Fairytales with not so good endings…

Originally published at Kickin’ the new Kuh-nowledge. You can comment here or there.

OK. So sometimes fairytales have not so good endings. Remember my last post where I said all was well and good in the world. Well… something happened on the way to happily everafter.

Yesterday morning I received a call from my boss. I’ve been laid off. He was nervous and sad. I was sad and beginning to cry. The weird thing was this. Since I’m remote and I had logged into the network already, I was able to actually talk to my friends around the company via IM and e-mail while my boss was talking to me.

It was kind of surreal. My boss was speaking to me from a script. At the same time I was typing to my colleagues… “I’ve been laid off.” It turned out that my little IMs were a godsend. I received so many supportive responses that within an hour of learning of my lay off, I was already feeling better and it allowed me to focus on the things I needed to do. It was comforting to know that all of those relationships I had built up over 12 years at USA Today actually meant something.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a little shellshocked about the whole thing. It’s hard to grok the concept that it doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do… the bean counters don’t care about that. They look at the numbers and make the cut. Are there still people working at the company that would make more sense to cut instead of me? Of course. That’s not the way lay offs work. It’s not about talent, it’s about accounting. Anyone that tries to feed you a line of bull about how “businesses are hurting and this is necessary so that the company is on a firm footing for the future” needs to pay better attention. If a business was really interested in having a firm footing for the future, they would trim the folks that aren’t producing… not just the ones that make incrementally more than the next guy (not that I even make that much money to begin with).

That said… maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m the slacker that doesn’t produce. Who knows. It’s hard to judge that from where I’m sitting. I like to think that I produce good to great results with the things I did at USA Today… but it’s hard to be objective about yourself. LOL

Well, I’m not saying that this is the end of the fairytale, but damn if it isn’t that stretch of the story where you’re not quite sure if the hero is going to make it. This turn of events came as a complete and total surprise.

I sent out my first resume today for a help desk job at the University. I’ll be sending a lot more resumes out soon. Some final proofreading and layout, and I’ll be back on track with the job search. If I can’t find anything within the next 3 months, I’ll start doing desperation moves like widening the search to all 50 states.

–sam

Massive Update!

Originally published at Kickin’ the new Kuh-nowledge. You can comment here or there.

Well, it’s been like 5 months since I had enough time to think, much less post anything substantive to the good olde series of tubes more commonly known as the internets.  Well, I lot has happened in that 5 months.  Here’s a quick rundown (with bullet points for emphasis)…

  • The puppy is now 7 months old.  She’s big, but she was the runt of her litter so while she’s big, her siblings are actually much bigger.  Kiko, the pug, had his 8th birthday recently.  He’s due to have some tooth surgery, but is otherwise healthy.  Lilith, the cat is going crazy, but that’s normal.
  • How sly of me to post about the pets before getting to the really big news.  Liz, my lovely wife, decided several months ago that things weren’t working out in her PhD program at Illinois.  She did some soul searching and decided that a clean break was best.  She needed to find a program that worked for her, and more importantly, she needed to find one where she could have a mentor.    Long story short, Liz opted to apply to the U of Utah in Salt Lake City.  She was accepted and she starts this fall.
  • I’m glad that last bit got your attention.  I’m sure you’re wondering what I was wondering.  This is not the best economy for Sam to go move cross country.  What’s he going to do?  And what about the house?  This is the point in time where I must explain to you that there is a world of fairy tales.  In this world of fairy tales things like serendipity, fate, and good luck mysteriously intertwine to make for all the happily everafters we often dream about.  I could be cruel and say… “This is not one of those stories.”  Well, cruel isn’t the right word for it because it would be a lie.  This is in fact one of those stories.
  • One day, out of the blue, my boss calls me and explains to me that my talents are underused in the Chicago office.  Well that certainly piqued my interest because I thought the next sentence was going to be something like…  and it seems we wouldn’t be needing your talents at all.  You see we’ve had a few layoffs in the last year, and I thought my number might have been up.  Instead, he explained that my talents would be better used in the Circulation Systems department.  Not only that, but things had already been arranged and my new boss would be calling me with the details.  I was sitting on pins and needles for a week until I spoke with my new boss, but the bottom line was better than I could have ever hoped.  My new job wouldn’t require that I report to any particular office.  I could, in fact, work from just about anywhere I wanted to.  Sure, it would be nice if it was close to an office, but I could even work from home.  I think you’re starting to see the fairy tale now.
  • Around the same time, Liz and I decided to test the market and try to sell the house.  We didn’t use a realtor.  Instead we hired an attorney to handle the paperwork, then we listed our house on Craigslist.  Yes, Craigslist.  Within a month we had an offer on the house.  Yeah… something like fate might be at work here.  Initially, the offer was really good and we thought we might actually make a little money on the house.  Unfortunately, the arcane art of house appraisals put the kaibosh on that.  Sure, we’ll lose a little money, but considering the kind of money that people are losing on their houses these days…  our $2K loss (from the price we paid, and doesn’t include money we put into the place) doesn’t seem so bad.  Well, even fairy tales have their harrowing moments.
  • So… on the second week of June, Liz and I, Liz’s old friend Shannon, and our pets got into the Penske truck and made our way west to Salt Lake City.  It was a fun trip that was only slightly marred by the sad news about the house appraisal.  If you’re moving cross country, I highly recommend the Penske truck.  Cheaper than U-Haul and the truck was pretty spacious (we were able to fit our lives into a 16′ truck).  As an aside, I would like to thank everyone that helped us pack.  We couldn’t have done it without you.  Even if all you did was come over and hang out for a few minutes.  It was great to have the moral support.
  • A couple of months ago, I happened to make online friends with Madeline Boudreaux, an SLC local.  If she didn’t know it before, she now has a friend for life.  When Liz, Shannon and I arrived in Salt Lake City, Madeline offered to help us move our stuff into our new place.  She enlisted her partner, Paul, who is a pro at this sort of thing.  Well, with their help (and some very nice neighbors too) we were able to unload the truck in record time.  Now that’s what I call a great welcome.

That’s the big news.  Liz and I are now in Salt Lake City.  We’re still unpacking.  Sorry for the super long rambling post, but it was the only way to get everything out.  If you know something about Salt Lake City, please share it.

Oh yeah…  it’s really nice to live in the same city as my partner in life and love.  I knew our situation was tough before, but now that I’m out of it, I can see it for the hell it truly was.  There may be some aspects of Salt Lake City that I probably won’t like, but I can deal with that if it means I don’t have to make that long ass drive each week.

Hugs, Kisses and All That!
–sam

Green Tara… aka the Puppy post!

Originally published at Kickin’ the new Kuh-nowledge. You can comment here or there.

It’s been quite some time since the old man in our house, Mr. Bentley, passed away.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I missed him as much as I did (even though he was really a momma’s boy).

Liz was ready for a new dog a lot sooner than I was.  She was looking at rescue groups and searching for breeds long before I was ready to even think about it.  Something inside her just knew that our lives needed another furball running around the house.

Me, on the other hand…  I was perpetually on the fence.  Liz would show me some breed and I would always find something wrong with it.  Or I would say something vague and unhelpful like…  “too small” or “too big” or I would point to dogs I knew Liz didn’t like and say things like…  “Oh this breed is really awesome, let’s get that one.”

In general, I simply wasn’t prepared for a dog.  I was stressed out at work, and the economic downturn made me wonder if I would be working at all.  The winter had forced me back to driving, not to mention the cold itself which sucks no matter how you slice it.  Finally, the reality of living two lives (one in Chicago and one in Champaign) was dragging into its third year.

In the meantime, as I was stewing in my juices…  Liz was learning about breeds.  She studied Keeshonds, Irish Wolf Hounds, Akitas, Brussels Griffon and a few others.  We even went to a couple of dog shows.   One breed stood out above all the others throughout this process:  Bernese Mountain Dog.

The funny thing about the Bernese Mountain dog…  was that Liz had found a breed I couldn’t find something wrong with.  Sure… they’re big, but they’re not too big.  They have incredibly gentle temperaments.  Sure they shed a lot, but so do pugs (though not as much due to the size difference of course).  So, I was basically stuck with saying stuff like…  maybe next summer or after we leave Champaign-Urbana.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.  Or I would point to the economic downturn and say something like… dogs cost money.

By this point Liz had joined us in a Bernese Mountain Dog rescue group…  and we had an opportunity to foster Carly, a wonderfully sweet 7 year old that was eventually adopted by a family in New Jersey.  I think that experience really cemented it for Liz, and I could feel the ice in my personal stress pond starting to melt a little.

Liz then started contacting breeders.  It wasn’t that we would have been less happy adopting a full grown dog, but Liz wanted the puppy experience.  It’s possible that some kind of biological clock was ticking, but I think part of it too is that Liz wants a dog she can train for therapy work… and that’s much harder to find in a rescue dog.

Anyway, she talked to a few breeders, and finally settled on one in Salt Lake City.  Coincidence or convergence…  either way, we had a chance to see the breeder, Mary-Ann Bowman, when we visited SLC last fall.  You can check out her blog at… http://www.kaibabbmd.blogspot.com/.

I think that by now you know what this is building up to.  Mary-Ann’s beautiful Berner, Cadi, had a litter soon after we visited SLC.  There were 8 puppies…  4 boys and 4 girls.  As the puppies were growing, Mary-Ann posted pictures and stories, and Liz would show me the photos every day. Over the course of eight weeks, I started getting a bit more excited about the idea of getting a puppy.  At some point I started checking the blog on my own without Liz’s prompting.  I mean… once you start seeing the pictures, how can you resist?

One interesting tidbit about this particular litter of puppies…  Even though Liz had expressed an interest with the breeder, we weren’t entirely sure that we were going to get one of the puppies.  You see, there were several people interested in this litter.  I’m glad we made a connection with Mary-Ann on our visit to SLC.  I’m fairly certain that’s what put us over the top in Mary-Ann’s eyes.

OK…  I think you’ve suffered through enough of my crappy writing.  Without further ado, I am proud and happy to introduce to you all…  Kaibab’s Green Tara, aka Tara, our new puppy.  She is named after Green Tara, the buddhist goddess of compassion.  So…  after all my griping, guess who named the dog.  That’s right.. me.  Liz was right.  It was time for a new puppy.

And now… what you’ve all been waiting for…  PUPPY PICTURES!!!!

Read the rest of this entry »

Brakes!!!!

Originally published at Kickin’ the new Kuh-nowledge. You can comment here or there.

Took my car to get a checkup today.  Just your normal maintenance.  Was told that I need brakes…  and a battery.  Unfortunately, that will have to wait until I have more money.  At the very least I need to get a second opinion… because you should always do that especially after the prices they quoted me (over $1000 because I need new rotors too…  Gah!).

I miss my old shade tree mechanic ( st_sardonicist knows what I’m talkin’ about).

Brazil: FAIL!

Originally published at Kickin’ the new Kuh-nowledge. You can comment here or there.

I thought a bit before posting about my cosmic FAIL! regarding our trip to Brazil.  But now that we’re finally here (and it’s hovering around 0 degrees back home), I figure it can’t hurt anymore.

Our flights to Brazil were supposed to leave from Orlando.  The original plan had been to fly down to Orlando, spend a day an a half there with Liz’s mom, then fly on to Brazil.  Liz and I have done a fair bit of international travel so we thought we had taken care of everything.  We get to the counter, the agent looks at our passports and informs us of our epic FAIL!

We somehow missed the part that Brazil is one of a handful of countries that requires that you get your tourist visa prior to departure.  Generally, this sort of thing is reserved for countries where we don’t have good relations or countries with closed borders (like China or Iran).  So yeah…  we’re at the ticket counter, we’re ready to go on vacation…  and we’re told…  NO VACATION FOR YOU (until you get your visa).

So after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, we decided on a plan.  Drive down to Miami (we were already in Orlando) and visit the Brazilian consulate to get our visas.  Reschedule flights. 

The Brazilian consulate only accepts visa applications M-F from 10am to 12pm.  That’s right… only 2 hours a day.  Oh yeah… they absolutely, positively won’t turn them around on the same day.  Nope… they won’t even turn them around in 24 hours.  Yep, it takes two days.  So we decide we’ll drop off our applications on Monday, then return to pick up our visas on Wednesday.

Oh… but that’s not all.  Rescheduling international flights so near to Christmas is tricky if you don’t want to end up paying an arm and a leg.  As you can imagine, we’re already paying an “arm” to get to Brazil, we could get onto just about any flight we want if we want to throw in the “leg”.  We opt for the least expensive option…  which would only cost us a change fee.  Unfortunately, it means that instead of leaving Orlando on Saturday, the 13th, we leave on Saturday, the 20th.

So…  we lost a week in Brazil, but we gained a week in Florida (though parrt of it was spent tracking down our visas and getting a new flight).  So while it was definitely some piss poor planning on our part regarding the tourist visas, we still ended up winning by missing out on some seriously brutal winter weather back home in Illinois.

Oh…  and we’re finally in Brazil where it is going to be in the upper 80s for the remainder of our stay here.  It’s hot and sticky, and I love it.

Love,
–sam

The tooth, it hurts!

Originally published at Kickin’ the new Kuh-nowledge. You can comment here or there.

And now, the bad news… While in Salt Lake City my tooth started bothering me. It’s one that has a crown on it, and it started to feel a little loose. I wasn’t sure if the crown was loose or if the tooth was loose. At first it was just annoying. Then it started to hurt when I chewed. By Monday, it was throbbing and my gums were starting to swell.

I went to an emergency dentist in Salt Lake City on Monday night and got some pain meds. The diagnosis wasn’t good. I would likely need to remove the tooth. My options are a gap in my smile, an implant, a bridge and a denture-like object described to me as a “flipper”.

The first thing we did when we arrived in Chicago yesterday was call some dentists. I was able to get an appointment with Dr. Harvey Mahler in the Loop. He took a look at my mouth and whistled. It wasn’t pretty. Apparently my tooth fractured, which developed into an infection, which caused what was then an enormous abscess in my mouth.

Dr. Mahler’s rooting (pardon the pun) around in there caused the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced in my life. He decided finally to lance the abscess and drain it. The lancing part was painless. The draining part which required him to squeeze it felt like what I imagine running my hand through a blender would feel like. When he was done I had tears streaming down my face.

About 30 minutes later, all the stress and the pain caused me to throw up. Funny thing about throwing up, you feel better almost instantly after doing it. Well, relatively speaking, of course. I was still somewhat nautious for the rest of the day. Note to self: No more Hydrocodone for you!

I feel a bit better today. The pain is mostly gone. I can still feel something there, but it’s more of a “Hey, look at me” kind of feeling. I can eat again. Yay!

At any rate, I’ll have the fractured tooth extracted on Friday. I’m not sure how long it will take to recover from that, but my options for having a normal smile are all expensive so they may have to wait until I return from my trip to Brazil. It really depends on what my insurance will cover. We’ll see.

If you see me in the next few weeks, you are more than welcome to see the missing tooth. Just be forewarned, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

–sam

Salt Lake City

Here’s what we learned on our trip to Salt Lake City…

  • About 80% of the population is Caucasian.  To give you a little perspective on that, I’m from Florida where the non-Hispanic white population is roughly 60%.  So yeah… 80% is a whole lot of white people.  Not that I have anything against that, it’s just an interesting factoid.  One side effect of this is that there appear to be a lot of blond people.  More than what one might normally see elsewhere.
  • Roughly 50% of the population of the city is Mormon…  more commonly called LDS (Latter Day Saints).  For the smart ones out there that means the other half is something else, and while we were there I saw several other denominations and religions.  Liz even noted that there were a couple of Buddhist temples.  I only bring this up because I had assumed that it would be Mormons as far as the eye can see.  Yes, there are plenty, but there is more diversity in religion than I expected.
  • That said…  Salt Lake City is like an oasis of diversity compared to the rest of Utah.  When the rest of Utah is included, Mormons make up 62% of the population.
  • There is a great public transit system in Salt Lake City.  The local train/trolley service is especially good.  Thought it does have an odd way of collecting fares.  You pay for your fare at the station.  However, there is nothing to stop you from boarding a train without paying a fare.  You could, in fact, ride for free.  The transit authority simply reserves the right to ask you to show proof of fare purchase if needed.  We rode on the train several times, and didn’t see one transit cop the entire time.
  • Liquor laws in Utah are weird.
  • The counter-culture is alive and well in Salt Lake City.  We saw a lot of punks around, especially downtown where the gutter punks seem to congregate.  Beyond the punks, we met some folks that may not fit into a pre-defined sub-culture, but are definitely anti-establishment (at least what passes for “the establishment” in Utah.  Apparently you have to show some outward sign of your counter-cultureness because by doing so you’re doing more than being trendy… you’re making a political statement against “the man” which in this case is the LDS church.
  • There is a sizable LGBT population in Salt Lake City.  Definitely larger than one would expect for a city this size.  Liz and I went to an anti-Prop 8 rally on Saturday with an estimated crowd of about 3000.  That would have been an impressive crowd just about anywhere, but amazing in Salt Lake City.
  • The Great Salt Lake is enormous.  Antelope Island is pretty darn cool too.  Liz kind of dragged me out there.  I just wanted to chill in the city, but I’m glad she got me to go.  Very beautiful.  I recommend it as a fun little side trip.

We took some pictures, but they weren’t all that great.  If I get a chance to post them.

–sam