Category Archives: Just a Day in My Life

Transitioning

I wound up going home sick today from work, with only seven days left at my current job. I had awakened with a bad headache and an upset stomach, but figured it would pass quickly. Unfortunately, I was wrong about that, and both the headache and the stomachache got worse as the morning wore on; finally, around 10:00, my office mate reminded me that if I didn’t use up my sick leave now, I’d never get a chance to — the University will cash out my remaining vacation time when I move on, but not my sick time. So I copied a bunch of Cold Fusion code onto a Zip disk and went home with the intention of going through the code, cleaning it up, and thoroughly documenting it.

On the way home, I stopped at the video store, as I usually do on days like today, and rented both Fight Club and Hellbound: Hellraiser II (yes, I do love horror films, even the cheesy ones). But my intention to revise my Cold Fusion code never really became anything more than Good Intentions. I reviewed code for about two hours while Hellraiser played in the background, remembered that I had to leave Personal Web Server running on my computer in order to get the Cold Fusion server to work, and then undid all of the changes that I had made, since not all of them really worked. Backup files are a good thing.

But all the while, my headache and stomach ache were just getting worse. Finally around 1:30 or 2 I gave up, popped in Fight Club (an excellent film, by the way — I recommend it highly), and lay down. Then I slept for about three hours. When I woke up, the fever was gone and so was the stomach ache, but the headache had stormed in with full fury, to the point where I could barely move my head. Even now, it hurts. I get migraine headaches from time to time; this is a grand doozy of one. Bright lights bother me, and so do ambient noises, and so do the drumming of the fingers of the people sitting next to me at the cafe right now. (Yes, I’m feeling crabby; so sue me, I have a migraine.)

But no, I did not spend the whole day griping and feeling miserable. Besides, as Agent Cooper suggested in Twin Peaks, "Every day, give yourself a gift: it doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy, just something you like and enjoy. A really good cup of coffee, or a chance to watch a beautiful sunset."

Today, I gave myself the thrill of faxing in my acceptance of the position with [the new place of employment]. The first two months of this new job are going to be spent up in Portland, Oregon, learning about the company and how to use their in-house suite of application packages. I’m excited about that: I’m going to be learning a lot, I’ll be meeting new people, I’ll get to see what my new co-workers will be like, and so on.

The hardest thing for me to adapt to and accept with regards to this new job is the pay increase. It’s not quite going to double my income, which had been my goal for the year, but it represents an 83% increase over my salary with the University, which is close enough. Last night I dragged Jennifer with me while I went and test drove new cars; and it was such an odd feeling looking at the 2000 Honda Accord SE and realizing that I can now afford this car, instead of taking what someone else was willing to sell to me, a used car with "issues". It’s a marvelous feeling.

I didn’t buy the car last night, of course. For one thing, I haven’t gotten any paychecks at all from [the new place of employment] as of yet; and, for another thing, I’m going to be in Portland for two months starting on August 7; and what’s the point of buying a new car if it’s just going to sit in front of my house? [the new place of employment] will be flying me back to Davis on the weekends during that time, and Spiff will be just fine for me until October or so, when I start the daily commute out to Roseville. Then, I’ll probably buy the Accord.

And now I feel like I’ve completed a series of transitions in my life which began just about a year ago. I’ve transitioned from being single to being engaged to the woman of my dreams; the process of moving from my duplex with two housemates to a large custom-made home with a beautiful wife has begun; I’m finally leaving the University after having been there since 1986 in some capacity or another. And, most importantly, I’m moving from a existence which is essentially aimless and directionless to one which I feel like has a purpose and a direction.

All in all, a pretty good day for me.

It isn’t a great day for everyone, of course. My best friend continues to have problems with his own career (though I like to point out that if I can make this kind of transition, then he will be able to as well); my good friend Ivymoon was disappointed to learn that she did not get the job of her dreams; and Jennifer has ended up having to put in long hours at her own job yet again. And, of course, my boss in Information Technology is still left with the problem of finding someone to replace me (I still feel guilt about that; especially since I had to go home sick today).

So, with all of these transitions nearing completion, I find that it’s easy to relax and think, "Now things are settled. I don’t need to do anything more, now that all of my goals are met." Of course, nothing is further from the truth; I’m rebuilding my life now, making that fresh start.

Not to say that my life was boring or dull before, but… Now is when a whole new set of challenges and excitements begin.

Other Obsessions

Reading back over my recent journal entries, it seems like my life has been taken over by two main obsessions: my career and my engagement. Honestly, though — and you may not believe this — I do believe in living a balanced and well-rounded lifestyle. It’s just that, every now and then, one must "unbalance" things a bit to give more attention to those areas which have been lacking, or to give focus to new areas in life. In my case, I’ve been focusing on my career because I’ve never really focused on it enough before; and my relationship with Jennifer now occupies the top priority in my life (and probably always will — but I’ll say more about that another time; suffice to say, "No! I’m not being co-dependent!").


I do have other obsessions in my life. And I have plans and goals in other arenas. For example:

  • Writing. Even though I haven’t worked on it in nearly three months, I do have a novel in the works. So far I’ve written about 30,000 words, and I had originally planned to get it finished by the end of summer. That’s not a reasonable goal anymore, so I plan to have the first draft done by December. Trust me, it’s going to be a good one, too. I also have another novel in the "pre-planning" stages for when I’m done with the draft of this one, and several short stories that I’ve got in development as well.

  • Shakespeare. Yep, I’m a wannabe Bardophile. I have read most of Shakespeare’s plays and seen many of them on stage or on the screen. One of the "impossile dreams" in my life is to become a respected independent Shakespeare scholar; that may be a ways off, but I’m already planning out my first book on Shakespeare and modern culture…

  • Mythology. I studied mythology a bit as part of my "mini-minor" in college, but most of what I know on the subject I’ve come up with on my own. Mythology is an amazingly complex subject, weaving together elements of history, psychology, anthropology, archaeology, and more — not to mention comparative religions. At the moment, I’m most intrigued by the ways in which traditional mythological motifs and themes continue to pervade modern culture and folklore (UFO’s, for example, echo, in many ways, traditional fairy lore). I’m planning my first book on this subject as well.

  • Gaming. Something else I haven’t done nearly enough of lately. I’m not interested in computer games, but I love face-to-face role-playing gaming. I’ve tried on-line RPG’s, but they never really did much for me. For me, there’s nothing more fun than creating a world and a story for it, then guiding my players through it. Now, if I could only find the time… (No books planned on this subject, though.)

  • Movies. I can’t live without my VCR. I love watching old movies, particularly old science fiction and horror films; on days when I have nothing else to do I will gleefully rent two or three films from my local independent video rental shop, plug ’em in, and relax.

  • Adult Literacy. This is my cause, though I don’t have a lot of time to devote to it aside from tutoring individual students right now. I intend to get more deeply involved within the next couple of years, though. I have been doing some research in how computers can be used to assist in literacy education; however, there is a part of me that wonders if that particular line of thinking might be a dead end, since so many illiterate Americans don’t even have access to a computer. It is something I’ve been in touch with the literacy council about, though.

So, see? I’m not a pathetic "two-issue-loser", after all. *grin*

But back to the question of careers and jobs anyway.

Things are getting better at my job here at the University. It’s still certainly not what I want to be doing, but my supervisor, unit manager, and I all sat down and had a meeting last week where we discussed this. To my boss’s credit (and her boss’s credit as well), they both agreed that I am not a good match for the job I’m in, but I do do a decent enough job to keep around instead of firing; and they also agreed to support me in my job hunt in any way they can, including allowing time off to take classes that aren’t even related to what I do here. Then the unit manager and I had a separate meeting, where we discussed some strategies for moving me out of the department and into something more rewarding.

Yes, I’m well aware of how fortunate I am to be in this situation. 🙂

And neither is it a one-sided arrangement. For my own part, I did agree that I would maintain a positive demeanor and morale while on the job here. I spoke with a career counselor who gave me some tips on how to do that — for example, reminding myself that this job is just a temporary one, and that even while I’m here there are some important job skills that I can learn that will help me in whatever career I choose down the line: things like project management, organization, setting priorities, and so on. This has, in fact, helped tremendously, which is good.

I am still headed out soon, though. I have no doubt about that. I may be a year or two away from the dream job, but I feel like I’m tangibly on track at this point.

On an aside, I’ve created an on-line mailing list for career changers. More information is available here, if you’re interested.

Teaching Lessons

Generally, I’m the sort of person who prays, "Lord, give me patience, and give it to me NOW!! My friend Ivymoon tells me that I simply have an addiction to instant gratification, which might be true. This impatience of mine has certainly affected me in many arenas of my life; in career, for example. I get irritated if I don’t get that interview today, and I’m especially irritated that I’m not in my dream job right now.


Of course, the second part of my prayer usually reads something like, "Well, God, if you haven’t given it to me already, I guess I just won’t ever have it." This fatalism can be pretty destructive, I know. The part of me which is irritated at not being in my dream job today is also convinced that I’ll never have that dream job. Simply because I don’t have it now. The logic runs something like this:

A, therefore B.
Where:
    A = "I do not have x (a possession, a situation, whatever) at this time"
    B = "I will never have x."

Yes, I know the logic is really twisted; in fact, this kind of logic has frequently led me to take the "path of least resistance", or to simply be lazy. But I’m working on it. I’ve recently had the logic demonstrated to be absolutely false in a couple of instances, so I know that it doesn’t work. Nevertheless, it’s hard to break out of the mindset.

I’m working on it, though. I really am. I’m not giving up on the job quest this time around; and I’m not settling for anything except my "dream job" (or at least something that will put me firmly on the road to achieving that dream job).

One of the best ways to learn patience, I’ve discovered, is by teaching. Especially teaching adult literacy.

Adult literacy is probably the most important cause I can think of. I think it’s obscene that the United States, one of the most technologically advanced can be so socially backwards as to have a nearly 20% adult illiteracy rate. So I do what little I can to remedy this injustice, which is to help one adult learn how to read. (Here’s another way to look at it. A friend of mine once told me that he was addicted to books, and had come up with a "self test" to determine book addiction. I took the test, and found that I, too, am seriously addicted to reading. I then asked my friend if the fact that I’m a volunteer literacy tutor makes me not just an addict, but a pusher. My friend answered, "But of course!")

My current student is a native Spanish speaker who did not complete school, and who only arrived in the United States very recently. Not only is my student a non-native speaker of English, but he never really learned how to read Spanish, either.

I have to tell you, though, that I am seriously in awe of this guy. He’s several years older than I am, but has taken on this tremendous challenge: learning how to read and write English. My past experience has shown that native English speakers have a hard enough time learning how to read as adults; but for someone who has never learned how to read in any language, learning how to read in a non-native language has got to be near impossible. And heck, I remember how hard it was for me to learn other languages when I was immersed in people who spoke my own language. If I’d had to learn German by going to Germany instead of taking a class at the University, I would have been overwhelmed.

My student, though, is very bright, and quite intelligent. He’s helped me understand some of the difficulties he’s had with learning to read English (the English alphabet, which is slightly different than the Spanish alphabet, confuses him from time to time), so we’ve been able to work out some strategies to help him learn faster. On several occasions, I’ve deviated from the prepared script the literacy council has given to me, and I’ve used Spanish words and phrases quite often when working with my student (what little of Spanish I remember, at least). All in all, it’s been a very interesting and rewarding experience. Nevertheless, I do sometimes find myself getting frustrated as I find that some concepts must be explained anew each session; these are some concepts that are common in English, but which aren’t as strong in Spanish. Fortunately, my student is persistent and intelligent, and has a good sense of humor about the whole process. When he understands something, or gets a new concept, the feeling is very rewarding.

I, personally, don’t remember ever having learned how to read; some of my earliest memories are of me with books, and I was always a much more advanced reader than most of my peers throughout school. So, it’s something that I’ve taken for granted, and it’s difficult for me to even imagine not knowing how to read. Still, I can imagine that learning how to look at symbols on a piece of paper and trying to figure out how they translate into words, and how these words even convey meaning, like a story. I can only imagine that it must be almost overwhelming. And illiteracy has such a terrible stigma in our society; it must have taken my student a lot of guts to even pick up the telephone, call the literacy council and say, "I would like to learn how to read."

So. While I’m teaching my student how to read, I am also learning from him: lessons in patience, persistence, courage, and risk-taking. While I’m working on making my career switch, these are going to be very valuable lessons; I just hope that I can learn them well.

To Hell with it All (And Wipe that Grin off Your Face)

Damn it, I am going to go to Europe next year!

I’ve been planning a trip to Europe for nearly two years now, ever since I last visited my friend Steve at his home in Simi Valley, California. While I was taking the train back up, I read a book on World War Two, and thought about history a bit. I also began to think about my life (dangerous pastime, that!) and about all of the things I had and hadn’t done. A trip to Europe seems like a very natural thing for me to do, especially while I’m still relatively young, single, and child-free.

So, I began to save my money; I put aside $300 per month into my savings account, and even took on an additional part time job to supplement my savings. I bought guidebooks and maps and talked to people who had been to Europe, and began to plan these things out.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. A couple of poor financial choices all but eliminated my savings, and when I got to the point when I was supposed to buy my tickets, I realized that I had been dipping into my savings each month to buy non-essentials, and was left without enough money. So, I pretty much gave up on the idea.

In recent months, I’ve been putting money aside again, into my 403(b) account that I have with the University. This is a better plan than a simple savings account, for several reasons: the interest rates are higher (if you invest well); because it’s pre-tax, putting aside $300 per month actually works out to something like $250 out of your paycheck instead of the whole $300; and, most importantly, it’s hard to get at this money. You need to go through a lot of red tape to get at that money, preventing impulse purchases of, say, a zip drive or a new stereo or VCR. Ostensibly, the plan is to put aside this amount of money and then take it out when I have enough to pay of the loan I took out for this computer. Then, once that was done, I’d start putting money aside again, funnelling money that was going to the computer loan into paying off others of my few debts, and so on.

The hell with all that, though.

I’ve decided that instead of paying off the computer right away, I’m going to take out that money next year and fund my trip to Europe. I’ll be 33 years old when I get there, but what the hell? I’ll have enough money saved up and enough vacation time squirreled away that I’ll be able to afford a 3-month backpacking trip in Europe without too much financial pain. And if my proposal goes through at work, I’ll be able to put aside more money per month, and stay even longer.

Of course, paying off your debts is important. I’ll be making regular monthly payments onto my various loans and debts even while I’m saving my money; I just won’t have them paid off as soon.

It’s back to this priorities thing; will I put a higher priority on a life-nriching experience where I will be able to travel, see a good chunk of this rock that I share with 6 billion others of my species, and the opportunity to meet incredible people and have amazing experiences? Or will I be a Good Citizen and deny myself an opportunity for growth to pay off a debt?

Well. I believe that I certainly have my priorities straight.

Wipe That Grin Off Your Face!

I’ve been in a great mood of late. Well, I’m normally a pretty happy person (or, at least, I try to be), but lately, even in the face of a couple of minor setbacks, I’ve been able to maintain my positive mood.

There’s no particular reason for my uplifted mood… and why should I need one, anyway? God — or whatever deity (or lack thereof) that you choose — has been good to me. I’m blessed to be surrounded by people who love me and whom I love (even if I’ve had to end communication with some of them for the sake of our mutual sanity); I have a good job that I enjoy; and more.

Part of this is certainly that I’m beginning to work on reaching some of my long-term goals. I’ve managed to stick with the exercise/diet program that I started a couple of weeks ago, for example (and knowing that being in shape when I go to Europe will heighten the experience has certainly been an incentive for that). I’ve also made contact with the local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, something I’ve been meaning to do for years.

All in all, I’ve been pretty fortunate in my life, and I’m very grateful for that. I’ve had rough times, but who hasn’t? The world is an amazing place to be in, and I’m happy to be here.

Think I’m being irresponsible with my money, or that I’m unrealistic in my outlook on life (or do you know of a reason why I should be unhappy, depressed, and upset with life)? E-mail me and feel free to let me know.

Until later!
-Richard

Propriety, the Naming of Names, and a Domain of My Own

Well.

So I have this friend who teases me frequently about not updating this journal. "You know, you really oughtn’t put up a link to a journal page that doesn’t exist," my friend chides me. And today: "You know, one of the points of a journal is that you update it frequently."


So. Okay. Fine. Herewith, an update. Dedicated to my good friend and to all of the other people out there who help me keep on my toes.


Naturally, this journal began with the Best of Intentions, but sometimes it’s hard to follow through. My other good intentions were followed through on, at least: I finished the proposal I’d been working on, and I’ve been working out regularly, and even keeping those eating habits under control (sort of). But this journal will obviously be the downfall of my moral integrity.


For what it’s worth, there is a reason for the delay. My thoughts have been occupied of late by a particular issue which seems to have dominated much of my interactions with people of late. I would have put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, or client to server, or whatever) and shared the issue with whatever regular readers wander through here, but I feared that doing so would probably only make the situation worse; there are just some things that mustn’t be made public. Propriety demands that I simply keep my mouth shut; or, at least, my fingers off the keys.


What is this issue? you say. Click here and maybe I’ll tell you.


Thus ends the discussion on propriety, for now.

On the Naming of Names and a Domain of My Own

So I name things.

It’s not unusual. My friend Lisa named her car, a beautiful Camaro, Dionysis. My car, a 1992 Geo Metro which is probably on its last legs, is called Spiff. I named Spiff after Spaceman Spiff in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. Why Spiff? Well, just as Spaceman Spiff, as one of Calvin’s alternate identities, could take him to strange and exotic planets in the distant galaxy, so could my car take me to strange and exotic places in the country. Granted, it hasn’t taken me anywhere more strange and exotic than Yuba City or San Jose, but it’s still an honorable name — at least, in my own opinion it is.

Similarly, my computer, Lucien, is named after a character in a comic book. Specifically, Lucien is named after the Librarian of Dreams in the Sandman comic book series by Neil Gaiman (if you haven’t read this amazing series, you really should). Just as Lucien, the Librarian, was the keeper of all of the books which have never been written, so my computer keeps for me all of the books, short stories, artistic masterpieces, and proposals which are floating around in my head. The computer is like a librarian for me, and contains many of my dreams. Hence, Lucien. A very appropriate name.

And now I’ve purchased a domain name: mossroot.com.

I hear you. "Why Mossroot?" Good question. It’s a strange name, I admit; moss doesn’t have a root structure (not to my knowledge, but, then, I only got a B- in Botany), and it’s kind of a nonsensical word.

Well, it’s like this. In my misspent youth (and for a good part of my adulthood, including the present) I played a lot of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. I calculated once that I ran over five hundred games as Dungeon Master, including a number of aborted campaigns that simply didn’t happen. I created a lot of non-player characters that I thought were really great, even if the players weren’t that interested in them.

One of these non-player characters was a dragon by the name of Mossroot (honestly, I don’t know where that name came from — it sprang into my head and stuck, and I thought it rolled off the tongue well). Mossroot was not a typical dragon: instead of gold, Mossroot hoarded books and knowledge; instead of staying in his lair protecting his hoard, Mossroot explored the world. Since my plan for my website is to make it a portal for exploration of a sorts — the arts, the sciences, and even world culture — I thought that the domain name mossroot.com would be particularly appropriate, even if it is an in joke that only I would get.

Along with this domain name comes an additional 50 MB of webspace, giving me a total of 90 MB. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do with it all; it’s been suggested that I could possibly run a MUSH with it, but that’s probably not going to happen; after all, I’ve never played a MUSH in my life, and I doubt that the good people at JPS.net who are hosting my domain would look on such behavior kindly.

In Conclusion…

Reading over this entry, and my last one as well, it occurs to me that I’m a bit of a chaotic thinker and writer. This entry just kind of goes all over the map; as does my last one. I’d like to tone my writing skills, so that I can focus a bit more.

I have to say that I’m somewhat in awe of people who are able to write cohesive, comprehendible essays in their own journals; Jennifer is a fun writer, and I enjoy reading her journal entries; and the same goes for Lisa.

Perhaps it comes with practice.

At any rate, you’ve come to the end of this entry. As always, I hope that I haven’t bored you terribly; and, of course, I hope to have another one up soon.

As always, if you have any complaints about this journal entry, or if I’ve inspired some deep thoughts in you (or if you have suggestions as to what to do with so much web space), feel free to e-mail me.