Sunday, June 29, 2008

Time Flies By

I suppose that any regular readers I had, if I had any other than Filtersweep, are now long gone with the hugely intermittent postings.

Things here have become consistent yet still hectic. Cassidy continues to have many MANY basketball games and practices. Of course these are interspersed with football practices now, so he is kept busy 3-7 days a week for 3-12 hours.

My lovely wife continues to work consistent 10-12 hour days at the family business. I know she loves the work and being the boss, she is VERY much looking forward to the next Vegas trip as the second longest getaway of our relationship, and the longest without Cassidy being along!

As for me, I continue to work as much overtime as I possibly can. This was a direct result of the ever climbing gas prices, as my trusty gas-guzzler was drinking $100/week. I had been a big fan of the bicycle commute for a while; however with my recent transition to Police Officer, I am unable to justify the 1.5 hour public transit transition to work. The commute home would be fine, but I cannot justify pedaling in to work when I routinely make 3-5 trips per day up 9 flights of stairs in emergencies. I still love cycling and respect those who are able and willing to commute via two human powered wheels.

In my defense, I have discovered a new passion that is indicative of the police officer stereotype…not doughnuts (or power rings as WE like to call them, I already knew about those), but the not-quite-as-bad-for-the-environment-as-my-gas-guzzling-SUV motorcycle. I have always wanted to drive a motorcycle, if not quite as a lifestyle, as a recreational mode of daily transportation. After many weeks of searching for a cycle and planning for my class, I purchased (thanks for letting me Baby!!!!) a 2007 Yamaha Road Star Silverado. I will post more of my exploits as time progresses, but for now I am totally fine with streets and roads, highways are still a “pucker factor” of 9. Hopefully, that feeling will lessen, but I never want it to feel routine. ‘Cause if I ever feel totally comfortable on highways, I should probably stop riding.

By the way, I highly recommend any class offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, fun and educational. Big thanks to The Rooster and everybody at Coyote MS; and extra special thanks to Cowboy Joe, Officer Friendly, and Sean for the advice…we will go riding soon!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag

Well, it has been QUITE a while since I posted anything, so I should get to it.

Quick Job Update: my old boss made good on his promise to FINALLY open the job that I had wanted for 3 years (Feb 2004 – Jan 2007). The process, from what I can tell, took longer than process for hiring Federal employees; I guess that nothing is fast anymore. I did the interview in January when it was scheduled, but was unable to go to my current employers Academy due to an injury. Judging from the weather in Arkansas from January to February, I am glad I didn’t go (as well as February and March). Despite the generous offer, I elected to stay put. As previously mentioned, I sustained an injury that kept me from going to the Academy in January. It was a little humiliating, but I ended up bruising a rib. This in turn led to my inability to do any sit-ups, which are a vital part of the physical fitness test. So I was re-scheduled for the Academy in March. Without going into great and boring detail, I did well at the Academy.

Sports Tangent
This spring my boy was selected for a local travelling team for basketball, Colorado Select. It’s mind-boggling to me that at 14 (and soon 15) he will have played teams from across the country at 2 tournaments in Las Vegas, one in Texas, and several at the local level. I appreciate that he will be watched by coaches from major schools this summer. I even am thankful that they will have at least 3 more seasons of these summer leagues to see how he has grown as a player, but is that too much to put on a 14 or 15 year old kid? Who knows…he seems to think that American History and Freshman English are too much for him, but playing hoops for the summer, no problem

I am still not used to the idea that kids today need to be on travelling sports teams over the summer, but I guess in the big city I am in the minority on this one. Yeah, I live vicariously thru my boy and sports; that is what happens when he, at 14, is 25 times the athlete I ever was in my life. But I also am not the parent who wants his kid to be what he never was. I am happy and proud of where I am and have been, but I digress. So The Boy finished a tournament on the Saturday or Sunday I returned. On the following Friday he was flying to Las Vegas {Sin City} for another tournament. Needless to say my Wife and I were on a plane about the same time as him. No matter what they say about Vegas being a family vacation spot, I really don’t agree. So we went to Vegas for the weekend.

So here’s the timeline:
Friday – Finish Academy (AM) – Graduate (PM) – Drive Ark to Tex 500+ miles (PM)
Saturday – Driver from Tex to Colo 400+ miles (AM-PM) – BB Tournament (PM)
Sunday – honestly, I don’t remember if it was BB Tourney or nothing…all a blur
Monday thru Thursday – work (PM)
Friday – Take family to DIA, take big ol’ jet airliner to Vegas (AM) – get rental car (AM) – find food (noonish) – drive around Vegas until hotel room ready (PM) – dinner (PM) – BB game (PM)
Saturday – Recover from previous day’s travel/excitement/fun (AM) – tourney game (PM) – lunch with family friends (PM) – tourney game (PM) – recover from day’s events (PM)
Sunday – Sleep (AM-PM) – verify The Boy’s travel plans/arrangements (PM) – walk the Strip since The Boy was leaving a day before us (PM) – have 1 drink on the Strip (PM) – go to bed early so we can drop off the rental car at the crack ‘o’ dawn (PM)
Monday – wake up before anyone else in the World (really AM) – return rental car, wait for shuttle bus with everyone who got up at same time as us (also really AM) – go to airport and attempt to get thru security before flight leaves (AM) – board plane (AM) – sit next to Randy Coture {I think, sure looked like him} (AM) – arrive DIA (AM) – travel home (AM) – Wife goes to work (AM) – I go to work (PM)
Tuesday thru Friday – Work (PM) -- The Boy has another local tournament (PM)
Saturday – Work (PM) – another BB tourney (PM)
Sunday – Finally NOTHING (AM-PM)

Now life is normal…or relatively until July. Nothing more than a few travel days for a family “gathering,” than the dame thing a few weeks later, punctuated by work, The Boy’s recreational league basketball games, The Boy’s finals, and the beginning of Camps for FB and BB throughout the summer, maybe a quick trip to Wyoming for a weekend. Thankfully, we are not going to the Texas tournament, but will probably go to Vegas again. But The Boy will be busy with the camps and practices and hanging out and movies and shopping and hanging out and talking to girls and the internet and girls and sports and girls and his soon-to-be-his car and, in case I hadn’t mentioned it earlier, girls.

Everything is settling into place, and at 30-something, I am starting to feel like I have grown up. Well not totally; but more that I was in college, the Army, or shortly thereafter. I have some permanency now and feel that my life is finally amounting to more than a footnote!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Happy December

Well December is upon us once again. The radio stations have taken to playing Christmas music (one here in Denver even goes 24 Christmas the day after Thanksgiving), the Studio C cd went on sale this morning, and high school basketball is in full swing.

The bottom fell out of the thermometer here in lovely Colorado this last week; highs were in the low 30’s and lows in the pre-teens to teens. It was almost like being back in Iowa, except for the lack of ridiculous wind chill! Today has been a beautiful day with temps reaching into the 40’s and suuuuuunnnnshiiiinnneee!! Cassidy wrapped up his first JV basketball game; a pretty bad loss, but he seems to be taking it well. As he is only a freshman, he doesn’t seem to take the loss as personally as he would if he were starting or playing many more minutes. My dear wife is actually not working this weekend; she typically works at least one day on the weekends to catch up on the business at the shop. I think that she needs the break as the non-specific coughing she got from her sister a few months ago, has only gotten marginally better. Unfortunately, it was joined this week by the common cold or URI (upper resp. inf). Are we the only ones who think that since they changed the formula of cold medicine, it is not nearly as effective?!?!?!?!? Hopefully she will rest most of the day. Tomorrow is the “Annual Christmas Cookie Bake-a-thon” at my mother-in-laws. There will be many hundreds of Christmas cookies baked (sugar cookies, thumbprints, snicker doodles, and many others to be decided on later), as well as the obligatory confections that are tradition: chocolate kiss mice! There will be 4-8 people making cookies tomorrow, so that they can all share the dough.

I will be asleep, as I will have worked 16 hours, Saturday into Sunday, and then back in Sunday for an 8 hour overnight shift. Monday, after I get home from work, I will nap for a while then will finish packing for my “vacation” to Iowa for a week. Since I could be spending 5 weeks in Arkansas after the New Year, I need to go see my folks. I was able to see them for a few days in July at a Reunion, but other than that I haven’t seen them in almost a year. I would go after the Academy, but I am pretty sure I will want to spend some “quality time” with my wife after 5 weeks away! So I am going to see them now. Of course, I am a mule for Christmas presents, both ways. I don’t mind, but I am sure that I will have plenty of bubble wrap in my suitcase both directions, heh-heh! So will be good (?) to go back to Iowa for a while and enjoy (?) the predictably “balmy” weather…LOL!!!

AugiePete is again an uncle. In addition to Julian Filtersweep (on my side of the family), my sister-in-law (my wife’s sister) had her second child this week. Jasper joined his older sister Freya on Thursday; all are healthy and doing well.

BTW, my old employer called and wanted to schedule an interview for December 7. I will be in Iowa, so I was unable to commit to that interview. They elected to re-schedule it for me, but the only date they could get on or after December 11 is January 3. That would be 4 days before the start of my Academy. It seems that forces beyond my comprehension are gently guiding me to a decision. IF my former employer makes me an offer on that day, I could make a decision. I have a feeling, that like everything else they do, I will get a call from them during my last week of the Academy. I realistically doubt that they will be able to make an offer that will be worthy of my consideration and if they do, it may be too late!
The Happiest Day of My Life – Sept 2004
Cassidy is the redhead in the tux at the right of the pic.
Then – below 5’ 8”
Now – above 6’ 6”

Saturday, November 24, 2007

You Make the Call

If you have been keeping up with my employment quandaries, you will know that I was recently selected for a new job with my current employer, while waiting to hear about my former employers “dream job.” Well about 3 weeks ago I got the typical “We have received your application” post card, but if I am not selected for further evaluation, the card will be the last thing I get. OK. So, I was still waiting to hear about the status of my application and preparing for the police academy for the Vet’s Admin. Preparing for the Academy has been going on since late September with weight training, cardio, reading, studying, baton training, firearms, more reading, more cardio, more weight training, more studying, more firearms, and of course more reading. Typically a new hire will have 2-4 weeks of this before going to the Academy. Fortunately for me I was required to stick around and continue in my dispatcher capacity, probably until just before Christmas, when I will get my 2 weeks of “office time” to finish prepping. In the midst of one of my early morning workouts at the South Suburban gym, my phone rings. I recently purchased what I call a gadget phone. One of those phones that does every thing but cook breakfast? Yeah, I really needed that, but I wanted to be “cool” so I got one. In retrospect I do love it, especially since it plays tunes and makes calls. Only problem is that I only want to be disturbed during my workouts by my wife or son…No One Else. Of course my former employer was calling to set up my “testing” for the “dream job, I guess that my resume was good enough to be selected. Then again, I better have been selected after doing the work (without the title) for more than 3 years. So a week later I go in for my test…ironically it covers the three things that I was specifically detailed to do multiple times during those three years. That was almost 2 weeks ago. With the holiday week, I expect to hear from them about an interview in the next week.

I still have no specifics about pay, but have figured approximately what it might take me to accept the job with the former employer. The following is a short list of pros and cons in a head-to-head comparison – you make the call:

Former Employer
Pay increases are not “guaranteed”
On-Call 4 months/year
4 hours vacation / pay period to start
Holidays Off
No Overtime Required/Available
No Shift Differential Pay
Monday-Friday dayshifts
Schedule NEVER changes
Pension 100% paid by Company
Fewer choices on health care
More Flexibility
Less Money
No Badge
No Uniforms
Like my co-workers
Minimal potential for advancement
No Time in Arkansas (I've Never Been There)

Current Employer
Step and Annual Cost of Living increases
Always subject to recall
6 hours vacation / pay period to start
Paid double for Holidays
OT mandatory (Paid at time and a half)
+10% Nights -- +25% Sundays
Rotating shifts and days off
Rotating Schedule may stop, putting me at lowest seniority --
(swings / graves / weekends)
Pension paid by Company and employee
Many MANY choices for health care
Less Flexibility
Mo’ Money
Like most of my co-workers
Average or better potential for advancement
5 Weeks in North Little Rock

"Looks like we are tied 6-6, with less than 6 weeks to play. The upstart from Iowa has to decide on a team before the signing deadline of January 4, 2008." As far as I know that is my last day of work before I go to Arkansas for the Academy, obviously (this being the government) it is subject to change!

Educated guess, since the former employer posted the job at $4-5 k / year less than my current pay level, is that I MIGHT get an offer of somewhere around what I am currently making. Unfortunately this does not take into consideration my increase from GS6 to GS7 pay in January, my differential pay, my holiday pay, my guaranteed ½ hour OT every work day, and numerous other factors in my current pay scale. At the VA I have the potential to actually make close to $25 k more next year than I would at the former employer (of course I will be working weekends, holidays, nights, etc). My question is, are the extra bones worth the time I will spend away from my family? For those of you who have gone thru things like this, I welcome your comments.

Obligatory pic of Cassidy, with his coach!
Basketball sidebar -- Cassidy got to practice against the Varsity earlier this week. The center on the Varsity team is about 6' 10" and a nice kid. Cassidy was working against this kid and scored on him. The Varsity coach, in an attempt to motivate the big man says:
"You just got scored a FRESHMAN!"
Big man mutters under his breath:
"Yeah, a big a$$ freshman!"
Now they know how I feel everyday, only with more pride. Keep rockin' the rim, Cassidy!

Friday, November 23, 2007

I Hate Holiday Shopping

Well, it is that time of year again where the capitalistic leeches again latch onto every person who wants to buy something. I wonder how many self-inflicted injuries occur in the Customer Service field during the holidays. I suppose that by now you have figured out that I have a major complaint about some retail-inspired idiocy…well, you are correct sir!!!

I wanted to do something special for Cassidy for Christmas this year, so I was looking at football jerseys. It is amazing what some people will pay for a piece of cloth with a logo, number and name on it (Ohhh wait, that’s me too! Heh-heh!) Anyway, I was attempting to find out how much the total would be with shipping and the advertised discount. This company was offering a 15% discount on orders over $75; just enter the promotion code at checkout and click “RECALCULATE” to apply your discount. Sounds simple doesn’t it? This is where the wheels fell off. Attempts to apply the discount resulted in an error message “The minimum order for this discount is $75” blah, blah, blah. My order is $99.99 right now, unless the dollar is devalued so much that $99.99 is now less than $75, I am pretty sure my order qualifies for the discount. So I go back and re-read the fine print – Discount ends at blah, blah. Not valid on orders shipped directly from the manufacturer, etc. etc. OK, now I go back to my item to see if it ships from the manufacturer…nothing listed about shipping from the manufacturer, great!! I go back to the checkout page and attempt again, no joy! Now here is where I make a minor flaw. I think to myself (slight mistake) maybe it won’t calculate the discount without credit card information, so I enter my info and click “RECALCULATE.” I don’t know how many words there are for anger in the English language in all its forms, but I used everyone that I did know! Evidently clicking that button on the website automatically SUBMITS your order. OK, it’s Thanksgiving, so I probably won’t get a Supervisor on the Customer Service number. Email, yeah that would be great. “To Whom It May Concern…”

Polite but firm email sent to Customer Service: discount won’t apply, order sent when clicked “recalculate,” nothing written about manufacturer, etc.
Email response received today, and I quote: “That promo code does not start until the 23rd.” End of Message. I cannot begin to express my displeasure at this company now! I have worked in customer service fields off and on for the last 20 years, one sentence responses are the 3rd Rail in customer service. Now, being kinder and gentler than I used to be, I formulate another polite email, expressing my displeasure at the anemic response. Citing my print-outs from Thanksgiving {from the website} showing that there was no start date listed on the promo. I also reiterate my issues with the website and request a response to my problems with the website. Knowing that today is the biggest shopping day of the year {I hated todays when I used to work retail, even more than I do now}, there will be a supervisor/manager at the CS phone number. I doubt that I will get an email response, so I call.
First, I am thankful that the operator spoke English, and without an accent.
Second, I am not thankful that he was a tool. He did follow the script admirably, but tried to tell me there was no supervisor on duty today. Ahem…LIE! After attempting to explain my issues to the operator, I was regurgitated the company line about “shipped from the manufacturer.” There was, of course, no response to the other allegations about website problems, and DEFINITELY no mention of the “start date.” Despite the operator’s allegations that he could help me, I finally told him the only way he could help me was to get an “instant promotion to manager or find me one.”
“Let me see if I can locate a supervisor for you, sir.”
“Thank you.”
Slight wait, no MUZAK.
“Supervisor Rafael, how can I help you Mr. AugiePete?”
So I begin with my problems with the promo code.
“Well sir, it says right on the website, in red letters, that this item ships directly from the manufacturer.”
“Rafael, I am looking right at the website, which I hope you are too, and it doesn’t.”
“Sir, will you please read the top right corner, the red writing.”
Me quoting verbatim…no mention of shipped from manufacturer.
“You see Sir, you just proved my point for me.” Pause. “Will you please hold for a minute?”
“Of course.”
Slightly longer wait, again no MUZAK.
“Mr. AugiePete, we are going to refund that 15%.”
“Thank you…may I also address my other concerns?” long explanation of the shoddy caliber of the website actions, to which the supervisor sounds less than enthused about my problems.

While I can understand and even appreciate the problems that can arise from designing a website, and the glitches that can happen, I fail to understand how a major, multi-million dollar business can attempt to “wave away” customers with improper information, non-existent answers, and a laissez-faire attitude. Ultimately, I got an acceptable resolution to my problem, but I will never shop there again. I could have gotten the item cheaper from a different location, but I wanted to keep the $$ with an allegedly local shop. Not even the home team is home-based anymore.

BTW, Cassidy was selected for the Junior-Varsity team this year, as a freshman; quite an honor. He will definitely get a work-out in practice form the other JV (and Varsity) boys. He is disappointed that he won’t get to play with his friends, but very excited to be moved up to a higher level!

Cassidy sacking the QB!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Aaaahhhh Football (Act II)

Well, as I mentioned earlier, football season in full swing. Cassidy has had some great games. As with most 14 year old boys, there have been emotional ups and downs in the season. 3 weeks ago he had an amazing game against Smoky Hill, making 5-7 tackles, 2 sacks, and maybe a batted pass. He played well on both offense and defense and (most importantly had fun). Of course all games are fun when you win! The next 2 weeks were vastly different for him. 2 weeks ago, his team trounced the Boulder freshman team 40-13. Now, I have a tendency to brag about my boy’s impressive stature, but I am not the only person awed by it. Cassidy was double and triple teamed all game, in addition to receiving his fair share of low blocks (some legal, some illegal). He was disappointed that he didn’t get any sacks, I told him (as if any father’s condolences are sufficient) that if it took 2-3 people to stop him, then 2 or 3 of his teammates went unblocked. While his voice appreciated the sentiment, his eyes still said he was disappointed to “not be the man!”
On Saturday, due to some ridiculous scheduling, Cassidy’s team was coached by the Varsity coaches. Hmmmm, a talented group of players coached by coaches who have never worked with them, what could possibly go wrong? I might be a little harsh, but I totally blame this loss on the coaches. {RANT ON} It seems that whenever a high school doesn’t plan for an event, the only people who suffer are the kids. Well, our kids suffered plenty. The game went pretty much as scheduled, except for a lower halftime score than we would have liked (13-7 us). Overland hit big, but we played up to their level. Despite a 9 man punt return team (coaches fault for not knowing who was supposed to be where), a 10 man PAT block team (see above), no water for time-outs or on the sidelines (we were even the home team), and a pre-game warm-up that was disorganized (to say the least), we up until the middle of the 4th quarter. With just a few minutes left, our boys drove the ball to the 2 yard line. A handoff up the middle lost 2 yards, twice. So we sit 3rd and goal at the 5 yard line, down by one point. What should have happened, even to the novice football mind: run to the middle of the field to center the ball for a field goal. Kick a field goal of 20-22 yards (our kicker can hit from 35 pretty consistently), go ahead by 2, and hold them defensively for less than 2 minutes. What happened, the coaches call a fade route to the end-zone, which is of course (all together now) intercepted. Luckily, the Ref blew an inadvertent whistle on the run back and prevented a touchdown for the opposition. But our kicker and our team, she doesn’t even get to attempt a game winner, and the boys feel like the have been kicked when they were down. To be fair, the game could have been a bigger loss, but to lose when EVERY player on the field (and every observer on the sideline) knows to kick the field goal, is just heart wrenching. {RANT OFF}
Those who say that it is just a game, have never had to look a hard working group of boys in the eyes, and try to explain why a coach wouldn’t go for the win.

{RE-RANT} To the Overland mom in the pink shirt yelling "GO HOME CREEK" at the end of the game, a couple of suggestions:
1) We were home, you obviously don't know the significance of the white jersey being the "away" jersey. Buy a book, get a map, do something, but learn which team is the "home" team.
2) I may yell about the game, I may yell at the Officials, I may even yell that a player did something illegal...I will never yell a discouraging comment to the players. They work hard, play hard, and shake hands at the end of the game regardless of score. It's called "sportsmanship." I am pretty sure that you could look it up in a dictionary or on-line.
3) If you are going to insist on acting like an a$$, don't wear radically obvious clothing. Someone will be able to tell it's you and say something to you; yeah that was me, and no, I don't care if your husband is there, he rolled his eyes too.

On the flip side, the Colorado Rockies just made it to the World Series! Cassidy will be happy, but he’d still rather win every game he plays…maybe next year.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Great Big Swirling Mass of Murphy

Well, if you have been reading the ancient posts of mine, you will know that I was in the midst of not being accepted for a police position with my current employer and waffling between that and a job that had been dangled under my nose for the last 3 years and change.
Murphy’s Law says that anything that can go wrong will. Contextually, nothing is “wrong” but it sure isn’t easy. In mid-August, my esteemed employer the Veteran’s Administration opened a Police Officer position. This time, thanks to some added expertise on how to write an effective “government” resume, I made the certification list and was interviewed for the job. I won’t go into too much detail, but a co-worker of mine also applied. There was one opening and based on a number of circumstances, I was not initially selected. The problem my supervisors faced was that they wanted both of us as officers. By the time all was said and done, an applicant from a previous certification who had not yet arrived for work, gave-up his position and I was selected for the position. So I will be sent to the academy in January for 5 weeks and learn to be a VA cop. For the trivia buff, the VA has had a police {instead of security} force since 1971; and since the VA is a truly unique branch, they have a specific academy.
Here’s the rub – about a week after I was told that I was hired, I was notified that my “former dream job” was going to be going public before the end of the month. Ironically, the position posted the day before my birthday. I was emailed by two former co-workers, who really wanted me to apply for the job. Now, if you have not worked for the Federal Government you have never experienced the true and unadulterated joy that is their hiring process. The bottom line is that after you are offered the job, there is a battery of tests, evaluations, and other things to make sure you are a qualified candidate…but nothing is final until everything is finalized and sent BACK to HR for final approval. So, when I was told in September that I was approved as an officer, the final approval didn’t come until well after the closing of the “other” job. Not wanting to count all my chickens at night on the back of a truck, I applied for the “other” job.
Fat forward to today…I FINALLY got notified that I will be a VA Police Officer. After 3 weeks of training, I guess that my supervisors were supremely confident, I got the call!!
So here I sit, waiting to hear from the other guys. Unless the other guys can get me a substantial pay increase, closer to what I will make with OT at the VA, my decision will be made for me. Outside of pay, the jobs are comparable in benefits. It really boils down to where I will be happier.