Steve Hutchison (foomf) wrote,
Steve Hutchison

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Catching up

I've been remiss in actual diary-entries for a while.

This is because there's been a lot of, to use the metaphor, 'Interesting Times' happening lately.

In week 4 of September I got a call back from a placement service about a position doing software configuration and build management. The company told the placement service that they needed a particular skill-set, and experience with creating and improving the build and release process, from what was basically nothing.

Build and configuration. I can do this. I did it as part of my job at NEC Eluminant. I was hopeful after the hiring manager reviewed my cover letter and resume' and after talking with the recruiter - he had been placed there a year before, moving up from a position similar to the one he was trying to fill. The company, Direct Focus, had just purchased J.B.Edwards, a company that makes contact management software, and was planning to convert the basis of the software to run on PeopleSoft. (No, I did NOT sign an NDA with them.)
The whole system would require serious reconfiguration, etc. Fine, not a big deal.

When I got to the interview, which was 40 miles away, I was 10 minutes early. However, 5 minutes after the appointment was supposed to begin, I was told that 'He's in an urgent meeting with his supervisor.' That usually means 'Cut costs' in a smallish company, and should have been my warning to RUN.

A very pleasant, intelligent, communicative woman from India came to collect me, explained that she would be my co-worker if I were hired, and that she expected him 'any minute now' - we got water, I saw the break room, then back to his office. Note, this is the company that makes BowFlex and owns Nautilus, the engineers were unusually FIT, as they have access to a world-class gym with newer-than-new equipment.
I discussed what I'd done in the past, and about 15 minutes into my time, the manager appears.
He greets the woman in a warm, friendly, jocular fashion.
Note, I'm a trained listener, having gotten that from Intel and from Stephen Ministry training, and I was on edge to catch ANYTHING I could use to enhance this interview.
He isn't using any sensory modes in his conversation. Further, he's got a poker face that could win him millions.
The inteview begins, he asks about my experience with using the CCM product. I had used CVS and UNIX style things, and explained in my cover letter exactly those areas, and told him that again in person. Without expressing any non-verbal cues whatsoever, neither posture nor facial nor even a twitch in the size of his pupils, he asks me about what I HAD done, using ClearCase, and I showed him how we structured the release trees for the products I'd used.
He looks at his watch, interrupts, says "Thank you, I have no further questions. I'll contact Susan (name of the procurer) with our decision within two days."
This was about 15-20 minutes
So, I'm stunned, say thank you, go back to the car, and try to figure out why I feel like I've been hit by a train.
Talking to Susan, she says, "Yes, he's like that. We've had several interviews that seemed abrupt and strange where people were hired, and several that seemed very positive which ended with rejection. Let's wait for an answer from him."

I do not get an answer in two days. After pestering her for a WEEK, having already explained that I do not have any tolerance any more for being given long dragged-out things after the experiences I'd had with Intel earlier that year, she finally says, "Well, he's been negotiating terms with us to get a lower fee for hiring (girl from Florida who was just placed the day before my interview) and this position has been held up while we worked it out."
Then I hear "He's pursuing other candidates," the next day.

So it appears that he's used my possible hire as leverage to get her to knock the price down.

OK, this sucks badly. However, I've got other stuff in the works.

None of which comes through, and I ended up having to tap the VERY LAST of my retirement fund, in order to make the monthly car, mortgage, and health care payments, along with the bills.

Functionally broke, eBay not paying us enough to live on, we're forced to sell the house. We're feeling pretty much abandoned by God and friendless in the world, and there's a few days when we contemplate just getting into the car, going as fast as it can go, and hitting a wall.

Neither of us is that depressive, though. rubyloot tells me that we need to talk to our friends at church, and I agree, we contact the Stephen Ministry group and tell them that things have gotten dire.

An emergency meeting of four of the leadership group with me and the brilliant woman I married happens the next day, and we determine what's going to have to happen - we have to sell the house, not just because we need the money and we can't keep paying for it, but we also have to get rubyloot into a situation where she's not trapped by a house with stairs, as her knees not only lack cartilage (resulting in agony walking) but she's unable to do anything to get into better shape as she's, well, trapped.

The group meeting comes out with some sensible answers - we'll have help from the church 'christmas in july' group to make the house saleable, we'll get additional help packing and getting things ready, and we have some action-items to go through to get things going.

During this process, I come to a realization, that we've been asking God for an intervention, for the famous and celebrated Divine Providence, and that we'd been overlooking the fact that we, our church, the people who call ourselves His children by adoption through Christ, are supposed to BE the hands of God in the world.
Yeah, he does things that appear to be miraculous, but in fact, we're supposed to be loving and helping one another.

(political aside: Someone should advise Bush and the people who think he's a great model of Christian faith just how hard it is to be on the receiving side of that loving and helping.)

Our doll collectors club, the Tualatin Valley Doll Society, had its monthly meeting a few days after that, and we explained to our friends there, people we've known for over a decade. One of them mentioned that her brother in law renovates houses for sale, and asked if we'd like to talk to him. We agreed. He came by a day or so later, looked at the house (with all its warts, needing new paint, stairway repaired, flooring fixed in places, deck repairs, new carpet, etc. etc. ...) and he asked what we needed to live for six months. I did a quick estimate, came out with a number, and he offered a bit more than that, plus covering the existing loans.

We agreed, tentatively, met with a realtor who gave us some advice on contracts. Unfortunately his getting financing and setting up the examination by the investors (a cute couple) didn't all finish by the end of September, so the closing date wasn't the beginning of the month. Still, we have a signed letter of intent to purchase the house and provide us with a decent cash-out, we have found an apartment which we can move into, once we have the place, and we have a work party lined up to clean out our garage so we have a place to pack.

All that was lacking was income. And some work to make things acceptable to the assessor - the front stairs needed to be really fixed instead of the patch we'd put in late-summer.
So, having supplies donated by a friend and with the help of my next-door neighbor, I set out on Saturday to rebuild the stairs. It took us about five hours total, with tear-down via the sledgehammer of gentle persuasion and the crowbar of polite inquiry, and with mostly screwed-on rather than nailed-on boards, and it looks very nice, even without paint.

During the repair, another neighbor wandered by and (now that we're moving out of the neighborhood :P ) invited my helpful neighbor Carl, his wife, and my wife if she could make it (she couldn't) to come over for spaghetti. They'd had Civil Air Patrol meeting at his house and she'd made spaghetti for 50, and only 30 showed, so they decided to invite people from around. I was tired, and tried to beg off, but rubyloot insisted that I would go, and go I did, thoroughly enjoying myself. His wife, who works at Intel, asked what I did, and I explained the 4 years of no real job, and that I was looking for survival work. She happened to work in a group that was preparing to hire assembly and test technicians, which is survival work, and gave me a card for the Kelly IT person at Intel. I already knew Mr. Schmeckpepper (wonderful name) and he hadn't heard of the positions that she described, but checked his upcoming lists, and asked if I would be interested in software validation and test for a telecom product.

Duh. It pays money, yes, I'm interested, besides having done that at NEC.

He makes a phone-interview appointment. This morning, I get the call (45 minutes late, thanks to a protracted client meeting) and the guy and I talk for 15 minutes, then he asks, "When can you start?"

"Uh, immediately."

"OK, how about Monday?"

"Sure." I'm not sure I believe it (even now) but he hangs up, I wake my wife from her nap, and her response to my "I just got a job offer," was "What? Huh?"

We're still not sure we believe it, but tomorrow at 3pm I go to HF2, turn in paperwork, go to a nearby 'clinic' and pee in a cup for Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and apparently, I'll be employed again.

It's a contract, 6-12 months, it's not permanent, but it pays an acceptable rate. And in that time, maybe things will get a lot better.

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