Sunday, November 30, 2008

Still Employed!


I have completed 2 weeks with the new company. There is a LOT to learn and there is a lot of business. I am the new kid on the block, but it is amazing that MANY of the people that work near me have been there a year or less.

They all speak the acronyms of the employee benefits world (LTD, STD, LOA, QMSCO, etc). These are all things I need to learn. However, I do understand databases, and this is a business that is rich in databases. Already I have demonstrated the ability to remap a data stream and import data, and I was tasked with creating a couple of simple queries that needed to be done for a some analysis.

One of my coworkers has been there about 8 months. He, like me, was laid off from an IT job, then came to work for this company. He does pretty well after 8 months and thinks it will take a year or more to be pretty proficient in the company. And he knew nothing about the benefits world either.

Got my first pay check on Friday (auto deposit). Sure, it is lower than what I was making, but is MUCH better than unemployment. I think I can even put money away like before, though not as much per payday.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Revisiting an old "friend"

Anybody remember my barrel refurbish project? (Dec 06 and Jan 07)

Well here are the links to the blog entries.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

The barrel has been sitting in place for over a year and a half. Because it no longer holds fluid and has been opened up to air inside, the staves have shrunk in that time. Barrel hoops are normally held in place with pressure, not nails, screws, or rivets. To add any of those could compromise its ability to hold liquid. SO the hoops started falling off after about a year.

I lived with it, but finally decided to do something about it. So this past weekend I drilled a bunch of holes in the hoops, put them back in place, and added screws. Each stave has a screw in the top hoop. I felt that was critical. Then about half of the bottom has screws. Finally, each of the 4 middle hoops have 4 screws each. Now the barrel is rock solid again.

The only tough thing about this was drilling the holes in the metal. I had to experiment with drill speed and amount of force to use. It took several hours, but the end result is so pleasing. Should never have to do it again. Now the question is, should I paint the screw heads black or leave them as they are? If you want to see better, click on the picture to enlarge it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Extortion at the opera

I have a dilemma gnawing at me and would love to get your input.

First, let me lay some groundwork. I am part of a group of people that get together several times a month for various started as dining out, but is "dining out and more" now. We recently went gem mining on a Saturday and yesterday 10 of us went to the opera. To be a member, we each pay the organizer $12 per year which goes to the fee required by to host group planning. Also part of the fee goes to supplies and decorations. Since I am a regular member and enjoy these, that comes to $1 per month. Very reasonable.

For the past few weeks the organizer and I worked on getting together a group of people for the opera. We got a group discount where $40 tickets were purchased for $25 each provided that we had 10 people. The way works is that you can sign up to attend an event, but that doesn't mean you need to show up. Indeed, some people regularly sign up and don't show up. Think of the $12 dollar membership as a "pay to play" and this discourages people from signing up and failing to show. To get this group discount we needed 10 people...not just 10 possibilities. There were a lot of "NO"s but we managed to get 10 "YES"ses. Each person was given a phone number to call to get their ticket.

There was a new woman that joined us. The dilemma is coming...I promise. This woman, "T McD", joined several of us for dinner the other night at a Lone Star steakhouse. That was her first get together. She was warmly greeted and everyone was nice to her. I had noticed that she was signed up for the opera. So I asked her if she had gotten her ticket yet. She said yes, but she was having second thoughts. I asked why. She said because she was afraid it would run too long and that she had to work at 5. The opera started at 2. I had asked how long it ran and was told 2 hours, so I told "T McD" this. She said if that was the case she would go, since she lived and worked relatively close it wouldn't be a problem...even if it ended at 4:30.

So, at the opera, she shows up just moments before the curtain rises. Everyone was thinking she cancelled her ticket. As things go, the performance started at 10 after, rather than at 2. The first act was over at 3:20. During intermission I looked at the group members behind me and T McD was clearly agitated. She pointed at me and said something like she knew she should have gone with her better judgement, and that it was my fault...blah blah.

A few minutes before act 2 she asks that the organizer and I speak with her in the lobby. We get out there and she asks for 2 things. First, she wants ME to give her back half her ticket price. She had to leave and paid for a full show. Since I "talked her into" going against her better judgement, I was responsible. Second she still wants to be a group member, and as an act of good faith she would like the $12 fee waived for her because of something that happened at the restaurant on Thursday.

So let me fill you in on that grievance. The dinner was CLEARLY posted as to time and location. The dinner was clearly listed as 6:30. They are always at 6:30. Before I went I double checked because I pick up my son at 5:30 on Thursdays and wanted to make sure that we would be milling about until 6:30, so I know for a FACT that it said 6:30. The restaurant was NEAR a mall called Hanes Mall, and the address was listed as on Hanes Mall Blvd. But it was clearly listed in the Pavillions shopping center, which is not IN Hanes Mall. T McD comes from a neighboring town and doesn't know this area. My son and me arrived at 6:20, shortly after she did. She was the first there and later described her difficulty in finding the place. She said it was LISTED as being ON THE HANES MALL property, so she drove around in there and was lost. She had to ask several places how to find the restaurant. She was upset because she would be arriving AFTER the 5:30 starting time. I perked up at that because I KNEW it was listed as 6:30. So I called her on that. She was adamant that it said 5:30. To keep the peace I dropped it (but I KNEW for a fact it was 6:30 and later confirmed it, and that it said nothing about being Hanes Mall property).

During the dinner she kept up a running joke with the wait staff about her meal being "comped" because she was an employee with the chain, or she knew the manager, or whatever. It turns out T McD is a waitress herself. Maybe this is something "they" do...I don't know. In any case I had to leave before everyone else so I don't know if she actually got her "comped" meal...but I doubt it.

Back at the opera. At first I was feeling guilty. Attending the opera was my idea. And she was on the fence about attending. I gave her the information she asked for as I understood it. So I immediately went into "solve her problem and make her happy" mode. I thought "well, what's $12.50 in the long run? If it makes her happy and keeps the peace, then it is a small price to pay." So I TOLD her that I would pay for half her ticket. The organizer did not agree to waive the $12 membership fee. Intermission was almost over and we HAD to get back inside before they closed the doors. T McD did not go back in to watch any of act 2.

On the way home we all discussed the situation (we carpooled there and back). The general concensus was that I don't owe this woman a dime. I remained quiet, but started to agree for 2 reasons. First, unknown to me, she had said to the woman sitting next to her "that guy LIED to me" (meaning me "lying" to her about how long the show would run). I told her only what I was told. Is that a lie? Second, that little situation about comping her meal. Is this a woman who wants to get a lot for a little? It started sounding to me like she has champagne taste (opera and fancy dinner) on beer income (waitress). And she also started to seem like an expert at complaining and bullying to get what she wants.

So, the dilemma is this. Should I give her the $12.50 to keep the peace, or should I stand up to the bullying? After all, she is an adult, she was presented with information to the best of my ability, and she made her choice. Yes I may have helped her to get off the fence, but does that make me responsible? And why didn't she stay until she absolutely HAD to leave during act 2. She could have watched 45 more minutes of the show and gotten more of her money's worth. It's possible that she just decided that she didn't like opera and wanted to get out of there and recoup some loss for a bad choice. She had a choice. Nobody held a gun to her head.

I hope to read opinions from my friends and family on this. What do you think I should do? I will tell you that I am now leaning toward NOT giving her half her ticket money. And if she never comes to group events again I wouldn't miss her...perhaps our group isn't the group for her and there are plenty of others. And if she harbors a grudge against me, well, I can live with that too. I didn't do anything wrong and don't have to have everyone like me.

BTW, everyone else that went had a fabulous time, save 1. She had an ok time. She is a long time friend who prefers rock concerts (ala KISS). She probably won't go to another opera, but was not asking me for a refund...and money is tight for her too.

Thanks in advance.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

While I still have time...part 2

Continuing on with the tiling for the woodstove platform.

Picture 5 shows the edge tiles after cutting and installing. The duct tape at the top holds them in place until the adhesive sets.

Picture 6 shows the edge tiles after the adhesive has set and all the top tiles have been removed.

Picture 7 shows all the field tiles installed and a few of the cut edge tiles. The ones with 2 pieces of blue tape were installed yesterday and the ones with one piece of tape were installed today.

Hopefully, I can finish the cutting and installation tomorrow. Then early next week I can grout.

Two questions and answers:
1. Won't the stove be too close to the walls? No. I have carefully looked at the requirements and the platform is right.
2. Are you going to put a fire retardant material on the walls, to be up to code? Yes, but that will be later before the wood stove is fired up for the first time.

Monday, November 03, 2008

While I still have time...part 1

I spent this afternoon working on a shop project. I have been wanting to install a wood stove in the corner to the left of the lathe. A couple of years ago I bought the woodstove and built the platform, 4 ft by 4 ft with a "clipped" corner that will parallel the face of the woodstove (placed 45 degrees on the platform). Then I put this project on the back burner, but have thought about it a lot over the years.

A friend recently gave me some cement hexagon tiles that will be great for this application, so now before it gets too cold (and I go back to full time work) I'd like to get the platform finished and the stove sitting on top. I may not actually hook it up this year, but don't know that for sure.

Picture 1 shows the platform after I moved junk off of it.

Picture 2 shows the "dry laying" of the cement backer board.

Picture 3 shows all the backer board cut and installed...those vertical pieces took a long time.

Picture 4 shows a VERY rough layout of the cement tiles, which are terra cotta colored.

Coming up:
I will put tiles along the vertical edges first, then the platform tiles will lay on top of those cut edges, perhaps overhanging by just a smidgen. My friend loaned me a wet saw, so cutting will be dust free and should be accurate. I have used it before, when I tiled the laundry room.