Sunday, January 29, 2012

What Time Do They Serve Breakfast Here?

Since I've broken three alarm clocks in the last two years (sorry, Karen, you didn't still want that one you left behind did you?), I've just been winging it when getting up in the morning.

After all, it doesn't really matter all that much when I get to work, and if I get in too early it increases the percentage of hours that I'm there when our users are sending irritating email. It's just better for everyone involved if I have at least a couple of hours at work when I don't get any email.

However, on the days that I do drive in to work, I really do try to get there in time for lunch, and that's where the problem comes in during the winter months. I really need to get out of bed by about 8AM in order to have time to feed the cats, feed the dogs, feed the birds, walk the dogs, pack dinner, take a shower, get dressed, clean up after all the freaking animals in the house, and then drive to work in time to walk in the door, put my stuff down, and immediately leave for lunch.

While technically it is light outside by at least 7AM these days, when it's cloudy it seems to be about the same level of light from about 7 to 9. Sure, I could get a clock and put it on the wall (yes, a really, really big clock since I can't see anything without my glasses on), but where would be the fun in that? Instead, I try to pick up on more subtle cues.

1. If I roll over in bed:
  • < 6AM: the cats all remain in place except for the ones that take up even more space and force me further over the edge of the bed. The big dog continues to snore.
  • Between 6-7: most of the cats remain in place, but one or two jump off the bed. The big dog continues to snore.
  • Between 7-8: all the cats except one jump off the bed and run to the kitchen. The remaining cat bites any skin visible outside the sheets and is launched off the bed. The cats return within two minutes and settle back in. The big dog continues to snore.
  • After 8: all the cats except one jump off the bed and run into the kitchen. The remaining cat continues to bite me and be launched off the bed. The other cats play high speed Monopoly with my pillow being Go. The big dog continues to snore.

2) If I hide my face from the cat trying to bite me by letting my head hang over the edge of the bed:

  • Before 7AM: no problem. The big dog continues to snore.
  • 7-8: the little dog jumps up and licks my face. The big dog continues to snore.
  • After 8: the little dog whines every time I take a breath and continues jumping up and licking my face. The big dog continues to snore.

3) If I sit up in bed:

  • Before 6AM: None of the animals are fooled. They go back to sleep. The big dog continues to snore.
  • 6-8: General pandemonium. The big dog continues to snore.
  • After 8: General pandemonium. The big dog checks to see if I'm actually getting up. If so, she rolls around on her back until I make it out the bedroom door and then climbs/falls off the bed. If not she goes back to snoring.

As you can see, I can pretty accurately determine when 8AM rolls around, assuming I move around enough. You can also see that I don't get a lot of sleep after 6AM. There are days I consider going to a motel to get a good night's sleep.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Move It

There's a really cool (even, dare I say it, inspirational?) video making the rounds by Dr. Mike Evans:

(If embedding isn't working for you, here's the link 23 1/2 Hours.)
I like it because it's really well done, and (as Rvan would say) they "did some science on it".

And here's the anecdotal evidence to support the fact that being inactive will kill you:

On Monday I managed to tweak my upper back while sitting in my chair at work doing nothing, and that was while I was still recovering from the weekend when I hurt my shoulder while rolling over in bed.

As Jon says, you have to expect some health problems as you get older, but really? At 43?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

An Uneventful Week

While trying to come up with this post, I went through my standard question of "What happened during the last week?"

It turns out this is not a good question for me since really often the answer is: Nothing. In the past, this has led to me risking my coronary arteries by going to the county fair purely so I would have something to talk about.

This week, though, I'll just turn it around and talk about what didn't happen this week:

- The Superbowl (or even the Superbowel): I try really, really hard to avoid all sports coverage. So when the level of Facebook comments and ads trickling through my brain filters goes above a certain level, I assume some pseudo-serious event happened. Anyhow, I was rejoicing last Monday because the football coverage could now go away for another year, and Rvan and Jeff just laughed at me. Bastards.

- Becoming an employee: I'm always somewhat shocked to be gainfully employed because I know in my heart of hearts that if I lose my current job nobody will hire me ever again because I don't really have any skills. (I've thought this about every job I've ever had.)

This week it has turned out to be true. Despite the fact that they've created an employee position specifically for me in the job that I've been doing for the last three years, my online application was rejected by the HR department.

Yes, let me repeat that: I can't get hired for the job I currently have. What kind of idiot can't fill out an online application? This kind of idiot.

Worse, since I've been thrown back into "contractor" status from the coveted (but apparently non-applicable) "statement of work" status, my contracting pimps have to treat me as a new hire and are currently conducting background checks for 1) the terror watch list, 2) registered sex offenders list, and 3) my employment history for the last seven years. (I swear I'm not making any of this up.) I hope both teaching hospitals enjoy answering questions about me for my programming job.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Just Run With It

So... as one of my perpetual attempts to regain the physique that I actually never had, I've decided to take up running.

I remember being able to run fairly effortlessly as a kid, and distance running was my thing for a while (mostly because I was never fast enough to beat anyone in a sprint). Then something happened. High school zapped all of the joint strength or something, and I've never been able to really run like that again.

But this year is going to be different. (Unless this year is the same.) Not only did I buy a new pair of shoes, I bought a little doohickey that hooks up to my iPod and keeps track of how far I run and what route I took and how fast I went.

I got it in the mail last week.

Yes. It's still in the box.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Win(e) Cellar

Jeff reminded me last week that I hadn't posted the current contribution from the real estate wine of the year club, so here it is:

The newest bottle (2010) is on the left. It's a little disturbing that the color seems to go from a cheerful pink in the new bottle (which seems wrong for something labeled as "white zinfandel" although what do I know about wine?) to a muddy orange in a bottle that is only five years old. I'm not sure what happened to 2008. Surely I didn't drink it... At this point it's a science experiment. I'm not sure what the hypothesis is yet. Possibly something about the strength of the top shelf of the cabinet and the idiocy of someone who lives in earthquake country storing bottles of wine there.

While I had the camera out, I took tonight's picture of Ripley sitting in a bag:

Clearly the bag is a zen-like area, ripe for peaceful contemplation while other things are happening around you. Sort of like my cubicle on the days I'm not there.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sign Language

The other night Eric and I were discussing something of actual importance -- the need for certain agreed-upon hand gestures to be made to other drivers.

Yes, everyone knows the signal for "I am very unhappy with that thing you just did" even if the gesture is slightly different in different countries. That's a no-brainer.

However, what we decided that are really lacking are the following:

1) "Wow, I almost ran you off the road -- it was completely my fault and I'm really sorry!" This is the one that started off the conversation. Everyone be honest now, we've all had at least one occasion when this would have been appropriate. (And if you really think you've never done something like that... you have, you just weren't paying attention.)

The proposed gesture is an open-handed weak wave, but you really have to be careful that all your fingers can be seen. The alternate proposed gesture is to slink down in the seat and accelerate as quickly as possible.

2) "One of your headlights is out." Eric claims that this one has a definition, which is to get behind the person and flash your high beams. However, in my driving experience, that would be mistaken for "Get out of the fast lane, idiot" unless you're sitting at a traffic light at the time.

3) "Your turn signal has been on for the last three miles." It's not always old people. Just almost always.

4) "Your wheel just fell off!" Eric claims he was able to successfully convey this to the passenger in a truck pulling a horse trailer via sweeping hand movements coupled with pointing to the trailer and showing a very concerned look.

5) "Your truck is on fire!" I tried with this one, I really did, but when I pulled up next to the cab to signal that the coupling between the two trailers was in flames, I would have needed to make a hole in my roof in order to see the other driver because his cab was so high. Honking and flashing my lights didn't accomplish anything. And then I gave up because, you know, my exit was right there.

This is really the sort of thing that should be covered in the DMV booklet.

Anyone have any additions or proposals?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Writing Is On The Cabinet Doors

I've owned two houses, both of which were previously owned by old women. Maybe I only like the "old-lady-house" vibe, although actually, since I chose one house sight-unseen, it's possible that real estate agents just nudge me towards those houses.

Anyhow, both houses had a bunch of writing on the inside of the cabinet doors in the kitchen. In Baton Rouge it was an scrawl of people's names and phone numbers, with the handwriting getting progressively shakier.

Here in Woodland I get:


I didn't even know Toyota was selling cars in the US in 1971.

My house-buying experience in Baton Rouge is a small example of how Louisiana is just a little different from more normal places.

First off, I drove there in a rented minivan with seven cats, a dog, and three birds that quickly associated rest stops with french fries and thus started screaming (loudly) every time the speed dropped to less than 65 mph. In the middle of summer. By myself. I spent the last two days of the three day drive trying to get in touch with my real estate agent who 1) knew when I was supposed to arrive, and 2) was supposed to arrange for me to sign the papers the day I got there so I had somewhere to put all of the animals since leaving them in the car in 100 F heat wasn't an option.

Naturally my real estate agent called me back at 9am an hour before I got to Baton Rouge and told me she was in New Orleans, but she would be back later that evening. So I found my new house and sat in the minivan all day until she finally showed up. That's when I found out that I wasn't going to be signing any papers because the house was owned by the estate of the (deceased) previous owner, and they hadn't gotten all the heirs to sign off yet. However, they'd agreed to let me stay in the house until the papers were signed. (I got the impression this was supposed to happen in the next few days.) Also, they would really appreciate it if I would allow the medical supply company to have access to all of the rented equipment that was still sitting in the house. (After a week of the medical supply company making appointments to come get the stuff and not showing up, I finally moved it all outside and told them they might want to pick it up before someone took it.)

I kept calling my agent once a week to find out what the status was and she kept saying they were waiting. I lived in that house for over two months before I ever signed any papers. If they'd dragged it out another ten months it would have been the best financial decision I'd ever made...

Anyhow, the heirs finally did sign off on everything, so on signing day I dashed out of the hospital and went to my agent's office. The seller (one of the family members) and her agent had gone to school together and were old friends. In fact, they were such good friends that they'd gone out to lunch together earlier, and were halfway between tipsy and flat-out drunk during the meeting. We kept having to stop turning pages to the next signing point so they could laugh about things. In fact, nobody but me seemed to be concerned about how long it was taking, but I guess I was the only one with an afternoon appointment schedule.

Anyhow, everything was eventually signed and I left quickly because I was late and also because that meant the seller and her agent wouldn't be on the road with me.

When I left ten months later, I pretty much just tossed the house keys to my agent (the mother of my previous agent since the daughter had since quit the business) and told her to call me when she found a buyer. Then I drove off in the rented minivan for the trip back to California, where at least some people are sane.

I'll leave you with a picture of Ripley sitting in a bag. Because that's his favorite thing to do.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Schrödinger's Staycation: Day 1

Like everyone else who suffered through college physics without actually needing any of it afterward, my recollection is limited to vague memories of wave pools, vectors, and Greek letters.

(I also remember the second quarter professor who had us all stand around a table holding hands and ran a current through all eleven honors physics students -- just before he grabbed the second terminal he stopped and said "Nobody here has any heart conditions, do they?")

Anyhow, one of the more often referenced bits is the part about Schrödinger's cat, the explanation of an interpretation of quantum mechanics in which the quantum state of something is both possibilities until it is measured, at which time only one state remains. In the needlessly feline-phobic example, a cat is kept in a box with a radioactive substance. If the substance decays, acid is released, killing the cat. If the substance doesn't decay, the cat sits there and waits from some idiot to let it out of the box whereupon it will make its displeasure known. However, until the box is opened (and the "measurement" takes place), the cat is both dead and alive. And probably highly pissed off either way.

So yeah, in this case, there are three categories of people who might work at my desk and I currently don't fit in any of them, so I'm not working. Yep, three possibilities -- that's how competitive I am -- I've taken Schrödinger and one-upped him. In any case, I'm now taking a well-deserved, if unplanned, vacation. Unless I actually don't have a job any more, in which case I'm enjoying being unemployed. I won't know until the box gets opened. (Either way, someone is going to have a mess to clean up in here, just saying...)

You can see that the stress of not knowing is killing me. I had to sleep in until 11am this morning just to get over it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Trip Over the Lights Fantastic

After a solid week of carb-loading in preparation for the marathon that I haven't yet scheduled, I'm back home again.

Since there are still some cookies left, I decided to take a long walk to work off some calories and also to make it physically impossible to eat every waking hour. This being Woodland, the holiday decorations are still up.

All I can really say is that there are a lot of people with more electricity than taste. A lot more electricity. Perhaps, just perhaps, when you buy a new set of lights/plastic soldiers/neon candy canes/blow up Santas/moving reindeer you should consider retiring just one of the previous years' contributions.

But no, it's like a bazaar of kitsch, all on one lawn. One tree is covered in orange and green lights, one tree is covered in multiple strands of white lights (which includes only one strand that goes on and off on a ten second cycle), two thirds of the house has white icicle lights and the remaining third of the house has blue blinking lights, the plastic drummer boy has shorted out near the mailbox (possibly aided by the neighbors), and the Mickey Mouse Santa is inflating and deflating in time to the power surges. Sadly, this isn't confined to one house, either.

One house had cords strung at eye level (for me) across the path to the front door, from which I deduce that everyone who lives there is shorter than I am. And they don't want any tall visitors.

The fire station down the street has only one string of lights, and their sign currently reads "Woodland Fire Department: making house calls since 1870".

I can see why.