Tuesday, November 30, 1999

30 November 1999

Okay, sorry I'm so late posting this, but I had an interview this morning with Hampton University, and by the time I'd gotten up, showered, and dressed, there was no way I was going to be able to write a journal entry before I had to leave.

I was mostly going through the motions by going to this interview. The position is that of Webmaster, and I'm vastly underqualified - I have no experience with running a website from the server point of view, nor experience with many of the things they want to employ, like databases or e-commerce. (They're really keen on e-commerce.) I'm confidant that I could learn these things, mind you, but you don't hire a Webmaster who isn't master of anything!

I went to the interview sortof hoping that they'd need to hire an assistant to the Webmaster to do coding, and I could add some professional experience to my resume while learning the things I'd need to know to become an actual Webmaster. I don't expect to get the job.

But damn. This is the first job interview I've been on - ever - where the job itself excited me.

I mean, I'm a very fast learner, and a competant programmer, and reasonably good at system design, and I can do it and get paid for it and not hate it. But I've never encountered a job before that I might actually enjoy. We spent a good half hour during the interview talking about possible designs and how to segment the site so that parts of it can be added a little at a time without the whole site ever really feeling empty. We talked about the importance of a theme, and ideas for bringing alumni into the site. I actually started sketching out a preliminary design for them.

It felt wonderful. I loved it. I want this job, and I want it badly. Forget the stuff I don't know. I'll farm it out if I can, learn it if I have to. I was having a ball in this interview, working with these three guys trying to take what they were saying and designing the site's layout. It occurred to me on the drive back home that if I had a job I loved this much, the 45-minute commute wouldn't bother me in the slightest.

The one guy seemed impressed with my design skills. But I'm not going to get the job, because I have no professional experience, and no e-commerce background, and "e-commerce" was the buzzword of the day. Damn. And double-damn.

Oh, well. Them's the breaks. Maybe once I land a pay-the-bills job, I'll look into getting a business license and free-lance my services for web design for fun. Because this is what I love.

Monday, November 29, 1999

29 November 1999

Phone interviews are a little peculiar. I've got one today at 10 (and another this evening at 8, but that's another story) and I woke up at about 8:15. Hopped in the shower, got nice and squeaky-clean, got out, and was toweling off when the phone rang. It's too early to be the interview, I thought as I headed across the room. Maybe someone else wants an interview. But no, it was the person who set up this morning's phone interview, calling to make sure I was going to be here and at the same number. It felt very weird having a calm, business-like conversation while I was mostly naked.

This week's classifieds are pretty pathetic. I see about four ads for positions that I've already applied for, and three more that I'm qualified for but almost certainly don't want for various reasons. Still, despite interviews of various sorts with six different companies, no one has made me any offers or put anything in writing yet, and I still have to apply for two jobs a week to collect my unemployment check, even if I don't actually intend to take the jobs. At least, not wanting the jobs, I don't have to sweat too hard over the cover letters.

But if the pickings are this slim next week, I'm going to have to start applying for jobs I'm not even halfway qualified for.

But it doesn't matter! The holidays are upon us!

I'm a Christmas freak. I'm not sure when it started, but I suppose at least some level of it has always been with me. It's magical, despite the fact that I don't consider myself a Christian anymore.

I can't remember finding out that Santa Claus was my parents. I do remember coming downstairs one Christmas Eve at the age of five or six to ask for a glass of water, and finding my parents stuffing the stockings, but I wasn't surprised then. I guess I'd accepted early on that Santa was a symbol who was best appreciated - though I didn't have the vocabulary at the time to express it - with a willing suspension of disbelief. Even now, my heart pounds when I see even a raggedy, stuffed, fake-bearded Santa ringing a Salvation Army bell.

It helps that my mom is a Christmas fan, too. For as long as I can remember, she's spent the entire month of December trying to tease my brother and I into telling her what her presents are. (One year when I was quite young, I magnanimously decided to offer her a clue: "It starts with H and ends with T and rhymes with bat!" Give me a break; I was five.) The great thing about Mom, though, is that she doesn't actually care what the present is. For her, it's all about the excitement of anticipation. And it's fun to play to it - I've seen her get hysterical with glee over pairs of socks (wrapped separately and differently, of course).

Every family has different Christmas traditions, so here are ours: Children under the age of ten or so may open one - and only one - present on Christmas Eve. Everyone may stay up as late as they like. If my grandmother is in town, we'll go to church, which I actually don't mind too much. Electric window-candles and tree-lights that have been turned off at bedtime all month will be left on all night. Stockings may be retrieved as soon as you awake Christmas morning - it's a last-ditch effort on the part of my parents to be allowed to sleep until the sun has risen. The opening of presents begins as soon as everyone is up and my mom has had a cup of coffee, and this is our most precise ritual: We take turns, going around the room. Each person must guess what's in a package before opening it. We've turned this into an elaborate game, involving careful shaking, pressing, sniffing, rattling, and poking. Having guessed, it can take upwards of ten minutes to actually open a package, because my father, brother, and I all try our hardest not to tear any paper, carefully slicing through tape with our pocketknives. (Mostly we do this because it increases the enjoyment of anticipation, but it's also fun because it drives my mom bezerk.) It has happened in our house that, with just four or five of us there, the opening of presents takes from six in the morning until after noon.

Christmas is one of the few days of the year that my mother will fix breakfast - usually something simple like eggs and bacon and toast, but when you only get it twice a year, it seems pretty special! (Last year, I was introduced to Matt's family's Christmas breakfast tradition: Breakfast is the platter of cookies their neighbor always gives them.) Then everyone usually takes a nap until it's time for dinner.

At any rate, I'm such a freak that still, at the age of 28, I wake up at 4 on Christmas morning and can't go back to sleep. Seriously. The year I was in the ninth grade, I slept until 8, but that was a fluke. At least I'm old enough now to quietly read a book or watch a movie or something while I wait.

Well, I just lost 45 minutes to two phone calls in rapid succession, and one of them was to set up an interview for this afternoon (with the desperate company that I don't really want to work for, but can't turn down until I get some other offers) so I'm going to post this and go have something to eat before I change.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 28, 1999

28 November 1999

How about that! A weekend entry! Aren't you lucky?

Matt's birthday was yesterday, and to celebrate, we had a few friends over. Richard, Carl, Colleen, Jim, and Jai came over to wish Matt a happy birthday. I got a "Chocolate Sin" cake - chocolate cake with chocolate icing and chocolate wedges on top - and my favorite ice cream (Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip) and we went out to dinner at Second Street beforehand. There's some pictures in the photo album from the party, such as it was.

Tonight we went over to my parents' to continue the celebration with lasagna and leftover Thanksgiving pie. Yum! On our way home, I gave in to my urge to go to the Celebration in Lights, which is a holiday lights display in the local park. Before we'd gone a hundred yards, I had Matt pull my camera out of the back seat to see if it could handle taking pictures of the lights. It could! So the rest of this entry is going to be pictures! Oh, quitcher whinin' and deal with it. You weren't expecting an entry today anyway! There would be more, but the rattzen-fratzen disk filled up!

Friday, November 26, 1999

26 November 1999

I had a lovely Thanksgiving, except that the cat woke me up twice during the night, so by the time I got up, I'd only had about six hours of sleep. I'll start with some notes I jotted down while I was watching the Macy's parade:

9:10 So I'm watching the opening to the Macy's parade, which is a song and dance number by the choral group America Sings, and I'm tearing up just a little (for no reason I can think of) and I thought I'd get out some paper and sortof babble.

9:20 I'm not sure I've ever watched a Macy's parade where it wasn't preciptating.

9:25 It was watching the Macy's parade as a little kid that I figured out the principles of TV advertising - I had seen about a billion Nabisco commercials, wondered why they didn't show anything else, and had an epiphany.

9:30 I like watching the Rockettes. Do you have any idea how hard it is to choreograph things that precisely?

9:40 Ooh, swing dancing! Wow, a porky Broadway dancer. But he's got good moves. Damn, that ground is soaked. I wonder how they keep from slipping.

Things I'm Thankful For: My family. My friends. My husband, who is both, and more. Our lovely house. The "Tough Guy" - Spud. Relative good health and prosperity.

10:00 Damn those Mastercard commercials. *sniff*

10:10 Okay, I'm going to go take a shower.

So after my shower, I went back to watching the parade, and had a slice of peanut butter pie for breakfast. Matt came down at about 11:30 and had a slice of peanut butter pie for lunch. We were fortifying ourselves. My family always has one big holiday meal disaster a year, and we were pretty sure it would be the turkey this year: My dad took it into his head to decide to roast our turkey Boy-Scout style, over a fire. Mom was lamenting the lack of drippings for the gravy, I was whining about the skin, and we were all sure that we were going to have a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner.

Around one or so, we headed over to my parents' house, and I felt a little better about the turkey after seeing Dad's actual setup, though still dubious about Dad's claim that all the ash settling on the turkey would rinse off with a little cold water. He didn't actually roast it over a campfire, but rigged a sort of vertical oven. Here's some pictures - they're a little blue because there was a blue plastic tarp over the whole thing to keep the rain out.

  I drank a couple of wine coolers while we were waiting for the turkey to be done and helping Mom with the last bits. This was probably a mistake, because I was already a bit sleepy when the alcohol hit. But finally, the turkey was done, and Dad brought the turkey in...

He thinks it was a result of using the Matchlight charcoal, instead of normal, untreated stuff, but the ash did not just rinse off the turkey. Dad tried a scrub-brush, and even soap and water, but wound up just pulling all the skin off and throwing it away. (So I may stop in the grocery store today and see if they're having a sale on leftover turkeys and pick up a small one for the skin and leftovers.)

The turkey itself, however, was pretty good. Not quite as moist as a oven-roasted turkey that had been frequently basted, but not as dry as I'd been afraid it would be. And nothing else was a disaster, either - no baked jello, no burnt vegetables. The bread didn't rise as much as it should have, but it wasn't inedible; just a little heavy. We ate until we were stuffed, and then decided to go watch some TV before having dessert.

John found Raiders of the Lost Ark and we watched for a bit. When I realized that Dad hadn't just gone to the bathroom, but actually gone into the bedroom and laid down for a nap, I gave up the ghost. Between not getting enough sleep, the winecoolers, and a busily digesting stomach, I was just too tired to stay awake, and I curled up on the couch for a short nap. I think I was out for about forty-five minutes, but I'm not really sure. I went to sleep around the line "Mountain asps - very dangerous. You go first." and woke back up as Indy and Marian were boarding Katanga's boat. However long that is. My dad had emerged from his nap, too.

I went into the kitchen for a glass of water and noticed that the pies had been cut into, so I helped myself to a slice from each, and finished the movie nibbling on lemon chess and peanut butter pie. (That's two different pies, not a lemon-and-peanut-butter pie.) Mom let me raid the fridge for leftovers to take home with me. My mommy loves me.

After Raiders came Star Wars, and we watched a fair amount of that, but at about 9:30, I started feeling my eyelids drag a little, and we went home.

All in all, a lovely, relaxing day. I hope all my readers had Thankful days, too.

Thursday, November 25, 1999

25 November 1999

Turkey SandwichHappy Thanksgiving! Well, it's not quite 2 in the morning, and I haven't been to bed yet, so even though it's technically Thanksgiving, it doesn't feel like it yet. I want to write a little, and then I'll crawl into bed and sleep sound and warm beside my husband, and wake up in time to hopefully catch at least the last bits of the Macy's Parade which is for me the official beginning of the "holiday season" and try to figure out how to get my two pies to my parents' house without too much damage.

I had a very fun evening - met up with K.T. and Kevin and Greg and T and we all went to the movies. We saw Toy Story 2 - which was fantastic, with a lot of "in" jokes from other movies, especially the Star Wars saga - and then went and had dinner, and came back to the movie theater to see Dogma, which was both funny and thoughtful, which is something I don't often get from a movie, and I enjoyed it very very much. I'll recommend both movies very highly - if I had to pay $14 to watch two movies, then I'm relatively satisfied with what I got.

I thought about discussing Dogma, because some of the ideas in it are very much on the forefront of my mind. But those thoughts aren't really organized well at all, so I don't want to spew them out until they've germinated for a while. They may never come out, though, because my mental meanderings concerning spirituality and religion tend to dry up with the morning dew.

I thought, instead, I'd talk about this weird phenomenon that's been happening to me lately when I watch movies.

Last night (um... Tuesday night) I watched most of a movie on HBO about Orson Welles' struggle to make and release Citizen Kane. The movie was called RKO 281 and starred an actor I'm not familiar with, by the name of Liev Schreiber, in the role of the young Orson Welles. I knew as I watched that I hadn't seen this actor before except perhaps in bit parts, but something about him kept nagging at me. Finally, halfway through the movie, I made the connection: His smile was almost exactly the same as Alec Baldwin's. Not really anything else - Schreiber was sandy-haired and somewhat round-faced, while Baldwin is dark and lean. But it was the same boyish smile.

That weird sense of deja-vu hit me full force during Dogma.

I have always thought that Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCapprio look very similar - they're both excellent actors; young, fair-colored, and I associate both of them with character personalities that tend to be playful and mischievous but can be terribly serious. When the character Loki walked onto Dogma's screen, I wasn't sure which actor it was until I saw his eyes: Damon's are dark blue, and DiCapprio's a pale green.

The character Bartleby in Dogma, played by Ben Affleck, put me in mind of Ben Stiller's character in The Mystery Men - full of rage without a satisfying outlet. And the look was very similar - short, dark, almost spiky hair and not-quite-sane grin. Stiller's character in Mystery Men took both to further extremes, but that character called for the rage to be much closer to the surface.

Something in the way Jason Lee (Azrael) moved and carried himself reminded me of Dan Aykroyd. There was symmetry, too - Azrael wore a white suit and hat that almost matched to a line the black suit Aykroyd wore in Blues Brothers. I kept waiting for Lee to say, "We're on a mission from God."

And the female lead, Linda Fiorentino, had a scene with Janeane Garofulo in which they were dressed and made up similarly, and I was terribly, terribly confused until I figured out that one of them was wearing her hair down, and the other had it up in a bun. It took me until the end of the scene to see the differences in their facial features. (I think this similarity had a point in the movie, but I'm not sure I want to expound on it until I've slept on it a bit.)

I wonder what's causing these weird comparisons in my brain. It's like all the movie actors I've seen were made up from a common bin of parts. "You know that smile Alec used in Red October? Wonderfully charming; let's give it to Liev for that Welles picture." "Hey, can I borrow Dan's slouch - oh, and that quirky smile - for Jason for a bit?"

Or maybe like those silly, fun mirror games we always played in drama class: "Ben, meet Ben. The exercise is you're angry, and tired of suppressing it. Okay, Ben, you lead first."

Oh, forget it. I'm going to bed. Maybe I'll have something rational to say in the morning.

Wednesday, November 24, 1999

24 November 1999

Do you realize that today is only one month from Christmas Eve?

Just thought I'd share.

For those of you holding your breaths with the excitement after yesterday's entry: No, I didn't get a turkey. About halfway into the morning, K.T. and I were chatting on IM, and she proposed going to the movies this evening to see Toy Story 2 and Dogma. (I was worried at first that Dogma was a horror movie - the title doesn't give anything away except that it deals with religion, lots of horror movies are based on religion, and I haven't seen any previews for it, but K.T. has been complaining for weeks now that she wants to see a good, scary movie. But Matt set me straight, so I'm fine with it now.)

Well, it sounded like fun, and I definitely want to see Toy Story 2, so Matt and I agreed. That meant that the pies for Thanksgiving that I was planning on making tonight had to be moved up to last night, and there was no time left in the schedule for a turkey.

Though if Dad's turns out nasty, I may cook one next week.

I'd been planning on a fairly quiet evening - I'd taken a meatloaf out of the freezer to fix for dinner, I was preparing to make the pies, and I had a stack of new library books to keep me busy while Matt was gone at his basketball game (absurdly scheduled for 9:30 at night!)

Around three, K.T. IM'ed me again and said she could get free passes to an advance screening of The Green Mile on William and Mary campus, and she knew Matt had a basketball game, but did I want to go? I thanked her for the invitation, and explained about the pies. She asked if she could come over to our house after work to wait, since she didn't want to go home and then immediately turn around and come back to Williamsburg. I agreed that sounded reasonable.

A bit later, she asked if it would be okay for Kevin and Matt (not my husband, but a friend of Kevin's from work - usually called MattFromWork to avoid confusion) to meet her at the house. This, too, sounded reasonable.

Matt usually leaves work at about 4:30, but got stuck in a meeting and couldn't leave until about 4:45 yesterday. And the maid service, trying to get their whole week's scheduled cleanings in before Thursday, was running late.

So pretty much all within the space of about ten minutes, everyone converged on the house. K.T. arrived first, and I explained about the maid. She suggested that to stay out of the maid's way, the bunch of us go out to get some dinner.

Well, I'd been planning on that meatloaf, but cleaning spray fumes make me slightly nauseous, and I'd been nursing a throbbing headache all day anyway that the roar of a vacuum cleaner was not going to improve, so I told her it sounded like a good idea.

I was about halfway into making the lemon chess pie when everyone else showed up all at once. The maid offered to come back today, and I took her up on it. K.T. still wanted to go out to eat, though, and I was ammenable, so I got Matt to come back downstairs (he'd gone up to check his e-mail) and talk with us about where to go.

K.T. had been craving a sub sandwich, with pepperoni. I definitely didn't want a sandwich for dinner, so I ruled out going to Subway. It was decided, then, that we'd go to Paul's Deli, which is one of two bars thinly masquerading as delis right next to William and Mary campus.

This is the point at which I should have said, "I think, actually, Matt and I will just stay home and eat our meatloaf." but I couldn't figure out how to say it without sounding like I was either whining or trying to dump them. So we went.

What a disaster. After you gave them your order, the cooks just yelled out what you'd ordered when it was ready - no way to tell, if several people had ordered the same thing, whose it was. The cooks are of some eastern European descent, and were almost completely impossible to understand through their accents. Matt and I had paid on the same ticket, and when his sub came up, they kept the receipt, so I wound up getting in an argument with one of the cooks when my cheeseburger was done. They forgot to announce my onion rings, so I didn't get them until most of the way through the meal, by which time I didn't want them anymore. And through it all, my headache just kept getting worse and worse, until finally, about two minutes before we left, the Advil I'd taken finally kicked in.

(There was one very funny commercial on the TVs at Paul's that was trying to link martial arts and radiator fluid. We dubbed it the "Kung-Fu Koolant" commercial.)

We went back to the house and I finished my lemon chess pie while we sat around and talked, and then K.T., Kevin, and MattFromWork left to go to the movie. They decided to take just one car, and come back for the other after the movie, so they wouldn't have to jostle for parking spaces. Matt and I didn't have a problem with this, since his basketball game would keep us up until at least 11, and The Green Mile started at 8:30.

Matt and I watched a TV movie about Orson Welles trying to make Citizen Kane for a while, and then Matt left for his basketball game, and I finished watching the movie, which had a lovely, bittersweet ending.

Then I made the two peanut-butter pies, which was fun (and yummy!) Only minutes after I'd finished those, Matt came home, irritable because they'd gotten badly beaten. (Since he told me at the beginning that they'd been signed up for a more advanced league than he thought they deserved, I wasn't too surprised, but I tried to be sympathetic.) He took a shower, and we settled in to wait for the trio to come back.

At 11:15, Matt went upstairs to look it up in the Internet Movie Database and we learned why they were so late: The Green Mile is a three hour long movie!

Finally, at almost midnight, they stumbled in, collected their things, enthused about the movie (except for Tom Hanks, who K.T. has decided she hates for his personality rather than his acting skills) and headed home. I stumbled to bed, and fell asleep almost instantly.

Now I'm waiting for the maid to show up so I can go do some shopping (I'm using the shopping as an excuse to not be home while they're here - cleaning sprays still make me slightly nauseous, and I still don't like lots of noise) and doing some laundry, because there won't be time to do it tonight or tomorrow.

The plan tonight is to meet K.T. and Kevin at the movie theater for Toy Story 2, then go to the Chinese take-out place at the other end of the shopping center from the movie theater for dinner, then go back to the theater for Dogma. I think for once, I won't want to get any food at the theater.

I'm actually not a big fan of going to movies on opening night - I really hate crowds, and noise, and opening night crowds are noisier than most. But Matt and I seem to have trouble getting the momentum going to go to the movies by ourselves, so this is a good thing.

(Is it just me, or do I sound very grumbly and grouchy? I'm not, really; I'm just feeling slightly harried at all these last-minute plans. Yes, 24 hours in advance is "last minute" - especially if I'd already had something planned for that time.)

It doesn't feel like Thanksgiving is tomorrow. I don't know whether it will feel like Thanksgiving tomorrow, either. Maybe if I watch the Macy's parade, that'll help. My brother is coming to town tonight, and I'm looking forward to seeing him.

And dammit, I need to wrap Matt's birthday presents.

Tuesday, November 23, 1999

23 November 1999

Well, today is Karen's birthday. Happy Birthday, Karen!

I got an e-mail from my brother yesterday. He's been too near to death lately - his fiancee's brother-in-law committed suicide - and it turned him introspective and gave him cause to remind the people in his life that he cares for them.

It's astonishing sometimes how little you can know about a person you thought you knew quite well. His letter revealed depths of feeling, thought, spirituality, and self-analysis that I wouldn't have thought my brother contained. Or at least, that I didn't think he'd be able to express.

Now I'm looking forward even more to seeing him at Thanksgiving.

All right. I've had four interviews - three in person, and one series of phone interviews - and of the four companies, I'm positive that two of them will make offers, and one more is fairly likely. In fact, after my fifth or sixth phone discussion with various people at Metro yesterday, the person I was talking to asked me to make sure to contact them if I thought I was going to take someone else's offer, so they'd know to hurry up and put out a bid.

It's too bad that the company that seems most eager to hire me is the one I least want to work for. (They're a consulting company, which means I'd spend weeks or months at one site, and then be re-assigned to a different site, and so on. That sort of rotation actually appeals to me in a way, but they're based about an hour from me, so the places I'd be sent to work are correspondingly far away. It's been confessed several times that they just don't have many contracts in the Williamsburg area. And the very first place they're proposing sending me is a place that I've heard has a lousy work environment for programmers, actually - and it's a long-term contract.) Still, I suppose it's possible that they could offer me enough money to make me consider it seriously. They have a fairly attractive benefits package, including a series of vacation condominiums for staff use.

The other two possibilities are Syscon and a contractor at NASA. If they both offered me the same money, I think I'd be sortof torn between them. Syscon has the advantage of being a much shorter commute, but the NASA contractor has slightly better benefits (I think - Syscon's are being re-arranged in January) and I wouldn't be starting out on the wrong side of the office politics.

But right now, I just want them all to get off their duffs, do their paperwork, and actually offer me something!

I'm going to go shopping today. The maid service should be here sometime this afternoon, and it will get me out of the house to go run some errands. (No, I haven't cancelled the maid service. They only come every two weeks, and I think I'm close enough to a new job not to sweat the cost.) Anyway, I need to buy a Christmas ornament for an ornament exchange party next week, (invitations were issued to all the 3GI ladies. I was touched to be included.) some accessories for my gold dress if I'm going to wear it to the 3GI Christmas party (yeah, I think I'm going to the party - too many of my friends will be there for me to stay home and sulk, and I love Christmas anyway) and a few other things.

I'm looking forward to it, for some weird reason.

I'm trying to decide if I want to buy a very small turkey and roast it. I'm fairly sure that Dad's campfire-roasted turkey is going to be a terrible disaster. (I've been surprised before, but he's not planning on catching any of the drippings, and aside from not being able to make gravy, I have no idea how he's going to baste it without drippings, and unbasted turkey is nasty and dry.) It certainly isn't going to have the skin that I love to salt and broil, and Mom was whining about not being able to make gravy. So I'm tempted to buy a small turkey and roast it, eat the skin, package the meat for Matt and I to eat later (only this time, I'd make smaller packets - don't ask) and make gravy from the drippings for Mom.

But then I wonder if I'm just fooling myself. I'm already committed to making pies. If I make a turkey, too, then I might as well just add some vegetables and rolls and have Thanksgiving over at our house! On the other hand, I like turkey. Matt likes turkey.

What do you think?

Monday, November 22, 1999

22 November 1999

I just got back from another interview down in Hampton. The person who interviewed me would be my boss if I got the job, and he hinted strongly that they were going to make me an offer as soon as I got the paperwork back to them. It sounds like an interesting project, too, so I might actually consider it. We'll see. One thing I really liked: Instead of making me fill out the application at their site, they gave it to me with an envelope and asked me to get it in the mail in the next couple of days. I appreciate that.

It was one of the shortest interviews I've had, too - less than an hour. The interviewer practically started drooling when I told him the story about having to learn Visual Basic in two days. Things are looking up!

Matt and I went to the library yesterday, and on the way there, discussing possible plans for the rest of the evening, Matt said, "Let's call everyone and have them over for shells!"

This grew out of several things, not the least of which was probably that Matt wasn't in the mood for the meatloaf I'd pulled out of the freezer earlier. But it sounded like fun, so when we got home, we called Carl and Colleen (we decided last night to just call them the "Carleen" to make things less tongue-twister-y) and left a message on their answering machine, then Sara, who was home to locate Richard (who was - surprise! - at Sara's) and to ask them to pick up K.T., who was stuck at home without a car.

Matt and I trooped up to the store to buy ingredients. We decided we'd plan on feeding seven people, since we didn't know whether Carleen would call back, but it would be better to have leftovers than not enough food. Matt picked up the box of pasta shells, and looked at the Nutrition Facts table: One box was six servings.

Well, we reasoned, some of the people who were invited were big eaters, and (say it with me) it would be better to have leftovers than not enough. So we grabbed two boxes of shells, and using the recipe on the back of the box for cheese-stuffed shells, got the rest of the ingredients... Two jars of pasta sauce, four containers of ricotta cheese, one can of parmesan, two eight-ounce bags of shredded mozzerella, a half-dozen eggs... Spices, we had at home.

If you've never made stuffed shells before, let me tell you: stuffing the shells is a very messy job! But I was having fun, and we even got the stuffing and shells to work out pretty even, which is unusual for me - I almost always have lots of one or the other left over.

Partway into the second batch, I realized there was no way we had enough tomato sauce. Something you should know about me: As far as I'm concerned, pasta is merely a vehicle for moving tomato sauce into my mouth. I'd eat pasta sauce with a spoon if I thought I could get away with it. I have actually ordered pizza with extra sauce.

Matt poked around in the 'fridge and pulled out what we had for our own use - a larger bottle that was about half used. Not enough. I whined at him and he went back to the store for another bottle of sauce. And it's a good thing, too, because I had to finish off all three new bottles and our half-bottle before I felt satisfied with the amount of tomato sauce on these shells. (Don't look at me like that! We had two large baking pans and one small one, stuffed to the brim with shells!)

Richard arrived, followed not long after by Sara and K.T., who mocked him for not being able to follow them to the grocery store. Sara presented me with a pound and a half of hamburger to top the shells with, so I fried it all up with some garlic salt and a dash of pepper.

The Carleen unit still weren't answering their phone, so we decided to eat without them. I realized that it hadn't occurred to me to pick up any bread to serve with the shells. Richard volunteered to go to the store for some, and Matt (isn't he sweet) agreed to go with him to show him the way. They picked up two loaves of Italian bread, a bag of potato rolls, and some sodas. I slathered half of one loaf of bread with butter (well, okay, butter substitute) and garlic powder, and popped it in the oven for a few minutes while we started on the shells themselves.

The five of us finished off one large pan of shells, and about half the small pan. (The rest went into the 'fridge and freezer for future meals!) And most of a loaf of garlic bread.

Carleen called around 9:30, and showed up just after Sara went home. K.T. and Richard left around 10, and Carleen and Matt and I sat around for a while, chatting and showing them movies on the computer and finishing off the last of the garlic bread.

We got to bed late, but it was a fun evening.

I keep losing things. I begin to wonder if our house is infected with Borrowers.

When I was putting the books on the shelves after the move, I realized I was missing my hardback, leather-bound edition of Dumas' The Three Musketteers and Twenty Years After. Saturday before we went to K.T.'s, I realized I was missing the first tape in the Red Dwarf T.V. series. I must have loaned these things to people and forgotten about it, but I don't remember doing so, and I have no idea who I might have loaned them to or where to start looking.


Friday, November 19, 1999

19 November 1999

Short of being actively rude to us, I don't think we could have had a worse waiter.

But wait - let us begin at the beginning, when everything began.

In the Beginning, there was Void, and...

Wait, perhaps that's a little too far back. I'll start with yesterday morning.

So after I'd posted yesterday's journal entry, the company who'd called while I was writing it - Metro IS - called back. Because they're a consulting firm, they submit resumes to companies they're trying to get contracts with, and because they do a lot of this, they have a standard format for their resumes. They were trying to re-write my resume to match theirs, and so they spent about forty-five minutes on the phone with me going over most of the projects I'd worked on at 3GI individually trying to ascertain what each project entailed, programmatically. And then they told me about the project for which they were going to submit my resume.

I get the feeling they're sortof desperate. But I'm still not crazy about the idea of having to drive to Norfolk every day, so they'd have to offer me rather a great deal of money to take the job.

Very desperate. UPS just dropped off a packet of information from them, sent overnight. Maybe that's how they normally do business, but it would've been much cheaper to send these brochures through the regular post office...

So anyway, I'd been chatting with K.T. on IM earlier, and we'd had a conversation that went something like this:
Tisfan: Do you and Matt want to go out for a celebratory dinner if Kevin passes his exam? I'll pick Matt up so you don't have to drive separate cars back home.
LizLBrooks: Yeah, that sounds like fun!
LizLBrooks: ...except I just remembered Matt has a basketball game tonight.

But it still sounded like fun, so I dashed off a quick note to Matt telling him about the invitation, and explaining that I thought I'd go without him, if he didn't mind too terribly. He didn't, so I enjoyed the prospect of having an evening out.

Between being kept on the phone with Metro for most of the morning and about half a dozen other phone calls (Is Thursday the Official Phone Call Day or something?) I barely got the laundry done in time to dash off to the Hicks'.

I picked Kevin up, and we managed to find the center where he was going to take his A+ certification exams without too much trouble. (Question #1: Can you find our office?) We arrived twenty minutes or so early, and so I spent a bit more than an hour waiting while Kevin took his test. After I'd been there about fifteen minutes, reading in the lobby, a nice man came out and offered to let me come in and wait in the "student lounge" - which was a couch situated across the hall from a small kitchen. I helped myself to some water from the kitchen, and a handful of Cheez-Its which were in a big bowl on the table, and read my book. Later, the same guy came by to apparently re-stock a supply of chips in the kitchen, and offered me some. I accepted a bag of Doritos and munched while continuing to read my book.

Not too long after that, Kevin came out looking sortof worried. I didn't put too much stock in this - the slant of Kevin's eyebrows or something keeps him looking slightly worried most of the time. I asked him how it had gone, and he got a big grin on his face, so I knew. He picked up the official copies of his scores, and we headed back to their apartment.

I'd been planning to drop Kevin off and go over to the nearby mall to do some shopping - spending the gift certificate my parents had given me for my birthday, and just generally wandering around, maybe picking up a couple of Midwinter presents. But Kevin was giddy with relief and excitement, and didn't want to sit at his apartment by himself with nothing to do, so he came along.

I warned him that he'd be bored - my first and longest stop was going to be a clothing store - but he just shrugged. I'd sortof expected him to do what Matt does when I shop for clothes - find another, more interesting store, and agree to meet me later, but he wandered around the Lane Bryant with me, looking slightly dubious. We joked about how he wasn't allowed to pick out his own clothes, and I made fun of a few things (but for the same reason he's not allowed to pick out his own clothes, he didn't really seem to get it when I was mocking tacky things) and I finally picked out a few things and paid for them.

We wandered around a bit more, and he mentioned that he hadn't eaten all day and was starting to feel the need, so we stopped at the food court and he had a sandwich while I had a little ice cream, and then we went back to the apartment. There was about an hour left until we expected K.T. home, so we watched a Babylon 5 episode, and she came in just before the end.

We sat around chatting for a bit, then headed out to dinner. We decided to go to Carmella's, which is a local chain of Italian restaurants - fairly pricey but very good. We were seated, and spent a little time looking over the menu. The manager (at least, I assume he was the manager, he kept wandering around the room asking how things were and helping out here and there) came over and told us that our waiter would be with us shortly, but in the meantime, would we like something to drink?

I asked for iced tea. K.T. told him she'd have a "diet whatever" which took him a few seconds to process and Kevin got a Pepsi. A bit later, the waiter came by with our drinks, took an appetizer order, and then tried to take our drink order again.

The appetizer came (cheese sticks, only in semi-circle shapes. They were quite good.) and the waiter took our meal orders. K.T. had gnocchi with alfredo sauce, Kevin had a veal dish that turned out to look fabulous, and because I'd been wanting pizza for a while anyway, I ordered a pizza with fresh tomato sauce and onions.

My pizza arrived a good five minutes before their food, but it says right on the menu that the timing for pizzas and strombolis and such might be off, so it didn't bother me too much. It looked very good, and I told the waiter that I would certainly need a box for my leftovers, because it was entirely too big for one person whose name isn't Braz. (I left off the bit about Braz - just said that I'd need a box.)

He didn't bring the box, but his next appearance at the table was to bring K.T. and Kevin's food, so that was all right. The manager stopped by to make sure we were enjoying our food, and I asked for a side of marinara or tomato sauce to dip my pizza crust in. This seemed to confuse him even more than K.T.'s "diet whatever" (he really didn't seem to be playing with a full deck all the time) but he eventually got it and went away, returning with a small plastic cup of marinara sauce. He apologized profusely for it being a plastic cup and not an actual dish, but it didn't bother me at all - I just wanted the sauce.

When the waiter stopped by again to refill my tea (dammit, I hate it when they refill it when the glass is still half-full; getting half a pack of Sweet-n-Low in the glass without scattering powder all over the table is a pain) I asked again for a box for my leftover pizza. He seemed to get it this time, and left, returning with a box.

I asked if I could see a dessert menu, and he told me that there wasn't a dessert menu, but that he could bring the tray out for me. I told him I'd wait until K.T. and Kevin were done, and he could show us all at once. A bit later, they were mostly full, and he brought out the dessert tray. We made our selections, and as he walked away, K.T. said, "And we'll want boxes for our leftovers." She said it fairly quietly, and the waiter didn't seem to hear her, so I said a bit louder, "Oh! And they want boxes, please." He turned around and nodded to indicate he'd heard me, and we went on chatting.

About five minutes later, he brought: a piece of pie on a plate with a doily for me, a boxed piece of cake for Kevin, and nothing at all for K.T.

We blinked at him. "I meant," I explained as gently as I could, "that they'd need boxes for their leftovers." This was a revelation for our waiter, who took their plates and went off to box them. "And her dessert!" I called after him. "And forks!" called Kevin, who was contemplating eating his cake with his fingers.

He finally brought back K.T.'s dessert, and two boxes with their leftovers. He tried to figure out which box had whose leftovers in it until we told him we'd figure it out. Then, without asking, he brought the check.

If my father had been there, he'd have ordered another piece of dessert, or some coffee, or something. My father hates to get the bill before he's said he's ready for it.

But he wasn't there, and so Kevin got out his credit card, and let me see the bill so I could figure out how much I owed him (Note to self - I still owe him $5) and the waiter whisked it away in perhaps the most efficient move he'd made all night.

I realized about then that there was no way I could finish my dessert. It was too rich. On the other hand, it was delicious, and sortof expensive, and with mild hysteria, I realized I was going to have to ask this waiter for yet another box. This time, he didn't bother looking confused, and just brought the box.

As the three of us left, I carried all the boxes, and it looked like a styrofoam Tower of Pisa: One pizza box on the bottom, then two entree-sized boxes, then two dessert-sized boxes (because Kevin hadn't finished his dessert, either). I could barely get into the car.

(Metro is so desperate it hurts. They just called again to make sure I'd gotten their package and to tell me I'd passed the little online technical test they'd asked me to take.)

Anyway, I stayed over at this Hicks' for a bit, talking, and eventually left when I started to get sleepy. I put my leftovers in the backseat where they wouldn't tip over, my purse in the passenger seat, and headed home. Almost immediately after getting onto the interstate, traffic slowed to a near standstill.

Shit. I'd forgotten about the road construction. Apparently tonight they had narrowed the interstate down to one lane (from three) in this direction. And I was in the Wrong Lane.

Inching along, looking for a good place to change lanes and singing along with the radio, I pulled my cell phone out of my purse. When the song ended ("The Load-Out/Stay" by Jackson Browne, one of the favorites I'm practically compelled to sing along with when I hear it) I turned on the phone and called Matt, to let him know I was delayed in traffic so he wouldn't worry.

Which is exactly why I bought the damn phone in the first place.

Not long after I'd hung up with him, I passed the construction, and then traffic went back to normal.

It was a good day.

Thursday, November 18, 1999

18 November 1999

Dammit, when I went to bed last night, it was with the feeling that I was forgetting something important. I figured it was just because I was so tired, and that the feeling would be gone this morning.

It wasn't. I still have this vague, nagging feeling that there's something I'm supposed to be doing, but I haven't the slightest idea what it might be. *sigh* Anyone who knows what it might be, don't hold back.

My interviews yesterday went all right. I got hopelessly lost trying to get to the first one, though. The woman who'd given me directions told me that the street into the NASA/Langley area would end shortly after I got on it, and that I should take a left and then immediately take a right. Well, it sortof merged with other traffic, but I doubt that's what she meant, and at any rate, there was no immediate right to take. I followed the road for a while, and it split, but there weren't any other left turns. I turned around and went the other way, and wound up at the gate to Langley Air Force Base. I asked the gate guard if he had any idea where I was supposed to be, showing him my directions, but he wasn't familiar with the NASA half of the base, shrugged, and let me come through the gates so I could turn around.

So I went back the other way again. It wasn't long before I found myself at NASA's gates. That gate guard couldn't figure out from the directions where I was supposed to be, either, but he let me pull through the gates, park, and come back to the gatehouse where there was a small office for issuing temporary badges. In there, they had a phone, and I called the woman back, feeling like a complete idiot. This is just great. You're late and you're lost! What makes you think they're going to want to hire someone who can't even find their building??!?

However, when the woman got on the phone, she apologized profusely - she'd apparently realized this morning on her own way to work that she'd given me the wrong street to turn onto in the first place. Okay, well, so it was her fault. I felt much better. She had to come out to the NASA part of the base to pick someone up anyway, so I parked just outside the gate, and met her when she pulled up, and then followed her back to their building, which wasn't on the Langley base or the NASA base, but in a separate, less-guarded area set aside for contractors. And as we pulled into the parking lot, I saw that if she'd given me the correct street name, it would've been very easy - it's walking distance from K.T. and Kevin's apartment! I felt even better.

This lady and three other people interviewed me, and my first impression was that since this was a contract to take care of the business side of things at NASA - payroll, rent, etc. - that it didn't sound all that fun. My second impression was that they were looking for someone with more database experience than I have, or at least, someone with experience in the particular database they're using. So I don't think they'll be calling me back in a week or two like they said, but I suppose there's always hope.

After that, I came home for a while to pass the time until my Syscon interview. I called the guy who had left a message on my answering machine yesterday, and arranged another interview (only about three buildings down from the first interview at the NASA contractor's base!) for Monday morning.

The Syscon interview was a little weird, because I already know so many people who work there. Driving up to the building, I saw my dad on his daily walk, and waved. While I was waiting for the HR woman to come, I chatted with another woman. When the HR woman came in, a good friend of Matt's and mine, Jim, came in behind her on some business, and he gave me a big ol' grin. After I'd finished hearing about the benefits package (which was funny, because they're all changing in January anyway) the HR woman took me to the kitchen so I could get some water, and I was accosted by Jerry, another friend. After the technical part of my interview, the interviewers told me to say hi to Matt for them.

If I hadn't been warned about this one interviewer's penchant for asking bizarre and difficult questions, I'd have sweated a lot. I only got about three questions right, and had to confess to not knowing most of the rest. I leaned heavily on the excuse that, being self-taught, I only knew what I'd needed to know for any given project. It made me feel better that, about half the time, after I'd once again said, "I'm pretty sure I've never used that," one of the other interviewers would look at him and say, "Well, don't keep us in suspense - what is it?"

I did much better with the questions from the other interviewers. I told the story about how I'd learned Visual Basic (that is, I had it thrown at me and was told to figure it out and figure out why the customer hadn't been able to make our stuff work with it, and I learned it in about two days.) It's always impressive to illustrate one's ability to pick up the salient points of a programming language in a very short time. I think I earned a couple of points by trashing Oracle's database systems. I mentioned that my off-work hobby was web design, and I think that got a couple of points, too.

All in all, I think I did all right. I think they'll offer me something, though probably not the top salary I asked for.

How odd. While I was writing that last section, another company, Metro, called and did a sort of preliminary phone interview. The person I talked to is going to send me a packet of information about the company, and they'll call back tomorrow or over the weekend to do a technical interview. Metro is a job I'm not sure I want, since it's based in Norfolk, but the woman on the phone implied that since they're a consulting firm, they could try to keep me hooked up with jobs a little closer to home, so I wouldn't have to drive down to Norfolk every day.

*pant, pant* And another phone call while I was writing that, this time from one of the contractors who built the house - they're finally going to come install the vent cover in the kitchen and fix the stuck vent in the computer room, on Monday.

Unless I can remember what it was I've forgotten, today's plans are fairly simple - I'm going to pick up Kevin and take him to his A+ exam, since K.T.'s at work and they only have one car. After that, I'm going to go to the mall that's near their apartment and think about spending the gift certificate my parents gave me for my birthday.


Wednesday, November 17, 1999

17 November 1999

Two interviews today. Yesterday morning while I was finishing up writing some notes, the phone rang, I tripped over myself several times, and finally just gave up and listened to the recording - another interview! I called back almost immediately (as soon as I actually found the phone) and scheduled for this morning at nine.

Of course, being dressed up for interviews all day sortof changed what I was going to wear. In fact, I've changed my planned outfit at least four times. I'm so excitable. Oh, well, wish me luck, everyone!

And I went and did some shopping yesterday, and when I came back, there was yet another message on the answering machine asking for an interview. I tried to call them back, but they'd left the office already, so I'll have to call them back between interviews today, or Thursday morning.

I'm beginning to feel like I might actually have a chance...

So Matt left yesterday at 5:30 to go to basketball practice. At 5:35, the lights flickered a few times, and then died. I looked out the front window: none of the people on our street have power, and the only light I can see beyond our street is the one house we discovered after the hurricane that had a generator. I looked out the back window: None of those people have power, either, though the flicker of candlelight in their windows is a nice, homey touch. I lit a bunch of candles, called K.T. and chatted for a while, then sat on the couch crocheting by candlelight and touch.

At about 7:15, two fire trucks pulled into our cul-de-sac, lights flashing. One stopped in front of the place two doors down from us, and the other parked behind it. I admit it; I'm a nosy neighbor. I watched out the window. There was a lot of activity in the house, and the firemen had pulled out a collapsible gurney and were assembling it when Matt got home.

We speculated briefly about our neighbor, then decided to take the phone that rings out of the closet and plug it in. (The two phones we normally have plugged in both require AC power to ring, and so don't ring when the power is out.) I carry the little white handset down to the kitchen, unplug the cordless phone's base unit, and plug the handset in, getting sortof nostalgic for a moment. (I'd been given the white phone as a Valentine's Day present by my high school boyfriend, Björn, because he was tired of trying to talk to me through my previous el-cheapo phone.)

Once I get the phone plugged in, it occurs to me that maybe I should call the power company and make sure they know our power is out. 1-888-*Fzzt!BEEP!* The power turns back on.

Sheesh, if I'd known that was all it would take, I'd have done it earlier!

This morning, Matt told me, "Since I had a shower after basketball last night, I won't take one this morning - and you can have all the hot water!"

Poor Matt. He thought he was doing a nice thing for me. His face fell when I told him, "But the water's not really hot unless it's been used recently!"

Oh, well. I solved the problem my own way - I used the morning lukewarm water to shave my legs, then let the water heater recharge while I changed my mind about my clothes again and ironed the slacks.

Strangely, I don't feel especially nervous about the interviews today. I'm a bit excited, but not especially, and not nervous at all. Maybe it'll come as they get closer, though it's close enough right now. In fact, I need to wind this up and post it so I can go get dressed; I need to be on the road in about twenty minutes.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 16, 1999

16 November 1999

In case you hadn't noticed, this journal has been moved to the new server. I'll leave the main journal page on Xoom for a while, with a forwarding link, but you should go ahead and change your links. I promise I won't be moving again for a good long while.

Matt, K.T., and I had a brief conversation about the Diary-L mailing list on Saturday. Matt had joined the list for one day, and unsubbed quickly. K.T. is a fairly active participant, and I've been known to add my voice from time to time. Matt told us he'd unsubscribed because the vast majority of the Diary-L participants struck him as "verbally diahhretic, drunk, egotistical kindergartners."

Matt has just a flair for words.

My dad called me this morning to give me some advice for my upcoming interview. Among other advice, he mentioned that UberGeek who would certainly be one of my interviewers is impressed by people who have enough interest and/or initiative to do computer projects on their own time - not necessarily taking work home, but personal projects. It signals to him that these people are in the industry because they actually enjoy doing it, rather than just to make a buck. And apparently one thing that particularly impresses him lately is Web design. Dad thought I might try to be ready to give him a URL to look at. (Though Dad, not being very Web-savvy, didn't call it a URL. But that's OK.)

I think that since my photo album is my most impressive section - both programmatically and from a sense of design - I think I'll use that. After I strip out any links that refer it back to my main page or this journal.

If Syscon wants to hire me, they won't be able to push the paperwork and stuff through for at least a couple of weeks. Probably more like three, since Thanksgiving's right in the middle of that. If I can't start working until the first full week of December (they pay on a bi-weekly schedule, so they like to start people on Mondays) then I may take the week of 29 Nov - 3 Dec and go on a road trip and visit some people. Of course, that depends on 1) getting the job at Syscon, and 2) not starting there until December 6th. We'll see, I guess.

I got my hair cut yesterday. It's a new style, but not so different that I think anyone would notice if I didn't mention it. About three inches of split ends got chopped off the end of my hair, and then I had the stuff framing my face angled. Nothing drastic - I can still pull everything but the bangs back into a ponytail. I don't go in for drastic hair changes.

I bought a bottle of hair color a couple of weeks ago - it shouldn't do more than give me some reddish highlights, and it'll only last a week or so - but I still haven't worked up the nerve to use it. Maybe if I get the Syscon job.

What's funny is, it doesn't bother me when other people play with their hair. Color it, cut it, shave it - sure, go ahead, it'll grow out again! I always look at people who can dare to play with their hair with a slight sense of envy. I wish I could do that, but my sense of identity is pretty well bound up with my hair. "Liz? She's about so tall, a little heavy, and has long, straight, medium-brown hair."

I changed schools just before I went into the sixth grade, and as part of the new me, I changed my name (I'd been Carol until then) and cut my hair into a short pageboy cut. I didn't hate it, but it was still traumatic. It was cute, but it wasn't me. When we moved the next summer, before I started junior high school, I decided to start growing it out again. It took me until the end of high school to get it back to where I was happy with it, and I haven't changed it since. I have the split ends cut off about once every six months, but I haven't changed where I part it or how I style it since. (Well, okay, I've played with the sorts of styles you can undo in fifteen minutes with some water and a comb, and had one fairly awful perm, but that's about it.)

I just can't imagine looking any different, while at the same time, I really want to.

I'm such a freak.

Monday, November 15, 1999

15 November 1999

I had a pretty good weekend. Had a nice, quiet Friday evening at home - we'd been invited to go rifle through T's comic collection, but Matt's basketball practice ran late, so we just stayed home.

Saturday we went down to K.T.'s for the Werewolf game. I had fun hanging out with everyone, but the game itself was a bit disappointing - strictly combat, very little role-playing, a tiny baby bit of puzzle-solving. It's not K.T.'s fault - I could tell she was just as frustrated with it as I was. But there didn't seem to be any way out of it.

Much to everyone's surprise, Joel showed up. Just when we were getting ready to move on without him. I think K.T.'s looking for an excuse to kick him out of the game for good - he's just not a very good role-player. All combat, no personal interaction. I wouldn't miss him if she did kick him out, but she has to be careful, since he's Kevin's ride to work a lot of the time.

Sunday, we went over to my parents' to celebrate my birthday. I'd asked to go to Outback steakhouse for lunch/dinner (we went at 3; what would you call it?) which was wonderful, and I'll be having leftovers for lunch today. And I got my presents from them, which Mom kept insisting were nothing exciting, but which I certainly was happy with - a cordless drill and circular saw, bits for the drill (actually from my brother), a storage box for Christmas ornaments, a gift certificate for clothes, a travel bag, and this so-ugly-it's-actually-cute turkey basket in the picture.

Matt's been sortof tense and grouchy lately. He's almost as much of a worrier as I am, and getting an interview with Syscon has really upped his worry-meter. He's worried that they'll get the SuperTech to interview me and I'll botch the interview and be depressed. He's worried that they won't offer me a job and I'll be depressed. He's worried that they will offer me a job and I'll hate it and be depressed. (Are you sensing a trend here?) He's worried that if I get another job too soon after going to Syscon, it'll look bad on my resume. Of course, he's trying not to let me know how worried he is, so he's trying to suppress it, and it's just leaking out everywhere else. Anything that doesn't go perfectly according to plan earns a grouch.

My plan is to take the job if Syscon offers it to me, and then keep my eye open for better jobs. The very worst part of all this, for me, is the uncertainty. I could probably find another job better than Syscon's before the end of the year, but I'm not certain. We could probably make my severance pay stretch to the end of January, but I'm not certain. One thing I know for certain is that the unemployment I can collect will not be enough to pay half the mortgage on the house, much less cover any of the other bills.

As far as I'm concerned, the current corporate structure of the country not only allows for frequent job changes, it encourages it. I can remember a time when my dad changed jobs every three years, like clockwork. He's been with Syscon for over fifteen years now (discounting a short layoff period somewhere in the middle) - mostly out of personal loyalty to the head manager at the office. Now that that manager is about to retire, Dad's been looking around again.

I'm not too worried about working someplace I hate. I hope I'll be able to leave my job worries at the office, but if I can't, then it won't bother me in the slightest to look for something else. Something better. I have no intention of ever again making the mistake of thinking that my loyalty to a company translates into the company's loyalty to me. I will keep my resume up to date, and scan the want ads every Sunday, even if I'm not really looking.

Last night, as I was typing all of my "Things To Do" into my PDA (File weekly unemployment claim; write thank-you notes; send out the weekly resumes) I started a list of things I could do if I was bored.

Wow, what a list. And I didn't even put down things I should do, like go to the gym, cleaning the house, or working in the yard. Without even touching a computer, there were at least five items - hours of activity! I certainly won't have any reason to complain of boredom while I'm unemployed! If you can think of things to do to add to my list of options, let me know!

Friday, November 12, 1999

12 November 1999

As I told the list this morning, if I had to be woken up from a warmfuzzy, happy dreams in a nice, deep sleep, a phone call to set up a job interview is definitely one of the better ways. At least, right now.

Syscon finally decided to set up an interview. (This coming Wednesday, if you're curious.) Whether this is just how long it took the rumbling bureaucracy to get around to it, or if Dad's back at work today after spending a week home with the flu and was prodding them, I have no idea. But I don't really care. (Now, if only they'll just meekly accept the moderately outrageous salary I told them I wanted...)

One problem is, of course, that they know I was laid off, and that I'm not working at all at the moment, so they know I'm available to start working immediately. I'm trying to decide if I should tell them that I'd like to take a short vacation before I start working, or agree that I'm available immediately, and trust in the slow process of red tape to give me one. I really don't want to start until after Thanksgiving at the earliest... But I don't want them to decide not to hire me because I'm making too many demands. Hmph. Oh, well. I'll give it some thought.

I've sortof enjoyed being at home for the past couple of weeks. If Matt was making, oh, about 50% more than what he does now, I'd consider not looking for a job at all, maybe just doing free-lance web design on the side. But that wouldn't be fair to Matt, I guess.

I think I was hopelessly pegged for a wishful homemaker when I got all excited over gift-wrapping and decorating ideas in my Better Homes and Gardens. This is just not normal.

I made my favorite meatloaf recipe for dinner last night. Actually, it's my mom's recipe for stuffed green peppers, and it's one of the few recipes I've ever encountered that I've never felt the urge to tinker with, because it's marvelous the way it is.

As a kid, I always scraped the meat out of the green pepper, and gave the pepper to my mom or dad. I'm not a big fan of green peppers even now. I especially dislike them on pizza, because as they cook, their flavor seeps into the cheese, and then even if you pick the peppers off the pizza, you can still taste them.

But I had a pepper in my 'fridge, a leftover from making chili last week. And they were sortof expensive (this isn't a good time of year for peppers) so I didn't want to waste it. I had close to a pound and a half of low-fat hamburger in the freezer that I'd picked up when it was in the mark-down bin, and the recipe calls for only half a pound. So, I trebled the recipe, cut the green pepper in half, and made stuffed green peppers for Matt and I for dinner last night, and used the remaining stuffing to make two small meatloaves, which I stuck in the freezer for a later date.

(I've been trying to make big portions of things and freeze the extra for later. Matt and I came to the conclusion that we were eating out entirely too often, and decided to try to cut back. The problem is that half the time we eat out, it's because we don't feel like putting any actual effort into making dinner. So I thought if I had some stuff in the freezer, that would help cut back on that problem.)

Anyway, we sat down to dinner, and I almost scooped the meat out of my pepper and handed it (the pepper) to Matt. But I thought, it's been years since I actually tried it. Maybe I should take just one bite - I had barely noticed the pepper bits in the chili I made last week, after all.

So I did. And I didn't die, or pass out, or anything!

Of course, in chili and stuffed, they've been cooked until they're mushy and almost flavorless. I still can't stand the smell of fresh peppers, and the idea of eating pizza they've been on is still pretty repugnant. But who knows, maybe it'll grow on me. I spent most of my life thinking that squash was a bad joke, and then got cravings for it the summer before my senior year of college. Tastes change. I can handle that.

But anyone who comes near me with a plate of brussels sprouts is going to get a swift kick.