Thursday, October 2, 2014

Texas Tidbits

Typically, when we (I) travel, I will post tidbit posts. They are just a random collection of observations that don't really lend themselves to a post of their own.

I feel like I have gathered enough to warrant one for our time in Texas so far.

  • Texas really loves "Texas." I have come across many things in the state that don't necessarily need to be labeled as Texas, yet they are. The most prevalent ones for me are at work. So the MBA program here at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas isn't just an MBA or a McCombs MBA or a UT MBA, it is — officially — the Texas MBA Program - McCombs School of Business. And the evening MBA program is is the Texas Evening MBA Program. And the executive MBA is the Texas Executive MBA Program (though since the acronym for both cannot be TEMBA, this one is just EMBA). Because Texas.
  • I am in room 3.204 on the second floor of one building that is in fact in a second building connected to that first building which may or not be on the second or third floor of the second building. Make sense? The McCombs building is confusing enough itself, as it is actually two undergraduate buildings and a rhombus-shaped graduate building that have all been combined into a single building. However, even if the McCombs building itself wasn't so strangely shaped, the floor numbering system across the campus is confusing enough. Walk into any building on the UT campus at ground level and you are more than likely to find yourself on a floor labeled as the second floor. Add to that the fact that all rooms are numbered through a strange decimal system, hence the 3.204 for my office (the 3 supposedly referring to the floor, despite this being the second floor according to my math). I was baffled by this and the explanation has done nothing to alleviate that bafflement. Apparently, the entire UT campus in Austin uses the Acree Carlisle Room Numbering System, a room-numbering system so arcane or little-used that the only references to it also reference UT-Austin. Let me give you a little explanation: "'The main goal is a perfectly logical system of numbering, whose purpose is ultimately to help students get around the campus.'...Upon entering a building, a student walks past a door numbered 2.102 on her right, next past one on the left numbered 2.106...Levels are numbered beginning with the lowest level in the structure, without reference to ground or entry level...after the designated floor level, is a number indicating a hallway..." and so forth. Perfectly logical right? Confusing as all get out. Read more about this insane system here. And see a snippet of its implementation at UT here. And, bask in the wonder of literally everything in a building (from the corridors to the stairs) having a number in the system.

More tidbits to come!


Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Power Pose

Source: The Independent 

I've had the new job now for two weeks, and I have been meaning to blog about it. But as it turns out, two weeks of getting to know your office job are not all that exciting or blog worthy.

One part of a new job is being introduced to everyone around the office. What this means is during the past two weeks, I would frequently find myself standing somewhere, being introduced to someone. Following the initial handshake, there is always some requisite chit-chat. Where were you before? What brought you to Austin? Etc. During this semi-awkward small talk, I would find myself hyper-aware of what I was doing with my body. Don't cross your arms in front of your chest, Sara. You want to seem approachable. Don't cross your legs at the knee like that, you've seen what that does for your hips in pictures.

Inevitably, my go-to stance is what I have since learned is often referred to as the "Wonder Woman." Hands on hips, legs apart, maybe a little hip cock (though probably not and also, haha, hip cock). However, I even found myself self conscious about this pose, as I felt (particularly when I was in a skirt) that it was not very lady like.

During some of the surprisingly frequent downtime I currently have with the new position, I was reading my news feed and came across an article in the New York Times. Research by Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and associate professor at Harvard Business School, shows an interesting effect the body can have on the mind. We already knew that people smile when they are happy and that forcing the face into a smile can also increase feelings of happiness. What Cuddy has found is that assuming "power poses" can increase testosterone and decrease cortisol, basically making people feel more confident and powerful.

The Wonder Woman, you have probably gathered, is a power pose.

These power poses weren't just plucked from thin air, they come from nature and are the sorts of poses that powerful people naturally make. Or the poses people consciously choose to make when wanting to exert power.

Either way, I apparently, subconsciously feel pretty powerful if my go to stance is a power pose. However, I find it very interesting that I am also self conscious about this power pose because I feel that it isn't lady like. I am sure there is an entire master thesis somewhere on the implications of power feeling inherently un-womanly or inappropriate for a lady-like woman. But that's a tangent for another day.

I highly recommend you check out Cuddy's TED talk. It's pretty interesting.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

I Can Haz Job

The job search is probably one of my least favorite things about life changes. There is something about the combination of insecurity and bravado that makes the whole experience a little unsettling.

Much like my last job search, I started the process unnecessarily early long before we had left Bloomington and before the "Summer in which Sara Got No Sleep" began. I updated my LinkedIn and broke out all my networking skills to track down everyone I knew who knew someone in Austin. I lined up all sorts of meetings for myself with these connections when Cale and I were in Austin in May for our failed house-hunting trip. I even applied for what appeared to be a perfect position with International Studies Abroad.

The more people I spoke with the more often I heard the same mantra: "You have to have a local address and phone number or they just throw your resume out without even a second glance." I went so far as to get myself a Skype 512 number.

However, after all that effort, my summer started to ramp up, and I found myself without even the slightest hint of time to even remotely consider the job search. Initially this made me quite anxious. Sure, Cale had done whatever magical financial math he does that means we always seem to have enough money* and had assured me that I had until January to find a job. But as the main breadwinner, I found that hard to believe.

*We decided way back in Florida that the solution to an ongoing problem in which Sara was perpetually convinced we were on the verge of destitution was that Sara was no longer allowed to participate in the household financial management. Given that I hate to shop and spend money, there was no threat that I would just spend money willy-nilly oblivious to our financial circumstances. It has appeared to work rather well for us for the past seven or eight years.

Despite my concerns, my summer soon became too busy for me to even find time to worry about worrying. So I just stopped worrying altogether. There was nothing to be done about it until we were in Austin.

When we finally arrived in Austin, I began my job search in earnest. Set up my color-coded spreadsheet to track jobs, applications, responses, etc. Searched web sites. Networked like a pro. I applied for anything and everything that I felt even remotely qualified for and interested in. Fourteen positions in total. Not because I was willing to accept any position, but because I wanted the experience applying, writing cover letters, interviewing, etc. And, of course, I wanted contingency plans if that perfect position never appeared or didn't pan out.

When you are unemployed and in the middle of a job search, it feels like it will never end and you will write cover letters (the bane of my existence) for the rest of your life. But, to be honest, I have always been very lucky with the speed with which I find great positions. In this case, I had a screening call for the Senior Program Coordinator position with the McCombs School of Business MBA+ Program on August 13, two weeks after our move. That led to an in-person interview a week later.

For my previous job as a Program Manager at the Institute for International Business, I left that interview convinced I had bombed it. I went directly home, drank two PBRs, and ate a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Then I scheduled an appointment with SPEA Career Services to work on my interview skills. I was shocked when they actually offered me the job. For this interview though, I left feeling really confident. I felt that it was a job that I could do well and enjoy doing and that those I had spoken with felt the same way and that they would enjoy working with me.

Then began the terrible waiting game of doubt. They only interviewed two candidates for the job and anticipated making an offer the next week. When Friday of the following week came and went with no call, I convinced myself they offered the position to the other candidate and he or she was taking the long (Labor Day) weekend to make the decision. I anticipated a call letting me know I wasn't being offered the position on Tuesday. But Tuesday came and went.

On Wednesday, I was actually in an interview when my phone started to ring. I had it on silent, but even the vibrations were distracting enough that I had to apologize and grab it from my bag to end the call. As I walked back to the Jeep following the interview, I checked my messages and saw a garbled voice-mail-to-text translation that told me that the call was from the hiring manager at McCombs, but it was too unintelligible to know if it was good or bad news. Thankfully, she had sent me an email too. And there, clearly, in black and white in front of me was a job offer for a great position. And to top it off, they offered me the max budgeted salary rather than the minimum posted with the position in order to side-step the negotiation process. It was actually just a tiny bit more than what I had decided I would try to negotiate for (don't tell the boss!), so there were no complaints from me.

For the rest of the day the hiring manager and I played a frustrating game of phone tag. I called and left her a message to accept the position and sent an email as well. She called my back while I was in the middle of discovering the cat had a festering, puss oozing wound on his head. Etc. But finally, we spoke on the phone and made it almost* official.

*Even though I had accepted the offer over the phone, I was really waiting for the offer letter to make it feel official, which is why I have been a little silent on the job details, as it took another week to finally get that letter. 

I had promised myself when we first moved to Austin (and discovered there was a Krispy Kreme literally down the street) that I could have a doughnut when I got a job. I spent the rest of the day (when I wasn't with the cat at the vet) checking for the hot light. Finally, that evening I had my (three) celebratory doughnut(s).

There you have it. I can haz job.

I'll start work on Monday, and I am sure that after the first week, I will have a clearer picture of my responsibilities. However, I know that I will be recruiting and scoping consulting projects for McCombs MBA students across all the MBA programs. They average 30-40 projects for teams of 4-6 students each semester. In addition, I will be arranging professional development leadership workshops and coordinating students' access to a roster of executive coaches. I will be able to inject a little of my interest in international into the position, recruiting projects with international or multinational firms, working with international students, and possibly, leading one of the MBA Global Connections trips. The Global Connections program is run out of the MBA+ office where I will work and the office staff help with in-country logistics for the trips in the summer.

I'll check back in again next week after I actually can had job for a little while.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Saga of the Horn

This is the saga of the horn.

But first, a little background.
In Indiana, that bastion of republicanism, no damn goverment can tell you what sort of motor vehicle you can and can't operate on the (*cough) communally funded roadway infastructure. If it has wheels - well, it ain't GOT to have wheels, cause nobody is checking - you can ride or drive it to your heart's content.

These liberals in Texas have inspections. Some private business-person acting as a stooge for the state has to give all your vehicles the once-over to make sure they are safe. And they do it every year. And for a motorcycle, "safe" means it has a horn. Turn signals: Nope. Head light cut-out switch: ok on an old bike. Dry rotted tires: ok in the tread, but not on the side-wall.

I ride a 45-year old triumph. It is safe. Old enough for the cut-out switch, fresh rubber and everything, but the horn don't work. Never did.

So I have 30 days from the day we moved here to get inspected and plated, and the first step is to install a horn. I found one on ebay. Vintage triumph horn; but the reserve was too high. I'm not paying through the nose just to be what the ninnies in state government call "Legal." So I found another one on ebay and bid on it, but the auction doesn't end for-EVER. I'm not patient enough for ebay, so I buy a POS horn off amazon. It works for one-wire or two-wire systems! I have a two-wire system! OK!

Enter the second big player in the story: the repop Tricon switch. This switch controls the headlight. It has a slider; one end is low-beam and the other end is high-beams. Remember about the head light cut-out switch? On such a high quality item as this, head light off is anywhere in between low-beam and high-beam. It's convenient, but not the mark of a well manufactured product.

So I wire the horn up to the switch. Cake. I go for a ride. I should mention that the Triumph is not a huge fan of the 110 degree stop and go traffic. It doesnt idle real smoothly. I have to keep manipulating the throttle to keep it from dying at particularly long lights, or at lights where it takes me three phases to get through them. So I go out riding and the horn – which works – begins to work a little too well. Like it beeps a little bit at stops. At first. Then it beeps a little bit when riding. Then it starts beeping all to hell, and rattling around in the tunnel under the tank. Then the bike dies at a stop.

I'm the guy sweating his ass off in 110 degree heat trying to kick over a stalled Triumph with a horn blaring at like 4 in the afternoon in north Austin the other day – just in case you noticed me.

So I limp home horn still beeping intermittently. I take the thing back apart and begin to investigate. Here is how that Tricon switch's horn button works. You feed it a live wire, and it will ground it out for you everytime you press the button. And all the time that the convenient attach-it-to-the-handlebar screw is used. So to get the horn in the circuit, I feed it switched power, and then return the other switched-power-plus-horn line to the Tricon to ground when I press the button, thus completing the horn circuit and delivering a beep. Great. Except that the body of the horn (also for use with a one-wire system!) is ground. So the bracket for the horn is ground. So the beep is on.

I break out my exacto knife and some cork and set about isolating the horn from ground. I also have to re-attach the horn a little better to its bracket becaue some of the intermittent beeping was caused by it grounding out against the inside of the gas tank tunnel while it was bouncing around all loose. All fixed, and I go for a ride. I get about 6 miles in and the intermittent bad-ingnition system returns fouling out the right side plug. I turn around at mile 7, and go home at top speed ~45 mph on the 65 mph interstate. This is a full-on limp home.

Conveniently, I have a full set of replacement ingnition parts. Out with the old, in with the new, and I am finally up and running again. So I go get the inspection at this awesome bike shop (plug: and I am finally OFFICIALLY SAFE and ready to get legal.

Coda: It'll cost me about $600 to get all the vehicles plated. So I'll get legal later.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Job Search So Far - UPDATED Again, Again

Well, some how in my attempts to update this blog, I managed to delete all the code. Read: lost entire blog. I have recreated it with updates to the best of my ability below.

18 21 27 31

Days in Austin

11 15

Cover Letters Written

8 10 11 14

Positions Actually Applied for

3 4

Informational Interviews




Phone Screening Interviews (one that led to an actual interview)

1 2

Actual Interviews (one done, one scheduled)


Informational Interview that Turned Out to be an Actual Interview


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Deep in the Heart of Texas it's...HOT

Did you see what I did there? Heart of Texas? HOT? Get it?

I am so damn clever.

So, yeah, it is hot here in Austin. Luckily, it's just what we love. We re-acclimated to the heat quite quickly. Earlier this week, Cale and I were sitting at the kitchen table working on a puzzle (yeah, I know, insert nerd joke here), and I reached up to turn down the ceiling fan.

Cale: I was thinking it was a bit chilly in here, what is the thermostat set for?

Yeah, 77.

We've decided that 80 is a good indoor temperature. Texas heat? Bring it, we say.


P.S. Whatever my comfortability with the heat, the people out for a jog at 2 pm in 100+ weather are still crazy people. That has not changed.

Monday, August 11, 2014

New Digs

Well, we've moved again, and I have been remiss in my blogging.

Cale was accepted in to the PhD program at the University of Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs. So here we are in Austin, Texas for at least the next four years.

The lead up to the move was a little stressful for both of us. Cale was still working at IU on multiple research projects and managing all the details of the move while also adding in new responsibilities from his upcoming position with a research project in Austin. I managed the Global Business Institute this year and, starting with the early arrival of almost a third of the group, worked 100-hour weeks for four weeks ending July 19th. My last day of work was July 22. By July 30 we had all our earthly belongings in a 20-foot U-haul and the Jeep on a trailer. We hit the road for Texas on July 31.

We were lucky we even had a place to move our things to down in Austin. Cale and I had taken a house-hunting vacation back in May in the hopes of finding a rental home. We picked the dates based on advice from a real estate agent who recommended we come 30-45 days out.

Austin, you see, is a tricky housing market. You cannot find a place on your own. You need a real estate agent. Even for rentals.

Unfortunately, our original agent was full of lies and it is virtually impossible to lease a place more than two weeks out. So that trip was a total, expensive bust. At least we got a little vacationing in.


Instead, Cale and Jake made an emergency house-hunting and disk golf trip down to Austin two weeks before we moved. We finally signed a lease nine days before we left.

The ~16 hour straight drive to Austin takes quite a bit longer when you are in a 20-foot U-haul with a Jeep on the back. We drove 17 hours on the first day just to Sulpher Springs, Texas (and by we, I mean mostly Cale) and still had another six hours the next day to Austin. We averaged 45 mph and got about eight miles to the gallon.

We've been in Austin a week now. We're settling in. Finding the hipster brunch locations, walking to our corner bar, the usuals.

Cale will start classes near the end of the month. Hopefully, my job hunt will go quickly.

More later.