Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Service Schmervice

Ah, the joys of customer service! I was amused, just now, to find a reply to an email inquiry I sent three weeks ago to an apartment locator. I guess I was lost in the void for a while. Unfortunately, the agent took too long, and someone scooped her. Oops.

I will also take this opportunity to rant about the American Institute of Architects. Because I recently changed jobs, I am required to also change the information relating to my employer so the AIA's database will stay up to date. I attempted to do this crucial task on-line. There's a nifty link that allows me to request an organization change. I clicked the link, picked the reason for my relocation from the drop-down menu, typed in the details of my new employer and - voila! - error message.

Ok. Maybe the error message occurred because I was using Google Chrome for my Internet browser. Try again using FireFox.

Tyring again with a different browser requires me to log into the site again, wade through all the menus again, and go through the motions of clicking buttons, picking from drop-downs, etc... again. Click submit.

Error Message.

Fine, I will cave in to the great Satan and use Internet Explorer, much as I am loathe to do so.

Error Message.

Initially, this sequence of events took place two weeks ago (shortly after I submitted the information request to the lackadaisical locator). I sent an email to the AIA using their email inquiry program and duly received an email "receipt" confirming that they received it.

Apparently, they don't care enough about the people who pay them $300+ per year (almost 1% of your average beginning architect's salary) to answer them.

I tried to use the system again today at lunch, or to locate a PDF format document I could complete and mail in. The system is still not working, not with FireFox or Safari or Chrome or Explorer. I sent another email, this time to Member Services. Hopefully, they'll care enough to reply.

I made an honest effort not to be too snarky in my email to them. I really did.

I promise.

Funniest thing heard in the office today: "Dammit, we're going to have to make the gun room bigger."

(image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor JoJan).

Monday, June 29, 2009

I'm a Big Kid, Now!

I was informed this morning that I get to have my own project!

Sort of.

I will be designing the house for some Ranch Hands that must complement the newly designed main house on our clients' property. As Radio pointed out, "Yeah, the ranch manager and his wife will live there. Scary people. No teeth." I laughed. "I'm serious," he replied.


So my first solo assignment is a dumbed down version of the big house, with a floor plan the client presented to Oldsmobile with the admonition that he not make it too fancy, because it's only the ranch hands' house. I guess it beats drawing interior elevations of the Master Closet for another project, although I was actually looking forward to detailing all the woodwork in the library.

I signed the application for my lease, today - did I mention I forgot to do that crucial step on the application I turned in Friday? - and tomorrow, I can either fax or drop off a copy in the mailbox of my pay-stub, which will corroborate the claims I made about my salary. The claims are all entirely true, as being accused of fraud and evicted from my apartment hold no attraction for me.

Last night, in typical OCD architect-designer fashion, I built a 3D model of my (hopefully) future apartment in SketchUp and experimented with furniture layouts. With some input from my mom, I think I came up with a floor plan to my liking. Now, I just have to hope that I get the apartment.

I am somewhat concerned, however, because it appears that the apartment I hoped to rent will not be the exact one I will get. It seems that the complex found someone to rent that one, and I will get a different one, currently lived in by another renter. This means I might not get the breathtaking view of Downtown that I coveted. I guess I'll live, but I don't even know which building I'll be in, now, or how close I'll be to the elevator. I think I'll call the leasing agent tomorrow to clarify the details.

Hopefully, I'm mistaken and misinterpreted what the not-my-normal-leasing-agent said, otherwise I might have to redo that 3D model. You know, because the fireplace might be in a different corner...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I Feel So Artsy Fartsy

My mom and I decided that we needed to do something fun, today. Yesterday, our fun consisted of getting our toenails painted, lunch with a family friend, and finding out that aforementioned friend's daughter is expecting (yippee!), which is impossible to beat.

After finishing our brunch at La Madeleine, we started kicking around the topic of "fun," and decided that "fun" should be a trip to a museum. But which museum to pursue? I whipped out the trusty iPhone and discovered that the Fort Worth Modern is between exhibits, so they were off the list. The Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University had an exhibit of Cubist portraits by Diego Rivera, which sounded intriguing. For Christmas the past two years, my mom has received a membership to the Dallas Museum of Art. Naturally, that was the next museum whose exhibits I Googled.

The main exhibit was titled Private Universes. I was originally put off by the painfully ambiguous title, as well as the rhetoric that enshrouded the description of the works in a veil of mystery. This critique from a former art major. Maybe my mind was just clouded by the omelet and croissant I'd just devoured. My mom decided, however, that she wanted to see Private Universes, so we set sail for Downtown Dallas.

I am so glad we did.

The works of art were breathtaking (kind of like the view from my hopefully future apartment, but better: breathtaking on par with an ozone alert maroon day). They ranged from the slightly disturbing to the sublime. One work was executed on canvases that enveloped you - literally - in a wall of 24K gold lusciousness - the gold foil applied to the canvases created stylized woodland scenes interspersed with pure abstract shapes (and still this by Jim Hodges is shown on the DMA's web page about the exhibit). Franz Ackerman's my "Ready Now" jolted the viewer with its heroically scaled riot of flourescent colors. I was enthralled.

The first three paintings at the entrance to the main gallery (the barrel vault) were my favorites, though. Those and a word painting with an underlay of Sponge Bob Squarepants checks - yes, from a check book...seriously - that talked about accidentally shooting his mother-in-law on a hunting trip when he mistook her for a deer wearing an orange vest and brewing coffee. It made me laugh out loud.

If you're a museum-y kind of person, and you're in Dallas, I highly suggest checking out the exhibit.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Yeah Yeah Yeah

I haven't written in a while, and when I do, of course it's on a Saturday night at 10:30. This is what happens when you're on a budget and under the weather, which is scorching hot (especially if the car upholstery is leather and you forgot to put up the car windshield sun-blocker thingy).

So much has happened in the past few days: I submitted an application to an apartment complex, I worked (thankfully, a daily occurrence), I met Brooke Shields, you know, the usual.

"Wait!" you cry. "You met Brooke Shields?"

Yes, you read correctly. I met Brooke Shields. And, yes, her eyebrows are really that amazing, even from 18 inches away.

"But, why did you get to meet Brooke Shields? All you've ever done is whine on a blog!"

Oh, contraire, my fine feathered follower. I have done many things in my day, the most influential being a bout with cancer as a teenager. That might sound strange, but really, it has had a huge influence on me. I changed quite a bit as a person during that time, and I also became involved with the Make A Wish Foundation, through which I had the opportunity to meet Ms. Shields.

Occasionally, MAW needs a Wish Kid to speak at an event, and they sometimes call on me to do so. Thursday evening was just such an occasion. Allergan (a pharmaceutical company) developed LATISSE, an eyelash growth serum, and Brooke Shields is their spokeswoman. Allergan decided that they wanted to promote their product while simultaneously helping a great cause, so they partnered with Make A Wish (you know, the whole "lose an eyelash, blow it off your finger, and make a wish" thing you used to do when you were a kid?) and are donating $5 for every person who signs up on their website to Make A Wish. Brooke Shields is doing the publicity tour thing, and LATISSE asked if Make A Wish could have a Wish Kid speak.

Badda-boom, badda-bing, I gave a speech about my experience with Make A Wish and how important it is to the children who are having their wishes granted, and then got to sit on a lovely goldenrod damask sofa next to Brooke Shields for the next 5 minutes while she and Anastasia Soare (eyebrow plucker to the stars and AMAZING dresser) finished their presentation.

This is now going to be a Happy Hour post, too, because following the presentation, a lovely woman from MAW and I adjourned to the bar at Dallas' Ritz Carlton Hotel, where the presentation took place, for a much-needed drink.

If you want amazing people-watching, go to the bar at the Ritz Carlton. There are all sorts of fake-baked and fake-bodied women there at which to gawk, and multitudes of rich old men with bad hair and horrible jewelry sprinkled about the place, all trying to inconspicuously look up the shorts (weren't those a fad last year?) or skirts of the fakes. I'm sure some very nice people go to the Ritz - I was there, after all, wasn't I? - but for the most part... Like I said GREAT people-watching.

The apartment I'm hoping to move into is in tony University Park, a short 10-15 minute drive from my office, and is on the third floor of a building. It has an elevator, otherwise it wouldn't be an option for me. It also has a breathtaking view of downtown. At least, when there's no smog in the air, there is a breathtaking view of downtown. Of course, if it's an ozone alert day, any view is breathtaking, I guess.

I'm hoping I get approved for the apartment (there are income restrictions) because it's in a safe neighborhood, I like the layout, and it comes with a free stackable washer and dryer, which means more time devoted to my portfolio and less to sitting in a laundromat doing laundry, or driving to my parents' house (and the vehicular costs associated with that) to co opt their washer and dryer, the use of which must be coordinated with my dad's laundry schedule. Once again, I will be able to wash jeans at midnight, if I so choose!

AND I'll be closer to my old dry-cleaner, who I intend to marry, some day, so I won't ever have to worry about having clean clothes again. The man can get stains out of anything.

Dr. Pepper on your white silk skirt? No problem.

A pint of Guinness on your favorite white surplice blouse? Looks like it never happened.

Bonus: Mr. Dry Cleaner Man is good-looking, too... in a short kind of way.

(Creative Commons Sharealike Licensed Image courtesy of Flickr User watchwithkristin via Wikimedia Commons may be found at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brooke_Shields_(2008).JPG)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Busy Busy Bee

This week is hectic, for me. At least, it feels hectic.

Tuesday afternoon, I will be going to a client's home to study the architectural detailing. Her house was built by my employer a couple of years ago, and Oldsmobile considers it to be his "best house." I will be using some of the same details on my current project. I am also supposed to meet with The Boss to discuss the interior architectural details for the project on which I'm working.

Tuesday evening, I am having dinner with some family friends.

Wednesday afternoon, I have a meeting with my current clients, who are by all accounts a family of very tall people. The counters and doors in their houses are all taller than those in average homes for this reason. Apparently, one member of the family cannot walk through a standard 6'8" door without bonking his head. I am intrigued by the giant clients. Yes, that is intended to be a poor rhyme.

Wednesday evening, I intend to scout the locations of some apartments I've found on the Internet. I have a list written up in my purse, just waiting for me to go search them out.

Thursday evening, I am speaking at a charity fundraiser, at which I will be introduced to Brooke Shields. I speak often at events for the charity. As is to be expected, I am now obsessing over what I will wear. Because I am newly re-employed, and because I am trying to save money, I intend to recycle something I already own. I just don't know what I will be recycling, yet. I will also most likely have to change in the bathroom at work before I go, which will be interesting, unless I can get into the unused office space our firm leases to use it for a changing room. I think its blinds are semi-transparent, though.

I always cry when I speak at fundraisers, and I've been an emotional wreck lately, given multiple facts that have recently come to light, so I'll just have to make sure I have a pretty handkerchief with me when I speak. I cut some of the stuff that brings out the waterworks in me (I'm adapting a previously given speech), but I don't really know how to deliver a light-hearted speech about children with cancer and maybe-dying*. The gallows humor I employed to get me through the ordeal of having cancer doesn't play well in front of a crowd that doesn't know me, or my ghastly sense of humor.

I guess I just won't wear mascara on my lower lashes so I don't have to worry about it running.

*In case you didn't know, yeah, I had cancer as a teenager.

(Creative Commons Sharealike Licensed Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Ed Uthman may be found at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chronic_Lymphocytic_Leukemia.jpg)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Friday Happy Hour - The Gingerman

Friday was awesome. I was the first person at the office at 8:30. Oldsmobile showed up at 9, and the receptionist arrived soon after. The first half of the day working on interior elevations for the project I'm working on. Around 10:30, Olds left the office to go have lunch and take a nap. He told me I could leave if I ran out of work to do. I told him that Pacman had provided me with plenty of work, and he said, "Oh, okay," and went home.

I met some friends for lunch - they're all former coworkers - and we had a good time. It was miserably hot walking to the food court, though, and I felt like I was about to pass out by the time I got back to the air conditioned office. Trekking halfway across Downtown Dallas to gobble some Chik-Fil-A is nowhere near being fun when it's 97 degrees Fahrenheit. At least I got a respite by walking the last 1/3 in the shade of the highway underpass.

Around 2:30, after installing Office for Mac, fruitlessly attempting to set up my email using Entourage, and working on the aforementioned interior elevations, Oldsmobile came back to the office. To pick up his NetFlix. At this point, he all but ordered me to go home, and within thirty minutes of his near-command, I found myself emailing a friend to request his company while I imbibed pints of Ace Pear at a pub in Uptown.

The pub is called the Gingerman. My drinking companion is a gingerman. It all worked beautifully.

In fact, the rest of the day went just swimmingly, up until about 10 pm when, after picking my dad up at the airport - from his non-flight to Jordan via Chicago - and ingesting a delicious slab of prime rib courtesy of that wonderful gentleman, I was struck with a smashing headache. At that point, I realized that I had A) released quite a bit of sweat during my walk at lunch and during the outdoor pint-drinking session; B) I had ingested alcohol, which is not exactly re-hydrating; C) I had not compensated adequately for the purged water by drinking more.

You would think I would know better by now...

(Creative Commons licensed image courtesy of Flickr user Aidan-Sally may be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/sally-aidan/3264829683/)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Another Day...

Another theoretical dollar. I can't wait for June 30, because then I'll be able to see what my paychecks will look like. And once I know for 100% certain the amount of moolah I'll be bringing home each pay period, I can adjust the lovely budget spreadsheet I developed to approximate my expenses, right down to the amount of money I shell out per month on hair products and dry-cleaning.

I love lists and spreadsheets. They make me happy.

Thursday, I broke away from the software tutorials to which my last three days have been devoted and actually did some work. This meant that I had to go pick up my computer from the guys that reformatted the hard drive for me, of course.

Consequently, the first thing I did once I got to work Thursday was to leave. I turned around, went to the seedy computer guys, received the computer from the claws of the tattooed and scantily clad receptionist, and returned to the office to hook it up.

I have never assembled a Mac before. It's incredibly easy. You sit it on a desk, plug X into Y, and Z into - erm - ZZ and then you turn it on. At this point, you realize that you don't have a keyboard, so you take one from the OLD SCHOOL Mac that sits unused and unloved on the end of a table, then you plug in your fancy schmancy new mouse, and you're ready to go!

At this point, you realize that - in the process of reformatting the hard drive - all of the local settings are gone. Also, the Microsoft Office programs are gone, and you can't figure out how to configure your email. And when is the guy that knows how to rectify these situations returning? Monday? Oh, okay. Well, you have your company email on your iPhone, anyways, so that's not really that big of a deal.

In reality, the real work I did Thursday amounted to about two hours of work, if that, because I started working on the new software, realized I didn't know how to do something, had to research to figure out why it wasn't working, yadda yadda yadda, and it was 5:30 and I had to leave to get my hair cut.

In other news: these guys trust me way too much. I will alone in the office with the receptionist tomorrow. No one else will be there, except maybe for Oldsmobile, who sometimes drops by on Fridays, but not often, and only when there's work to do, which there won't be for him tomorrow.

I also met with our rock star lighting designer. I mean that literally. He is in a punk band. And he's in his 40s.

I think I'm going to love this job.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Little Dorrit" by Charles Dickens

Ah, Dickens. So much poverty! So much wealth! So many stupid people doing stupid things! I love Dickens.

Little Dorrit isn't your everyday Dickens, however. This is no A Christmas Carol sugarplum: most of the characters are despicable, or completely clueless, or both. The novel is, however, a wonderfully written biting satire of 19th century manners.

Are you a gentleman consigned to the debtors' prison? Shamelessly ask for money, and pretend your children don't work, because it's beneath you to have children with jobs!

What's that? You say you inherited a bunch of money, and can now afford to travel extensively? Pretend you were never poor! Whitewash your family's history and essentially deny your youngest child her childhood memories! Obviously.

Pretty much, that's Little Dorrit, but the novel itself is much funnier, much more suspenseful, and no, I didn't just give away the ending. In fact, there's a whole second half after that last bit, believe it or not. Little Dorrit is not little. It is long. It is what I call a weighty tome.

The last time I read Dickens was in high school, as I recall - although a lot has happened between high school and today, so I might have read another somewhere along the way - and I didn't really enjoy it much.

Perhaps, if I'd had a well annotated copy of the book I read (if you read Little Dorrit, you have to invest in a well annotated copy, or most of the jokes will zing right by you, unless you're an expert in 19th century banking scandals). Also, judging by the incredibly loooooooooooooooong introduction to the book, Dickens became increasingly jaded and sarcastic as he grew older, so that would explain the zingers I enjoyed so much. Not the icky preservative-laden snack food zingers.

The descriptions are marvelous, and capture the time period and the individual settings brilliantly. It's easy to imagine the floor plan of the debtors' prison, and what the cell looked like. The gaudy clothes worn by Little Dorrit's suitor are easily imagined, particularly if you read the end notes. As always, Dickens exudes the atmosphere of London, and peppers its streets with hysterical charwomen, evil book keepers, and attractive emotionally clueless 40-something men that you will doubtless wish would help life you out of poverty.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Job: Day Two

I am blessed beyond belief. Last night, I worked on tutorials for the insane drafting program I'll be using at the new job. I casually mentioned the fact in conversation with Radio, today, and he said, "Why in God's name would you do that? We're paying you to do the tutorials. Relax when you go home."

Consider it done.

Hopefully, I'll get my own computer tomorrow so I can connect the fancy-schmancy mouse I bought to it. It's ergonomic and laser guided and comes with a penthouse apartment. Ooooooh. Yes, the company is reimbursing me for the mouse.

It's always interesting to work in a new environment, mostly because of the people watching. There's a woman in the office building who wears tinted glasses, dyes her hair black, and wears her hair in two plaited pigtails. Throw on a black calico skirt and a grey sleeveless T-shirt, and you've got one serious alterna-chick. But wait! There's more! She wears a sunbonnet. I'm talking Little House on the Prairie, here. The bonnet is also black, with lovely white rick-rack trim. I have yet to see the bonnet on her head, as it always hangs by its ribbons down her back. I wonder if she wears it in the office so she can nap without anyone noticing? It's the only reason I can imagine.

For about an hour, today, I flew solo in the office. It was somewhat frightening, on multiple levels. First, I had just learned to transfer incoming calls to my coworkers' voice mail (I taught myself on the fly while Pacman was on the phone). Second, I was ALONE. I was a girl all alone in an office that is in an office building. And that building just lost its biggest tenant, from what I hear.

After an hour, the 200 year old principal - I think we'll call him Oldsmobile - returned to the office, and when I came out of my cubicle to see who it was, we ended up walking around in circles trying to catch up to one another. He told me to lock the office door next time I'm there alone, if I feel safer that way.

I think he could tell I was a little unsettled at being all by myself. Don't wanna be all by MYSELF. ANYMOOOOOOOOOOORE.

Eat your heart out, Celine Dion.

* Just in case any of you are wondering about why I pick the images I use - somebody asked me today - if you click on the image, it will open in its own window. Look at the end of the web-address, and the last words you see, separated by + signs, are the title of the image. There's a little clue for you. Actually. It's a big clue.

The image used is in the public domain, courtesy of the United States Guvmint.

Monday, June 15, 2009

First Day On The Job

Monday was my first day at the new architecture firm. It went incredibly well, which sort of surprised me. It mostly surprised me because I woke up every hour, on the hour, from 2:30 am Monday morning until 6:30 am, at which point I jumped out of bed, ate some cereal - something I don't think I've done since college - and got dressed.

The office opens officially at 9:00 am.

I arrived at the office building 40 minutes early.

And the only reason I wasn't 46 minutes early was because I took a roundabout way of getting to the building, via the Design District. I sat in my car and made a To Do List for a while, played a couple of games on the old iPhone, and finally decided to go in about 8:40, because I just couldn't stand it anymore.

My computer wasn't ready, but one of my coworkers, who I'll call Scooter, from now on - but not to his face - was on vacation, so I sat in his desk and familiarized myself with the project on which I'll be working using his Mac. I will be working with another fellow, who I'll call Pacman (if you can figure out why, I'll be impressed - and no, it's not dirty).

I was somewhat disappointed to learn that I won't be receiving the big fancy Mac; the senior associate at the firm gets that one. I'll be receiving the senior associate's old computer, after it returns from the computer guys that are wiping all the old files off it so I'll be working with a "clean slate." After seeing how HUGE the new Mac is, though, I'm kind of relieved: it's about the size of a 24" flat-screen TV, which is slightly overwhelming when it's 18" from your face. I already miss having two screens, like I did at my old job. I might have to remedy this by - um - imagining I have another one. Like Hades am I spending my hard-earned $$$$ on computer hardware, even if it does mean I can take it with me at a later date! Of course, in 3 months, I might rethink this position, but for right now, I'm keeping things as they are.

I'm about to start working on a couple of tutorials for the Building Information Modeling software we use. I already did one tutorial a month ago, but I just found the other quadrillion that the company posts - oops - so I spent a couple of hours working on those at the office, and I'm going to do some more tonight. It took about 2 hours to do one chapter of the tutorial, so it might turn out to be a long night. Not that I'll do the whole thing, but I do intend to do at least one more chapter before all is said and done.

I think the senior associate needs a nickname, too... I think Radio fits the bill!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I Haven't Had This Much Angst...

...since I was a teenager. I am trying to put it aside in order to concentrate on how cute I'll look tomorrow and how happy I will be to wear "work clothes" again.*

In lieu of moaning and groaning about how nervous I am and how certain I am that I'll be a complete and total failure for the rest of my life, I will cover Friday's Happy Hour, since I've been somewhat remiss in covering Happy Hour regularly.

The first part of Happy Hour took place at The Opening Bell, a coffee shop cum bar cum sandwich shop cum music lounge in the ground floor of the Mosaic Building in downtown Dallas. It is probably a much better coffee shop/sandwich place than it is a bar, since their beer selection is lacking. They served bottled Guinness, and not the good Extra Stout kind that is meant to be drunk from the bottle, but the Draught variety. And the widget in my bottle was broken, so it wasn't properly aerated. I switched to Shiner Bock, after the first bottle of Guinness proved to be a disaster. I have a hunch not many people go to the place to drink.

If you want to pretend to be classy, you can buy wine by the glass or by the bottle.

After being there for a beer or two, I decided that skipping dinner was not such a grand idea, after all, so I went to buy a brownie or a scone, which is all that I could see. It was at this point that the oh so helpful bearded cashier informed me that they serve sandwiches, too! The sandwich was fresh, made with yummy Romaine lettuce and juicy, flavorful tomatoes (I ordered the turkey and cheddar, in case you're wondering). The croissant was okay, but definitely not the worst I've had.

The reason we went to The Opening Bell - which bills itself as Coffee Music Stocks - was because of the music aspect. A friend of a friend was singing that night. So far as intimate venues go, it's a pretty good one. Sadly, the two female singers sounded almost exactly the same, and both had the same Indie Folk music sound. Even their first names were similar! As with many local/unknown musicians, most of the songs sounded the same.

About halfway through the second performer's set - okay, a sixth of the way through - we all sort of gave up on the "attentive audience" performance we were giving and quickly devolved into a bunch of gaggle of giggling yahoos.

* For the record, I will be wearing a short-sleeved white button-up blouse with an olive drab high-waisted pencil skirt, brown flats, and a wide brown belt. You know, just in case you care.

The image used is in the Public Domain, but was originally published as the cover of Classic Comics in December of 1943. The illustration is by Lilian Chesney. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons contributor Chordboard for scanning it!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Time to Get Crackin' !

I have an incredibly "full plate" these days... and yet I seem to have almost no motivation to tackle the things I need to do. For instance:

1) I need to get to work on the side-business I've got in the works. I know I need to do this. I'm just a wee bit overwhelmed with everything that goes into doing it, so I put it off, then say "I'll do it tomorrow" when that's the same thing I said yesterday. All the job-change anxiety is affecting my ability to concentrate.

2) I need to keep practicing the program I'll be using at my new job. This also has fallen somewhat by the wayside, but seeing as I'll be given some instruction in this once I start work, it's sort of OK. Not really, though.

3) I need to redo my portfolio, retake the GRE, etc... I'm having difficulty getting started with all of these things, however. Part of it is the overwhelming sense of "I have to redo my portfolio, which took me 6 months to put together last time around." Granted, most of the ground work for my portfolio has been accomplished, and it will now be a matter of editing down the text, being more selective with images, and including fewer pages. And reformatting. But that's still a whole lot of work to do. Oy.

In brighter news, I've begun working with an apartment locator in Dallas. She's actually pretty good. It's one of those things where they either move your stuff or they give you money if you sign a lease with one of the properties and put their name on all of the necessary forms. Either way, it sounds good to me.

Last time I moved to Dallas, I wanted a place with character and charm. What I got was an apartment with no insulation, huge heating bills, a communal washer/dryer that never worked, fleas, and flying cockroaches. Oh, and a landlady that didn't respond to my calls about the fleas and flying cockroaches.

Now, I want a place with washer/dryer connections for the full-size washer and dryer I own, lots of insulation, and a location near my new workplace. All of which will cost me more than my previous apartment, but with a much smaller salary. Neat. Fortunately, my apartment locator is being helpful. I have also harnessed the power of the Internet to look at some apartments, which I told her about (she'd left them off the list), and which she is following up on so she can get back to me.

I've honestly got my hopes up about a couple of the places, possibly too high up, in fact. I will blame this on the apartment locator, though, because I can't see how there could possibly be a 1-bedroom 1-bath with den apartment in Downtown for less than $700 per month. But if there is, and if I get to lease it, I will send the apartment locator flowers.

And just in case you're wondering, locator is apparently not included in Blogger's spellcheck function, although locator's is included...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I forgot to write a post for Tuesday (Wednesday?). C'est la vie, n'est pas?

And that is the extent of the French I learned in college.

I start my job Monday, and I'M SCARED TO DEATH.

"Why?" you may ask.

1) I haven't worked in over 6 months, now. That's a long time-out from "the real world."

2) I will be taking on responsibilities never before encountered in their fullest.
a) I will be writing specs (the document that tells the contractor what exactly will be used in the house, i.e. type of windows/doors, sinks, etc...). I have a very small amount of experience with specs, but that was several years ago, and I haven't touched them since. Can I do it? Of course. Am I nervous about doing it? You betcha.
b) I will be expected to take on a project of my very own at some point, from start to finish. This will be awesome from the point of view that I'll get Intern Development Hours under the Project Management category, but it's a lot of stuff I've never before encountered.

3) I'm going to be judged. This is a given, no matter where you're working. Your first few weeks/months are spent trying to give a good impression of yourself to your coworkers without coming across as a self-satisfied jerk. It's kind of like a protracted interview, where you have to impress people, but not make them want to throw you through the plate-glass window.

4) I'll be learning new software. I have some experience with the programs, but only because I downloaded a free trial, so I won't be flying blind... just flying without my glasses*.

5) I have limited experience in important areas. Construction Documents (CDs), for instance. At my old job, our Design Development documents were usually pretty darn close to CDs, but not quite there. I did CDs at one of my internships, but it was mostly just picking up other people's mistakes, all spelled out for me. I've never put together a set of CDs by myself, let alone a set of CDs for a single-family residential project. I intend to spend a fair amount of time going through the new employer's old CDs to see what they expect. Of course, I told my interviewers in during my interview (redundant) that my weak point was CDs, so hopefully they'll understand that I'll be going through a significant learning curve.

Hopefully, this will be one of those "Happily Ever After" situations, and I'll catch on really quickly and get a raise in December (keep those fingers crossed, people). But if not... maybe Starbucks will have an opening.

* Okay, I'm legally blind in one eye without my glasses, so I WOULD be flying half-blind.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Chaos in Taos

I drove up to Taos, NM today.

I stopped before I reached Taos proper and toured the Hacienda Martinez, which was pretty interesting. I don't think it was worth $8, though. When I arrived, I was the only tourist there (it was around noon), and apparently the first of the day. The coolest part of the whole thing, for me, was experiencing just how amazing adobe construction is from an insulating point of view: every room was cool enough to require a sweater. I nerded out on the original iron door handles, too, and their mechanics.

Afterwards, I drove on in to the Blumenscheim residence in Taos, and smack in the middle of downtown, to boot. Blumy, as his friends called him, was one of the founders of the artists' colony at Taos. The museum that was once his house is incredible, not least because of the wonderful artwork executed by him, his wife, and his daughter. It was kind of a two-fer: art museum + cool old adobe house. Right up my alley.

I wanted to tour the Harwood Museum of Fine Art, as well, particularly since I parked in its parking lot and figured they wouldn't tow me if I actually went to the museum, as opposed to simply utilising the parking spaces not marked "Harwood Museum Only." I discovered, however, that the Harwood is one of the few museums in New Mexico that does not distinguish between summer and winter hours (summer hours meaning "We're open every day, from 10-5, whether we like it or not.")

I discovered something about Taos while I was there: I am neither self-consciously artistic enough nor commonly touristy enough to fit in there. Maybe I was just in the wrong area, but the people I saw in downtown were either fanny-packed and Bermuda-shorted, or they had haircuts that were so asymmetrical as to be caricatures of edginess. If I'd worn my funny architect glasses and skinny jeans with a thrift-store T-shirt, I would have been hailed as a true artiste, I bet, but in my little sundress (with not-so-cute slightly sunburned shoulders) I stood out like a sore thumb.

I was thrilled, however, to see Wolverine's doppelganger, complete with beat-up truck and camper. Nice.

I took the scenic route home. It was what the tourism website referred to as "The High Road." It was helpfully marked with signs along the way, but I still managed to take a wrong turn, somewhere, and ended up getting home about 30 minutes after the estimated tour duration said I would. The lengthy drive could also probably have been chalked up to the fact that I was scared out of my wits going around some of the corners, and so went 5-10 miles under the speed limit the whole time.

I also managed to be made fun of by a group of three yuppie guys at a scenic overlook. They all had their $2000 SLRs with them, and I was happily clicking away with my disposable camera (I lost the battery charger for my digital and the battery on my old film camera was dead). The youngest guy of the group - who I guess to be one of the others' son - pointed to my camera as his compadre stepped in front of my shot and remarked, "Wow, I haven't seen one of those in ages." His companions turned, saw the little green Fuji film, and chuckled.

I stepped pointedly to one side so I could take my shot, hoping that the shot-blocker caught onto the pointedness of my maneuver.

Santa Fe and Eating

I'm still in Santa Fe, though not for much longer: today, I head up to Taos. I'm wanting to go for a drive, and so drive I shall. There's a museum or two I want to see, and then I'll take a driving tour - the shortest one on the list of recommended driving tours - that will bring me back to Santa Fe.

Yesterday, I went to every museum within walking distance of the Governor's Plaza. At least, it seems that way. I went to the Institute for American Indian Art (IAIA), where they had a wonderful exhibit, as well as artwork in the museum shop that you can purchase. I found three paintings, all by the same artist, that I love. I do not, however, have the $1,200 it would require to buy all three. My goal is to save up some money and then hunt him down on the Internet, eventually. EVENTUALLY. Although no longer unemployed, I will be taking a drastic pay cut from what I made at my old job, so...

I also went to the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. I went once before about ten years ago with my parents and sister. At the time, I remember thinking how little I liked her paintings. Of course, my taste has matured since then, so I went back.

I still don't like her paintings.

I tried, and I can't force myself to like them. I apparently fail as an art-lover. The restaurant at the Georgia O'Keefe is excellent, however. They serve blue-corn pancakes with a side of venison sausage and fresh fruit dusted with cinnamon. Wonderful wonderful wonderful food.

I went to the New Mexico Museum of Art, too, which had the requisite O'Keefes, but also an amazing display of sculptural fine art baskets from the collection of some old rich folks who live in NM. The term basket is somewhat loosely defined, as some of the articles on display couldn't hold so much as a peanut. There was also a creepy security guard at the Museum of Art, who I would recommend avoiding.

Yesterday, I found myself feeling peckish after wandering through all the museums. At La Fonda, a big expensive hotel right off Santa Fe's main plaza, there is a small pastry shop that specializes in crepes. So, I guess technically, it's a creperie with a selection of pastries. Semantics.

Anyways, I ducked in, wanting something sweet and light. If you go, order the apricot crepe. Stewed apricots, wrapped in a light and delightfully chewy crepe with a side of real whipped cream. None of this Redi-Whip or Cool Whip nonsense for them. Oh no, it's real unsweetened whipped cream. It is perfectly acceptable to eat what might be left of it with a spoon after you've finished your crepe, by the way.

I ate dinner last night at Gabriel's, which is actually in Santa Cruz, about 20-30 minutes north of Santa Fe. If you ever get the chance to go to Gabriel's, be forewarned: they ask if you want guacamole. If you want guacamole, be prepared to shell out $12 for it. It's good, though, and is made to order at your table. I ordered it, and managed to consume about half of it (in other words, a whole avocado with tomato, onion, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice) in addition to the stewed pork I had for a main dish. It was all delicious, but if you're there by yourself and you sit at a table in the bar, you won't get very good service. Just a warning.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Bonus Weekend Blog!

I am sitting in my hotel room in cloudy, windy Santa Fe, NM.

"Why?" you may ask.
A question to which I respond, "Because I convinced my future employer that I needed another week to get some appointments out of the way before I started work."

I decided that one such appointment should take place in Santa Fe, since I will not receive time off for an appointment in Santa Fe for a while after working, and here I am.

My mom and dad are partially (mostly) bankrolling this southwestern expedition of mine as a sort of "Hallelujah, she's employed" gift. Also, I've been so incredibly stressed the past few months, looking for work, being relentlessly shot down, etc... that I haven't actually been relaxing. In Santa Fe, I hope to do just that.

I spent the past two hours walking around the plaza that fronts the Governor's Palace. The shops around the plaza are a great place to go to get fleeced by merchants who are trying to sell you art, not informing you that the $4,000 photographic print you're looking at is NOT one-of-a-kind, but is in fact reproduced and sold in multiple galleries for this artist around the country.


There is also a lot of turquoise jewelry to be found in Santa Fe, the colors of which tend to be chemically enhanced. This is a fact you will not find out - in all likelihood - unless you ask the merchant. The merchant will frown at you and then inform you that, no, the coral is not naturally that hue ("I thought it lacked natural variation") and that the veins in the turquoise have been darkened. And the turquoise has been dyed. Tsk tsk.

If you go to Santa Fe by yourself, and you happen to be a well dressed single white female with excellent posture, you will find that entirely unacceptable men will say "Hello" to you out of nowhere and that couples in their 60s will smile at you for no reason.

You will also decide that the zydeco musician outside the bar on the corner is cute and throw a buck in his hat. At the end of the next block you will realize you gave him a five and kick yourself for your inadvertent profligacy.

Tired, and with sinuses full of cottonwood tufts and a back aching from the airplane trip and the world's most uncomfortable car seats (curse you, Chevy HHR! Stupid rental car! Hey, that kind of rhymes...) you proceed back to your room at the lovely La Quinta Santa Fe to continue reading Gai-Jin and to write a bonus blog post...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

As of Monday, June 8, 2009

I will no longer be "unemployed."  I will not even be an independent contractor.  I will, in fact, be working full-time for a venerable architecture firm in the Dallas area.

I'm excited, as you can imagine, but still scared to death.  After all, I haven't had a job in 6 months, now, and I'll have to get used to getting up at 7 so I can be in the office by 9, sitting in a desk, reporting to someone else.

Bonus: I will be full-time with benefits.  No more COBRA health care rigmarole to deal with, thankfully.  I won't have to worry about filing my income taxes quarterly, as I would if I was a contractor (the discussion at my first interview revolved around this concept.  I did some mental calculations, though, and they'd have to pay me more, actually, if I was independent than they would if I came on as a salaried employee).

Downside: my pay will be significantly less than it was at my last place of employment.  As in 20% less than at my previous job.  It's better than the annual max. $10,xxx the government gives to those of us on unemployment, but...  I had hoped that I would be able to find an apartment in my old neighborhood or near there, but at my new low salary, there's no way I can afford to live there.


I spoke to my dad Thursday afternoon, and he discussed with one of his business contacts my business idea (which was originally my dad's idea, but he gave it to me).  His BC told him that, if I'd set up the company and get it going, he could get me more business than I could shake a stick at.  So that's looking hopeful.  My one hope now for getting into a "place of my own" is the business.

If all goes well, it may allow me to move into a nicer place than I had before I lost my job and still save up money for that ever-elusive goal: graduate school.

(Creative Commons Licensed Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Aceplace.  The image can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:HPIM1041_edited-1.jpg)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fraught Nerves And New Shoes

I bought a pair of shoes to wear Thursday morning with my follow-up salary-negotiation outfit.  It was not a superfluous purchase, because the shoes they replaced are so worn that the shoe repair guy shook his head and made clucking noises and shrugged his shoulders when I asked him if he could fix them.

"No, no.  No fixing of them," he said in his heavy Russian accent.    So now I have a new pair of shoes with heels even higher than their predecessors, which is almost always a good thing.

Wednesday evening, I was supposed to discuss a business strategy with my sister.  I have the idea for a potentially profitable side-business, and I need some help setting it up.  The name is already registered, and all that jazz, but I also have:

1.  No defined business plan
2.  No list of potential clients
3.  No list of trade organizations representing those clients
4.  No clear idea of where to begin.

I do, however, have a ton of receipts from purchases I've made relative to the start up, so I'd better get this thing in gear so I can put them to use on my taxes.

My brilliant older sister - who, you will remember, is also an incredibly gourmet cook - was supposed to talk to me tonight about business strategy.  However, her gourmet life was seriously inconvenienced when her not-so-gourmet refrigerator/freezer died, leaving her with enormous amounts of ruined free range meats and organic vegetables.


I spoke to her on the phone, and tried to cheer her up by pointing out that she can now get one of those spiffy refrigerators with French doors that she's been coveting.

This tactic did not work.

I then launched into what I had hoped would be a stirring rendition of Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" (dee do, di do do do di do).  When my (not-so-stirring) performance failed at brightening her outlook, I gave up.

If Monty Python can't do it, nobody can.

(Creative Commons Licensed Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Drumroll, Please!



Yes, folks, that's right: the firm with which I interviewed a couple of weeks ago called today and informed me that they'd like to hire me.  I go in to the office Thursday to discuss salary and the day I'll begin and all that mumbo-jumbo.

I've been doing internal cartwheels since about 5:00 when the younger interviewer (who still isn't exactly young) called to apologize for not calling me sooner and asked me to come in.  So Thursday morning at 10:00, I will be at their offices to talk about the aforementioned details.

Of course, now I want desperately to move back to my old neighborhood.  I've been indulging in apartment looking via Internet since just after I returned from a victory dinner at Patrizio's (almond-crusted trout, mmmmm).  Part of me says, "You'll have a job, you can tough it out for the next 14 months until you go to grad school."  Still, another part of me is screaming, "Run!  Run for your life!  And this time get an apartment with a washer-dryer hookup!"  I'm conflicted, and so am keeping my apartment search low-key and not calling apartment complexes (yet).

In true Ms. StrainedConsciousness fashion, I have figured out what I will wear to the "detail discussion" (almost: not 100% on the shoes) and will drop off some new work-ready pants at the tailor's tomorrow to have the pocket openings permanently sewn shut and the excess pocket material removed.  You know, to prevent unsightly pocket-lines.

Everyone does that, right?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Anybody Out There?

I'll go ahead and get it out of the way:  I haven't heard from my prospective employer, at time of publication .  As I'm publishing late Monday evening, and the prospective client to my prospective employer was supposed to sign the prospective contract Monday during office hours, I didn't entirely expect to hear word before Publication, but I had certainly hoped to hear of potential impending employment by this time.

In a familiar vein, I'm currently reading yet another weighty tome, in order to while away the evening hours, and I will duly blog a review of it when I am finished reading it.  (Hint:  It starts with an L- and ends with an -ittle Dorrit.)

I suppose I could review the movie Up, but all I can say without giving away the whole thing - which is one amazing surprise and revelation after the other - is that I laughed, I cried (copiously), I give it one thumb up, but only because in order to complete the total Siskel and Ebert imitation, I would be required to have an enormously fat person give the other thumb up.

So those of you who read are no doubt disappointed by the short entry, today/tomorrow.  I know, I know .  But never fear, I will try to come up with more for next time.

Unless, of course, you write in raptures about the wonderfully abbreviated format of today/tomorrow's entry.  Honestly, it won't make a difference.

Quasi Happy Hour @ Cowboy Chow

The Happy Hour coordinator was out of town Friday, and so there was no official Happy Hour, per se.  However, a couple of my intrepid adventuring friends and I made the trek to Deep Ellum to partake of the chow at Cowboy Chow.


They bill themselves as a "wedding chapel and tacos" place, attested to by the extensive listing of tacos on the menu and the veiled and top-hatted buffalo heads on the wall.  For those of you who dislike mounted animal heads, take heart: they are obviously fake.  I want one.

In the spirit of the evening, I partook of the buffalo tacos (for those watching their waistlines, they're 500 calories for the whole meal) which were amazing.  Tacos are served with a side of beans, which are something of a cross between pinto beans and baked beans, and a bed of rice that catches the delicious juices that dribble out of the tacos and onto your hands.

Cowboy Chow specializes in braised meats, and to this end you will find all sorts of braised beef and pork (REAL cowboys don't eat chicken).  My compadres in comiendo both ordered the Dr. Pepper braised ribs (beef) and liked them, although they thought the ribs should be served with some form of Dr. Pepper reduction sauce.  Mashed potatoes have corn mashed in with them, so don't get all up in arms when you see "corn" on the menu, and it isn't served in a neat yellow pile next to the taters.

There are three grades of beer at Cowboy Chow: Texas and Mexican Beer, Good Yankee Beer, and Cheap Ass Beer.  Seeing as I'm unemployed, I drank a cheap ass Pabst Blue Ribbon, but for those with more - ahem - refined palates, you can order a Blue Moon or a Buffalo Butt (?).

A good reason to eat the low-cal tacos di bufala is the dessert offerings: homemade ice cream sandwiches, peanut butter brownie smores, or a warm-baked cookie (which should be ordered at the time you order your meal so they can bake the cookie for you).  The waiter informed us that the ice cream sandwiches are about the size of a hockey puck.

He lied.

They're bigger.

And before I forget, let's go back to the beginning, where you eat appetizers and such.  They have the most wonderful invention on the menu: fried green tomato lollipops, served with 3 cheese ranch dipping sauce.  They're $1 each.  They're heaven.  Get one.

So, as a recap for those of you with short memories: GO TO COWBOY CHOW AND CHOW DOWN.

You will not regret it.

(Creative Commons Licensed image courtesy of Flickr user tkksumers may be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tkksummers/3472731686/)