Is Fun

30 September 2014

Dear J-

In amongst the other things happening you pause and look up to notice … ah, Tuesday. What happened to Monday? How have we gotten this far already? All the things that you thought you’d be able to get through: nope, nope, nope. While there are other priorities the steady progress from the boy (now not so eager to pee in the pants, hooray) is not matched by what should be happening at work (drafts, further research, phenomenological happenings). I keep thinking that well, tomorrow will bring bigger and better changes and then … not so much. Somehow motivation ebbs between getting up and getting there, but that’s something I need to work on myself.

While I love the idea of getting stuff done and getting through these things — it seems like there’s no reason to be done early, is there? And then on the other hand you might as well act like you’ve been here before and stop admiring your passes quite so ardently (take that, split infinitive police!). Stay flexible and finish what you can when you need to. Ah, advice; it’s never-ending and well-intentioned and completely, utterly aggravating. Does someone need to ask for this before you can start it? Or would you rather be done with it and ready for the next challenge? I’ve had multiple weeks of this dry spell and more than enough time to start, so let’s just get it done, neh?

This may turn out to be a difficult day, given the reluctance to start. They’ve all been difficult days lately, but I need to figure out why I’m working and adjust my attitude accordingly.

The added reluctance of joy and extra soul-crushing weight of writing the same report over and over is just a bonus; it’s lovely to be consistent but this is at least a new report, and should be treated accordingly. The uncertainties will need to be added up and the assumptions enumerated, though, and if that isn’t fun I don’t know what you could do.

Mike

Foot Paths and Festivities

29 September 2014

Dear J-

I should probably do something to recognize my coworker’s one-year anniversary (today!) at work but I may end up being lazy and not mentioning it, although that would certainly be less cool than anything else I could think of. On the other hand, maybe there’s something low-key we could do instead. If the last month has taught me anything it’s that you should make hay (and be productive) when you can, since there’s no guarantees what your schedule might bring or who you’ll be working with in a year. Uncertainties will drive you nuts, so do what you can and look up every once in a while to see what’s new.

If nothing else I can envision the changes of the past year in what changes have happened with the kids; we went on a walk yesterday — a good long walk from the house to downtown and back in a big loop; if I put the distance into a map I think we’d tote up maybe a couple of miles or so, but they are pretty enthusiastic about getting something to eat so we were well-motivated throughout (except at the end, with the incessant ‘are we there yet?’ cries). I was interested in walking around, given how sedentary we’ve been on the weekends lately (look, TV!) and how little activity we actually get. Now instead we can go on our forced deathmarches (as theVet puts it) around the neighborhoods.

I’ve often thought I don’t understand geography until I’ve had the chance to walk around and connect points; it first sank in while I was in Berkeley, where I mapped the routes through South side with my feet and later North, not fully comprehending distances until I walked back from Ashby Avenue once (that was a miscommunication and once we had met up again, my friend and I had a good laugh over it, though that would be nearly impossible in this era of cell phone ubiquity). Later in Davis I trotted around town and campus when I had a chance to walk; in the two neighborhoods of San Diego; in Kobe, in Nashville, in Chicago, every time I’ve had a chance I try to understand the geography through my feet.

Mike

Twenty-Five Years

26 September 2014

Dear J-

Yesterday I looked up one name from my past — Howard Moos, who taught 6th grade at my old school, and who later pled guilty to molesting one of my friends. Let’s back up a little: in reading up on the way things happened at Penn State, there were some similarities (someone in power abusing their authority and protections) but whereas Jerry Sandusky was sentenced after being tried and found guilty to 30-60 years in jail, Mr Moos was given one year in jail and five years probation after pleading guilty. The terms were interesting, as Mr Moos had agreed to name other kids he had abused in return for immunity from prosecution for those crimes.

That’s the way it happened twenty-five years ago (Mr Moos was sentenced in 1989); according to his obituary he moved to Arizona in 1999, ten years after the sentencing; he did not get divorced and he lived in Arizona until 2011, when he passed away. No mention of any jail time was made, and the obituary is worded carefully enough that you can’t tell what happened between his ‘retirement’ and move to Arizona (or when the ‘retirement’ occurred, in fact; I can’t imagine the school district would have anything to do with him, which is a pretty consistent approach for jobs in the US). I realize it’s not my place to cast shade on the dead (can we just leave him alone?) but at the same time had he not, you know, molested children he was in charge of (the guilty plea and its terms tell me two things: that he did it, and that he had done it before) there would be no need to besmirch the names of the dead.

It tells me how far we’ve come in twenty-five years as a society, that this sort of thing can’t be accepted or tolerated any more or that such a relatively light sentence, which may have been the norm in the past, would now be regarded as a miscarriage of justice. I don’t know if I ever told my friend how brave he was — in the follow-up to the Sandusky case, we’ve learned how the abuse has disproportionately affected the lives of the victims; as if the abuse wasn’t bad enough, upon the identification of the abuse, they were bullied and harassed for something they couldn’t control. This gets me thinking of victim shaming in general and how much further we still have to travel. More as it comes to me.

Mike

Scattered Showers

25 September 2014

Dear J-

The rain’s put a bit of a damper on the day, but we’ll get through it. Rain. It’s been months, welcome back; don’t get the wrong impression, as we for sure need you. Fer sure. Now would have been a good time to try out a rain cape, but you know, hindsight. At the moment I’m occupied wondering what that wet smell is and realizing it’s probably me. Lovely. Wool keeps you wet and um, sheepy apparently. Rain gear is worth the investment. Let’s repeat that. I may end up looking for something this week.

It’s not a driving rain by any means but this funk, this miasma … I keep hoping there’s a solution but I think I may have to end up hanging these clothes up in another room. Whew.

I love the thought of smoking people out of the office unless that person is supposed to be there — with any luck my roommate will stay home today and not be offended by the funk. Granted, if my sense of smell is this bad and yet I’m still smelling this, I wonder if there’s any hope for the next few hours.

Well, the rain appears to have washed all the thoughts from my head. What was I thinking before? When I got up? It’s a nice alternative to other options this early in the morning.

Steel wheels on iron roads; at some point we have the churn to handle the added load. We’re nearly at October and in some kind of a holding pattern with respect to work, as we head into the new outage seasons.

Mike

Flexible Stretch

24 September 2014

Dear J-

If you ever feel yourself slipping back into a routine you should probably find some way — some useful way that maybe isn’t completely sociopathic — to disrupt the usual. I have a few different routes to the train station in the morning, depending on my mood where I can pick a variety of quiet streets in the early morning dark. There’s a few more cars but for the most part when I cross into Burlingame I don’t see traffic until I arrive at the station. On the other hand perhaps getting to Burlingame station itself is part of the routine and I need to mix it up by going further north. Change is coming and you should be so lucky to pivot adroitly, so practice now.

My dad used to practice this: run through it in your head at least once, rehearse in front of a mirror if you have to. The more time you have is the more time to get it right. Staying flexible is a good idea for anyone, so perhaps these little challenges end up adding up to something much more meaningful. Let’s put it a different way: practice makes perfect. Or perfect practice makes … no, let’s stick with the cliche. Be willing to try new things, and don’t be afraid of letting them fail.

Nothing is going to be perfect the first time through the gates, so unless you expect that of yourself, you need to understand it’s not reasonable to find that in others. If you find yourself working way too hard then perhaps it’s reasonable to expect some help from the other folks who are with you, but maybe you should ask; it never hurts to confirm, does it? Or does it? I admit I’m not the most patient in the world when it comes to repeating instructions and expectations, so let’s remember to be kind and take it less seriously, unless you want to haul out the old hoary tale of perfect practice only.

Mike

Granted

23 September 2014

Dear J-

According to some counts yesterday was my one-year anniversary at the company; since then two folks in senior leadership have left for greener pastures so hopefully I get lost in the shuffle and churn: I’m here for a year, hooray. This is how it happens: first one year, then two, then three and more. Before you know it you’re on your way to Michigan for eight weeks (hello, 2004) or desperately trying to avoid that fate (2006, after four years, I applied for a job with Edison) or even moving within (2011, I decided to get out of procurement and into the plant: you see where that led me). Anniversaries are funny things; you can count on their regularity but you’ll never know where you are at the time.

The churn at the top has me wondering (as any kind of change does) both whether or not the career ladder is worth it (on the other hand, there are pretty senior guys in advisory and engineering roles, so there’s no guarantees or promises that’s where I’ll end up) and whether this is the right place for me. It certainly feels stable enough but I also don’t know where I’ll be or what might be right a year from now (see above). At times I think I’m not nearly smart enough to think of new ways to approach old problems, but then I remember (or remind myself) of how I like to be doggedly determined to solve it or get better, and I go ahead and conquer as I can.

The stubborn side of me is something I’m starting to get some value from after all. It locks into my pride which leads to bad situations (I’m right and I KNOW I’M RIGHT) but once you get over that and try to keep a more open mind about things, this can be a pretty useful tool to dig out information (to seek out new life and new civilizations; in my case it’s fresh approaches based on my crude toolsets — to boldly go … okay, let’s not and say we did). Drive along and figure out the right approach to solving your problems, because otherwise there’s no way you can sleep at night.

Mike

Triple Sweep

22 September 2014

Dear J-

What does impossible feel like? I have an outline in my head but nothing else beyond a vague notion of here, we have to do this instead/in lieu of/in addition to. We were able to get the kids up and moving and playing around yesterday, and I dunno, maybe it felt a little like what my folks did when we were little (visit friends who have kids your age and hey, you kids go and play, willya) but it couldn’t be, couldn’t possibly be that we’re all growing up and getting older, could it? I think back even just a little to my dad, who was a professor by this age, and what have I done with my life instead? In lieu of? Or is that even a good yardstick to use, a source of comparison? Even as I idly eye real estate in different towns — itchy feet are itchy — I know the great purges are yet to come.

I’m plenty flat-out exhausted today, to be honest; it was a long weekend and next weekend is already booked and there’s still the week to get through as well. Once you get over your own sense of badness, though, you might as well pretend that what you do is add value to work and life in general. As we push through the darkening morning (autumnal equinox! today!) we recite the litany of worth: let’s keep going onwards because what I have to contribute is worth getting excited over. Steady or not, here I come. There’s a lot to be done, after all, and me convincing myself that it’s not worth doing before even trying isn’t going to help, not this dark in the morning.

You know the old saw about how when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail? I had a portrait lens on yesterday so there’s a lot of strange-kid portraits showing up today; this is maybe not unexpected but for those of you who thought it was strange to see strangers’ kids, there you go. This is thunderdome, with all its attendant glory; we live in a state of constant surveillance but so be it; we’ll make the most of it and move on with our lives. I will say this, though; there’s nothing stranger than having a stranger take pictures of your kids, and so I’m okay (for now) with the implied consent I give to have my own kids’ pictures taken because it’s not possible to separate out the intent from the action, not all the time.

Mike

Pep Talk

19 September 2014

Dear J-

That’s it; it’s been a long week and I think I’ve reached a limit of sorts, maybe, perhaps, or not. I wonder if I haven’t been trying hard enough, as nothing is making the data march to command in an orderly fashion. The best I can come up with is to have a threshold value put together and ready to take on some more data. Did I do this right, by the way? I may never know. The data are so erratic and scattered that I haven’t got a clue whether I’ve been successful or not. You wrestle with the numbers and finally never know if there’s some element of random chance thrown in as well, mucking up any trends you might want to draw. It’s nothing like the data from Canada, which showed clear results within hours.

I suppose it all depends on who you’re talking to and what it’s about. I, seeing reflections in the kids at this point, get quite frustrated too easily with the lack of progress and punt by doing something else that takes less brains. Brains. We had an afternoon off in a meeting, and I’m pretty sure I caught my head snapping backwards as I passed out slowly. I should have stolen a cue from a coworker and stood up in the back of the room, but what we learned versus the time we invested was … I wouldn’t have made that tradeoff, let me tell you, if they hadn’t said it was super-important and couldn’t be missed.

The newness of the job and location has worn off, at least today of this week, and I’m weary of committing more time and effort, but let’s think about it this way: are you satisfied with what you’ve produced, and why wouldn’t you want to put your best foot forward instead? I wonder if there isn’t a better opportunity or variable to capture, given that my motivation this week has been low in general and particularly abyssal today (and look at me, I’ve only been awake for an hour or so; this bodes quite well, now, doesn’t it?) Go! Fight! Win! Or something similarly cheerful; if they say the key to success is self-discipline, part of that is being willing to kick yourself in the ass every now and again and getting over your ennui.

Mike

Mirror Mirror

18 September 2014

Dear J-

McCartney wrote one of the triple medleys on the flip side of Abbey Road — namely Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight/The End — where the closing line is “And in the end | the love you take | is equal to the love | you make”. I might be misremembering it but I listened to that album a lot in college and I’m reasonably confident. Love isn’t money; it’s not a conservation equation of mass or energy; the more you spend, the more you receive. Simple math isn’t enough to describe the calculus of the heart, after all. I’m not sure if it’s worth calculating a rate of return other than to say the misers here are more miserable than usual.

I’m learning that patience works the same way. The more you extend the more likely it is you’re going to receive. It’s easy to pass judgment in the silence of your head (that was me, yelling profanities at the truck that nearly turned right into me yesterday) but consider that most people wouldn’t be rude unless they think they can get away with it (those cars that shove in front of you while merging? you think their drivers would do the same in a coffee shop line?). Just ponder that for a moment; especially with kids, they learn how you deal with things and work accordingly: these are the lessons you teach. This is the abrupt anger they’ve learned to react with.

When I was reading the barely-better-than-fanfic Pocket Books Star Trek novels (I still love Black Fire and The Final Reflection) I remember one author proposed something like a perfect reflector to counter phaser fire — phasers being some form of electromagnetic radiation and therefore subject to mirror reflection — which would redirect the fire back at the aggressor. At the time I scoffed, thinking that of course there would be ways around it (ha, just hit it with a photon torpedo!) or since there’s no such thing as a perfect reflector, waste heat would eventually degrade the reflector’s capability. I hadn’t counted on kids, who are perfect reflectors of ourselves, not as we want to be but as we are.

Mike

Credit Due

17 September 2014

Dear J-

I keep trying to keep up with all the various developments in technology (read that as “I read a lot of gadget-y blogs”) and so it was with no small surprise last Friday that I saw someone with an iPhone 6 out in the wild (he was an Apple engineer, I gather, and explained somewhat sheepishly what a relief it was to be able to bring it off-campus). Just like that, we’re off and running on adrenaline and wow. You know if you had asked me a couple of weeks ago, I would have said that of course there’s nothing wrong with the 5S, just as there’s nothing wrong with it today. On the other hand, the techno-lust knows no bounds.

Let’s consider what’s good enough instead. Flagships from last year are still useable and desirable, but those from 2011 and before (my current suite, which comprises the iPhone 4, issued from work, and a Galaxy Nexus, my purchase) are fairly slow. Let’s be real: for someone who worked with an ancient Treo just because it had Bluetooth, we’re not doing too badly, I’d say. The 5S is coming to my service provider, a MVNO with Sprint, in a couple of weeks, so there’s an opportunity to upgrade theVet perhaps. Or maybe … perhaps … life instead. I’ve been trying to bring myself to a budget with my purchases (I realized I had a problem when I got a box filled with twenty-some odd calculators, which I’d bought because it seemed like a good deal at the time).

Perhaps there should be credit given for purchases for the house instead; let’s think about replacing all the different dimmer switches (8! worse, they don’t all work the same way) with something more consistent, like maybe out of the Lutron catalog.

Mike


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