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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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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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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.

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A Few Things I Noticed While Flying

  1. BEFORE: “We’re flying you to Columbus, Ohio for training.” I’m not sure if that’s going to be better or worse than “PowerPoint hell.”
  2. I haven’t flown since 2010, so this is going to be interesting.
  3. It will also be interesting to compare this to my recent Amtrak trip to Dallas (see previous post).
  4. I recently moved, and I’m so glad I got my new driver’s license beforehand due to airport security. The picture on the new license is also of my currently less-fat self.
  5. Dear Uber driver: This is Texas. Turn on your gol-dang air conditioner.
  6. TRIP TO COLUMBUS: TSA was quick and pleasant; any delays were self-imposed.
  7. Then again, not having to do the TSA dance is a point in Amtrak’s favor
  8. Then again, an Amtrak to nearby Cincinnati would have taken nearly 2 days.
  9. The rollers on the X-Ray scanner quit rolling so we got held up just a little.
  10. I got to be zapped by the full-body scanner so I may be a little glowy while in Columbus.
  11. You’re darn skippy I’m going to savor every drop of this $3.25 airport Coca-Cola Zero
  12. Does wearing a Green Lantern ring qualify someone as a peace officer? Asking for a friend
  13. Coughing at the airport and thinking I should have had some Vitamin C with breakfast this morning
  14. Flying Southwest. Boarding group: C I guess I’m getting a window seat.
  15. Make that a center seat, which goes to show how long it’s been since I last flew.
  16. Amtrak seats are definitely better than airplane seats.
  17. Takeoffs make me a mite nervous, dunno that I’ll ever get used to it
  18. Seatmates aren’t very chatty but I have a slight headache so no biggie
  19. Actually, I talked a little with the gal who had the window seat…good luck with the marketing business!
  20. Other passengers: Read books and stories. Me: Write some 😉
  21. While I have a spare phone battery, I’m trying to keep from using it.
  22. I wonder how long it takes the plane to get out of Texas?
  23. Pretzels and cheese sandwich crackers. Mmm.
  24. Thing I forgot: Water bottle, which would have come in handy after the snack.
  25. I feel obligated to share my ‘peanut story’ with seatmates. Sorry.
  26. We’re all “random weirdos” here
  27. Complimentary drinks are a point in flying’s favor over Amtrak, but not so much due to the 4-ounce cups that are served.
  28. Tail’s dragging today; I stayed up way too late getting ready for the trip after driving up from Corpus Christi in the morning.
  29. I would like to sleep but I just can’t nod off on the plane. Being in the center seat doesn’t help.
  30. Thought about bringing my tablet along instead of my laptop but decided not to. After trying to type on the plane all squished up I definitely should have bought the tablet instead.
  31. Slight layover at Chicago Midway International. Part of me wishes I’d bought my fursuit along BECAUSE BEARS.
  32. Home Run Pizza hit the spot.
  33. I’m jonesing for some ice cream and I can’t find any at the airport. COME ON MAN
  34. At a Chicago airport yogurt shop:
    “Finally, some ice cream!”
    “It’s frozen yogurt, sir.”
    “Don’t ruin this for me, please.”
    “Yes, sir. It’s ice cream.”
  35. I just realized I should have worn something Texan but settled for furry instead. Oh well.
  36. I should have bought a bear souvenir while in Chicago. I HAVE FAILED MY PEOPLE.
  37. Head attendant on the second flight was kind of a wisenheimer, but he was a funny wisenheimer.
  38. Seatmates were glued to their phones on the second flight up.
  39. So was I. Yes, they had in flight WiFi, which we didn’t have on the flight to Chicago.
  40. Southwest Airlines Wi-Fi had 80s music, which made for a more pleasant flight!
  41. The presence of Wi-Fi is another point in air travel’s favor, though to get actual Internet you have to pay.  I dug the site where you can see your flight progress, though.
  42. Saw a seatmate playing Solitaire on his phone. Nice.
  43. Grey and rainy in Columbus. Just as well, given that I’m here for work!
  44. TRIP HOME: Got an email saying my flight home to San Antonio is delayed a half-hour. Crap.
  45. Having a company credit card means overpriced airport food is no biggie
  46. Thanks to my Furry Invasion t-shirt, I got to explain furry to a TSA agent in Columbus, Ohio.
  47. His coworker helped out, which made me wonder if she had something to share with the class. Hmm.
  48. Nearly showed up late to my flight home because I thought the plane was delayed (see #44)
  49. Was relieved to be in Group B for boarding which meant that I may be able to avoid another flight in the middle seat/steerage.
  50. Plane was only half-filled so I got an aisle seat for the flight home…in the same aisle with a toddler.
  51. Seatmate had a small dog in a carrier on the floor. Awww!
  52. Nothing says I’M A FURRY like watching the Walt Disney version of Robin Hood on your laptop for in-flight entertainment
  53. I was the only one who ordered ginger ale on the trip home so I got the whole can. Score!
  54. Arrived back home on time, which has me slightly irked at the time goof-up.
  55. Overall, flying wasn’t bad, though I would definitely take an Amtrak over it if I had the time: No TSA, roomier seats, lounge and dining cars, people appear more relaxed, and the ability to walk around the train make the train a much more pleasant experience.
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My Favorite Christmas Songs 2018 #10

When it’s Christmas Time in Texas, George Strait, 1986

Having lived in Texas for all of my life, I can certainly relate to George Strait’s ode to Christmas in the Lone Star State. While y’all are having turkey and ham, we’re firing up the grill.

Crazy thing: I’ve actually experienced a White Christmas once, in 2004 in Corpus Christi, of all places.  That’s it for this year’s additions!

Listen to all of the songs here on YouTube!

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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!

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ANIME, CONS, FURRY, Furry 101, How To Panel, Manga, PANELS, SAN JAPAN, Videogames, WORDS

51 Things I Noticed at San Japan XI

San Japan is probably my favorite convention, bar none, and this year was great! As always, I noticed a few things…

  1. BEFORE – I’m guessing “Magical Universe” means there will be a lot more Sailor Moon crossplayers.

    badge

    #17 Yay?

  2. They’re going to have to try pretty hard to top Okashicon for: “Con with the most pinks and pastels” prize.
  3. Between this and Furry Fiesta 2019’s ‘Roll Fur Initiative” theme, I’m not feeling a lot of love.
  4. As a nerd who’s old enough to have owned an Atari 2600, I’m not exactly the target audience, so yeah.
  5. I’m getting a new fursuit and this will be my first time wearing it. It’s just the thing for MID-90 DEGREE WEATHER.
  6. In addition to the usual con prep, I’m also looking for a new job and getting my house ready to be put on sale the Tuesday after. No rest for the weary! >.<
  7. I guess I can’t awkwardly refer to San Japan as a ‘Comic-Con’ anymore to normies for fear of being sued by SDCC.
  8. Staying at the nearby Tru by Hilton, which apparently is a more modern hotel, which means it annoys me somewhat.
  9. Thing I forgot (again): Aftershave.
  10. Chili’s seems to have become our San Japan Thursday dinner go-to.
  11. Looks like my fursuit won’t be ready for the show. Given the temperature outside and my lack of experience, it’s likely just as well.
  12. Had a funny moment with a friend when I had to remind him that he wasn’t working on Labor Day the following Monday.
  13. Dave: “You can have ambience or you can have a butt-load of arcade games.” I’m glad he went with Door #2.
  14. Maybe they should change the name to ‘Sign Japan.’
  15. I find the lack of security on Thursday nights to be just a little concerning.
  16. FRIDAY – Nothing like waking up early to go feed the meter; a small price to pay for cheap parking!
  17. I was happy with my badge art until I saw the volunteer badges have the same art and now I’m less happy.

    signjapan

    #14 The signage was YUUGE!

  18. Yay escalators!
  19. Yay, I forgot about the escalators and took the scenic route down to Artist Alley!
  20. Furst World Problems: I quit wearing my ears because the hairband kept digging into my head.
  21. I got a haircut the other day so there is less hair to cushion it now.
  22. The uneven lanes the Artist Alley are just a little weird.
  23. No panels to run on Friday: HOW DO I HAVE FUN?
  24. Retro Game Museum might be better off being called “Pong Museum.”
  25. Might need to put together a video game history panel, made better because I WAS THERE FOR MOST OF IT.
  26. The arcade was cool, though the sound on the music games wasn’t always loud enough.
  27. You know the competition between the three(!) Chinese joints at Rivercenter Mall is crazy when someone tries to hand you a sample WHILE YOU’RE IN LINE FOR THE PLACE NEXT DOOR.
  28. SATURDAY – I didn’t have enough change to feed the meter for the whole day, so I decided to live dangerously.
  29. Old hotness: Annoying music over Bluetooth speaker. New hotness: Watching anime subs on your phone with the volume turned up
  30. Sign of the times: Sriracha at the breakfast buffet
  31. Thanks for the retweet, Dave. Be nice if your Twitter account wasn’t protected, but such is life.
  32. I had an unfortunate situation with the light switches before Furry 101…maybe not for me, but the dance contest people next door likely hate me now.
  33. Very happy with the turnout and participation at Furry 101 this year, thanks for the help, San Antonio furries!
  34. I always have to buy a paleta from the vendor in front of the Henry B…BECAUSE REASONS
  35. It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to lose fursuiters at an anime con!
  36. There seem to be more people wearing ears and tails this year, hmm.
  37. Chili’s again for supper.  I’m okay with that.
  38. SUNDAY – Good trend: Vendors playing 80s music
  39. I’m still having difficulty finding cool stickers for my my laptop, though I did buy a chibi Bender.
  40. I’m pretty much forced to stay all day thanks to having a panel scheduled at 530 PM.
  41. Decision time: Carry my laptop around all day or return to my car to get it at 500 PM. I went with door #1
  42. Luckily, there is less me to carry around this time so it wasn’t a big problem.
  43. Dunno if anyone is going to be at “How to Panel,” but the show must go on.
  44. laptop

    #39 Bite my shiny chibi ass!

    Maybe I’ll use the setup time to take a nap.

  45. Mental note: Add a “Finish on time and clear the room” slide to the presentation because the group before me didn’t.
  46. Yay, people showed up…including one person with REALLY weird questions.  Sometimes you get ‘that guy’ at a panel, and he definitely was THAT GUY.
  47. Overall, the panel went well. I learned some stuff and made notes to add stuff to the presentation to make the next one even better!
  48. I took one of those Lime-S rental scooters back to the car, it was pretty cool!
  49. I was relieved to not find a citation on the my vehicle when I returned to it.
  50. I really can’t find anything major that went wrong this year, it’s gonna be a boring post-game Con Talk episode.
  51. San Japan XII: Sports?! Finally, a theme I can get behind!
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CONS, FURRY, Furry 101, Furry Invasion, How to Publish an E-Book, PANELS, RANDOM REVIEW, RANDOMIZER9.COM, REALMSCON

54 Things I Noticed During Furry Invasion 2017

NOTE: While looking through my drafts, I found this list.  I have no idea why I didn’t post it back then.  Better late than never, I guess!

If a guy wearing bear ears took your picture, it might be here!


San Antonio’s first furry convention, Alamo City Furry Invasion, took place this past weekend.  Many locals (including myself) were excited to have a furry convention in our hometown and I noticed a few things during the furry fun:

  1. IMG_0342

    MINE!

    BEFORE-Sorry guys, but ‘Alamo City Furry Invasion’ as a name is too long, I’ve just been calling it ‘Furry Invasion.’

  2. RealmsCon also happened over the same weekend, so I have another reason to not go there.
  3. Thing we forgot to mention on the pre-game podcast: Parking around the con itself is going to be ‘fun’ especially for those of us not getting a hotel room.
  4. There was some confusion about the availability of a projector. We were told to reserve the one projector they had, which was odd considering I checked a box that said ‘I need a projector’ when submitting my panel.
  5. I made arrangements to have one just in case.
  6. Day before the con and we don’t have an online map :/
  7. There have been a few complaints beforehand about the potential parking costs, oh well.
  8. Took a walk around the hotel Thursday afternoon and it was plenty warm, which doesn’t bode well for our fursuiters.
  9. Surprised they aren’t doing a ‘print out your email’ thing for pre-registrations, hope that doesn’t slow down registration.
  10. FRIDAY-Pleasant surprise: Free parking for hotel guests while it was available. I fed the meter.
  11. I had to make jokes about “Don’t let your meter expire or Judy Hopps will pay you a visit!”
  12. I see the hotel and Barry Manilow’s ‘Copacabana’ pops in my head.
  13. As always, the guy with the Bluetooth speaker has to have crappy taste in music.  I swear it’s a physical law at this point.
  14. Got into the reg line at 3:38 and waited for 45 minutes, pbbt
  15. The ‘WE’RE SORRY’ guy in the reg line finally got on my nerves and I had to open a can of manager on him.
  16. Fire alarm lights go off at 541 on Friday, oh boy.
  17. Little Kid: “Pokémon!” Dad: “I don’t think those are Pokémon…”
  18. Just a little sadface over not getting a personalized dog tag…does that make me weird?
  19. The comic book was a lame substitute, and it’s not good to see staff members with tags :/
  20. No furry Westerns for movie night?  Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron? An American Tail: Fivel Goes West?
  21. If I’d have realized there were going to be so many people there  on Friday, I would have shaved!
  22. SATURDAY-Up bright and early so I can shave (see above) and get a parking spot (see #3)
  23. There were plenty of parking spots with meters around the hotel and even some $1-$2 parking a block away.
  24. You still have to feed the meter on Saturday? LAME
  25. Downloadable PDF format for the schedule would have been nice
  26. Oh wait, the online schedule is different than the printed one, uh-oh.
  27. That is, assuming you can read it, looks like they used they used 4-point font.
  28. Nice job of giving credit where credit is due at opening ceremonies
  29. For fuzzing sake, can we keep fetish gear out of furcons already?
  30. IMG_0158

    Wheee!

    Stop popping your heads and breaking the magic, people!

  31. They definitely dropped the ball on the schedule. What is most surprising to me is either the staff didn’t notice or they chose to not do anything about it. No bueno.
  32. How to handle major screw-ups: 1-Apologize. 2-Take no more than two sentences to say what went wrong. 3-Tell us how YOU ARE GOING TO FIX IT.
  33. I mention the previous item because I heard the same ‘printer guy screwed up the schedule’ story way too many fuzzing times.  WE DON’T CARE WHAT WENT WRONG JUST FIX IT.
  34. Regardless, I got by with a little (okay, a lot) of help from my friends for Furry 101.
  35. A bunch of quiet people attended Furry 101, there were no questions for me at the end!
  36. Some parents were there too, and were very complimentary after the fact.
  37. OMG all the Amber Alerts
  38. Seems I forgot to turn off the Amber Alerts on my new phone, too. DERP
  39. Guillermo’s Italian restaurant near the hotel was delicious.
  40. Had to do karaoke to finally get Copacabana out of my head.
  41. Forgot about the 20-bar instrumental break in the middle, should have found a dance partner.
  42. Going to be hard to not wear my Dallas Cowboys jersey on Sunday.  GET IT? COWBOYS? 😀
  43. I wasn’t even aware of the food trucks, need to work on communication, there.  Maybe a bulletin board?
  44. Bedbugs, tire slashing and threats? It’s a party now.
  45. I won’t lie, my eyes got a little misty when one guy did ‘Free Fallin’ during karaoke.  God Bless Tom Petty.
  46. SUNDAY-To the person who glomped another fursuiter: YOU SUCK
  47. Apparently fursuiters weren’t happy with the fursuit lounge closing at night.  Even by my cranky middle-aged standards, 10 o’clock is WAY too early.
  48. Another furry watching football? SAY IT AIN’T SO!
  49. If you’re still telling Tony Romo jokes now, stop talking about football. Just. Stop.
  50. Had my panel cancelled on Sunday because I was feeling way

    IMG_0393

    48. Unpossible!

    oo hungry that afternoon…and they scheduled it opposite closing ceremonies.

  51. 737 attendees, wow!
  52. IMO attendance would have been higher but for RealmsCon being the same weekend in Corpus Christi and some folks in Houston are likely still recovering from the hurricane.
  53. I should probably get a room next year so I’m not dragging my tail home in the middle of the night.
  54. Overall, it was good but y’all really need to fix that scheduling, guys!
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