Tuesday, January 30, 2007

And so it begins . . .

Currently Reading: Ju-On by Kei Ohishi

It is now official, I am in training. Ok, unofficially I've been in training for a while now. In fact, quite a few of us have been in a sort of limbo over our position while we waited for the books and final instructions from the district office. Yesterday was the official kick-off.

The course isn't too difficult. In fact, given that I spent the past year as a bather, it's actually pretty easy. Mostly what I do is learn the proper terms for things and the company rules on how certain situations are handled. I won't start learning HOW to groom a dog until we've gone through all this stuff first. Plus, I've got what's called a "passport" in which I'm to track various jobs that I do around the salon. For example, I have to bathe 30 dogs. I have to pull customer information files on 15 people. I have to fill out a certain number of customer receipts. I have to clip nails on 20 dogs. What it's designed to do is give us experience in the very basics. Makes sense really. In order to qualify for the training, you only have to work for the company for 30 days. If I'd only worked there a month, yeah, I'd need that extra experience. I don't mind the work though. It gives me more time to study up on things and we can take it at a more leisurely pace.
It's getting colder out there. Yeah, you folks to the north and east of me already know that. In fact, quite a few of you to the south and west of me know it too. We've managed to somehow avoid the really cold stuff. It slides right by with us in a little protective alley in the middle. Well that's about to end. I'm looking at the forecast in the little bar at the bottom of my screen and it tells me it's a balmy 37 out there right now. Tonight it's going to be a whopping 20! And it's going to stay below 40 the rest of the week. Fortunately we've only got one day in the mix where there's any rain. Might ice up Wednesday night/Thursday morning. All things considered, that's not so bad.
I've mostly adjusted to the mornings. Mostly. I wake up on time, that much is true but about mid-day I get . . . well, it's like jet lag. I get tired and run-down and all that but I can't really sleep it off. I tried that today (I worked half a day) and it just didn't happen. CC was the one who suggest it was like jet lag and she's right. Happened at about the same time too. You usually start feeling it really bad at about 2 weeks. You THINK you've gotten over the time change then BAM it hits ya. At least, it's like that when we travel to the Philippines.

Heard from my aunt the other day; my mother's sister. She sent us a card with a few pictures and a brief letter. She mentioned all the building-up they're doing in the little cities around San Antonio. It's just a HUGE explosion of building. Lots of new sub-divisions going in and all the stores to go with it. The city is growing like a weed and she's feeling a bit crowded. The little town they live in used to be just that, a little town. It was a bit outside of the metro area, sometimes referred to as "the sticks." Now, well now it's just another in a long line of sub-divisions filled with people who didn't want to live in the actual city because . . . well just because they didn't. Anyway, my aunt has decided to move back to Pennsylvania. She didn't say WHERE in Penn but I'm thinking it'll be in or near the little town they were living in before they moved down. I wonder if they remember just how cold it is up there?

Is it just me or are my blogs getting more boring? True, a few weeks ago I had a really good entry with all that culture stuff but otherwise not much. We're doing some more culture stuff in February so maybe that'll leave me with more to talk about. I certainly don't want to get into all the finer points of dog grooming school at the moment. There are only so many interesting stories that come out of a grooming salon. Maybe next week I'll have something :-)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Late-Night Double-Feature Picture Show

Currently Reading: Hear The Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami

Check it out! Got the dining room pictures set up finally. We got frames this weekend and I had the time this morning so here it is.

You've got Curse of the Golden Flower over on the left and Memoirs of a Geisha on the right. Down the middle there are autographed pictures of Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li and Chow Yun Fat. Unfortunately, the glare from the window in the living room makes it hard to take a good picture of it all. Maybe after sundown I can get something but I think then I'll be getting glare from the dining room light. It's something you'll just have to see in person.

Made it through my first week of grooming school just fine. We're still waiting for the books to arrive though. We've gotten approval and all that and the district office has sent out an e-mail telling everyone that the books are on the way but as of Saturday morning we still hadn't received them. According to the overall plan, I'm supposed to have about four weeks of book work, that is, work based on what's in those books. This makes it a little tricky to move forward. So, rather than just sitting around, I've been learning some of the more general aspects of the job, things that we KNOW will be in the book. Friday, for example, I shaved the feet and half the body of a poodle. It's not nearly as complicated as it looks. I even made the pom poms on two of the legs. Mostly it just takes practice.

I was able to adjust to the morning schedule just fine, by the way. The only problem I'm having now is this daily sensation that time has either slowed down to a crawl or stopped entirely. Every day except Saturday (we were busy Saturday) I looked up at the clock at least once and said, "Aw crap it's only X am?" In fact, I did that Monday too. So while I may have adjusted my sleep schedule just fine, I'm still adjusting to the different hours.

Saw the Oscar nominations this morning. Goodness it's as bad as last year. Haven't seen any of those movies. In fact, only a few of them have even played here yet and the ones that did, well I think only The Departed managed to stay in theaters long enough for anyone to really see. I just wasn't all that interested in seeing it.

So, unless all of these films suddenly show up on HBO or something I probably won't bother to watch the Oscars again this year. Maybe I'll catch some of the red carpet arrivals just to see what kind of freaky clothes people are wearing but that's about it.

You know what I noticed the other day? Over in the UK they get better books than we do. Wait, let me rephrase that. They get the same books but they're published MUCH better. The cover art is different and the bindings look a bit better. I've noticed they have a larger selection of autographed editions and special editions. I was doing a search on eBay and came up with all SORTS of really interesting book items. Naturally these were all way out of my price range. I jsut don't have 200 dollars to spend on a 130 page book that's now out of print no matter WHO wrote it :-) It's not even autographed.

Ran across some clips from The Rocky Horror Picture Show over on youtube.com yesterday. I was just over there browsing and up popped a link to the Time Warp clip. Started looking for more clips after that and next thing you know I'm over at Best Buy picking up a copy. It's been years since I've seen it. It's just as awful as I remember. Tim Curry is WAY over the top. But you know, the songs still stick in your head (which is both good and bad depending on which song gets stuck). I haven't shown it to CC yet. Last night I watched the movie with the "audience participation" audio track. It's pretty good. There are also some alternate video sequences where you can see what it would look like watching the movie during a showing in an actual theater. You get to see the audience and the performers as well as the movie. It'll be an interesting experience for her that's for sure.

I saw over on her site she'd mentioned that no one in town is showing it. That's probably a good thing. Rocky Horror in person is something best left to younger people. It looks very odd to see folks 35+ all dressed up in character in the theater. Sort of like that weird cringing feeling you get seeing a 40 year old man dressed as a Vulcan at a Star Trek convention.

CC's birthday is on February 1st, by the way. That's next Thursday. If you were intending to get her a present, you've only got a week and a half left :-) Not sure what we're going to do though. I mean, do we celebrate on the 28th or the week after that? Probably the 28th. Don't want to get in the way of the Super Bowl on the 4th. It's not fair to the Super Bowl :-)

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Ring is real

Currently Reading: Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

This video is just too funny!

Must be the weather...

Currently Reading: Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

So much to blog about and no idea where to start. I'm feeling rather indecisive today. In fact, I just typed all this in a chat window with CC. Must be the weather. That's my theory anyway. We've gone a few days without seeing the sun much. Might be the problem.

Lots and lots going on here despite my inability to focus on anything in particular. As you know, I had the week off. Enjoyed that. Unfortunately I now face that feeling you get when your vacation is over and you have to go back to work. It's a sort of positive and negative one isn't it? I mean, yeah it'll be nice to get back to a routine and see the folks at work and play around with the dogs and learn how to be a groomer but at the same time, sure was pretty damn fun not having to wake up until I was done sleeping and to not have to get out of bed until I was ready to.

Did a bit of shopping last week. I finally got an overcoat on Friday. Didn't realize I needed one until just recently. You see, if CC and I go out to a fancy restaurant or to the symphony or any of the shows at the performing arts center and we decide to dress up, even if it's just khakis and a jacket, well, I can't just pull out my Mickey Mouse coat or my Incredibles jacket can I? I need a coat that's more fitting. Fortunately this time of year is great for coat buying. Everyone is putting them on clearance so they can drag out the bathing suits. Let's face it, stores always stock what you're not going to need for 3 months. That's why you can never find a swimsuit in July.

Anyway, last year at about this time I picked up a great leather jacket. This year I picked up a great overcoat. It's not fancy or anything like that. It's your basic black trench coat but it looks great worn with a suit. Looks like something out of the 40's I suppose. I showed it to CC and she said, "Now all you need is a Fedora." And she's right. Looks good though and it's very comfortable and warm. Even better, the lining zips out for when you don't need quite as much insulation, like in the spring or fall. Best part, it was about 75% off :-) I even picked up a scarf and pair of gloves to go with it :-)

I also got the rest of my grooming tools ordered (they arrived today). So now I've got all the tools, I just need to learn how to use them properly. I'm sure I'll need to pick up one or two things along the way though. I haven't found a really good grooming book (one with good descriptions on the fancy cuts, etc.) and there are always new tools coming out that make the job a little easier. In fact, right now my boss has her eye on a vacuum that hooks directly to your clippers which A. keeps them WAY cooler than normal and B. sucks up all the hair before it hits the ground. No mess, no cleaning.

Our weather is very English today. If someone were playing a soundtrack it would probably be classical. It's too cold for this to be jazz weather. And the sky is just this flat gray matte. Makes me sleepy just looking at it :-)

I finally managed to win an autograph auction over on eBay. Up until yesterday I really sucked at those. What normally happens is that I make my bid then someone comes in right before the auction closes and buys if for like a dollar more than I bid. It's called sniping. Yesterday though, I won an autographed picture of Gong Li. We'll add that to our Asian Cinema theme wall that we're sort of working on. Actually it more just happened on its own. Anyway, that picture will go up with the Zhang Ziyi and the Chow Yun Fat and the posters of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Memoirs of a Geisha, and the soon to be added Curse of the Golden Flower. I didn't win the one for the Michelle Yeoh though. Someone came in and bought that one in the last minute. Ah well, at least I won ONE of them.

Speaking of Curse of the Golden Flower, we saw it on Saturday. Our whole weekend was one big cultural experience I guess you'd say. You can read about it on CC's blog. Anyway, loved the movie. Love all of Zhang Yimou's movies really. They don't always have happy endings. In fact, they SELDOM have happy endings, but they're very well done. After seeing Curse, I said to CC, it's too bad the Chinese and English didn't meet sooner. Imagine what Shakespear could have done with THIS sort of material. It's true. Lots of people dying, lots of people sleeping around. All the great elements of a Shakespearian tragedy. I'd like to think it'll win many Oscars, especially for costume and cinematography but I doubt it will. The Academy never seems to want to reward foreign films for anything other than being a good foreign film.

Something rather funny came up this weekend. CC and I were sitting down to lunch on Saturday and she noticed that all the things she wanted to do were old people things. Sunday it was even worse. Let's go over the list. Ok, symphony was FILLED with old people. Yes, there were a few younger folks but they were either clearly music students or kids dragged along against their will. Then after that, lunch at a cafeteria. MAJOR old folks there. Yes, we did see the movie but that was my choice rather than CC's. And while just about everyone in the theater was either asian or accompanied by an asian, the age range was pretty broad. Sunday was brunch at the museum and then walking the museum. Oh yeah, old folks galore. Now, in all fairness, towards mid-afternoon many more young people showed up. Mostly they were academic types, art students, that sort of thing (I told CC I felt out of place because I wasn't wearing a turtle-neck). So it wasn't ENTIRELY old people but there was a definite old people feeling about the place :-)

And now it's Monday. Last day before heading back to work. And it's gray outside, and cold and raining.

Hey, great TV on this weekend wasn't there! Kind of annoying at one point though. I hate it when two shows I want to watch are on opposite each other. That hasn't happened in a LONG time which made it even worse. Last night 24 started it's new season with Fox running two hours of it on Sunday and another two hours tonight. Jack is back from China and naturally all hell is breaking loose. At one point it caught me by surprise. We'd just flipped the channel over and what's on the screen? Something about a bomb going off in San Antonio. "A bomb went off in San Antonio? Seriously?" No, just part of the show. I guess they started a couple minutes early or I was slow in switching over.

Last night was also the start of the new season of Rome. Love that show too. Last season pretty much showed everything leading up to and including Julius Caesar's death. Last night we started the aftermath. Not sure how much ground it'll cover. Probably up through the whole Antony and Cleopatra bit.

Katya is dreaming about something good. Her tail is wagging VERY fast. She's not twitching her feet though so I guess she's not chasing something. Just wagging that tail in her sleep. She's such a happy dog :-)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New Additions; Time Off; Back To School; New Puzzle

Currently Reading: Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

Yes, I know, I've slacked off a bit with the blog lately but I've been a little busy lately. I haven't been busy at work, but rather with a lot of little things that crept up after the holidays. I guess you could say I've been tieing up loose ends.

We've got a few new additions worth mentioning. First up, I got a new phone. For no particular reason (ok I was bored) I was over at the T-Mobile site, checking out wallpaper, ring tones, that sort of thing and I decided to check what sorts of phones I could upgrade to. Turns out I was due an upgrade, if I wanted it. Upgrade to what? Motorola RAZv3. It's a really nice phone and you know, thin as it is, I hear even better on it than I did my old one. It's also got all sorts of really cool features like a camera that shoots both pictures and video. That's pretty handy because these days I tend to use my PDA for so many other things that I'd drain the battery down too low if I used it for pictures. It also allows me to leave the PDA at home when I go shopping or browsing. Normally I'd take it with me because I often come across things that I'd like to get, either for myself or for others, and to make sure I don't forget, I take a picture of it with my PDA or jot down notes. Now I can do that with my phone and use my PDA to back up my brain. That's really what I use it for. Seriously. My PDA is a sort of back-up brain for me. It's the only way I can keep from forgetting the important things.

Next, I've started gathering my gear for grooming school. There really are only two important pieces of equipment: clippers and scissors. You probably figured that part out already. Thing is, if you buy cheap stuff up front, your work won't be nearly as good as it could be so it's the sort of situation where you get the best equipment you can afford. A really good pair of clippers, for example, can make a big difference. They cut smoother and leave fewer tracks in the coat. The dog looks better, the owner is happier and your job is easier. Good scissors are also a must. The cheaper ones don't hold an edge nearly as well and need to be sharpened more often. They also tend to cut rougher than the harder, more expensive kind. Me, I went with Japanese steel. The Japanese brands all get excellent reviews and they've got a better selection of mid-range shears to choose from. I went with two pair Kenchii Scorpion model shears. They both arrived today.

We've also added one more member to our little zoo. Yes, it's another hamster. We've always got a few in the back that we can't sell for one reason or another. Poor guys need a home too. There are a few of us working at the store who are regular adopters. When we have cage space, we give the little guys a good home. Sure beats living in the infirmary that's for sure.

Our latest addition is a male, European hamster. He's black with white feet. Very sweet and very cute. He's got a bit of an overbite which makes him look a bit like a beaver. He's very happy with his new home. Spent the first 20 minutes or so running in his new wheel and scattering his food all over the place. It's important for hamsters to stash food around because you never know when you're going to want a snack and that darn food bowl is so FAR away from where you're sleeping :-) He's a great little guy.

I've taken the week off. I wasn't planning to at first but things went a little weird setting up grooming school. The original plan was for me to start this week on Tuesday. Unfortunately we didn't get the instruction books in and guess what the first week or so of school covers? The stuff in the instruction books. Now, the work schedule had already been made up assuming that I wasn't going to be available for normal duties which means they really didn't have a place for me at the moment. That left two choices. Either I go to work and pretty much just hang out there and pitch in here and there (we're in a slow period at work so there isn't much to do anyway) or I could take some time off. I chose plan B. We'll start grooming school on the 16th.

So now here I am with an unexpected week off. What to do, what to do? Catch up on my reading? Watch some movies? Maybe do a little shopping? Yeah, that sounds like a good plan :-)

I'm assuming you read that last section so you know that I'll be starting grooming school next week. It's a pretty long process actually. On average, it takes about 14 weeks from start to finish. That's the time it takes to go from the very beginning, first day of class, to the very end, last test that proves you can give decent haircuts to dogs.

And when they say they start at the beginning, they're not kidding. After going over the general store policies and company policies and so forth, we move on to BATHING! That's right, I'll be taught how to bathe dogs . . . again. Worse, I actually have to keep a log and successfully bathe TWENTY dogs! The absolute worst part is that nothing I've done up until now counts. We got a chuckle out of that in the salon. Hell I did twenty dogs the week before Christmas. Did twenty the week before that too. Doesn't matter though. I wasn't a groomer's apprentice at the time. You start from scratch :-)

After that, and yes, I will be tested on it, then they'll teach me how to shave and then how to scissor. Actually I know the first parts of the shaving already. I was taught that in the process of becoming a bather. But the company has certain policies, one of which is that baters are not allowed to use scissors so my current knowledge pretty much ends right there. But not for long :-)

I was talking with my boss about it last week and we both agree this should be a lot of fun. It'll be her first time teaching someone so the whole thing will be a learning experience for the both of us. That sort of takes the pressure off of me a little bit too. I mean, I won't be the only one new at this when we start. I WILL be the only one going through grooming school though, which is way cool. Don't have to worry about other students or having a hard time hearing the instructor because of the noise. Nope, I'll be learning from exactly the same people I've been working with for the past year and that's pretty damn great :-)

And finally, I've moved to a new set of puzzle games. As you probably know, I like to do sudoku puzzles. That's the 9x9 block where you have to fill in the numbers in the right order, 1 through 9. Well there's another one that hit the US a few months back that I've been thinking of trying. It's called Kakuro and it's a whole other ballgame. It's really a crossword puzzle but with numbers. Involves math and logic. You're given a number, say 15. to put it in crossword terms, the answer for 1 across is 15, two letters. Ok, two numbers really. The trick is, which two numbers that add up to 15 and in what order. Will it be 9, 6 or perhaps 8, 7? That's where the logic comes in. You've got to figure out which numbers to use and in what order. There are two rules that make this a bit easier though. You can only use 1-9 and no number repeats itself in a clue. That means you can't have 3 set up as 1,1,1. You also can't have 15 done as 10, 5.

I've tried a few of them now, starting with the easy level and I seem to have the hang of it. They're not nearly as difficult as they look. What seems to matter most with me is whether or not the math/logic half of my brain is working. Some of the easy ones I do quickly, no problem. Others I end up making stupid mistakes and have to erase half the damn thing and start over. That can be frustrating but if you like puzzles and if you enjoy sudoku but don't find it as challenging or just want a change, try kakuro.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Currently Reading: Shost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex: White Maze by Junichi Fujisaku

Do you hear that gagging sound? If you tilt your head to the northwest, towards Seattle, you can probably just faintly make it out. No, really, even I can hear it and I'm damn near deaf at the moment.

Well, that gagging sound you hear is the inevitable sound of Tony Romo choking yet again. Right now I bet Dallas Cowboys top brass are saying to themselves, "oh yeah, that's why we never made Romo starting quarterback." This is by no means a new experience for Romo. Twice before he's been pushed aside for the starting qb job because he has a really nasty habit of choking when it counts. In pre-season, for example, he would put on an amazing display. He could hit a flea from 80 yards through triple coverage. Come regular season though, he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn if he was standing right in front of it.

Tonight was another Romo classic. The boys are fighting hard in the playoffs and much to my surprise, they're actually doing well. True, they managed to squander their lead but they're only down by a point and there's only a minute or so left on the clock. They tried to get the touchdown and failed, they tried for the first down and failed so they have no option left but to kick the field goal. This would put them ahead by two and give Seattle the ball back with about a minute left but Seattle wouldn't have any time outs and the pressure would be on them to score. That's what WOULD have happened had Romo not pulled a . . . Romo.

The center hikes the ball. Gramatika is lined up just right and he's been nailing them all day. So what happens? Do they get the easy 3? Oh hell no. Romo fumbles the ball. Just never gets a hold of it. And you know, it's not like the center hiked it freaky or sideways or too high or anything. It was right to him. He just bobbles it. Never gets it down in time so no kick. He tries to run it in but, of course, he falls short.

Now, I will admit I was surprised they managed to hang in the game at all. Given their recent performance, they should have been blown out big time with the Seaharks coasting to an easy win. But to lose the game like that, ouch. That's the sort of thing that used to only happen to Buffalo in the Super Bowl.

Maybe this will be a lesson to Cowboys staff. Romo's not the quarterback of the future for them, not the way he's been playing. He just doesn't seem to be able to handle the pressure. Looks like Cowboys fans will have to wait a little longer.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Hello 2007

Currently Reading: Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex: White Maze by Junichi Fujisaku

And so here we are, 2007. Can't say that it feels much different from 2006. Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure I made the same observation last year at this time too. But you know, last year at this time I had just started working at Petco so there were some pretty big changes on the horizon for me.

This year's changes don't appear to be quite as drastic. I'll be starting groomer training in a few weeks but fortunately that will happen at my current store. The only big change will be in going from a mostly night schedule to a mostly day schedule. It'll take some time to get used to but once I've adjusted, I'll be ok with that. I'll actually be home on a regular basis during prime time for TV. Hell I can actually watch my favorite shows when they first air instead of catching the replays on cable. That'll be a nice change.

I switched over to the new Blogger format tonight. Can't say I've noticed a difference but that's mostly because I'm lazy. See, the real changes for the new blogger assume that you'll be changing the format of your template. They have new templates and there are some pretty neat little tools you can use. The problem is that if I wanted to do that, I'd have to save a copy of my current template and then do a lot of pasting into the new one so I'd have all those videos on the sidebar and my reading list. I'll get around to doing that but it's not something I'm going to rush to switch over.

Boxed up Christmas this morning. CC and I pretty much follow the rule that the decorations stay up until after New Years but then they really need to be taken down. Looking around the living room it seems a bit empty. CC says it looks cleaner now and I suppose that's true. It's not nearly as cluttered in here as it was before and it feels more open. But you know, I kinda miss having all that stuff up on the mantle and the tree. We had everything decorated for almost a month so I guess it'll take a few days to get used to the old layout.

We've been doing some after Christmas shopping on eBay. Ok, some of it was before Christmas too. CC mentioned in her blog that she's already bought autographed pictures of several people. I've put in a bid on a movie poster for Curse of the Golden Flower. There are a few other odds and ends that I've got on order as well. I'm expecting two from eBay, one from Amazon and another from HBO. Who knows, maybe I'll get some of these things on Wednesday. We haven't had any mail delivery since Saturday. Bet the mailbox is going to be stuffed tomorrow.

Still finding it hard to go out to the movies. Every time we see previews for a movie that looks like it might be good, we find out that all the best material was shown in the preview. And while there have been some decent films released in the past month, there isn't anything showing right now that we just HAVE to rush out and see. We had the same problem last year as well. We'd see several movies in a row then nothing for months. To emphasize the point, we haven't bought many dvd's lately. The movies on sale now are the same ones we didn't want to see when they were in theaters. Well, it's a new year, maybe we'll get something better. I'm not holding my breath though :-)