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If there's one word that I'd use to describe my feelings about my relationship with Lindsay, it would be 'frustrated'. I know I haven't written about us since our high point in July. Our time together since then has given me plenty to dwell on; nothing to brag about. Lindsay is significantly different from my past girlfriends. As I mentioned previously, she seemed distant or indifferent during our courtship. That much has persisted even though we're “officially” boyfriend and girlfriend now. I . . . believe I had the good/bad luck to meet her when she had no horse to ride. The first month we were together, although I still sensed a lack of interest/initiative, we would spend the afternoon in downtown Denton, or a couple days over the 4th of July weekend with her parents and her place, or the evening together at the movies and her place; I thought it was as much as could be expected given the physical distance between our homes. Since then though, our time together is usually limited to about 4 hours together, the evening typically ending when Lindsay asks me to leave (politely but frankly), for whatever seemingly trivial reason. I'm listing them below to the best of my memory, just so I can step back and see if there's a pattern or common thread.

7/18: This weekend I had the house all to myself (for the first time ever) and I cleaned up since Lindsay would be coming over to work on cosplay; I was prepared for her to spend the night. She came over in the early afternoon and we worked for a few hours. Her parents invited us out for dinner. While we were out with them, her mom asked Lindsay if she'd be spending the night at their house, to which she replied in the affirmative. That wasn't the response I expected, but I thought she might've been caught off-guard by the question and hopefully didn't really intend to go over. After dinner we watched the Flapjack DVD. Lindsay snuggled with me on the couch. This was the only time she's ever initiated physical affection, before or since. I took this as a promising sign, but as soon as the DVD ended around 9 pm, Lindsay excused herself despite my expressed dissatisfaction and headed to her parent's.
7/25: I hardly remember this weekend. Lindsay was only free Sunday evening. I went over and we went out to Texas Roadhouse (?) for dinner. Not too long after we got home, Lindsay mentioned how she needed personal time in preparation for going back to work the next day. It was a school night so I didn't really press the matter; I hadn't anticipated that I'd be spending the night anyways.
8/1: We went out to see the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Lindsay was house-sitting her parent's house for the night which was relatively close to my own residence. I thought this would make it easy to parlay the early date into an extended visit at her place. As we were walking out to our cars after the movie, I asked if she wanted to do anything else. Her response was No, the dogs were waiting on her. That seemed like such a non-excuse that it confused me long enough that I ran out of time to push the point.
8/8: I went up to Denton Saturday evening and we promptly went to dinner (Chuy's) once I arrived. When we got back to her place, Lindsay started working on cosplay. I refrained and just tried to engage her in conversation, i.e. hanging out. If we were only spending a handful of hours with each other once a week, I wanted that time to count. When we work on cosplay together, we work separately. After she called attention to the fact that I wasn't doing anything, I did get to work on cosplay. At one point I was helping her with her work, marking her leggings while she was wearing them. With my face not too far from her crotch, I mentioned that it'd been a long time since I'd been down in that area. No response from her. She stated that I could stay till 10 pm. She wanted to go to bed early since she had an early start the next morning. As we wrapped up our work for the evening, I mentioned how it was distracting to work on cosplay at her place, since I spent half my time trying to think of how to seduce her into the bedroom. Again, no response from her. The time came for me to leave. I was a good sport about it since she'd made it clear beforehand, even though of course I wanted to spend the night.
Still, I was disappointed. I knew I'd just mull over the evening's events if I went home, so I took up my co-workers' offer to go out to a hookah bar that night. I would drink instead of mope. During the drive from Denton to Richardson, I restrained myself from falling into the same feeling-sorry-for-myself and bitter rut that I often fell into when Liz and I were no longer intimate. Rather than just dumping all the fault at Lindsay's feet for why we weren't being intimate or growing closer, I interpreted the situation as being evidence that I had yet to learn how to make Lindsay feel comfortable enough for that level of affection. I took responsibility and I felt proud of myself for not reacting selfishly or immaturely to this evening. Then while I was at the bar with my friends, I noticed that Lindsay was posting to Facebook a little after midnight. This perturbed me. I'd been willing to take Lindsay's words at face value despite my doubts and now it seemed like she was being disingenuous if not outright lying about wanting to go to bed early.
8/15: I was still disappointed and dwelling on the previous weekend, so I didn't bother to contact Lindsay this week and set up a date. I didn't think she'd mind or notice, considering that this was her period weekend and she'd taken that weekend off the month before.
8/22: Lindsay had once said that I could use her place as a cosplay refuge and escape from the distractions at my house. As this was the last weekend before Dragon*Con I assumed that we'd be spending the whole weekend at her place, cramming and planning for the event. I told her as much after she said that she would only be free Sunday. I didn't know, but her family had taken her out to a nice restaurant Saturday night in anticipation of her birthday (the 25th). I like to think I would've/should've been welcome. Since my birthday is the 31st, we had agreed to just celebrate our birthdays at Dragon*Con so I hadn't planned any birthday-oriented gestures for this weekend. I felt like I'd been denied a significant occasion to be a boyfriend.
I came over Sunday mid-afternoon and we worked on cosplay. I was undecided if I should bring up my concerns/frustrations with Lindsay, just before we were about to go on vacation. We went out for a good dinner. When we got back, I suggested that we watch a movie that she'd just bought and been raving and I hadn't seen yet. I figured a couple hours of digesting and cuddling would be a pleasant and realistic expectation. She said she had already planned to watch it tomorrow and that she needed her weekly personal time before work on Monday. I was disappointed but not surprised.

In the last two weeks that I went without seeing her, I'd been trying to assess just what our relationship is. I've moved beyond just fixating on the lack of intimacy. After all, it may all be due to something as simple as it hasn't been convenient for her. However, it's not so easy to dismiss what seems like a huge difference in what we need and how much we need from one another. I know we're both introverts; that doesn't make things any easier. I knew it would take some effort, but I thought that with enough persistence I could find my way into her sphere of comfort and our connection would grow. I know that between work and her family and her riding commitments, she doesn't have much free time. Yet, it seems to me like she's consciously keeping me at arm's distance. Either that or her appetite for having a boyfriend is satisfied by just a few hours of platonic company once a week. If so, that doesn't come anywhere near to satisfying my needs.
I'd been tempted to ask Lindsay if she wanted to attend Dragon*Con as friends rather than boyfriend and girlfriend. That would spare me any further frustration or unmet expectations. But no matter how I could think of to bring it up, it always sounded to me either unnecessarily confrontational or insecure/needy once I tried to outline my reasoning.
As I left this evening I asked her (in a half-joking manner) if she was really ready to spend a 4-day weekend with me. After all, I wouldn't be leaving at the end of the night while we were there. She chuckled. There was a kernel of truth in my question. I know that we'll get along better while at Dragon*Con. It'll be a vacation and frankly I'll be inescapable. If she wants to keep her distance from me at D*C, it'll be obvious. I'm hoping for any sort of break-through while at the same time reminding myself that I shouldn't allow one fun vacation weekend to erase these concerns of mine. I don't see this relationship persisting if things continue the way they are.

A-kon 2014
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This past weekend was A-kon. I ended up rooming with a totally random grab-bag of new people. There was nothing special or amazing about that, though our room party got pretty huge a couple of nights, which ain't for me. I hadn't been able to get the official time off for A-kon as I'd requested, so I had a couple of shifts interrupting/abbreviating my convention. I was mildly hungover when I reported to work Friday morning and that didn't do me any favors. So Friday night I took it relatively easy with the booze. Saturday would turn out to be my cosplay day. I cosplayed all three of the costumes I'd brought along, which is probably a new daily record for me.
As a bonus, Lindsay was also at the con on Saturday. I'd met her online about a month ago and we'd gone on a couple of dates. The dates had gone well enough, aside from the common ailment of struggling to find things to talk about. She's a mild cosplayer and fortunately/unfortunately(?) her friends wouldn't be attending A-kon, which meant that I was her sole option for accompaniment. I didn't have any cosplay or scheduling commitments, so I was content to have someone to bum around with. After an hour or so of text-tag and hide-and-go-seek, we managed to find each other and spent most of the day with each other. The online metrics say we're a very strong match personality-wise. I have trouble reading her though. I can't tell if her quietness and lack of outward expression is just because she's a reserved person, or if she's bored/uninterested with me and thus disengaged. I figure if she weren't interested, she wouldn't have stuck around. It's just weird that I can't discern any positive or negative cues from her.
She certainly looked cute in her Kiki costume. We wandered the con, grabbed some lunch, and went up to my room for awhile so that she could charge her phone. She'd just driven in for the day, so had no charger or change of clothes for that matter. Later on we went to the cosplay contest, which ran long. We got out of there about 10 pm and we were both ravenous and chose to wait in the long lines for the food trucks. By the end of dinner, Lindsay seemed to finally be relaxing/warming up to me. It being 11 pm, I was ready to switch to drinking and socializing. I proposed that Lindsay join me but she declined. After all, she had to drive home and she'd been wearing the same costume all day long. So I walked her back to her car and that was that.
The rest of the night was typical con goodness. I strengthened some friendships, made some new buddies, and unfortunately missed some people that I only get to see this one time of year. That's just how these things go.

Zenith?
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While driving home today I caught myself in a rather ebullient mood. A bit of reflection revealed to me that the reason for my mood was that at this moment, it seems that everything is going well and moving forward for me.
At the beginning of this year, I'd looked into the possibility of working as a tutor at a tutoring business. That didn't go anywhere, but I eventually found my way to a website that serves as an intermediary between tutors and potential students. It wasn't until my conventional job hunting was going nowhere that I began to seriously consider that sort of freelance work. Yesterday I had my first tutoring gig. I was nervous as the hour drew near. It's one thing to test well and prove competency to yourself, but that may not correlate at all to how effective you are at teaching. I pulled up at the student's residence and was somewhat dismayed to see a giant affluent house situated in a country club community. I was reminded of my mom's stories of her tutoring experiences, where rich parents would just burn money on tutors for their dumb or apathetic kids. I was worried that might be the situation I was about to experience.
I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, at first when the student pulled out his geometry homework, it looked nigh incomprehensible. But after a few minutes of letting him take the lead in explaining what he was trying to do, the vocabulary and theorems came back to me. We started clicking pretty quickly and I soon had a firm grasp on where to focus his attention and what ideas would be instrumental to his grades. Luckily for me, he was an engaged and intelligent kid. From what I could gather, I assume the only reason for his difficulty is that the teacher cannot provide enough in-depth explanation or direct instruction, for whatever reason that may be. The mother seemed to have already concluded that we should meet twice a week. I doubt Zarar will need that much help, but I couldn't resist the offer for a more consistent revenue and besides, it can't hurt to be extra diligent, so long as the student is okay with the regimen.
I was delighted with the successful outcome and the prospect of a long-term job opportunity. More than that, it was rewarding and relieving to have an experience that says I just might actually be a good teacher after all.
Oh, and speaking of jobs, I was starting to worry about my job offer from Chipotle. I'd filled out all the necessary forms by Thursday evening, the same day of my interview. But I didn't hear anything else from the all weekend. Complete radio silence. Not until Tuesday did they call me and say to bring in my license and social security card so that I can be 'put on the schedule'. But when I told the manager that I didn't have my card available, she wasn't able to offer me any alternatives; not even my passport would suffice. I said I'd do what I could. So I spent Tuesday afternoon at the Social Security office up in McKinney, doing what I could to expedite my replacement card. They gave me a receipt that proved my number belonged to me. I went in to Chipotle today with some trepidation that this still wouldn't be acceptable. The general manager appeared to receive my documents, but then stopped when she saw that I didn't have my card. When I told her it'd be two weeks for the replacement to come in, the expression on her face told me this might be a deal-breaker. She stepped away to call her manager and I wondered if this was a no-go. Then she came back and told me that my passport WOULD work. Okay, that's not what I'd been told, but whatever works. So I'll have to go back on Friday with my passport to finalize all this, but I'm glad to know that I'm still holding onto this job opportunity.
I took it easy at the gym today because I forgot my water bottle. With the air as cold and dry as it is right now, my exercise-induced asthma is tricky to manage. Constant hydration and mindful breathing techniques seems to keep it at bay. But anyways, I weighed myself on the scale and either the last scale I used was wrong, or else I've actually lost weight. I'm certain I wrote a post this time last year, when I crossed the 200-lb mark (though I can't find it); that's what prompted me to start being more disciplined about food and exercise. Today I was at 187, according to the scale. That difference is more than can be attributed to error; the only conclusion is that my efforts, inconsistent as they may be, have had an effect. I'm pleased with this. I was worried that I'd get softer, now that I'm living with my brother's family. They've got snacks everywhere and they're less concerned about healthy eating (as is evidenced by my brother's waistline).
I continue to expand my workout regimen at the university gym. Every week I add a new machine to my regimen. I still don't have any real strategy to my workout, but I figure each machine must confer some benefit. Ultimately I'd like to get around to using the weights/weight machines, but I'm most clueless and least confident about those. I don't know if that'll happen. And on top of that, I've been pretty good about riding my bike to and from the bus stops to get to school. That's 5 miles roundtrip each day that I go to school, rain, shine, or sleet. The only exceptions have been when I have too much stuff to carry with me, like today since I had a presentation to rehearse. All things considered, I'm fairly confident that if I maintain my current commitment, I'll continue to see physical improvements. Once the weather warms up I'll be able to push myself even harder. Woo! Eventually I'm going to be a hottie! *knock on wood*
The other developments are a bit more difficult to quantify, but I'm sure they're just as integral to my current feeling of satisfaction. To put it simply, I think I'm fitting in with my classmates. I know maybe I'm just too self-conscious about my age. I just think if the situation were reversed and I was in my early 20's, I'd be dis-inclined to hang-out/chat with someone a decade my senior, especially if they were the opposite gender. To my surprise, I haven't perceived any of that disinterest or aversion that I was expecting. It helps that almost all my classes utilize cooperative learning (group work), which helped as an initial ice-breaker. I'm on a first-name basis with an unexpected number of my classmates. Rather than being avoidant, the gals seem to be cool with my company. I commonly walk with one partway to her dorm after class, chatting. Tonight the cute one in my Psychology class said she hopes that she can work on a project with me. I'd assumed the gals would be the most skittish of all, so this outcome has done much to assuage my initial doubts about fitting in.
With all these aspects in positive territory, I can't help but feel good about my current situation.

Febs
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School is going well. Most of the courses are push-overs. The only one that gives me any difficulty is the 100% online one. It's just so . . . meta and meaningless; as if it's a federally-mandated course that sounds good on paper but is so abstract or intangible that no professor wants to teach it, nor does anyone really have an idea of what it should amount to. At least, that's the impression that I get. Or maybe some tenured professor invented this class as their sole piece of territory to maintain their own relevance. Or something.
Anyways, yeah, that's class. I've also joined the anime and k-pop clubs. The anime club is large, but I don't agree with the format. They do a lot of things (not all related to anime), so I applaud them for being ambitious, but I feel that some members may be discouraged or disinterested due to that (I know I am). I joined the K-Pop club to expand what little exposure I've had to it. It's a tiny club that's still trying to establish it's place in the acknowledged student clubs. I've got homework to listen to some recommended artists. We'll see how that goes.
I've been looking for work ever since my school and student teaching schedule stabilized earlier this month. I tried at places that I was both interested in and thought I might have something to offer, such as Home Depot, Lowe's, Jo-Ann's, and CostCo. I didn't hear back from any of those dozens of applications. I applied at Chipotle and got hammered with responses. I suppose Food Service is always hungry for fresh meat. So I interviewed there yesterday and was offered a position immediately. Yay. I mean, I'd prefer not to work in a restaurant, but I applied with this company because it's the sole food chain that I respect enough to be part of. So I think it'll be fine. Though, I was reading through the employee's handbook tonight and was slightly displeased to find that I can't participate in a 401K until I've been there for a year. Boo. I suppose I could re-invest in my old 401K on my own, but that takes a bit more discipline and initiative. Although that's a small hurdle, it might still be large enough to trip me up.
This job really came in the nick of time too. A couple weeks ago would've been ideal though. My savings are all tapped out and I have to decide whether I want to dip into my retirement again to bridge this shortfall till my first paycheck. I probably will, just to ease the tightness and avoid defaulting on any obligation. I'm just wary of becoming too familiar with using this 'last resort' option.
Oh, and I'm going to try tutoring. When my first round of applications didn't pan out and before Chipotle found me, I was looking into potential tutoring avenues to earn money and give me relevant experience. I've signed up with a website that connects tutors and interested parties. They take a big slice as their share, though their slice gets smaller as I rack up the jobs. It's mostly up to the tutor to seek out the opportunities (rather than a match-making arrangement), but I like the autonomy that I get being able to choose when, where, and what I'll teach. From what I've read of other people's experiences, it takes a while to get that initial traction and critical mass of students, so I may not make much money at this for awhile. Even while working at Chipotle, I like to think that I'll be able to maintain this sideline.
Student teaching is a bit frustrating. I'm only there one afternoon a week, which isn't enough to build any rapport with the students or the teacher I'm assisting. Three weeks in and not even the teacher knows my name yet. Plus, I'm there as more of an observer than a teacher or disciplinarian; I can't really take the initiative for either without usurping the teacher's own authority. And with these middle school kids, she's already fending off enough challenges to her control of the classroom. I just wish I could participate more. Oh well. Just six more visits and that'll be that.
I found out that this certification will take longer than I anticipated. Although the coursework will only take me two semesters to complete, I can't perform my actual student teaching (as opposed to this 'early field experience' stuff) until I've completed my coursework. So it'll be two semesters of coursework followed by a semester of student teaching and THEN I'll have my certification. So three semesters all told. It's no big deal I suppose. I'm comfortable living with Cameron and I can work fast food for a year and a half. Plus, this development may actually be in my favor. I'll finish everything up and begin my job searching at the end of the school year. Before, I would've been trying to get a job halfway through the school year, which isn't the most opportune time to do so.

Because I've been prodding myself for weeks to get back on the journalling horse . . .
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So. Since my last installment in August, what's happened? Well, I passed my PACT test with flying colors, scoring a 92%; it seems that cheating was mostly unnecessary. But as important as that test was, I wasn't going to leave anything to chance.
While waiting for my scores I attended Dragon*Con. Like always, it was the highlight of my con year. I think I've gotten the hang of that con. So many more of my friends attended this year. It seems like the center of gravity has shifted from AnimeFest to Dragon*Con, so I think it'll be the go-to Labor Day event for everyone I know next year.
I sat in Austin twiddling my thumbs until about Thanksgiving before I FINALLY got a reply from the University of Texas at Dallas saying that I had been accepted. That was a huge relief. I moved up to Plano and settled in at my brother's place ASAP. My mother and sister visited for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Those holidays were as minimally unpleasant as could be expected.
I returned to Austin for the New Year's weekend, as I'd agreed long ago to volunteer to work the Ikki-con cosplay staff for Beauty. The work wasn't too demanding, but the hours were long, which prevented me any opportunity to take photos or go drinking with friends. I felt under-utilized and that I was mostly wasting my time but whatever. I was doing a favor for a friend.
I have to say I'm considerably more comfortable living here with my brother and his wife and toddler than I'd been in Austin or Richardson. I suppose the fact that I'm family neutralizes my reflex feeling of being a guest that I'd experienced at the other places I've lived recently.
School started just over a week ago. I was kinda nervous. Partly because of my age and the associated decline of cognitive abilities that go with it. And also, I signed up for 15 hours before I was informed that in graduate school, 9 hours is considered 'full-time'. As it takes 30 hours to get teacher's certification, I wanted to finish it in two semesters. So I was worried I'd bitten off too much. But if the first week is any indication, then this liberal arts degree plan is significantly easier than the work load I'm used to from my old engineering plan.
The only fly in the ointment is that I need to get a job. I took out a chunk of money from my retirement fund to pay the up-front cost of school and my rent/bills are modest enough that I can handle them for now just with what I've saved up. I've sent out maybe a dozen applications and I haven't gotten any nibbles. Perhaps it's because my heart isn't in it. I suspect that I haven't gotten any replies because I'm overqualified for the retail jobs which I'm loathe to do anyways, and yet I can't commit the time to any employment more serious than that. And the knowledge that I could dip into my retirement again (if I had no other choice) is probably sapping at any motivation I have to find a job. I KNOW I need to find one, if for no other reason than to sponsor my hobbies and social life. And truth be told, I have too much free time on my hands right now. I NEED to be doing something. I just can't seem to give half a damn about any of the job opportunities that I have a chance at landing and I may be too proud(?) to go back to minimum wage fast food drudgery.
If I could get the employment issue sorted out, I'm sure I'd have smooth sailing for the rest of 2014. We'll see.
In a couple weeks I should begin tutoring at a local school district. It seems a bit sudden to me, until I realized that I tested my way into the final phase of the teacher certification program. The FBI is running a background check on me as we speak, to see if I'm fit to work with children. I'm 90% sure I'll pass their scrutiny. I'm curious to experience this student teaching. Often, our instructors hark back to the purpose and idealized mission/drive that all teachers should have. This is kinda new to me; in engineering, our professors never spoke about what it meant to be an engineer or what sort of qualities you had to have, if you were willing and able, that was all that mattered. So when our pedagogical professors talk about how compassion and caring for students should be foremost, I find myself thinking, “Well I like kids, but it's science that I love.” By their metrics, it should be the other way around. Or at least, that's the impression that I get. Maybe this student teaching will show me if that disparity will be a problem or if it's just a phantom.

8-25-13
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So, let's see.
Last week I took my PACT Physics test (the test that assesses if I'm proficient enough at Physics to teach it). I'd been studying constantly since I quit my job at Fugro, about 2 weeks prior. The odd thing about this physics test is that the majority of it was about chemistry, which I wasn't too thrilled to have to study again. I took the practice test after a week of studying, since I was already burnt out by then and wanted some sort of proof that I could stop studying. I got a 69%, which I was satisfied with since I figured it was close enough to 70. But then read in the fine print that 80% is the minimum passing grade. So there would be no slacking off for me till the test date.
I snuck in some notes about formulas into the test. If I was caught cheating I'd get kicked out and would miss my chance to apply for spring 2014 semester. But there were just WAY too many formulas for me to memorize so I took that chance. There were plenty of video cameras in the testing room. If someone has cause to view that tape, then I'll get busted. But seeing as how I wasn't kicked out I figure I'm okay. Although, there was one question concerning pendulums, which I hadn't bothered to study (or cheat for). So I improvised and used the computer's wired mouse to conduct an experiment to get the answer. That might have raised an eyebrow or two. I don't know if that's something that could be considered cheating.
We were given 5 hours to take the test. I could've finished it in two hours, but the two weeks of studying had shown me that my biggest hurdle was my own sloppiness in algebra. Not that I didn't know the algebraic rules, just that I've become TERRIBLY sloppy for lack of practice. So I used the entire 5 hours to exhaustively review my work.
I believe I passed, but I usually feel over-optimistic about tests, especially given my success on the last PACT exam. I should get my scores in another day or two. I was hoping the scores would take two weeks to come back (as they had with the paper-based test), so that I could enjoy Dragon*Con blissfully ignorant of my fate. It would suck to fail the test and have a pall cast over my favorite event of the year. Oh well. Best to know my fate sooner than later, I suppose. Once I know those scores I'll be able to decide whether I can continue with my graduate school plans or if I'll have to re-assess my job options with the degree and experience I have in-hand.

But what I really wanted to post about is DRAGON*CON!
I'm very excited this year. Once I took the exam I was freed to spend this past week furiously finishing up my costumes. I've nothing major planned; this year's costumes are fairly simple and casual. I almost feel guilty for not making something commensurate with my skill and experience. Almost. But Dragon*Con is all about drinking and fun, so no worries. Now that I've got my costumes laid out, I realize that I could've easily flown instead, but it's too late to think about flights. Luckily, I'll be driving out with Sarah, a longtime acquaintance and new Texan transplant. That roadtrip should prove to be much more fun than the past two times I drove with Courtney (she slept 90% of the way).
I'm most excited about the fact that an unprecedented number of my friends will finally be attending D*C with me. After 4 years of singing D*C's praises, it seems I've worn them down. I've filled my rooms with returning roommates. I would've rather roomed with new friends, but this is okay too. My resolution this year is to not drink so DAMNED much. I tend to wander off from the group when I do that, and it's fun and all, but I miss out on our shenanigans and making memories and all that crap. This year I'll be a good boy and stay put. And by not drinking so much, I should still possess a concept of 'time' and be able to attend a panel or two.

I CAN'T WAIT.

7-22-13
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My mom and sister dropped by this Monday evening. They'd been visiting my brother up in Carollton all weekend and now was my turn. I couldn't very well host them in my current residence, so we went out to dinner. Clarisa has accepted a position in Colorado so she's just recently pulled up stakes where she was living in California and has a week or so before she's due to report to CO. From the sound of things, she'd been in a tight spot for the last few months financially so this is a welcome bit of good fortune. She was visiting family and picking up furniture from storage before she had to head up north. Of course mom was tagging along; as always she needs no real reason to travel and see her kids. Mom asked me the same threadbare, nagging questions that she always does. I'm often annoyed by her and how she refuses to recognize me as an adult but during the meal I caught myself realizing that I'm fond of her.
She looks older than the last time I saw her. Like, she looks like an old woman now. Maybe that's why I felt a little more tender towards her. She's the youngest of 12 Ramirez's. Some of her older siblings are dead, others are in weak health. I'm not a very affectionate son. Hmph. I can't really figure out how to say what I'm thinking without sounding calloused. I guess, despite my lack of affection, I will miss her when she's gone.
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Midsummer report?
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I'm just writing this because for once I have a weekend with no plans, so I find myself oddly unoccupied. And I'm not in the mood to do any responsible-adult stuff, nor even cosplay or video games. So let's catch up on what's up, hmm?

Let's see. Well, I've been on the water A LOT this summer. Aside from the other float that I wrote about in detail, I've floated another three times, gone to the lake for a houseboat party once, went to Schlitterbahn, and also went to Barton Springs a couple times. Just between you and me, I'm a little burnt out on watersports and booze, but this is the season to do it. So I should enjoy it while it lasts.

Work has been terribly slow since I got back from Louisiana in March. That first month back I was getting about 20 hours of real work a week. Now we've got a local design-build project now that keeps me closer to almost full-time busy. None of the engineers want to plug me into any of their significant projects, seeing as how I've just got a month to go before I quit. This isn't how I foresaw my exit panning out. I thought I'd stay in the field with the drillers like I had all last year or so; y'know, go out strong. But it looks like I'll be going out with a whimper, just killing time in the office until the clock runs out. It stinks. It's hard to build up my graduate school nest egg with these under-sized paychecks.

As for school, yeah, most of the schools turned down my application. The advisor I met with at UTDallas said that they'd be willing to consider me, pending good scores on a PACT (Pre-Admission Content Test?). Basically it's a test to prove that I know my subject well enough to teach it; the alternative would be to take a whole bunch of undergraduate courses to prove the same point. I took the blanket Science grades 8-12 PACT test in June. Even though I'd prefer to teach Physics, I'm willing to teach the other fields too. Plus, this test would be a good chance to learn where my weak spots were, considering that it's been over a decade since I cracked open a textbook.

With the exception of taking the practice exam the night before, I did no studying. And still, I nailed that PACT test. 92%. That was a big surprise and a rare bit of good news in this whole graduate school application process. I've since signed up for the Physics PACT test which will be in late August. I'm actually studying this time around. No more recreational reading for me until then. I'll be working through my physics and chemistry textbooks in my spare time.

Once I get my scores back from that I'll immediately re-apply for UT Dallas. When I quit my job next month, I've got enough savings to coast for 4 months or so. I'll need a timely response from school to help me decide whether I need to get a part-time or full-time job, or consider some other option.
Part of me wants to back out of my quitting date and tell my bosses I can stick around till the end of the year. But if the past year and a half has shown me anything, it's that I'm prevented from or unable to advance my career change plans as long as I'm working here. Either I'm out-of-town/state/country, or I'm just too comfortable where I'm at to act. Living in a cramped house with housemates and having no employment ahead of me is uncomfortable, but it will definitely force me to act.

My last day is August 1st. For that month I'll just be studying for the PACT and working on costumes in preparation for Dragon*Con on Labor Day weekend. That's kind of my last hurrah for the season. After that I'll be tightening my belt and preparing for the next step. No more cosplay or trips, and I'll be moving out of this house, maybe out of Austin. I wish I could make some more concrete, detailed plans beyond that point but until that test and application come to pass, I just don't know how things will turn out.


A-kon 2013 report
building
astillar
I arrived at A-kon Friday evening, after having spent much the night before and day of sewing continuously. A-kon had moved this year to a new hotel, the Anatole. Our host hotel was just a bit across the highway. As soon as I got checked in I made myself a drink and pedaled over to the con in 5 minutes.
The hotel premises was much bigger than the old downtown location and there was an array of food trucks parked along the hotel’s flank, which looked like a fun change from the typical food court and hotel restaurant options. Once inside the hotel atrium my first impression was, ‘This hotel is too nice for us. I wouldn’t be surprised if they ask us never to come back.’ I started exploring and soon found my roommates by sheer luck. We began wandering and our group soon began to snowball. We pretty much just roamed the con until 2 am. Nowhere to go or be, but fun all the same.
As soon as I could bear to wake up Saturday morning, I resumed sewing. My roomies all got into their costumes and left well before I finished, around 2 pm. Although appliqués and top-stitching are easy, it’s extremely time-consuming to make it look good. Luckily there are various versions of this costume with different levels of complexity, so it could be incomplete, but still be ‘finished’. (I’ve got at least another week of sewing to finish the complete pattern.) I was a bit grumpy when I set out though. I couldn’t find my brand new camera and all signs pointed to me losing it the night before.
With rain in the forecast, the day was warm and very muggy. Not the best weather to be wearing a cloak and hood in. Despite the threat of dehydration and over-heating, this was by far the most comfortable costume I’ve ever made; I stayed in it for 6 hours. My shoe-less feet took a real beating from walking on nothing but concrete and tile all day. I was lucky enough to run into the other Journey cosplayer at the con. This was her first cosplay ever and she’d made the same version that I had. Of course our costumes were magnitudes apart in skill; I just hope mine didn’t deflate her ‘first cosplay excitement’. It was fun to poke and prod at each other’s costumes and share our misery over how sweltering they were. In my eight years of cosplaying, I don’t think I’ve ever run into a person wearing the same costume as myself. It was fun.
I ran into Nick and Lisa (in their Soul Eater costumes) shortly afterward, which was good timing. One conspicuous piece of appliqué that I’d forgotten to stitch had begun to wilt off due to the heat and I needed some way to fix it. They offered me the hot glue gun up in their room, which was much preferable to walking back to my own hotel. We took a break up in their nice room (again I noticed that this hotel is way too affluent for anime fans). I had a bit of Jameson to help silence my barking dogs and then we headed back to the con.
We/they soon got ensnared by a photographer friend who was in the process of shooting one of my roommates. They opted to stay and wait their turn. I’ve no patience for sitting around like that, so I went my own way and wandered the con. By dinnertime I was completely drained. My roommates invited me to dinner but I knew I needed to rest if I was going to be any fun that night. I grabbed something from the food truck and went to the room to lay down for a couple hours. Sleep eluded me.
That night Squiddy was having his ‘The God of Tits and Wine Celebration,’ which is tangentially related to Game of Thrones so I grabbed my Hound helmet and returned to the con. My feet were in no shape to be wandering this night and I was glad to have a room party to attend where I could stay and park it. While waiting in line for the elevators, a couple of Oklahumans found me, namely Phenix and Haley.
I’d driven up to Oklahoma City a couple months ago to help them with their costumes. I spent a full day doing the electrical on Phenix’s WoW costume, all the while trying to set up an appointment to help Haley with hers. She never responded which I took to be a little insulting, considering that this isn’t the first time she’s blown off a favor. Phenix had (jokingly?) said I ‘intimidated the hell out of her’. My take-away from that weekend was to not bother trying to be friends with Haley any more.
So paint me startled when she came bounding over to hughughug me. She sure didn’t seem intimidated now. It turned out their room was on the same floor as Squiddy’s so the hugs continued. She invited me over to their room and apologized that she hadn’t found me earlier, etc. I didn’t really know where this was coming from, but it did erode away that bit of resentment.
I headed on to Squiddy’s. There were a lot of people, a lot of booze, and a lot of hentai. It was too warm and too loud for me to stay long. I tried going to Whitney’s next, but she was being all super-bouncer and not letting hardly anyone in that she didn’t know since grade school. Whatever. I felt like Goldilocks; this party’s too hot, this party’s too cold. While commuting from room to room, I ran into Robin and Courtney, my ex, on their way outside to smoke. I wryly noted that she was willing to talk to me without her new boyfriend present.
I went back to the Okies’ room; that was quieter and more laidback, but they soon decided to go to the gaming room. I wasn’t interested and luckily I ran into a tiara-wearing Amanda who was hosting her birthday celebration. That party turned out to be ‘just right’. With a dozen people it was festive yet subdued enough that I could understand the conversations. Yet their room soon ran out of booze, as had I. I thought this would be a good time to call it a night. Heading through the lobby on my way out, I got caught in a swarm of Dallas cosplayers who briefly whisked me up to their room party. Once up there I realized how the room was mostly full of strangers and a few frenemies, so I departed again for good.

Django

Suds and Buds
building
astillar
I came home from a week-long job in Kerrville to find that we had guests at the house. I'd forgotten that this weekend was Addison's birthday. As I'd been wanting to make some headway on my cosplay projects, I was disgruntled at first when I realized that would be impossible with company around. Then I was re-informed that the birthday plan was to go float the river on Saturday. That definitely improved my mood. The sour-puss part of me quibbled, 'well if I stay at home I can do my cosplay, plus I don't know any of the people who are going, blahblahblah.' Fortunately I didn't listen to him. Guests continued to stream in that evening and we went out to Kerbey Lane for dinner. I had some drinks to neutralize my instinctive stranger aversion. It may not have made me more likeable, but it made me more comfortable.
It took us awhile to get the group out of bed and on the road Saturday morning; we got onto the water about one. Although the weather had been unseasonably cold the past few days, today it was perfect. And since it's still relatively early in the tubing season, the river wasn't crowded at all. Our girls looked great in their bikinis; I was the least in-shape guy in our group but whatever. I wasn't about to wear a shirt like some insecure teenager. The only hiccup we had was when the river police pulled us over to inform us that disposable containers weren't allowed on the river. We were able to chug/improvise alternate drinking methods so it didn't stall our party for too long. I lost my waterproof camera in the river soon afterwards due to a faulty velcro strap on my pocket. I greatly regretted that as it would mean I'd have no way to recall the hot girls or drunken shenanigans that would follow.
This was my first time on the Comal River. The floating section was short-ish. We were in the water for a little more than 3 hours (yet that turned out to be plenty enough time for almost everyone to get sloshed). There was a fun tube chute and a waterfall that would have been fun if we'd been warned that it was coming. Instead, we all fell over it ungracefully, many losing clothes, shoes, or other belongings in the process.
Once we got back on land we realized just how drunk we were. Or at least, that's what I've been able to piece together. I don't actually remember the end of our float. (I wasn't the only one who was that bad off.) The bus ride back, dropping off our tubes, getting changed, none of it. Ashley somehow got my keys and refused to let me drive my truck to dinner. I know I shouldn't have protested, but my pride was pricked; I've never had a drunken accident before so I think I could've managed. I'm embarrassed that I repaid her generous act with fussiness during the ride. We stopped at the semi-legendary Bucee's gas station on the way over. We needed to buy Addison a pair of shoes if we were going to gain entry to the GristMill restaurant. While there Amanda yelled at a field-trip group of high school choir kids. I think I was hitting on the girl handing out sausage samples. We were sloppy and stupid. I wish I'd had my camera with me.
We ate at the Gristmill; every time I've gone tubing, we've eaten there so it seems to be part of some unspoken tubing ritual. The restaurant overlooked the river and semi-feral cats prowled the grounds for scraps while keeping their distance. The food and time to rest did us some good.
Amanda's passed out on the bench, Daniel looks lost, and I'm staring into the ether.


I was okay to drive myself and Addison back to Austin after dinner. On the way he repeatedly offered to give me a 'roadie beej'. I guess it was flattering? That's a standing offer that I'll probably never cash in. Heh, it just amuses me how the only times I ever have genuine conversations about sex, it's always with either lesbians or gay guys. Anyways, we were all pretty much worthless once we got back home, succumbing to the need to eat Taco Bell and watch Bob's Burgers.

This morning while everyone was sleeping it off, I got up early and drove back to the river. I'd left my credit card there as a tube deposit and I wanted to at least ATTEMPT to find my camera. It had a bright yellow floaty tied to it, so I thought there was a chance I could spot it. I was able to narrow down the likely area to a 150' stretch of river but that was still a lot of riverbed to cover. The river was very pretty and quiet this early in the day, without any tubers or families there. There were just a few swimmers and a group of scuba people. I crisscrossed the river, bobbing up and down to the bottom. I kept an eye on the scuba divers to see if they ever surfaced holding a 'prize' like my camera. I found some sunglasses and someone's keys, but no camera. After about an hour of swimming against the current to stay in place and diving to the bottom (with a mild hangover to boot), I was spent. I don't know what I was more upset over; the financial loss or the loss of the photos of our girls looking good. It was an old, buggy camera anyways so whatever I guess. I left town without remembering to pick up my credit card, so it was a wasted trip.

Even with that taken into account, it was still a fun day. Next time I'll adjust my drinking to the Goldilocks zone and plan things better. I've got at least two other tubing events on my summer calendar already and I'm looking forward to each one.

:)

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