Wednesday, November 02, 2011

I figure food is a safe bet...

I'm on the morale boosting committee at work this month.  It's a rotating position for three people who are charged with decorating the office in general and decorating the cubical or office door of anyone with a birthday that month (on their birthday.) We also coordinate a monthly potluck and come up with games/puzzles/some sort of activity with a prize for the winner.  The only budgeted items are one cake a month for all the birthdays and a couple of gift cards for prizes.  The committee last month set the bar pretty high with lots of activities, tons of decorations brought in from the committee members' personal collections and little Halloween trinkets on our desks in the mornings.  It's going to be a tough act to follow.

Rob donated some fall harvest decorations he found on sale at Walgreen's and I found some red leaf garlands at Dollar Tree, but I'm afraid our office decorations are going to be a bit sparse this month since no one has a personal stash of decorations appropriate for November.  However, I figure with the Thanksgiving holiday falling in this month, I can just make it all about food.  

Tonight I'm making three dozen deviled eggs to take in to work tomorrow morning.  Total cost, if you don't count the time, was under $5.  Items planned for other days are homemade Chex mix, Rob's famous V-8 chili, a big pot of my homemade potato soup, a batch of cookies, maybe some cupcakes and who knows, perhaps  I"ll spend one weekend making bread.  I've got a couple of other easy and cheap dishes up my sleeve, but don't know yet if I want to devote almost every weeknight to cooking.  

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Been a while since I've been here. I turned 50 back in September and did not buy that red BMW, nor did one magically materialize. At some point last year I decided I didn't really want one and the same happened with the new Camaro that caught my eye for a time. I'm pretty much against car payments and apparently I don't have enough desire for a new car to save up for one. I figure that no new car on the planet is worth eating ramen noodles all the time and forgoing decent coffee.

 I'm still doing the tech writer thing with some phone coverage for customer service. It's an okay gig, but really low pay and no raise in sight. I often feel like I ought be performing at 120%, working longer hours or trying even harder to become some sort of brilliant, "document everything in a blink of an eye" employee because, well, that's how I've always operated. Then I remember that past history has shown that sort of behavior rarely results in a raise and usually only benefits my employer who continues to get more bang for his buck. This puts me in a quandary. I'm usually not happy in a job unless I'm pushing myself, but I'm also not happy when the "above and beyond" behavior isn't rewarded. You'd think after all these years in the work force I would have found a happy median between the two.

 The people I work with, for the most part, are still a great group. We had our Halloween potluck today and I brought enough enchiladas for everyone. I had planned to make them myself, but Rob chased me out of the kitchen last night and I did give credit where credit was due when everyone raved about how good they were. It's nice that even though the company is growing we are still hanging onto some of the old smaller business traditions. Not so many dressed up today, but that was likely due to Halloween falling on a Monday. If I hadn't had such a simple costume, I probably would have passed on it myself.

Speaking of Mondays, I'm heading to bed early tonight despite the fact that it's Halloween, my favorite holiday of the year. Hope everyone had plenty of treats and fewer tricks today.

Friday, September 02, 2011

We might finally get a break from this heat!

Tonight the weather forecast had this to say:

More stable conditions will quickly follow on Sunday night and Monday...with daytime highs on Monday moderated...from the much above normal daytime highs since late May. For next week from Monday through Friday...dry conditions are expected...with cooler overnight lows and moderated daytime highs.

Only got to 101 today so it's a bit cooler outside this evening (down to 96 degrees at the moment.) I think I might even sit outside with a cold beer just like in the old days before the summer from hell arrived.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Plodding along

The weather has been brutal this summer. We've had week after week of high temperatures over 100 degrees and it's usually still over 100 degrees outside when I get home around 7:00 PM. The little A/C unit for RV can't handle these very hot and sunny afternoons so the inside temperature is normally sitting at 88 degrees when I walk in the door. That feels pretty warm after spending the whole day in a cold office.

This is also the time of year when it doesn't cool down much outside in the evenings so it's likely to still be 100 degrees outside at 10:00 PM. Instead of my usual after work ritual of being outdoors, I've been staying inside in the evenings whether I'm at home or at someone else's place. Mind you, visiting other folks does give me a change of scenery, but it's still too much time indoors.

In other news, my dad is doing as well as can be expected and plans to attend the family reunion in Fredericksburg this weekend. I'll actually get to go this year now that I'm no longer working weekends. I'm not looking forward to the drive, but I am looking forward to visiting with relatives that I have not seen in years and years.

Work has been keeping me very busy and things are rather chaotic since it's a new position doing things that have not been done before. It's challenging, interesting and occasionally frustrating, but I'm enjoying it for the most part. I forget to go to lunch most days because I get too wrapped up in what I'm working on to notice the time. I consider that a good sign, even if it's not particularly good for my health.

Theo is still hanging in there. Apparently he really likes the TV because when I would occasionally watch it in the evenings, he'd struggle to get off the bed and come out to the living room. And as soon as I would turn it off, he'd struggle back onto the bed. I decided to move it to the bedroom and run the cable in through one of the cabinets so I could just leave it on for him all the time. He seems very happy with the arrangement so far, especially when I do come back there to watch something. The only problem is that it's right by the foot of the bed and even though I've turned it off at night to go to sleep, I frequently wake up in the middle of the night to infomercials. I think he's just accidentally hitting the on button, but I suppose he could have figured out how to turn it on.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Much has happened these last two weeks!
There are a few things that I can't blog about in order to protect the privacy of those involved, but there was so much stuff going on that I have plenty of other things that I can talk about.

First off, my father had a heart attack a couple of days after I posted my last post. He's doing as doing as well as can be expected for someone who cannot have any surgery. His first heart attack was over 40 years ago and the treatment this time is pretty much the same, except instead of spending 30 days in the hospital, he was sent home after 1/2 a week. Mind you, getting sent home right away is a huge improvement for the patient over staying in the hospital for a month, but the whole rest/recuperation, nitroglycerin for the angina pain and "hope for the best" type of treatment is straight from 40 years ago. But since there was no surgery or other obvious treatment, we have to keep reminding him of that old 30 days in the hospital routine when he gets frustrated that he's not bouncing back right away. There's a whole lot of saying, "No, you can't do that yet!" Hmm... in retrospect, maybe locking them up in a hospital for 30 days had some merit.

Then, the day after my father had his heart attack, I learned that the technical writer they had hired at work had accepted another job and was leaving at the end of the month instead of the end of October. As a result, I moved to the IT department full time this week and starting next Monday, I'm totally my own as the sole tech writer without the benefit of those three months of training. Ack!

But despite my father's heart attack, I have managed to cram an incredible amount of information into my head in the last two weeks. A bit of it was about technical writing, but much of it was researching software programs for code documentation and then learning how to use them (the tech writer had not used them before either.) In order to do that I had to learn a bit about the code I'm going to be documenting as well as test a multitude of software options in order to decide the best one to use. In addition, some of that code documentation was due by yesterday (I met the deadline) and I also had to learn a few other things there were not related to technical writing in order to provide backup for an IT person who was on vacation this week.

It was a pretty wild ride these last two weeks and yesterday evening, I was winding down with a old friend of mine by reviewing my two week cram session. I was also expressing my doubts about being able to do this new job and he just laughed and said, "Of course you can do it, because you are crazy smart." That made me laugh too because I've never considered myself "smart" and if he had just said "smart" or "super smart" then I would have immediately disagreed, but I was okay with "crazy smart". And that's the great thing about old friends, after so many, many years they know you well enough to know exactly what to say when you need a boost.

And in other news, a sad thing happened this week when my next-door neighbors, D&S, moved away to another place on Wednesday. They couldn't hang with the recent lot rent increase and found another place that is $200/month cheaper. They tried really hard to get me to move with them, but their new place doesn't allow dogs. We do plan to stay in touch and they are close enough that I can visit them on a weekend. Still, I will miss the day-to-day contact we used to have.

And with the recent monthly lot rent increase, I'm not likely to have another long-term neighbor any time soon. Many of the old-timers that have been in the RV park for years have pulled out this month. It will be interesting to see how the RV park culture changes if it ends up being mostly short-timers in the future.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

P for payday instead of F for Friday. Finances were very tight this pay period because back on the 1st I found out that my rent had gone up $75 and I didn't have any wiggle room to allow for that. It was tough, but I did not have to sacrifice my somewhat expensive morning coffee having stocked up on it a while back when it was on sale so I weathered it okay. Now, I did have money in a savings account that I could have drawn out, but I purposely made doing that as difficult as possible by placing it in a bank that I could not easily get to in person during business hours and I had no way to electronically access the money, also done on purpose. That way, on a hot day when a cold beer really seemed like the best idea in the world, I couldn't give into the temptation to pull money out to buy a six pack. And there were a lot of hot days since we've had 14 consecutive days of temperatures over 100 degrees.

My poor little air conditioner unit in my RV is working overtime, but it's still usually 86 degrees inside when I get home from work. Normally that would feel pretty comfortable to my heat-loving self, but the office I work in is a damn freezer and that's what I get used to during the day so it feels really warm to me when I get home. Seriously, almost every chair in every cubicle at work has a blanket or a jacket draped over it. It might be over a hundred degrees outside, but we are wearing jackets inside - how screwed up is that?

Oh, and I got off early today so it was late afternoon instead of evening when I took the trash out to the dumpster and as usual, I was barefoot, not thinking about how hot the asphalt paving would be at that time of day when it was 103 degrees outside. And so yeah, I burned the bottoms of my feet. Not fun. There was a time when I was a kid that I could have walked that stretch without any ill effects, but these days of wearing shoes in a office every day, well, it was sizzle time. I've got too thick a callous on my feet to end up with any blisters, but it's still quite the burn. Oops.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Very nice 4th of July
I was off work today and I continued my long time tradition of grilling hot dogs on the 4th of July. I don't know why or where it came from, but at some point after moving out from my parent's house and setting out on my own, I decided that I needed to grill hot dogs on the 4th of July. And I've pretty much done that every year since.

Usually, it's just me solo, doing the hot dog thing, but this year I got my RV park neighbors in on it. And so a bunch of folks came by; I grilled a lot of hot dogs; we all drank many a beer and had great conversation for hours. No fireworks because of the extreme fire danger during the current drought, but still a good time was had by all. And there was an extra bonus - everyone helped to clean up the mess and cart off the trash before we all headed off to bed! Awesome.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

1/2 of a new job
I found out yesterday that I didn't get the position that I interviewed for a couple of weeks ago, which is not surprising since I was definitely NOT qualified for the job and it wasn't just the degree requirement. Although they hired someone else, the interview still paid off for me. I was offered the opportunity to work 1/2 day in my current role in Customer Service and 1/2 day in the IT department until October and I'm very pleased with the arrangement.

Funny thing though, most every one I've told so far has been disappointed that it's not an increase in pay. I'm a bit puzzled by that because even though it's not any more money, I'll be doing more of what I like to do and that seems like a pretty good deal to me. Same money, but more fun. I don't see anything wrong with that picture, but maybe I'm just wired differently.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Still waiting...
I haven't heard anything on the results of the job interview. Maybe by the end of today?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Three hours in the hot seat
I had a job interview today that was three hours long. It's a job that would be extremely interesting and very challenging. I'm don't have the qualifications that they were requiring for the position, but despite that, I was asked to interview for it anyway. There's plenty of unemployed talent in Austin that does have the qualifications that they were asking for so I think my chances are pretty slim. Nevertheless, it was a real treat to get to sit and talk with the people that interviewed me (all of them brilliant) and that alone was well worth the three hours of my time. It reminded me a bit of the annual conference I used to go to in Canada. Although I was probably the least knowledgeable person there, I never had any trouble talking with all those movers and shakers of the industry and what a great opportunity to listen and learn. Same thing here, because although it was an interview and I did answer a lot of questions, I still spent the majority of the time listening to the people who were interviewing me. And that was a very cool thing.

Friday, June 10, 2011

RV gardens
I've been posting about my veggie plants in pots and let me tell you, I am not the lone ranger here at the RV park. In fact, my handful of pots are nothing compared to many of the other residents here. For example, I have a new neighbor a few lots down that moved in this week. There must be at least 15 pots of assorted veggies that came with them, obviously planted months ago and doing quite well. Almost everyone has at least one tomato plant, most have five or more. There are plenty of herbs and flowers too. I never thought of RV-ers as gardeners, but they obviously are.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The beat, er, HEAT goes on
Not a record high today, but 97 degrees is still plenty hot for the first part of June. I literally needed pot holders to hold the steering wheel on my car after it sat in the sun all day. I didn't have any pot holders though so I had to waste gasoline sitting in place while I waited until the A/C had cooled it down enough to touch. With gas prices as high as they are, I need to pick up a couple of cheap oven mitts at the grocery store to throw in the car!

I discovered that something was munching on the leaves of my green bean plants today while I was at work, but there was no sign of the culprit when I got home. I was planning on planting squash this weekend, but maybe I'll do another pot of green beans instead in case these get munched to death. Oh, and a neighbor gave me some okra seeds to plant. I don't actually eat okra, but it might be fun to try and grow it.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Checking in
I'm still doing well. A quick rundown:

I got a new BBQ grill, an off-set smoker, and cooked the best brisket I have ever made on Memorial Day weekend. I also discovered that I like bratwurst when it's smoked with mesquite wood, but not when it's smoked with pecan wood.

There was a lay-off at work, but it didn't include me. Up until this week I had been very busy at work and it's only now that I'm starting to notice the slowdown in business. Seems like half the USA is in a drought and the other half has had too much rain. Our business depends on the grass growing and it's not doing that in most places right now.

Speaking of drought, it's been unusually hot and dry here early in the season and we just had 5 days in a row of record high temperatures. This does not bode well for my veggie plants in pots.

Well, that's it for now - time to get to sleep...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New age banking
I also had to take care of some business at the credit union this afternoon and met the most clueless "banker" I have ever met in my life. Mind you, I was at a branch office in a little bitty town and the "banker" couldn't have been more than about 24 years old so I guess some level of cluelessness is to be expected under those circumstances, but it was still a bit of a shock. And then I got to experience some sort of new electronic age banking thing where I discovered that the people you interact with are actually just drones who type in the information on their computer and then make a phone call to the real bankers who talk to me via speaker phone and then send the necessary documents to the drone's printer. And I'm glad I listened to the instructions the speaker phone banker gave to the drone because the drone either didn't listen or forgot them. Sigh.

Oh well, at least now I'm more prepared to win the lottery because if I do, then I'll know to drive down to San Antonio instead of dealing with the drones at the branch office.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Checking in
I've been doing well. I'm up late tonight because I had to cook stuff for the potluck at work tomorrow and since I'm up late on a cool, dry night, I've got a decent wireless internet connection. I would not have been up late if I hadn't spent several hours earlier helping my mom (via phone call) with something that she needed to do on her computer. But hey, what's a little lost sleep when I have the opportunity to help my 87 year old mother with something that she's been unable to do herself for over a week? I've certainly lost sleep for much less valid reasons in the past. I figured while I'm waiting for this last rice dish to cook in the rice cooker that I might as well do a quick update.

Work has been going well. I'm now a Tier 4 employee which means I know how to do a lot of stuff, but didn't want to be a Shift Lead or Supervisor. Titles don't translate into more money since I still earn the same as I did as a Tier 2, but the work is more interesting and that's compensation enough at this point.

The weather has been really wacky this spring. We had above normal temperatures for many weeks in April and then got plunged into a below normal couple of days the first part of May. I can't remember ever having to run the heater in May, but this year I did when temperatures dropped into the low 40's at night. Crazy stuff.

Oh, and I found out I had money that I didn't know I had in a retirement plan with an old employer. I can't touch it for another 10 years, but it's essentially free money to me 10 years from now provided I find a new home for it in the next couple of weeks. Pretty cool, eh?

Ah, the rice is done. Time to pack it up for tomorrow and then get a bit of sleep...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Always Camping Girl
I referred to myself the other day as "Always Camping Girl" because I am, in a sense, "always camping" given the fact that I live in an RV located in an RV park. I happen to love and have always loved to go camping so being in a state of "always camping" is a positive thing for me. It would not, of course, be considered so positive by the folks that I know who don't like to go camping, but in my case, it is a good thing. And from time to time, I remember the days when I used to load up my car on Friday after work and drive, sometimes for hours, then set up the tent and campsite so I could spend the weekend camping. And on Sunday afternoon, when I was packing everything up and making the drive back home, I would often wish that I could just stay put instead and why not just go to work from there so that when I got off of work and came home again, I would still be camping? Well, guess what, here I am now, many years later, doing exactly that.

And while RV living is fun, there are also things that I like about living in a house so I may very well live in a house again at some point. But I want that future house, if there is one, to somehow have the sense of "always camping" about it. I tried to create it at my old house with limited success, but I never really was able to capture the feeling. Now that I've been actually living it for awhile, I definitely want to take that with me and keep it when and if I move again. So maybe that future house will be a little cabin set way off the beaten path, or it could even be a grand house that has an expansive outdoor living space or it might be another RV with more kitchen counter space. Hell, it could take so many forms that there is no predicting what it will be or look like, but I definitely know what it will feel like.

Time and time again, I am surprised when I look at life my life and realize that I now have many of the things that I wanted so many years ago. I may not have the specific things I thought I wanted, but I have the essence of them and usually they are even better than what I originally imagined. For example, this RV is far better than my original idea that came about back when I had a tent.

And of course, there are still plenty of things that I want that I do not have at the moment, but the desire and dreaming of them doesn't have to mean that I'm unhappy with what I've got. It just means that no matter how good it gets, there's always the opportunity for life to get even better. And exploring, creating, dreaming and sometimes discovering that what you thought was "it" really isn't "it" after all, well, that's all part of the fun.

I have decided that I am going to spend the rest of my life feeling good and having fun, as much as possible. I told one of my friends the other day that my new mantra is to do more of what I want to do and less of what I don't want to do. That doesn't mean I'm going to quit my job because having that job provides me with the opportunity to do other things that I do like to do. Such as sleeping in a bed instead of on a cardboard box under a bridge. Meanwhile, I'll keep looking for a means of income that provides more joy than this one. I want to get to the point where I'm always satisfied with what I have, yet still eager for more. I'm already there, most of the time and I tell ya, life is pretty damn good from this perspective.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A bad day turns good
I got up this morning and did my usual morning routine with an eye toward leaving for work a bit earlier than usual since there's been a lot of traffic jams lately and I was tired of getting to the office with just minutes to spare before clocking in. The "Oh crap, I might be late and get a written reprimand in my file" stress is something I'd rather avoid. I really need this job and to lose it just because Austin traffic sucks would really piss me off. But today I was right on track to leave 10 minutes early until I went to start my car and the engine turned over just twice before the starter went click, click, click. I was hoping to find corroded battery terminals when I opened the hood, but they were squeaky clean which meant that most likely the battery had given up the ghost and needed to be replaced. Or my alternator could be out, but the battery was almost four years old so odds were good that it was the battery. I looked around to see if any neighbors were out and about, but the early birds usually leave for work between 6:00 and 6:30 AM and the rest of the RV park tends to sleep in. As far as I know, I'm the only one that leaves at 7:00 AM so I left my hood up in the international symbol of car trouble and went back into my RV to notify work that I would be late or possibly not in at all today. It wasn't too much later that a neighbor knocked at my door to see if I needed some help. I got lucky; they were up much earlier than usual and noticed my hood up.

One jump start later and I was ready to head off to work. As a bonus, this neighbor, who is a retired engineer and therefore has a great deal of smarts, handed me an extra car battery and some jumper cables to take with me so I could jump my car after work using his extra battery instead of having to rely on finding someone to give me a jump start. His foresight saved me a great deal of grief because because after work the parking lot was almost empty and apparently no one else was getting off work at 5:00 PM today so there wasn't anyone to flag down to ask for a jump. But thanks to his extra battery I was on the road in minutes and I headed straight to the O'Reilly's Auto Parts store in Buda to buy a new battery, provided they had one in my budget range.

Now, it's two days before payday so I had a very limited amount of funds available. The counterman pulled up my battery choices on the computer with prices and I guess the look of despair on my face was pretty evident because another counterman intervened and directed him toward some cheaper options. He then took me over to the battery rack and showed me why he didn't think I should buy the absolute cheapest battery available, but here was one that was not much more and well worth the extra money. It wasn't a scam; I know enough about car batteries to know he wasn't bullshitting. And when I told him, "Yes, that battery you are recommending is the same battery that I bought from O'Reilly's four years ago," his eyes lit up and he told me, "If that's the case, then we can definitely do you right and make your budget."

Somehow, he managed to find the record of my prior purchase despite my complete lack of memory of what my cell phone number had been back then. It took him quite a while, but he was persistent and after applying a warranty and some other pricing voodoo, it more than met my budget. And to top it off, they even changed the battery for me right there in the parking lot, no extra charge. I haven't seen that kind of customer service in years!

The counterman joked that I had enough left over to buy some beer and that's exactly what I did. I bought some for myself to celebrate my good fortune and a 12 pack to give to my helpful neighbor. I was going to buy a 12 pack for the folks at the auto parts store, but was afraid that might be against company policy. But they will, at the very least, get all of my future auto parts business and I will also sing their praises.

And what started out as a bad day, turned out to be a very good one thanks to some helpful folks. Which reminds me to never underestimate the value of good customer service or even just lending a helping hand to someone. You never know for sure, but it just might make their day.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

A song a day
I've decided it's time to start buying music again. I used to be able to hear a lot of my favorite songs on a radio station for free, but it changed format a few months ago which left me with just Pandora. Pandora is great, but it requires an internet connection and that is something I don't always have. And with Pandora, just like radio, you can't play a particular song and have to hope it comes up in the rotation at some point. And so, for the last couple of months, I've been deprived of the music I love and have been minus a major source of stress relief.

I gave Rob our extensive music collection when we split up, which made sense since I don't have a CD player and no room to store CDs either. I figured I'd replace everything with MP3s once I had some extra money and solved the backup problem. Well, I've since solved the backup problem, but the truth is I'll never have a bunch of extra money.

To work around that, I came up with a plan to buy one song a day. At an average price of $1 per song, that comes out to about $7 a week. I figure this will keep me from spending too much over the course of the year. But in order to solve the problem of down time when I have no internet connection, I need to buy a chunk of music at the start and then switch to adding one song a day. So I decided to roll the start of my plan back to January 1st which left me starting with a deficit and at first I'll spend more than a dollar a day (but only as I can afford it) until I catch up.

I'm starting out with some of my favorite songs from the last 10 years or so that I didn't previously own (for the most part) and are also ones that I don't mind listening to over and over again. As you will see, I'm still very much a Metalhead. (click on the song to view on YouTube, although many have annoying commercials that you have to get through first)

What I've Done - Linkin Park

Coming Undone - Korn

Down with the Sickness - Disturbed

The Red - Chevelle

Bodies - Drowning Pool

Thoughtless - Korn

My Own Summer - Deftones

Cryin' Like a Bitch - Godsmack

Kryptonite - 3 Doors Down

You're Going Down - Sick Puppies

Outside - Staind

Break Stuff - Limp Bizkit

Psycho - Puddle of Mudd

South Texas Deathride - Union Underground

Numb - Linkin Park

Headstrong - Trapt

Pain - Three Days Grace

Last Resort - Papa Roach

It's a good start, but only about an hour's worth of music. More later...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My mom has been dealing with a rather perplexing medical condition for the last year. First it was nothing to be concerned about, then it was definitely cancer,then it was maybe cancer, then it was definitely not cancer, then back to maybe cancer, then definitely not cancer again and at this point, the doctors involved have finally admitted that they have no clue what it is. My mom and our family have been dealing with the situation in our typical manner which is to not get too freaked out about it and instead, plan for the worst while expecting the best. However, I talked to my mom tonight as she told me about yet another doctor that she was going to see next week and for the first time, I heard fear in her voice regarding this issue.

Now that fear might mean that she was not comfortable with our plan for the worst or it could mean that she was no longer expecting the best or it could mean she was afraid of dying or it could be something that I haven't thought of yet. But there's a reason there and it troubles me that she's afraid and I don't know why. I have watched my mother face many a fear in the past 50 years, but it was always pretty evident what was causing the fear. This time, I'm not sure and she's not willing to talk about it. And so here I am, troubled about something that I can do nothing about at the moment. All I can do is let it go for now, try to get some sleep and look at it again tomorrow.
Yesterday morning the fire alarm went off at work and there were not any procedures in place to handle such an event. In a perfect world, that would have been thought of before we moved in to the building, but it's not a perfect world. Despite the lack of planning, everyone evacuated in an orderly manner via the main entrance. Had there actually been flames and smoke in the immediate area then I'd be telling a different story since using the main entrance involved walking a very long way through the building before getting outside. If there is a next time, I'll be going out via the fire exit. Duh!

It turned out to be just a small electrical fire in the elevator shaft and after standing in the parking lot for about an hour or so, the fire department gave the all clear and we returned to work. Of course, this means the elevator is now out of service and I'm not looking forward to the pain in my knees from walking up those stairs every day. A ground floor location has long been a requirement of mine for living quarters, but I never really thought much about it being a requirement for a job. I'd have to add that to my list of things needed for the "perfect" job.

Monday, March 28, 2011

It's been a while since I posted, but the change to Daylight Saving Time really kicked my ass this year. It came about right at the start of the busy season at work, spring allergies and the usual spring arthritis flares so it's not so surprising that I have done very little in the evenings after work or on the weekends these last two weeks. I have not read books, blogged, studied for an exam I plan to take later this year, played computer games, watched movies, worked on my jigsaw puzzle or done anything other than the minimum amount of housework and following the news a bit on the disasters in Japan. Instead, I have been enjoying the warm evenings, visiting with my neighbors and getting as much rest as possible. It's taken a full two weeks, but I think I may have finally recovered from the time change because this is the first morning that I've felt like touching the computer before heading to work. I'm hoping this is a sign that I'll have a little bit more energy at the end of the day.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Momentarily interrupting the Saturday story to post that I've decided it's Spring-enough to put out a hanging basket of petunias. We are not yet past the average last frost date, but a hanging basket can always be brought indoors if we get a late freeze. I'll need to wait a bit longer to do my banana tree in a big pot idea. I have no idea if you can successfully grow a banana tree in a big pot, but I figure I'll give it a try. With luck, come August, perhaps I can sit in the shade of my banana tree with a cold beer and pretend I'm on vacation in some exotic tropical location.

My friend LT stopped by yesterday and hooked me up with a few things to improve my wireless connection. It's not yet improved to the point where I can get a connection every time I want one, nor can it hang onto that connection for very long, but I can definitely get a connection some of the time and usually long enough to hammer out a short post or email. And that's a big improvement!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday, Part Three
(Click here to jump to Part One)

I rummaged in a few cabinets looking for the electric skillet. I don't normally cook on the stove since that uses propane and propane costs money, but electricity is included in the lot rent. Besides, having the cover down on the stove gives me the only usable counterspace in the tiny RV kitchen. One of these days, I'm going to find the right size sink covers to replace the ones that originally came with the RV. I'm not sure how many people have owned this RV, but they all took good care of it. Except for the sink covers which were MIA. The last owner only had it for a few months and I wondered if the missing sink covers had anything to do with that.

It was a major pain in the ass to do without the counterspace those would have provided. I laughed as I imagined a retired couple and the wife shaking a big wooden spoon at the husband, demanding a better kitchen. The oven doesn't work and given that it's spotless and looks brand new instead of over 10 years old, I supsected it had never worked. That bummed me out at first since I love to bake, but once I found out how much propane cost, I quickly got over it and decided the oven was just more cabinet space. Maybe it was something Mrs. Previous Owner couldn't live without, but I wasn't inclined to spend the money to get it fixed. My bread machine bakes just fine, provided one doesn't mind that everything ends up shaped like a loaf of bread.

I finally located the electric skillet in a cabinet over the bed. When you only have 150 square feet of living space, where things are stored is more about the dimensions of the cabinet rather than it's location. The location of the screwdriver needed to tighten the legs on the skillet, however, was in the kitchen junk drawer. I'm pretty sure almost everyone has a junk drawer containing at least one screwdriver in their kitchen. Some things never change whether you live in a house or in an RV.

Having brought the skillet up to acceptable safety standards, I went about cooking breakfast. Hash browns first since they would stay hot sitting off to the side on a plate while I cooked the bacon and eggs. A couple of months ago, I finally gave that precooked bacon a try and decided it was made for people who live in RVs. With just two minutes and my electric skillet, I can have hot, crispy bacon that hasn't made a complete mess of my tiny kitchen. I try not to think about how such a thing is possible. I'm not entirely sure you could make bacon any less healthy than it already is, but there's bound to be a price for that convenience.

I had cooked enough food to feed a family of four and in the process remembered that I had used my spatula as an ice scraper on my windshield a couple of weeks ago. I added "spatula" and "ice scraper" to the shopping list, ate a single portion and turned the leftovers into breakfast tacos that I could zap in the microwave for breakfast next time. No sense in cooking breakfast four times when you can do it once.

After the dishes were done I took a stroll over to the RV laundromat. As I suspected, the three washers and dryers were full. There was a line of full hampers lying in wait and quarters stacked on the machines just like I used to do at the arcade to claim my place next in line at my favorite pin-ball machine. The dryers run for 45 minutes so I did the math and determined there was enough laundry in line to last for another 4 hours. And that didn't include anyone who had not yet staked a claim.

I figured I had to go with the post-midnight plan and should go home and take a nap. By now it was three in the afternoon and if it had been a work day I would have been yawning my head off and more than ready for a nap. But I hadn't spent the day in windowless cubeland at the call center so I wasn't doing any yawning. I gave the nap idea a try anyway. No luck. The cloud cover outside wasn't enough to keep the RV from being too bright inside for a nap. I added "eye mask" to the shopping list and wondered if I was going to have to go to the sex toy store to find one.

I drive by one of the largest "adult" stores in the area on my way to work, but they probably were not open that early in the morning. There is no way I was going to burn that much gas to drive there on the weekend just to buy an eye mask. No, I'd save that for when I had enough extra money for a new vibrator and some porn DVDs. Except I don't have a TV and the DVD player on my computer is broken. Oh well, maybe Wal-Mart carries eye masks.

Too bad it quit raining; rain would make it dark enough to nap. I stuck my head out the door and asked for more rain. The clouds didn't answer, but my dog did, indicating that he wanted a walk.
Saturday, Part Two
(Click here to jump to Part One)

Two books kept me occupied for the rest of the morning. The bad thing about being a fast reader is that a paperback which would last most people a couple of days will only last me a few hours. Fortunately I have a co-worker that keeps me well supplied with paperbacks. Otherwise I might cave in on my resolve to buy only one book every two weeks.

There was a time when I didn't buy books at all and did my reading on the internet. I had a nice reliable internet connection back then, but now my internet access is very hit or miss. If I can't get it on my computer, then I'll try my cell phone but I usually don't have much luck there either. Apparently my RV sits in some sort of wireless Bermuda triangle so I was quite surprised to discover that my Kindle always
has a flawless connection. I might not be able to call 911 to save my life, but I can always download a book. Go figure.

I resisted the urge to start on another book. I only had two left out of the six that my co-worker had loaned me yesterday morning and I needed to save those in case my planned after-midnight raid on the RV laundromat was successful. There was no way I was going to be able to stay up that late unless I had some good books to read. And beer. Yep, at some point before my raid I was going to have to cash in the change jar at Wal-Mart and buy some beer.

I had heard the helicopter take off earlier while I was reading. They were on the ground just about the right time for a shopping trip or brunch at one of the restaurants nearby. Then again, maybe they were shopping for an RV. That made more sense. It would have been pretty cheeky to land in the field unless they had business here or knew the owner, but I figured anyone that owned a helicopter was probably pretty cheeky to begin with.

I had been too involved with reading to stick my head out to look at the time and even if I had, all I would have seen is a helicopter taking off. Nothing that would have given me a clue as to their business here. Normally I wouldn't even have been curious about it, but it was slow day. I stuck my head out the door and confirmed that the helicopter was gone. Ah well, that was a dead end now.

It was still raining, but the sound of thunder wasn't weather related. It was my stomach reminding me that I had only eaten a half a can of Spaghetti-O's for dinner, drank coffee for breakfast and now it was past lunchtime. I looked around, but there wasn't anything that provided the necessary inspiration for cooking.

Normally I'd go with bacon, eggs, and hash browns on a Saturday, but I was out of butter. I could cook hash browns with vegetable oil, but that seemed sacrilegious. My stomach growled again and reminded me that if I went out to eat, the hash browns would most likely be cooked with oil so I might as well save myself the expense of going anywhere. Bacon, eggs and hash browns then. Maybe the food would put me in the mood for a nap.

(Click here for Part Three)
Saturday, Part One

It's not every day that I have my early morning peace and quiet disturbed by the sound of a helicopter flying close by. Very close. As in sounding like it was about to land on the roof of my RV. I hadn't done anything recently that would require someone to send a S.W.A.T. team in to do an extraction so I stuck my head out the door and took a look. And damned if a helicopter wasn't landing in the field across the street from my RV. It wasn't painted conspiracy theorist black nor did it have police or air ambulance written on it. No TV news crew letters either and it appeared to be just a rather brightly painted private helicopter. Three guys that looked to be middle-aged were milling around and it didn't seeem that it had landed due to mechanical trouble. Shrug, maybe one of them needed something from the store and didn't want to hassle with trying to drive in Saturday traffic on a day when a major intersection on the freeway was shut down.

The helicopter was of less concern than the three hampers of laundry being loaded into my neighbor's SUV. Crap, someone got the jump on me for the three washers in the laundry room at the RV park. Looks like I wasn't going to be the early bird getting the worm today. Finding an empty washing machine around here was much like trying to find an open keypunch machine at the computer lab back when I was in college. Yeah, I'm old and went to college back when you used keypunch machines and cards to run computer programs. But in college I could pretty much count on the machines being empty early on a Saturday morning. That didn't translate too well to an RV park full of early risers who were not out partying the previous Friday night.

Okay, maybe I should try and grab the washers at 2:00 am in the morning when all the old geezers and hard-working stiffs were asleep. I don't have too much luck staying up that late anymore, but maybe I could go back to bed and take a nap. Nah, too much coffee. I'm not much of a morning person and when my alarm goes off at 5:00 am during the week, I'm non-functional until after I've had my third cup of coffee. Normally I don't set the alarm on a Saturday, but I was planning on doing laundry so I'd already had four cups. Scratch the nap idea.

I could drive into town to a laundromat, but given the previously mentioned shutdown on the freeway, that held as about much appeal as going to the dentist. I decided instead that I would get another cup of coffee and sit on my front steps to watch the guys in the helicopter. I looked out the door, but there were no longer any signs of life around the helicopter and it was raining now. Drinking coffee that was watered down by rain wasn't very appealing so I added "umbrella" to my shopping list and picked up a book. After all, there are few things more satisfying than staying in on a rainy morning with a cup of coffee and a good book. Might as well make the best of things.

(Click here for Part Two)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Alice in Cubeland, a pseudo flu and RV living
Today was my first day at the new office and while it is definitely "cubeland", it's better than most that I've experienced so far in my working life. Then again, my generous opinion might be due to the fact that I only spent 2 hours working at my cube today. I spent the majority of the day in the training room helping out with some computer issues. Yes, we have IT staff to do that, but they were swamped with other urgent issues and training starts on Monday. They were also unable to figure out what was up with PowerPoint not behaving with the projector, but I knew how to fix that, having run into that exact same situation several times in the past. I often forget just how much experience I have and today was a good reminder that I could do IT work again if I wanted to go back in that direction at some point.

I was out sick yesterday with what felt like the worst case of flu I've ever had. I spent a miserable day in bed, drifting in and out of Technicolor fever dreams and wondering why every part of my body had to hurt all at one time, including my fingernails. Then Theo woke me up at 3:00 AM this morning because I had failed to take him for his evening walk and I discovered at that point that I only felt like I had a really bad cold (and let me tell you, it's no fun taking the dog for a walk at 3 in the morning when the temperature outside is 15 degrees Fahrenheit.) But given that I felt better, I either kicked the flu's ass in record time or it was just one very mean-ass cold virus.

I would have greatly appreciated having running water this morning, but as usual, the pipes froze overnight so I had no hot shower to clear my head or any running water at all for that matter. That should be the last work night that I have to deal with frozen pipes this season. We are predicted to have a much warmer weather pattern next week and after that, a night in the teens for the length of the time that it takes to freeze the hose outside would be extremely rare. I have enough camping experience to make do without running water, but I'm putting heat tape on the shopping list for next fall if I'm still living in an RV at that time. Or maybe I'll be able to afford one of those expensive heated hoses. Either way, I'm not planning on repeating this particular RV experience.

That said, there are many things about RV living that I do really like, but I haven't lived in one yet through all the seasons and I'll be curious to see how I weather the spring thunderstorms. I experienced some pretty frightening high wind speeds this winter and there will be plenty more of that in the spring, with gusts even higher that what I've felt to date. The only casualty so far has been my nerves and the barbecue grill which has been blown around the place a couple of times despite my attempts to secure it. Theo doesn't like it much either when the RV is rocking like crazy, the stabilizer jacks are groaning, the cover over the slide is flapping, the vents and windows are emitting howling noises and the neighbors patio furniture is slamming against the side of the RV. Although, I'm pretty sure he's going to like my tornado evacuation plan even less since it involves him wearing a muzzle while we hang out in the campground restroom. A plan I hope I don't ever have to put in place, but best to have a plan, just in case.

That reminds me, I need to buy a weather radio before the season hits because I can't rely on the internet access here and the radio stations are pretty useless these days when it comes to providing timely weather information. The next time I hear them tell me to go visit their website for more information about the weather, I just might smash something. If I had internet access, I wouldn't be listening to the radio for information in the first place!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Lone Star Beer sign

Once upon a time, there was a giant Lone Star Beer sign in Austin. Back when I was a kid, we would take the bus to the drag (Guadalupe Street) and one of the things one would do while hanging out on the drag was to go kick the sign. It was a ritual, perhaps our secular version of Mecca, and it was something I did for many, many years until one day the sign was torn down. I don't remember any political outrage or any protests from the kick-the-sign group; the sign was simply gone one day and that was it.

I can't help but wonder, if we had the internet and social media back then, could we have saved the sign? Would we have gotten wind of the plans to tear it down and mounted a successful public outcry? Who knows, but I've seen it happen in other cases. I think we could have pulled it off.

Monday, February 07, 2011

RIP Gary Moore

One of my favorite guitarists is gone. Bummer.

Big sigh of relief as I get home
The Monday From Hell is over. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the office was closed on Friday due to the ice on the road which meant that today was a busier than usual Monday. Mondays are pretty brutal anyway, but today was a killer. I did manage to have lunch with a friend of mine over at Nutty Brown Cafe which was a nice break from the chaos and was also my last chance to eat lunch there. Tomorrow is move day and I'll be way on the other side of town in the future. I'll miss that place, but I'll get to reacquaint myself with my old lunch haunts since the new office is located very close to the old call center where I used to work. I wonder if that Denny's still has good hash browns? I plan to get the answer to that question on payday.

My RV survived the big freeze with no busted pipes as far as I can tell. So far, I've found no water leaks, but some of my neighbors were not so lucky. We traded strategies for dealing with the next one and pretty much decided there wasn't much else we could do other than keep the furnace running and cross our fingers. The RV park wasn't spared either and we didn't have any running water for a day while they repaired busted water lines. At those temperatures, even some buried lines broke.

We've got more cold temperatures on the way and another possibility of sleet/ice on Wednesday. This time it's not slow business that's making my paychecks short since we've got more business at work than we can handle. Instead, it's the damn weather and I'm crossing my fingers that I don't miss another day of work due to icy roads. This is typical February weather here so if I can escape broken pipes for the next month, then I won't have to worry about it again for a long time.

The days are getting longer and I'm looking forward to the return of some sunshine in the evenings. I'm going to need it because the new office is a cubeland and I'll have no window. I so really don't want to work in a cubeland again, but maybe it won't be so bad this time. Ah, who am I kidding? I'm gonna hate it.

Friday, February 04, 2011

snow day! It doesn't snow in Austin very often, but it did last night. one inch of snow by itself wouldn't have been enough to shut the city down, but we had sleet before the snow so underneath it was a layer of ice which made driving impossible. Of course people attempted it anyway and that made for some free entertainment this morning as I watched vehicals slide down the hill. A crowd of people gathered and cheered or booed or clapped as if we were at a ballgame or demolition derby.

I still don't have internet access at home, but I do have a smart phone now which can access the Internet. However it takes me forever to type a sentence so I doubt this means a return to regular posting. But I will try to post a line here and there and who knows, maybe I will get better at using this touchscreen keyboard.

Monday, January 03, 2011

What a crazy day!
The phones are work were ringing off the hook today with back to back calls just like during the busy season. After the last two months lull, it was a bit of a jolt, particularly since I'm now a Tier Three staff and doing considerably more complicated tasks than I was as a Tier One the last time the phones were this crazy. I didn't mind the hectic pace so much because it made the day fly by and it was 5 PM before I knew it. However, I was definitely feeling a bit weary on my way home and what a treat it was to pull up in my driveway and have visitors literally waiting for me at my door to offer me a cold beer. And after we attended to Theo's needs for a walk, food and attention, I was then whisked away for a free dinner at Serrano's. Wow!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Bread baking day
Theo actually let me sleep in yesterday and despite a rather late start to the day, I managed to get everything done that I wanted to get done, including baking some bread in my bread maker. It's taken me six months to get around to using it due to the narrow counter space that requires me to keep an eye on it during the kneading cycles. Otherwise, it will bounce itself right off the counter if I don't push it back from the edge on a regular basis and it wasn't until yesterday that I had the block of time and the desire to deal with that. I made up the recipe because that's half the fun of it and it turned out to be very tasty, though not as strongly flavored as I wanted. This time I remembered to write it down so I could adjust it later. Here's the recipe from yesterday:

Cheese/Onion bread (with just a hint of cheese/onion flavor)
Makes a 1 lb loaf in the bread maker machine

3/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon Chicken & Tomato Bullion
2-1/4 cups flour
1 package of yeast
1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used a four cheese mexican blend)
1/2 cup diced sweet onion

Add the ingredients to the bread machine in the order listed and use the Fruit/Nut bread cycle with a medium crust setting.