Thursday, March 23, 2006

What Do Unemployed People Do?

They sleep.

Or in this case, they get drunk and pass out.

Actually, this photo was taken of me during the very hot evening of July 15th, 2005. I was invited to a Hungarian party in Modesto (yes, a party of Hungarians -- Nem beszelek magyarul). Of course, I was the oldest person there or tied with one other guy for oldest. Anyway, the party was a real hoot as you can tell.

But unemployed people do a lot of sleeping. I stay up until 3:00am typing crap into my computer about my adventurous lifestyle then get up the next day at 10:00am or later to find half the day already gone. It sucks.
I had just trained myself rather quickly during my short stint with 180 Connect Inc. to get up at 6:00am and stay up until 11:00pm only to get up again at 6:00am or earlier the next day. Boy, that schedule didn't take long to crash once I went jobless, did it?
When a person is bored and you've already cleaned your room and the bathroom and washed all your clothes and bought all your food for the next month. What then? You blow some cash, that's what you do! Lookit what I bought:
Yep, a boardgame. Look, some people buy drugs. Others buy porn. Me? I buy games. Could be worse.
Reiner Knizia is one of the game designing gods currently reigning in today's gaming world. You probably haven't heard of him. I didn't either until I realized his name was on half the boardgames out there right now. Ever since the Settlers of Catan came out in the early '90's 'Eurogames' have caught the USA by storm. How can you tell a Eurogame from an American boardgame?
One doesn't have killing and death in it, the other does. That's the short answer. Personally, I think killing and death is just as much a part of life as anything else. So....
load up the minigun and pass me the ammo belts!
But in this game that I bought today, Colossal Arena, there are no soldiers or guns or tactical combat decisions... or even dice! It's simply a card game based on a mythical gladitorial arena where 8 fantastic creatures duke it out (albeit abstractly) in a 5 round tournament. The various players, which can number from 2 to 5, make wagers on which creatures will survive the contest. Meanwhile other players are either bolstering their own picks with combat cards or diminishing your chances of success. It is a simple game that has a lot of card strategy involved and very difficult decisions at times. I love games that are simple, but challenging. Like chess, or Othello, or Go. But for $20.00 (and that is a cheap boardgame these days) I felt I got more than my money's worth. I've played a couple solitaire games to test out the rules (because that's what unemployed people do) and I intend to test it out on some of my D&D buddies (come to think of it, they're still my buddies, D&D notwithstanding) this next weekend. I'll let you all know how it went.
And since we are on the subject of games: KublaCon -- a gamer's paradise -- is happening this year at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame on May 26-29 (Memorial Day weekend). I already grabbed my room for $102 for four days/three nights and expect another $40 on parking and other BS, not to mention a couple hundred for the games I know I'm going to cave and buy. I thought about DM'ing/hosting a D&D game there for one night. We'll see.
Well, I gotta get some shuteye as it's....oh....1:30 am PST. Catch ya later.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Wheel of Fortune Spins Its Revolution

It took me a week to write this post.
It is not something I am proud of, in fact, I abhor myself (more than usual) for it.
Let me be frank and non-cryptic -- I lost my job.
It was a glorious week, but one that ended in disaster. You see, last Thursday we went to a home in Folsom, CA to install an alarm system (actually, we were replacing an older system with a newer one) and in the course of events we had to run telephone wire from one end of the house to the other. Well, the house had no attic. So, that left the crawlspace.
Now, I have a fear of heights. Had it all my life. But in the few incidents during this job that I had to use a ladder and screw in smoke detectors, I felt confident enough (surprisingly so) that I had conquered that fear. But, it turns out, there is another fear nestled among that entangled mess of neuroses that I carry around: fear of vermin in dark places. Or maybe it's fear of shadows. I know I do not have claustrophobia so I have no idea where this fear came from. But when my trainer opened up the door and told me to go in with nothing but a lantern - I froze.
I just sat there. I peered inside and saw a king-size rat trap which had not been set off yet. I saw clods of dirt, a large, long insulator tube snaking its way across the ground, and the tail of a large rat scurrying behind it. Nope. Thank you very much, I am not going in there! I asked my trainer, "Do I get a standard issue pistol?" You can imagine the response. Needless to say, I cussed vehemently and failed to go in. Exasperated, the trainer took my lantern and made his way in. My supervisor called him later that night and asked how I was doing. He told him. The next day I was escorted into the boss's office. My boss was very kind and considerate, and he was canny enough to put the ball in my court (that way I couldn't claim unemployment compensation from him). He asked me, "Well, do you think this is something you can get over? I mean, if you tried again do you think you could do it?" As much as I wanted to say yes, I couldn't. I know I couldn't. If I could have conquered that phobia I would have done it Thursday night. The fact that I didn't meant this would be a continual problem and I didn't want my boss and my supervisor, or even the company for that matter, wasting time with someone who couldn't do something so elementary as run wire through a house. After mumbling my inadequacy regarding the crawlspace, I suppose I effectively quit. I returned the van, the tools, the uniform, the materials, (I never did get the gascard) and the PDA.
I picked up my first and last paycheck yesterday. It was $414.87 take home. Not bad for four days, but that was at $10/hr. plus overtime. It would have been much more if I had been a normal person or perhaps a stronger person and sucked up the unreasoning fear of something I logically know to be harmless.
So now I am unemployed again.
The Wheel of Fortune has come full circle. Again.
If you ever have the opportunity to look at a Swiss 1JJ tarot deck and pull out the 10th Major Arcana card, you'll notice it's called La Roue d'Fortune. On it is a blind, nude woman obliviously turning the crankshaft of the Wheel of Fortune like a spit over a campfire. Notice the man falling off the Wheel, down into oblivion in the form of the letter 'X'? That, my friend, is me. Or at least, it feels like me.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Alarmed by This Business

So my job gives me a company van... but no gascard
My job gives me directions to go to the customer... but no cell phone
My job hires me to install alarms... but no uniform
Luckily I received my tools and parts. Tomorrow I get my phone. They gave me one blue shirt w/company logo today.
The training has been less than adequate, at least for my first solo install this Saturday. Basically, I will be punching holes in someone's walls hoping I know what I'm doing. So, this job may not last long at all. Once I fuck up and lose a customer I'm sure they'll understand how rewarding their 'training' has been.
Until that time I will be reading manuals, studying what other techs are doing first-hand and trying to glean as much information as I can. I hope everything works out.

On my way to Monterey, CA today to do an alarm install (very beautiful day to be there, btw) I noticed that Gilroy was the Garlic Capital of the world. Hollister is the Artichoke Capital of the world. Stockton is the Asparagus Capital of the world. Fresno is the Raisin Capital of the world. Yuba City is the Dried Plum Capital of the world (btw, they used to the Prune Capital but it got too many jokes during their Prune Festival). How many towns in California have a patron fruit or vegetable? Send me what you know. I'll post it and make a catalogue of it just for kicks.
While in Monterey I picked up some chocolate raisins from The Candy Baron on Cannery Row. Excellent!! Best choco-raisins I ever had. Raisinettes these are not! These are covered in dark chocolate not that milk shit.

Well, tomorrow I have to meet my trainer Dave (he's cool, I don't blame him for the training defecit, he knows what he's doing) in Stockton at 8 o'clock am. That means I gotta get some rest. Talk to y'all later.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Well. That's it. I went to work today.
For 11 hours. At $10/hr. But that's only initially. Once I get thru training, I'll be making close to $5,000/mo.
It just seems like happenstance that I always end up with a job that makes more money than the last. I don't know how I do it. I just blunder into it like Forrest Gump or something...
Anyway, I'm not installing DirecTV, I am installing only ADT alarm systems. I was very nervous, at first; going into people's homes and drilling holes in their walls, but I can see myself getting used to it. I am now considered Happy.
The Oscars... WHY? You know what? I don't give a rat's ass about who wins what or why. And I certainly do not give a flying, carnivorous rat's ass about the goddamn after-parties that every two-bit glamour whore and humpmeister hosts after the red-carpet gala. I am inundated with news items, and I use that term loosely, relating all the gossip of who did what with whom and when and frankly I just wish there was a Grand Incinerator to throw all this crap into. Out of sight, out of mind. And I wish America as a whole would do the same thing. Just don't buy that People rag or US weekly or whatever the hell is the rumormill du jour this week. I am taking a gigantic dump as I type on Bennifer and TomKat, and the insidious, odious, quasi-human things that came up with those car-crash names in the first place. As you can tell, I abhor gossip. The Jews have it right -- lashon ha ra, indeed!
So, as you have properly inferred, I hate this time of year. Only because of the Oscars and their celebrity-gossip bullshit. There, enough, I've beat a dead horse...
Well, I've tried to come up with something intelligent to say, and all that came out was this tripe, so you can't say I didn't try.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Mission Most Possible -- Unemployment Ends

Well, they didn't call Friday but they called the next Monday and I am hired on with 180 Connect Inc. as of next Monday. What a relief...
Now my life can get out of Emergency Mode.
Guess you're wondering what I'll be doing. Well, if you read the last blog post you wouldn't wonder.
On the way back from my drug screening appointment yesterday I happened upon a hobby shop on Tracy Blvd in Tracy, CA! No more driving to Sacramento to buy lead figures and paints! No more epic journeys to find a decent D&D book or esoteric board game.
This place is called Hobbytown USA and is a local hobby shop run by a strange motley array of characters. I stopped by and bought over $160 worth of Citadel paints, brushes and a couple lead figures. I haven't painted figures since I was in junior high school and I play D&D (3.5 edition) so I figure.... what the hell.
Well, I painted a pair of lions and a drow elf archer over two days and I am already noticing significant improvement. If I can get my webcam working (it's been on the blink since I switched to Windows XP last year) I'll show off my handiwork.
Anyway, I'm glad to see Tracy is finally growing up... (and there goes my hard-earned cash).
A couple weeks ago I bought a new board game called Twilight Imperium 3rd edition. Now, I bought the 1st edition a long time ago (mid 90's I think) and my friend Dean and I thought it was a great game. Certainly more parameters to consider than in a game like Risk, for example. It's a sci-fi game of galactic conquest replete with Destroyers, Cruisers, Planetary Defense Systems and the infamous Dreadnoughts and War Suns (Death Stars). It features a hexagonal tile grid to build the game board (the galaxy) and it insures that it's never the same game. Not to mention there are nine races and the most the game can handle is six players so there is always a variety of strategies to employ. Dean and I tried it out right out of the box (the game retailed at $80.00) and his son joined in (we later learned he might have been too young to handle the complicated rules system). The game took about five hours to play but that's taking into account the fact that we were learning the game as we went along. The rules booklet is rife with examples and pictures, but it still wasn't clear on a couple issues until we 'playtested' it a few times to try and understand what the rules were saying. I have re-read the rules since and it seems much clearer now so Dean and I will give it another go and see what happens. In that first game I played the Xxcha Kingdom (turtleheads) and Dean played the Sol Federation (Earthlings) and his son played the Sardakk N'orr (lizardheads). It was an interesting game as I tried to play the political aspect against the Sol Federation's ability to colonize new worlds at a blinding speed. In the end, we had to quit due to time constraints, but it looked like it was me versus Dean with Dean probably with the upper hand.
Anyway, the game has military tactics coupled with political and economic aspects as well as logistical command and influence peddling. I'm guessing that it's much more wild and wooly with more players. If you can get thru the rules the first time, the game runs quite smoothly and it's a HUGE improvement over the original version of the game. The game is made by Fantasy Flight Games and invented by Christian T. Petersen. If you can find it, and you like Risk type games with a sci-fi twist, check it out.

I have a D&D game this Saturday at Yuba City with the ol' gang. We have an interesting krewe. We have a 4th level warlock/1st level rogue halfling named Nash, a 4th level human cleric of the Grand Incinerator named Loni, a 4th level human fighter named Lazarus, a 2nd level wood-elf fighter named Ahern?, I can't remember, and a 2nd level half-elf who has yet to enter the game, so I don't know his name either. His last character was killed by a justiciar who tried to capture the party for a crime committed a long time ago. Anyway, they're in a drow outpost right now that has just invaded a dwarven copper mine in the North Welpromond Downs. They made short work of the drow fighters they encountered, but that's only tip of the iceberg.
I've been playing D&D since 1981, running games or DM'ing (Dungeon Mastering) since 1982. I've played with this current group since 1996 (some players for longer) and I had another group in Sacramento that I played with for 5 years but that one recently ended since the host of that game moved to So Cal.
What can I say? I'm a gaming fool.
Well, it's midnight now. Gotta get some sleep. Bye.