Sunday, January 02, 2011

A new start in a new year

I'm looking forward to a new start in 2011.  And, frankly, I don't have any choice.

I've been laid off since December 17 and still haven't been able to re-open a claim with Unemployment.  Because my previous claim closed in November I need to do a person-to-person call to reopen it.  Last time I had to do this (which I think was the previous November, or it might have been when I was laid off this summer) I called the number given by the online site, left my callback information, and got a return call at 7:00 the next morning.  I wasn't able to get this ball rolling until last Wednesday, the day I received my final pay stub, which contains information required by unemployment.  I called and left my information and was told that I could expect a call anytime until 9:45 that night, or between 7:00 AM and 9:45 PM the next day.  What they didn't mention was that New Year's Eve Eve, like Christmas Eve Eve, is apparently a state holiday; calls to the number those days received a message that the office was "closed for the holiday."  I expect they were actually closed the next two days as well, which are widely regarded as actual holidays.  Which brings us to today, which is Sunday, when their office is open but has shortened hours.  As of now, the office is closed for the day.  So tomorrow I guess I'll call again and start the process over.  (Having two calls on the system may have disastrous consequences.  Hmm....)

I've got some paperwork from the company that came right around Christmas that I have to read over and fill out to get my severance.  I wonder what terms and conditions I'll have to agree to to get the pay that was promised to me?  Oh, and there's the COBRA stuff, too.  I think that arrived New Year's Eve.

I've sent an email to one of my contacts at the CareerLink to get involved with the Transition Team again.  I haven't heard anything from them since October, and haven't been to a meeting since sometime in August.  My first meeting with them was the morning after I discovered the break-in at my house, and since that time my life has been a flurry of insurance, security, and as much overtime as I could get.  Until I lost my job on December 17.

I think I'll be contacting an electrician this week to do some work for me to tie the electrical systems of the two sides of my house together.  It's not too expensive, and it shouldn't take too long.  While he's working on that I'll have an opportunity to assemble more bookcases.  I actually assembled one on New Year's Eve.  It took far longer than I expected, and I've filled it up much faster than I expected.

Lots of people are suggesting I look at taking "the civil service exam" to put in for some government jobs, especially at places that are really in need of employees - like, say, Unemployment.  Most people don't realize that there is no one "civil service exam" - there are many different exams that are job-specific.  And I don't know if government jobs are exactly the most secure things right now.  They may be looking to hire people just to fire them again to have a quick cost savings on the books.

Then there's the unemployment conundrum, which a lot of people and politicians have talked around and about but no one has addressed seriously.  It is as follows:  Your unemployment payments are based on the money you earned over some recent period of time.  The more you earned, the more your unemployment.  If you had a particularly good job or, say, worked an ungodly amount of overtime, your unemployment will be correspondingly higher.  The jobs that are generally available right now are not exactly high-paying jobs.  In many cases, taking one of these low-paying jobs (often without benefits) will result in a net loss of weekly income compared to unemployment.  Now, my degree is in Physics, not Economics, but it seems to me that in many cases it would be against your better long-term interests to take one of these jobs just to lose money.  (And this is coming from someone who took a 1/3 pay cut to become a laborer in the factory where he was once a part of management.)

There are ways around this.  Unemployment will allow you to still collect if you are earning some small amount of income.  So, to maximize your income, it may be in your best interest to take some low-paying or part-time job that does not push you over the limit, and add this money to your unemployment compensation.

None of which is a recipe for success, or for long-term economic recovery.

On top of all this, there is something I would like to do, something I've had in mind for a while.  I'd like to start writing more, exercising my creativity in that area.  But what I'd like to do is something along the lines of an "Exquisite Corpse" writing project - a "chain novel", or at least a chain story.  The idea is simple:  You gather together a group of writers.  One of them starts a story, the next one adds to it, and so on, and so on.  I suppose you could add rules regarding an endpoint, killing off characters other writers have created, continuity, and things like that.  You could have a random selection of who writes the next bit, or start off from the last chapter and work your way backwards, or have several stories going at once so everyone can be working on something at any given time.  Unfortunately, many of the fiction writers I know are currently deeply involved in other things.  Still, this is something for them to think about, and something that I'll bring up again sometime.

Anyway, that's my plan for now.  Get the unemployment ball rolling, get involved with CareerLink and the Transition Team again, get all my paperwork settled for severance and COBRA, get some work done at the house, start writing some more.

Oh, and maybe find a new job.  But, hey, let's try to be realistic here.


hedera said...

I think you're being paranoid about government jobs. The amount of effort needed to hire someone is so great, the paperwork so annoying, that if someone says they're hiring, assume they actually want you around for awhile. This is entirely aside from the issue of whether government jobs may be cut due to funding issues. Hiring someone so as to fire them quickly to show a cost saving is not the way government departments think, IMHO. I'd say, look over the government hiring lists and see if there's anything that looks worth your while.

Your points about unemployment are well taken, but - should we just let people starve? Lose their homes because they have NO income and can't pay rent? Way back when, people found a relative with some form of income and bunked with them, but even then there were people without relatives who were S.O.L., and ended up living under a bridge. And nowadays, we've essentially destroyed the extended family. If I had to bunk with a relative, my sister would take me in, but I'd have to relocate to Las Vegas and lose my whole network of friends. The real reason it isn't in your long term economic interest to take a job that pays less than your unemployment is because the unemployment will, eventually, go away. Even with all the extensions you can only sit on it for about 3 years. If there were any kind of job market out there, you wouldn't even be considering that option.

mojo shivers said...

I've been itching to try this role playing system called Universalis out in writing form. My idea sounds an awful lot like your chain novel idea.

Basically, the idea behind Universalis is that no one person is the creator and no one person are the characters. Anyone can introduce a character or idea at any time, and anyone can expand an already introduced character or idea at any time. Now in the game system, who gets to do what when is put up for sale with the in-game currency, but in a novel form I think it would just have to be collaborative.

Rather than a chain novel, with author following author, I'm curious to see how a more free-form approach to who does what when would work itself out.