Economy, Money

The Penny Pincher


mr-krabs-tips-9First, I’m pleased to say that I’m once again taking a break from that time pit called Facebook. I do that occasionally in order to clear my head from everything that Facebook has crammed into it.

And honestly, with the way things are going right now, I sort of want to escape from the bad news which seems to be unfolding at an exponential rate. I keep away in order to plant some peace deep in my soul – what little soul there is in me.

At any rate, here’s an interesting little story. Or strange or ridiculously stupid depending on how you see it.

Anthony and I headed out to the Grocery Outlet with a very short list of things to buy. I had a $3 off coupon and wanted to buy myself another Bubba tumbler, quite possible the best freaking thing I’ve bought since I started drinking more water. Seriously, ice does not melt in this thing. It’s pretty incredible.

But because of their low, low prices, Grocery Outlet is one of those places where it’s impossible to stick to a short list.

Four bags of marshmallows for 50 cents? I’M STOCKING UP RIGHT NOW. That’s until you realize that you’ve never eaten close to four bags of marshmallows in your entire life and chances are they’ll get stale before you open the second bag. It’s like that.

Thankfully, I didn’t see the need to do that but along with my tumbler I did end up with some other bargain I couldn’t pass up and we made our way to checkout.

The total for my transaction with the coupon was $9.22 and since this was one of those rare occasions when I had cash on me (read: my leftover Las Vegas winnings), I happily handed over $10. The cashier then asked if I had the 22 cents. It’s usually what they do when they are low on coin so they can give back dollars for change. I’ve been there, trust me.

I checked my pockets and came up empty. I then asked Anthony if he had any change – yes, I felt bad about it – so that we could help the cashier with her predicament. He dug deep in his wallet and came up a penny short at 21 cents.

No biggie. Pennies are a dime a dozen (if that makes sense) and no doubt the cashier would end up finding one somewhere in the store, on the parking lot, in the breakroom, etc. And if she was a penny short at the end of the day, seriously, nobody would freaking care.

It was just a penny. A single, solitary penny.

So I handed our $10.21 over to her and she placed it on the register. This is where it gets weird.

Now remember, we gave her the 21 cents to not only get a dollar back but help her out a bit if she was short on change. But it was obvious she wasn’t.

She then put the paper and coin in the register, sorting it all out by denomination. Thinking she was going to give me a $1 bill and my receipt, she then starts to crack open the roll of quarters and nickels.

I gave Anthony a strange look. He returned it.

She then began scooping change out of the drawer, counted out 99 cents and along with the receipt, handed it all over to me. Essentially, she gave back the 21 cents we had given her plus more.

As I grabbed my bag and walked away, I was trying to figure out exactly what just happened by mumbling to myself, throwing up hand gestures and drawing air numbers ala Vera from Alice complete with the confused look.

I just couldn’t figure out why she didn’t give me that $1 in change. It would have been that much easier for everybody. As a way of  thanking Anthony for helping me out (or at least trying to), I handed over the 99 cents to him. He was happy with that.

So if you ever go to Grocery Outlet, don’t be swayed by their great sales on marshmallows. And for God’s sake, have the correct change.

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Economy, Money, Work

Lyft Lyfe


CLICK ME IF YOU USE LYFTI had been silent about this since the moment I considered it. Why, I don’t know. Maybe I was being too critical about all of the negative aspects that may come with being a driver for one of the many ridesharing services which, in this case, is Lyft.

But I guess the only way to find out was to get involved. So back in October, shortly after my scooter accident and the purchase of my car, I signed up to be a Lyft driver. And I’m not gonna lie – I also applied for Uber. I figured now that I was driving again I might as well see what this was all about.

I ended up with Lyft for many reasons. Their vetting process, vehicle inspection locations, and customer service (for drivers) were all superior to Uber. I have yet to have my car inspected for Uber because their nearest location isn’t really convenient and frankly, I’m not doing this as a full-time gig. If it were then I wouldn’t have a problem with finding the time to get it done.

(Side note: I was also a vetted driver for the short-lived Sidecar service.)

Anyway, I was approved to hit the road way back in December but never bothered to go out to try to make some money. But that changed today.

Shortly before the start of the Super Bowl, I decided to give it a shot. I ended up parking for a little bit by our local airport – it’s about 5 minutes from home – to see what was going down. I figured having an airport in close proximity would prove to be a goldmine, but it depends on many factors.

Not a single ride request showed up on the app. Besides, this airport currently only allows drop-offs for ridesharing services but I see people waiting all the time across the street. It’s a way to skirt around the rule since you aren’t on airport property to pick up your ride.

After waiting about 15 minutes, I decided to drive down to the gas station then go home since it didn’t seem like a lot was happening. But on my way to the gas station, I got an alert for a pick-up which was only a mile away. I had been so hesitant to try this whole thing out and like new every job, there’s a bit of nervousness when you start.

Long story short for my first rider, it went well. They were on their way to a Super Bowl party and had a bag of goodies they were taking. The destination was 8 miles way so we had a good chat on the way. I dropped them off and thanked them, rated them, and drove away.

Simple, painless, and paid. I could probably get used to this.

Still in Online mode while driving away, I got another alert for a rider that was close by. And here’s the thing: although I was a little bit farther than I had preferred to go, Lyft requires that drivers be at a 90% acceptance rate or they are penalized or something. It’s all new to me. I had completed one ride with another waiting. If I had turned this one down, 50% acceptance. Why mess with things?

Lesson 1: Always accept new rides when you’re starting out. It’s just smart.

So I accepted the ride and picked them up. The difference here was that they weren’t sure of the physical address; just a general area. I can see why: it was condo complex and having delivered pizzas in the past, they can get confusing. Another easy pick-up and drop-off.

By now, I was out for about 2 hours (1.25 of actual Lyft-ing) and had completed two rides, the second one with my fuel warning light flashing. Remember? Low on gas? Fortunately, my car is an econobox that gets great mileage so it wasn’t a major concern but I stopped and got some nonetheless.

Afterward I figured I had put in enough time for the day and headed home to have dinner with the family. Shortly after I arrived, I got a text from Lyft stating that my first rider may have left something in my car. I checked the back seat and sure enough, they did.

Lesson 2: Make sure your ride has all their personal belongings at drop-off, checking either visually or by asking.

So I called them and verified that their items were in my car and I would drive back to deliver them. But rather than drop them off at their destination, they told me it would be fine to leave them at their house which I thought was a nice thing to do. They could have been mean about it being Super Bowl Sunday and all but they weren’t. I appreciated that.

So let’s get to it. Is driving for one of these rideshare companies worth the effort?

Lesson 3: This will not make you rich.

There are so many variables involved that can make or break you: time of day, time of year, local events, weather, etc. all have an impact on what you are paid. If you rely on this as your sole source of income, you’d best hustle and alternate between Uber and Lyft apps when the other isn’t busy. I don’t plan on doing this full-time but it’s nice to know that should I need it, it’s there.

In the end, before Lyft’s fees, I ended up with about $20 after 1.25 hours of driving. By comparison, I make more at the office but I’m sure others probably don’t. Once Lyft deducted their fees it dropped to about $16. Then, of course, factor in the daily wear-and-tear on your car, gas, and everything else and chances are I made much less.

But I suppose there’s more to it than that.

It’s the freedom to go online when you please to make a few [extra] bucks. It’s meeting new people and helping them get where they need to be, especially on a day when many probably shouldn’t be driving. And while I don’t deal with the public at the office, it was a welcome change to do it again and have conversations about whatever came to mind.

Would I give up my job for this? Perhaps if I was making much less money at, say, a grocery store I probably would. This freedom is so much the opposite of the shackles of retail but if you’re working there part-time to keep your affordable health insurance, this is a great way to earn a few more bucks.

Do I plan on doing it again for extra money? Sure. It’s easy and pretty fun, and Lyft no longer requires that unsightly fuzzy pink mustache on the front of your car.

And I’m sure there’s more I will learn along the way but for now, it’s not all that bad.

 (Note: Already use Lyft? Click the logo at the top!)
Economy, Money, Work

At Last


In my Year in Review post, I had mentioned that (among other things) there was a good chance that my current freelance assignment was going to turn into a permanent, full-time affair.

I had been freelancing there since August and only had maybe three weeks off between then and today. They called me back when one of the other proofreaders—that’s what I’m doing yet again—went on vacation in September. I’ve been there ever since.

Then things got interesting. The word was that we had just landed a huge project with a current client and they were going to be in need of help. Naturally, the company started to search for potential candidates so that they could be in place once the work started to materialize. That said, they let all employees know that this was also an opportunity for them to move up and into one of the new vacant positions.

One of them was Proofreader*. Naturally, I applied.

And although I’d been there since August, I was still a bit nervous about how I would measure up against others who might have applied—and if they would even consider me at that point.

But my worries were all for naught. For some reason, they like me but I guess the feeling is mutual: I really enjoy working there, especially someplace that is not Ralphs. (In fact, I’ll refer to the new place as Not Ralphs or NR for this post.)

About two weeks after submitting my name, I was informed that my freelance gig was extended until January 31 and, as of February 1, I was officially hired. No more freelance; I was now an official NR employee.

And I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was.

No more waiting until Thursday or Friday to find out if I was returning on Monday. That was probably the worst part of freelancing: figuring out the bills when nothing was guaranteed the following week, and how to split what could have been my last paycheck into little chunks in order to pay everybody. That game was finally over.

No more going home after 3 or 4 hours when there was little work. Granted, I’m paid well enough to where even working 20 hours a week at NR was significantly more than what I made for 40 hours at Ralphs (not that I ever got more than 30 hours while there but you get the idea). Now that we’re starting to get the work for the new project, it’s full-time hours. There’s going to be plenty of stuff for us to do.

I no longer have to travel light. I’ve started to decorate my cubicle with personal items, something I refused to do while freelancing. In fact, my old Ralphs name badge is now one of the items on my desk—just because.

It’s Monday—Friday, 9 to 6. Bank holidays are paid days off and we get so many freaking perks as far as days off go that it’s insane, but NR knows that happy employees are good employees. Some of those days off include three Summer Days that we can use during the summer months in case we want to do something with the family. Then there’s floating holidays and personal days, not to mention two weeks of vacation that accrue each calendar year. I can finally take a vacation with the family and have money to do things. That will be nice when the time comes.

Speaking of money, we spent last Saturday at a local outlet and did some serious shopping. I can’t tell you the last time we did that but I can say with certainty that it wasn’t during my 18 months at Ralphs. We could barely pay the bills, let alone treat ourselves to much of anything.

Then there’s the commute which is about 20 minutes from home. It’s an easy ride on my trusty scooter that is easily filled with gas on less than $3 a week in most cases.

And the views downtown are spectacular, as is walking down to the marina during lunch.

My Chinese zodiac sign is the monkey and in this, the Year of the Monkey, it seems my luck as finally changed. As I’ve mentioned to HR and the boss, NR is exactly where I need to be at this point in my life.

NR is everything my last place wasn’t and I am so freaking grateful for the opportunity they have given me. I look forward to being there for a long time.

*I’m a much better proofreader when I’m being paid to do it. Considering the time I write these posts, I can’t much guarantee ye olde blogge will be 100% free of errors so don’t bother to point any out Smile

Blogstuffs, Children, Economy, Exercise, Family, Fatherhood, Life, Money

2015: My Year in Review


Either I was going to do it or Facebook was by putting random pictures together and calling it “my year.” I don’t think so.

As I have done for the last few years, I am once again tying a ribbon on the end of the year with a review of all of the good and bad things that happened to me over the last 365 days including things I’ve never mentioned here or on my personal Facebook account. Of course, pictures and links to accompanying posts will be posted whenever possible.

By the way, this is only my 27th blog post of 2015 so I’ll try to make it worth your while. Here we go.

January 2015

I ran quite a bit and rescued my neighbor’s turtle who had slipped underneath their gate.

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Anthony and I attended the Dodger Fan Fest and it was everything I hoped it would be. On the field, in the dugout…just an amazing time.

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February 2015

Rather than get gifts for his birthday, Anthony opted to have his room made over which meant finally painting over the Thomas the Tank Engine picture I had painted on his wall when he was 3 years old. I never quite finished it but he didn’t mind and was actually hesitant about getting rid of it since it was there for so long.

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I took my HTC Re camera on California Screamin’ at Disney California Adventure.

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Oh, and I turned 46. Meh.

March 2015

My job at the grocery store bakery continued to give me fits.

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I didn’t quit when I wrote the note you see above but I was ready to almost every time I clocked in. Having to document everything (in pictures or writing) was a royal pain but a necessity according to my then-union rep. It’s hard to stay motivated when the boss would leave stuff like this behind and expect you to clean it up plus do your regular duties.

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And don’t get me started on all the spelling errors in their notes and labels.

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I failed my DMV motorcycle skills exam.

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I was part of about 1,000 people to take part in the Run the Runway event, celebrating the Grand Reopening of R25 at Long Beach Airport. It was a short one-mile and obviously flat course.

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April 2015

We went to Knott’s Berry Farm’s Boysenberry Festival and tried all sorts of boysenberry-flavored items. The tasting card also included fried alligator and I have to admit that it was pretty darn good.

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Fried alligator bites and fries, oh my!

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Anthony and I participated in the Grand Prix View, an event in which residents were able to ride, walk, or run along the shortened course of the upcoming Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

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Here’s a video of our lap.

My job continued to suck as is obvious by this note. Seems like the manager was the only one who never made mistakes and I refused to be a victim anymore.

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My penmanship is usually much better but when you’re frustrated and in a hurry to leave, you get your point across any way possible.

We went to the Formula E race to watch electric race cars quietly tear up the track we rode a few days before.

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I ended up on Bing Maps after spotting their survey vehicle on the way home.

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My doctor confirmed that I had tendonitis in my right wrist which was caused by work. I filed an accident report but didn’t pursue a claim as it would have only led time off and no pay, something I didn’t need or want. Naturally and as expected, it turned into a clusterfuck of biblical proportions.

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My condition improved as the months went by, thankfully.

May 2015

I decided to retire from blogging (again) only to return a few days later (again).

And because May is National Bike Month, I decided I’d ride my bike to work all month.

It lasted two  days.

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We bought a couple of red-eared slider turtles and they are some of the coolest pets we’ve had. (They are surprisingly quick on dry land!)

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With the pittance my job was paying me, we bought what we could from the visiting Hello Kitty Café van (but their prices were kind of high, too). Ann had been waiting months for this!

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I ran 10k on the beach for the hell of it and made my own medal out of a seashell – for the shell of it.

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June 2015

I thought it would be fun to learn Japanese and I was all gung-ho to start. I made some progress but have pretty much given up at this point. I may start up again, though.

Anthony graduated from grade school and made his way to middle school. We’re incredibly proud of him and although the transition was tough at first, he’s now handling it like a champ.

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We went to a Touch-A-Truck event where kids were free to climb, touch, and experience huge vehicles up close.

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Despite my job sucking the life out of me, the company decided to send me to the Corporate Office for thorough Bakery and Deli training for whatever reason. I’m smiling here because a) I was not at the store being tormented and miserable and b) it was the first time I had ever gotten a 40-hour check while working there. And, we got to take home the food we made every day.

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I discovered that a local mall doesn’t allow alligators on their escalators.

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At said mall, Ann found an outfit she HAD to have but didn’t buy. (No, she didn’t have to have it. We just thought it was hideously ugly.)

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After my week of training, I returned to my regular work schedule only to realize that nothing at the store had changed.

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We discovered a revolving sushi restaurant and my life hasn’t been the same since. For the good, I might add.

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At $2.50 a plate, things can add up pretty quickly…

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July 2015

I was commissioned by a friend to shoot some stills of Anthony and other young golfers in action.

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For the second time this year, I failed my motorcycle skills exam.

Skip to :58 to see me dip inside the line in literally the last segment of the test. I still think it was messed up that the DMV official didn’t give me a second chance like the previous one did, especially since I had made it further into the test. Now I have to take it again. Thanks, buddy.

I won tickets to a Dodgers game, courtesy of world famous Philippe The Original.

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Here we are at said Dodgers game.

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The Screwing of the Dave continued at work where I was given some overnight shifts, apparently for being a such an awful person. Stocking dog food at 1:13 am is a job for unskilled morons who work overnight because it’s best they don’t associate with the general public, and thanks to the store manager, I had become one of those morons.

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Oh Hello, Kitty! She’s got the right uniform, too.

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I attended a meditation and chanting service at a local Buddhist church and loved it. I can see myself going regularly. (Note that this is my altar that sits on my drawing table.)

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August 2015

You can only kick a dog so many times before he turns around and bites you, and that’s exactly what happened in August. Pushed into a corner at work, I had no choice but to fight my way out of it which led to my indefinite suspension and eventual termination (or “your services are no longer needed” as was stated by the manager). But you know what? That’s okay because I can’t say enough positive things about the job I’ve been working since then, even if it’s only freelance work and I had a few weeks off. It’s close to home, it pays me well, and there are so many other things about it I love. Can you say beer and pretzels at our weekly Social Hour? Twice-weekly breakfasts? An environment free of drama? And there’s still hope that they will hire me soon which is something I desperately need now. Not only for the money, but because I really effing love what I’m doing now – as does Anthony, who I’ve taken with me a few times.

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See that? That’s the face of someone who is earning decent pay doing a job not many can do in an environment filled with like-minded and creative individuals. So screw stocking dog food and feminine hygiene products overnight, Ralphs. You can have it.

By the way, former boss. Shouldn’t you be wearing gloves while you handle food and assemble cakes, especially after touching your mouth?

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But remember, I’m the moron who didn’t follow the rules.

Anyway.

We bid a fond farewell to the Spirit of America, the local Goodyear blimp. We arrived the day after the official public event only to learn that there was a private event being held for friends and family of the blimp workers. But my brother worked for the blimp years ago and I dropped a few names and pointed out a few people in the crowd to the PR person – and we were in. Not only that, but we got to go inside the gondola, something that visitors on the previous day couldn’t do. It helps to know people!

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Although I have been on at least six blimp flights, it was still an absolute thrill to climb aboard her one last time. I just wish I could have been “going up” (as the crew would say) that day. Dad used to bring me here to watch the blimp land so it was even more meaningful for me to have Anthony experience it up close. He now has something to tell his kids about when the time comes.

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Useless Fact: during one blimp flight, I was asked by the pilot if I wanted to fly her. I refused for some reason, and that regret will follow me to my grave!

Later that month, I did another golf photo shoot in the wee hours of the morning. Lots of great shots were taken.

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Despite my best efforts to avoid it, I had become a part of the Apple Cult when we switched providers. I looked high and low for an Android phone that appealed to me and none of them did, so I went with the iPhone 6 if, for anything, a different experience. So far it has been and I love it. I’ve since upgraded to the 6s.

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A group of FA/18 jets were practicing at the airport and the public was invited to see them up close.

Of course we went.

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September 2015

After riding 20+ miles one day, my bike’s odometer finally hit 1,000 miles. I had at least 1,000 on it before I installed the device.

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Still working, still enjoying the view from the patio.

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While putting my stuff away after work, I ended up throwing my keys in my scooter’s underseat storage – and closing it shut. I had to take the train as close to home as possible where Ann met me with my backup key.

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I then had to take the train back to work and was able to ride my scooter home. What an adventure. But worth it because I saw this guy on the train. Don’t bother – you’ll never be as cool as him.

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I decided to join a gym again, a move I kind of regret because the closest one isn’t really close. And being outdoors is better.

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October 2015

I discovered San Antonio Winery and I like every flavor I’ve tried so far.

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The first week of October in Long Beach means one thing: Marathon Weekend!

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Anthony participated in his third Kids Fun Run on Saturday…

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…while Dad was up at an ungodly hour to ride his bike 20 miles on Sunday. It was 4:30 am when I took this shot.

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But even if it’s a long day, the reward is so worth everything you put into it.

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This was my sixth bike tour and I will be back in 2016 for my seventh, and my third combo (I’m running the 5k on Saturday).

Here’s the entire bike tour. I’d recommend running it at 2x speed.

Green Tea Kit Kats. ‘Nuff said.

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Our family tradition that started in 2004 continued as we got our picture taken in the cut-out at the local pumpkin patch.

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Despite November being No-Shave November, I went the opposite way and rid myself of facial hair a few weeks before because I got tired of the upkeep. And the grey.

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Halloween at the new place was as insane as I expected it to be. I wore this just so I could be in shorts at the office but I had to get my picture with a coworker who was dressed like The Dude – complete with his rug. Because it really tied his cubicle together.

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November 2015

An unannounced rocket test freaked out everyone in the SoCal area, including us.

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For the first time ever, I left some stuff on Dad’s headstone for Dia de los Muertos. Anthony made the flowers out of duct tape.

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We goofed around at the L.A. Auto Show.

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A bit of a proud moment at the auto show when I saw one of the projects I worked on finally on display. It was strange seeing it in its intended state when previously I’d only seen it as a PDF file for proofing.

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My brother stopped by for a visit. He works as Disneyland and was in Tomorrowland for a few days, so I had to pose with this hideously ugly costume he was issued.

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Long Beach native Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Doggy Dogg or Bigg Snoop Dogg or Snoop Lion depending on the day of the week) was doing his second turkey giveaway that week. I was off work early and decided to drop by VIP Records and see what was going on. Pretty cool guy, and he knew just about everybody who talked to him. Keepin’ it real, to use the parlance of our times.

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On Thanksgiving morning, I ran a Turkey Trot 5k at the last moment. A friend of mine and her wife were planning on doing it but one became sick a few days before, so she offered their entries to me and a former coworker. Every ninth finisher got a pie. I didn’t but my friend did. Lucky duck!

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And in the spirit of being thankful, I’m very thankful for Mom’s health improving. At her request, I’ll say nothing more about what she’s gone through over the last year.

December 2015

Holiday parties commence at the office. One day every department was treated to pizza and an assortment of libations. Yes, this is at my desk. No, it’s not uncommon to see alcohol in the refrigerators at work. Yes, I work at an amazing place with amazing people.

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With the price of the GoPro Hero 4 Session dropping to $199, I had no choice but to upgrade. Merry Christmas to me!

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More fun times at work, this time for the Kids Holiday Party. Poor Santa is struggling – Anthony is a solid kid.

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The decorations down the street from the office are beautiful.

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And that’s pretty much been my year and unless anything amazing happens in these last few days, that will be it for this blog post.

One last thing. After freelancing since August, I’m this close to being hired permanently. There are still some things that have to be worked out but it’s looking very good for me at this point, and all I have to do is wait until these things happen – and keep my productivity where it is. They seem to like me.

From stocking shelves at a grocery store where I was treated like crap to working on all sorts of literature for the automotive industry at a place that respects my abilities and where I’m surrounded by creative people. I’d say my year turned out to be pretty good, even if it had some awful moments here and there.

Here’s wishing your 2016 is filled with luck, health, and much love. Live one day at a time and never look back. It’s the only way to get through these crazy times.

 

All the best!
Dave

Economy, Money, Work

Night and Day


I was fired from my job recently. Well, if you consider a few weeks ago as “recent” then it was.

But there’s a long story behind my termination that involves my [former] union, a department manager who was perpetually dissatisfied with my performance (and therefore a hindrance when it came to the possibility of advancing my uh, “career” at the grocery store), and all other sorts of nonsense.

I had taken the time to go into great detail writing about the events that led to my suspension and eventual termination but after all that, it really only comes down to a few pictures.

Here I am working the overnight shift at the store. I used to work those shifts as well as being subjected to working in the bakery or, as I called it, the place “where dreams go to die.” I’m stocking bags of dog food in this picture at oh, 1:33 am. And I look totally happy doing it for minimum wage with part-time hours, don’t I?

Don't I Look Happy?

You really have to reassess what your life as become if, at age 46, this is what it takes to get food on the table. Yet there I was, punching in and out and dealing with it because I had to, and this was pretty much my expression most of the time. To say I was disappointed was an understatement and this was well before the little verbal spat I had with my department manager.

Then the altercation happened and I was put on indefinite suspension. I had no income for at least two weeks.

But during my suspension, something happened. I found a freelance proofreading job at a local ad agency that was not only a full-time gig but they also agreed to my hourly rate – nearly three times than that of the ol’ grocery store.

Then things changed. I didn’t come home smelling like frozen dough and covered in flour and with cookie/bread crumbs in the pockets of my stupid Ralphs apron. I didn’t have stories of how despised every second of my job anymore. I was relaxed knowing I wouldn’t have to deal with the usual nonsense I was subjected to on a daily basis at the grocery store.

I now work 9-6 daily and have weekends off. The office has a kitchen that you could probably live in complete with video game systems and ridiculously huge LCD HDTVs. We get breakfast two days a week and a Social Hour on Wednesday. The scenery around the office is beautiful and, if I need to, I can bring Anthony to work as I did last week.

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This is me now.  I’m being paid well. I’m respected and doing what I’ve been doing for years. I’m freaking smiling at work and after work. I’m relaxed, happy and for all intents and purposes, thankful that this opportunity came my way.

What was a one-week trial period has turned into a gig that will be entering its fifth week on Monday as they keep extending my services. It seems that they like me there, which is more than I can say for The Powers That Be at Ralphs. I was such a horrible employee that they didn’t want me anymore yet I’m now proofreading documents for automobile manufacturers at a place where I get along with everybody. Huh. Imagine that.

I’m a creative person, and working in an environment where my creativity was being suppressed and where I was spoken to like a moron by people who could have used a dictionary when writing their nasty you-didn’t-do-this-last-night notes to me was difficult to say the least. And when I finally had enough of it, I did the only thing I could do: defend myself which was what led to my suspension and eventual termination.

But I’m glad that “my services were no longer required” as it was so eloquently stated at my meeting with the store manager. There’s no reason for me to ever go back or ever want to. Except for when I’m out of almond milk and need to make a quick trip.

I’ve since removed Ralphs from my resume so that it only shows jobs pertaining to writing, editing, and proofreading. This is where I need to stay and listing that horrible year-and-a-half stint at Ralphs stands out like a sore thumb.

The difference in my attitude really is definitely night and day and unlike my last job, I’m enjoying every second of my new gig. I couldn’t ask for things to be better, except for maybe being hired permanently.

And if that happens, I’d be as happy as I was miserable at Ralphs.

Economy, Life, Money

Finders Keepers, Part IV


Whether I’m running or riding, I tend to find personal items that the owners would probably want returned to them. I find so many of these things that I’ve decided to create a subject that will be dedicated to the topic of my findings, herein titled Finders Keepers. This is the third installment in what will probably be an ongoing series of blog posts.

But before I go into the few details about yesterday’s find, let me refresh your memory on the three previous incidents:

  • First incident, date unknown (not blogged): I found a small pouch containing a phone and money. I was able to get in touch with the owner who then picked it up and rewarded me with a gift card a week later.
  • March 2012: I found a Blackberry and returned it to its owner.
  • January 2014: I found a wallet that a local branch of law enforcement refused to accept.

And now, yesterday’s find.

I was scooting along on my way to work when I happened to see something lying in the middle of a residential street. If it were a busy street I wouldn’t have risked trying to retrieve it since, well, California drivers. The good thing about being on two wheels is maneuverability: you’re small enough to lane-split (which I love more than I can express) and you can pretty much turn on a dime. That was the case here when I saw the wallet.

Once I spotted it, I turned around quickly and picked it up. It was all documented by my trusty HTC Re Camera which I attach to my helmet in case something bad happens and I need evidence. (As of now, nothing has and I delete all the videos later.)

wallet

Granted, there was a chance that the wallet would be empty because hey, people throw stuff out and who knows where it will end up. But after I picked it up I looked inside in the hopes of coming across something that would indicate ownership. In this case, there was about $60 and two movie vouchers but no form of identification.

Bordering on being late to work, I picked a house that was adjacent to where the wallet was found and knocked on the door. No answer.

At that point I figured I’d hold onto it and figure out things later like posting signs around the neighborhood.

I threw the wallet in the storage compartment under my seat and shut it. Just as I started up the scooter, I noticed a girl – she may have been around 11 or 12 – frantically looking around her property while her dad was crawling down the street in his car.

If this was her wallet, it would have explained the absence of an ID inside. I opened my “trunk” and grabbed the wallet. As she darted across the street to her dad’s car, I looked over at him and held up the wallet. Their faces of concern turned to relief when they realized I had found it.

Dad opened up a dialog with me, thanking me for finding it and returning it. The girl ran over, thanked me, grabbed her wallet and got in the car, smirking and hanging her head in embarrassment. She would have had one bummer of a weekend without her sixty bucks and movie tickets so I was happy she got them back. I told them it was my pleasure; no thanks needed.

An aside: remember when $60 and movie tickets were all it took to make you happy?

Anyway, I once again did the right thing because it’s in me to do this type of thing. If I ever lose my wallet or anything else of personal value, I would hope that the finder would do the same for me. That’s just how it should be because the universe sort of has a way of paying you back for making it a better place. Yeah, it’s that karma thing again. But I’ve learned my lesson with finding money: just keep it.

So I was feeling very satisfied with myself knowing I helped brighten someone’s day. No doubt they will have a story to tell at school tomorrow when they explain that some scooter-riding dork wearing a helmet with the Flying Tiger livery found their wallet.

Still feeling high, I arrived at work where that buzz was shot down quicker than (I can’t think of anything so use your imagination). Not cool, universe. Not cool at all. As for what happened at work, let’s just say it’s been an ongoing issue and I’m making a call to my union representative in the morning to go over it.

In the meantime, it’s off to scour the usual job sites after I finish up this week’s Coursera lesson which I’m happy to say I’m sticking with.

Commentary/Opinion, Complaint, Computers, Economy, Electronics, Money, Smartphones

Why Mobile Payments Will Fail


If you aren’t familiar with the concept of mobile payments, here’s a quick little rundown of how they work.

First, you must sign up with any number of services out there such as Google Wallet or Isis Wallet. These serve as your “bank” in which you can deposit money or have it transferred from your “real bank,” the one that you can touch and walk into. The services I’ve used have also given me up to $30 on my accounts just to get things going and to see how convenient it is. Free money.

Second, you need to have a compatible smartphone equipped with NFC (Near Field Communications). Using your virtual bank’s app, this allows it to communicate with the point-of-sale PIN pad and will deduct the purchase total from the balance on your account.

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Finally, you need to find a retailer that is capable of processing payments via NFC and more often than not, each service’s website or app will find every one that is around you.

And that’s the start of the trouble.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the concept of mobile payments. I’ve used it on a number of occasions and it’s quick and easy – when it works. I’ll get to that later.

But first, let’s look at vendors. One of the first things I noticed was that it’s not everywhere and mostly, not in places I’d frequent. For example, looking at one app’s map of vendors, the following are listed:

  • A smoke shop
  • Dry cleaners
  • An eyebrow threading service

I’m pret-ty sure I won’t be using any of those soon, and the places where you’d think mobile payments would be handy don’t have it. Grocery stores would be one of those places and there’s only one local chain that is mobile wallet-friendly (and it’s not my company). In short, there’s just not enough useful NFC POS vendors around. Not even any of our local coffee houses, including that evil Seattle-based giant, accepts them. On the other hand, there are some soda vending machines that accept mobile payments and that could come in handy should you not have any cold, hard cash on you.

The second and final reason I think this concept will fail is this: not enough vendor education. I’ve been to places that accept mobile payments and when it came time to pay, the employees looked at me as if I was Mr. Spock standing there with a lightsaber (yeah, I know, blah blah blah). While there are only a handful of places that do accept them, finding an employee who actually knows how to process them, let alone knows what the hell it is, is indeed rare.

This happened to me yesterday at The Flame Broiler. I placed my order and when it came time to pay, I showed the cashier my phone indicating that I wanted to pay via my mobile wallet.

Deer in headlights. Complete silence. Utter disbelief. Smeckeldorfed.

They had absolutely no clue how to run it so I had to pull out my debit card and pay with real, physical plastic. I wanted to avoid this because I got $20 added to my virtual account when I opened it so I thought, “Hey, free meal. Dinner is on me tonight!”

Yeah. No. And this wasn’t the first time this happened to me, either.

While a great concept, I get the feeling that these problems will ultimately lead to its demise. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.