But sometimes we take photos of things that scare us, that we fear, that we just don't understand, or that we have to share for whatever reason. And those photos don't fade the same ways as memories; when you scroll through your history of photos, they are still there. The mangled mess of a car on the side of the highway, the little-too-creepy costume that we're not sure is really a costume, or the haunting image of an unexplained pain. So what compels us to keep these? As I flipped through the photos of 2016, I came across a couple of odd shots like this, things that stirred my gut in some way. I realized quickly I had no reason to keep these, and :poof: they're gone. Soon even their memory will fade.
And when the bad is gone, what is left is either the normal or the good. In 2017, I plan to avoid taking those photos in the first place. I want to suppress whatever need it is that I may have to share my disgust or macabre fascination. And at the same time, embrace the good and great, to share more experiences, to have things to look back on fondly when I get to this point next year.
When I am very old, reflecting on my life, I don't want those memories--I want to think of the great times of adventure, daring, loving, friendship, and experiences. I'm unlikely to die a rich man in terms of money, but I hope that my richness is in my life having been lived fully, with friends and family the whole way.
As the afternoon started to grow long in the tooth, one of the directors from another group stopped by to chat with the couple of us that were there and we made some good conversation about existing and pending technologies, as well as received an invitation into their testing environment. That last part is super exciting for us as we don't have a lot of hardware where we can do much testing, so we'll be taking advantage of that for sure.
Fortunately I work with a group of people that do like to socialize outside of work, and the late afternoon today was no different. We made our way out to a happy hour and chatted over drinks and snacks for a while. While here, I was able to ply the ear of my skip-level a bit to express things that I haven't directly expressed to him about my long-term career goals. He was extremely receptive and even started to send an email or two on the spot (thankfully I dissuaded that given the situation and timing).
In these somewhat seemingly casual encounters, I was able to make connections that I hadn't to date. While it isn't the progress I want to make in the long-term, it is the first step in what I think will be the right direction.
The town isn't like this about the hockey team, and I guess that's understandable when the hockey season spans so many more months has had around forty home games. Over the last handful of years, I've gone to a smattering of games, and even joined the ranks of cable subscribers because the cost of a single game pays for two or three months of viewing the games on TV (and that way I get the opportunity to see EVERY game).
I've been fortunate that I've been able get my wife interested in the game sometimes. Other nights, she'd rather browse the internet, but on those random nights she gets invested and cheers. I like those nights.
Prior to moving to this state, I'd only seen a single hockey game in my life, and that in a venue that made it so that I'm still not entirely sure that I wasn't watching anthropomorphic ants in some grand illusion. The first company I worked for here took the whole office to a game once, and I thought it was pretty fun, but I didn't understand a lot of the game play and penalties. At this point, I've been watching and attending the games for the last nine seasons or so and I think I understand about as much of this game as I ever have of football or basketball.
It's true that sometimes I have to take to Google to figure out something from time to time (I mean, how often do you see slew foot called? Not enough that I remember from the last time I saw it). lately I've had the inclination to see if I can stand up on ice skates. I know I could never be a competent player at this point in my life, but perhaps I could compete with today's eight year old teams after a year or two of trying. Or I'd fall flat on my butt constantly. Yeah, probably that.
Noticing the clock again, I realized I had time to kill as she hadn't even turned the water on yet. I popped open the cabinet and saw two English muffins. A few moments of deliberation later, I decided that I'd go ahead and make some eggs and enjoy a tasty breakfast sandwich and just catch coffee once I got to work (since I keep my espresso machine within arm's reach). Seeing the opportunity, I decided to also make my wife breakfast to perhaps help quell the morning hunger she seems to suffer from so often as we commute together.
In the next few minutes, I had preheated a pan, applied a small amount of butter to the just-sliced surfaces of the remaining English muffins, gathered some eggs and cheese from the refrigerator, and gotten myself ready for the flash-cook of the eggs that gives them the great texture we like our sandwiches. The english muffins went into the toaster oven on low broil, and in a flash the three eggs were in the pan, sizzling as their whites began to cook as the yolks sat neatly atop them. A few seconds later the separation of the colors in the pan was no more, and furious mixing of the parts yielded a pale yellow concoction that initially stuck to the pan, but as it cooked a little more worked itself loose as I rolled the quickly-firming eggs around the pan with the spatula.
As the eggs neared their perfection, I split the mass in two, roughly shaping each to imitate the English muffins that they would soon join. I laid a bit of Lorraine Swiss on each mass, and moved them to a cool surface to stymy the cooking process while allowing the cheese to melt into the folded crevices of the eggs. I retrieved the now-warm breads, and dropped them buttered-side down into the same pan and pressed firmly for a few seconds as the butter toasted into a delicious and beautiful golden brown that would give a slight crunch when bitten. At last, the eggs and melted cheese were merged with the muffins and breakfast was ready.
But where was she? Ahh! Only just stepping out of the shower. No bother: I wrapped hers in a paper towel and then plastic wrap and sat it now with what would be her lunch. Looking longingly at my own sandwich, I knew I had time to savor it as she would be dressing for several more minutes. Unsurprisingly, I did finish my breakfast before she came down, but rather than pressure her into moving out of the door I prompted her to go ahead and enjoy her sandwich while it was still hot (never mind the wasted plastic wrap--there are worse things in life).
From there, we drove to work, parted ways in the cold morning sun, and our days began in earnest. Except the most important part of my day--the one where I expressed my love through service--had already come and gone. Of course, that didn't mean I couldn't or wouldn't do more, but I looked back on the morning as she drive on from my office to hers and felt a contentment that usually doesn't exist that early in the day.
In the last handful of years I haven't been especially good at this. I would make sure to reach out to folks on or around their birthdays with tepid greetings, and a few select individuals I would share more detail and seek out more actively, but I was content to let my circles be small and tight, extremely overlapping.
As time went by, those that were farther away or regularly unreachable fell off of my radar. I noticed eventually, but I didn't really take any action to resolve that. In the last six months, I've been horrible at this. If texts or emails went unrequited, I would shrug my shoulders and decide that it was probably for the better, and that if they wanted me in their life they would reach out.
What a turnabout!
That's not who I want to be. As with most things, this also isn't a behaviour that will change overnight. I took the first step over the weekend and hit up someone that for years was probably my closest friend although because of the distance between us, we've literally only spent maybe 72 hours of our lives in the same state. Today I reached out to a friend I've had for several years but in the last month had let slide into non-thought; this one is a harder relationship because of the situation but I want to keep trying. These people are special to me.
I do realize that not all relationships can go on in perpetuity. Heck, some need to end. Determining the good, valuable, and meaningful may be a challenge, but I imagine I will have a richer life because of those I share it with more often than not.
Sounds almost like the opening title to a movie. Probably one that I would enjoy, but then I'm not really all that picky about what films I watch. I could see it either going comedy or action-thriller, but either way I'm pretty sure I'd check out, once it came to Netflix.
But this isn't a movie. It is really just a low-key and relaxing day. Nothing extraordinary has happened aside from the lovely 62º we found outside with a few moments of beaming sunlight. A few times I felt like going outside, getting in the car, and putting all of the windows down and just driving around in what may prove to be the rarest of comfortably warm days this winter if the forecasters are to be believed.
Instead, I spent my day with my wife. Overall a good day, but we had our moments of picking and disagreement. It's rarely anything important, but it happens a lot. A question of "what are you doing" or "why did you do that" is answered with a snippy retort or a borderline indignant grunt. Neither of us means to say or do the things in any way that is negative, but for some reason in the moment of the event it is all too easy to forget to assume positive intent.
Although it may come as quite a surprise to you, I am an interestingly orderly person, diligently deliberate, and unfortunately picky about repetition. This does lead to some difficulties in certain relationships, none more so than with my wife. She is a thinker, a dreamer, getting lost in thought and forgetting what she meant to do before she makes it three feet from where the thought entered her mind.
We love each other deeply, but it is amazing how our habits can grate upon the other, pluck the strings, and torment our own senses of order. Often we resolve whatever little thing it is with a hug or words of love, but sometimes we can't easily because we're in different rooms or just disagree too much about the specific instance.
I've had the thought, once or twice, of what it might be like if we were on the same wavelength on more of these things. When we both remember where the spatulas go, only put shoes in designated places, and place dirty clothes in the hampers, things would be ideal... on the surface. But something would be missing, something about who we are separate from one another that makes the union more gratifying and enjoyable.
I'm glad we have our little differences, snap every now and then, and disagree about largely meaningless things. It reminds me of how petty those things are because I know when I look at her that I am in love, maybe more so because of those times.
The morning has been slow with reading, tea, holiday music, and a bit of breakfast. The rest of the day doesn't hold much different in store, aside from maybe watching a TV show or playing some board games. A relaxing dinner for leg of lamb roast with potatoes and wine will cap the day.
Now, I'm going to relax my fingers and find my wife for some hugs.
This year when my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas as she always does, I at first tried to convince her to give nothing, but realizing that wasn't going to work, I decided that I'd ask for some books. A couple of weeks later I had the first seven books in a series that I'd started a few years before. But I didn't start reading.
It was actually last weekend after I fell and hurt myself that I cracked the first book. It was a nice thing to do as it allowed me to escape the recollection of the pain in my back, even if for just a while. As I read through this first book I recalled snippets of the story, but found myself also mixing in elements from the movie adaptation (which really mostly just borrowed the theme loosely). I'd read a few pages or chapters in breaks or while waiting for other things, but it took me the better part of the week to complete the work.
This morning, being both a Saturday and Christmas Eve, I had no real plans. Aside from my wife, there's no family around that we're visiting, there's no holiday party to attend, and the weather wasn't all that welcoming as it rained most of the morning while hovering in the upper thirties. I started my morning by making a cup of pour over coffee, eating a banana, and grabbing the next book in the series.
The next thing I really knew, it was lunch time according to the rumbles in my stomach, but my eyes wanted to keep reading. Ultimately I grabbed something to eat, and then dived back into the book.
When later afternoon came around, we played a game of Ticket to Ride (surprising fast with only two players, thankfully) and then I melted back into the book. As dinner time neared, I was convinced that we needed to maintain our holiday tradition of dinner at Carrabba's, so I finally put the book aside and got ready.
We had a delicious dinner, that neither of us finished, and then came home fulfilled and relaxed. Although I wanted to pick the book back up, I realized that almost my entire day had been devoted to the authors' work (yes, there are two of them so that apostrophe is in the right place).
And to all a good night.
This afternoon the man that is arguably my best friend came over after work, well out of his way, and spent a few hours with drinks and conversation. Although we thought we'd be watching a movie of barely more than two hours in length, we managed only 36 minutes of the film as we conversed and and related to one another. Really, it was great.
Despite the guy time speaking of relatively unspeakables, the reality is that we grew closer to one another in a way that we rarely have in the decade-long relationship. One each side of the equation there's experience that the other lacks, events that the other has not experienced, and hopes that are shared. We are typical men, and the social lubrication proved that we are more similar that different. Despite those differences, we really more more similar than not, and all the better friends because of it.
Now, being completely honest there is social lubricant that makes it all possible, mainly destroying the barriers that keep us from sharing reality and trending toward acceptable conversation. Without that lubrication we are still great friends, but my goodness, things change.
Honesty is great among friends, scary in the hands of those with less than ideal intentions, Choose carefully. The difference between that friend and someone that uses you as a springboard to their own success is narrow.
But I'm going to water this idea down quite a bit and be a good American, a consumer. Sometimes, when there's something you really want and it's available and the price is uncommonly low... sometimes you just need to go ahead and get the darn thing.
This is a mistake I've certainly made before. Sometimes I think "oh, it'll be cheaper in a day or week" and sometimes I tell myself that the value just isn't there, but by the time I've gotten to the point where I'm actively shopping something, I'm generally well resolved to the idea that it is the best thing for the situation and I've evaluated the alternatives fairly well.
While it does work out at times to wait, that's not always the case. A few months ago we were booking a trip that would include a pair of one-way airline tickets. When we purchased the first direction, I thought that the return trip's price was about as good as we were going to get, and within a week the price went up nearly a hundred dollars a seat. As time for the trip drew nearer, I was getting almost nervous about the lack of a return ticket, but I felt certain that the rate would fall at least a bit. I set a deadline and literally on the predicted day the fare dropped--not as low as it would have been if we'd bought way-back-when, but reasonably close enough. And, unsurprisingly, shortly thereafter the rate went right back up.
However, waiting hasn't always been my best bet. In the last couple of weeks I've experienced two instances of waiting too long to acquire something. In one instance, it was something that I wanted for convenience, and not only did I miss the sale prices, but the stock of the item seems to have been depleted for the balance of the year (that sounds more impressive to say than "a couple of weeks"). The other instance actually has to do with a gift that I was planning to get for my wife for Christmas--something I am sure she'd like but just doesn't know she wants it yet. After stalking various offerings of the product in various channels online for nearly a month, I finally decided upon the one to get. Within twenty minutes of placing the order, I got a cancellation saying that the item was no longer available--not once, but twice! My delay in making this decision ended up meaning that not only will I not be able to get what I wanted for her at the price I wanted, but it won't arrive in time for Christmas, either.
I suppose, as the saying goes, first world problems...
The phone which I had until a few days before used was enrolled in the Nougat beta program and upon receiving an update began bootlooping. I've been working with Android devices long enough to know my way around the critical tools needed to re-flash a phone with an image, so I spent some time trying to get the phone operable.
After a couple of hours of poking and prodding, and finding a large number of folks online having similar issues, I decided that I needed to throw in the towel and call in the big guns (that is, call support). After spending around 40 minutes on the phone with a tech, I was told it was determined that since the phone was in the beta program a specific group of support engineers would need to be consulted and that I would receive a followup call within "a day or two." I kind of doubted that since it was just before Thanksgiving, but I said thank you and went about my day.
Over the course of the next four weeks I placed five calls and responded to the support email I received from the initial contact eleven times seeking updates of any sort of progress. Last week, I missed a call from support, but the voicemail was somewhat garbled and when I returned the call about 60 minutes after it was made, I got a different rep who said that the ticket was "in progress" and there was nothing she could do except make note in the record.
This morning, realizing that it had been a month since this progress started, I called yet again and explained the situation to the rep. She listed to what I described, then asked to place me on hold. Fifteen minutes later she came back to inform me that there was a new policy as of late last week to make a "one time exception" to replace the Nexus 5X devices that are experiencing this unsolvable bootloop condition.
Within the next few minutes I received an email telling me how to request the replacement and I was on the way to getting a new (or likely refurbished) Nexus 5X sent to my doorstep.
I imagine had I not been persistent in calling that the support team would have marked my ticket as inactive and closed the incident. Out of a mixture of frustration with the device, and annoyance at having loaned it to a friend just before this started happening, I wanted Google to make it right, and it seems like they are--with no small amount of work on my part. But I'll take it.
When we visit Walt Disney World we will use the Magical Express because free. And when we're vacationing somewhere transport is frequently by bus because that's how large numbers of people are transported from ship to site, or around various cities. There's nothing wrong with these buses, and perhaps they are even more comfortable than some of the alternative methods of transport available.
But in my day-to-day drive-to-work life, buses and I just don't cross paths except literally. The city has them running all over the places, and their sounds are unmistakable. The campus has its own fleet of them that crisscross the expanses of buildings, and even some of the off-site housing providers have their own that shuttle to and fro.
But after fourteen months, I finally got on one of those buses today. And I lived to tell the tale. In actuality, it was quite unremarkable aside from the waits in the cold bus stops. Bus pulls up and the doors open, step on, take a seat. A few minutes later, step off in much the same way. It sounds so simple. It was so simple. No exchange of currency. No need to stop and fill the vehicle with gasoline. Just get on, get off.
I'm not suggesting that I had a revelation by riding the bus, no. Just that I've sort of avoided it because my association with buses is too closely tied to those orangey-yellow behemoths that I despised because of everything that happened on them (bullies, noise, bumps, assigned seats with icky girls, etc.). I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be all that keen on riding the bus come the height of the semester, but in this lull while students are largely gone, I think it'll be okay enough.
Now if we could just hurry along with the development of transporter devices, a la Star Trek.
Early this morning I got an email from a few steps up the chain asking for me to supply talking points for a brief presentation my manager had signed me up for tomorrow. Except I didn't know that I'd been signed up, or that the topic had been chosen for me. Yikes! Talk about being caught unsuspecting.
I offered apologies for not knowing, but took some time and put together a few talking points and sent it along. Fortunately, there was both time and understanding so I can't really complain.
I should probably apologize to the guy I sit next to as I'm certain he hears me complain. Maybe they aren't really complaints as much as grumblings of a not-quite-curmudgeon, but it wouldn't be hard to misinterpret that venting as serious disgruntle. I should work on that.
Powering through things isn't easy. And this fall has proven to be interestingly confounding. For instance, when I was standing in the kitchen and reached for the light switch, my wounded area flared with pain and that expanded beyond the impacted area a fairly good bit. But strangely, I could just swing my arms around fine and feel no pain. I experimented with this a little and determined that it was likely the twisting around my hips and waist that was causing the flares of pain.
As the day has worn on, I've taken it easy, trying to minimize how much I've moved in ways that tweak the injury. I sat in my office chair for a while which applied direct pressure against it, and for a bit in our recliners which have a nice amount of support against the same area.
I've been debating if I want to try and go to work like this tomorrow, and I'm not sure yet. I mean, I was assaulted by a mountain ram disguised as a concrete step. Time will tell.
I guess if I can weather the stairs, and my wife will drive, I'll probably give it a go.
Later in the afternoon, I decided that it was time to get my own mail, so I slipped on shoes from near the front door, walked outside in my t-shirt as it felt like it was so much warmer and smiled. I took a step to the edge of the porch, then another onto the concrete step below. That was it--my heel slipped on the ice and I went flying though the air, my back landing solidly on the lower concrete step just moments before my rump hit the sidewalk.
It was all I could do to climb back up the stairs, into the house, and collapse on the sofa. The pain was incredible. After a minute or so, I realized that I had largely had the wind knocked out of me, so I stood up and started to take stock of myself. My back was throbbing, and I glanced at my burning hand, finding that there were some flaps of skin.
I sent my wife for antibiotic and then went to the sink to wash. Painfully, I made it there and started to wash and dry before I realized that my forearm must also have skidded across the icy concrete as it was covered in abrasions. Rewashing everything, applying antibiotic, and a band-aid to the hand, I decided I needed to find some rest and try to let the pain pass.
Over the next thirty or forty minutes I tried a variety of positions and chairs, but ended up taking some ibuprofen, and heading to the hottest shower I could stand. My wife helped me out through the evening like a champ.
So today. I'm taking a pass from logging something I've learned from the day. Sure, technically, I've written something, but not in the same form as usual. And that's okay, for today.
Today was bitterly cold. I'm talking single digit temperatures with wind chills in the double digit negatives. And of course it was a day that we had to move stuff from our office to the new office. I should have found a pair of gloves, even garden gloves, but I didn't and I paid for it all afternoon.
But I did have one moment of smartness when I decided to unzip my pockets and shove my hands inside. Suddenly it felt like eight degrees above zero! Oh, and it allowed me to find a receipt from lunch on January 20, 2013. Clearly I don't use that Jackets pockets enough.
Now I know.
Today I spent a few hours with one of my coworkers moving things from our old office to the new one, but we are workers aren't supposed to move in until Friday because the move-in is staged for about forty people a day. Oh well. We managed to get almost everything moved that we needed to personally migrate (there's movers that will take care of a number of things come Friday).
Today will be interesting as I've already migrated everything from my desk except my Surface. Working from a Surface is an interesting exercise when not at a desk because it has no rigidity to stay a laptop and likes to flop about. But since I've already migrated my monitors to the new space, I'm also going to be working from the super-high resolution small screen. Like I said, it'll be interesting.
I was really hoping that this week would be warmer, maybe in the fifties, as that would enable us to have one last hurrah around the places that we've enjoyed lunches for the last year while we've been located where we are, but things have been nasty and bitter. Today has been no different with a temperature only reaching below freezing, and the snow still firmly entrenched. And tomorrow is likely to reach a balmy fourteen degrees!
Perhaps after this week, when we're in the new building, winter will recede into late-fall for a while and we can explore the area around our new-old office (many of my coworkers were in the new building prior to our current location). If not, perhaps I'll encourage spring to show up by increasing my CO2 emissions.
I was reminded of this because of some incidents at work that have caused abnormal hours this week. So far I haven't left the office before 18:30, and I've been working both days of the week before 06:30. These have been some stressful times, in theory.
But when I look back at what's happened, I don't feel like I've gotten stressed about it. I've felt some pressure to make things right, to explain what's going on, and to find ways to stop it from happening again. But those didn't wrap themselves around my heart and squeeze the way that stress does. I guess, then, that this was clearly something else. Adventure? Excitement? Maybe so.
It's hard to say at this point, but as long as this continues to stay the exception rather than the norm, I don't think I'll identify it as stress.
As I mentioned previously, this was the final day of my church's Christmas program, and this year's theme was Hope. The songs carried the theme. The testimonies echoed it. Over and over again, hope resounded in this program. The choir would talk about experiences shared with them by people that had attended, and even their own interactions. Truly, there was a feeling of palpable hope lingering just above the stage.
And that's odd to hear coming from me, as I'm a fairly straight-forward and realistic kind of guy. I don't usually express many emotions outside of what I share with my wife, and I think that sometimes I maybe don't even recognize them. But as I sat behind my massive tuba, I scanned the choir and I could read the expectation, the presence of something mighty, the sparkle of hope in their eyes.
During one of the day's events, one of the people sharing testimony seemed at a loss for words in what I think must have been her thirtieth time sharing it in front of people. In front her her were the better part of a thousand people, in various states of listening--some surely hanging on her words as they related to exactly what she was sharing. For a few moments, my brain didn't realize that her words had stopped, it just kept on going with her story that I'd now heard at least a dozen times. But suddenly it registered and I started praying for her words to be not hers, but His.
And suddenly I was struck with the realization that I had hope! It was an expectant hope, knowing that His strength could come upon her, guiding her to the words she needed. A few moments later she picked up and continued, mostly back on course.
It was a strange feeling for me, one very unfamiliar. As a Christian, I have hope, but rarely has it taken such an immediate, tangible form.
Through much of the rest of the program, I found myself lingering on that feeling, that I needed to be praying, in a hopeful manner, for God's provision. I'm not sure I heard the words of the songs, or even of the pastor as he spoke. My eyes were filled with with a haze making it difficult to see anything more than a few inches away. But it felt right. It felt real. God was there tonight.
That unfamiliar landscape hit my core, and it's going to take a while longer to understand it, so don't be surprised if hope makes a re-appearance in the future.
It's hard to believe it, but my wife and I have been doing this for eight holiday seasons now. When we started, the group was smaller, both of us were singing, and the entire experience happened across a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of a single weekend. Now, these years later, there was once in Hilliard, a week later once in Marysville, and then another week twice in Worthington, and three times in Dublin (tomorrow)!
This is the fourth year that I've been part of the orchestra, playing my tubas. For the previous venues, I had brought only the smaller horn because I knew space was at a premium, but for tonight I brought the big boy out because it really does make a nice sound. But this post isn't about the tuba so much as it is about what the tuba allowed me to see.
During parts of the program where the brass aren't playing, I place my enormous piece of instrument on the floor, and it rises almost to my neck. It is exceptionally shiny, and there is a great number of lights at all different angles--it really is a sight to see, but that's not the point either. Being the typical lacquered brass, the bell of my tuba is actually very reflective and this is where we get to the point of the last few sentences.
About half way through the first program today, I was listening to what was going on around me, counting the measures before I was supposed to come in (tubas get a lot of rests in this music... I only play two bars in one song) and I glanced down at the bell and noticed my reflection. Although I wish I could say that I looked at myself and saw a handsome young man, neither of those attributes would be true. Rather, what I saw was merely my reflection, slightly obscured because of the roll of the bell. And it struck me that in my "natural" state, I looked neither happy nor angry. In fact, I couldn't discern any particular emotional conveyance from my image.
Perhaps like a parrot looking in a mirror, I started visually squawking at myself by curling my lips, raising my eyebrows, and rumpling my face in various ways to see if I could make my demeanor inviting or friendly. I was able to create something that I thought resembled enough of a smile to appear friendly without crossing over to the Moe Sizlack forced smile. I tried holding that smile for a moment, but it was hard. I could feel it pulling at the edges of my lips, squishing my eyes, tightening my cheeks, and even pinching my jaw a little.
Are smiles supposed to feel like that?
Or are smiles really really just like everything else that requires working out? According to various sources on the internet, it takes somewhere between 13 and 43 muscles to smile... that's a lot! Oddly, I can make a great frown and that feels completely normal; maybe I've been giving off the wrong vibe unconsciously for all these years.
As that program concluded and the second one followed, I spent a lot more time looking at my reflection, trying to find a smile that didn't feel like my face was in a vice. I haven't located it yet, but I've got three more chances tomorrow, and of course there's these things in my house called mirrors. I guess I'll have to work on wiping out the blank expression that I've apparently cultivated.
If this works out, I'm gonna have some buff facial muscles.
Some mornings, despite attempting to sleep in later, my body just tells me that it's had enough of this horizontal position. These days are generally challenges to me because I'm not good at sitting around and doing nothing, and I don't have any hobbies I can easily engage for a brief period early in the day. Often this means I check news sites, sports scores, and similar things, or get industrious and pack a lunch for one or both of us. But usually as the minutes tick by, I edge toward irritability knowing that I'll sit in traffic longer, get less uninterrupted work done, and feel like I've literally wasted part of my day.
This morning was one of those days when my body was fed up with sleeping, despite staying up later than usual. My usual get-ready routine took all of its usual 11 minutes and then I found myself staring at the better part of an hour before she would be ready. I'm pretty sure I sighed. I gave the news sites a once-over, but skipped the sports because my team hadn't played the night before. I suddenly felt hungry, and decided that if I was going to eat, I might as well have coffee, too. Six minutes later a bowl of blueberry oatmeal and fresh Costa Rican coffee were sitting in front of me.
Earlier in the week I received a box of books courtesy of my parents (Christmas gifts and not quite Christmas, but I had permission!), so I reached over, grabbed the first in the series and started reading as I ate the oatmeal and sipped the coffee. Once breakfast was gone, I washed the dishes and migrated to my reading corner in the living room (that's what I call it although the only thing I've ready there before today was mail... once.).
When my wife was finally ready to leave, I was okay. I was nourished, my mind had been busy, and I didn't feel like I'd wasted my time or lost out on anything. Even the commute (for whatever reason the traffic felt lighter than usual) didn't get under my skin. It was a good start to the morning!
I don't believe that this was a fluke. I'm going to at least attempt to apply elements of this day to subsequent ones. I may not make oatmeal and coffee every day, but reading seems like the thing that made it all pleasurable because it wasn't required and it was for me. Perhaps this morning adjustment may improve the worst part of my day and marriage.
How cool would that be?
As I sat in my office this afternoon thinking over the experience, I started to dissect my thoughts and attempt to understand what was at the core causing me to feel inhibited about sharing. I realized quickly that it wasn't one or two or even a dozen things, but a protection mechanism built up after years and years. Growing up, I was always one of the outsiders, the kids that got picked on. I was fatter, shorter, and goofy looking, and it didn't help that I was in the smarter sect of my classes helping to set me apart as the trifecta: fat, ugly, nerdy. It doesn't take long for a ten year old to understand the social strata of the playground when these things are so strongly aligned.
To help cope with this innate malalignment, I developed a practice of staying quiet, and only speaking when I knew that I was saying exactly the right thing for the context of the group that I was in even if the words themselves weren't technically correct. Of course, this meant I spent a lot more time in thought playing out scenarios of what I'd say, how various people would react or respond, and then what I'd have to do because of that... repeated ad nauseum. Suffice to say, I was pretty quiet in groups.
The thing I've come to realize is that I never really grew out of this method of operating, although I have managed to assert myself in certain professional situations, but there are still many where I feel uncomfortable not knowing the correct protocol or in an attempt to respect the idea of chain of command.
Sitting at a restaurant with a group from church? Probably only answering direct questions. Out at lunch with coworkers? Likely contributing only joking remarks. Rinse and repeat these into almost every social situation I can think of. But what is really interesting about this is that I want to be social, to have friends, and to be part of what's going on. Don't we all?
When I was pondering the encounter today with the pastor, I really did not volunteer anything without first being prompted. Part of me was excited that someone was interested in me and what I had to say, so I'm sure I seemed enthusiastic at times, but when the conversation would lull... my eyes would be down-cast and I'd focus on the lunch at hand. I don't think I know how to lead a conversation that isn't about a project at work!
How is it that I can become more open, and leave behind this childhood idea that everyone is constantly judging everything I say, do, and am? That seems really hard in today's world of everyone posting to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and whatever else is out there, and giving near-instant and public feedback. The competition for likes, thumbs up, and such is strong. Wait, no one liked that post? That must mean they dislike it! These networks are constantly begging their users to judge one another.
Granted, I'm not on any of these networks and don't share things so this is not how I go through my day, but I am around people that are and do. Seeing these actions makes me really wonder if these digital expressions are closer to our unfiltered thoughts. Do we, civilized western adults, actually judge each other as much in our heads as we do online? If I am honest, I believe many of us are probably filtering out the "bad" when it comes to these situations for fear of the judgement.
I'm still short, fat, and nerdy... and add to that the fact that I work in IT. Oh that last one is a tough one. So few people really care what you do when you're in IT unless it means you can fix their computer or give them access to things they shouldn't have. It's fun when my wife and I are introducing ourselves and we get to the "what do you do." She usually goes first and offers essentially her title, and then I say that I work in IT for the same company. Then one of two things happens: either they say "so you fix PCs" before turning back to my wife, or they turn back to my wife and ask for more details. I'm not salty about that, really.
I don't know how I move past where I am with this. I don't know how I become the person that I want to be that isn't trying to predict seventeen steps into a conversation and just engages naturally.Perhaps the first step to getting there is this realization that I had today. Perhaps the next step is remembering it tomorrow. And then baby steps? While I was typing this I realized something new. I am so afraid of social rejection I don't let myself be exposed. That's a whole other ball of wax to melt down another day.
The first job I had in the state (almost eleven years ago), everything was pretty clear-cut as there were only two of us supporting everything the company did. While the work was sometimes grueling, it really was a good place to work and there were some great people, many of whom I still hang out with today. I could imagine how I might still be at that job were it not for the economic depression that caused the company's dramatic constriction. But if I had stayed there, I wouldn't have learned a myriad of things which I have in the years that followed my employ there.
When I moved on from that position, I found position at a somewhat well-known retailer. I stayed with this company for around five years, and in that time held four distinct roles. The first was the hardest to acclimate to because I was both adjusting to the culture, and finding my place among some people that had already been working there for as many as two decades already. When I moved into my second role, I had a firm grasp of what I needed to do, who the players were in the organization, and what that meant for me. But I quickly realized that it wasn't a position I'd be happy in. When the manager of my first role asked me about moving over to his new team, it seemed like a great idea and allowed me to get back to the things that I had enjoyed doing: engineering solutions.
Under this manager and his replacement when he again transitioned, I worked in the last two positions at the company. There was a team of similar-skilled and tasked guys that I worked with in the first role, and we accomplished a diverse variety of projects. As fun as it was, I wasn't really growing professionally (despite merit increases telling me I was moving "forward). One of the team leads under the same manager recruited me over to his team, and this is where I got to grow the most in terms of new technologies. When I made this last transition, I brought some of the things I had built previously to the new team, but I also took on things that I'd never done before, and certainly not at the same scale. I really liked the guys I worked with. I enjoyed what I was doing, but working way too much.
And the culture was changing.
Although I didn't really let on that I was unhappy with the way things were going, I started interviewing for positions. I applied for about five positions, and had two interviews, one that turned into an offer. When I reviewed the details, I wasn't really happy with what I'd be doing and I felt it best to decline. Not having seen anything else worth applying for, I mostly resolved to just hold the course. But then I got a call about a position I'd apparently applied for, but it had been so long that I didn't even remember the details. Over the next two weeks I had two interviews and and offer and everything seemed like it was both logical and nearly ideal. I made the move to my current role.
So now I've been in this position for a bit more than a year. If I'm honest with myself, I don't always know how well I fit. I get things done as needed, but I feel confused about what my manager's expectations are for the group. Sometimes it seems that he wants us all to be able to do similar things, and at others that he really wants us to specialize in specific things. I've had some discussions with him about what I would like to do and where I'd like to take my career, but the three guys I work with have all been around the org for as long or longer than I've even been in the state. The dynamics aren't quite what I'd expected.
I'm still trying to find my place here. I want to contribute positively. I have introduced some processes and ideas, as well as some technologies, to help our team do our collective jobs more effectively. I like the guys I work with, and feel like we would get along well outside of the work environment, but because of our different places in life I've never actually interacted with a single one of them outside of a work context, and that is extremely different from my last job. I can't fault anyone but myself here, but when I overhear my team talking about getting together for various non-work things I feel sad because I'd like to be invited, I want to be more than just a coworker, I want to be a friend.
I'm not sure what I can do to change things within the group, maybe nothing. So then the question becomes: do I learn to accept it, or do I find something that is a better fit?
Over the course of the next several weeks, a lot of the technology groups within the organization are relocating into a newly-renovated office space (oddly enough designed by my first employer in the state). Perhaps as this confluence occurs, I'll find that the needed social circles may form and I'll find at least one relationship within this expanded group.
I can hope, at least.
Anyone that knows me moderately well is probably well aware that I have a love affair with cell phones. I don't use my cell phone for Facebook, Snapchat, or most of the other trendy things that the "kids" these days are all on about. Oh no, I use mine for three things: photos, information, and responsibility.
Oh snap. Photos. That's a given--and that's one of the major reasons that I've upgraded phones with the frequency I have. I've invested a lot of money in my photographic pursuits, but it's not always logistically possible to run around with my DSLR and a half dozen lenses. I can, however, nearly always have my cell phone.
Look it up. Movie reference? Recipe? Sports score? Procedure for rebuilding a RAID array on a decade-old obscure device? Yep--I can get my information through this device.
But responsibility? Yep! I get to stay on top of alerts for work so my systems stay up better, or come back online faster. I get to communicate with people waiting on responses. I get to... well, you get the picture.
And that brings me to the title of today's post: wait, wait, wait. This is the hard one, because I know there's new shiny out there. Today specifically it's the latest OS. I've mashed that "check for updates" button probably fifty times already and it's still not there. In the past when this happened, I've gone through the process of unlocking the device, loading up the update, and having to reconfigure the whole device just to get the newest features, many of which I might not even know exist were it not for release notes. Something that should take 5 minutes of my time ends up taking two hours as I re-download and login to my apps, set various settings just so, and tweak the layouts.
So this time I'm not gonna do that. I am going to wait. When that magical little icon pops up on my screen saying "Update is available," you know I'm gonna click it faster than Tesla in Ludarious mode. Or maybe I'll mash the buttons in moments of boredom, but at least I won't invest hours. This time.
For the first couple of years I sang because there was a need for tenors, and I lacked an instrument. After the third year, I felt a pulled to search for a tuba and just a few weeks before we started rehearsal for that season I came across a great instrument that was actually the same model I played through middle and high school, and it was well within what I could afford (which is amazing considering that tubas generally start around five or six thousand dollars and go up). Since then, I've been playing the tuba with the Christmas program, and have even managed to pick up a smaller travel-size tuba that really works well for practice and some of the more cramped venues as the number of people on stage increases.
So what does all of this have to do with rolling out cookie dough? Well, I'm almost there. After each program, our guests are invited out into the lobby area, hallways, or whatever else isn't the performance venue and are treated to refreshments, usually in the form of baked goods. Most of these are things that the choir and orchestra have prepared, but some people (I'd guess mainly the men) take the easy route and purchase pre-made cookies. But not me. Not once. Blood, sweat, and tears. Okay, none of those.
So this year the crew and orchestra were on the hook for the Marysville performance's refreshments. With a batch of cookie dough on hand, I decided that these needed to be cutouts, especially since I'm fairly certain we've never used any of the cookie cutters we own. At first, I thought I'd take the dough and roll it out on a silicone kitchen mat using a silicone rolling pin. That was laughable. The dough stuck to both as if it was peanut butter between two Ritz crackers.
But then I had a thought: for a couple of years I've been buying parchment paper made for full sheet pans and cutting it in half to line baking sheets, but what if I tried to roll out the dough between two of these? I took a lump of dough, pressed it out to a reasonable thickness and thought to myself, You've figured this out. Well, not quite. In fact, the dough had stuck to the parchment paper, too. Pondering a moment, I decided to see if I could peel it off of the paper much like one removes the backing of a sticker. After a few moments, one side of the paper was free and I could see the smooth, even dough pressed out. Since that had been such a success, I turned the whole thing over on the loose sheet of paper and peeled the back side off in exactly the same way.
As I worked through the dough that I had, I found that the second and third batches went even easier as there was residual oils left on the parchment paper that made the separation process even easier.
So next time that recipe tells me to flour a surface and roll out dough, I'm going to leave the flower where it is and reach for the parchment paper, saving myself at least twenty minutes cleaning the clouds of flour that would have otherwise covered everything.
• 1 cup blue Dawn
• Spray bottle
So the wine: almost two years ago I purchased a 12 bottle vertical of Cabernet Sauvignon ranging from 1993 to 2008 (lacking only three stops along the way). Initially I was planning to have or attend some sort of meat and wine party with several of my friends who also enjoy these things, but our schedules just haven't aligned. A couple of months ago my wife and I started drinking these wines, from the youngest to the oldest. At this point we are doing to the last three: 1996, 1995, 1993. This 1996 wine is twenty years old, carrying a vintage a decade before my wedding--I think that it is likely the oldest wine I've ever opened, even counting when I was just 21 all those years ago.
I knew from the experience of the last couple of these pre-2000 bottles that the cork was going to be challenging. My typical corkscrew is similar to a waiter's screw, and just destroyed the cork, and I had to fall back to the OXO winged corkscrew that I'm fairly certain we got at our wedding and is a bit thinner and longer than I prefer.
Despite my best efforts at being extremely gentle and slow, I failed miserably. The cork tore in half as the screw slipped in, then as it was sliding from the neck, a crevice developed from the top to the new-bottom.
For a few minutes I thought about going to work, but then thought better of it with the guys in my office having vibrant lives that includes girlfriends, kids, and such. I fired off an email, sat down at my computer and fired up the VPN. A few short lines later it was official: I was working from home today.
The morning passed relatively uneventfully with some research, some work, some troubleshooting, and some coordination. The afternoon flew by with lots of work trying to get something done and then it was suddenly the end of the work day.
My wife was kind enough to bring home dinner so I didn't have to think about cooking (we really need to go grocery shopping soon). And then my brain went blank. It was amazing. Eventually I corralled to the TV where The Simpsons were playing, but I don't think I saw more than thirty seconds of either episode. Blank.
When I got up, I was amazed at how much clearer my head was. Just having that time where I was not thinking or planning or evening processing was like hitting a reset button. I'm going to have to try that again, maybe regularly.
But right now, I'm going to get some more cold medicine, another layer of blankets, and a hot tea.
Okay, so one doesn't really learn to be sick, but perhaps one can learn to deal with illness better. Over the last few years I've been thankfully sick only a handful of times, although I have had other various ailments like migraines or things that made moving around a bit more difficult. In most of these incidents, I've tried to just power through it, take medicine when it gets bad enough, and do what I can to not contaminate the people around me (such as my scared-to-be-sick spouse).
While we were visiting family for Thanksgiving I started to feel like my throat was getting scratchy, but I told myself it was probably just different pollens or irritants in the Florida air. The second morning I work up feeling the same I knew what was coming, but I was still traveling, so I just had to make the best of what I could at the time. Forgivingly, the more I moved around the better I felt, so that gave me plenty of excuse to move around a lot.
Once we got home, I was too exhausted to remember to take medicine. Monday morning the congestion started. Tuesday night, the congestion was full on and I had to sleep sitting up. Wednesday morning, it was time to medicate. Probably past time.
If these conditions had befallen my wife, there would have been neti pots and dissolving chunks of medicine that make pink liquids, and black syrup added to water that turns almost purple. But this was me, and I don't believe these things help me.
When I got up this morning I almost fired off an email saying I wasn't going to be in because I was feeling poorly, but I looked at my calendar and found that I had a meeting that was scheduled two weeks ago (it was canceled 20 minutes before it was to begin). With that, we picked up and went to work. Once there, I decided it was best to isolate myself, so I departed for the "lab" where I spent all but about an hour of the work day.
And you know what? It worked. I'm going to miss our current arrangement when we move to our new offices in about two weeks.
As the evening wore on, I realized that I hadn't had medicine in many hours and I could feel the congestion building. Ugg... this is going to be unpleasant. I did learn that I need to keep on top of medicating once I start, 'cause feeling like this stinks. I also learned in a previous cold that I needed to drink like it's going out of style. Water, not bourbon. Although bourbon feels good, too, especially on scratchy throats.
As I go through this, maybe I'll find more/better ways to live through being ill, so expect more thoughts on the matter in the future.
But that history of working on things has helped me make a few mistakes, too. For the most part, I get to make my mistakes in lab environments where I've got "extra" or old hardware that I can do with what I will, or in virtual ones where I can take snapshots and rollback as if nothing ever happened.
A lot of people follow the plan outlined here:
- Measure with a micrometer
- Mark with chalk
- Cut with an ax
That doesn't sound like a good idea to me. It would lead to some major mistakes.
I've made a few mistakes in my life.
And that is exactly why I've learned that I need to plan, verify my plan, test my plan, verify the plan, and then implement.
When I'm doing something I haven't done before, I take to Google. I find several sources, compare them, review them, sometimes even ignore some of them. When I'm doing something I've done only a few times, I do the same thing as there's no reason to get it wrong.
When it comes to personal interactions, I make mistakes, too. Because I can't necessarily Google how to avoid those kinds of mistakes, I've adopted the mindset stemming from the old saying It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. Sometimes that doesn't work, but more often than not, I don't end up saying the thing that hurts someone. And that's a start.
Just as I was about to step out of the office, I got an email saying one of the systems we support was offline, so I jumped online and got that resolved and then we hit the road for the office. It was strange arriving so much later than usual. But not all bad.
A bit later we were sitting in our team meeting and everyone's buzzed, emails dinged, and attention was diverted to a developing issue on campus. Over the course of the next three hours we "learned" details of an event that was initially sent to the campus community as an "active shooter" and we all went into lockdown mode. Hundreds of law enforcement poured onto campus, new crews crowded in, and social media went crazy with "updates" about what was going on.
Later in the afternoon the first press conference was held to explain the situation and based on the details that were given there... well, things were not quite as they seemed, although one person did lose their life and several others were injured. Dispatch article for posterity.
One of the takeaways for me in this is that I needed to back off of the information gathering a little. I was keeping abreast of things going on by checking social media, listening to dispatchers, and reading as much new coverage as I could find. What did it benefit me in the end? Nothing. But it did add to anxiety. And so much of what we heard turned out to be incomplete or just wrong.
Sure, I like to know what's going on. I've always had a propensity to seek out knowledge an the "low down" on what's happening around the work place. I've been well positioned for that, really. But when it comes down to it, that little bit of extra knowledge doesn't actually add to my life or happiness in a meaningful way most of the time.
Maybe today's realization will help me learn how to take a step back, evaluate whether information seeking is a necessity, or just something I've been conditioned to do.
• Steady, meaningful employment
• Friends as varied as snowflakes
• Opportunities to grow
• Chances to rest
• Talents to share
• People expressing their joy
A couple of years ago, one of my colleagues thought I'd be a great fit for his team, so I moved away from pure Windows work and picked up managing a SAN environment and assumed some ESXi administration tasks. It was all good and fine, and I felt like I was learning incrementally, but because of some of the responsibilities that I brought to the position, I wasn't spending all of my time focusing on growing that.
As 2015 was winding to a close I changed not only positions, but organizations. In doing this, I again shifted the focus of my responsibility. In this new role, I was back to being a Windows system administrator, but I also carried the torch of ESXi admin, SAN admin, and new to my wheelhouse: Linux admin. A new era in my learning was beginning when I realized that last one.
Over the last year, I have spent a fair amount of time learning more about Linux. I feel like I've become reasonably competent for typical purposes, but sometimes I come across something and I have to scratch my head for a while. The one thing that I've become certain of is this: the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know.
In some ways, Linux feels like the wild west. Saying that there are a lot of ways to do a particular task would often be an understatement. Some things that are super-easy in the PC world are fairly complex, and I'm sure it's for a good reason but gosh darn if I know why. I have undertaken a couple of micro-projects to help build my skills in Linux while also helping to build the strength of my group. First, I deployed a Linux-based monitoring system using MySQL and deployed agents across all of the servers I manage. Recently I also launched a patch and configuration management system for the Linux servers so that the team can regularly update those servers. It feels good to monitor and control these systems finally.
It hasn't been an easy journey, and it's far from over. I have several friends that I know as Linux guys although most of them are no longer working in that role, but I've been told that I came up in conversation among them when talking about their own professional development: If Rick (a WINDOWS admin) can teach himself Linux, there's no reason I can't learn Windows. Or something like that.
So what's next for me? I'll keep working on these skills, sure, but that can't be it. Recently I was offered a chance to take part in some Amazon Web Services training, so that's probably the next step.
As I walk down these paths of learning more, it is interesting to see what new things will start to pique my interest, to lure me over. Maybe this is just how I am becoming a well-rounded professional. Or maybe there's another plan for me that I just can't see yet. Either way, I'm sure it'll be an interesting adventure.
In the last thirteen months, a lot of things have changed: I no longer get up at-or-before five o'clock for work; I no longer show up like clockwork to set up at church; I no longer do a lot of things with regularity that I did this baker's dozen of months ago.
What changed? First and foremost my job. When I got the opportunity to leave my previous position for one that I believed would offer me a better work-life balance while allowing me to be closer to my wife, it seemed like a pretty good idea. I knew that there were some downsides like lower salary and less advanced technologies, but the idea of having so much more of my time back was really appealing. I considered how much more time I'd be able to spend with my wife since we'd likely commute together more often than not (and we do!).
But an unintended consequence happened when I made that shift. Initially I approached my job in the same way that I'd approached my previous one, working extremely hard and too many hours. After a few months of doing this, I was incredibly frustrated by the glacial pace of getting things done. Slowly, my desire to excel eroded and—while I won't say I became complacent—I lost a lot of the drive for excellence. I started sleeping in more, so late that I'd barely get out of bed in time to leave "on time" some days.
Once I started slipping there, I found other things to slip in. Suddenly it didn't matter what I ate as long as it tasted good. I'd find myself at a friend's house and having a drink or two more than I needed. Heck, I even cheered for another hockey team once or twice.
I was really surprised when it came time for performance reviews. I knew that I'd started really strong, and that I'd accomplished a lot of things considering my relative newness, but I wasn't really prepared for the process. I got great marks! This was foreign to me because in the previous four years, I had received only one performance review that was actually reflective of my work as I viewed it (my previous supervisors had incorrectly attributed some project failures to me, as well as three of my major project successes to another individual). In the months since starting I felt like I wasn't giving my all, but my review was exemplary. I just couldn't understand it.
A few months later, I now find myself moving along at relatively the same clip that I was when I got that shock, but I've expressed to my manager my desire/intention for growth in specific things. It feels a bit like he doesn't agree with my intended trajectory, but that he'd also feel awkward to deter me from pursuing it.
I have expectations for myself, and I can't let those slip. I need to re-find excellence in my job. I think that a lot of this will mean personal growth in areas that I've long believed that I don't have strength. I think that it will mean pushing the boundaries of where I'm comfortable, but in technology and socially. But I have a need to move forward, to be the person that I want to be.
Outside of work, re-finding consistency has other implications. I need to get up at a regular time, adopt a regimen, and stick to it. Oh, and I should certainly find time to work out more. Okay, to work out at all. That one is really hard for me.
Much like my effort to drop sarcasm from my personal repertoire, reaching the new balance of consistency in my life is going to take time, and honestly a ton of it. But as the Chinese philosopher Laozi penned for us, 千里之行，始於足下. Or for the English speakers such as myself, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Here's to next steps.
I have spent most of my adult life trying to make the right choices. Choose the right wife. Choose the right job. Find the right church. Say the right thing. You get the picture. But maybe what I've forgotten to consider is what is right for me.
Woah. Did I just say that? Did I just say that I needed to think about what is right for me as if it could be different than what is the global, singular right? I think I did.
I'm not suggesting that my choices made thus far have been wrong holistically, but perhaps that I have been viewing them as something for everyone, rather than as something for me. I like to please people. I want them to be happy with me, to like me. I have gone out of my way to try and ingratiate myself to people in all of the walks of my life, and I feel that although I'm generally accepted, I'm not always well liked. It's because I'm awkward, or at least that is what I tell myself.
Lately I have spent a lot of time considering what happiness should be. I don't have an answer yet, but I know that I need to learn how to divorce the idea of my happiness coming from making other people happy. I'll probably step on a few toes, but maybe I'll like myself more. Maybe I'll find more confidence in my own skin.
Now just to actually start doing it.