Buckle

26 May 2016

Dear J—

I’m in the midst of monitoring how the vertical strut on my bike rack appears to be very nicely buckling under an extra-heavy load today (added laptop, camera, and four cans of beans to my usual load in the bag). Hopefully it doesn’t collapse before I get to work today, though I have to admit  it really doesn’t look good right now.

I could have – should have – saved some weight by breaking up the transfer of beans, or maybe not taking the laptop home overnight, though there’s no guarantees either way, I guess. We muddle through, we seek out and conquer and divide. The training is not going immensely well, but as well as can be expected, and I’m grateful once again that I work with really smart people who are able to get things done, even as I flail away at the small tasks before me.

Mike

Apprentice

24 May 2016

Dear J—

I consider the time I spend with the senior nuclear engineer in the company to be a defecto apprenticeship. I’m certainly learning as much as I can, as fast as I can, and the time will come some day when I have to pass that on to someone else, I suppose, assuming we’re still in the same line of work by then. Who knows what’s going to be happening thirty years from now (ugh; it was always forty years from now and what do I have to show for that? A giant tax bill and ten years in Southern California that … well, led to this. So there’s that, at least.)?

We roll on south: we’ll get there, we got this.

Yesterday we had out-of-town guests who weren’t supposed to arrive for another week. I’m learning as many intangible lessons as tangible ones: sometimes it’s okay to ask for a timeout, to regroup and reset and prepare for the rest of your time together as needed, as promised. Who carries on thinking that it’s never going to change, after all? Be flexible with your plans, don’t procrastinate, be generous with your time and manner. Lessons.

Mike

Newly Minted

23 May 2016

Dear J—

The way it works is like this: there’s usually a bit of time between the start of the year and the first time I see a coin minted that year, so I’ve only recently started to see 2016 coins. Scratch that; I hardly ever use cash any more so I’m not sure that I’ve seen any coins from this year. Let’s say years past, then. When I was younger, then, and handling coins at my parents’ store, that’s what I would see. Your eyes are naturally drawn to the shiny shinies and that’s also approximately when I started learning about coins and numismatics.

Pennies made after 1982, when we started running the store, are copper-coated zinc and have less copper content, naturally; they’re still worth more than a penny in terms of the metal value but that’s well-known. When they get worn, though (and I admit they haven’t gotten worn as much as I would imagine) you’d see the silvery-gray core inside, much like the 1943 copper/steel pennies, although in the interceding nearly forty years, they’ve stepped up their copper coating game. I try to keep up with trivia and facts where I can.

Mike

Tax Year

20 May 2016

Dear J—

So 2014 was the first year theVet was working for herself and we had calculated several times that year that we wouldn’t owe any estimated taxes, hooray, right? Well, early 2015 comes around, we run our numbers through real tax software and lo and behold, we owe big. Great. 

It turns out that I screwed up the taxes in more ways that one that year, too. We had gotten a disbursement from a prior job’s pension plan – since I wasn’t of retirement age at the time, they withheld taxes. On the other hand I failed to report the resulting 1099-R because I think it got sent to our old address (we moved in early 2014, meaning that we got the disbursement and any mail forwarding that we might have had going would have expired by early 2015, when they mailed out 1099s). Smart me, right? It’s an unusual tax situation, I guess (I’m not, probably, going to be working for a company with a pension plan again anytime soon, and haven’t been looking for other jobs either, so I won’t get I hit with that again, I hope).

Time to call up the old job and see if I can get a copy of that 1099-R, though, so I can also pay off California.

Mike

Train the Trainer

19 May 2016

Dear J—

We still have a lot to do but it’s getting better; between a possible weeklong delay and some fairly decent work the first half of the week, we’ve gotten a lot closer to being done than I would have thought, at least for now. With any further luck we should be able to see the rest of it through this week and then we’ll have a down week to get the rest of it finished up.

Speaking of which, I’m far behind on my photographs – now coming up on close to a half a year – and that tells me that there’s a lot of late nights coming up in my future, and a lot of the inevitable posting and sharing and living a life that I don’t know I have until I’m fortunate enough to have it. 

Mike

Benediction

13 May 2016

Dear J—

The words are a prayer, of sorts: hup-one-and-two; a chant to pass the miles and count the beats as we head south, or north, or places in between. The rhythm of the wheels beats out time time time as we see the stations pass by; the multimodal transportation makes sense as a kind of pilgrimage, a worshipful homage to a prior era or lifted voices singing us homeward.

I remember the first bike-to-work day I got up extra-early and pedaled over to Millbrae, then got out early at California Ave and pedaled to work, about 40-45 minutes on both ends. Yesterday the fitness tracker told me I had hit over an hour by the time I was at work in the morning, though that’s suspect since it must have been counting the entire time spent in the donut shop (hey, it’s not worth celebrating bike-to-work unless there’s treats waiting for you, right?), so yeah, my ambitions have been scaled back quite a bit, you could say. Still, though, I’ll try going up to Millbrae one of these days, or down and out a little early once in a while.

The distance from home to work is a little too long to ride all the way regularly. Still, though, there’s the possibility that remains and the church of your mind is as silent and worshipful as you need it to be.

Mike

Many Reasons

6 May 2016

Dear J—

We want to be able to have the entire packet of information prepared by the end of next week? Folly, perhaps, but it’s a goal to shoot for, and I hope that we are worthy of the challenge. I do things in this job that I wouldn’t have thought I would be doing several years ago (four) when the first inklings were rumbling around about the steam generators at San Onofre. Then again my first job on that project was to chart the wear and paste it on the wall, which I was able to do with a minimum of fuss and drama I hope. 

If I have a point it’s this: you don’t always end up doing what you thought you would, and you never end up doing exactly what you were learning in school. I wouldn’t have thought that fracture mechanics was that interesting until I tried to unravel some of the math behind the scenes in the Code, and I certainly wouldn’t have thought to be training again at this stage. 

All things in moderation. It’s Friday, and I’m traveling in two days: we’ll definitely get through this intact.

Mike

Strangers Again

4 May 2016

Dear J—

Well, it’s like this: now that we’re running gallery consists in the morning, there’s only one ground-level set of seats that provides the opposed seating conducive to conversations in the morning, and there’s strange people sitting here. Well, not strange strange, just unfamiliar, though I suppose you should expect something like that if you’re going to increase ridership; why not, right, the more the merrier and all that. Except when it’s not, right? Yeah, right. I just have to say to you G.O.Y.B.S. Get Over Your Bad Self. Strangers are just people we haven’t met yet, though perhaps the whole concept of stranger danger is clouding my thinking as well.

We proceed through stations and stops while hoping that the days pass not too quickly. This is part of the process that brings us to a finished product. Are we ready to unleash that on the unsuspecting world after all? All together now: it’s a small, fast-paced world after all …

It starts with being brave and sucking it up; we can get through this, too, can’t we?

Mike

May Way

2 May 2016

Dear J—

Well, our May calendar has come together in just about the most haphazard way possible; between client requests and other commitments, most of the time is spoken for already and I hope that I’ll have enough time to be committing to reasonable requests between now and then. 

As they say, life’s more fraught less for the thoughtless. 

I finished A Tale of Two Castles (Levine) this morning and trying to keep that straight in your muzzy head just after you’ve awoken is enough to overcome any lingering effects of sleep: I’m awake and ready to tackle things, even if I’m not actually tackling them at the moment. There are a lot of things I feel I should be doing and not nearly enough time to get it all done, though I’ll have to be able to do so. If I’m going to be the primary instructor for three days, which is longer than the entire class we gave in Jackson last year … Um, yeah.

Mike

P.S. Does this mean we’re full-circle and now that we’re proposing me as an instructor, am I where we were years ago?

Slowly Leaky

29 April 2016

Dear J—

We’re a month out from having to give the training of our lives and my bike has developed a slow leak and we have some conflicts that I can foresee starting up. Yes. Joy. I have comments and writings to respond to; I have gadgets and gizmos galore (I do!) and none of these will help me make it through unless you count … Aargh. Time marches on while I dither.

A reminder: there is some sharp piece of metal piercing my front tire approximately 180 degrees away from the stem. It’s time, I think, for a new tire and tube, as usual; with increased distance comes increased responsibility, right? At least increased maintenance. It was a bit of a rude shock to find out that the tire had completely deflated overnight but how slow the leak is has yet to be seen, as I will be trying to minimize the distance I ride on that flattened thing today. 

It’s a reminder of time’s arrow – steady as a metronome and moving in one direction only. Get your projects organized and get going, c’mon c’mon.

Mike


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