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300 Seconds Episode #111: “My Coronavirus Story Part 5: Back to Irk”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 111: “My Coronavirus Story Part 5: Back to Irk,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

After being laid off from my job back in April, or a few episodes ago, as the case may be, I started looking for a new job online, and, as many of you Dear Listeners are aware, the pickings in 2020 are pretty slim.  As in-person job fairs are out of the question right now, I attended online virtual job fairs which were just as virtually terrible as the real-life ones, so score one for consistency.

From May to September, I had a total of three interviews including one of those awful virtual ones where you awkwardly record answers to questions into your webcam.  Fortunately, the third time was the charm, and thus, I started a new contract-to-maybe-there’s-possibly-a-chance-you-might-just-could-be-hired gig a few weeks ago.  It would be an understatement to say that I’ve had to make just a few life adjustments in going back to living a nine-to-five life.

The biggest and most immediate adjustment I had to make was to my sleeping habits.  In my effort to lose weight, I had been waking up early in order to go for a walk in the mornings.  But as the Texas summer got hotter and hotter, I shifted to walking in the evenings which of course, meant sleeping in.  According to Google Maps, my new office was about thirty miles away.  That meant that I had to wake up pretty early to make it to work on time.  Funny thing about me:  I don’t have trouble waking up early.  Once I hear my alarm, I’m up.  No problem there.  But as a night owl, going to bed early is something of a challenge.  So while I might be up at five-thirty in the morning, I won’t exactly be “up and at ‘em.”

Thus, a morning commute became a thing again, and of course, with a commute comes traffic.  I had to drive from one side of San Antonio to the other, so my commute was going to be thirty miles of suck regardless of which route I took.  I eventually settled into taking the route that presented the most opportunities to stop for breakfast along the way.  Being stuck in a traffic jam is much easier to deal with when you have a Breakfast on a Bun from Whataburger along for the ride.

My new job has me working in an office, so that means I have to ‘mask up’ every day.  Since my pandemic travels up to this point were limited to the grocery store and the occasional drive-thru window, I had been making do with a few cloth masks, or the occasional shop towel mask whenever those were in the wash.  I now needed enough masks so that I could wear a different one each day.  I also had to get masks with solid colors or patterns that would be office-appropriate.  Of course, in the process of doing so, I ended up buying one or two that fit too tight because I have a big head.  Another fun big head thing that I have to deal with was that some masks would begin to irritate my ears after several hours of wearing.  Fortunately, I improvised an ‘ear saver’ using a rubber band and a pair of paper clips.

If there is one thing that I definitely need at work, it’s coffee.  I rarely drink it outside of the office, but when it’s provided by the company, then I am more than happy to partake.  When working from home, I would enjoy an occasional cup of Nescafe to keep the neurons firing.  I don’t know if this is how the new office works or if this is a virus thing, but there isn’t any coffee available at the office.  There aren’t any vending machines where I can grab a soda, either, and at the risk of being ‘that guy:’ I CAN’T WORK UNDER THESE CONDITIONS. 

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, but Will’s not here so I have to solve my own problems.  I happen to have a mini-fridge that holds six cans of soda.  I’d purchased it during my days as a field technician, but that’s a story for another time.  In any case, problem solved!  Almost.  In the interest of watching my budget, I bought generic diet cola.  I quickly began to notice that I wasn’t feeling the caffeine boost that I was accustomed to getting from a soda in the afternoon; my metaphorical tail was still dragging after chugging one down.  I randomly checked the ingredients on the can one day and discovered, to my horror, that generic soda contained less than half the caffeine of the name brand stuff.  I guess that’s why it costs a buck and a quarter for a six-pack!

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I set my alarm.  For more witty words written by me, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening.  Be good, take care and God Bless.

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300 Seconds Episode #110-“Freaking Metal Phones”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice.

Click here to listen to the episode!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 110, “Freaking Metal Phones,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

I’ve owned a number of smartphones over the years, starting with a T-Mobile Dash running Windows Mobile 6 over a decade ago.  Since then, I bounced over to Android, went through a weird time when I had a not-so-smartphone, enjoyed Windows Phone for a spell until Microsoft gave up on it, and had a few iPhones. I currently have an Android phone…for now.

I’ve never really been overcome with ‘techno-lust’ when shopping for a phone, probably because I tend to think of my smartphone as a communications device.  I use it for email, social media, and yes, the occasional phone call or text message.  I don’t watch movies or TV shows or listen to music on it, and I don’t think I’ve ever installed a game on my phone, except maybe for spending a few weeks with Angry Birds just like everybody else.

That lack of techno-lust combined with my desire to not overspend on a phone, meant that I ended up with quite a few ‘middle of the road’ (and yes, occasionally cheap) phones.  Nearly all of those phones had cases made of plastic or rubber or some kind of weirdo mix between the two.  Because I wasn’t spending a lot of money on my phone, I never felt the need to buy a case for it because replacing the phone would be fairly inexpensive if something bad were to happen.  Also, when you buy a less-expensive phone, cases tend to be harder to find. It’s like the people that make them are busy concentrating on the folks with money. You know, those rich folks buying iPhones and Galaxys. I was also lucky to have never cracked a screen despite my occasional case ofthe butterfingers.  And sure, that plastic case might pick up a ding or a scuff here and there, but I could live with that.

Naturally, all that changed a few years ago when I decided to quit being a cheapskate and buy a ‘nice phone’ in the form of an iPhone 6.  I’ll admit, the little nerd in my head went ‘ooh, shiny’ when the guy at the store took it out of the box.  As part of the deal, I was entitled to some free accessories.  The salesman encouraged me to get a case for my phone, and I agreed. After all, I didn’t want anything bad to happen to my shiny new phone!  And a free case? So much the better!  I dutifully picked one out and watched as the salesman turned my sexy shiny new phone into a hulking slab of plastic and rubber that was impervious to harm.  I could even clip it onto my belt for quick access.

For the most part, I very rarely ever saw that shiny iPhone 6 exterior ever again, which made me wonder: what was the point of a cell phone having a pretty exterior if it was just going to be covered up by a case?  Granted, part of my paranoia about my iPhone 6 being damaged was due to the fact that I had bought it on a payment plan, but when I upgraded to an iPhone SE later on, I repeated the process of buying a hard case despite having paid for that one in full up front.

iOS eventually got on my nerves to the point where I decided to go back to Android, so I bought a mid-range Android phone; an unlocked Moto G5 Plus.  Like my iPhones, it too had a metal case, though not quite as shiny as the iPhones had been.  This time around, I finally got over my phone damage paranoia and didn’t buy a heavy-duty deluxe polycarbonate drop-proof shock-proof bomb-proof bear-proof case for it.  Now, I wasn’t about to let my phone go au natural because I didn’t want the metal to be scratched up to all heck, so I bought a fairly relatively inexpensive rubber case.  I liked it because it doesn’t make the phone that much bigger, so I can slip it into my pocket instead of having it clipped to my belt.

I don’t know when I’ll be buying my next phone, but I think I’m over metal at this point.

A few weeks after I bought it, I noticed that my Moto was getting a little grimy around the edges so I took off the rubber case in order to give the screen a proper wipe-down.  I looked at the back of the phone, and lo and behold, I saw a dent in the metal.

Crap.

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I go to Amazon to buy a hard case for my phone.  Subscribe via your favorite podcast app, and for more wonderfully weird words written by me, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com. Thank you for listening!  Be good, take care, and God Bless.

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Why You Should Not Vote 2020

Why You Should Not Vote, by A. Citizen

I would like to begin by thanking those of you are not registered to vote. I would also like to thank those of my fellow citizens that will be too busy to vote. This message is not for you. 

Instead, I would like to address those of my fellow citizens who intend to cast your vote this Tuesday.  If you have already voted, then this message comes to you too late, but if you could keep listening for next time, it would be greatly appreciated.

I will begin by saying that you should pay no mind to those well-meaning people who say “If you don’t vote, then you have no right to complain.”  I would like to take this moment to remind you that we have free speech in the United States of America.  So complain as much as you want.  When candidates that represent your views are not elected, resulting in laws that you support not being passed.  I will be more than happy to listen to your complaining.

The main reason that I don’t want you to vote is that by not voting, you make my vote count more.  And who am I?  I may be a conservative, a liberal, or somewhere in between.  I may be for or against gay marriage, abortion, universal healthcare, marijuana legalization, and civil rights.  I may be rich from birth, rich from hard work, living from paycheck to paycheck, or struggling to survive.  I may have been born on the same day as you; or be old enough to be your parent or your grandparent, or be young enough to be your child. I may be happily single, happily married, or even happily divorced.  I might think that black lives matter, that all lives matter or maybe that no lives matter.  I might  completely support your views or find them to be completely absurd.  That said, you can be rest assured that I will use my vote wisely.

“But voting in my state is pointless,” you say, “My candidate has no chance of winning my state in the presidential election!”  You may be right.  In fact, by not voting, you are definitely making that a true statement.  Besides, if you don’t care enough to vote for the President, you probably don’t care enough to vote for senators, representatives, mayors, city councilors, school board members, judges, sheriffs and dogcatchers.  By not voting you give me more influence over your state and local officials as well.

If every able-bodied citizen of our great country voted, then every citizen would possess an equal amount of power. When fewer people vote, the ones that do have more power.  Consider this: If, let’s say, only one out of every four  people votes, the one person who does is making choices for the other three.  If the one out of four that votes is me, I like that idea!  Indeed, I could be considered a representative myself, albeit one of a very small district.  What it comes down to is that you can be confident that I have every intention of putting your non-vote to good use.

So please, don’t vote.  After all, you can trust me…just like the last time.

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300 Seconds Episode #109: “My Coronavirus Story Part 4: The New Sort-of Kind-of Not-Quite Normal”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 109: “My Coronavirus Story Part 4: The New Sort-of Kind-of Not-Quite Normal,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

The week after the office I worked at closed, the city of San Antonio went on lockdown.  Thus, I had to adjust to not only working at home, but also to being at home nearly all of the time.  I am a bit of a homebody, so being stuck at home wasn’t that big of a deal, but it was still annoying to not be able to go anywhere. 

One of the first things I did was to designate the dinner table as my home office in a feeble effort to keep some division between my home and work life.  For the most part, it worked fairly well, since my dining room table had not been getting much use anyway.  The only problem that came up was that I quickly learned how uncomfortable it was to be sitting on my unpadded wooden dining room chairs for several hours.  I eventually abandoned the dining room table for a cubbyhole in the apartment, which, while offering less desk space, did have an office chair that was much more comfortable to sit in.

Like most folks, I didn’t own any masks when the pandemic started hitting home.  I figured that if nothing else, I would have to eventually go to the grocery store, so I thought it would be a good idea to get some masks and be a responsible member of the community.  Additional motivation was provided by the fact that I have a few boxes checked off on my ‘if you catch this, you’re in deep trouble’ bingo card.

After doing some searching, I ordered some masks online from independent makers, but I needed something to tide me over while those got made and shipped.  My first attempt was the ‘cut up an old t-shirt’ method.  That ended up being a spectacular failure because I have a big head topped with a mass of thick curly hair.  Even working with a size double-XL shirt, I was unable to get it completely around my 23 and a half inch melon.  I’m also not the best with scissors, so there’s a pretty strong chance that I cut the pattern the wrong way.  I eventually found a bandana from high school that worked until I bought a roll of shop towels and made my own with staples and rubber bands.  Eventually the masks I ordered did arrive, and yes they did have animal prints on them.

Naturally, I have to mention the toilet paper thing.  Holy cats, if I live to be a hundred years old I will never understand what the hey that business was all about.  Fortunately for me, I live alone and my digestive system is fairly regular, so I don’t use too much, I don’t think.  That said, I didn’t want to be caught off guard, so I started keeping track of how long certain things, like toilet paper, lasted.  Originally, I was concerned with how long a roll of toilet paper, a bottle of hand soap, and a tank full of gasoline would last.  Gasoline wouldn’t have come to mind, but San Antonio flipped its collective lid back in 2017 and caused a shortage after Hurricane Harvey out of self-induced hysteria.  I was pleased to discover that a roll of toilet paper and a twelve-ounce bottle of hand soap each lasted about three weeks.   I was also happy to discover I was getting two months to a tank of gas in my Honda CR-V because I was only driving to the grocery store.  At one point I did have to hunt for toilet paper for a friend who was running low.  Lucky for her, I was fortunate enough to find some and save the day. 

A nice habit that I picked up during this time was walking to the nearby dollar store to pick up things in between my main grocery store trips.  At first, the pleasant weather of late March and April made for some nice afternoon walks, but as the Texas summer started to do its thing, those trips got pushed further and further into the evening until eventually I would wait until after sundown to head out.

Of course, once I was done with work, I had to do something for entertainment, so I’ve been watching movies from my DVD and Blu-ray collection, and even picking up a few new ones to while the evenings away.  I’ve actually been keeping track of what I’ve been watching, and I’m up to about eighty movies so far, not counting repeated viewings of Casino and Goodfellas.  I’ve also gone through all the original cast Star Trek and the first series of Batman movies.  I think I’ll try Star Wars next, but I’m not sure how far I want to go with those.  I recently reactivated my NetFlix account and have enjoyed the new shows that my friends have been talking about, like BNA, Beastars, and Warrior Nun.

Except for going to the grocery store or to restaurants and fast food joints for take-out, I spend all my time at home.  As I’m sure many of you will also attest, the days began to blur together.  Weekends suddenly became meaningless, because there was nothing happening to look forward to.  No comic cons, no camping trips, no local theme park visits, no casino trips, not even a trip to the mall. Instead, Saturdays and Sundays became the days that I didn’t sign into my work laptop…yippee.

And, as fate would have it, not long after I got settled into that new normal, it was thrown out of the window after I got laid off.  If you’d like to hear the gory details, you can go back two episodes.  Suddenly, instead of sitting at my work laptop hunting for trouble tickets to work on, the better part of my day was now filled with absolutely nothing!  

This has been 300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, the next episode will be posted after I mail back my work laptop.  Subscribe via your favorite app, and visit Eduardo Soliz dot com for more wonderfully weird words written by me!  As always, I thank you for listening! 

Be Good, Take Care, and God Bless.

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Super-Short Storytime: “The Best Job in The World”

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Welcome to Super-Short Storytime, Dear Listeners!  I am Eduardo Soliz, the author and narrator of the splendidly short story that you are about to hear.

My unhappiness towards my nine-to-five (and my willingness to share it) has gotten to the point where it has become a character trait over the years.  But I’m not here to tell how you about much I hate my job.  Instead, let me tell you a story about a guy that does enjoy his work.  This work-related writing is called: “The Best Job In The World“

A middle-aged man wearing black slacks and a white button-down shirt stood in front of a row of vending machines.  He wore an identification card that bore the logo of the Prehistoric World theme park and “Bernard Olson, Accounting” in bold letters underneath that.  Bernard idly jingled some change in his right hand while he looked from one machine to the next, carefully considering his options.

“Hey buddy, could you give me a hand, here?”  A man’s voice said to his right.  Bernard turned to answer and quickly jumped back upon seeing a six and a half foot tall mountain lion standing next to him.  His shock quickly turned to relief when he realized that it was a person wearing a costume.

“Oh!  You frightened me. ” Bernard said.  Bernard hummed to himself as he looked for an identification card on his costumed coworker, who wore a T-shirt with the name “Pappy Puma” on it.  Bernard was fairly certain that wasn’t his real name.

After a moment, the mountain lion noticed his confusion and said:  “Oh!  Sorry about that.  I’m Jay.”

“My name is Bernard,” Bernard said quietly.  He gingerly shook the large paw that Jay offered.

Jay continued: “If you could help me out, that would be awesome, Bernard.  My usual helper is in the infirmary.  She’s new to the area and hasn’t gotten used to our wonderful Texas summers yet.” 

Bernard nervously looked around to see if there was anyone else nearby that could help in his place.

“Come on, man.  I ain’t gonna bite you.” Jay pleaded.

Bernard sighed.  “Okay.  What do you need me to do?”  He asked.

“Help me get this head off.  Go around me and unzip the zipper that’s at the back of my neck.”  Jay said.  He dropped to one knee so that Bernard could more easily reach it.

“Okay.”  Bernard said.  He walked over behind Jay, and looked at the back of his head.  He saw a seam running down the back and followed it to its end, where he saw a zipper’s metal tab sticking out.  He grabbed the zipper and slowly pulled it up.  Before Bernard had the zipper opened completely, Jay reached up and pulled the mask forward to remove it. 

“Whew.  That’s better.”  Jay said, relieved.  Bernard walked around to face him and stared for a moment.  Jay was wearing a tight-fitting hood on his head made out of some synthetic material.  Only his face, which was red from the heat, was exposed.  Jay took the head off and carefully placed it on the floor next to his gym bag.

“What’s that thing on your head?” Bernard asked, motioning at his head with his hands.

Jay looked at him for a moment before realizing what he was referring to.  “Oh, the hood?  It’s to keep sweat from getting into my eyes and stuff.  I’m wearing underclothes made out of the same material, but it can only do so much, you know?”

Bernard nodded in acknowledgement.

“Could you help me get one of these paws off?” Jay asked.  “They’re held on by some snaps that are underneath the seam.  I could use my teeth, but the folks in the costume department wouldn’t appreciate that.”  He extended his right arm towards Bernard, who removed the paw and examined it.  Meanwhile, Jay used his now-free hand to remove the other paw and set it on top of his costume’s head.

Bernard peered inside of the paw and quickly drew his face back when he noticed the moisture and the smell coming from it.  “Goodness, that’s a lot of sweat.”  He observed.

“Yup.   Such is the price of fame.” Jay quipped.  He was hunched over his gym bag searching inside for something.

“It looks like you have a difficult job, having to wear this all day.” Bernard pondered.  “I don’t think that I could do it.”  He bent over and carefully placed the costume hand atop of the other one.

“The positives ultimately outweigh the negatives, my friend.” Jay said.  He pulled a wallet out of the gym bag, opened it, took out a few bills, then dropped it back into the bag.  He stood up, walked over to one of the vending machines and bought a sports drink.

“What positives?”  Bernard asked.  “You walk around outside in that heavy suit all day, get pushed, kicked and well, abused by children, and I can’t imagine that you get paid very well.  No offense intended.”

“None taken.”  Jay replied before taking a swig of his drink.  “And yeah, all of what you said is true.  Those are the negatives.  So let me give you some positives:  It’s fun to interact with the kids.  As far as they’re concerned, I really am a big cat.  I get to snarl and meow and purr and be silly and goofy.  Sure, some of them will push and kick and shove and cry, but they always walk away happy, and that makes me happy, too.

You know what most people make at their jobs, Bernard?  Money.  That’s it.  Nothing else.  Do we need it?  Of course we do, that’s the world we live in.  But there’s nothing really unique about money.  A smart man once sang that ‘money talks, but it don’t sing and dance and it don’t walk.’  Money isn’t special.  It’s as common as the dirt on the ground.  Just because other folks  have more doesn’t make it any less true.

But the smile on a child’s face, the laughter of parents and grandparents as they take a picture, even the dumb giggling coming out of a bunch of nutty college kids.  Those things are special.  Those are the things that people remember.  Sure, lots of other people might make more money than I do, but I make memories.  I have the best job in the world because my job is to make people happy.”

“Wow.  I never thought of it like that.” Bernard said, surprised.  His tone became sad as he continued:  “It certainly sounds more enjoyable than my job.  I just sit at a desk all day and crunch numbers.”

“Yeah, but your job is important, too, Bernard.  If you don’t crunch all those numbers, we don’t get paid, right?”  Jay said with a smile.  “Sorry for rambling  like that, Bernard.  I guess I’ll head over to the locker room and get out of this suit.”

“Oh, so your day is over?”  Bernard asked.

“Without a handler, it is.”  Jay explained.  “The costume head severely limits my vision, so I have to have a handler nearby to help me get around, keep an eye out for kids and to make sure that we don’t stay outside for too long, but unless Angela gets out of the infirmary soon, I’m done for the day.”

“Now that’s unfortunate.”  Bernard said.  He checked his watch.  “There are still several hours until the park closes.”

“Well, them’s the breaks.” Jay mused.  He started to gather his things together.  “It’s been good talking to you, man.  Thanks for the assist.”

“Wait a second.  What if I was your handler?” Bernard asked.

“Huh. I’d appreciate the assist, but won’t you get in trouble?” asked Jay.

“It’ll be okay.  Besides, I can always make more money tomorrow.” Bernard said.

“That’s the spirit!  Come on, Bernie, let’s go make some memories!” Jay exclaimed.  With smiles on their faces and springs in their steps, the pair headed off to ‘work.’

THE END.

It may be cliche to say that “money isn’t everything,‘ Dear Listeners, but that doesn’t make it any less true for some folks.  Personally, I would love to have a job where I make something besides money, but for now, money will have to do.  This has been Super-Short Storytime!  If you’d like me to tell your story, send an email to edsoliz@gmail.com

Thank you for listening!  Be Good, Take Care, and God Bless.

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300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, Episode #107: “My Coronavirus Story Part 3: Laid Off”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode!

If you are looking for a professional voice to represent your business, your organization, or yourself, send me an email at edsoliz@gmail.com.

And now, on with the show:

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 107, “My Coronavirus Story Part 3, Laid Off,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

April the 30th of this miserable year of 2020 was just another day at home in this weird time that is both very interesting and yet uninteresting at the same time.  The company I work at had closed all of its offices back in mid-March as the nation started trying to come to grips with the pandemic.  My job, as a deskside technician, was to be the ‘boots on the ground’ in the San Antonio office, but now that the office had been closed, my workdays consisted of sitting at my dining room table on my work laptop hunting through open incidents for something to do.  Thanks to the lock-down, the number of remote techs working from home had multiplied five-fold, so the pickings were very slim.

A fellow tech had posted a ticket into our group chat asking for help, so I seized the opportunity and raised my virtual hand. I had been hired in December and there was still a lot that I didn’t know.  Thus, I began searching through the knowledge base so I that wouldn’t be flying completely blind when I got in touch with the customer.

I had barely started to read the first article when the message: “Do you have time for a call?” popped up on my screen.  I frowned at my dumb luck.  Of course, the boss has to ping me the one time that I actually had something to do.  But, you know, he’s the boss, so I replied:  “Sure, I have time.” 

“Okay, I’m sending a meeting request.”

I logged onto the video chat to find my boss and two other people that I had never met before on my screen.

My Spidey-sense started tingling.  The first thought that popped in my head was:  This is it, I’m being let go.  In my mind, the two newcomers were the online equivalent of someone bringing a security guard with a cardboard box to your desk.

Once my boss introduced the pair of morose-looking gentlemen as being from Human Resources, my internal estimate of whether I was about to be let go from my job went from ninety-nine percent to one hundred.   The only question now was going to be whether I was going to be laid off or fired. 

The HR guys introduced themselves; one of them said that he was sorry we were meeting for the first time under these circumstances.  I almost cracked a joke about this being the last time we were meeting, too. I kinda wish I had.  Maybe it would have lightened the mood a little.  Then again, it may have also made the unfortunate proceedings about to happen even more awkward.  I chose to be a professional and held my tongue, which was probably the smarter thing to do.

After introducing them, my boss pretty much let the HR guys take over the meeting.  He didn’t even bother looking into the camera, which was off to the side of his PC.  I later found out that I wasn’t the only person to be let go, so perhaps he was setting up those meetings as well.  I can’t say I envied him having that job, but at least he still had one.

Having been fired before as well as having been part of a mass layoff, I knew what was coming.   We’re very sorry it had to come to this.  Business needs.  This wasn’t planned in advance.  Blah blah blah.  The only part I was interested in was whether I was being laid off or fired.  I did a Mr. Spock eyebrow-raise at what I thought were some questionable statements, such as:

This is about business needs, which translates to: This is about saving money.  That statement would have gone over better if I hadn’t had to sit in on an hour-long presentation with our CFO just the day before where he mentioned that the company was doing fairly well in spite of the lockdown.  Yeah, that definitely does not computer.

This wasn’t planned in advance: Yeah, I don’t buy this for a second, especially given that it was a large company.  Large companies never do anything quickly.  It had been a month and a half since the office had closed down, and I wonder if there was some threshold they were waiting to hit before dropping the axe.  If that statement was true, a company that just drops people at the drop of a hat isn’t the kind of company I want to work for.  Granted, that issue seems to have taken care of itself, but still. 

There were also a whole mess of things involving health insurance that I won’t go into here because this is 300 seconds and not 600.  For those interested, the gory details of that mess are posted on my blog at Eduardo Soliz dot com.

Near the end of that whole sad affair, I was told to not mention anything to my coworkers, because others were going to be let go as well.  Sure.  A box would be shipped out so that I could return my work laptop and charger.  I also had an access card for the office and a skeleton key, so I offered to get in touch with my local manager to return those items to her.  I was told: “I know it sounds silly, but put those things in the box and mail them over to Milwaukee.”  In my mind I thought: That doesn’t sound silly. It sounds stupid.  But, I didn’t fight it.

The meeting done with, began to clean up the improvised home workspace that would go back to being my dining room table.  I quickly discovered that my work access had been revoked, so score one for efficiency.

I sighed, logged out of my work laptop for the last time, and then came to an unfortunate realization:

I had forgotten to reassign that ticket.  Oh well.

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I visit the job websites.  For more witty words written by me, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening.  Be good, take care and God Bless.

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300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, Episode #108: “Why I Love the Dollar Store”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode!

Welcome to “300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz.” This is episode number 108, “Why I Love The Dollar Store,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

With one notable exception, I like going shopping, especially for groceries. Walking up and down the aisles, checking out new products, comparing items, checking off my list, and buying twice as many things as I had intended to always makes for a good time.  The fact that I can’t go as often as I used to, thanks to the coronavirus, makes me now want to squeeze as much enjoyment as I possibly can out of each shopping trip…but that’s a topic for another time.  The point I’m trying to make here is that I really like looking for stuff to buy.

Before I move on, I should mention the one exception to my “I like shopping” rule: shoes.  I’ll just say that finding a size 13 wide is easier said than done.

Over the years, I have grown to become quite fond of dollar stores.  Whereas grocery stores are vast wonderlands of commerce, dollar stores are smaller and have a quirkiness to them that I really enjoy.  I even have some practical reasons for enjoying the dollar store.

To begin with, because they’re smaller, dollar stores can sometimes be less crowded, especially if you find one that’s a little out of the way.  Even before the coronavirus made staying away from other people standard operating procedure, I have never been a fan on overly crowded places.  As much as I like shopping, I try to do it when there will be fewer people around.  I’m a nerd, it’s kind of what we do.  The downside of this is when there’s only one register open and the line gets crazy long.  Granted, that’s an issue that can come up at any store, but it’s an acceptable risk as far as I’m concerned.

Secondly, the sheer variety of things you can find at the dollar store makes for plenty of opportunities to browse.  Food, office supplies, dishes, party supplies, hardware; there’s just all kinds of stuff to look at.  Granted, this also has the unintended side effect of there being more stuff to just randomly buy, but hey, I’m at the dollar store!  I also like the sheer variety of oddball things that you can find, especially in the candy aisle.  Dollar stores often have weirdo candies that I just don’t see very often in South Texas.  Stuff like Charleston Chew, Zagnut bars, Clark Bars, and Mallo Cups.  I can’t say I’ve tried all of those, but if I ever get an inkling to, the opportunity is there.

Also, I live by myself, so I have to shop and cook for one.  Dollar stores tend to have things in smaller sizes, which works our perfectly.  Maybe it’s just me, but I think the sizes of the boxes of cereal at the grocery stores are starting to get a little out of hand.  As much as I like Raisin Bran, I don’t need a two-pound box of it.  At the dollar store, I can find a normal sized box of cereal.  In addition, there are packages of baking mix that will only make six muffins or a dozen cookies.  If you live alone like I do, or you’re just trying to eat less, which I’m also trying to do, those smaller sizes are pretty darn nice.  I do also feel obligated to mention that they have peanut butter crackers that come in packages of four instead of six, which is pretty darned awesome.

One does have to exercise caution in the midst of all this convenience, however. Of course, I’m talking about Brand X.  Maybe I’m being a little paranoid, but sometimes the amount of stuff that you get for the price feels is just a little too good to be true, you know what I mean?  That said, the temptation to try something new is easier to give in to when the item is smaller and less expensive.  And yes, I know that brand-name products aren’t necessarily less expensive at the dollar store, but I’m okay with paying an extra nickel or dime here and there for the convenience. 

So yeah, I love dollar stores, they’re just the thing for when I want to pick up a few items and I don’t feel like dealing with the madness at the nearby HEB or Wal-Mart…or maybe I just want a box of Charleston Chew.

This has been 300 Seconds!  The next episode will be posted after I go to the dollar store to pick up a few things.  For more wonderfully weird words written by me, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening!  Be Good, Take Care, and God Bless.

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Super-Short Storytime: “Reunion”

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Welcome to Super-Short Storytime, Dear Listeners!  I am Eduardo Soliz, the author and narrator of the terrifically tiny tale that you are about to hear:

While it can be nice to run into someone that you’ve not seen in many years, there are times when you find out just why it was you lost touch.  One such meeting is the focus of this nonsensical narration that I call: “Reunion.”

“Are you Shawn Cook?” A timid voice asked.

Shawn turned around at the sound of his name, taking care not to upset the cup of coffee he held in one hand or strike any passers-by with the briefcase he carried in the other. The well-dressed businessman glanced over the source of the question with narrowed eyes.  Before him stood a small man with dark unkempt hair wearing a lab coat. He held what appeared to be a ray-gun from an old science-fiction movie in one hand. The small man peered back at Shawn from behind a pair of thick glasses.

“Richard? Richard Wave from Central High? Class of ‘98?” Shawn guessed.

“Yes.”

A crooked smile lit up Shawn’s face. “Wow! Long time no see, Tricky Dick!” Richard winced at the nickname and raised the ray-gun at Shawn, who continued his taunting. “Ooo, what are you going to do, disintegrate me?” He scoffed. Richard pulled the ray-run’s trigger.  A blue beam of energy shot from its end and struck Shawn in the stomach. The businessman yelled in pain as his body quickly began to freeze. Onlookers and passers-by panicked at the sight of Shawn’s body turning to ice, many running away screaming in terror. Within seconds, Shawn’s body was completely frozen.

“I always hated that name.” A frowning Richard said in a low voice. He lowered the freeze gun and placed it into a coat pocket. Content that the gun was secure, the small man leapt towards Shawn’s frozen body and shoved into it as hard as he could with his shoulder. The frozen body toppled over onto the sidewalk and shattered into countless pieces, casting the crowd into an even further panic.

Richard calmly pulled out a pad and a pen from his coat, ignoring the panicked screams that he had long become accustomed to hearing. He flipped to a familiar page with a list of names and let out a contented sigh before messily scribbling over the name “Shawn.”

The mad scientist read the next name on the list quietly to himself: “Meghan.” Richard closed his eyes and released a wistful sigh. A twisted smile then appeared on his face and he said aloud to no one in particular: “Oh, dearest Meghan. It’s been too long, or perhaps, not long enough! Hee-hee-hee!”

THE END.

If you don’t have anything nice to say to someone, Dear Listeners, don’t say anything at all, and if they happen to have a freeze gun, you might want to start running for your life.  This has been Super-Short Storytime.  Visit Eduardo Soliz dot com for more fantastically flashy fiction, and I hope it isn’t too long before we meet again, Dear Listeners!

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300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, Episode #106: “Weight off my shoulders, my stomach, my legs, and so on…”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 106, “Weight off my shoulders, my stomach, my legs, and so on” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

I like to joke that going to the doctor feels like going to confession, because in both instances you have to own up to your sins.  Actually, seeing the doctor is worse, because the doctor knows what you did or didn’t do.  After all, the numbers on the scale and on your lab results don’t lie.  Thus, all you can do is suck it up and own to all the sins that you have committed towards yourself since your previous visit.  Penance is optional, but there is no absolution to be found until you get your act together. 

After my latest less-than-pleasant checkup, I finally decided to get more serious about losing more weight.  For years my weight had hovered around two hundred and seventy-five pounds, topping out at two hundred and eighty a few  years back.  Thanks to a change in medication, I’d gotten it down to two hundred and forty five, but clearly, we still had more work to do.

I used to be a programmer and I’m a numbers guy, so I decided to go all in and use the FitBit app to keep track of everything.  First my activity, or lack thereof: I’d been using a FitBit for a while to track my steps, trying my best to get 8,000 steps a day.  Yes, I know that should be ten thousand but I do computer nerd things for a living, so come on, man.

I had been concentrating on the number of steps; doing a twenty minute walk in the morning around my apartment complex and maybe a lap or two in the evening if I was short of my step goal.  I decided that counting steps was not enough and that I needed to do a sustained workout.  I started doing a half hour walk around the neighborhood every morning.  In addition to the increased distance, the roads had some ups and downs which required a little more effort than the relatively flat apartment roads.  Suddenly, reaching my step goal didn’t require too much additional effort.

Next was weight, so I bought a smart scale.  It’s one of those fancy ones that also estimates your body fat percentage.  I was already in the habit of weighing myself every morning, but syncing the scale with the app required less effort than typing everything into Excel and it also made it easier to see patterns.  Also, I hate Excel, but that’s a topic for another time. Of course, that first weigh-in was pretty eye-opening; while I wasn’t overly surprised by how much I weighed, the body fat percentage was definitely an unpleasant surprise.

Finally, and most importantly, my diet. I set up a weight loss goal using the FitBit app and picked up a kitchen scale so that I could start practicing some portion control.  As I’m sure most of y’all can relate to; this was the hardest part.

I don’t know what it’s called, but I’m sure there’s a name for the psychological thing where you delude yourself into thinking “Oh, I’m not doing that bad” when in fact you are doing AWFUL.  Once I actually saw how many calories the things that I loved to eat contained, my first thought was: GEEZ, NO WONDER I CAN’T LOSE ANY WEIGHT.  I then started weighing my portions and thinking really hard about where and what I would eat on those now-fewer occasions when I would order take-out.

Armed with all the data I that needed, all I had to do now was execute my  plan, and I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy at the start.  Living in South Texas meant waking up early to avoid the summer heat, and it was a struggle during that first week, especially since I’ve been out of work these last few months.  The walk itself isn’t too bad, and I even went as far as to lengthen it by taking a lap around the apartment complex to start off.  So I don’t get burned out, I take it easy on the weekends by walking just around the apartment complex like I used to.

Now getting a handle on my eating was definitely hard.  What I’m eating hasn’t really changed a whole lot, but what has changed is how much.  With a few exceptions, if I want to get take-out now, I have to adjust my diet for the rest of the day so I don’t completely destroy my calorie goal.  Because the FitBit app sets a goal based on your activity level, that goal fluctuates throughout the day.  The app also tries to guess how many calories you’re burning when you aren’t exercising, but I think it overestimates that part.  Either way, I’m learning to adjust as time goes on now that I’m armed with all the information.

It has been a month and change since I started this plan and so far I have lost over ten pounds. I’ve also been feeling better overall.  Things being what they are right now in the time of coronavirus, I am fortunate to be able to devote the time to exercise and measure what I eat and so on and so forth. I’m pretty happy with how things are going right now.  The next challenge is going to be maintaining these good habits once life inevitably returns to something resembling normal.

You know, I think I might actually be looking forward to my next trip to confession!

This has been 300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, the next episode will be posted after I think  really hard about what I’m going to have for dinner.  For more podcasts, check out my website at Eduardo Soliz dot com, and I thank you for listening.  Be good, take care and God Bless.

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300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, Episode #105: “My Coronavirus Story Part 2- Work From Home?”

NOTE: This is a transcript of a podcast for those with hearing difficulties, those that prefer to read, and those who would prefer to not hear the sound of my voice. 😉

Click here to listen to this episode!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 105, “My Coronavirus Story Part Two: Work From Home?” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

I am a creature of habit.  As such, I like routines, especially when it comes to my job.  Wake up at a certain time, go for a walk, take a shower, get dressed, have breakfast, drive to the office, drink coffee, fix stuff, drink coffee, have lunch, drink some more coffee, fix some more stuff and then drive home.  Monday through Friday, five days out of the week, that is my work life and I’m fine with it.  I don’t do quite as well with open-ended jobs where I am left to my own devices without an overarching plan of some sort, but that’s a topic for another time. 

Monday, March the 16th was my first full week of working from home following the shutdown of our offices the previous week (and the previous episode) so I had to create a new routine to settle into.  I set my work laptop up on the dinner table and dedicated that space to be my ‘home office’ for the time being.  Like everything else in life, the new normal that I settled into had its ups and downs.  One immediate improvement was that since I no longer had a commute, that time that I was spending on the road could be put to better use in bed sleeping.  Not having to wear pants or even a polo shirt was also nice.  The biggest downsides of working from home were the lack of human contact and the blurring of lines between home life and work life.  I’m one of these people who likes to use a giant metaphorical Sharpie to draw a big thick metaphorical line between my home life and my work life.  I will say that having a dedicated work area away from my personal space helped immensely.  After all, even before we were forced to isolate, the dining room table didn’t get much use.

My new routine quickly became: wake up, go for a walk, take a shower, get dressed, have breakfast, sit at the dining room table, log into my work laptop, have a cup of coffee, wait for things to happen, have lunch, sign in to our afternoon meeting, wait for things to happen again, and then log out of the laptop.  There wasn’t much work to do for reasons I’ll go into in a moment.

But first, I have to bring up our daily meetings.  Holy cats, those daily meetings sucked.  Over the course of my 20+ year career, daily meetings have always sucked.  Inevitably, they turn into the same thing every day and they usually go away in favor of weekly meetings which eventually go away to monthly meetings, which eventually die out completely.  Our daily meetings got dull to the point where our supervisor flat-out told us that he didn’t even care for them, but we had to have them because the home office said so.  Thus, every day we all spent the better part of five or ten minutes looking at our screens waiting for somebody else to bring up a question or issue that hadn’t already been bought up in our team chat.  It rarely happened.

Another thing that rarely happened was actual work.  We had a small team of techs that handled remote issues over the phone.  It was very rare that we in-person techs had to pick up their slack because they were always on the ball.  But with everyone working from home, we now had four to five times as many techs now handling the same number of remote issues.  At first, there was work to do helping folks, particularly the staff members, get their work from home setups established, but once that was over with the amount of work available to everyone dried up considerably.  We were stuck hunting for open tickets in the system and occasionally asking if there were things we could help with in chat and during our daily meetings. 

The days turned into weeks, and with no end to the pandemic on the horizon, I couldn’t help but wonder how long this state of affairs would last.  I would get an answer to that question at the end of April, and you’ll get the answer in the next episode.

This has been 300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, the next episode will be posted after I make a cup of coffee.  Subscribe via your favorite app, and visit Eduardo Soliz dot com for more wonderfully weird words written by me!  I am Eduardo Soliz and I thank you for listening!  Be Good, Take Care and God Bless.

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