And Life Goes On…

Being unemployed isn’t any fun, but it isn’t the end of the world either. I should know, I’ve been down that road twice now. The first time I was laid off (two years ago) came just as the Internet bubble was starting to crack. I had moved from Phoenix to Dallas on the promise of a high-paying consulting gig and I thought the gravy train had finally come in for me. My first mistake was celebrating like I had just won the lottery – I immediately moved into a house, bought a new truck and a brand new jetski. I hadn’t been in Dallas six months when the layoffs began.

At first, the work sabbatical was great. Then I decided I should think about a regular gig. I quickly discovered a technology market that wasn’t in a hurry to hire me and if anyone made an offer it was one-third the salary I had received just months before. When two months turned into four, I found my happy-go-lucky attitude change into a little desperation. During that brutal reality check I lost my house, the truck, but I managed to refinance the jetski (God’s wicked sense of humor given the fact I have nothing to tow it with).

I managed to land a new job which consumed all my free time. At first I didn’t mind, I saw the position as an opportunity to grow with a company and build an IT infrastructure from the ground up. But then came the endless complaints, long hours, last minute projects, and more complaints. I found myself becoming more irritated with each passing day. While I didn’t have any issues with the people I worked with, there was something just itching beneath the surface, gnawing at me.

I resided myself to the fact the everybody hates their job and when (if) the tech sector showed improvement I would look for something different. Well a year later the market didn’t improve and I found myself at the mercy of yet another company layoff. While I was caught completely unaware once the shock wore off I was quite relieved. Any pressure I felt on the job went away the moment I didn’t have to jump out of bed when my alarm clock went off.

I made use of the downtime by maintaining a schedule. I found I actually got up earlier than I ever did when I worked. I got back to the gym, started eating better and my relationship with my then-girlfriend (now fianc?) improved dramatically as well. Many of the projects I put off because I seemingly had no time, I made time for.

That was the moment that my destiny once again became my own. You see, I really don’t like the IT industry. Sure I may be good at it, but who wants all the pressure of user complaints, long hours and absolutely no job satisfaction. It’s not that I find people who are computer illiterate utterly annoying, I’m just amazed how trivial management makes my job seem when I save their @ss all the time. With a 24% unemployment rate here in Dallas I don’t know when I’ll return to the tech sector (if ever). However, I’m certain my next thirty years will be just as exciting as the first.

Identity Theft Ring Busted

Well, it looks like I wasn’t alone with my financial troubles this month. Three people have been accused of running the largest identity theft in history – more than 30,000 people had their credit information stolen.

I caught a portion of the story just a minute ago on Good Morning America. The scary part is the U.S. District Attorney could offer little in new information to protect yourself from this crime. So here’s my two cents:

Get your credit report from ALL THREE of the major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. This will provide you with the most comprehensive picture of your current credit history. I’ve said it many times before, but I’ll point it out again – if you’ve got good credit get yourself an American Express card. If you already have one go here:

Credit Secure through America Express will provide you with DAILY monitoring of your credit accounts AND a quarterly report from ALL THREE of the credit reporting agencies. Other credit card carriers might have similar services, but I am not familiar with them.

The key thing is to know your credit history and check it at least four times a year. According to Good Morning America some people are victims of identity fraud almost two years before they discover a problem.

In one month someone purchased over $25k worth of stuff using my name. Imagine what two years might have been like.

UPDATE – Another suggestion I forgot to mention. I keep a lamenated wallet card with any important phone number (medical contacts, credit card 800#s, etc) on me at all times. I also have a detailed phone list in my home so I don’t have to rummage through bank & card statements in the event of fraud. That saved me a lot of time earlier this month.

Cycle World Show

Dallas Bike ShowWell, my `net connection didn’t want to cooperate today, but whatcha gonna do?

Over the weekend Michelle> & I went downtown with Geoff & Kathy to the Cycle World Show. The weather was perfect for riding and plenty of riders were out & about. The show itself seemed a lot smaller than last year and there weren’t many changes from the 2002 to 2003 model bikes.

Will post more pictures tomorrow when my connection isn’t dropping.

Michelle & I Are Officially Engaged

Engagement ringShe asked how I knew…

So many images & feelings rushed through me that words alone could not suffice.

How could I explain the invitation I felt in the warmth of her smile… how I lost myself in the enchantment of her deep brown eyes?

Are words enough to describe the intimacy of a kiss or the anxious exuberance as we danced about in the dark?

She has provided me with strength in the virtue of her presence and I have surrendered at the anticipation of her caress.

Her spirit soars higher than the stars and Eternity is a lasting memory in her embrace.

Were I not but a man I would give her the world, as she has already captured my Heart.

She humbles me and yet my aspirations cling to so much more.

She embodies the Love of my yesterdays & tomorrows…

She asked how I knew…

I’m a very happy man right now. Details later…

Late Night In San Antonio

Well, my baby & I rolled in from San Antonio about 4am this morning. It was a good night, even with the rain and stupid drivers on the road. Yesterday, we made a quick day trip from Dallas to SA to see Toby Keith live at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. (on a side note, I almost wish for commercial companies to go bankrupt when I see their names on public venues).

The drive down wasn’t uneventful as we saw two accidents on the road coming out of Dallas. A small fender-bender on south I-35 delayed us momentarily with gawker traffic, but I felt bad for the poor souls on north I-35 where two semis had jackknifed. Traffic was backed up for at least 5 miles. We made pretty good time and killed about an hour at Borders bookstore before heading to the amphitheater.

WOW. I have to say that this is one of the nicest outdoor venues I have been to. Not only was it very clean (damn, even the bathrooms), but there’s special box seating setup with tables. Michelle & I had seats in section 205 and they couldn’t have been better. There was some worry about rain, but even with the weather being overcast folks were given a mild break until the end of the night.

First up on the card was Paul Thorn. He strolled out onto the stage, just him and an acoustic guitar. He won the crowd over immediately with some quips about who he was and how he got on tour with Toby Keith. His songs were even better. With titles like “Joanie The Jehovah Witness Stripper” and “I Have To Get Viagra (Before It Falls)”, Paul had the audience laughing and ready to participate when he sang his tribute to the one-night stand “Two Dogs In Heat”. I enjoyed his performance, it was a pleasant surprise and his musicianship & vocals were solid. After Paul’s set Michelle & I scooted over to the concession booth to grab ourselves a CD. It was a quickly formed line of people, but we managed to shake the man’s hand, compliment him for the entertainment and I snagged a picture of Paul & Michelle.

Next up was Rascal Flatts (Amazing website btw). The band gave an energetic performance, but I wasn’t drawn in like I was with Paul Thorn’s set. The highlight of their show was the breakout solo by the fiddle player (who I understand is not an actual band member, but a road guy). Still they got the crowd going in anticipation of the main act.

I should point out that I don’t own any Toby Keith CDs. Michelle’s more familiar with country music artists than I am so I was unaware of the controversy that surrounded Toby’s single “Courtesy of the Red White & Blue (Angry American)”. I find it silly that such a big deal would be made over the lines “And you’ll be sorry that you messed with/The U.S. of A./’Cause we’ll put a boot in your ass/It’s the American way”. Anyways, Toby Keith’s performance was outstanding! The band was tight, complete with a horn section (something I’m not used to seeing with a country music act) and Michelle screamed & hollered as Toby sang all her favorite songs (none of which I knew).

All-in-all it was a great evening. Michelle’s still sleeping it off, but I’ve edited the pics from last night and posted them in the Photo Album for you. (Now for some football).