Friday, October 30, 2009

At work once again

The program at the whale factory is finally up and running so once again I am employed. I worked the maximum they said we are allowed, which is six hours. My hand hurt after about 3 hours so I switched to the other hand for the last 3 hours. Despite what most people think, using a computer is treacherous work.

I took several breaks to walk around the building and around the neighborhood. The neighborhood is in the rundown area near the airport. I walked around the old drive-in theater that is now long term airport parking. I remember when it was a drive-in. I saw lots of movies there long ago.

Today I found a bicycle hanging from a eugenia tree. I decided that if it is still there next time I go by, I will take it home.

As I walked, I realized how happy I am. It makes me happy that I'm not part of the rat race. I hope I can stay out of the rat race. I like having a job with no stress. I think I need to always live this way. Life is not worth living when it is full of stress no matter how much money they give you.

I have been reading web sites written by people who rejected normal society. It is interesting reading. Some of them live in a way that reminds me of the PCT. They live by trail magic every day. Others of them do other things, such as run an urban homestead growing 6000 lbs of food on only 1/10th of an acre of land in the middle of the city. Some people threw all care to the wind, put on a backpack and traveled the world. It is interesting to read how they get by. It gives me hope for the future.

It's not that I plan to completely drop out. I like to work. I enjoy the camaraderie of the workplace and feeling like I'm a part of things.

What concerns me is that it seems that I no longer have the opportunities I once had. Doors seem less open to me than when I was younger. It may be the economy or it may be permanent because of my age. The southern California sun and all my hiking haven't exactly been kind to my skin. Whatever the reason, it does not seem wise to be too dependent on the whims of the current system.

Reading about how other people survive gives me hope for my own future. I have more options than I thought. Somehow I will survive, too. I just have to take it one day at a time, and stay always in the present.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gardening: my economic activity for the day

My job at the whale farm hasn't quite begun yet, so I have finally gotten around to planting my fall garden. I had planted some stuff last year and I was surprised to see that after our 4.5 inches of rain the other week, chard had voluntarily sprouted itself. So I planted more chard, beets and cilantro.

My garden is very small. The Man says that gophers will destroy any attempts to plant food. Last year I gathered a bunch of big plastic pots, maybe 3 gallon sized, and so instead of a normal garden, I planted my garden in the pots. I used dirt from the ground and compost mixed together. Some of the pots have planting mix, too, but I ran out of that. It doesn't seem to matter much. The plants will grow.

While I fiddled with my pots, I heard a strange noise. I thought maybe I was about to be attacked by insects. I looked, but it was only the neighbor's chickens staring at me and making little buzzing noises. I've wondered if I put nests in our back yard if the chickens might defect over to our side. They certainly like our compost bin. I have a chicken nest somewhere I bought for our big white bird. She wasn't interested in it, despite how many times we've called her a big white chicken.

Last year I grew lettuce in my garden. I decided to go for beets this time instead. With beets you can eat the roots and the leaves. I made a beet green soup once and served it with feta cheese and crusty bread. The Man thought it was delicious. I think he would have turned up his nose if I had told him I was making beet green soup before he tasted it.

After I planted my garden, using a big spoon from the kitchen and a watering can—that's how high tech I am—I noticed that our tiny little tangerine tree is covered with fruit. There is so much fruit, the shrub (I can hardly call it a tree) is almost more fruit than leaves. So I picked a big bag. I wonder if pulling off the fruit and leaving a big hunk of peel still attached is bad. That is what seems to happen every time.

Nothing tastes better than tangerines. My little green bird likes them, too. I'm not a fan of oranges. I like tangerines and grapefruit best of the citrus fruits.

I also picked up some large, ripe passion fruit that fell off the monster vine that is taking over the yard. Our big white birds likes those. She'll eat a passion fruit bigger than her big head.

Since I've become mostly locked out of the corporate world (and I'm kind of wondering if that is really so bad) I've come to the conclusion that I need to grow more of what I eat and eat a lot less. The 20 minutes I spent today in my little garden was my economic activity for the day. Let's hope it earned me enough to buy a beer down at the Irish session tonight. At the very least, I've got a thousand calories or so of tangerines in the fridge to show for my efforts. And about 50 calories of chard sprouts to show for no efforts at all.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Our phone is ringing off the hook

Literally. Our phone rings off the hook. In fact, if I engage the receiver of our disconnected phone and then plug it into the jack, there is usually someone on the line.

Sometimes I hear a telemarketing operation at work, or someone hears me, says "oops" and hangs up. Sometimes I hear faint muzac like you hear when you are put on hold. Sometimes I hear a phone sex call with someone saying, "If you are gay, press one. If you are lesbian, press two" and then I hear someone pressing the buttons. I usually hang up before I have to hear the rest.

The other day I picked up the phone and the person on the line said, "Hello? Can you hear me?" So I told him I could hear him. Then he asked if he could speak to Michael. I told him he certainly may not (there isn't even anyone named Michael in our house.) He then started arguing with me. "Why not?" he asked. I told him I didn't appreciate all the harassing phone calls and then he denied harassing me. Perhaps he had no idea he was working for some kind of criminal employer using someone else's phone lines. I hung up.

We tried calling the phone company to have a technician take a look. The first time I called, they said it was a nuisance bureau issue, but the nuisance bureau was not helpful at all. The only thing they could offer was to give us a new phone number. We did not want to do that because we've used this number a long time and lots of people have the number. Also, I think we are interested to find out what is going on and nab the crooks.

The second time, calling a technician worked because we now had a history. And also because I just picked an easy issue from the phone jail press one, press two nonsense just so someone would come out. The technician tried to fix the problem by switching us to a different cable. She acknowledged that she could hear traffic on the line even when the line was not ringing or being answered inside the house. She said it was an odd problem she had never encountered before. She could see no evidence that anyone was physically connected to the line. How could someone use our line if they were not physically connected to it somewhere? We didn't know, either.

The calls continue to come in. So we've decided to escalate by taking our trouble to the police. Our phone line will be traced. We'll see what happens after that.

My hope is that they discover that there's some new kind of phone hack coming from evil spam companies overseas (all the people on the line have accents) and that they'll nab them. It would be an interesting story and very satisfying to know I helped bring down evil spammers. I hate spammers.

At the very least, I hope the police can stop it because the phone is ringing constantly and I'm supposed to let it ring, according to the police.

Update: Shortly after I wrote this, I got a call from my boyfriend. He was at the post office talking to the postmistress who said the same thing happened to her once. It turned out an ex-boyfriend who had hired a service to make harassing phone calls to get even with her. I hope that the police can find this service and put them out of business. It is a felony. I wonder if it is a felony to use a service like this. If so, the person we suspect may have done this could end up in the news.

Greasemonkey scripts

I've been entertaining myself by trying to write Greasemonkey scripts. If what I want to do isn't simple, I install pre-written ones. Greasemonkey scripts are like add-ons for the Firefox browser. I once wrote one for a web company I worked for that earned accolades from the sole user of it. I called it "Cake". Why settle for cookies when you can have Cake? It cleared browser cookies with one click to make it easier to test our web pages. Actually, I called it Cake because that was the closest icon picture I could find to a cookie: a birthday cake.

One I recently installed blocks ads. I feel bad because people try to earn money on their blogs with ads. Who am I to subvert their income? But some of these sites have too many ads. I feel the entire internet has become overrun with ads. So, because a few people couldn't exercise restraint, I've decided to block them from all sites I visit. I will enable them for blogs I like. In that manner, I'll "pay" only for blogs I like.

One script I wrote blocks the annoying habit of making one of the form fields on a page have the cursor automatically placed within it. I hate that because I'll load a page and try to scroll with the arrow key on my laptop but nothing will happen. Now the page will always scroll when I want it to. People could write the same functionality into their automatic form field focus scripts if they thought about user-friendliness, but they don't care about that so they don't. I have now done it for them, at least for myself.

It's my way of trying to keep up my skills during this time of underemployment.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jobs I sometimes think I would like to do

I am going to put this out to the universe and see what comes of it. Here is a list of jobs I sometimes think I would like to do. Maybe I could get a job like one of these someday. Right now, with my whale job, I have few hours left to pursue another job, but maybe that'll give the universe time to work on it. Here is my list, in no particular order:
  • Teach English as a Foreign Language
  • Pool cleaning
  • Delivery driving but not with my own vehicle
  • Interior plant care
  • Waitress
  • Barista
  • Research worker either collecting data/things outdoors or helping gather information indoors (like my whale job)
Why these jobs?

Teaching English and being a waitress or barista are things you can do almost anywhere. If I was good at these things, I could travel all over the place and get jobs when needed. Maybe even travel the world.

Pool cleaning, delivery driving, interior plant care, research worker outdoors all let me move around and be outdoors and exposed to natural light and the seasons. It turns out that these are important things for me.

Pool cleaning would let me be alone in serene conditions most of the time. I would be my own boss.

Teaching English and doing research things use my intelligence. It is nice to be an expert. Teaching English would also be creative, but I worry I might not be creative enough to be a teacher.

Waitress and barista would be fast-paced. The work hours would go by quickly. I would put bartender on the list, but they usually work late at night and I'm a morning person, so I put barista even though it's not the same and doesn't pay the same. If I did bartending, I think I would enjoy doing it for a catering venue.

Interior plant care would involve plants. It's not that close to nature, but it's a little closer than sitting in front of a computer all day.

If I think of any more jobs, I'll add them to the list.

Sierra Club sold our addresses

Do you think it is proper for an environmental organization to sell your address to people who send you junk mail? I don't. But that is what they've done.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Whole chicken dinner

The other day I bought a whole chicken from Trader Joe's. It was cheaper per pound than buying boneless, skinless breasts and only slightly more expensive than just drumsticks. The whole chicken was a little over $11.

I put onions and celery in the cavity and rubbed salt on the skin. Then I put it in the oven and cooked it at 350° until it was 165° inside. I used a meat thermometer. Actually, I used the probe that comes with our oven.

I cooked the chicken liver with the chicken and took that out early for a tasty appetizer.

I served the wings and legs for dinner. The skin turned out crispy on top, which was delicious, and the meat fell off the bone. Compliments received were that it was the best tasting chicken ever eaten. I think that is because of the skin.

After dinner, I took the remaining meat off the bone and put it in the freezer so we can make burritos or other things later. Then I cut up some more celery and onions and put them in a crock pot. I added some fresh rosemary and basil (leftover from the garden and going bad quickly), salt, the carcass, and remaining gizzards and neck. I added water until it looked right. I cooked it in the crockpot on low overnight.

In the morning I strained out the broth and put it in leftover spaghetti jars in the freezer. I didn't want to waste all the onions and celery and bits of meat from making the broth, so I scooped out as much of that as I could without getting bits of bone and saved it. I added these leftovers to some jarred spaghetti sauce and served it over pasta. It came out good.

I probably should have cut the breasts I froze in half. They are probably too big for a single meal. I think that a whole chicken can make at least six dinners for two people. Maybe eight because we really didn't need to eat the legs and the wings. I think those could have been two servings.

Seems like a good deal. If only I could get the chicken from a real farmer. Even though Trader Joe's calls it a "natural" chicken, I don't know what that means, and it was obvious the poor creature had been genetically engineered to have such a huge breast as to render it incapable of standing for any length of time. When you eat a chicken whole, the dark meat becomes more important, so in my opinion, a huge breast isn't so important on a whole chicken.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I returned to my whale job today. We had a practice session to review the procedures for identifying the sounds of whales and using the software. Lots of returnees from last year. It was great to see everyone again.

It's a great job. I am treated so well there. Everyone is so nice. I wish it were more permanent, but it is a difficult job to do so maybe it is good that it is not long-term.

I signed up for 27 hours per week. I hope that leaves me enough time to either do a little bit of freelance on the side or else to find another part-time job. It is my hope that another part-time job will appear right when I need it, just like how things I needed appeared while I hiked the trail.

Meanwhile, I read a great web site by a guy who lives without money at all. A lot of what he had to say reminded me of how it seemed to work on the trail. Somehow things always seem to work out.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Two extraordinary happenings this week

Two extraordinary things happened this week, both involving music.

The first was attending the Fiddler's Convention. I went not expecting anything in particular but ended up having a great time. I felt like I knew half the people there. I saw people from my part-time job, people from the garden where I volunteer, people from the jam session, and people from the Irish session. My favorite "local" Celtic band, Molly's Revenge, was playing. A special guest performed and it turned out all her music sounded really familiar so I went home and it turned out I had a couple of her albums. So many days while hiking the PCT I thought of how much I missed playing music in the park and at the session and the people from the various things I do and here they all were all together. It seemed kind of like magic. A reminder of all the things I missed about home while on the trail.

The second extraordinary thing was attending the Irish session last night. It was a particularly good time. The new organizer is the best thing to happen to the session. He has invited his friends and students so there were people to play with us and people to listen. There was even a woman with Scottish bagpipes. Wow! Those are loud!

So many times I would be hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail and an Irish tune would start playing in my head. Sometimes I could not remember the whole tune and I would wrack my brain trying to get myself to remember. Last night at the session they played some of those tunes and it was like having an instant flashback to the trail. I could see in my mind the place on the trail when the tune was in my head, a clear and perfect memory. The Rambling Pitchfork while coming down from Mt. Jefferson in Oregon was one of these visions. A reminder of moments on the trail, good times I miss about the trail.

The trail has been such a big part of my life. It is sad that it is over. But I have the memories. Even if I can never find another good job and have to make do with a cardboard sign, I will always have the memories.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I miss the trail today

Today I feel sadness and longing for the trail. I miss it.

These feelings were triggered when I heard a bird outside that reminded me of the bird sounds on the trail. I walked outside in the cold air and remembered the cold morning air of the trail. I hiked this weekend and felt out of place in such a dry, brown landscape. I tried to remind myself that this landscape is my home, but my heart was remembering the moist forest of the trail.

I still have not found a job. I had an interview with a small company. It seemed like it might be a nice place to work. Today as I walked to the La Huerta garden to do my volunteer work, and then walked home with a huge bag of fresh bananas and tomatoes, I kept thinking to myself that these could be the last days of my freedom. I don't want to return to the cubicle.

Perhaps I should just get a retail job. Serve some coffee. Stay free just a little while longer. I can listen to the whales again. Slide by on low wage, low stress labor. Take community college courses. Will The Man in the house understand?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Being frugal

So far I'm without a job. Like last year between my hikes, I have to be frugal. I have perused many frugal-oriented and simple living web sites but the advice they have is mostly about shopping.

What I mean is, there are tons of tips out there on how to acquire things cheaply. But there are few tips on how to make a little extra money. You can find such tips out there, but they tend not to be on frugal or simple living web sites.

To me, part of living simply and frugally is not acquiring things. I appreciate the tips on how to get things cheaply, but if I don't need anything, there is not much I can do with the information to improve my situation. What is really needed by me are ways to bring in a little extra money.

I have found a few ideas that I might be able to do. I could help someone move or let them load my truck full of junk to take to the dump. I could do what I already do now and help people with their web sites. I could run errands for people. I've tried replying to ads to test products and serve on mock jury panels but have not gotten any response. If I was a better musician, I could play my pennywhistle on the street. Maybe I could do that without being any good. The bongo guy still plays after all these decades with no improvement in his rhythm whatsoever. Somehow he manages.

I wish the chickens that live next door but hang out in our yard would lay some eggs in our yard. Acquiring free food is nearly the same as money since I need new food all the time. What I need is a banana tree and a small vegetable garden impervious to gophers. And I also need about $700 a month to squeak by. If only that could grow in a garden, too.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Trail running in my future?

I've admired people who can run on trails. My local trails are very steep and so the people who can run on them have to be very fit. I wish I could be like them so I've decided to try running.

I have started by running a few miles around town. You would think that someone who can hike 25 miles in a day would be in really great shape, but I am not. Running isn't the same and I get tired much quicker.

I had the pleasant experience recently of feeling like it is getting easier to run. That encourages me to continue. I may be ready to add some more miles or possibly some hills. I find even running through the underpass to be difficult, so hills are definitely something I need to work on.