Tuesday, July 31, 2007


So. Christine and the kids returned Sunday night, to much relief and joy on my part. I'd really hit the wall on being apart from them and was getting seriously funked out and depressed. So that was good.

Unfortunately, thhings have been in something of a spiral ever since. Yesterday was Christine's 40th birthday, and the events of the day went as follows:

  • Shopped for and purchased a bicycle for her (from her parents and sister).
  • Shopped for and purchased nice new sneakers for her (from me and the kids -- part one of a two-part gift which will be completed once she decides on part two...).
  • Contacted Company A about the fact that I've not yet received the offer letter I was promised. No response.
  • Received notice from Company B that, although I was a solid candidate with no weaknesses of note, they had decided to offer the job I've been pursuing for 3+ weeks to "the other candidate."
  • Found out that the job I originally was interviewing for 2 months ago, before I'd wrapped things up at my last company, with another local company (we'll call them Company C) which ALSO went to a candidate that suddenly came in and wowed them, is going to become available again in the very near future (i.e. someone's gettin' fired). I am strongly in consideration for it again, which is nice -- I'm actually pretty much certain I can get it as long as things move forward quickly and the offer is in the same league as the one from Company A. But what amazes me is that, according to my buddy who works at Company C, they hired some idiot who must have lied her way through the interview process, didn't really know what she was doing, and then didn't show up for work for nearly three weeks. This is the "stronger" candidate they hired instead of me. So while I'm happy that I may almost certainly be able to land the job I was trying to get nearly two months ago, BEFORE I was out of work and stressing out and eating through both my stomach lining and my severance pay, I'm furious that people with little or no qualifications land these jobs because they lie through their teeth, while I am scrupulously honest about my qualifications (which are considerable, and more than adequate for the jobs to which I've been applying) and remain unemployed.
  • Noticed that, despite the AC being turned on, the temperature of the upstairs of our house was steadily climbing into the mid-to-high 80s. Perhaps due to the AC not blowing any cold freakin' air.
So, yeah, as 40th birthdays go, Christine's didn't fall on the best of days. We tried to make the best of it, training together last night and then heading out for a late dinner and drinks with several of our friends, but overall it was a pretty piss-poor day.

Anyhow, the AC guy has just arrived, and I called Company A to find out what's the what. I was assured that despite the radio silence from their end I am not being given the runaround on the job offer, and it looks like the AC problem might be nothing more than very clogged up condenser coils and perhaps low refrigerant levels -- an easy fix, and one that shouldn't set me back more than a few hundred bucks. Fingers crossed. And I should hopefully get a bit more info regarding the status of the position with Company C later this evening. In the meantime I'm just trying to shake off this sense of frustration and disappointment and continue marching forward.

Update: The AC work actually came in at less than $200, including a tip for the nice guy who came out. I've never been so relieved in my life! At least something is going right.

Mood: Bummin'
Now Playing: Nothing

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Well, it looks as though my jobless slacker lifestyle will be coming to an end in the near future. I got an entirely reasonable offer (verbal -- will be receiving the offer in writing later this week) from one of the companies I've been interviewing with today, so I have a solid opportunity to return to the productive working world Real Soon Now. So, that whole "will I ever actually earn, you know, cash again?" stress has nicely vacated my life.

Only to be replaced with a whole other kind of stress, of course. The main obstacle right now is that I am still VERY much interested in The Other Company I've been interviewing with. The ones I've already spent the better part of 8 hours talking to. The one where I've sat and interviewed with, like, almost 20% of the company already. They have a far more interesting product set, and also have a much more energized and excited team. And their offices are attractive and well lit and aren't located in a hellishly overcrowded pit in a warehouse district. All in all, a far more attractive situation, and one which I sense has far more long-term opportunity, particularly given how well connected these folks are in the Austin tech community at-large.

So, I've got Company A's offer on hold, pending the hoped-for closure of my interviewing process with Company B within a week or so. So far everyone is being cool, and I've advised Company A that I'm currently wrapping up a series of interviews with another company and told Company B that I have an offer in hand but would prefer to work with them, so could we please get all the damn foreplay over with and get down to business already? I understand wanting to be sure that you've got the right candidate for a job you feel is important and significant, but come on, what else can I do? I'm not entirely sure what it is they are looking to find, here, but I hope we can get to that stage sometime before Company A starting getting pissed off about my keeping them waiting.

So yeah, now that I no longer am worrying about never getting paid again, I'm instead worried of either A) having to jump at a job I'm not overly excited about out of a sense of financial necessity and responsibility or B) waiting too long for the "exciting" prospect, only to have it evaporate and potentially damage or lose my current opportunity. Right now, there's no pressure -- everything is above board, and I can keep things in the slow lane until at least the end of next week. But soon, I'm gonna need to shit or get off the pot.

So, stress. Blah. Looks like class tonight will be dominated by lots of forms work, which is perfect. Exactly what I need.

Mood: Stressed
Now Playing: Raul Malo, "After Hours"

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Lonely, Preoccupied

So, I'm finishing up week one of solitary, with only about one more to go. Christine and the kids are still in North Carolina, while I float around here in Austin, jobless but interviewing like mad, and keeping pretty darn busy for a guy without a darn job. Once again, Tang Soo Do has come to the rescue, giving me a solid community to fall back on for companionship and activity that doesn't involve sitting in a bar somewhere with anyone else with nothing to do. Definitely an enormous improvement over the ways I used to fill up my spare time.

Still, it's tough. I don't like coming home to an empty house, or waking up late every day simply because there's no one to get me up and no reason to drag myself out of bed at the crack of 7:00. So, instead, I tend to sort of muddle away the mornings, sipping coffee and peering into my computer for a couple of hours, before I get my butt in gear. My energy levels are, as a result, kind of low. I'm just sort of displaced. I can't wait until they get home.

A big part of my being able to get through this, though, has been all the energy I've been putting into interviewing, which is obviously a good thing. One of the three prospects I'm pursuing looks fascinating and challenging, an enticing opportunity to work with a group of fantastic people (9 of whom I've interviewed with so far). But simply put, all the interviewing is wearing me out. I'm new to this sort of interviewing, having been cherry picked and "pulled" to all of my previous positions since graduating from college. The process of going in and going through the more grueling professional-level position interviews has been a real test of my nerves.

Of course, from the look of it, if I don't get this position I'll have no one to blame but myself. I've solidly messed up at least once, sending a few links to very substandard docs as examples of my work. In my rush to show the range of the types of docs I've done over the last 7 years I included some very quickly written support docs I put together just a couple of months ago. Unfortunately, they were never really adequately edited or reviewed, and they were written during what can only be described as stressful work conditions ("Hey, where'd everyone go?" "Am I going to have a job next week?" etc.). Sloppy, with typos and some obvious organizational problems. And considering I'm a writer these things stick out like a sore thumb.

No excuses, still -- my work, my mistakes -- but I should have been more careful about the sorts of stuff I sent over and limited it to my "premium" pieces in my portfolio. Incredibly stupid, and I've been trying to explain and demonstrate that these are not even remotely typical examples of my work ever since. So freakin' dumb, and such an amateurish error on my part. I'm certain that, if I don't get this job, this will be the reason and it will be entirely my own fault.

Well, I think I've done everything I can to settle those concerns -- I sent a selection of far better work, and I think they were pleased. And I think that aside from that foible my interviews have been solid, if occasionally nervous. This whole process is so new to me that I was initially really overwhelmed, and I'm sure it showed. On the second round of interviews though I think I was way more solid and comfortable.


I need to wait up to one more week to find out where I stand. I'm going to go nuts. I do have two interviews lined up for other, less interesting opportunities, and will be heading down to New Braunfels on Tuesday to spend the day with some TSD friends at Schlitterbahn, but I'd be lying to myself if I didn't just accept that this will haunt me throughout the week.

Anyhow, fingers crossed. Time to run to Saturday morning family class for a 45-minute workout.

Mood: Kinda melancholy
Now Playing: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, "Hairspray"

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Post-Tournament, Flying Solo

Got back from Rhode Island fairly late on Sunday night. Actually tried to get home earlier, even shuffling my flight times around to attempt to arrive home by 9:00 (instead of at nearly midnight) but was largely thwarted by a weather-related delay (2.5 hours at JFK, sitting on the plane, waiting for takeoff...). At least I got to hang out with Christine for an hour or so, instead of her already being asleed by the time I got in. Worth the trouble.

Anyway, the tournament was amazing. No other word for it. I hung out and talked martial arts with dozens of spectacularly gifted and experienced men and women from around the country, participated in terrific training sessions with Kwan Jhang Nim Ferraro and other luminaries within our organization, met people I'd exchanged e-mail with over the past two years face to face and established lots of new friendships and rekindled or deepened a couple of older ones. Really, it was a remarkable experience.

Oh, and I got this:

First place in sparring for my division, a combined group due to attendance -- senior men, 35 or older, all weight classes. So I was sparring older men (at 39 I was the second youngest competitor in my class), but thinner and faster ones as well (I was the second biggest guy there, with one other competitor -- my buddy from New Braunfels, John -- who's built sort of like a Sherman tank -- shorter, thicker, heavier, and a slugger). I'm pretty quick with my hands, and my kicks aren't too shabby, but at 220+ I don't typically move around the ring in a way that would be described as "sprightly." Still, I stuck it out, took it one point at atime, and came out on top. This was crazy gratifying.

Also nabbed second place in forms -- no picture of that one just yet. My Chil Sung Il Rho was really nice, but for some reason the judges really liked the Pyanh Ahn Sa Dan one of the other guys did and I lost to him by .1 or so. I spoke with one of the judges later, at the bar, simply because I want to know what the heck I'm doing wrong that I can 't seem to win with this form, and I was told that my form was "terrific," my stances were "beautiful," and that they had "no idea" why the other judges didn't score me higher (this judge had given me my highest score, but the high score and the low score are chucked while the remaining scores are averaged for the final score).

I'm not really pissed off about it -- I think there might ave been a bit of a "familiarity factor" at work, as the winner was from the Northeast while 2nd and 3rd were from Texas -- but regardless, I managed to place with my form, got a second trophy that is quite lovely, and I know I really put on a good performance of the form. I'm going to have one more opportunity to compete with it before I advance to 3rd gup (at Master Nunan's tournie in September, a couple of weeks before I test), so we'll see if I can manage to nab first with it before I retire it from competition.

Honestly, though, the trophies aren't the best thing about the weekend. I mean, they're nice and all that, but the best thing I took home was the overall experience of spending days talking with so many other martial artists, of sitting around having drinks and chatting with people for a few minutes and then finding out that they're 6th dans. I finally really understand that the only difference between me and so many of these folks (aside from varying degrees of natural talent, of course -- some folks are just more capable that others, and there's not much that we can do about that except work a bit harder to try to level the playing field...) is that they've been doing it longer. This really helped dispel some of the "rockstar-itis" I sometimes get about high-ranking martial artists. Master Nunan always says that a Dan (or Sa Bom, for that matter) is just a white belt that never gave up. This has never been more apparent to me than now.

As a result, by the time I got to compete I was more relaxed and at ease than I've ever been in a competition, and it really helped. One friend of mine who attended, Mr. Delanela, even mentioned last night that he'd never seen me relax and have such fun when sparring before, either in competition or in the dojang. And it was true -- instead of being nervous (well, I had a couple of butterflies, but still...) I was excited to get in there and see what happened.

It was a blast. Can't wait 'til September!


So, Christine and the kids are now in North Carolina, and I'm on my own. Not a big deal yet, really -- it's only been a day, and I had errands and stuff to do all day yesterday, followed by training and catching up on the Big Brother 8 and Top Chef episodes I missed while out of town. Plus I have a second interview with a tech company for a really interesting position today -- the phone interview went incredibly well, and today I meet with several members of the development team face to face.

Not really all that nervous, though. I mean, again, yes, some butterflies -- I always get edgy meeting new people face to face for the first time -- but I'm fairly certain it will go well, as I have been doing precisely the job they are looking to fill for the past 7 years. Smaller company, privately help, with some very interesting technology that I'd really like to get my fingers into and get to know. I know I can do the job, and do it better than most folks these guys are likely to even meet, so I figure that as long as I just go in and don't puke of a desk or anything I can land this thing and end this brief jobless affair quickly and succinctly.

Mood: Tired, mildly anxious
Now Playing: Liz Phair, "Whitechocolatespaceegg"

Monday, July 09, 2007

It's All in the Timing

Well, this begins week 2 of joblessness. It's funny, because last week hardly really counts at all, what with Independence Day smack dab in the middle of the week. At the most, I've only been out of work four days. Whatever: It feels longer for some reason. I'm just someone who needs to keep busy. If I have too much time on my hands I tend to ponder, and dwell, and glower. And considering that I feel I have some grievances against some folks that are justified, glowering leads to frustration and anger and the desire to say things that are probably best not said, all in all.


Well, I do have an interview in the morning, and I have already been contacted by a friend who was called for a reference for said interview. Considering this reference came from my true blue friend Joanie, I am sure she told this guy that when I'm not walking on water I'm also a funny guy, and a great dresser as well. All completely true, of course, but it's nice to hear anyhow.

And I'm getting traction on several other prospects as well -- things are moving in the right direction, at least. I just wish they'd move a bit more quickly. I'd really love to nail down another interview or two before I leave town on Wednesday.

Yup, leaving town. Just for a long weekend -- heading to the 12th Annual All Tang Soo Do International Championships up in Warwick, Rhode Island for a weekend of training, mingling with fellow martial artists, and forms and sparring competition. Flying solo on the particular trip -- I want to check out just how the event is run before committing to bring the entire family. So, it will probably be a bit of a party weekend as a result -- which is fine. I think I could use the opportunity to just sort of derail myself for a few days. And should an prelim interview opportunity present itself I will have my cell phone and will not exactly be out of touch. So, all in all, aside from having to watch just how much cash I blow running around, it should be fairly cool weekend.

What sucks, though, is that the day after I get back Christine and the kids are flying out to North Carolina. For TWO WEEKS. Talk about crappy timing for both my little solo jaunt and their long-term getaway. As a result, I'm not going to see my family for the majority of this entire month. I'm fine with a few days on my own, but after 3 or 4 days I always tend to fall into a sort of displaced torpor. I don't sleep well, andf I get very restless just kicking around the house by myself. This, combined with my current out-of-work state, could be a particularly nasty combination, and I'm really not looking forward to it. If I'm not looking at a serious jab opportunity within the next week I'm going to have to cook up a few home improvement projects, just to keep from going insane. Maybe it's time to finally take on painting the bedroom. And the family room. And the kitchen.

We'll see. It'll be the cheapest way to burn up time, that's for sure, and would definitely be healthier than sitting around, twiddling my thumbs and digesting my stomach lining, waiting for the phone to ring.


Anyhow, I've been working my forms like crazy in preparation for the upcoming tournament. I don't really have high hopes of coming back with a medal or trophy or whatever. There's a commonly held belief that we TSDMGKers from Texas get the short end of the stick when it comes to judging at events in the Northeast -- the majority of the judges up there know the NE-based competitors well, and I'm sure it results in somewhat preferential judging patterns, intentional or otherwise. But regardless, I'm going to give it my best shot.

I feel my Chil Sung Il Rho has really finally become something I can be proud of -- I feel comfortable in it, and I think it finally has a nice dramatic ebb and flow, with some nicely controlled transitions for "hard" to "soft" throughout. It also isn't leaving me feeling like I got hit by a bus when I'm done performing it, which I imagine is an indication that my stamina has improved, or that my performance of the form is less forced and more relaxed, or (most likely) some combination of the two.

Meanwhile, I think my Pyang Ahn O Dan has really hit a nice level of tension and power -- fast transitions, but with good, crisp starts and stops, giving the whole thing a good solid, methodical, and forceful feeling. As long as I don't let the stress of the competition cause me to freeze up I am certain my performances will show the preparation and focus I've put into them, regardless of whether this results in a medal or not.

Mood: Slightly Perturbed
Now Playing: Enya, "Shepherd Moons"

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Um Yung, and Politics

So, Independence Day was quite a nice little affair here in our neck of the woods. Our neighbors David and Della invited us and another couple (Master Nunan and his wife Pennie) over for a delicious brunch (complete with tons of fantastic food and fresh roasted peach bellinis -- delicious) in the AM. Seeing as we are currently undergoing some sort of Biblical punishment here in Texas, the neverending downpours caused the city to cancel the local fireworks, and so we instead organized a very impromptu get-together with some friends (our brunch buddies from that morning, my mom and bro-an-co., plus about 10 or so additional adults and kids). Nice size group -- manageable, without it turning into complete bedlam.

Anyhow, there were a couple of awkward moments at brunch when things veered over into politics and religion-land. Yes, yes, we all know that these topics are to be avoided like the plague at friendly get-togethers, but to be honest I've had a wild hair up my butt all week due to Bush's commuting of Libby's sentence (grrr...) and I was having a really hard time keeping my opinions to myself when our host brought him up in a very yay-we-like-him manner. But, they're my hosts and I'm not going to be rude, so I bit my tongue and stared into the middle distance. But later, Master Nunan brought up some stuff about teaching intelligent design or creationism or whatever in public school and I had to say my peace. A mild disagreement, really, and we veered away from it before it became a debate (I had my say, he had his say, and then I dropped it when I realized it was getting awkward). No biggie, really.

But later when he came by for the party we kind of stepped aside and I clarified my stance, as did he, and I really came to the conclusion that in general terms we agree. So, no harm no foul and we are fine, I'm sure. But what was interesting was how not long afterward a full-blown political debate broke out in my living room. And we had all stripes there -- I'm very liberal socially, but can definitely see myself as something of a fiscal conservative. But I've always voted Democrat. Then there's Master Nunan, who has always voted Republican. We had a couple who fit nicely into the California Democrat mold, and my brother who is a lifelong Republican as well. What was ironic, as we discussed and debated, was that here we had a roomfull of people with fairly wide-ranging opinions that map well across the "mushy middle" -- the place where I'd say the vast majority of the American people can place themselves -- and even though we pretty much agreed on just about everything, we all will almost certainly wind up voting for different candidates along party lines.

Because it's an either/or system. You can't vote your beliefs, really. You have to just pick a side to vote for (or, as is usually the case for most of us, against) and that's that. And whatever happens, you're stuck with the outcome. You can of course vote your conscience, or at least try to, but with the overwhelming attitude that voting for a third-party candidate is "wasting your vote" that's just not a currently feasible solution. So, most of us vote with a major party, as often as not actually voting to stop the other side, not to put the guy we like in office.

And ironically, people who actually seem to agree on nearly everything -- moderates, or progressives, or whatever the term of the day is -- wind up voting for opposing candidates, essentially canceling each other out in the process, and ultimately only the extremists from either party actually matter.

God, it's so totally broken.

That's what got me thinking about Um Yung. And just how antithetical it is to the current American way of thinking about politics, on both sides of the spectrum. Yes, the Um Yung in simplest terms represents dual elements opposing each other -- much as could be said of the current political environment, which utterly consumed by pro/con, yes/no, for/against. If you're not with us, you're against us. Absolute opposition. No yield, no quarter. So, in that sense, it almost seems to be a perfect illustration of our society.

But the Um Yung also shows that the opposing forces that define the universe also define each other. In order for one to advance, the other must recede, but in so doing it advances as well, pushing into the other while retreating. A perfect circle. Similar to an ouroboros. Perfect balance, where aggression results in simultaneous victory and defeat.

And that's where things are so broken in our current media-driven culture, I think. Everything has been collapsed and simplified into these simple black/white distinctions but there is no real balance at all. Everything -- news, opinions, politics, religion, you name it -- is communicated in these insanely simplistic two-sides of the story terms, regardless of whether there are actually two equal sides, more than two sides, or really no opposition at all once the didacticism is stripped away.

And once things are simplified into the insanely simplistic two-sides state, there is certainly no effort on anyone's part to recognize the other side as anything other than something to be obliterated. Take your talking points, insult the opposition, demonize them by any means necessary, regardless of whether they might, in fact, have something of merit to be considered buried underneath their talking points and invective. Our entirely public dialogue has become based on defeating those who oppose us, to crushing them and removing them from the field altogether. Negating them. Making them not matter. Making them not exist.

And in Um Yung terms, in eastern thinking, doesn't this simultaneously destroy the victor as well? I think that's what we're seeing, here in America. We're the ouroboros, but we're not just biting our tail, chasing ourselves. We're actively consuming ourselves as well.
We'r ethe red, consuming the blue, or vice versa. Destroying the thing that define us, and destroying ourselves in the process, leaving a vacuum behind.

And since nature abhors a vacuum, the question, of course, would be "what will ultimately come to fill that vacuum?" I don't know. I hope we wake up before we have to find out.

Mood: A bit troubled
Now Playing: Amy Winehouse, "Back to Black"