Monday, October 29, 2007

CushTop by Belkin

This past weekend, the lap desk (for my laptop) I've had for about 7 years started leaving behind filler on the couch and the rug. I'm pretty sure I know what I did to cause the problem.

Regardless, it was time for something new. I originally looked at lap desks at Levenger, Stacks & Stacks, and Amazon. Most of what I saw was flimsy, uncomfortable, too big or too expensive.

I then decided to head out to the nearest major office supply store Sunday afternoon, which is Office Max on Arguello Boulevard in the Inner Richmond district. I went over to where laptop storage and cases were and found exactly what I wanted, Belkin's "CushTop" (as seen in photo).

The CushTop is washable and made of microfiber. The gap in the center can accommodate a mouse and battery pack. Most importantly, it's a sturdy, straight surface where the cushion absorbs heat from the laptop. It is primarily designed for non-desk use such as a chair, couch or bed. For me, it's the couch. I bought the CushTop in chocolate.

I paid about $32 (including tax) for the padded top. Computer superstore places like PC Universe sell it considerably cheaper, but for me, I didn't want to wait. Plus, UPS delivery to my home address is spotty at best. Last week, UPS left me a delivery note last week for my shipment from Sears. They said they would redeliver the next day.

I stayed home all day to wait for the package and no one came by nor did I get any notice. When I went online to find out the status, the driver claimed he tried to redeliver and said I authorized the shipment to be left at the local UPS office. Liar, liar pants on fire.

But I digress. I really like my CushTop. It's much more stable than my previous lap desk, it's light, and most importantly, I can put it away in my storage cube without worrying about filler falling out.

photo courtesy of Belkin

Saturday, October 27, 2007

words misspelled or used incorrectly

I am far from being a grammar freak. Perhaps because I'm spending more time online due to my job hunt it's getting increasingly annoying for me to see words misspelled or used incorrectly.

Some common examples:
The present tense of "lost" is "LOSE". Not LOOSE. I don't understand why this is so common, especially since "lose" isn't even pronounced the same way as "loose".

The incorrect use of "your" when it should be "you're" or vice-versa. Get a clue. A word with an apostrophe means it's been shortened from the full phrase. "Your" is a pronoun, like your car, your clothes. "You're" is shortened from "you are".

Same with "there" and "they're". There she goes. There's the bus. "They're" is shortened from "they are". After typing or writing "they're" in a sentence, repeat the same sentence using "they are". They're moving next month. They are moving next month.

The word "receive" is NOT spelled "recieve". Give me a break. Use YOUR spell checker here. I've seen far too many job listings misspell this word. It would make me think twice about applying to an opening with a misspelled job title.

Oh, and one that really annoys me. "Alot" is NOT one word! It is "A LOT". Geez, I almost hyperventilated on that one. Is there a brown paper bag handy?

I realize for many of us spelling and grammar in school were not fun subjects. For me, it is something I probably worked harder at than most people because my parents are not native English speakers. But if you want to be taken seriously anymore these days, choose your words correctly!!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Unemployment, week 4

It has been a full 4 weeks since my layoff. In reality, it hasn't been that long. Like my first layoff in 1994, I knew about it months in advance and began looking before the actual layoff. I ended up finding a job I really liked, which I hope will be the case this time around.

While I have a generous severance and got my first unemployment check today, being out of work is not comfortable for me. Shoot me, but since I've been out of work, weekends have become inconvenient because it means I have to wait 2 days before anyone will look at my résumé.

So far, the search has been pretty much what I expected. I get at least 1 to 2 e-mails a day from recruiters sending me job opportunities. However, same old story. They're not the right fit. This past week, 2 recruiters tried to get me contract positions. One in Silicon Valley for a well-known high tech company, the other a growing retailer in Half Moon Bay. As I haven't heard back and it's now Friday, these positions likely are now filled. Which is fine, as my ultimate goal is to find something full-time, salaried and permanent.

I also have something else in the works with another company. Unlike most recruiters that have contacted me, this one is directly employed for a well-known retailer. It is located in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the commute wouldn't be far, but I don't want to say anything more specific for fear of jinxing any chance I have of getting an interview. The described work would be the perfect progression in my longtime retail finance career.

The third and last professional business suit I bought on sale arrived today. The alterations on my second suit will be ready on Monday, at which time the blazer that came today will be dropped off to be altered. No, it won't be the arsenal of suits I used to rotate in the mid 80's, nor would I want it that way. I already have more than enough non-suited corporate attire in my wardrobe now.

Just get me back out there to interview again. I'm ready to go.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Rookie vs. Veteran

So far, I've been on 2 interviews since being laid off 2 weeks ago. One company thought I had too much traditional finance experience, the other too little (in other words, I didn't have an accounting or finance degree). It's still early, but so far, I already know finding the right job will be a battle.

There was a job opening yesterday for an unnamed San Francisco company looking for a Treasury Staff Accountant. I think this is the position a recruiter called me about on Monday. But the posting came from another firm, the same one that had me set up for an interview last week in Redwood Shores.

Everything in the job requirements are tasks I've done in my most recent position. What concerned me though, was that they encouraged recent college graduates to apply. The high range of compensation was only $1K less per year than what I was currently making, so I forwarded the listing to my recruiter to see if her associate would put my name in as a candidate.

My recruiter e-mailed me back 2 hours later to tell me her associate didn't think I was a fit. I'll try not to take it personally, but it was very apparent the company and/or the recruiter wanted to go with young and inexperienced. Because I know there are VERY FEW recent college graduates that would have had experience in ALL of the job requirements for this position.

I don't get it. I could have walked into the job with very little training and still make about the same salary as my old job. To me, to hire someone they won't have to spend much time training is well worth the additional $10K/year. Maybe they want someone young and eager and won't complain about working long hours.

Their loss. They don't know me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"Virgin" experience with JetBlue

As mentioned last week, my trip to New York was on JetBlue, my first flight with them. Josh flies them frequently and really likes them. I did find the passengers at JFK vastly different from the passengers at SFO.

My initial experience was not exactly pleasant. While JetBlue flights are domestic, they are located in the International Terminal at SFO. When I got to the gate, they had 3 kiosks at the check-in gate, but only one was working, and sporadically at that. Whenever I now fly, I almost always have carry-on and don't check in luggage. But because I couldn't use the kiosk, I had to wait in line with the other passengers doing the standard, painstakingly slow process of checking in with an agent. This took 30 minutes.

Once I got the friggin' boarding pass, I then had to go up one escalator, walk across to the domestic terminal and then down another escalator to get to the actual gate. The good part is there's no first class, no frequent fliers that get called first for priority boarding. The people that get called first are those who need extra time, then it's all rows boarding. Because I had to wait so long for my boarding pass, everyone that was waiting had already boarded so I didn't have to stand in line.

Then to my seat. Ahhhh....considerable leg room. Got my headphones, plugged in and started watching TV. When we flew Virgin Atlantic non-stop to London in 2003, we got complimentary headphones and a huge selection of movies. I saw 3 movies on an 8 hour flight and it really helped pass the time.

With a 5+ hour flight to NYC, the same thing. I usually sleep at least half the time, but with the headsets, I spent most of the flight watching the Food Network and HGTV. Same thing on the way back, except I was blubbering (I blame it on recirculated air) through most of "Love, Actually" on USA, a 2003 British holiday film (wow, same year we were there) . The other great part about JetBlue was that they were very good with replenishing beverages. I got 2 snacks, which is a luxury in coach class these days.

Perhaps it is because I live in such a tech-savvy area, but when I was at SFO, at least 3 people had no problem trying the kiosk even after the screen said it was down. This morning at JFK, a group of 3 women had a printout with their kiosk check-in barcode, but was surprised they never used a kiosk before. I let them watch me and then offered to help them. They picked it up very quickly and thanked me.

After I made it through security, a woman was standing in front of me looking a bit lost. Her husband was wondering why she hadn't yet gathered her belongings. She said, "I'm too nervous. I'm afraid I'll lose everything!" I'm guessing she had valuables on her that she put in the trays and felt everyone around her was going too fast. But we've had this kind of security check since 9-11-2001 and I would have thought she'd know the drill by now.

I then proceeded to the food court to grab a quick breakfast. A woman kept staring at the warming trays and asked if they could make her an omelette with egg whites only. Sorry, sweetie, but this wasn't exactly a full service restaurant. I didn't see omelettes as a menu item. Another woman was with her son and he wanted the fruit cup. She asked the counterperson how much it cost. When told how much, she told her son it was too expensive. Granted, airport food is not cheap, but you couldn't splurge $1.95? I'd be grateful he wasn't begging for Cinnabon! It was apparent that none of these people fly much.

Oh, well. I've never traveled much on business, but I guess I do fly often enough to look like a seasoned traveler. And I will fly JetBlue again.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

manual vs. automatic

In today's New York Times Automobile section, writer Richard Chang wanted to find out from readers whether or not driving a stick-shift (manual) transmission car was considered a life skill. For me, it is. To most people who drive in the United States, it isn't.

Up until I moved to California, I only knew how to drive an automatic. My cousin Wilgee's first car was a Lancia (don't remember the model type) and I was jealous that he already learned to drive stick-shift. Determined to learn, I got my first chance when a co-worker graciously agreed to take me out in her Honda Civic in the back parking lot of Tanforan Mall in San Bruno over 20 years ago.

With only that afternoon as my experience in stick-shift driving, I bought my first manual transmission car, an Acura Integra, less than a year later. The salesman had to drive my car home. For the next month, I went out every night to practice. It took me about 3 weeks before I considered myself proficient enough to drive to any part of San Francisco.

I haven't gone back to an automatic transmission car since. I'm on my fourth manual transmission car and plan on driving them until I physically am no longer able. Sure, there's the control that everyone talks about. But for me, it's just a lot more fun. The coordination of clutch pedal, shifting and accelerating takes skill and is something I can boastfully say I've mastered.

image courtesy of BMW

Monday, October 01, 2007

No more envelopes!

Since I visit a Wells Fargo ATM just once a month to deposit our HOA checks, this is a feature you may have already seen and used. This morning I visited the Wells Fargo ATM location on Irving Street and 8th Avenue. The cool new feature at the ATM is that you can now deposit up to 30 checks without envelopes.

Once the scan is complete, the ATM gives you the option of printing the receipt with the image, without the image, or no receipt at all. Since this was the first time, it should have been easy enough for me to scan the 3 checks I had all at the same time. Instead, I scanned them one at a time and got 3 separate receipts.

The best part of this feature is that it eliminates the hassle of pulling an envelope and having to fill out the necessary information while the machine is waiting anxiously with its annoying beeps for you to send the envelope through the slot. If it took you too long to get the envelope ready, the machine would ask you if you needed more time, but for me, I found the machine would end up cancelling the transaction and I would have to start all over again.

With this new feature, no more. I would love to see this feature at my credit union, but it's likely I won't see it anytime soon.

photo courtesy of