Wednesday, January 31, 2007


That "little" proofreading project I mentioned yesterday? It's actually 20,000 words/130 pages long. I'll get about a week to do it.

Thanks, Universe, but when am I supposed to find time to read the new Rolling Stone?


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Unemployment Chronicles, Chapter 6

This is good, right?
My days as a lady of leisure continue apace. I've made my first request for payment of unemployment benefits. I don't know when to expect it to arrive, and of course the Payment Information link is the only one on the unemployment website that isn't working today. So I'll just have to keep checking my bank account, I guess.

Last week, I had a very good job interview, and that made me sad. Why? It was for a "good" job: the salary would be more than I made before, the commute is about 10 miles, and the health benefits and vacation package are very generous. But I would die of greyness there. The "good" job would be bad for me.

So of course I got a call this morning (which I haven't yet returned) inviting me for a second interview for this job. It's reasonable to think this could turn into an offer. Please help me resist!

As an alternative, yesterday I was asked if I could do a small freelance proofreading project, and I said yes with a smile. Last night I dreamed of having my pockets full of nickels, so many I couldn't hold them all in my hands. Maybe I should dream big by starting small?

When I was in New York recently, I kept finding money on the ground. Pennies. I always stopped to pick them up, even when I had to take off a glove to get a grip. I told myself that every time I stooped for this tiny pittance, I was bowing to the universe and saying thank you for the bounty. I kept bowing, I kept finding, and yesterday that new project showed up. Coincidence? The ramblings of a mind with too much free time? You be the judge.

Put me in, Coach
Anyway. On Sunday I met with Cindy, a career coach. She doesn't find people jobs, specifically, but helps people figure out what's the right job, truly the right job, for them and how to get it. I've already proven that I can find the wrong job on my own, and quickly, so Cindy's outside-the-box tactics sound like exactly what I need.

While we met, I answered some questions to help Cindy get acquainted with me, my skills, and my preferred types of work. Later, she sent me some "discovery" exercises that identify my values — the conditions I need to be happy and productive.

None of my answers surprised me; I've done dozens of quizzes like these. Where I'm hoping to be surprised is in the ideas it gives Cindy. I've been thinking of myself and my job prospects in certain ways for about 20 years, and I keep managing to find work that fits my stale vision. Cindy, however, is not hindered by entrenched views. She might say to me, "In my experience, I've found that people like you are good at _____." And then I'll have new avenues to explore.

Is it February yet?
My spirits took a dip over the weekend, but not because of job stuff. On Sunday, I learned of the sudden death of a family friend, and Monday was the anniversary of my Dad's death six years ago. January is a lousy month for me. There's these deaths, and my house was robbed in January last year, and it was in January 2000 that I realized my marriage was dissolving. So I'll be glad to flip the calendar to February.

So I went to the movies
I tried to cheer myself by seeing Stomp the Yard, but it didn't work. For a movie about hardcore, gang-like dance battles and fraternity life, it was absurdly PG. No cussing, drinking, smoking, or partying, and no sex beyond kissing. There was violence, though, both in the beating/shooting death of a boy in the opening scene and in the way the film assaults the viewer with Important Messages for Today's Troubled Youth. Be a team player! Don't let The Man get you down! Underdogs triumph in the end!

I'm sure there was plenty of amazing dancing going on between Messages, but you don't get to see most of it. The herky-jerky editing cuts from one move to the next to the next so fast you never get a sense of what's really going on. Sometimes it even cuts from one routine to another. You never get to see anything from start to finish — which is kind of stupid when one of the Messages is about seeing things through.

Also, there's no background provided on the stepping or step dancing that is the movie's main focus. Maybe that info is a given for the film's African American characters and audience, but I came away as ignorant as I went in.

For a dance movie, Stomp the Yard is pretty clumsy. Two thumbs down.

All right, time for me to get to work.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Unemployment Chronicles, Chapter 5

Today I checked my profile on the state's unemployment website. All forms have apparently been filled out to the state's satisfaction, so I'm clear to make my first request for payment of benefits on Monday. My benefits should run for about six months, provided I'm actively looking for work each week I request a payment. And I certainly am doing that.

I signed up for direct deposit. What the heck. While the benefit payments won't be quite as much as my most recent salary, they will certainly keep the mortgage paid, the cats fed, and the T'ai Chi dues paid up. I'm still eating Christmas leftovers, so groceries are not a concern. Nor will they be. As long as I don't blow all my benefits on lottery tickets, everything will be just fine.

Today I had lunch with a couple friends from the office. They were amused to be amusing one another, so it was nice to be around their laughter. However, I had to ask the waiter three times to bring me a glass of water. That's the worst thing that's happened to me all week!

Earlier in the week, I invested in a new printer that will work with my iBook. It's a sweet little machine that scans and photocopies, too. Now I can print maps to all my appointments and resumes to take along.

This afternoon I head north to visit a client who is going to help me learn to use Dreamweaver, the website creation program, in exchange for some editing and marketing assistance. Since her materials already look pretty good, I'm definitely getting the better end of this deal.

Then it's back to the Midway for a T'ai Chi lesson followed by a regular class. Sifu is going to be tired of me by the end of the evening, but at least I'll be a little smarter. Maybe.

After class, I'll watch another episode of the short-lived 2004 TV series Wonderfalls. It's about an overeducated, underemployed young woman (philosophy degree/retail job) who gets jolted out of her rut when inanimate objects start talking to her. It's a little like Medium as regards the cryptic nature of the communications, but younger, funnier, and set in the town of Niagara Falls. I like it.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Unemployment Chronicles, Chapter 4

Today I spent an hour sitting in an Uptown shopping center, between appointments, waiting for a phone interviewer to call me on my mobile. With my Treo and a handy scratch pad, my office is wherever I want it to be. Too bad I didn't bring my laptop along, too.

Today's setup is nifty, since I remember the bad old days of job-hunting all too well. Before cell phones, I had to sneak into empty conference rooms to make private calls, or spend my lunch hours feeding coins into pay phones. Now I can conduct a preliminary interview without skulking around like a spy.

I also remember printing — or typing and photocopying — and then mailing dozens of resumes and cover letters, then waiting for responses in the mail. Now I can send my standard documents into the slush pile with a few clicks and receive a noncommittal reply within hours.

I still haven't found a better way to go on full-fledged job interviews, though. Unless I have a couple hours free for transit and meeting (which I do at the moment), I've still been known to call in sick so I could get away for a chat. I've also scheduled the occasional phantom dentist appointment to wrangle some free time, with my interview clothes stashed in the trunk of the car so as not to arouse suspicion at the office. Makes me wonder if I should invest in a webcam for virtual interviews, which I'm sure will be the next step.

Anyway. I spent an hour — er, 45 minutes — talking with a mental health professional this morning. I did this not because I felt in need of therapy, but because she was the closest thing my employee assistance program had to a career counselor. She suggested a couple resources, but really, I'm taking all the right steps toward staying well and getting reemployed. Someone with a Ph.D. says so, and it's nice to have that validation. I might schedule the other two appointments to which I'm entitled just to stick my ex-employer with the bill.

Postscript: The phone interviewer didn't call me on time, but we talked later in the day, and I'll be surprised if I don't get an in-person interview and then an offer out of it.

The in-person interview I did go to provided all the information I needed to make a decision: working as a part-time financial products salesperson on commission is not what I want to do next.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

New York City photos

Click the photo below to view a few shots from my recent long weekend in the Big Apple. The captions tell most of the story, and I'll fill in the rest of it here: IT WAS COLD.

My fabulous hostess Laura and I spent a lot of time walking to and from subway stations, restaurants and cultural destinations, which is normally a pleasure. However, when it's 15 degrees and windy, one doesn't linger to snap photos. So I guess I'll just have to go back again when it's warmer.


The Unemployment Chronicles, Chapter 3

My schedule for this week so far — and keep in mind it's not yet noon on Tuesday:

  • Meetings with recruiters: 1
  • Job interviews: 2, plus at least 1 to come when calls are returned
  • Networking lunches: 1
  • Client meetings: 1
  • Jobs applied for online so far this week: 5
  • Contacts with career counselors: 1, requesting an appointment
  • Inquiries made into buying individual health insurance: 1
  • Crises of faith regarding feasibility of freelancing: 1 . . . oops, make that 2.

I'd probably have more interviews set up for the week, but I didn't work at my search yesterday because I was just getting back from a fabulous weekend in New York. (Photos to come.) But I promised myself I wouldn't rush to grab the first job that offered solvency and medical coverage, so I'm going to be selective.

I have some work to do to prepare for that client meeting. And I need to buy a printer if I can squeeze in a trip to the mall. Gotta go. :-)


Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Unemployment Chronicles, Chapter 2

The big wheel keeps on turning. I spent yesterday occupied with various bits and pieces. Did some paperwork. Made some notes and plans for the project I picked up on Tuesday. Accepted another project, for which I have a meeting this afternoon. Had lunch with my former boss/editor from the magazine. Did some rush work for my one existing client. Made an appointment to see a counselor, since it's covered by my remaining health benefits. Got the Subarushi's oil changed. Watched a stand-up comedy video (Jim Gaffigan; mildly funny, rated PG).

Today I called Mark, my client from Tuesday, and our discussion resulted in an expanded role for me as his marketing consultant, sort of. Er, yes, absolutely, I can do that. You betcha. I also had lunch with other friends from the magazine days and am now making notes for this afternoon's meeting.

What with all this working and networking, I haven't had a whole lot of time to actually look for a job. D'OH! I've applied for a few — and gotten a couple off-the-wall queries that have nothing to do with my qualifications. I'll buckle down to serious searching next week.

My mood remains good, although it took a dip yesterday. I received a note from the unemployment office grumping about the way I'd filled out my online filing form and demanding that I redo part of it on paper ASAP, or my unemployment benefits would be delayed or nonexistent. Well, there's nothing like the threat of destitution to get me motivated, so you'd better believe that form was redone and in the mail by 9:30 this morning.

Tomorrow I'm off to New York to see Laura, Rockapella, and some other groovy people, and drink toasts to new beginnings. It'll be nice to get out of my current environs for a couple days. I'll be back Monday evening, hopefully with photos to share. See you then.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

interesting times

I got some lousy news on Friday: My department at work is being restructured, and I'm not part of the new structure. I was laid off.


I'm not happy about it, obviously, but I have to believe bigger and better things are out there. I've had a couple good omens already. First, I got a hit on a resume I'd posted online in 2005. A recruiter for a staffing company has a gig for which I am the ideal candidate, and if we can reach an agreement about pay, we may have a winner. That could be dicey, though, since I'm asking for what I'm worth — and that's a lot.

Second, a friend invited me to a networking event this morning, and I came away with a small freelance job and a big smile. Thanks, Lisa! Maybe I should print up some business cards, just to be safe.

But the universe doesn't want me to get bored waiting for my big break. No no no! So last night I received proof that my alarm system works as it should.

Skipping to the end: everything is fine. No break-in. No theft. No threat to home, self, or pets. Only to poor Mother Media's sanity.

The alarming tale

As if getting laid off on Friday hadn't injected enough GAAAAAGH! into my life, when I got home from classes at 10:15 last night, my security alarm was bleeping madly. ALARM 21 OFFICE GLASS, it said. I rushed through the house looking for signs of an intruder. There were none.

So I freed the cats, who had been locked in my home office to sleep off the sedatives they'd received during their routine vet check-up earlier in the day. (They got glowing reports except for Sprite's prodigious waistline.) Glancing around the office, I knew immediately what had happened: an agitated Warren Peace had rattled the blinds enough to interfere with the sensor that detects problems with the window. My stupid cat activated the alarm.

Next stop: answering machine. One message from the security company, one from Mom. The calls came in around 5:00, and here it was after 10:00 when I picked them up. Crap. That's what happens when I turn off my cell phone at the T'ai Chi studio.

Anyway, the security company reported that when my alarm went off, they called the house to check on me, as per procedure. Getting no answer, they called my work number (note: must delete that one from the records) and my cell phone. Still getting no answer, they called my "in case of emergency" number, my poor sainted mother.

They also called the police, who reportedly came by, saw no trouble, and did nothing. I found no signs of a police visit.

Meanwhile, Mom called my home and cell numbers as well, and of course I did not answer. So she called my next-door neighbors. They, armed with Mr. Neighbor's handgun, did a thorough exterior inspection of the house, noted the cats locked in the office with the lights on, and correctly deduced that a cat had triggered the alarm. They called Mom back to put her mind at ease, for which I owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.

What with returning phone calls and trying to lure the cats out from under the bed, I didn't get to sleep until around midnight. And then I had to get up at 6:00 to go to that networking event. OY.

I feel bad for freaking out my mother, not to mention the cats and the neighbors. But it's nice to know the alarm system is earning its keep.

When the Chinese say "May you live in interesting times," it's not necessarily a blessing. Not immediately, anyway. Well, my times have gotten interesting. Stay tuned to see just how interesting.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Apple just unveiled the new iPhone. Holy geeklust, Batman! I WANT ONE!


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

get away

Why, Lord? Why must they be so hot?

My new Signature Sound video arrived yesterday, so I stayed up very late after class watching it through to the end — all 32 or so tracks. And let me tell you, if there’s anything that could make a heathen holler YES YES OH GOD YES, it’s Get Away Jordan.

I’m going to wear out the first two-thirds of this disc playing it over and over for the energy, the harmony, the suavity, and the hotness. The guys look and sound better than ever. The non-concert video clips are nice pacing elements. Ernie Haase is running a tight, slick, professional ship that delivers outstanding goods.

And then, when things start to get preachy, I’m going to shut it off.

And you’re thinking, “Kim, it’s a gospel music video. Things are bound to get a little churchy at some point. Duh.

Well. This video is not, for the product of a music ministry, terribly churchy. The songs are all about God, Jesus, and going home to meet them*, sure, but the testimonies are made palatable by the catchy beats and shiny suits. It’s when the American flag replaces the cross and the guys begin praising their country the same way they did Jesus that I hit “stop.” It’s very, very dangerous to put flag and country on the same pedestal as an infallible and ever-living God. They’re not the same thing. Worship should not be equated with citizenship. If the country becomes your god, its leaders must become your priests, and that I cannot abide.

Besides, I’m an American! Nobody tells me when to salute, dammit!

Don’t worry, though, the flag-waving doesn’t happen until near the end. There’s plenty to enjoy beforehand. For example, check out track 12, a toe-curling a cappella hymn by the vocally (and orthodontically) gifted Ball Brothers. SSQ’s new road buddies boast a genetically enhanced blend that will make you believe in the divine.

The Gaither Vocal Band also makes an unremarkable guest appearance, showcasing the relationship between the two quartets and cementing SSQ’s as Southern gospel music’s heirs apparent.

Analysis aside, just sit back and enjoy the beauty that is baritone Doug Anderson. While everyone else in the group has a clearly defined persona — the ringmaster, the upstart, the power hitter, the clown — Doug is best known for being . . . second from the right. He seems to be the good ol’ boy who holds things together.

He’s always cheering the others on, patting backs and high-fiving after an inspiring turn. In live concerts I’ve seen him guide lead singer Ryan Seaton into place and keep him in step with the choreography. Even Doug’s solos, while as sizzling as the rest, carry more gravity than grandeur. For a Siggie, he’s understated, and maybe that’s why I like him so much. Or maybe it’s because he’s just so dang cute.

Yeah. Crush much?


Some of the DVD bonus materials are worth watching and some are skippable. I haven’t seen all the extras yet, but I can tell you this much: Milli Vanilli these guys ain’t. There’s an acoustic number ("John in the Jordan") filmed on a beach that would be better if it weren’t so obviously lip-synched. It’s fun to see the guys dressed down in Hawaiian shirts and shorts, and they sound terrific unplugged, but there’s way too much footage of them all — including pianist Roy Webb, bless his fifth-wheel heart — swaying and clapping and looking giddy.

If you like cute kid videos, however, do check out the Fan Clips. Here, parents have sent in home movies of their kids dancing and grooving a la Signature Sound. It’s entertaining, and a good excuse to listen to “Stand By Me,” which didn’t make the main concert menu.

Overall, I give Get Away Jordan a solid B+. The music and showmanship, not to mention the production values, are top-notch, but the forced patriotism is hard to swallow.

* Christians are the original Goths, if you think about it. Their hero is a guy who was killed for doing magic and came back from the dead. Most of their songs either romanticize the sweet glory of suffering and dying or rant about the worse torment that awaits those who aren’t careful. Seriously. Add a little black eyeliner — okay, a lot of black eyeliner — and you’ve got . . . Godths.


Monday, January 08, 2007

geekery deekery doc

This morning I decided to get better acquainted with my online Google calendar. (I’m already in love with my Google e-mail service, and I spent Friday evening romancing my online Google photo album. I heart Google!) Turns out I can use my Treo/cell phone to text message my Google calendar, and the calendar will reply immediately with my next event, the day’s events, or the next day’s events, depending on what I asked for. Fabulous!

This solves another non-problem I was having. I’ve been wanting to sync my Treo up with my work computer so I could download my meeting schedule and carry it with me. But the sync software on my hard drive is incompatible with my Treo, and the IT department seems disinterested in helping me with this. Not a big deal, since I have so few meetings to keep track of. I just thought it would be cool.

BUT! I realized I could export the calendar from my work computer to a CVS file, then import that into my Google calendar, and voila! It’s all right there, visible online and available for retrieval via text message whenever I choose. Portability problem solved!

Plus, I’ve set my Google calendar to automatically text my Treo every morning with the day’s agenda. How shiny is that? Huh? Huh?

Now all I have to do is (A) consistently export/import my work calendar and (B) remember to carry the Treo, which I normally leave in my purse. Don’t worry, I’ve set myself electronic reminders to do both.


Friday, January 05, 2007

The Case of the Vanishing Makeup

As a gift to our mother, Sister-san and I scheduled a family portrait for the day after Christmas. Mother Media doesn’t have any formal photos of herself with her granddaughter, CNE, so we decided to fill that gap while we were all together for the holidays. We even went so far as to make sure all the grown-up girls had new purple sweaters to match the little one’s party dress, and that Chef Jeff had a tie with the right color stripes in it.

All went according to plan. We arrived at the portrait studio only a few minutes late, all primped and polished and primed. The photographer captured several nice shots of various family groupings, and at least one of CNE spinning in a circle to make her pretty taffeta skirt flare. We completed our sitting without any meltdowns from either the two-year-old or the grown-ups, and Mom could not have been more pleased.

As we packed up to leave, however, a problem arose. I had brought my makeup bag into the building with me, but now it was nowhere to be seen. No one could remember whether I had carried it into the studio or left it in the reception area, so we scoured both locations. We moved furniture, props, holiday decorations . . . no luck. Finally I left without it, puzzled and frustrated.

I called the studio the next day to thank the photographer for a great session, and to inquire about my makeup bag. Despite enlisting her husband’s fresh eyes in the hunt, she had not located it. Apparently a small Bermuda Triangle existed somewhere in her studio, and my kit had fallen into it. Resigned, I purchased minimal backup supplies for my return to work the next day.

Later that evening, the call came in: they’d found my bag! It had gotten wedged under one of the props, a little red wagon. Every time someone rolled the wagon aside to look beneath it, the bag slid along with it. The bag was finally revealed when someone lifted the wagon instead of rolling it.

So I was reunited with my cosmetics and we all lived happily ever after.

I get to look at the portrait proofs tonight so we can narrow the field of choices for the final prints. I hope the camera captured the fact that I took time to powder my nose.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

two more

Two movies I forgot to include in yesterday's master list:

  1. Save the Last Dance 2 — A Julliard ballerina must choose between living up to others' expectations and dancing to her own beat
  2. Miss Congeniality 2 — An FBI agent-cum-beauty queen uses her charms to nab bad guys and boost self-esteem

In both cases, these sequels were enjoyable, but the originals were better.

It's only 9:00 a.m.! Anybody for a kung fu movie before lunch?


Monday, January 01, 2007

a new twist

It's my solemn duty to report that two more Peeps have met their maker. Wearing peanut butter toupees and Hershey's Kiss hats, they succumbed to the microwave around 11:30 this morning. A third Peep, possibly mourning the demise of his comrades, has gone missing and is feared devoured. They are survived by the one with holly on his head (A in yesterday's lineup) and the one with the green eyeglasses (C).

The Peep squad has been replaced in our hearts, minds, and stomachs by cinnamon twists, made from the classic recipe supplied by Mrs. Shoe. The twists are strips of pastry folded over a filling of brown sugar and butter, then twisted, baked, and topped with cinnamon icing. Like a Cinnabon, but longer, flatter, and homemade.

This was my first experience working with yeast outside a convenience store kitchen (I once had a night-shift job where it was time to make, or at least defrost, the donuts), so they didn't turn out quite perfect. For one thing, I sliced the strips too narrow, so I had to cut down the cooking time. For another, I forgot to cover them while the dough rose, so they dried out a tad. For another, I not all of them wanted to stay twisted. However, the flavor is fine, and generous amounts of icing cover a multitude of sins.

As you can see, my holidays have been, and continue to be, filled with the best sort of frivolity. Mother Media and I, when not in the kitchen, have been the movie queens. Since she arrived, we've seen:

  1. Talladega Nights — Will Ferrell in his underwear is always good for a laugh
  2. The Pursuit of Happyness — 0 surprises, but I predict at least 2 Oscar nominations, one for Will Smith and one for his son Jaden
  3. Christmas with the Kranks — Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis discover the true meaning of suburbia Christmas
  4. Night at the Museum — Ben Stiller and Robin Williams tone down their usual shtick for a pretty cool story that has put the Museum of Natural History on my must-see-in-NYC list
  5. The Princess Bride — A classic comedy/adventure/romance/fairy tale with a real live giant
  6. Waiting for Guffman — A troupe of small-time wannabes waits for a nod from that one important person whose notice will prove they're worth something
  7. Best in Show — The Guffman crew goes to the dogs

List to be amended as the week wears on. I have two more days off work and no plans to do anything more ambitious than cook, eat, and watch flicks.

Especially after shoveling my entire driveway by hand today. Our white Christmas finally arrived yesterday, a week late, while Mom and I were enjoying a fine Italian meal for New Year's Eve. We shoveled in the sunshine today and both had doffed our coats by the time we finished. That's the most exercise I've gotten since mid-December. Whew.

So far, 2007 gets high marks for family, food, and fun. Here's hoping the trend continues.

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