Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Just Fly Casual

I wouldn't want you guys to think I'm not doing anything creative, even though I haven't cranked out anything literary in a while.  I have a WIP and every time I get to it, I'm adding at least a page. The trouble is not getting to it often enough.  Something about the number of hours in the day and how I need to spend a certain amount of them sleeping. But I have been up to something.  I happen to be a big fan of 8 1/2 x 11 wirebound journals ruled front and back, the kind made by Piccadilly Inc. and occasionally sold at Half Price Books.  They're great journals but even at Half Price, they're not easy to find. And when you do find them, you may find four copies of the same one.  In this case, I found four journals with a cover from the woodcut series, The Great Wave Off Kanegawa.  (You've seen it dozens of times, but hey, now you know what it's called.  You learn something new on the Internet every day, right?)  Now, I like the painting, but I don't need four of them all the same.  So I set out to create new covers for these things.

I'm not sure what I was actually intending to do with this one.  I remember mixing up the caramel color for the background and being delighted when it was Just Right, but I don't know what I was going to do with it after I got the color down.  Whatever it was, though, I changed my mind halfway through and decided to go for the Sea Life with Jewelry theme.  Sort of like if somebody dropped their jewelry box over the side of a boat (I'm sure that happens all the time) and the box burst open on the way down, drawing a bunch of curious fish and crustaceans. If I'd had the idea for the sea life theme a little sooner, I could have gone with a blue background, but actually, the caramel sets off the red pretty well and I'm not sure the blue would have done.

When I was doing the back for this one, I made the accidental discovery that black gesso covers up one hell of a lot better than white gesso.  Of course, it's also black, so anything you're going to use against it has to be pretty bright.  I have an old fish pin (made by Oscar)  that might work if I can find a way to affix it in there.  Maybe I'll scoop out some of the cardboard cover in a fishy shape with an Exacto and see if I can settle it in there with Gorilla Glue.  Yeah, fish are a continuing theme.  Big fan of fish, me.  I miss my aquarium, not that I could have one with Artemis the Hunter Kitten in the house.

I haven't been remiss in my making of jewelry, either, in case you were worried:

Meanwhile, back in the real world...

Presumably you're all  Star Wars junkies, or at least familiar with the basic tenets of the movies, so you probably remember the scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Han Solo's ship, the Millenium Falcon, is sneaking up on the big Imperial fleet.  Han Solo says to Chewbacca, "Keep your distance. But try not to look like you're keeping your distance." Chewbacca says, "Gronk," which as far as I can tell is the extent of his vocabulary.  And Han Solo says, "Just fly casual."

Which is where I am in my employment history.  Just flying casual.  I'm looking, but I'm trying not to look like I'm looking.  This has made for many humorous moments (changing into and out of a suit in the ladies' room of a RaceTrac, being late to work and blaming traffic, going to pick up medical records and, as long as I was out, going to a job interview, stuff like that).

It might be a long search.  For the first time in, I think ever, I'm confined by geography. Now, I have driven to work and I have taken trains, I have commuted on buses and I have even walked to work, but now I have to be downtown, or near downtown, or no more than 20 minutes from where Joan works, in bad traffic, in case I have to take her somewhere. This rules out a job in Plano, which is unfortunate because Plano is exploding right now.  Southwest Airlines just opened an office in Plano, Toyota just moved one of its major plants to Plano and Plano is officially one of the fastest growing cities in Texas and maybe in the whole United States. Unfortunately, all those people pouring into Plano is making the 75 freeway (the main artery between Plano and Dallas) basically impassable during rush hour. It's not 10-20 minutes from downtown Plano to downtown Dallas; it's more like an hour, and sometimes longer.  So Plano is out.  If Joan needed to see a doc or something in the middle of the day, I'd have to take off the whole morning or afternoon to make it happen. And it's weird, but recruiters get huffy when you say you can't work in a certain area or you need to stay close to another area.  It's like, "Oh, are you too good to commute with the rest of us?" Like driving 45 miles one way to work and burning lots of gasoline is a badge of achievement or something.

Second, I'm old.  Well, not that old, but old enough that employers are starting to wonder why I haven't settled down in some nice retirement track job for the duration of my twenty-odd years left in the world of work.  Despite the fact that I don't "look" old, my graduation date from college isn't getting any fresher, and that's kind of a dead giveaway for how old I am (unless I graduated very early in life, which I didn't, and I don't think anyone would assume I did). Now, being old has some advantages (gobs of experience) and disadvantages (I might be curmudgeonly and set in my ways).  I think for the most part, though, employers would rather hire somebody in their early 30s (old enough to know how to behave in an office setting, not so old that they can't learn a new trick or two).  And I don't really look like I'm in my early 30s anymore. I could probably pass for around 40, though.

I'm also fat, which doesn't help either.  There's scads of studies out there about hiring managers and their fear of fat people.  If you're looking for a job around here, you can't go wrong to be skinny, blonde, 30 something and a graduate of UT.  But I keep applying for stuff anyway.  Something's got to open up sooner or later.

In the meantime, maybe I'll get a raise so I can stay where I am.  It could happen.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Rain in the Summertime

Well, we've reached the end of Swim for Distance Month and I have a total of 27,400 meters notched onto my goggles.  (Just kidding about notching my goggles. That would hurt the goggles.)  Which comes to a total of just over 17 miles.  That's neither as far as I wanted to come or as not-far as I thought it would probably be.  In short, it is Just Enough.  I have earned &a t-shirt and some bragging rights, and the North Dallas Food Bank has earned $17, though I will probably just send them a full $20 because why the hell not.  I just wish I could get the whole swim team doing this so we could send them lots of money.  I haven't sold them on this concept yet.  Maybe next year.

Meanwhile, The Alarm came to town, and everything else just pretty much ceased to be important.

I should back up a little.  If you've been hanging around these parts long enough, you know that my favorite band is Big Country. That's the Scottish band that had the one big hit in 1983, won the Best New Artist Grammy (or was at least nominated for it; I forget which) and then disappeared like smoke.  Only they didn't disappear, of course; they just fell victim to the vagaries of the Copyright Act of 1985 and some bad management decisions and never really made it back across the ocean again.  But, they continued as a band in Europe and the rest of the world, put out eight brilliant albums over twelve years before their lead singer, Stuart Adamson, died tragically in Hawaii. And yes, there's this whole long story about that, and no, I'm not going to tell you about it, because I'm sure I've told that story here before and a lot of it is rampant speculation on my part anyway.

Back to the important part, though.  Big Country was without a singer.  In 2011, almost ten years after Stuart's death, Big Country's 30th anniversary came up and fans were demanding some kind of gathering to celebrate (this was in the U.K., though people I knew from the U.S. actually did fly over there to attend it).  In order to have an actual band for the occasion, the surviving members of Big Country called up Mike Peters, the lead singer of the band The Alarm (biggest hit: Probably "Rain in the Summertime") and asked him to fill in.  There's this funny story, which is probably totally bogus, that Mike was halfway up a mountain in Wales at the time and accepted the job on his cell phone while hanging from a carabiner.  Anyway, the show went unbelievably well, everybody loved it and Big Country asked Mike to stay on full time.

Which he did, and Big Country ended up recording The Journey, its first studio album since 1994, in 2013.  The band did a tour of Europe and the United States, including three shows in Texas that I, Jen, went on the road to see (taking along a reluctant Joan, who doesn't do concerts).  Yes, I followed a band around Texas.  No, I'm not considering a future career as a Dead Head.  It was actually really hard work.  But the shows were brilliant, Mike Peters is awesome, and no matter what happens in the future or what else he ends up doing, I will always think of him as The Guy Who Brought Big Country Back From The Dead.  Which, you gotta admit, is a pretty nifty epitaph if you need one.

After three years, Mike Peters returned to The Alarm.  That was actually fine, because The Alarm is my second favorite band (though the new-ish band, Fun., is jockeying for position in there somewhere). Now The Alarm is on tour, and darned if they didn't come to Texas for three shows.  Did I drag out the Toyota and follow them from Austin to Houston to Dallas?  Er--no.  It was a lot of work last time.  But I thought about it.  And I saw them last night at the Gas Monkey Bar and Grill on a VIP ticket in the balcony, so there.  They played for almost two hours and every time I thought, "Now, how are they going to top that?" they did.  I got home after midnight.  Which was fine.

Here's a pic from my balcony seat:

And here's a short video clip:

And for those of y'all who still haven't heard "Rain in the Summertime," here it is.