Jun 21

Friday Five: Living spaces

I’ve noticed that my answers to the Friday Five are rather lopsided; I typically write short answers to four of the questions, but ramble on at great length in response to the other one. This week’s answers are no different.
1. Do you live in a house, an apartment or a condo? House. (Answers don’t get much shorter than that, folks.)
2. Do you rent or own? After being renters for many years, Marie and I finally bought a house four years ago.
3. Does anyone else live with you? Marie and our two children.
4. How many times have you moved in your life? I would have to ask my parents to be sure about the moves I experienced before the age of five. I was born in Thibodaux, Louisiana, but I know that we moved to Texas before my sister was born. I think we lived in at least two places in Texas (my parents have mentioned Bryan and College Station), and I suppose it’s possible we lived in more than one place in Louisiana prior to that.
My coherent memories begin after we moved back to Louisiana, this time to the town of Monroe in the northern part of the state. At first we lived in a rental house on College Avenue, but that was only for a year or two while our new house was being built on Lionel Street. We lived there for about five years before moving to Rock Hill, South Carolina, where my parents bought the house on Guilford Road in which they are still living today.
In college, I changed dorm rooms several time, but I don’t count those transitions as moves because no furniture or other big stuff was involved, just my clothes and books. So the first real move after that was when Marie and I got married and moved into our first home in Carolina Gardens, one of the Family Housing sites for students at the University of South Carolina. We lived there for two years and then moved off campus to a smaller place at Westbridge Apartments, across the river in West Columbia. No sooner did we move into a smaller place than Marie got pregnant, so we moved again a year later to a larger apartment at a complex called Forestbrook (even farther west, in Springdale). It was from there that we moved to North Carolina a year later.
In North Carolina, we actually lived in Raleigh for a year, renting an apartment just inside the Beltline at Sumter Square on Jones Franklin Road. After that we rented a house on Glen Bonnie Lane in Cary, but the owner sold it after one year, forcing us to move. We found another rental house on Wyatt’s Pond Lane and ended up living there for nine years, until finally buying our current house in Holly Springs.
I believe that adds up to twelve moves for me. (I suppose I could have made this my shortest answer answer ever by just writing “12” and skipping all the details, but what fun is that?)
5. What are your plans for this weekend? At the moment, I have none.

Jun 21

Exit strategies

This was my last week as an IBM employee. With my termination date just days away, it was time to wrap up my affairs and leave.
I had started cleaning out my desk late last week by going through my file folders and discarding most of the material there, with just a few documents set aside to take home. There were several plastic shopping bags in one drawer, so I began taking my stuff home one bag at a time. By Wednesday of this week, the shopping bags were all gone, so I used the paper box that I saved back in April to take home the last load, which included a couple of larger items (such as my Star Wars wall calendar and the sweater that had hung on the back of my office door). By Thursday morning, there was nothing left in my drawers but IBM’s office supplies, and nothing on the desktop except the computer hardware and my thermal mug, which would stay until the bitter end.
On Thursday, I took a shopping bag to work containing the duplicate docking station and power supply for my ThinkPad that I had used to work from home. These were IBM property, and I returned them. I spent the morning deleting my files from the ThinkPad and uninstalling applications, leaving it in as generic a state as possible for the next user. I also logged on to IBM’s asset management system and did an official asset transfer of the ThinkPad to my manager — he would be responsible for it after my departure.
Friday was my last day. (It was also the summer solstice, suggesting that the layoff was actually a ritual sacrifice of some sort.) I dressed for the occasion: black shoes and crew socks, black slacks with a black leather belt, and a black IBM E-Business logo polo shirt, topped off with a black IBM baseball cap with blue trim. At the office, I spent an hour or so doing a final cleanup of the ThinkPad, deleting all my e-mail and browser bookmarks, and uninstalling AOL Instant Messenger (the simplest way to remove my Buddy List from the machine). While I still had access to IBM’s internal employee directory, I wrote down the e-mail and phone numbers of anyone at IBM I might conceivably want to get in touch with. (Prior to last May, if I needed to contact an IBM employee, I just called Bob and had him look up the information. Can’t do that any more.)
The other members of my team had taken the day off or were working from home, and I had already said my goodbyes over the last several days anyway. There was nothing left to do but meet with Cliff (my manager) to complete the exit process. I locked my desk, locked (but left open) my office door, and went to Cliff’s office. I turned over my ThinkPad to him, along with my desk and office keys, the Diners Club card IBM had issued me (which I never used), and my badge. He had me sign a few documents, gave me copies, and then handed me checks for my severance pay and unused vacation pay. I went back to my office to pick up my briefcase and thermal mug, closed the door for the last time, and rejoined Cliff so that he could escort me out.
In the parking lot, he wished me luck, asked me to keep in touch, and shook my hand before we parted company. Cliff returned to his office to continue his day at work, and I drove away to begin the next phase of my career: unemployed ex-IBMer.

Jun 17

Success story

Tonight I attended the June meeting of TAPIT, the Palm user group that I belong to. One of the people there thanked me for telling her about the Palm program I use to keep track of Weight Watchers points. She said that, thanks to me, she has lost thirty-six and a half pounds over the last year. Of course I don’t deserve the credit for her achievement; I’ve told numerous people how I accomplished my own weight loss, but few of them have been inspired to follow my example. Still, I’m delighted to hear that I was able to help. It’s nice to learn, once in a while, that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.

Jun 16

Never mind

In an earlier entry, I said that I would be posting my job search journal here. I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote that, because it’s not possible. My job search journal is a day-by-day record of phone calls made, e-mails sent and received, resumes submitted online or mailed, and so forth. In other words, it’s full of the names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of people I’ve contacted, and I can’t post that information on a Web page without their knowledge or permission. So I’m keeping my journal in a paper notebook, just like in previous job hunts. I’ll certainly post updates here when something significant happens, like an interview, but so far it’s just been networking (contacting acquaintances by phone or e-mail to let them know I’m hunting, and to ask them to keep their ears open for leads) and submitting resumes online or via e-mail. I’ve responded to some specific job postings at the sites listed on the right side of this page, but my main focus right now is getting my resume into the hands of recruiters or managers who might be looking for a technical writer at some point in the future.
Deciding to turn this blog into an online job search journal was a mistake, because it resulted in paralysis. I couldn’t post contact information, and I didn’t want to just document the emotional aspect of the job search on a day-to-day basis, because that would be both tedious and depressing. Consequently, I ended up posting basically nothing for several weeks. So I’m going to go back to writing about other things unless I have some actual job-related news to report.

Jun 15

Friday Five: Laundry

Looking at Ben’s blog, I was startled to see that the Friday Five has begun appearing again. I had more or less given up on it. Well, I’m a day late, but I’ll answer this week’s questions; it seems as good a way of any to break the Blogger’s Block that’s been plaguing me for weeks.
1. How often do you do laundry? About once a week. Typically, what triggers a laundry cycle is a complaint that someone is about to run out of underwear.
2. What’s in a typical wash load? I’m doing laundry for a family of four, so there’s a great deal of stuff to wash. As a result, there is no such thing as a “typical” load; I sort clothes into whites, light colors, bright colors, dark colors, reds, jeans, underwear, and linens (bedclothes and towels). Most of these are one load each, but the lights, brights, and darks typically produce two loads, and sometimes the jeans do so as well. Lately, I’ve started separating black clothes from the other dark-colored ones, since there is enough for a full load of each. I’m not sure why the volume of black clothing has increased in recent months, but it probably has to do with having two teenagers in the house. Reds and underwear are not full loads, but have to be washed separately; I usually combine them in the dryer. Whites can sometimes be combined with some of the light colors, but that means they get washed in warm water instead of cold. (I try to wash as few partial loads as possible, to save electricity, but some of them are unavoidable.)
I have sixteen laundry baskets (Ultra Laundry Baskets from Sterilite, in every color I’ve been able to find), but usually four or five of those are unavailable when I start sorting, because they’re still sitting in people’s rooms full of clean clothes from the previous laundry cycle, waiting to be folded and put away. Washing and drying a dozen loads takes a whole weekend day, or several weekday evernings.
Yes, I’m a laundry geek.
3. Front or top loader? Powder or liquid detergent? Like most Americans, I’ve never even seen a front-loading washer. And I use two powdered detergents: Tide with Bleach for the underwear (to sterilize it, and I spray the basket with Lysol afterward), and Cheer with Liquifiber for everything else. Whites, linens, and underwear get washed in hot water, light colors in warm, and everything else in cold. (Actually, if the outside temperature is below 60, I use warm instead of cold. Water colder than 60 doesn’t dissolve the detergent properly.)
4. Do you use fabric softener in the rinse cycle? No. My family seems pretty indifferent to whether softener is used, so I don’t bother. I use softener sheets in the dryer during the winter months, but that’s to control static electricity.
5. Dryer or clothesline? Dryer. We currently have an electric dryer, which was purchased when we lived in an all-electric house. Our current house has gas, but it isn’t piped up to the laundry room, so future dryers will probably also be electric unless we determine that a gas dryer would save us a lot of money.
If it sounds like I do all of the laundry, that’s not the case. I wash and dry everything, but Marie sorts the clean laundry, and everyone is responsible for folding or hanging up their own clothes.