Wednesday, January 31, 2007
At the rate I'm spending money, I've still got a hefty chunk left over. I can save on gas as soon as the cold weather passes. Furthermore, if I'm not driving, I can save on insurance. When I can do that, I'll be saving quite a bit.
I don't want you to think that Rep. Peña isn't paying me enough. I still have a lot of money left over. I'm not cheap either. I like buying good stuff and will pay for something I want. What I want now is to show a profit each month. Mrs. Mata and I have money left over from last month, our profit. We will make a bigger profit this month due to some strategic decisions. Once the session is over and I go home, that's an extra $295/month we get to keep. I think that if we'd started earning so much early in our lives, we'd have spent it all. We are much more conscious about where we spend our money now as a result of our early struggles. On the downside, we don't buy into status so much. Many people who look successful are struggling even though they earn twice what we do. Thank God for age and wisdom; that is what will move us ahead.
I also took the opportunity to change my other blogs to the new Blogger. The big benefit for me is that it consolidates all my blogs on the same account. The downside is that after session, I will go back and tag all my old posts. We are talking about hours of labor.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Check out the new AOL. Most comprehensive set of free safety and security tools, free access to millions of high-quality videos from across the web, free AOL Mail and more.
I learned that the program at the University of North Texas has 300 students enter their interior design program. By the end, it comes down to 30 students who graduate from the program. That tells me that they have some damn good designers coming out of that school.
As usual, I come back to the office from these events and marvel at the majesty of the Capitol. It just humbles you to have access to such a beautiful structure any time of day (or night).
Monday, January 29, 2007
In any case, this photo is somewhat representative of the lower Rio Grande Valley. Rep. Lucio represents some of Cameron County. Rep. Peña represents most of Hidalgo County (in terms of physical area), and Rep. Guillen represents Starr County and other areas up to a portion of Laredo.
Missing here are Reps. Oliveira, Martinez, Gonzalez, Flores, and others in neighboring districts. If I can get any combination of RGV Reps together, I'll be sure to take a snapshot for historical purposes. I'm sure I'll have pics with different combinations of Reps.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
What have I done in this time? Well, I've been scheduling things for my Rep. I've been attending staff briefings and classes. I've attended receptions. I've met many people who have stopped by the office. I've made a ton of phone calls. Of course, we also have to shoehorn reading the news into all of this. The news and blogs have certainly been plentiful this session.
One very useful thing I have done is meet with a scheduling master. I won't mention her name because I don't want her deluged with requests for help. In any case, she showed me what works for her office in scheduling meeting requests and informing her boss about time-sensitive information. I was surprised that she has a partnership with her boss to handle scheduling where he is an active participant in the process. I am so glad that she helped me out. I can't wait to implement the system in our office.
I've also invested some time in outside training on juggling multiple projects. I can already see areas where I can make improvements in my workflow.
I think that many of the interns and other new staff are excited about the chance to work on legislation and "change the lives of millions of Texans". Somehow, that's just not exciting to me. It's not as glamorous as I was led to believe. We could be selling widgets for all I care. What I look forward to, and get excited about, is tackling a crushing workload, putting in long hours, networking, and hopefully making it all look easy. Forgive my French, but I want to kick some ass. That's what gets me juiced. I've been waiting three weeks for this and it's finally around the bend. I'm dying to be challenged for once in my life. Let's get down to business.
Thus far I have used 972 minutes
542 of those are mobile-to-mobile, most likely to Mrs. Mata and the little Matas
245 weekend minutes
651 peak, of which roughly 300 are mtm.
This means that thus far, I would have used about 300 minutes not including weekends, nights, and mobile to mobile. Of course, these numbers will change as I approach the end of the current billing cycle. I suspect my usage should fit in around the 600 minute plan with the nts/wknd and mtm free.
Another thing you should know about your rate plan is that if you are getting close to going over, you can ask to upgrade your plan immediately rather than at the end of the cycle. Say you are jumping up from 300 to 600 minutes and have 5 days left until the end of the cycle. You will receive all 600 minutes for those 5 days. They can prorate the charge, but not the minute bucket. Be aware, however, that you extend your contract when you do that.
Most people don't know that you can ask for call breakdowns like that. In fact, you can have them filter your calls in almost any configuration that makes sense to you. I used to work for T-Mobile, which helps in making decisions for my rate plans. For now, I have 2,000 minutes remaining, a ridiculous quantity for me.
The phone I got for this venture into the Texas Capitol is the T-Mobile Dash. It was NOT my first choice. I wanted a Crackberry, but they sold out of the cheap ones. The Dash was available at a discount, so I went with it. I've been surprised by it's functionality. The battery has a long life, except when I go crazy taking pics and emailing them out. That drains the battery pretty quickly, unless I hook up to a HotSpot.
Another cool thing is that I bought a 1 GB memory card for it. This allows me to store music and listen on headphones. This battery drain for playing MP3 music is pretty minimal. It goes for hours. Even making long calls doesn't make big dents in the battery. I love the camera. It's not super-clear, but good enough for the web. I can post to my blog using my G-Mail account. More importantly, my phone uses Push Technology like the Blackberry does, so I can access my Outlook calendar, to do list, email, and address book anywhere. Of course, there's wireless web using WiFi or the new EDGE technology for GSM.
My only peeve is that programs have not been written for download and use on this phone. You'll find some that will install and run, but they cause the Dash to crash from their memory consumption. Something I installed has a memory leak.
I have to admit that I was not expecting much from this phone, but have been pleasantly surprised. Plus, it's much smaller than the Blackberrys. The phone nearest to this one's size and functionality is the Motorola Q, which lacks a couple of features. I look forward to exceeding the 1,000 minute mark now that I've gotten to know my phone so well. I think I am now comfortable with the prospect of buying a bluetooth headset to complement the phone.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Friday, January 26, 2007
Congratulations to Rep. Guillen for his assignments as well. He is Vice Chair of Appropriations. Guillen will also sit on Calendars and Natural Resources.
This is cool stuff. No, wait. It means more work.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
AEP had a staff luncheon at the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin. That was both interesting and satisfying. Things got busier after lunch despite the delay in House Committee assignments.
After work, I went to a staff draft event. There was no fancy dinner, just sausage on a stick and beer. I met some pretty nice people there, though it took me a while to warm up to them. I'm not naturally good at meeting people. Once I have somebody's ear, we can usually chat well. It's just getting a conversation started that's difficult for me. After a beer, things get easier too. I'm starting to run into familiar faces now. This makes it easier to meet other people.
Despite my success at meeting others, I have to admit that there is a bit of a caste system. Staffers don't merit the level of attention or respect that the Reps do. I'm with Rodney Dangerfield, I don't get no respect. In this sense, it's good that my Rep wanders off with his friends without us. His presence would overshadow us and limit our ability to form acquaintances because everybody would be focused on him. I started off attending these events with friends and now I'm going alone. Everybody agrees that meeting people is important, but they've bailed out on me, the socially awkward guy. It just drips with irony.
It was a great $1.62 day.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Yesterday, I went to the Doctor of the Day at the Capitol for some help. During the legislative session, there is a nurse practitioner and a Doctor of the Day to help deal with the more common maladies and injuries for the staff. They make it difficult to miss a day of work that way. You can't call in sick because there is a doctor who can write you a prescription free of charge on the job site. After some twisting and bending of my arm, it's unlikely that I broke anything. We could feel something abnormal, so the doc prescribed high quantities of ibuprofen to reduce swelling more than releive pain. She thinks I may have damaged a ligament. Other than that, there is not much that can be done except take pills and wait.
We left a reception, after eating of course, to come to the event. We did not know there would be pizza and drinks, the staples of a college diet.
It turns out that there was a reporter and a photographer from The Daily Texan, the campus newspaper, covering the event.
On some level, it's fascinating that the class is about the media and politics, and it's being covered by media (and a blogger) about a political event. Only in Austin.
Monday, January 22, 2007
The training will be held Friday, January 26 at 11:30 and 12:30 at the House Members Lounge E2.1002. RSVP 451-0571. Sandwiches and refreshments will be served.
I don't have another trip planned for the RGV for a long time. There is one project that may require a trip down, but it's for a computer client of mine that's not related to my work here. People still call me from my former life as a computer tech/handyman.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
I just kept going. It was cold, but not too bad. Once I saw I-35 up ahead, I knew I'd made it. My wife called and I chatted with her. That's when I stopped paying attention and hit an icy patch on the corner. There is no dignified way for a grown man to fall. Lucky for me, I packed a change of clothes in my bag. I landed on that and my elbow. I lost a little skin.
I got up and picked up the pieces of my phone on the ground. Surprisingly, my wife was still chatting. So I slowly made my way across I-35 over the bridge. There were news vans parked on the bridge filming traffic. I guess they are expecting some wrecks today. The whole bridge was iced over. I got down to the Frank Erwin Special Events Center when I realized that I'd dropped my keys when I fell. So, I had to walk back to the site of my shameful fall. I carefully made my way across the icy bridge again and saw my keys lying there on the corner. After making sure no cars were coming, I walked over and grabbed my keys. I was so happy that I stopped paying attention again and slipped on the other corner as I stepped on the bridge. That was so funny. This time, I did not land on my bag, but the concrete was curved. Somehow it softened the fall.
Here I am now at the capitol with two sore elbows and a story to tell. I'm going to change into my froofy clothes and shoes. It seems most of the Capitol is running late. I know my van was iced up this morning. Even the door handle was frozen. The ice crust was what convinced me I should walk this morning. I am now going to enjoy a hot cup of coffee.
Monday, January 15, 2007
I was in Austin when it snowed back in 1995-1996. All we heard the entire day was sirens. The whole town essentially shut down. As I type this up, the local station is scrolling a list of schools that are shut down tomorrow. If I drive, I risk hitting an ice patch. I can deal with that on a flat surface. It's another thing entirely to do it on a hill. As we all know, Austin is all hills. I'm considering walking to work. That would eliminate the parking AND the driving problems. It would also help with the exercise problem.
Friday, January 12, 2007
If you are in the latter, you can't afford to eat out. In fact, you can't afford to eat at the Capitol Grill either. Let me do the numbers for you. If you spend $6 per meal, that means your cost for lunch and dinner is $12 per day. Let's assume you skip breakfast. You will spend $48 a week working 4 days a week. $60 per week in a 5 day week. That's $240 per month, not including weekends.
Housing in Austin should cost roughly $500 per month. Utilities another $200, maybe. We are up to $940 per month. If you have a car, without payments, you can expect to pay about $80/mo on insurance. If you have car payments, may God bless you, because you still have to eat on weekends. Cell phone? $60/month or more.
We are up to roughly $1200 per month. Let's eat on the weekends and skip breakfast. That's $144. We are up to $1344. Gas? $1424.
We are talking basic survival. There is no shopping for clothes. There is no going out for a few drinks. Haircuts are not included. Toiletries are not included. If you think you'll walk away from this job in better shape than you started, you are kidding yourself. After this session, you'll be broke. The ONLY place you can cut corners is in eating. Shop at HEB and find out where all the receptions are that welcome staff. Whatever you do, do NOT get caught up in the illusion that you are all powerful. The almighty laws of Economics will kick your ass. Make your own lunch. Buy food you make for yourself. Do your best to walk away from this experience making a profit. You should have money left over at the end of the month. That's profit.
I stopped by Rep. Guillen's office and met his staff. They are a good bunch. Their boss was there too. We talked shortly. He's a funny guy. He's not funny in the sense that he jokes around; rather, he has funny stories.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
As occasion would have it, I have the opportunity to sit in the gallery with Miss Peña, taking photos of her dad. Amendment 35 was just passed. We are getting ready for the real business of the day. Based on the majority rejecting "secret ballot" measures, I think we can tell which way the election will go.
9:30 Dem. Caucus Meeting 3N.4
10:00 Tamales with Rep Delisi and staff. 1W.5
12:00 Legislature convenes
2:00 Valley Delegation Reception
9:00 Rep. Truitt Celebration at the Broken Spoke
My legislative friends, you shall not go hungry today.
Monday, January 08, 2007
As mentioned in the audio post, I have to start early tomorrow. As I approach the Capitol, it still amazes me that I have unlimited access to the place. As a kid, I used to go down to the Capitol to hang out in Madison, Wisconsin. I would just walk around for hours. Now here I am working in one. Wow.
People tell me that I have a hand in shaping the lives of people and that I wield all kinds of insane power and influence. Even here, I don't see it. I get more satisfaction from helping the lady from housekeeping empty our trash. It helps her and she appreciates it. Relationships carry more weight with me than abstract concepts. Perhaps I'll get brainwashed in the process and start believing during session. It begins tomorrow. Good luck to all.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Friday, a High School friend dropped by the office to say hi. He is working the session at a Senator's office. I was going to go with him for a drink, but I failed to write down the name of the place and to get his mobile number. I drove around 1st street searching for a place whose name I could not remember. I'll have to call him up on Monday and apologize for not showing (and get his number).
I also began making calls to people to let them know that I'm in Austin now. In business, this is called maintaining your network. This is a major reason why I got a phone plan with a ridiculous amount of minutes. Since this is a work function, I could use the office phone to make calls. The drawback to that is that nobody likes talking to "the office". Most people like knowing somebody. This way, they have a direct line to somebody, me.
Of course, I'm always glad to meet new people. Except for Tuesday, when I'll be glued to the feed from House Chamber, feel free to stop by and say a quick hello. I'm at Rep. Peña's office at E1.512. I'm neither powerful nor charismatic. I'm just worried about the unknown that is coming up in the next five months as many of you are. I figure we can lend support to each other in a sea of strangers. Hopefully, when this is all over, we will be working in a sea of friends.