play. D'oh.
Update #2: More interview fun. See Friday's entry for more info.
January 27, 2003:
(Just three more years until the Super Bowl won't be blocked out by Web kid-proofing.)
The second half was really no differentat the start -- the Raiders had no fire. There were 20 minutes to play and they were down 24. And they'd given up already. Disappointing. But in the fourth the Raiders blocked a punt and ran it back to put 6 points on the board, followed later by a long TD run by Rice. They got screwed on the two-point try though.
All in all, though, it wasn't very entertaining football, even though the right team won. I couldn't help but root for the Bucs; I have a soft spot for teams that have never won a Super Bowl. (My home team, the Browns, are one of only four teams who haven't won the Super Bowl yet; Tennessee, Philadelphia and Atlanta are the others. The Browns have won five NFL Chamionships, though.)
Very few of them jumped out at me. The Budweiser commercial ("The ref's a jackass." "No, I think he's a zebra.") was mildly funny, but nothing happened with it for the rest of the game.
Visa's new-and-improved Rande/Tiki Barber commercial "you're watching the Super Bowl... and you're in it" was just plain dumb. Everything else I've already forgotten. Well, not quite. Apparently, ABC's decided to make Am I Hot Or Not into a TV show. Dear God, no.
I thought this was the big stage upon which new ad campaigns are launched. I guess I though wrong.
Gack. OK, I'll admit that Shania Twain is hot. But that's no excuse to subject me to her "music". No Doubt rehashing its only hit (from about seven years ago) would have been better-suited for Super Bowl Forty-Seven, as part of a One-Hit Wonder parade. How to make it worse? Have Sting sing with Gwen Stefani.
Eh, there could have been better ways to spend four hours.
Browns in '03. An'at.
January 24, 2003:
Remember that class-action suit a bunch of fat-asses filed against McDonald's? Well, it just got laughed out of court. Oddly enough, when everyone found out that Mickey-D's wouldn't have to spend millions of dollars defending itself from these morons, the stock price went up too.
On the other hand, had they allowed the suit, I might've been able to get some settlement money. 'Cause I like McBurgers from time to time. And I ain't exactly skinny.
January 23, 2003:
Had an IM conversation with Shields not too long ago. After not-too-long the topic turned to women, and I mentioned the bad luck vs. subconscious sabotage aspect of things: Is the universe just out to get a person, or is there something in the back of someone's brain that makes him or her fail?
I realized that I should be asking the same question of myself. After all, I don't go out very often and I don't have any real hobbies aside from this site. Granted, there's the whole no-money thing going on in my life right now, but I didn't do anything when I was getting paid on a regular basis either.
It's not like there are things I wouldn't enjoy if I gave them half a chance -- hell, I could probably even enjoy something vaguely like exercise if it were disguised enough. So why don't I? Damned if I know.
Of course, on the rare occasion that I meet a woman I'm still screwed. Due to my asocial tendencies, I either say too much or not enough. By the time I'm comfortable talking to a woman I'm usually trapped dead-center in the Friend Zone, doomed to an apparent eternity of "I just don't think of you that way." Actually, in college I didn't usually have to hear that particular speech, because the girl in question had started dating one of my friends by the time I could string two sentences together without babbling. Obviously not everyone has this particular hang-up; I just can't seem to get around it.
Ordinarily, that's the most maddening thing about my life. But lately it's gotten even worse.
I basically have three criteria for a potential girlfriend: Intelligence, a sense of humor and attractiveness. Actually, just cute will suffice; after all I'm not exactly the pick of the litter here myself. Well, it turns out I know a girl who fits those criteria. I hang out with her fairly often.
Of course, she's happily involved. Married, in fact. It's very... frustrating. (Kinda like the "Intellectual Whore" problem, but not quite -- she's just a good ways away from hubby, not fucking outlaw bikers. The end result is basically the same for me though.)
Fortunately the rational Forebrain is keeping the primitive Reptilian Brain in check pretty well. I'm still not getting any, but at least I'm not making a total ass out of myself. Well, no more so than usual anyway.
January 21, 2003:
After seeing my gas bill in December, I decided that I needed to weather-proof the apartment a little bit. So I went to the Home Despot and picked up those plastic sheets you put up inside the window to keep drafts out. The side window (near the computer) went up fine.
The front window, where I could actually feel the draft coming in, was a bit more problematic -- the wind was pushing so hard on the plastic that I had trouble just getting the damn thing taped to the frame. Even with the ultra-heavy mini-blind hanging from the thing the "sail" I installed still billows out several inches.
I know it's hard to tell, but the blind should be resting on the window frame (it's just a little too wide to fit inside the frame). That's all pressure from the cold air trying to get in. This is why I got el shafto grande on the gas bill in December.
January 20, 2003:
Got an e-mail Thursday morning that has a pretty darn good explanation of Dubya's popularity...
January 17, 2003:
While my tooth was bothering me and I was slowly ODing on Advil, I had trouble sleeping. Even with the analgesics in my system, if I laid down the wrong way the SOB would THROB like a mofo. Enough to make any thoughts of sleeping seem ridiculous.
So... I was having a pretty bizarre dream, in which my mother and stepfather bought a new weiner-dog. I can't remember many details because I'm writing well after the fact, but the new dog started growling and barking, showing its teeth, etc., and was actually breaking a hole in the door to get at us.
So I got in its face and SCREAMED at the top of my lungs.
The dog faded away, leaving the wall of my bedroom. And the scream was still echoing a little bit off the walls. And it felt like someone was stabbing me in the side of the face with an ice pick.
Normally I wish for the other side of the bed to be occupied. That night it's probably a pretty good thing that it wasn't.
January 16, 2003:
Cutting back from six postings a week to four has brought me more in line with how much I actually write, but I'm getting tired of the Friday entry being up for three days. Maybe I'll switch it to Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday or somesuch.
Just keeping y'all in the loop. Or something.
January 15, 2003:
It seems that Pabst Blue Ribbon beer is becoming popular with people in their twenties, taking drinkers away from microbrews. I wouldn't believe it, though, if it wasn't for how well Pittsburgh Brewing's Old German beer sells at Denny's Bar.
Anyway, about the title... my grandfather on my mother's side (full-blooded Irish) drank the stuff all the time. Every once in a while he'd give me or my sister a sip of it. (Keep in mind that he died when I was 10; Shannon was 8. I don't think Mom was terribly pleased with all the sample sips her kids were getting.)
Random childhood memory: About a mile from where he and Grandma lived in Cuyahoga Falls there was a drive-through convenience store where he picked up his six-packs of PBR. Not only did the guys working there recognize him, but Shannon and I went with him often enough (on Sundays, no less!) that they recognized us, too. When we went along, they'd send in a couple pieces of candy along with Grandpa's beer.
Almost makes me want to see if I can convince Gene to carry a few bottles of the stuff at the Den.
January 14, 2003:
A while ago I noticed I had a cavity in one of my back teeth. Being self-employed and uninsured, I stepped up the job hunt and hoped it wouldn't get much worse.
It got worse, as in I got a toothache that required taking about five Advils a day. I went in today and the dentist was amazed at how much tooth was gone. He tried to just carve out the decaying parts and put in a filling, but he broke through into where the nerve goes. That hurt just a little bit.
At that point, there are two options. The tooth can either be removed, which causes its own problems -- the opposing tooth can grow to fill in the newly-created gap and later fall out -- or you can have the procedure that is the answer to the crossword-esque title: Root canal.
Basically, they dig down into the roots of the tooth and dig out the nerves (the rearmost molars have three to contend with) and the associated blood vessels. Needless to say this involves lots of novocaine. With the only source of sensation gone, the dentist can then remove what's left of the decay.
Now here's the fun part. I get to go back next week to finish the procedure. Right now there's a temorary filling that seems to be made of the cement orthodontists use to hold braces on. On the 17th I get a pair of rubbery placeholders put into the root canals themselves and a real filling put in.
In theory that could be the end of it. But without a blood supply, what's left of the tooth is dead. Over time it'll become brittle and fall apart. That would be bad because then I'd wind up with the same problem as if I'd had the thing pulled in the first place. So in a couple months I can go in and get the thing capped.
They'll drive a couple screws into the root canals to anchor the cap to the tooth, then install the cap itself to absorb the pressure (700 psi for a molar) of chewing to ensure that I continue to have a toothlike object in that part of my mouth.
At the moment (six hours removed) the novocaine's worn off and I'm on a single Advil. Aside from my jaw being a little sore from being held open for long periods of time I feel OK. The real question will be how the remaining nerves in my lower jaw react to their friend being severed and removed. But I've got me a bottle of Vicodin here, so don't worry about it too much :)
January 10, 2003:
Fun. Got to break into my own place this morning.
As usual I walked out onto the porch to get my paper. I didn't take my keys with me because the building's main door has a tendency to not shut unless you apply a little extra force to it. (As an aside, people in the building who actually make sure it shuts and latches behind them are definitely in the minority.) Anyway, I pick up the paper and *ca-click* "Uh-oh."
It actually latched itself. For the first time in months. When I didn't have my keys on me. No problem, I decide, it's 8:40 and the landlord's office just might be open. just a short walk up Baum Blvd. in my sweat pants, sweatshirt and barefoot. Get to the door, nothing. They must not open till nine. Shit.
Walk back the 100 yards to the house, and my feet are starting to get pretty cold. I start thinking of other ways into the building. The basement door's no good, because I know I keep it locked. The basement windows are all barred since they're at ground level. My front window can't be opened. But the side window just might work. I don't think I ever locked it... but it's more than five feet off the ground...
Salvation! Somebody has a couple barstool-like chairs sitting on the porch gathering dust. Haul one over to the window, pop off the screen that the genius before me had installed by stapling it to the windowframe, push the window up and crawl in. Nothing to it.
Then went downstairs walking on as little of my feet as possible and scrub like hell to remove a quarter inch of Pittsburgh from the soles. Then came back upstairs and locked the damn window.
January 09, 2003:
Columnist Arianna Huffington created an advocacy group that's getting reday to release some new commercials. They follow the same tack as the government's "if you buy drugs you support terrorism" PSAs, but these tie driving SUVs to supporting terrorists.
There's one difference, though: Where the terrorist link to the drug caretls was, in my never-humble opinion, a little specious, this one's right-on. Buy a gas-guzzler, you necessarily buy more gas. Who owns the oil fields that the gas is ultimately derived from? Our "loyal allies" the Saudi Arabians. Y'know, where about ¾ of the hijackers came from.
Now, these ads won't change anybody's mind. In fact, a large number of TV stations may not even air them. But it's worth pointing out, she's right. Of course, these bozos also drive them because they're "safe". (Except they're not.)
Personally, I hope we go to war with Iraq. I hope it drags out for months and months. I hope the other Arab countries cut back our oil supply. I hope the strike in Venezuela keeps going. Then gas'll cost about three bucks a gallon. And I'll be tooling around in my Civic, which I have to fill with eight gallons of gas every other week, and laugh at all these soccer moms and dick compensators scrounging for nickels to get to the 7-11 and back. Yeah.
January 08, 2003:
This Christmas I got a few t-shirts. Not normal ones, mind you, these shirts definitely fit with the "WWJD for a Klondike Bar?" shirt:
[Picture of a pig, cow and chicken] "Animals Taste Good"
"555: The Lesser Evil"
"I've gone to find myself. If I show up before I get back, please keep me here."
In addition to that, I pretty much got what I asked for. A couple new work shirts (now I just need a job), the Wrath of Khan director's cut, some golf balls, golf lessons (maybe I'll actually stop sucking!) and a couple good books -- Catch-22 and Lies My Teacher Told Me.
So all in all it was a good Christmas, considering I'm an atheist :)
January 07, 2003:
Before she left for England, Htet Htet bought herself a "portable" mouse, meaning the cord retracts into the body. Pretty cool, actually. So, since my mouse is an utter piece of crap, I borrowed her old optical mouse that she left here.
On the one hand, it's nice because there's no place for crud to get caught and jam up the mouse -- regular readers should be able to fill in their own "dirty mouse balls" joke here. On the other hand, the mouse's sensor doesn't like my fake-wood desk very much. Sometimes the pointer won't move at all, and sometimes it'll jump randomly. Very annoying when I'm trying to use Photoshop.
My guess is that the fake wood grain isn't high-contrast enough for the mouse to know it's moving. When I get one of my own (being the cheap bastard I am, I'm waiting for a CompUSA rebate certificate to show up from something I bought earlier) I'll probably need to get a better mousepad than what I've got now.
Or maybe I'll just buy a non-cheapo ball-mouse and hope it doesn't degrade as quickly as my current one did.
January 06, 2003:
5:05 PM Sunday
Please allow me to begin thusly: Butch Davis, Foge Fazio and Bruce Arians should all be fired. Now. Don't even wait until Monday morning.
What kind of idiot defensive coordinator calls for the Prevent defense in the third fucking quarter?! And what moronic head coach lets him?! Those would be Fazio and Davis, in that order. (For non-football fans: The Prevent defense supposedly prevents the opposing team from making long plays and getting out of bounds to stop the clock. All it really does is prevent your team from winning by letting the opposition march up the field and score. In this case, twice.)
Even without Elway's famous exploitation of the world's worst defensive scheme in your history books it's a bad idea. But the Browns played damn near the entire second half that way, giving Pittsburgh 15 points.
Oh, and some piss-poor officiating was there too. I don't usually comment about blown calls since they tend to balance out, but the refs gave the Steelers 25 yards on three penalties on (I think) three consecutive plays. And these weren't maybe-maybe-not types of calls -- they just shouldn't have been made by anyone with a shred of impartiality. Isn't there a rule against having 18 men on the field?
Anyway, back to the people who should be fired. Bruce Arians, the offensive coordinator. Today was definitely offensive. I know a lot of purists insist that you need to use the run to set up the pass, but that's bull. If your rushing game has netted you a 6-yard loss, it's time to re-think your strategy. Sure, keep the run in to keep the secondary honest, but don't run two consecutive plays then force your quarterback to convert on 3rd and 12.
As poorly as the Steelers played, Cleveland should have beaten them. But until they get some coaching in there they'll be nothing but a bunch of also-rans.
Update, Tuesday: Well, I got part of my wish: Foge Fazio retired. According to the article, though, the defensive scheme may have been more Davis's fault than his. And the short list for Fazio's replacement apparently includes the recently-fired Dallas coach Dave Campo. Yay.
In other news that Stillers fans will be able to relate to, we may have a brewing quarterback controversy in Browns Town -- stay with the franchise player Tim Couch or the more effective six-year veteran Kelly Holcomb. To be honest, Couch has been frustratingly inconsistent, and still has more picks than touchdown passes. It may be time for a little bit of a shake-up. At least let him get in some of the sideline learning he missed out on when he was rushed into play in 1999.
January 03, 2003:
While I was watching the DVD of Star Trek: Insurrection (the ninth movie, a.k.a. Star Trek Meets the Fountain of Youth) the other day. During the battle with the Son'a ships, Riker makes a reference to a movie most Americans have probably never seen: The Song of the South. (Specifically: "It's time to use the Briar Patch the way Br'er Rabbit did.")
When it was initially released in the '40s, the movie was denounced by the NAACP for perpetuating stereotypes about black people. Apparently the American re-release for its 40th birthday in 1986 met with similar reaction (I wouldn't know; I was 10 at the time). Disney has never released the movie in VHS or DVD format in the US.
It's a shame, really, because what little I remember from seeing the movie 16 years ago was good -- at least as good as other Disney movies from the time. It was also the first feature-length film to mix animation and live action.
Was the movie racist? I honestly don't know. I don't remember seeing anything like that, but I was 10 and not looking for things like that. If you're interested, you can find information at Song of the South.net.
Hopefully we won't have to wait until the 2370s to see this movie again.
January 02, 2003:
Had a dream not too long ago that I was back working at Brady. They even introduced me as someone who had left and come back, almost like I'd been an intern at some point. When I woke up I couldn't figure out why.
I mean, yes the job hunt isn't tearing things up at the moment, but I'm not starving. And given the way I left it's not at all likely they'd take me back even if I did for some reason decide to go back there (which'll happen shortly after Satan notices a problem with the thermostat).
So is my brain just examining possibilities or is there room for some amateur-psychologist work here?
January 01, 2003:
Just got back from a week in Akron with my parents... visiting with relatives, getting Christmas presents, generally having a good time.
Welcome home, Jason. Got a letter from American Express that I originally thought was junk mail, but opened anyway. Good thing I did. Contents of the letter: "You wouldn't be getting fucked like this in a maximum security prison." Well, they didn't say that, but it's the effect.
Flash back to last week. The freelancing business was going a little slow, and I had some bills to pay. AmEx sends me some of those convenience checks that they send all their cardholders at the holidays; implicitly saying here, use our card. So I take them up on the offer.
I thought that the checks worked like regular transactions. But they don't; AmEx treats them as cash advances -- at least, that's how they treated this one. I wrote the check for more than my available cash advance balance (which is stupid anyway, but that's another rant). Instead of giving me the limit, they stopped payment on the check.
Except I'd already sent out the bills because they were due over Christmas week. See where this is going?
Back to today. I read the letter and barely manage to not shit my pants. I grab the two checks from DLI that they owed me from October (they came the same day as the "you're fucked" letter, even though I told the post office not to deliver last week) and head to the bank as fast as my Civic can take me. Deposit to primary checking, $xxx.xx.
Account not available. Wha? Must've hit savings instead of checking. Try again. Nothing. Balance inquiry. Nope. And then I realized just how utterly boned I was. I have no idea what National City's done to me, since it's Sunday night, but it can't be good. The bounced-check fees alone will amount to a couple hundred dollars.
And I can't do a goddamn thing about it until tomorrow morning. I wonder how much sleep I'll be getting tonight.
Update, Monday. Answer, not much. Tried to wake up to get to the bank at 9:00 and failed horribly. So I came up with a new plan: I held off on going to the bank until my mail from last week was delivered, to make sure there wasn't anything else wrong.
Nothing else went wrong, so I went to the bank to get the mess sorted out. Nothing had bounced, oddly enough, even though all the checks had cleared and my balance was a largish negative number. I deposited the checks I tried to last night (when the shit hit the fan my MAC card got shut off) and am almost back to even.
So now I just need to avoid making any withdrawls until after the new year, when I should get a couple checks to get me back in the black. All in all, not nearly as horrible as I'd originally feared. It's almost enough to make me believe in a caring, benevolent God, really.
Oh, and the whole transaction-vs.-cash-advance thing... Different credit cards handle this differently, but American Express consideres anything made out to (a) yourself, (b) your spouse, (c) your company or (d) cash to be a cash advance instead of a transaction. So if you should ever find yourself using a similar strategy to get yourself through a slow spot call the credit card company first and see how they'll treat it.
Or just don't mouth off to your boss and get shit-canned in the middle of a slumping economy. That could work out well for you too.
Update, Saturday. Got the last check deposited, so I officially have money again. But the lady who banished my MAC card to purgatory was off late last week so the card still doesn't work. Which is fine, except that I have no cash on me. Wheee...