Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday update

Alright, so it's been a week since my last day on the job - time for an update.

The first four days including the weekend, I pretty much did nothing work-related. I slept a lot, read books, watched TV, movies and a couple of Rockets games, and spent extra time with my family. I taught them some new card games, which everybody seems to enjoy. This week, I've been sending out resumes and I've had a couple calls with recruiters, but I don't really expect anything to happen until January at least. So I'm just doing my best to enjoy the holidays, spend time with people I care about, and keep things as normal as possible.

Tuesday night I went into the city in a bit of a snowstorm to meet with my poly women's group, which was fun. We had a good turnout, even though Penny couldn't come due to a holiday party conflict. Wednesday I had to go into the city again to have some dental work, which was excruciating as usual. The worst of it is they didn't have a necessary component to finish the job, so I'll have to go back in January - ugh! After the dentist, I had some time to kill before a separate doctor's appointment, so I strolled around the nearby MOMA and saw some of the new exhibits that we've skipped in our recent tours of the marvelous Van Gogh Colors of Night exhibit.

After my doctor's appointment, I met up with Penny briefly to walk a few blocks over to the LGBT center for the PolyNYC Holiday party, but I was rather exhausted and in pain from the dentist, so I didn't stay for the party. It turned out to be quite the soiree, as Penny filled me in later by phone, so maybe next year I'll be more in a party kind of mood.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Laid off at work

I found out this morning that I have been laid off at work, effective immediately. There's simply not enough work in the pipeline for Agent K to keep me on, and I understand that. I see what's going on around me, and I'm not the only one who is hurting with the economic conditions. It does kind of suck that it's happening over Christmas, but I was pretty much twiddling my thumbs at work anyway. At least I get to twiddle my thumbs at home for the next month and a half and still get paid. The company offered me a pretty generous severance so I'll be on the payroll until the end of January. After that, the clock really starts ticking.

The upside is that this is certainly not unexpected. I had seen the warning signs for several weeks now as clients slowly faded away, and work began to dry up. So I held off on spending on major items, and I kept my assets liquid so I have plenty of reserve funds to pay the rent while I'm job hunting. Of course it would be ideal if I could find something before Feb. 1 so I wouldn't have to deplete my savings, but in this economy, it might be a challenge to find something suitable. But I've been through this before, under more challenging circumstances, so I know I can get through this. If it's one thing I've learned, it's that life is full of ups and downs, and you just have to keep going and not give up.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Christmas trees, museum and movies

Lots of odds and ends going on in my life, and for the moment, plenty of time at work to write about them, so here we go.

In the category of news of the weird, here’s a post from Neil Gaiman’s blog – apparently Australia has granted human rights to cartoon characters by a court ruling that X-rated images of Bart, Lisa and Maggie Simpson having sex together constitutes child pornography. This ruling means that every Australian who owns a copy of Alan Moore's Lost Girls (as both Tara and I do) is risking imprisonment for possession of kiddie porn.

On a lighter note, I actually had a great time at the company holiday party on Friday. We take over the sub-level of a nearby upscale Mexican restaurant called Dos Caminos, which has pretty decent food, and outstanding guacamole, even to a Houstonian girl like me. I started the night chatting with some of the senior members of the staff, two people who have been at Agent K more than 70 years between them. They were telling me all the sordid stories of bygone days where office sex and three-martini lunches were the norm, before political correctness and the threat of lawsuits crept in – it sure made the present day sound safe but boring in comparison.

During the prize drawing, I won something for the second year in a row, a Motorola Bluetooth wireless headset so that I too can look like Lobot (I’ll probably just end up using it at home or giving it to Penny). As the party started to wind down, all the young women in my group started to congregate at my table for some reason, making me feel a bit like a mother hen. Most of them went off to another bar to continue the celebration, but I’d had enough at that point and went home to watch my Rockets basketball game.

Tara came over later in the evening and we watched Star Trek: First Contact, continuing our month-long Trek movie marathon, followed by snuggles in bed. In the morning we had our bacon and pancake breakfast, followed by more snuggles, which was kind of a bad idea because you shouldn’t exercise right after you eat, but somehow we managed. Unfortunately next weekend we will not have quite the leisurely time of it because she will be getting up early to go to Hartford for a two-day rehearsal session. Her three-piece band is getting back together after a year-long hiatus to start performing again, and completing their second album.

Saturday night everybody came over for dinner and to help me put up my Christmas tree and decorations, and to watch two episodes of Heroes and a very funny Saturday Night Live (welcome back Amy!) Sunday we went into the city to kick-off the Christmas season by visiting our favorite trees, the Angel Christmas tree at the Metropolitan Museum and the big tree at Rockefeller Center. While we were at the Met, we toured the newly opened Medieval European galleries and the Italian Renaissance special exhibit, then took the subway to Rockefeller Center to visit St. Patrick's and the big tree there. Bee did her annual project of bringing cheer to the homeless by giving out bags of food to those we saw (we only spotted two because of the cold, but they were very happy to receive the gift bags). The howling wind and sub-freezing temperatures we encountered coming back to the Met was ferociously cold for everybody except Tara (who is half polar bear, half arctic bird it seems) but we managed to arrive with all fingers and toes intact. We drove back to NJ and had a fun and tasty dinner at one of our usual diners because everything else was closed.

Rockefeller Center 2008

Last night Tara and I watched Unforgiven, the 1993 western directed by Clint Eastwood that was nominated for nine Oscars and won four, including Best Picture and Best Director. This has long been one of my favorite movies, and one of the few westerns I like (others are Silverado, Tombstone, The Searchers, and The Magnificent Seven). Unforgiven is a bit different from most westerns I’ve seen in that it’s less of an adventure than a character-driven drama piece, although all the classic elements of the western are skillfully woven in. Happily, Tara enjoyed it very much so it was time well-spent.

Tonight I’m having dinner with Penny and Lori, the first time in my modern history that I’ve spent time with two of my friends at the same time (although my friends have brought their friends to spend time with me before). Given that I can count my local friends on one hand, this is likely to be a rare occasion.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Happiness is contagious

Our company holiday party starts in a couple hours, and it’s something I’m actually looking forward to – I’m actually wearing a suit for this. The last few years I’ve been pretty reluctant to attend these functions, but I’m trying to get more comfortable with it, to break out of my shell a little. Even though I’ll always be an introvert at heart, I am a human being and therefore a social creature. It’s just that when you can’t talk about your private life, it makes socializing with outsiders a little uncomfortable.

My co-workers are actually a pretty good lot of people, and I had a great time bowling with them on Wednesday night. I surprised myself by how well I could still bowl. We split into two groups of six and I was the high scorer on my team both games, and the overall high score on the second game (my high score was 119, I think, which isn’t very high at all). I gave a lot of pointers to my teammates, which seemed to help most of them. Bowling is actually a very team-oriented game, because everyone feels good when someone throws a strike. The only issue is that it’s kind of loud to have any conversations.

There was an article in the New York Times about how happiness is contagious, even among strangers. Maybe that’s what the world need a lot more of right now to combat all the downer news is for some people to spread happiness around. I know that part of the feeling of compersion (or frubble, as some poly people call it) is just that - being able to feel happiness instead of jealousy and negativity from seeing your loved one made happy by someone else. From now on, I want to try and focus on being happy and making others around me happy as well. ‘Tis the season, after all.

"Strangers May Cheer You Up, Study Says" – Dec. 5, 2008

This idea ties in nicely with what I see as a subtle shift in my spending patterns in the last couple years. I think about the fact that my last major purchase was my new flat-screen TV, but before that it was last Thanksgiving, when I bought my video projector and screen. Altogether my home theater probably cost me about $6,000 over the last three years, not including what was lost in the fire of 2007 or what I spend on DVDs and cable TV fees every month. But I think, like the author of this article in the Wall Street Journal, that it was money well spent, because every Saturday night my family comes over and we watch movies or TV together, and that has been the bedrock of my social life for the past year.

"Deals Abound, But Which Offer Lasting Delight?" - Dec. 3, 2008

I think going forward, I am going to prioritize my spending on things that involve my friends and family, rather than things that exclude them, as one expert in the article suggests. I already do this to a certain extent with museum memberships, Broadway shows, basketball games, etc., but I'd like to do more, if my job situation gets a little more stable.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Twilight the movie

I finally went to see Twilight last night with Penny and we had a very nice time, as usual. I’ve been collecting Regal Cinema gift cards at work the past few years because there are no Regal Cinemas in New Jersey where I live, so I have about $60 worth of cards saved up. Agent K gives them out as incentive gifts and for anniversaries, so I was glad to use them.

The movie was good, and extremely faithful to the book. And as a lover of the book, I thought they did a very nice job of capturing almost exactly what the reader would envision when reading the novel. The only issue I have is if I look at the movie as a separate entity, as a person who had not read the book, and if I watched it in that headspace, I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much because there are so many meaningful looks and lines that sound corny out loud if you don't know the depth of emotions and unexplained (in the movie) motivations behind them.

Surprisingly, Penny enjoyed the movie a lot more than she expected to, since she is not a fan of “vampires that glitter” (which underscores somewhat our inverted biological/emotional ages, since she is a lot closer in age to the Young Adult demographic than I am). Her idea of a good book is Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, which she’s currently reading, and we're planning to read Tom Robbins' "Skinny Legs and All" together when she's done with that, a book that Bug got me for my birthday. She thought all the actors who played the paranormals were very sexy though, especially the actor who plays Jacob Black, whom she thought would be a good casting choice for the lead character in the novel she’s writing (she just completed the first 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo last month).

For me, a big part of the fun of watching the movie was hearing how they used the soundtrack, which I’ve been listening to non-stop since it came out a few weeks ago. Hearing Muse’s “Supermassive Black Hole” erupt during the Cullen’s fateful softball game was a blast. In fact, I made my own Twilight-inspired mix on my iPod, since I don’t like every single song on the soundtrack album which incorporates some of Stephenie Meyer’s other picks from the entire series of books and some of my own emo-flavored tracks. My mix goes like this, with non-soundtrack songs marked with an asterisk:

Decode by Paramore
*Stockholm Syndrome by Muse
Spotlight (Twilight Mix) by Mute Math
Leave Out All the Rest by Linkin Park
Go All The Way (In the Twilight) by Perry Farrell
I Caught Myself by Paramore
Eyes on Fire by Blue Foundation
*Starlight by Muse
Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron & Wine
*Shadow of the Day by Linkin Park
*The Scientist by Coldplay
*World In My Eyes by Depeche Mode
*In the End by Linkin Park
*Forgiveness by Collective Soul
Decode (Acoustic Version) by Paramore
*I Will Follow You Into The Dark by Death Cab for Cutie
*Creep (Acoustic) by Radiohead
*Brighter by Paramore
*Halo by Porcupine Tree
*Sweet Sacrifice by Evanescence
*Time is Running Out by Muse
*Valentine’s Day by Linkin Park
*My Immortal by Evanescence
*Clocks by Coldplay
*Miracle by Paramore
*Vicarious by Tool
*Assassin by Muse
*Born For This by Paramore
*I Melt With You by Sugarcult
*She Will Be Loved by Maroon 5
*My Heart by Paramore

I’m actually going bowling tonight for the first time in years, the first of two company holiday parties this week. The last time I went bowling was also at a company outing, but with my old firm in Houston. I actually do like to bowl, but it’s hard finding the time and companionship to do so, just like playing tennis and basketball and other things I used to do. So we’ll see how well-coordinated I am after such a long layoff and so many changes over the past few years.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The devourer of worlds

I was going to write something profound and serious about Thanksgiving, and all the things I'm thankful for, but on the whole, it hasn't changed much from last year. I'm thankful for my life here, my family, my friends, my health, and other year of growing and learning more about myself.

In the course of looking at things for my Christmas wish list, I found this awesome poster about one of my favorite fictional characters, Galactus. Classic.