Inaugural Post

It has to start somewhere. Usually it’s a rocky start, with errors galore, no focus, no intended audience, nothing at all that could indicate intelligent writing. So here is that first post. Consider my obligation complete. From now on, all posts will be insightful, interesting, witty, and, uh, won’t suck.

I can’t keep up

Every hour of every day is planned now. I used to have something after work every night. Now I’m packing in two things every night. Today I went from work to disc golf to ultimate, then out with the ultimate folks for dinner, not even getting home till 9:30. A shower later, and it’s already 10, leaving me only a couple hours to work on all my home projects, catch up on reading, and email people. Tomorrow we’re moving racquetball earlier so that I can be done in time to make it to the softball game. Yesterday I spent a few hours moving rocks at a friend’s house, then went to softball practice, then worked for a few hours. Every weekend for the next few months is planned. All these activities are fun, but I’m juggling chainsaws, and the slightest interruption threatens to throw the whole mess out of whack. Well, maybe it’s not so threatening. If I drop a few chainsaws nobody will get upset but me. Still, it’s a delicate situation, and I’m not leaving enough room for me, or the spontaneous activities, or the new people. If you’re reading this and I haven’t emailed you in a while, I’m sorry. I’m getting to it, just not as quickly as I’d like.

How I saved $1, and how we could save many more.

I was at the grocery store to buy eggs. They were 1.99 for 18ct, but the deal was sweetened with a promise of buy one, get one free. Not feeling very much like Rocky Balboa, I had a hard time imagining how I could use 36 eggs without breaking the law (or windows) or wasting food. I collected a single package of 18 eggs.

When I got in line, though, the lady behind me also had a package of 18 eggs. Well, I put 2 and 2 together, or rather, 1 and 1 together. I asked the lady at the checkstand if it really was buy one, get one free. She confirmed, so I asked the lady behind me if I could buy her eggs. She didn’t understand at first, and wanted me to get my own eggs if I wanted more. But when I convinced her that if I purchased hers, they would be free, and I would be saving her $2, she accepted, the checkstand lady called me a good samaritan for saving a random lady $2, and I was ready continue about my business. In the end, the lady offered me $1 so that we split the savings equally, which was fair and I wasn’t about to make a bigger scene by refusing it. So in the end, I saved $1 by buying someone else’s eggs for them.

Sure, it’s just $1, you say. But think of the potential. Buying in bulk is pretty much always cheaper than buying individually. Many stores also offer group discounts. People who don’t know each other will pay full price for something, but if they somehow got together beforehand, they could save money by buying at once. Imagine the potential of a web site the did this kind of thing. It could set up group discounts for tickets to baseball games, concerts, volume purchases, whatever is cheaper for bulk. Of course, when you get down to splitting the cost of buy one, get one free 18ct eggs, it gets to be more work to find someone else than it’s worth in savings. But I’m just a guy with crazy ideas, and you’ve probably already had the idea or could point out a web site that already does this. If not, though, and you end up making this work, I want some credit and some royalties. 🙂

For now, I’m content with my $1.

Woohoo! Patent #2!!!

Well, patent application #2. Today I signed my second patent application. Now it goes to the lawyers and the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) where it will sit around for a couple years and get debated. I won’t know for probably 2-5 years whether the patent will be accepted, but at least the application is in. I’m proud of this second one, too. I was only partly involved in the first one, but I did a lot of the work for the second one, and it’s neat to see the stuff I’ve written in the application.

On deficit spending; or how flex time can eat you alive

I work in a place with flex time. If I feel like taking off early, cool. If I want to take a long lunch, no problem. I can even work from home if I don’t feel like getting out of my pajamas in the morning.

It used to be that I would have no problems being over hours. I would bank up to 10 or more hours so that I could take a whole day off. Sure, I still accrue vacation, so I could rely on that, but this way I can have as many days off as I want as long as I’m reasonable about it.

Around January, though, I lost a lot of interest in maintaining positive hours. I got almost 30 hours behind. I ended up using about 12 hours of vacation just to make up some of the time, and I was still 15 hours behind. I’ve been carrying that weight for months now.

Being 15 hours behind doesn’t actually mean much. Being even, or being over is just as meaningless. I’m salaried. But we have a ‘chargeable hours goal’, which means we’re supposed to average 40 hours per week over the year. So at the end of the year, we’re supposed to be even, which means we worked, on average, 40 hours per week. So being 15 hours behind means that some time before the end of the fiscal year, I should make up those 15 hours so that management won’t be pissed.

It’s a lot like credit card debt, though. I’m not losing hours. I’ve been maintining 40 per week for months now. But that debt is hanging over my head like some kind of monster. I guess I can say WAS hanging over my head. After this week, I should be free of the shackles of debt (at least in terms of hours at work). It’s very liberating knowing that I’m square. Not much has changed, but it just feels better.

I’m done with theaters

That’s it. I quit. No more theaters for me. I had to put up with a theater full of screaming little kids who were pulling my hair, getting in my face, talking and yelling, and in general completely distracting me from the movie. Further, I had to put up with the elephants next door all day, so I was hoping to escape the din, and I ended up just entering a louder one.

I can draw a table and compare going to a movie in a theater to staying at home and watching a movie on my big screen, and not only will staying at home clearly beat out going to a theater, staying home has tons of other advantages, too. I’m so glad I have my projector.

Screen size:
Movie theater: Huge
My projector: Huge (same viewing angle as being 1/3 way back in a theater)

Sound system:
Movie theater: Surround
My apartment: Stereo, but very good

Seats:
Movie theater: Folding chairs with not enough leg room
My apartment: Couches with room to lay down, stretch, or curl up under a blanket

Commercials:
Movie theater: Slides, then video ads, then previews
My apartment: None

Playback:
Movie theater: Pray that you’re not missing an important part while you pee or risk a bladder infection
My apartment: Rewind, fast forward, pause, restart, do whatever you want

Variety:
Movie theater: Whatever they decide to show
My apartment: Whatever I decide to watch. Movies of all genres, television episodes, Playstation 2, Gamecube, computer screen

Distractions:
Movie theater: Cell phones, loud people, little brats that keep kicking your chair and crying
My apartment: None

Cost:
Movie theater: Almost $8 for one movie
My apartment: Stuff I already have; free. Netflix; $15/month. Stuff people bring over; free.

Food:
Movie theater: Pay outrageous prices, or try to smuggle
My apartment: Anything you want. Dinner, ice cream, chips, whatever.

There’s no doubt that my apartment is much better than going to a theater. Now if only they would release DVDs at the same time as theatrical releases, I would have absolutely no incentive to go to a theater.

The Spiral of Suck

I hereby coin the term “Spiral of Suck.” This phrase refers to the downward spiral of a person when a single mistake feeds on itself irreparably, leading one on a feedback loop ever downwards.

On the racquetball court I have experienced this spiral of suck a few times. It starts with a simple mistake. Perhaps a poor flick of the wrist, or maybe tipping a shot with the edge of the racquet when you know you should have waited for it and lined up a better shot. In any case, it starts off small, but it bugs you. You know you should have done better. You know exactly what you did wrong, and you’re a little angry at yourself. But you’re not focusing on the game so much. You want a kill shot that’ll bring you back into the game. There’s no way you’re going to get that kill shot now. You’ll slam the ball and it’ll go any which way. The opponent capitalizes on it and gets more and more calm, making you run more, doing the shots you so dearly want to be doing. And you get angrier and angrier at yourself and you suck more and more. It’s the spiral of suck.

Getting out of the spiral is near impossible. My only solution now is to remove myself from the situation. If I can recognize the spiral early enough, I can get out without being angry at myself for the rest of the night. Ultimately, I want to be able to brush off a mistake immediately, but that takes a lot of practice, and I really don’t want to make enough mistakes that I’m good at brushing them off.

One of my greatest fears

The pathway from the mouth to the stomach is not ideal. Humans have evolved a very sharp bend in the esophagus which has been the cause of many deaths. Almost everyone has had a harrowing experience involving some sort of insufficiently masticated food getting caught in the throat. What I fear is that some day, alone in my apartment, enjoying a fine home-cooked meal, some small piece will refuse to go down or back up, and I will die. It’s not the choking that I’m afraid of. Not the death part, either. The real thing I hate is not having someone close who can help.

I’m off to bed now, perhaps to lie awake and hope that during my sleep I don’t suffocate underneath a pillow.

Wherein I fly like a bird

On Sunday I was minding my own business, playing with my computer. I get a phone call from Nick: “Carolyn’s sick, and I’ve already made plans to go flying with Ryan. You want to go instead? Meet me in 15 minutes.” Ryan is a coworker who recently acquired a pilot’s license.

I like to think of myself as a spontaneous person, and dropping what I was doing to go flying definitely fit the bill. I met Nick, we met Ryan, and we got in the plane. It’s a little Cessna, with 4 seats. Not the most comfortable of accommodations, but I was only paying $25 for the hour, so I shouldn’t have gotten first class treatment.

It was fun going through the preflight, putting on the headphones, listening to the airplane jargon, etc. Takeoff was fun, too. And then we were in the air, and I was trusting my life to a guy who had just gotten his pilot’s license and was flying a plane in good shape, but whose coincidence with a bird could render certain essential parts of the vehicle inoperable.

At 6000 feet I had better cell phone reception than I ever get in my apartment complex. The air was clear, the wind light, the sun bright, and the experience thrilling. After using Google Maps, it’s impossible to lose your bearings in the air, and I was able to pick out all kinds of landmarks. Then we did some fun “maneuvers” that included 60 degree banked turns at almost 2Gs. Without warning Ryan cut the throttle and dropped us a few hundred feet, rendering us temporarily weightless. The second time we had advanced notice and enjoyed it more. Nick got to fly a little bit. I was in the back seat, so I couldn’t but I didn’t mind. We flew really close to some windmills and had some turbulence, but otherwise it was a really good flight.

After exactly an hour we had a smooth landing. Flying is definitely fun, and I’ll be sure to get Ryan to take me up again.