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Archive for July, 2008

I received a call last Thursday asking if I could fly to Hampton, VA for a site interview with NASA. Sure, why not? Here is the recounting of the visit:

Flights were no problem (whew!).

I went to the car rental desk and said that a reservation is in my name, but paid already. The desk clerk wanted to charge it to my credit card. I said I didn’t think that was right as it was booked and paid for by the company with which I am interviewing. A gentleman overheard the situation and offered me a ride to the hotel as he also works at Langley AFB. I was frustrated but not done with the situation. I looked at the clerk and she said – “get a ride with him if you don’t want us to charge your credit card” That pushed me over the edge and I said fine.

So, here I am riding in a rental car with a stranger. I wish I could say this is the first and only time I have ever done such a thing, but it isn’t. How do I get myself into these situations? Too trusting? Maybe Too stupid? Maybe. Well, we went to dinner and met a coworker of his at dinner. Yep, I am the lone woman at a table with two strange men. Great. If you find parts of my body in the ocean near VA…I went willingly. These 2 were not fans of this area of VA and were enthusiastically complaining about how poor and terrible the area was. I think it was more of a matter that they held biases that I didn’t. This became very clear when driver guy said “I don’t mean to be racist” when clearly he did. After dinner, we went to the hotel. Check-in was a breeze and I couldn’t wait to get to my room – I had a lot of water with dinner!

My room was on the 8th floor and the elevators were working overtime. I slid my hotel card into the door slot and when the light turned green, I couldn’t get in fast enough. I closed the door and secured the privacy latch as a matter of habit. The bathroom launch sequence was advancing. As I looked for the bathroom, I noticed the TV was on and thought that was odd but I had other things on my mind. I threw my bags on the table and while skidding into the bathroom, I notice bags and clothes on the bed, beyond the bathroom. Crud, someone else was already in this room. “hello?” No answer. I debate for all of 2 seconds and realizes the launch sequence was too advanced to cancel now. Yep, I used someone else’s bathroom all the while hoping and praying that they wouldn’t come back to their room while I was there…please, please, please! I think I hear someone at the door. Seriously! Luckily, the ‘privacy lock’ prevents a card from gaining access into a room. I’m sure there was a mighty confused person standing outside their hotel room.

I grabbed my stuff and cautiously left the room – looking both ways to see if anyone noticed me. The way was clear! I went back down to the desk and said “Could I maybe have a room with no one else already in it?” The hotel clerk confirmed the error, apologized and gave me another room – on the 10th floor. This meant nothing to me as I had never stayed there before but, as I approached my new (and hopefully empty) room, I noticed that it was the Presidential Suite. And sweet it was – full kitchen, dining room, living room, 1 & 1/2 bathrooms, and bedroom. The plasma flatscreen TV was huge. I felt duly compensated for using someone else’s bathroom!

I felt very spoiled. Maybe this trip is turning around! In fact, there was happy hour going on in the bar downstairs…WITH FREE DRINKS!! I can get on board with that. 2 drinks with the dinner companion of the rental car guy that happened to be in the bar. I went back to my room and indulged in some cable TV since we choose not to pay for cable at home. Weird stuff on TV these days…(e.g. The 2 Coreys, Taboo, reality up the wazoo). I practiced the 40 minute presentation I had to give – yes, I had notification of the 40 minute presentation on Thursday to give on Monday – GREAT, right? I was exhausted, truly and completely. I shut off the lights and went to bed. The lamp near the bed was defective in some way – it kept flashing every 5 seconds or so. Bright enough that I could see it with my eyes closed. I was the kind of exhausted that makes it feel impossible to get back out of bed, turn on the lights & unplug the lamp – I just turned on my side and covered my eyes.

The bathroom alarm (really? a separate alarm in the bathroom?) went off at 5:55 am. Lovely. I shut it off after the most fitful night of sleep ever and climbed back in bed – the lamp was still flashing. ugh. I had an hour to relax and drifted off a little when the 7 am bedroom alarm went off. Time for the show to begin! The full bathroom had marble floor, marble jacuzzi tub surround, and marble shower. The shower could have held a king bed with room to spare. It had 3 shower heads and 2 controls. I was tired and bleary eyed trying to figure out how to take a shower. Luckily, I was successful – so maybe I *am* too trusting. I was ready to go and downstairs without a problem.

The shuttle driver was friendly as could be – he was stationed in Minot, ND (yeah, I feel bad for him too) when he was in the service. Straight from the streets of NYC to Minot – hee! Culture shock of the first order. I made it to the NASA gate and got my badge. I wasn’t in the system so this took some wrangling, of course. The interview team still thought I had a car & I hoped desperately that they would come to pick me up & they did – whew!

9:00 – 10:00 was a group meeting of sorts. About an hour of discussing the history of NASA Langley and the organizational structure – why do companies do this for a site interview? I’m nervous and do not care about the organizational structure of something or other. Really. I don’t. I don’t even care when I have been there for 3 months. Give this info when I have been hired and been there for 6 months. It really has no meaning before then.

10:00 – Time for my presentation – they sent out a company-wide invitation. Of course they did. I hook up my laptop to the projector system. It doesn’t work with MS Vista. Of course it doesn’t. Off goes some kind soul to grab his laptop. Luckily I brought both my laptop and a thumb drive with my presentation. The presentation is the same one I gave at State Farm altered so that it fits with what they are looking for (that I understand research) without the usability arc.

10:20 – Presentation starts. I tend to talk fast and the audience of about 20-30 people are glassy-eyed so it went quickly. 10:48 and I’m done. Great. Time for Q & A. There will forever be the one guy who wants to point out the flaw in someone else’s research. He seems to be everywhere all the time – I always feel bad for the presenter that has to deal with this guy. That guy is in the room. Of course. One of the questions has to do with research that is highly sensitive and I am unable to get into details without security clearance. Granted *I* don’t even have the security clearance. That takes care of “That Guy”.

11:00 – Touring the NASA base. We leave the hangar-cum-office space. As we step outside, the COOLEST thing ever is going on. An F-22 is flying straight up into the air. Straight up! Really far! It was so loud and I felt it in my chest so strong that at first I thought it was a rocket. The plane then arched upside down (the pilot’s head was pointed toward earth) and flew full power toward the ground. So loud. When it seemed like it was going to crash, it turned again and flew what seemed to be so close to the ground. Then it banked and went out of view. My jaw was on the ground and attracting ants. Everyone else (there were 3 people taking me on the tour) was very nonchalant about it. Wow. Really – wow!

I saw all sorts of simulators – almost all part task (did not include full motion). The majority of the work that the department I would work for is related to aeronautics (really? it *is* the National Aeronautics and Space Administration so I kinda figured and all that) and very little to do with ‘exploration’ as they call it – space to the rest of the world.

Noon – lunch. My money was in my laptop bag. In someone’s locked office. Although I figured that my lunch would be paid since I was an interviewee, it is never a good idea to assume and expect. No one brought up the idea that they would pay for my lunch. I started getting antsy and just followed one person around until we were at the check-out. The cashier asked if this was together (I had 4 pieces of gum in my pocket – that’s it & I doubt it would have been a fair trade for a sandwich and drink) – I blessed her silently and shrugged while looking innocently at my tour guide. She stumbled and fumbled out a yes. Whew again.

I realize this is getting long, but you are close to the end!

At lunch, the head of the dept said “If we chose to hire you, when could you move here?”. I didn’t want to seem to eager and wasn’t all that taken with working there just yet so I said “If I chose to work here, I could move the middle to end of August”. I’ve always been pretty good at playing hard to get. Ha! Oh, if you knew me – I am the worst at playing anything but I didn’t want to be an eager lap dog & I was truly torn about working there so it worked in my favor, I think.

I’m tired of typing and the main stuff is out there – one tour guide was kind enough to give me a ride to the airport. I missed one flight but got on the next one without fanfare. I was sore (feet & back) and tired so Bob carried me into the house. Hee! Too good to me, that man!

I’ll update as info comes in.

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Bob & I went to SD for a week for our anniversary as well as for a wedding. We stayed at a wonderful Bed & Breakfast in Hot Springs (Southern Black Hills) called A Dakota Dream (www.adakotadream.com) which is about an hour outside of Rapid City. Rapid City is the second largest city in SD but is what I now consider a small city (70,000 people I believe).

We flew into Sioux Falls (the largest city at about 100,000 people) and stayed with Bob’s brother and sister in law. They have a 12 year old boy, a 3 1/2 year old girl and a 1 1/2 year old girl. The girls LOVE their “uncle Bob! uncle Bob! hey, uncle Bob!” who is a playland at 6’4″ for kids. He is a charmer to young girls and older ladies – all 3 of our grandmothers are smitten with him and all nieces are glued to his side. I don’t understand the draw… (ha!)

We drove from Sioux Falls to Flandreau, SD (the county seat without a single stoplight in the town) to pick up his maternal grandmother and then drove to Watertown to visit with his mother. The next day, we drove to the farm where Bob’s 89(?) year old grandma tends to the cattle with the help of an uncle living across the street. After 2 days of being ‘on’ – I got 2 ocular migraines without pain (lose vision for about 1/2 an hour or so) which is draining. I also started to get vertigo only while laying down, but not standing up.

Honestly, my body somaticizes stress in the most odd ways. That is the main reason I didn’t check into the stroke warnings (TIAs) that I had prior to the stroke – ocular migraines, night sweats, dizziness – a regular smorgasbord of stress symptoms! How was I to know the important ones from the simply annoying/irritating ones? While the ocular migraines subsided, the vertigo was terrible. It still comes and goes now. I hesitate seeing a doctor because I think it is stress-related.

Back to the trip – on our 3rd day in SD, we drove from Sioux Falls to Rapid City (about a 5 hour trip across the state) where my family lives and the wedding was to be held. We spent time with Bob’s dad and my family and drove in the Black Hills (or Paha Sapa as the Native Americans call it). My absolute favorite part of the trip was feeding the chipmunks on Needles Highway (they eat right out of your hand) and smelling the Black Hills pine trees.

Does that sound odd? Smelling pine trees? When I went to Girl Scout camp, the counselors told us about how the pine trees have smells – if you smell between the bark, you can smell butterscotch, strawberry, chocolate, or vanilla (the last two being really rare). While I am positive this was done for their own entertainment as well as some much deserved quiet time, I still like to smell the pine trees. Most are butterscotch. This may be the power of suggestion but try it!!

We are back and I am unemployed – I am not a good unemployed person. I am awful at it. I would make a horrible 1950’s housewife! I have 2 jobs that I have applied for and am waiting for decisions. The phone interview one was okay, I guess – they were a little unprofessional at times (claiming to be falling asleep as I answered questions – nice, huh?) but they are checking references which is positive.

One of the positives of being unemployed right now is the time I have to think. I have been far too impatient with myself and my recovery. I have basically told my body and my mind to ‘just get over it already’ and it isn’t responding as quickly as I think it should. I have to create a goal and make a plan to recover both my body and my mind in a more realistic way. Reading the stupid book I reviewed in the previous blog is not a positive way to figure out how to recover either (thanks to all who left comments – it was good to hear opinions!).

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