Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Back to Work

Currently Reading: A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

Well it looks like my little impromptu vacation is over. Last week I sent out letters to every place in the immediate area offering grooming services to see if anyone was hiring. Since I wasn't having any luck with the big places, I thought I'd take a shot at the smaller ones. Quite often in a salon you'll have a day or two where there's a whole in the schedule. So maybe these places don't really need another FULL time groomer, maybe they just need someone once or twice a week. Do the same thing for several salons and you've got yourself a real job right?

Well, as it turns out, there was at least one place looking for a groomer. Walnut Trace Animal Clinic, which is about a block away from where CC works, needs a groomer. I sent the letters out Monday, they called me Friday. I went in for the interview, filled out the paperwork, and got the "welcome aboard" before I left.

So when do I start? The 29th. I find that a bit ironic actually. You see, that's the week, three years ago, that I started at Petco.

This new place, it's not as big obviously. And I'll pretty much be the entire grooming staff. Just me. No bathers, no other groomers to share with. There is one other groomer there now but we won't be working at the same time and as I understand it, she's on her way out. She wants less hours.

So there you go. All of you who were worried about me not having a job, you can stop worrying. Come Monday morning I'll be back at it, shaving dog butts. Cat butts too in fact so I guess you could say I'm expanding :-)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Epic Obento!

"Food in Japan is famously prepared as much for the eyes as for the palate - Most preschoolers take an elaborate mom-made meal, called obento, to school every day - These are made by one woman & she understands the first byte is with the eye!"

Click on the picture to see more designs. They're AWESOME!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Christmas Decorations

Currently Reading: Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card

With CC over in the Philippines until mid-December, I have to do quite a bit of the holiday things by myself. Obviously that's going to include a lot of the shopping (we'll have about a week after she gets back to pick up anything we missed) but also the Christmas cards and the decorating. Sure I could just put off the decorating until she gets back but that would mean dragging all the stuff out only to have to put it all back after a couple of weeks. Hardly worth the effort you see. The way I see it, if you're doing Christmas decorating, you want to have them up a good three weeks to a month to make it worth the effort.

Our main problem is that our tree is too big. Every year we add a little more furniture and accessories to the apartment which leaves us with less space for the tree. In previous years it hasn't been a major problem but we've had to make adjustments. Last year, for example, we left some of the limbs off the back of the tree so we could squeeze it in closer to the wall. This year that wasn't going to be enough. You see, we've got Sparky now, our new bird and his cage is HUGE. More drastic measures had to be taken.

I toyed with the idea of getting a real tree this year. I saw some on display at Lowe's and for the size we were thinking, the price was reasonable. I really did put a lot of thought into that option but in the end I decided against it. 'Tis the season to be saving money to make up for all the money we'll be spending on presents so I decided to try and solve the problem another way first.

In the end what I did was put an S curve in the lower branches which shortened them by about 4 inches each. that makes a very big difference all the way around the tree. I also noticed it makes it look quite a big fuller as well. Unfortunately it's not something you can realistically do to the entire tree because the upper branches are just too short already. Physics works against you. It took me almost an hour just doing the bottom 2 rows. Got quite a bit of exercise doing that.

As for the color scheme, that was CC's plan. Every year she picks a theme and this year it is black, gold and silver. Getting the decorations was easy enough. We've had previous silver and gold years so mostly I just recycled those. That made the decorations budget pretty small because all we really needed were some black ornaments and some black and gold garland. And there you have it.

It all came out rather well I think. CC's been showing off the pictures to her family and that makes me feel good. So far everyone has liked it. Now it feels more like Christmas. It's been a bit too warm lately but that will change soon. Supposed to be colder the rest of the week and hopefully it will stay that way for a little while. True, I did grow up in Texas so normally it's a whole lot warmer but I've gotten used to needing a coat come the end of the year.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Running Man

Currently Reading: Ender In Exile by Orson Scott Card

Due to genetics I've ended up with bacon blood. High triglycerides you see. My overall cholesterol levels are pretty good though, which is something. Just too much fat in the blood. I get that from my father. Thanks dad!

Anyway, now that I'm not working regularly, I decided I needed to get some exercise. You see, normally when I was working at the salon I was on my feet maybe 5 to 7 hours a day. We don't sit down. There's also a WHOLE lot of lifting. Light lifting, heavy lifting, medium lifting. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes and most of them don't just hop up on the table no matter how much we wish they would. Then there's all the dog washing, the cleaning up. You can really get a good workout doing a job like that.

The question was: what kind of exercise should I do? Now, CC does all sorts of stuff here in the apartment. She's got a couple of different workout dvds that she'll use. She's been alternating between two lately. One is more cardio, the other is more of the classic style. They're both good, don't get me wrong, but I hate stationary exercise. Aerobics, yoga, all that stuff, it's good, it's good for you, I just lose interest very quickly with it.

Earlier this year I read a memoir by one of my favorite authors, Haruki Murakami. The whole premise was how he prepares for running a marathon. It's also got all sorts of information about various marathons he's run, including the actual ORIGINAL marathon route. I remember connecting rather well with him on running. When I was in high school and a little bit in college, I used to jog. I wasn't all that serious about it but every now and then I'd feel the need to do something more active so I'd put on some shoes and off I went. Back in junior high I even ran 5k and 10k races with my father. It was just something we did back then. Just made sense to go back to running.

I started this off on Thursday last week, the 4th, for no particular reason other than I said I would. Wednesday night I was sitting here at the machine and I decided that the next day I would run. Now, I didn't want to be the kind of guy who made a decision like that and then backed out later so after walking the dogs, I changed clothes and shoes, grabbed my MP3 player and hit the road.

Fortunately, thanks to Murakami, I have some decent running shoes. In his memoir he descries a conversation he had with a sporting goods representative. They were talking about Mizuno shoes and equipment. He said that while they may not have all the fancy bells and whistles of some of the other brands out there, the shoes are high quality and very dependable. He said they were the Subaru of shoes.

As luck would have it, I was in the market for a new pair of shoes for work, my other pair having fallen apart from all the abuse in the salon. So I figured if these shoes were made to stand up to the punishment of daily running or even marathon running, they ought to be able to handle 4 days a week in a dog grooming salon.

He was right. 100% accurate description of the shoe. Comfortable, light-weight, nothing too fancy or flashy. A high-quality shoe for a decent price. It was time to put them to use at what they were designed for.

It's now Sunday. I've run the same loop twice. I'm not really sure how far it is to be honest because I haven't yet taken the truck out to measure it. I do know that it takes about 20 minutes or so because I remember which songs I listened to along the way. You just add up the run time and there you go. I'm HOPING that the look is around a mile and a half. Back when i was younger I had no problem running a mile in under 9 minutes. Sometimes under 8 if it wasn't too hot or humid out. I'd REALLY be disappointed if it NOW took me 20 minutes to run a mile. Seems it would be faster to walk it. I'll measure this week.

So now, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning I'll be out there in the cold (it's in the 30's when I run), bundled up in sweats and a light jacket, MP3 player keeping me company while I get a little running in. You know what I like the most about it? My mind pretty much goes blank while I'm out there. Even the music is more in the background than anything else. It definitely helps clear my head.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Missing Month

Currently Reading: Ender In Exile by Orson Scott Card

I just updated the reading list this afternoon and I noticed that I haven't posted anything here in almost a month. My last entry was at the beginning of November. Sadly, there hasn't exactly been a flood of e-mail asking why I wasn't posting. That's ok. News from my world is trickling out through CC and via word of mouth.

So, what's been going on? Well let's get this ball rolling . . .

I'm unemployed again. No, really, it's true. Here's what happened. Slowly but surely I was losing money at the salon. Most of us were asked to work fewer hours to save money. No big deal there. Always a slow period before the holidays. Things were bound to pick up. Only they never really did. Worse, we've got a few people on payroll who just HAD to work a full 35 hours a week because if they didn't, they'd lose their benefits. So those people got their hours. The rest of us, we had to cut back. Again, not a big deal. Annoying, but not a big deal.

Then one day I show up and there's another groomer in the salon. She's misread the schedule and shown up on the wrong day. Boss tells her it's ok to stay and finish the day so she'll maintain her hours (even though falling short a few hours every now and then really doesn't matter). Now we've got a problem. Instead of flying solo for the day, I have to share everything with this other groomer. By the end of the day, her mistake cost me about a hundred bucks. That's how much of my business I had to give to her.

After a few days off, I go back on Friday and get into an argument about all of this with my boss. She doesn't seem to be particularly sympathetic at first but when I start bringing up numbers it sinks in. Here I am, been there longer than anyone but the boss and I'm having trouble just breaking $800 a month. Worse, with the holidays coming up, I was going to have to share even MORE of my days because corporate had this funny idea that there was going to be a huge surge in business. That was surely bound to take even MORE money out of my paycheck.

Well, during all this arguing, a bather, who's only been there a month, heard something she didn't like. Not really sure what it was because no one ever told me, but she wrote a little letter to the store manager saying she was DEEPLY offended by whatever it was she heard and she had no choice but to file a formal complaint against me.


Next thing I know, the store manager is telling me I have to go home for the day because I've somehow offended this person (not that anyone ever told me what was so offensive).


Next day I get a phone call telling me I'm "on suspension" while they figure out what to do about the whole situation.


A week goes by before I finally learn that I have, in fact, been fired. Yeah, they left me hanging a whole week. When I finally got someone to tell me what was going on, all I he said was that they couldn't find my phone number to tell me. Couldn't find it? It's posted in at least two places in the salon not to mention in the computer in my personnel file.

So now I'm unemployed again.

I'm looking for work now. Been out there filling out applications anywhere I can find that's hiring and sending e-mail off to various small grooming salons and vet clinics seeing if they're hiring. So far no luck so what I've decided to do is offer my services freelance until I hear something. I printed up a flyer last week and posted it over at the mailboxes where everyone will see it. I checked yesterday and a few of the little number tags were missing from the flyer so I know at least a few people are interested. No calls yet but I'm sure something will come up soon.

CC, in the meanwhile, is over in Manila. She was supposed to be gone until the 12th but unfortunately that got changed to the 19th. Her boss wants her to stay a little longer. Can't turn down the boss in a situation like that.

You know, I suppose I should be a whole lot more bitter and depressed about all this. I'm sitting here in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of the week waiting to hear from people. My wife is on the other side of the planet. It's cold and gray outside. Christmas is in a few weeks so everyone's got that holiday-crazy look in their eye. But you know what? I'm actually pretty much ok with this. Yeah, it sucks but you know what? It can always be a LOT worse. All I have to do is open the newspaper and I can see how much worse things COULD be.

So I'll just keep on working at it. Every day I contact a few more people or put in a few more applications. I try to stay busy to make sure I don't get the blues or anything like that. Don't want to get lazy or go soft.