We are in the midst of the second major snow fall in a week, one of a record string of winter storms to hit the mid-atlantic over the last few weeks. Over the weekend, we easily received over two feet of snow and early on, about 3AM Saturday, lost power. We shivered our way through until we managed to get kerosene for a new portable heater on Monday, about three hours before power was restored.
Both boys held up admirably throughout the sixty hours without power. For the first day and a half, they plugged away at their portable game systems, actually playing in bursts to extend play time rather than immediately burning through their batteries. They are both active readers so were happy to quietly read while bundled up for warmth after the batteries died. As a treat, I popped in a disc of cartoons Sunday night into my laptop which I left unused for that very reason. We managed to watch about two hours of cartoons before its charge ran down.
We got out Monday night and early Tuesday to re-stock for the front currently making its way through the area. We’re now loaded for bear with a good stock of foods we can cook on the grill or eat cold if needed. We have a full tank of propane and two and a half tanks worth of kerosene for the heater. Andrea also snagged an overflowing bag of books from the library. Hopefully we are over-prepared but rather that than getting caught, like the weekend, not ready for an extended black out.
Andrea’s aunt lives in Winter Park, pretty close to Walt Disney World and the other attractions in Orlando. We decided to take a mini-trip, driving up from south Florida to spend the day at the Magic Kingdom and stay over night in Winter Park.
Andrea took the opportunity to try one of the spa’s at the Disney resorts while I took the boys into the park. It was pretty crowded when we arrived early afternoon and we immediately got stuck in line for lunch. The lines continued to be long the rest of the day but unlike the food line, the ride lines moved very quickly.
Before we met up with Andrea, we explored Adventureland. We led off with a ride through the Haunted Mansion, then a trip around Tom Sawyer’s Island on the Liberty Belle. I though the river boat would take us over but I was mistaken. It was probably just as well since it gave us all a chance to sit rather than running around the island. Next we defied the 40-minute wait sign and rode The Pirates of the Caribbean. The additions from the movies were nowhere near as obnoxious as I would have feared. We finished out Adventureland with a walk through the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House, at the boys’ insistence. I was a bit surprised but they clearly enjoyed it.
After we collected Andrea in front of Cinderella’s castle, we hit Tomorrowland. We started with a ride on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority so the boys would get a sampling of the rides and attractions in that part of the park. We all enjoyed it, especially the sneak peek into some of the newer additions. We snagged a Fast Pass for the Buzz Lightyear ride then got in line for the Speedway. Liam of course wanted to drive while Calum showed his budding pre-teen sulk and just passively rode alongside Andrea.
We then decided to see the Carousel of Progress for a lark. It was as dated and silly as we expected, even the relatively new addition from the 80′s.
We caught a very nice dinner at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe then headed over to Main Street. We had some ice cream then shopped for the souvenirs I had promised the boys for their patience and good behavior. I really was surprised at how well they dealt with the lines and the heat. Better yet, their good behavior was unprompted. They were so enthralled with the park that they didn’t squabble or fuss.
With Goofy hat firmly planted on my head, I led everyone back to Tomorrowland. We had just enough time before our Fast Pass came up for one more ride, so we tried out the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. It was better than I expected. The live audience interaction made it more enjoyable than a themed comedy act would have been on its own.
The Buzz Lightyear ride was definitely worth the wait. It reminded me of the long gone Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, frenetic and crazily lit. Each car in the ride had a joy stick to spin it and a pair of blasters to shoot out targets scattered throughout the tide. The long line and multiple hour wait for the Fast Pass definitely seemed justified.
We got a bit snarled in the crowd watching the Main Street Electrical Parade. It was quite a bit different than the version I remembered from my youth but enjoyable nonetheless. We managed to fight the crowd, moving upstream back to the monorail.
The boys had such a good time they asked to go back the following morning. Thankfully, they took it in good graces when we said no since we spent the morning with Andrea’s aunt and then had to get on the road back to Grammie’s.
Everyone had such a good time that I suspect we may do more planning around Disney World for next year, for either a longer stay or trying to get a bit more out of the park in a single day than we did this year.
On our second day in town, we headed out to the Sawgrass Recreation Park to take an air boat ride through the glades. Sunday we pretty much just recovered from our late arrival the night before. Monday was very warm so we took the kids to see a movie. Yesterday was just about right, clear and a bit cool. We almost thought we would get rained out on the drive down but the sunshine held out.
After a short wait, we packed into a boat with about two dozen other tourists. The large boat was driven by two enormous propellers, we all got free foam ear plugs with our tickets. The boat captain was able to give us some good information about the wildlife as we rode out. From the dock, I was expecting the ride to be a bit monotonous. Sitting down on the flat boat hull, though, just inches off the water makes all the difference. When he gunned the props, the ride was exhilarating. When the boat coasted, it was calm, almost serene.
Most of the wildlife we saw were birds. We actually got to see some rare ones, notably a flight of glossy ibis. I got many good pictures from both out on the boat and the park’s wildlife exhibits. It was apparently a bit too cooler for the gators, we only saw one though from a very close distance. I was astonished at how well some of the raptors we saw blended into their surroundings and impressed at the distance from which the boat captain was able to spot them so he could bring us in for a closer look.
After the ride, we walked through the wildlife exhibits. The park apparently takes in injured and abused animals, ones that for various reasons cannot be returned to the wild. Liam actually held a baby gator, a small snake and a bearded lizard. There was also a bit of excitement over an escaped chicken pecking around the pens with the domestic and semi-domestic animals. Andrea and I definitely enjoyed the exotic animals section the most, mostly the big cats.
They had a Florida mountain lion, though he was sacked out under a ramp and difficult to get a clear view of. They also had two black leopards. One of the pair got up while we were there and played around about before resettling perched on a large rock. More of a surprise, they had two wolves, a timber wolf and an arctic wolf. Not surprising at all, they were also dozing through the afternoon heat.
As Calum said when I was chatting with him on the way back to the car, it was better than expected. I am glad we went and will be posting my pictures once we return home to our more stable, and definitely faster, fiber connection.
Since we missed seeing my family at Christmas, we decided to take an extended trip for Spring Break. Our flight last night was uneventful other than being about an hour late. We got into the air port with plenty of time to spare and had a delicious, relaxing dinner before heading to our gate.
Both boys now have their own Nintendo DSs and with head phones they can easily disappear into a game for an hour at a time. All the same, they clearly were getting antsy, asking after our plane’s arrival. Given how late we disembarked, I was surprised they did not conk out on the plane. I guess the novelty of having their own individual TV at the seat, even though they have flown almost exlcusively on jetBlue their whole lives thus far, kept them up.
Needless to say everyone’s nerves were a bit frayed when we arrived but we managed to collect our bags and hit the road without incident. A few minutes after we left the airport, soft snores could be heard from the back seat. Grammie spotted a traffic snarl on the way in and we consulted quickly on an alternate route to her place. We managed to avoid getting stuck and got both boys into bed with only a little further pre-adolescent drama.
Today Andrea took them to the pool to splash around for a bit but otherwise it has been a lazy Sunday as we recover from the late night and ponder what to do with the full week and a few days ahead.
Sorry these are coming so late. We are having a pretty low key Christmas, with agreed upon spending limits and in one case, foregoing gift exchange altogether this year.
- Lego Agent sets
- Lego Star Wars sets
- A WebKinz eagle or a snake
- Lego Agent sets
- Lego Star Wars sets
- The new J.K. Rowling book, about Beedle the Bard
- Any of the Heinleins Juveniles or Andre Norton’s YA titles (I want to introduce him to these)
- Ben 10 Alien Force for the Wii
Getting the boys to come with ideas has been like pulling teeth this year, hence the brevity of their lists. Really, anything Pokemon, Star Wars or Harry Potter will go over well with them. Neither of them have any of the Agent sets from Lego so that is probably the safety bet when it comes to Lego kits. They have tons of Star Wars and Bionicle sets, they tend to buy those on their own with their allowance. Though it is Lego and most of what they get ends up in the massive bin within a week so duplicates aren’t a big deal.
Gift certificates for Barnes and Noble for the boys are also appreciated since we enjoy the experience of going to the book store and picking out something new for them to read.
I would also appreciate any contributions to their 529 accounts. Email me for details if you are interested.
Andrea’s and my Amazon lists are up to date. Andrea is also interested in a gift certificate for Knit Picks since she has gotten more into knitting. I also would appreciate gift certificates for ThinkGeek since I always ogle the catalog but never given into the frivolity.
After I received the job offer I wrote about in my last post, I received two more offers. It is funny, not necessarily “ha ha”, how the damn burst once I got that first offer. The other two offers came from companies that found me, rather than ones I found and to whom I applied. One of them is a large government contractor with a respectable history in aerospace and defense. I got a couple more contacts from high profile software companies after I received that first offer.
I won’t complain about the lateness of the offers and peak in interest. That is just the way of things. I am just grateful that my patience, optimism, and perseverance were ultimately rewarded especially considering the general state of the market.
I considered the offers for a few days and accepted one. I start work at that new job on Monday. I am understandably relieved though the new payroll is monthly and the start date ideally should have been a week ago to mesh seamlessly with our budget. We have enough in savings to bridge the gap but it reinforces that this will simply be a lean holiday season.
The new company makes educational software, is several years old, and has a large customer base. They are well recognized in their space but still small and growing. My role there will be a technical one with team management responsibilities. The environment is very similar to my favorite jobs over the past ten years. The role is also consistent with my professional development to date.
The best news I have had in just over two months. One of the companies I have been courting made an offer last night. Given where the company is at in its growth, the role and, to be honest, the state of the market and economy, it is a very reasonable offer. I have not accepted, yet, but have committed to make a decision this coming week. I have already started notifying the other leads I have been pursuing. I will be calling the rest first thing on Monday, since at least one has scheduled an interview for this coming week which we may want to either expedite or cancel.
The employer making the offer has impressed me from the start, not in the least because they moved very quickly and professionally throughout the interview process. The role is very consistent with the leadership responsibilities I have enjoyed throughout much of my career and maintains a central focus on the programming work. There is also a unique window because of the timing that will actually allow me to learn about their product and code before having to start leading a team. A little bit of a perfect storm.
I’ll post later in the week when I submit my decision but you can guess based on my writing so far how excited and relieved I am right now.
The timing of the offer is also serendipitous because Andrea and I get to keep our plans for an overnight trip this weekend, too, to celebrate our anniversary and spend time with friends. We had been preparing to cancel during the last couple of days due to the budgeting impact. This trip will be a nice reward for the rigors of the search and to celebrate the possibility of this new opportunity about which I am very excited.
I have completed three in person interviews this week, two alone today. I have another in person interview, tomorrow, and am trying to schedule a phone call to talk to someone I didn’t get to meet at my interview on Monday. These are all new prospects that have just developed in the last couple of weeks.
A couple of people I have talked to have remarked that many people looking for work right now are failing to secure any interviews. When I start to feel anxious about being unemployed and not having any reasonable offers, yet, this thought gives me some comfort. It also validates my theory that I am as strong a candidate as in past searches but that job market is very depressed and moving very slowly.
As far as I can tell, all of the interviews this week so far went well. The one this morning will require a second interview which I hope to secure and schedule this week. The one tomorrow morning also will require a second interview and I am equally optimistic about that.
Given this spike, it seems reasonable I may have some solid options by the end of the month. I am broadening my search and considering more leads than I normally would to increase my odds. Hopefully I can pin down a few more interviews next week to keep the momentum going until I have something firm in hand.
It seems like the holiday crept up on us this year. Appropriate given its oh so spooky nature. That and being somewhat distracted as you’ll no doubt have gathered from the last couple of posts about my employment status.
Anyway, we managed to pull together the logistics in time, including pumpkins for both boys, recycled and new costumes, and a sufficient candy supply.
In particular, Wednesday night we were kind of dragging our feet about carving up the pumpkins. Making the boys do the heavy lifting of scooping out the pulp and seeds helped. Really, though, it was the anticipation that was worse. Once we were hands on and carving, Andrea and I both had a great deal of fun alongside the boys.
Year after year our neighborhood gets more festive, making the night out all the more fun. As the boys get older, we can also walk further into the neighborhood. We added a new leg to our usual route, specifically to visit a haunted house a few blocks away. Given the option, neither boy wanted the scary version of the walk through. They enjoyed the home built attraction all the same.
The Jedi costume has probably seen its last year, at least for Calum. Liam may be big enough in turn to start wearing it. If so, hopefully Calum will decide far enough ahead for Andrea to sew another long lasting costume.
While the boys made out well on the candy front, we got fewer visitors than expected. We had three bags of candy last year and ran out. I picked up a fourth bag just in case as the number of kids has increased each year. We didn’t even open the fourth bag. Well, we didn’t open it to add to the treat bowl anyway.
My guess, the spooky houses a few blocks away drew them to that end of the neighborhood. Maybe it is time for me to pick a project or two from my Make subscription to start turning our house into a destination, too. The boys are old enough to help and learn along with me which would make it all the more fun.
In this case, no news is exactly that, no news. I still have a small number of leads that may make decisions this week. I’d gladly accept an offer from any of them. I know I have said, in other places, pretty much the same thing last week and the week before. This is the nature of seeking employment, all I can do is present myself well. The decision making processing is out of my control after I’ve sent in the resume, completed the phone screen, and gone in for the interview.
In the meantime, I am back to sifting through the job boards and sending out applications and resumes. I found over a half a dozen interesting opportunities for which I think I am well qualified yesterday alone. I’m sure I’ll suss out a handful more by the end of the week. Hopefully some of those will also net me more phone screens and interviews. The more lines I have in the water, the more likely I am to catch a fish.
If I get down to the end of my resources, I still have options. At the moment, I am being selective in the jobs I pursue. I am looking for the next permanent job for myself, not just something to pay the bills right now. In another couple of months, I will have to shift focus to something simply to make ends meet. In the DC metro area there is a lot of contract work of varying durations, for most of which I am very well qualified. Most of the cold calls I am getting from recruiters are for such contract positions.
I am still hopeful, despite the state of the economy and some belt tightening amongst my preferred employers, start ups, that I will find my next permanent job. If not, I am confident I can secure what I need to keep looking a longer term basis until I do.
By the way, if your employer is looking or you know someone who is looking for a developer well versed in building database drive enterprise and web applications, you can find my resume here.