Monday, July 31, 2006

Hot job openings today!

I have been a job applying fool today.  Lots of really great job opportunities appeared today.

Jobs Applied To
Resume Title Date Sent Job Title Company
Charles Hill resume - July 2006 7/31/2006 Chief Information Officer Confidential
Charles Hill resume - July 2006 7/31/2006 Information Technology Director Confidential
Charles Hill resume - July 2006 7/31/2006 Network Engineer Overland Solutions, Inc.
Charles Hill resume - July 2006 7/31/2006 Systems Engineer / IT Consultant Apexis Consulting Inc
Two of these jobs prefer or require a Masters degree.  I'm more than seriously considering getting a Masters degree sooner than later.

Latex snot

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

Racoons and the surreal zone.

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

Lazy, Relaxing Sunday

I just spent the past 90 minutes drooling over the Tesla Roadster.  It looks like a Lotus Elise, it runs on electricity, the only moving part is the rotor, the aid of a traction control computer allows it to go 0 to 60 in 4 seconds, it runs nearly silently, it has a range of 250 miles on one charge, it comes with a portable charger in the trunk, and it recharges in 3.5 hours.  $80k.  But you don't have to buy gas and you could charge it with solar panels on top of your garage.  The tax credits you get could make the down payment.  I doubt my next commuter car will burn gas now.  I'm holding out for one of these!  It's not going to work for hauling, but for getting around, wow!  The new trick which makes this car so fast and efficient?  Cell phone (lithium ion) batteries running in parallel. 6831 of them, to be exact.  As the laptop and mobile phone makers spend the R&D dollars to extend battery life, this kind of car can only get better.  Cost of ownership is 1 to 2 cents a mile.

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

Yay for Friday

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

Off to a bad start.

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.

Roommate search

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 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

Certs isn't just candy

I passed the CCNA exam with only a couple of hours of refresher reading and practice exams.  Now, I'm reading some dry network material into the wee hours in hopes of soaking in enough jargon and theory to pass more certification exams.  I'm tired of explaining to recruiters that I let all my professional certifications expire whilst holding the same job for seven years.  I mean, if you have a steady job, you don't need 'em. . . until you don't have a steady job.  Then you apparently have to have them or you just don't get called back very often.  I'm taking donations at this point.  These tests are pricey.  The same ironic theme of finally having the time to do something, but no money to do it keeps recurring.  I almost prefer it to the opposite problem.  Anyone wanna sponsor my trip to CCIE boot camp?  I'll make your money back in the first year, easily.  The average CCIE makes $104,000 annual salary.

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

Hot Hot Hot

The grass is cut. I had a nice lunch with my brother and nephew. The bills are organized, paid, and otherwise prioritized. I got to spend some time laying around on the deck sweating like a pig in the sun. I spoke to a couple of recruiters and sent a few resumes. I got the chest and bicep workout done and ate dinner. It was a very productive day. It was a very hot day. My thermometer said 103 at one point. I know it felt that hot. I drank over a gallon of water and I'm sweaty right now. If it's this hot tomorrow, I'm going to the pool. Despite the heat, it was a good day. I feel like I should go to bed now so nothing can ruin it.

I noticed that the FCC approved the sale of Adelphia to Time Warner Cable and Comc
ast 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

Job search

Well, I have extended my job search to include short term contracts outside the area.  I'm not sure if it would be considered slumming to take a contract that's 100% travel for four months upgrading networks in 187 retail stores.  I think I'm up for it.  I quoted $50 an hour.  I hope they bite.  I think it would be quite an adventure.  I could rack up some frequent flyer miles, at least.  I think after about the 50th store, I might get tired of it, but there are parts of this country I have not seen and this seems like a great time to do it.

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

I guess I didn't hear the starting gun that goes off on Monday mornings when the employed world goes from zero to sixty and the unemployed world staggers to the bathroom and decides a shower would be too ambitious, pees, and goes back to the bed.  I slept through the usual checking of email, eating of oatmeal, and applying for the new hot job postings which appeared. . . which I'm doing now.  Something about an overcast day just takes the wind out of my sails.  If you don't look at the clock, the light level indicates that sunrise hasn't happened yet and if the circadian clock inside is synchronized to a weekend sleep-in cycle, it's hard to get the motor running.  Sleep inertia.  The only consequence was that my day started much later and I had to prioritize some things.  I did make it to the gym for a good shoulder workout.  I did cook for myself . . . I boiled some fresh spinach with garlic and some beef fat, which tastes pretty good, and I grilled some chicken with some lemon and italian spices, which I also love. 

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.

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Don't sit out.

I played in a couple of free online Omaha tournaments to get a feel for the game.  I didn't last long in my first attempt.  In my second tourney, I outlasted over half of the players, but got busted when my set of kings got beat by a straight (ace to five) which I simply didn't see coming.  Most people will play aggressively to double their stack early, then sit out the first part of a tournament to wait for better playing conditions.  Ironically, even this guy whose screen name is "dontsitout" will sit out when there's a big chip stack bullying the table.

Last night I finished 13th out of 5470 players in a regular hold'em tournament.  Too bad it was only for play money.  An extra $8500 would be nice right now.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

World Series of Poker

Here are a few select pictures from the World Series of Poker at the Rio in Las Vegas.  Phil Gordon and Doyle Brunson pics are inlcluded.  I was impressed by the enormity of the thing, not to mention the stacks of chips.  Those pink ones are worth $500 each.  I hope to have the skill to participate in an event like this someday soon.