Friday, December 29, 2006
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Monday, December 25, 2006
That out of the way, I had a great Christmas with the family. I finally did go Christmas shopping on Saturday. And I think I've caught up on sleep.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Well, Christmas shopping just isn't going to happen this year. I don't have the time or the money available. It's finals week at school, plus I'll be working two full-time jobs on Monday and Tuesday. In addition, I'm resolved to study after/during work at least eight hours total for my final exam, which is scheduled for Wednesday evening. Then, I'm getting ready to host the family for Christmas. They arrive Friday. That precludes any weight lifting and hockey this week, I suppose. I hope to still get at least four hours of sleep each day, by any means necessary. After Tuesday, I will be back to a normal daytime work schedule and have the evenings free again. Once I finish my final exam on Wednesday night, I'll get a full night of rest for once. I think it might feel like a vacation.
Lutzie sent me a link to a great hockey video. This guy is amazing in the stickhandling preview video.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Friday, December 8, 2006
I quit my job at Sprint and accepted a contract to work in Dallas for the next few months. The milder weather there will be welcome, as will the additional cash I'll be making. This is the job I was looking for in July or so. <sigh> I'm glad it finally came along! I'll be a technical lead for a network project at sites in Dallas, Kansas City, and Chicago. This is right up my alley. Because of the travel involved, I'll have to take my classes online for the next couple of terms. I'm excited to be using my core competencies once again.
It was a little bit difficult to quit my job at Sprint. If I didn't like the people I was working with so much, it would be significantly easier. I consider a few of them friends, though. I'll certainly be staying in touch.
Monday, December 4, 2006
Friday, December 1, 2006
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
I'm off to the gym, then to the library. I'm getting my workout done, my calls returned, and my homework done before I worry about things such as sleep today. I may be dead by the time I play hockey tonight, then work all night. Wednesday, I will sleep, pack, go to class, and drive all night for a 4-day Oklahoma getaway. I want to eat turkey, shoot a deer, and sleep a lot.
Monday, November 20, 2006
On the hockey front, I played center last night, but the wingers on my line had no passing skills. I may as well have been playing defense, because I spent the better part of my shifts skating backwards. In fact, the best scoring chances happened when I stole the puck away at center ice, rotated with the left defenseman, passed the puck forward to him, then followed the play. Handing it off to a winger wasn't working. I always look forward to playing on Tuesday with more skilled players. I know where they are going, I can zing the puck to them, then I can get open in front of the net.
The nephew had his tenth birthday. I helped him get an old computer working in his bedroom by swapping out a bad monitor and removing a lot of unnecessary software which was loading at startup. At least he can play Starcraft on it now.
I attended Lake's birthday party for a couple of hours. I didn't stay long enough for cake because I had to run off to work. Someone's grandma died and someone had a kid, so I got scheduled for overtime. I had intended to use the time to study and do homework on Sunday, among other things. Now, I have more than I can possibly get done today and I have to sleep at some point. I skipped my workout. I'm still recovering from a hockey game, anyhow.
Tuesday, November 7, 2006
I had a stressful week followed by a fun weekend. The theme of the whole thing was family. I attended a great wedding and saw two great families come together for the formation of another one. I also got some financial help from some family members to help me through some of my debt hurdles right now, for which I couldn't be more grateful.
I'm taking a finance class with my brother, which is required for each of us to get our Masters degrees. This is going to be interesting.
Work is going okay. There's a structure to chaos ratio which is starting to balance out for me there.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
NOTE: I found later that Nortel doesn't call it a wireless softswitch. In true old school telecom form, they have created an acronym which is completely meaningless, P-MSC.
Friday, October 20, 2006
I want to say what a pain it is to work with Wells Fargo Home Mortgage when they misapply your payment. I have four different login names on their website and depending which one I use, it might say I'm current or behind. They have no way to tie all my accounts together with one login. It's a similar pain if you call them. I invariably get about four menus deep in their IVR before their system realizes there are multiple accounts and puts me on infinite hold-for-a-representative music. The most aggravating part about that is that they routinely apply my payments to the wrong loans, and I have to send them my bank statement to prove that I sent them money and beg them to reverse any late charges or correct any default situations. If you have a loan with Wells Fargo, don't ever get a second one, or a third, or a fourth like I did. They officially suck at treating you like one person if you have multiple accounts. If it weren't costly to refinance, I would do so in a heartbeat just to save myself the time of dealing with those bubbleheads.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Speaking of danger, I applied for an interesting job in Iraq. I like to think that they're not backfilling for some tragic reason. There are a lot of personal and/or testosterone driven reasons why I would try for this job, even for the short term. Plus, about a hundred thousand of them with no Federal withholding. I don't have all the skills they're asking for, but I have most of them, and the rest can be attained by reading some books and some OJT. It could be the adventure of a lifetime, or it could really suck for a while and set my resume apart somewhat. It might make me wealthy. Or, I could be maimed or killed traveling around that Allah-forsaken place fixing wonky network issues. Maybe I could get a similar fix by skydiving, but I think braving a war where my skills are in demand might be more intense.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
I had some really great barbecue last weekend at the American Royal Barbecue, then I had a very busy week. I got my 401k rolled over, showed a house to some potential new tenants, got to check out some radio controlled car racing, worked on a mid-term project for school, and managed to play hockey three nights, worked out four mornings, interviewed for a fat job at Accenture in Lenexa, and visited the doc for a checkup. Once my 401k was rolled over, I borrowed some money from myself to pay off some higher interest debt and have some cash on hand. So much for changing jobs. Now I'm paying interest to myself instead of some predatory credit card company. At 140,000 miles my '96 Jeep started having engine problems and burning oil, so I traded it for an '04 and paid cash for the difference. So much for having cash on hand. My blood test results were great. >800 CD4 and <400 copies/mL VL. So, it was a roller coaster kind of week. My potential tenants may move in on the 20th, so I have some work to get that house ready to move into, like getting the utilities turned on and a few items fixed. Plus, it needs a new garage door opener. I paid a 24-pack fine for missing my hockey game last week. I didn't play as well this week, because I didn't get enough sleep. School is going well. Making time to do homework is a challenge to the detriment of my sleep schedule. I don't have time to watch TV any more, although I caught part of the UFC fights earlier. . . and dozed through most of it. It was nice to show my newer Jeep to my brother and take him for sushi at Domo, the sushi bar in Brookside, which is my favorite now.
Wednesday, October 4, 2006
I was happy to learn that I get free admittance to the 27th Annual American Royal Barbecue on Oct 7 by showing my Sprint badge. I was happy to finally get to play hockey tonight, and we won! And I got plenty of good food, sleep, and a chest workout done earlier. That adds up to a good day.
The biggest challenge of being nocturnal is setting aside plenty of time in the day to sleep and still making time to interact with diurnal people. I find myself oversleeping for things for which I would previously have never considered setting an alarm. The work/life/school balance is better when I try to put everything in my PDA, so it wakes me up in time. The downside of that is that my PDA is also my phone. If I don't ignore the phone when I'm supposed to be sleeping, it will invariably ring, I'll wake up, acknowledge the daylight, and have great difficulty dozing back off. I'm going to start turning the phone portion off and cranking the volume on the calendar alarms. I haven't really had the same energy level this week that I had last week. I have to attribute it to sleep interruptions, a sleep deficit, and some poor diet choices. I've been eating a lot of pizza delivery and Halloween candy and not getting to sleep before noon. I can remedy the diet problem by preparing meals in advance and keeping good food around. I'm going to have to consciously set an alarm clock for daytime activities every time I close my eyes for a "nap". Sometimes, I'll doze off before going to the gym and wake up hours late for my appointment with my trainer. It's no sweat for her, she gets paid anyway, but I feel terrible for multiple reasons. Missing out on the exercise makes the sleep problem worse. The more I think I'm settling into the nocturnal lifestyle, the more challenges emerge.
All that being said, I've had a busy busy week. I enrolled in a half dozen benefits at work. I did a 401k rollover which involved researching the investment options, making phone calls, and doing the leg work to fax forms and FedEx checks. I'm working on a project for class as well as preparing for a midterm exam. I attended a birthday party, but I skipped hockey. And that must be the root of my fatigue problem. I'm an order of magnitude happier, more energetic, and more productive when I get some ice time. :-)On the subject of ice time, I was supposed to play hockey last night, but I woke up with no time to eat before the game, so I rushed around and grabbed work clothes because I would have to go directly from the game to work. . . I got all the way to the rink and realized my hockey bag, skates and all, was still on the back porch. If I made the round trip I would only get to play for about 15 minutes, so I just ate dinner. Later, at work, I received a "what happened to you?" email, so I sent a self-deprecating explanation, which I'm sure I'll hear all about at the next game. Not enough defrag time, and my brain just shuts down. I doubt that I would have played well, anyhow. <shrug>
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Two people have sent me links to the same video. Are they trying to tell me something? http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4581508829597815922&q=weird+al&hl=en Ha ha.
I skipped out on Octoberfest and the American Royal Parade today so I could have some greasy spoon breakfast at Debby's Diner, because Nic wanted coffee and the coffee at Monica's Diner isn't as good. Of the diners on Hwy 40, Debby's is greasier than The Big Biscuit or Monica's put together. I usually eat at Monica's because I like the food despite the use of canned mushrooms in the omelettes, so I avoid that, but otherwise I like their food. I just get milk or tea, because their coffee is really that bad. Today at Debby's, I got the diced ham and scrambled eggs with a half order of biscuits and gravy with a side of hash browns with grilled onions. It was 8.5 on a 10 point grease scale and the room was so smoky that my eyes were burning and my sinuses inflamed for over an hour after I left. I read the local section of the KC Star which had egg yolk and hash brown bits on the editorial page. I would have been more grossed out if it was yesterday's paper. The coffee was good, but it was totally not worth it. I wanted comfort food and ended up in discomfort. <sigh>
I'll hit the American Royal BBQ next week for sure. Since I'll be free during the day that day, not much could keep me away from it. It *is* the largest barbecue contest in the world.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Hockey season has begun. In the past week, I've played in no less than 5 hockey games. Sunday, I stopped a very hard slapshot just inside my right thigh just above the knee where there's no pad, so I have a very impressive scabby abrasion surrounded by an equally impressive purple bruise about the size of my hand. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, but that one made my eyes water. To add insult to injury, we lost that game. Tuesday night, I stopped a wrist shot with my soleus, so I have a bruise there. . . same leg. Tonight, I played through the pain, but I had to use tape on my ankles where the skates tend to rub the skin raw. I winced when I removed the tape, because hair was also removed. Despite all the pain, I have had a LOT of fun and made a bunch of new friends. In the adult league, I'm playing for the Whiteman Bombers again, and the makeup of the team is somewhat different. Some of the good players are back from Iraq, and there are some new faces who have skills. We have a 1-1 record, but due to some scheduling mishap we had a bye week followed by a double header right out of the gate. We won the first game, and lost the second game because A) it's the beginning of the season and most of the team hadn't skated since the Spring, and B) we were pretty tired following a hard fought first game while the other team had fresh legs.
So far, I like my Project Management class. It's pretty intuitive to me, after having seen successful (and unsuccessful) projects at Time Warner Cable. The real lessons I learned were from the crash and burn projects that got hobbled together and then reworked from scratch, or projects that were DOA and never got off the ground, or the projects that only survived to completion because of the technical ability of the people in the field doing whatever it took to make it work despite a half-baked idea and really crappy documentation. With that experience, I can clearly tell who in my class have glassy eyes and believe the project management hype, and the one's who work for dysfunctional companies where projects are salvaged by a few smart people. That said, I'm learning the tricks of the trade with regard to keeping a project on track, because the professor clearly recognizes the difference between textbook project management and reality.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Friday, September 15, 2006
After a full week of working midnights, I'm pretty well adjusted to muting my phone and sleeping from 9am to 3pm. I was jet lagged at first, and it really affected me more than I would have expected. After a few days of waking up to answer my phone, I realized it was going to be important for me to turn the thing off completely when I need to be sleeping. If you're calling me at noon, that's the equivalent of me calling you at 3am. I check my voicemail at 4pm, which is breakfast time for me. On Sundays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, I play hockey in the PM hours before work. On Thursday I have a Project Management class. Monday, Friday, and Saturday evening are the only times I'm really available for social pursuits. If it wasn't for the DVR, I wouldn't watch any television. Although, I'm bombarded by news and weather channels at work. Regarding staying up all night, I'm learning what's open late at night, and in Overland Park, that's McDonald's, Price Chopper, QT, and IHOP. In KC, being a night owl is a bit easier. For the weekends, I found a hangout which is open til 5am. It's been there since 1904. The cover is $8 because it's the only place serving past 3am. If I'm off on a weeknight, basically the casinos are open, or I can go sit at home and read, surf the web, or watch TV.
Saturday, September 9, 2006
Friday, September 8, 2006
The most unique thing today is the Asada Fries at Pancho's. It's basically a mound of fries with a mound of carne asada with guacamole and sour cream dobbed on top. Guac on fries is the most delicious surprise. Asada Fries looked gratuitous and tasted pretty amazing.
It may seem that I've dropped off the face of the planet lately, but I'm just settling into a new routine which includes dressing in business casual, a 30 minute commute each way, a night shift in the Sprint Network Control Center, a big breakfast, a grueling morning workout with heavy weights, a big lunch, sleeping with my phone turned OFF during the day, ice hockey 3 nights a week, graduate school one night a week, graduate school work when I can get it done, a side business involving telemarketing in the late afternoon, a big dinner, and a social life whereever I can fit it in edgewise.
I was unusually strong this morning. My bench press is almost back where it was when I stopped lifting heavy back in May. The "muscle has memory" axiom may be true. My body weight is back to 194 pounds. Part of the gain is muscle, but I have to confess and attribute part of the weight gain to the additional stress yields cortisol yeilds extra fat mechanism. I was fitted for a tuxedo so I can usher at Adam & JoLynn's wedding and the tailor wrote that I have a 35 inch waist. Ouch. 33 is more usual. I have noticed that my "business casual" pants are fitting a little tight. I stopped by the store after my Project Management class tonight to grab some "business casual" pants. Luckily, I didn't have to change. It's technically a "jeans" Friday due to a company barbecue, which doesn't happen until long after my shift. The word is that midnight shift can play it both ways and wear jeans on Friday morning as well as Friday night (Saturday morning).
The new job is going well, and I attribute it to the fact that I'm a fast learner. Once I figured out that I could watch two training programs in separate browser windows at a time with background music from pandora.com in a third window, I'm plowing through the training at double speed. My computer has six big flat screen monitors on a tree so I can rearrange them. They've got me doing the mindless repetitive work for now, since I'm not up to speed and stilltaking online training. I have a handset which receives email reminders when it's time to conduct wireless tests. I'm monitoring wireless data tonight. Short mail, web mail, Virgin Mobile, and a variety of 2G features. Most of the testing is done via automated probes represented by a giant green rectangle on one of my screens. If part of that rectangle changes colors, something broke. At the top of every hour, I have a checklist to go through and test a set of messaging servers from a customer's perspective. . . on four different handsets, all with different menu systems. I've spent $15 on ringtones in the past few hours. I found a menu full of Larry the Cable Guy ringtones, which keeps things light around here. Well, it's time to test again. I'm downloading some Nelly Furtado ringtones next. Super cheesy busy work. Ciao.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Monday, August 28, 2006
Regarding the weekend, I accomplished a lot less than I had hoped. Friday night at The Duo Trio CD release party, I had a great time hanging out with Terry and Nicole. We found ourselves at Town Topic at 3:30am via The News Room. Ouch. I was a zombie for most of Saturday.
Saturday night I skipped going to see the NHL-rules hockey game and grabbed some tasty LC's Barbecue carry out. Then, Nic and I rolled to Adam's birthday party. Fun! til 4am. I got to see the UFC fights, even. Chuck Liddell is an animal.
Sunday, I rested on the sofa and zoned out playing online poker. I doubled my buy-in in a cash Hold'Em game. I came in second in an Omaha tournament and won 300,000 play money chips. I find Omaha to be much more engaging than Hold'Em. I basically only played hands with a suited king or ace and/or pocket pairs. I limped unless I had two pairs or a pair of face cards in my hand. I bet a medium sized bluff at every flush possibility on the board. This worked because I'd get caught bluffing a couple of times, but covered the damage to my stack when I made the same size bet with the nut flush and got callers or the opportunity to reraise. I folded to any post flop raise unless I had the nuts or good odds to draw the nuts. I was chip leader until heads up, then my inexperience showed. I need to practice heads up Omaha. I might start coming in first. I think I'm ready to switch from play money to cash Omaha.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
I received a desperate sounding email from Lutzie, the man who rents the ice rink for his invitation only games twice a week.
|More options||5:05 pm (7 hours ago)|
They're a fun bunch to socialize with, so I called him to say that I'd like to fill in. It's worth the $18 for the ice time, but they grill after they play, and the food is excellent. I learned that Lutzie owns many millions of dollars worth of construction equipment and an excavation and landscaping company. I knew he had a bank. I wonder if it's repo stuff? At any rate, I rushed around and made it to the game a few minutes late, and had a lot of fun. But I'm wiped out. I can tell I'll be sore tomorrow. Playing hockey three days in a row, I've probably lost six pounds. I'm at 190 now. My scale says I'm 21% body fat. I think it reads a bit high. No thanks to the fact that I pigged out on brats with sriracha sauce and mustard right after I had already had a chili dog. . . I'm going to be feeling the heartburn later.
I don't know if my skate blades are just dull or I hit a soft spot on the ice, but my skate slid out and I strained my groin. I will be sitting out any hockey opportunities this weekend. I need to have the blades sharpened tomorrow. I wanted to go to the rink anyway. There's a Friday Night Lights 2 hockey challenge game tomorrow at Pepsi Ice Midwest. It's a semi-annual NHL rules game for anyone brave enough or stupid enough or tough enough. Full bodycontact. 5 minutes for fighting. I'm glad that's becoming a tradition. Seems like fun.
I have conflicting party invitations for Saturday, but I know I'll end up at Adam's birthday party after showing my face at the UFC watch party (and poker tourney).
Sunday is the KC Curling Club Open House at the rink from 11a-1p. They're begging for volunteers to help with the event, so I might show up and lend a hand.
I hope tomorrow is asfun and productive.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Monday, August 21, 2006
September 9, I start school. It's a network security course taught by a Sprint employee, Mr. Xie. Since Sprint will be reimbursing my tuition, I can use the super low interest school loan money to pay off higher interest debt. . . and I have accumulated plenty of that over the past couple of months being "self-employed".
I'm going to celebrate by playing some drop-in hockey tonight.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Friday, August 18, 2006
I received a birthday greeting from a radio station. How do they know my birthday? I got a nice card from Southwest Airlines and a free birthday burger coupon from Red Robin. I need more birthday freebies. Know of any? Can't you eat free at Denny's on your birthday?
In the wake of my parents' visit I'm getting chores done, like actually cutting my grass. When a squirrel steps off the driveway into the lawn and completely disappears, it's time.
The kitchenette downstairs is coming along. I'm pulling out the remaining nails by which the 1973 style paneling was previously hung. I have a verbal commitment from Kris to work off some back rent by doing more flooring work. I have a friend, Tim, who has a construction business who will give me a discount on the electrical work and plumbing. He will be here on Saturday to get started. The cabinets are bought on credit, and I'm assembling them today. Big fun.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Anyway, a job opening at SAIC appeared today, which suits me. Alternatively, I could go to work now for Spherion working for ACS working at Hallmark for 26 an hour. But I think ACS would rather hire someone directly than through a staffing service like Spherion. Spherion's cut must be huge, because I got the indication from the other engineers there that 26 is pretty low, based on their facial expressions. I only went to the interview for the purpose of meeting the people at Hallmark, anyway. I think it was worthwhile. It would be a great place to do contract work. The commute to Hallmark headquarters is super easy.
Today, I'm spewing resumes and cover letters and soliciting for a job at places where I would like to work, whether they have openings posted or not. So far, I've gotten one response. I think going direct and ignoring the staffing service recruiters is more my style. Especially so, after that bait and switch burn yesterday.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Wednesday, August 9, 2006
Once in a while, I stumble upon a job where I just want to meet the candidates. This is one of those. Senior Military Analyst. You pretty much have to be some sort of bad ass.
I was just considering how low the odds are that a female will get this job. I'm not being chauvinistic; I'm just saying that chicks with this amount of tech in their background are rare and the fact that bombs are involved really narrows the field.
"Date: 8-8-2006 Location: Fort Leavenworth, KS Area code: 913 Tax term: FULLTIME Pay rate: Competitive Length: FULLTIME Position ID: 62623 Dice ID: saicbot Job description: The CG, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center (CAC) is the Army Electronic Warfare (EW) Proponent and responsible for all facets of the Army EW program development and management. The USA EW Proponent is a subdivision of the USA Information Operations Proponent and is designated the CAC executive agent for day-to-day interface with the HQDA G3 EW Directorate and other Army agencies. Lead agency responsibilities for the subdivisions of EW are assigned to various TRADOC schools and centers. CG, CAC retains overall decision authority for all DOTMLPF requirements and the synchronization and coordination of all subdivisions of EW. This position provides on site support at Fort Leavenworth to the USAEWP office in carrying out program responsibilities related to Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Office (JIEDDO) initiatives, and may require occasional travel. Tasks may include: 1) advocating and coordinating Army EW support to DoD-wide efforts to reduce or eliminate the effects of all forms of improvised explosive devices (IED) used against U.S. and coalition forces by being the focal point for the EW aspects of policy, resourcing, materiel, technology, training, operations, information, intelligence, assessment, and research; 2) participating in "defeat of the IED" initiatives by analyzing the EW aspects (including electronic attack, electronic protection, and electronic warfare support) of the efforts to reduce the effects of IED detonations, including route clearance, device neutralization, explosive detection, military explosive ordnance disposal, and vehicle and personnel protection; 3) participating in "defeat of the IED system" effort by focusing on EW aspects designed to reduce the effects and interrupt the insurgent chain of IED activities through intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, information operations, counter-bomber targeting, device technical and forensic exploitation, disposal of unexploded and captured ordnance, and persistent surveillance; 4) participating in "training the force" initiatives by focusing on the EW aspects that mitigate the effects of insurgent IED employment through multi-echelon training, technology training, information management and dissemination, strategic communications, and doctrinal and institutional training changes; 5) analyzing (perhaps by using the Joint Common Intelligence Picture of the global IED threat) how EW capabilities influence or disrupt adversary IED tactics, techniques, and procedures; IED threat system products; and IED adversary networks and vulnerability of products; 6) identifying new capabilities and tools such as systems and counter-measures to fight the IED threat.Education/Skills:BA or BS degreeRequired Skills: Current theater operations experience with an understanding of the acquisition system development process and the acquisition relationships between the government and industry. Minimum of 12 years of honorable service with the US military. Disciplined analytical approach to problem solving. Ability to identify problems, develop alternatives, pursue tradeoffs and recommend choices. Superior analytical, writing, and public speaking skills. Proficiency with the Microsoft Office - Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Desired Skills: An advanced degree in an area relevant to the tasks; experience in educational development; military personnel management; service related EW school training; recent experience in EW or EW related activity; experience in determining, documenting, and processing war fighting concepts, future operational capabilities, and doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leader development, personnel and facilities (DOTMLPF) requirements. Completed the DoD Program Manager's Course or Acquisition 101."
Tuesday, August 8, 2006
I called up my flooring guy, my tenant who needs to work off his back rent, to finally finish up some work he left unfinished. I hate to lose my cool, but he's been stringing me along for 3 days and my new roommie has boxes piled in the middle of the floor waiting for him to glue some corners. Just annoying, but he came over at 11pm and knocked it out.
My house was appraised today. The amount it appraised for will determine how much cash I can get out of it by refinancing. Not the smartest thing financially in the long run, but sort of necessary for the time being.
I had some pretty good Vietnamese noodle soup at a different place than Pho 97. The breaded and fried sweet potato appetizer object with shrimp in the middle was everything I had remembered. Afterwards, a walk up the hill to a coffee shop which was having a 10 year anniversary yielded free coffee. It was a zen moment. Happy tummy.
I think I applied for a dozen jobs today, and spent over 100 minutes on the phone with recruiters and got very little else accomplished. The roommies fridge is in place in the kitchen/bar to be. Rinse, repeat tomorrow.
Friday, August 4, 2006
My priorities this week have been 1) to work on getting the vacant house ready to show, 2) get my basement apartment ready to move into, and 3) set in motion a cash-out refi on one of my rental properties to stay financially afloat while I focus on the job search. I got those things accomplished while getting bombarded from every angle by recruiters. I have also heard every get rich quick scheme imaginable. I also learned that getting a good interest rate on a mortgage while unemployed, or self-employed, is difficult. The problem is this, a lot of my rental income went directly into my wallet and never saw a bank account. So, now that the mortgage companies are saying, if you were really self employed for over a year, show us the bank deposits. I have faxed twelve months of bank statements to multiple underwriters, identifying which were rent deposits and which deposits were from my day job. If you say you're self-employed, you can't count the money from your day job as income for the purpose of loan underwriting unless you're still working there. Fine. I'm poor and desperate and I'm in your crosshairs, despite my flawless mortgage payment history. Stick me with a crappy interest rate, give me some cash, and watch me refinance to a better rate at my first opportunity.
I also filed for a Nevada S-Corporation. I got two new job titles out of the deal. Owner. President. I like. The legal fees to file articles of incorporation and the amout of bookkeeping chores for a corporation are only slightly obnoxious. But, from now on the rental thing is going to be a business, and be run like a business instead of a hobby, for all the tax benefits possible. I will lease office space, a portion of my house, to my company. I will lease my vehicle to my company when I drive it on company business. This year, I have to squeeze every dollar I can out of what I have. That includes leveraging every tax benefit I can muster. Signing a lease as an officer of a company where you are both the Lessee and the Lessor, feels like writing a letter to yourself. . . or much like writing your own paycheck. :-) I had an accounting job at a freight broker where I literally wrote my payroll check once a week for three months, and it was gratifying. Everything will be setup once I deed my investment properties to my company, and the tenants sign new leases from Alpha Chief Leasing, Inc. Then if someone slips on an icy stair because of a leaky gutter and ruptures their spleen to death, my company can go down, and I can walk away undevastated.
I applied for federal student loans. The interest rates are amazing. 3 point something? And I can keep the excess? No payment til I finish? Hehe. I guess if a job doesn't happen in the next week or so, I'll just be a full time student. Whatever it takes to make my mortgage, car, and insurance payments. I told the Feds to ship the results of the loan app to all the local schools which have Masters programs which I am interested in. I hope that when they smell the money, they'll come looking for me. ITT Tech, University of Phoenix, and Colorado Tech already have. The ITT Tech campus is literally a quarter mile from my house, while the University of Phoenix and Colorado Tech campuses are each about 20 minutes away.
I completely skipped out on First Friday today, but my basement is clean for once. It has fresh paint and carpet as of today, except for one room. And the only 1970's style paneling left in my house is in the stairwell. There's a sizeable pile in my driveway right now. The front room is being converted into an eat-in kitchen, and I ran out of money. So, I'll have to wait for my refi to complete it. Cabinets ain't cheap. They're not even affordable. My new roommate, Nic, is flexible. I'm glad of that. I simply didn't have time this week to hang the bead board wainscoting and trim boards in the kitchen to be. The shower is also a work in progress, but she can use the upstairs one while I complete repair downstairs over the next few days. I need a break after huffing asbestos dust while taking up a layer of asbestos tile down there. No lie. There's a dumpster in a neighborhood apartment complex which will soon receive a visit by a man dumping asbestos tiles quietly in the night.
Out of the blue, Karen from Time Warner called today to say that the job for which I attended a two hour technical screening by two people, three levels of interviews, and a mock sales presentation in front of the decision makers a MONTH ago. . . is "on hold". Ikinda figured that someone would have been hired for that position, but apparently nobody has been, or will be any time soon. That's okay. I have hot job leads locally from Embarq, F5 Networks, and Standard and Poors. I would enjoy doing any of those jobs, and would be proud to work for any of those companies.
I have an opportunity to take on a CM IT Solutions franchise. The territory including Liberty, Independence, Blue Springs, and Lees Summit is not taken, and the company has customer leads here, but they're feeding them to a franchise in Shawnee. Grrr. I think I could run one of those. That may be the ticket. I am in the running to be selected for that franchise. I have to go to Austin for the interview/application process, and hopefully the training.
I actually showed my vacant house to a potential tenant today. It felt like a test run. When you're showing a place for the first time, you can identify the flaws and the selling points just by watching their eyes. They'll zero in on the slightest water stain, even if you never saw it. I had no idea there was chartreuse carpet on the stairs going down into the garage. Until I fixed the house up, that wasn't the worst thing. . . by a long shot. She said, "That bathroom wall *is* a butt ugly color." And without taking a breath, "That vanity is cute." I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying, "You should have seen the color in the master bedroom before I painted it." Or, "You should have seen the vinyl flooring that was here before." I hope she rents it, her credit rawks. Not even a slow-pay.
Next week's priorities, tax paperwork!, getting a tenant in my vacant house!, and preparing to host the folks as houseguests for a few days. Oh, and find a job! Jetta repair is on hold. It's off my insurance now, so I don't want the liability. It's better off parked, and I have more important things on my plate. Driving the Jeep around is tough at the pump, but cheaper on the car insurance front, and I'm in miser mode.
Monday, July 31, 2006
I have been a job applying fool today. Lots of really great job opportunities appeared today.
I noticed that Midge put her trash out before I got home tonight. I just checked. The 'coons have already partaken. And I saw one of them leaving the scene as I stepped out my front door. My ex-roomate left some animal traps. I'm thinking hat.
I got a lot of painting done. Most of painting involves taping off what you don't want painted. I was working with an Airlessco LP540. I mean to tell you, if you failed to mask something when you hit a wall with that sprayer, it got coated. That thing puts the equivalent of 2 coats of paint on as fast as you can swing it. My taping to painting ratio was about 3 hours taping to less than an hour with the Airlessco paint sprayer of death and doom. I will never use a paint roller on a ceiling again without first seeking out one of these things. It could rock and roll. I rented a generator to run that beast, because there's no electricity at that house right now. I used so little gas, they considered it full when I returned it. Then I spent another hour of cleaning, sanding, and scraping the overspray off of things, including myself, then another couple of hours cutting in the edges of things and around windows with a small paint brush. After I put in a few more hours on the task tomorrow, I will have painted an entire house by myself.
I was having a fresh air and water break on the back deck of the vacant house and noticed flying insects coming in and out of a seam in the siding above a light fixture. I looked closer and found they're little bees. I entertained myself by putting a piece of masking tape over said seam, blocking the entrance to the hive. In a few minutes, there was a nice big swarm of bees who were locked out of the house. They were slowly eating the tape. I expect them to have eaten their way in or out by the time I go back tomorrow to hit them with some bug spray. How big of a honeycomb could be inside of a garage wall behind a light fixture?
When I got home, I took a long shower to get the bits of overspray that had stuck to every exposed hair on my body. Even my eyelashes had the frosted look. I looked like Old Man Winter or more like I had been hunting caribou than painting a house. The steam in the shower loosened up my sinuses, and I had been wearing a mask most of the time, but gobs of whitelatex semi-gloss came forth from my nose. It was disgusting.
The unique thing today--I discovered that banana flavored protein powder tastes really good in a bowl of cream of wheat. I hate it otherwise, and may never purchase banana flavor again.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
A few minutes ago, I woke up with heartburn. I went into the kitchen to put something in my stomach to sooth it. I noticed that the security light was on in the back yard. That usually only happens when I set off the motion sensor, there's a cat back there, or the wind is blowing the tree branches around. It's a calm night, and I didn't see any cat sneaking around back there, so I investigated. As soon as I stepped out the back door, I noticed that trash was strewn all over the carport. I saw chewed up napkins, plastic forks, bottles, and three little heads popped up. The racoons had found the trash bag with the party leftovers in the bottom. I wish I had a camera at the time. The biggest one bolted down the driveway. The two adolescent ones hid behind the trash bags, as if I didn't see them. So, I went out there and moved the food containing bags, or what was left of them, against the wall, and surrounded them with bags which don't contain food. The other two finally spooked and ran in different directions. I know the procedure for thwarting these critters. I'm a five year veteran of picking up trash out of my yard on trash day, which is a Monday morning ritual. The racoons tend to lie in wait before sunrise on Monday for everyone to put out their trash, and then, when the coast is clear, they tear in and pig out. Woe if you put yours out the night before. Since the Kansas City trash pickup service is so backwards, they require the trash to be in bags. The reason I have bags stored in my carport is because they will only take two bags per house unless you buy stickers for the excess ones. No trash cans. They will throw your trash can into the truck with your trash if you put one out there, or they just won't pick it up at all. I learned the hard way. I also learned a trick to keep the racoons away from my trash, and it worked just now. I peed around the bags, and on the food debris which was strewn. I went back inside and watched. One at a time, they came back a few minutes later, sniffed around where I peed, and promptly left. I don't know if that puts fear into them, or just puts them off their appetite, but it works. <shrug> It's cheaper than a BB gun. I'd rather do that than pick up bits of chewed up barbecue napkins the next morning, or find food wrappers in every corner of my yard for the next two weeks.
On a less angry note: Tuesday, I had a fun night out with Courtney. We had previously discussed our common need for some good Mexican food and beverage and made an appointment for Tuesday night to sate that need. So, I suggested we head to the northland and eat at Ixtapa. Her quest for the best margarita and quesadilla combination was victorious in just that one stop. It was a lot of driving, but there's no need to try every taqueria on the Boulevard. That place never disappoints. She said she didn't *want* to find a better chicken quesadilla appetizer. Any attempt might be a huge let down. I think that thing lasted 45 seconds before we had completely devoured it. They put Grand Marnier in their margaritas. Pow! She had some pretty satisfying looking tacos. I had to swipe some of the guacamole from her plate. I had Enchiladas Nopales. That would be cactus enchiladas. They were delicious. They also make a mean squash blossom quesadilla, although I'm partial to the ones from Casa Paloma in downtown Overland Park. We explored Zona Rosa somewhat, since we were right across the highway. That place is surreal. In our quest for a public restroom we found the Cold Stone and ate ice cream so fast our heads hurt; it was so good. The Tomfoolerie's at Zona Rosa has a different personality than the one on the Plaza. Bike night? There was a strange mix of yuppies and bikers there. It reminded me how the Velvet Dog in KC has a completely different type of clientele than the one in the French Quarter, except this place has both types. I found The Magestic Theatre. That place looks swank. No wonder the top comics are playing there and Harrah's and not the usual dumpy comedy clubs here. Too bad it's way out by the airport. I stumbled upon an Indian place called Swagat, with actual Indians eating there. Noted! "Bike Night Every Wednesday. Free Admission with Helmet." "Farmers Market. Every Tuesday 4PM - Sell Out. Located in the breezeway between Victoria's Secret and Hot Topic." You, too, can own a low rise condo overlooking the Sunglass Hut and DSW with a view of Dick's Sporting Goods in the distance. Zona Rosa is just surreal.
Monday, July 24, 2006
As far as Sunday goes, I did as little as possible. I'd say I spent 95% of my day on my sofa or in a recliner at my brother's house. The other 5% in the car or in the shower. I didn't even cook. I ate leftovers and pizza delivery.
I'm refreshed. I'm ready to paint houses, and I'm ready for a fresh batch of Monday morning job listings. Bring on the day.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Last night was fun. Midge, my next door neighbor, had her KCMO PD toga party again this summer and I had a companion party, because if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. And I think it worked out pretty well. Meeting Nic, my future roommate, getting face time with friends, and hanging out til daylight breakfast at Denny's with Nic, OCA, and Moodswung was great. Seeing Moodswung fall asleep in mid conversation and drop his freshly lit cigarette into his pancake syrup wasn't as funny at the time as it is now. When your friends say, even if you don't take her as a roommate, be sure Nic comes to our next party, that's a pretty good endorsement. And I proved once again that some of the best barbecue and arguably the best barbecue beans in the known universe can be obtained from L.C.'s on Blue Parkway. I got a choice pic of the Nieda with a rib and a bib, which sort of sums up the whole thing. Nic and I agreed on her move-in date of August 4, so I have a deadline for repairs and renovations. In fact, I'm taking the measurements to the carpet store right now to pick out the flooring. I'm going to have the installers do my basement and my vacant house at the same time. One more step toward the elusive positive cashflow situation.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
I was eating lunch after working outside for a while and thought it odd that my phone hadn't been ringing like crazy, as usual. So, I picked the thing up and tried to call voice mail. It said "Would you like to turn off Flight Mode?" Uh, yeah. That means the phone portion of the thing was off. It seems to automatically go into flight mode when the battery gets very low. I had four voice mails. Two of them were from the recruiter working the UMB job lead. I called him back and it turns out that someone else came in at a lower rate and snagged the job. I was too late to wheel and deal on the hourly rate. I guess it wasn't meant to be.
The other two calls were a salesperson asking for friend referrals and the neighbor asking to borrow the lawnmower.
I touched base with Nicole, who has broken up with her boyfriend this morning, which may affect her decision to want to live on this side of town. Alrighty. That's okay, because there's a queue of people interested.
I'm just going to keep working my job leads until I land something decent, and keep working on my rentals until I'm back to positive cashflow again.
It is Africa hot. I'm sure that I have sweated off a pound today. I boxed up all of the stuff my former roommate left in my basement. I was always impressed by his vocabulary. I knew he read a book a day. I think I found them all. On each shelf, when I removed one row of books, there were two rows behind that. I boxed up over 200 paperbacks, and a couple dozen hardbacks. Some of them, I'd like to read. He left some sci-fi that looks pretty good. He left a lot of power tools. I found lots of cordless Ryobi stuff, but a DeWalt charger. . . so none of it does me any good. I found his Army discharge papers and some court rulings against him for back child support. I perused his photos, and got a glimpse into his past and realized I lived with him on and off for over a year and never really got to know him. He left two very large pieces of furniture that I suppose I'll list on craigslist or something. Does anyone need a very nice, large, wooden, executive desk and credenza?
I'm in a quandry about how far to go with improvements. If I fix the shower, replace the carpet, and slather on a coat of paint, it will be very liveable again. If I take down the wood paneling and put up some drywall, in addition to redoing the floors and painting, I can up the rent somewhat and recoup the cost in a few months. My ad on roommates.com is getting massive response. If I put in a stove and some minimal kitchen cabinets, it will be a self-sufficient apartment space. I can up the rent even more and probably recoup the costs in the same amount of time. The idea for now is just to get someone neat in there who pays me money reliably and regularly. . . and I think I've found her. Her name is Nicole. She's coming over for barbecue on Friday. I hope we can strike a deal. Being the experienced landlord, I'm making sure everyone's key responsibilities will be in writing. Landlord keeps the utilities on and repairs made, and Tenant pays the rent on time. Woot!
On the job search front, I was blindsided by a sudden phone interview which the recruiter scheduled with almost no notice after I sent him a modified resume which emphasizes my Perl experience. Once on the phone, the recruiter introduced me to the guys doing the technical screening in the web/applications development department at UMB Bank, of all places. Lucky for me, I have friends who work there, so I proceeded to drop names. I was informed 30 minutes after the interview via IM from said friends that I was in the top two. I haven't programmed full time since 1995. I will have to really hit the books to get my (non-existent) Java and .NET skills up to par. I think I have the *nix, mod_perl, and SQL under control, which was what they were looking for. I wouldn't mind a medium to low stress coding spot for a while. This will pay the bills while I work on my network certs, too. I might rediscover my enjoyment of programming. I have a friggin' degree in it.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
If I'm up this late, I usually open a window and let some cool air in. Ha! It's the middle of the night and it's still almost 90 degrees outside. It's gonna be a scorcher tomorrow. That's okay. I have plenty of reading to do.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
I noticed that the FCC approved the sale of Adelphia to Time Warner Cable and Comcast this evening. "Time Warner will get customers in Los Angeles, Dallas and other cities from Comcast in exchange for customers in Memphis and Minneapolis, among others." Is Kansas City "among others"? I guess we'll know more when the deal closes on July 31. I also noticed that Time Warner has layoffs slated for August 2. They're going to reduce AOL to a free web service. I hope that has a positive influence on the stock price, because I have to exercise my TWX options by August 8. The recent price slide is making me tense.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
There's a $40 an hour gig in St. Louis with AT&T which looks promising. They like me, but they would want me to move. I wouldn't mind it if I could work four tens and come back to KC for the long weekends until the contract is over. There's apparently an on call rotation, which is only cool if they're paying overtime. I'm not going there again.
The phattest job I've interviewed for so far, Network Controller III at Scott Air Force Base, pays twice what I've ever made and they really like me so far. I think the only way I could get more money is if I got a Masters degree or started a consulting firm, and neither of those options is as immediate.
Yesterday, I did a pretty intense back and tricep workout. My hands hurt the worst. Gripping 85 pound dumbells for three pretty intense sets of bent over rows is killer on the grip. I did tricep push downs with the entire stack of plates, probably 150 pounds. I had to do 15 reps, because it wasn't fatiguing my muscles, except my hands. My palms and forearms were already sore from gripping 100 pound dumbells for shrugs the day before. I'm considering taking the day off, but might go by the gym and do some core work and calves or something. Tomorrow is chest and bicep day. Legs on Friday. I'll reverse them if my grip is still sore tomorrow. I will do 90 pound dumbell chest presses if I can find someone to spot.
I drink Cytomax as my pre-workout carb drink, and that stuff works! I'm not sure if it's as good as Surge, but it's cheaper, and I can tell a difference. I also like to take a Spike before a workout, but today I took Hot Rox, because I'm out of Spike. That helps me keep the intensity up for the whole hour. I'm currently out of both, so a trip to GNC is on the agenda. I drink a protiein "shake" after my workout, usually about 50 grams of protein. Then I usually eat a big meal of chicken and green veggies about 45 minutes later. The only way to feel good enough to work out every day is to really eat a lot. Right now I can afford to either hit the $6.99 all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet down the street or buy chicken thighs, eggs, greens, and tubs of whey protein. I don't scrimp on the whey protein powder. I get the Gladiator brand that Smoothie King sells, because it tastes good enough that I actually crave it and it mixes really easily and tends not to clump up in milk like the EAS or GNC stuff.
Since it's summer, I'm sweating a lot and leaning out. I haven't lost or gained a single pound, but I'm getting cut. I haven't been this lean for ten years, but I've also never been this heavy. I've certainly never been this strong. The hard work is paying off.
Monday, July 10, 2006
For some reason, despite having slept in, I fell asleep playing poker online. I was down ten bucks anyway. I usually make between 10 and 30 bucks an hour, but I kept getting checked into decent hands and then getting drawn out on by slightly better hands. The worst leak in my game, which I have identified and plugged, is my laziness for calculating the odds for drawing hands versus my break even percentage. If you do the math, it's more of an investment than a bet. I stopped paying attention to the "zzzzzzz" comments in the chat window and actually taking the time to do the math. I now practice doing the calculations for betting rounds after I've folded a hand, so they don't take as long when I'm in a hand. I have most of the odds memorized now. I know when I'm 48% to win a hand and when I'm 18% to win a hand. If the pot is $100, I can call a $10 bet if I'm 18% to win, because 18% of the time I'll make 9 times the money. That's a great investment, you just have to be mentally and financially prepared to lose it 4 out of 5 times. If you are patient and smart, which I am both, you can wait for the right situations at a poker table and it is most certainly not gambling. I would say it is less of a gamble than the stock market. The best advice I got from Phil Gordon about playing selectively aggressive is to never just call pre-flop. If your cards aren't good enough to raise, you should fold them. I started raising five times the big blind when I don't want the people to my left to call and three times the big blind when I have a premium hand and want the loose players to call. I raise ten times the big blind if my raises are not being respected. That simple formula has put me in the top 10 chip stacks going into the final two tables a number of times. My only problem is that these are $4 sit'n'go tourneys and I'm not making as much money as in the cash "no limit" games. I've played in some larger cheap tournaments. I know that I need to educate myself about how to play the final few tables in a big tournament. Finishing 29th out of 10,000 feels good, but when you only make fifteen bucks for over three hours of work, it's kind of a downer. I want those hundred and thousand dollar top prizes. I'm learning this game fast. I have a positive expectation when I play now. That's a good feeling. Am I a professional poker player yet? If I pay off my mortgage, the answer will be yes. So far, it's only paying for itself.