Camping Trip II

June 28, 2009 at 9:49 pm (Uncategorized)

Just got back from the 2nd camping excursion for LabGirl and I.
And, I dono, I had a fairly nice time, but I guess there were several factors involved that added up to me not enjoying it as much as last time.

One was that I had a very rough time attempting to sleep the first night. We got to the the campground a little after 7p, set up camp, roasted weenies for dinner and I attempted a banana boat for dessert, which didn’t work out quite right but was still tasty.

And then a little while later we attempted to sleep. Well, OK, LabGirl did sleep without much trouble. Me, not so much.
See, I’m used to sleeping in a temperature controlled apartment with most outside noises blocked out and, more often than not, a fan or something along those lines running because the “white noise” helps me sleep, blocks out most odd noises, and keeps the air circulating so it doesn’t feel stuffy or anything.
The temperatures that day reached around 90-ish with high humidity, and even though the tent was in the shade with all the vents open, it was still damned warm and stuffy in there with no breeze. Add to that my extra sensitivity to all the noises, and every toad, every bird, every splash of water in the nearby pond, every laugh from a nearby campsite, every passing car or truck (which there were a ton of – a lot of road noise at this campground), was yet another noise that kept me awake. Although I think I may have dozed off for a few minutes here and there, I didn’t truly fall asleep until nearly 5am. And then woke up a little after 8.

Which meant I was tired as hell for most of this next day. It again got quite hot, so we decided to try out swimming at the campground’s “beach” (basically a bunch of smooth gravel thrown along the edge of a man-made pond) and pretty much just waded a bit and sat cooling in the water sort of shoulder-deep for a while, as frankly the water was a bit gross and neither of us (especially LabGirl) was thrilled about the idea of discovering what lurked in the deeper parts. I also discovered upon coming home that my Coppertone “waterproof” sunscreen apparently washed right off, and I got a pretty good sunburn (while LabGirl’s Mary Kay stuff appears to have worked perfectly).

The campground has a canoe you can rent, and we had originally considered giving this a shot just to try it out, but between the lake/pond being pretty small (which really would have only allowed us to paddle around in circles a couple of times) and it just being really dang hot out, we decided to pass on it.

That morning I had fired up the new camping stove I had recently bought at Wal-Mart, made up some coffee using our new percolator (which worked great, which is cool because we just did instant coffee last time which sucked), got out the camp toaster (which works by sitting on the camp stove distributing the heat to the bread) and then before the toast was halfway done had quite a surprise in seeing that the stove had caught on fire.
Yes, it would appear that Wal-Mart camp stove was coated in a highly flammable paint.

So, as I had forgotten a ton of stuff needed to fully cook breakfast anyway, we decided to drive into the nearby town and do a little shopping.
Picked up some eggs, butter, syrup, pre-cooked sausages, and a new stove; another off-brand, that I didn’t like the overall design of as much, but it was still in my price range, seemed to work fairly well, and most importantly, didn’t catch on fire.
(It’s going to be interesting when I take that stove back to Wal-Mart for a refund and they ask “Is there anything wrong with it?” )

After our little wading excursion, we ate lunch, played a couple of games (introduced her to Hive, which she liked, and Cinq-O, which she didn’t), and then rushed to make dinner (chicken with salsa, with a side of soup) before the expected rain started coming in. By the time we had started up a new fire for the evening, the light rain had already started coming down.
(Oh, and more proof that I’m a game nerd – I had mentioned how cool I thought it would be to have one of those portable screened-in gazebo things to have while camping, because that way you could bring and play a better variety of games without having to worry about the pieces being heavy enough to not blow away, etc…)

But, since it had been a hot day anyway, and the weather report was indicating we should only get very light rain and that the nastier stuff should pass us by (as the campground manager was kind enough to inform everyone), we decided we needed s’mores, and decided to make s’mores in the rain.
The rain actually felt kind of refreshing after the hot humid day, and the s’mores were dang tasty.

We did end up moving anything we didn’t think should get wet, which was most of it, into the tent – which thankfully is large enough that we had some room to spare, since we had to park a good ways away from the site (which I hated, BTW), and not long after decided to call it a night, especially considering how little sleep I had gotten the night before.

This night was much better for me, and I was able to fall soundly asleep in probably half an hour or so – thanks to the sound of light rain falling on the tent, which was kind of relaxing, and the addition of a battery-operated fan I bought during our shopping trip earlier, which added both the air circulation and the bit of white noise that helps me sleep. Still didn’t have a perfect night’s sleep, but it was much better than the night before.

Woke up to a much chillier morning, made our last campfire, fired the stove back up to make pancakes and coffee, packed up camp and headed home.

I did see my first ever (at least that I can recall) American goldfinch, a bright yellow bird with black markings that apparently doesn’t hang out around the city much – for some reason I thought spotting it was especially cool.

Overall I’d have to say I had a nicer time back in September and also liked that campground a bit better.
It appears LabGirl wasn’t thrilled with either campground – she likes the idea of camping, but more like those photogenic scenes you see on TV commercials where you zip open your tent in the morning to see nothing around you but mountain views. Except with nearby shower and bathroom facilities.
Although I explained the likeliness of those features together are rather low, I did think I may want to start investigating into some state or maybe even national parks to look at the possibilities, even though I know I’d have to book a camp site way in advance. I’m still thinking Starved Rock State Park in the fall may be a good starting point, but I’ll probably have to make reservations for Septemberish in the near future if I actually want to reserve a spot.

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Small Work Update

June 23, 2009 at 9:41 pm (Uncategorized)

Well, it appears that in this case, bitching and whining nearly non-stop for over seven months straight has its merits.
I, along with 2 other people, are being pulled out of our sh***y phone jobs and being trained to work with a new client, back to doing work that involves a phone not even being on my desk again.

THANK.
GOD.

I am reserved in my excitement due to the long chain of sh***y moves I’ve had there, but this is, if nothing else, a huge step in the right direction.

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Tweets to the right

June 22, 2009 at 9:28 pm (Uncategorized)

Yeah, haven’t been in that much of a “did something I feel is worthy of writing about” mood lately – however, if you’re seriously jonezin to know what I’m up to, the blog page now has a Twitter widget over on the right side of the page, where I tend to jot my random thoughts now and then.
Yeah, I knew you’d be excited.

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Golf Update

June 7, 2009 at 5:06 pm (Uncategorized)

So after tossing the idea around for a while, last weekend Graumagus and I decided to head to the driving range.
I dusted off my clubs (literally – I hadn’t touched them in years), headed to the range, picked up a bucket of 50 balls to hit, and completely sucked about 48 out of those 50 attempts (I only marginally sucked the other 2).

Golf is one of those things that I keep finding myself attracted to even though I’m amazingly horrible at it. In fact, I’ve never played the actual game as I’ve never considered myself able to hit the ball well enough to “graduate” from the driving range to an actual game, and that’s after taking lessons a number of years ago.

I’m getting tempted to give it a shot anyway though – one of the reasons I had previously gotten away from it is that I had seen it as being expensive; and yes, as Grau and I discussed it’s easily possible to blow a huge amount of cash on stuff like equipment without even thinking about it. (something I don’t think would be that big of a deal for me since really all I’d like to get right now is an updated driver to replace my 1950’s-ish wooden one with – yes, I have a wood that’s actually made out of wood, don’t see that much these days).
However, my big concern was the fees the golf courses charge to actually play, which I had thought would probably be upwards of the $40/game range. And that still might be true for some of the really fancy courses, but I was taking a look around at the local golf course information from the city park district, and on most of their courses you can play 9 holes for as little as $11. That’s really not bad at all, especially when you consider a game will probably take a good couple of hours or more depending.

I’m actually wishing I had a yard right now – it would be nice to be able to get at least some kind of practice in without having to run to the driving range every time, and they make both practice nets and “whiffle” golf balls for practicing your swing at home.

I do have one of those little practice putting cups somewhere that you can just throw on the carpet though, along with (buried somewhere in storage) some golf balls – may have to dig that stuff out 🙂

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Reading Update

June 7, 2009 at 4:49 pm (Uncategorized)

Thanks to PaperBack Swap, I now have a stack (literally) of books I need to read my way through – to the point where I actually had to put my trades on hold for a while to give myself some time to read stuff.
This site absolutely works great – thanks to other readers who are willing to exchange books they no longer need for new ones, you can get books to read (and keep) for only the cost of the shipping on a book of your own that you send to someone else.
I’m on my third right now and have a stack of four more waiting to be read, and a whole bunch more on my “wish list” on the site that I can start getting once I go through those.
Yay books!

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Gaming Update

June 7, 2009 at 4:22 pm (Gaming & RPGs)

Starting to get back into the board gaming, at least in an online PBEM fashion (though I did manage to recruit LabGirl and a couple of family members into playing Carcassonne a few times which was cool; now if only I could get them to try pretty much anything else…) – and still pretty much continually getting my butt kicked, but still having fun with it.

Currently I’m digging the following (with links to online play):

Axis & Allies
Lost Cities
Arkadia
Balloon Cup
Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers
Tally Ho!”

Unfortunately I have not yet found a play-by-email version of Settlers of Catan, or I’d be all over that puppy.

There are also a few games out there that seem like they’d be interesting, but have obnoxious rule books, and I am just finding that more and more if it seems like it takes longer to read the rules than to actually play the game, I’m going to lose interest by about the third paragraph. Games falling into this category are Vikings, Oregon, Yspahan, Peurto Rico (which has gotten great ratings from players for ages but that I just have not had the patient to sit down and read all the rules for), Reef Encounter, and Tikal.
Maybe if I get really, really, really bored some day and have nothing better to do I may sit down and try to figure out the rules to these neat-looking-but-complicated-sounding games – otherwise I’m going to stick to just getting my butt kicked at the ones that have simpler rules but are fun to play 🙂

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Stock trading update

June 7, 2009 at 3:59 pm (Money & Investing)

I think I may have actually started to figure this out, and am having better success at it, though I certainly still have a (long) ways to go before I break even on my losses from the last year and a half that I’ve been doing it.
I’ve got some factors that I look for that at least when testing on historic chart sites like ChartGame.com (a site that gives you an old chart day by day, which can can flip through in sequence to test your ideas rather than having to wait a full 24 hours like in “live” market simulators) have a very high success rate, and that I’ve had some “real life” success with until issues with North Korea and GM ended up screwing me back over a couple of weeks ago.
However, GM is no longer even on the market, so hopefully that kind of crap will help, and political junk has been pretty quiet lately. Hopefully this will give me a chance to catch back up.

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LabGirl Update

June 7, 2009 at 3:44 pm (Dating and Girls)

Things are continuing to go just fine with LabGirl and I.

Back a few weeks ago we passed one year of dating, which we celebrated by going out for sushi and then revisiting the Young at Heart Festival (which unfortunately sucked this year as they had zero musicals acts worth checking out).

The idea of us shacking up has started to pop up in conversation more, though no real serious conversations, though she has mentioned a few concerns, the primary one being that for some reason she’s worried that because I don’t like my job and that I mentioned I actually had a great time when I was unemployed around 2002, that it meant there was a possibility that in actuality I was a bum and may decide to just become a big mooch after moving in.
Hopefully my explaining that I’ve been part of the workforce for over 20 years now without a break except for that short stint in ’02 where I couldn’t find a job (not to mention little factors of my personality such as, oh, ethics and morals) helped convince her that my work ethic wouldn’t allow that, since for some reason me still being at a job I’ve hated to my core and have wanted to leave for nearly a year now hasn’t done that.

We’re both trying to be more active now that’s the weather is warming up and it’s actually been kind of a challenge since neither of us is by nature a really active person. I took her out to try tennis last weekend (I have ancient tennis equipment that’s been collecting dust in storage for well over a decade) and I think she was very discouraged at how challenging it actually is, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to get her back on the court – we “played” for nearly an hour and I think only one or two times managed to actually hit the ball back and forth – otherwise it was a mix of serves that didn’t go where they were supposed to or complete misses when trying to return a serve. I, however, am considering buying a big-ass box of 50 or so used tennis balls for cheap and then just sitting there practicing serves over and over and over and over until I start getting the hang of it.
I’d also like to go mountain biking but she doesn’t have a bike and neither of us is going to have the money to buy another one this year, so that’s out.
And she seems not even an inkling interested in golf or disc golf.
And the dancing thing really went over like a lead balloon, which I was surprised of, I mean considering she’s a girl and all 😉 I may try to revisit that one at a later time though.
She *is* interested in volleyball, but that’s a game you actually need teams for, so I’m not sure how that’s going to work out unless we sign up to play with a bunch of strangers through the local park district or something like that, and I’m really not sure how much fun that would end up being for us.

Oh, and we’re going camping again over the last weekend of June, though I wouldn’t exactly call that “active.”

At the least if later in the year we do end up sharing a living space we’ll probably end up doing after-work walks and that type of thing more often, especially now that she’s adopted her brother’s dog, as one of the main reasons I’m not over there more often to do that type of thing now is just that I end up being stuck at home having to take care of stuff that needs to be taken care of around the house so often. (Speaking of that, that just reminded me that I have laundry I need to do).

Also, I’ve been noticing her more frequently pointing out how cute babies are while we’re out and about, and how pretty such-and-such wedding dress is that there’s a shot of on TV. In the past this might throw up huge red flags for me, but oddly, I’m not bothered at all.

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Work Update

June 7, 2009 at 3:17 pm (Uncategorized)

I suppose I might as well try to get the work bitching out of the way early.

To try and summarize, the situation at work continues to spiral downward , and the only reason I’m still there continues to be that I just haven’t found anywhere else to go yet.

About two weeks ago I received a “verbal warning” indicating that 1) I had not been meeting production goals, causing at least one pay period of pay below minimum wage which they had to adjust for, and 2) I was chatting on the job too much. Seriously.
I really just wasn’t in the mood to argue about it, even though 1) was actually caused be a few factors, that being a) most days they don’t supply us with enough work, b)part of this was based on the follow-up dates indicated in our tracking software, which I wasn’t aware they were actually using for anything, so I wasn’t bothering to actually update those dates, and c) how they really had no right to act all surprised that I wasn’t doing well in a position that I told them repeatedly was not a good fit for me and that I probably wouldn’t do well in. And regarding point 2, anybody how knows me at any more than just an acquaintance level knows that’s just a load of shit – I am not exactly a motormouth, especially not compared to the majority of the dozens of chatty girls who work around me who I’m sure have not gotten warnings for talking.

The manager did inform me however that I was being moved (probably due to my constant bitching about it every time I talk to her) to another area – which will still be a f-ing phone job, but that might be a better fit. Plus it will probably piss off other employees less who are getting sick of me sending their call requests back when they ask me to call for stupid shit that they could figure out on their own if they had bothered to take a minute to look.

Now, I almost blew my stack, and just about walked out of the place, when a few days later it was announced that the company was releasing a job posting, stating that they needed “several” people to fill positions that were coming open – positions that were of the type that I had asked repeatedly over the last 6-7 months to be moved to, after which I was repeatedly told by the management that there simply were no openings and that I couldn’t be put anywhere that wasn’t on a phone.
Thus, essentially proving that the management had straight-faced lied to me repeatedly over the last several months.

Later that afternoon, I sent a call request back to another employee trying to be helpful, explaining that the information she was wanting me to call another branch about was actually available right on one of her screens, if she had bothered to take 2 minutes to look up what the code meant in the online reference (well, OK, my response was written a little more diplomatically than that, but that was basically the point). The response was, to paraphrase, that I needed to just shut the hell up and do what I’m told.

I’ve had a lot of PO’d days at that employer, but this day took the cake by a long shot, and in fact my call volume was WAY down for most of the day, mainly for consideration of the people I had to call, because I didn’t want to bite of the heads of random bystanders over the phone.

Now, I start the new still-on-a-phone-but-hopefully-less-shitty job tomorrow/Monday, and early last week after that job annoucement came out I pretty much immediately emailed my supervisor and told her that I’d like to have a few minutes to talk to her to discuss the new development of the job openings before I get moved to new position and they invest in the training for it.
She completely ignored it.
I finally had to corner her on it when Friday she asked me if I could be in at a certain time Monday to start the new training session. So I responded “So I take it that means there’s no chance of moving to that other position I asked about?”
“Well, I was going to respond to your email,” she said, making me wonder when since it had already been several days since I had sent it and it had said the whole point was to talk to her before the job change was to happen, “but sorry, we’ve decided we need to keep you in this other position for now, and maybe later if your production numbers improve we can discuss the possibilities of a move.”
Which is, of course, total bullshit, and I’m certain at this point they have no intention of ever allowing me to move into a position that I don’t hate. I am, in fact, on the borderline of wondering if they’re actually trying to get me to quit. I mean, how could a management staff be this shitty to an employee and still expect them to stick around?

Well, if that’s the case, hopefully it won’t be long before their (and my) wish is granted, and I find something somewhere else. Jobs are starting to get posted in the paper – they all suck, but it’s better than the complete nothingness that was there a few months ago. It’s all crap like retail and customer service jobs, which I wouldn’t do again unless it was the only option I had to not live out of a cardboard box – but hopefully that’s a sign that other stuff will be appearing soon, and I plan to jump on anything that comes out that I think I’d be able to do, even if it’s not in my current field.
After which I will happily tell this company to kiss my ass as I walk out the door.

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Honey Bunches of Updates

June 7, 2009 at 2:17 pm (Uncategorized)

I squarely blame my lack of updates on a somewhat recently aquired Facebook addiction. Why take the time to write out a full blog entry for everybody to see, when you write one or two sentences that only your few friends on Facebook can see and be done with it?
Meh, I’ll try to get back into the swing.

At least today I have very little I’m actually obligated to do, so that means I can probably fire out a few posts about the not-that-interesting stuff that’s been going on lately.

You know, when I’m not playing little Flash games on facebook or catching up on my web comics.

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