I have the urge to blog

For the past several days I’ve had this urge to blog again. I know, I know. “How long will this urge last?” you wonder. Is this just a flash in the pan? Will I post a few posts and then disappear into the ether again? Perhaps. Time is at a premium more than ever. And Facebook does suck what free time I do have. But I post my little Facebook updates, and sometimes it’s just not enough. I have all these other thoughts roaming around in my head that I feel like writing down. So here I am. The crazy thing is, who the heck is even reading my blog at all anymore? Who will even know I’ve posted here? I suppose I could update my Facebook status and publicize this post. Hmmmm….

Okay, so what is it I wanted to blog about? Oh, lots of things.  Let’s see… First, this days-getting-shorter stuff really sucks. It was just a few days ago that, when The Spouse left in the morning, it was light out. Now, the sun has yet to come up (the sky is a beautiful pinkish-orange at the horizon, but Mr. Sun has yet to actually rise above the horizon) and it’s 6:05 AM. Just a few days ago, The Spouse could get home at 7 PM and have plenty of time to mow the backyard while I finished up mowing the front yard and the edges of the backyard with the walk-behind mower. Then, as he mowed the back, I’d start barbecuing something for dinner – all in the light of day. Last night, I got home at 5:20 PM, nearly an hour earlier than usual, mowed the front yard and all the edges, which took me until 6:30, then I jumped on the riding mower and mowed the back. The Spouse got home at about 6:50 PM. I was almost finished, so I told him to just go water the places where we’d patched the lawn. At 7:05 PM I finished mowing – and the sun was down, with just some orange streaks in the sky. 15 minutes later, it was dark. At this rate, in another week it will be too dark to mow anything but the front yard after work. Why can’t winter come without shorter days? Oh yeah, something about the tilt of the earth or something like that, right?

Next thing on my mind – Linux. Yeah, I’m becoming a big fan. I am still a total Linux retard, but I am trying to learn more. I have a friend, MP, who helps me out at work on a volunteer basis. He’s awesome, and a Linux guru. He does Linux command-line stuff the way I used to do DOS command-line stuff.  I so want to learn all the ins and outs of Linux! Anyway, I started having problems with the online catalog machines at work.  I am over my love affair with Windows.  A patch back in July has wreaked havoc on one of my servers, and it keeps crashing.  The group policy that locks down the online catalogs is corrupt, so I can’t modify it. That wasn’t a problem until we got a new online catalog program, and moved it to a new server. I needed to change the default home page for the catalog machines, and without being able to modify the profile, I couldn’t do that.  Enter Linux.  The online catalog machines only have to run a web browser.  This is the perfect scenario for Linux. I don’t need to manage these machines from the Active Directory. I just need them to run the browser in kiosk mode – which means no tool bars, no menus, nothing – just a browser. MP set to work finding out how to lock down Firefox, force it into kiosk mode, and disable the various default hot keys. Once he got the system locked down the way we wanted it, he created a “tar ball”.  Basically, that’s a zipped up copy of something. In this case, the “something” is the home directory, which houses the configuration for the user these machines will auto log on as.  My job is to take each machine, one by one, and install Linux on it. Then we copy the tar ball and “untar” it – unzip it.  When we reboot, it comes up into the locked down configuration we’ve created. Voila!  So far, three machines are done. There are still a couple of kinks to work out in the configuration – really minor ones that don’t affect the functioning – but overall, this is great. The machines log on automatically. They come up into the browser in kiosk mode. The browser can’t be closed. Perfect! MP is a rock star!!!  My next Linux project is to create a Linux server, on which we will install an Apache web server. We are going to redesign our entire website – with the help of Selle Design Group.  They presented us with a mock-up of a redesigned home page that the four of us on the web design committee just loved, so we hired them. I get to work with an old friend from back in the days when I owned my own business. He is going to be doing the programming part of the website – setting up the MySQL database and PHP for me, and getting it all to work. I am so excited. This guy is another rock star, and a really great person with whom I am going to love working. So I get to pick two brains and learn some stuff I’ve been dying to learn. Yay!

Third thing on my mind – weight loss. Ugh. WHY is this so hard???  It seems like every time I get determined to finally do something serious about my weight, start eating better, exercising, etc. something comes along to derail my efforts. I either get suddenly crazy busy at work and can’t work out, or there are daily temptations at work that I can’t seem to avoid. Yesterday it was a really great cake that kept calling my name. Arrrggghhhh!  And frustratingly, I feel like I’ve actually GAINED weight since starting my “diet”.  I haven’t weighed myself – that would be too depressing. But I FEEL fatter.  And it’s sad because I’ve been doing stuff right – I’ve been eating breakfast, which I never do.  Well, I’ve been DRINKING breakfast. I make a smoothie every morning for The Spouse and myself. I put in a banana, a cup of frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries, and marionberries), a half cup each of orange, grapefruit, and pomegranate juice, and a scoop of whey protein powder. I blend it all up and split it between The Spouse and myself. It’s really filling and nutritious.  I’ve been trying to eat lunch consistently, which is always hard. I take a yam to work that I can pop into the microwave for lunch. But that’s my backup. I try to take either a Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice meal, half a turkey sandwich, or something like that. Then, I have been trying to make healthy dinners. Mostly we eat chicken that I’ve grilled or sauteed in olive oil, a bunch of vegetables, and a salad. Last night I sauteed chicken, red, green, and yellow peppers, and an onion. Then I added black beans and some brown rice.  I served it to The Spouse in two whole grain tortillas with some cheese on top. I had mine without the tortilla and cheese. Basically a healthy meal – but I am sure that my portion was way too big.  And therein lies the problem – portion size.  So, here I go again, fighting the same battle I’ve fought for most of my life – portion control. Curses to my mom for making us eat everything on our plate. Curses to my Italian heritage that taught me that eating was good, but eating a lot was better. I remember what a big deal it was when I ate more pasta than my dad at age 8 or 9.  My grandma thought it was just fantastic!  Wow… I have a lot of ingrained bad habits and attitudes to overcome. Someone on Facebook said to me to set small goals – even just hourly goals.  That’s what I’m going to strive to do.  So, today is a new day. Just had my “breakfast”, and as soon as I finish this post, I’m going to take Riley for a walk. Oh yeah, I got a battery for my pedometer and have been wearing it for the past two days. Wow, no wonder I have a hard time losing weight.  In one day, I walked about 2600 steps – just about a mile.  THAT’S IT???  Yesterday, with mowing the yard, I only walked about 5800 steps! If the goal is 10,000 steps a day, I have a LONG way to go! So, walks with Riley for as long as the weather allows, and I’m going to have to find some way of getting a lot more walking into my day, which means getting up out of my chair and walking around the building – even up and down the stairs. Something! So…that’s my goal. We’ll see how things go.

Finally, YS. He’s been getting a lot of hours at work, which has been great financially. But he really wants to be made full time, which would give him benefits and higher pay. Even though he has been the go-to guy, working whenever asked, staying late and coming in early when needed, and selling like mad, he is still being treated like a slacker.  For five months, he has not been late or called in sick, yet when he got his review a few days ago, it said, “YS needs to work on consistently being on time to work” or something like that.  WHAT???  When things are slow in his department, he is the one straightening shelves, cleaning, etc., yet his review said, “YS needs to find things to do when there are no customers in his department.”  WHAT???? He was livid. It was as though his review was only reviewing his first 6 months on the job, not his last 6.  And the way the review was handled was just bizarre. His supervisor walked up to him as he was leaving for the day, handed YS the review, and said, “sign this”. YS looked at it and said, “what if I don’t want to?” The supervisor said, “I don’t give a f**k! Just sign it. I want to go home.” So he signed it. WHAT???? I thougth a review was something your supervisor sat down with you and went over. And the review was done by the store manager, not by his supervisor, yet his supervisor was the one who gave it to him.  I told him he should not have signed it, but that he had better make a point of talking to the manager immediately and go over her comments, and register his objections. I also told him that if he didn’t get to do that, he needs to call HR immediately and discuss the manner in which this review was conducted. I reminded him that this review will be a part of his employment record, and when he applies for a full time position, or a position in another store, they will look at that review and judge him accordingly. He hadn’t really considered that. He is really discouraged. That review took a guy who had a really gung-ho attitude, who was selling like crazy – more than the full-timers were selling on a regular basis, who was doing everything possible to demonstrate that he is worthy of a promotion, and crushed him. What a bunch of terrible managers! Clearly, they do not know how to motivate an employee.  He had applied for a full-time position in another store that a new manager had suggested he apply for. Prior to doing that, he had asked his supervisor, manager, and the store general manager if they’d sign off on his application. They all said they would, that they would not do anything to hold someone back from going full time, and that he had been doing a great job.  But a week after he applied, he had a customer come right before closing to buy a home theater setup. He checked the computer to see if they had the TV the guy wanted in stock, and it said they had 2. He went into the warehouse to check, and saw 4 of that size and brand, and figured at least one of those 4 was the one the customer was buying.  He rang the sale up and went to get the TV, only to discover they had none.  Not only that, but the other store in town had none either, even though the computer said they had four.  The customer was furious. YS was really apologetic and felt horrible. He gave the customer an additional discount and said they’d get it in, install it for free, etc. They canceled the sale, which the customer put on 3 AMEX gift cards, and the customer left – pissed. YS went into the store early the next morning, even though he was off, just to talk about the screw up with his manager. The customer had sent a scathing email, saying he was never going to shop there again – unless they gave him all sorts of stuff for free. Clearly, the customer was milking this mistake for all he could.  Unfortunately, AMEX wasn’t going to put the money back on the guy’s gift cards for 3-7 days, which really pissed the guy off.  YS wasn’t the one who had decided on the method of doing the refund they’d used – one of the store cashiers had done that.  Had they realized how AMEX was going to handle it, they would have just given the guy a straight out refund and put it on a store gift card, which would have been available immediately.  When YS talked to his manager, the manager said that he realized mistakes happen, the computer system is screwed up, and said that as long as he never had to talk to YS about this kind of thing again (they are supposed to physically touch the product before they sell it), they were cool.  YS said he would never make that mistake again – and he won’t. So, that was that – or so he thought. A few days later, he got written up for the incident by his supervisor. When he asked why, the supervisor said the general manager had told him to, even though he didn’t think it deserved a write-up. YS knew that write-up would preclude him from getting the job in the other store. He went to the manager who did his review and asked why he’d been written up. She said they needed to hold him accountable – as if he hadn’t demonstrated his accountability by coming in the next day to talk to his manager about it. He had also stopped a full time person from selling the exact same non-existent TV two days later by telling the customer “don’t swipe your card” and then telling the salesperson, “we don’t have that TV. That’s the one I tried to sell Sunday night.” The computer STILL said there were two, and the full-timer had not even LOOKED in the warehouse to see if it was there, let alone put his hands on it. But YS needed to be held accountable….right.  When he reminded her that he was applying for the job in the other store and that this would keep him from getting it, she said, “I couldn’t sign off on you getting that job anyway. You need to show more consistency.” WHAT???? She had told him just a few days earlier that she was okay with him applying for that job. He tried to talk to the general manager, but he wouldn’t talk to him. Instead, the GM told YS’s supervisor that he wouldn’t recommend him for the full time job either – that YS needed to show more consistency.  WHAT?????  Again, this manager had said he was fine with him applying for the job and that he “wouldn’t hold someone back from bettering themself”.  And how much more consistent does he need to be? 6 months of being early, staying late, being the highest seller and most productive isn’t consistent? YS was crushed. It was as if they were going to forever hold his first four months against him. And honestly, those first four months he wasn’t late for no reason.  He had legitimate reasons for being late. One time, his car had been totaled the night before so he had to get a ride. The other time, he had a flat on his rental car and could not get the wheel off. He had to wait for Les Schwab to come get it off because the lug wrench that came with the car was a piece of junk. He had called and told his manager he would WALK if it was going to be held against him. She assured him it was fine, that she understood, and sometimes stuff happens.  Other than that, he wasn’t late, he wasn’t sick, nothing. He had switched shifts with another worker, and because it was after the computer schedule was made up, it showed up as a missed shift in the system. Clearly, he had not missed a shift or he’d have been fired, but that actually came up as an attendance problem.  WHAT???  Okay… but this stuff was all past history. He is a different employee now.  He determined five months ago to do whatever it took to get full time. And he has been amazing. All the managers have told him over and over what a great job he was doing. But his review showed a different employee, and he is pissed, crushed, demoralized, and wants to quit.  I don’t blame him, but I’ve told him he needs to not let this get him down. He needs to show them that, even in the face of adversity, he is the same guy – always early to work, selling more than anyone, a model employee.  I hope he doesn’t get discouraged and fall back into his “I don’t care” attitude.  I’m praying.  He has yet to talk to his manager about his review.  We’ll see.  On another note, he has applied for an entry-level web programmer position at his alma mater. It would be awesome if he got that! But without his degree, and with his horrendous grades, I’m not too confident.  But you know, God knows.  Maybe God has opened this door for him…. if he got it, he could finish his degree for free, since employees get free tuition. THAT would be awesome! I am almost too scared to even hope for it, but I AM praying.

YS’s romantic life sucks. He has had two crazy girlfriends. Literally crazy. His last one keyed his car. He is on eHarmony still, and seems to have some great matches available. I know he really wants to have a relationship, so I’m praying that one of these matches turns out to be someone special for him.  God DOES have a plan for YS, but He sure is keeping it a mystery!

Okay…the sun is finally up. It’s time to take Riley for a walk. I just finished watching this week’s episode of “The Biggest Loser”, which was great and motivational. Off I go. Have a great day!