11 March 2014
It all sneaks up on you, eventually or otherwise; a little bit here and a little bit there eventually means you’re paying a lot for things you never meant to cost so much. That’s the way it goes. What you need and what you can afford are often two different levels so are you patient enough to wait? Is this really what you’re willing to do? How much are you willing to spend on yourself versus how much would you spend for the kids? And why is there such a discrepancy? The problem is when you don’t manage the money you don’t realize how much you hemmorhage every month in the normal course of things: groceries, mortgage, gas, train pass, day care, long nights spent thinking about what we can afford versus what we’ve been spending, property taxes, fun weekends out with the kids.
You do these things not because you can but because there’s irresistible deals everywhere, or so it seems; man, if only I had that then … what? I remember thinking the German glass was unbeatable and now here I am without any particular usage of the three Leica-R lenses buried in the closet, to say nothing of the full complement of Nikon glass that’s been moved here and there for fifteen years or more. I keep thinking that eventually and if only but the truth is I have little need or use for this stuff, even with the thousand other things going on right now (now that I think about it, I have a way to get nearly my preferred 35mm-equivalent length going with a fast lens on the old D1h I have lying around somewhere …)
For me eBay is an endlessly renewing thrift shop that I don’t have to go to in person to shop from; before I got junk delivered to my door I used to have to go get it myself and often carry it home by hand, which was a rough criterion for how much I could afford and how much I should: can you get it home? If not, reconsider. I tried doing something similar recently and found I wasn’t in as much shape as I remembered, or at least as I perceived. It’s all right. Spend less time worrying about what you haven’t got and think about making the most of what you do.
10 March 2014
I love the whispering steel wheels on my way south; we are moving ever faster now, pushing past what we normally stop and feeling the legs stretch out in a happy grin. The wind is a bit active this morning so we let it go against our motion, now a bit brisk, now resistant and it’s hard to restate just how lucky we are. When I woke up this morning the temperature was something more like summer than winter and the sky held threatening clouds, though just far enough away that they wouldn’t arrive before I did. Grand palaces line suburban streets the further I travel and I wonder if someday but never mind the noise whispering that things need to be better: how could they be?
We are falling into the same complacent habits of before: I know we can’t have boxes and junk piled up in the middle of the living room all week but if it’s been like that for long enough you start to overlook things, which is a terrible trend indeed. Let’s amend that: I am starting to fall into complacency again. I don’t want to be but here I am doing nothing in particular about it all day (and night) long. It’s easier to not do things, though that is probably a false impression given by years of laziness and general over-satisfaction with myself. There’s enough to pick up around the house without adding to the pile, right?
Fate has us riding the rails, though paying for that privilege and thinking we got a bargain out of it: it’s still substantially cheaper to drive and find parking in the City than to deal with the half-hour walk to and from the train station. So, by the week one way, virtuous or not: these values are self-assigned and subject to perception error; by the weekend another, although it’s not a bad thing to incorporate more walking and activity into our lives, is it? Perhaps next weekend is when we will actually do the hiking that I keep kicking around in my head, though I honestly don’t think it’s feasible unless I start encouraging more active participation from everyone.
7 March 2014
Once again there’s a huge sense of displacement: twenty-four hours ago I was sitting down to the last lecture 2500 miles away and now here I am back to the same routine, more or less. The urgency of these things has fallen by the wayside, even as I pretend to be back and hale and hearty: it was a rough overnight flight, with a fair amount of turbulence and the lady next to me playing an inadvertent game of footsie as we both tried to sleep. I’m not sure why I ever justify the middle seat except as a cost-saving measure, as there’s just no upsides: trapped by the aisle, reclined into, space invaded, no armrests (c’mon, they should make that a law: if you have to deal with the middle seat, at least you get both armrests).
The kid in the window seat is headed off to Seoul in a few hours from now (good luck, 22A!) and wanted to know what he could do in the City to kill a few hours. He said he wanted to try to get to the Golden Gate Bridge and I flashed back to my walk from Suma Beach to the Akashi Bridge — this would have taken longer and I wish him luck; he’d be coming up on the bridge now if he followed the transit directions: samTrans to BART to MUNI, 397-Yellow Line-28 to Fort Mason. I’m finding I spend more time actually talking with my neighbors and that makes it a lot easier to spend five hours cheek to jowl and foot to foot.
Fly on, flyer. It’s fun to travel and if I’d been more adventurous (instead of wanting only to kill time and catch up on my Netflix queue: Shrek the Musical, Blackfish, King of Beggars and Smoke Signals) perhaps I could have gotten out to see more of the sights. On the other hand I spent two weeks in Charlotte two years ago and I think I hit every green space I wanted to at the time, and though perhaps there might have been more, I’m not sure that late winter is the right time for traipsing around in the dark. But for me the best part was hitting the stop cord at the right time to get out at Tilton and El Camino, knowing I still had a walk but one to look forward to getting ever closer back home.
5 March 2014
I’ve been traveling and consequently haven’t been updating as I should, but I wanted to note at least two I nevers I scratched off my list today.
I never went to a NASCAR circuit before. I never ate waffles at a Waffle House before.
There are opportunities all around us to do things we haven’t tried before, either because the time wasn’t right or the chance never came, so if now you can, what are you waiting for? I look forward to these trips sometimes because of the I nevers you can kill and these are pretty small and petty, but there’s been big ones before, and I’m sure I’ll attack them again soon.
I was thinking the other day how there’s probably some books in my list that I’ll never get to before I die and that was weirdly depressing until I realized the time I spent worrying about that could have been trying, despite. Even though I never before, it’s not too late to start. Let’s try.
27 February 2014
If we met tomorrow what would I say? Our lives intersected with regularity for six years and then intermittently for another six, finally ending, more or less, when I said I was engaged and I went on an inadvertent date with a man (I thought it was in the spirit of collegial freedom that he offered dinner somewhere, but when he showed up with wine and a smile I became … uncomfortable). I should tell you what happened next: I called theVet, or perhaps she called me — and as we spoke I mentioned with some amusement what you’d said after I’d tracked you down via 411 and spoken with you on the phone, for the first time since we left the Bay Area. She called back, did I tell you, during the “date” which was an opportunity for us to argue for hours, seemingly, and rendered the already semi-drunk man on my couch asleep within minutes.
So in a way you saved me from that date which I didn’t realize was a date until it was too late so thank you. The rest as they say is history, right? Not so much. I
graduated left school in August ’98 with a master’s degree (as my academic father would have it, the master’s is something you get when you don’t or can’t get a PhD, although that’s being unfair to him) and have been living with her ever since; married in July 2000, with kids following in 2007 and 2010. All very cut-and-dried and we’re well on our way to the house with 2.2 kids and a white picket fence, a chicken in every pot and a car in every driveway. I suppose next I’d tell you some more amusing stories about my life, like the time I called the dead animal removal service to try to get a job, or the number of white vans I shopped for, thinking I could open up shop as a plumber if nothing else.
I went as far as to shop for coveralls at thrift stores (work clothes tend to lead hard lives and what you’ll find has been thoroughly trashed, in general; you’re better off finding occasional wear, like sport coats and ties) after they advised me to try crawling under the house for a few hours to see if I could stomach it. But I fear the amusing stories might get in the way of the real, solid truth: the incremental pace of life hasn’t always been super-exciting or always amusing (although I find myself laughing at least once a night at some of the kids’ antics or what they say: I’ve turned into my aunt, forever amused at the cute of kids) but it’s been steady and we have had good, lucky lives to date.
And then I’d realize I’d been hogging the conversation and ask what’s new with your life, how have you been, it’s good to see you again, why don’t we talk any more: twelve years of contact and then twenty of silence, really? We can do better.
26 February 2014
At the moment I feel like shaking my fists at the sky and yelling out “they said it was going to rain, so rain already, will you?!” but I’m not sure what that would accomplish other than just clowning around. While reshuffling my clipboard yesterday I ran across John Wooden’s team rules; I’m not completely convinced those are entirely causative in his teams’ successes, but it can’t be proved otherwise, either, so I’ll continue to abide by them. It’s like every post on how to be a man put together and distilled into their essence: how to keep people from punching you in the face, whether literally or literariliy, respect your team and your teammates.
That makes me think of Pete Carroll and after years of watching him screw up favored teams (Patriots) or coaching the enemy (Trojans), or leaving under a cloud of suspicion, or … you know, that list is going to be long and unforgiving, so I’ll cut it short — after years of this I’m wondering if there’s something in his Win Forever Pyramid that’s akin to Wooden’s rules. Possibly. Probably. I think part of it is learning to be generous with what you have, sharing what you’ve got and not settling for letting them ask for it. Oh, I didn’t know you needed that; you should have told me. How does that feel? You’d make other people embarrassed to ask for what they need?
I go back to my experience at Worldcom — like I said, every job teaches you some skill you carry forward — and when I got in the position to be teaching others I understood why all the incessant questioning whether I was doing it RIGHT got so tiresome. You have to try on your own at some point. But at the same time I learned to be generous and patient, skills I can’t seem to sustain over the course of a whole day, even if I have so many hours to myself in the mornings and afternoons, train ride and thoughts spinning off into the dark like smoke in the breeze, a chance to recharge with me. What you learn is that you can affect the world and earn success through your initial investments in kindness now, and that’s power.
25 February 2014
I read a review of a novel I’d read just now (The Execution of Noa P. Singleton) and the essential thing that stuck out for me was how badly the review missed the mark, although I suppose you could defend it as one man’s opinion, it’s out there as one of the top Google hits: the reviewer states that because there have been few women executed in the United States that stretches his incredulity to the point where the borderline-likable title character “deserves this highest penalty.” Wow.
25 February 2014
When I walked out of the office yesterday I had a lot more work: a paper to review (peer review! technical paper! me!), graphs and plots to generate, work to supervise, learning about new things … it’s an exciting time isn’t it? At the same time I get home and the last thing I want to do is spend time with my family, which is a horribly skewed way of looking at it, but … but nothing. There’s no excuse. Spreadsheets don’t hug you back. Nothing is quite so marvelous as this earnest 1st grade time, when all the new things must be repeated at top volume and if it’s worth doing, it’s worth being obsessive. I’m finding myself stuck looking at electronics I’ll never use as often as I think I will, at stuff I didn’t need but wanted.
The inside of my desk at work looks like a failed monument to electronics recycling: I have three trackballs, two mice, three keyboards and way too much time on my hands, apparently. The setup is undeniably nice but there’s just so much of it right now. Plus this is only the stuff I could gracefully keep: everything else is … well … my electronic filing system is little better. Let’s not kid ourselves too much; there’s only a little bit of time you can spend using some of this stuff and the rest is just time you’ve spent identifying a need you didn’t know existed until you found some new junk to like. Hopefully that works out well for you.
Drive on like you don’t care. Right. This is not a litany of all my sins, after all. I like the way things are going but we still have a ways to go before we’re satisfied. That’s all right, since we have plenty left to go over too. Life works out funny that way sometimes. When I’m in my seat thinking about dozing off in the afternoon I’ll wake up in a blind panic somewhere between Redwood City and San Mateo, looking to see if we’ve passed Hillsdale at some point along the way and if I need to remain or go: that instant of blind panic just as you wake and before you realize what’s going on or where you are, that’s where I feel some whole days.
24 February 2014
Years and years and years: I understand the reasoning of obsession and fixation, of the line between wondering and too far. There’s only so much you should be privy to and no more, I suppose, but you start to push a little and the next thing you know you’ve moved on to active-obsession mode. My life wouldn’t be complete without … I don’t know how I lived this long before … Now that I have … and so on and so forth. We’ve been there before, haven’t we? It usually takes getting caught and swearing to never do it again before … well … doing it again. And it seems to start off innocently enough, you think that it’s just one thing but before you know it you have a load to tote to the thrift store. Yikes.
It’s hard to accept silence as an answer: did they hear you, are they just formulating a response, do you not choose to engage in this verbal foxtrot? If your brain is wired to obsess over things and possessions then does it also conflate people to the same level? Acquiring knowledge is a form of acquisition, after all, and just like the Ferengi sometimes you have to know a little more. Or a lot more. As much more as possible, right? Enough is good. More is better. So when you ask and nothing happens is that enough? Do you keep pressing? Do you back off and let things take their course? Is it going with the flow or just accepting the way things must be?
Life is like this: no commotion, no fuss, no ripples in the water, no lumps in the batter, no hairs down the drain, no no no none nothing doing, alls-well-that-ends-well and sign out and have a nice day, sorry for your time. Thanks. Or is it? I know there’s a part of me that wants to replace everything we gave away when we moved here, a part that I need to struggle with given that we don’t have enough room for that anyway. And another part of me that feels like claiming is staked once we start to have packages arrive at the door and stuff piling up in the corners, even when I know we don’t need/don’t need to have that much. I wonder if I seek conflict as a form of retrograde therapy.
21 February 2014
The question, as always, is what do you want to work on today? There’s plenty to do now and I can’t say that any of it has been particularly fruitful thus far but that’s how these things go at times. You can’t give up if you don’t find new ways of visualizing data in one go, and you certainly can’t pretend that what you’re seeing has no particular relevance. It’s discouraging to have things not pan out but you keep going. It’s not a rejection of what you’ve been doing, even if it might feel like it at times. There is a different way of looking at it. The different way will wait for you to chase it.
I find that as I acquire more lenses I’m gravitating more towards the 35-85mm equivalent focal length range (that’s a 60 to 30 or so degree field of view on the diagonal), with a decided bias towards the lower end if possible. Sometimes by deliberately distorting the view it’s fun to get way up-close with kids but at the moment all I have available are manual focus lenses which aren’t always the most extreme after adaptation. I’m okay with that. Distorting the world tends to make you think in terms of how to harness that distortion to make a truer view and you might as well start with the incontrovertible truth first.
If that even makes sense; I have my doubts most days. Nothing too crazy or extreme. It’s all just a way to mark time until the end of the day some days. Perhaps first you have to believe in why what you’re doing is important and incredible: then you preach the gospel to the converted to confirm and finally you spread the word. Yeah, I know it sounds like a cult religion but that’s how religion works. The why is very important to your personal philosophy and if it becomes something you adopt then of course you’re going to be declaring why often and loudly.