300 Seconds, BUSINESS, Eduardo Soliz, JUST SAYING, Podcasting, PODCASTS, RANDOMIZER9.COM, TECH, TECH SUPPORT, WORDS, WORK

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.

Standard
300 Seconds, Eduardo Soliz, JUST SAYING, Podcasting, PODCASTS, RANDOMIZER9.COM, WORDS

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.

Standard
300 Seconds, coronavirus, Eduardo Soliz, JUST SAYING, Podcasting, PODCASTS, RANDOMIZER9.COM, TECH, WORDS, WORK

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.

Standard
300 Seconds, BUSINESS, coronavirus, Eduardo Soliz, JUST SAYING, Podcasting, PODCASTS, RANDOMIZER9.COM, TECH, WORDS, WORK

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.

Standard
300 Seconds, BUSINESS, coronavirus, Eduardo Soliz, JUST SAYING, Podcasting, PODCASTS, RANDOMIZER9.COM, TECH, WORDS, WORK

300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, Episode #104: “My Coronavirus Story: The Fiesta’s Over”

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

Click here to listen to this episode on Podomatic.com!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number one hundred and four: “My Coronavirus Story: The Fiesta’s Over,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

For me, the whole coronavirus business started with an e-mail that dropped into my inbox one afternoon in mid-March, which now seems so long ago.  My job at the time was being the computer tech at a local night school.  The campus was small and the people there were nice, so it was a pretty cushy gig.  Except for the weirdo night school schedule and having to work the occasional Saturday, it would have been the perfect job, but that’s a conversation for another time.

I was aware of the coronavirus situation, though not a whole lot had changed for me personally; the security guard would spend time each day sanitizing door latches with Lysol and I had started sanitizing the keyboards and mice that were in the classrooms.  The week before, there had been a bit of a stir when one of the folks in quarantine at Lackland Air Force Base had gone to a local mall before testing positive for the virus, resulting in the mall shutting down for deep cleaning.  I remember Mayor Nirenberg having lunch at that mall after the reopening to reassure the public that all was well; I had actually gone to the same mall for lunch that day and joked to my friends about missing him.  While at the mall, I asked the gal at the register if things had slowed own and she gave a resounding yes with no hesitation whatsoever.

Otherwise, Thursday, March the 12th of 2020 was just another day at the office for me keeping computers, projectors, servers, staff, and professors up and running.  Sometime after lunch, the e-mail that would change everything arrived.  That night’s classes would be the final one of the session because all campuses were closing down.  From here on out, classes would be online only and everyone would be working from home.  That meant that folks had to gather up laptops, docks, monitors, keyboards, mice and pretty much anything else they might need to work from home.  The email mentioned that the closure would be through the end of the month, though I quickly heard rumors that the closure would last though the end of April.

My day became much more interesting after that. All I had to do to prepare for working from home was pack my work laptop and the professors were already accustomed to working from home.  That left campus staff who came to me asking for extra cables, headsets, mice, monitors and even a few docking stations.  After I took care of them, I began packing up the personal items that I had in my office.  That took some time, because as office workers are oft to do, I had accumulated quite a few things.  My Spidey-sense told me that I would not be coming back for a while, so I packed everything up.  Of course, at the time, nobody had any idea of how bad things were going to get.

The next day, March the thirteenth, was a sad and crazy day in San Antonio both at the same time.  Speculation had been circulating that Fiesta, the Alamo City’s 17-day long celebration of Texas independence, would be cancelled, and on that day, it was.  I honestly believe that the majority of folks in San Antonio did not take the coronavirus seriously until Fiesta was cancelled.  I say this because I decided to take a trip to HEB during my lunch break for a few things and it was INSANE.  The closest parking spot was in front of the store next door, and upon stepping inside, I was greeted by a mob of people with full shopping carts lined up all the way to the back of the store.  I quickly left upon seeing this and went to another store that wasn’t quite as packed.

I spent that workday logged into my work laptop monitoring queues and chats, waiting for something to happen.  It didn’t.

Ready or not, The New Normal was here to stay; it was just a matter of how long it was going to last.  It would turn to be longer than I had hoped and also shorter than I had expected.  You’ll see what I mean in the next episode.

This has been 300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, the next episode will be posted after I double-check on my stock of toilet paper.  Subscribe via your favorite app, and visit Eduardo Soliz dot com for more words written by me!  I am Eduardo Soliz and I thank you for listening!

Be Good, Take Care and God Bless.

Standard
300 Seconds, COOKING, Eduardo Soliz, FOOD, HOUSE, PODCASTS, WEATHER

300 Seconds Episode #95 – “Home Less”

Listen to the episode here!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 95, “Home Less,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

Because life (or something like it) happened, I sold my house a few months ago.  Thus, after five years, I’m no longer a homeowner, and there are a few things I already miss about having a house.

To begin with, there is the notion that the place where I live is no longer ‘my’ place anymore.  I’m staying with some friends for the short term, and God bless ’em, because they’ve been pretty awesome.  At the same time, their house isn’t my house, you know?  When I owned my house, I could do whatever I wanted to, like using an old CD to fix a hole in the drywall or putting the TV set in front of the fireplace.  That feeling of ‘ownership’ is pretty nice and the lack thereof will continue to bother me until I own my home again.

I never had a garage growing up; my parent’s house didn’t have one, and so I didn’t see a need for one on the rare occasions when I was offered one as an option when leasing an apartment.  Once I started making use of my house’s garage, though, I loved it.  I remember being at the laundromat folding clothes one day, when it started raining.  I grumped about the rain for a few moments before coming to the delightful realization that I HAD A GARAGE AND I DIDN’T HAVE TO GET WET.  I got spoiled by having a garage; now I have to park my vehicle outside and have it, and me, get rained on.  But at least I have a place to park at, at my friend’s house; I’m really not looking forward to fighting with fellow apartment dwellers for prime parking places in the future.

Another thing I’m going to miss is solitude.  I like being by myself, especially after a day of dealing with silly people at work.  This isn’t really a big deal right now, because my roommates are cool, but once I move into an apartment, having people on the other side of the wall is probably going to drive me nuts…again

But the biggest thing that I miss the most about my old house is having natural gas.  It’s the best thing for cooking, it’s less expensive, and I’m sorry, but you just can’t heat tortillas properly on an electric stove or even one of those fancy pants convection ranges.  And no, I am never ever, EVER going to put a tortilla into the microwave because that’s just WRONG.

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I warm a tortilla in my toaster oven.  I am Eduardo Soliz, if you’d like to listen to, or read, more of my words and short stories, visit my website at Eduardo Soliz dot com.  Thank you for listening!

Standard
300 Seconds, Christmas, Eduardo Soliz, HOUSE, Podcasting, PODCASTS

300 Seconds Episode 93: “So This is Christmas”

Click here to listen to this episode on Podomatic.com!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 93, “So This is Christmas,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

I’ve been in a funk this Christmas season; it just hasn’t been the same as in years past.  I sold my house a few months ago and in the meantime, I have been rooming in with some friends.  It’s been pleasant for the most part, but not having a place of my own means that I’ve missed out on a few Christmas things. Things like putting up and decorating my little Christmas tree after Thanksgiving, stringing up lights on my house.  Even the little USB Christmas tree that I usually keep at my work desk sits somewhere in my storage unit, unused.  Granted, I don’t even HAVE a desk these days, but that’s a podcast for another time.

What bums me out the most, though, is that for the first time in years, I won’t be making Christmas cookies for my friends.  My work schedule right now includes weekends and I can’t squeeze in a full day of baking and another full day of making deliveries into my schedule.  Complicating matters is that it’s a temp job, so I don’t have any paid time off.  I’ve also been told that the job is ending soon, but I haven’t been given a definite end date, so every new week at work might be my last.  Yeah, thanks, guys.

Otherwise, Christmas has gone on as usual:  Gifts have been bought, I have another group of favorite Christmas songs to add to my website, and I have already written a Christmas story.  Granted, the story wasn’t quite as happy as those in years past, but that seems appropriate.  Funny thing: I’ve actually written a second, more optimistic story to make up for the dreariness of the first one.  It’ll be up soon.

My mood will likely improve when I go visit my family for Christmas next week.  Cookies will be baked and gifts will be delivered, and that’s always fun.  Spending a few days with friends and family always lifts my spirits, but until then, I’ll muddle along as best I can. 

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I wrap my Christmas gifts.  I am Eduardo Soliz.  For more podcasts, short stories, and my blog, visit Eduardo Soliz dot com.  Thank you for listening and a very Merry Christmas to you!

Standard
300 Seconds, HOUSE, Podcasting, PODCASTS, RANDOMIZER9.COM, WORDS

300 Seconds Episode 92: “Needless Things”

Click here to listen to this episode!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 92, “Needless Things,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

Now that the Texas weather has taken a turn for the slightly cooler, I’ve been talking walks around the neighborhood to get some exercise, fresh air, and sunshine.  Some days I walk in the morning, and some days I walk in the evening.  As I go around the neighborhood, I’ll often see people outside, watering their lawns, playing with children, tending to plants, or sometimes cleaning out their garages.

The garages intrigue me; they are nearly always packed to the gills with all kinds of stuff: Bicycles, tools, lawn mowers, children’s toys, exercise equipment, and, of course, boxes.  Stacks and stacks of boxes, oftentimes nearly piled up to the ceiling.  Cars, SUVs and trucks are often relegated to the driveway or to the street.  No room at the inn, as it were.

Seeing all of those garages filled with boxes made me think about all the stuff that I kept in my house;  I’m not that bad, I reassured myself. After all, I had    enough room left in my garage to use it for its intended purpose, so I’m not one of those people.

That notion got thrown out of the window when I sold my house.  I got a realtor and began moving out in anticipation of the house being shown to potential buyers.  The realtor drilled it into my head that I had to make sure to remove or secure anything that was ‘stealable’ from the house before the showings started.  Right or wrong, I interpreted that as ‘get all of my DVDs, Blu-Rays, video games, comic books, books-books, music CDs and nearly all of my computer stuff out of the house.’  As my storage unit slowly began to fill up with boxes, I began to realize, that yes, I did have quite a bit of stuff myself.

By the time the house went on the market and the showings began, I had done a pretty good job of minimizing the amount of stuff that was inside, by either putting stuff into storage or giving stuff away to charity.  In many cases, I had two of the same thing that I either didn’t need anymore or I didn’t see myself needing in the future because my next residence will probably be an apartment. One computer went into storage.  The second television set that was kept in the bedroom for guests, I sold for cheap to a relative and I did the same with the second living room sofa.

It felt odd to see my house without a lot of the stuff inside of it that made it, well, mine.  As a concession to myself, I left the artwork hanging on the walls, as if to say: This house might be up for sale, buster, but until you sign a check, it’s still my house, dagnabbit.

I lived with less stuff for a few weeks as the sale of the house went through, and except for a few moments when I wanted to watch a particular movie, I didn’t really miss the stuff all that much.  Granted, I didn’t get rid of everything, I still had my Xbox for entertainment.  I moved in with some friends after selling the house, and most of the stuff that I had kept in storage, remained there.  The experience made me realize that I can do without quite a bit of stuff, so maybe I’m not doing that bad, after all.

I think we need find a new word to describe the storage units that garages seem to inevitably become.   Instead of being a place to store a vehicle, garages have become a place to keep the needless things in our lives; old things that will likely never be used again and yet, they are the things that we just can’t bear to part with.   I won’t lie, though.  Once I get life squared away and I’m back at my own place, those needless things will be back in my life, taking up space.  Or maybe not.  After all, I probably won’t have a garage to keep them in, and paying somebody to keep my needless things stashed away kind of sucks.

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I make a run to my storage unit.  If you’d like to hear or read more of my words visit Eduardo Soliz dot com.  Thank you for listening!

Standard
300 Seconds, CONS, FURRY, Furry 101, Furry Invasion, PANELS, Podcasting, PODCASTS, Uncategorized

300 Seconds Episode 91: “A few words after Furry Invasion 2018”

Listen to this episode here, or read the transcription below!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 91:  A few words after Furry Invasion 2018, so let the 300 Seconds begin!

Furry Invasion took place at the El Tropicano Riverwalk hotel in San Antonio last weekend, October 5-7.  I did my best to pack in as much fun as I could in between shifts at work: I hung out for a little while on early Friday to pick up my badge and I made it out on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  Overall, Furry Invasion was a marked improvement over last year, but once again, there are a number of little nitpicks that affected me personally that I’m going to bring up.  Spoiler alert: They still have panel issues.

I arrived at registration at about ten o’clock on Friday morning and it went pretty quickly; there was really nobody in line.  They scanned my e-mail, checked my ID and I got my stuff…awesome!  I didn’t hear any squawking about registration this year, though there were a few complaints about finding registration, it was kind of in a weird spot, but that was expected.  Two quick nitpicks about registration, however.  Number one: Stickers are supposed to go on the BADGE ITSELF, not on the badge holder.  Second, and this is more for the people running the show; if you have a guy that’s hacking and coughing his guts out, maybe he shouldn’t be in a position to be handing out credit cards, IDs and badges TO MOST OF THE PEOPLE IN THE CONVENTION.  Yeah, the guy that checked me out let out a nice fit of coughing after he gave me my stuff, which made me very glad that I carry hand sanitizer with me.

One big complaint I heard about throughout the weekend was parking: Last year there was a parking lot across the street, however this year new hotel is being built in that space, so that significantly reduced the number of available parking spots.  As for me, I was able to easily find meter parking on Baltimore street near the hotel on each day of the convention.  My biggest trouble was having enough quarters 😉  Now this is an issue with the venue itself, another venue issue that came up was the elevators breaking down.

And now I’m going to talk about panels for a little bit because there are a number of issues going on here.  It was a pretty good plan on paper:  The panel schedule itself was done ahead of time, which is good, and the leadership decided to put the panel [schedule] online, and that’s also good.  There was also a screen set up with the panel schedules rotating and a QR code that you could scan to pull up the schedule on your phone.  This is also good.  Unfortunately the plan kinda fell apart in the execution.

To begin with, putting the schedule on the website isn’t a bad idea, but the Furry Invasion website is not optimized for phones.   That’s being polite, because it’s pretty awful on phones.  Here’s the thing, guys, it’s cool that y’all have an online digital schedule that you can update on the fly, but there is nothing wrong with paper.  Once your schedule is as final as it’s going to be, print out a bunch of copies.  Hang a copy of each room’s schedule outside the door.  Also, make a PDF copy and have that be downloadable from your website.

So I had a weird exchange with my friend Mordecai on Saturday; he thought my Furry 101 panel was at 6PM.  I told him it was at 5 and he said the conbook said 6.  This really confused me because Furry 101 wasn’t even mentioned in the conbook.  Turns out that  Mordecai was given a copy of LAST year’s conbook.  Don’t that that guys.  Just don’t.  Recycle them.  I was also given a less than ideal time and the crappiest room in the convention, but you know, what are you going to do?  Based on all that, I’m probably going to skip presenting next year.  On the plus side, they did have a projector set up.

Speaking of scheduling, for whatever reason the fursuit parade started before its scheduled time.  I was on my way to get a soda from the machine in the lobby when all of a sudden I saw furries marching towards me.  It was all I could do to scramble to find a spot and remember how to work my camera, which is what happens when you have a job that wakes you up at five in the morning.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m nitpicking a lot.  When I have to nitpick like this, it’s because most of the convention was good.  I had a good time, and I’ve been hearing lots of good things both online and off about Furry Invasion 2018.   Overall, I think things will continue to get better as the staff builds from their experience, and I’ll definitely be back next year.

Furry Invasion 2018 was a good con overall. Except for issues related to the venue and my own personal panel issues, which admittedly, are my own, there were no major issues present on the part of the con itself.  I had an enjoyable time, when I was able to get out there, I will certainly be back next year, hopefully for the whole thing.  The theme for next year’s Furry Invasion is going to be ‘Cyberpunk’ and it appears to be taking place on the weekend of October 4, 2019, and I look forward to seeing you there…or perhaps I should   say ‘furward!’

This has been 300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz, the next episode will be posted after I recover from the long weekend of work and fun.  I am Eduardo Soliz, please subscribe to this podcast and check out my website at Eduardo Soliz dot com for more podcasts and  short stories.  Thank you for listening!

Standard
300 Seconds, CONS, Eduardo Soliz, FURRY, Furry 101, Furry Invasion, PANELS, Podcasting, PODCASTS

300 Seconds Episode 90: “A few words before Furry Invasion 2018”

Listen to the podcast here!

I was recently a guest on Tommy Kovacs Splat from the Past podcast. Join us as we discuss our convention experiences in California and Texas.  That’s Splat from the Past, episode number 215, on YouTube. And now, on with the show…

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 90:  A few words before Furry Invasion: The Road to Furdition, so let the 300 Seconds begin!

Furry Invasion will be happening at the El Tropicano Riverwalk hotel in San Antonio this weekend, October 5-7 with badge pickup happening tomorrow night.  Because life has been getting in the way of my fun lately, I will only be at Furry Invasion Saturday and Sunday afternoon.  I’ll be presenting my Furry 101 panel on Saturday afternoon at 5PM in the Bolivar C room.  If you or someone you know would like to know more about the fandom, then come on down.

This is the second year for Furry Invasion; last year’s show was a solid first effort that had a few hiccups here and there, including a few that affected me personally, so just a heads up, this is going to get just a little bitey.

The biggest issues that I had last year were the slow registration line and the panel schedule being disorganized.  The problem with registration last year was that attendees were required to print their registration sheets at the convention which slowed down the process considerably.  At other conventions, attendees are allowed to print out their preregistrations beforehand, allowing them to be processed much more quickly.  I’m happy to report that I was allowed to print out my registration paperwork after paying, so that should make things more efficient.  While that problem appears to have been solved, a new one has been introduced by the convention’s choice to put registration in the hotel’s ballroom, which is in the back of the hotel and on the third floor.  This is going to make signage VERY important and staff should also be aware of how to get to registration so they can direct people there.

My second beef last year was with the panel scheduling; the schedule that was printed in the conbook ended up being different than the actual schedule, due to some changes being made after the original schedule was made.  This led to some confusion among attendees and presenters, including myself.  Fortunately, the Powers That Be decided to make the schedule digital this year, which means that last minute-changes can be made without fear of ending up with an outdated print schedule, so good on them.  What I’m hoping happens is that they print out each panel room’s schedule and post it outside so folks can see what is happening.

While Furry Invasion has made efforts to fix their registration and panel scheduling issues from last year, one thing that was sadly not addressed, was the weather.  Now, you may be asking yourself: What can the convention do about the weather?  Well, they can try to push the con ahead a week or two in the hopes that the weather cools down.  Cooler weather makes it easier for fursuiters to go outside and have fun, puts less strain on the venue’s air conditioning and is just nicer.  Should there be a third go-round, Furry Invasion really needs to look at pushing their date forward a week or two.

I openly admit that yes, I am harping on the convention a bit, but that’s mainly because the first two issues I mentioned were really touchy issues for me personally.  As I mentioned at the top, the first Furry Invasion went well; if the registration and panel problems weren’t there it likely would have been a great show instead of a good one.  Year two should be better since steps have been taken to address most of the issues from last year and the staff will have a year of experience under their belt to build on.

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after the convention.  I am Eduardo Soliz, if you’d like to hear more 300 seconds subscribe to this podcast or check out my website at Eduardo Soliz dot com for more podcasts and short stories.  Thank you for listening!

Standard