Mar 24, 2009

A little "friendly" competition.

In my position at work, there is relatively little room for alternate assignments. It’s not such a bad thing. However, when a specialty position opens up, it is up fro grabs. And even the best of friends can get a little sour over the process of assignment, and the disappointment of not being chosen.

I started my current employment nearly seven years ago. I moved from Vacaville, and I was working in Napa. At the time, alternate assignment was nearly non-existent. Without trying to bash people who work in retail, it was a lot like that. You were line staff. And unless you promoted, there was relatively little more than that. And promotions were few and far between. The only saving grace was making a really decent salary.

In the end, that proved to not be enough for me. Making good money is not always enough when you really dislike your working environment and a fairly good portion of the people you work with. I was sent to a month-long training course in Eureka, and I was hooked. I met good people (one of which eventually became my wife), I was introduced to a far superior working environment, and I love the North Coast.

So I made a leap and a change of venue. And seven years later, I am pretty happy with the results. Since then, even as line staff, I have had multiple opportunities to do different things within my department, and all of them to my benefit.

Over the last five years, though, I have held the same position. Change has simply come in the form of working different shifts and working with different people. A lot of us face the same challenge. So when an opportunity arises to do something different there are a lot of people who look to take advantage of it.

The open position: Lead Background Investigator. Those who wish to work in my particular field must go through a series of tests and examinations. There is a written test and an oral interview. Followed by a background investigation, a polygraph, and a psyche exam. Far more than a standard desk job.

This is a position I have wanted for along time. Pretty much since I started working here. But, for whatever reason and a few various odd circumstances, this is the first time I can recall since my employment the position has become open to qualified applicants.

Hence, the “friendly” competition.

Some of my closest friends are vying for this post. It’s a two-year assignment. Civilian clothes, a regular 5-day a week, 8 hours a day job (something I don’t have a lot of experience in since I work a 12 hour shift).

And as I said, some of my closest friends are my competition. The assignment requirements I am qualified to meet. The application process: a memo of interest and a one-page essay describing my understanding of the position and my ideas for improvement and change.

I spent the better portion of the last two days working on my memo. It’s pretty solid, as far as I can tell. In fact, without trying to sound like I am bragging, I think its pretty dang good.

But now I am tasked with writing a one-page essay. It’s going to be a challenge. I understand the post. I understand the requirements. But convincing the Head Boss that I am the right man for job must ooze from every written word.

It’s going to be a task. And in the end, only one person will be chosen. One person will be pretty pleased. A number of people will be disappointed, maybe even unhappy and a little bitter.

But I guess that is the eventual result of any application process.
I have until April 6th, at 1600 hours to have my application in. With any luck, it should be done a few days ahead of that schedule. And in the end, if I am chosen or not, I will at least have the satisfaction of having thrown my hat in the ring and given it my all.

Mar 18, 2009

Date day gone a little wrong, Part 2

Ok, back to date day gone a little wrong.

I guess I should first say hat the spent with Wife was just fine. I'm fortunate in the fact that we actually enjoy each others company, so a day spent together is generally pretty good.

Now, onto the second comment: The movie Watchmen.

I am a huge an of comic book movies. And as computer generated graphics have improved over the years, more and more movies (which would have either not been possible or simply been idiotic in its appearance) are made to look so lifelike that its hard to tell when things are done "live" or when things are generated by means of a computer.

For example, Spiderman 2. An absolute top-notch film. Good acting, good story, and amazing fight scenes. I think the fight scenes in these movies are really one of the things I like the most. A fight scene between a cop and bad guy is generally done as hand to hand, in some dark alley in the rain, or maybe an old warehouse that is dimly lit. But from movie to movie, they generally look the same. It becomes repetitious.

The superhero fight is so massive in scale it can't be compared to something so small. And with the aid computers this massive scale fighting has no limits. From speeding elevated trains, to the sides of buildings, to where ever the imagination can take it.

I could go on, I think, but hopefully I get the point across.

So lets talk about Watchmen.

The opening scene introduces us to the character of "The Comedian." He is older, and no longer in his prime, and apparently drinks a lot. After we learn this he is quickly killed. The next hour and a half are centered around memories of a dead, and rather despicable Hero.

I'm not sure I could have found a more profound way to waste my time. I found myself looking over and over again at my watch, wondering how long it had been since the movie began.

Later in the movie we are introduced to "Dr. Manhattan." A scientist who, through an accident, is transformed into some sort of supernatural being with amazing powers. Now, on the surface, this sounds like a perfectly normal super hero equation. So my only real question is, why is he naked through most of the film? And why, if he has to be naked, do we have to see him this way? I actually started counting the different times I witnessed the blue, glowing schlong. I lost track after I was checking my watch again.

And as for fights, well, in nearly 3 hours there wasn't a lot there. In fact, I can only really think of 2 real scenes. One, in a prison riot, was actually pretty decent. The final bout, near the end of the film, just left me feeling like all the build up to this final confrontation between good and mis-guided good (there wasn't really a bad guy here, kind of confusing) was lacking in anything climatic.

So, in the end, I lost nearly 3 hours of my life. I'll never get it back, and I can't claim I witnessed anything so spectacular that I would recommend this film to anyone else.

So there it is, the culmination of what should have been a fantastic lunch and a good movie.

I'm really glad I at least had good company.

Mar 16, 2009

Date day gone a little wrong.

The other day, D and I decided to have us a date day. Date Day consisted of the following activities:

1. Lunch at the AA Bar and Grill
2. Seeing the movie “Watchmen”
3. Going to the casino for $2 Blackjack

The casino doesn’t really need a comment, as nothing spectacular happened. I showed up, I donated some money, and I left.

First Comment: The AA Bar and Grill

Located in downtown Eureka, almost directly across from the Humboldt County Jail. A liquor store, and a rather seedy looking hotel surround it. The exterior of this fine establishment is such that if you didn’t know it was there, you would most likely drive right past it. There is a sign outside; however, it also is non-descript and rather unremarkable. Now, having said that, the interior of the place is quite different. The hardwood floor matches the large horseshoe bar, there is some table seating and that’s about it. D and I have been there on a number of occasions and even on a busy night it’s never really loud there. The menu is pretty straightforward. They tout their steaks as the main item on the menu, and with good reason. Options include the sirloin, the New York and the rib eye. For those with a more adventurous appetite, there is the 49 oz porterhouse. This requires an order be placed the day before. The prize for completely consuming this monstrous slab of meat? Bragging rights, and an AA Bar and Grill T-shirt. I usually order the rib eye, my favorite cut of meat. And they grill these steaks to absolute perfection.

I can grill a pretty mean steak. In fact, I’m usually disappointed with the steaks I order from various easting establishments because I have set my own standard as far as the rib eye goes. So when I first ordered a meal at the AA, I had no idea what I was in for. But it was heaven. Bliss? Perfect? In my head I keep thinking of ways to describe the perfectly cooked rib eye, however it should suffice to say I would aspire to prepare a rib eye in such a perfect way.

Now I always order the same thing: rib eye (cooked medium) with fries, and a soup for a starter. Every now and then we’ll order a side of prawns to share, just to mix it up. But they have on the menu “Honey Stung Chicken.” This has intrigued me over and over, yet I always order the same thing, the rib eye. So I decided to be adventurous and break away from the things I know oh-so-well.

My plate came out with 3 pieces of deep fried chicken. There was a pool of grease underneath and my fries were quickly getting soggy.

Sweet mother of pearl, what had I done??? I went to a steakhouse and made the mistake of ordering chicken?!?!? To show an extreme example of how I felt as I consumed this paltry meal, it would be like going to a Lamborghini dealership and buying a used Geo Metro off of their back lot. You would never do something like that. In fact, to even think that a Lamborghini dealership would even have a back lot that includes a Geo Metro is completely absurd. It’s ludicrous. Its crazy.

I had to request extra napkins, because the chicken was so greasy. And in the end, I walked out of the restaurant feeling nothing but disappointment. Never again, and I mean never, will I order anything but “The usual.” There is a reason I go to where the best steaks in town are hidden in plain sight; I won’t make the mistake of leaving disappointed again.

Now, I had thoroughly intended on commenting on the movie, but since this is getting rather lengthy already, I will break it in two and finish this later.

Until next time, heed these words: Order the rib eye.

Mar 11, 2009

A little Karma comes my way, I follow up with a way overdue yard project, and my truck almost kills me.

What seems like a long time ago I had made the decision to rip my deck apart and get rid of it. It was somewhere in the area of 15 years old, and rotting. There were spots on it when you walked that would bend and sink, and the final straw was when a friend walked on it and it broke. Here is a reminder of what that project looked like when finished.That mess has been sitting on my side yard for nearly a year. I admit it, procrastination is one of my finer talents. In fact, I believe I have perfected the art. I could teach classes on it. The bad part about this: it rains a lot a Humboldt. Average rainfall here is more than Seattle, and that's saying something. Top that off with the fact that this mess sits under a rather unruly cherry tree and after a long period of time you have a horrendous mess.

The other day I came home and found that this portion of the mess had been removed. One f the biggest reasons I had not gotten around to it was my lack of a chain saw (which would have made fairly quick work of the project). My friend Cody, however, probably has about 8 of them. So he came by on his day off and simply tore it up and removed it.
Perhaps this was a bit of good Karma, coming my way. After all, we had recently performed a small service project for a couple of stubborn beavers. Perhaps the Karma train came rolling around and found its way into my backyard.
So now, feeling the pangs of guilt at what my friend had done for me, I decided it was time to finish the job.
So at noon today I started cleaning, and it was a mess. Along with the leaves were a massive pile of bush trimmings. In the end I prevailed, and the mess is now clean.

Ahh, the satisfaction of a job well done. It wasn't, though, a job done without mishap. Allow me to elaborate.
I had just finished my second trip to the dump. I was coming home, feeling particularly proud of myself for actually getting something done around the yard on my day off. I was thinking the truck was rather dirty, and with all this new found space in the side yard I could pull my truck in and give it a quick wash. I pulled up, put it in to park, hopped out and opened the gate. I got back and started to pull forward. I realized, then, I had left the hose right in the way and it looked as though I would crush the nozzle under the front, driver's side tire.
(This is where Things go a little crazy)
I pressed the brake pedal down, put the truck in reverse, and hopped out.
Yep, your reading that right, I put the truck in reverse. For those of you who are die hard manual transmission fans, please take note that reverse and park are right next to each other. And if one is not paying attention, its easy to go from drive to reverse, thinking its in park.
I actually got all the way out of the truck when I realized it was moving backwards towards me. And it was turning, since the wheels were still turned as I was moving into the backyard. So I was sort of trapped behind the door, which was still open, as it was threatening to mow me over. I started backing as quick as I could, and shouted a few expletives. I then dove into the cab, as that was the only safe place for me to go. I first tried to hit the gear shift, however it doesn't want to go into park without the brake being depressed. Know I was quickly running out of time, my neighbors fence had to be quickly approaching, I started stabbing for the brake with my foot.
Here, as I saw my foot stabbing for the brake pedal, I found myself really, really hoping I didn't hit the gas be mistake. That would have been disastrous. Luck was with me today, and I managed to hit brake. I took a deep breath and put the truck into park. I got out and saw that I had about 6 inches before I ran into the neighbors fence and yard.
Lucky. Just plain lucky. But I lived, nothing was damaged. And it took about 40 minutes for my legs to stop shaking.

Mar 8, 2009

Getting paid to educate myself (and anyone else who will listen to my vast amounts of knowledge)

There are days when I get home from work, and I can’t wait to get my boots off because me feet hurt so badly. My clothes stink because I spent my running from one task to another, from one emergency to another. And all I can say is, “They don’t pay me enough.”

Then there are days that I can’t believe I make the money I do, doing what I do. This Sunday morning is one of those days. I awoke at 0500 hours, the typical time I get up on work days. I arrived at 0540 hours and briefing started at 0545. Since then, the most strenuous thing I have done today was carry the coffee pots from the briefing room to my area of responsibility.

Seriously, I have had little to do, and so I have spent the better part of my day looking up random bits of information on the internet.

These are the things I have been “researching” this morning:

1. Daylight Saving Time. We started Daylight Saving Time (and for reference, most people inaccurately either spell or say it as Daylight Savings Time) with the idea that extra daylight would be beneficial in many respects. Eventually, the Uniform Time Act was passed. However, I do not believe there is any real pressure for any particular region of the world to fall in line with this act, making it the complete opposite of “Uniform.” In the US, Arizona decided they did not like DST, and actually got themselves exempted from the UTA. There are parts of Canada, Europe, Asia and an entire half of Australia that apparently refuse to conform to the Uniform Time Act. Honestly, I can't figure out why we even call it a Uniform Time Act. There is nothing uniform about it.

2. Asparagus. This came up, somehow, and I’m not even sure why. I already knew asparagus makes your pee smell. I even knew it was because the body can’t completely breakdown the asparagus during the digestion process. There are a few tidbits that I didn’t know. Ben Franklin said this about asparagus, “a few stems of asparagus eaten shall give our urine a disagreeable odor; and a pill of turpentine no bigger than a pea shall bestow upon it the pleasing smell of violets." Not everyone, though, gets the stinky pee. A study was conducted in 1956 of 115 people. Of the 115, 46 people became fragrant after eating the vegetable. 63 people showed no sign of emitting the stinky pee (quick math shows that to be a total of 109; Perhaps the other 6 people died before the study was completed?). And lastly, a person’s pee can start to stink in as little as 15 minutes after eating the offending vegetable.

3. Palo Verde Beetles. These are commonly found in Arizona and New Mexico. And they are huge. And they are ugly. They live in the ground for most of their lives, feeding off of the roots of the Palo Verde Tree (hence, the name. Duh). The typically come out of there hiding in the summer months, in July and August (when it’s the hottest). Then they fly around , and they are attracted to light. They weigh a ton, and it sounds like a small boulder hitting the ground. The funny thing is, the only reason the come out of hiding is for the purposes of mating, then dying. All I can say is, “What a way to go.”

4. How Lottery Tickets are Made. I was curious about the way lottery tickets are made, and more specifically, what the scratch off stuff is made of. Apparently it is made of acrylic, and is applied in a 3 step process. First, a layer is applied which a simply a primer, preparing the card stock for the rest of the layers. A second layer is applied and, which is printed with numerous lines and symbols, the same color as the numbers that are also printed, and sealed over with yet another layer of acrylic. The last layer contains highly opaque materials such as carbon black pigment or aluminum paste mixed with acrylic resins and appropriate solvents such as methyl ethyl ketone (I had to cut and paste this last sentence, as I generally couldn’t come up with a witty yet accurate alternative explanation). And as far as lotto tickets go, I rarely buy them. It was a simple curiosity.

I can’t believe I'm getting paid to do this.

Mar 6, 2009

A small rant and then I'm finished.

It’s scary, when a normal and easy going fellow can become an unbelievable bastard just by waking up in the morning.

Let me explain.

I woke up this morning, like any other morning, and got ready for work. Wife was already up, but was far enough along in her preparations for the day that the shower was clear and open. I figured this was a good start (since we sometimes tend to run into each other while getting ready for work).

However, pretty soon I found I had little patience, for anything. And of course, when you are in a bad mood and people at work notice it they immediately want to know if you are grumpy and why. The simple fact of the matter is I don’t have a good reason for being in a foul mood. Nor do I care to discuss my mood in some sort of open forum in front of all my co-workers.

That is not how I operate. Its bad enough I am seeing a shrink on a fairly regular basis, I certainly don’t care to open up some sort of round table discussion about my moodiness. Besides, who are my co-workers to think they are able to diagnose my issues and prescribe the appropriate therapy for a swift and speedy mood change?

I guess this sounds a little harsh. I am ok with that. Sometimes people just find themselves in a foul mood. That’s me today. When the end of the day comes, I’m going to make dinner for Wife and me. Then I’ll be headed to a hot shower which is always relaxing at the end of the day. Then I believe I’ll be headed to bed with my book. Of course, these plans may change. You just never know. I might get home and watch some TV. I might not take a shower. I just don’t know. But I do know the people here won’t be there (with the exception of one, and I am ok with that one).

Enough ranting; time to move on.

Mar 3, 2009

A quick retort left me looking a little silly.

I am not required to like everyone I work with.
Believe me, I have looked. Its no where in my job description. Its not in our contract. There is nothing that even remotely makes the implication.
On the flip side, though, I am required to work with people I do not like. This is implied in almost every part of my job description. Its a fact of life.
Here is an exchange between me and a peer that happened on Monday morning:

Me: thinking to myself: Hmm, not real busy, plenty of people standing around doing not much of anything, I think I'll go to the store and get something to drink.

(Store trip ensues, then I return)

Co-Worker: (looking up from whatever he was doing and in a rather obnoxious tone) Hey, I guess you went to the store? Thanks for checking with me. (Then looks back down at what he was doing)

(This is where I lost my composure)

Me: (This also came out in a rather obnoxious tone) Well, just so you know, now that I am back, I'm going to go to the bathroom and take a crap. Afterwards I'm going to wipe my butt a few times.

It should suffice to say if I was looking to push any buttons on this guy, I far exceeded my expectations. There are a number of issues that come to mind from this brief conversation, and I'm going to attempt to delve into a few of them.

  1. Some people seem to have the idea that being in a position of authority grants them a free pass to talk to other people as if they are complete idiots. I could not be more diametrically opposed to this idea. I have watched this co-worker of mine treat people in a similar manner, and it never ceases to amaze me that one of his subordinates hasn't socked him. I would think he deserves it. Yet it seems to happen, over and over. What happened to people treating others with at least a certain amount of dignity? So, in my anger at being treated this way, I fired back.

  2. Having seen this person treat people as he just treated me, I generally don't like him. Again, I am not required to like him. But from time to time, I have to work with him. And I am OK with this. After all, he generally performs his job functions pretty well. And if I were to get in a scrap, which I have from time to time, I would be happy to have him as help. Conversely, I would be the first to run to his aid should he need assistance. The fact that I failed to check in with him before leaving for a few minutes was not meant as a slight to him, but simply an oversight. I generally make sure people know I am leaving the building. Its a common, and somewhat expected thing to do. It didn't occur to me in the slightest that I had done something wrong when I left.

  3. Which brings me to my next point. People can send the same message in any number of ways. Were I sitting at a long table, and someone said, "Could you please pass the salt?", I would happily pass the salt. If the same person had said, "Hey jackass, give me the salt.", I would more likely be inclined to bounce the salt shaker off of his forehead. Delivery is key in many situations. Most certainly when someone has done something wrong and its your job to correct it.
Having these issues in mind, I want to make it clear that I am by no means perfect (as evidenced by my quick, and rather inappropriate response). But when I am yelled at, across a room full of people in an attempt to make me look like a jackass, I refuse to back down from that.
So after this brief conversation, and a little chance to clear my head and regain my composure, I pulled this co-worker aside. I made it clear that my remark was wrong. I said it quick without thinking. However, I also tried to make it clear in the future I would simply like him to talk to me like a peer, as that is what he and I are, peers.
What have I learned from this? I don't know, honestly. It simply reaffirmed my belief that I don't care for this person. It also reaffirmed my belief that when I am faced with something similar, I don't want to embarrass people, nor do I want to call more attention to wrong doing than is needed.
Something that I know I did learn, I opened my mouth and said something without thought. And that, no doubt, made me look like just as much of an idiot as he was calling me. I will do my best to not let that happen again. An often quoted saying, although I am having trouble finding the actual person to attribute this to, says:
"Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret."
So true. So true.
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