Overdue update

Life continues to challenge me to keep my eyes and my heart open to unexpected events and opportunities. I know that's vague, and that's intentional. See, the more specific I get in looking ahead, the less room I give God to operate in the present -- or, more specifically, the less room I give myself to see Him operate.

So, I've been laid off for a few weeks now, and there have been rumblings here and there of opportunities for work. But until something actually pans out, I'm in explorer mode.


Sailing as metaphor?

After applying to Crowder College, I have heard nothing from the school in several weeks, other than to tell me I've been accepted to the school. The director of the wind technology program at the College has resigned, and the position has yet to be filled. There's too much uncertainty in that program for me to push the issue, so I'll continue to wait and see what happens.

In the meantime, there are a couple of interesting opportunities at work. Both would represent greater job security and a nicer work environment, and the possibility of better wages. One of the jobs seems right up my alley. I'm ambivalent about the other one. There's not much else I can say about either at the moment.

Some of you may have heard me use sailing as a metaphor for how I navigate my life. [My apologies if I've overused the metaphor in your experience…] I'm talking about the kind of sailing where the captain of the ship has a general idea of where he's going, but being at the mercy of the wind and tide means he must sometimes choose a different course or even a different intermediate or final destination.

The ship has to be moving to have steerage, so I keep plugging along, even in adverse conditions. I try a certain course, but if the wind, current or tide isn't favorable, then I try a different tack, configuration of sail or course. When conditions are favorable, though, I'll sheet out every sail she has and hold as close to the wind as the ship will handle. And so it goes, until I reach port.

Hold fast.


My worthy adversary

I have a staph infection in my upper lip. MRSA, says my doctor. I don't remember ever being debilitated by pain before. And that's under the influence of prescription-strength pain-killers...

I'm supposed to go back to the doctor on Thursday. I'm just hoping my face doesn't explode in a conflagration of pus between now and then.



This week, one of the larger Northwest Arkansas electrical contractors closed their doors, survived by a lot of unemployed electricians and more than a few unfinished jobs. While that's certainly not good news for all those electricians and their families — or for those who'd already been looking for jobs — it is good news for me and my family, since my company will have the opportunity to take on some of those unfinished jobs. That would bring some welcome employment security for those of us who are working on a big job scheduled for completion later this summer.

Also, I scheduled a phone interview for next week with one of the three largest wind turbine manufacturers in the world. The interview appears to be a preliminary screening interview, but it's the first nibble I've had from that sector after applying for dozens of jobs over the last year and a half.

Remember what Bilbo used to say: It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.

— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of The Rings 

Pulled the trigger…

I submitted my application for enrollment at Crowder College. I'll be mailing my transcripts later today. I hope to start the program this coming Fall (2011), though there may be some classes I can take this summer.

We're actually pretty excited about it. I need the challenge, and we're fortunate enough to be able to tackle this right now.

Stay tuned!


Processing my visit to Crowder College

As I mentioned yesterday, this afternoon I went to Crowder College to visit with Dan Boyd, Wind Instructor, about the College's wind technology education programs. I enjoyed visiting with Dan, and his information — as well as his candor — I think will prove to be very helpful to Kristina and me as we consider our next steps.

I won't bore you with a lot of details right now, partly because it's unnecessary, but mostly because I'm exhausted. Since when has necessity been a prerequisite for me to bore you with details, right? Suffice it to say that we have a lot to consider in the coming months. I wouldn't begin attending classes until this fall, and since we think we'll be able to afford the program without incurring any additional debt, we won't be rushed by filing deadlines for federal student aid.

Dan mentioned a wind industry career expo in California this May. Kristina and I are also considering whether that might be a trip I should plan to make. In the grand scheme of things, it's relatively inexpensive, and it would give me the opportunity to meet with some industry recruiters, hand out some résumés, and hopefully score an interview or two. It might render moot the decision about whether to go back to school this fall. Of course, if it doesn't result in at least an interview… *shrug*

Stay tuned…


The scent of change is on the breeze…

Many of you will remember my long job search, which ended last June when I landed my current job. You may remember, too, that my search had been focused outside my current field in commercial electrical construction, and that I had been considering a return to school in some form, to increase my employability in another, hopefully related, field.

The reasons I had been looking outside my current field remain valid: Construction — at least the way we practice it today in the U.S. — is in a race to the bottom. When all jobs go to the lowest bidder, wages are pressured downward, productivity is pressured upward; quality and safety get short shrift. As a master electrician with almost nine years in the trade, I'm "topped out". That is, my hourly wage is at the highest point I can reasonably expect it to be, and the raises I will see from here on out, percentage-wise, will get smaller and smaller. Historically speaking, I can expect the raises to be outpaced by inflation, so my real wages will be dropping from this point forward. There are some jobs available in management, but the fact of the matter is that I am not an ideal candidate for these jobs, nor do I really want to pursue them. The stress levels are just too high to make it worth my while. Jobs in the public sector continue to be attractive, but the current political and economic environment make those somewhat more risky than they once were.

That said, I'm not content to be "topped out", in wage or in career development. I need my work to be a challenge. I need to be constantly growing in my career. So I started looking elsewhere. When I started my current job, I felt like I needed to focus on that for a time. I needed an emotional break from a long and taxing job search; I needed to rest under the blessing of a good job with a fair wage.

The time has come again, for a variety of reasons, for me to begin considering what's next for me and my family. Early last June (2010), I stumbled onto a wind technician training program at Crowder College in Neosho, MO, just a few miles away from our home. I spoke to an instructor in the program, who was very positive about my prospects. Unfortunately, it was past the deadline to apply for Federal student aid for the fall semester of 2010. I got my current job just a week or two later, and that's where we left it. A couple of weeks ago, we dusted that idea off again.

Crowder College has three options available for someone interested in wind power generation: a wind technician certificate, an Associate of Applied Arts in Wind Technology and an Associate of Applied Science in Wind Technology. Since I already hold a B.S. degree and have a great deal of workforce experience in a related field, I should be well on my way to completing whichever of the three I should choose. Fortuitously, Crowder has implemented some changes in their program in the intervening year since I last looked at it. Many of their classes are now available on a "flex" basis, or online, allowing me to continue working full-time while pursuing a certificate or degree. Tuition rates at Crowder are… well, they're ridiculously cheap, as any of you who have priced online or traditional degree programs can see. All of those things put together mean that I could finish a training program in a relatively short period of time (as little as one semester, as many as four), for little or no additional debt, hopefully while continuing to be gainfully employed full-time. [With our current project's expected completion looming this summer, though, there's no guarantee I won't see a pink slip at that time.]

It is not yet clear to me how good my job prospects might be upon completion of one of these training programs. That is one of the primary topics I intend to take up with the faculty I'll be meeting with tomorrow (Monday) afternoon when I visit the school to tour the facilities and talk about my options. One thing that is almost certain is that, upon completion of a program, the jobs for which I'll be a candidate will require us to move.That presents its own set of challenges, of course. I suppose we'll cross that bridge as we come to it.



Snow day!

We have between 2.5" - 3" of snow here at the house, and Bentonville schools are closed, so it's a snow day for the girls and me.

We're watching the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland. Did Johnny Depp's version have a hookah-smoking caterpillar?


Making life easier...

I know I keep going on about this, but I really am excited about how many things I'll be dumping out of my clipboard tomorrow when I get to work.

The sheer volume of apps available for the Android platform -- while undoubtedly fewer than for iOS -- is astounding. I've installed a scientific calculator and a few tools designed for electricians that'll not only lighten my load at work, but will actually increase the number of tools I have at my disposal.

I haven't yet figured out whether I'll be able to get the National Electric Code on the phone, thanks to some DRM/copyright issues, but I hope to have a legal solution to that problem in the next few days.

I'm getting a lot faster with the Swype keyboard than I ever thought possible, too -- eliminating one of my major concerns about leaving the BlackBerry behind.

Jumping to conclusions

Teena texted me today with news that someone from the daycare had called her, saying Aylin had thrown up, but wasn't running a temperature. She also told me that Aylin had thrown up because she'd thrown a temper tantrum after breakfast.

I got all ticked off, of course, because Aylin had been hitting people yesterday, and I saw this as a sign that Aylin was starting to turn into a little tyrant. Based on my understanding of what Teena's told me in the past, I've been concerned that the ladies at daycare were spoiling Aylin. So my immediate reaction was, "We are, by God, gonna put a stop to that right now."

As it turns out, the teacher who called Kristina was a substitute or temporary teacher, and she hadn't told either of the directors -- like she was supposed to -- that she was calling a parent. It also turns out that Kristina just assumed -- incorrectly -- that Aylin had thrown a fit and made herself sick. What actually happened was that she'd been spinning around and dancing like mad to some fun music shortly after breakfast and just spit up a little bit. It also turns out that I've misinterpreted the way the ladies at the daycare are treating Aylin, or -- more accurately -- that I've misunderstood what Teena's been saying about how they handle her.

So, while it's good that Teena and I found cause to sit down and talk about discipline at home for Aylin, we both learned a lesson or two about jumping to conclusions.