102 Things NOT To Do If You Hate Taxes

So, you’re a Republican that hates taxes? Well, since you do not like taxes or government, please kindly do the following:

1. Do not use Medicare.
2. Do not use Social Security
3. Do not become a member of the US military, who are paid with tax dollars.
4. Do not ask the National Guard to help you after a disaster.
5. Do not call 911 when you get hurt.
6. Do not call the police to stop intruders in your home.
7. Do not summon the fire department to save your burning home.
8. Do not drive on any paved road, highway, and interstate or drive on any bridge.
9. Do not use public restrooms.
10. Do not send your kids to public schools.
11. Do not put your trash out for city garbage collectors.
12. Do not live in areas with clean air.
13. Do not drink clean water.
14. Do not visit National Parks.
15. Do not visit public museums, zoos, and monuments.
16. Do not eat or use FDA inspected food and medicines.
17. Do not bring your kids to public playgrounds.
18. Do not walk or run on sidewalks.
19. Do not use public recreational facilities such as basketball and tennis courts.
20. Do not seek shelter facilities or food in soup kitchens when you are homeless and hungry.
21. Do not apply for educational or job training assistance when you lose your job.
22. Do not apply for food stamps when you can’t feed your children.
23. Do not use the judiciary system for any reason.
24. Do not ask for an attorney when you are arrested and do not ask for one to be assigned to you by the court.
25. Do not apply for any Pell Grants.
26. Do not use cures that were discovered by labs using federal dollars.
27. Do not fly on federally regulated airplanes.
28. Do not use any product that can trace its development back to NASA.
29. Do not watch the weather provided by the National Weather Service.
30. Do not listen to severe weather warnings from the National Weather Service.
31. Do not listen to tsunami, hurricane, or earthquake alert systems.
32. Do not apply for federal housing.
33. Do not use the internet, which was developed by the military.
34. Do not swim in clean rivers.
35. Do not allow your child to eat school lunches or breakfasts.
36. Do not ask for FEMA assistance when everything you own gets wiped out by disaster.
37. Do not ask the military to defend your life and home in the event of a foreign invasion.
38. Do not use your cell phone or home telephone.
39. Do not buy firearms that wouldn’t have been developed without the support of the US Government and military. That includes most of them.
40. Do not eat USDA inspected produce and meat.
41. Do not apply for government grants to start your own business.
42. Do not apply to win a government contract.
43. Do not buy any vehicle that has been inspected by government safety agencies.
44. Do not buy any product that is protected from poisons, toxins, etc…by the Consumer Protection Agency.
45. Do not save your money in a bank that is FDIC insured.
46. Do not use Veterans benefits or military health care.
47. Do not use the G.I. Bill to go to college.
48. Do not apply for unemployment benefits.
49. Do not use any electricity from companies regulated by the Department of Energy.
50. Do not live in homes that are built to code.
51. Do not run for public office. Politicians are paid with taxpayer dollars.
52. Do not ask for help from the FBI, S.W.A.T, the bomb squad, Homeland Security, State troopers, etc…
53. Do not apply for any government job whatsoever as all state and federal employees are paid with tax dollars.
54. Do not use public libraries.
55. Do not use the US Postal Service.
56. Do not visit the National Archives.
57. Do not visit Presidential Libraries.
58. Do not use airports that are secured by the federal government.
59. Do not apply for loans from any bank that is FDIC insured.
60. Do not ask the government to help you clean up after a tornado.
61. Do not ask the Department of Agriculture to provide a subsidy to help you run your farm.
62. Do not take walks in National Forests.
63. Do not ask for taxpayer dollars for your oil company.
64. Do not ask the federal government to bail your company out during recessions.
65. Do not seek medical care from places that use federal dollars.
66. Do not use Medicaid.
67. Do not use WIC.
68. Do not use electricity generated by Hoover Dam.
69. Do not use electricity or any service provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
70. Do not ask the Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild levees when they break.
71. Do not let the Coast Guard save you from drowning when your boat capsizes at sea.
72. Do not ask the government to help evacuate you when all hell breaks loose in the country you are in.
73. Do not visit historic landmarks.
74. Do not visit fisheries.
75. Do not expect to see animals that are federally protected because of the Endangered Species List.
76. Do not expect plows to clear roads of snow and ice so your kids can go to school and so you can get to work.
77. Do not hunt or camp on federal land.
78. Do not work anywhere that has a safe workplace because of government regulations.
79. Do not use public transportation.
80. Do not drink water from public water fountains.
81. Do not whine when someone copies your work and sells it as their own. Government enforces copyright laws.
82. Do not expect to own your home, car, or boat. Government organizes and keeps all titles.
83. Do not expect convicted felons to remain off the streets.
84. Do not eat in restaurants that are regulated by food quality and safety standards.
85. Do not seek help from the US Embassy if you need assistance in a foreign nation.
86. Do not apply for a passport to travel outside of the United States.
87. Do not apply for a patent when you invent something.
88. Do not adopt a child through your local, state, or federal governments.
89.Do not use elevators that have been inspected by federal or state safety regulators.
90. Do not use any resource that was discovered by the USGS.
91. Do not ask for energy assistance from the government.
92. Do not move to any other developed nation, because the taxes are much higher.
93. Do not go to a beach that is kept clean by the state.
94. Do not use money printed by the US Treasury.
95. Do not complain when millions more illegal immigrants cross the border because there are no more border patrol agents.
96. Do not attend a state university.
97. Do not see any doctor that is licensed through the state.
98. Do not use any water from municipal water systems.
99. Do not complain when diseases and viruses, that were once fought around the globe by the US government and CDC, reach your house.
100. Do not work for any company that is required to pay its workers a livable wage, provide them sick days, vacation days, and benefits.
101. Do not expect to be able to vote on election days. Government provides voting booths, election day officials, and voting machines which are paid for with taxes.
102. Do not ride trains. The railroad was built with government financial assistance.

The fact is, we pay for the lifestyle we expect. Without taxes, our lifestyles would be totally different and much harder. America would be a third world country. The less we pay, the less we get in return. Americans pay less taxes today since 1958 and is ranked 32nd out of 34 of the top tax paying countries. Chile and Mexico are 33rd and 34th. The Republicans are lying when they say that we pay the highest taxes in the world and are only attacking taxes to reward corporations and the wealthy and to weaken our infrastructure and way of life. So next time you object to paying taxes or fight to abolish taxes for corporations and the wealthy, keep this quote in mind…

“I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

(Source)

Unemployment, Day 50

I had a good interview yesterday afternoon. It was with a new agency I hadn’t previously worked with.  They’re submitting me for a support position with a healthcare provider that doesn’t require any direct hospital work.  It’s pretty much exactly what I was hoping for, and while the pay rate is below my desired minimum, it’s a 3-month contract-to-hire gig that will undoubtedly pay more if I’m hired on as an employee.  This put me in kind of an up mood, because not only does it sound like a job I’d like, it’s only about a 20 minute commute from anywhere Ben and I could conceivably settle.

The recruiter also told me she’d gotten glowing recommendations from my two past supervisors. This was not unexpected, but it was still nice to have it confirmed.

They’re going to try and get me in front of the client for an interview the first of next week.

I also got a call from a recruiter in New York regarding a 3-4 month contract position working through an outsourcing company to image and roll out new PCs “for a military client.” I asked if it required a security clearance, and was told no. That sounded kind of odd, but I’m not in a position now where I can just automatically dismiss things out of hand. I’m meeting with a representative from the outsourcing company (that looks completely legitimate but doesn’t have an office in Denver) at a Starbucks Monday afternoon.  If I had not personally witnessed several job interviews taking place in that venue since arriving in Denver I would’ve though it very odd, but now…not so much. Maybe it’s a Colorado thing?

But of course, I’m still hoping to hear on Monday from the recruiter who’s been on vacation this past week regarding my interview from a week ago. That’s the place I really want to work.

You Might Be a Republican if You Believe…

1. Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Barack Obama

2. Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush’s Daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him, and a bad guy when Bush needed a “we can’t find Bin Laden” diversion.

3. Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is Communist, but trade with China and Viet Nam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

4. The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority for years was enforcing U.N. resolutions in Iraq.

5. A woman can’t be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multinational drug corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.

6. The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches, while slashing veterans’ benefits and combat pay.

7. If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won’t have sex.

8. A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our longtime allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

9. Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy, but providing health care to all Americans is socialism. HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.

10. Global warming and tobacco’s link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools. Evolution is a lie, but get a flu shot every year because the virus evolves.

11. A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense, but a president lying to enlist support for a war in which tens of thousands die and the nation is plunged into debt is solid national policy.

12. Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

13. Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you’re a conservative radio host. Then it’s an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

14. You support “Executive Privilege” for every Republican ever born, who will be born or who might be born (in perpetuity.)

15. Support hunters who shoot their friends and blame them for wearing orange vests similar to those worn by the quail.

16. You can vote to raise the debt limit as long as Obama is not President.

17. Officials should allow Christian prayer and Bible studies in schools and government buildings as a matter of Religious Freedom, but Muslims should not be allowed to build mosques or be elected to office because they practice Islam.

18. You have an argument why every one of the above is sensible and not hypocritical, and besides look at all the terrible things the Democrats may have done.

Unemployment, Day 49

Ben’s class started an hour later today, so in addition to sleeping in a bit longer than usual, we had breakfast together.

I’m now back at Starbucks, once again filling out applications and cruising job boards.  I took to heart a suggestion left by one of my readers, and also posted my resume on Craigslist.  I figure it couldn’t hurt.

I still have a feeling I’ll get called about the interview from last Friday. The fact that the hiring manager as well as my recruiter are both on vacation this week has got to be the reason I haven’t heard anything; or at least that’s what I keep telling myself to keep from slipping into a deep depression.

I know from previous experience that in order to keep from ending up in an blue unemployment funk, I need to keep busy while waiting for that phone call that puts me back to work.  And keeping busy in my case means doing something I love: taking pictures.

Gully Homestead
Delaney Farm, Aurora CO
26mm, ISO 100, f6.3, 1/60 sec

Bridge
Delaney Farm, Aurora CO
26mm, ISO 100, f5.0, 1/60 sec

Flower Garden
Delaney Farm, Aurora CO
30mm, ISO 100, f5.6, 1/60 sec

Decay
Abandoned Property, Aurora CO
18mm, ISO 100, f4.5, 1/40 sec

Bridge and Barn
Delaney Farm, Aurora CO
70mm, ISO 100, f6.3, 1/125 sec

Daisies
Delaney Farm, Aurora CO
50mm, ISO 100, f5.6, 1/100 sec

Bzzz…
Abandoned Property, Aurora CO
150mm, ISO 100, f6.3, 1/250 sec

Bridge
Delaney Farm, Aurora CO
30mm, ISO 100, f5.0, 1/60 sec

Sunflower
Abandoned Property, Aurora CO
45mm, ISO 100, f8.0, 1/60 sec

Unemployment, Day 47

And so begins another day of sitting in Starbucks, applying online for jobs that I never hear anything more about after clicking “submit,” and waiting for calls from random recruiters who “saw my resume on monster” that on average offer up one decent job for every five that are blatantly ridiculous.

The winner in today’s ridiculous category was a call from an Indian guy whose accent was so thick I literally could not understand half of what he was saying. Thankfully he simultaneously emailed me the job description so I could see what he was calling about. It was a part time contract that involved using my own vehicle to drive “on average” 750 miles per week (with no reimbursement) to service PCs. And the outstanding rate they were willing to pay for this? $13.00 per hour.

That might cover fuel costs.

Seriously.

I could have said many things, but instead simply thanked him and said I was looking a full 40 hours a week.

This reminded me of 2003 when I got calls from recruiters who were trying to fill positions that required Bachelor’s Degrees, multiple certifications, and 5 years of hands-on experience—and were paying a whopping $8 an hour.  I laughed at them and told them to call back when the clients were serious.

On a more positive note, I have a meeting scheduled Friday afternoon to meet with yet another new recruiter at a well known firm I haven’t worked with before. While she doesn’t have anything definite to offer me at the moment she assures me they “get desktop positions all the time.” Even if she doesn’t have an immediate position to offer, I think it’s still worthwhile to put a human face on this increasingly-frustrating process, and since I have nothing else going on at this point, what have I got to lose?

Don't Say It

Yeah, I jumped back into it yesterday. For some unknown reason everything works as it should. Very pleased with the outcome this time. No more robopsychosis.

Anxious

Very, very anxious.

One of two good job leads I had has dried up.  I spoke to the recruiter today and she said, “Oh, they’ve decided to put this on hold.” Well gee, thanks for letting me know.

I’m still waiting to hear about the second.  I had what I consider to be a good interview last Friday, and the manager I met with told me that she was expecting to make a decision by Tuesday (today).  I just called the recruiter I’d been working with on this opportunity, only to discover SHE’S ON VACATION THE REST OF THE WEEK.  I asked to be connected with the Account Manger for this gig, and got her voicemail.  I left a message asking that she call me back.

So far this morning I’ve spoken with all the recruiters I’ve been working with, and none of them have anything else right now…except one.  It’s a six month contract at significantly less money than I was making even five years ago, but at this point, if I don’t hear anything about this other job by the end of the week I’m going to tell him to go ahead and submit me.

I have to get back to work.

I find myself wishing that Ben and I had planned financially for this move about six months earlier than we did. While I’m not down to my last penny, the balance in my checking account has fallen below my comfort level and my anxiety level is rising with each passing day. Thankfully Ben has one more student loan disbursement coming, and he officially starts teaching in about a week, so there will be money coming in, but until I get a job, we’re stuck in a hotel that reeks of pot and patchouli and everything we own remains in storage.

This…

…is why I stick with Apple, despite that recent bump in the road.

Exhibit A: Wireless setup

Left and center, Windows setup instructions. Right, Mac OS X instructions.

Nuff said.

Robopsychosis, Lion Flavored

It was my own fault.

I’m what the marketing types call an “early adopter.” I like to get my hands on new tech as soon as possible, so it was understandable that I immediately scooped up the latest version of the Mac OS, OS X Lion, thanks in no small part to an iTunes gift card my sister had gotten me for my birthday a couple months ago. (Yeah, this was all premeditated.)

I performed due diligence: I made sure all the necessary patches were in place on my existing system and did a complete Time Machine backup. I downloaded Lion and held my breath as it installed.

About 35 minutes later the machine rebooted and I was greeted with the new welcome screen. I logged in. Everything seemed to be working just fine. All of my apps, emails, addresses, and calendar items were right where they should be. Surprisingly, even the Verizon air card software (which supposedly wouldn’t work under Lion) was working fine. As the day progressed, and reports started coming in from folks who were having some very serious problems, I counted myself among the lucky ones whose system was running normally.

Then a day later I made a critically stupid mistake.

I uninstalled the Verizon aircard software in an attempt to utilize OS X’s built-in WWAN capability, something I had successfully done several times under Snow Leopard.

Firstly, the built-in WWAN wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t recognize the modem when it was inserted, even though the connection was still listed under Networking in System Preferences. Secondly, when I attempted to reinstall the VZAccess software, it balked. Kept telling me I needed administrator privileges (which I already had). No matter how many things I tried, it could not be cajoled into installing. And of course, this was the most recent version of the software available, and according to the VZAccess forum on the Verizon website, “there is no timeline available for Lion support.”

WTF? I mean seriously, have the engineers at Verizon been asleep the last six months?

In the day or so that had passed since installing Lion, I’d done a lot of cleanup on the drive, as well as adding addresses and organizing email folders, so I was pretty happy living with things as they were until Verizon got their act together. But late Friday afternoon, WiFi started randomly dropping, requiring a total reboot to reestablish the connection. Then the machine wouldn’t automatically reconnect after coming out of sleep mode. Suddenly a lot of little things started happening that told me perhaps I should not have jumped on the Lion bandwagon quite so quickly. I was now faced with several options, none of which were especially attractive.

One: I could restore my pre-lion backup to retrieve the Verizon application and settings and then reinstall Lion. In doing that, however, I knew my Adobe CS3 installation would get hosed (because of a funky enterprise licensing thing), rendering it useless. (From prior experience with this issue, I know that reinstalling CS3 does not solve the problem.)

Two: I could leave things as they were (including having a working CS3 installation) and live without access to my aircard until Verizon got around to updating the software, continuing to pay $50 a month for internet access I couldn’t use.

Three: I could wipe everything out and do a clean install of Snow Leopard, reinstall the Verizon application, upgrade to Lion and then reinstall all my other apps from scratch (including CS3).

I decided on a variation of Option Number Three yesterday, and spent most of the afternoon reinstalling. It was a needed learning experience and that cut down on my growing antipathy towards Apple; I had to figure out where OS X stored addresses, mail, and calendar items as well as how to get Lion to display the now-hidden Library folder where all these items had to go.

I successfully got all my addresses, emails, calendars, and documents transferred back, leaving only iTunes and about 20,000 pictures to pull off the last Time Machine backup.

While I got the pictures transferred last night without a hitch, the same could not be said for iTunes. One thing I’ve learned about Apple’s philosophy for file organization over the past couple years it that it seems as far as they’re concerned, it doesn’t matter where the data is located on your drive as long as it’s presented to you in an organized fashion. iTunes especially is notorious for importing a single album and splitting it into several folders for no reason whatsoever. I think that’s why I could never get into iPhoto; same type of bullshit. I prefer my photos organized in folders by date, not organized by “events.”

But I digress.

First I tried simply copying all the folders in the Music folder back from the Time Machine disk manually (90 minutes; I have a lot of music). When I fired up iTunes it told me it couldn’t start because it was on a locked disk. WTF? The Google was of no help, other than suggesting that I move the iTunes folder to my desktop, restart iTunes, and then manually add the music back in.

Uh, no. While yes, that worked (iTunes started up just fine), reimporting all my music would take hours, and in all likelihood I would lose album art, playlists, and all of the “corrected” info about the songs I’d entered into the database.

Next I tried doing a proper restore of the iTunes folder from within the Time Machine application itself. Maybe it did something that manually copying the files didn’t; 90 more minutes.

Same error when starting iTunes.

By this time I was frustrated to the point of tears. Everywhere I turned I was getting fucked by this Lion upgrade. Visions of Microsoft Vista kept dancing in my head, and I thought, this is Apple, damn it! This shouldn’t be happening. This is supposed to be easy!

At that point I decided I’d had enough. It was time to return to Snow Leopard.

Right before I went to sleep last night, I erased the drive and began the Time Machine restore to its pre-Lion state. This morning, after everything was up and running again, I deleted all the extraneous programs I was no longer using, as well as all of CS3. I opted not to reinstall CS3 because of the licensing issues, instead going with the retail version of Photoshop Elements 8 that I’d purchased about a year ago. For the rare times I need Photoshop, Elements has enough functionality that I can accomplish what I need, and the version of Bridge that comes with it doesn’t crash nearly as much as the one that was included with CS3.

I just read online that Apple has already seeded OS X Lion 10.7.2 to developers. No word of 10.7.1, undoubtedly indicating that a bug fix to 10.7 is on its way.

Even if a bug fix is issued, I may still hold off a while before attempting this again—and make damn sure I have a full clone image (not just a Time Machine backup) of Snow Leopard in case I have to put everything back the way it was.

College Dropout

On a whim, last week I ordered copies of my college transcripts.  It’s been thirty years, and since my memory of events surrounding me quitting shortly after starting the second year of a planned five year architectural degree program were a little fuzzy at this point, I was curious to see what my grades had been like.

Well, I received the transcripts yesterday, and in short, they were crap. I immediately remembered exactly why I quit school.  In my year-and-two-month university career, I failed History of Western Civilization (twice), College Algebra (twice, only finally passing during summer school at a local community college), and got a smattering of Cs and Ds for the remainder of the classes. The only thing I pulled higher than a C in my not-so-illustrious stint at the University of Arizona in was Freshman Composition, where I got a B.

This was in some ways kind of—but not totally—surprising to me either at the time or looking back on it now. While I had been an exemplary student in high school, graduating with a 3.5 (out of 4) grade point average and in the top 10% of my class, I was still ill-prepared on so many levels for the harsh realities and expectations of college life. Additionally, I also came out at the beginning of the second semester of my first year, and other factors notwithstanding, the resulting late night partying (and other debauchery) did not play nicely with 7 am trigonometry classes.

Ah, youth.

Early in my high school career, I had wanted to become an astronomer, and had planned on going to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.  Once I found out what the mathematics requirements were for such a degree however, I gave up all hope of that ever happening.  I barely eeked through with passing grades in High School algebra and trigonometry (the latter requiring extra-curricular tutoring), and I knew that calculus and differential equations (not to mention even higher math) would be totally beyond my ability.

So instead, I fell back on my inherited knack for architectural drafting and love of architecture.  (I was raised in a very design-oriented household.) But even with this major, my choice of the University of Arizona in Tucson over the much closer-to-home Arizona State in Tempe, was only because the architectural program at U of A did not require calculus as a prerequisite for admission, whereas ASU did.

Funny thing is, two decades later during my architectural career, I found myself using the algebraic and trigonometric concepts I had so struggled with in school without even so much as having to think about it. Funny, dat.

I shudder to think of how different my life would have been today if I’d gone to ASU instead of U of A.  While I might have graduated and gotten my degree because I’d have been living at home and keeping my nose to the grindstone during those critical first few years, I might never have even ventured to Tucson, where the thousands of events that led me to where I am now ultimately began.

I think it was an equitable trade-off.

Lions and Tigers and Hail, Oh My!

Yes Virginia, it really did rain that hard here today.

As we were turning onto the street that leads to our favorite Starbucks this afternoon (after plodding along at 25 miles per hour through a huge downpour on I-25), Ben spotted this at the end of the street. There was no way we could not photograph it.

Turns out that particular Starbucks was full up, so we headed to one that was closer to the hotel.  The downpour continued and intensified just as we were pulling up to the store, culminating in ten minutes of hard hail.  Thankfully it was just the tiny stuff, but it was still pretty nerve-wracking considering Anderson has a glass roof…

One Month

It’s been one month since we arrived in Denver.

I am incredibly grateful to Ben that he is taking me on this journey. Let’s face it: much like in 1995 when I left San Francisco for the first time, my professional life in Arizona had become stagnant and uninspiring.  It was comfortable and reliable, but on a deep level I knew I needed a change, and then, like now, I left the security of that stable, long-term job, throwing my entire life into the air, trusting in the Universe that it would somehow quickly settle back down after I had relocated.

Oh, the naïvety.

While I am not expecting things to take as long this time, after leaving San Francisco, it took nearly a decade (and one more move to and from San Francisco before settling in Phoenix) for me to regain a sense of financial security and what I would refer to as day-to-day “normalcy” in my life. It was due to a variety of factors, not the least of which was a planned change of careers (something not in the mix this time) and a very unplanned illness.

But you know, even though I am still not back to work (that situation notwithstanding), I haven’t regretted this move one bit.  Now, older and hopefully a bit wiser, I know that in the current financial climate, it’s unrealistic to expect that I can walk out of one job immediately into another and expect to enjoy all the perks and—for lack of any better terms—trust and respect I’d gained in my last position.  But that doesn’t mean the perfect job for me in Denver does not exist.  I know there is an employer out there who is looking for someone exactly like me whose work environment is exactly what I’m looking for. It’s just a matter of time.

Since our arrival, the weather has been wonderful. The week after we got here, Phoenix set high temperature records. We were basking in the 70s and 80s. It’s rained almost every evening, and while the locals caution that this is not normal summer weather, neither Ben or I are complaining one bit.

We’ve adjusted to life in one room—awkwardly—but both of us are seriously longing for the day when we can get into an apartment and get our belongings out of storage.  We knew going into this we’d probably be in this situation for about six weeks, so it’s not like it was unexpected, but we had been hoping for a slightly larger room with more of a working kitchen than what we’re living with at the moment.

I’m getting comfortable getting around town.  I seriously doubt I could provide anyone with directions, but I’ve learned enough of the local streets and their locations that I can get from Point A to Point B without having to resort to GPS.  And oftentimes on our journeys, we intentionally take different routes just to see where they lead.

This has led to drives through some absolutely amazing neighborhoods.  The area north and to the west of the University of Denver is particularly beautiful.  As I tweeted last week:

No photos yet, but one of my plans is to grab my camera, drive over there, park the car, and just start walking. The only way to photographically capture the charm of these areas is going to be on foot.

I’d also forgotten what it was like to live in a city where the downtown doesn’t roll up and die after 5 pm and on weekends. Last Friday evening we went down to the 16th Street Mall (several blocks of 16th Street were closed to vehicular traffic back in the 80s and turned into a pedestrian promenade; something San Francisco should seriously consider doing to Market Street) and had a great time.  Like in any large metro area, the area draws its share of thuggery (or at least wannabe thuggery) and homeless (reminds me a lot of Haight Street), but a very visible police presence keeps things under control and by and large it’s just a bunch of people out having a good time, enjoying the entertainment, shops and restaurants.

So what’s up for the next thirty days? By the time I write my “Two Months” entry I expect to be happily employed and Ben and I will be either finally settled into a permanent place or at least actively looking for one. Stay tuned.

Now Is The Time To Cripple The GOP

From Daily Kos:

Now is the time for Democrats to cripple the GOP and pre-sweep 2012. Opportunities like this come rarely. The Republican budget plan to kill Medicare is wildly unpopular. Americans overwhelmingly favor raising taxes on the super rich conservative creeps who fund the most reactionary wing, the nuttiest of the wingnuts, in the Republican Party. Wall Street, the Bankstas, the US Chamber of Commerce, progressives, democrats, and even a huge chunk of Republicans all agree the debt ceiling must be raised.

GOP governors are about as popular as rabies — all the Koch’s whores and all the Koch’s men cannot put the lipstick on the pig again. The leading wingnut primary contenders are a guy social conservatives consider a flip-flopping cult member and an unlectable flaked out harpy. A yawning chasm has opened up between the Teaparty wing and the GOP funding arm. It’s begging to be widened, the wedge to do has been dropped precisely into place by fate, it is bearing down with an immediate, unstoppable force. And the empircal facts are lined up on our side like rows of marble statues.

This is the time when Democrats, metaphorically, politically, stomp these assholes into the dirt and light the bloody mush on fire.

(more)

Do I think the Democrats (i.e. Obama) will grow a spine and do this? Not a chance. I fully expect the proud Democratic tradition of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory will continue unabated.

That Was Quick

“That was quick!”
“What do you mean that was quick?”
“It was quick! In and out, just like that! In and out!”
“Piss off and fix me some coffee, will ya!”
—Interchange between Christine Painter (Julie Walters) and Rose (Victoria Hardcastle) in Terry Jones’ 1987 film Personal Services

After a month-long vacation period of unemployment, I finally landed a job yesterday.  It happened in the blink of an eye.  I got a call from a recruiter whom I’d not heard from previously who had an urgent need for a desktop tech in a healthcare company.

Ugh. Not my first choice.

Even so, I met with the guy, and while I had some strong misgivings about returning to a hospital environment, the fact that the balance in my bank accounts were starting to cause some concern overrode it, I agreed to let him submit me for consideration.  Even I had to admit that on paper I was a perfect match for what they were looking for, so it came as no big surprise when he called back late yesterday afternoon to tell me that I had been hired without so much as an interview.  Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel!

This morning I was at the agreed-upon location at the agreed-upon time, but the account rep was nowhere to be seen and was not answering his cell.  Thankfully the email I received also included contact info for the I.T. Manager I’d be working for.  I called him, and he said he was unable to come down to the lobby to meet me; he would send one of the techs to get me set up with an access badge.

That was the first warning sign. The manager, whom the recruiter said I needed specifically to dress for (“wear a tie”), didn’t even have time to come down to meet me.  I can’t imagine my previous director ever acting so callously toward a new member of his team, even if he was only a contractor.

The tech (whom I wasn’t even going to be working with) came down and escorted me through the labyrinthine maze to the underground materials management office, where I watched with no small amount of amusement while my badge was prepared.  Apparently the woman who made the badges had some moderate OCD going on, because every time her Outlook dinged, she stopped what she was working on to check on the incoming mail. “Squirrel!”

Second warning sign: instead of being taken upstairs to perhaps then meet the supervisor, I was immediately wisked out of the building to an adjacent facility where the deployment team that I was to be a part of was working.

Third warning sign: after being introduced to the project lead and the two techs, one of the techs immediately started ragging on the customers as well as management in regards to the project they were working on.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve ragged about my previous job on many, many occasions—as long-time readers of this blog will attest.  But never in all those posts did I name the company or call out anyone specifically.  How did this guy know that I wouldn’t immediately run back to the supervisor and report his toxic negativity?

There wasn’t a lot I could do other than physically hook up PCs and do a bit of work on the patch panels as I did not yet have system account set up, but that was fine. (Not surprising considering the rapidity with which all this happened; I hadn’t even completed the necessary hiring paperwork at the agency.)

But as the morning progressed, I became more and more despondent. That hospital smell, the prima-donna attitude of the nurses and doctors… I felt like I’d taken a huge step backward in my career, and I started contemplating my options. The angel on my right shoulder said, “Stay the week and see how it goes. It might get better.” The devil on my left said, “Cut your losses and get the hell out of here now.” Or maybe their roles were reversed.  I can never tell.

All I know is that practically from the get-go, this assignment just didn’t “feel” right, and I was having flashbacks of a gig I did at St. Mary’s Hospital in San Francisco about fifteen years ago. Then, as now, there was a reason they were willing to pay substantially more than similar jobs, and it wasn’t because they were being generous.  It should’ve been the big red warning sign that tipped me off before I even got started.

I had hoped that a break for lunch would help clear my thoughts.  Instead, whoever it was on the left kept screaming: “Get the hell out of this place NOW.”

I returned from lunch and called the lead tech, asking where she and the others were working. “Oh, I’m in the basement, but I have to go to a meeting in about two minutes. Call Matt (Mr. Negative) and find out where he wants you.” She gave me his number and hung up.  I called Matt and got the “The number you have dialed is not in service,” message.  I hung up and called the lead back.  It went immediately to her voice mail.

This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.  I’d had enough. This was not the place for me, even on a short-term basis.

As I was walking back to my car, I called up the recruiter and told him I was terminating my as-yet-unsigned contract.  (Yeah, I still hadn’t received the paperwork that was supposed to have been emailed to me by start of business today; yet another issue.)  I explained the situation and that I was leaving and would not be returning.

Needless to say, he was a little surprised.

My phone rang several times as I drove back home. (Sad that I’m starting to refer to the hotel as “home.” Must be Stockholm Syndrome.)  I returned his calls about an hour later. This time he was not surprised so much as angry and demanding that I give him specific reasons why I couldn’t continue on the contract.  Since I was the second guy in as many weeks that he’d sent over to this particular hospital who didn’t work out, this was reflecting very badly on him.  I told him outright that maybe it wasn’t the guys he was sending over, but the environment he was sending them into. “I have several guys over there who love it!” Yeah, several guys whose names he couldn’t even recall. Real professional, this one.

And he wouldn’t end the call, even after I admitted that it was probably my fault for accepting another job in healthcare when I shouldn’t have.

What did I learn from this horrible day?  NO MORE HOSPITAL WORK…EVER.  If it comes down to it, I will sling Cappuccinos at Starbucks before I ever return to that environment.

Several years ago, when I was first transferred over to the health plan portion of the company I worked for, I resented it.  I’d been working at the hospital for five years and really enjoyed the fact that I’d whipped the technical environment and the expectations of my users into shape and that the workload was quite manageable. Plus, the health plan had a horrible reputation.

But after having been at the health plan only six months, I realized I did not miss the hospital environment one bit, and while I had a dozen or so users I would’ve gladly pushed off the roof, on the whole it was a much less stressful place to work.  As six months turned into two years and talk surfaced of reshuffling support staff among the facilities, I realized that if it meant going back to hospital work it would be the impetus that would finally force me to quit.

So we’re no better or worse off than we were yesterday at this time.  I know Ben’s a little disappointed that he may have to use his next student loan disbursement to keep a roof over our heads instead of buying a new toy he’s been lusting after, but as he said, “your sanity is more important than any job.”

And as if to tell me things are never as bad as they seem, I got a call from the headhunter who sent me to that disastrous interview telling me that I (duh!) did not make the cut. I told him I was surprised to be hearing from him considering how poorly I did at that interview.  “Don’t worry,” he said, “everyone has bad interviews and as long as you come away from them learning something, it’s all good.  And by the way, we have quite a few openings coming up soon at [insert healthcare company name] if you’re interested.”  “I’ve been rethinking healthcare,” I said. “Heathcare insurance, or healthcare corporate office support is fine, but NO hospitals!” He laughed and said he’d make a note of it, and just to be clear, the jobs coming available would actually be in the corporate office. No hospital work required.

Photos

While Ben was at class this morning, I took the opportunity to go downtown and wander with my camera.  It seems that whenever I’m about ready to give up on my DSLR, it surprises me:


Big Blue Bear
Colorado Convention Center, Denver CO
26mm, ISO 100, f7.1, 1/80 sec


Union Station
Denver, CO
18mm, ISO 100, f3.5, 1/15 sec


Dancing Aliens (aka “The Dancers”)
Denver, CO
30mm, ISO 100, f4.5, 1/640 sec


RTD Light Rail
Denver, CO
35mm, ISO 100, f6.3, 1/60 sec

Blew It

Finally got an interview today.  It wasn’t anything great; just a 30-day contract, but it would’ve been a little extra money coming in.

But it blew it.  Bad. Probably the worst performance of my career.  I knew beforehand it was going to be a technical interview, but I wasn’t prepared for just how technical.  But then, how do you prepare for that when you haven’t got a clue what the questions are going to be?

First off, the agency that sent me over didn’t bother to forward the interviewer my resume, so I might as well have been someone who wandered in off the street. With no clue to my background or experience I think my inability to provide answers to some of the questions made me look just plain unqualified, and I hated that.

We got on just fine, and I think we’d have a good working relationship, but rapport alone will not get my foot in the door if someone has doubts about my technical ability.

Many of the questions were what I would consider more systems admin than desktop oriented.  While I know a bit about what goes on “behind the wall,” as my former supervisor used to call it, a lot of the acronyms he asked about threw me for a loop…as did the question that asked what specific port numbers were used for.  Not once in all the years I’ve been working have I had to mess with ports as a desktop support tech.  Maybe I’ve been sheltered. Maybe the fact that in all the environments I’ve worked desktop has been solidly walled off from systems. Maybe these things are important to desktop techs in the environment he supports, but they haven’t been a part of the ones I that I have.

For the record, I now know what the four most common are (IMAP, HTTP, HTTPS, and SMTP) so in the unlikely event I’m asked about them in future interviews I won’t look like a complete idiot.

He liked a lot of the answers I gave, but when he said, “based on your earlier answers I won’t waste time with these other questions,” I knew I was pretty much sunk.

I will be seriously surprised if I get called back. What pissed me off the most was that as I was driving back to the hotel I was thinking about some of the questions I couldn’t answer and thought, “Of course! I know what that is!” Duh.

Whatever. A major part of this assignment was just going to be breaking down equipment and moving it from one room to another.  I don’t think I’m going to need to know port numbers to move and reassemble PCs.

Tomorrow is a new day, and with it will come new opportunities.

Photos

All taken with my iPhone and run through Camera+. I am seriously starting to wonder if I’ll ever use my DSLR again…