Posts Tagged ‘busy’

Catch Up

14 June 2012

Dear J-

There are a thousand loose ends to wrap up before Friday afternoon and only a few hours left to get them done. My plan is to bring along a laptop along with company access to email to try to get things done on the road; whether or not that happens or indeed if I even have the inclination to keep working after a full day of training will be another matter entirely. I had hoped to make a clean break between work and travel, but when you’re traveling for work with unresolved projects then there’s a lot that they’ll ask while you’re out. Welcome, telecommuter.
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I’m bringing along an ancient IBM X31 with hopefully a not-too-corrupted installation of Arch Linux; with any luck the program will copy over nicely and I can use WINE to run it on the laptop. Otherwise it’s too late to scrounge up a copy of XP and do a clean install. Breathe. The more important things are happening tomorrow night: figgy is ‘graduating’ from pre-K and I need to get home a little earlier if possible, which probably means driving but I may be selfish and do one last bike ride before the four weeks off. Make sure the batteries are charged and the sound checks out okay; new life, new tools, new world order. Between now and her first day of school just after Labor day I’m going to be gone for a third of that time.

I try to convince myself that it really doesn’t matter, that there’s always be more chances later, but the longer we keep to our strange schedules and commitments, the more they expect. I’ve somehow gotten tangled up with an industry initiative to overhaul a computer model, and improbably, I may be the only one who can run the predecessor program on-site. How did this happen? If all I wanted was to draw a paycheck and breathe I wouldn’t have left my old job. This is exactly what I was asking for, I suppose, and maybe it’s what I deserve. It just feels like I’m always out of breath, though.

Mike

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Rich Folks and Coffee

6 June 2012

Dear J-

It should be noted that we probably did in fact have enough time to go vote yesterday in the primary but we chose not to possibly out of laziness and being too busy. I didn’t read the voter’s guide like I meant to (or should have) and since we’ve gotten Caller ID, we haven’t had to talk to any campaigns or polls more than we’ve wanted to (which is usually never; the phone is almost always a nuisance … we should probably get more friends). It speaks to how much we take for granted in our lives.
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I do know that there’s millions billions of people in the world who are disenfranchised and have no voice in their political fates and for that alone I should vote. I should vote because my future and my kids’ future depends on it, and I should be setting a good example for them as well; some of my fondest memories of childhood were walking to the polling place at the fire station two blocks away and fitting the card into the machine, punching out holes as directed by the responsible adult I was with. Most of all, though, if I want to continue to complain about my government then I should participate, at least to this minimal degree.

For years now I’ve thrown away my vote, as theVet puts it, by voting for squirrelly candidates and third parties who have no chance of winning. I prefer to see it as sending a message to the two-party system (which instead of the black-and-white, us-versus-them message they want to send, demonstrate through action and inaction that they’re both deep in the pockets of business and industry). I suppose that’s what you get for candidates when it costs so much to even run for president (or any office, really): rich folks and their creditors.

Mike

Take Away

15 May 2012

Dear J-

Has everythng been prepared? Am I forgetting something? Paranoia does not take a vacation, and I always seem to forget one thing or another by the time I’m ready to start time off. For instance, yesterday I rode the whole way to work in relative peace until we got close to the plant and I realized that I’d forgotten my site badge, meaning half an hour of delay by going up and getting a temporary badge (and that’s when the office is open; if it wasn’t I’d be looking at the wrong end of two hours back and forth to home to retrieve it).
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When I started the outage shifts I was on time and never missed a beat; after four months of odd hours and long hours I’m missing a certain attention to detail, let’s say. There’s a thousand instances where I could have done better or something more and I suspect that we’re having a two-hour meeting in the middle of the day as punishment (I suspect for my own sins) and recalibration. Either you’re amused by the leadership craft and set a good example or you’re cynical and bitter about it, guarding everything jealously and fiercely.

A couple of my cousins went to this wedding alone: no spouse, no kid(s). I understand that rationally: the kids are too young to travel on such a long flight (though Calcifer did much better than we expected, except when he was tired and refused to nap, but that’s just me probably tooting my horn: paranoia takes no breaks) and the wedding is a long thing to sit through, coupled with the ceremony, but I think I still had way more fun — with kids and taking fewer pictures — than without them would have been. And besides, I would have missed them like crazy the whole time we were gone. Maybe that’s what I can’t prepare for knowing I’m heading into the last six, er, five weeks at home. When did I become important enough to be busy? Yeah, like my ego needs fluffing.

Mike

Long Hours

9 April 2011

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Dear J-

After the page this morning — a page in the dark is never good news — I headed into work and spent part of the morning there, back in time to return books to the library, and then on to a birthday party. Strangely enough the bustle of the party proved relaxing; we collapsed into our family nucleus, floating around the large gym caught in the jet stream of the party’s flow. Here for the pizza and snacks, there for the pinata, back to the bounce house in between for down times and don’t know what else to do times. The day was long enough and busy enough to fool me into believing that it was already Sunday night based on how much we’d already crammed in.

Later on I spent at least ten minutes spontaneously unconscious in the middle of story time. We read the books we check out of the library throughout the week and just lately I’ve been trying to make sure I have at least enough energy to make it all the way through. Today I had all the typical malaises of going to work without being able to nap or otherwise refuel through the day. It’s less a complaint than an observation: you get back from the day at least a thousand times what you put into it. I’m exhaustedly ecstatic; I’m tired and terrific.

At one point today we went to Target to kill a little time before dinner. figgy is entranced by the educational gaming systems so it’s a little free entertainment until someone’s feet or bladder battles too long with patience and we end up leaving the store. Spend enough time in the toy aisle, though, and you see those folks witout kids trying to decide what’s right for a kid they know — a nephew or niece in town or a birthday or a holiday worth remarking about. I’m not saying that being a parent increases your discerning judgment and decision-making ability but the truth is that the kid is going to love pretty much anything you come up with because it’s you who picked it out. This is a great time to be around, every kid’s superhero and no wrong steps. Yet.

Mike

Busy Day

26 February 2011

Dear J-

Interesting times are often busy times, and we’ve had plenty of that today. Calcifer turns one hundred days old and despite everyone telling us that it isn’t a big deal we’ve had two celebrations already — one last week for my folks, this week with theVet’s. Traditionally you didn’t even give a name to the kids before a hundred days because infant mortality rates being what they were, that ended up being wasted effort. There are other traditions we got to partake in including a ridiculously large rice cake and cooking Korean short ribs — gal bi — over a barbecue. Today that ended up being in the rain to boot, but so good (gal bi cooked with charcoal is something that I eat whenever I’m so lucky) that a little damp did nothing to dampen spirits.

I’m still working out the sickness inside, so running around after kids — right after the huge meal we had another party to go to — wasn’t high on my list of fun stuff to do, but it was nice to see how the Gymboree takes care of kids: lots of activities and music. figgy jumped right in and didn’t miss much. Such is the magic of their center. At the end they all rushed into a big circle and jumped under the tent formed by a slowly falling parachute, colors shining bright under those lights, slow motion joining together in dark blurs, kids all together.

Mike

Stupid Me

29 December 2010

Dear J-

There’s things that are shockingly easy, like falling off a log or breathing, and then there’s crap like nursing your anger and letting it grow — stoke that particular fire, make sure it doesn’t burn low by finding fault in everything. I know that when I’m tired I make poor decisions and, besides which, every little thing will seem either insurmountable or incomprehensibly irritating. It’s a bad combination, lack of sleep with selfish desires to just get away from it all. There are days full of activity, like yesterday, when I think I’m never going to have a spare moment to myself and yet looking back there were plenty of chances to take time out if I’d just allowed myself to relax.

Jack Black, who is perhaps the last person you’d think to seek parenting advice from, says that you need a lot of energy to be successful; without it you end up watching a lot of TV together instead. And boy, don’t we know how that goes, and how it ends up — more time in front of the tube than we’d like, slack-jawed and mindlessly munching on something sweet. Even if it is a way to keep her busy and give myself some time is that really the right thing to do? There is almost universal acceptance of a little TV at this age, and no doubt we exceed those limits regularly. I sometimes wonder if I’m already too late, if in the pursuit of time for work I’ve sacrificed too much time for us.

We spend evenings together — dinner, then a bath, then the sleep preparations that encompass songs and books, though it’s almost as though our roles have reversed for that last activity: she busies herself with the million objects in her room while we’re kept busy singing or reading. She learns from habit and routine, and when our solutions include a video soporific to buy us time, that’s what we’re really telling her: we’re too busy for you, go amuse yourself while we take care of X, whether that’s the house, the baby, the meals, or our sanity. They tell us that newborns can’t be spoiled by too much holding; I’ve concluded that pushing your three-year-old away is just as impossible, and why would you want to? We have so few years before she’ll be uniformly embarrassed to be seen with us, and want to keep us out of her life. If we refuse the invitation now there’s no sense in mourning our distance later.

Mike

P.S. We should be flattered and not aggravated that she loves us and wants to spend time with us. That means taking the whole package as it is, crazy though it may seem. You may have wondered why there have been so few pictures of Calcifer and part of it is that he spends much of his day strapped to us, often me when I’m around because I’m not around much. The other part is because figgy has proven to be the more interesting subject lately, always in motion and demanding the lion’s share of the attention. Babies are nice, and I love having Calcifer around, but figgy keeps my viewfinder and mind occupied; funny how even when she was a baby you could already tell what craziness lay ahead.

Beat It

1 May 2009

Dear J-

It feels like I come to work full of enthusiasm and ready to knock out a ton of work, that naivete gets beaten out of me by say, 9 AM, and I end up counting myself lucky to have gotten anything done by the time I head home.  Dry your eyes, I know; it’s the same story that follows every single person every day — some odious task, some disagreeable thing will always be on the schedule, and you might as well spend time worrying about what you can affect, instead of stewing over that black dot on your schedule.

There’s a ton of different things that we have lined up for this weekend — we’re observing figgy’s birthday at a time convenient for other people, and even throwing together something so simple, where we’re not even entertaining at home (it’s a picnic at the Zoo) is still exhausting.  The fun of the birthday is nearly overwhelmed by the planning to pull off the task; it’s a little like our wedding, where I couldn’t even taste the food for how overwhelmed I was.  Nah, it’s just a little birthday; I’m sure that I’ll look back and laugh at the exaggeration.

I do see that Chrysler has pulled the trigger on bankruptcy; the partnership with Fiat is essentially done, and Bob Nardelli, having run a second company into the ground (but not yet unemployed — he’s got a consulting gig lined up with Cerberus — such is the aegis bestowed by Jack Welch, I suppose), is out.  I talk about the overwhelming uncertainty facing us at work, but I realize that as always, we are so lucky in comparison.

Mike

Window Shopping

28 April 2009

Dear J-

Who cares about busy?  At least there’s something to do; you can spend all your time greasing wheels or making them turn.  It’s nice to be the engine, but the oil is the unsung hero.  Look, if there’s so much to be done, you’ve got to start one bite at a time — it’s fashionable to despair and quail at the very size of the task, but that’s what tomorrow is for, right?  I know; the words of a true champion procrastinator, but somewhere out there, we all should realize that leaving things for another day isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Of course, that one day is really going to be painful.  We make our chioces; more importantly, we’re under watch and subject to emulation.  These things we do roll out into the world; the most consistent thing is how our knowledge and habits get passed down.  Peer review websites are popular — think of the rapid growth of Yelp — because of this; we’re interested in opinion and experience, we gather it avidly and slurp it down.

So what do we pass on? Have you held up a mirror lately?

Mike

Safe Way

24 April 2009

Dear J-

Say the safe way to extinguish a grease fire would be to put a cover on it; at work there are times that I believe that we try to figure out why the grease catches fire, how long it burns, and document the rejection of other extinguishing methods.  Of course, by then, the grease fire has burned the rest of the house down.  Although we certainly should be thorough, sometimes we misplace our priorities; in the pursuit of exhaustive completion, we miss the agile methods, we forget the fundamental reasons.

It’s easy to follow the trail down the rabbit hole; it’s far too easy to get sidetracked on interesting aspects of the plant that bear serious thought, but not necessarily immediate consideration.  We don’t have a problem with people shirking work, necessarily, we just need direction and consistency; lately we’re subjected to the leadership topic du jour, which seems to mostly consist of directives for workers and applause for managers.

I don’t mean to sound negative; we’re all trying to do our best, and part of that is trying on different hats and initiatives to see which are effective.  I’ve tried to be cheerful and receptive, but that hasn’t gone a long way lately; there’s a certain irony in gaining skill and confidence (I happen to believe I’m doing a good job, no inflated ego intended) at the same time that we keep being told we must do better, we must improve.  The long march of this cultural revolution is in process, but we’ve seen no results and no attrition, no change and no decision.

Mike

Busy Days

2 February 2009

Dear J-

The busy days are not necessarily the most productive days; spend all your time fielding questions — large and small — and there’s no way that you’re getting traction on the things that litter your plate.  I’m back on five days a week, after catching up on weekend e-mails, and starting to believe that seven wouldn’t be enough.  It’s a question of priorities and possibilities, though, and I’m pretty sure I can work my way through them.  Yet how much time do we waste giving the appearance of the right thing, versus actually doing those things?  Face time shouldn’t come at the expense of work, but for the sake of sending people to meetings we’re stuck in meetings to give people reassurances without knowledge.

What do we know about how the rest of the world works?  Why do we believe that all management styles are transferrable?  What works at, say, the Home Depot doesn’t necessarily translate well into a power production industry and yet I read about how many different companies have chosen the same software as us — as well as my current city — and we squawk with outrage that it’s not a nimble, tailored program.  Such is the curse of any one-size-fits-all solution, whether software or philosophy.

Everyone likes to pound their chests a little and declare how different they are, and yet we end up making a lot of the same choices — things are not popular without reasons.  I’m just saying that maybe we’ve sold ourselves a little short on believing that common tools can be adapted to fit every situation.  Yes, a locking pliers may be as close to a universal wrench as man has invented (perhaps less so than, say, a blue wrench), but that doesn’t always make it the best choice for a particular job — it may be convenient, but not best.  Hence you’ve got to wonder about the failure of imagination that leads to recommending the most popular tool as the right one without concrete benefits.

Mike