The Sabra got her travel documents yesterday. That means we have cleared yet another hurdle in this arduous Green Card process. This is good news; she is now free to move about the world, and she is already talking about going back to the Holy Land for about a month (this, too, is good, as I will go for 2 weeks to visit--I could use a vacation and a good fixin' of Shawarma!).
We're thinking sometime in November, but I have a launch then, so I'm not sure how that will play out.
Now we are waiting for the temporary work permit (which will be temporary for 2 years...then we will have a second interview and it will be permanent). We are also waiting for the first interview.
So, we wait. But in the meantime, thanks to ICE for not forgetting about us.
This is a bit of a catch-up post…
The Sabra is back, living in the same state, and indeed, the same house as yours truly. She received official word that she was laid off a few weeks ago, and after an unfortunate series of events, she finally accepted the severance package her office offered: 2 more paychecks, relocation money, and 10 days’ worth of COBRA while we waited for my insurance to pick her up. I flew up on July 2, and we drove back on the fifth, car loaded with all her worldly possessions.
Now that she is unemployed and almost without a status, we have submitted the paperwork for her Green Card…and what an experience that has been. It was actually easier than we thought to get all the papers together, and I got my bonus at work at just the right time—for it ain’t cheap to get permanent residence status. She also had to get a physical from a US Citizenship and Immigration Services recognized doctor. This physical included a TB test, which, due to her being immunized as a child, she promptly failed. So, she had to go to another place to get a chest x-ray to verify that she is TB free. But, since we live in the District, we had to take an extra step.
I took yesterday off thinking that I would get some well-deserved rest and get some things done around the apartment. Instead, I spent the better part of the morning at DC General Hospital at the TB clinic where the Sabra had to get clearance from the DC Department of Health. It was a bit creepy hanging out with so many consumptives in one room. I will definitely need to get a TB test at my next physical!
With clearance in hand, we returned to the CIS approved clinic and had all the paperwork finalized. We put the papers, applications, and checks (yes, there were 3 of them) in the mail this morning.
Now we wait for the next step in the process, which I believe is the interview…stay tuned!
”Good morning, y’all, and thanks for flying with us this morning. Listen up, OK? Cuz I got some important information to tell ya, and if you don’t pass the short quiz I’m gonna pass out afterwards, I’m gonna have ta go through it all again, and as sexy as my voice is, I know y’all don’t want that.”
With that, the thin, middle-aged woman with long, permed hair the color of auburn that can only come from a box, commences into the canned speech that anyone who has flown more than once in their life can say by heart. She ends her safety speech with the requisite reminder that it is illegal to smoke or tamper with the smoke detectors. ”Of course, if you really do need to smoke, just push your call button, and I’ll be happy to open the door and let ya smoke out on the wing. It’s a bit breezy out there, so hold onto your hat.” She laughs at her own joke even though it’s not funny; I cringe and sink my nails into my armrest; meanwhile, the little old lady covered in liver spots across the aisle from me laughs along with our flight attendant, as do many more people than I would expect.
I’m sitting at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport on my way back from a business trip to Houston. Because I work for the government, I am bound by the travel rules and must fly on the designated contract carrier. I don’t get to travel too often, but frequently enough so that I have had an opportunity to sample the various airlines that fly the friendly skies. This particular trip, it may surprise you, is not on the airline you probably expect it to be given the witticism of the flight attendant who has tried her hardest to hide the fact that she is pushing 50 and lays claim to a beautiful double-wide somewhere in a tornado-prone area of the American south. Yet, it is clear that the flying paradigm is once again changing, and I can feel that shift as it happens.
Although many people say that air travel as we know it forever changed on September 11, 2001, the simple truth of the matter is that like all things, air travel is not immune to change and like any good business, it should adapt to suit the needs of its customers and to evolve as new technology and public interest dictates. Think about it. There once was a time when the stratosphere was the unique realm of the rich, powerful, and adventurous. Not too long after, it became affordable and accessible to the masses. At that time, delicious food was served on fine china with metal forks and knives. Drinks were consumed from crystal goblets. Not too long after, we were given barely edible, microwaved food in disposable containers. (Midwest Express brought back some of the romanticism of an earlier era by reintroducing real plates and glasses.) In the 1980s, the great and mighty, His Royal Highness, Savior of the American Way and Protector of All, President Ronald Wilson Reagan, deregulated the airlines and fired countless air traffic controllers. (How few of us recognized the irony when G.W. insisted that Washington National Airport be renamed Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport?) Then came Osama Bin Laden and his minion of morons. I remember a time when I could actually meet my loved ones at the gate as they disembarked. I remember a time when I could pack a carry-on and nothing else, secure in the knowledge that I would be able to shampoo my hair with shampoo from the bottle I brought with me. I remember a time when I didn’t wonder how people could take a plane down with bottled breast milk. I also fondly remember—in yet another ironic twist—the halcyon days when I didn’t have to pay $5 to eat on a plane. Oh, to have one of those disgusting, microwaved meals they used to give us.
The fact that we are no longer served meals aboard a flight has nothing to do with national security or terrorism. 9/11 caused a chain reaction that was, in reality, already waiting to happen. The dominos had been lined up and ready for someone to flick the first one since deregulation. With everyone afraid to travel in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack on American soil, the airlines were forced into bankruptcy, and they did whatever they could to cut corners in an effort to stay aloft. The first to go, of course, was the succulent cuisine. Years later, after the companies settled down and things returned to a tenuous normality, CEOs and their bean counters realized that the only thing removing dinner did was boost revenue; while we poor folk in steerage may have griped, we continued to buy our tickets, and even paid ridiculous amounts for Pringles and granola bars. In all fairness to the airlines, it was smart business not to bring food back if it didn’t cause a loss in ticket sales. (I offer a suggestion to the major airlines: At the time of ticket sale, offer us a meal for $5, $10, even $20. If I’m already purchasing a $400 ticket, I’ll be much more content to add on another $20 at that moment than later, while I’m in the air.)
And that’s what it’s really all about: good business. As demands for certain services wax and wane, industry should adapt, as long as it doesn’t adversely affect the bottom line. Indeed, if it was to increase overall revenue, and a competitor appears to be profiting from it, why not absorb that business model into yours?
And that’s why we see this love-fest occurring on planes. It was bad enough when Southwest Airlines started taking liberties and talking to us like we were old chums, but now it seems that everyone is doing it. I have nothing personally against Southwest as a company. In fact, I’ve flown with them multiple times, and each time, I arrived safely at my destination. Only a few times were we ever significantly delayed. Yet, every time the flight attendants would get on the mic, I’d want to gouge out my eyes or poke a hole in my eardrum. (I sat next to a SWA pilot once, and he said that the first thing most SWA pilots did when they got into the cockpit was turn off the switch that allowed them to hear what was broadcast in the cabin. I felt vindicated.) I make no pretense that I’m not an elitist, nor do I pretend that I like people, so it probably comes as no surprise that I find this chit-chattiness particularly abhorrent.
I pay a lot of money to fly, and the last thing I want to be reminded of is that I’m trapped in a tin can at 36,000 feet. There’s no other way to describe it, but when that flight attendant gets on the mic and starts in with her “y’all”s or his “hey gang”s, they stress the fact that I am in fact little more than a captive audience. I am paying for their service, not their friendship. I don’t want to be chummy with them. I don’t want to be friends with them. In fact, I almost always bring a book and at least one crossword. Sadly, for the first ½ hour that I’m in the plane, I can’t read or work on the puzzle because the flight attendants are so busy gapping away on the mic (of course, they would say it’s “entertainment.” I say it’s odious drivel). I do bring my iPod, so I can plug in and disappear into a good sonata, quartet, or concerto, but again, I am deprived of this escape route because I am not allowed to listen to my iPod until we have reached a certain level (and the flight attendant is more than happy to, once again, get on the damn mic to let me know that approved electronic devices may now be used).
People don’t like formality these days. We live in a time when people wear ripped jeans and tee shirts to school, church, and even court. We no longer wear morning coats to breakfast or dinner jackets to supper. Within a generation or two, the esoteric knowledge of the ancient ways of crafting the For-in-Hand and Half- and Full-Windsor will be lost forever. Even in restaurants, we see this trend from formal to fraternal. How often do you look up from the menu only to see your server sitting across the table from you? In school, more and more students call their professors by their first names instead of Dr. So-and-So. Even the grocery store clerk wants to know how your day was, and too many of us will tell them, like they really care. Another clear indicator of this trend toward informality is on our buses, trains, and metros. How many of us have sat next to someone who is on their cell phone talking about topics that should be discussed only in the privacy of their homes: I’m talking about the lady who is discussing her Pap smear or the old man informing the world of the results of his colonoscopy.
I don’t think it’s too much to ask to be waited on, to be pampered, to be serviced. There are precious few places left in this country where we can truly be treated like we are someone important, and we, the customers, should be demanding a return to this sort of treatment. If I’m going to pay a ton of money for an airline ticket, a hotel room, or an expensive dinner, I feel that being served and treated like I’m a valued customer is part of the price of the ticket, room, or plate. I’m not asking that they should grovel and wash my feet, but a few more “yes, sir”s and “thank you, ma’am”s would increase the tip far more than “hey buddy”s and “fer sher”s could ever hope to.
I guess that I really shouldn't be surprised, then, that the men and women working in the airline industry see the trend toward informality and instead of walking upon the well trod path, they are blazing the trail, hacking away at pretence and stuffiness with their machetes of howdys and hiyas. It definitely seems to be working for Southwest Airlines, so why shouldn’t other airlines be incorporating this new, hip, fun business model into theirs?
When I was little, I always wanted to go to my father’s work. He was a career civil servant, and he never felt that it was appropriate taking children to his place of employment. Of course, this always made me very sad. I wanted so much to be with him, to spend time with him, and it hurt to think that he didn’t want to share his time at work with me. Likewise, he never wanted us to call him at work unless it was an emergency. This, too, was not a pleasant feeling. Why? How could such a wonderful, loving father as mine not want to be with his son? Not want to talk to his son?
In all fairness to posterity, I must confess that I did get to go see his office on rare occasions, and from the span of 20-odd years, my limited memory recalls that my father’s desk was by a window. He had a flat desk with papers and books piled high. On the right-hand side, across from the window, was a long return that was rounded at the end. The other important feature that I can recall from the mist of memory is that the walls of his office didn’t reach the ceiling. How weird I thought that was. I didn’t know from cubes and open space layouts at that time.
Now, as a civil servant myself working in a cube in an open space layout, I understand that it wasn’t that my father didn’t love me or that he didn’t want to talk to me, but rather, he didn’t think it was appropriate for children to be in a space that would disturb others. He didn’t like to talk on the phone about personal things because there was no privacy. I feel like I owe him an apology.
Today, thanks to the cube environment, it all became clear to me that this was the truth of the matter. The woman in the cube on one side of me has her daughter here. This daughter has not yet learned inside and outside voice and talks entirely too loudly. I think it’s wonderful that she has such a creative mind, but a grown-up office is not the place for her to express her creativity or bang on the desk or run up and down the hall or run into and out of other people’s cubes.
I should mention that this disrespect for others working so closely together is not limited to children who don’t know any better (indeed, the child’s mother should have known better than to bring the child in the first place). The odious woman on the other side of me is on a teleconference and is using her speakerphone. When I politely asked her to take it off of speakerphone because it was disturbing me, she said that she was on a conference call. I said I understood that, but it was still a distraction to others in the office. She said, “I’m going to go ahead and leave it on speaker.”
In the immortal words of Jar Jar Binks: “How wude!”
Here is yet another shining example of how America’s Greatest Space Agency wastes the tax payers’ money. The following conversation was between me and a friend at work about a woman who attended my meeting this afternoon. I have to admit that she was indeed cute, but not at all my type. Anyway, as I said, this is an actual conversation held over the internet via email on our BlackBerrys:
DW: I envy your job sometimes Mr Cose. WOW is what I have to say about Contractor!!
[A short time later]
DW: No comment on me envying your job?? :)
JC: I figured everyone wanted to be me. Seriously, though, speaking of jobs…is there going to be one in your shop soon?
DW: I really want to be you if I can work with Contractor. I am not sure. There may be an opening. Why? You in search? You would have to work for me. So which is better -me or your Idiot Boss :) It may be like picking between herpes and hemorrhoids- as we say in the South.
JC: Which are you? I'm always looking, you should know that by now. Keep me posted.
DW: Will do. Keep me posted on Contractor :)
JC: She lives with her boyfriend--sorry dude. But can try to work that DW charm on her.
DW: Damn. He probably is a Hill staffer too!! Damn political people you. You must of checked too :) Too good to be true.
JC: First of all I'm not a political type and second of all she and the Republican were talking about their trip to the Outer Banks last week and it came up. Apparently, he's a bit pasty and doesn't do well in the sun...3rd degree burns all over his back.
DW: Pasty guys. Ha! Ha! That is why she needs a guy with some color- like yellow/tan would be good :)
JC: Hey. I've got that subtle Jewish olive complexion. And she is one of my peeps. Maybe I should...
DW: She is Jewish too. Hey I play on the DCJCC softball league. I love Kosher. Will that help me?? Mom would love her - us being Catholic and all. :)
JC: Apparently Boyfriend is Catholic too. So now you may have an in.
DW: Thanks for the 411 man. I will owe you info too. Boyfriend, the pasty white Catholic. He is probably Irish I assume.
JC: Would be my guess.
Yea, so I applied for a job last month with the Federal Transit Administration, which is an agency within the Department of Transportation, as an Events Coordinator. It seems to be basically the job I have now with the responsibilities being flipped so that 60% is events and 40% is crap.
I called a few weeks ago to check the status of my application, and I was told that I had made the cert (governmenteeze for the short list). So, I called today to check to see if anything had progressed. Amazingly, I got a friendly and helpful person in DoT’s HR department. She told me again that I had made the list (which I already knew), but she said that I had scored 90 out of 100, so that was exciting. She also told me that the Selecting Official has until July 10 to conduct interviews and offer a job. I didn’t ask what happens on July 11, but I assume that this specific announcement goes away, and if that office wants to hire again, they’d need to start from the beginning.
The one down side is that the government has weird rules when it comes to hiring. Even though I made the list, if they don’t interview anyone, they can select whoever they wish off the list. So, even though I got that 90 out of 100, if the person they really want for the job even made the cut by 1 point, they can select him or her and I’d be screwed—and we all know that that is the story of my life.
I often wonder if I really made a wise investment when I borrowed many thousands of dollars from Mr. Stafford to go to graduate school. I mean, instead of wasting my time learning from people who have devoted themselves to study and learning, I could have been working for the government getting a real education.
Here are some things that I have learned since coming to the government (and yes, I know that some of this may have appeared before, but so what? It’s my blog and no one can tell me what to do):
- It is inappropriate to use semicolons in letters
- It is bad to use the word however in letters
- It is not necessary to italicize titles of books or ships, even space ships (I wonder how they would handle the use of italics in the comment above?)
- Even though letters are signed by individuals, it is correct to use we instead of I, even when we refers in one paragraph to NASA alone and the next it refers to NASA and another agency
- Regrettably is better than Unfortunately
- It is incorrect grammar to have a 1 sentence paragraph
- Besides being the past tense and past participle of lend, lent apparently is not a word, and even if it were, it sounds less formal than loaned
- It sounds much more impressive to use myself when you mean me
- Similarly, it sounds much more impressive to use I when you mean me
- One should never split a hyphenated word across lines
I need to get out of here!
I went down to the Library of Congress this morning to photocopy some articles for bobzillaau.
Now, anyone who either has heard me tirade about the Library of Congress before or has been to this esteemed repository knows very well where this little blog entry is going.
They only had 1 of the 2 articles that Bobzillau needed (naturally), but I ordered that one and went to a computer to do a little research on my own topics. It occurred to me that while I was there, I should do a little light reading in the New York Dramatic Mirror. As the events that I am currently researching occurred in 1892, I requested that particular volume. I handed in my ticket and prepared myself for the inevitable reply from the tech, “it’ll be up in about 45 minutes.” Well, within 20 minutes, my ticket was returned with the little box next to “Not on Shelf” ticked. I walked up to the other tech and said in my most polite tone, “does this mean that someone in the reading room is currently using this book.” In the short, aggravated tone of the non-aspiring GS-4, she looked at me and said, “it means it’s off the shelf. It could be anywhere. We don’t keep track.”
So, I gave up. I have fought this battle too many times. It is inexcusable that there is no tracking system for these books. Once removed from the shelf for any reason, they are lost to the keepers of the books. I suppose that the gnomes who work in the bowels of the Library of Congress only hope and pray that the books are returned when readers are finished with them. I went to speak with a librarian for 2 reasons: 1) to tell them that I think it is absurd there is no tracking system and that they have no clue what becomes of the very things that they are chartered to protect, and 2) to find out what other theatre magazines, periodicals, and journals the Library of Congress owns that were published in 1892.
One of the odd things about the Library of Congress is that they seem to have 2 kinds of people working there: annoyingly helpful people and annoyingly disinterested people. The librarian who I spoke with was among the former. He wanted to know all about who I was researching, and I tried several times to tell him politely that I have already done extensive research on Sampson, and I have already looked in many places for his name. Undeterred, he still decided to pull several reference books off the shelf and suggested that I look Sampson up in there. Finally, after about 30 minutes of looking through books that I had already looked through, and listening to the librarian rattle off unimportant and unrelated things, I finally decided to head over to the performing arts reading room. I was sure that they should have a list of theatre trade magazines.
I signed into the Music Reading Room (for that is where the performing arts collection is housed) at 11:20 am and left at about 2:30 pm. Why was I there so long? Well I met a fascinating gentleman. He is the performing arts librarian, and he was one of the most interesting people I have met in a very long time. He had a shock of thick, white hair on his head that was in need of combing, but shaped in the classic “comb-over” style of balding men. He was unshaven, with stubble as white as the hair on his head. He had bushy salt-and-pepper Groucho Marx type eyebrows protruding from beneath his glasses, and not a little bit of hair growing in plain site from areas that one really shouldn’t have hair growing. He was dressed in a shirt that had more stains than the tablecloth at the local diner, and it looked like he had slept the past several days in it (as well as in the pants). He screamed academic eccentric from the word go.
As I mentioned, he was the most interesting person I have met in a very long time, and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent talking with him about all sorts of things. He scored points in the very fact that he knew who Sandow was without prompting! He was a very smart, very informed theatre historian, and he was a good listener—asking poignant questions about my main topic and other topics we touched upon during our hours long conversation. He knew one of my professors at the University of Maryland and we talked about him for a moment. The LOC Librarian is interested in theatre spaces (that is, the actual venue and physical structures like the New Amsterdam in New York). This is where he and the University of Maryland prof come together. So, he told me a little about his dissertation, which looked at the rise of 42nd Street in New York City as a major theatre strip. He was interested in how certain areas become important theatre districts. I thought that this was fascinating, and I will be ILLing his dissertation to see what he says. I told him about my early idea of looking at the intersection of theatre technology and maritime technology, and he thought that that was a good idea, but agreed that it would be difficult without knowledge of Latin, and Italian. I mentioned the Drottningholm Theatre as one of the theatres that I would love to look at for this topic, and he understood and agreed. As I said, he is quite an informed person. I did have to argue with him, though, when we finally got back on track and started talking about strongmen. He seemed to feel certain that Sandow is only remembered because he was a good looking guy with a good body. I think that that is true, but it also oversimplifies the situation. True, because he was attractive (as opposed to the strongmen before him who looked tough and mean and rough), people were shocked to discover that he was also a strongman, but until Sandow, no one would have thought that he had a good body.
In the end, I found out, much to my surprise, that the Library of Congress actually has a full run of the New York Dramatic Mirror on microfilm. But, I never did get that list of theatre trade periodicals.
In an ongoing effort to brand NASA and gain national support, there have been some meetings designed to create a unified NASA message. The Hispanic Girl is on that team, and today she sent out a list of possible taglines:
I know that was hard to get through, but here were my suggestions:
(that last might need some explaining to non NASA folk)
On a serious note, I did come up with these. I like the second one best:
Because so many have asked for clarification:
I spoke with my new boss on Tuesday (it was supposed to have been on Monday, but it got pushed back several times). She gave me the 411 on what I would be doing. Basically, I’m going to be doing something with alerting members of Congress about grants that have been awarded in their district by NASA; helping to schedule Astronaut visits in members of Congress’ districts; answering all inquiries related to public affairs; and doing something with state and local governments. I think that that is pretty much it. So, the rumor that I would be doing grants is true, the rumor that I would be doing state and local is true, the rumor that I would be traveling is false, and the rumor that I will be doing IT type stuff and webpage type stuff is completely unclear.
Before I officially accepted the position, I went down to HR and talked to our point of contact there to see if there was any room to negotiate my salary. I accept that I am a GS-9, but it would have been nice to come in a GS-9 step 10 instead of a GS-9 step 1. Unfortunately, there wasn’t. I asked, since I was down there, why I did not make the cut for the GS-11, as I was told that education can be substituted for experience. Dumb fucking me wrote my education wrong, and said that I was in a PhD program for 2 years. In actuality, I was in the Theatre History PhD program for 2 years, but I was also in the History PhD program for a year. Which means that instead of the computer seeing 3 years above a masters, it only saw 2 years, and therefore automatically booted me from consideration. My former boss told me that I should rest assured that I would not have been offered the GS-11 either way, so there was no sense worrying about it.
Anyway, as of Monday, I will be sitting in my new cube (in the middle of the building, so no windows in the whole suite) doing my new job. As of December 26, 2004, I will officially be a Legislative Affairs Specialist, GS-301-09, step 1.