Saturday, January 28, 2012

Loud Talkers

Why do people talk so loud?? Seriously. Can you just lower the volume a bit? It sounds like you're trying to talk to someone on the other side of a train station. It sounds like you're trying to talk to someone while a metal band is performing.


I find if you talk at a lower volume people will actually make more of an effort to listen to you. If you talk softer, people won't try to talk over you. They'll actually lean in and listen.

Imagine that.

Maybe instead of trying to talk over who ever you're talking to you talk softer or-- GASP!-- you stop talking and listen.


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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

...Sometimes The Bear Eats You.

Yesterday was definitely One Of Those Days. I'm sure we've all had them. Nothing is going right, nothing is working out, and there's nothing you can do about it. That's how my yesterday was.

It started out fine. I got to work in record time and started making some copies to prepare for my first class. But then I checked my email. My boss told me I can't get paid for time I'm not teaching a class. I told her the other couple hours I put in for each day was my planning and prep time. "You can't get paid for that" she said. Huh. Interesting. So I get paid for teaching a class but I can't technically plan or prepare for the class? THEN HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO TEACH IT?

The back and forth on the email just put me in a bad mood. If I had another job, if ANY of the jobs that I've applied to would just call me back and hire me, I would leave this job. I can't deal with ANOTHER job based on grant money and/or small budgets. I thought this job would be different since it was at a community college, but it's not. It's just like working for a not-for-profit.

Whenever I get pissed at my job or my work situation, I fly off the handle (in my head) and try to find a quick fix. This time I did not do that. This time I decided to use my energy to do something more productive: work on my PhD application. I sent in my writing sample and I faxed the letter to Niagara University to have my transcripts sent over. Then I got on the GRE website. I had to take my GRE to get into Niagara, so I was happy I didn't need to take that test again for UB, even though it is one of the requirements.

Not so fast, chaz.

I logged into my account on the GRE site and I clicked on the "Request Copies" of my test scores. If I could just have them send the scores electronically to UB, it would make this process that much easier. When I clicked on the drop down menu to select the year I took the test, it only went as far back as 2006. I needed it to go to 2004. I tried to type the date in. No go. So I called the 800 number on the site. They told me, after being redirected four different times, that my scores were no longer in their system. Once a test is over five years old, it gets purged from the system. WHAT?? "Our computers automatically do that, sir." The computers. So a teeny tiny electronic file that is composed of my name and address and four triple digit scores takes up SO MUCH room that you purge it forever? "Is there anything else I can help you with, sir?" Um, no. Thanks for nothing. "Did I answer all of your questions, sir?" Yeah, I guess. Not to my liking, but you did answer them. "Do you have time to answer a customer service survey?" I don't think that would be a good idea today.

Luckily I still have the print out of my scores. Not that they'll do me any good. My go-to person in the office at UB told me to send in the scores, but they may ask me to take the test again. Awesome. just what I need: To take a test that costs over 100 dollars just to sit for. If I have to re-take, then my application will take that much longer to be complete. Which means I may be SOL when it comes to a fellowship or scholarship or something.

Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


This past weekend I suggested we do our grocery shopping at Price Rite on Elmwood Avenue instead of going to Tops or Wegmans like we usually do. I was given the suggestion from a commenter on a blog I posted a week or two ago. Money has been tight for us for a while and we've been trying to figure out ways to cut back on the amount we spend.

We should have turned around as soon as we made a couple passes around the parking lot. It was hard to see exactly where the parking spots were, since the lot was still covered in snow and slush from two days earlier. The cars were parked haphazardly and the shopping carts were strewn all over the place. This was a bad sign, in retrospect. If the management/owners don't care enough about their store to clean up the outside, what was the inside going to look like? The outside is the first impression you make to potential customers. Maybe the management doesn't care about first impressions. Maybe they don't care if a customer slips and falls in front of their store. Maybe they just assume people are going to shop there no matter what. Maybe they know that since their store is in a low economic neighborhood, they don't need to worry about what the store looks like from the outside.

Since the snow and slush was not cleaned up outside, everyone is forced to track it into the store. There was an area of about ten feet or so just inside the door that was a dirty, messy puddle of gross melted snow. I had to track slushy snow into the store twice since I had to go back outside to find a shopping cart. There were three or four near the entrance outside, all of them filled with trash and empty food containers. I emptied the cart that was leaning against the overflowing garbage can and attempted to start my shopping.

We evidently picked the wrong day to shop because the produce section was clogged with shoppers loading their carts up with what appeared to be fresh fruits and vegetables. I grabbed a bulb of garlic and attempted to quickly move to the next isle. One of the ways Price Rite saves money is by not having any rhyme or reason to where items are placed in the isles. There was ketchup next to cans of Cream of Mushroom soup next to baby food next to large boxes of matches. I applaud the fact that they are trying to save their customers money by just putting the pallet of merchandise on the floor, but it makes for an even longer shopping trip because nothing is in any kind of order. We had to back-track a few different times because we missed something or we thought we remembered seeing something an isle back. There's no point in putting your shopping list in any kind of order if the store isn't in any kind of order.

By the end of the shopping excursion, I'm not sure we saved a whole lot of money to be honest. We weren't able to get everything on our list. Luckily we had a cardboard box in our trunk because there was no way I was going to pay ten cents for each plastic bag. We ended up leaving the store in a worse mood than we started. It was a depressing shopping trip. But at the same time, it motivated me. It motivated me to find another money source other than my current job. It motivated me to save money. It motivated me to be smarter with what money I did have. I never want to shop there again. I swear to God I would rather go hungry than shop at that Price Rite again. That store is gross. It has nothing to do with the low-income shoppers I was surrounded by, because let's be honest: I am a low-income shopper. The owners and managers of that store don't give one single crap about their customers. They don't give one single crap about how their store looks. They don't give one single crap because they know there's no where else for their customers to go. Price Rite is the only grocery store in the Elmwood Village. It is the only grocery store within walking distance for many of their customers.

Price Rite knows this. They don't have another nicer store to compete with. In the suburbs Tops and Wegmans and even sometimes Quality Markets are all within a few blocks of each other so they need to compete with each other. They need to make sure their store looks the nicest or the cleanest. They need to make sure their customer service is the best. We don't have this luxury downtown. We're stuck with what we've got.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Choices, Decisions, and Other Choices

This year is NOT starting off the way I had hoped.

My bank account and my cupboards are near bare. 2012 was supposed to be a good, no-- great year. I ended 2011 planning on making moves to do better. I was going to eat healthy. I was going to attempt to get my PhD. I was going to drive a car that didn't have issues. So far none of these things have happened.

I realize that I am not even two weeks into the new year, but things are not even on the up-swing.

Three things I need to pay for in the next couple weeks:

My inspection is due this month. My application fees are due by February first. Oh yeah, and I have a serious need to eat sometime this month. The way it looks right now, after I get paid on Friday and after I pay my bills, I won't be able to do all three of these things.

So what do I do? Do I sell my CDs and DVDs? Do I overdraw my bank account? I have applications out at local stores and shops for a part-time job, but even if I get fired tomorrow, that won't help me today. I need money now. I need money yesterday.

So I need to make decisions. I obviously cannot afford to do all of the things on the above list. I guess groceries comes first. On Abraham Mazlow's Need Pyramid, air and food and water comes first. So I'll but food to eat for the next week or so. Then I'll hope and pray that something comes my way. Get hired by one of the dozen jobs I applied to in the past month. Find something of value to sell. Manna from Heaven. Something. Anything.

I really do want to go back to school for my PhD, but maybe it's not in the cards for me this year. Eating and having a roof over my head and being able to get to work everyday is more important than something that will end up putting me in more debt, right?


Monday, January 9, 2012

Is Eating Healthy Cheap Possible?

I want to eat healthy. I want to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. I want to make my own pasta. I want to make sauces and soups and stews from scratch. I watch the cooks and chefs on PBS and the Food Network to get new ideas of great new meals. I scour the internet and my dozens of cook books for dishes I can attempt in my very tiny kitchen. I have so many things I want to do.

But then I go grocery shopping. I am a man on a budget. My paycheck disappears soon after it appears in my checking account. I am left with very little to buy food with. I am left with two alternatives: Buy ingredients for one fresh, delicious, and healthy meal; buy many not-so-healthy meals such as canned soup, boxed pasta, and sauce in a jar.

I try to find the deals. I have a Bonus Card or a Shopper's Club Card or whatever it's called. I try to use coupons. I'm frugal. But I just cannot justify paying more than twenty dollars on food that will turn into maybe four helpings. I can buy nine packages of Ramen Noodles, four cans of soup (if they're on sale), a couple boxes of pasta, a jar of sauce or so, and a box of frozen fish sticks for the same amount.

So what's a guy to do? I would love to have an unlimited supply of money to spend on fresh, healthy food. But I don't. So I buy a few jars of sauce instead of tomatoes, cloves of garlic, onions, peppers and mushrooms. I buy a couple cans of soup instead of cream and clams and potatoes and carrots and thyme and celery. And I make moves to make things better fiscally.

If you have any ideas of how to create a healthy frugal meal, please PLEASE leave it in the comments. I can use all the health, er-- help I can get!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year, Same Stuff. Kinda.

It feels like it's been forever since I posted something on here. After blogging every single day in December, I decided to take a bit of a break (five days). Resound '11 really took a lot out of me. It was hard to dig deep and blog every day. Especially about the topics they proposed. I'm not sure if I'll do that again. We'll see. I have about a year to decide. Unless the Mayans are right.

This year feels just like last year. But with a better outlook. I can't just sit around and wait for things to change. I need to do it on my own. Be the change you want to see in the world. Or something. Right? The idea that someone is going to walk up to me and say, "Excuse me, are you Chaz? Do you want a job?" is a myth. That is NOT going to happen. Well, maybe it will, but I am done sitting around waiting for that to happen. I am going to make things happen. I have created a second blog here for my creative writing. I've decided that I need this. I have so many ideas and stories and characters in my head that I need to a place to purge them. Feel free to follow along. Or not.

I was really hoping to be out of this town by now. But things don't move at the pace you'd like them to. Life gets in the way. Things happen. But I'm hoping to try to direct all of my energy toward making my life better. If I'm going to be here for a little while longer, then I need to make it work. I can't just be miserable. Being miserable isn't any fun. Being miserable doesn't make things change.

And I hope that my readers, my audience, my friends, will hold me to this.