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So a weird thing happened a couple weeks ago. Almost two months after I was laid off my old job for budget reasons, they called wanting to re-hire me. Though they said they made a lot of cuts around the office and were getting new contracts, I know the biggest factor in my re-hiring was the fact one of the other programmers left.

Not only did it work out well for me, but it was also a smart move, I'm sure. I'm relieved to be getting a regular paycheck again, but I'm not too confident in my future with this company. It feels like I still need to keep searching for new jobs and trying to improve my skillset. It's just really disappointing that I never really heard back from any of the job applications I sent out over the past weeks...

Anyway, I'm currently in that awkward transition phase where I can't collect unemployment anymore but I still haven't seen my first paycheck yet. But things should be back on track soon.

Treading

Not much new. Still haven't found a new job yet, though this was the first week I actually heard back from some! Just some follow-up questions that didn't seem to go anywhere.

Also, still doing work for the old job and not getting paid for it. I'm supposed to be on a consultant, hourly wage basis, but of course they haven't given me the proper paperwork to actually request pay for it yet. Oh well, it'll make taxes easier if I don't actually get paid, right?

But I did finally start getting state unemployment benefits. The kicker for me was how, instead of a check, it was on a prepaid debit card through Chase. And of course, if you use your card wrong, your benefits get whittled away by fees going to a private bank. WHAT FUN. I can't wait to be able to get Chase out of my life again.

At least I finally got around to closing my local bank account. 2012 is still the year we ditch our bank accounts, right? Didn't think it'd be under these circumstances, but hey... If I don't get a direct deposit each month, they charge a fee. Luckily I have an ING account now, which seems to provide everything I need. And I got more interest in one month (16 cents!) than I have at any other bank in the past decade COMBINED.

Without much else to do, I've been trying to fix up the house in case I need to sell it. If I find a job and can hang onto it, at least it'll be a nicer place? But if it does come to it, a fresh coat of paint sure helps it move a bit quicker.


I've been playing a lot of 3DS lately. Usually on the weekends, I drive around to find places to get StreetPasses. If I'm lucky, there's a meetup or a local con I can sneak into for some guaranteed hits. Two weekends ago I got a bunch of rare pink puzzle pieces in Mii Plaza! And last weekend I was able to stroll around the local Dallas Comic Con for a good number more StreetPasses. I managed to get 7 of the 8 pink pieces for the newest puzzle, which surprised me. Since it was so new, I expected pink pieces to be almost impossible to get!

Also, last weekend, Adam West was a guest and I was able to get a photo taken with him! He was really nice and said hi and tried to engage in small talk, but the photographer of course had to keep people moving at a rapid pace so I didn't have time to say anything. The picture actually got me looking decent, which is rare, and it caught him in this weird open-mouth pose that I just found hilarious.

Soon there'll be another local convention. I went there last year and got hundreds of StreetPasses (and I was able to complete EVERY single puzzle available at that time). And since it's in separate buildings, I know I can grab StreetPasses without actually paying to enter the con as people will be crossing the street all the time.


So... things are rough but still hanging in there. If things keep going like this I'll probably need to sell the house and move back in with the parents. Then maybe I can return to studying and start my career over from scratch. Shocking, but people aren't really looking to hire someone who's been working Visual Basic for 7 years.
So I lost my job today.

The boss called and started off with something like "It's not the kind of thing I enjoy but..." and I pretty much already knew where it was going. It felt like I was being diagnosed with something terminal and all I could do was accept the diagnosis. He did his best to make it clear that "it's not you, it's us" and that the company is working desperately to cut costs and I'm just one of the things that has to go. Apparently they even have to downsize their office space.

Can't say I was surprised, though. For years it's felt like the company's been cutting back more and more. My first year as a full time employee, we all got a Christmas bonus. That was the last year I saw one. But every Thanksgiving they would give us all hams, or a kosher or vegetarian equivalent. One year, they suddenly switched to a cheaper company for the hams. Last year, they were dropped entirely.

Perhaps the kicker was a few months ago when we got a company-wide e-mail saying, "There's no reason to worry about the condition of the company! At all!"

So for a while now I've been feeling a bit uneasy, with fewer projects trickling in. I was subconsciously drawn to articles like, "How to spruce up your resume!" and "Best answers to interview questions!" I guess I was just sort of waiting for this to happen. I didn't see myself staying with this company forever, although I could've if they could afford me.

Anyway, as distressing as this is, it feels like it could also be an opportunity to find something bigger and better. Ideally I'd be able to get a government job for my next job. Already have some ideas where to try next, so we'll see.

Still, it really felt like time stopped today. It still felt like it came out of nowhere. And with my severance package being just two weeks' worth, I don't have a whole lot of leeway to work with. And even if I do find a place that's better, or pays more, or whatever, it'll still be a major change. But I feel like I can make it work.

Tags:

Rebuild

A while ago I tried the trial version of what is now Windows Home Server 2011... Back then it was named "Vail" and I really liked it. But when it went to a full product, it removed Drive Extender, which allowed you to easily add hard drives at any time while maintaining a level of data recovery. So rather than get started with WHS 2011 right away, I decided to wait until I got a few more hard drives so I could get the space I wanted from the start...

Just recently I considered buying those hard drives I wanted to get, but it seemed like too much to be spending right now. But then I reconsidered... Maybe I could get by with fewer than I originally planned. With that, I found I had enough parts lying around to actually get started on my project. And thanks to a friend, I had a serial number to use for the OS, so I was all set to go!

So on Friday I repurposed my old Media Center PC (back when Media Center was a separate thing from regular Windows) for a new install of WHS 2011. The idea was to have one old hard drive serve as the boot drive, and three other large drives in a RAID 5 array, so I'd have a roughly 4TB drive with data recovery in case one of the drives in the array died. I was going to use the motherboard's RAID, but for some reason it wasn't working right and only saw the array as a 2000GB array (with three 1800GB drives connected). So I switched to using the built-in Windows software version of RAID... which gave me the proper size but is pretty slow.

The RAID array has been "resynching" all this time and starts over whenever the machine resets. So I had to disable automatic updating for the time being. It may finish in a day or so... But other than that, the WHS is looking great! Can't wait for the resynching to finish so I can start moving and organizing files. I really miss my old WHS.


Other than that... Right now Xbox Live is running a promotion where you get free MS points if you do certain things with your Xbox 360 in the month of April. Some of the easier tasks are watching 1 hour of YouTube on your Xbox, and 10 hours of Netflix... I didn't have a Netflix subscription at the time since I usually watch live TV, but there was another promotion for Netflix in the Avengers game on Facebook so I was able to take advantage of that as well...

Been using the trial to catch up with some anime! Finally got around to watching Angel Beats and High School of the Dead. Angel Beats was great and I'm really enjoying HOTD! Even if the zombie thing is played out by now, it's still good and better than I expected. I have quite a few series to catch up on...

TV

It bugs me whenever I see articles online that are like, "How To: Completely replace cable TV using just the Internet!" because step one is always "Compromise what you want."

I mean, for a lot of people, it's probably a viable alternative, like if the only thing you want to watch is episodes of The Daily Show the morning after they air. But I've tried it before when I was dirt broke and absolutely could not afford it and I was miserable. I guess I liked seeing new episodes when they aired, watching live TV, and not having to think about what's on and occasionally stumbling on something I ended up liking without knowing to look for it.

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I really do wish this Internet TV thing was viable for me. For now, it's just not the same. I totally get it works great for some people, but I just cannot stand it the way it is right now. I just wish I didn't have to deal with these gimmicky pricing schemes, extra charges for extra rooms, this unsplittable signal and incompatibility with Media Center (I love just building my own Media Center machines). I wish it were simpler and cheaper. I feel like it shouldn't cost more than $30/month for basic service... as a normal price, not a one-year special with rebate.

Working out

Feeling up, feeling down. Lately I've been trying to plan things out a bit more. When I applied for a Sears card this year, I was pleasantly surprised by how much credit they gave me (otherwise, couldn't have gotten a new fridge!), so I thought maybe I could make a better effort at eliminating some debt.

So I got a credit card with one of those promotional no-interest periods and I'm trying to transfer and manage balances and such. I think it's working out! And I have a bit of a buffer in case unexpected expenses pop up.

Also got a referral to open up an account with ING Direct so maybe I can set a little bit aside and start saving! For the past couple years it's felt like I've been really scraping by no matter how much I tried cutting extra expenses and buying fewer unnecessary things. But now I'm starting to feel like I might finally have some breathing room? We'll see, I guess!


Not much else really going on. Nice having a dog around now. Started getting back into Yu-Gi-Oh again and kind of shocked that I've been sort of out of it for two or three years now...? It feels almost like neglecting a child or something. Also trying to work on the garden these days. Hoping to get a bunch of bamboo sometime soon.

Bills comma bills

So most of my tax refund is gone in a way I didn't really plan. But things still worked out rather nicely, considering.

Since this is a huge election year, I was planning to get my stuff together in January. I still hadn't gotten around to replacing my out-of-state driver's license with a local one, and with all the Republican voter ID stuff going on around the country, I was afraid it'd be enough to turn me away when I went in to vote. I seriously considered joining the NRA as a backup. My late father appeared to have gotten a lifetime subscription to National Rifleman so I wondered if bringing an issue of that would've sufficed...

But then I had to pick up Lulu and plans kind of got thrown for a loop for a while, and the driver's license thing slipped my mind. And then I got pulled over!

It was the day after my birthday and I was feeling pretty good, with the tax refund finally coming in and all. I was heading out somewhere to do some shopping and I got pulled over. Seems like they checked my out-of-state plates and saw that they were expired... as well as being out-of-state. Also, when they asked for my insurance, I fumbled around for a bit and had trouble finding it at first. I explained it WAS current but that I was having trouble finding it, and the police officer said, "Well, just show me the most recent one you can find and I will check on it for you."

That seemed way too nice and convenient so that should've been a red flag right there. But I believed her, and when she returned to the police car, I kept looking for my current insurance card and found it. Then the officer returned with a citation for not updating my driver's license in 30 days (not for expired registration? Okay...) and another for not having any insurance at all. When I showed her I DID have my insurance on me, she just said, "Well, in that case it's for... not showing it to me in a timely manner. How about that?"

She did say I could go to the court and show my insurance and try to reduce the fine, but cautioned "that it probably wouldn't work", which she repeated. She really seemed to be discouraging me from challenging it.

Of course, when I got home and read the citations, I found that I could VERY EASILY have the ENTIRE FINE dismissed if I just showed that my insurance was good at the time of the citation. And since the other citation was for "not updating DL in 30 days", it said I could get THAT dismissed as well (for a small fee) if I showed an updated driver's license. So I seem to have lucked out on that?

Anyway, a huge chunk of cash went to updating the car registration... Not for late fees or anything, but just for having an out-of-state car (it's a tax which they instead call a "tax fee" so that they can technically claim it's not a tax). But at least it was done in 5 minutes. Getting my new driver's license was PURE HELL. It only cost $25 but took three grueling hours. Normally I'm okay with long boring waits but this was killing me somehow.

We had to wait outside in the 20 degree F weather because the place was so small that the fire marshall required them to have no more than 50 people inside at a time. You got a number when you got in, and they were in different groups depending on what you needed to have done... My number was 318, while people getting new licenses had numbers in the 30s, for example. Some people had numbers in the 40s, some in the 800s, 900s, etc. So it was sometimes hard to tell when you'd be next, because they'd call 805... 806... 908... 32... 44... 909... 807... 312...

Anyway, it seemed like I was coming up soon. This ONE window was handling the 300s and it seemed I was next. Counter 4 handled numbers 315... then 316... then 317... And I thought, YES, I'm next! But as she finished with 317, I saw her organize her drawer... pick up her things... AND LEAVE FOR HER LUNCH BREAK

I was going crazy. For the next full hour, NOBODY called another 300 number. She was late getting back from her hour-long lunch break. And just as she was inching slowly towards her counter... Somebody else finally called 318. So, somehow the only two people qualified to do 300-type tasks were both on break at the exact same time. Yay

Anyway, that's all done now. I would've gotten the citations dismissed but they weren't in the computer system yet so tomorrow morning may be the earliest I can take care of them. Here's hoping I get away with just paying a $20 fine!!

Hoekstra

So by now I'm sure everyone's heard about the ad for Republican Hoekstra attacking his opponent, Debbie Stabenow. It has an Asian woman riding a bicycle past a rice paddy and saying to the camera something like, "Thanks for spending so much you have to borrow from my country! Your country get weak while my country get strong. Tee hee!" Yeah, an Asian-looking woman speaking broken English yet with an American accent.

My head was just hot with rage when I saw this commercial. And I know, like Chris Hayes said, you kind of hate to talk about it because you just know it's trolling. They WANT this attention for this horrible, racist ad. But it's just been weighing on my mind all day and I can't get over it.

The very first thing that came to my mind watching this commercial was being reminded of the day after 9/11. I was walking to or from school, and a car drove past me. Someone threw a soda can at me and yelled, "Go home!!" I was just in utter shock because that was the first time in my life I ever felt unwelcome in my own home.

Maybe a lot of it was luck. I grew up in Hawaii, where just about everybody is Asian of some sort. I lived in upstate New York for a while, where you might expect to feel unwelcome, but I was treated as more of a curiosity than anything else. Like, hey, it's the one person in the school with black hair! And at the time of 9/11, I was living in Northern California, which not only felt pretty diverse but was also very chill in general.

But yeah. Go home! I had never experienced anything like that before. I'll never shake that feeling. And that's exactly what I felt when I saw that ad.

That's why I got so mad at Glenn Beck for his whole "let's go back to 9/12" thing. 9/12 was a crap day. I want to go back to 9/10. 9/12 was a great day for selling American flags, but not so much togetherness like Beck believed. Maybe togetherness against foreigners, yeah... But I felt like America was more together the day before 9/11. I feel like I could actually feel happy back then, but afterwards nothing was ever safe again. Like stepping from the rainbow land of Oz to the black and white world of Kansas. It always depresses me that we can never, ever go back to that time again. Something truly died on 9/11.

These are all the feelings that get mixed up in me as I think about that ad. I just can't settle myself down. There's just something boiling inside and I don't know how to direct it. I just have to hope it fades away.

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I thought maybe typing this all up would make me feel better, but no, I'm still fuming inside. I'm about to break down into laughter at how ridiculous this is. It's so sad. Civility, logic, rationality, and honor are crumbling all around us. No game can be worth winning so much that it's worth sinking to these levels.

I'm just waiting for the ad that says, "Me tax and spend you long time."
Feels like it's been a rough couple of weeks but things are looking okay now.

So I heard if you filed your taxes before January 26, your refund would get delayed a week due to checking for fraud or something. Doesn't really make a lot of sense, but of course I filed mine on the 25th. So instead of getting it this past week, it'll probably get here by the 8th.

Feel like I'm getting more used to Lulu's habits and stuff. Luckily it hasn't gotten too cold lately, even with all the rain. It also seems like she prefers to curl up in a corner or next to a wall, so I've tried moving some of the bedding and the electric blanket.

Haven't been playing a lot of games lately. Kind of neglected Skyrim for a bit until today... But since I've been consistently walking Lulu with my 3DS, I saved up a ton of play coins and had enough to finish a playthrough of Find Mii 2! ...Or so I thought. Looks like I'll be saving more coins for a bit.

I THOUGHT I was starting to StreetPass more people around here. Three times in a row, I managed to go out and StreetPass a different person each time. But it seemed odd... For one thing, the third person I met gave my Mii a "fantastic" rating. I thought it took three meetings to get something like that? First, you meet. Then, you meet again and can give the other person the rating. Then, you meet and receive the rating. Then I realized... all three Miis I met were from the same person. He just changed his Mii each time...

I thought it was weird that the Mii name was always lower case, and that its motto was always a language like "english" or "spanish". Well, there goes my hopes of meeting more 3DS players around here.

I tried a bacon shake from Jack in the Box today. It really reminds me of Beggin' Strips or some other bacon-flavored dog treat. Still a bit unnerved by how it's technically vegetarian. Can't say I'm a big fan, but it wasn't horrible... Don't know if I can have any more, though.

Ah well. Things felt great for the first half of January and now things are feeling really bleh. Maybe things'll feel better when I get that tax refund and pay off some bills? My main focus has been to pay off the bill for the new carpet I got last year, since I'm almost up on my "one year without interest" deal. Of course, if I don't pay it off in time, I get charged interest for the original balance from day 1, which my bills helpfully inform me is about $300. So that'll be nice to take care of...

Just have to keep pushing forward...

Minor freak-out

Last week we had a pretty big storm. After the hot, dry summer we had, this much rain was welcome. It seemed to go on all through the night and continued into the morning. Sometimes the thunder was so close, it shook the house and rattled the windows. I thought it was pretty cool.

But after that, Lulu started acting weird and I was afraid she was sick. She seemed okay during the storm itself, but no longer wanted to go out for walks and wouldn't eat anything. I was starting to freak out a little, because just before Kato died, he stopped eating. Lulu wasn't in the same physical condition, but still, just the fact she wasn't eating made me think of that and worried me even more.

I took her to the vet but they said she seemed okay. But I noticed she seemed to be doing better when she warmed up, so I wondered if the cold was getting to her. The weather was pretty warm before the storm... I got her back in her sweater (washed after she fell into the pond), turned up the thermostat a little, and got an electric blanket. That seemed to do the trick, because she was soon back to normal!


I feel like everything is getting back to normal now. Late last year I figured I needed to try getting into better shape, so I made plans to get that new exercise bike after I got back from my trip in December. And when I got Lulu, I started changing other things -- I was regular taking walks again, which I hadn't done since Kato died, and to make food similar to what she used to eat, I was cooking at home more.

Maybe I got so wrapped up with how many things were changing, but I started feeling like, "I'll get into better shape! I'm going to build something! I'll study this and that and teach myself an instrument!" Maybe it was from watching Groundhog Day on TV again... I feel like I was getting crazy and setting too many outlandish goals. But I guess when I thought Lulu was sick, things started falling apart and I came back down to Earth. It's not like I feel like quitting the things I've been doing, but now I just feel more worn down and back to normal. Things are as they have been and how they should be.

Things feel kind of dull and slow at the moment. Today alone has felt like half a week. Sometimes it feels like there is nothing going on, and the world outside my doors has stopped spinning. But occasionally there are signs the outside world still exists.