Tuesday, January 27, 2009

VIDEO SCRAPBOOK: Melodic Mnemonics

We all have certain songs that when you hear them, they bring you back to another time, long, long ago. Sometimes the memories they induce are good, sometimes, not so good. Here are a few of mine from the decade that was the 1970s:

"Oh! Carol" - Neil Sedaka - 1959

Of course this song became a hit well before the '70s and way before my time, but not my father's. Many a weekend morning during the '70s he'd put his scratchy record on the stereo, sneak into the kitchen and grab my mother, who's name, of course, was Carol, while she was busy cooking. They would then dance romantically as the song played and my father sang the lyrics in her ear as she got all flustered, giggled and admonished him to behave in front of the kids. This song always reminds me of the deep love my parents had for each other.

"Knock Three Times" - Tony Orlando and Dawn - 1970

This song got a lot of airplay in those halcyon years of our family. I remember my Aunt Ruth and Aunt Leona, who we called "Root" and "Nuena" respectively, singing this loudly at parties and get-togethers. This along with other Tony Orlando hits were the carefree party songs of their generation, and we little kids loved seeing the adults get their freak on.

"American Pie" - Don McLean - 1971

One early 1970s Christmas the three of us kids each got a musical instrument. I got a toy electronic keyboard, my sister got a toy electronic guitar (not the real acoustic guitar she got years later), and my brother got a set of kid-sized drums. For the remainder of the day we performed for the family as the newest rock band sensation to hit the Morin Heights Boulevard scene. The song we tried to perform, somewhat poorly: American Pie. This song always reminds me of the good times my siblings and I had growing up.

"Billy Don't Be A Hero" - Paper Lace - 1974

Along with "Seasons In The Sun", our decidedly liberal teachers at Citizen's Memorial Elementary chose songs with quite sober and mature subjects for our end of year pageant that we kids performed. Even though I was young, I fully understood the point of this song and it then, and now, touches me when considering the sacrifices our young soldiers make when fighting for what they believe, or are convinced to believe, is the right thing.

"I Fall To Pieces" - Patsy Cline - 1961

Another Golden Oldie, this one was a favorite of my mom's. I remember on Saturday mornings if we kids woke hearing this song blaring from the stereo, we'd better find some excuse and quick to get out of the house. Classic country music was motivation to get some major housecleaning done...and she was always looking for recruits for her mop and bucket brigade. Ah, the pungent scent of ammonia, Lysol cleaner and a smoky ozone smell spit out of the ear-splittingly loud Regina Electric Broom.

"Car Wash" - Rose Royce - 1976

Mr. Chenail's 6th grade class, South Main Street School, and we were rolling down the highway letting the warm spring breeze flow into our school bus as we made our way to our field trip destination. I can't remember where we went that bright and sunny May afternoon but I remember that we all broke out in song, singing this hit song in unison like we didn't have a care in the world.

Monday, January 26, 2009

FLASHBACK SPECIAL: Paradise By The Dashboard Light

Second floor public men's room in the old building above Piette's Jewelers, Depot Square, Woonsocket, RI, March 1981:

Though it seemed John was embarrassed and confused about our encounter weeks earlier, we now rode a RIPTA bus back from a Saturday trip to Lincoln Mall and by the time we reached the Main Street bus stop, we had been discretely groping each other for miles. We scurried off the bus trying to hide our rock hard boners and made our way to the nearby historic building housing the jewelry store. We ignored the guard and ran up to the second floor stair landing and ducked into a nearby men's room. There we tugged at each other's pants and underwear, exposing each other's red hot members for our thirsty mouths. Within minutes the security guard was knocking angrily on the frosted glass door demanding we exit. We interrupted our oral play and exited out, as graciously as we could, one at a time.

Rear of my Chevy mini station wagon, parking lot of "The Loft", North Smithfield, RI, June 1982:

After an evening of flirting, dancing and light petting at The Loft nightclub, Roger and I made our way to my car in the parking lot and since we basically had no where else to be alone with each other, started making out right there. Within minutes it turned into heavy petting and eventually he was fucking me in the back of my car and we steamed up the windows ala Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio decades before their Oscar-winning scene.

A secluded stretch of grassland off the road in East Woonsocket, May 1983:

After we became tired of the club scene in the city (Providence) we drove back home to Woonsocket, but Michael N. was hinting the night was young so we drove to a dark spot off the road. Here we stripped and went down on each other. Who knew this once elementary school pal of mine was so well-endowed? My oh my, how big you've grown, buddy!

The sandy dunes of Horseneck Beach, Westport, MA, July 1984:

It was my idea. I asked Jeff to drive to the beach so we could take advantage of the full moon and the high tide and "get down" by the roar of the waves and the smell of the sea. It turned out it wasn't as hot as it sounded. Making love on a beach is a gritty, scratchy and uncomfortable affair. Forget actual fucking, at least for gay men. Believe me, you don't want sand up there!

High up on an abandoned quarry cliff somewhere in Vermont, June 1993:

Roughly 9 years since my last public sexcapade, but none the better. Now it was with a guy I'd met on a gay hook-up BBS, the precursor to the Internet, and up on a 100-foot cliff. Um, needless to say, the acrophobic I am, I couldn't plow his ass though he stripped it bare and held it up for me to do with it as I wanted. This quarry was a cruising ground, supposedly (according to him) notorious in Central Vermont. And sure enough there were several other couples and other numbers of companions, fucking away all 'round us. But due to my sensitivity, not to public sex, but to heights, we scurried back to his house nearby and did the deed there, on solid ground.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Frozen Nugget, Star Pupil, Yo Yo Blues and Pretty Hot POTUS


Such was the LED message flashed to me by Nugget this morning as I started her up to head off to work. Not since the trip north to Washington last month had I seen this displayed. When the LED readout reverted after a few seconds to the usual temperature and odometer reading, it said: 32°F 33376MI. That's right folks, literally freezing. Huh!!??? This is Florida!

Training is going along smoothly, we're about finished our "repair" training and will have yet another instructor, this one flying in from somewhere else, starting on Monday. Then it's two more weeks of further training. My fellow trainees, some of whom have been with the company for years are all new to this aspect of tech support and the training seems to be purposely slow and methodical to accommodate that fact. But even though I am truly a newbie here, the concepts being taught are so similar to the kind of issue resolution we did at Symantec that I totally "get it". And as for dealing with the multi-tasking skills of working with almost a dozen different computer applications at once, cumbersome online reference guides, a labyrinthine phone tree system all while talking to impatient and confused customers...that's a cake walk for me! Let's see some of these fellow classmates deal with the nightmare that was the Oasis Crisis at Symantec...12 hour days, fragile systems, broken web sites, a failed product release, a new database, new customer buying terms, 200 calls in the queue, 2 hour hold times, etc., etc., etc.

Ric is still out of the picture. My cell has been on vibrate most times so I noticed a few days late last week that he had called me the weekend before. For 8 seconds. No message. At 4:30pm. He may have mis-dialed, but 8 seconds sounds like he waited 'till it went to voicemail and then hung up. Ah well, he was probably drunk anyway.

I was doing good for a while with my weight, dropped 11 pounds in a week, but it's creeping back. Oh brother! I really got to get more disciplined, especially in regards to working out. Now that my shoulder, finally, is almost fully healed, there really isn't that as an excuse anymore. My range of motion is still restricted somewhat, but if it follows the example of it's twin on the left side, it should be, like it, up to about 80% mobility shortly.

How gorgeous is our new First Family folks, huh? I mean really, you look into their bright, happy faces and you know it's gonna be alright. Everyone's raving about Michele and her fashion sense. Now I'll give you that, indeed she looks great and her style is impeccable, but lets not overlook Mr. President. He has just the right almost-too-slim figure that allows a well-tailored suit to hang on him just so fine. Plus, I think he's hot looking. Growl! Is it un-American to be turned on by the President? I mean, excuse me, but I'd be his Monica Lewinsky in a heartbeat!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

FLASHBACK: Fall 1972

"Feb-RU-ar-y", the old lady screamed, veins popping out on her forehead as she stressed each syllable, especially the second with the R clearly enunciated.

"That's how I taught Hank Bouchard on Channel 12 News to say it, and if you listen to him he will say it as it should be Feb-RU-ar-y!", she lectured to us as if she were telling us that to not pronounce the month the way she taught would condemn your soul to the eternal fires of Hell.

Mrs. Powell was the most senior teacher at Citizen's Memorial Elementary School. She looked like she was in her 80s. Her tenure surely predated this building which had only been erected a mere few years before. After all, as she had just bellowed to us stunned 3rd graders, she had taught grammar to an adult meteorologist on the Providence, RI TV news.

If a syllabus had existed for our third grade, Mrs. Powell's would simply read: All day. All work, No play. Learn by the threat of the rod. Old Skool Starts Here!

Oh yeah, she was the epitome of Hard Ass Learning. During arithmetic time, we recited the times tables aloud as a class to imprint them into our minds by rote method...

Mrs. Powell: "Three Times One is Three!"

Class: "Three Times One is Three!"

Mrs. Powell: "Three Times Two is Six!"

Class: "Three Times Two is Six!"

Mrs. Powell: "Three Times Three is Nine!"

Class: "Three Times Three is Nine!"

And so it went. Morning after morning, math was on the agenda and the times tables, screamed into our heads was the way it was done.

Even with her gruff demeanor, we all grew to love Mrs. Powell. All except perhaps for Anthony Grassini. She seemed to especially have it out for him for some reason. One morning, I watched along with my classmates in horror as she decided to pin young Anthony to the wall by thrusting his desk, with him seated at it, into the back wall. Thankfully he wasn't squashed to a pulp. But the fear of Mrs. Powell's wrath was well cemented in our formative minds.

Despite her strict ways, we found we were learning concepts. That is, until one day in December, the principal came into the class with a young blond woman and told us that Mrs. Powell would no longer be our teacher. (He never stated why Mrs. Powell was out but, being mid-term, it probably wasn't retirement. Perhaps she had been forced into retirement for her temper tantrums like with Anthony, or perhaps she passed away. Kids are never told anything about the adult issues in elementary school, so I never knew.)

The principal introduced us to our new teacher. She mustn't have been more than 25-years-old and seemed totally unprepared for teaching 8-year-olds. A total flower child, she gave us permission to call her by her first name and instead of a fixed seating chart, she allowed us to choose where we sat each morning. This was mind-blowing!

Unfortunately it was also mind-numbing in the fact that from the start of her tutelage on, we learned virtually nothing. Lessons were "taught" in a game format and much time was devoted to talking about off-topic issues. Text books lay on the shelves unused. Tests were a thing of ancient memories only. It was all happiness and sunshine and rainbows and unicorns and peace symbols. Right on! At the time we kids loved it. It was like a dream come true.

She somehow remained our teacher through to the end of the school year.

The next fall though, when we entered fourth grade with our new teachers, I'm sure the others felt like I did when hit with the realities of our circumstances. Kids that had other 3rd grade teachers were far better equipped to handle the challenges of the 4th grade. I had a lot of catching up to do. For the most part, I think I caught up to speed in each subject well since I was good in each subject. All except math. For the rest of my life, I could only remember up to the 5s in the times tables. We were just about to get to the 6 tables when Mrs. Powell was replaced. (To this day, to multiply a problem such as, say, 6 times 8, I need a calculator.)

Another legacy of this young teacher's lack of abilities remains in the fact that though I can remember the name of each of my other elementary grade school teachers, including, of course, Mrs. Powell, I can't for the life of me remember her name.

But at least I know how to pronounce February.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

As Historical As It Gets

As the time on everyone's mind came nearer, equipped with our PCs and laptops in front of us, each member of my training class quietly pointed browsers towards the network news websites of their choice. Even as our instructor was lecturing, and trying to stick to his itinerary, we slowly, one by one started to tune him out. History was about to be made, and we wanted to be witness to it, live via streaming video on the web.

He too wanted to watch, so, about a half hour early, we basically halted our training to all tune in to the Inauguration.

It was like an intense moment of historical significance, and the way we were witness to it seemed quite historical as well. This inauguration would likely go down in history, among the more notable milestones, as probably the most-viewed live on the Internet so far.

Here we were, some 20 or so people, at their place of work, sitting in a room together, but each of us in their own way. Some watched CNN.com, some ABC News while others through entirely web-based providers like Yahoo and MSN. Some watched in fullscreen mode, others through a small window. Some multi-tasked and opened other browser windows or read email, for others, their full, undivided attention was fixed on the Inaugural proceedings at hand.

As I sat there watching the streaming video and audio playing at various points in time on each persons' computer, each somewhat out-of-synch with each other, it seemed as if it were a scene in a movie depicting a dramatic event unfolding for the various characters. In this scene, the camera flashes through various viewpoints, at times repeating the same moment in the event to capture multiple reactions. But unlike a scene in a film, this was real.

And thanks to the technological world we live in, we all felt just like we, each one of us individually, were there, staring in awe at history unfolding before us.

Only we were sitting warm and cozy, lit by the soft glow of our LCD monitors in an office building in sunny Florida, hundreds of miles away from the chilly winds of the jam-packed Mall.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

What's In My Fridge?

4 Large Grade A Eggs
Move Over Butter whipped margarine
A 4-quart pitcher of Crystal Light: Cranberry and Lemonade flavors mixed.
A 1-quart carton of Silk soy milk
Kangaroo Whole Wheat Pita Pockets
Half used jar of Classico Traditional Sweet Basil pasta sauce
Covered container of leftovers: Meatloaf patties, long grain and wild rice mixture, zucchini/yellow squash with onions and Italian green beans
Christopher Ranch minced garlic
Mt. Olive relish
Maille Honey Dijon mustard
Hellman's mayo
ReaLemon lemon juice
Kikkoman soy sauce
French's yellow mustard
Gulden's Spicy Brown mustard
Kraft Hickory Smoke flavor BBQ sauce
Lea & Perrin's Worcestershire sauce
2 jars Polaner All Fruit: Apricot and Seedless Raspberry
Crystal Hot Sauce
Kraft salad dressings: Fat Free Catalina, Light Three Cheese Ranch, Light Asian Toasted Sesame
In the freezer:
Great Value Sausage Pork Patties
Chock Full O' Nuts 100% Colombian coffee
Albertson's vegetables in bags including California Blend, White Corn and Italian Green Beans
4 Marie Callender's meals (Sweet and Sour Chicken, Shrimp Scampi, Cheesy Chicken and Rice, Creamy Chicken and Shrimp Parmesan)
On-Cor Salisbury Steaks in Gravy
Publix Beef Ravioli

Monday, January 12, 2009

Going Once, Going Twice...Sold!

Just before Christmas, I decided to put my one valuable possession up for auction on Ebay. Yup, the Andy Warhol Children's Book that I wrote about in June.

It sold for $56 and change.

Not bad for a little souvenir I bought on a whim almost 25 years ago. It cost me about $10, which was a bit pricey for a souvenir item. "Real" cardboard children's books of this size go for under 99 cents, but then this was never intended to ever have been played with or read by children.

Now that I've busted my Ebay cherry, I'm scanning around the house for other crap I can sell. Too bad I don't have much. But it makes me want to do the weekend yard sale thing and hunt for bargains.

Who knows, maybe I could luck out and find something even more valuable than Ebay worthy stuff?

Like "Antiques Roadshow" worthy treasures.

Oh how I'd love to make the Keno twins squeal with glee!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

FLASHBACK: July 1993

A few years ago, we were inseparable but as the '90s progressed on, our friendship didn't. In my eyes Linda had aged dramatically in the few years since the start of the decade. Oh not so much in actual biological age (though she was over 40 now) but more in the way she conducted her life.

Gone was the carefree newly-divorced fun-loving young-spirited fag hag paling around with her artistic and flamboyant good-looking 20-something gay guy (me). Now she was the somewhat dowdy corporate executive single mother homebody, dwelling on job responsibilities, family life and household cleaning. I guess having to support and raise two teenagers alone can suck the joie de vivre from you...it sure did for Linda.

Though the '80s were a time of sexual liberation and boyfriend hopping for her, she had now settled for a rather boring guy who apparently had something against gay guys. It was never stated but it seemed obvious.

So it was somewhat of a surprise that Linda called me out of the blue one weekday afternoon and asked me what my plans were for the upcoming weekend. I worked on weekends but I was due vacation time so when she suggested we go on an excursion to her Cape Cod beach house for the weekend (ala "Beaches" but without the terminal illness) I hastily made arrangements to take the time off.

Linda explained that her Mercury Sable was in the shop so suggested we drive up in my car. She knew I'd just bought a brand new car in February. She offered to help with the gas. Though I thought it'd be more appropriate for her to pay for all the gas, I guess I should be happy she offered anything at all.

When I arrived to pick her up that Friday afternoon, she had me load up the car with about 8 suitcases. That's typical Linda. You'd think she was moving there for the whole summer, not just one weekend. She explained she really hadn't spent much time there yet this summer and she needed to take up some supplies.

Once we were situated in the car she started to complain about my driving, the small size of the car, the rough ride and especially, though I had warned her, the fact the car had no air conditioning. It was a really barebones 1993 Geo Metro. At one point while driving, I needed to shift and her leg was blocking access to the stick shift. I asked her if she could move her leg and she flipped out and yelled at me that there was nowhere else she could put it. And I do mean flipped out.

She calmed down after a short while and ignored the incident like nothing had happened. This too was typical Linda.

As we talked about the weekend and the plans she had made for the both of us (on her own of course) I asked about the house. She admitted that though she called it her "summer house" it was really an RV. You gotta be kidding, I thought to myself. Linda was always a "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" girl in the '80s. One could expect the finer things when out on the town with her. But the divorce from her millionaire husband was not as lucrative for her as she would have liked. Her champagne and caviar lifestyle had diminished over the years to Kool-Aid and SPAM sandwiches. How sad.

Sure enough, her "beach house" was not only an older single-wide camper but it wasn't even right on the beach. It was in a dusty, rundown RV park across the street from the public boat ramp. No beach, just a rocky shore and a dock. And she lied about the Cape too. This was Hull, Massachusetts, essentially a blue-collar south shore suburb of Boston. Like many former seaside amusement park towns, once the amusement park went belly up, so did the town. Hull was now a gritty, graffiti-tagged proving ground for destitute drunks, fixed-income elderly and teen-aged skateboarding losers.

So sunbathing was basically restricted to her lawn chairs amidst the dry grass of her lot, swatting away mosquitoes and flies and praying for the rare sea breeze that would find it's way from across the dusty road.

That evening we went out on the town so to speak and participated in her newest thrill: Karaoke. Oh God, could this trip get any worse I thought silently. I humored her and we met up with some of her friends she had gotten to know over the weekends that she spent up here. I'm sure when she was here with her kids they loved it. But they were away on some church trip or something this weekend so I was the lucky one.

After returning to our camper, I watched as Linda made ready for bed, but before so, did her electro-stimulus treatments for her face. What thrills! And so it was lights out by 11:00 with me on what essentially was the couch. Linda had given me two sheets and cautioned me to keep one over the upholstery so I wouldn't get it dirty. During the night, the temperature dropped and I had unconsciously pulled up the bottom sheet to use as another cover to keep me warm. Well when Linda woke up at the crack of dawn, she saw I was lying directly on the upholstery and screamed at me. Oh yeah, she had gone to Psycho City and was running for Mayor.

That afternoon she sensed I was upset since I hardly spoke to her all morning. She suggested we meet up with another friend of hers staying in the RV park and go for a boat ride. Finally, I thought, a good idea. Well, not so fast. The boat was a little rickety wooden 20 footer, used for fishing. And it had dried fish guts and stains all over. The day was hot and humid and though I'm used to sailing, the guy couldn't provide a smooth ride. He was always in the wake of some other speedier boat and the 2-stroke engine fumes were blowing right at me. It wasn't long before I was leaning overboard puking my lungs out, seasick.

That night we went out to her freakin' Karaoke bar again. Though I was over the seasickness by now, I wanted to barf again just from boredom. Once we were back in the camper, I made sure as I readied for bed that my sheet was properly tucked.

Finally it came to the last day of our weekend retreat. But we had work to do before we left. Linda made me clean the inside of the RV, haul the human waste tank to the park's septic tank dump drain, and wash down the exterior of the camper with soapsuds/bleach mixture and a long handled brush. Then rinse with a hose.

As we drove back to Rhode Island, we were silent. We both blamed it on fatigue from a busy "fun-filled" weekend, but I think both of us realized we just weren't fun for each other anymore. Neither one of us ever bothered to get in touch with the other after this weekend.

I guess it was more like "Beaches" than we thought. It was our friendship that had gasped it's last breath and died.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Blog Redesign 2.5

As you can see I redesigned the blog again.

I was tired of that vanilla template chosen from the scant few Blogger supplied options, but I liked the layout, so I chose to edit the HTML rather than opt for a new template from a third-party site. I also didn't want any strings attached like having to acknowledge the creator of the template or provide a link to their site so they can make money. Fuck that.

So I revamped that "Rounders" template and got rid of the rounded edges, changed the background color to black, designed a new header JPG and changed the post text font and size. I got rid of the "Stewie" gadget for now too.

I think this look is more indicative of me. Gotta work on that header though, but that's part of the fun. :)

The Company Is Our Life!

Monday was all about the initial tours and intros. We had some break-the-ice sessions including a good hour or so playing a bowling game on Ninetendo Wii. Tuesday and Wednesday were mainly HR stuff and corporate mission statements and all that jazz. Thursday and Friday were more hands-on with an intro to some of our systems, call flow, listening to recorded calls and live shoulder-to-shoulder shadowing...the usual stuff.

Since the call management systems are much more sophisticated than the Apropos system used at Symantec, this will not be a job I can shirk calls on, but for all intents and purposes the calls seem quite simple compared to the level of complexity I had to deal with both at Symantec and Convergys. Being tech support, we don't resolve all issues, just voicemail. So, like the tech support team that shared our floor at Symantec, it's mainly simple troubleshooting then filling out a trouble ticket and it's out of hand from there. Nice thing is, at Symantec, the GCSS (first-line tech support) reps salary was mediocre which is why I never even considered transferring to that department when I was laid-off, but this place pays much better for essentially the same simple task.

I've yet to meet the full team, but here are some of the folks I do know:

Denise: A fellow new hire trainee, she has a bit of call center experience ranging from the boiler room atmosphere of Chase (across the street from Symantec in Heathrow) to some small office where she was hired to be a "Marketing Assistant" executive position but asked by the owners to help build the newly-formed business by being a jack-of-all-trades including customer service. Turns out, it really was almost all customer service. It was at this job she devised the idea of tossing a stuffed plush chicken doll over her cubicle wall to express frustration with a caller. Denise seems sweet and friendly (almost to an overly sensitive and empathetic level) but I sense a bit of entitlement due to her age (late 40's) and experience. Also, she seems to be an avid Christian who loves her weekend work at her church programming computer-coordinated lighting for faith-themed stage presentations.

Brittany: A Central Florida newcomer, she is here starting her first "real" job while living with her aunt who needs assistance after a recent illness. Having only restaurant and fast-food experience, she is a total deer-in-the-headlights 19-year-old experiencing a full-time job for the first time. Yet despite her lack of experience, she seems to be holding her own in training, she hardly takes notes but remembers most of the lessons taught by our trainer. Time will only tell whether this will be a good fit for her. Call center work can be stifling for any age category but for an active and energetic 19-year-old, it can seem like a life-sucking prison.

Jodi: Our trainer is a 50-year-old single mom (albeit her daughter is herself a young adult) who looks as if she's seen a lot over the years. Though she looks younger than her age, I detect in her way and mannerisms, as well as her style, a certain familiarity with alcoholism, domestic violence, drugs and poverty and a subsequent recovery from those issues with a Born Again zealotry. She's spoken about her brother, a glazier, who recently had the tip of his nose severed off by shattering glass, her former management of a "sober house", her love of volunteerism, her seemingly uncharacteristic nonchalant attitude about viewing pirated movies from torrent sites (ie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (just released in theaters last week)) which either exposes a lingering "devil-may-care" attitude or simply "ignorance-is-bliss" viewpoint of the moral issues of online piracy.

I'll report on others as I get to know them more. Overall, everyone seems quite friendly. Not the "corporate fake-smile plasti-friendly" of Symantec, but more a "welcome, new member, to our Moonie-cult" friendly.

So over the next few weeks while I continue to go through indoctrination, err, I mean training, if I start posting statements like: "The Company is God, All Hail The Company!", or "We are nothing without our Beloved Company, Glory Be To The Company!", you'll know I drank the Kool-Aid.

Monday, January 05, 2009

I Poured Myself A Cup Of Ambition

Finally, after 51 days of unemployment, I woke up to my alarm at 6:30am, brewed some hot liquid ambition, showered, shaved, dressed in the outfit I had laid out the night before like it was the first day of school (how geeky, I know), jumped into Nugget and drove to Apopka, the location of my new job.

As usual for the start of a work week, I had trouble sleeping the night before. And this being the first day at a new job really had me wired. I couldn't sleep much so I stayed up 'till about 3:00am playing Peggle Nights (they really need to start a 12-step program for this game!).

Got in very early (I hate being late, in case you didn't know) and chatted a bit with the trainer. It seems it's her first class since taking over this role. Ugh! Great! Memories of C-N-M, and Symantec where training was, shall we say, not the most prepared. But actually, she did well. She followed a logical modular structure and kept things interesting and informative. The curriculum was no doubt prepared by more seasoned predecessors.

Overall, I have very positive first day impressions. The job pays better than average for the responsibilities asked of us. The huge campus has plenty of amenities like a full onsite cafeteria, pastoral landscaping with jogging track, workout facility, entertainment rooms with bumper pool, video games and darts, and, of course most importantly....free coffee. And it's good too.

Negatives? Even though the building is huge, our unit is somewhat small (maybe 20-30 reps) since we deal specifically with only the technical side of a customer's telephony issues. Not sure about the chances of making new friends. And there are only 3 of us in training...including me! Also, the A/C in the building doesn't seem to be the most effective. I was sweating in there. Thankfully it's a relaxed dress code so I can wear short sleeves. Don't know about shorts, but I don't think so.

So this is just Day 1 of the new job but expect more updates to come about the progress of training and my re-acclimation into the world of the working masses.

Like Dolly sings...

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Please Hold For The Next Available Customer Service Professional

Cable is still out. Once again I checked all my cable connections to be sure they were ok. They are. I called my landlord's cell phone. He's not picking up. His car isn't around and actually I haven't seen it in a while, like before the holidays.

Yesterday, I fiddled around on Mildred checking out all my favorite blogs, watching YouTube videos, paying bills online, balancing Microsoft Money, playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour, playing Sid Meier's Civ IV Colonization, playing Peggle Nights, caught up on the Battlestar Galactica webisodes I haven't watched (OMG...Gaeta is gay! LOL!), watching a Netflix online movie ("Transiberian"...very good!).

But I missed being able to fluctuate between messing around on the computer and watching TV. I already viewed the single Netflix DVD I have ("Big Nothing"...another good one!) and contemplated even re-watching some of the DVDs I actually own (out of my vast library of about 5 DVDs) but the idea of re-watching "The Core" or "Planet of the Apes" (2001 version) was depressing.

I needed my TV!

Of course with no rabbit-ears antenna, I couldn't get much via broadcast either...just a fuzzy, albeit watchable image of WESH-TV Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate. I think its tower is here in Lake Mary. (Of course, as TV viewers are reminded almost daily, if it were after February 17th, I wouldn't even have this grainy view of local programming since everything's going digital) But just my luck, all they were showing from early afternoon to late at night was football. Almost 12 hours of freakin' football! Ugh!

So after getting my landlord's voicemail this morning, I decided to call Bright House...

The IVR...the computer lady that asks you what you want when you call a company's customer service line, asked me to say what I was calling about and she gave a few examples. Oh these "voice recognition" IVRs are the worst!

Well, you know what...see for yourself...

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Right Back Where I Started

And even worse...

If you remember, last January I had been "scared straight" so to speak. Having landed a few weeks before in the hospital with heart palpitations, I was concerned enough to have decided to turn my horrible health around and started eating better, reducing alcohol, and even some tacit attempts at regular exercise.

Well, I kept it up fairly well 'till about summertime when I started "losing my way" and fell back into old habits, much of which I erroneously blamed on Ric's bad influence.

It's not Ric, it's me, I have to take ownership of my own lifestyle choices, good or bad.

Well, of course, my weight steadily returned from a low in May of about 295 to what it is now: 327.

That's 9 pounds HIGHER than what my HIGH was at the dawn of 2008! And one pound higher than my all-time recorded high back in the fall of 2007!

Numbers on a scale don't hit home as much as visuals though, and it was only yesterday after editing some old video that I really noticed the difference. I compared my fat face in the New Year's Eve video (in which despite what I say, I am drunk) to the still fat but somewhat less so face in a video I did in May.

And the difference in physical abilities is noted too. In the video where Ric and I go to Universal in April, I did both parks in a day and I kept up with him. Today, especially after the experiences of the last time I went to the park and of course the fiasco of the Washington walkabout attempt, I fear going to the park since I know I can't walk even a small section anymore.

When it gets this bad, folks, you know somethings gotta be done.

They say you can't change out of a bad situation until you've hit rock bottom. Well I think I hit it.

I'll be so happy getting back into a regular regimented daily routine again starting on Monday. I need structure. I need discipline.

I need to step away from the computer and get off my fat ass.

Right now.

(BTW, the picture is NOT me of course, but I feel like it is!)

Friday, January 02, 2009

Ric And Me In Happier Times

For some reason, my cable is out so until that is resolved I'm keeping busy doing things with Mildred. I decided it was high time to arrange the numerous clips I had stored away last April after spending the day with Ric at Universal Orlando.

I pretty much muted the audio taken that day since much of our conversation caught on tape was bickering and verbal abuse from Ric...yup, even while being filmed, like in the first scene as I'm driving in my now-destroyed Buick down I-4 towards Orlando, Ric is yelling at me for filming while driving.

I've overlaid all that negativity with the happy and carefree party sounds of the B-52s.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

All the best wishes for a great 2009.

Here's a little video I made last night.