Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Job Interviews

Things have picked up a little bit on the Job Hunting scene. I have actually had two interviews this past week!

The first one was for a State job – I’d be working for the DOT in their Right-of-Way department. The job interview was held in “the upside down building” near the airport.

From an architectural point of view, this building is quite unique. It really does look like it’s upside down! It’s roughly triangular in shape, only the pointy end is on the bottom and the larger flat end it on the top. This was an experiment in seismic construction, trying to find a way to withstand all the earthquakes we get. I think it’s held up quite well since it has held up a good 20-25 years so far. But it’s the only building of its kind, so apparently it did not exactly win the popularity contest.

As an aside here, we have another unique building in Anchorage that was a seismic experiment also: the Wells Fargo Bank on the corner of Benson and Minnesota. This one was built on rollers, some how. I’ve been in it during an earthquake before and I know exactly why it didn’t gain popularity either = that thing rocked worse than a boat on rough seas, and kept going long after the earthquake finished. But again, it’s an older building and it’s still standing – so it must work structurally.

Anyway, back to my job interview.

Turns out I used to work with the lady conducting the interviews back in my pipeline days! I think that’s how I made the first cut: she recognized my name and pulled me out of the huge stack of applicants because of it. I’m definitely okay with that – anything to get to the top of the list.

The interview went well. She asked a lot of very detailed questions about my computer experience as well as my knowledge of surveying and construction processes. She said it would take a while for them to make their decision; it could be as long as 6 weeks. I’m hopeful, but I’m not holding my breath.

My other interview was just this morning, at the Kaladi Brother’s Café on Tudor and Muldoon. This was rather a strange place to have a job interview, I thought – but it was really quite nice. It made me a lot more comfortable and was not nearly as nerve wracking as some offices can be.

The man I spoke with is the founder of a construction company who is hiring two people to help out with a large contract they just got. They do a lot of military work, so it’s all LEED Certified construction (which I really like, being as I am the president of our local USGBC group), and it’s at a minimum a 5-year position. He is a disabled Vet, so is eligible for a lot of the contracts other companies are not.

I had to laugh when I realized the reason my resume got his attention. It wasn’t because of my three years experience with project management (the position he’s hiring for) – it was because I’m a drafter who used to work on the board! He began his career as a drafter, too, so was really excited to meet someone who also started out that way also. He was actually quite surprised when I mentioned my CA experience.

I’m somewhat wary, though. It is a small company and I don’t have good luck with small companies typically speaking. The work they’re doing sounds very interesting, however, and the interview went very well. I’m inclined once again to take a chance, even though my cautious side is telling me not to.

He said he’d have to run the two resumes he picked out (mine and one other) passed the military guys to get their approval. He should know within about two weeks, probably sooner. It almost sounds like the job is mine, although we haven’t discussed a salary yet.

Let’s face it: any salary is better than unemployment…

I Love My Dentist

My normal routine: wake up in the morning. Snap my fingers to get Djuna off my hips. Roll over and snuggle with Thing for a few moments. Get up and make the bed. Stumble down the stairs dodging my girls the whole way. In the bathroom: fill the water bowl for the girls. Brush my hair. Brush my teeth. Floss. Wash my face. Then head back up to my room to get dressed. Face the world one more time.

But Sunday, my normal routine was interrupted. As I flossed my teeth, one of them broke in half and popped out! I stood there for a while with the piece in my hand, wondering what to do now. It was just so unexpected.

And unwelcomed, to say the least. I have no insurance. I have no job. I have no money. What am I supposed to do with half a tooth in my head?

My plan = ignore it.

That worked, believe it or not. It wasn’t hurting me as long as I chewed on the other side and kept my tongue away from it the rest of the time.

During the hike that day, Mother convinced me to call my dentist anyway. I couldn’t just leave it like that: a huge hole in the back of my mouth. Who knows what kind of damage I could do to it, making it even worse in the long run.

So, Monday morning I called Dr. Welch – he’s been my dentist for about 20 years now. Celeste, his assistant, answered the phone and got the whole sob story from me. She told me to come on in anyway and they’d see what they could do.

They had to take an x-ray, of course – to see just how extensive the damage was. Then they packed the hole with some temporary goop, saying that it might pop out again tomorrow or it could last 6 months – they had no way of knowing. Dr. Welsh told me to be careful with it, and showed me how to floss around it. Then they sent me home.

And all of that was FREE!

The very moment I get a job (oh, please let it be soon) I’m to have it taken care of, of course. This really is just a temporary fix.

But still – I can’t believe they did all of that and didn’t charge me a dime!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Saturday Market

I am so lucky: I have a Farmer’s Market within walking distance of my home!

Each Saturday throughout the summer months I have readily available access to all the fresh, local, organic produce I could ever dream of! Farmers from the Matanuska Valley (my hometown) as well as a few from the Kenai Peninsula gather to offer their produce directly to the consumer rather than thru the middle man (that being the grocery stores).

Today’s market had every type of lettuce you can think of, as well as peas, beets, turnips, zucchini, cucumbers, kohlrabi, chard, kale, parsley, carrots, rhubarb, and strawberries. They even have a few booths offering breads, pastries, jams & jellies, fish, mushrooms, house plants, sod, herbs, teas, lotions, lip balms = all of it Made in Alaska.

You gotta love that!

I came home with a huge bundle of kale, three gorgeous white turnips, and a bag full of fresh-picked Matanuska peas. This will make a fine soup, I’m thinking…

My Djuna is So Talented!

I have not been feeling well of late, so have spent the better part of this past week sitting on the couch wrapped up in my wool blanket and watching TV. My girls have loved this and have taken full advantage the readily available lap.

Last night, Djuna was lying on a pillow in my lap with her head draped over the side. Thing was nestled up beside me, and would occasionally look up at me with a look in her eyes that said, “I love you, Mommy!”

So sweet!

Unfortunately part of my not feeling well involves body aches, which means I really can’t sit in one place for very long. My cats get very annoyed with me because every 10 minutes or so, I have to shift my body and try to find a comfortable position – which disturbs their naps, and that is a cardinal offence!

Whenever I shifted, poor Djuna (or Junie, or June Bug, or my Gorilla Pez Dispenser) would have to wake up and get herself resituated once I settled back down. Each time, she’d go thru this routine of yawning, stretching, and getting up off my lap to await her chance at getting comfortable again so she could go back to sleep.

It may have been the angle I was viewing her from but I swear at one point, she actually stretched her ears! It was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen – I didn’t even know it was possible.

She's so talented!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Expedition Update

I just made the final payment on my expedition – I’m getting excited!

Earthwatch only requires a down payment of $300 to hold your space on an expedition, with the remainder of the costs due 120 days prior to the actual date. I always make sure I have all the money in a bank before I even sign up for one, so my current unemployment situation didn’t impact my ability to go.

I got my ticket all paid for back in January, so that is taken care of. I also got all the hotels booked that I’ll need – both in London and in Nairobi - so that’s all taken care of. The only things left to do is apply for a special visa to get out of Kenya, get my inoculations up to date, and finish filling out all the paperwork.

The visa is a special one, over and above your regular passport, that is required in order to leave Kenya. It costs $50 and is only good for 6 months, so I need to time it just right. I’ll send the paperwork off to Washington D.C. about 6 weeks prior to my expedition, and hope they only take maybe 4 weeks to process them. That will ensure that I have enough time on it, should the worst happen and I get stuck there for whatever reason.

Since I have traveled out of the country twice before, there really are only two diseases I’m not covered for yet: Yellow Fever and Malaria. The first one will be a shot (maybe two or three?) so I’ll do that about 2 months prior to my expedition, just incase I get a reaction to it. The second one is typically pills that you start taking a week prior to leaving and on thru a month after you return. At least, that’s what I did for my Costa Rica trip – but I think I read somewhere that the malaria in Africa is resistant to certain types of drugs, so it might be a different medication that I need. We’ll see…

The paperwork is partially filled out. Earthwatch has 4 different forms they need for each volunteer: the first one is a personal profile, to let them know who you are and why you chose to go on that particular expedition. The second one is a health questionnaire that lets them know your general health and what special attention you might need. The third one is the travel form that gives them all your flight information so they know when to expect you and how to get hold of you if you’re late. The final one is a liability release – this is field work, after all, and accidents do happen.

It’s the third one is the one that’s holding me up. It has to be signed off by a medical doctor - which requires a physical examination – which in turn requires an actual doctor’s appointment. Since I have no job, I have no insurance. I was really hoping that I would have found a job by now, but since it hasn’t happened yet, and since most places have a 90-day waiting period before insurance kicks in, it looks like I’ll have to pay for it myself.

And the inoculations, too – come to think of it. Perhaps I could combine the two? Get my physical AND my shots all at the same time… I’ll have to think about that.

Monday, July 06, 2009

I Hate It When That Happens!

We had another Family Hike yesterday – up at the Eagle River Nature Center. It was a gorgeous day, with clear blue skies and lots of sun (read: it was excruciatingly hot). The group was small – just Mother, Trish, and myself – but we had fun anyway.

It didn’t quite go as planned, however. We were supposed to have hiked the Dew Mound Trail – a 6 mile loop that heads out to a small lake and loops back around to the nature center again. Unfortunately the cow parsnip had grown so fast and so thick the volunteers at the center hadn’t been able to clear it off the trail yet, so we decided to be safe and simply hike a different trail. We really didn’t want to risk anybody having a bad reaction to it – a trip to the hospital does NOT sound like fun.

The trail we actually did hike is the Albert Loop Trail – a smaller 3 mile loop that takes you out to the beaver ponds and past the river. There is a lot of bear activity out at the nature center on a regular basis, and that day in particular they had just spotted a black bear not 10 minutes prior to our arrival – so we had to be extra careful. If it’s not one thing, it’s another! Hiking in Alaska can be an adventure… but that’s why we love it.

As I said, the day was gorgeous – the company was great – and all in all we had a good hike.

When I got home, I downloaded my memory card onto my computer (all 70 photos) just like I always do. I put them into a temporary folder, then deleted them off the memory card and reformatted it for the next hike.

Once that was taken care of, I went to the temporary folder and copied all the photos out of it and into the Hiking files, where I keep all my pictures. Then I went back to the temporary folder and started weeding thru the pictures, picking out the six best shots. I deleted the ones I didn’t want, made a PDF of the ones I did want, and uploaded the files onto my facebook page.

I am always very careful to delete files I don’t need, and to keep my recycle bin empty as much as possible, so when everything was taken care of and I had it all set up the way I wanted it – I deleted the temp file, emptied the trash can, and cleaned everything off.

Then I went back to my Hiking folder to look at the pictures one more time = only to realize they weren’t there!

All 70 photos were gone!

Apparently what I had done without realizing it was – rather of copying and pasting them into the folder, I created a short-cut instead. So, all those files in my Hiking folder was simply a link back to the temporary folder WHICH NO LONGER EXISTS!

I hate it when that happens…

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Cat Sitting

My friend Elizabeth went out of town (out of state, actually) for a long weekend, so asked me to take care of her cats for her while she was gone. I was happy to accept, and even got paid for doing it (this was a surprise – I didn’t really expect that).

She has three cats: Thumbelina, Lumpy, and Moesha. All three of these cats are about five times bigger than my two combined! I’m always amazed at the size of normal cats…one of the draw-backs to having tiny girls, I guess.

Anyway, Lumpy is a gorgeous long haired grey cat. He’s a Norwegian Forest Cat, I think – he has papers, but since he was adopted from a homeless shelter, they got lost somewhere. He is a very sweet cat; friendly and loves to play with a feather on a string. He does have a few issues with the potty, so I had to clean up after him. Thankfully, he wasn’t as bad as my Alien – the clean up was just a matter of picking up the poop from the floor next to his potty.

Moesha is a mutt-cat. I honestly never even saw her: she hid out behind a pile of clothing in the closet the whole time I was there. I did see the occasional ear poking out, so I think she’s a chocolate brown colored cat. Elizabeth assured me that was normal behavior for her, so I wasn’t too worried. I did check on her each day to make sure she was still there, but other than that I didn’t have much interaction with her.

Thumbelina was the problem child. Contrary to what you might expect from a cat named Thumbelina, this girl is HUGE. I’ve never really seen a cat quite that large. Her name comes from the fact that she has extra digits on each paw – two thumbs for each foot. She is all nice and lovey-dovey to her owner… quite a different story for every other person on the planet. And unfortunately she’s the one who had to have medication administered each day.

She has a colon problem and gets her medicine smeared into her ear once a day (the ear provides quick access to blood vessels, allowing the meds to be absorbed into her system quickly and painlessly). Elizabeth showed me how to do it, so nice and easy.

Quite a different story when I tried it. Thumbelina turned into the Cat from Hell in about two seconds flat.

My first day, I attempted to do it on my own. I had a towel and threw it over her, then tackled her with the entire weight of my body. I actually had her down and immobilized, but couldn’t reach the meds so had to let her go. There was no second chance. Thumbelina was hissing, spitting, growling, howling, and running. And I have to admit, I was shaking. She can be pretty intimidating…

I let her calm down for about an hour, then went downstairs to the café and got reinforcements. Once again, a towel thrown over the cat – this time with somebody else holding her down – allowed me to very quickly smear the meds in her hear. In about 2 minutes it was done, and we left Thumbelina to recover on her own.

The following three days, I brought my roommate to help me. We managed to get her each time with minimal stress for all involved. Thumbelina managed to wound both of us, but not too badly. I think everybody involved was very happy when Elizabeth came home!

Living with a Roommate

I’m happy to report that having a roommate again, after over 20 years of living alone, has not been as bad as I feared it would be. I lucked out, I think…Trish turned out to be a very nice girl.

She’s younger than I am – about the age my niece Katy is – and is definitely a night owl. If she had her “dream schedule” she would stay up each night till probably 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning, then sleep in each day till 1:00 in the afternoon. Me, I’m in bed by 10:00 and up by 6:30 usually.

Her work schedule is not so flexible, however – although it is a rotating one. Some weeks she’s on the 1-10 shift, then she’s on the 9-6 shift, then the 6-3, the 8-5, and then back to the 1-10 shift. It’s all very confusing but she has a schedule printed out that she follows, so she always knows when to set her alarm each morning. I rarely even see her more than a few minutes a day during the week.

Our weekends have been quite fun, though. She’s really interested in seeing as much of the state as she can during her short time here, so I’ve been taking her out hiking all over the place. She joins in on our Family Hiking Series, so has been to the Coastal Trail, the Power Line Pass Trail, the Matanuska River Trail, and will go with us this Sunday to the Dew Mound Trail out in Eagle River. I’ve also taken her to Winner Creek, which is one of my favorite trails out in Girdwood. In the few weeks left to her, she’ll go with us on several other hikes as well, including up to Hatcher’s Pass and out to the South Fork Eagle River (two more of my favorites).

Mother kindly invited us out to dinner at the farm, so the other day we took off right after work. It was a nice sunny day, so the farm with beautiful with all the flowers and gardens growing. The chickens were out and about, but the turkeys were busy setting on their nests so we didn’t get to see them. We even got to meet the burros, although I couldn’t get them to talk to us. Mother fixed a special meal for Trish featuring moose meat and halibut filets, along with home-grown salad (picked right there from her garden), yams, corn on the cob, yogurt & berries, and cinnamon rolls. We ate so much it hurt…

Our best weekend yet was when we got to go to Seward for a cruise out in the fjords! We drove out to Seward Friday after work, getting to our hotel by 8:30 that night. We boarded the boat Saturday morning and headed out by 10:00. We got to see all sorts of animals: humpback whales, orcas, porpoises, sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, and birds of ALL kinds. We even got to see a HUGE hunk of the Aialik Glacier fall off into the ocean (captain said it was bigger than 3 houses), creating a wave over 100’ tall. On the way back in to harbor we got to stop off at Fox Island for an all-you-can-eat dinner of prime rib, salmon, and king crab! The next morning we had about 2 hours to spend at the Sea Life Center. Admittedly, that’s not nearly enough time – but at least she got to see it, and did some shopping at the gift shop for some souvenirs.

Hopefully, she’ll go home at the end of the month with some good memories of her time here. Maybe even she’ll come back some day!

Green Building Council Update

My biggest task as chair of the CRGBC-AK group (Cascadia Region Green Building Council – Alaska Branch) has been to ensure that meeting notices get out to everybody.

I am rather anal and obsessively tidy so this is relatively easy for me. I created a template for both the meeting announcements and the meeting minutes: I simply fill out the pertinent items each time and have it ready to go in a flash. The announcement goes out a week before the meetings, with a reminder email going out the day before. The meeting minutes go out the day after the meeting (or as soon as I get them written up, depending on my schedule).

Creating the distribution list is an on-going thing. I got the main list consisting of actual paid members from our director and have been adding names to it on a regular basis. Eventually, I’ll have the whole group on one list. From that we can start recruiting more actual paid members and generate more activity in general.

Of course, having meeting announcements and minutes is only part of the program: you also need speakers for each meeting. So I’ve been working on our schedule, too. I’ve got speakers lined up through November, and have sent out an email asking for input from the group as to what/who they might like to have as a guest speaker.

I have a lunch meeting next week to hopefully line up another one!

Speaking of lunch meetings, I had one just last week with our Events Coordinator, brain-storming over ways to get people more interested in our group. We got some good ideas going, and hope to have an event each month. I believe the event for July is going to be a group hike followed by a pot-luck cook-out. This will be a good way to get people outside and talking together: sort of a social gathering more than an actual learning event. Later on we’ll work on things like panel discussions, workshops and the like.

Four times a year, the Cascadia Region has a teleconference meeting for all the branch chairs; I got to participate in my first one last week. There were a lot of people on the line from Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska! We all talked about things that were going on in each branch; what works well, what needs worked one, and what is being planned for the future. It was really enlightening being part of this phone call, I must say. It gave me a lot of ideas to pass on to our Events Coordinator and to our Membership Coordinator, too.

All in all, it’s going pretty well so far. Let’s hope I can keep the momentum going…

And if you’re at all interested in Energy Efficiency and finding a better way = feel free to join us. We meet on the third Tuesday of each month, from noon to 1:00.

We’d love to see you there!