Wednesday, December 25 – Friday, December 27

Getting into the swing of things

Christmas Day was, well, Christmas, with all that entails.  We had a pretty decent baked ham for dinner, and under the tree for me was a Kindle.  It is much better to use than the Kindle app on my phone.  What’s even better is that I was able to transfer all the files on my phone’s app to the new device with no trouble at all.  It definitely will be getting ample use.

I went into work at the Major Home Improvement Chain on Thursday afternoon.  For the first time, after a couple weeks spent training and observing, I actually did the sort of tasks I’ll be doing, still under supervision.  So far so good, I’d say I’m getting the hang of it, though there’s still a bit of a learning curve with respect to the handheld device I use in the process.  Not that it’s difficult, it’s just that the device uses a proprietary interface that I’ve never encountered before.  In between doing these tasks I was doing more product-knowledge online training, delving into the intricacies of plywood and drywall.

Being somewhat bored during the day on Friday, I decided to visit the Nassau County Art Museum, which is very highly regarded.  It’s housed in a restored mansion near the Roslyn Viaduct and features an outdoor sculpture display.  I spent some time checking out the sculptures, though it was quite cold out and I didn’t end up seeing them all.  In the museum itself, there was a big (100+ paintings) exhibition by hippie artist Peter Max.  The paintings covered a period of over 45 years, from the late 1960’s until today.  For a moment, just a moment, I thought I’d been magically transported back to Woodstock or the Summer of Love.  It was hard not to flash the peace sign to other patrons, you know? Anyway, it was a very interesting exhibit, well worth the ten dollars admission.

On Friday evening I went to the gym for the first time in too long.  Normally, the gym’s very quiet on Friday evenings.  Not today.  Both of the flat bench stations were taken, as was the pull-up station I usually use.  Rather than wait around for things to free up I decided to do some machine-based exercises.  I started with Hammer Strength shoulder presses, 5 x 5 x 110/110, though I actually did the second set at 120/120.  Then I did a lot of machine flies, 7 x 6 at resistance level 11 of 18.

Published in: on December 29, 2013 at 3:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, December 23 – Tuesday, December 24

My favorite sort of Christmas shopping

With no work scheduled, Monday was my day for Christmas shopping.  But not just any Christmas shopping.  In an on-and-off tradition dating back 15 years I headed into Manhattan for the Union Square holiday bazaar.  It’s a collection of well over 100 vendors’ booths, selling all sorts of interesting, often handmade products. A welcome relief from the sterile, corporate mall environment.  I’d much rather buy gifts from the artisans who made them than from some mall clerk.

A trip into Manhattan normally would involve a choice between the LIRR, with all the unpleasantness that involves, or trying to find needle-in-a-haystack street parking.  But I have a better way.  On occasion I’ve worked at one of the stores located in the big shopping center on Northern Boulevard and 48th Street in Long Island City.  One thing I learned is that it’s okay to park in the free rooftop parking deck even if you’re not patronizing one of the stores in the center.  You won’t get towed.  Driving to the shopping center on the Long Island Expressway wasn’t as easy as might be expected, even though it was after the end of morning rush hour.  Occasional heavy rain really slowed things down.  But I made it, and walked a couple (wet) blocks to the 46th Street station on the R train, which is about a 20-minute direct ride to Union Square.

The holiday bazaar was as fun as always, and even the rain didn’t dampen my spirits (it dampened the rest of me, that’s for sure).  I found some nice gifts and had pleasant conversations with the vendors.  It’s good to know the backstories behind the things you buy.  I was there for about an hour and a half, before I took the R back to 46th Street.  Like on the journey in, there was a panhandler in the car.  Some things never change.

As I got off the subway I espied an interesting thing: a KFC.  No, not Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Kennedy Fried Chicken, a knockoff usually found in city neighborhoods too downscale for Kentucky Fried Chicken.  It was an odd location, as the area around the 46th Street station isn’t bad.  Anyway, I took advantage of the opportunity and bought a 10-piece box to bring home.  It was no gourmet delight, but it really wasn’t bad, not that much different from the “real” KFC. And no one got poisoned.

Speaking of getting back home, the drive was utterly miserable, with traffic at a crawl much of the way even though evening rush hour hadn’t really started.  Maybe it was the rain, maybe the Christmas rush, whatever the case it left me too enervated to go to the gym.

Tuesday, Christmas Eve, was a largely do-nothing day.  I had planned to go to the gym in the mid-afternoon, but by the time I got there it had already closed. In any event, I didn’t have much energy or enthusiasm to do much.

Published in: on December 27, 2013 at 3:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, December 21 – Sunday, December 22

Saturday was a 5-hour workday at my job at the Major Home Improvement Retailer.  I had thought that I’d be doing on-the-job training, but there was a last minute change of plans.  My trainer wasn’t available, and there was a need for a worker to help out in the parking lot.  That, of course, turned out to be me.  Of all the things I have pictured myself doing at work, fetching shopping carts was most distinctly not among them.  Not that I can complain: the store can’t operate without a lot attendant, as a new employee I don’t have much say in the matter, and I was getting my regular pay.

It turned out to be much more difficult work than I ever would have imagined.  And not just in a physical sense, either.  While most stores have just one type of shopping cart, the Major Home Improvement Retailer has four: regular carts, flat carts, lumber carts, and sheet goods (plywood and drywall) carts.  There have to be some of each type in all four carts corrals and at the store’s two entrances.

For the first 90 minutes of my shift I was running back and forth trying to get the carts properly distributed.  Once that was done, I had to keep up with the carts that customers were leaving in the lot, occasionally helping people load things into their vehicles, and even sweeping the cigarette butts and other trash from the concrete apron in front of the store.  By the time my shift ended I was completely beat, not to mention having a much greater respect for people who do this type of work all the time.  At least I had the advantage of unusually warm weather with no rain or snow.  I then went to a “flow arts” show not far away, at which a family member was performing.  It was an excellent show, though as it was a standing rather than sitting affair my feet were quite sore indeed!

Sunday at work was completely different. Employees who work in the main merchandise departments (paint, hardware, garden etc.) are required to have “product knowledge” of their departments, in other words they have to know about the items sold, how they’re used, what to recommend to customers, and so on.  It can be quite detailed.  Anyway, given that I’ll be working at the Pro Desk pulling customer orders, I had figured that I wouldn’t need specific product knowledge, I’d just have to know how to do my own tasks.  Wrong.  It turns out that I’ll have to acquire product knowledge in no fewer than three departments, namely lumber, building materials, and millwork.

I ended up spending my four-hour shift doing computer training, delving into the intricacies of lumber.  Many, many things I didn’t know about it, and that’s putting things very mildly.  I made it through dimensional lumber and partway through boards, next time I have to finish boards and head off to plywood and drywall.  After that, building materials and millwork, what I imagine is that the latter will be the most complicated of all.  Never would I have guessed that this job involves such extensive training.  But hey, it’s paid training.


Published in: on December 25, 2013 at 12:19 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, December 19 – Friday, December 20


I don’t like being idle. Two more days without much of anything to do, as I wind up the first of my three weeks off from my main job.  I’ll be working the weekend at my second job, but not either of these days.  As always, I did nothing particularly useful.

In the evening of both days, however, I had nice gym sessions.  Thursday was bench pressing: 6 x 135, 6 x 185, 4 x 205, 3 x 4 x 225, 8 x 185.  I also did some machine flies, 4 x 6 at resistance level 10 of 16.  Let me tell you, after the benching, the flies hurt. Ouch.  Friday was my day for neutral grip pull-ups, and as I had done a total of 30 last time I decided to exceed that amount.  Instead of going for maximum reps on the first set or two I simply did 11 sets of three, for a total of 33.  I was able to maintain good form on all of them, going down to a full hang and raising myself up until my face was over the bar.  It’s not at all uncommon  to see people doing pull-ups that are highly deficient in both respects.

Published in: on December 24, 2013 at 11:43 pm  Comments (1)  

Monday, December 16 – Wednesday, December 18

Well that was scary

On Monday I did a 4-hour midday shift at my new second job at the Well-Known Home Improvement Retailer.  It took me about 90 minutes to finish my online training, which presented a bit of a problem.  Because I had been expected to have taken longer, the person with whom I’m going to be doing a few weeks of on-the-job training had not been scheduled for the same shift.  After a bit of orientation work, my manager said that the best thing for me to do for the remaining two hours was to walk around the sales floor and help people as needed.

This was a scary proposition.  While I know where all the various departments are located, I don’t always know what products are located in what departments.  It’s not always obvious: for example, are kitchen faucets in Plumbing or in Kitchen and Bath?  Are adhesives in Paint or Hardware?  (The answers, by the way. are Kitchen and Bath, and Paint).  What’s more, given the nature of this retailer, many of the customers aren’t sure exactly what they need and look to the salespeople for help.  I somehow made it through the two hours without looking too clueless.  My next days are Saturday and Sunday, though both days I’ll be helping out with some relatively basic tasks in a different department.

Tuesday was a fairly dull day, with no work scheduled.  I’d like to say that I made productive use of the day, but of course I didn’t, and spent most of it in mindless web surfing.  Wednesday was pretty much a repeat.  On the other hand, I had a very good gym session on Tuesday.  I did a lot of neutral grip pull-ups, though not all at once: 1 x 5, 3 x 4, 3 x 3, 2 x 2, for a total of 30.  Nice.  I also did Hammer Strength shoulder presses, 4 x 8 x 110/110, and machine flies, 3 x 6 at resistance level 10 of 16.  The only disappointment was that I didn’t get to do bench presses, as both of the flat bench stations were occupied the whole time.

Wednesday was hot yoga, for the first time in two weeks.  Most likely because of the holiday season it wasn’t too crowded, about 15 people as compared to the usual 25 to 30.  There was a different instructor, too. She recently started work, doing the more advanced sessions, but had decided to do a less advanced one just to keep her skills fresh.  We did a number of poses that weren’t on the usual schedule.  We also mixed up standing and sitting/lying poses, in contrast to the usual way in which the first 45 minutes are all standing and the second 45 sitting and lying.  She also was a bit more into the spiritual and meditative side of yoga than the usual instructor, but I didn’t mind.  All in all, it was a very good session.

Published in: on December 20, 2013 at 12:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, December 14 – Sunday, December 15

Nice gym session on Saturday.  While I’m not big into goal-setting, preferring to take sessions as they come, so to speak, I’ve made an exception: I am going to try to master neutral grip pull-ups, by which I mean the ability to do (1) a single set of ten and (2) a total of at least 40 per session. It should be something reasonably in sight. Accordingly, I centered this session around pull-ups, doing 4 x 3, 3 x 3.  Partway there.  I also did some various machine work: Hammer Strength shoulder presses, 3 x 8 x 110/110; Life Fitness flies, 4 x 6 x resistance level 11/16; and Hammer Strength rows, 3 x 8 x 175.  I’m actually looking forward to doing a whole lot more pull-ups.

Sunday was another day at the new job, and once again I did online training for the whole 4-hour shift.  I have about another 90 minutes to go.  Once I’ve completed this initial training I’ll be doing on-the-job training, though as times goes on there’ll be more online training too.  In the evening I went to the Buddhist meditation at the yoga center.

Published in: on December 18, 2013 at 3:46 pm  Comments (3)  

Thursday, December 12 – Friday, December 13

Why, I never realized it at all

Thursday was my last day at work until early January, courtesy of the end-of-year break.  One thing I found out is that some of my worksites might be different when I start again next month.  It’s not yet certain.  What happened is that my company employs some people in the area who work on a different project line, and the customer for which they performed this work has decided to cancel the project.  My company is shuffling around worksite assignments so it can keep these people working.  I’d say that’s a very good thing, and very unusual today.  Most employers would say “Sorry, here’s your pink slip” in these circumstances.
As may be befitting the last workday in three weeks, Thursday was a busy day, one of the busier I’ve had in a while.  Many loose ends to be tied up, that sort of thing. For some reason I was completely exhausted by the end of the day.  That would have been an issue had I been planning on going to the gym in the evening, but my sore left shoulder was still bothering me, and I wanted to rest it for another day or two.

I keep talking about “work,” but of course these days that has to be qualified as I’m now working two jobs.  On Friday afternoon I went into my second job, once again doing computer-based training.  Some of the things I’ve been learning in this training are completely new to me, but so far I’m making progress through the online curriculum without any real difficulty.  About the only bad thing is that the training room in which the computer terminals are located is at a temperature not much above your typical walk-in refrigeration unit.  Hey, it keeps me alert.

Oh, Friday was, of course, Friday the 13th.  Don’t ask me why, but I didn’t become aware of that fact until something like 11 at night, when the day was almost over.

Published in: on December 17, 2013 at 3:22 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, December 9 – Wednesday, December 11

Last week, starting anew, and ouch

As I headed into work Monday morning it was for the last week of work prior to my 3-week Christmas break.  Not that “break” is an ideal choice of terminology, as it usually denotes something good.  The fact that I won’t be getting paid for this 3-week period means that by definition, it is not good.  I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much, as I knew about this time off long in advance, it is something commonplace in my line of work, and in any event I’m picking up some other work so I’ll still be making money.

Monday and Tuesday were run-of-the-mill workdays, not tough by any stretch of the imagination but not easy either.  Monday’s worksite was near Exit 57 on the Long Island Expressway while Tuesday’s was off the Sunrise Highway.  Traffic was no trouble either day, and in fact it seems to be somewhat lighter than it had been before Thanksgiving or thereabouts.  Most likely because people are using up accumulated vacation days before the end of the year.  Wednesday was one of those days when I got a last-minute call sending me to a different worksite than the one originally scheduled, which worked out fine because the new site was conveniently close by and my tasks were pretty easy.

On Wednesday evening I headed off to my new second job, which once training is over should be around 15 to 20 hours per week.  There isn’t much I can say about it, because I spent nearly the entire 4-hour shift doing web-based training.  There’s about 15 hours of this sort of training that I’ll have to complete, and then I’ll be doing on-the-job training with an experienced person for a few weeks.  All paid, of course.  I was actually surprised that I have to go through all this training, given the new job’s similarity to my existing one, but those are the rules.

I went to the gym on Tuesday for some bench pressing, unfortunately the session came to an end before I could do any additional exercises, as my left shoulder began to hurt. A lot.  I’ve been going to the gym long enough to know the difference between (a) keep-working-through-it pain and (b) stop-the-session pain, and this was (b).  I wasn’t about to risk injury by doing more stuff.  In any event, the benching was decent enough, if not awe-inspiring: 6 x 135, 6 x 185, 4 x 205, 4 x 225, 3 x 2 x 225, 6 x 185.

Published in: on December 14, 2013 at 2:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, December 6 – Sunday, December 8

Friday was (hopefully) my last work-free Friday in a while.  Starting next week I’ll be picking up some related work, though with a different company, and as far as I can tell I’ll be working on Wednesday and Friday evenings.  You can rest assured that the extra money will be appreciated.  If you express it on an hourly basis it won’t be quite as much as I get on my regular job, but that doesn’t matter too much.  One thing I’ll have to do is adjust my yoga schedule, as going on Wednesday evenings won’t be an option any more.  I’m thinking that Mondays will be the best option, as my regular instructor also teaches then, and Mondays generally aren’t an ideal day for the gym as it’s often very crowded.

Speaking of the gym, I went on both Saturday and Sunday, though neither was an especially tough session.  On Saturday I did Hammer Strength shoulder presses, 4 x 8 x 100/100, and also did machine flies, 4 x 6 at resistance level 10 out of 16.  I wasn’t really in the mood to do any benching.  On Sunday, I did neutral grip pull-ups, 3 x 3, 4 x 2.

Published in: on December 11, 2013 at 1:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, December 4 – Thursday, December 5

Now that was a struggle

Another semi-hectic workday on Wednesday, though not quite as bad as the two prior days.  I had some help on the tasks I had to do, which made things considerably easier.  For the most part I work alone, but from time to time as part of a small group.  Wednesday was one of those times.  Thursday was actually a fairly light day.  I was able to finish up most of my day’s work within a few hours and then got caught up on some things I had planned to do next week.

Wednesday evening was hot yoga, for the first time in two weeks given that I’d missed last week’s session due to our early Thanksgiving celebration.  I’ll have to say that it was a pretty tough adjustment.  There were a few points during the session when I thought I was going to drop right in my tracks.  I didn’t, of course, but it was a close call.  What made the session so tough was not just my having missed a week, but also the fact that the yoga center’s owner ran the session.  She is a very good instructor, but is also quite the taskmaster.  At one point, during the “Warrior Pose,” she physically pushed one of my feet into a position where I’d never thought it had one chance in a million of going.  It went.  Somehow.

On Thursday I went to the gym for back work.  Given that I’m doing different stuff I decided to concentrate on that old standby, neutral-grip pullups.  I haven’t done them in quite some time, and needless to say it wasn’t easy: 6 x 3, 4 x 2.  I also used the Hammer Strength seated row, 4 x 6 x 180.

Published in: on December 8, 2013 at 4:51 am  Leave a Comment