Silence is Golden

At least, that’s what they tell me. I haven’t posted for a while, and I don’t really have a whole lot to say.

I’ve been whining recently about trying to find work, I’m still looking for a full-time IT job while I continue to apply for anything I see in a two-hour radius from where I live.

I applied recently for an IT position via fax, because the organization’s mail server wasn’t accepting emails. This amused me. I also forwarded messages I’d printed with the error messages so they could look into fixing it.

Yesterday and today I worked high ropes, yesterday with a church retreat from in/near DC, and today with a bunch of kids from DC’s Public Schools. A few funny things were said, but the one that stood out was a girl yesterday who said the 3 places she wanted to visit before she died were Argentina, Australia and Alabama. On querying her wish to visit Alabama, she explained her desire to visit “The South” and drink “Real” sweet tea. I tried (in vain) to suggest she could get real sweet tea just by visiting this far south in Virginia, but she wouldn’t have any of it. The only place, in her mind, where she could get such a delicacy was if she went to a “Real” southern state like Alabama.

I had a great time, today I got to try out the new gloves I got for doing ropes work with (and they were amazing!), and had a good laugh or two with some really cool people.

The other day I set up a new website on a domain that has been empty for a few weeks, is now a quote board for amusing or moving quotes from Christian chat rooms all over. Not necessarily UCCN, or even IRC. They can be from Yahoo! or anywhere else for all it matters!

Tonight is a thanksgiving dinner at church, and tomorrow morning Kelly and I leave to house-sit for two weeks! I’m sure many photos will abound.

Driving Experience

This summer I’ve driven at least 9 different vehicles. 3 trucks, 2 vans, and 4 cars. 4 owned by the Cullers family in some way, 3 owned by Highland and 2 owned by other Highland employees. 4 of which had cruise control (2 of which I used it on), 2 were stick-shift. I also drove a trailer for the first time, and went 4-wheel driving on several occasions in the two trucks that were 4×4-capable.

Mark’s car I drove very briefly, and found it to be very heavy steering for such a small car. It was also jerky idling. Other than that it was problem-free, despite it’s reputation for poor performance. It was a Ford Mondeo, I believe.

The blue camp truck was a stick shift, and a rather menacing one at that. A 1987 Ford F-150 (2-wheel drive, long wheelbase), I drove it on a couple of occasions around camp, and then out on the trash run. It was evil to begin with, but after driving Randy’s truck as well, the skills applied back and forth. The clutch was a long way out, and near the end I stalled it multiple times trying to find it. It also had cruise control buttons on the steering wheel, though I never got it to work.

The red camp truck was awesome, a 1997 Chevy 2500 with 4×4 and automatic transmission. It was this that I towed the trailer with, as well as 4-wheel driving some. Being a camp truck, something had to be wrong with it somehow. I can think of 2 things, the first being part of the connection for the electric brakes didn’t work (though that may have been trailer-side), and 4-Low didn’t engage, and if you could get it to, it didn’t engage the 4-wheel drive. Cruise control didn’t engage below 25mph, but it proved useful on the trash run when we got it out onto the long 55mph stretch.

Randy’s truck was also a stick, but not quite so menacing. A 1983 Ford F-150 (4-wheel drive, short wheelbase), I used it to commute to camp a couple of times. I took it up the 4-wheel drive track a couple of times when needed, and it performed really well. The clutch is a lot closer to the floor, and I don’t stall it nearly as much. It’s also the Gilbert-mobile until we buy a new car.

I also drove Gordy’s car (maintenance guy at Highland) when the other vehicles were in use. A Toyota Tercel wagon, it did the job assigned.

I drove our 1999 Ford Escort until it died last week (see last post).

I drove the green camp van on one occasion during the last week, when I needed to go to the tab and pick up some large items and the two trucks were in use. Didn’t really drive it long enough to get a feel for it, but it seemed nice enough. It was a Dodge or a Chrysler.. not sure which.

I also drove the Culler’s van to Harrisonburg and back tonight to drop off Marsha for discussion group, and got to use the cruise control – much fun. Pretty sure it is a Dodge..?

Lastly is the ’91 Chevy Corsica, Matt’s car now (was Randy’s long-time vehicle until he bought the Explorer). Not much to say for it, it does its job well enough. I’ve driven it several times, mostly to Harrisonburg and back for various things.

This is a much unneeded rundown of the vehicles I’ve driven this summer, but I felt like posting something.

What have I learned from these vehicles? Several things.

  1. 4-wheel driving is fun. Vehicle doesn’t make a huge difference in terms of fun-factor – it’s more about the driver.
  2. Vans aren’t as bad as some people make them out to be.
  3. Stick-shift in trucks, while not awesome, aren’t really all that bad – they just take a little getting used-to and some practice.
  4. Cruise control is also really awesome. I look forward to inter-stating with it, rather than 8-hour drives to OBX in a vehicle without it 🙁
  5. Driving with the park brake on is not advisable.
  6. Check you know how to engage 4×4 before setting out. Some older 4×4’s require the hubs to be locked 😉
  7. Driving with a trailer is pretty easy. Backing with a trailer is slightly harder than normal. I was able to turn the consist 180 degrees in a space about 6′ wider than the truck and trailer in about 5 points.
  8. Always consider that other people with different habits may have driven the vehicle before you. Check the park brake’s position, and that it isn’t in gear, for example, before beginning your normal routines.
  9. Listen to those who have driven the vehicle before and know it’s quirks. Especially when you’re learning about a vehicle. This happened twice for me, once in the blue camp truck (stalled several times with Gordy beside me trying to help me hill-start it), and once in Randy’s truck, when Randy was explaining the intricacies of starting and driving a carburetor-driven vehicle.
  10. Find out where the keys are before you set out. It saves a lot of time in getting to the vehicle, not being able to find the keys, only to find out that a) the owner still has them, or b) they’re in an obscure hiding place that you didn’t think to check.

Enjoy my experiences. Or ignore them. Whichever.

Form I-797C, Notice of Action

This is to notify you that your application for permanent residence has been approved. It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to permanent resident status in the United States.

I received this notice yesterday by mail, and according to emails my card was sent July 14th, so I should have it early this week.

In other news camp is going well, not too many problem campers. One of my campers went to hospital for a broken finger (playing tetherball) and was covered by camp for it, the rest have been mostly fine. We’re implementing a few new rules regarding hygiene and such to prevent the spread of disease, particularly swine flu.

3 Out Of 50 Ain’t…All That Great, Actually.

Over the last 2 months or so I’ve been scouring ads online and in papers for jobs. I’m looking for something entry-level IT so that I can gain real and valuable experience. Mostly this means Level 1 Service/Help Desk positions. 2 huge negatives against me are a lack of college education (I might explain that in a later post) and lack of US Citizenship.

This means I’ve been able to apply for about 50 jobs, from DC to Richmond to Blacksburg in Virginia. [It just got more complicated, I’ll explain that in a paragraph or two]. Of the 50 jobs I sent applications to I received exactly 3 responses. I don’t know about anyone else, but I was kinda hoping I’d have had a few more rejection notices rather than just being ignored.

The first application I got a response from was James Madison University. They’d advertised a User Support position, and I applied within 30 minutes of seeing the ad in the paper. A few days later I received an automated email saying the position had been filled.

The second application I got a response from was Highland Retreat, a Christian Camp about 15-20 minutes drive away in Bergton, VA. I just got a call from the director there, who reminded me how complicated my future employment status is just with a phone call to update me on how well things are going with that application.

The third application I got a response from was RackSpace, an IT company with several ventures including MailTrust (Mail services) and SliceHost (a VPS company). I applied for a Datacenter Operations Technician position which would involve building servers, installing OS’s and diagnosing hardware and OS faults on servers in the datacenter. I have a phone interview with them tomorrow at 4pm, and I’m kinda nervous.

My biggest worry right now is that I’ll jeoperdize one position and the other will fall through, primarily the camp one. The camp job is looking very certain, they’re waiting contact from the camps in NZ that I worked with so they have a NZ camp reference. The RackSpace job is a much better option in the long term though, but isn’t guaranteed. The fact that they had 5 positions listed on their careers site makes my chances of getting one of them that much bigger, but I don’t want to commit or decline Highland’s offer until RackSpace offers or rejects me, because $160/wk is better than nothing at all.

So that is my complication – I want both jobs for different reasons, but the one I want more may not want me, and is moving slower so I may have to turn RackSpace down prematurely. I REALLY hope I don’t have to, a rejection I can handle, I’d much prefer that to having to say “well, you took too long and I’ve decided to work in a camp over the summer…” It’d be one of the most illogical things I’ve said in a long time..

That’s my dillemma, suggestions from people who have been in a similar situation would be helpful!

Highland Retreat Staff Assistance Program

Hello all,

If you read regularly or know me well then you’re probably aware I don’t ask for things much, especially when I understand so many others are struggling right now, in other ways as well, but financially especially.

I’m waiting for confirmation (final paperwork was sent in yesterday, expecting a decision next week probably), but I’m expecting to be working at Highland Retreat over the summer, a non-profit camp focused at children and young people. I’ll be making somewhere in the vicinity of $20 a day, for around 22 hours work (a day) – because apparently when I’m sleeping it counts as work (in the same room as campers, and they’re still my responsibility).

They’ve suggested, and this is what this post is about, that I spread the word and try to gain further financial support beyond what they are able to provide themselves. Below is a copy of their suggested letter, and I’ll attach links to images of the original sample letter and the form provided on the back thereof.

Highland Retreat is a non-profit Mennonite camp located near Bergton, Virginia. Summer staff members often give up the possibility of better-paying jobs in order to minister in service to the youth who attend summer camp at Highland. Full-time summer staff work at Highland for 9 weeks and receive from $70­ – $130 per week, plus meals and lodging, for their service. These committed young people give their summer to help share their faith in the natural setting of camp.

In order to help make this ministry a financial possibility for those staff willing to serve, Highland has initiated the Staff Assistance Program. You are invited to help meet the financial needs of those serving at Highland through your support, thus allowing them to commit their gifts and energies in summer ministry. There are three ways you can contribute to this program.

1. Make a contribution to Highland Retreat and designate it for the Staff Assistance fund without naming a specific beneficiary. Such contributions will be used at the desecration of the camp leadership in assisting individuals who need help. Such a contribution is fully tax deductible.

2. Make a contribution to Highland Retreat and designate that it to be directed to a specific summer staff individual. Such contributions are not tax deductible.

(When funds given according to options 1 & 2 above are dispersed, payroll taxes apply both to the individual and to Highland Retreat. . Consequently the individual actually receives slightly less than you give.)

3. You can also make a gift directly to the summer staff individual. In this case the gift is not tax deductible but no taxes are withheld and the individual receives the full amount. Such a contribution should be sent to Highland Retreat Staff Assistance Fund but the check should be written to the designated staff person.

We will hold the check until the term of service is complete then pass it on to the individual.

Option three is the most efficient if you want to designate a specific beneficiary because it is a gift and is not reported on a person’s W-2. However if your contribution will allow the individual to receive matching funds from a Mennonite college or University you must use Option 2 because the contribution can only be matched by the college if it comes from Highland Retreat. The beneficiary of your gift should inform you if they qualify for matching funds.

Contributions can be made any time up until the individual completes his/her term of service. You will receive a receipt for your contribution when it is made. Upon completion of the individual’s term the support will be forward, either to the individual or to the institution as requested by the individual. If the person does not complete their term of service as agreed upon, your contribution will be returned to you, or we will consult you about an alternative.

Please prayerfully consider what you can do to help these young men and women share Christ with our youth.

For reference, I am not eligible for a college matching grant (as far as I am aware).

Here is the letter and form as promised! They’re PDF files so you may need Acrobat Reader to view them.

The Letter and The Form.

Your assistance is appreciated, thank you.

A New Theme

Yesterday I applied for a summer job at a Christian camp a few miles away, I’m hoping to be a counselor (leader) for the summer, should be about 10-12 weeks of having fun with kids. I’ll be staying there overnight the whole time, though Kelly will be able to come and visit when she gets off babysitting and we can have Saturdays together too. Initially she didn’t like the idea, but just kinda realized that it’ll probably be good for us and we’ll appreciate the time we do get together rather than spending every other minute in the same house.

It’ll also be nice to actually do some real work and earn some real money. Against my will, though there was nothing I could do about it, I’ve spent nearly a year in the US and not been able to work, so while it has been nice to do nothing at all, I also feel as though I’m letting down the team and taking advantage of people and their generosity. While that is the case, and to a large degree I have been, it’s not by choice, and given the chance I would have been doing a lot more to earn my keep. Also, while it is hardly IT related, I’m glad to have another stateside work reference with a real organization with standards etc. While I try to work to high standards when working with friends and family doing computer repair etc, there is hardly a gauge to measure by how well I did something.

I was also getting bored with the old theme on my blog, and felt it was time for a change here too. The photo in the header may change some until I find something I like that fits and works, but for now it is a crop of this image:


I took this during the Assemblies of God New Zealand National Conference in October 2007, the week I had my interview with Gen-i. A couple of the guys in the music team are jamming, in the immediate foreground are the power, video signal and communication cables for the stage roaming camera, resting on the base for one of the front speaker towers. I think Mike was programming lights, or he may have just been playing. I know I was the photographer and only touched the lighting board if it was absolutely necessary (mostly “TURN OFF NUMBER 11, TURN ON NUMBER 12” while he was wandering the stage checking things).

In other news I have successfully installed Xen on Debian, so I have a Debian Dom0. I also have a Debian DomU that I’m playing with LDAP with, in an attempt to setup a prototype for web/shell hosting. I’m trying to figure out how to create DomU’s from ISO’s under the Debian Dom0, I have some FreeBSD CD’s that I’d like to build a VM from if possible. Otherwise I can install QEMU back on the Mac and create QEMU images for Xen that way.

Also trying to debug a regex in my logcheck system on Telly. Ever since I installed IPv6 I’m getting annoying messages in the logs every hour that I’m trying to make logcheck ignore (they’re not important, thus I don’t want to see them – unlike people trying to bruteforce my SSH or Mail servers). I have one more thing to try before I go looking for help, as soon as my apt-get dist-upgrade is done (because opening a new tab and SSH’ing a new session is *so* difficult!)

{Last Minute Update!} Just had a phone call from the camp director, he’s put out all my references and is waiting to hear back, then will set up an interview next week perhaps.