Well, this week was busy, all right. It was so busy, in fact, that I got behind on my daily Twitter posts twice and had to play catch-up. There were plenty of amazing things that happened, though, and I’m happy to share them all here.
Day 16 was EPIC. I went to a special Toastmasters meeting where lunch was served in honor of Bosses’ Day, and then I went to church to participate in formal training to be a chalice-bearer, for the first time. I get the privilege of doing it this coming Sunday, October 28. I’m a little nervous, but I think I can do it. Just like in marching band, the most important thing is to maintain your composure and your professional demeanor, so that you always look like you know exactly what you’re doing.
It was the next part of the day that was truly awesome, though. I went to visit Edwina Nolan (a deacon at our church; name has been changed because she’s fairly well-known in town) to help do tech support for her iPad. She has a Mac desktop in her house, but it’s school district property and she’s retiring this year, so they’re going to take it away at the end of December, so she needed me to help her figure out how to transfer all her documents and contacts onto the iPad she’d just bought to replace it. I had never even had the opportunity to play with an iPad before, but I was familiar with the basic principles on which all Apple software operates, because I used to use that same kind of Mac desktop at a computer lab at UCSB, and because I have iTunes on my PC and used to have an iPod nano. Using a combination of that background knowledge, my general background knowledge of personal computer technology, reading the manual, reading the “For Dummies” book Edwina had, and some Google-Fu, I figured out how to get her e-mail contacts onto the iPad, and how to transfer documents. She said the people at the Apple Store had told her that her email contacts would show up automatically on the iPad, and didn’t understand why they weren’t; I figured out that it was because she had been using a third-party email client, not the native one that comes with the Mac OS. I had to export the contacts from that client (Microsoft Entourage) as a text file, then import them into the native Mac Address Book, then check all the settings in iTunes, then press Sync. She was delighted when her contacts showed up on the iPad. I also found the way to transfer documents using iTunes. It’s a very tedious, multi-step process in iTunes, but I carefully documented it all for Edwina, and we got some of her documents onto the iPad. She was extremely grateful for all my help, and took me out to a really nice dinner at a local restaurant called Crave. I said I would like to come back sometime before the end of December to get iCloud working for her, and she said that would be fine. I’m really proud of the tech work I did last Tuesday. I solved the problems, accomplished the user’s most important goals, and learned some things myself.
Day 17 was fairly stressful for me at work, although it was productive. In the evening, I finally got all the stress that comes with my new job off my chest by talking to Ernesto after our Via Media class. He was very loving and supportive. It really is such a blessing to have someone here who supports me.
On Day 18, things went much better at work, but the best part was when I got home. During this past week, my apartment complex had had Cox Communications technicians come out to upgrade all the cable wiring in all the apartments, so that there would be functioning cable outlets in all the bedrooms, not just in the living room. On the evening of the 18th, after EfM, I came home to discover that not only were there shiny new cable jacks in both of the bedrooms, but the cable guys had also rewired my living room so that there was a functional cable jack on the right-hand side of the sliding door to the patio – the side where I had decided to put my TV. When I had first moved into the apartment, the only functional cable jack in the room had been on the left side of the sliding door, forcing the tech who installed my table to drape a long length of black coaxial cable over the bracket that holds up the blinds on the sliding door. Evidently, the cable guys who had come to do the upgrade had decided to fix that and put a cable jack on the same side of the room as the TV, so the room wouldn’t have to have the cable above the door. The former cable jack on the left side of the room is now covered up with a plain, plastic socket cover. They didn’t have to do that, but they did, which really made me smile.
On Day 19, I received a compliment from a coworker on how helpful I was with troubleshooting. In the room where I work, there are several different teams that troubleshoot various kinds of problems, and we often have to work together to isolate and classify a particular problem. On Friday, I helped out one of the software application support teams twice, and was thanked for all my help.
After work, I went to the annual Trivia Night and Basket Raffle at my church. The questions were about pop culture, history, advertising slogans, and sports. It was the sports and history questions that really got us. Even though I was on a team with Ernesto, Susan, their friend Verlyn, and a couple of other people who I didn’t know, we didn’t win any prizes for trivia. However, I did win two of the baskets that were raffled off. One of them was filled with tea, shortbread cookies, a cute throw blanket, and a selection of books. The other contained two hand-knitted pot holders, a bag of sugar, a bag of chocolate chips, a whole bunch of baking spices, and a plastic container of homemade chocolate chips. This was the basket I had really wanted, so I was really excited to win it. Before Friday, I hadn’t had any spices in the house at all except for salt and pepper shakers, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, and the ones Ernesto gave me as a housewarming present. Now, I have all the spices I need for my holiday baking.
Day 20 was a quiet, pleasant Saturday at work. I got caught up on email, got some required online training done, and learned more about how to do my job and what is expected of me. Then I came home and did some voice-acting work, including finally making a new set of sample recordings to give out to prospective clients on Fiverr. My old sample recordings no longer reflect my product accurately, because they were recorded in completely different rooms with completely different acoustics than my current office. Now, I have sample recordings that I can distribute with pride and confidence.
Day 21 was awesome. I started my day by going to what was, sadly, the last farmer’s market of the year. There won’t be any more until April or May of next year. I bought most of the ingredients I needed for the chili I plan on making tomorrow morning. Then I went to church, where I learned that we are putting on Trunk or Treat event for Halloween. (For those who don’t know: We’re all driving to church, parking in the parking lot as a group, and distributing candy to kids out of our car trunks.) I was excited about this, and since it was a beautiful, sunny day and I had tons of energy, I decided to go out and get ready. I decided that if I was going to buy Halloween candy and costumes, I was going to support locally-owned, independent businesses when I did, so I went to Mangelsen’s for candy, pumpkin-carving tools, a decorative garland for my door, and a candy bowl, then bought a pumpkin from a farmer’s stand in their parking lot, then went to a local Goodwill store, and then to Fairytail Costumes, where I found a good vest, sash, and pants to improve on my pirate costume from Talk Like a Pirate Day. Then I sat at Starbucks and did some reading for EfM, and then I went to the grocery store, where I got regular groceries, the rest of the stuff for my chili, and a second pumpkin (one will go on my balcony, the other outside my door). That was a really fun day.
Today, Day 22, has been pretty low-key so far. When I got home last night and looked at my receipt from the Goodwill store, I realized that I had bought two shirts, but they had only rung up one of them. So I went back to the store and explained what had happened, and that I wanted to pay for the second shirt. At first the cashier said I didn’t have to worry about it, but I said something like, “Are you sure?”, and she agreed to accept the $3.85 for the second shirt, but also give me a $5 Goodwill gift certificate. Wow! I wasn’t expecting a reward like that.
Next week’s update will not be the last. I will continue to write weekly updates about what’s going on in my life on this blog, although I will stop counting the days, like I have been.
Wow, is this challenge half-over already? Here’s the roundup of the amazing things I did during the second week of the 31 Amazing Days Challenge. (And yes, I will be posting one of these posts every Monday for the remainder of October.)
On Day 9, I attended my second Toastmasters meeting since I moved, and officially committed to joining my local club. I also invented my own main dish for dinner: broccoli trees wrapped in bacon and sprinkled with the sandwich spice mix from Penzey’s Spices, a local business just up the street from me. This was my first time using the spices that my godfather had given me as a housewarming present. My creation was pretty tasty.
On Day 10, I used my new health insurance card for the very first time, to get a company-provided flu shot at an on-site clinic set up in one of our meeting rooms. I also put up my scarecrow decoration on the door of my apartment, adding a touch of autumn cheer, and I spent part of the day relaxing and reading some good books.
Day 11 was a work day. I beat my previous personal best for the number of productive tasks completed in a single workday, for the third time this month. I also donated money to a friend in need. (I won’t give any more details, because I said I wanted to be anonymous.)
On Day 12, I took my problem-solving and troubleshooting at work to a new level of effort. I also went into my Mint.com account and updated my monthly budget information, which I had originally put in about a year ago. Things have changed a lot since then, of course.
Day 13 was a Saturday at work, and I got the opportunity to learn not just one, but two new skills from one of my coworkers. I also collaborated with two coworkers to troubleshoot a particular problem, an experience which is now officially my first funny tech support story. The guy we were talking to over the phone was from a location where they were working on their internal network, and they had decided to plug one of their end devices directly into our router, so it would still be on the network. With a regular straight-through cable. My colleague, Patrick, and I both knew perfectly well that that was not going to work; it will work if you use a crossover cable, or if you do the normal thing and put a switch in between the two. I politely suggested that the client do the latter, and he did, and it worked. I maintained a professional demeanor until after I got off the phone, but it was funny.
The other cool thing I did on Day 13 (Saturday) was transfer Kindle books checked out from the Omaha Public Library onto my phone for the first time. That was really, really cool. I’m grateful that my library provides this service. You check it out through the library’s Web site, and get the book through your Amazon.com account. The book file stays on your Kindle or device with a Kindle application on it (in my case, my new phone) for 7 or 14 days, depending on what you select (I selected 14), and then automatically disappears from the device.
On Day 14, after church, I felt really energized and wanted to go on an adventure, so I went out and explored a new shopping center, Village Pointe. While I was there, I went to a restaurant for lunch, where ran into my friends the Vann family from church, and we chatted for a bit. In the evening, I took a writing test that required me to write a sample article of at least 200 words on my choice of ten different topics. I chose the only one I felt I had any kind of expertise on – interviewing for jobs. Today at around noon, I discovered that I had passed and had been awarded the $10 bonus that was promised to everyone who passed. There will be a second round of reviews of the quality of the articles, and those writers who make the cut will be offered the chance to write more articles for more pay in the future.
Once again, today, Day 15, has been amazing so far. I picked up and put away a few things this morning, and completed my paperwork for my new Toastmasters club. Then I went to volunteer at Food Bank for the Heartland, which I do every other Monday. The last two times, I helped pack food in boxes, but this time, I got to do something different. I helped stick labels on plastic bags for the Backpacks Program, and I helped sort food donations into bins. That was, hands down, my favorite volunteer task that I’ve done there so far. I hope I get to do it again next time. While I was there, I also learned that there will be a Chili Cookoff there next weekend. I plan to enter. After that, I went and dropped off my recycling, and then I came here, to my favorite hangout (Jones Brothers Cupcakes) to write this blog entry. This evening, I plan to do some laundry, some recording, and maybe watch some of the special features on the DVD I currently have out from Netflix. I watched the movie, The Italian Job (the original version with Michael Caine) last night.
After two and a half months of living on my own, I think I’m finally starting to find my groove. I’ve finally found the self-motivation to get things done on a daily basis, like managing finances, taking care of my apartment, and working toward personal goals. I think this challenge has really helped me to find and embrace this now state of mind, a state of mind in which fulfilling everyday responsibilities and achieving personal goals feel less like burdens to be avoided and more like opportunities to be enjoyed. I’m pretty happy about this.
This upcoming week will be the busiest and most exciting week I’ve had since I came here. Check back next Monday for a complete rundown.
[Sorry - had too many other things to do today]
“I see,” said Enrico. “So all we have to do is find the homes or shops that bear these crests or symbols and deliver the letters there.”
“Precisely,” said Lorenzo. “There’s a set route in which we usually visit the houses when we’re delivering letters within the city. We usually start with Birmingham Manor and then travel around the city from west to east. Are you ready for your first task?”
“I believe so,” said Enrico.
“The carts are designed to be pushed by both of you, working together,” said Lorenzo. “Good luck.”
“You… are you mad?” Lorenzo asked.
“No, good sir, I simply care that much for him,” answered Richard.
“I look forward to getting to know you better. You are willing to work, though, correct?”
“From what I can gather, I don’t have a choice. It’s part of the spell.”
“So it is. I’ve seen transmuted attempt to shirk. They cannot. The spell simply forces them to work against their will. Some of them despise the tasks they are set at so much that they feel they simply must scream, even though they have no mouths. Unfortunately, that means that the rest of us have to hear them screaming in our own minds. It’s not pleasant.”
“I see. In any case, yes, of course I’m willing to work. Even if I did have a choice, I would still do it willingly.”
“Very well. That’s quite enough time for chat. Efficiency and hard work are expected of us transmuted, especially in the matter of delivering letters. Come here, and I’ll teach you how it’s done.”
“Are you the director of this operation?” Enrico inquired.
“In a sense,” said Lorenzo. “I’m only six weeks away from the end of my term of sentence, so I’ve been around for a long time by transmuted standards. I often volunteer to show newcomers what their jobs are. Markus knows this and considers me trustworthy to perform that function. Among ourselves, though, we really don’t have anything like a system of superiors and inferiors. We know we’re all criminals sentenced to the same punishment.”
“Oh,” said Enrico.
Lorenzo showed them to one of the handcarts. “These letters are all going to destinations within the city,” he explained. “They have all been sealed by their senders, but as you can see-” he took out one of the letters to show them- “they have all been marked on the other side with the crest or symbol of their intended recipients.”
“Isn’t it,” agreed Lorenzo. “But, from what people who knew me before have told me, when other people hear my voice in their mind, it sounds exactly like my voice did before.”
“Oh,” Enrico thought. “Well, that’s reassuring. Hey, Richard, are you hearing this?”
“No, I’m not. Can you send thoughts to more than one other person at once?”
“Yes, you can,” Lorenzo answered, “but only by consciously willing it. I’m doing it right now, as a demonstration. Hello, new Eighty-nine. I’m Lorenzo, what’s your real name?”
“Richard Pulsipher. Pleased to meet you.”
“Pleased to meet you, too. Aren’t you a native citizen?”
“Yes, actually I am. How can you tell? Do I still have an accent when you hear my voice in your mind?”
“No, you don’t. There are no accents in thought-speech among the transmuted. There are also no differences of language. I’m ‘hearing’ what you’re saying in Kelzian, and, if I’m not mistaken, you must be hearing what I’m saying in the language of $Kingdom.”
“That’s right! I am! Incredible! Have you been hearing my voice in Kelzian all this time, too, Enrico?”
“Yes, I have,” thought Enrico, “even though I know the language of $Kingdom very well.”
“What does my voice sound like?” thought Richard.
“It sounds completely natural.”
“This is how the spell ensures that all the transmuted can work together with no problems,” explained Lorenzo. “Many of us are from Kelzia, but not all of us are. And you, Mr. Pulsipher, how is it that you came to be transmuted? We’ve never had one of your people here before.”
“I know,” said Richard. “I believe I may be the very first of my people to be thus punished. Actually, I chose to bear half of Enrico’s punishment for him, to make it more bearable for him. I’m his friend.”