Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I found this book by Danny John called From the Ground Up which has the best plain English guide for good form for squatting with a barbell which I have ever read.  My trainer just says to keep the weight over your heels, but never exactly how do that.  The tips in this book were obviously written by a coach who has taught a lot of kids how to lift.  For example, to correct your stance, jump up and down three times.  Where your feet land on jump 2 or 3 is the proper natural foot alignment for a squat.  Who knew?  If there's a question about what he means by "chest up", he says "imagine being on a beach when a bikini model walks by", which is an arched back, lats wide, chest up posture, he just calls it "Muscle Beach chest" from that point forward.  I've always been impressed in my experience with hockey coaches by their practice of associating complex concepts with two or three word commands which can be barked at game speed to correct an athlete.  I know that "soft hands!" echoes in my head every time a pass bounces off my stick, or "hockey position!!" if I catch myself standing straight legged in skates and can't stop or turn quickly enough.  After reading that, I imagined him shouting "Muscle Beach" across a stinky gym at some young chump who is lifting incorrectly.  Going down, you imagine your feet are stuck to the ceiling and you have to pull your butt to the ceiling.  Then "push the floor away" to get the bar going up.  That makes so much more sense to me than "stay on your heels."

Monday, August 28, 2006

Back in the gym

I'm having a nice lunch at the neighborhood Chinese buffet following a good back workout.  I just piled the plate full of honey baked chicken, rice, and broccoli.  Okay, and a couple of crab rangoon.  I'm 186# according to the gym scale.  That's the new benchmark.  

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

Fall approacheth.

What a day!  I helped a friend who sells Prepaid Legal Services memberships setup a web site.  I was most shocked to find that you can have a unix hosted site with PHP and your own cgi-bin and a domain registration with a catchall email address for the domain, and a cool interface for adding A records for a year for $71, unlimited drive space, and unlimited transfer.  Web hosting has achieved commodity status.  I foresee moving this journal to my own domain very soon.  I got a nap, and Kris called to say that he had the day free to help finish the flooring at my annoyingly vacant rental.  I'm glad.  It needs a full day of TLC before someone could move in.  I had the broken washer hauled out of there, and subsequently got a discount on a newish high capacity dryer, which is sorely needed at my brother's house.  It was a good trade, and the guy guaranteed the dryer for 60 days.

I received a desperate sounding email from Lutzie, the man who rents the ice rink for his invitation only games twice a week. 

from Lutzie 
to Lance, Robert, Darren, Mike, Marc, Jared, Mark, Jeff, Corky, Sam, Mark, Brian, Joe, Kevin, Marty, Clay, Joe, Brian, Daniel, Jim, Greg, Kirk, Gerald, Anthony, Mike, Jeff
 More options  5:05 pm (7 hours ago)
I had 2 late cancellations today so I  have a spot for 2 players tonight. If you want to play or know of anyone who does, just call me at 816-xxx-xxxx.

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

Another job offer?

In a strange twist of fate, I was contacted by a recruiter whom I've been working with on the UMB Bank job opportunity I interviewed for a while back.  It's the job for which I narrowly missed being hired when I failed to get his call/voice mail for a couple of hours due to a dead cell phone battery.  Well, the guy who made the low ball offer and undercut me didn't work out, and they're preparing an offer for me.  The recruiter is shooting for $42 an hour for 8 months.  If he hits the mark, I might jump all over it and send my apologies to the Sprint hiring manager.  The dilemma is troubling.  Sprint network versus UMB web?  Benefits versus no benefits?  Slumming in a NOC job versus $25k a year more and preservation of my ever increasing salary history?  Easy job in my core competency versus challenging job which expands my experience?  Pain in the ass 30 minute commute versus easy 15 minute commute?  Midnight shift versus daytime hours?  30 minute meal break versus 1 hour lunch downtown?  Kansas versus Missouri?  Working weekends and holidays versus a bank holiday schedule?  I'm accepting advice at this point.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Sprint employee

The most unique thing to happen today is my receipt of a spam offer for a Johnny Cash Mastercard.  The second most unique thing is a job offer.  It's a huge pay cut for me, but the job is super_nerd_cool!!!!!111  It's a vampire shift in the Sprint Network Control Center.  I have been to the Sprint campus and I've seen the hive of geekdom that monitors the Sprint network from Puerto Rico to Maine to Hawaii.  The cubes are literally in honeycomb shape with aisles that zigzag.  When you're in one of these cubes, you're completely surrounded by large flat screen monitors two high.  And when you stand up to peer over the cube walls, you find yourself surrounded again by large flat screen TVs hanging from the ceiling and tuned to the news and weather channels.  I will have the Sprintlink internet backbone folks as cube neighbors and a clear view into the wireless voice network area. My area monitors the wireless data area.  Basically, the 2G and 3G internet access or text messaging or ringtone downloads cross the portion of the network I'll be monitoring, etc.  It's a rare opportunity to work with every division of Sprint and get my head around their entire network architecture.  The overnight nature of the shift leaves the days free for school work or other pursuits.  I suspect I'll workout in the morning following my shift, have a nice big meal, then sleep in the middle of the day.  That starts on September 5.  So, I have a deadline to finish all my little projects. 

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

Birthday 36, The Sequel

Now that I've been up for roughly 24 hours, I'm kinda zombified.  To summarize, though, I had an early job interview, a big breakfast sandwich at Wendy's, some time to read emails, a good workout, a brief lunch, a little nap, birthday dinner in the afternoon, a profitable session of poker at Harrah's, a long wait for a table, a second birthday dinner late, and birthday drinks on a rooftop deck.  It was very laid back and conversational.  That's what I needed after such a long day.  I didn't get serenaded by the wait staff.  I didn't have to exert myself.  I didn't have to drive.  I came home with more money than I left with.  I got to spend time with friends relaxing on a patio in the most perfect weather.  That's a good night all the way around.  Thanks to Adam, Jo, Scott, Tricia, and Christina for a good time.  Thanks to the Thorsons, and Rich & Lisa, as well.

Friday, August 18, 2006

I'm trying to doze off, but there's a nasty thunderstorm outside, and I have to be at a job interview in five hours.  If I head out at 5am on a Saturday for an interview on my birthday, it had better pan out!

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?


My efforts to bypass the recruiters has paid off already.  I have been contacted directly by a hiring manager and have an interview lined up for Saturday at 5:30am at Sprint.  They are in a hurry to hire someone with my skills.  Being a direct hire includes benefits like tuition reimbursement.  If I can get my foot in the door over there, I'm sure I could move up fast.  The position has a rotating shift schedule, because of the 24 hour nature of the cellular data network being supported.  Well, that's nothing new to me, but at least this is scheduled and won't interrupt previously scheduled things on "my time".  Working swing shifts or midnight shifts suits my lifestyle just fine, as long as I can work some hockey time and gym time in somewhere.

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

Retracted job offer?

I thought I had a job, but someone at Sprint or Kelly Services or United IT screwed up and the job the recruiter thought they were hiring me for and the job that Sprint was actually hiring me for were two different jobs.  I was quoted $43 an hour and had even signed an acknowledgement that I was an employee of UIT and Kelly Services and not Sprint directly.  After a period of silence, I called the recruiter and asked him what to do next.  He let me know that the pay was actually only 25.70 an hour.  He said the president of UIT had contacted Sprint to complain about the mix up.  I doubt I'll be working with UIT at all. . . ever.  Nor Sprint for that matter.  The problem is that I had called a number of other recruiters to let them know I had accepted an offer.  Ouch.  How do you call them back and say, "The offer I accepted was bogus.  Please, put my name back in the hat," without sounding awkward?

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


I think I just slam dunked a job interview at Embarq.  Although it's not my first choice, it's an interesting enough job that I know I can do well there.  Lots of Solaris.  Lots of shell scripting. :-)

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Cool jobs.

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."

Job seeking.

A little networking in the locker room after hockey pays off. . . one of the players handed me his business card and said they have job openings for network engineers.  Today, I went to their website and looked.  Wow!  Municipal WiMAX project design?  Yes!  I hope to get that opportunity.  I polished up my resume to fit the listings and fired off a masterpiece cover letter and list of references.  I have an interview tomorrow with Embarq.  I hope that goes well.  I'm making an appointment for a haircut tomorrow morning.  No need to press a suit. . . just hang anything out in this 100 degree 80% humidity and the wrinkles fall out immediately.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Tuesday's just as bad.

I got to play hockey tonight, and I signed on for the next several weeks.  Since the regular adult league starts up again in September, I want to have some ice time prior to get my skating legs back.  Aside from a blister on my foot, which will callous and not be a problem when I'm back into the swing of skating three times a week, no real aches or pains. . . til tomorrow when I wake up, I'm guessing.  It's Lutzie's invite-only league on Tuesday nights.  The stress left my body as I slammed around out there.

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.