Friday, February 27, 2009

Conundrum


I've been informed of job opportunities twice, now, at the same firm.  

Guy 1:   "You should apply.  I'll give you a good recommendation."  Thanks.
Guy 2: "They're hiring young designers with the same types of experience you have.  You should look at them."  Thanks.
Guy 1:   "Have you sent in your resume yet?  I haven't heard anything about it.  You should come work with us."   Thanks.

I finally had to tell Guy 1, who was quite persistent - and I think a little socially inept - that I have personal reasons for not going to work at his firm.  I opted not to elaborate.

The personal reason?  My EX-BOYFRIEND works there.  I would be supremely uncomfortable working with him.  The firm he works at tends to go out together after work, the same way my former coworkers did (heck, we still go out together).

We've been to several parties hosted by mutual friends, and I was uncomfortable seeing him again.  I broke his heart, essentially, and then he begged me to be friends and hang out with him, but I couldn't, not seeing the little hopeful expression he always had whenever he saw me.  His employer is a small firm, not like the 300-employee behemoths in Downtown, so I couldn't possibly avoid seeing him.

In a way I feel a little bit silly refusing to snag the job being dangled tantalizingly before me, but at the same time, I know it would end up an uncomfortable situation for everyone involved (Guy 1 keeps calling to ask me out, without success, not knowing that I dated his coworker.)  I've dated coworkers and then gone through the whole "it's over, and we're stuck at the same office" ordeal, and it's not one I'd like to relive.

I think I'll go drown my confusion in a pint of Guinness, now.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Roberto the Insect Architect


One of my favorite post-layoff books so far is "Roberto the Insect Architect."  Yes, it's a children's book.  But it's full of witticisms to keep adults happy, too.  It tells the story of young Roberto, a termite that prefers playing with his food rather than eating it.  Of course, we've all been there, pushing icky peas around on our plates in the hopes that some will roll off said plate and onto the floor for our dogs to eat, but Roberto actually BUILDS things with his food.  Houses, to be exact.

Roberto has great ambitions, but eventually, he learns that the best way to be appreciated by the public is to help those in need.  Despite the putdowns of such lauded architects as Frank Lloyd Mite and Fleas Van Der Rohe, Roberto finds fame and a personal sense of well-being in helping those in need (a ladybug whose house burned down, roaches evicted from their diner/home).

The illustrations are incredible: collages incorporate allusions to architectural masters (the architects for whom Roberto wants to work each have desks reminiscent of one of their star buildings) and the amount of detail draws the eye around the page.  There's always something new to discover.

I would definitely recommend the book to building enthusiasts of all ages.  By far one of my post-layoff literary giants.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Me So Fancy


Two things happened today that I suppose are worth mentioning.

One
I joined the Cult of the iPhone.  I researched and researched and researched some more, and decided that, for where I am in my life, I need to be able to access my email on the go.  Besides, my telephone was pretty much dead (it's hung up on people 5 times in the past two days, as in, completely turned itself off out of pure spite).

The guy at the Apple store was VERY amused that I had a 4 year old telephone and a 3 year old iPod, but he was about ten years old, so that's 1/3 of his life so far, right?

Two

I was interviewed by a journalist at the Dallas Morning News.  I'm not entirely sure if the story is about mutliple young uns that have been laid off, or just me, but regardless, I'm totally stoked about the whole thing.  I'm gonna be in the newspaper!  Woohoo!  Of course, in typical Me style, I forgot to mention the blog and get a free media plug...  I'm new to this whole publicity thing, ok?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Moving On

I attended my first Career Connection meeting, today.  It was - um - different.  I've never felt 100% like "other people," always a little bit of a fish out of water, but I've become accustomed to it.  Until today.  As I sat there in a room of 40-50 yr. old unemployed professionals, I came to the realization that "I don't belong here."  Most of the people in the room were SAP specialists, security analysts, or account managers.  I have no idea what any of those titles actually mean, but I'm sure they can be quite rewarding.

  A couple of the attendees (one a woman in a bright pink sweater with matching lipstick and bubblegum; the other a distinguished older gentleman) asked me what I do, exactly.  When I told them I worked in architecture and master planning and handed them my just-delivered-yesterday business cards, the looked a) impressed at the string of alphanumeric abbreviations following my name; b) pitying.  Yeah.  That's really neat.

  My fellow job-hunters are both in technology fields of one sort or another.

  Another reason I felt all floppy-fish today: they had a biblical lesson.  And it was done in the style of Dr. Seuss.  Really?  For middle-school/elementary-school, maybe, but otherwise...  I'm also a firm believer in keeping government, religion, and business each in neatly compartmentalized divisions, none of them crossing over into the other (unless your particular business IS religion or government).  Kind of freaked me out, honestly.  And we had to turn to the person next to us and tell them we would pray for them.  It all felt... otherworldly.

Will I go back?  I'm not decided yet.  Maybe I'll try a couple of other forums before I settle on this one...

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Liar's Den

This past Friday, the HH crew met at The Liar's Den on McKinneyAve.  It's fairly new on the bar scene.

Pros: good food (beer-battered fish'n'chips are quite scrumptious, tho not nearly the best in Big D); they show Friday Night Fights (heck yeah!); they're a "trendy" bar in Uptown that serves Guinness (albeit in bottles, and the waitresses don't know that Guinness Draft and Guinness Extra Stout are two entirely different animals).

Cons: Around 11:00 on weekends, they confiscate your chair if you're not sitting in it; the jukebox stutters occaisionally; the waitresses aren't the most attentive.

I'd been once before with the Friday Happy Hour Bunch (refused to go before because I think the name is a ridiculous attempt at sounding like a pub while still being "wicked" and hip), but I had yet to explore the upstairs area.  Yes, they have a separate dance club upstairs (which negates any claim to pub-dom that it might otherwise have).  I'm not a huge fan of dance clubs, as a rule.  In fact, I think the majority of the HH bunch doesn't go out to dance.  Last I remember, the only people that left our group expressly to go dance were some interlopers that have yet to reappear.  But maybe that's just my perception of things.

After about five minutes spent crammed against the bar, waiting to get a drink (thanks P.K., I owe you one this next week) two of my comrades and I fled for the hills.  There's a nice little wooden fire escape that runs along the outside of the building, but you can't really stand on it, because it's blocking the escape route in case of a fire, which is ironic, because I'm sure the dance club section was over capacity.  We went onto the roof deck to brave the cold.  I'm sure the roof deck will be infinitely more fun when it isn't 40 degrees outside.

Until our experience upstairs, the shivering trio had been happy to sit and drink at the bar.  The club just about did us in, though.  Consensus when we abandoned ship altogether 30 minutes later was that we were not fans of the Liar's Den.

Overall ranking: eh.  Despite the protestations of my HH friends, I infinitely prefer the Gingerman and Capitol Pub - even City Tavern - to the Liar's Den.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

World Without End - Ken Follett

I just finished reading "World Without End," Ken Follett's sequel to the book "The Pillars of the Earth."  I loved TPOTE.  It was fascinating, if at times a bit difficult to read (rape scenes are always difficult to read).  There were ample plot twists to keep me engaged.  The historical allusions were fascinating and accurate.

This said, if you loved "Pillars," don't bother reading "World Without End" : they're the same book. 

The main character wants to build a structure for the glorification of the town : Check.
The main character is prevented from marrying the woman he loves : Check.
The woman he loves marries someone else : Check.
A helpless but strongwilled woman is raped :  Check. (multiple times)

The stories were essentially identical, except separated by a 200 year time gap and with different character names, natch.  "Pillars" was fascinating.  "World" was tedious.  If you want to read one of Ken Follett's literary masterpieces (perhaps the only ones), then stick with "Pillars."  (Sorry Mr. Follett).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Financial World: Crashing Down Around My Ears


Just when you think things can't get any worse... you realize that you have a TON of stuff that needs to be done NOW and that you no longer have the money to do it.

I had cancer as a teenager, and as a result of 2.5 yrs. of chemotherapy, my teeth are shot.  Seriously.  They're in terrible condition.  I have more crowns than the Royal Family.  And I'm having to get another one.  That's $700 (out of my $1550 per month unemployment insurance, which automatically has $500 deducted for insurance).  I knew this was going to happen, so of course, I went begging to my parents, who obliged me by offering to pay for the crown.  They consider it a legacy of the chemotherapy that I underwent as a kid, so they still pay for it, as if I was still a kid.  (Thanks Mom and Dad!)

And now, the REALLY bad news: my dog is missing a testicle.  I took him to the vet ($300 bucks for shots, lab tests - yes, he is a black lab - anda biopsy of a lipoma) for his yearly check-up.  The vet was doing a thorough examination on the 11 year old baby, and he said, "Huh, he has an undescended testicle."

"No," I replied, "Both the boys are there.  At least, they should be."

The vet frowned, felt around a little bit more - much to my dog's consternation - and agreed with me, both of the boys are there, but one of them appears to have been eaten by the other.  No,  really.  One is HUGE and the other is about the size of a kidney bean.

The vet hypothesized that either the little one was damaged at some point in the last three months (the last time I really took any notice of my dog's balls) and "popped" as the case may be, or that there's a tumor on the big one that's depriving the little one of nutrients, causing it to shrink.

So now the poor baby has to get "cut."  This month, my teeth are getting fixed, and next month, my dog is getting fixed.  But now I have another problem: my phone is dead.

Whine Whine Whine.  I know.  But I've had this phone for 4 years.  FOUR YEARS.  Phones aren't meant to last that long.  It's one of the old Motorola RZRs, from back when they were still the cool phone to have.  Now, it's so uncool, that it's kind of cool again.  People look at me and say "Wow, you still have one of those?"

But I've dropped it one too many times, and now it's revolting against me by not hanging up when I close it.  In fact, I have to turn the phone off completely in order to hang up.  At first I didn't realize this, which meant that friends and family heard some interesting snippets of dialogue after I'd "hung up" the phone.  So now I press and hold the on/off key for at least five seconds, or remove the battery altogether to hang up on people, which makes for a fun conversation starter when you're in line at Starbux.

I guess now, after joking about my broken cell phone, I can smoothly segue into something more entertaining: dog testicles and dentistry.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

EEEEK! I'm Scared!


I've discovered that the most frightening thing about being unemployed is the part where you actually look for another job.  Mostly, I've sent in my curriculum vitae and haven't heard anything back.  Most of the positions for which I've applied are those that are in high demand.  Okay, all architecture/design job openings are in high demand.  But the ones to which I've applied are the ones that tend to be on the most frequented fora (the AIA website, careerbuilder.com, etc...)

Now, I've applied for a job that I heard about through a friend of a friend of a cousin type of thing, and I need to call to see if they received my completely unsolicited resume.

AND IT SCARES THE PBTH OUT OF ME.

So I guess it's time to suck it up and do it.  I didn't do it yesterday, then gave some lame excuse about having to do this and having to do that, all that mumbo jumbo.  So now, I'm going to sit down and write a script and get to it.  No more excuses.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pub with a Capitol "P"




The fellow that usually directs my architect-y buddies on their weekly pilgrimage around the watering holes of Dallas fell down on the job Friday.  His excuse?  He was in Arizona.  Personally, I think it's a lame excuse, but four of the devoted pooled our resources and ventured forth, to the East side of Central Expressway (U.S. - 75 for the non-Dallasites).

Originally, we intended to go to the Old Monk.  They pour one of the best pints of Guinness in town, according to regional lore.  So we went.  In two separate cars.  And they didn't have valet.  Now I'm no parking snob, but if you don't offer valet on a Friday night on one of the busiest drinking streets in Dallas, you're going to lose business, especially when your parking lot is the size of a postage stamp and you know you'll get towed if you park on one of the nearby residential streets.

So the Old Monk did NOT get paid for a grand total of a zillion drinks.

We ended up instead at Capitol Pub.  It's at the intersection of Capitol and Henderson, just FYI.  I love the bar.  I've gone there since it first opened.  I know the names of all the regulars (even if they do just refer to me as "the pretty short-haired girl") and the owners.  But Friday night was - well - loud.  Louder than it's been since the Dallas Rugby Club showed up after their last game from last season (and that was LOUD).  Usually, there's the din from people talking and laughing.  But they were louder this time because the music volume was set to make-their-eardrums-bleed.  We ended up sitting outside because it was so loud.  And it was cold, too, so I had to get the poor valet ($5 after 9 p.m., free before 9) to run back out to my car to get my coat for me (thanks adorable valet guy!).

Eventually, not even my 3/4 length wool coat could keep me warm (and my friends were shivering in their Burberry Anoraks and insulated vests), so we went inside and commandeered the nearest empty-ish table we could find.  And then yelled at each other across the table for the next 2 hours while we alternated our drinks between beer and water.

I'm planning on going back to Capitol this Wednesday for after-dinner drinks (Read: Beer) with one of my friends, known to the Pub owners as "the short-haired girl's friend" (no kidding).  Hopefully, it won't be so loud, and if it is, I just might have to say something to one of the ridiculously good-looking owners.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Robert Hughes' Fatal Shore

I tend to alternate the type of books I read between pure unadulterated fun books and serious knowledge-building books.  I've found that the two complement each other nicely because, say, an author of a fun book mentions England's Queen Isabella and her affair with Roger Mortimer, and I can hark back to that biography I read of Isabella a couple of years ago and go "Oh, yeah.  I remember that.  She was one tough broad."

I think the most challenging book I've read since November was Fatal Shore, a history of the founding of Australia.  The matter of convict ancestry is, apparently, something of a taboo subject in Australian public schools (this according to the author of Fatal Shore), so he decided to write about the convict settlements in detail.  And I mean DETAIL.  It was fascinating, of course, reading about the settlement, but when I say it's a "serious knowledge-building book", I mean there's so much knowledge to absorb that not a whole lot of the nitty-gritty details actually stuck around.  I've got the basics of the settlement down pat, and why it became such an unpopular way of dealing with the "convict problem" in England at the time.  And, fortunately, an essay I read in college about Panopticism and Jeremy Bentham (prison reformer) helped me gain even more insight into the book (see Panopticism, by Michel Foucault).

But it was difficult to read.

Yeah, there was some complex sentence structure and "higher level vocabulary."  That's not what I mean.  The descriptions of the way the prisoners were treated was horrifying.  Men would be sent to Australia for relatively small crimes (stealing a purse and pawning the handkerchief inside in order to feed their families) and then literally flogged to death for small infractions (not standing up straight, or having disrespectful looks on their faces).  So an added "bonus" for ridding merry old England of its convicts was that it also managed to deport a good number of its resident sadists to the penal colony to look after the convicts.

All in all, thought, the book was remarkably well-written.  Although definitely not for everyone (my mom, for instance, probably shouldn't read it.  She doesn't deal well with violence in literature, unless it's ensconced in an Agatha-Christie-type setting where the perpetrator is guaranteed to get his comeuppance), it would definitely benefit those history buffs who are curious about Australia's origins, particularly with all the hoopla surrounding the movie Australia.  It's also an interesting sociological exploration of how there came to be a "convict problem" in England - London particularly - in the first place.

Consider yourself forewarned, however: this is not a book for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Daily Grind

I have developed something of a ritual during the day.  My pre-layoff schedule (up at 8:00, at work by 9:30, lunch at 12:00, home by 6:30 - hopefully - eat dinner, go to bed around midnight) was none too taxing.   Since I've been unemployed, I've adopted a new regime, including a difficult sport: power-sleeping.  Yes, I sleep at least 10 hours every day.  None of this "most adults don't get enough sleep" business for me.  No sir.  I am in training as a power sleeper.  I currently average about 11 hours of sleep per night (sometimes more, if I'm "in the zone.")  I've found that - in addition to increasing my sleeping stamina - power sleeping helps me fill the time during the day in a cost-effective way, as well.

Typically, I get out of bed around 10 or 11, and immediately turn on the computer.  I log into my computer, and then ignore it for the next hour while I get dressed.  Getting dressed as soon as I'm up is a habit I haven't managed to break, yet.  After I'm dressed, I check my email, my Facebook profile, and, typically, visit boingboing.net to see what wonderful things they've posted while I've been sleeping.  I look for job postings on CareerBuilder, Craigslist, the Texas Workforce Commission website, and the AIA website, enter that in the log I keep for the TWC, and then go forage for food in the wilderness that is Dallas.  Usually, I get a sandwich or something from Chik-Fil-A, although, occasionally, I venture into something different, like pizza.

I return home, tired from my hunting and gathering, and read the all important comics pages.  Then, I go upstairs, resume my yoga-like position in front of the computer, and work the daily crossword puzzles for the Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle online.  At some point during the day, I blog.  Obviously.

What have I learned from my daily ritual?  I WOULD RATHER BE EMPLOYED.  Trying to figure out something to do during the day, now that all my grad school applications have been sent off with their attendant paperwork and portfolios, and seeing as there are NO JOBS IN ARCHITECTURE right now, there's not a whole lot to do.  I would far rather be spending ten hours per day sitting in my cubicle, making revisions to drawings or replying to commands barked at me by a client than working the daily crossword and trying to find something to do to fill my time.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

  The day I lost my job, my sister and mother were on the phone discussing the layoff.  "You're going to let her move back in with you, right?"  my sister asked.  My mother said that she intended to ask me to move home, but didn't want to discuss the matter immediately.

Three weeks later, I was back at home.  My $500/month insurance (through COBRA) meant that I only had $1000 of my unemployment insurance payment left with which to pay rent, utilities, etc...  My apartment rent was $700/month.  $300 for bills, groceries, gas?  Not going to cover them.  So I moved back in with the folks.  At first, I was embarrassed: 26 years old and moving back in with the folks.

I considered getting a job as a receptionist or a secretary, then discovered that there would be absolutely no increase in my "salary."  Your typical receptionist makes the same thing I make on unemployment insurance.  Crazy, huh?  And I was also turned down for the receptionist/administrative assistant positions for which I applied.  Apparently, an ability to design buildings does not necessarily translate into answering phones or typing up meeting minutes.

Am I still embarrassed about living with the folks?  Not really.  I make fun of myself for it, now, when people ask me where I live.  It does stink living out in the 'burbs, when all my friends still live near Downtown, but that just means I have to plan ahead a little bit if I want to see them.  And besides, I don't have the money to go out like I used to, so it's not that much of a hardship after all.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Friday Happy Hour

Happy hour this past Friday was at the City Tavern in downtown Dallas.  It's on Main Street, right next to this really sketchy looking club called Plush (hootchies + glowing purple doors = avoid at all costs).  I enjoy the Tavern.  They have one of the better pints of Guinness to be found in Dallas (albeit not the best) and a rockin' grilled cheese sandwich (that you can get with a side of mac'n'cheese, if you're feeling extra cheesey).

But, if you decide to go to City Tavern and you're female, you should be forewarned: you will be hit on by weirdos.  WEIRDOS.  And not the quirky-neat-cool brand of weirdo, either.  The type of weirdo that tries a line on a girl, fails, and moves on to the next girl, only to try THE SAME EXACT LINE.  Or, when a fellow makes a pass at you and your friend simultaneously (and trust me he's OLD enough to know better), and you inform him "We're getting ready to leave," he responds "Can't your friend answer for herself?"  Nothing like being rude to put the cap on being old, overweight, and unattractive.  Yup.  Makes me want a guy every time.

Granted, there are some of the strain of quirky-neat-cool almost-but-not-quite-weirdos at the Tavern, such as the gentleman and his lady who came in wearing Victorian garb.  He carried a cane, had enormous mutton chops, a top hat, and was wearing a frock coat (as opposed to the more ostentatious cutaway).  She wore a scandalously low-cut day gown and I'd be willing to bet money there was a corset under there (no woman is that thin, naturally).  Kind of made me wish I had Victorian clothes to wear around town.  Maybe I'll whip some up in my spare time.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Friday Happy Hour = No Posting

Have You Really Read All Those?

I read constantly.  I'm a bit addicted to books, actually, and hoard them like some women hoard purses and shoes.  Except, unlike women with all those unworn shoes and unused purses, I read the books I buy.

After being laid off back in November, I found that I had a TON of time on my hands, so I increased the number of books I've been reading.  I usually only read at night before I go to bed, but I'll read for anywhere between one and four hours.

I just recently reread Gone With the Wind, and you know what?  It sucked.  All the main characters, with the exceptions of Melanie and Mammy, are JERKS.  Complete a**holes.  And only Rhett Butler seems to realize that he's completely worthless.  Scarlett and Ashley both think they're perfect, or - if not perfect - that their deceptions and unfairness to others is acceptable because they'll behave better tomorrow.  I thought I was going to have a coronary reading the thing, my blood pressure got so high.

Yeah yeah yeah, "Great American Novel" blah blah blah.  It's a book about a bunch of selfish people and how willing they are to mistreat the one or two decent people in the book.  So I guess it's kind of realistic, because that happens.  But now I want to know why people idolize Scarlett O'Hara, since she was such a self-serving character.  The woman was a b****.  I think back to when I read the Ya Ya Sisterhood and how they all just worshipped Scarlett, and I realize why the women in the book ended up a little cuckoo: they chose the worst possible role model for themselves when they chose Scarlett O'Hara.

P.S. Sorry this entry is a bit of a self-righteous rant.  Probably shouldn't have written about GWTW since I obviously LOATHE the characters...


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Money, Honey

Okay, so only my life story for the past few months, and just a little bit of it.  I was working as a master planner for an architecture firm in Dallas when I got hit by layoffs.  Okay, so technically, I saw it coming - the layoffs 30 days before helped me with that little bit of future-gazing - and I wasn't that surprised, but it still felt like a punch in the gut.  I was the girl from school whose former classmates always wanted to know if my firm was hiring because I positively gushed about working.

For the past few months, I've been fruitlessly looking for work.  I have some health issues, so I'm not able to fall back on waiting tables or bartending like some of my compadres.  So now, instead of obsessing about getting the most square-footage and parking out of a smallish chunk of land, I obsess about: MONEY.  And how to keep it once I get it (thank you Texas Workforce Commission).  This means auditing my personal checking account, my Unemployment Insurance account, and my money-market account multiple times per day, regardless of whether or not I've spent any money from the accounts.  In past times, this was something I did maybe once per week, just to make sure I didn't overdraw the aforementioned checking acct.  Now, I'm always checking to see if:
1. My COBRA (health insurance for us unemployed folks) payment has been deducted
2. Transfers from one account to another are processing
3. My car insurance draft has been deducted yet
4. I have enough money to buy

And now I have something new to obsess about: MY STOCKS.  Some of the money I'm managing to save goes into a nice tidy money-market account.  But I didn't necessarily want to put ALL of it in there.  So.  I decided to buy some stock in a big international company.  For cheap.  I bought a whopping two shares of stock.  And I'll buy more next month.  And now, although I intend to keep it for YEARS (unless it shoots through the roof and makes me a 5000% return, which I doubt) and accumulate more, I keep checking its value online.  Yahoo Finance is like crack for me now.