Copyright

All blog posts, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted to the Author (that's me) and may not be used without written permission.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cooking Question

Now, I'm fairly certain I've never done this, so this is truly just a hypothetical question. I don't want anyone casting aspersions my way thinking I'm asking about something I've done. ;-)

First, the set up:

Let's say you have four chicken breasts that are on the far side of safe to prepare and need to be cooked now. Let's say you grill or broil them, but you don't use enough heat or time and the four breasts are undercooked. Since they were so late in the "use by" date, let's further say that two of the four are far enough gone and undercooked enough that you would get food poisoning eating them.

Second, the situation:

You finish cooking the four breasts, eat one of them for your dinner, and you luck out that you don't get sick (this breast is not spoiled, but it is undercooked). That gives you a false sense of security that you did a good enough job cooking the chicken that you wrap up the remainder and put it in the fridge. Since you didn't have problems from the first one, you have no idea the others are time-bombs waiting to go off.

Third, the question:

Next day you grab one of the undercooked and turned breasts and put it into the microwave to reheat. My question-- if you cook it long enough and get it hot enough on the reheat will that make the breast "safe" to eat? It is my understanding that the majority of food poisoning occurs because of bacteria and other things that can be killed in hot enough temperatures. Hence the reason why you are supposed to cook to minimum internal temperatures. So, wouldn't the microwave reach those temperatures, kill or destroy the bacteria and other issues, and bring the undercooked food up to a safe-to-eat level? Or is meat "bad" always once it goes "bad?"

Conclusion:

My feeling is that this circumstance would mitigate the situation and the meat would be okay. I am only basing this conclusion on my limited understand of how food poisoning works and what is required to destroy the organisms that cause food poisoning. However, maybe there is more to food poisoning than I am aware. Maybe the end result is somehow different than the starting factors, so the second cooking would not mitigate the effects of the spoiled food. Maybe the organisms work harder after being heated and the refrigerated meat gets so much worse over the next 24 hours or so that no amount of microwaving or other reheating can kill or impede the spoilage.

What is your informed opinion?

Life Changes

Last week was an experience, going from losing my job, to finding out that my cat has pretty bad diabetes, not receiving and having to ask after my severance, and then getting my confirmation and approval of permanent residence in Canada on Friday. Saturday was a nice day spent with my wife and mother in downtown Los Angeles for my birthday. Sunday my wife started her trek home, which was sad. But boy was it wonderful having her here for such a topsy-turvy and emotional week.

Thank you to everyone for their kind comments, words of encouragement, and prayers during this time.

I am still a little upset with how my company handled the severance issues and dissemination of information to those of us who were laid off. This is only our lives you hold in your hand, so of course delaying it not once, not twice, but thrice without telling us hardly anything is not okay. Get it straight and get it right. However, the severance is decent, so I cannot complain about that. It should be enough to tide me over until I can move and pay for a lot of the moving expenses.

Monday and Tuesday were interesting, as I worked partial days helping to get Renee up to speed with what I did, checking and writing procedures, cleaning up over 7 years of accumulated paperwork and stuff, and asking questions of HR as the severance information which was supposed to arrive last week continued to be delayed. First I was told it was shipping Monday for arrival at my home on Tuesday. On Tuesday I was assured it was finally going out for receipt on Wednesday-- the day we are being let go.

Today I was pretty much done. I did some last-minute tasks that my former boss requested and then headed down for my "exit interview" with HR at 10 am. Took all of about 2 minutes to complete, so I was done and gone. Nothing like getting to work at 9 am, working for an hour, and going home. And I was pleasantly surprised to find my FedEx package waiting for me when I arrived home. Finally!

Many of those leaving the company sent out group emails with their well-wishes and sadness about leaving, plus their contact info. I did not. Not that I don't like or respect those with whom I used to work, but rather because those whom I wish to stay in contact with already know how I feel, what my contact information is, and that I will contact them. I'll probably get flack for that, but that just isn't me.

I am actually very relaxed now. I had been thinking of leaving the company anyway, and only was stopped by the desire to work until I could move to Canada. Without that pressure, this comes at a good time and allows me to focus on getting to Canada as quickly as I can. And that is important, as the monthly rent, additional $1500 to break my lease, and daily expenses, on top of any moving expenses, will add up quickly. And, of course, in the back of everything are my health care needs.

I am playing today to finish out the day. I've played some CoH, watched some saved TV, and will likely watch a movie shortly. Tomorrow I will start the slow process of evaluating, deciding, and packing. My goal, I think, is to try to be ready to leave by the end of May or early in June.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

More Good News (Not!)

The week keeps getting better. Took Calypso into the vet yesterday because she was vomiting and had peed twice on the bed within a week-- which is very unusual behavior for her. Yes, I know I've written before about her peeing habits, but she has never peed on the bed during those indiscretions. She sleeps there as well as me, knows that it is wrong, and felt so ashamed that she ran and "hid" in her hidey-hole under the bookcase.

So this was something different, especially when you consider the vomiting. Add in the rampant drinking of water, the $300 test yesterday, and it turned out to be feline diabetes.

Caly is 10 years old this month. With my birthday (37), she has been with me for about 27% of my life to-date. That's a significant amount of time. She's been with me through some significant changes and events in my life, she's been my confidante and companion while others have come and gone, and she's been a sounding board through good times and bad.

However, she's just a cat, too. Her quality of life is already affected by this. She's an older cat at 10; considered a senior. How much more life does she have and what quality will that life be even with insulin. It may be that the best choice is to put her down.

Other things that are weighing on this news are:
  • The move to Canada. Is it best for both the animal and the human beings to try to move a sick cat across the country? Will she need to be quarantined and, if so, how will she handle that with the diabetes?
  • How quickly will her current problems accelerate without medications? Will she be "okay" for a few months before things turn bad? A few years? How much better will she be or will her quality of life be, at 10, even with the insulin?
  • The expense of the remaining tests and the ongoing costs of the insulin on top of the previous tests, especially now that I'm out of work and expenses are likely to be tight going forward.
  • The damage she's done to-date to the apartment.
Selfishly, I have to admit that this comes at a bad time. With some recent health concerns, the job situation, and the still-unresolved immigration situation, this is the last thing I needed on my mind. However, again, totally selfishly, not having a pet at this time or in the coming months may be easier.

So, I'm torn. I don't want to make a bad or wrong decision, or one that is too selfish toward my own desires. On the other hand, someone has to be an advocate for Caly and her quality of life. Is her listlessness, vomiting, and urinating problems at such a degree that she needs someone to consider her needs? Is she in pain?

I've got some hard thinking to do.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Glass Half Full or Empty?

Well, I got "the script" from Renee today. I knew something was up at work with the number of mid-level managers who were present much earlier than usual, and the fact that Tom (one of the higher managers of our business unit) was going from office to office with papers in his hand. I hoped he wouldn't stop at Renee's office, but when he did, I was expecting the inevitable call in and scripted "you're fired" message. The new company will not be extending an offer of employment to me upon the close of the purchase deal.

I'm a little sad, a very small touch bitter, but mostly just disappointed in this. I will get a severance package from the previous company and I am getting three days this week off on them (paid leave) to help me "adjust" to this decision. Then, by April 30, I need to transition my work to her, including training her on the more technical things I do, and then it is adios.

It was a good run. I was hired on January 8, 2001. I was something of a star in my department because I got through the training much faster than expected, was participating as a quality member well before they expected. However, in recent months, my private life has intruded on things more; I've used more sick days, I've been distracted by my (2nd) wedding and the immigration process, and the company has continually halted new work on two of the main product lines I worked on, so I couldn't shine by doing those document sets and prove my value.

The glass is half empty because my life is currently in a lot of turmoil personally and I didn't need professional turmoil on top of that. Added to that is the fact I may have to look for a job for an undisclosed period of time in that I have no idea when the Canadian government will give me (hopefully) approval to move to Canada. It will be hard to interview even for short-term contract work knowing that I may not be able to complete it if the companies don't allow me to work from "home."

The glass is half full because we are somewhat hopeful that the immigration may come through sometime very soon. If it does, I can transition from working to packing to moving to looking for a job in Canada fairly seamlessly. If need be, I can pack up everything and live low-cost with mom for a few months. I have my sister and father who can potentially be helpful. And, of course, my wife is here this week to discuss this issue with me and to help make plans and think through strategies. Maybe this will work out for the best in the long run.


As I've said before, I do not define myself by my job. It is, after all, just a job. However, it is still sad to be let go after giving over 7 years of good service. But, with the help of my friends and family, I will turn this into something positive and worthwhile in the long run. Just need to figure things out in the meantime.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Strength In Unity

My wife flies in tomorrow afternoon for a week's stay in SoCal. While excited as always for her visit, it happens to come at a great time. As you know from previous posts, I find out no later than next Tuesday if I will be offered a position with the new company. If I am not, I look forward to working out the rest of the month for my current employer and then getting a severance package from them. If I do, then it is all-systems go for the new job.

Under this stressful time, it will be nice to have my wife her for support, encouragement, and to talk with about the various permutations. Also, I will have paperwork to fill out either way that I can bring home and discuss with her in person.

It will be, in many ways, one of the first times we'll be together for a "momentous" happening in our lives that we can discuss in person and make decisions about together. It gets frustrating sometimes to have nearly all of these conversations by phone, email, or IM. However, I cannot knock those means of communication as they have helped us to establish very open and honest lines of communication that we have every plan of continuing once we are together full-time.

***

I like to plan very small "adventures" for my birthday. Sometimes it is simply going to a restaurant I haven't been to before, or a walk on the beach, or a movie with friends. Sometimes it is out to mom's for a treat. A couple of years it has been going to visit the otters at the Long Beach Aquarium (I love otters). This year, with M here, I was looking for something fun to do with the family. It looks like we will be going to Los Angeles. The only question is whether we go on Friday (a day early) to just LA to see some sights or if we go on Saturday and attending the LA Times Festival of Books as well as see the sights. Either way we plan on having mom drive down here first and then head up to LA for some fun. Hopefully we can get to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, maybe the Tar Pits (which I keep meaning to go see, but haven't yet), or some of the downtown museums. It will be a fun day.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Facebook

I joined Facebook to be closer to my Canadian friends, who switched en masse from blogging to using that tool. I found the site initially very intimidating, as it is not set up in a way that makes sense to my mind, the features and especially the toggles and switches, were hard to find and not very well labeled. But I struggled through so I could be more connected.

And then the applications started bombarding me. Every little quirky thing that someone sent me required the installation of a new application in order to see it, read it, or respond to it. Every one of these apps then had a page that involved sending the results to everyone on my Facebook account unless I could find the (often) small or well-hidden Cancel or Skip button. Even using that, I was finding that a bunch of my stuff still was sent to people in my Facebook list, which frustrated me.

The last straw for me was the recent addition of the "People you might know" feature. This feature looks at my Facebook list and those who are listed as my friends' lists, compares them, and suggests people off of their lists to me that I might know. This is all well and good, I guess, except that I have turned on all of the options I can that do not send my information out to just anyone. Now I find that my info is going out there, spreading farther than I intended or wanted. I didn't mind that those who wanted to could search for me, even with the options I had set, but I didn't want just anyone being able to get a hold of me willy-nilly-- I have "friends" in my past whom I would rather not be contacted by. If, however, those people are friends of people I am friends with, they get my info for free and there is nothing I can do about it.

I contacted Facebook Support on this directly and asked them to point me in the direction of the Off switch. Support responded with the following:

This feature highlights new users who you are likely to know based on their network, work/education information, friends, etc. Since this feature is automatic, it occasionally identifies people that you do not know or do not want to be friends with. Unfortunately, you cannot turn off this feature at this time. I apologize for any inconvenience. Let me know if you have any further questions.

This comes after a recent incident wherein Facebook installed features that similarly sent a bunch of data out that members did not want and it got a bunch of protests over. And an incident wherein Facebook installed some features that allowed businesses to track members purchasing habits and posted them online. And another that gave out identities-- do you see a trend? Facebook has a habit and history of putting in place features and applications that give away its members' identities for free to anyone who wants to join Facebook. It isn't until or unless the members complain that it does something about it or adds a toggle or switch.

So, shortly after receiving that email from Facebook Support, I Deactivated my account. I replied to both the email and the request for a reason why I was deactivating with a succinct and specific reason why: until such time as Facebook amends its policies as a company and offers these features as optional and respects my desire for some amount of privacy within the confines of the application it is enabling, I cannot be a member. In my mind it is that simple.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What a Difference a Day Makes

When we had our all-hands meeting explaining the purchase of our division by a new company, one of our leaders apparently misspoke and said that the new company was very interested in all of the people in our division and we would all have jobs at the new company. A week or so later we got an email from the former company's head of HR wherein he made the statement that some people may not be offered positions with the new company. This immediately took the feeling of lightness and relief that had finally permeated the offices after weeks of not knowing what was going on and turned it on its ear.

Yesterday we had an all-hands with the leads of the new company. They gave a presentation, an overview of the company, and answered a lot of our HR questions. One person asked the inevitable question: "Will we all be offered positions?" The same lead of our division stood and said frankly that, while most would, some would not. They were working on a final roster during this week and everyone should know before the next meeting on Tuesday when people are offered jobs with the new company and must provide proof of job eligibility and fill out the new paperwork for W-2s, etc.

So, of course, today the mood is absolutely bleak at work. No one is talking, the cloud is back, and people are ducking around. People are talking more about the what-ifs and what-fors than work-related issues. People are, frankly, scared.

My boss and I have a slightly different perspective. We don't wrap ourselves up in our job as much as most people; we define ourselves by internal drives and external motivations that are not job-related. She has a huge bank of vacation time that the company would have to pay her if they let her go, the equivalent of a number of months worth of pay, plus has the severance package to look forward. I am not as set financially, but my plans are all about moving to Canada and a decision on that should be made soon, so being fired may give me the opportunity to head that way even sooner. We both like our jobs, and like the people we work with, but because it does not define us, we can look past the current issues and see positives from both remaining and being let go.

This week is going to be a real winner now. People are walking on egg shells and worrying over everything. Until the emails, phone calls, or HR visits start, people will not get much done. All the positives from the previous meeting have been undone for the vast majority of workers as they are all now afraid for their jobs. There is at least one person at work who is not sleeping hardly at all.

There has to be a better way to do these things.

Friday, April 11, 2008

News and Notes

Taxes
I managed to get my taxes done and I put them in the mail today. Decided to go for claiming an exemption for my wife, as the JK Lasser book and the nice guy on the IRS phone line both agreed that it totally applied in these circumstances. However, that means that I had to send my taxes to a different address in Texas to be processed for her ITIN first, and then they process the tax forms for the refund. Pretty significant difference in my refund, so worth a shot. When you add in the $600 bonus refund amount this year, will get a tidy sum back-- just in time, hopefully, to help with the costs of moving.

Immigration
My file has moved to the Los Angeles consulate from the one in Buffalo, NY. The letter stating this claimed it was for "final processing" and to determine and perform an interview, if required. I would guess that we are close to having approval on this puppy!

Work
Not only was my division sold to another company, but the company we are moving to has just announced a merger this week with a Chicago-based company that does the same thing. So in the space of a couple of weeks, Mitchell International has, in essence, eliminated two big competitors by merging/buying them, as well as greatly increasing the distribution and clients of the company as a whole. Looks like it has just jumped from a $250 million/year company to a $450 million/year company. Both my existing company and the new are now stating that they think everything will be finalized on May 1, so the clock is ticking. This new merger news shouldn't affect that time frame. We have our first official all-hands with reps from the new company on Monday and Tuesday, April 21-22, wherein we basically reapply for our existing jobs, fill out new W-2s, etc. in order to get into Mitchell's HR processes. Everything must be completed/turned in no later than April 24.

Health
Had a bit of a health scare before going to Canada the last time, as my liver numbers were through the roof. However, my most recent test results were back within the normal range, so we (my doctor and I) are happy and proceeding cautiously forward right now. However, I have stopped taking my Enbrel for the time being until I can visit with my RA doctor. The last three times I've taken the Enbrel it solved my pain/swelling issues, but I was very sick for at least a week and upward of two weeks afterward. It is not worth it; the point of the Enbrel is supposed to make me more active and able to do more, but if I'm sick in bed instead, I'm not really gaining anything except pain relief. So I'm sore as heck right now and cracking like nobody's business, but I'm feeling healthier. Sucks to choose between health and pain, but what can you do?

Clothes
I can't figure it out, but I seem to be missing about 10 pair of underwear. I can't find them anywhere in my apartment, so far. It's the damnedest thing. Will do a more thorough look-see tomorrow and finish the last of the laundry to see if I can't find them.

Weight
I've managed to get myself down to an average of 172 lbs and seem to be staying there for the last two weeks or so. I'm going to push for 168 if I can hold around 172 for the next week or so. Not saying I'm any healthier, just lighter. ;-)

Visit
M is visiting the week of April 19 through 27. Very much looking forward to that, even though that will be a bit of a stressful week with the Mitchell meetings happening then.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Death of the Movie Theater

I was reading this article about theater attendance declining. I was amused by it, as people have been prognosticating the death of the movie theater since the first Betamax and VHS machines were released in the 70s, and again when the internet finally took off in the 90s. And, while attendance has declined nearly every year, millions of people still flock to theaters every weekend to see films shown "as they were meant to be seen."

Here is my reaction to this article, and others like it:
One thing that home-viewing cannot replace is the audience experience. While more and more it seems there are rude people, children there not paying attention, etc., few thing are as exciting as that shared experience of everyone gasping together at the villain's actions, everyone laughing at the same joke, everyone cheering for the hero at the same time. Those times are priceless. And, I think, that is primarily what people go to the theaters for these days-- the shared movie watching experience.

Where I am in Southern California, ticket prices for matinees are around $8.50 and for the other times around $10 (some small .50 variations depending on where you go, but all in this area are around those costs). I can go to opening day on most of the big movies and have no issue getting in, because people are not willing to pay those costs, plus concessions, for the theater experience anymore. However, a $1 theater opened up a few miles away, and that theater has lines around the block for nearly every show! People still want the group-movie going/watching experience, it seems, they just aren't willing to pay $10 a person for it.

For example, my wife and I went to see Michael Clayton a week before the Oscars. The first day we showed up about 20 minutes before the film and the line was from the ticket counter to the end of the building. The next day we showed up for a late morning/early afternoon show, got there almost 40 minutes early, and got in... but there was literally not one empty seat in the place.

This is a converted old-style theater that had been run-down and unused for years. It has no stadium seating, the seats are small, uncomfortable, and have no head rests. The arms don't raise and there are no cup holders. The theaters are small. And yet they consistently pack the place for every weekend show!

This proves to me that people want the theater experience, but we have simply hit a price-point where it is not cost-effective to go to your average over-priced theater any more.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The More Things Stay the Same, the More Things Change

I'm still employed. The company for which I work decided to restructure and divest itself of components that did not fit with its new direction. My division was the main one divested. It decided to eliminate approximately 200 jobs and $100 million a year today. By divesting itself of this division, the company is saving approximately $65 million a year in costs and gets a little more than half-way to its goal of 200 people. They are restructuring out the other people, gaining about $30 million, and then are closing some facilities and doing some odds and ends clean up to achieve the remaining $10 million per year.

The (now) former company was a decent one, but we never quite fit into its needs. We've been actively on the block for at least 18 months now. The company that is purchasing this division is privately owned, directly in the same industry as we are, and has wanted to acquire us for a long time because we are one of their direct competitors and, frankly, do what they want to do better than they do. It appears that they find we run lean (maybe even too-lean) and they have no plans for any layoffs from our division. Matter of fact, one of the reason they bought us is because they are actively seeking to grow and this was a quick way to add a viable, successful program, take out a rival in the industry, and increase their head count and intellectual property. While many other companies are letting people go, this company has over 50 current job openings and may allow us finally to hire some staff that we desperately need.

For the next month or so we will remain as part of, and employees of, the former company while the powers that be resolve and sign everything. After that, we will be employees of the new company.

It seems from what we have been told and what I have read about the new company that this will be a much better fit for our talents. The fact that we are joining a private company is also extremely advantageous, too. Public companies are not run by their management-- they are at the whim of the stockholders whose only goal is return on investment. That forces management to constantly make decisions that may not be in the best interest of their product or people or even their industry in order to maximize profits on the stocks. A private company, on the other hand, can take time to see how the industry is moving, keep lower-profit or unprofitable divisions around as it makes changes to facilitate the division's long-term success, and are not at the whim of "the Street" when making decisions for the company.

I find much value in my time spent in the former company, however. I got to work on many different products, learned a lot, and expanded my horizons. It was also personally gratifying that they allowed me some special favors like working from Canada two weeks out of every quarter and to work from home when not feeling as well as I could. I hope that some of these arrangements might continue with the new company, but expect they won't. With luck, I won't be with this new company too long before I see approval on the immigration paperwork and plan the big move to Canada. Then again, maybe this new company will have a different policy on employees working from Canada that I can take advantage of, too.