Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ruminations While Being Unemployed

As our final paycheck day approaches at a rather glacier-like pace, what has occurred in the past three weeks of mostly sitting around?

Is it a good idea to go to employers' place of business when you can fill out applications online at home? Most employers direct you to their computers to fill them out anyway. There are some positions that are not posted online though, and employees usually hear about them first or are posted in human resources offices.

Herein is the power and convenience of the internet - questions like: do I qualify for unemployment insurance, how much will I expect to receive?, is it taxable income?, how many weeks can I collect?, etc. These may be questions that you might forget to ask the human resources department when they issue your last paycheck. These things pop up in my mind at random times of the day.

After a call from a coworker asking about severance pay, I told him I don't remember seeing it in the personnel handbook which was last revised in 2009. So after his call, I dug out the Human Resources handbook from my filing cabinet and I was surprised that there was a section about severance pay, although it wasn't fully explained but rather just referred to an obscure line mentioning a policy and procedure number. So off to the portal I go (and I'm glad this is still accessible). The search function didn't reveal anything but with further exploration, I found the policy and procedure manual with the aforementioned obscure number. Basically what it says is that the company does indeed a policy for severance pay but it's up to them to decide whether to pay it or not. The policy doesn't even have a calculator which shows how many weeks of severance pay to be given based on how many years of service to the company.

Here's an idea: since it's been chaotic at our former workplace and if we really want to help our former PHLB co-workers, we can sign up with the registry College Hospital uses and tell them we are available to work at College Medical Center. Provided of course we are not in their do-not-return list.

My excuse used to be I didn't have time to go places because I was working a lot. Now that I have the time to go places, my excuse is that I don't have the money to do so.

Time to compile my duties and responsibilities as a Behavioral Health Worker by copying and pasting from my blog and adding it to my resume.

Also time to consolidate bank accounts to lower the monthly balance requirements so I can avoid monthly maintenance fees. That's because I'm losing direct deposit of paychecks which the bank requires in waiving the monthly maintenance fee. Better still if I move my account to a credit union since their balance requirements are much lower.

Should I sign up for the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare so I can have health insurance next year? I've blogged about this earlier this year: An Obamacare Loophole For Early Retirees?

And lastly, should I pay off my mortgage with whatever savings I have left to decrease my monthly overhead drastically? How many months will the leftovers last? I won't know till I receive my final paycheck. Unemployment is so darn inconvenient! Let's just call it forced retirement without money to spend.

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Interview at TAR-JAY

          When I updated my LinkedIn account a few weeks ago, a name popped out as a possible contact and I immediately recognized someone whom I've run with a few years ago. I remembered that she worked in the human resources department of Target, so I thought, what the heck, I'll try to apply for a position totally unrelated to healthcare and see if I'd like it. I could use some new challenges even if the pay is lower. So I scoured the Target website for positions that interested me and found one as a night shift backroom member, with little idea of what it involved. I thought it meant taking products from the backroom and stocking the shelves. Two days after filling out the online application, I received a call and was set up for an interview on a Monday morning at 5:30 a.m., which I thought was a very unusual time for an interview. But first, I went to the place two days before the interview to scout it and ask one of the workers what the hours for night shift were (10 p.m to 6 a.m.). I also checked out the inner and outer perimeter of the store. Having done that, I found the door where I was supposed to ring the buzzer on my interview day.
         I arrived at the site at the precise time and was given a short test which involved some work situations and how I would respond to them, plus some math problems about product stocks and shipping distances. Now I don't know about you, but at 5:30 a.m. with brain fog is not exactly a good time for me to be solving math problems. After I turned in my test, the first shift leader/interviewer said they don't check those answers anyway. Well, thanks a lot pal! My addled brain had to go all the way back to high school to figure out formulas on how to solve those math questions! I had to think long and hard but I think I got the correct answers. He posed more questions on how I would respond to certain work situations, then I was asked to wait in the employee break room for a second shift leader/interviewer. The second interviewer explained what the job involved, which basically was unloading delivery trucks, opening the boxes, and distributing the products to the proper area of the store, then tearing down the boxes and cleaning the distribution work area. He gave me a few more scenarios and how I would respond to them. They were hypothetical questions about safety, co-workers, supervisors, and moving merchandise. His main concern was that I didn't have any experience with the job I applied for and also that they didn't have a full time position that I desired. Since Thanksgiving and Christmas was approaching, it was going to be their busiest time of the year but they only needed seasonal workers, and that meant there would be no benefits like insurance coverage. After the interview, I was told that I would be receiving a call or email whether I would be hired or not.
          I was actually quite apprehensive about applying for this type of job because after all, I've been working in hospitals for the past 32 years. It would be challenging of course if I were offered the position, but on the other hand I won't have to deal with potentially violent psychiatric patients anymore. When you start perceiving the behavior of psych patients as normal, then you may already be one of them, LOL!

          In the end, a few days after the interview, I received an email saying that they will not be hiring me. No doubt it was due to my inexperience. Looks like my human resources connection didn't help :(  Nonetheless, that is okay by me. It may have been interesting to learn the system though. Thanks for the interview Target. I found it to be very interesting :)

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The 5 Pound Difference

With Donna, the host. Photo courtesy of Jacqueline.
          For the second Saturday in a row, I walked at Signal Hill with the Long Beach Area Walking Club. (Last Saturdays post: Packing It At Signal Hill). Summer is gone and we had the smallest group since spring. Only three walkers showed up - Donna (the host), Jacqueline, and me. I was actually a few seconds late because my GPS watch took it's time connecting to with the satellite and I saw Donna starting off by herself.  A few steps down, we were joined by Jacqueline. She said she was wondering why I was leaning over and I showed her my backpack. The previous week, I had a 15 pound weight inside it and this time I added another 5 pounds. In a previous post, I mentioned that I considered the backpack with weights as "the equalizer" because it slowed me down enough so I can walk with the group. Well, I felt every single ounce of those extra 5 pounds because it made a huge difference in the effort I had to exert.
          Last Saturday's walk is one I would consider the hardest I've ever done, even harder than the 13 mile walk I did on my birthday. Going uphill was harder than running uphill without weights and with those 20 pounds, my pace was about three and a half minutes slower per miles compared to my fastest walk in Signal Hill without weights. Normally, I could cover 7.5 to 8 miles in an hour and 50 minutes. Last Saturday, I only reached 6.39 miles.

          Let's just say that after the walk my shoulders hurt, my lower back hurt, my bad ankles hurt, even my statin battered thighs hurt. At least I discovered  by accident that when the straps of the backpack rested on the bony part of my shoulders, they hurt less than when they rested on my trapezius. Three days later, my legs still haven't fully recovered.
Jacqueline and Donna

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Random Thoughts About Unemployment

          If there's any advantage about the timing of being laid off at this time in my life, it is that my mother and father are already at peace and no longer require my help. To a certain extent, I was also able to assist my brother with his kidney transplant three months ago before all the talk about getting laid off came about. No, I didn't give him one of my kidneys but rather helped in another way. This time I only have to look out for myself financially.
         Working through the years provided me bi-weekly structure - things to do on the days I work and on my days off. Things like what workouts to do, chores to complete, when to shop for food, when to sleep when I'm working nights, when to sleep when I'm not working, etc. It was like a 2 week cycle of life. All of a sudden that structure is gone and I'm left wondering what to do next. That's quite pitiful because I've been out of work for just a couple of weeks. In the past few days, I seem to have settled into a different routine - wake up in the morning, putter around, do my workout, have brunch while watching a movie, take a short nap, wake up and finish the movie, take a mid-afternoon walk in the neighborhood, come back home and watch another movie while having dinner, and in the evening, flip the TV channels for shows I didn't get to watch when I was at work, or watch another movie before retiring to bed. Pathetic and boring, I know, but at least it's a routine. I mentioned on Facebook that I may have to learn how to play Candy Crush to pass the time. Oh, I almost forgot. I've also gone to the dentist three times for some repairs. and to the doctor for a checkup and some routine lab tests. Heck, I may even go and see my eye doctor too since his office called unexpectedly to let me know it was time for my biannual checkup. I might as well do all those things before my medical, dental, and vision insurance expires.
          It would be nice to go on vacation somewhere but I can't do that without any money or know where it's coming from next. I can't go on retail therapy either for the same financial constraints, hahaha! I hardly do that anyway even with a job. Oh boy, the budget is going to be uncomfortably tight in the next 3 years or so until I can draw from IRA's and 401K's. Just hoping there won't be any major catastrophes in the meantime.
          I am no longer portable. Before I bought my condo, I used to be able to move to a furnished apartment close to my job. My residences in the past went from Cerritos, to Bellflower, Torrance, Lawndale, back to Bellflower, and finally to Long Beach. I can't do that anymore because of my mortgage of course, but also I have so many belongings now that have accumulated in the last 22 years I've lived here. It's not the clothes but the appliances, furniture, electronic items, and most of all, the exercise equipment. Besides, it costs more to rent nowadays than what I pay monthly for my mortgage.

          Remember when kids and teens couldn't wait to be grownups and have grown up privileges? Well, I must be approaching my second childhood because I can't wait to become a grownup again but on a different level. This level is called Social Security/401K/IRA retirement age.

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Few Runs Weeks Apart + Packing It At Signal Hill

          Two runs two weeks apart. Not bad for someone who doesn't run anymore. The first time was for just 38 minutes carrying a backpack to and from the grocery store to pick up some fruits and vegetables. The second time  a couple of weeks later was to deposit a $4.50 refund check from Charter Internet. That lasted a little bit longer  at 50 whole minutes. But wait, there's more. Two days after the bank deposit, I ran to and from Fresh and Easy market to check out how much they increased the price of the cheap wine I usually buy there (no, there is no more 2 buck Big Kahuna). These runs happen to be a big deal for me nowadays not only because I actually ran but because they lasted longer than my self- imposed at least 30 minutes a day stationary bike workouts.
          Now that I don't have a job which happens to be in a somewhat dangerous field, perhaps I should attempt to run slightly more. I've had to curtail runs in recent years because I had to avoid the pain from my injuries, which would have physically impaired me from moving quickly enough if I had to defend myself against potentially violent psychiatric patients. For now, I don't have to worry about that since I'm jobless.

          To get out of the house, I went to Signal Hill for a walk with the Long Beach Area Walking Club last Saturday morning. There were only six of us who showed up but it was actually nice to be able to walk, talk, and breath somewhat heavily while on a walk with a group. How did I manage to accomplish it? By putting on the "equalizer". What is the equalizer you ask? It's just a plain backpack with a 15 pound weight in it. I've walked with it on a flat course before but it was the first time I tried it up and down Signal Hill with the walking club. It worked pretty well in slowing me down while still giving me an adequate workout, and enabling me to stay with the pack instead of walking way ahead at my own pace. Carrying the weight wasn't much of a problem other than the strain on the shoulders due to the backpack straps. And then offloading the pack after the walk, I was still hunched forward while walking as if the pack was still on my back. It was probably the first time during a walking workout that I got lost in conversation with others like it was when I was running with friends from my running club - AREC. Coincidentally, the woman I was talking with used to be a human resources manager and happened to know a little bit about Pacific Hospital. So for the hour and 50 minutes we walked together, that's what we talked about. Anyway, that's my new plan with the walking club -weigh myself down and start talking with the group. I may add another 5 pounds next time and hope the weights don't tear a hole in the bottom of my backpack.

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Uncertainties at PHLB

          It's going to be a week since I last worked. Two days after that, the new owner of the hospital took over and  I got a call from a coworker telling me I should pick up whatever belongings I had at the hospital because I didn't have to report for work anymore, and that Pacific Hospital would be paying us the rest of our scheduled shifts. Well that was hard to believe, so I sent an email to one of the human resources representatives asking what the status was of the personnel not hired by the new company. I never got a response, so I patiently waited till the next day to call them up, knowing that it must be a very busy time for them as well while dealing with the transition. The information I received from the person I talked with was that we won't be getting paid for the unworked hours the rest of the month, but to feel free to use our accrued Paid Time Off (PTO) to cover it. So now we have two different messages and that is where the uncertainty starts. I sent another email to a different HR representative and the response I got was this:

Unfortunately I have no info yet either, we have attorneys working on it. This is pretty much what we are saying...
"We do not yet have an answer as to what will happen between now and 10/29. You are still an active employee and we are working out how you will be paid, or if you may be asked to report to work in another area helping with the closing of PHLB. You will be contacted when we know more. Do not go to work at College Hospital as you do not work for them. In the meantime, please make sure we have your correct info in ADP self-service so that we can reach you when we have more info."
As to the layoff info, that will be in your packet on 10/29 when you get laid off."

          At least she responded. That was very disconcerting because now it freezes us in our tracks and makes us uncertain on how to proceed. When will our health insurance expire? Can we buy COBRA coverage? When can we apply for unemployment? When can we move our 401K savings to another investment company? Are we getting paid at all other than what is owed us in accrued PTO? How much are we exactly getting? I'm sure my other unhired coworkers have their own similar concerns. One is even considering getting a lawyer and using the WARN act letter given to us as evidence that we aren't supposed to be laid off until October 29. Does that mean we have to get paid for not doing anything? Basically we are not supposed to return to work because we are not employees of the new owner and we are personae non gratae at the jobsite. The problem was that the information about not reporting for duty was only by word of mouth with no official word from the powers that be (whoever that is). You had to individually call your former supervisors who were hired by the new owner to make sure that it was true. I wonder how many people actually showed up to work and were turned away. After all, that would have made them trespassers. In my case, I managed to empty my small locker and take the contents home along with a file sorter I bought 10 years ago and was using to make new patient admission chart packs. I had to foresight to stick some name labels on it 10 years ago to be able to prove that it belonged to me. At the time I picked up my belongings, the psych unit was somewhat in a state of chaos because patients were being moved from one unit to another and there were not enough staff to make an orderly transition. The day shift was still waiting for the night shift to relieve them half an hour after they were supposed to clock out. Needless to say, I didn't stay long to find out what else could go wrong because it ceased to be my concern since I don't work there anymore. I was only there to retrieve my personal belongings.
          What does the immediate future hold? The immediate future is about 3 more weeks and the answer is -  I don't know.

          It's unfortunate that they didn't rehire highly organized people who would have been able to ease the chaotic situation they find themselves in now. I'm not saying it wouldn't have been chaotic anyway but at least not as much. It may have been better if College Hospital rehired most employees then incrementally laid some off as the transition became more stable. Just sayin'...

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Friday, October 11, 2013

How To Access Your Work Portal From Home

This website was down on October 9 and 10 and I was surprised that it was back up today. I wrote the instructions below before it went down. I thought that the IT department may have made changes to reflect the change in ownership of PHLB, so I'm surprised that the PHLB domain is still active although the public website no longer exists.

How To Access Your Work Portal From Home

Type this in the address bar of your browser: and you will get this website:

Log in with your usual email username and password then you will get this screen or something similar:

Click: Desktops tab, then on the next screen,

Click: PHLB Desktop 

You will be prompted to download launch or launch ICA which is a temporary software. Make sure you know where in your computer it is being downloaded to.

Go to the folder where the temporary software is located. If you are using Internet Explorer, it might be in the Downloads folder. In Chrome, it might be right at the bottom of your browser.

Click on the software called: launch.ica

Wait for the PHLB Desktop to launch then you will see this on your screen:

Enter your usual email username and password  and you will now see your desktop like you see it when you are at work.

Click on the Internet Explorer icon and you automatically get connected to the portal (
You can now look at the updated information from College Medical Center even though the portal still says

When you are done, click the X on the upper right corner of your screen and you will be prompted to disconnect. Click OK then you get logged off from the portal.

This brings you back to the citrix website. Make sure to click Log Off (upper right area) to sign out from citrix.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

How To Check Work Email From Home

How To Check Work Email From Home
These instructions are exclusively for PHLB email only and written for the sole purpose of enabling laid off employees to access their email so they can check for updates in connection with their unemployment.
Type this in the address bar of your browser: and you will get this website:

Check: This is a private computer and Use Outlook Web Access Light (as seen above).
Under Domain\username, type: myphlb\(enter your username)
Then type your usual password and press enter or click Log On

You can now check your email from anywhere with internet access even from your tablet or cellphone until they revoke your permission.

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Questions and Concerns at College Medical Center (formerly Pacific Hospital of Long Beach)

The old Pacific Hospital had a similar sailboat logo. That ship has sailed.

          Oh boy, it looks like transitioning from Pacific Hospital of Long Beach to College Medical Center is going to take some major adjustments (I'm trying not to say that it's going to be a mess). The electronic medical records system has to be reprogrammed to the needs and procedures of College Hospital and even the paper forms may have to be replaced. Hopefully the learning curve won't be too great once the new system is in place. For those who have resisted in learning the former system or were not using them enough, they may have a more difficult time to learn the new one.
          Based on how many people they haven't rehired, one can assume (mistakenly or correctly) that either College Hospital is going to bring in their own staff, hire replacements, or reduce the number of floor staff from the numbers that Pacific Hospital used. That would mainly affect the Behavioral Health Workers who monitor the patients closely on the units and possibly the Licenced Vocational Nurses or Licensed Psychiatric Technicians who pass out the medications. The Registered Nurses shouldn't be affected since there is a legal requirement for them to be assigned only a certain number of patients (patient ratio).
Having not even been interviewed much less rehired, I will only have to be there for about 3 weeks to see all these changes. Already some of my soon to be former coworkers mentioned that I'm going to be missed because I was the only one assembling charts for new admissions. They never took the time to learn my streamlined system. But it's not rocket science and easy for them to pick up.
          When PHLB transitioned from strictly paper charts to the electronic medical record system, I had the foresight to retain the old paper charts in case of computer down times. Those papers were the only backup system the hospital had which were already preassembled, although separate sheets still existed in cabinets. I also have about 200 chart packs already made which goes with the EMR system, which would have tided over the unit I work in for about 6 weeks before the retained staff would have to make their own. Of course all of those old and new charts would be useless if College Hospital opts for their own forms. They will have to sort out which papers are needed and which are not so they can work together with the EMR without duplication.

          Communicating and taking care of psychiatric patients are ongoing learning processes because no two patients are alike and even a patient behaving a certain way during one hospital stay may not behave the same way next time. Paperwork remains more or less the same and this happens to be my specialty. I'm sure that the retained staff and the rest who will be newly hired will adjust to the new system sooner or later but they will have to take more initiative in doing so. I just take pride in thinking that I learn them sooner than most and find the most efficient way of applying them during the course of my work. Will they really miss me? Perhaps only for a couple of weeks, they they'll adjust and it will be business as usual. Thanks for thinking of me that way though. If only the staff recruiter knew...

p.s. My other posts regarding this matter:
Questions and Concerns at Pacific Hospital - Part 1

Questions and Concerns at Pacific Hospital - Part 5

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Unlocking My Cellphones

L-R: Samsung SGH-A187, ZTE Avail, Alcatel 871A, Huawei Fusion 2
          Last year prior to my trip to Zamboanga, I purchased an unlocked GSM cellphone from Ebay. The Samsung SGH-A187 was a basic Blackberry style phone - the  with no mp3 and video capture capabilities even though it had a camera. It served its purpose well as a portable communications device during my short 10 day visit. I was using Virgin Mobile in the U.S. running on the CDMA network which is incompatible with GSM networks.
         When I returned from Zamboanga, I migrated my cellphone service to AT&T pay as you go which was $25.00 every three months, compared to $20 for Virgin Mobile. With the new service, I also bought a locked Android phone from AT&T. Upon signing up, I asked customer service if they could unlock my phone. They said that the unlock code wasn't available yet and besides, I had to use their service at least 6 months. Time went by and I forgot to ask them again. In the meantime, I bought 2 other locked phones. One was a Blackberry style Alcatel which was on sale for $29.99, but because I had a $10 coupon and an in-store rebate, my final price was less than $20. Although locked, I liked that it had a built-in FM radio which I like listening to when I'm working out outdoors. The problem with that phone is that it pocket dialed 911 a lot, so I bought a hugely discounted refurbished Huawei Android phone from the AT&T website, which also had an FM radio, and that is what I've been using the last 4 to 5 months.
          I finally revisited the unlocking requirements and saw that I had met all the requirements, provided the cellphone manufacturer has released the unlock code to AT&T. I plugged in the IMEI number to the latest phone I had which was a Huawei Fusion 2 and my phone number. No dice. The website immediately told me that it was not available to be unlocked. I tried the Alcatel with similar results. When I put in the info for the ZTE Avail, I got a message saying it could be unlocked. I received 2 automatically generated emails from AT&T right away. The first one saying thank you for my unlock request and that a code will be provided to me within 2 to 5 business days. The second email basically cancelled the message of the first one and asked me to call technical support for the unlock code. I waited a few days before doing so, hoping the first message was correct. Well, I never got sent the unlock code so I finally called tech support.
          Immediately I detected that I had reached a call center in the Philippines because even though the agent who answered tried his best American accent, there was still a hint of Filipinoness in it. I gave him the IMEI numbers for the ZTE Avail but he didn't find an unlock code for it. He explained that some manufacturers only sell certain models exclusively to AT&T and does not supply unlock codes for those. What surprised me though is that when I asked the agent to plug in the numbers for my more recent Alcatel and Huawei phones, the unlock codes were available contrary to what their website told me! After giving me instructions on how to unlock the phones with the codes, we ended the call.
          It was now time to see if those unlock codes worked. The only other SIM card I had at home was from Smart which I used when I was in Zamboanga, so I tried that one. Open the back, insert the SIM card, replace the cover, turn on the phone, type in the unlock code. First the Alcatel, then the Huawei. Success on both! I now have 2 unlocked GSM quad band phones (3 if you include the one I bought from Ebay). Look out world, I'm now equipped to use those phones in whatever country I want if I ever get there! And thanks, AT&T.

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

My Looming Unemployment

Classic rock - 

Styx - Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)

          It looks more and more like I'm not keeping my job past October 29th. On Monday, October 7th, the sale of Pacific Hospital of Long Beach to College Health Enterprises will be finalized and I will be considered a straggler of Healthsmart Pacific, the former owner, because I never got the interview I was hoping for. Most employees have gotten their interviews and offered jobs by the new owner who will rename the hospital College Medical Center. A bunch of "oldtimers" like me were not even considered. As I brace myself emotionally and financially for unemployment, I wonder what it was in my application that excluded me for consideration. The only criteria that comes to mind or what it appears like anyway, based on myself and others who were not hired are these: over age 50, 10 years or more with the company, and earning such and such amount. Our applications seems to have been set aside without further consideration. One of those is illegal (age discrimination) but of course they won't tell you that they used it as a basis for exclusion.
          So where do I go from here? There will be the usual job search of course, but what strategies should I come up with so I can meet my living expenses if I become unemployed for the long term? My main concerns are my mortgage (I don't want to be homeless), health and dental insurance, homeowner's association dues, utilities like heating gas, electricity, and internet, food (of course), gasoline, and on an annual basis - car insurance, real estate taxes, and income taxes.
          Cash out of my vacation time which is about 400 hours, will help of course and that will sustain me for a few months. Applying for unemployment insurance after October 29th and hopefully receiving a few dollars a week for 26 weeks, will be another help, provided I don't get myself fired before then, otherwise I won't qualify for this compensation. Here is the link to for filing a claim: . I also have some savings. It is a matter of calculating how long I can make all of these last before I go broke. As all if not most of us know, I cannot touch my taxed deferred retirement plans without being penalized until I turn 59 and 1/2. That is still 3 and 1/2 years away. Then when I turn 62, I can start collecting minimum Social Security (provided it's not bankrupt then).
          In the meantime, is it a good idea to try contacting the recruiter to find out what it was in my application that excluded me for being considered, and perhaps also ask how I can improve it to make it more attractive to employers?

          Wracking my brain due to all of the above made for a restless sleep so I just got up early and wrote this. If only I had enough money, early retirement would be nice, but then again, if I get bored at home sometimes during my days off, what more if didn't have a job to go to anymore? Well, at least I got my free flu shot from work a few days ago.

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