The Greatest Form of Flattery …

From Wikipedia:

Flattery (also called adulation or blandishment) is the act of giving excessive compliments, generally for the purpose of ingratiating oneself with the subject.

Historically, flattery has been used as a standard form of discourse when addressing a king or queen. In the Renaissance, it was a common practice among writers to flatter the reigning monarch, as Edmund Spenser flattered Queen Elizabeth I in The Faerie Queene, William Shakespeare flattered King James I in Macbeth and Niccolo Machiavelli flattered Lorenzo II di Piero de’ Medici, ruler of Florence and Duke of Urbino, in The Prince.

They say that the greatest form of flattery is imitation. I hope so, because I’d like to introduce my brother, ZeKeSbRo. He started a blog recently, and the similarities between his and mine are remarkable 😉

I’m sure he’ll have some interesting things to say and things that bore the poop out of you, just like mine. Only time can tell.

In other news, my wife and I are looking at buying another car, probably purchasing on Monday.

It’s a 1997 Subaru Outback, it’s black, it’s a 5-speed manual, and ran great when I test-drove it. It is the limited edition – leather seats and a few other things I probably haven’t spotted. It’ll match our 1998 Subaru Outback nicely!

Of the Feline Persuasion

EDIT: I wrote this two days ago, and while I could swear I clicked “Publish,” apparently I didn’t..


Olive “Fishy” “Stanky the Bulldog” “Bolivia” Gilbert died last night, assumed to have been hit by a car at some point between 7pm and 1am on South Sunset Drive in Broadway, VA, aged 1 (human years). Olive was a friend to most, albeit from a distance, and the only cat in the house to really like Crash, her ‘brother.’ Found by her dad on his way home from work, collected and placed in a paper bag and cardboard box by her grandpa, to be buried in a small ceremony this evening.

I don’t really like cats. They are kinda weird. But they have grown on me, and while it seems odd to think about, she was my cat. The last memory I have of her was her laying on the couch in the living room, resting. I kicked the end of the couch a couple of times and she just glared at me, knowing I was the cause of the sudden vibration that was disturbing her sleep. I passed her in the truck when I got home from work, some time just after 1am, and wasn’t sure it was her. I came inside the house and ran a quick sweep, looking in vain to see if I could see her somewhere. When she was nowhere to be found, I let Kelly know that I thought I’d seen her on the road. After we checked the house a little more thoroughly, I got in the car to go and take a closer look. I don’t like dead things, so I didn’t get too close, but from the first side it looked like a generic tabby cat, but slightly Olive-like. So I got back in the car, and turned around and took a look from the other side, and I saw it. The mitten. The single feature of her body that would allow us to identify her to anyone, anywhere. Not wanting to touch her, I drove home to deliver the bad news. At about 1:30 my inlaws were woken, and my father in law and I walked down the road to collect her. She was rather stiff, so it had been some time. Judging by the way she had been laying on the road, it had also been a quick death – a small consolation to a terrible event.

This afternoon I dug a hole, about 1.5 feet deep before I hit too much clay and rock to get past. She will be buried tonight. RIP, stanky kitty.

Diary of a Model Railroad, part… 6?

I think I’m up to part 6, at least. Anyway, there was a long period of no-development on the layout mostly due to finance. I now have a job (cheers, applause, etc, etc) which means in addition to being able to pay all our bills, we have enough spare money that I can devote a little more to the trains.

A while back I picked up a cheap terminal block on eBay, and will likely need another one soon for the other half. Also, I bought a sampler-sized pot of brown paint yesterday and I utilized both the terminal block and the paint this morning.

So today there were three things achieved, albeit small. Firstly I replaced a section of track that had been bothering me for a while, ever since I laid it and it didn’t really work out. So today it was removed and replaced with a better job. I’m yet to test it, but it looked fine to the eyes.

The second job was rewiring the underside of one module using the terminal block. It now looks a lot tidier, and I just need to run the master feeds back to the end and work out how I’m going to connect the two modules electrically.

The third and final task completed today was painting around the track with the brown paint. The idea behind this is that when I put down grass or whatever other scenery, if it becomes chipped or I miss a spot, it looks more like dirt than just a piece of real-sized hardboard. It probably needs a second coat, but that will have to wait.

That leaves my to-do list rather short: I need to figure out the electrical connections (20/24 pin ATX connectors?), I need to figure out how I’m going to cover or otherwise hide the turnout motors (long ones, sitting along the straight-leg of each one) and I need to actually wire the turnouts, even if they don’t go anywhere. I’m also planning on ballasting track soon, so my t0-buy list is slowly growing again: another pack of lighter colored ballast, another terminal block, some DPDT switches and some momentary switches for the atlas turnout motors.

Dear Mr. President

Dear President Obama,

I am writing to you in this public form to appeal not only to yourself, but to others in power who may stumble across this.

Allow me to introduce myself quickly. I am 23 years of age and I live in a small town in Virginia with my wife of 20 months, our 1 year old Golden Retriever “Crash,” our 7 month old kitten “Olive,” and my wife’s family – her Mom, Dad, Brother, and their 3 cats.

Since moving to the United States in April 2008 I have held 2 jobs, one as a Camp Counselor at a Christian Camp and one as a Program Leader for a local Boys and Girls Club Unit. I have also done casual work for another camp in the area, hardly enough to call a job in most senses of the term and I am presently unemployed. My wife works at a Day Care Center as a teacher for 3 year old children, and enjoys it a lot.

However, we are stuck in a position where a lack of job openings in the local area as well as high fuel costs are preventing me from finding or accepting job offers. Just a week ago I had to turn down a well-paying offer to work in Northern Virginia because we couldn’t afford the gas to allow me to work the first day, let alone until the first pay check. I also stopped by the local Food Lion (supermarket) last night to inquire as to whether there were any open positions and how I could apply, only to be told that they are cutting their employees hours – they simply aren’t making it themselves.

I feel that “free” health-care, paid for by the taxpayer, is an important issue – especially having moved from a public health care system in New Zealand. I know that if our health insurance bill was lowered or indeed gone then my wife and I would be a lot closer to making our personal financial ends meet. I am also very much aware that the mainstream media have done a very good job of scaring us all with what might unfold if that were allowed to happen here. I feel that stimulating the economy is important too, especially because it seems a lot of people have little money to spend. I know if American products could better compete in price-wars against imported products then I would be more inclined to purchase the “home-grown” version. I am also very much aware that what most people are spending their money on are imported goods from overseas – simply because they are so much more affordable to them.

I wouldn’t mind if my job was providing technical support to a foreign organization that purchased a product from a US source, while I went to a store during my break and bought meat imported from outside the country for a meal, but from what I can tell there are very few things of worth being exported from the United States compared to the vast amount of things being imported. What the people need is employment to provide them with an income and the US economy with a profitable product, and what the economy needs is an increase in exports and a decrease in imports in order to create a balance.

Perhaps this means increasing taxes on imported goods intended for sale, or imposing limits on how much an individual or an organization can import every year. Perhaps this means increasing and reducing taxes on individuals and organizations who refuse to produce in the United States or who take the initiative to create jobs and products in America for Americans (and others). Whatever the solution, it needs to come quickly.

I am not an American, I am certainly not someone to tell you how to do your job or what this country needs. In all honesty, I don’t know. Maybe a start would be some form of inspiration to lower gas prices. To increase the desire of Americans to buy American. To foster the ideas of individuals or organizations who have something of exportable value and help them to bring dream to reality.

Kind Regards,

A Concerned Legal Alien.

Update on the Job Front

To those of you who have been praying for Kelly and I with my job search, thank you! I have an update and an addition to this request, but it requires a little background so bear with me!

I live near Harrisonburg in Virginia, about 100 miles from DC via Interstates. In November I interviewed for a job near Dulles in the DC Metro Area and was offered it but I turned it down because a) at the time I had a part time job, b) it was working 5pm-1am and c) it was paying $36k/yr maximum. C wasn’t so bad, but B was the big killer, as I’m married and my wife works 9:30-6 and we would never see each other except on weekends.

On Friday I got signed up with a staffing agency and did a days work (one day assignment) yesterday, but future assignments aren’t incredibly hopeful based on the number of people they need to assign work to and the amount of work their clients have.

Today I talked with a lady who goes to my church who tipped me off about 2 positions with an insurance company and was also going to make calls to the Sheriffs office and the Courts (she’s worked for them before and knows people) to see if they have a need for an IT worker.

I also got an email from the company in Northern Virginia to say they had another opening from 7am-3pm, this time offering a $36k base salary with up to $6k in bonuses.

This seems, on the surface, like a no-brainer, except that for it to work several things need to fall into place, and this is what I’m asking for prayer for.

If this is what I am meant to do and where I am supposed to be, I am going to need to either get a car loan and find a car (not likely to happen because I have $0 for deposit and fairly bad credit), or find someone willing to lend me a car for a month until the first pay check comes in and my wife and I can sort our financial life out. I’m also going to need to find a room in Northern Virginia within 15 minutes or so of Dulles for when I am on call around one week a month, and again we have $0.

It is a rather bleak outlook at this point, but I believe that if this is the door that God is opening then the means to pass through it will also be shown to us shortly, and that if this is not the way then the door will be closed and I’ll continue down the hallway of life looking for the next door that is wide open (or slightly ajar..)

Yesterday Was a Long Day

Wow. 8 hours is a long time to spend alone in a car.

I misreported on facebook via twitter that I had driven for 6 hours and gone 260 miles during my work day yesterday, while I visited 18 convenience stores on a list that had me testing (as part of the training program, rather than getting people in serious trouble) whether I would be carded when trying to buy tobacco products.

Unfortunately my tired brain was incapable of basic time-math and thought that 11am-7pm was 6 hours. No, it’s 8. I am aware of this now. My first stop was at 11:10am and the last one was at 5:10pm, but then required a nearly 2 hour drive from West Virginia over US-33 back to Harrisonburg and up to Broadway. This involved a near miss with a deer (a couple had run in front of me, and one stopped short of running into the side of the car while I was doing ~ 55mph), and several near misses with 25mph turns over 33, which when they said “25mph” actually meant “You should probably do 25mph, not the 40mph that you could do one the 25mph turns further down the mountain..” It was on these that I really felt the vibration of the brakes that really needs to be looked at soon, as well as the transmission error light that has been coming up for a couple of weeks. I really hope that is just a faulty sensor that needs replacing and not a serious transmission issue, but who knows. I’m about 75% sure that the vibration issue is a warped brake disc on the front left wheel, but it is too cold to try looking at it and even then there is no guarantee that I could spot it. With our luck recently, if the car breaks it is probably an indication that we are about to get a job or something to keep us barely-floating still, rather than providing a useful means to dig ourselves out of this hole we are in.

In better news, and still on the job front, I’ve been talking to a lady from church who knows a lot of people (IE: companies/organizations) who are or may be in need of IT people. She gave me one set of contact info and was going to call around today and tonight and give me another call to let me know if she came up with anything. It really seems to be a case of not so much what you know (although it certainly helps!) but who you know.

Christmas Shopping

I did some Christmas shopping for Kelly today, bought a couple of things (I won’t say what they are — she reads this!) that I think she’ll like a lot. We still haven’t set a budget for each other with a few family members left to buy for, but I’m expecting it to be around $20 each and so far I’m fairly well under that. I still have a few ideas left when we actually set a specific number and I have a target, we’ll have to see how it pans out.

It’s difficult to find time to go out and buy things for Kelly though, because we live 20 minutes or so from the nearest worthwhile shopping space in Harrisonburg. With two Walmarts, Target, Ross, Big Lots, Michaels, the various Dollar stores, it’s just a great place to shop rather than the Dollar General and the few small stores in Broadway, and the Family Dollar in Timberville, everything else is more specializing than I’m looking for usually. But Kelly usually works from 9:30-6, meaning she’s gone with the car from around 9-6:30, and driving the truck is not a very appealing idea financially, so unless we have a day like today (where I dropped her off and will meet her for one of her work functions before coming home), I have to break away from our evenings together or on the weekend some time. I’m sure she feels similarly, because a one-hour lunch break isn’t very long when you have to traverse traffic on the roads and in the stores.

With this in mind it is little wonder that more and more people are migrating to online purchases, or at least online-research before going to the stores to buy (there is something about a face-to-face interaction, and having a store to take something back to rather than paying shipping for an RMA etc).

This is how I usually shop, let’s use me as an example:

  1. Think about who I’m buying for, and have a few core ideas about what they like. I like computers, I like guitar and music in general, and I like fun stuff with some kind of purpose.
  2. Think about stores that carry items that fit these categories. For example, Thinkgeek, Walmart, Music stores.
  3. Visit the online stores and get specific ideas. Specific t-shirts from Thinkgeek for example, maybe look at the electronics section on the Walmart website, or guitar or other music equipment at websites like MusiciansFriend.
  4. Research and try to find a good deal on each specific item. Google’s shopping site is a great tool for this. Often what I find can be found just as good but at a lower price if I look hard enough. Keeping in mind, however, that while many online stores are completely reputable, some aren’t. If I come across a site that is new to me I may run a few searches to see if other people have had good experiences or not.
  5. Weigh up which idea is the best for the person I’m buying for. Maybe they don’t need the guitar I found, or they wouldn’t appreciate the T-shirt I’m looking at, or maybe it is just out of the budget I had set for them.
  6. Give it a couple of days, depending on whether I am buying online or in-store (if in-store it is more likely to be an immediate decision, but still not necessarily). I’m not usually one to make a rush purchase if I think I have some time to think about what I’m about to do.
  7. Make a final decision, and buy it.

There you go. My 7-step guide to buying Christmas stuff. Unless you want to take a month to work through your family, I also recommend doing this process on several people at once 😉

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.

What a day!

Yeah, it was a fairly boring day today. I sat around and looked at Craigslist and eBay both for jobs and computer stuff. I’m partly pricing rackmount servers and/or equipment with hopes of starting towards the wish-list, partly getting ideas and otherwise just looking to see what is out there.

After “Lunch” Kelly and I went to the two local thrift stores to just look. Kelly bought a tree thing that had photos hanging from it (I think she’ll be using it for earrings and such) and some pants, and I bought a balancing-Kiwis puzzle.

Tomorrow I need to watch a training video for work that I’ve had for a while and haven’t gotten around to watching, and we’re also supposed to go and watch “Where the Wild Things Are.”

I’d like to visit Target and the Halloween store tomorrow if we can, and see if we can’t get Crash either a Bee or a Dinosaur costume. It would be hilarious if we can..

Speaking of Crash, we need to walk him shortly as it’s getting rainy and we’re going out this evening..

Would Someone Hire Me Already?

I’m really not liking living here. It sounds wrong, it mostly is, I love this area and the people that I’m close to, but I hate a series of specific circumstances. I can’t seem to get a job I want to (or can) have long term. Harrisonburg is fairly void of IT opportunities. That is, all the IT jobs are taken, and there didn’t seem to be all that many to begin with. No-one is expanding, so the chances of any opening any time soon are fairly flat. In DC there are hundreds of openings, but of the 10% that I might be qualified for, almost all of them require either a security clearance, a US Citizenship, or both. I have neither.

I’m keeping an open mind about it, so far I’m finding on average 1 job a day to apply for somewhere, and while I’m yet to be contacted by any possible employers, I’m continuing to look – mostly because I can’t stay working part time forever.

I have a small list of places I regularly check (usually every day, or every other day), starting locally and working my way out.

  • Eastern Mennonite Univerity
  • James Madison University
  • Rockingham Memorial Hospital
  • Rockingham County Public Schools
  • Harrisonburg City Schools
  • Rackspace (Locations in Blacksburg and in NoVa)
  • Craigslist (Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Winchester, DC, Roanoke, Lynchburg, Blacksburg)
  • University of Virginia
  • Virginia Tech

I also check several school districts around the area every week or so, checking county and city school systems around as far as Charlottesville, Roanoke, Winchester/DC, etc, and I just added Carillion, the hospital in Roanoke to my list of places to regularly check (thanks Lauren).

If you’re a hiring manager, I can send a resume as required, but I have two years professional IT experience between basic and advanced experience working with PC’s, Servers, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Mac OS X, Windows Server 2000 and 2003, Linux as a desktop and server, web technologies and networking, computer hardware, Active Directory, Novell Netware, have worked on a service desk, and can usually learn things quickly. I also have around 10 years experience in a non-professional environment just playing with stuff and learning things at home or while working on friends/family computers. I’d like to study, but I need to get my family to a point where we are self-sufficient with enough spare cash-flow to fund such an educational venture.