Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring cleaning

So I've been off work for over a week now. Not having to go to work has opened some possibilities, like doing the spring cleaning. It wasn't planned this way, but there you have it. It has also been rather nice weather, so the windows could stay opened all day and everybody was fine with that. Its not like I have really been taking advantage of it, but that's besides the point.

The spring cleaning has been taking place on several levels, in different areas of my life. There is, of course, the cleaning of our dwelling, something that is being done, one little step at a time. If anything, we would like to get access to the office once again, and get the janitor to fix the dripping faucet in the bathroom. Sorry, more like pouring faucet. Its quite a bit beyond dripping at this point.

A prime reason for this break has been for me to get some head space to understand where I'm standing, what I want to do, what I give a crap about. I had already been debating what the future held for me at my current employer, and by now, I have pretty much made the decision to move on. Its no longer a matter of if, but when, but even more interestingly, its also a question of what.

When I returned to the workplace after my summer of fun, it was a pre-planned temporary thing, to get me back into the grove of working, get the change of residence taken care of, and then looking for more rewarding employment, better salary and perks, and the opportunity for advancement. When I took the customer service job at the bank, it was with the very idea that this would be a stepping stone, a temporary time in the trenches until I could move on. Between what was touted and what was delivered, my time in the trenches only got more tedious and difficult, hence my need to regroup.

Something that had been cropping up in my datavorous trawling of the web has been a great bit of interest in technology and computers, from net security to coding, the kind of thing that I has pretty much always considered being beyond my means in both skills and learning. I remember my days of high school in that computer class and how much of a noob I was, while some would advance well beyond wordperfect and lotus,  to DOS programming and playing Tetris in class. Yeah, I'm that old that I was in computer classes when Tetris was the new hot shit.

Since then I have moved on quite a bit, getting acquainted with computers and technology pretty much on my own, to the point that I am now looking at experimenting with programming with a hot new piece of tech and doing the sort of code juggling that total geeks do instead of going clubbing and stuff. And it feels... good. I get the feeling that this a field where what matters is what you can do, instead of what degrees you might have. After all, most job postings in the tech field lists what you need to know, and rarely what diplomas you hay have achieved, most likely because the field is continually evolving and if you are interested in it then you are certainly going to be continually reading up and playing around with it to at the very least keep up to date.

While this going on, the question of finances came into the game, especially that I'm not certain that I will be paid by the work insurance for my current time off, so planning ad to happen. The taxman letter only stroke the flames under that particular soup pot, forcing me to get those in order. Tax filing is one thing, but finalizing the insurance from my summer vacation is another beast that I've delayed needlessly, but that my doc seems to be interested in getting done, so it starts adding up.

Our bills obviously returned to haunt us, which led to looking for ways where we could be doing some savings; the only real channel for savings would be rent, which would involve moving out of this place. It is something that I had resisted considering for at least another year, if only to get our shit in order, but when opportunity rises, only the foolish ignores it, and you don't get to be a sorcerer by being foolish. My partner had been making (repeated) mentions of other dwellings, with cheaper rent, if only so the potential of going back to school could be logically and safely entertained. I had postponed that to later.

Until now. When we moved a couple of years ago, we had visited a few places and we came down to two locations: the one we picked was out "plan a," being the better place, nice, quiet, big, and definitely a move up from our old locations. We also had a "plan b," in case the first one didn't pan out, which was in need of more work and was felt to be a less desirable choice than what we went for. But being a location of choice for students, it also means that rentals there are always a possibility. New ownership seems to be the case, and some needed work was done in those places, which would make them very attractive, noticeably cheaper, closer to many conveniences like restaurants and our vets, and to easy access to downtown. Certainly worth considering in our circumstances.

The taxman's letter could have been interpreted as an assault, a problem standing in the way on my road to recovery. Instead, because I'm wired weird, I saw it as a challenge, an opportunity to get my shit in order.

Opportunity lies all around; its up to you to see it, identify it as such, and use it to your advantage. So get off the couch, its time to clean your house up for the new year!

Post scriptum: as I was finishing up the post, I checked my phone messages. It turns out that that the manager for the support position had called me and wanted to schedule a face-to-face interview. I guess that he wasn't aware that I was out on sick leave. I will schedule up a meeting with him and take it from there. I'm not banking on it paying off, but it helps solidify my standing until I move on. Gotta play the game...

Friday, March 23, 2012

Death and taxes

So 2009 was such a memorable year, besides the two weeks I was in a coma and the following loopy days. For those who follow my history (both of you) this was the year of my unfortunate circumstance, which brought me to some amount of poverty until the insurance kicked in.

So yeah, a great year.

On a different note, I am very bad about filing for my taxes. And its mostly bad because its money that's owed to me, any not money I owe to the government, so why do I delay dealing with it? Because its bloody tedious, that's why. I eventually get around to it, sometimes a couple of years at a time, and then I wait for the cheques. You know, the best part of dealing with taxes.

Sometime this fall, I set about doing those back taxes. the federal form got filled out, and lo and behold, a nice fat cheque. Sweet. I start the provincial one... and I stop. Mild depression.

By all logic, I should be getting money back. But logic has apparently nothing to do with taxes. Because of my situation, I only paid taxes for half the year, the other half being insurance payments. Government insurance payments.

But see, I live in a province who does thing differently, sometimes to good effect (young offenders are rehabilitated instead of just being tossed in jail), sometimes to bad effect, like the fact that we have to pay an extra income tax for healthcare, which are already paid by our income tax.

Now, because I didn't have income taxes collected for half of the year, as insurance payments are tax-exempt. That also means that for that period of time, the healthcare tax was not perceived. Which I now have to pay for. Now remember, the tax is a provincial one, as is the insurance. So the government is asking for it's money back.


So I put it all aside, to get around to it, eventually. But time's up. One of the most troubling things to get in the mail is a registered letter. There is little good news that ever comes by registered mail. Its usually collectors, or a legal notice. Or the government.

They want their money back. That is, I received a lesser summons, so it's not quite an audit, yet. I have to fill out my tax form for 2009 in the next thirty day, sent by registered mail, addressed to a specific case officer. If I don't comply, there will be dreadful consequences, that is, they will charge be penalties.

Great, just the sort of thing I needed while I am off work due to stress, threats.

Well, fine then, I had planned on doing my taxes anyways, since that I have some time on my hands to deal with it. But why stop at 2009? I will file for 2009, 2010 and 2011, both for me and my partner. Hey, I have my own public servant who wants me to file for my taxes, so might as well keep the bugger busy, eh?

He's probably not expecting an envelope that thick...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bats in the belfry

A week ago I had to take a break from work and all the shit I had to deal with. I have been on medical leave since then, and once the early stress stage passed, I finally got to relax some.

I have had a severe depression/burnout episode some years back, and if there's something you don't want to repeat, it's one of those, so you start paying attention to the signs. When I emerged from the lethargy that is both chemically and psychologically induced, I made myself a promise: that as soon as the signs would creep back in, it was time to bail out.

Of course, there's always something that comes in and messes things up. I had a first incident this summer, after I had applied and was enthusiastically picked for a position in the fraud investigation group at the bank I work at. When I learned that the position, indeed all non-customer service positions, where sales could be done, got shut down, it ticked me off. It was a stupid move on the part of management, since that they only considered revenues in terms of new income, and not in terms of revenues maintained. But hey, them's the breaks, idiots are idiots, and everybody is watching for their own little bonus, right?

Ah yeah, the bonus. I got shafted on that one. Because I got hired through an agency instead of straight by the bank, those six months I was with them didn't count when the time came to calculate it, so I only got half. And quite honestly, it wasn't much. Its definitely not the reason I signed up for this gig. In fact, I signed up for this gig so that I'd get the possibility of moving on to other, non-sales roles.

So senior position came up, which I didn't get, understandably. Six years experience in different departments, including as a senior in fraud investigation... seriously, the guy was both feet in. But the second time, when I got a great interview and got turned down because... well, quite simply, I wasn't hungry enough for the position. Two fucking kids with half my experience got the job, because they were all salivating for it, and they had the stats. That is, they kept their calls short and got all the sales that the suits demanded.

Fuck it, this is not about bitching about a bunch of suck-ups. So fine, I applied to a support position, something away from the damn sales. First interview went splendidly, and I was waiting for the follow-up. But then nagging concerns came at me. For one thing, even if I got the position, my current manager could still keep me for a good two months. Two more months of sales and taking goddamn customer calls. And then, in May, the center is being audited. That means that if any one fucker screws up, we all get fucked. That means no bonus. For anybody in the center, all because one idiot screwed up.

And someone will screw up, because of ongoing behavior that will garantee that the law is not followed to the letter.

I got the first creeping problem when as I was getting ready for work nausea came in sideways. I started having the shakes, where you have trouble focusing, where hitting the right buttons to sign-in to the system is a problem. Hell, unlocking the door is an exercise of being drunk while sober. When you start acting on automatic just so you don't have to think about what you're doing... yeah, I called in sick and finally went to the doc. Got some basic stress-relief meds, but had to ask for time off. I am still unsure if I can get paid for the time off, but I stopped caring about that.

My time in that office is coming to an end. There are other banks, who actually give a fuck about fraud prevention, and look at that, are closer to my residence, so I could even freaking walk there. Just gotta do the necessary and apply.

Great, it turned into a bitch rant.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Anybody home?

Wow, its been a while. Long enough for Google to revamp the whole thing. Seems pretty streamlined. Whatever. I had a plan. The plan was to do my time in the trenches and move on at the first opportunity. To be fair, I did get that started, applied for a couple of positions. So far, duds. Oh, not complete duds, but still no upgrades. I pretty much aced the first position interview, but the position was put on ice for budgetary reasons. Not that they don't need the people doing the work, its just that they have screwed up so many times that they ran out of budget for the fiscal year, so all non-moneymaking position hiring have been put on the back-burner. The second, well, I wasn't really expecting to get it, and I didn't. But the feedback was that the interest was there, but they went for a more senior colleague. Totally expected. Which pretty much means that I sort of aced it. Better luck next round I guess. But the plan goes forward, with a couple of initiatives to work on, and stepping up my game. Finance is a WONDERFUL thing. Well, we'll see how wonderful when they give me my end-of-the-year bonus. And money is what it's about. I make the best salary I've ever earned. Yet I'm still regularly broke. Mind you, shopping for toys has something to do with it. And vet bills. And credit. That evil, evil credit. But if it wasn't for credit, many a things wouldn't have happened. I wouldn't be living where I do now, for one thing, and I wouldn't have gotten the job I have now. I'm still broke, but my fur children are alive and well. Wait, did I just manage to write a blog post?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tabula Rasa

Wow. How can the weekend end any worse than it has. It seemed pretty ordinary, mundane even. But this... wow.

My writing is all gone. All my documents are gone. Missing. Nowhere in sight.

There is the possibility that its just a computer bug; but even my backups are missing. My lead theory is that when I reordered the archives I screwed up and deleted the folder by accident. Its possible. Unlikely, but possible.

Its all gone.

Well, not much else to do now but... start from scratch.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On the plus side

I am not a summer man. Due to some genetic configuration, I generate quite a bit of body heat (I have been referred to as a furnace by bed mates) and am quite comfortable in the colds of winter. When you raise the ambient temperature above the twenties I start looking for the shade, and when heatwaves strike, I'm a pretty miserable man. That I live in a part of the world that tends towards the humid as a general rule only makes matter worse. All that to say that I pretty much require air conditioning in the summer.

We already have one small unit, but given the layout of any apartment that has more than one room, a single unit does not suffice. While setting one in the bedroom allows for comfortable night, and general comfort for the rats, the rest of the apartment will quickly turn into a sauna. SO we were considering getting our hands on a second unit for the main area. We had a deal for a large unit, near new, ready to be delivered for an affordable price. All is well, right?
All we would have had to do is bring i up four flights of stairs; easy!

Well, it turns out that it became unnecessary, as one fully functional (so far) unit was abandoned by one of the tenants who was moving out. Just a bit of tuning and its set up and operational, at a rather lower cost. Awesome.

Living in apartment buildings is a great thing for a scavenger like me. Oh sure, I like buying new stuff, but why buy new if there's free stuff that still works, just sitting there? I have saved quite a bit of cash over the years by sifting through alleys, thrift and pawn shops for little abandoned treasures. A large portion of mu furniture was salvaged and modified over the years, satisfying the thrifty man in me.

Don't left the door hit you on the way out!
And then I got fed up with mismatched bookshelves and coffee tables, so when we moved to the new place I dumped a lot of that junk and moved on to new, if low quality (hello IKEA) furniture which served my purposes better. It does have its advantages to own matching dining chairs for instance.

But I cant help it, as a walk the streets I still keep an eye out for orphan items and garbage heaps. Its sort of built in, you know? So yesterday, another tenant abandoned a coffee machine. Not one of those filter coffee machines, a freaking espresso/cappuccino machine. Of course I have learned to not expect too much out of found items, there might be a good reason why it was abandoned... but this little guy works. Seems to work just fine too. Just a bit of cleaning, and there we are, fully functional expresso machine.

Some other items become something of a quest for the Holy Grail, in my case a specific ice cream flavor from a specific maker. I went through many a grocery store and specialty shop, and no luck. I checked their website, just to see if maybe they stopped making it, but no, its still available. The problem has more to do with the little jackasses ordering the flavors. They tend to be unimaginative and stick to the stuff that everybody expects to find. Today I decide to check one grocery store where I thought that I might at least get some of the others I had discovered since then; lo and behold, my freaking ice cream is there, waiting for me.
These guys, but not that flavor. I'm a cherry cheesecake man!

Fuck yeah.

And. Because there is an and. The luck (or synchronicities?) continue. I had set my mind to a particular name for  a project I had been keeping on the back burner. I had checked before and nobody was using that name, so I was keeping it under wrap so that no one would find out I wanted to use it and jump the gun. When I finally got around to make use of it, goddamnit there were three existing bands/projects/business that were using it. That dumped something of a sandbag on my drive and I had resigned myself to assign some of that work to another project name, since that it wasn't being used anyways.

Even Mark Wahlberg agrees that its a weird happenstance.
Then, as I was watching Max Paine (shut up) while keeping an eye on the rats wandering around, something settled on my inner eye and ear, and I liked the sound and image of it. It fitted perfectly. I checked and... nobody was using it. So I set it up and its now mine.

Its a bloody four-in-four. Its awesome.

Maybe I should get to writing non-blog stuff, just to see what happens. Weirder things sure have. If a truck couldn't stop me, just slow me down, then all I have left to do is get on it and get'er done.

Texas is good for something after all.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The long and lonely road out of the wilderness

I've been making music on and off for over twenty years. Okay, not all of it was music; some of it would more accurately be described as sound manipulation, but then again, it does describe quite a bit of my musical output.

At some point I had collaborators, even a band, tho never garage, even tho we had thought about it.  It eventually burned out, but the run was nice. It ended with the most public contact with my work. Afterwards, some noodling and doodling, even that collaborative work ended, going nowhere fast. So I entered the wilderness of recording some riffs and beats, going nowhere.

While wandering the wilderness, I thought that I could just come up with my own publishing label, especially in those days of the net, where DIY was even more king than today. It didn't get anywhere, and I ended up with some material being released through a micro label, the now defunct Bone Structure. That period had its up-and-downs, but I got to put out one particular project I had been rather proud of, a full album of my work under Chapelle Nitrique, PIGGI.

At the time Myspace was still going strong, so I tried to use it to get the word and interest out, but I'm a terrible marketer and fairly proud man, so it went nowhere. Back in the deep wilderness I went. It got quite a bit darker, as while I certainly had quite a bit of instruments and tools, I just couldn't get myself to create anything. I had long periods of time when I could have done new work, but the inspirational drive was missing.

As I've ranted on about before, I thought that more toys were needed. I wasn't completely off on that one, but I was actually gunning for the wrong ones. It took some going, but eventually I hit the right item, and the inspirational drive suddenly came back from vacation abroad, so the work began anew,

And then some.

After a few years of wasting hours of computer time on online games, I now spend hours working on new material. And I do mean new material, not a rehashing of old licks and familiar tunes. Its a great time, but its a little overwhelming. I went from zero to one-hundred-twenty in a short span of time. When I have time to think my own thoughts I end up thinking about the new tracks and what work needs to be done to them.

The label has finally begun being build. The projects are getting defined. Websites are under construction and I'm starting to emerge. It took some time. Even if I don't hit some sort of commercial success (tho it'd be nice) I am still satisfied that I'm going to be heard again.