A Unique Work Experience for Me

I’m approaching the three year anniversary of my current job. At the end of June I’ll cross that milestone, which will result in me bumping up the ladder and getting into the higher tier of earning vacation. I’m in my 40s and that has never happened for me before. It used to be a joke amongst my friends that I changed jobs every year whether I needed to or not. In fairness, 2/3 of those were me getting laid off, the company going out of business or having to quit because we were moving to a new place.

There’s some simple pleasures that have eluded me for my adult life. We’ll have been in this house for five years, which is a record for us. Not having to box up the stuff every year or two, changing dentists, finding new jobs, etc is a huge relief in my life. Having the same set of coworkers for years and years, it just feels nice. This is not shocking or novel to most of you, and it’s not like I didn’t understand these. It just feels good to be able to live it for once.

It’s Like a Dream

I’m in that dreamlike state, following the success of CREATE South. I’m still kind of tired in that way you don’t get in a single day or two, but that long term existential tired of having thought about and stressed about an even for months, and then the event is past. On top of that, I’m still buzzing with the enthusiasm of having spent a day with people – mostly Carolinians but a few notable distant travelers – who cared enough to spend a beautiful April Saturday in a building talking about passion and what drives us and what we can make and create and build with that energy.

What I haven’t done is turn much of that into the tangible, which really is what the whole day was about. In my opening remarks I discussed the gap between intention and execution and how whatever it is that you think it is between there and whatever you think is preventing you from moving forward, it is almost certainly a smaller problem and more easily overcome than you think. The trick is just to plow into it and be willing to hit those problems headlong.

I have writeups to write up, a few details to handle in the mopping up from the event. However for the moment I’m in a pleasant daze having been stunned by the fellowship and generosity of a hundred or so friends and strangers and peers. It was a great time and I’m sure it will build into something even more productive in the future. For now, I’m in a holding pattern. I feel like that brief moment in a stationary bungee jump where you’ve been shot in the air but haven’t yet started falling back. I’m enjoying this moment of freefall.

Marley and Me/Gracie and Me/Koga and Me

Gracie
Koga

We’re off in Raleigh for a quick getaway trip. While we’re here we took in a second run showing of Marley and Me. It was an OK film, about exactly what I expected and was willing to pay $1.50 for. We knew going in that any film with Jennifer Anniston as a chunk of the emotional core had an uphill climb ahead of it, and that turned out to be true. It was mostly breezy stuff up until the last 20 minutes or so. I started crying during the scene where they went out in the rain with flashlights and didn’t stop until half an hour past the end of the movie.

Ahead lie spoilers of the mildest kind. All dog movies that cover any length of time have the same ending and you probably should be aware of what that ending is.

We hadn’t quite counted on how hard it is to watch scenes of a dog being put down. Those scenes more or less seemed exactly like my memories of when we put Grace down, down to the way the eyes slowly shut and his reaction to it. It’s a tough tough moment in a life that 15 years of fun and love can’t prepare you for.

We had 15 years of life with Grace, a year without a dog, and now about a year and a half with Koga. A dog makes your life have a different rhythm and different sets of priorities. Marley and Me was a pretty glib treatment of that on the upside and pretty devastating on the downside. After 3 years, I still miss Grace every day and sometimes when I look at Koga I see a little bit of her. I wouldn’t have missed the good times to avoid those horrible few last days, but they still hurt and probably always will. The trite saying about “trying to be the kind of man my dog thinks I am” is actually about as true as it gets. May I one day approach that.

Tenure for the Doctor

We try to keep it cool around the house in terms of the blog. My wife frequently opts out of being mentioned because not everyone likes to live their life on the internet like I do. However, I’ve been given clearance to blog this bit of news. As of last week, my wife is no longer a tenure track professor because she is tenured! That’s a big thing for an academic, so let’s have a hand for the doctor. I’m very proud of her.

Return to Human

Starting Sunday mid-day I started getting the chills, which alternated with the sweats all day. It turns out that I spent basically three days lying on the couch under a blanket with a dog on my legs. It was one of those illnesses where I’d decide to turn on the TV, and then it would be 2 hours before I could actually work up the energy to roll over and pick up the remote.

I spent a little of that invalid time on the couch watching some of the older movies I had on my DVR, which included Grindhouse and two Cassavetes movies, A Woman Under the Influence and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. Of those three, I’m somewhat surprised by how little I liked Grindhouse. I really hated the Rodriguez half, Planet Terror. Even as dumb homage to dumb movies, it didn’t work for me. It wasn’t fun, just gross and obvious and non-clever. I liked the Tarantino Death Proof a little better, but it was still pretty standard Tarantino – long tedious talky bits punctuated with brief outbursts of violence. Except, the talk bits are way longer than Pulp Fiction and the action bits less interesting. I really hated that both halves of the movie included the same “missing reel” gag. The final analysis is that I liked the fake trailers better than either movie because they didn’t have time to wear on me.

Of the two Cassavetes films, I think that A Woman Under the Influence might be my least favorite Cassavetes so far. Admittedly, that’s still better than most director’s high points. It was unusually slow and not that compelling. As much as I love Peter Falk, I found much of the movie meandering and kind of pointless, sort of like a repetitive SNL sketch that keeps repeating the same catchwords. I really liked The Killing of a Chinese Bookie though, which might be the favorite of the Cassavetes films I’ve seen. I deeply cared about Ben Gazarra as Cosmo Vitelli, a guy with aspirations beyond his abilities but a big, warm heart. One thing I’ve noticed as a commonality is that the male leads of all these Cassavetes movies have serious control issues. Was that a little of the auteur leaking out into his characters?

Final analysis: When you have a fever that is making life impossible, Grindhouse is not a great film. Go with the Cassavetes.

San Francisco Trip Recap

I suck at trip reports. The fact that I have yet to complete mine from Dragon*Con in August points to that fact. I’ll make one quick hit at the San Francisco trip and be done with it.

We flew out Sunday the 14th. For the first time in recent memory, none of the 4 flight legs there or back had any issues with delays. Nothing was cancelled or even late. It was entirely drama free. How beautiful. This is the first cross-country trip I’ve taken since I began working sudoku puzzles. I picked up a pocket sized book of 123 puzzles for $2.99 in the Charlotte airport, which is easily the best travel investment I’ve ever made. That kept me busy for at last 3 hours of the 6 hour flight to San Francisco. Strong headwinds, you see. I was just trying to figure out which of 2,3 or 7 could fit in that row.

We arrived at SFO around 8 PM and took the BART into downtown. We checked into the hotel without incident, and then headed over to the Cheesecake Factory in Union Square for a late dinner. Freakishly, at 10 PM on a Sunday night there was a 20 minute wait. Un-frigging-believable. It was not the best CF dinner we’d ever had, but it was open and there and a known quantity at the end of a long day.

Monday we both went over to the Moscone Center. My wife got her registration packet for the AGU fall meeting and registered me as a guest. It’s a good deal for me, since the guest registration doesn’t get me into a lot of stuff so I had no choice but to wander the streets of SF. After getting my badge, I walked over to the Mevio offices in the SOMA area to have lunch with Michael Butler. We went to the Chinese diner he talks about, and got a quick, good and cheap lunch. He forgot his immodium but it all seemed to work out alright.

After he went back to work, I kicked around for a while, walking down 2nd Street. I walked by the CNET/CBS Interactive building and other sights that I had no idea were right there. I ended up doing some fishing through the 3/$1 comic boxes at Jeffrey’s Toys and Comics. I didn’t get anything I collect regularly there, as they deface these comics with a Sharpie. However for things I was curious to try out, getting it for $0.33 is a cheap way to sample new series. I wandered around a bit, including a trip to the Apple store where I played with an iPhone for the first time. (Unimpressed.) After this, I was ready for a nap. Hey, I was on vacation!

For that evening, we went out with our friend John out to dinner. We tried to go to Mela Tandoori Kitchen, underneath Marrakech Morroccan, a restaurant that we’d eaten at before and enjoyed. They seemed to be out of business though, so we ended up settling for Naan n Curry, which was a weird and smokey (tandoori smoke, not cigarrette) dive buffet restaurant. The food was OK and plentiful, and we had ample opportunity to sit and talk which is what we wanted anyway. We walked around Union Square a little and saw the holiday sights. Afterwards it was time to crash.

Tuesday, my wife did conference things all day while I did my traditional trip around the Mission District. I took the BART to Mission and 24th, and walked over to Valencia. From there I started at Dog Eared Books where I got an Armistead Maupin book and some Max Allan Collins mysteries. Next was Borderlands Books where I got the Vandermeers edited Steampunk anthology and a couple of old Pulphouse hardcovers on clearance. I went into a couple of thrift shops and the Mission district T-Mobile store where I tried out a G1 (more impressed than the iPhone – used it to check out my position on my map.) From here, I walked up to Al’s Comics on Market and shopped for a while. Al was really nice to me and we chatted a bit. He’s kind of legendarily grumpy so that was not what I expected, but it was quite fun. Next I walked the couple blocks over to Isotope Comics and shopped some more. I asked for Lynda Barry’s What It Is which the guy said is the kind of book they carry but just sold out at the time. After all this, I calculate a few miles of walking and a few hours of shopping, I got on the light rail and headed back to the hotel. We ended up eating Thai food at the joint right by the Moscone Center and called it a night.

On Wednesday we got up and took the train to the California Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park. It seemed like a good idea to go on the free day of the month, since we were there and able to attend at that time. 10 minutes in, the strategic misstep was apparent. It was so crowded that if I could have paid $50 admission to make 3/4 of the people go away, I’d gladly have done it. We spent a little time, fought through the aquarium area and went up to the living roof. We looked at the Andy Warhol paintings of endangered species and the global warming exhibits. Interestingly enough, some of the word up there was by a guy that Darlene was going to see speak later that afternoon. When we’d had enough of that, we walked back to the train pickup, shopping at some little shops on the way.

For the afternoon, after a lunch at Noah’s Bagels we split up. She went to hear James Hansen speak about climate change and I went to the Cartoon Art Museum. About half the museum was taken up with an exhibit for Our Neighbor Totoro, about which I could not care less. Despite multiple attempts to convert me, I’ve never seen any Miyazaki that didn’t completely bore me. However, why I was there was the Gene Colan exhibit, which was fantastic. It has sketches and original artwork from throughout his career, with a concentration form that wonderful 70s period when he was doing Howard the Duck and Doctor Strange. Looking at those pages in their full size and in person, they were so beautiful as to make me verklemmt. When I’d had enough, I went to the gift shop where they did have the Lynda Barry book, so I bought it there.

For dinner this evening, we met up with some of Darlene’s friends and ended up going to Alioto’s at Fisherman’s Wharf. The guy putting it together wanted to have seafood, so we went there. However, I found it a little too pricey for the amount of wonderful they brought. I don’t mind dropping $45 a head for dinner, but I’d like it to be significantly better than an Applebees if I do, which I didn’t really find from this place. The cab ride there was an adventure, with crazy woman cabbie and 5 of us jammed in there. The return trip was much more sedate.

On Thursday I pretty much wound it down. I went out to Haight Ashbury to meet up with Butler again for Ethiopian lunch at Massawa. I found this a fantastic meal, and one I had really been looking forward to. It was tasty, a lot of food and really a fun time. We sat around and bitched about new media and got a bellyful of okra and chicken and spongy bread. Afterwards, we shopped at an army surplus store just for fun. I considered farting around a little in the Haight on foot but since I saw the #6 bus coming right as I walked to the stop I just got on, opting to just strike while the iron was hot. At this point, it was a blur. I had pretty much done everything I was planning on doing. We ate a a local pizza joint whose name I forget. It was just down the street from the Orchard Hotel, at the top of the hill. It was a decent meal.

We had to get up at 4 AM California time in order to get on the BART and make our 7:30 AM flight. We got there in plenty of time, checked in without incident and flew home without incident. We got back around 5 PM, stopped at Red Robin for some home town comfort food and went home, where we napped most of the evening and most of the following weekend. It was a fun trip but almost exactly the right length. By the time it was over, I was ready to go and wasn’t really jonesing to have done any more stuff than I already had. It’s good to be home.

Winding it Down in SF

Our San Francisco trip is almost over. We have just one ugly early flight out to make and it is all over. I’ll make a big linky summation later, I don’t have the energy to assemble it all right now. It turns out this length of stay was just about perfect. We did everything we wanted to, and now are ready to get back home and get back to our dog. I got to have several lunches with Michael Butler, hang out at museums and sight see and walk the streets. Oddly, this is the closest I’ve ever stayed to Chinatown and this time I didn’t even cross the border to it.

I’ve felt very little pressure to do anything specific, and that has made this a damn enjoyable trip. Good things happen when you lighten up. I’ll try to remember that lesson.

Slow Time in Blogville

Wow, I’ve only posted twice in the last nine days and both of those were about the Gentle Readers show. I just haven’t had a lot of urgency to blog. No doubt that posting to my FriendFeed account is part of that. I’m already posting 20 times a day, just not here.

Compounding it, there was a grotesque burst of activity at the day job earlier this month that sucked most of the energy out of my life. Things have returned back to a busy but non-crushing baseline. I’m looking forward to the short holiday week to catch back up on social media, do some podcasts, read some comic books and continue getting my collection organized.

I wish I had more of substance to say. It’s always a close call – post something trivial or don’t post at all. Such are the dilemmas of being an average guide with a gloriously boring life.

The Gentle Readers Rocked

We went to Atlanta last weekend and I got to see the Gentle Readers play. It’s an increasingly rare occurrence that they perform a show and I never know when it will be the last time, so I really wanted to go and catch them one more time. It was great, although I was probably the person most into in the room. Most people were there for the Susi French Connection, who were also great. It’s hard to have a bad time during a bunch of 70s covers. I gamely played along, although when they did “The Hustle” I got the hell out of the way. I didn’t want to cause a 13 disco pileup.

All in all it was a fun weekend, although with a high ratio of ass hauling. We did a little shopping in Atlanta. There was one moment where some sort of reality show came through the TJ Maxx we were in. Reality my ass, there is an unavoidable field of contrivance an unreality that surrounds these affairs and I could not wait to get out of the room with it.

I hope it isn’t five more years before the next Gentle Readers show. Even if it is, I hope I can make it to that one too. I need me some Lee Cuthbert guitars. As the song goes, “When the amplifiers hum, that’s where I belong.”

Dubious Records

One of my true OCD traits is that I mark durations and personal records frequently. Since I’ve spent much of my life nomadic, since I left for college at age 18, I have lived in 14 different dwellings in 6 different metro areas. In the 1995 to 2004 time period, we held drivers licenses in 5 different states. That’s a whole lot of moving trucks, lessee background checks and mortgage closings. My relief at having stayed put for the last 4 years spills out into some statistics.

We’ve already well shattered the record for living in the same dwelling at 4 years, 2 months and counting. The previous high was almost exactly 3 years. We’ve had the same yard man and plumber longer than I’ve had a dentist or doctor in my adult life. There is an amazing sense of relief and statisfaction I get at going in to the same dentist for the 9th consecutive checkup. For a long time, way too many of our visits were first visits to a new one, meaning I’ve gotten way more full mouth x-rays than are reasonable for a man my age with no dental problems.

Somewhere recently I passed the point of my current job being my longest stint at any computer industry gig I’ve ever held. I’m at 2 years, 3 months having passed the 2 year, 2 month record. I have about 4 more months and this becomes the longest running single job I’ve ever held, period. It makes me sound flighty but there was a long period where I held no job for longer than 1 year, to the point where it became a joke amongst my friends. If you think about the moving, though, there were a number of gigs I had to leave when I moved and a number that went belly up or laid me off.

This stuff probably means very little to anyone else but I think about it more than it really warrants. Most people don’t find owning the same house for 4 years to be such a novelty but for me it is a complete release that makes me happy. The simple things are the best, aren’t they?

Normal Life

Observation: When you spend a whirlwind weekend driving out of town, attending a new media conference, organizing part of it on really really short notice, attending shindigs and basically running around like crazy, it makes it seem a little weird and immensely pleasurable to resume your normal boring life.

Limping Along

Thanks to those who have sent along words of encouragement. After two days of convalescing on the couch, I’m back up and well enough to go to work. I spent that time mostly asleep and watching some of the oldest movies on my DVR when I could stay conscious for 90 or 120 minutes at a time. I give big thumbs ups to O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Million Dollar Hotel, and a huge thumb down to High Roller – The Stu Ungar Story. Luckily all three movies are weird enough that seeing them doped up on generic Nyquil adds to the experience. I also watched and enjoyed Return of the Secaucus 7 but that’s one that the doping detracted from.

I’m now several days behind on everything, as I spent less than 10 minutes touching the computer the last two days, and half of that was emailing in sick. If you are waiting on something from me, feel free to ask again. Many juggling balls have hit the floor now.

This Blog is On A Sick Day

This is my second day out of work. I’ve got one of those classic weather change colds. Yesterday was spent almost entirely on the couch sleeping with intermittent breaks to watch TV. Today will be more of the same. I have a ginormous amount of things to do for the next few weeks at both the day job and at home. The temptation is always to try to limp along at partial capacity, I’m going to return to under the blankets for another day and hope to get well once and for all. I didn’t even touch the computer yesterday, and after I hit post I’m done for today too. The regular nonsense will return when my vim and vigor do.

Me and The Mormons

This evening we had a visit from a couple of “elders” from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints. Any religion that sets loose 19 year old kids on the public and calls them “elders” is one I find a little hard to take seriously from the git go.

These young gentlemen asked me if I believed in Jesus, and I told them no. They then asked if I had any particular beliefs and I said yes. I told them ‘I believe in J. R. “Bob” Dobbs and the Church of the Subgenius.’ The guy in front remained stoic, but the guy in back cracked a big smile at that. They asked me if I’d like to learn more about Jesus and I said “No thanks, I think Bob has got me covered.” And that was that.

I have before threatened to move my copies of The Book of the SubGenius, Revelation X, and The Subgenius Psychlopaedia of Slack: The Bobliographon into the front room just so they are handy when missionaries come calling. That way, I can try to counter-missionary-ize them. I do believe this is the first visit we’ve had from Mormon missionary teenagers. Usually the people we get are elderly black Jehovah’s Witnesses. All of them could benefit from learning the word of “Bob!” It’s easy to remember our credos as there is only one commandment: “Let he who is without humor mount up upon himself.” At least, that’s the King Ivan translation. The modern English version is edgier.

Back From Vacation but Really Not

We returned from the mountains late Friday afternoon but it has been really hard to transition from vacation mode to normal life mode. I haven’t blogged or really wanted to do much of anything this weekend. We did go see The Dark Knight yesterday, a brilliant movie about which I should blog at length. I’m not sure the last time we took a whole week long vacation. It’s possible that we never have – Xmas holidays excluded because that’s the opposite of restful for us, usually involving shlepping from state to state seeing the various families. I enjoyed doing it, but I have no practice in decompressing and then recompressing. Maybe I should make a habit of this.

Vacation in the Woods


View from the Cabin
Hooker Falls
Wolfe's Angel

I’m writing this Wednesday August 7th, no idea when it will get posted. [Answer: later that day, at an Atlanta Bread Company.] Surprising myself, I haven’t even been that interested in finding wifi and checking my mail up to this point. I expected I’d be jonesing at the lack of internet but it just hasn’t mattered to me.

Our cabin is truly out in the nowheresville woods, which is kind of what we were shooting for. Just up the hill is a 3 acre pasture that we can run around in with the dog. The view on two sides is thick forest, on one is the main house and the last is an apple orchard. I’m not above picking an illicit apple or two, but they aren’t ripe yet.

Monday we got our bearings and drove around Hendersonville. We went up to Jump Off Rock, which we found interesting and a pretty view but probably not worth the pain of driving up to it. It was close to sunset when we got there, and there was one dude there who gave us as close to a serial killer vibe as we’ve ever gotten from anyone so our time there was limited.

On Tuesday we packed up and went to Dupont State Forest. We first went to Hooker Falls, which has a swimming area at the bottom of the falls. Best of all you can take your dog! We played around there for a while, then had lunch and hiked up to the other falls across the highway, Triple Falls and High Falls. We of course did all this on a day that was setting a record high temperature for the area, but under the canopy of trees it wasn’t so bad. After going up and down the trails, we were ready for some more swimming in the chilly water of Hooker Falls so we went back there. On the drive back to town we stopped at the cemetery and I snapped a picture of “Wolfe’s Angel” – the angel statue created by Thomas Wolfe’s father and the titular object of Look Homeward, Angel.

And that was that. The first full day of vacation was a success, and everyone was so tuckered that we ate and went to bed early. Just exactly the sort of thing we were hoping for.

This Blog is on Vacation

This week we will be in a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I don’t believe there is any internet where we are staying. Although we might check in at various joints with free wifi, assume there is nothing happening here. I might try to upload a few photos from our big woods adventure if we can.

I haven’t drifted off or gotten busy, I have explicitly disconnected from the grid. Check you on the flipside next weekend!

Disconnecting

We’ll be on vacation next week in a cabin sort of environment near (but not in) Asheville. We won’t have internet in the room, which isn’t necessarily a problem to me. We’re taking the dog because the place has doggie day care, and we’ll be taking him with us to dog friendly state parks. All in all, it seems like a really good time. I could handle a little decompression time.

It’s a little sad that I’m thinking about this in terms of things to do. I’m looking at stacks of books to take and thinking about writing projects I could work on during that off time. I don’t idle well, and even when I’m doing nothing I want to be doing something. Even so, there should be much relaxation involved. We seldom take full week vacations, usually just long weekend getways, so this should be good.

Lunches at the Beach


Lunch at the Beach

Some days I really just feel the need to get the hell out of the office at lunchtime. I really prefer if possible to work in a quick walk on the beach, so I tend to head towards the water. This means that often I’m lunching on Kings Highway or Ocean Boulevard. Often I grab a cup of coffee at the Starbucks on the corner of 21st and Ocean because then I get to park there for free (when there is a space) and then I can walk for a few minutes before heading back to work.

Another alternative is to go to the area by the pier at 2nd Avenue North because there is a big gravel lot to park in that doesn’t charge. I’m trying to pay extra attention to those areas when I can park for free. Since many times I’m at the beach for 15-30 minutes, I hate the electronic machines that require a minimum of the $1 for hour. The coin meters are OK since I can drop in a quarter or two if that’s all the time I’m staying.

I grew up land locked in Nebraska and Kansas and even at age 40, I still can’t get over the novelty of having a beach so readily available to me. Most of my co-workers aren’t as smitten as with the beach as I am. Many live near it (I live 15 miles away) and many others grew up near it. That’s why the beach walk trips are always me solo. When I walk alone, I prefer to be by myself.

PS – I’m beach lunching right now. Thank you SBUX for free parking AND free wifi! Enjoy the cash for that Americano.