07 April 2008


I can't find my camera right now, which stinks, because I want to show you what it looks like outside right now. The fog... well, there IS fog, but what we really have is a cloud deck at right about 200 feet (that would be OVC002 in pilot-weather-report-speak). And what's cool is there's this building under construction across the way that's right about 200 feet tall right now. It's a pretty cool effect. Probably won't last much longer, but then it's been foggy all morning. I'm going to keep looking for the camera.

04 April 2008


People have been asking and clearly the word needs to get out: Smitty and Smittygirl have registered for their wedding!
We are registered at JC Penney, both in stores and on line at jcpenney.com. You can check under either one of our names, but I would suggest using Smittygirl's name since there are a lot of me.
Here is a direct link to the registry. That should work.

Thank you!

02 April 2008

Smitty's World

You'll notice I haven't been posting much personal stuff lately (I haven't been posting much at all but that's another story). It's not because I have nothing personal to say or anything. What I do plan to say is after the jump.
There's tons going on. We're about 18 days away from the wedding, for starters. There is still much to do, but it's not insurmountable by any means. We have a lot of checks to write, though; I have a lot of checks to write. It's not that I don't have the money. It's that there won't be much money left afterwards, another two months of living expenses after May is it. And we can't live on Smittygirl's salary alone--mainly because of this house.

Hindsight is 20/20. I should have sought basic work--retail or something stupid--back in December or January. I was adamant at first that I wouldn't work unless I made enough to cover the mortgage and condo fees, and that was stupid and shortsighted. Even $100 a week would have been well worth it. I should have seen that at the time as nearly everyone else did, I think.

But I didn't want to work. I have planned for over two years what I was going to do when I got out of the Air Force. I was going to sell this place and move, but before settling someplace new I was going to travel somewhere, for a month or two. Maybe do a long road trip out west. I knew I'd have the savings (that was maybe the second-most-important reason I signed up to go to Djibouti in the first place) and I'd have plenty of move left over from the house sale to live on for a year or two if I wanted.

Well, plans change. Maybe someday we'll go on a roadtrip together, but I'm only too happy to give up those plans to marry the most wonderful woman in the world. It's not even close.

But I still really wanted to take time off when I got out. Trouble is the time I've taken off hasn't really been... okay, it's been worthless. Totally unproductive. I only started working on the book again last week. I haven't done what I needed to to get the condo ready to sell, clean it up, move stuff around. I've just wasted all this time. How pointless. It would have been better to work now and take time off after the move, for example. But again, why be bitter about the past? Can't change it, and the present and future are what matter.

And we are going to move--not because I want to, but because we want to. Both of us individually want to move, and we're ready to move together. But when? How?

How am I going to sell this condo? I lie awake at night worrying that I'm not goin to be able to get rid of this place. The market is such shite, and not to be a lousy salesman but the management company here has this place looking like shite, too. Two shites is a problem. I do think, in my rational moments, that it should sell pretty quick--Smittygirl talked to somebody yesterday who would take it right now, only at a little less than I'd hoped. There may be negotiating room, though. And there's nothing like this condo for sale in downtown for what I'm going to list it for, that's for sure. But rational thought and lying awake in bed at night are not the same thing.

More important, though, is work. Work here? Work where we're going to move? I can't get a job right now. I made a final attempt on Monday this week, called a number from Sunday's classifieds, looking for drivers for a car delivery company. Driving cars from one sales lot to another or from the port to a transshipment point, that sort of stuff. No training needed, start work right away, that sort of thing. But I just can't bring myself to lie to people when I get them on the phone: I can work through the 17th, and then I can work again starting the 30th. And they're not interested in that. It's an hourly job, paid for the days you work, and they still don't care to hire someone for two weeks.

It's not that I blame them. I'm the idiot here, I know that. But it's no use whining about what I should have done three months ago when I can't go back and change it and the present is here now and needs to be dealt with. So I'm looking for work where we plan to move to. As soon as I find it, I'm gone. And we'll be separated for a while, a few weeks, maybe a couple months. Part of the reason I didn't take the pilot job is because I didn't want us to be separated for a few weeks right after the wedding. That's not going to be easy. But it'll have to happen, because I need to take the first job offer that comes my way, whether it's what I want to do or not.

And that concerns me, too. I sort of know what I'd like to do. Actually, scratch that. I know where I'd like to work and why I'd like to work there. I don't know what I'd like to do, but I like to think that I'd be happy to do anything at that particular place. But if I can't get a job there right away, I can't afford to sit around and wait for the right job. I have to just take what's offered. Which means I need to start applying for than I have been. I have mainly been applying at the desired location.

But I don't have to work there anyway, and yesterday I saw a listing elsewhere for a job that seems right up my alley, working for the city of Greenville as a crime analyst. No, not CSI; number crunching, mapmaking, trendspotting, that sort of thing. You know crazy maps I posted last summer that I made? Yeah, nobody paid me for those; I do that in my spare time. So the job really seems like a good fit, and I have basic knowledge of the GIS software they use. But my degree isn't exactly what they want, and my experience is... well, on paper I'm certainly not their ideal candidate. That's been bothering me a lot lately, because, on paper, most of the jobs I see--and this is true anywhere I look, in any city or state--if they like my degree, they want some relevant experience, which I don't have. If they like my experience, they require a degree in something related to it--management or some such. I don't meet their requirements.

Last week I applied for a job at Clemson. It was as a counselor to returning veterans and ex-military, students who need assistance navigating the arcane and treacherous pathways of the VA so they can get their education assistance benefits in a timely manner. I was made for that job. I can navigate a bureaucracy like nobody's business (the key is making an end-run around whatever agency is giving you trouble. Any bureaucracy of reasonable size, and the VA is definitely that, has so many cogs on so many wheels that there are always multiple ways to get anything accomplished), and working for other veterans is very appealing. The job functions were all things I can do and do well, and have experience with, the kind of experience that's actually on my resume. But I don't have any experience in student services. And because of that they didn't even look at my resume.

That was a real bummer. I tried to justify their point of view, but I couldn't care less in reality. Yeah, it's probably better in the long run to cut out a few good applicants than to let a lot of lousy ones through. But that doesn't matter much to me; it's a shame that a job I'd be great at, at the place I want to work, I can't get because of something on paper. It's not me, they never even talked to me. A box wasn't checked, so I didn't get it. Grr.

So that keeps me up at nights, too. Ultimately there are jobs up there I suspect I can get, jobs that don't require anything more than a high school diploma. But I'm having trouble finding an employer that will value my experience without throwing up artificial roadblocks because I don't have the right degree. It's very frustrating.

And that occupies a lot of my time. I submit a resume somewhere for some job at least four days a week. Some of them I really hope I'll hear back from; those are the ones I tell Smittygirl about. The others are ones I doubt I'll ever hear from, because there's something on paper that isn't just what they want.

Who knew the civilian world was just as idiotic as the military?

Where are the thieves?

Oh my God. Apparently, Robert Mugabe did NOT steal last Saturday's election in Zimbabwe. Even his own handlers seem to admit as much and the old man is said to be looking for a way out that somehow saves face. Not only that, his Zanu-PF party appears to have lost the majority in parliament.

Granted, even a man as blind and venal as Robert Mugabe had to know he has completely destroyed that country--a once-prosperous beacon of hope in Africa--and he has no authority to repair it. It's hard to believe he didn't steal the election, though, as he's done it before and that's pretty standard for African democracies lately; witness Kenya. I'm just dumbfounded. And waiting for the other shoe to drop; perhaps later today or tomorrow the election commission will report that Mugabe won after all.

I would have to argue that Mugabe, who may at one time have just been prickly, has crossed over into the realm of evil. But even evil people may be perceptive enough to know when to cut bait, and if I was Mugabe I'd be running for cover. In no way do I envy Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader who seems to have won the presidency. He has one of the toughest jobs in Africa ahead of him, and that's saying something. How do you fix 100,000% inflation? I mean, really, how? Can you even conceive of that? The last place to suffer from inflation that high--and I mean, we've seen 1000% inflation in Zimbabwe for two years and Indonesia and other countries have seen bouts of it, but this is 100 times that--was Weimar Germany, and we all know how that turned out. It's cheaper to burn the Zimbabwean dollar for heat than it is to use it as currency.

And even if he gets the inflation under control, he has to deal with an utterly broken and destroyed economy. Once prosperous farms that employed thousands of workers have been broken up and given to Mugabe's cronies, and now sit fallow. The former workers have been reduced to subsistence farming on tiny plots of land, and no one who isn't part of Mugabe's personal clique has the money to reassemble a commercially viable farm. Unfortunately those are the last people you want buying up land.

Tsvangirai himself has been left to hang by the political leadership of the surrounding countries, ever since he was beaten to within an inch of his life and has skull smashed by Mugabe's police during a political rally a year ago. Mugabe was such a hero of the revolution that other leaders were loath to say anything against him; with him out of the picture how easy will it be for Tsvangirai to regain the confidence and support of his neighbors? He needs it, without question.

There's also the potential for violence. Fortunately, both Mugabe and Tsvangirai headed parties whose basis was in something other than ethnic identity. But Tsvangirai draws most of his support from urban areas, whereas Mugabe's support was strongest in the countryside. This is a split that could cause serious problems down the road if things don't start to improve soon. If life gets much worse for the countryside (it's already as bad as anywhere else in the world) might they rise against Tsvangirai's supporters? If things fail to improve quickly enough in the cities might Tsvangirai's supporters attack Zanu-PF members who appear well-off? And what is going to become of Mugabe's police force, one of the most brutal on the continent? They probably won't just waltz off into the sunset.

The list of problems is so long perhaps Mugabe just decided it was time to leave. By not stealing the election he at least gets credit for being a good democrat. It's never too early to start working on your legacy.