Monday, December 22, 2008

Weird Day

Today was almost surreal. For one, half of the office was absent because of the snow, including the bosses, and those of us who were in had nothing to do. I worked on my grad school essay while the boys goofed off. Second, I kept getting calls from people looking for Virginia Mason hospital. I asked the third caller what number they were trying to reach (which didn't resemble our number at all), then dialed it; the call came through to my console. I contacted Virginia Mason, but they had no record of the number in question. Third, at around 11:30, a transformer blew and the power went out. With no heat or electricity, we couldn't even pretend to work. Once the city determined that we wouldn't have power for the rest of the day, we left. The outage proved to be a deus ex machina, an improbable event that allowed me to finish my Christmas cards. Every relative that my mom likes will be getting a handmade card from me; I like or am indifferent to all of my relatives, but I got the address list from my mom and there are a few she does not care to stay in touch with. Thus, my cousin Josh and his wife (who I have never met) will get a card, but his mother will not because my mom is not fond of her youngest sibling.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

One Dollar Diet Project

I read article in the New York Times about a California couple who decided to live on $1 of food a day as an experiment in poverty. They used it as a fundraiser for a local charity. The pair subsisted primarily on rice, beans, and peanut butter sandwiches, but managed to make it work. Since my income is about to be reduced, I am especially intrigued by the recipe section. $1 a day is a little bit of a stretch, but $5 is doable with a little planning.

Canterbury Bar on E 15th is Stupid

We had another day of crazy snow yesterday; fortunately, it was Saturday and I didn't have to leave the house, other than to go one block over to the grocery store and the gym. David was not so lucky: he had some Christmas shopping to do, so his quest for the perfect present took him on a scenic tour of Seattle in the snow.

I made dinner based on a recipe in the book "KCTS 9 Cooks: Potatoes II," something left over in work. It's a compilation of recipes from KCTS viewers, and even though every one has the common ingredient of some form of potato, there is still a variety of options, from salad to casseroles to desserts (potato candy anyone?). I also wanted to try a recipe I found for Wassail, spiced beer with a little port (or in my case, a nip of brandy and some cheap wine). We were getting cabin fever, but the party we had intended to go to was in Ballard, and we didn't think we would be able to get there and get home in the snow.

Chris called to see if we wanted to go to a bar. We did. We walked up to his place and hung out in his apartment for a bit while we regrouped. The bar they wanted to go to was just around the corner. After about 45 minutes of chilling (well, warming up really) and watching videos on Chris' PC, we headed out. Chris and Kristen got a couple of gin and tonics, David got a beer, Casey got something, and I had a soda- I was already tired. David thought that the bartender was a jerk.

We sat in front of a fake fireplace and watched the Top 10 Greatest Northwest Sports Teams on TV. Next to us, two guys and a girl were getting hammered. They ordered another pitcher, and asked us to watch their table while they went outside. We agreed. They were so drunk and obnoxious that someone (Chris or Casey) had the idea to put something in their beer. We laughed at the idea, but Casey decided to do it. With an evil grin, he deftly put a few shakes of tobasco in each of their glasses, plus the half-full pitcher.

The trio of drunkards returned, and resumed their drinking. After a few minutes, we heard one complain that his beer was stinging his lips. They talked for a few minutes among themselves, then began to question us. "You were watching our table, did you see anyone do this?" "No," we said.

Before long, their beer-addled brains still had enough sense to figure out that we were the culprits. "Did YOU do this?" they asked. "Of course not," we replied. But by then, they were on to us. One came over, and had Casey sample his beer. "It's a little spicy," he agreed. The jerk poured it out in Kristen's cup. She marched off to get a new drink.

The drunks were still bothering us, and they wanted to fight. Casey offered to buy them a new pitcher, just to get it to stop. He argued with the first guy. The other fellow, a portly man with a sweatshirt and a mustache, came over to Chris and knocked his hat off. "My girlfriend's lips are burning because of you," he growled. "I want no fight, friend," Chris replied. Then the man backhanded Chris in his left eye.

Kristen came back with her beer and noticed that something was wrong with Chris' face. She went to get the bartender. Casey was still talking to the other men, then went to buy them more beer. David and I sat there.

Casey returned with a pitcher, and the bartender came over. He talked to the other men and got their side of the story. He talked to Casey next. Casey came over to get his jacket. "I have to leave," he said. The bartender came over to us. "Is he a friend of yours?" He asked. "Yes," we replied. He motioned to the door; "you too," he said.

So we gathered our winter gear and headed for the door. Casey and Kristen paid their tabs. The drunks stayed- apparently in that bar, a practical joke where the offender offers to undo his wrongdoing is a more serious offense than assault. As we walked away, David said, "That bartender was a jerk. I didn't tip him even before we got kicked out." Kristen said, "Casey did!"

So, Chris got into his first bar fight, Casey learned a valuable lesson about the perils of pranking drunks, and all of us were ejected for unruly conduct for the first time. It was a memorable evening.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snow Day!

Today was my first snow day ever. We had much worse storms in Maine and Boston, but they were either on the weekend or the administration held out until it was almost quitting time before they released us. I was really excited when I looked out the window and saw how much is was snowing. It's not even that much snow, but it was more than the city can handle; it's just a mile from our house to my work, but going down the steep hill on the bus is dangerous.

We arrived at the bus stop a little earlier than scheduled because we knew things would be slow. The bus didn't come; other buses we stopped halfway up the hill with their hazards on. So, we went back to the apartment to call our respective bosses. Carol told me to stay home, but Gary was nearby so he swung by and picked David up.

So, David had to work and I got the day off. I was sorry that he didn't get to relax with me but was grateful to have the time away from the office; I didn't sleep very well last night because I was worried about my future after the internship, finding a part-time job, and giving my notice. I was nervous about having "the talk" with Carol on such sleep deprivation, so this was a lucky break.

I decided to be productive instead
of just sleeping all morning: I cleaned the kitchen a little, made some Christmas cards, knit for a bit, went to the noon spin class at the gym, made a nice lunch, did some laundry, baked some cookies because I was really craving gingerbread.

Tonight we're staying in because it's just too freakin' cold outside and our apartment is warm and comfortable. David is playing a new computer game, and I'm trying to finish at least one of the crafts projects I started today. Later we're going to watch a movie.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Good news! Well, Maybe.

Today marked 6 months at my job, and tomorrow I'm going to quit: I will be interning at a marketing and event-planning company for three months starting January 7. It's probably the stupidest thing I've ever done, given the economy: leaving a regular, paying job for a temporary, part-time deal with a very small stipend. But, this sounds like a fun opportunity in an area I am interested in; I loved planning events at my old job and am looking to exploring marketing. Plus, I will actually be working on projects and helping to put together events; my efforts will have a tangible outcome that I can be proud of. I am really excited.

I wanted to quit on the spot today before I even found out about the internship offer; it was just a bad day. I was grumpy to begin with (didn't sleep well), and the repetitive motion of sealing and mailing our holiday cards just put me in a worse mood. Plus, I made a mistake on a mailing I shipped off to Canada last week, even though I had Customer Service personally walk me through it as I prepared the shipment, which irritated a couple of people and made me stay later than I had planned (ok, 3:30, no big deal, but I had done nothing but sit around for the hour and a half before the problem was brought to my attention (at 2:57) so I was ready to go home). This incident wasn't all that important: people make mistakes, and it was my first time preparing an international commercial shipment. It's just that I don't do a lot and I want to do what I do do right. And, someone in Canada needs those documents!

So, I am optimistic about the future but a little scared. I'm hoping that I will learn a lot and will have many more marketable skills when I am done, at least some concrete experience, and marketing and graphic design often go hand-in-hand: the interviewer (my new boss) was pleased that I was learning Illustrator. If I stay at my current job for another three months, I will be in the same place in my career and still unhappy. It's going to be a challenge financially, but I have been saving a decent chunk of my paycheck each month and will get by until it's over. Plus, I know that even part-time jobs are hard to come by, but I will try to get one. What scares me is that I won't be able to get a real job when the internship ends.

Does this mark the end of my complaining about my job all the time? I sure hope it does!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday by the Numbers

600: total signatures signed on Holiday cards

300: signatures forged on Holiday cards

5: CPU stands assembled

2: emails to David

1: Gingerbread cookies eaten from the bag on the kitchen table

So, as you can see from above, I picked up a new skill this morning, which will be invaluable if I
decide to pursue a lucrative career in identity theft. A coworker went on vacation and hoped that someone (me) would sign her name for her on all of the office Christmas cards. It was mundane work but sort of fun, and a lot harder than I thought it would be: an artistic challenge. If I did it really slowly, the shape of the signature was close to the original, but it looked fake. If I did it quickly, the line thickness appeared genuine, but didn't look like her signature. So, it's a fine balance. By the end, I started to pick up on the subtle nuances, and though it was difficult to control my hand against its natural inclinations, the repetition made it easier. If I ever need to forge someone's signature for a more significant purpose than holiday greeting cards, I will first practice really slowly so that my hand gets used to the motion (muscle memory) then speed it up so that I can do it quickly and accurately. Judging from other people's signatures on the cards, there is wide variation in a person's own signature, so I would need to develop my forgery from a set of several samples to determine that my copy is not mimicking a fluke. Funny how much your mind can wander during repetitive tasks.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Now We're Nine

Michael gave his 2 weeks today; he's going to be returning to school in January to become a massage therapist. I'm sad to see him go for several reasons:
1) I like him: he's considerate and seems to care about getting to know me. He deduced from my eating habits that I must be a vegetarian, something I've kept secret for some reason- mainly because it's something else that sets me apart from my coworkers. He's nice, and adds a little bit of variety to the office.
2) The quota of young male architects has gone up. Michael isn't all that young, and he isn't an architect (he does decor), and though he is male he also is married to a man. The stronger their sway in the office is, the more I feel that I am on the outside.
3) I feel like I can't quit. I'm not going to stop looking for a better job, and if I get one I will take it, but I'm going to feel guilty about the process. I don't really care what my superiors think, since my own happiness comes first, but something about looking around for a new job behind their backs while they are already a man down feels wrong.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holiday Cheer

David and I put up our Christmas decorations this evening, and when I looked out the window, it was snowing. I think that the combination of the two is helping to put me in the Holiday spirit. Tomorrow, I am going to make Christmas cards.

We cleaned the apartment, and I made some pasta with roasted vegetables for dinner; the recipe was in the latest issue of Vegetarian Times magazine. It's a treasure trove of recipes; my early New Year's resolution is to try more recipes- I think this will force me out of my food comfort zone and allow me to sample new things.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

This week so far

My Illustrator class ended tonight, which makes me sad, though I am so excited to use the program more (once we buy CS3). It was fairly successful; one of my goals in taking classes is to meet new people, and I enjoyed interacting with a different group of folks. Plus, I learned some interesting ways to manipulate and create images.

We're in our new office after the big move this weekend. All in all, the space is great: it's large and filled with natural light, with a kitchen and plenty of storage. My only complaints pertain to my work area: despite my objections, they hung a rusty 200-lb i-beam right above my head for decoration, and my desk is treated in a high-end finish that scratches and warps easily, so I can't slide anything around, not use a coaster for beverages, or eat soup (the spatters!) without damaging it. Just pushing a cardboard box across the surface while unpacking scratched it visibly, and there is now a bowl-shaped ring from the heat and moisture of yesterday's lunch (despite putting 2 pieces of cardboard underneath). I don't really care though- why they decided to use this as a working surface is beyond me. Those gripes aside, the new location is a huge improvement.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Busy day

This guy makes me want to be a graphic designer. My Illustrator class was really fun last night and I am so excited to learn more.

I went to an informational session for the program I am applying for at UW. I am really interested, though I am not sure if I am quite ready; it's geared towards professionals who seem to have a solid grasp of where they want to go in their careers. I am still sort of searching, and though I think this will help me find direction, my sense is that they want people who already know. Still, I won't be crushed if I don't get in- I can wait a few more years to figure out my life and then re-apply.

The office move is going well. I had a little bit of frustration this morning with one of the architects over labels for a mailing (she didn't review them until the last minute, which meant I had to scramble to get the postcards out) but people have finally started to do their share of the packing. We took a ton of stuff to the dump, literally: over 2,000 lbs of granite, marble, tile, metal, wood, books, binders, carpet and fabric. It was all high-end, expensive, and lovely, but I am so sick of looking at it that I don't care that it is going to waste. I still can't believe the sheer volume of the materials library: I coordinated with almost 50 vendors to come in and pick up their supplies, we donated carfuls to Bellevue Community College, employees took stuff home for crafts, we did two dump runs last month, and we still threw out thousands of pounds of junk today.

In other good news, Carol is going to leave the title on my new business card blank, which gives me some freedom to move around and grow within the company. She told me yesterday that I am the best receptionist that they've hired, which made me feel somewhat good. She said that her brother-in-law just let go of his, and that she was telling him about me. "I told him that the key is to getting a good receptionist is finding one with a college education!" I don't agree with her there but appreciated the compliment. She thinks it's funny that they found me on Craigslist.

I scheduled a massage for Sunday;
my lower back hurts from being constantly in motion all week, and my mom gave me a gift certificate through Spa Finder last year that is just enough to cover 30 minutes. I've been saving it for a special occasion, and I think this is the one. I am lucky that David always rubs my shoulders and neck, but I am looking forward to just lying down on a warm table with soothing music and having every knot worked out.

Cobra Crush

I'm starting to think that The Cobra has a little crush on me. I don't know why- I don't feed her, scoop her litter or grow her cat grass. She's sitting a couple of feet away staring at me, and last night she came under the covers to suckle/cuddle, and then again at 5:30 this morning.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


My interview went ok this morning. She seemed excited that I'm learning Illustrator, but I don't think we really clicked. Nothing bad, just a few awkward silences. The position would be interesting: helping to plan and market special events. I loved planning stuff at my old job, and am looking to get more into marketing. Still, earning only $900 in the course of three months isn't ideal, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

The office move is going well and it's keeping me busy; now that we're in the final stages, I can just pack everything instead of just the things we wouldn't probably use. We've got a mailing going out on Thursday, and putting labels and stamps on postcards is boring, but I can sit at my desk and listen to music.

I was a little hurt today that I wasn't invited to a meeting that everyone else was in; the topic was "outstanding design". They tried to define "outstanding design" in order to further develop the firm's vision and brand. I'm not a designer, but I, like everyone, have an opinion on what good design is. Plus, Carol isn't a designer and she was included. Nikki is an IT/CAD tech, not a designer, and she was included. I'm probably just being over-sensitive, and attending it would have been a waste of time, but the fact that I flat out wasn't invited when everyone else in the office was made me feel excluded and just reinforced that I am not really a part of the team. Being a "designer" is everything to my coworkers, and this felt like a division, a way to emphasize that I am just there to do the crap they don't want to do. Which is true: the fact of the matter is that I am the lowest rung and I just need to accept that. Sorry for another rant.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Capitol Hill Cats

I'm thinking about starting my own pet-sitting business for people on Capitol Hill: Capitol Hill Cats. I used to cat-sit in high school, and figure that I'll give it a shot here. I like cats, and it doesn't seem that hard: feed the cat, play with the cat, scoop the cat's poop. I'd also water plants, take in mail, all the things you want when you're out of town. I could do other animals too, like rodents and lizards, but no spiders. Snakes would be on a case-by-case basis. I've never had a dog or a bird, but I'm guessing I could handle them. On second thought, I don't really like birds and dogs scare me, so I'll stick with cats, rats, and lizards. There are a few things I need to do, like in order to be legit I need a business license, and in order to be competitive I need to become certified in Pet First Aid: all the other cat-sitters advertise it and it's only $50, so why not. I would also need a website, which would be a nice chance to use my Illustrator skills. David is a computer whiz, so he could help set it up. Plus, it would be fun to advertise my services, and good marketing practice too. A couple of my mom's friends could act as references (one is even a vet) in case anyone doubts my abilities. With the economy, I hear that people who go away are boarding their pets less and turning more to in-home care. However, with the economy, people are also taking less vacations, so I'm not sure how my business will do. I always feel like I come up with crazy money-making schemes that aren't really any good at making money.