Monthly Archives: January 2011

Random Thoughts for 1/27/2011

Looking back, I have found that my thoughts are more and more random as time goes on. I don’t apologize for that, but merely note it so that “Rob of the future” will not look back on this time of his life and think that the situation was totally chaotic.

Work has progressed to the point that I don’t actually know what my job is any more. On any given day I could be tasked with anything from development to product support to more managerial functions. Quite honestly, I’d be happy with any of these. What is lacking is some sense of how I would measure my own success. Is success an empty queue of support tickets? Is success happy developers? Is success a reasonable business plan for my product? Frankly, any of these could be the case at any specific moment. It’s funny because I really like my job. I adore the people I work with. I take it very personally when things go amiss. I just wish that I could actually finish something and have some sense that I’m “done” with it.

Related to the work end of things, I’ve been told as of late that people view me as…. Well, it’s difficult to find a word. Abrasive? Caustic? Not quite the right adjective, but I come across to my co-workers as *insert negative thing here*. I hope at least that they do not see me as a person who cannot get things done, but it’s been pointed out to me that I’m seen as anything but effusively positive about things. Honestly, I understand completely where that comes from. I am utterly realistic. If I think that something is completely wrong, I’m likely to say, in terms difficult to confuse with their antithesis, that something’s wrong. Typically though, this is a rhetorical construct. If I say, with vehemence, that the sky is pink, then often my intent is not to state an irrefutable premise, but instead to instigate debate. I say without doubt of contradiction, that I am the person most likely in your acquaintance to accept logical defeat. I come forward with some utterly determined opinions. I will argue and debate and bicker and complain endlessly but I’m also the first one to admit that you’re right and I’m wrong. Above all, I love debate and discussion because I believe that it brings out the best in both parties.

This reminds me… the other day, one of my work cohorts told me that a new QA person was being hired to oversee our product staring Monday. Personally, I’m absolutely thrilled by the prospect. To date, the product I oversee has been amazingly dynamic but it would benefit from some outside influence. It’s a great change, in my opinion. The real point of this paragraph though is to point out how skillfully and how tactfully my workmate brought this to my attention. I do tend to be a bit overwhelming at times and he simultaneously informed me of the change and also very gently told me enough about the new QA person to hopefully assure that she will be an incredibly positive influence on the product despite my somewhat overbearing personality. In retrospect I was exceptionally impressed with Mr. Barker’s delivery and message. I work with some truly incredible people.

OK, so moving on from the professional… I’ve been sitting here all evening half watching Netflix rot (has anyone else noticed that nothing seems to be loading on instant watch?) and half watching the screensaver on my computer. It’s set to show photos from my picasa albums. I find myself watching the photos more than the television and in some strange way my life automatically organizes the photos in terms of other people. Each one is either “Oh! Laura was there!” or… well, something else of a less positive nature. It’s funny to me how we organize our lives in terms of other people. “Oh, that was the time I spent with Chris” or “That was Dan time”…. In a very real way it seems like the other people in our lives are the milestones, the most important and notable things we have to look back on.

TOTALLY unrelated, I’ve been trying to spread an absolute craze throughout the nation. I call it the “License Plate Game”…. When I was a kid, this was much less entertaining. I’d take the 4-digit number in the plate ‘12a5747’ and find the prime factorization. Even I’m less than impressed by that, frankly, and since 5747 is 7 times 821, it’s an example of just how terrible this game could be. Now though license plates are alphanumeric so there’s an amazingly fun game to be played (at least in Indiana). So if your plate is 574 AWY you can take the character part of that and make a word. The rules are simple. For whatever 3-letter combination is in the license plate, you have to find a word that uses those three letters in the same order they appear in the plate. So if you get AZJ then your obvious answer is katzenjammer. You must use the same letters in the same order in a single word but you get extra “points” if the letters are non-consecutive and if the word does not begin with the same letter as the three-letter combination. For example, if you have AWY, then ‘anyway’ is a valid response, but no bonus because the ‘A’ is both the first letter of the word and the first letter of the three letters you needed to use. However, AZJ – kAtZenJammer earns extra points because the A, the Z and the J are non-consecutive. Also, the resulting word does not being with A. The rest of the rules are to be determined, but you get the idea. I’ve also pondered the idea that shorter words should earn more points than longer words. Play the game for a few months and send me your scoring recommendations.

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The story of the Weekend – 1/23/11

I’m not beyond admitting that this weekend was one rife with complexity. There were layers upon layers of occurrences and circumstances that were less than obvious to all but the most intimate participants in it. Lessons were learned, truths were revealed and ultimately I learned a few life lessons.

The simple facts of the weekend were many. Friday night Laura came down to see me and we enjoyed stir-fry recipe number…. 8? I’ve long since lost count, but I’m fairly deep into the cookbook. Friday’s dinner was chicken and cashews and steamed broccoli. I will not fail to admit that the cashews were a bit much for me. When Sunday afternoon came and my lovely lifemate made her way back home she did so with the chicken and cashews in tow. I hope that she and her delightful young son make good use of them. Saturday dawned, later than it seemed possible, with a schedule ahead of us which would have intimidated all but the most energetic participants.

Saturday started with brunch out. One of frequent lunch haunts also serves a decadent and varied breakfast menus on the weekends. We dined there within view of our next destination. Properly supped, we made our way to the matinee where we saw “The Fighter”. I intentionally refused any preview of the contents and was more than pleasantly surprised. At the movies moment of climax it was clear that a significant portion of the audience was actually brought to the point of tears. I posited to Laura that if more attendees had been in evidence the clapping which sporadically ensued might have been sustained into a standing ovation. The lookers-on seemed truly and sincerely moved.

After the movie, we made our way towards the IMA, but not before we stopped at the Goodwill Outlet store. Our stop was not with the intention of retail therapy, but instead just for the social experience. Anyone wishing perspective on the state of the world should betake themselves unto the outlet store on a Saturday. After that we made our way onward to the IMA and all it has to offer. The photos will speak for themselves. After dinner the Chatham Tap provided dinner and the evening entertainment was from Theatre on the Square. While the particular offering this evening was a bit much for both our tastes, it still inspired me to think once again of getting season tickets to TOTS. Even the worst of live theatre is more entertaining than the majority of cinema.

Thirteen hours later we finally made our way back to my place, well entertained and well fed. In terms of simple practicalities, the day was marvelous. In terms of the company, the day really was amazing. I never cease to wonder at Laura’s ability to just enjoy situation, the pure joy of the moment. Unfortunately, I let my thoughts wander; I analyzed far more than was necessary and I hurt those around me and ultimately caused myself pain.

In my job, my analytical skills are invaluable. I think, I ponder, I pursue, I passionately stretch myself to achieve a goal. I push and push and push and push until I arrive where I want to be. I’m assiduous and ceaseless, determined and dauntless. Many would say that I’m manic in my pursuits. Unfortunately, this is a terribly shitty way to conduct one’s personal life. I demand so much of myself but I can’t demand it of others. If I do so, I will truly lose everything I care for. Sometimes you do have to just relax and wait. Somebody taught me that once but I failed to remember. I can’t forget again. I wish I could wind back the clock and do it all differently.

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Even More Random Thoughts for 1/17/11

Hard to believe that it’s been four long days since I wrote here last. I resolved that I would write more often this year and to my own credit, I have, but I still feel as if certain bits of my life area slipping through the cracks. Perhaps this is for the best though as I suspect most of you would be unamused if I vomited forth every detail of my life here. “Had sausage for the third breakfast in a row today. Thinking perhaps I should eat less processed pork” sort of rot. My banter is relatively mundane even without that, but I do imagine a line that is not to be crossed.

When last I wrote I was fairly disgruntled professionally. I suspect that in part that’s because I’m straddling the line… I’m trying to be far too many things at once. I’m trying to be technical and managerial all at the same time and the choice is clear. I can be a mediocre manager and technical person or I can be fairly good at one or the other. So either I can choose to throw away whatever technical acumen I have or I can abandon my desire to try to manage things at a higher level. The management above me is sadly unhelpful in making this decision, so I suspect that what makes sense is to focus on the technical. My geek quotient, as some might put it, could use some work. So as I sit here typing away my computer plods on in its own geeky work that it does at my bidding. It’s time to go back to my nerdy roots… square and otherwise.

I saw a short film today on Netflix that brought into question my entire ability to map out my past chronologically. I recall, I thought, with some distinctness the kids in elementary school talking about “Sling Blade”…. I remember them walking around going “Mmmm-hum” in a most disturbing manner. They were so young; far too young to be doing such things…. Then I looked at the date on the short film I was watching and realized… to my confusion…. That it was all impossible. I’m not nearly young enough for that to have been the case. It’s clear that I have no sense whatsoever of my own history. Whether it’s covered up by some ages-old psychological defense mechanism or a victim of human nature, it’s impossible for me to say, but suffice to say that my image of my own history is sadly warped. Everything that happened before college has been pushed into elementary school in a most unhelpful manner.

The weekend in general was quite a variety of amusements at once. After the girls on Friday Night/Saturday I raced up to West Lafayette for the 8pm performance of Mr. Heywood Banks. Laura and Eric and I made our way unto the venue to partake of Mr. Banks’ humor, of a somewhat higher order than one normally sees on the comedic scene. Relative to most gentlemen of his genre, his material was more cerebral than the majority of others. He’s no Tom Lehrer, to be sure, but no one else is, honestly. While he does not aspire to the lofty heights of Mr. Lehrer, he has many qualities that distinguish him quite nobly from his peers. His erudition, or at least his pretense to it, is unparalleled in modern comedy. I will say that part of me was more than a bit concerned at the impression Mr. Banks made on our young Mr. Eric. At nine years of age, he is intelligent almost to the point of disbelief but has not yet delved much into the well of adulthood. While Heywood does run a very clean show, many times I wondered what new questions might arise from our young companion after the performance. Whether through disinterest or simple good luck, it was a relief that he didn’t ask any questions with difficult answers.

After Mr. Banks on Saturday night, it was doubtful how Sunday would recommend itself to our positive commentary. As it turns out, it did wonderful on its own behalf. We arose from our slumbers late to finally traipse onto campus for some photography in the early afternoon. In retrospect there wasn’t a ton to photograph. The images of Purdue that I found most iconic and compelling were those that had some special meaning to me but I expected them to have little translation to the world at large. I found myself glad for my radiant company in the person of Ms. Laura, but unexcited about any of our photos from the trip. It was then that my esteemed and wonderful cohort suggested that we wander ourselves down unto the Celery Bog to see what the construction workers has wrought there. Apparently the road crossing the bog has undergone no end of undulation and so it had been closed recently to facilitate it’s total reconstruction. We arrived to find the locale absolutely rife with equipment of a most grand stature. While campus afforded us no grand views, the incomplete construction more than made up for it. As I, and the ever wise John Lennon, have always said, life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans. Our planned photo outing was uneventful but our random stop was, dare I say, magical in its scope. After an hour or so we both returned to the illegally-parked vehicle happier for our efforts. As usual, we managed to organically focus on two different aspects of the occasion. My eye was to the grand, sweeping aspects of the scene while Laura captured the minute and delightful detail. Unsurprisingly, we’re in step and complimentary as always.

Monday morning found me restless and ready to move on, sadly. I came home around noon and sat down to program. I recalled with no small significance those days of my childhood, pounding out code on the Tandy Color Computer II. I can’t count how many hours equipment under my guidance pumped out prime numbers or perfect numbers or any number of random and already well-established tasks. I have little patience for iteration, so it’s luckily that computers excel at such things. In this case I devised to solve once and for all the License Plate Game mystery. Once the work of the afternoon finishes (in much less than seven and a half million years) I’ll post the total results as well as resolve the mystery of what exactly the License Plate Game is. Oh, speaking of Douglas Adams, I do have only one regret about the weekend. I’m just sad that despite having access to a bulldozer, neither one of us laid down in front of it to play Arthur Dent. Perhaps next time.

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More Random Thoughts for 1/13/11

Work has sucked lately and it’s my fault. Today I threw up my hands and came home at 3:30. Somewhat ironically I came home to relax and decided it would be a good time to do my taxes (just to unwind, you understand). Unfortunately, the result of that simple exercise was exactly the opposite of what I expected. For the third year in a row I’ve somehow managed to allow the IRS to screw me. I’m not asking for a huge refund; I’d just like to not have to write a check with four digits in front of the decimal point. That’s all. I’m happy to pay my share but when I have to plan for how to pay my taxes months in advance, that’s just too much. Perhaps it’s time to just start claiming zero exemptions and be the hell done with it. Christ on a stick! Oh, work. This part is supposed to be about work. You know the problem? So the other developers have a tradition. They go for a walk once during the day. Just go and walk around the office building and “shoot the shit” as the saying goes. This seems to be a tradition centered around Mike, who is clearly a genius. I came in to work at 7:30 today, worked through lunch and went mildly insane by 3:30. I was honestly about to explode. Mike and his loyal followers come in, then take a break, then work some more. They’re not crazy idiotic and insane about it. They treat themselves like they’re humans and doubtless their work is a hell of a lot better than mine. I need to dial back the intensity and expect more of myself but in smaller packages. My insanity is self-induced. Along those lines, I find myself in the need to choose one job function and not fifteen. I remember a time when I used to do one or two things and do them absolutely immaculately. At heart, I’m a perfectionist. Lately though I’ve spread myself way too thin to the point where I disappoint not only myself but my co-workers. It’s time to pick one direction and push in it. This may mean that a lot of people have to pick up a lot of loose ends, but ultimately it’s the best answer not just for me but for all the people I work with. OK, enough about work.

So of all the shows on television I make a point to watch exactly one. All the others I have far too little concentration to focus on or to remember a time for. I can remember exactly one thing at a time and currently that one thing is Thursday nights at 8am, turn on CBS. End of list. Oddly though, my reaction to “The Big Bang Theory” is that I’m not nearly nerdy enough. I’m in the technology industry which in my mind has always been hopelessly blue-collar. Those of us in this business know that our work and interests in it are far too practical. We’re not detecting rare sub-atomic particles or calculating the Planck Constant… we’re doing mundane and uninteresting things that have real practical applications. Part of me yearns to be in an industry with no right answer. Long, long ago during my college days, I was a mathematics major. I loved math because it was concrete. When you completed an item of work, i.e. proved Fermat’s Last Theorem, you were fairly certain you had something. It was done. Concrete. Final. Done. There was a right answer and there was a wrong answer, and when compared with the other sciences, math was all about right and wrong answers. Pretty soon though there loomed a reality of being a math major. Well, a couple. The first was that the majority of people in your major went off to become teachers. Since I was poorly equipped to speak in front of one person let alone a few dozen, that terrified me. Related to that was the reality that math majors had to take COM 114, the class on public speaking. There was no way in HELL that I was going to make it through that, so I went on a quest for another major without such a heinous requirement. Soon I settled on Computer Science. All the certainty but none of the “talking in front of people.” Oddly though, I find the certainty of my profession insipid. I yearn for the parts of my job that aren’t black and white. Something complicated like geology would be wonderful. The binary “it works” or “it doesn’t work” has begun to grate on my nerves. Can’t there be an area of grey? I babble and digress and wander too close to the topic of work.

As I had my leftover olive pizza for dinner, I realized that my palate had grown tired of the sweetness of my cookbook-inspired menu. For 5 recipes in a row, it has called for dark soy sauce and hoisin sauce, and my brain rebels at the thought of another meal bathed in this eastern saccharine. I yearn for the salty goodness of light soy sauce.

My soul needs the springtime. Today after I came home I went for a walk in the freezing cold. I tried to get out and about to clear my mind, to expunge my soul, but after a brief period I was too concerned about my own impending death by frostbite to continue. If there truly are seasonally-specific disorders, not designed merely to spur the sale of pharmaceuticals, then I suffer from one. The winter is a long, dark and lonely season for me and I await with no small anticipation its end.

It has occurred to me that I need to do a better job of connecting with people outside the bounds of necessity. I remember a loooooong time ago I wrote an entry about friendship and I defined a friend as…. Well, something along the lines of, “someone you interact with outside the bounds of necessity or convenience.” Basically, a friend is someone that you do stuff with because you want to, not just because fate happens to throw you together. With the exception of Laura, I do a really poor job of making the effort to be a friend to the people in my life. What’s utterly insane about this is that invariably when I think about the people I know fairly well, I can point out very specific things about them that just astound me. Anyone wanting to be supremely embarrassed and flattered should ask me what I think of them. Despite my cynical demeanor, I have a marvelously positive opinion of just about everyone I know. That begs the question though why I don’t make more of an effort to build stronger bonds with the people in my life. For the most part, I suspect that it’s personal insecurity. Something along the lines of, “Why would this incredibly interesting person want to waste their time with me?” sort of thing. That’s shitty upbringing for you, I suppose. At any rate, the world should be aware that I admire it. With the exception of Hillary Duff and Paris Hilton. What a waste of skin. (For the record, I don’t know anything about Hillary or Paris, but it seemed only apropos to make some exception to the rule.)

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Really Random thoughts for 1/11/11

Being of a fairly nerdy inclination, I can’t help but look with amusement on dates that are binary in representation. It makes me want to do something really significant on 10/11/11 or 11/11/11 or 10/10/11… etc

I look back upon this past weekend with incredible fondness. Laura and I hung around my place but in the grand scheme of things we didn’t really DO much of anything. No hilarious and uproarious parties. No amazing events. Not even any pictures. Yet I feel like we really had a lot of fun with each other just talking and connecting. All too often I think that people date one another and use the events that they share to judge their relationship. “I had a great time with John in the Rockies skiing!” or “We really enjoyed going to Linda’s birthday party!” they’ll say. All that is garbage. You can have a fantastic time with anyone if you’re in the right environment. Parties, vacations, events… those are the easy things. It’s the quiet times that count. Those times when you’re just sitting in a room together, the cable is out, there’s no outside input… those are the times that really determine if you are a good couple or just good friends. I remember a night not too long ago when we just sat and talked. We wiled away the hours and before we knew it, it was time for bed. On the other side, I remember driving through the deserts of Arizona, lost beyond all recognition, driving down roads not meant at all for the car we had rented, laughing at our own situation. This is what relationships are about. Smiling and loving and laughing whether the whole world beckons outside your door or whether it’s just the two of you. It’s easy to lose yourself in the bright lights of the social world, but ultimately, true happiness is derived from the mind and soul of the person you’re with.

The other night Netflix graced us with two movies that I’m fairly certain don’t apply to the female soul. “Watchmen” and “Ironman 2” arrived simultaneously in the mail and I politely excused Laura from the necessity of watching either of them. Surprisingly, Watchmen actually worked for me. I expected utter fluff but I was amused. Between the 1950s noir film references and the amusing historical context (this is the second reference I’ve seen to wartime lesbianism) I found it rather intriguing. I was amused. I returned “Ironman 2” unwatched.

I’ve become supremely conscious of the fact that people find me to be… “gruff”. This is doubtless the wrong word, but I was recently told that people perceive me as anything but friendly. On one hand I find this unsurprising. In many ways I cultivate this view. I do tend to be very … well…. Demanding of people… in a way. On a professional level, if you come to me with a need I’m likely to dissect you in twelve different ways. Not because I don’t value your opinion but because I want you to think things through and get the most out of your request. Truth be told though, I’ll do anything for anyone, even to my own detriment. I’m the guy who will do whatever you ask for once it’s established that it actually makes sense to do so. I am, as the old adage says, an old softy. In many ways, I’m paranoid of being taken advantage of, but realize that even if I knew that was to happen, I wouldn’t object because I would theorize that any loss to me would be more than compensated for by the gain made by other people. Ultimately, I believe it’s better to do harm to yourself as long as it benefits the greater good. Somewhat sad but true.

Lately I’ve become vastly obsessed with the idea of getting a tattoo. On one hand, I’m delighted at the prospect of expressing myself. On the other hand, I’m terrified at the idea of expressing myself. I know myself well enough to know that once I break through the barrier, it will become obsessive. I’m not the kind of person to get one tattoo, but instead the type that gets dozens. I am simultaneously terrified and excited at the prospect of showing people who I am. I yearn for the freedom that disclosure will bring and at the same time cower, terrified, of the potential for non-acceptance. The terror paralyzes me, as it has for most of my life, yet my soul yearns to break free. To push beyond my fear towards what I really want.

Perhaps it’s time to conclude. As I look back on my blog entries from the past several years, I see that they’re honest beyond all potential for sanity. Here I describe my darkest hours and my most brilliant moments. I have to wonder what quiet impression this makes on the people that know me. Perhaps they think me a psychopath. Perhaps they think me the most heart-wrenchingly honest person they know. I don’t pull any punches. In here I am exactly what I am whether I am in pain or I am in love. Who among you can say this? Who can say that they are so honest both with themselves and with the world at large? Perhaps it is a character flaw, but it is who I am. All I know is that I look forward to tomorrow. I hope to be a positive influence on the world around me in whatever small way I can. Until tomorrow…

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