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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Continuation of my birthday

My birthday was really the 9th, but it just made more sense to celebrate it on a friday. It turned out that my sister Betsy was travelling through town the same day and needed a place to stay. Being the big brotherly sort, I offered my place. While the dinner party was wrapping up, I got a call from her, saying she was there. I hurried across town to meet her and was greeted not only by my sister and her friend (which I expected), but also by her friend’s very big dog (which I did not expect). Of course, my sister said “I should have told you. It’s ok if he stays here, right?.” Yes, you should have told me. No it’s not ok. If I got caught with the dog in the apartment I could get in a lot of trouble. It was not a good start. We decided to go to the clubs. We went, we drank a little, we danced a bunch, it was mostly fun. Betsy has taken up casual smoking, and the two girls went to my car (because that’s where they had left the cigarettes) and ended up smoking in my car (because that’s the kind of thing people who show up with unannounced dogs do).

On a tangent, a girl told me I was a really good dancer. I thanked her. The second time, I introduced myself. We continued to dance nearby, and when I saw the ring on her finger, I was disappointed, but not completely discouraged. I asked, and she said “no no no,” she wasn’t married. When it was time to leave, I said I was leaving but I’d like to call her some time. She said she couldn’t because she had a boyfriend (who wasn’t there). I’m going to stop asking. There are way too many boyfriends and husbands around here. What really bugs me is why she didn’t say so when I asked about the ring.

Anyway, on the way home, I got pulled over by the cops. It wasn’t surprising, considering I saw no less than 6 on the way home. He pulled me over for not using my turn signal long enough before changing lanes and because the light was out on my back license plate. These are not good reasons to pull someone over. These are petty reasons to pull someone over because you want to find out if they’re drunk. Yes, officer, I had a couple drinks a few hours ago, and I’ve danced it all off. Yes, you can test me. Yes, that’s my new address. It says so on the back of my license and I was just at the DMV last month to change it. He had nothing on me, and I knew it.

Finally get home and head to bed. But the girls aren’t ready to sleep. They open my bedroom door, and in comes the dog with a big muddy ball to drop on my sheets. So we all go out to the hot tub (closed after 10pm and it was 2am). The dog wants to bark at anything that moves.

Bed at 3. Wake up at 9 and I’m ready to go. Cook some breakfast, take the girls to a park, take them out to lunch with Nick and Carolyn, and send them on their way.

Long friday.

My little office toys

Today I got a birthday present from a coworker. It’s a cute little Don Quixote SpongeBob Squarepants plastic toy from Burger King. He goes well with my other office toy; a stuffed Taco Bell dog. I put the little Don on top of the dog so he’s riding it. I think it’s a funny looking combination, and it’s way too easy to draw deep meaning from it. It makes perfect sense that SpongeBob is riding the dog because it fits the Don Quixote theme perfectly. Then there’s something to be said about my Burger King toy riding my Taco Bell toy. If Wendy’s made a windmill, I’d be able to complete my bizarre scene.

That last one wasn’t fair

As an inaugural post, that one was not very good. I apologize for the wanton recklessness with my thoughts, but frankly, I had just eaten and it was on my mind. To you, dear reader, I amend a second post as a token of my sympathy for having to endure a dismal beginning.

So I begin again it traditional blog fashion; with a complaint about the opposite sex.

I am not often one to be discouraged easily, and after my concerted efforts recently, I could hardly say that my discouragement was easily attained. In short, the club scene is frustrating. First example:

I’m dancing away in one of the Tri-Cities 3 clubs, and see a very attractive girl dancing. For a while I do some reconnaissance, casually watching for a guy, or some other indication of unavailability. After determining the coast clear with a slight possibility of boyfriend in the corner, and after establishing myself by clearing a circle and breakdancing to Michael Jackson, I make my approach. I smile, she smiles back. I say hi, she says hi back. I say “are you here with someone?” and she proceeds to take a dull spoon from her front pocket and carve a hole in my intestines with the reply “yeah, my husband. I’m married” I congratulate her and continue to dance for a bit, trying to maintain my cool before I slink off to nurse my wound. Off to a bad start indeed.

The next attempt seemed easier. A woman standing against the wall nursing a drink looks extremely miserable. I approach and say hi, making friendly chatter, asking questions, avoiding awkward silences. Out of nowhere, she says “Just so you know, my boyfriend’s standing over there.” Well that’s wonderful. Strike two.

The third time took place over the course of two weeks. On the first week, I was approached while dancing, which was nice. We danced close briefly, then I moved away and danced alone in a great flourish of stupidity. After realizing my mistake I made an effort to recover and may have even ended up better off because of the mistake. We danced a few times, and she was fun. The next week she was there again. I approached her and said “hi, we danced earlier.” “I just got here” she said. “No, last week. You were wearing a salmon shirt and we danced a few times.” “Oh, yeah! Bob, right?” Yes, this was a good sign. And then… “I can’t dance with you anymore. I’m engaged now!”

Sad stories, yes, but not without their morals. 1.) ALWAYS look for a ring. 2.) You will get turned down. Pick yourself back up and move on. 3.) Clubs might not really be the right place to meet people.

There, dear reader. I hope I have sated your thirst for personal information.

Inaugural Post 2

As I was making dinner tonight, I think I came across a marine biology discovery. Yes, it sounds odd, and your furrowed eyebrows are completely valid. Here’s what happened:

I was making pasta. Mostaccioli, to be exact. Essentially, it’s the same thing as penne, which is a fancy name for round-tube-pasta. This is an important detail. I got the water boiling, then poured my pasta in. I stirred it once or twice to make sure the pasta wasn’t going to stick on the bottom and burn. Then I left for a while. When I returned, the pasta were making an effort to align themselves vertically. They didn’t all express this alignment, but there were enough that one could easily notice a general trend. Perhaps this is not unusual of your round-tube-pastas like rigatone (they’re all round-tube-pastas, why can’t they all have the same name?), but it seemed odd to me.

Naturally I sought an explanation for this behavior. My first theory was that air bubbles sought to travel from the bottom of the pan to the top of the pan so the air bubbles would over time push the pasta into an arrangement that would facilitate the most efficient transfer. My second theory relied on the fact that the pasta were expanding and alignment was a way to optimize the space in a pot of limited size.

I think my first idea was best, though, and watching the little tubes wave about reminded me of a coral reef. Perhaps in reefs things align themselves according to flow of gas bubbles.

Perhaps I’m reading into it too much. Anyway, it was good, aligned or not.