Monday, May 31, 2004

We're home safe from Wiscon and the drive was pretty good except for a half hour delay due to road repairs. Alan and I found the elusive Twilight Zone Dairy Queen/truck stop that Barth and I stumbled into on the way back from Clarion in 1998. Although its clientele wasn't nearly as strange as that first time and the flies were missing, Alan did immediately say, "I bet this is that Dairy Queen you guys found." It must move into and out of our plane of existence on a four year rotation. For just one small example of the weirdness, there is the fact that you can see the line at the counter while sitting in the womens restroom stall because all the doors don't close properly.

What can I say about Wiscon? Even when I overload myself with volunteering, etc. like I did this time, it's still the highlight of the year. I'll do a short con report tomorrow when I'm not so sleep deprived. We did indeed prove that science fiction readers and writers can and will do karaoke. Now, I need to get back to basketball and then bed.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

The cumulative effects of lack of sleep or why Alan found me crying after watching five minutes of White Fang last night

So, I stayed up until 3:30 Monday night putting the finishing touches on the next Rabid Transit. (The task was made so much harder by the fact that QuarkExpress 4.1 does not have imposition capabilities and I'm much too broke right now to lay out $200 for a stupid extension that can do it. Am I wrong or shouldn't it be included in an already expensive software package?) The work itself wasn't too bad, this chapbook is the best one yet, contents-wise, with artwork, a comic and great stories, and I had fun putting it together. That night I didn't go to bed early because of a certain basketball game. The only good thing was that I was so tired by the end of the game that the Timberwolves trade mark end-of-the-last-quarter slip didn't get me nearly as riled up as it normally would. Wednesday, well, Wednesday is a complete blur but I made it through with a couple cans of caffeinated pop, despite the fact I'm officially off caffeine. It was a long day as I've been getting ready for a two week vacation starting this weekend. Thursday, I had to be in early, and then went that night with 18 kids and assorted staff from our transitional housing program to the MOA for a really cool scavenger hunt. By the end of the night, even the kids were tired. Friday was a ten hour day as I scrambled to get things done. I left work around 9:30 in time to catch most of the last half of the basketball game. Which left me at about 10:30 on the couch fighting tears because White Fang's mother had just died right in front of him, and he was all alone in the world. (No, it did not have anything to do with the Wolves' loss - that was just a coincidence.)

Friday, May 14, 2004

Okay, while we're ahead by ten points, I need to post about my fabulous, extra, belated birthday present from Alan that arrived yesterday. My Rather Good punk kittens t-shirt. I wanted so much to wear it today to work but I'm in the process of applying to return to upper management again (no direct services purely administration) and I wasn't sure a kitty playing a guitar was proper attire in these circumstances. Alan said he thought about getting me the Viking kitty "I am mighty" t-shirt but thought the punk kitty was more appropriate. We speculated that the "I am mighty" one might actually have been better in these circumstances. Dang, now we're down to a three point lead. I hate this!
Last night one of the guys in the shelter asked our computer lab volunteer for some help applying for unemployment benefits. The unemployment office told him that the benefits are processed fastest with the online application, second fastest with the telephone application and slowest with the regular hand done form. It seems that the online application can only be filled out between 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday closed on holidays. The telephone application hours are something like 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Our shelter doesn't open until 6 p.m. and closes at 7 a.m. The computer lab isn't open in the morning. He thought he'd probably need some help using the computer so we arranged for him to come in today during the shelter office hours.

The website tells you that you need the following information: your Social Security Number, your employer's official name and address, and the name of your union, if applicable. Luckily, he had the application and had filled most of it out a head of time so he knew he needed more information than what they had listed. I got him set up at a computer and had to sneak away to meet with someone else. When I came back to check on him, he'd gotten about three pages of the application entered into the computer and was a little hung up because the dates of employment weren't being accepted. He just needed to enter the date 04/04/2004 instead of 04/04/04 before he could move to the next page and the end of the application. He hit the button and with the new page we got a message that read something like the following, "If it has been more than twenty minutes since you started this form, it has timed out and you need to go back to the front page and start again."

Now, the volunteer and I were already wondering about the limited hours for online applications, especially since you'd hope that someone would be busy job hunting during business hours. Whoever heard of an online application with time restrictions? It seemed obvious that they were trying to make it hard to apply for benefits. The difference in application processing times certainly favors people with access to technology. The twenty minute timeout on the application is completely unreasonable considering the amount of detail required on the form (and not listed on the first page.) If I'd just lost my job after working there for ten months and had spent the past couple of hours first completing the written application and then stuggling to complete the online form, only to find that I had to start over again, I would have lost it. Needless to say, he didn't. He took it pretty calmly. One of the shelter staff was going to do the typing for him as he tried it a second time.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

I forgot to mention that I've been cruising through Scott Westerfeld's Succession novels, The Risen Empire and The Killing of Worlds. Yes, the last thing in the world I need after staying up until after midnight watching basketball is to be up another two hours reading, but that's what I've been doing. Calling them space opera doesn't really do them justice, but they're the best of the space faring science fiction books that I've read in a really long time. Scott still shows his masterful extrapolation but these books have a completely different feel to them than his earlier, also excellent novels. I have a link to his website thanks to Justine but it doesn't have anything on it right now. Maybe he's too busy writing. We'll all have to bug him about it at Wiscon.
My sleep schedule has gotten totally thrown off by these late night West Coast basketball games. Tomorrow night's game starts at a saner 8:30 p.m. Central Time. The last two games have allowed me to get a lot of the corrections to the next Rabid Transit edition, Petting Zoo, done, at least before the tense last quarters. Not much else going on in this household this week. It's been nice to be exhausted by something as benign as a close basketball game after the last few weeks.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Alan and I slept in this morning a bit after a late night at the Timberwolves game. Exhausting but awesome game. My poor Howl Towel was almost wrung to pieces. I'm headed over to my parent's house to celebrate the day with Mom but also to brainstorm some non-Mother's Day activities to do with Dad when he gets back from Wisconsin. Today will be pretty hard on him.

Anyways, happy Mother's Day to all the new mothers out there and to all mothers in general. What would we do without you?

Friday, May 07, 2004

I listened to the broadcast of the Senate hearings on Abu Ghraib with considerable interest, especially since hearing an NPR report a few days ago that indicated that private intelligence contractors and CIA intelligence officials were partially responsible for the abuses in the prison. The report speculated that the private contractors were not covered under the law concering U.S. law violations by private contractors overseas because they were contracted by the CIA and exempted from the law. So, I was patiently waiting (through all the posturing, etc.) to hear someone ask about this and was very happy when Senator McCain, a Republican, was the one to do it. I was just coming into work and rushed upstairs to catch the answer but missed it. Luckily, the Washington Post has a transcript of the testimony online. Here's a link to the page with McCain's questions if anyone else missed it and is interested. Of course, Rumsfeld didn't answer the question but with McCain and others asking these questions, I don't think it will disappear. Warprofiteers and Corpwatch both have articles on Titan and CACI, the contractors providing translators and interrogators to the prison, as well as a downloadable copy of the Taguba Report there.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Phone Call of the Day

"Hello, this is Kristin."

"The toilet paper is too hard... The Toilet Paper Is Too Hard... THE TOILET PAPER IS TOO HARD... You need to get softer toilet paper in the shelter."


I've never had any problems with the T.P. myself. We use the same stuff in the office. I don't know why I got the call unless it's because the person knew me from when I was shelter staff or because I'm the point person for in-kind donations. I'll have to add "soft" to the T.P. entry on our needs list.

By the way, if you've somehow managed to elude the effects of all those wonderful reviews and blog posts, you need to run out right now and pick up a copy of Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club. I finished it over two nights - almost as fast as my first Austen, Pride and Prejudice, which I read all in one night and got in trouble with my professor because she was counting on me to help with the discussion and I couldn't participate anymore because I had read ahead. Now I just have to dig them all out and reread them and then go back to Karen's book.