My Job Has Been Offshored

My boss called a 9:30 meeting this morning (on his day off!) to tell me that due to cost-cutting, my job is being moved to Romania.

Effective February 28, 2018, I will no longer be an employee of Lenovo.

If anyone needs a Senior, Lead, or Principal Technical Writer (or knows of someone who does), please let me know ASAP. I have my resume and writing samples online.

RIP Jordin Kare

Jordin coded yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon. From what I can gather, he'd had heart valve replacement surgery and never woke up from it.

This was a shocker. I didn't know about the heart surgery, and I was shocked to hear he'd died. Other than the valve, Jordin was in pretty good shape.

I am still reeling. He was kind of a mentor to me in the filk community. He showed me how to deal with difficult situations with grace and dignity. He was also a gentleman, a gentle soul, and had a terrific sense of humor.

My sympathy goes out to Mary Kay Kare and to the rest of his family.
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Adventures in Plumbing

Last Wednesday I was at the house, supervising the cleanup crew. Somehow they actually finished that day but didn't bother to tell Warren or me until Thursday morning.

The insurance company put pressure on me to get a plumber out ASAP, so I spent half the day looking for a plumber. Oh what fun....

After getting treated like garbage by Plumber #1, I tried another company that was highly rated on both Yelp and Angie's List. Plumber #2 came by yesterday morning, looked in the crawlspace, decided they couldn't do the job because the space was too small, and left. The only bright spot was they didn't charge me for the visit.

I called Plumber #3. It turns out this was the company that redid the plumbing in Warren's house a few years ago. This was also the company the insurance people recommended. The guy came over, looked at things, and then broke everything down into what had to be done. The total: $7700. Yeouch. At least this company was willing to let me pay it in three installments, giving me time to figure out where the rest of the money is going to come from.

This means I now get to decide whether I want to take a loan or a hardship withdrawal from my Lenovo 401k. I would normally prefer the withdrawal, but there's a little thingie in the laws that may make it better for me to take a long-term loan. Specifically, when you turn 59.5 years old, you can start sucking money out of your 401k with no penalties. I hit 59.5 years in 366 days. If I take out a two year loan, I'll have payments under $200/month. I can handle that. Once I hit the one year mark, if I decide I would rather not pay back the rest of the loan, I can do so without incurring a penalty. This would be A Major Win.

I also realized it'd be best for me to wait till mid-month to take out that loan because I'll have a larger pool of cash I can withdraw. It may only be a couple of hundred dollars more, but it'd be nice to have it. I figure it'll pay off the rest of the plumbing and a few bills I need to pay off.

Yesterday was Lady's 15th birthday. She got to eat "people food" all day. Breakfast was scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, turkey Canadian bacon, grated cheddar, and spinach. Dinner was chorizo, with half an apple for dessert. This also had the advantage of stretching out her dog food supply one more day. I need to get her more food, but the pet store across the street didn't carry what I normally give her. The next closest thing there was overpriced. I have more food for her at home (I normally have a bag on "standby"), but I need to replace the "standby" bag anyway.

Meanwhile, I need to get my butt in gear soon. The hotel is doing its annual carpet shampooing, and since I thought I'd be checking out today, we set things up so I'd have it done at noon today. This means both Lady and I need to be Out Of The Room. It also means Lady might be going to my Toastmasters meeting tomorrow (that building allows dogs).

The plumber also said it's going to take till at least Thursday to get done, and very nicely asked me to "clear a path to the master shower." Cleaning without water sucks. dimakoi was nice enough to help me, making it go much faster than it would had it bee Just Me. I brought her back for free dinner at the hotel afterwards.

The extra days of plumbing means I've got a few more "fun filled" days of hotel stay in my immediate future. I keep telling myself "Free Breakfast! Free Breakfast! Free Breakfast!" My morning routine has radically changed. I crack my eyes open, and if it's early enough before 9am, I throw on whatever I wore the night before, walk across the hotel property to where they serve breakfast, then make my "course" through the buffet, starting with coffee, staking out a table, then getting everything else. Afterwards I go back to the room, sleep a bit, then do whatever I'm going to do with the day. Right now I'm obviously typing this instead of sleeping, but since I took half a day off Thursday, I felt I need to get an extra early start.

Still, I am really sleepy. Warren was here late last night futzing around on my computer. I couldn't rest because I charge my iPhone and iPad off that computer. Today I need to explain to him that when he's done, he needs to put the computer back on my night stand so I can charge my devices (I did have a USB charger, but it recently broke). This meant I had to go to breakfast without my iPhone, which had me unnerved. No, I'm not "addicted" to it. It's just that ever since someone broke into my dorm room in NYC while I was in bed, I have not felt comfortable unless I had a phone within arm's reach (as I did that day in NYC, where I was able to call for help).

Anyhow, I'm rambling. Sometimes writing in LJ helps me "warm up" for work, but today I'm just spewing stream-of-consciousness because I'm too groggy to think straight. I'd normally take a nap, but again, I have to be ready to go in less than two hours.

Greetings from the Upper Berth

I am situated in my pull-down upper berth in our sleeper car. It is really tiny and downright cramped in here, but Amtrak has ways of dealing with that kind of thing.

The train is currently in the Emeryville station. dimakoi says it's supposed to have arrived in Emeryville around two hours ago, which means we're two hours behind. I guess that's par for the course.

Next to my bed is a sort of mesh basket-thing that functions as a night table. I have my watch, phone, and iPad in it, and I'll likely put the computer there when I'm ready to sleep.

This is definitely an adventure. They are much more self-service than airplanes, but on the other hand, you don't have the security theatre of the airports and you do have things like a shower and room to walk around.

One of my friends suggested I go to the club car and get something alcoholic to drink, but there's enough movement that I think I'd get really nauseous if I did. I suspect a lower floor room would be more stable, but dimakoi wanted an upper floor room because all of the between-car traveling is done on the upper floor.

I am amazed at how quiet these mini-rooms are, especially considering their (lack of) size. We aren't hearing anyone else in the hall, and hopefully they're not hearing us.

Anyhow, it's about time for me to wind down and sleep. They start serving breakfast at 6:30am(!).
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Pre-travel jitters

Later today I am going on my first-ever overnight train trip.

dimakoi and I are taking a sleeper car from San Jose to Albany, OR. We'll be spending Thanksgiving weekend with her mother and sister.

As I prepare for this trip, I have started realizing how ill-equipped California living has made me for spending time in colder climates (ones that have real seasons). We're expecting weather around 48F (around 4C) during the day and 32F (0C) at night. Silicon Valley, by comparison, is around 72F (22C) during the day and around 59F (15C) at night. We only have two "seasons" -- wet and dry.

I haven't been to a true winter climate in many years. Even New Jersey in November wasn't all that frigid. I am trying to locate the boots, long underwear, and winter gloves I haven't worn in years (in some cases, decades). I've written up my packing list.

I will miss my annual Indian food pilgrimage, but at least we'll be going out for dinner, which means I don't have to eat turkey. (I've already checked the menu of where we'll be eating.) I won't be able to take Lady because Amtrak doesn't allow dogs (sigh), but I'll likely be reinforcing the training of dimakoi's sister's standard poodle (which, thankfully is not named "Peppy"). I especially want lots of layers because I expect to be doing lots of dog walking (something I don't get to do with She Who Does Not Like To Be Walked).

I will also be doing some cooking, much to the relief of dimakoi's sister, who was afraid she'd be spending all weekend cooking for us. I don't usually get to cook for an "audience," so I am very much looking forward to this.

There isn't a lot to do in Lebanon, OR, but I figure I'm fried enough that I won't care.

Now if I could just calm down enough to sleep....

L'Shanah Toe-Vah!

Last night I went to services. I was looking forward to going this morning, but I had too much paperwork to fill out for my podiatrist appointment this afternoon.

What am I talking about? A week and a half ago, one of my toes suddenly hurt a lot and was purple and swollen. My internist put me on a regimen of Keflex and said "If it isn't better by Tuesday, you need to see a podiatrist," and gave me a referral.

The Keflex got rid of most of the infection, but the tip of the toe was still red and hurt like all getout, so I called the podiatrist. The first opening was today, right after services.

After filling out four pages of questions about my medical history, I journeyed out to the doctor. His assistant took a bunch of x-rays of my feet. I was also asked to bring whatever shoes I normally wear. The good news:
  1. The podiatrist said, "The problem is definitely not your shoes!"
  2. He also said, "You are definitely not going to lose your toe."
The culprit was an ingrown toenail. He said the typical treatment is an in-office surgical procedure. He said he could do it right away, but I could not go back to work. If I couldn't abide by that, he said I could schedule it for another day.

Given that I wasn't working today, this was a no-brainer. Of course I had the procedure done today! He didn't think I would be able to get back into my shoes, but I wore my one-size-too-big Reebok sneakers Just In Case, and I had no problem. I was sent home with instructions and a few Vicodins. Oh fun.

At least I already have a bed wedge in place for my sore, heavily bandaged foot, and I can work from my bed tomorrow, so I'm all set.

Mattress shopping

I've been doing research on mattresses. Whenever I'm buying something major (and even when buying something minor), I do research. Lots of research. Here's what I've learned:Collapse )

Mattresses come in several types:
  • inner spring
    There aren't many "plain inner spring" mattresses around, and they aren't as good as they used to be.

  • memory foam
    Folks either love or hate the stuff. I fall into the latter category.

  • hybrid
    Most of today's mattresses seem to fall into this category, even those that are billed as "inner spring." The ones with a little bit of padding are mostly padded with memory foam. I find I can deal with a small amount of memory foam, as long as I don't sink into the mattress.

  • air
    We're not talking about those inflatable "guest room" mattresses; it's the euphemism for "Sleep Number" beds. I was favorably impressed with the Sleep Number bed, but it costs around three times as much as a hybrid.

  • latex
    These tend to mostly be futon mattresses. Like memory foam, folks either love or hate 'em.

  • water Not so popular any more, waterbeds are heavy, and every time you or someone else moves, the entire bed rocks. If you're prone to motion sickness (as I am), a waterbed is A Bad Idea.

  • futon Folks either love or hate futons. I find them uncomfortable, and I don't need to constantly fold and unfold my bed.
Since I've settled on something with an inner spring, I've learned a lot more about the category:
  • Today's mattresses are designed not to be flipped.
    My current mattress is more than 25 years old. It lasted as long as it did because I regularly flipped and rotated it. The current generation of mattresses have built-in obsolescence. My research says that a mattress is likely to last more than ten years, but there's no way I'll get 20 good years out of a mattress again ever.

  • Mattress prices are way higher than they were in 1987.
    I expected inflation, but instead the prices have tripled since then! No longer can you get away with shelling out $450 and getting the top-of-the-line mattress.

  • Comparison shopping is difficult.
    I've decided on a high-end Sealy Posturepedic Plus. Some mattress companies, such as Sealy, have different names at different stores for what is essentially the same mattress. The only way you can tell whether you're comparing apples to apples, so to speak, is by coil count, padding type, and firmness level. I've found two sites helpful for some of this:I especially like Sleep Like the Dead's "Mattresses and Sex Comparison" for its entertainment value.

  • Mattress warranties are at best good for ten years.
    The manufacturer will support the thing for ten years without the warranty being prorated, but the policy on how you'd "return" the warrantied mattress varies from store to store. For example, Costco's return policy is much more liberal than Sleep Train's, but Sleep Train will pick up the stuff, whereas Costco expects you to bring it in.

  • Double-check everything each salesperson tells you.
    Some salespeople are honest; some are sleazy. If the salesperson tries to goad you away from the mattress you want onto one that doesn't work for you, write them off. If a salesperson blatantly lies to your face, such as telling you their "store brand" mattress is "equivalent" to the mattress you want (which they don't carry or don't have on the floor), write them off. If a salesperson won't let you test out a mattress or boxspring in the showroom, don't buy from them.

  • If you find The Right Mattress, consider layaway if you can't afford to buy it right away.
    Mattress models change every year. The one you liked today might not be available in a few months, so if you find The Right Mattress, it's a worthwhile investment.

  • You're going to be sleeping on this thing for the next decade or so.
    The money you spend on a better mattress will return in the forms of better health, better alertness, less back pain, and fewer visits to doctors, chiropractors, and massage therapists.

At this point I've come down to two mattresses in what may or may not be two different stores. The guy at the newer Sleep Train in Milpitas told me that his store had been "Mattress Discounters," but that the chain had been bought by Sleep Train. The Mountain View Mattress Discounters store still bears the name "Mattress Discounters," so I want to visit both the Mountain View "Mattress Discounters" and "Sleep Train" stores to see whether this was true just for Milpitas or whether the whole "Mattress Discounters" chain is disappearing. (If the latter, and if the "Mattress Discounters" store has a "going out of business" sale, I might want to take advantage of it.)

As you can see, it's confusing, and I want to make The Right Decision.

Genealogy stuff

I love researching my family tree. I was very close to all four of my grandparents, so for me it's a case of looking up stuff about people I adored. Every once in a while I check to see if there's anything new.

Yesterday it felt like I hit the motherlode. Specifically, they now have Pennsylvania Death Certificates online from 1906 through the end of 1963. Since most of my mother's family and a few of Dad's relatives lived and died in PA, this was a treasure trove.

I now have maiden names for my great-grandparents on my mother's side. Unfortunately, trying to tell which "John" and "Anna" Petro were my great-great grandparents is dicey at best, especially since they were already married when they came over from Austria-Hungary (now Slovakia).

A little over a year ago I exchanged email with someone who had my entire maternal grandfather's family tree, in humungous detail, in his tree. I couldn't tell whether he was related to me through my Grandpop's mother or father because I saw both last names in his tree. After more examination last night, I realized why: My Grandpop and this guy's grandmother were double-cousins! His great-grandfather was my great-grandmother's older brother, and his great-grandmother was my great-grandfather's younger sister. Unfortunately, doesn't handle double-cousins properly. Instead of showing the family trees double-linking, it shows the married siblings of his parents separately with separate branches.

What will be interesting is to see when he uploads more digitized photos of his family. I am very curious now to see whether his mother's family looks a lot like my mother's family.

Now I get to anxiously wait till they upload more PA death certificates. I am eagerly waiting for 1966, when my great-uncle Sam died, so I can see my Egyptian great-grandmother's name in writing. They didn't just have the data; they had the actual images, so I could verify that I was indeed looking at the right certificates. One of the fields is for the person "reporting" the death -- usually a family member -- and in every case I saw the name of someone I recognized. Needless to say, I'll be spending time this weekend further filling out family trees! W00t!!!

They also have more phone directories uploaded. Looking at one from 1933, I can see that whenever my Mom's maternal grandfather gave info for it, all his kids (and his brother-in-law) were still living under his roof. I know that later in 1933 a couple of them had moved in with Mom and her parents. Mom was especially close to them, and I suspect that had something to do with it. Back then, everyone who might be living in a household was listed, along with their occupation, whether they were a renter or a homeowner, and in some cases their marital status. In some cases they even listed the name of a widow's late husband!

Ripped off by Bank of America

I have been a Bank of America customer since 1981. I have had an Alaska Airlines Debit Card through them for several years.

A couple of weeks ago I tried to use my card at Myrtle's Lodge, owned by Fenton's in Oakland, right after I ate there with my fiancé and his cousin. My charge was declined by the bank even though the money was in the account. When I checked my account online, it showed the two declined charges as having gone through -- and since I saw the denials, I knew it wasn't the cashier's doing.

The next day I spoke on the phone with someone and explained that yes, those were legitimate charge attempts by me and no, they should not be processed because you denied them.

Monday I tried to get gas at Costco. My ATM/Visa didn't work. WTF????? I checked and yes, the money was there.

I called Bank of America yesterday, found out that some idiot had mistakenly closed my account and that they had sent me a "new" card, and that it was not an Alaska Airlines Debit Card because the Alaska Airlines program is going away at the end of May. I demanded that the old card be reinstated (I never asked for it to be closed; I have had the card the whole time!!!) and that the new card be closed. After several escalations, I was told it was enabled and that I would be able to continue accruing miles through the end of May.

Today I decided to test this by making a small charge. It got denied. This time I tried an online chat so I'd have a paper trail.

After several escalations, the person told me that my "new" card (that I never asked for and wanted turned off) would not accrue Alaska Airlines miles, "apologized" for the screwup, and gave me a useless number at Alaska Airlines to call. My chat window then hung (I presume the guy at the other end didn't want to escalate it and did this on purpose) so I couldn't reply.

I am furious. I have been ripped off, and I am ready to take my business elsewhere unless someone at Bank of America fixes this and soon.