Friday, August 26, 2011

The Economy

I try not to engage in too many heated political discussions, usually because I don't have a big-picture idea of what is going on with anything at any given time.  However, I have to call big bullshit on the recession and the so-called economic recovery (that ceased to continue).

The recession called to everyone's mind manipulation tactics and waste.  More regulation was introduced to tackle manipulation (sort of) and everyone started looking at how to cut out the dead wood, or at least how to effectively cut into the three to create as much new growth as possible.

For the first time in decades, we have significant technical advancements in order to streamline tasks, enforce efficiency through monitoring, and so on.  In the midst of a "recession" big companies are making big money.  Bigger money than BEFORE the recession.  But job growth is stymied and pay on the lower rungs isn't growing to match the top.

Do you know what happens to a tree when the canopy is bigger than the trunk can support?

So Walmart is complaining that their target shoppers are running out of money and can't afford to spend money at Walmart anymore.

When the wealthy hear of distribution of wealth, they freak out that our country is being taken over by a socialist agenda.  It's just ridiculous fear-mongering.  No one is talking about moving to a communist government.  But in reality, how can you make money if you take all the money away from everyone else?  You need to give a little more if you want to maintain your income level.

I don't feel sorry for big corporations that have fewer profits each quarter.  I do feel sorry for smaller businesses that can't cut prices anymore to compete with them and make a modest living.  I feel pathetic going into a big chain store and spending my money because I need to cut corners myself to support a family on a single income.  It's a big reason I have cut down on spending altogether and try to find other means to procure stuff I do need, within reason (for example, I will never pick up couches or mattresses second-hand unless from a reputable source, like someone I know very well).

The trouble maker in me just wants to see these big companies fail already, not get bailed out, and let us restructure from the ashes.  It will suck and be a long healing process, but the Frankenstein we have created can't be all that much better.  It just further delays the inevitable.

Excuse the rant, I am just frustrated with the state of things.  I obviously have a limited view (as does everyone) and don't purport to have all the answers.  However we swing it, we all have hard work to put in towards our futures.  There's no sitting back and sipping tea thinking this is something for the "other guys" to worry about.  You don't have to agree with me, but I hope you can disagree in a constructive manner.  I am open to suggestions, thoughts, and possibilities I may not be aware of.

Monday, August 22, 2011

It Was an Ahhh Kind of Weekend

Thank goodness for an amazing weekend! The couple weeks preceding the last were pretty grueling.  Weekends were unproductive (unless I was at the office) and I just felt spent all the time.  Exhausted, cranky, and unhappy.  There were good moments in with the bad, but things just sort of sucked in general.

Last week Jeff was gearing up for the new job, reading the training material and getting snazzy clothes.  He looks so cute in a suit, I will have to post pictures at some point!  (I just need to be better about posting pictures in general.)

Friday night we spent at North Tower Circle helping (with cash) to raise money for the Central Valley Pagan Pride.  The theme was "A Bewitching Night" and lots of folks came out dressed up ready to party.  Some of the regular patrons looked a little confused, but that didn't stop us from having a good time.  The drag show was fun, but I think the go-go dancers stole the show.  The raffle prizes were pretty awesome; I don't know who put those together but they definitely deserve a foot massage!  Many incriminating photos came out of the event.  If only I knew where my camera cable went!

I must have danced until 1am and didn't fall over into bed until at least 2am.  I am resolved to go out dancing more often.  It's so much fun and gets better every time I go.  Even with the late night shenanigans, I was up early to teach yoga class.  Super refreshing after a late night out!

Saturday evening we spent at my supervisor's beautiful log cabin up near Shaver Lake.  The evening was relaxed.  It was non-descript, but very enjoyable.  Just , but I hope they invite us back!

Sunday we ran errands getting things collected for Jeff's trip.  He hit the road at about 4pm.  The cats and I spent a few minutes staring at the door while I considered what to do with myself.  I filled my evening trying to expend nervous energy cleaning, taking out the garbage, putting away the rest of the laundry, and finally trying to settle down to crochet.  I was anxious and bored, so I tried doing some yoga.  I couldn't focus, so I decided to read until I was tired.  A couple hours later I wandered downstairs to refresh my tea and found the cats sitting on the couch still staring at the door.  It was pretty darned adorable!  I told them that they waited in vain and they eventually came upstairs to curl up in bed with me.

It's nice having the quiet and the space, but I have to admit that I didn't sleep so well last night.  I tossed and turned so much that I literally pulled a muscle on my right side!  How ridiculous is that?

I have one activity night this week (Zumba and Tuesday class!) and the rest I will play by ear.  I already have a massive to do list tonight.  I'm hoping scratching out some of the items off the list will help relieve my anxious energy.  I'm a little surprised with myself.  Usually I'm happy and peaceful in the quiet, but I guess, looking back, the one day I would have to myself I always spent my time running around getting things done.

I'm bound to relax eventually.  Hopefully it's sooner rather than later!

My challenge this week is not just relaxing (hey, it's challenging for me!) but trying the paleo/primal diet. I usually get pretty emotional when I don't get all the bread and carby goodness I want, but I figure with Jeff out of town, I'll have to actually deal with balancing my needs rather than look for a distraction.  I'm mostly uncomfortable with the high doses of meats the lifestyle recommends, but we'll see.  I want to see how I do healthwise.  It's fun to experiment to see what works for me.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Reducing Electronic Clutter

Be honest, when you think of clutter, you think of

  • ...the stacks of disorganized paper on your desk at the office; 
  • ...the random objects whose only relation to each other is that they have nothing in common stuffed into random drawers in your home; 
  • ...the over-abundance of cooking contraptions that have jammed and consequently forced you out of being able to ever get to them again (not that you ever really used them in the first place);
  • ...the pile of magazines that, a year later, you still haven't read;
  • ...the papers you brought home from the office because they tricked you into allowing them to colonize your home as well;
  • ...the supplies for projects you never really intend on finishing;
  • ...the clothes taking up two closets that you haven't worn in years (if ever) and will never wear again;
  • ...seriously, who needs that many shoes anyway?  Or purses?  Or raincoats?  And really, no one EVER (self, I'm looking at YOU) really needs a WHOLE DRESSER DRAWER dedicated to socks (I have a real problem).
You think of physical, tangible objects.  Things that take of perceivable space.  By no doubt you've guess from the title of this entry where I am taking you next....

And no it's not Disneyland (though my birthday is coming up if you want to meet me there!).

Electronic Clutter!

In the last 20 years, storage space has become incredibly cheap.  It wasn't long before the first commercially available terabyte drive was less than $100 bucks.  Now you can get a decent one on sale for $50.  That's a lot of crap you can fit onto one of those!  Media is increasingly stored electronically because digital space is more condensed and affordable than physical space.  I store some of my music library electronically (I still own a couple hundred CDs and buy a few every year), and all of my photos are uploaded to the cloud (I pay a reasonable, annual fee for unlimited access).  I have friends who store a lot of video media and so have terabyte after terabyte after terabyte of stuff.  Frequently I hear they download programs and movies just to have them available, but often never view them.

Similar goes for email, some never delete a single email.  Everything may be important "some day" and so create complex file systems of useless electronic crap.  Granted, most people I know, myself included, use web-based mail so the space is maintained by someone else.  I'll be honest, since I opened my Gmail account, the inbox has never been completely empty.

At some point this is all ridiculous.  Even electronic clutter sucks precious time out of your life because you have to maintain it in some fashion, whether that is making sure every file is meticulously backed up or organized for easy retrieval.  At a certain point you have to ask yourself, is it necessary?

Start with your email!

1. Delete saved stuff that is not useful or no longer relevant.

Do you really need all those stupid jokes or cute kitten chain letters your mother-in-law sent you four years ago?  Do they add value to your life?  In Gmail, you can add a star (or other marker) to the email or tag it as important.  If there are emails you genuinely refer back to on a somewhat regular basis, flag it and delete the rest.  Trust me, I understand the necessity of keeping something cute around just to make a bad day better.  

When I order things online, I tend to save the emails for a bit until everything is kosher and I'm happy with the product received.  So why did I have emails dating back to 2002?  Seriously!  2002!  Yeah, I deleted all that crap.  I deleted at least over 6,000 emails in my last purge.  

2. Unsubscribe from weekly ads.

All those daily recipe emails, weekly coupons from dozens of retailers, they add up.  Do you actually read all of those?  Do you actually shop at those retailers?  Do you really cook that often or are the recipes relevant to you? 

Start with the ads.  Unsubscribe from these mailers.  For one, it will keep you from being tempted to purchase things you don't really need.  This sort of passive shopping gets everyone in trouble.  Spending money to save money does not cents make (heehee!).  If there is something you need, you can hunt and watch for deals without the spam.  If the something isn't worth that kind of effort, then I am willing to bet it's not really worth your dollars either.

Every morning, I would spend 30 to 60 minutes filtering retail ads out of my email box in order to get to the real stuff from real people.  By that point, I wouldn't have time or energy to actually reply.  Things that mattered got lost.  I would end up having to spend 10 minutes every hour to keep up on the crap.  Forget it.  I'm free now!

3. Pare down on blogs and internet communities.

You don't need to subscribe to every blog you see or that is recommended.  Well, you can if you have the sense to realize it's time to unsubscribe when you're not reading it.  If you have thousands of unread blog entries in your reader, mark everything as read and start fresh.  If you find yourself avoiding a blog or frequently marking it as read, it's time to unsubscribe.  If a blog posts too frequently (I subscribed to one that posted lengthy posts three to five times a day EVERY DAY!), unsubscribe because that is way too much distraction (and it can't all be quality content at that frequent of a pace).  Make the blogs of friends a priority and advice pieces secondary.  You don't need to subscribe to every finance/crafty/family blog on the face of the earth.  A couple of each maybe, if they add substance to your life. (If my advice mean some people unsubscribe from my blog, I'm okay with that. I would rather they free themselves of the unnecessary rather than feed my ego.)

And then there are internet communities.  Places where you can contribute or lurk depending on your interest.  Stop it.  If you're not contributing or getting anything useful out of it leave.  If you haven't attended a Meetup you've been swearing you'll go to for months, leave.  It will be there for another day when you have space in your life for it.  If it isn't, then there wasn't enough quality content to maintain it (which is why you left it anyway).

4. If you're not using it, just get rid of it.

Why are you paying for a backup service to backup things you don't need or use?  Spend a weekend going through your electronic content.  Get the really important stuff (legal papers, and that ilk) into a folder that a backup service frequently monitors.  Organize your documents, consolidate, and delete the useless stuff.  Really, you don't need a copy of your resume from 2006 if you have a more recent copy on file.  Delete that crap.  It only serves to distract you from finding the really important stuff.  

Anything else, get on the cloud.  As much as you want to, you should probably save that crappy poetry from your teen years.  Google Docs, Microsoft, Amazon, and many others offer free hosting services for that kind of thing.  Then it's off your hardware and you don't have to worry about a drive failure. (Now the cloud isn't perfect either, so it's not completely worthless saving off to an external hard disc as well, just to be safe.  Just keep in mind you'll need to track of things.)

That's not everything one can do, but it's a good start and will likely inspire cleaning up things in areas you wouldn't have thought of before.  That's the point.  It's amazing what we don't think of or simply turn a blind eye to simply because we've come to accept it.

I'd love to hear your ideas for electronic clutter cleanup!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

But On Paper It Looks Better...

On my afternoon get-the-hell-away-from-my-desk walk, my best friend and I saw a teenage boy sitting on the grass across the street.  I mentioned how similar the boy looked to our friend's son.  We both stared at the back of the boy's head, silently willing him to look in our direction so we could be sure and avoid unnecessary embarrassment from yelling out a random name at a strange boy.  While we were about to round the corner, the boy finally turned towards us.  Our assumptions were correct, and we walked over to chat with the boy.

I had learned recently that he had been home-schooled during the past year due to issues pertaining to him discontinuing participation in his former high school's football program.  Having attended and graduated from the same high school myself, I know how aggressive the administration is about its football players and have experienced how every other program takes a backseat to that school's sports programs.  Anyway, there is a charter school office down the street from my office, hence why the boy was out on the grass in a not-so-random office complex doing his homework.  During our brief chat, he said he was most likely going to go back to his old high school for his senior year.  I asked him why (since it was contrary to what his mother told me over dinner last week).  He said he was told that "they" don't take graduation from a charter school as well as a regular school.

Um, who told you that?  His parents of course.

Well, okay.  But who is the "they" that the parents are referring to?

"I don't know."

No, of course you don't.  And the best part...

I'm sure neither do your parents.

His parents are simply well-meaning.  We live in a culture that puts a lot of value into brands.  We don't ask for a tissue, we ask for a Kleenex.  Harvard sounds a lot better than Greendale Community college.  I'm sure his parents don't really know who respects a "real" high school (and how would anyone know if the school didn't have "charter" in its name?), they just want to protect him and make sure that he has the best possible chance to succeed.  The boy is already gaining real world work experience by taking a part-time job working in his father's office and is looking forward to getting his insurance broker's license.  I'm sure that any potential future employer is going to be much more interest in that and his accomplishments and the RESULTS he pulls over his completely irrelevant high school education.

The value in a name is not all it used to be.  Many employers will be happy to see you meet their requirement for having a high school diploma.  To date, I have never had an employer ask to see any of my diplomas, degrees, or awards listed on my resume.  I have never had an employer contact the organizations I list in my education to verify that I passed all my classes with straight As.  What they have done is called references listed and previous employers listed (assuming they are still in business).

If education was such a big, stinking deal, why wouldn't potential employers call my college; why are classes even graded beyond pass or fail?  Perhaps these are inane questions, but I'd rather ask then continue to blindly follow the advice of others who clearly don't know any better than I.

Monday, August 15, 2011


So much has happened!  So much to share!

First a note: I haven't been feeling like myself for the last week and it's been more intense over the weekend and now.  So if this takes on a sour note, I'm sorry.  Some days a bad day just keeps going on and on.

Last week I took a digital sabbatical.  This meant no blog posts (anywhere, I have three distinct blogs that are relatively topic-specific, this one being the more mundane out of the lot and where I post with the most regularity) all week, even though I really thought I wanted to write.  I cut back on my social networking and tried to keep interactions to a minimum or avoid them completely.  Mostly, I just wanted to see if I could do it.  I know I can live without it (I did for at least two decades before social networking started to rise), but I didn't know if I could keep away.  I'm mostly satisfied with how things went.  No, I wasn't productive.  Okay, that's not true, but whatever!

My biggest piece of news isn't really mine.  My best friend, Cynthia, is pregnant!  We learned a week ago Saturday.  Her husband sent me a picture of the positive stick.  I was so confused, I wasn't even sure what I was looking at or what it was telling me for longer than I'm comfortable admitting!  After so many negatives, I was just floored.  I'm so happy and excited for both of them, and I've been pleasantly drowning in babytalk with my bestie.  (By the way, she's number two.  I have another close friend who is also pregnant and a week or two further along than Cyn.  Who will be number three, since that's the way of these things?)

My next biggest news still isn't really mine:  Jeff got a job!  He's actually going to be working at the same company as me, but in sales.  We're really excited about this.  I think it will be a good environment for him to get more business experience and make connections with others.  His manager is one of my favorites, and they have really similar personalities so I think he's in a very good place.  This time next week, he'll be training for his new post!

My other big news is in fact for me!  It looks like I'll beginning my yoga teacher training sooner than expected!  I went to my last intro class a week ago Thursday and learned that they were going to be offering the training in a modular form in order to make it more accessible.  I'm still waiting on the details, but they are supposed to begin in the fall (which is like a month from now!).  Hopefully this means I won't have to dedicate all my 2012 vacation time to three-day weekends in San Francisco once a month (although, that's not really a bad thing).

This is all really fantastic news!  So why am I feeling sour?  Well, there's a lot happening behind the scenes, too.  With all of this means a sudden change to long term plans.  We have to postpone our Europe trip and once Jeff starts working, we'll need to focus on catching up on bills and potentially making a major house repair instead of more fun stuff.  My birthday trip is still on, tentatively, but I'm still really bummed out my close friends and family can't join me like we originally planned.  Also some of my closest friends are preparing to make the jump across the pond (that's leaving the country), some as soon as two months, others more like six months, but all relatively soon in the spectrum of things.

Change is good, but I feel like I'm being left out of the loop, forgotten.  It's a weird, annoying, and saddening feeling.  Everyone is fervently involved in their own major life events, too.  I hope my friends let me continue to be apart of lives and share in the excitement those events bring.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Taking a week break

I'm taking a partial digital sabbatical this week.  Limited Facebook and Google+ access and no blog posts until next Monday.

I have some personal projects I need to work on and I just need some time away from the social blur that is the Internet for the moment.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Back to Writing

I've been thinking about writing a lot.  It's actually getting ridiculous.  I'm always thinking of the next topic(s) and how to branch out.  Not for any reason than to satisfy my desire to write.  I had wanted to be a writer when I was growing up, mostly short stories and quirky opinion pieces.  While I felt novels were too involved, I felt a world was better created through short stories highlighting the people who lived in it.

This love for writing and creating worlds and characters was further fueled by my involvement in role-playing games, in particular LARP (live action role-playing).  Not only did I create characters, but I could test drive them.  Their lives and characteristics would unfold during game play and take on a life of their own.

Many years ago, I stopped writing.  I found myself no longer surrounded by people who wrote as a hobby but by people who sought professional careers through their writing.  In some cases, I felt threatened and so I didn't discuss my passion.  Obviously, I had convinced myself, I wasn't really passionate if I wasn't planning on taking it to the same professional level.  I didn't want them to judge me with their harsh lenses. A criticism of my work was obviously an extension of their criticism on my character.  Yes, it's quite a leap of logic, but considering the circumstances and, looking back, I may not have been far off the mark.

Eventually, I just stopped writing.  I felt too threatened and I was distracted by other new and exciting ventures that kept me occupied.  Sometimes I wrote in a journal, but it was tedious and I didn't enjoy it at all. I forced myself to do it on occasion, but more often than not I "forgot" or made excuses.

I'm not sure what clicked in the last year or so, but I'm enjoying it again.  Mostly it's journal-style writing, but I hope it is thoughtful and useful to others that read it.  I still haven't gotten back into fiction writing, but perhaps has I practice writing I will begin to feel more comfortable and confident so I can begin to venture back out in that direction.

Writing is definitely apart of me again.  When talking to friends and they ask me what I'm doing with my evening, I often rattle off "writing".  It's funny how things come around.  This time I'm just enjoying the exercise and try not to get lost in worrying about what other think about it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ahhh August

Happy First Day of August everyone!  In the UK there are several celebrations being had marking this as the first of the harvest festivals.  Summer play is replaced with hard work, processing, and preserving.  Oh how well this mirrors in my own life.

I felt fortunate that last week seemed to go by very quickly.  I wasn't as active as I would have liked, but I did have my ass handed to me in Zumba.  At $5 a class, I think I can make this a staple activity until...well...until La Bella Dance company stops offering it at such a convenient time!

The rest of my week was mostly leisurely and enjoyable.  In yoga class, I introduced my students to a modified version of Sun Salutations.  The sequence further lifted my day and my mood.  I think I floated through the rest of my day, which ended on a cooler note in a pool visiting with some old friends, including some from out of town who I don't see nearly often enough.  If I do get a new car, I hope I make more of an effort to travel once a month to visit my scattered friends. Although, that might have to coincide with my yoga teacher training once I can start...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Food-wise, I think I did pretty well to stay on task and within my limits.  I splurged a bit on Friday night on sushi, but I kept lunch light, so I don't feel bad about it.  No fun splurging anyway if you're going to beat yourself into an emotional blackhole.  Through Cyn and Laura, I was turned onto MyFitnessPal as an alternative to SparkPeople.  I've been using the latter since January 2006, and I've enjoyed the format and the community, especially since the service was free.  However, the layout wasn't intuitive, the color schemes were obnoxious, and there seemed to always be time-out problems and slow post-backs.  MyFitnessPal is a bit cleaner and faster, but honestly, I love it most for its mobile app that is much faster than the website and more intuitive.  The daily diary (for food and exercise tracking) will estimate how your day's activities will impact your weight loss goals.  It's all very cool.  I'm a convert.

So pretty lazy week.  I hoped that I could get on track and get more serious about the fitness aspect of things, but we had a bit of a doozy at the office today.  Remember all that first harvest, hard work stuff I was rambling about earlier.  Looks like I'm going to have to "phone it in" as well (where the hell does that expression come from anyway?).  I've already had to rearrange a couple of social plans for the week to accommodate for necessary overtime and it is possible that my whole month will follow suit.  I don't mind the overtime.  I could certainly use the extra savings (I have my paycheck direct deposit arranged so all overtime goes straight to savings and retirement so I'm never tempted to use it for evil).  I need more time in the office anyway for some projects.  I'm just disappointed that some other projects will inevitably be pushed further back, and I hate making my clients feel second-class.  That's business, though.  I plan on hitting the office early to go over all my various projects and make sure all my notes are up-to-date so everything is accountable if I need to pick up something tabled.

The thing I am concerned about the most is how it will effect the yoga classes I am teaching on the side.  I had hoped to introduce a second Saturday class and a weeknight class.  These may have to be put on hold until September, but I should know more by next week.  The extra work should intensify my own personal practice, anyway, since I'll have a greater craving for the peace it always brings.  Note to self: if there are plans to travel, pack mat this time.

Whatever happens, I will take things as they come (just as long as they don't mess with my Disneyland plans!).  I'm not too stressed and the sky isn't falling.  I don't feel resigned either.  It's an opportunity to be intensely productive over a short period of time.  Looking back on my desire to be productive and creative the last few weeks, I definitely see those past actions as simple foreshadowing for the present.  And with Mercury stationing retrograde tomorrow, I'm sure the whole thing will experience.

How do you handle disruptions to your life?