Saturday, May 31, 2008

Secret Adventures of Tiny Things

Hi ho! This week's Round Robin Photo Challenges topic, Tiny Things, was suggested by, well, me!

Here at the Museum of the Weird, there are quite a few tiny things: Barbie and Remco accessories, china animals, a tiny plastic snake, and so on. Who knows what they get up to in the quiet of the day or the middle of the night, when I'm in here messing about online? I grabbed my camera this week, snuck around, and found out!

Exhibit A: the plastic kingsnake climbs into our poinsettia plant. I can't prove it, but I suspect that Talking Stacey gave him a ride over there on Casey's Vespa, carrying him in Tutti's watering can. That's my conspiracy theory!

Exhibit B: the china Spaniel family auditions to be Thurber dogs.

Exhibit C: Lady Skunk helps me with my novel. No wonder there seem to be fewer typos lately.

Meanwhile, outside, the Matchbox cars are drag racing on Calle Mumble!

Look at 'em go!

Zoom! I'm afraid the sedan and the convertible are going to have a hard time catching the gold sports car.

Still, for such intrepid adventurers, even a race around the world is child's play.

Now let's go see what tiny things our other Robins have found!


Linking List

Karen - POSTED!
Outpost Mâvarin

Carly - POSTED!

Momma - POSTED!
Sandcastle Momma

Vicki - POSTED!

Gattina - POSTED!
Keyhole Pictures

Peter - POSTED!

Robinella - POSTED!
Not A Stepford Wife

Janet - POSTED!


Jill - POSTED!
Letting Crazy Take a Spin

Lisa's Chaos

Jama Hameed - POSTED!
A Moment In Time

Jennifer Robin - POSTED!
Robin's Woods

Suzanne R - POSTED!
Living . . . Suzanne R's Life

The Prytz Family

Olive ***Welcome New Member*** - POSTED!
Ur Olive

maryt ***Welcome New Member*** - POSTED!
Answers to the Questions

Gina - POSTED!
Gina's Space

Steven - POSTED!

Monica and Sonny - POSTED!
Family Affair Photography

Kiva - POSTED!
Eclectic Granny

Wammy - POSTED!
The Ellis Family Cincinnati

Ronda **Welcome New Member** - POSTED!
4 Family Magic

Friday, May 30, 2008

Weekend Assignment #218: Fun, Fun, Fun

I'm still waiting for the cable internet connection to come back up, so I'm writing this in Seamonkey Composer. It's very late (past 4:30 AM!), partly because with the connection down, I can't pull up everyone's Weekend Assignment responses and snag quotes from them. The other reason, of course, is that I've been goofing off, messing around online and doing laundry before the connection went down, and watching Doctor Who, doing dishes and playing with Pepper since then. Which leads us to this week's topic:

Weekend Assignment #218: What do you do to have fun? Since you're reading this blog, let's assume that one of your leisure activities is blogging and reading blogs; we don't need to rehash that one, nor the subject of books, which we covered just recently. What else do you do for fun? Are you a runner, a hiker, a birdwatcher, a surfer? Or do you prefer to lie on a beach? Is cooking a joy rather than a chore? What do you enjoy doing, when you're not doing the usual stuff?

Extra Credit: What fun thing (no restrictions) do you plan to do next?

That little photo essay I did Wednesday night is what suggested this topic. As I mentioned then, I like to take pictures, do creative photo editing and hang out with the dogs. I'm not going on about the dogs tonight, but Tuffy seems to be doing a little better. But the photography thing is really part of a larger picture. See, what I like to do for fun is to explore, to see interesting, quirky stuff. And when I see it, I like to take a pictures or fifty.

Normally I prefer that these explorations take me the heck out of town, if only to go up Mount Lemmon for a few hours. The road to Disneyland is better, and a drive to someplace less familiar (such as my trip to New Mexico a few years back) is better still. But even a drive down some heavily traveled Tucson street can yield results on occasion. Case in point:

When I went out this afternoon to pay a bill and check in with the recruiter who got me the First Magnus job years ago, I noticed that the formerly pink winged bull on the roof of a local antiques mall had been painted silver, and that there was something next to it on the mall's roof. After I paid the bill, I doubled back for some pictures.

Cropping and darkening and saturating a bit, we find that the pink bull is now a silver space cow! Not only that, but he's next to a silver flying saucer. Apparently this wonderfully quirky display is in celebration of Peter Smith's Phoenix Mars Lander successfully touching down on Mars. What a cool way to celebrate!

And of course, given the subject matter, I have to double my fun with a silly photo edit!

How about you? What do you do for fun when you're not online or reading? Tell us about it in your blog or journal, and don't forget to include a link back here, and a comment below linking to your entry. I'll post the result next Thursday night - and preferably, not past dawn on Friday morning, as it is now. Later, friends!


Weekend Assignment Results: Career Advice

Oh, good, my Cox internet connection is down. And I'm running late with this as it is! (Cox is upgrading the lines around here, and they tend to take things down during the night, when I'm one of the few people who are inconvenienced.)

Last week I asked for the best and worst career advice you've ever received. Here's what people said on this timely subject (for me, anyway):

Becky, writing directly in the comments, said: I hope you find something new, work wise, soon. I can't think of any work related advice, good or bad, at the moment. Maybe because it's now 7:15am and I've been up since 4am. That tends to turn my brain to mush.

Julie said: "The best advice that ever came my way was from a fellow writer: Act like a pro, and you'll be one. She didn't mean to act as though I was "better" than everyone else. She simply meant to act professional."

Saqib said: "Some good career advice that I got was from my manager. He told me that it is always good to help out at work."

Bea, also writing directly in the comments, said: "Hmm, career advice, good or bad? Best advice: Choose a career that interests you, that provides security, and that has opportunities for promotion. Worst advice: "pursue Women's Studies; avoid teaching because you will have to relocate to find a good paying job." Those were famous last words from a career advisor at a university where I had gone to find out about a teaching program for middle aged women with a previous degree. He was suggesting I not go into teaching? I couldn't believe my ears. The next day, I drove to another university, applied for their teaching program, got in right away, started the following Friday. Graduated two years later with a Master's Degree in Education. Nine years later, I am quite happy teaching, thank you! I recommend teaching to anyone who has already pursued a career. Hmmm, maybe this should be a journal entry!"

Sarah said: "I've actually been looking at a particular on-the-job fault of mine through a microscope this week, and have maybe realized something, but it's not the result of anyone's advice."

Florinda said: "I really can't recall getting any particular career advice, good or bad. One of my personal quirks - good or bad - is that I don't often ask for (or give) advice in general."

Kiva said: "A piece of advice that has been handed down for generations in our family: Don't burn any bridges. Anyone you have worked for, known or meet may help you in your career."

Arachne Jericho presents a flowchart of her life, "mostly because the only career advice that seems to have worked out for me is "You'd be a good fill in the blank".

Interesting stuff, folks! Thanks! And there's more advice in the comments threads of some of the entries referenced above. New topic to follow shortly, Cox willing!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Fun Things To Do While Unemployed

Photograph yourself in the new haircut and interview blouse.

Give the dogs some cheese.

Treat yourself to a diet root beer and a book you've
had for months but never got around to reading.

Spend hours editing photos in a silly way for some internet meme.

My interview with a new recruiter went well, and I got a call from yet another one. And although Tuffy wasn't doing well early in the day, she seemed significantly better by evening. Things are looking up!


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Good News (but not Wonderful News)

Tuffy, trying to hide between the bed and John's dresser.

The oncologist thinks that Tuffy has slipped a disc in her neck, which would explain her not wanting to raise or move her head. While she would not rule out metastasized cancer, she said she would expect Tuffy's breath to smell bad if the cancer were back. It doesn't, so there is hope on that front.

Unfortunately, the normal steps to take at this point would be an examination under anesthesia and some X-rays, which would quickly run into the hundreds of dollars. We explained about my current joblessness, so she suggested the same thing I was thinking about anyway: putting her on prednesone to see if it helps. I gave her one leftover 5 mg pill last night, and today she was noticeably better. Her new prescription is for 20 mg, and she has a return appointment a week from tomorrow. So we have our dog back for now. She's lost four pounds since March, and the pills should help with that as well, by stimulating her appetite.

John did attend the appointment at my request; I think we should be in on any major decisions together, with both of us there to ask the questions. He went back to work before I left.

When I came out of the exam room, paid and made another appointment, there were other people there, crying and getting ready to pay their bill. I didn't dare look around to see if they still have a pet with them, but I don't think they did. That added to the whole "dodged bullet" vibe of the afternoon.

I'd probably been home for 45 minutes when I found and checked my cell phone, which I mislaid shortly before leaveing for the vet's office. There was voicemail from a different recruiter! I called her back, and we discussed how I became an accountant, my work history, and my educational and career plans. I am meeting with her tomorrow afternoon. Before that I need to take some accounting tests online. I've done this before and done well, but I may stick my nose in a book or into a UoP online quiz just to make sure I'm fresh on stuff I haven't dealt with since school, such as, for example, LIFO!


Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

There's no denying this has been a difficult weekend for the human residents of Casa Blocher. Tuffy is unquestionably in a bad way, despite the fact that she's still eating. She won't lift her head under any circumstances, avoids our touch for the most part, and does not run or jump. She will still greet us at the door, and will still go outside if neighbor dogs are barking, but not very energetically. John and I have had long discussions about whether to take her to the regular vet or the oncologist, the odds that it could be anything other than the cancer returned and metastasized, whether she's suffering or in pain, and what happens if the oncologist confirms our worst fears tomorrow. "I'm afraid you'll take her in and she won't come home," John said, repeatedly. He declined to come along, partly because he doesn't want to take time off work when he's trying to build up overtime pay, but mostly because he remembers how painful it was to say goodbye to Noodle. "But we just got Tuffy," he protested. "She's the replacement dog." It was thirteen years ago, I think, but no, it doesn't seem that long.

The one thing we have done so far is give her a leftover Prednisone pill, which can't hurt, and might help a little. I'll call the vet in the morning. I've tried to prepare myself emotionally, but suddenly I'm feeling overwhelmed. I really wish John would come with me. I'm not sure it helps, but I faced Jenny's death alone (John was out of town), and that was particularly awful. She was my first-ever dog, and I had to hire a handyman to bury her. Tuffy will be cremated.

Pepper isn't behaving as if she as a clue anything is wrong. John thinks we need to get another dog right away once Tuffy is gone, for Pepper's sake.

Meanwhile, I had my eye exam today. There's a new technology called Optomap, which resulted in rather pretty pictures of much more of my retina than even the old dilation procedure could manage. Based on these, Dr. L. was able to establish that there is no sign of cataracts, glaucoma, tears, detachments, macular degeneration or diabetes.

But I am very, very nearsighted, especially in my left eye, which has degenerated in a big way since the glasses I'm wearing now (probably a decade old) were made. I think they said 11.75 diopters in the left eye, 9.75 in the right. The left eye can only be corrected to 20/30, which he said has been consistently true in my past exams.

Because of my extreme prescription and my need for progressive lenses (essentially no-line trifocals), the glasses themselves will cost over $400, and take two weeks to make. It would have been over $500, but they gave me a courtesy discount on the basis of my insurance card from Famous Vehicle Dealer, even though it runs out at the end of the month if it hasn't already. Hooray! I'm grateful. I'm still a candidate for contact lenses, but that was such a disaster in the 1980s - dry eyes, lost and torn lenses, instant scumminess and eye infections - that I'm in no hurry to try that again. I tried to pick out frames to John's specifications, but in the end I had to listen to the opticians and go with something compatible with my prescription and the size of my face. He'll like these, though - I hope!

I'll report back on Tuffy tomorrow night, if not sooner.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Monday Photo Shoot #22: Magazines

Here we go again!

New Monday Shoot #22: I know that many of you read a lot of books, but what about magazines? Show us some magazines that are in your house right now. They can be recent purchases, subscriptions, or old stuff that you've kept for some reason, or all of the above! (If you don't have any magazines, a newspaper will do.) And yes, Julie, fanzines count.

Here's what's in my bathroom right now:

Clockwise from top left: TV Guide post-strike issue with Hugh Laurie on the cover, 25th anniversary issue of Tucson Lifestyle, which I snagged (with permission) from the Red Cross donation center; the most recent issue I have of Doctor Who Magazine; Dwell, one of several magazines with a modernist sensibility that John likes to peruse; Atomic Ranch, devoted to midcentury ranch-style homes; Muscular Development, which gives me the heebie-jeebies, but John likes it; and Fine Homebuilding, which has a good article on laminate flooring. And yes, at least a few of these should be either shelved or recycled at this point.

And I know I've photographed these before, but what the heck:

These Jack and Jill magazines are all dated 1960, the year I turned 3 years old. They have several Disney-related articles, and others about shows I remember well, including Captain Kangaroo, The Lone Ranger and Fury ("the story of a horse...and of a boy who loved him."). John picked them up on eBay.

Your turn: photograph one or more magazines you've got at home or at work (tricky, I know), and post the result to your journal or blog, along with a link back here. Then come and leave a link to your entry in the comments below. I'll be back in a week to show everyone what we've been reading, or meaning to read, or read a long time ago, or...!


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Monday Photo Shoot Results: Specialness

This mural helps to make Mama Louisa's a special place.

Last week I asked you to show us something that can be considered "special" - a special occasion, a special meal or anything else you might come up with. Your posted specialties were as follows:

celebrated with New Year's confetti.

Jama showed us her niece's fifth birthday, and a special scrapbook layout.

Laura showed us two pictures from her medieval Jewish themed wedding in 2006.

Thanks, folks! Now let me explain the photo accompanying this entry. This is a tiny detail from the multimedia mural that adorns the walls of Mama Louisa's, the Italian restaurant where John and I had dinner on our 29th Anniversary on Monday. John hates it when I take pictures inside restaurants and other businesses when he's around, so this is all you get.

The new Monday Photo Shoot topic should be posted shortly after midnight. But first I have to come up with an idea for it....


More Disasters, Major or Minor

Just a short post tonight, at the end of a long day of sleeping and reading, grocery shopping and a brief trip to the mall. Why the mall? The Lenscrafters there has my optometry records. The reason that's important can be seen in the photo above. Friday night, a few hours after I presumably joined the ranks of the uninsured, the bridge of my three-year-old glasses spontaneously broke in half. Honestly. All I did was take my glasses off. There was no resistance involved, and darn little gravity. The glasses have been falling off my face for months, though, so I knew they weren't exactly in great shape.

My 2005 prescription was written with a one-year expiration date, so I have an appointment for a new exam on Monday. I have very bad myopia, so I'm at high risk for a detached retina and stuff like that, although I'm sure I'm fine in that respect. Meanwhile I'm wearing the only old glasses I could find. I figure they're a minimum of six years old, possibly a decade.

What's the other disaster? We don't know for sure what's going on, but the past week Tuffy has seemed awfully frail - head down, moving slowly, no enthusiasm and very little hanging out with us. John and I both think we're coming down to the end with her. She has a scheduled appointment for mid-June, and we're trying to decide whether to make it sooner. Poor Tuff. John touched her snoot the other day and she yelped and ran away. And yet she still eats cheese and dog biscuits, so her appetite is actually pretty good.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

The End is Only the Beginning

Trite but true!

Napping on a Friday Night

I just got up from a five and a half hour "nap," from 9 PM to a little past 2:30 AM. What makes that a nap? Simple. I hadn't blogged yet. The day doesn't officially end until I write a blog entry, even if that happens at 5:30 on a Saturday morning. The nap means I'm a bit better rested when I write it, and I can still go to bed until 3 PM if I need it, allergies permitting. (Cue the allergies, right on time!)

There was a scientist on the radio show Science Friday this week (imagine that!) who talked about a secondary biological clock that resets depending on when you eat. The main one is keyed to periods of daylight and darkness, but the second one seems designed to make sure you're awake well before the time you last got food after a fast, in case that helps ensure that the animal gets to eat. Maybe that's why the dogs are bugging John for breakfast as I type this - they're used to getting fed between 4 AM and 5 AM, from when he was going to the gym before work.

Obviously this has potential implications for my own wonky sleep schedule. I'll have to experiment. This period of joblessness seems like a great opportunity to try to reset my own internal clock, and put an end to the sleep deprivation before I incur long-term damage from it.

The End of a Rather Short "Era"

In the trunk of my car right now are a Doctor Who poster, a calendar of 1950s travel posters, two half-empty boxes of tea, a bone china sea lion, a five inch long plush cat (achoo!), a small stack of paperwork related to temping and veterinary bills, sugar free gum, my plastic Zorro and darn little else from my eight months working for Famous Vehicle Dealer. On my last day, a number of people said they were sorry I was going, wished me luck, and asked me to stay in touch. One person helped me get my stuff out to the car in just one trip. Another caught the fact that I'd missed taking down the poster and the calendar and helped me take care of the oversight. Considering I lost some stuff forever packing up from First Magnus, I'm grateful. I'm grateful to all of them.

Now, Here's My Plan

John intends to work some serious paid overtime for now to supplement our income. There's apparently enough work to be done to justify this, but I hate to see him do that. He likes the job, but it gets boring for him, and it's a long commute.

Meanwhile, I figure I've got three jobs to do, all of them unpaid for the moment, but all with potential money at the end of them:
  • Job Hunting - as John says, this really isn't something you can spend eight hours a day doing. But I'll check in with another recruiter or two, and keep up with the websites and buy new interview clothes. Plus I can make myself more employable with diet and exercise.

  • Going back to Mâvarin - I just ran out of excuses not to write and edit the novels every day, revive the fiction blog and find a literary agent. There was a period of several years during which the only days I missed writing were the one in which I had my gall bladder out and the one when I was on suicide watch with a friend. I need to get back to the writing discipline, and sustain it when I'm employed again.

  • Cleaning the Museum of the Weird - John does a lot of work around here with very little help from me. I need to step up and sort through boxes and papers, separating the truly must-keep from the potential yard sale/eBay stuff, the stuff to be donated, the stuff to be recycled and the out-and-out trash. I keep threatening to put on a yard sale. If it's going to happen before the summer heat and monsoon it needs to be put together quickly. The big problem is that we always end up arguing over stuff I want to keep and he wants to junk. Latest bone of contention: the starburst wall clock, which doesn't work any more. Historic artifact, or useless junk?

Meanwhile, on Another Planet...

There's a guy here in Tucson named Peter Smith, of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. I never heard of him until this week, but he's in charge of the Phoenix Mars Lander, which is attempting to land on the polar ice cap region of Mars this weekend to test for "habitable" water capable of sustaining life. He was all over NPR and Tucson Weekly today, explaining the mission, and why the period of the spacecraft's final descent and landing is called "seven minutes of terror." Seriously. Google that phrase, and it's all about the lander. 'Cause the thing is, it's not so easy to land on Mars. by Virginia Hughes and Alejandra Garcia of NPR count 39 missions to Mars, more than half of which have failed, including one that Smith was involved with in 1999 (not his fault; he worked on the camera for it).

Apparently the landing bit is the hardest part. Recent successful missions did kind of a bouncy landing thing, but the Phoenix Mars Lander, so-called because it was salvaged and rebuilt from a craft intended for a bureaucratically scrubbed past mission, is doing the parachute and thrusters thing. Nobody's managed to make that work since the 1976 Viking missions.

If Smith and his lander to buck those odds, there may be exciting discoveries ahead about whether Mars could support life. Meanwhile there are a number of Mars-centric events going on in Tucson this weekend. I may bestir myself to check out one of them. Either way, I wish Peter Smith and his team all success.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Weekend Assignment #217: Career Day

I didn't need to do my hair again, and I didn't look at the book.

As you probably know by now, at 5 PM today I will join the ranks of the unemployed - briefly, I hope! So coming up with this week's Weekend Assignment topic was almost a no-brainer:

Weekend Assignment #217: What's the best piece of career advice you were ever given?

Extra Credit: What's the worst piece of career advice you were ever given?

In my case, what stands out as the worst piece of advice was also the best piece of advice. Sort of. I was riding in the car with my mom, fresh off the Bee Line, I think, headed for her home on Florida's Space Coast. It could have been any time between 1976 and 1986. In fact, she said it to me on several occasions during that period. When she first said it I was probably still in college, an English-and-film major whose disastrous last math course was back in high school, whose career plan was to write novels and screenplays behind the counter of her very own used bookstore. Picture naive, 20-year-old Karen, sitting in a rusty Chevy mommobile with her divorced psychologist mom who writes plays on the side. What words of wisdom does Ruth Anne have for her daughter?

"I think it would be fun to be a night auditor at a motel."

Say what?

I wasn't sure what a night auditor was, but I was certain such a job could not possibly fit my personal definition of "fun." My mom went on to say something about double entry bookkeeping, and getting a charge out of getting the numbers to match up. Uh-huh. And you're saying this to your daughter, the aspiring writer who has never seen a ledger in her life, and for whom even intermediate algebra was a source of misery?

The weird thing is, she wasn't wrong on the basics, only the particulars. I never did go to work for a motel, or work the night shift; and I've never maintained a physical double entry ledger. But in 1991, the owners of Travel Tree/Travel Network decided that it might work out better if they converted a travel agent into a bookkeeper rather than teach a bookkeeper the travel industry. When my manager asked whether I'd be willing to learn bookkeeping, I thought of my mom's bizarre advice, and the fact that I was burned out on being a travel agent anyway. Then I said yes.

And whaddaya know - reconciling numbers did turn out to be fun, as long as it was on a computer; and there wasn't a sine or cosine in sight! Two years later, I was the bookkeeper/accountant/operations manager at Worldwide Travel, on my way to becoming the successful, unemployed accountant I will be later today.

How about you? Did you ever get a piece of astonishingly good or bad advice from a parent, teacher, guidance counselor, best friend, co-worker or mentor? If so, I'd love to read about it. Write it up in your journal or blog, along with a link back here, and then leave a link to your entry in the comments below. I'll do a roundup of everyone's entries a week from now. Have fun, and may all your advice be good!


Weekend Assignment Results: Fired Up

Last week, I asked you to tell us about something that involved fire.

Saqib tells us of a time when a backup generator turned into an electrical fire - which without his prompt action could have become something much worse.

Mike tells of two fires, one relatively harmless, the other actually benign. Interesting, though!

Kristi Wachter claims that The Joy of Cooking saved her life.

Carly tells us of a traumatic incident from her childhood.

Florinda presents her slightly abridged diary of last October's Southern California wildfires, as they happened.

Sarah explains the connection between King Lear and household disasters.

Kiva explains the charm of matchbooks, a dying art form.

Ice hot, folks! (That's a Doctor Who expression.) Thanks for your fiery tales. A new topic will follow shortly.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Am I Wrong? (Plus Dog Pictures)

I've been a bit depressed all afternoon and evening over something that happened earlier today. I've done my best to treat my depression with a light snack and copious amounts of Doctor Who; I guess I feel a little better. Let me tell you about it.

Since September 2007, I've been making what would have multiplied out to $XY,0000 a year, had I managed to stay there a year. This was, I think, $1,000 more than I was making at First Magnus. I never bothered to divide that out and see how much an hour it was, and when a recruiter asked me a month ago whether I'd accept $1Y.00 an hour on a temporary basis, I kind of felt pressured to say yes. I later did the math and discovered that that was too little money. I called the guy back and told him how much I'm making now. I meant to imply that I want the equivalent of $XY,0000 a year if at all possible, but the lower $1Y.00 an hour stayed in my record at that particular recruiter's company.

Today my main recruiter called to set up a job interview for me tomorrow morning, at a local non-profit agency. I was pleased and relieved and excited until she said that they wanted to pay me a dollar less than the $1Y.00 an hour, but that she'd convinced them to try to come up with the extra dollar an hour to get me. I was a little shocked, but I agreed to the interview. Then I did the math. That's still almost $2.00 an hour less than I've been making. She told them I wanted to work my way toward eventually making the amount I've been making. They thought it over, and canceled the interview, saying that I wouldn't "be happy" there. My recruiter called me back and gave me the bad news. She sounded disappointed in me.

When I got home tonight, I read the recruiter's email, written before the interview was canceled. It said, in part,

To be honest with you, the job market is really tight right now and this is a good in with a good company. The only other jobs I'm placing right row are [several things that aren't even possibilities]. As you can see - it's slim pickings so I would definitely try and nail this position!!
John, of course, is on the opposite side of the fence on this. He thinks it would be foolish of me to take a major cut in pay, especially this early in the process. He knows we've got my student loan, the mortgage, the credit card debt (much of it from Tuffy's cancer treatments), and rising expenses for gas and food. It would be tough on our budget to work for $1Y.00 an hour. So why do I feel so guilty and depressed and desperate? Plus there's this: if I'm out of work for a month, that's the difference in pay right there.

(I expect at this point you can probably work out the actual dollar values algebraically, if you care. Please don't bother.)

So I put it to you: am I wrong to hold out for at least the same salary as before, with the possible exception of a temp job while I wait for a better one? Would a temp job at $1Y.00 an hour get in the way of my making more later?

Enough of that. Let's look at pictures of dogs, in advance of Steven's Feline & Furball Friday.

The dogs have a rule. Whenever anyone comes home, they get a treat. Whenever a dog or a human comes in from the back yard, the dogs get a treat. Whenever a human wanders into the kitchen, the dogs get a treat.

Y'know, somehow I think they're starting to take advantage of us. I could have sworn that when it was just Tuffy, the treat was only due when we came home from work.

Yep, Pepper is a demanding little dog! But so cute! Someday she may even deign to lick me.

She does seem to be glad to see me, though. In fact, she hangs out with me a lot. And she's finally warming up to John, after a somewhat shaky start.

Wherever one dog goes, the other dog has to go too, to make sure of not missing out. This is especially true of trips to the back yard, or in from the back yard.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Motorhomes at sunset, November 2007

I may as well mention, now that it doesn't really matter, that the company that's laying me off this Friday sells motorhomes and travel trailers. That's a problem, given current economic conditions. How many people are looking for a vehicle that costs anywhere from $80,000 to over $1,000,000 and gets 8 to 14 miles per gallon of diesel, now that diesel is over $4.00 a gallon and rising? As with First Magnus, I find myself cast adrift due to the unfortunate circumstance of working in the wrong industry at the wrong time. All I can do in the present case is move on, and wish my soon-to-be-former company and colleagues well. (If you're in the market for a motorhome yourself, don't let me discourage you!)

I'm having mixed feelings about this Friday and beyond. Economically, of course, it will be best if I somehow manage to get hired by someone before the week is out, and report to my new job on Monday. Getting hired right away would also feed my ego, frankly. Last summer I was out of work only eight days after the collapse of First Magnus, and had no gap at all between my temp job at Anonymous Regional Retailer and what was meant to be a long-term job at Famous Vehicle Dealer. I ended up feeling pretty good about myself from a professional standpoint; arrogant, even.

But the economy was in better shape then, and I'm running out of time to get a job with no gap at all. And that's where the mixed feelings come in. Money and ego aside, I'd love to have a little time off about now. It would be great to sleep in, luxuriate in bed, and try to set myself to doing other long-neglected activities, such as sorting through boxes, holding yard sales, and getting serious again about the fiction writing. I figure two weeks would be enough to switch gears and start doing these things. Maybe once I got started, I would even continue, to a lesser degree, once the new job materializes.

Still, it would be a hardship to be out of work that long, so I'm plugging away at getting something going. My recruiter is chatting me up to a couple of companies, I applied for a job last night online, and today I left a message with someone who expressed an interest last fall, right after I started my current job. I may yet manage to click with someone sooner rather than later.

But if not, I look forward to sleeping in for a few days.

So in a way, I suppose, I identify with Russell T Davies, who is about to step down as the executive producer and showrunner of Doctor Who. He's been in charge of the show since well before it came back on tv in 2005. He's written 26 episodes of the show, plus an episode each of the two spinoffs, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures (the latter with Gareth Roberts), and designed the overall story arc, themes and individual story premises of nearly everyone else's Doctor Who episodes. I really admire his vision and productivity; maybe someday I will be a tenth as productive with the novels. But what I mean is, after five years or so of working flat out, he's finally going to take a bit of a break, producing just four Doctor Who specials in 2009 before handing the show off to the new showrunner, the brilliant Steven Moffat. In praising Moffat when the handover was announced today, Davies added, "Best of all, I get to be a viewer again, watching on a Saturday night!" I can understand the idea of his finally getting a chance to take a little time away from the stress of this grand endeavor he's been working on all this time, and enjoy other parts of life that inevitably fall by the wayside when you're really busy for a really lomg time.

Still, I'll be surprised if he isn't back writing and producing something new, before 2009 is out. Perhaps he'll move to Manchester, where erstwhile Doctor Who producer Phil Collinson is setting up shop as the new BBC drama head for the region.

And whether I'm out of work for a day, a week or longer, I intend to enjoy my downtime - and then latch on, I hope, to a new job that I truly enjoy. Unlike RTD and Doctor Who, I haven't exactly had my dream job this time around. In fact, with the temperature in my office climbing into the eighties today and more hot weather ahead, I'm getting out just in time.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ice Break Anniversary

There's a tradition in Tucson that on the first 100 degree day of the year, the ice breaks on the Santa Cruz River (some say the Rillito). I suppose that is a happy circumstance for the legendary sand trout that live in the mostly-dry riverbeds around here; but for those of us to live on land, it is more a matter of perverse pride. This is where we smile grimly, and resign ourselves to the long hot summer ahead. It's our penance for all the gloating we do in the winter, when our friends and relatives Back East are shoveling snow, and we may or may not need a sweater.

When John and I got to town in 1986, KVOA Channel 4 had an Ice Break Contest, presided over by legendary weatherman Michael Goodrich. Whoever guessed the date and time of the first official 100 degree reading would win a prize. (A trip out of Tucson would be an appropriate prize for the time of year, but I don't think they did that.) Nowadays the meteorologist over there is the almost equally legendary Jimmy Stewart - and before you ask, no, he doesn't live in Bedford Falls or have a pooka friend named Harvey. My Googling tonight doesn't lead me to believe the tv station has the contest anymore, but I could easily be wrong.

Anyway, way back in 1986 or 1987 I either entered the contest or considered doing so. The date I chose was May 19th, our wedding anniversary. Why not? It was an historically plausible date, a little early but not by all that much. According to the NWS Tucson site, the earliest 100 degree day since 1894 was April 19th, 1989, the latest first 100 degree day was June 22, 1905 (clearly before global warming took hold!), and the average date is May 26, a week from now.

Well, this year, we don't have another week to wait. The ice break really did come on May 19th. It actually got up to 103 at the airport, 101 at Davis-Monthan, and 105 in my car, assuming you believe my car's digital thermometer. Ah! Here comes summer. Jimmy Stewart says that the fewest 100 degree days on record for Tucson was 21 in 1967. This year, at least one Tucson blogger is predicting 100 of them. I don't know what the recent statistics are on that, but it sounds plausible to me.

The house was...rather warm when I got home, and my laptop wasn't happy. In fact, it was claiming to be rather catastrophically unhappy:

Oh, you hate to see that!

I turned it off and rebooted. It seems to be fine now, but I may have to start shutting down in the daytime.

It being our anniversary, we went out to dinner at Mama Louisa's, and had a fairly modest meal in keeping with my pending unemployment. To commemorate the occasion, I snuck a picture of a tiny portion of the mural that covers the restaurant's walls. John deemed that "pathetic," but it seemed the most interesting way to document a meal out with a man who doesn't want his picture posted in my blog. I'll save the mural shot for the MPS roundup next week.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday Photo Shoot: Isn't That Special!

Let's get right to it:

New Monday Shoot #21: show us something that can be considered "special." It can be a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary, a special outfit you only wear to parties or job interviews, a special soap you can only get at that store across town, or a special meal you make for your kids when they're sick (or bring home a great report card). Celebrate the specialness with a photo or two! And yes, you can dip into your archives for this one, and show us something special that happened weeks, months or years ago.

Today is my 29th wedding anniversary, but I have no photos to show you yet in relation to that. It doesn't matter, because yesterday, Sunday, May 18th, was the birthday of a friend of mine:

It's Eva! My oldest friend (literally, but not in terms of years known) just turned 103 years old. My friend Kevin and I spent two hours visiting her today. Her room was filled with flowers and balloons and other tokens of affection, but none of her relatives were there yet. Most of them live in California or Seattle, and probably aren't coming down this year. Even some of the Tucson relatives, she told us, are in Mexico (perhaps she meant New Mexico) at a soccer tournament instead.

At 103, Eva can still walk, as long as it's not too far, and still carry on an intelligent conversation. In fact, she is ornery enough to fight for her own rights and the rights of others if she thinks people are being neglected or mistreated. Her vision is not so good, but she can still read large print, and she enjoys watching baseball and basketball on tv. She reports that the nurses where she is living now like the effect she has on her fellow residents, cheering them up and calming them down with her lively chatter. Hooray for Eva! I wish I were related to her; I'd love to have her genes. But I'll settle for my Dad's - he's as active at 85 as most folks are at 65, and that's nothing to sneeze at!

Your turn! Show us that special something, that special person, that special time, that special anything. As always, you have until Sunday night, when I'll post a special roundup of your entries. Be sure to leave a link back here in your journal or blog entry, and a link to your entry in the comments thread below. Thanks, and have fun, celebrating your own special example of specialness!


Monday Photo Shoot Results: Busy, Busy

The dishes never end. (Negative, solarization effects)

Last week I asked whether you folks saw any value in my continuing the Monday Photo Shoot, since participation has been rather low, and last week was down to one person. You folks responded with lots of encouragement and good suggestions, all of which are much appreciated. I will carry on . (And Martha, if you're still willing to co-host, please email me when you have time.)

Along with the encouragement and suggestions, we did get some actual entries this week, on the topic of being busy! Here they are:

Jama Hameed
has been busy cooking, cleaning and dusting. The part she shows us looks like the makings of a great meal!

Julie shows off her seriously messy desk, and explains the tasks represented thereby.

Carly has been working hard on her garden, and shows us a beautiful rose she cultivated as a result.

Martha did a major dusting and reorganization of her shelves.

Laura has been planting a vegetable garden. Sounds like she's got some great salads ahead!

Kiva documents a weekend so busy that she had to post her entry a day late.

Thanks, folks! The new MPS topic will be posted shortly.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fire Bad, Tree Pretty

Sun good, tree meh

As is so often the case on the night after I post my Round Robin entry, this is a followup to that - except that this one is also a followup on my previous posting, the Weekend Assignment. I think I've used the subject line before, and I may even have seen Carly quoting it today (it's from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). But it's too perfect not to use it tonight as well.

Here is the context of the original quote. Buffy and her friends have just defeated the evil mayor of Sunnyvale after he changed into a giant demon snake. They've also seen their odious principal eaten by said snake, lost some of their fellow classmates to a vampire attack, lost Buffy's vampire boyfriend to an attack of angst, and, oh, yeah, blown up their high school on the very day they graduated from it. After the graduation, battle and mass destruction, Buffy says,

Buffy: "I haven't processed everything yet. My brain isn't really functioning on the higher levels. It's pretty much: fire bad; tree pretty."

As her Watcher, Giles, muses on what happened, he quickly gets a bit too esoteric for Buffy in her current state of mind:

Giles: "There is a certain dramatic irony that's attached to all this. A synchronicity that borders on…on predestination, one might say."
Buffy (firmly): "Fire bad; tree pretty."

I'm not sure I've ever gotten to a "fire bad, tree pretty" state of mind, and the fact that Buffy can explain what she means by it is proof that she's not quite there, either. But I'm eternally fascinated by concepts like this, the idea of a human being reacting on an instinctive level, with little or no rational thought. Exploring what such a mode of thought might be like is a big part of my characterization of feral tengremen in the Mâvarin books.

Well, anyway.

Although I doubt I'll ever manage to "Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream," as John Lennon described meditation (or possibly drugs, or both) in Tomorrow Never Knows, I've certainly reached a level of sleepiness or exhaustion that resulted in other interesting effects. Last night I was up on my usual Friday all-nighter, knowing that I could then go to bed and sleep well into the afternoon. (Or so I thought.*) By the time I got my Round Robin entry posted, it was later than I'd planned, and I'm afraid my sleepiness at that point was evident in the quality of the entry. The photos were okay, but the text was a bit sketchy, and full of the sorts of typos a spellchecker will never find; wrong words, mostly. It's fixed now, and fleshed out a bit. If you looked at the entry early in the day on Saturday I hope you'll glance over it again.

The closet doesn't quite match the paneling

Meanwhile, the postings and comments of others over the last day or so have me considering further the subjects of my last two entries. It occurs to me that although our house is mostly brick on the outside, there is plenty of wood inside, especially in my office. I like the faux walnut paneling on the west side of my office, and the real (albeit hollow) wood of the closet doors in here.

Doctor Who appears in several places in the MotW.

They're not great as functioning closet doors, though. Since they fold outward, there isn't much room to work with them.

And if you look on the other side of this room, you'll see that it was never finished. The north side of it is all studs and plywood, with no plaster or paneling or anything like that. But hey, it's wood! Here is a partial answer to a question of Bea's, about whether the Museum of the Weird is all cleaned up and renovated and pretty now. Well, no. It's a mess, and very little renovation or repair has actually been completed. I simply decline to show you the place at its worst, so much so that I routinely clean up carpet and stains digitally in my photos when I should probably be trying to do that in the real world instead.

Here's an example. If I were to show you the vertically-oriented shot that goes with the one above, you would see an old lamp, leftover wood, and boxes full of junk I'm supposed to sort through. This shot is also an answer to Kiva's idea that you can find the Museum of the Weird by watching for a TARDIS-colored door. It won't work; the yellow alcove-thing John built years ago keeps the door hidden away.

Fire bad.

Tree pretty.

Interestingly, some of the Round Robin posts by others had implications for my thoughts on the subject of Fire, this week's Weekend Assignment topic. Gattina posted a shot of a burned out forest, and people said in comments that it was a shame the forest had burnt. But I was reading a few nights ago about the function of fire in keeping an ecosystem healthy. Here in Tucson, the Santa Catalina Mountains have one fire policy, which the Rincons have another, in part because Mount Lemmon is inhabited and has roads in it, while the Rincons aren't and don't. Both ranges are subject to wildfires, but the ones on Mount Lemmon are more frequent and more devastating. They do controlled burns on the Rincons, which burn away the kinds of grasses and such that help to fuel the wildfires. And the USFS or whatever can choose when the burn takes place, so the conditions are right for it to burn, bt not too much. But they don't dare to do that sort of thing on most of Mount Lemmon, because they can't take a chance on starting a fire that will spread to people's homes and businesses. Result: the Aspen Fire of 2003, a wildfire that took out 300 homes anyway. And artificially keeping fire away robs the land of the germination of certain kinds of seeds, and the process of succession, in which the land goes through a series of stages in the growth and varieties of plants as it progresses from grasses and shrubs to mature forest. In some ways and at certain times, fires can be a good thing. It will be interesting to see whether anyone tackles the Weekend Assignment in that light.


*I'd forgotten about the Democratic Party, which wakes me up nearly every week with phone calls asking for money. I was rather rude to the Obama fundraiser this morning.