Thursday, August 30, 2007
1. I'm scheduled to interview with two people next week, for the same job I already have.
2. Peaches frighten me, because of the cyanide in peach pits. I won't even eat the canned ones.
3. There was a time when the greatest pet I'd ever had was a kissing gourami named Kisser. Runners up included a kisser named Gommis and a plecostomus named Mr. P.
Which one isn't true? I'll tell you Monday. Meanwhile, here are today's pictures:
This is a closeup of the infamous 6th Street underpass on Stone Avenue in downtown Tucson. The scale between the northbound and southbound lanes measures "Feet of Water" - and yes, water does get that deep sometimes during the monsoon. (Check out the picture here, from 2006.) I haven't seen that degree of flooding on this particular underpass; but that's because historically I haven't done a lot of downtown driving during a flash flood. I did once see an underpass buried car-deep in water near Deming, NM, though. No, really, I did!
Here's another attempt to capture a sunset in my rear view mirror. I took this shortly before arriving home tonight.
Here's the same sunset as seen from home. Other than cropping, resizing and sharpening lightly, this photo is unedited.
Have I lied today, other than in one of the numbered claims made about? Not that I recall, no.
I've decided to do nothing further for now on the new closing chapter of Another Mâvarin. It's not the world's strongest ending for a book, but it was never going to be; it's not the end of the story. Still, it has several scenes that serve as temporary mini-resolutions for various characters. Liru agrees to help Fabi the Innkeeper, Crel escapes the city, Harisi sends the other Fabi to try to get help for Fayubi's spirit, Prince Talber is freed from his delusion, and Rani Lunder negotiates successfully with Imuselti. There's no "There we are then!" concluding paragraph, but perhaps it doesn't really need one. In any case, I've moved on to the first chapter of Return to Mâvarin, which pretty much gets everyone in trouble again.
You may have noticed that I didn't make any numbered claims in tonight's entry about having heard back from DAW about Heirs of Mâvarin. Last time an assignment like this came up, people seemed disappointed when I revealed that I hadn't really heard back from Tor. If and when DAW contacts me, I'll tell you folks immediately, but until then I won't tease you with any facetious claims on the subject. Fair enough? Good. Night, everyone!
of the 1950s or thereabouts. The sign out front attempts
to capitalize on Tucson's past by advertising an
"OLD WEST MOVIE POS T GALLER Y."
Mount Lemmon as seen from the Aviation Highway on ramp
Sunset at the usual place
Sunset in the rear view
Another Safeway Sunset
At home tonight I finished going through Chapter 24 of the Mages trilogy (the new Chapter 13 of Another Mâvarin), and found my stopping point for the second volume, about two thirds of the way through the chapter. What the heck; the chapter was too long anyway. So I moved about seven pages into the first chapter of Return to Mâvarin. Funny thing. My word count is suddenly about seven pages shorter, and yet I just checked older versions of those chapters and together they aren't more than a page longer than the new ones. Eh. As long as I didn't cut a scene and then forget to paste it anywhere, we're golden.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
My first day at Anonymous Regional Retailer (ARR!) wasn't bad, but my second day was better. I was too wound up about starting a new job to get much sleep Sunday night, and I've never had a first day on any job in which I wasn't a bit stressed and nervous. Everyone was wonderful, though. I was encouraged by other factors as well, from the similarity of the accounting software to what I've used before, to my job title and the fact that I have an office instead of one of the cubicles.
Last night I went to bed a bit earlier, but kept waking up, at one point having dreamed that I woke up at 11 AM, two hours late for work! In reality I awoke for the last time of the morning at 7:53 AM, just before the alarm went off, and made it to work a few minutes early. I got my computer log-in, worked with someone one learning one major accounting process and getting an introduction to another, and was able to do a little actual work in addition to watching other people and asking questions. My new boss took me out to lunch and then took me around to the business office, where I got to meet one of the company's founders. Carly, you may be interested to know there there are a few ARR! stores near you, though of course that's not what they're really called.
At the end of the day I organized some notes my predecessor(s) left behind about a variety of procedures, and tomorrow I'll be typing up some of the handwritten ones, as much to learn what they say as to get the info in one place and one readable format. Then I'll get more hands-on training. One thing I will need to overcome is my shyness; part of my job involves making the rounds and chatting with co-workers, getting a handle on what people are doing, learning their names and all that good stuff. I'll manage it, I'm sure, but it will require more effort and spunk on my part than anything else. Still, so far, so good!
Oh, and I think I've found a faster route for the painfully slow drive across town, after three days of experimenting.
Cavities Can Wait
My dental appointment last Thursday (the 23rd) revealed two small cavities, so I made an appointment to have them filled on Wednesday the 29th, before the First Magnus health plans were scheduled to run out. Then on Friday the 24th, the Arizona Daily Star reported that on Thursday, FMFC canceled its health insurance policy. The company had previously stated that the insurance "should" be good to the end of the month, but the article seemed to say otherwise. Rather than take a chance on being stuck with the entire bill, I canceled the appointment for the 29th. Heck, I can live with a few cavities for a while. I just feel sorry for the ex-FMFC employees that still have no job, no $2,000 check (which was only for Southern AZ employees) and now no health insurance. For people with more serious medical issues, this is a disaster. They can't even get COBRA coverage now.
About a Dog
Fell across your blog last night(midnight in Aus), interesting, I have to ask, why does Tuffy have a blueish tongue? Is she part Chow Chow or had she just been eating something that coloured her tongue when the photo was taken?
Yes, the vet's office and Tuffy's trainer have both said that she's part Chow, mostly on the basis of that tongue, but also because of her personality. Sorry to say, she's not the friendliest dog in the world. I doubt that the average Chow is as afraid of strangers (and anyone outside the family, really) as Tuffy is, but I gather that the breed isn't big on instantly making friends with everyone they meet. Still, she's a good little dog and we love her.
The Kindness of Bloggers
My good friend Carly was recently awarded a "Kindness Matters" award by Suzanne R, and generously passed on the honor to a number of excellent bloggers and, well, me. Thanks, Carly! I'm not really very good about passing these things on (just ask Pat and Bea), but I'd like to add my hearty endorsement of all the blogs Carly mentions, plus the one's I've linked to in this paragraph. Carly has been going through a rough summer, having recently been diagnosed as diabetic, but she's hanging in there. She has also posted some truly amazing photos recently, especially a series of shots of the moon on the night of an eclipse. (Heck, I didn't even know an eclipse was coming!) Good stuff!
Looking for the End
I'm on Chapter 12 out of 11 in my edit of Another Mâvarin, and pretty much spent the whole evening tonight fussing with that chapter and the ones around it. Aside from tweaking and some minor continuity stuff, I'm mostly trying to select a chapter capable of at least pretending to be the end of a book. Chapter 11 wasn't so much a reasonable stopping point in the overall saga as it was a series of cliffhangers involving a number of major characters. I have hopes that 12, as I get through it, will resolve things enough that I can revise it to give the reader a semblance of closure before Return to Mâvarin, the third volume in my saga-disguised-as a trilogy, throws my characters back into crisis mode.
And now to bed.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
I'm trying to rush to bed, so this will be light on words again. I'll do better tomorrow.
Barbie Millicent Roberts and her red-haired friend, Midge
Remco's Spunky. I dressed the doll this way years ago.
Tableware and Trident gum
1950s version: turquoise and salmon
Yes, today went well, but I was very tired, having been too wound up to get much sleep last night. Tell you more tomorrow. Not much more, but some.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Sunday, August 26, 2007
The Inner Weasel is something that a writer much keep on a tight leash in order to keep writing. If we don't, it plays on all our insecurities, magnifying every fault and doing its best to convince us that the writing is much worse than it is, and that we can't possibly fix it. The story is lame and badly written, it tells us. What makes you think you can write? Give up now....
And, as I believe I've mentioned here before, the Inner Weasel doesn't confine its bad advice to hypercritical analysis of our writing efforts. Mine has been plaguing me since Friday, trying to frighten me about my new job. What if none of your new co-workers like you, and you fail to establish yourself as their supervisor? What if you can't learn the software and the procedures? What if you can't figure out how to do a pivot table or a vlookup, or link files? What if you can't keep up with the workload? What if they find out you're a fraud and a failure, and you're out on your ear when the temp job runs out?
Yeah, well. I got along with almost everyone in my last job, and with everyone in my interviews; there's no reason to think I can't do as well at ARR! I've supervised people before; I can do it again, and grow into the role. I've learned software everywhere I've gone and in every situation that called for it, for over 20 years now. And I've learned each job's procedures, and then tweaked or redesigned them as needed. I got a 97% score on an Excel test; surely I can conquer that last 3%. And I'm not a fraud or a failure (all those things in my resume, I've actually accomplished), and I'm not going to be out on my ear!
Goblet of Fire and starting on Order of the Phoenix. The Weasel's been nagging me about getting back to my Mages edit, so I'll probably put in a few pages' worth of work on that before I go to bed. And John dug out a Neil Gaiman short story collection for me, which I'll get to when I finish rereading the Harry Potter saga. American Gods will probably be next after that, Paul.
I did get out of the house today, though, eventually. John and I went to Wal-Mart, John's unfavorite place, and to Target. I picked up some decent gray slacks and this red blouse, the latter of which I may or may not wear to work. In the photo above, it's buttoned as far up as it will go, leaving a rather deep opening at the top. Does this constitute a plunging neckline? The clerk at Wal-Mart agreed with me that it seemed a bit problematic, and yet the blouse looked too good on me to pass up. I can either wear it on weekends, or take it to Mendel's Wife the Tailor and have them add another button nearer the top of the collar. Fortunately, an extra button is provided.
Other than that, now that most of the $2K cashier's "gift" check from First Magnus execs is in the bank, I've paid some bills and made a few minor, self-indulgent purchases. I've replaced the Doctor Who CD that I left in the computer at First Magnus on Black Thursday, and bought the DVD of the last Seventh Doctor story, Survival, which ended the show's original 1963-1989 run on the BBC. And after at least a year of admiring the Choxie displays of innovative varieties of chocolates in wonderfully modern packaging, I bought a dark chocolate key lime truffle bar and enjoyed it over a period of a few hours. The Inner Weasel didn't like that. Not at all.
Friday, August 24, 2007
1. This is the company I interviewed with yesterday. The one today was a fine organization and all that, but they weren't ready to make an offer.
2. Assuming I get through my temp assignment period okay (which should not be a problem), the job will be paying more than the one I interviewed for today. Not $10K more, but that's fine. The really high-paying one was in Marana, 31 miles away, and I never even interviewed for that one. This one is less than 10 miles away.
3. Aside from the money, and the fact that one organization was ready to make an offer and the other was going to interview several more people and decide a week from now, I based my decision on the fact that C. was friendly and personable and we really got along well in the interview. The other interview was a nervous doubles act, with the boss and her assistant all-too-obviously reading their questions off a list they didn't write. I liked them fine, and I can't blame the young assistant for being nervous. Still, I didn't feel much of a personal connection, not much of a welcoming attitude. C. was relaxed and enthusiastic, and it was a real conversation rather than a wooden Q&A, even though he referred to a list of questions and also gave me a personality profile thingy to fill out. He listened to me and followed up, as if he was really interested rather than just checking things off. In this morning's interview, I had to explain my departure from Worldwide Travel twice before they understood it, and even then they seemed to miss the nuances.
4. ARR! is a medium-sized chain based in the west, expanding east but not explosively or heedlessly. It's been around for decades, and it's still family owned.
5. The work itself sounds fairly similar to what I'm used to, except I'll be a little more supervisory once I'm on staff. It's roughly the same size accounting department as FMFC. If I'm remembering correctly, ARR! even uses the same software for fixed assets as the one I used before.
6. I start work on Monday at 9 AM.
There were thunderstorms here this afternoon and again tonight, and Tuffy was all nervous again, trying to climb in my lap and even onto my desk. I had considered going down Madera Canyon with my last (really only) free weekday afternoon before the new job, but was just as happy, it turned out, to hang around the house reading Stardust by Neil Gaiman. The movie's okay, but the book is very very good indeed, full of wonderful prose and likable characters, gentle whimsy and a little discreet sex, and a plot that bears only a passing resemblance to that of the film. I highly recommend it, and will be reading Gaiman's other novels now.
Anyway, I don't think I took a single photo today, what with the discretion and the driving, the storms and the reading. The one above is from late yesterday afternoon, when a wall of cloud pushed in, and defined a line of brightness in the sky where the wall ended. It reminded me of a rift in time and space, as seen on Doctor Who and probably lots of other sf. Nothing interesting came through it, though. It didn't even rain.
But it's raining now, and Tuffy is standing beside me, seeking reassurance or protection or whatever it is. Unfortunately, there seems to be nothing I can do to overcome her fear of storms, or to help her get through one, safe inside with me.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Extra Credit: How many bumper stickers does your car have in real life?
Why not mine? 'Course, I have to sell the book first.
I was actually a little disappointed with the options on this image generator, specifically the any-color-as-long-as-it's-black palette, the paucity of graphics and the fact that you can't center a one or two-line message. So, with my usual propensity toward overkill, I've generated five stickers...
...customized them in PhotoStudio....
....and virtually placed four of them on a two year old picture of my car.
Would I put these on my car for real? I might do the tengrem one, once the books are published. I wouldn't do the First Magnus-related ones, though. Although I personally seem to be benefiting from the layoff (I may be choosing between two job offers tomorrow at more money than before), it would be extremely churlish to flaunt my success in a city where hundreds of my former co-workers are scrambling to find work.
Also, the slogans above are rather ambiguous. Am I burying FMFC, or praising it? The truth is that I'm grateful for the 27 months of experience I got there, the people I met, and the fact that I got a $2,000 cashier's check in the mail today as a tax-free "gift" from Mr. Jaggi, the Sullivans et al., which they paid basically out of their own pockets. There may well have been mistakes made, but overall I think this was something that could not have been fully foreseen or entirely prevented, even if 99% of all FMFC loans had been 30-year FHA ones and the like. Heck, nobody else's loans were all conventional, either. They will be now.
As for my existing bumper stickers in the real world, you can probably guess from the photo that I have none.* For a while I had a "Jesus was a refugee" sticker propped up but not attached in the back window of one of my cars, but that was probably in the late 1990s. I think I once had a Diamondbacks or Arizona Fall League sticker on the New Yorker, or maybe the Saturn, I forget which. And back in the early 1990s, I had at least one Project Quantum Leap sticker on the Capri. But the Eagle has no stickers, and it will probably stay that way. Instead I have my vanity plate, MAVARIN (of course!), and a faded license plate holder that says
THE COUNTRY IN MY MIND
Someday the books will come out, and some people who don't read this blog will finally know what that means.
*Turns out this isn't true. I happened to notice over the weekend that I do have one these days, "Humanitarian Aid Is Never a Crime." Forgot about that one.
P.S. Now to see whether my counter has topped 20,000 yet. The BlogPatrol one I use only counts a given IP once per day, so it doesn't rack up as quickly as the AOL ones. And sometimes it doesn't load at all. Still, I choose to celebrate this little milestone with a momentary "Yay!" Thanks for reading this, folks! I'm glad you stopped by!
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Mysterious Place #1:
The Episcopal Parish of St. Michael and All Angels
One of the ideas I had yesterday while driving back from Nogales was to stop at Mission San Xavier del Bac and take pictures of angel icons, because a) it's an historic church and likely to have really interesting icons, b) I was driving past there anyway, and c) I thought perhaps other people might not think of angels in connection with this Challenge. (I was wrong about that last one.) I didn't stop, though, in part because my memory from past visits suggests that the statuary there is primarily saints rather than angels. Besides, I am the webmaster of a church called St. Michael and All Angels. Do you think there might be some angel icons in the place?
Inside the church one can find an old St. Michael statue behind the altar, a pair of cherubs over a side altar, and at least one painting of St. Michael on the walls. I've photographed all of these at one time or another, but I wanted fresh photos for this Challenge, not reruns or leftovers. Since the Wednesday Mass had not ended when I was there at 12:15 to 12:30 PM, and the church was locked when I got back at 5:30 PM, I wandered the grounds instead. This rather nice St. Michael statue (above) stands behind one half of the parish's memorial garden, when parishioners' ashes are interred.
This angel would have gone unnoticed had I not been specifically looking for angels. He's supporting Our Lady of Guadalupe from below.
One of the things that's interesting to me about angel icons is that they represent something most of us will never see in this world - and if we say we do, hardly anyone is likely to believe us. Many people don't believe they exist, and those who do have a variety of ideas what they look like. Do they really have wings, or is that just an identifying feature artists use to clue us in that they are angels, a representation of their ability to travel between Heaven and Earth? Do they look like austere men, like most depictions of St. Michael, or beautiful women, like china or resin angels from a gift shop, or cherubs, or whatever suits their purpose at the time, or none of the above? Goodness knows the lore of angels is extremely muddy in the popular imagination, where they are often depicted as dead people (including Tommy Smothers in a 1965 sitcom) or people like Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life. I'm not going to get into a big theological rant here, but I'm generally more comfortable with depictions of angels that seem reasonably congruent with their appearances in the Bible - not chubby, Cupid-like babies, not beautiful women, but messengers from God, whose appearances are so imposing that they must preface their remarks with "Fear not."
St. Michael's also has a Parish Day School on site, and their school mascot icon happens to be an eagle. There's a big eagle statue outside the gymnasium, so I snapped a picture of it just before the gate to that corridor was locked for the night.
The parish grounds are full of trees and flowers, so naturally they attract a lot of birds. I've seen hummingbirds, white-winged doves, cactus wrens, house finches, mockingbirds, curve-billed thrashers and probably several other species there.
Mysterious Place #2:
The Boneyard (AMARC)
As I rather cryptically mentioned earlier, I got a late start on driving over to the Boneyard tonight, because I just couldn't find my darn car key. I've always called it "the airplane graveyard," but the popular nickname for Tucson's 2600 acres of scrapped, stored, or derelict airplanes is the Boneyard. The official name, or at least the official name for the military portion of it, is the Aerospace Maintenance And Regeneration Center.
Perpendicular to Kolb Rd. is a road with base housing on one side and a stretch of the Boneyard on the other, edged with a trail suitable for horseback riding. There are tracks of horseshoes, human shoes, ATVs, coyotes and rabbits visible in the dirt, and birds flit between the fence and the bushes. The cactus wren in the photo above (can you spot him?) had a few choice things to say about me invading his territory.
I don't know whether you can read the writing on this plane, but it says Naval Research Laboratory. I wonder whether that makes this an old "vomit comet," or what other atmospheric experiments may have taken place aboard it.
It takes a few hours to explore the perimeter of the Boneyard, which goes on for miles and miles in several different directions, all the way from Escalante to Valencia, from Kolb to west of Wilmot at the south end. And that's without including the Pima Air and Space Museum, which is well worth a visit. Tonight I was only able to cover a couple blocks of it, and even at that I ran out of time as dusk fell. But this isn't the first time I've explored the area with a digital camera, and it won't be the last. I am fascinated by the idea of all these old planes, most of them used in wars long behind us, now lying half-forgotten in the brutal Tucson heat, where the normally low humidity slows down their rusting. Eventually most of them are stripped of useful parts and melted down for scrap metal, but it could take years and years for a particular plane to meet its final fate. It's a bit melancholy to drive past over four thousand broken, empty airplanes, the vast majority of which will never fly again.
Oh, and Mysterious Place #3? That would have been Madera Canyon. I'll get there some other time.
Okay, I'm done. Maybe. If you haven't already done so, please check out the entries of the other Robins:
Steven - POSTED!
Jessica - POSTED!
Nancy - POSTED!
Nancy Luvs Pix
Karen - POSTED!
Vicki - POSTED!
kerrin - POSTED!
a new day
Janet - POSTED!
Suzanne R - POSTED!
New Suzanne R's Life
Carly - POSTED!
Gattina - POSTED!
boliyou - POSTED!
Gina - POSTED
And check out the Round Robin blog for an announcement about the next Challenge, and some changes to the RRPC format and scheduling. See you there!
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Okay, normally this would be the night on which I post my entry for the Round Robin Photo Challenge (watch the Round Robin blog on Thursday, by the way, for a special announcement as well as a new Challenge). But as many of you know, I'm currently involved in something both vital and time-consuming: job hunting after the collapse of First Magnus, and trying to find out when and if I'm going to get my last paycheck from them. My employment-related activities today destroyed all my creative and fascinating plans for a photo shoot related to Steven's great Challenge topic, "Things With Wings." But fear not! I've never missed a Challenge date yet, and even the First Magnus debacle won't break my streak. Here's what I'm going to do. First I'll tell you about my insane, roller coaster day, and then I will post some wingèd photos as a teaser for my Wednesday entry. Don't worry, I'll get my proper Round Robin entry in before midnight Wednesday night, I promise!
Climbing the first hill...
Got up at 7:30 AM, which I almost never do. Donned my freshly-washed interview clothes, put on minimal, newly-purchased makeup, checked email, decided not to even try to put a bagel in my queasy digestive tract, gathered up my resume and Google Maps directions and hit the road. And quite a road it was: 77 miles one way, all the way down I-19 to Nogales, AZ for a job interview. It was a long drive, but peaceful and pleasant, and I renewed my acquaintance with the names of lots of places I used to go birdwatching.
Rounding a curve...
Someone from Recruiter #1's Nogales office led me along back roads in an industrial park and beyond, so many turns that I could not possibly find my way back. (No bread crumbs, you see.) She drew me a much simpler map for the return drive from the prospective employer's location, introduced me, and left me with my potential bosses.
They asked me questions. I asked them questions. We liked each other, and the work was highly reminiscent of one of my more interesting challenges at Worldwide Travel. The only real issue was the commute. The job pays $X more than I made at FMFC, but John figures that the transportation would cost us an extra $X. Result: more time out of my day, and at best breaking even on the money. The interviewers were concerned that I would not stay with the job under those conditions. I assured them that if I accepted it, I'd give them at least a year or two. But I had to wonder, was this my best option?
Long, fun drive back, listening to the same old CD, spotting a red-tailed hawk and saying a friendly good morning to the Border Patrol. I thought about stopping at a chili factory, at an old mission church or two, at a restaurant with giant steer horns on the roof, or even at Madera Canyon, where it's usually possible to snap an exotic hummingbird or two. But I was in my interview clothes, and I didn't have any bird books or binoculars with me, and which exit was that chili factory at, anyway? So I drove home, and ended up going five miles out of my way by taking the wrong Ajo Way exit. (In the other direction, there were three Ajo exits!)
I was almost home when I remembered to turn on my cell phone, which I'd turned off before meeting with the recruiter. There was a message from another recruiter, the fourth to express interest in me, the third one to actually meet with me. We chatted about a job about 50 miles closer than the Nogales one, for the same pay, working for a health care provider. I arranged to meet with him at 4 PM.
John called as I was on the phone with the recruiter. First Magnus declared Chapter 11 today. John predicted I wouldn't get my paycheck, which was due on Monday. I checked www.azstarnet.com, the online version of the Arizona Daily Star. The Star, bless 'em, have had far and away the best coverage of the whole FMFC mess as it's unfolded. As of this afternoon, the news was this:
No paychecks, but assistance promised for First Magnus workers
The article said that investors had frozen the company's assets, so they couldn't pay this past Monday's payroll as promised. (Filing for bankruptcy, of course, makes the issuance of those 6,000 paychecks even harder.) But some of the mucky-mucks had chipped in $1,000,000 in "assistance" for the Southern Arizona employees only, on the stated theory that this is where the support staff is and they might have a harder time than the industry people across the country. The catch for the "assistance": show them you really-really-really need it! Uh, yeah. Don't make me come to you, hat in hand, for "assistance." Just find a way to get me my paycheck!
As you can imagine, I was very upset and angry at this point. But I went on to the next part of this roller coaster ride:
Climbing to the top!
I've been looking for my Social Security card since Thursday, when Recruiter #2 needed it for the I-9 form. At some point in the recent past, it left my wallet. I went online and actually printed out a form to get a replacement. Then I thought of a few places more to look for the existing one. And whaddaya know: I found it, in a box of John's old sales receipts! Yay!
Encouraged (but still angry), I headed off to Recruiter #2 with the card, and then went to Mysterious Place #1 to take Round Robin photos. Only I ended up chatting with people there about First Magnus and about the ethics of working for a defense contractor, and suddenly time was up! I had to go on to my interview with Recruiter #3. This involved filling out a bigger stack of paperwork than the other two, in part because I was already registered with the others, in part because Recruiter #3 specializes in the health care sector, where patient confidentiality and drug testing are part of the mix. They also administered the easiest accounting test yet - I got 100% on it, although it had been a long time since I'd thought about those kinds of questions. Anyway, it looks like I'll have an interview on the heath care provider accounting job around Thursday AM or so, which gives me time to get a clearer idea whether to turn down the Nogales job if offered.
Then! As I was finishing up with Recruiter #3, Recruiter #2 called my cell, all excited. "Everyone wants to hire you, Karen!" I told her that was great, but I was in an interview just then. She said to call her back before 6 PM. But when I left Recruiter #2 at 5 PM, I drove over instead. She's got THREE leads on jobs for me, one of which is for $10 K more than the Nogales job. The catch is that it's in Marana, which is about 30 miles away in the other direction! But for that kind of money, we can afford the commute. And since John also works on the Northwest side, we could conceivably fix up this house, sell it when the market improves, and move to the Oracle and Ina area or someplace like that.
Didn't see that curve coming!
Back home, eating dinner, I checked azstarnet for the latest. The next sound you hear is me laughing hysterically.
THE LATEST: First Magnus revises assistance offer
By Christie Smythe and Tiana Velez
Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Arizona | Published: 08.21.2007
First Magnus Financial Corp. shareholders and executives have reversed course on creating a $1 million assistance fund for former Southern Arizona employees still awaiting their final pay checks.
Are you kidding me? The big wigs are putting up more of their own money, and these checks are to be mailed on Wednesday. And that's in addition to (they hope) the eventual issuance of my paycheck, not instead of.
What a day!
Okay, I've kept you all waiting long enough for my Round Robin teaser. Riddle me this: in tomorrow's entry, I will be posting pictures of things with wings, as promised. But what kinds of things?
To be honest, I'm not sure yet. It all depends on whether I go to Mysterious Place #1, Mysterious Place #2, or Mysterious Place #3 in the morning, assuming I don't get sidetracked by a last-minute interview appointment. In the afternoon I have an appointment with Pima County's One Stop employment center, dealing with unemployment and such. After that I'll be back here, selecting and editing truly interesting photos of...well, something with wings!
Meanwhile, let's visit our Robin friends and see what things they found with wings:
Nancy - POSTED!
Nancy Luvs Pix
Karen - sorta kinda POSTED!
kerrin - POSTED!
a new day
New Suzanne R's Life
Carly - POSTED!
See ya Wednesday evening.
I wasn't at all sure I had any 2003 photos accessible, actually. My initial rooting around kept turning up pictures from 2004 and 2005, but nothing from the target year. But I kinda thought 2003 was the year of one of our Disneyland trips, and it turns out I was right! I searched for files with MVC in the name, sorted by date, and there they were.
MVC was the prefix on filenames for shots taken on our Sony Mavica camera.
It was our first digital camera. I think we paid around $500 for it at Sears. It had better resolution than some of the other early digitals, and John liked that it stored the pictures on floppies, about 10 to a disk if I recall correctly, but it may have been a bit more than that.
By today's standards, those 2003 pictures off the Mavica look pretty dismal, but the cheap photo editing software I use these days is better at salvaging them than anything I used in 2003. For the fireworks shot above I darkened the image considerably, which hid a guy in the foreground from view. I also boosted the saturation and I think used smart blur. I could show you the unedited version, but let's save that for other examples.
Here is tonight's edit of part of the Star Traders sign in Tomorrowland, mostly just cropped and darkened.
Here's the unedited version, grainy and overexposed. I think maybe I took this photo, and the others here, but John took most of the Disneyland pictures and it was a long time ago, so I can't be sure.
This photo of a Lilo & Stitch display window at the Emporium was probably taken at night. The flash washed it out, but without flash it was too dark.
Here's tonight's edit of the same thing.
2003 was before I started blogging (my first entry of Musings was 3/30/04), but John Scalzi started By the Way back in August, 2003 (and his non-AOL blog started quite a few years before that). Happy Anniversary, Blogfather, and keep up the good work.
I have to wrap up this rather short entry tonight - I have a job interview in the morning, and over an hour's drive to get to it. Good night!
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Yes, of course I'll explain. Don't I always?
As noted last night, I'm past the brief period after the First Magnus meltdown in which I couldn't think about anything else. My concentration is back, and I'm able to get on with other things, especially my writing. Today I wrote the rest of that "Darma saves Masha" scene without even referring to the notebook with the missing page. It's probably better than what I originally wrote, too, because I made different choices on how the scene is resolved. So Mages Chapter 21 (AM Chapter 10) is finally done, and so is Chapter 22/AM 11. That was a little tricky. It called for the writing of two additional scenes, but I cut them, and arranged surviving scenes so that I don't need the others.
In both chapters, I ended up cutting several repetitive bits in which Darma reflects on kinds of magic and the morality of using magic to help people and not just for its own sake. They were in there because I wanted to make sure Darma had a character arc and wasn't too weak, victim-like or underdeveloped. It turns out, though, that she's got plenty of decent scenes now, except that the moralizing was out of hand. It's better now. Those scenes will need another pass before I'm quite satisfied, but I'm already resigned to another edit of the trilogy, as soon as I finish this one. That next edit may be the last pre-submission one, though. Yay!
Anyway, that puts me in Chapter 23/AM 12, the last chapter, in theory anyway, of Another Mâvarin, the second volume (Stage Two, if you will) of Mages of Mâvarin. The trilogy's page count, for those of you keeping score, is up to 1,183, which isn't so bad when you realize that means I added a major sequence that hadn't previously been typed up, but with a net increase of only five pages.
Still, I did take care of some necessary errands on the job hunting front, which is the second phase of this whole post FMFC transition. Here are some of today's purchases. I got myself a black sports jacket for interviews, two pairs of good slacks, a red top, socks that cannot be described with the word "crew," fresh makeup, a haircut, and two boxes of hair color. I'm a little nervous tonight about my meeting with the placement agency manager in the morning, and about another position I plan to apply for in person at a local resort, in compliance with the job listing's instructions. I hear it's a great place to work, the qualifications fit me pretty well, and the job involves auditing, an area I've been very interested in since studying it at UoP.
The First Magnus updates for the day are minimal. The Arizona Daily Star had an excellent explanatory article, First Magnus: Boom to bust in three weeks. The local papers here allow comments at the end of articles, and this one got a ton of them, mostly some troll claiming that all FMFC employees except possibly the janitors were crooks who deserved what they got, and ex-FMFC employees rising to the bait. But the article itself is pretty sound and fairly presented. If you've been wondering how the company failed almost overnight without anyone seeing it coming, I recommend the article to your attention. Meanwhile the First Magnus web site is still the pre-Black Thursday version. I can only assume that it's there so that certain people - officers, HR, regulators, who knows? - can access old information contained therein.
So. Big day tomorrow, and I'm a little nervous. There may or may not be a direct deposit from First Magnus into my checking account, I may or may not hear from HR tomorrow with answers to questions, and I may or may not hear back from the county's FMFC hotline people. But I'm definitely meeting with at least one person about my job prospects, probably applying at that resort, and possibly stopping by Worldwide Travel just to say hello. But first, it's time to cover up those shortened, mouse-gray hairs with a bit of auburn, so I can look my best tomorrow in the interview clothes and makeup. Good night!
P.S. I reread that resort job description, and I'm not qualified after all. Drat!
No, tonight's entry isn't really about sunsets, missing or otherwise. The two shots above just happened to be on my camera from yesterday. But I will admit that I missed tonight's sunset, due to not having been outside the house today.
I believe I mentioned in a previous entry that at some point I would stop zipping through a chapter or two per day in my edit of Mages of Mâvarin, when I could up with later chapters that need much more work than the earlier ones.
Well, I'm there.
One cause of my lack of forward movement on Chapter 10 of Another Mâvarin has clearly been my preoccupation with the whole First Magnus situation. I spent a lot of time on Thursday and Friday scouring the online news about it, and making preliminary gestures in the direction of getting another job. All perfectly understandable, right? But I had a hard time concentrating on the writing and editing, and after all my good progress recently that was not acceptable. I don't want to lose momentum again, just when I have more time to work on it! So last night I managed to write the ending for an incomplete scene between Wil Masan and Prince Talber, which had totally stymied me the evening before. It's not perfect, but it will do for this draft. Then I watched part of a Doctor Who episode and went to bed.
But today was different. After eight hours of sleep I got up this afternoon and went to the computer, not to fuss with Google News but to clear away some email and then tackle the rest of that same chapter. Once I got started on the latter task, I soon came to the one remaining major sequence in the trilogy that I've never typed up at all, Lorsuma's attempt to murder Masha Awer. (Yes, I'm aware most of you don't know what and whom I'm talking about. Just roll with it.) So I went digging through a few boxes, looking for the notebook from 2002 that contained the handwritten scene. Wonder, of wonders, I found it! So I typed up nearly 700 words of it, called it a scene, and took a break for Doctor Who and dinner and such. I also took a few phone calls. One was from a friend, telling me about a phone center job with Geico (no thanks), the other from my 101-year-old friend Eva, telling me she's alive and nearly healed from a shoulder injury (hooray!).
Eventually, as I fussed with some alleged job opportunities courtesy of Career Builder (three unhelpful job "offers" by email, but also one good lead from the recommendation page) I realized that hadn't checked on the First Magnus news all day. So I went to the FMFC web site, looking to see whether those "Coming Soon" pages for employees had turned up yet. Bizarrely, the HR FAQ and the two-sentence home page were gone completely, replaced by the pre-collapse web site, more or less just as it was four days ago. It was as if someone was trying to roll back the clock, and make it seem the company was still in business and thriving. But I checked the news, but there was nothing new, except for one story about the Hawaii offices looking for another company to take them on. I hope that works out for them. I really do.
But why was the old web site there? Is there some information on it that they deemed helpful or necessary to have online, or was someone just embarrassed by a widely published AP story that mentioned the one-page version of the site from two days ago? I have no idea. But since the old version was there, I logged in and checked for HR info that way. Dang. That part was missing. Oh, well. I expect I'll get my answers on Monday. I signed out again.
Going back to Chapter 21 of Mages / chapter 10 of Another Mâvarin, I came across more continuity issues, and spent some time on those before I tackled the next part of the untyped sequence. After typing up my revision of a page and a half of handwritten text, I discovered the awful truth: there are two pages missing from the notebook, one whole sheet of paper. Having written the thing five years ago, I can only guess from the surviving pages that follow just what was supposed to happen at that point.
Ah, well, I'll write it again. But not tonight!
Friday, August 17, 2007
A story on ere.net says that FMFC will be filing Chapter 11. (A news story out of Hawaii says the same, attributed to "sources.") They mentioned that the FMFC website now only has one page, containing a notice about no new loans and such. I went to the site to read the notice, but it stopped loading partway through. When I reloaded, the entire page (at least according to Firefox and my dial-up connection) was the following:
Employees looking for HR information should check back soon.Another reload, and that was preceded by a single sentence aimed at borrowers. The page source lists the earlier notice as a jpg, but it doesn't seem to be online now.
It's not just morbid or idle curiosity for me. My effort to file for unemployment online today was hampered by two things: an Adobe updater for Acrobat deciding to reboot my computer without my permission, and my lack of knowledge whether my final paycheck from First Magnus Financial Corp, due on Monday the 20th but expected to be "delayed," will include any vacation pay, and if so, how many hours' worth. Heck, I don 't even remember what my annual salary was, although I can and should look that up in my 2006 TurboTax forms. An article in the Arizona Daily Star said to call FMFC's main number with HR questions. I did, and got a recording that routed employees to a voice mail box. John says I shouldn't expect a reply, but I'm not quite that cynical, even though so far there hasn't been one. It's only been an hour or two, and the HR people are all friends of mine. I always tried to keep them amused with little quips in my emails about payroll reports and stop payment requests.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions filed a complaint against First Magnus over the closing. The article about this, from the Arizona Republic in Phoenix, says something about pulling FMFC's license and fining it for shutting down so abruptly, and not providing regulators with info on pending loans and financial condition. This all seems a bit absurd to me. It doesn't look as though First Magnus is going to have any need of a license, ever again. And fining a company that suddenly has no money, and for not providing info that it has no employees to prepare, doesn't seem very reasonable. Heck, I was in the accounting department, and now there isn't one. Who is supposed to prepare the reports? The company founders? The lawyers? This is exactly why it didn't make sense to me that we were all sent home yesterday. Even a company that's just gone under needs someone to do that accounting stuff. The only thing I can figure is that an outside firm will be brought in to do it, many one that specializes in bankruptcies and forensic accounting. But it still seems that people who know their own pieces of FMFC's accounting puzzle could be helpful in doing this.
I haven't accomplished much today. I've talked one of the temp agency managers, and started that unemployment app, and searched Google News, and done some dishes, and researched and written two paragraphs about James Thurber on Wikipedia. Where has the rest of the day gone? But I'm still trying to convince my brain to stop thinking about the July depreciation entry and the 1072 rec (no, you're not meant to know what that means). It seems to be a little hard at the moment to think about anything that's entirely unrelated to First Magnus or finding a different job.
But in the good news department (well, potential good news, but only if I get more bad news first), my friend Linda emailed me some leads on YA publishers. If DAW says no, I now know exactly where the manuscript is going next.
Aha! I just refreshed the Google News tab, and found a helpful news story just posted on www.azstarnet.com by the Arizona Daily Star. Although there's some question about whether paychecks will be mailed Monday as originally scheduled, and whether direct deposit is still set up for employees, it does sound like the payroll is coming soon, in some form. Meanwhile, Pima County’s One-Stop Career Centers has set up a hotline for former First Magnus employees. (The number is 243-6677, in case anyone from First Magnus happens to read this.) I've already called it and left voicemail with my number and email address.
Another Friday news article quotes from the bigwigs and gives better numbers and perspective on the company's history. The impression I get from this, and everything I've read, is that given their past success in the way the company did business, and the company's relatively responsible lending practices, the officers thought they could ride out the storm and keep everything afloat. Instead, the people who loaned the money and the people who bought the mortgages suddenly bailed out, leaving First Magnus high and dry.
Am I angry and bitter over all this? No. Am I saddened? Yes.
Update: The web site now has a FAQ for FMFC employees, with more info said to be "Coming Soon." That's a step in the right direction!
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Extra Credit: Name a song you like with a day of the week in it (you can include Saturdays and Sundays for consideration here).
Look, I'm going to dispose of this one quickly for a change, because I have something else to write about. Something important. See, as of today, it doesn't really matter to me what day of the week it is.
Historically, yes, Friday was the one, not because of the weekend per se, but because I could stay up all night and then sleep in. Monday's a good day when Heroes has a new episode, and Tuesday's a good day when House, MD is new. At one time it was a good day because of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Wednesday used to be great because of Quantum Leap, but that was a long time ago. Ditto Friday, same show. Going further back, Thursday used to be Barney Miller night. When I was at the University of Phoenix, I had class on the same weeknight for over a year, and liked it. Oddly, though, I can't remember whether it was Mondays or Thursdays. Thursdays, I think, but there were also a few Monday runs.
Okay, yeah. Friday, because of the all nighter thing. But I'm not especially enthusiastic about Friday at the moment. I'm even less enthusiastic about Thursday, because today was a Thursday. I can't really blame today on a column of my calendar, though.
- Arthur Dent, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
On this particular Thursday, I got up as usual, checked my email, got dressed and headed off to work, stopping off at McDonald's on the way for a Sausage McMuffin with Egg. (Note that I've banned bacon for the summer, as promised.) Then I got back in my car, which happened to be parked in front of the newspaper vending box. Glancing up as I prepared to back out of the space, I happened to see the newspaper headline above. Why is this significant? The answer requires that I shred the veil of playful secrecy surrounding the name of my employer.
If you were hoping that perhaps I was with the CIA or some other exciting organization, then I apologize for disappointing you. First Magnus is a company that originates and sells home mortgages, on a wholesale and retail basis. Or, at least, it was. We all know how the real estate and mortgage markets have imploded this past year, but FMFC wasn't particularly into risky loans, and didn't hang onto them long enough for people to default on them. I thought we'd be okay. So did everyone else. But that headline sounded pretty dire. I bought the last newspaper in the box and drove to the office at Fifth and Wilmot.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived was that there was a Channel 4 News truck parked in the lot. The second thing I noticed was that there was ample parking available, at a time of day when I was used to driving around to find even one space in the entire lot.
The third thing I noticed was employees standing by the employee entrance, chatting, some of them next to carts full of boxes; and other employees carrying boxes to their cars. I went up to the door and asked an acquaintance to tell me exactly what was going on.
"It's over," she said. "An email went out last night. They're telling everyone to pack up their personal belongings, turn in their badges, and leave."
When a company collapses, the accounting people are always the last to go, right? Someone has to account for disposal of assets and final paychecks and so on. Yeah, well. Not this time. I went upstairs and made my boss give me the specific news for the accounting department, but it was the same as everyone else's.
Remember my tale of the ID badge, lost in the rain two years ago? The badge in the shot above is the one I gave the facilities guy who was guarding the door, helping people with their carts and making sure nobody stole anything. It's actually the third one I've had. I replaced the second one because my picture was all faded and awful, but this one was getting to be almost as bad. Now I don't have to replace it.
I managed to pack up my Intermediate Accounting textbook, my Lilo toy, Zorro, my plant (which has been looking rather sickly for two weeks), my Mary Poppins calendar, my plush Scamp, my small rotary fan, my CDs, my headphones and my recycling into a couple of boxes and bags I had at my desk. Afterward I found out that there were boxes available in the hall. Oh, well.
Brad, a science fiction fan from the next cubicle over, figured that his two years at First Magnus would be good for his employability. He was placed with the company by the same temping firm that got me my job. A few phone numbers and email addresses were exchanged, and everyone wished everyone luck. Then I went downstairs, borrowed a cart from the mail room, and took my stuff out to my car.
By the time I got to my next destination, my plant had no leaves left on it.
I've just realized that I left my Doctor Who CD in the computer's CD drive at work. Drat.
As I drove away, I hurriedly snapped this photo of the sign by one of the entrances. For two years I've been avoiding taking pictures of anything with the company name, because I didn't want to name the company in this blog. When I shot this today, I was a little worried that someone would object to my taking the picture. So I rushed it, and failed to notice that I didn't get the whole sign into frame.
This sign counts as a fixed asset by the way, specifically tenant improvements. That was one of the things I did for the company, track fixed assets and reconcile the relevant accounts. I don't see this revelation as a company secret at this point, so there you are.
I think I published this photo back in February, but with the company logo smudged out. Here is is again, unadulterated.
People from two different agencies that place accountants in temporary and temp-to-hire positions have been wonderful to me today, and expect to place me quickly. One of these agencies is in the same building as about a third of First Magnus's 800 local employees. The agency's people were downstairs for much of the day, counseling distraught ex-employees and offering to help. Fortunately for me, I don't go head to head with most of them in the Tucson job market. I'm not after a job in customer service, underwriting, funding, closing, or other mortgage-related positions. The number of actual accountants with FMFC was small enough that the job market should be able to swallow us fairly easily. I'm better qualified than most of the people I worked with directly, and the one temp agency that had me do a bunch of times tests was very impressed with my scores.
So I'm not worried - not more than 1% worried, anyway. John is shocked, but handling it well. I was doing well all day, very surprised (there was very little to suggest I needed to worry about the company's viability) but not really upset. As the day winds down, though, I guess you can say I'm a little depressed. But I'll be fine. Really, I will. I wish I could make myself tackle that Prince Talber scene, though, and avoid losing momentum with the novel edit. I don't seem to be up to it tonight, but I'll try again in a bit.
Let's do Scalzi's extra credit question to finish off. What weekday-featuring song do I especially like? Well, despite having Friday on My Mind by the Easybeats stuck in my head as I write this, the answer is Lady Madonna by the Beatles:
Tuesday afternoon is never ending
Wednesday morning papers didn't come
Thursday night your stockings needed mending
See how they run
Wednesday night the candles won't keep burning
Thursday morning paper gave the news
Friday morning got to call at Apple
I've got the blues.
Tucson's First Magnus Financial cuts off loan funding, sends workers home
Newly jobless pack up at Tucson headquarters
First Magnus chairman: Recent events 'a knock-out punch'