Thursday, January 14, 2010

High up in the hills of California... Avenue.

Hey internet, been a while since I updated, I started writing this like a month ago and just didn't finish, so, here goes.

Well, I have made the move to the other end of the Pennsylvania turnpike, made another visit out to Indiana's early morning dew, and prematurely fulfilled my calling to "high up in the hills of California". Ironically Kari and I have rented an apartment at the tippy top of a hill... on California Ave. Ha! We still have plans to move to Santa Cruz in April, into the bottom apartment in her grandmother's duplex. It looks like it will be amazing, the house is at the top of a hill and the beach is at the bottom (This just in, might actually be too good to be true, the owners are looking to sell the place thinking they can get over a million for it... more on this later). The past month has been full of hustle and bustle. Moving to Pittsburgh, touring this half of the country for family time over the holidays, a trip to Vegas, I have literally only spent a week of the last month at my own apartment. It was great to see all the family, the gathering are starting to grow, with cousins getting married and having babies and all that junk. There were 32 Aunts Uncles and cousins at the Rawlings gathering, and that wasnt even everyone. So many Rawlingses.
Right, so since I started writing that, our California accommodations have changed a bit. Kari's grandma let us know that the landlords are kicking her out and selling the place cause they think they can get like a mil for it. And she has to be out in a month, after living there for 13 years... something tells me there is more to this story that she isnt telling us. So we have been looking online for places to live and it looks like we will be able to find something for a reasonable price, or maybe we will just have to live out of the car, whatever, itll be good. We already have loads of people that are going to come out to visit, so I guess we will have to get a place. And hey, if you wanna experience the west coast with a free place to stay, come on over.

My employment status has elevated to "occasionally" with a trip to a temp agency Staffmark. I worked 4 days last week stuffing tax audit booklets into envelopes for the state of WV, and I just accepted a job sorting through Netflix returns from 3am to 8am tomorrow. It is simple, mindless work, and though even the simplest task takes its toll after 5100 repetitions (about how many times I figure I repeated the same arm motion when stuffing envelopes), the hardest part about it is the mental agony I go through just sitting there without a single mental stimulation all day. I think about lots of things, sometimes thinking that I should write the idea in my blog. That got me thinking about how long it has been since I updated last, though I have been unemployed for most of the time between posts. I realize that I always have something to do while I am sitting at home, something to occupy my mind. I play Nintendo, read articles, look for jobs, Stumble, my mind is too busy with other things to think my own thoughts through. It is a good reminder that I need to give my mind time to do its own thing. I am still as forgetful as ever, so i dont remember most of the things that I thought "hey, I should remember this", which is why I started carrying around a memo pad, though they dont give you breaks of any sort with the work I am doing, which im pretty sure is illegal, no 15 minute breaks, 8-4:30 with just a 30 minute unpaid lunch.

I didnt know what to expect when I started this envelope stuffing job, for some reason I was expecting some kind of slave labor set up with a bunch of sad old women sitting at cold metal tables in a room full of printers supplying them with an endless pile to work on. I show up to "Triangle Systems", enter the room in the back of a business park, turn the corner, lo and behold, there are 10 tables lined up in 3 rows and beyond that the whirring and clunking of 3 huge printers spitting out the 8000 booklets we are to stuff today. An old lady comes in and sits down next to me. We go through the procedures, the strategies for moistening the envelope glue (luckily we dont have to lick every one, not after what happened to George Costanza's fiance), and she avoids me for the rest of the day, like I was trying to talk to her about her kids and stuff and getting one word answers. Worst old lady ever. She has been stuffing envelopes for 8 years and you can tell. In my boredom I counted how many envelopes I do in a day, around 1600, and figured out I make about 4.5 cents per envelope completed.
I also completed a research study with UPMC, they are doing studies on brain injury patients. I went in and did a little memory test, she started by reading a list of numbers and asking me to repeat them, adding more as she went. I think I got up to a list of ten for that. Then she went on to letters, same drill. Then the tough part. She read a list of letters and numbers mixed together and I had to go and pick out the numbers and give them back in numerical order, then the letters in alphabetical order, I got up to 9 but couldnt handle the list of 10. She said that I was doing so well that she was having trouble keeping up herself as she wasnt used to going that far with it. I dont know if i was actually that good or if she was just used to working with more serious brain injuries... ha, but i think i did well. They then took me through some memory drills on a laptop which were fairly simple, one had to do with letters, like, is this the same as the letter we showed two letters ago, and one was spacial, like, is the dot in the same box as two boxes ago. The laptop exercises were repeated while I was getting an fMRI, so I layed in the scanner for about an hour, clicking buttons on a glove in response to the exercises, it was kind of a crazy experience being in there. It is freakin loud, and not like mechanical noises, but highly variable notes that sounded like they were coming from speakers. I dont know if it is the different magnetic resonances that make different notes, but whatever it was it was really distracting, I started getting into the rhythm and I started to make music out of the noises, haha, and kept losing my concentration on the test. I am going to try to get my results, could be interesting. They referred me to another test that is testing acetylcholine medication on TBI patients, so I am going to start that one soon as well, the first payed 100, this one will pay 250, maybe I will just do this for a living, professional guinea pig.

Ah I didnt even touch on Vegas (click that blurry picture, its a pan of the strip I took, its not actually blurry), admittedly it wasnt as exciting as my last trip, but as always it was a rockin time, did a lot of gambling, saw Cirque Du Soliel's Ka, caused some trouble, good time had by all. I also have to mention our adventure at seven springs last friday, we got 27 inches the night we decided to go, the boarding was awesome, it is not often you get to snow in serious powder like that in PA, but needless to say we were not going home in that. We sat at the bar well into the night, found ourselves in that state of special sleepyness that comes after a night at the bar, and slept on the floor in a meeting room at the hotel. So, I am finally settled in the burgh, its good to be back with all my friends and closer to all my family, and I am looking forward to the next couple months before the Californiadventure begins. Life is good.