Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Backsplash and More Job Drama

I have completed the backsplash! Finally! Only took being unemployed to get it done. The pictures in this post are mostly geared for Amy @ Cape Cod Makeover since she is embarking on a white subway tile backsplash and I wanted to show the detail of the most funky areas in the hopes that it'll make her installation a little easier.

Please excuse my dusty windows, but I am slowly piecing my kitchen back together - I'm nearly complete on painting - hopefully tonight. Then I can hang my red clock from Target that I bought eons ago over the sink. I still have to trim out the areas near the windows with quarter-round, but that'll be a quick fix.

Now I'm going to switch topics entirely and go to my job situation. So. I accepted the contract position, however, it is not stable. Not sure if I have mentioned this previously, but they only have money until May or June and are close to getting financing but it's not there yet. This is hardly comforting for someone who just got laid off en masse with 2/3rds of her coworkers. Nonetheless, I accepted because I didn't have anything else concrete and I had to respond by yesterday. Meanwhile, I have a promising lead at another company where my former co-workers have lots of contacts - like 3 different people, 2 or them being fairly high on the totem pole. I kind of have an "in", though it's not guaranteed, of course. The kicker is that the earliest I can get in there an interview is Thursday (and I'm scheduled to fly to Houston that morning) - and I would know if I was getting an offer on Friday - thus allowing me to sever my contract for a more secure opportunity before I even have to go in there. I'm trying to avoid starting the contract job and leaving in like a week or something. That would just be really bad. The Husband said I should just sever the deal with the contract opportunity now but, as much as I want to be honest, I have to cover my butt in this economy. And we all know that companies don't hesitate (much) to lay people off when they need to - I've been laid off 3 times now, so, my "loyalty" to employers is not strong - I learned quickly. So, I decided to change my flight - an added expense but I am willing to swallow a $250 hit to potentially get a more secure, full-time opportunity with benefits, while also keeping the other opportunity open. Everyone I have spoken with agrees with me except The Husband - he thinks I should just drop the contract opportunity now rather than string them along for 4 days, but his brother, best friend, and my former co-worker all think the route I am taking is the best bet for protecting my own interests.

So that's the job situation. I have a job, but I am not sure I'm officially going through with it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

New Patio Door!

We were lucky enough to avoid rain this weekend for the replacement of our back patio door. That would have been a mess had it rained at any point this weekend. It didn't last long though because it started last night, and the caulking is not yet dry and the extra molding we added to fill some gaps hasn't yet been painted, so we have a plastic sheet duct-taped to the house, covering the door (update: as I was assembling the pictures, the wind blew the plastic off the house - hopefully it's dry enough now as the plastic sheet is too full of tape to try to untangle it and rehang)

I had to teach yoga on Saturday morning and I got home to find that The Husband and his work buddy had already removed the door and were in the middle of hanging a second cabinet up on the wall in the garage – they got so much done by 10:45am (I was pretty shocked). We went out to Home Depot to get the door and supplies and I told Nikki to guard the house while there was a gaping 6 foot wide hole in the back of the house. I wasn't serious, though. At 25 pounds, she's hardly scary.

Behold the gaping hole.

Here I am with The Husband's work buddy discussing the diamond saw he would be using the trim back some of the stucco (the opening was about an inch to small due to the stucco overlapping the rough framing).

We filled the gaps with insulation foam and that stuff expands! A little goes a long way with that stuff, for sure. It started creeping down the door so we had to keep taping off areas so that the foam wouldn't get stuck to the door.

Here are some pictures of the half-finished product. In the front I had to patch a small area of stucco and we have molding still to paint, so the outside will look a we bit different. The inside will definitely look different as we have to do some creating molding to deal with the fact that the door does not sit as deep in the opening, so it's a little recessed from the inside.

Either way, at this point, it is functional, and not drafty which is more than I can say for the door we took out. Good riddance!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Is a Bird in the Hand Really Worth Two in the Bush?

And what if you have 3 or 4 in the bush? So I have an offer, the official letter, and I need to respond by Monday, the 16th. It's a contract position for 6 months with the option to continue 3 months or full-time after that, and, well, stability is an issue, not to mention the money is slightly less than what I am making now factoring benefits and the fact that I will have to pay my own taxes (if you are unaware about the full scope of income taxes, in W-2 employment, your employer pays half, and you pay half. As a contractor... you pay the whole kit and kaboodle). The environment looks great, through, and is the shortest commute of all the options.

I have had 2 phone interviews with actual companies both yesterday and today. They both went well though the last one I kind of told him I wasn't totally interested doing front-end work and that I have to make a decision on an offer by Monday and I am likely to accept it. He still said he would call on Monday so see where I was at. I thought that was strange. Either it was an easy way to end the conversation or he is really interested. Those two and the other one I mentioned yesterday are the 3 birds in the bush. As of late Wednesday, I stopped submitting resumes. It's possible more leads arise from the slower companies that take their time reviewing resumes. It's a bit of a conundrum but it seems that everyone I have talked to tells me to take the contract position and if it's crappy, well, it's a contract position so I don't have to stay there. Leaving contract positions are not as taboo as up and leaving a permanent position (though, if this company had the moola it sounded like they would hire me full-time).

Girly Stuff is so funny, calling me a Golden Child. In the industry I am in, software development, it is very rare to find a woman, especially an American-born with no accent. Add in that I am white, I'm a rarity. We are few and far between, so I think that in itself is intriguing for employers. And I can communicate fairly well which, with programmers, is another bonus. If I were in a different field, lets say marketing or finance or something, I probably wouldn't stand out very much. That's how I see it.

I was driving home from grocery shopping earlier (which I'm going to do more of at Trader Joe's after I finish this post and by the way, was the first cent I spent since Monday), and, as usual, I was listening to the Stern show (whatever, I think it's funny) and Robin said something like “panty-line is a no-no.” Can I tell you? Seriously? I don't give a shit about panty-line. Unless I am wearing some kind of very nice outfit, suit or dress or whatever, fine. I agree. But otherwise? I really don't care. I was sitting there thinking that everyone at the market could totally see my panty-line through my yoga pants and I really didn't give a hoot. This probably goes in-line with how I never wear make-up (except job interviews and special occasions, oh, and when Mount Vesuvius is on my face) and rarely get pedicures. Anyone else throw caution to the wind with panty-lines? Don't get be started on thongs. I hate them. I have a bunch from back when I cared more about those HORRIBLE pany-lines, but I haven't worn one in a year or more.

Alright, my freezer is nearly empty (a downright travesty) and I think I will pick up a bottle of scotch for The Husband for V-Day (V-day... when I say or hear that phrase I think of Venereal Disease Day and V-Jay-Jay Day... have no idea why. Maybe because I am a wee bit thrown off.). Have a good weekend! We should be replacing the patio door this weekend so hopefully we get that done and I will have pictures for you next week!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Hunt for Red Jobtober

This might qualify as the shortest job search ever. I started sending my resume out on Tuesday afternoon at 2pm. By Wednesday at 5:30pm I had a verbal offer. Crazy! I have submitted to 20 or so jobs thus far, and had 3 bites – two through a recruiter, one directly through a company (where the verbal offer is from).

One opportunity I don't think I'm interested in because it is would be a switch to a different technology which, at this point in my career, I don't think I want to do. I'm pretty entrenched in Java. The other one is more promising in the sense that it is Java and is a “lead” role, but would be a whole lot of writing documentation (tedious), like 50% of my time, and working with an offshore development team in India (I've never heard good things coming out of these types of arrangements). And a commute of 40 miles (though it would be right around the corner from The Husband's office), but still, a long-ish commute. The thing with this one, though, is that the recruiter seems to think I am a good fit and that my resume is better than average. However. I haven't even gotten a phone interview yet (well, he submitted the resume late yesterday, so if I were to get a phone interview, it wouldn't have happened yet anyway, it's only 8am), and there is at least one on-site interview to go through (possibly two). The earliest I would see an offer is end of February and, by which time, the existing offer I got last night probably would be gone (I can't expect them to wait). Not to mention, the industry of this second place is financial collections. Not exactly good karma. The pay would be higher than what I make now, maybe 5-10% more and benefits are good.

The place I have my verbal offer from is not necessarily stable. It is a start-up scenario – they have a product that is catching fire with user traffic, but in this market, raising money is like squeezing blood from a turnip, so that makes me antsy in the pants-y. It is a contract position making about the same money than I did at my last job when you factor in benefits. The total number is more, but since it's contractor work there are no benefits and you have to pay your own taxes, so when you count everything else, it's less (though I could easily deduct the crap out of lots of stuff). The commute is only 5-7 minutes more than I used to drive – it's about 30 minutes or so. That is a bonus. The product is very cool – mobile programming (like iPhone!). The environment looks fun, everyone is around my age, very laid back (the f-bomb was thrown at one point in side conversation I observed), and appear to be very talented (the learning potential for me could be big). The head honcho at the office has been very honest with me about their situation which is all I can ask for (my last job was sort of honest, but towards the end, not so much). They are not selling me on something that isn't there, he told me exactly how much money they have and what the story is. He wants to hire someone quickly and it would be bad for me to leave them hanging. So I verbally accepted.

I know, kind of impetuous. While I am generally a careful person, I tend to make certain decisions quickly, jobs especially. The thing that is bugging me though is that every job I have enjoyed (from a working environment perspective) has ended in lay off. Out of the 5 jobs since college (as a software professional, it's very common not to stay in one place for extended periods of time), I left two of them because I was miserable and those were my longest stints (2 years as a contractor at one, and 4 years at another). The other three jobs I enjoyed, but the end result was me getting RIF'd (Reduction in Force). So what do I do? I choose to grab the job I think I will enjoy even with its obvious shortcomings. I have a feeling that I would end up not very happy with the “lead developer” job, even though it appears to be more stable and could move me up the totem pole towards management (but do I even want that? I am a competitive/A-type personality – I will always try to be the best at whatever, it's like an auto-pilot thing – but is that the right fit for me? do I need to incur that additional stress in my life?).

I am awaiting the actual offer letter at this point. I am tryng to figure out what to tell the recruiter of the other job... if I have a verbal offer but have not received the letter yet. He is a typical recruiter, a certain level of sheen on him, if you catch my drift. The conversation left me feeling like I wasn't sure I could trust the dude. He is aware of the interview I had and told me that he would expect I would get an offer quickly since it is a start-up and asked that I keep him in the loop. I am not sure if I should, though, just yet. I need to cover my rear - if the offer falls through (I expect an official letter by tomorrow), I need to keep my options open. Right? I am terrible at telling untruths so if this guy calls me and starts asking me questions, I am screwed.

Monday, February 9, 2009

What's Cheaper Than Miller Lite?

Because Lord knows I will need to be drinking, and, well, it has to be cheap because I am one of the 600,000+ this year, that have been laid off due to this shitty-ass economy.

It has been an interesting day. I knew on Friday that we were going to have an "All Hands" meeting today and figured it could be the end of the road. My (former) company ended up laying off nearly 70% of its employees - and its future is questionable. The few people left figure they have maybe 2 or 3 months before it is over for them as well. Basically, certain people were told, quietly, not to go to the meeting and when I heard that, I knew I was gone. At least I had about 15 minutes of advance notice to gather myself. It was a massacre. Essentially, it went: "all the people in this room are being let go." Misery does love company but it sucks like a Dyson. California is in the crapper, people. And San Diego is the area that has the lowest unemployment rate - we're supposed to be happy to have only 7.5% instead of 9.4%. They had better not pull the IOU on unemployment benefits.

The last time I was laid off was in 2002, and the first time in 2001 when the dot-com bubble burst. I was a WRECK the first time I got laid off. Bawling - gasping type of craying - I was less than a year out of school with no real savings or experience so I was freaked out. This time I held my shit together - sort of. I mean, there were tears, but I wasn't bawling my eyes out. I did mention that I'd be going home and crying my eyes out, so lunch plans would need to be later in the week. You can't say I ain't honest.

On the way home, talking to my husband through tears, I was sitting at a light (or rather, in line for the light) and would you believe that someone REAR-ENDED me? I nearly lost my mind at that point. Thankfully, he only left very small scratches on my bumper (not even a dent), so I didn't even bother getting his information because I seriously could not even deal at that point. I was crying and told him I just lost my job so he probably felt like shit for bumping me. I did get his license plate number in the event that something does come out of it (I hope it doesn't - I can live with some minor scratches). I feel like I have the luck of the non-Irish today. At that point I was asking God just to get me home alive because I had enough for the day. I'm wondering if I should wait until tomorrrow to deposit my last pay check (for whatever reason, they issued live checks).

I hope the rest of you are having a better day...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Perhaps a Light at the End of the Tunnel

Holy Smokes. I don't "officially" have the sales price of the neighbor's house as it isn't posted on the county assessor's site yet, but Zillow has suddenly upped the "Zestimate" of the neighbor's house from $358K to $410K. No mention from Zillow that it recently sold, though. Surely they didn't pull this number out of their collective asses because just yesterday, it was 50K less. Zillow knows something and I'll bet it's that the house sold for 410K. While this number still results in my being in a state of upside-down-ness, it's not as bad as was previously thought. Instead of being 74K underwater, we are 41K underwater. I can stomach a number over 400K better than something in the 300Ks (when we paid in the 500Ks). That's not to say it can't fall more, but, well, I'm hoping we've bottomed out over here - home values have been falling since summer of 2006 (nearly 3 years of contraction).

On to the doors. Looks like, logistically, option one or a slider are the only routes that will work. I was looking at the wall where the slider is now and it won't be possible to open both doors up, fully, if we went with the double french doors (option two). On the one side, the door would hit the TV stand which isn't too bad, I could probably deal with that, but the bigger problem is on the other side. If we were to open the door all the way, nearly half the door would block the dishwasher. If the doors is open half way, then it blocks the pathway into the kitchen from the family room. Out-swing doors are not really an option as they require some amount of concrete footing coverage (which we do have but it's questionable if it would be to code) and I think it's special order - most exterior doors (if not all) in stock are in-swing. Really, the only two options are the first door or a slider. Kind of a bummer that I can't pick double doors, but, good that my decision has been made for me without too much hemming and hawing.

One last thing. Has anyone really tried the whole eating Activia yogurt for 2 weeks business? Does it really work? I'm on day 4 in an attempt to get my digestive system back in order. Ever since the holidays, I have been a regular trumpet over here. If it were just benign air, that would be one thing, but it was far from benign (very far). Anyway, my rear has been surprisingly silent and benevolent to the outside world this week. I am wondering if this Activia really is working! Perhaps I had some missing bifidus regularis! I hate buying expensive stuff (it's like $2.50 for 4 little containers of yogurt) but it appears to be working for me, so I might have to suck up the expense and keep on with it...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Trials and Tribulations of an 80s Tract House

Another week has passed and another thing has crapped out. Our sliding doors out to the back yard finally shit the bed late last week, after a year of sub-par performance. They are original to the house - 1987 - so I am not surprised. For about a year, the rollers had been shot and no amount of WD-40 could fix the situation. In order to close the door we would take the handle, lift up, and then jack-hammer-motion it shut (if I'm in a particularly terse mood, I end up cursing at the door "I f**king hate this door! We have to replace it, already!! @#!!$%*(&@#$!!"). This practice finally broke the handle, so now only one of the screws on the handle is attached. This is a security issue - if the last screw fails, our house is basically open. Sure, I could just replace the handle, but the rollers are still broken and the door itself is drafty as all heck. For now, I have a 3-ft remnant of an IKEA cabinet that sits in the track so the door won't open unless you move the wood. I know, totally ghetto.

Home Depot charges $600 to install a new set of doors. High Five. While we have no experience replacing patio doors, $600 is more than the unit costs (in fact, it's twice the price of some models) and for a day's worth of work, that is a whole lot of money. So we will be embarking on this task ourselves. Generally, I can't say I like sliding glass doors for patio egress. They kind of annoy me because they take up 6 feet of wall, yet only open just under 3 feet. Not to mention that the rollers lose their mojo after a while. The one thing that could be good about a slider, though, is that Jeldwen makes a retrofit frame model, so you can leave the existing aluminum frame in (thereby not having to disturb the stucco on the house) and the slip the new door in. They're not cheap, though - according to the dude I talked to this morning, they run about $800. They happen to have one in stock from a customer return that is priced at $500, so that is a good deal. But it's still a sliding glass door and I have already told you how I feel about them. Nevermind the aggravation of blinds and windows treatments with sliding glass doors. At least with french doors you can affix blindes/roman shades/curtains to the door itself.

The other options are a little harier to install, but hardly rocket science. We'll have to cut the frame out with either an angle saw, or a reciprocating saw, trying our best not to disturb the stucco. Then the process is the same as the retrofit (leveling, lots of silicone, screws into the rough frame on the sides).

I have seen two good options at the Depot (who, by the way, always offers 6 months 0% financing on stuff over $299).

This one, I like because it has two little transom-type windows on the sides with screens, which is great for getting a nice breeze without having to open the main middle door. And I can easily add a screen to the main door that won't cost my right arm. The downside is that there is only one door you can open. Basically, this option is great for getting a breeze without letting critters into the house. Cost for this guy is $559, and I believe the screens are $70 (it said "additional options" were $70, and my guess is that it's the screens). Total $629.

(above pic five-finger-discounted from some dude on flickr)

The other option I spied this morning was the more standard french door style, but it has built-in blinds. Great for energy savings! And I can open up both doors. However, the major downside is adding a screen to this type of configuration isn't cheap. The only screens that generally work with a double door are those roll-up ones that you pull in from the sides. Those cost a pretty penny: $129 each side, so $260 for the screens. Yeah. I didn't write down the price of the door, but the number I see in my head is $599. So this second option costs $860.

Factoring costs alone, I think the first one makes sense. I can't say I'm so head over heels for number 2 that I'd fork over an additional $230.

Also, in case any readers out there own an older house (older meaning built before 1990) and are thinking that they might need new windows some time in the not so distant future, this is the year to do it, if you have the means. The government has reinstated the 2007 energy efficiency home improvement tax credits for the year 2009. There's a whole slew of options, but, basically, for energy efficient exterior doors, it's 10% of total cost, maximum of $500, and windows, again 10% but only up to $200.

Oh, and the car? Another noise has started up (or maybe was there before, but was being drowned out by the front brakes noise) and it sounds like it's coming from the back wheels. Similar metal rubbing sound. Guess I'll be at the mechanic again this weekend. I'll bet, when all is said and done, I will have spent at least $500 on brakes maintenance.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Looks like Someone has a Case of the Mondays

Very little got done this weekend thanks to the Super Bowl and, well, general laziness on our part. Didn't touch the backsplash at all [sigh], but at least I completed the repair of a large hole in the wall that remained from the slab leak back in July. The Husband did a wee bit of work, and fit a piece of drywall into the one hole in the closet, so now it's my turn to tape, float, sand, and texture it. Three holes still remain to be repaired

I got my car fixed yesterday and it turned out it wasn't the wheel bearings; it was the brakes, so it needed new pads and rotors resurfaced (since I guess the old ones created a ridge in the rotor that needed fixing). Either way, the damage of that plus oil change and air filter change was $416. I ended up putting off two maintenance items (coolant and transmission fluid replacement/flush) because I just couldn't stomach paying another $300 on top of $416 (and the mechanic dude said I could wait another 5K miles for those two things). The Husband's car will likely cause another $400 of damage with having to replace the TPS (throttle positioning sensor). Effing cars. I've never owned a car with more than 35K miles before this one, so this is kind of new to me, having to do all this maintenance. So far, since I paid off my car in June, I have spent about $600 on maintenance in addition to routine oil change and tire rotation. It's working about, so far, to be about $100 per month. I'm going to keep tracking this because I am wondering at what point does it become smarter to get a new car than continue to pay high maintenance costs. If I continue to pay out $100 per month, I think it may be questionable whether it makes sense to keep the aging car.

In the realm of cashola, we paid off the Husband's car leaving the pesky student loan as the last bugger. I did our net worth thingy and we're down again this month, but only by 2K - worlds better than previous months but crazy that I am happy about a loss. I still haven't found out what the neighbor's house sold for - I am checking the county registrar website on a daily basis (obsessed much?). It's been probably 2 weeks since they closed so I am thinking any day now...

Sorry I am so boring today, folks. Monthly Punctuation is in effect and I think it's making me "blah."