Posts Tagged ‘choices’


9 August 2013

Dear J-

It has been a while since I tried writing on the road and I’m pleasantly surprised to discover the keyboard still works, well, at least as well as it ever did which is to say with a sticky ‘o’ key and everything. I’ll give it some more time to warm up, I suppose. Good. Awkward preamble done.

As it turns out maybe this — trying and failing spectacularly at getting the units returned to service — maybe this is the impetus I need to shake off the momentum that’s kept me driving a hundred miles every day to work. We have yet to see what jobs everyone will end up getting but I’m contemplating three choices. There’s a local job as a procurement engineer, doing stuff I did every day for five years and that I’m sure I could do in my sleep. What it has to recommend itself is familiarity and comfort, no need to move, shorter commute, I know I can do that work. I’ve done it. But on the other hand it’s a very substantial drop in pay, especially once the bonus or results-sharing payout is figured in, probably close to 40% and is that going to be enough to keep us in San Diego and not struggling check to check?

Then there’s potential job number two, in the Bay Area. Probably involves some travel. definitely a relocation. There, though, the work is interesting — much more in line with what I’ve been doing for the past year and a half or so. Very technical, too, and that’s something my mind wants. So far no interview and no discussion of salary, but I have good hopes there, so we’ll see I guess.

And also, there’s potential job number three, a cross-country relocation to Charlotte, North Carolina. This is even less certain given that I’ve only just applied, but they called me and asked me to submit a resume, so that’s a good sign, right? But still, Charlotte? Yes, Charlotte, and with lower costs of living and the heat, and the South, there is also the satisfaction of working a pan-industry job, meaning it’s something they’d need if any nuclear plant is working. Anywhere. is that a huge appeal, stability?

That’s the crux of it, I’m afraid. if I had no family I’d have no problems shrugging off a relocation anywhere, anytime. Thus concludes the Southern California adventure. We’ve had a good run. I look at what my dad had — the same job for thirty-five years, and they had to push him out the door — and I know that isn’t going to happen for me, unless I want to switch gears completely or work into my mid-70s. it’s a source of envy and regret, we’ve spent so many years here and we’ve just gotten to sample the joy of its potential: Disneyland, beaches, sunshine. every place has its upsides, though, and part of the joy of relocation (oh yeah, I went there) is is finding those things that work well for you.

And yet I’m not alone in this. Leaving now means pulling figgy out of her current school program — a pretty unique opportunity to learn Mandarin in a public immersion program — with no guarantees that we’d be able to jump into another one in time for this fall. I keep having faith that we will but, y’know, wish in one hand and spit in the other, and you’ll know which one fills up faster. Ultimately I don’t know if that’s the trump card that should cover everything else. It should be. But I’m also not sure if this is a case of work to live, we need something to enable this, what we have, what we need.





Pride Ego and Assumptions

14 May 2012

Dear J-

The guy I used to carpool with back when we were young cost engineers, he’s now a manager and more power to him: he works hard, his people respect him, and his bosses trust him. This is less about him than it is about me, as usual: I like to tell myself that he’s made choices that I don’t think I would or could to get to where he is now but I know that’s just an excuse in my mind. That’s my ego telling me that I’m still better, or, bluntly, that I’m never wrong. How else could I explain it? Then I remember how hard he’s workked and the sacrifices he’s made and it’s not so easy to judge him. More successful? Undoubtedly. I remember how he used to fight tooth-and-nail for our raises, and I benefitted more from his tenacity than my passivity.

There’s a difference, I think, between pride and ego; if you assume pride to be constructive (take pride in your work) then I’ll call ego something more pejorative it’s that impulse that tells you hey, you did this so it’s more than good enough. It’s the overwhelming assumption that you’re right. It’s the part of you that refuses to back down from a losing argument, it’s the prickly beast inside that wounds easily and recovers slowly. I have a lot of pride but I also have a ton of ego which over the years I’ve confused with pride via the same definitions above.

There’s a board at work with all kinds of slogans that people have come up with over the past few months working on this project. One of my favorites so far is “If you’re in deep $h!+ it’s best to keep your mouth shut.” I want to add something along the lines of “Check your baggage at the door: we don’t have room for you and your ego here.” I’ve been proven time and time again that that’s true; this particular project is so much bigger than me or even my overinflated head that the benefit of working on it has been less in the skills and contacts I’ve made (though those have been valuable/invaluable, too) as it is the deflating sense of self I feel when walking in that door and understanding where I am.


Pattern Dance

22 August 2010

Dear J-

figgy has a sleep schedule which must be maintained at all costs:  generally speaking, bed by ten and up around eight or so with the added bonus of a multi-hour mid-day nap.  Were I smart enough to remember the lessons of three years ago, I’d have napped when she naps in order to ensure unbroken rest.  Nowadays, of course, we just take stuff like that for granted, like not having her in diapers when she’s awake.

Any breakdowns in the schedule used to guarantee an interrupted night for us, but like everything else, we’ve all learned to be flexible lately.  Me, running on fumes at this point of the night; her, going strong despite expending roughly four times the energy (that’s my best guess, as her philosophy has been why walk when you could run, or whisper when exclamation points say it better).  Nap time is magic, man.

It’s funny, the difference between review class and assigned homework.  Once I think I’ve got a concept down well enough from class along comes the homework set where an entirely different set of principles and equations get emphasized (the first few problems I have to figure out how the author likes to see things, but after that the questions become easier, as there are only a few equations per chapter that get drilled over and over again).  Likewise figgy:  at first glance, she’s got a million things and activities, but there are crystalline patterns and favorite objects; it all makes sense with time.  Habits emerge, rituals observed.


Good Night

1 July 2010

Dear J-

If I had to headline it, I’d call it something like Shyamalan Speaks or Breaks Silence; there’s an interview where he defends his casting choices for The Last Airbender as being racially blind. Being ignorant of the whole movie-making process, I can’t say that the director of a film has that much power over the casting process (I have seen credits for Casting Director, but what that means is beyond my knowledge), so I’m not going to speculate on whether he’s being used as a mouthpiece or not. But the director is like the coach, and gets the most responsibility, so the buck stops at Night, I suppose.

My reasons for not wanting to see the movie are complex but can generally be reduced to simplest terms: Lady in the Water and the violation of the Tarantino Rule — Thou Shalt Not Insert Thyself into Thy Movie Unnecessarily. At least there’s not going to be much reason to put himself into the movie, but the real hardship I have with his response is its glib scattershot approach; he gives reasons that are individually defensible, but when taken as a whole, fall apart. For example, characters were cast, according to the interview, because of their racial ambiguity — which is a little like the tampon commercial where the spokesmodel says that she was chosen because everyone can identify with her. He goes on to state that anime itself and its influence lends itself to racial ambiguity, which betrays a deep misunderstanding of anime in general: it’s well-understood that characters drawn with classical anime/manga features are meant to be the same as the author.

In that case, then, it’s perfectly fine to fill the cast the way they have. It’s not the point, though; taken as a whole, The Last Airbender represents another missed opportunity to redress the portrayal of races. I’m tired of seeing and reading Asian men who are (1) misogynistic (2) asexual (3) powerless and/or villainous along with Asian women who are (1) waiting to be rescued (2) sexually submissive or (3) tortuous Dragon Ladies (by the way, thank you David Guterson for hitting nearly all the stereotypes in Snow Falling on Cedars; may we all turn the clock back forty years so easily). The movie was a chance to challenge assumptions and perceptions, but now we’re stuck with what’s been filmed, canned, and printed.


Morning Drive

26 May 2010

Dear J-

Because I had yet another doctor’s appointment today (really, is it too much to ask that I not see him every month for some random follow-up or another — I have been variously diagnosed with various anemias and other deficiencies in the last year since switching to this one, who is nice and reasonable but rather aggressive with the followups) I got to drive myself in to work again, and that always means I’m out with roving eye spotting cars as well. Some of the always-tempting RX-8s were on tap, but it was the new Hyundai Sonatas that were out in force today — I pulled in next to one at the clinic’s parking structure very carefully because I thought it was some sort of exotic European sedan-coupe hybrid (think Mercedes CLS or Volkswagen CC).

It’s bigger than I thought, and better-looking, to boot; if I didn’t have an unreasonable bias against sedans and goofy coupe-roofline sedans in particular, it would make more sense, but it’s a sign of how far — along with the Genesis — Hyundai has come from the days of the Excel twenty years ago. Cars are funny things; you either regard them as appliances — something to get from here to there with as little drama as possible — or aspirations — extensions of who we are, two-ton glass and chrome rolling monuments to our egos. There is some middle ground, but it’s reflected in my mind — keep the one I’ve got, find an appliance, or something that makes me want to drive more.

Having gotten used to driving a car with a failing clutch means assuming no power reserves, no sudden bursts of acceleration, and jockeying for position — looking further down the road than I’m used to — it’s ultimately a humbling experience, but it’s taught me that horsepower isn’t everything for a car, expecially in our Southern California ecosystem. I watched someone bounce from lane to lane today, going progressively more slowly as their desperate maneuvers ended up costing them time — we’re our own worst enemies sometimes. It’s hard to give up excitement for numb appliances, but isn’t it more about our perceptions and assumptions?


Thrill Junkie

18 December 2009

Dear J-

I like to work out little word problems in my head while I’m riding my bicycle through deserted streets, as it gives me something to chew on instead of how old and slow I’ve gotten this winter. The one for today went something like this: what accelerates faster to 60 MPH, a Corvette or an unnamed automobile that has a 1g accelerator, where g = earth’s gravitational constant? It’s sort of a loaded question, but the answer is that you want the no-name car, as it’s faster than virtually any other street-legal vehicle out there. First, convert MPH (miles/hour) into feet/second by multiplying by 5280 feet/mile and 1/3600 hour/seconds: if you’re stuck with the calculator between your ears, it works out to multiplying by roughly 1.5 to convert MPH to ft/sec — so 60 MPH is 90 ft/sec, give or take. Gravtational constant is 32 ft/sec/sec (meaning that every second you pick up another 32 ft/sec), so with the 1g car, you’re at 90 ft/sec or 60 MPH in less than 3 seconds, which is incredibly fast.

Maybe it explains the appeal of bungee jumping and skydiving: more of us will probably jump, as the number of race car drivers is fairly limited in comparison. We humans are speed junkies, looking for the next best (or fastest) way of getting around or, barring that, another thrill to pique our interest. If you ever watch The Amazing Race, there are three constants: Phil’s always got some colorful local with him on the mat, there will be flight or limited-business-hours equalizers every couple of legs, and teams will bungee jump at some point in the race — acrophobics like me need not apply.

Sometimes I wonder whether the choices I’ve made were the right ones, but it’s kind of pointless — if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here at the moment, wondering about the choices. And given another set of choices, another opportunity to change, which would be the right way to go? Not all choices are quantitative (this car is not 20% better than that one) and not all choices move you as fast as you’d like, perhaps. Is it better to work wondering what you’ll be doing day to day or better to be the indispensible fellow everyone knows by name or better to live in terror of the unknown challenges with no instruction book? I dunno. What kind of thrill junkie did I turn out to be, J-, what did your life lead you to?