athelind: (ouroboros)
I turned 50 yesterday. It feels pretty good: a fresh start.

I must finally be a "grown-up", because my answer to the question, "what do you want to on your birthday?" was "get this furshlugginer report done and to the client by the end of the month."

... no, seriously. I actually had a dream the night before last about being hijacked by friends and family and getting dragged off to a "fun" gathering, while all the while thinking, "But I wanted to get stuff DONE this morning! I told my manager that I'd have that on his desk! I'm losing HOURS of work!" When I actually woke up and got to work, there was a palpable sense of relief. I was wholly engaged in the problem-solving, both the data analysis and the minutiae of layout and production. I was busy non-stop, and enjoying myself thoroughly. With as many birthdays as I've spent without gainful employ, being occupied might be the Best Present Ever.

Getting my paycheck AND a quarterly bonus on my birthday is right up there, too.

Another Truly Excellent Present: after a year of record-low rainfall, the "storm gates are finally open", as our local TV weather announcers like to say. We're getting wave after wave of storms that are doing their level best to make up for the last year in the span of a couple of weeks. We're close enough to the edge that we'll probably still be in official drought conditions for the rest of the year, but next year looks like an El Niño year, so things might get REALLY wet.

(Eventually, Californians will understand that an "average rainfall year" almost never happens: our "average" is the mean between five years of drought and two years of flooding. Once we start planning accordingly ... well, then climate change will screw up the pattern, but nevertheless.)

The juxtaposition of Birthday and Rain has brought an amusing wave of pleasant nostalgia, triggered during the long commute home yesterday. The big El Niño of '78-'79, which brought an end to the long drought that shaped my childhood years, corresponds neatly to the release dates of the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, which shaped my teenage years. Hearing pouring rain playing its staccato on a metal roof always brings me back to the lazy days I spent curled up in the back of our motor home, pouring over the latest volume of AD&D (or, more often, some unofficial supplement from some third-party vendor).

The cheap bindings, terrible typesetting, and cheesy art based on cheap dime store toys didn't matter. For all my critiques of "dungeon fantasy", I remember the open-eyed excitement and possibility of High Fantasy, of a hobby built around creating entire worlds. I've got that rare wave of wanting to play a D&D-style RPG again, though it might be better served by getting back to work on my own High Fantasy Magnum Opus.

It's possible my "grown-up" status may still be in some degree of dispute ...


athelind: (Eye of the Dragon)
Goodness. I've let this lie far too long, and I apologize -- particularly since my last post of any substance was "I'M HAVING CHEST PAINS."

I should remedy that, and shall.

First and foremost, HEALTH:

Said chest pains proved not only to be not life threatening, they weren't even a significant health issue. They were, yes, Pre-Ventricular Contractions, and, yes, I do have a family history of PVCs -- but there are no structural issues with my heart. The doctor said that I could go climb Mount Kilimanjaro were I so inclined.

The "flips" have entirely faded, at this point, and considering that they started immediately after I got back from last year's Maker Fair ... I rather suspect the high-voltage jolts I got for funsies from the Van De Graff generator a few booths down from us might have triggered a little persistent twitchery in the old timer.

(Come to think of it, that anxiety/panic attack I had at dinner that one night during Maker Fair might have been the first manifestation -- that feeling of "panic" and "trouble breathing" might have been connected to "GAH MY HEART SHOULD NOT DO THAT" ...)

WORK:

I am quite enjoying my current employment. My experience with interpreting and displaying complex, abstruse data clearly (read: "Your Obedient Serpent Knows Stupid Excel Tricks") has made me the go-to guy for our company's more esoteric reports, and while I tend to get buried in these Special Projects, I really can sink my teeth into them.

It's still a 50-mile commute, but I'm no longer carpooling with [livejournal.com profile] kohai_tiger; a few times driving solo gave me a taste for getting in and getting home earlier ... and earlier ... and earlier. When I flew out to Midwest Furfest last November, I started running on "Chicago Time" ... and really never shifted back to Pacific Time. Most days, I roll out around 0400, get to work around 0500, leave around 1400, and get home around 1515, plus or minus fifteen to twenty minutes either way.

Oddly, since I've shifted my shower-taking habits to evening instead of morning, I get up at about the same time as I did when I was carpooling and getting to work between 0730 and 0800 -- but since I seldom if ever have to contend with anything resembling traffic, I get home three to four hours earlier. Drying off becomes relaxing downtime instead of rushed getting-ready time.

I've also found that I enjoy driving in the early hours of the morning, and not just because of the light traffic. I'm very much a morning person, and those crisp, clear pre-dawn hours just seem more alive to me. I confess that I've also been prone to a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder for the past few years -- but I never had an issue while on The Chicago Schedule. It tried to sneak back on the few days that I shifted back to a "normal" schedule during the winter months. I think a key factor is Getting Home After Dark: if you get up before sunrise, you've Seized the Day. If you get home after sunSET ... the day has seized you.

FUN:

I've been mostly keeping up with the speculative cinema; I can't believe I've let both Captain America: the First Avenger and Marvel's The Avengers slip by without comment, much less any other movies. On television, Game of Thrones is an amazing achievement, and on broadcast television, I found myself wholly engaged and impressed by Arrow.

I am down to a single game on the RPG front: the monthly Star Wars game hosted by [livejournal.com profile] rikoshi and [livejournal.com profile] tealfox. The Wednesday night game sessions alternating between Ironclaw and The Dresden Files were becoming increasingly untenable for me, and once I switched to Chicago Time, I simply couldn't continue. Honestly, I'm suffering a bit of Gamer Fatigue on that front; once the Star Wars game wraps up, I will probably gafiate from gaming for a year or three.

My chronic automotive issues were finally traced to a glitchy OBD-II (On Board Diagnostic) computer. That took nearly two months to get replaced and functioning properly; if she proves stable, I may start keeping a packed Go-Bag, so I can head out for spontaneous road trips on random weekends. I spend far too much time traveling the same hundred miles of road (I take different routes in the morning and afternoon), and spending the weekend sitting around home not going ANYWHERE only goes so far. I'm a traveller by ancestry, instinct, and long, long experience, and by golly, I need to TRAVEL.

Oh, and I've picked up a few more volumes of Raymond Chandler ...
athelind: (work)
A reference to my cubicle as my "cube" brought to mind the 1997 classic of that name, and that, in turn, brought forth an image of that shifting, shuffling maze being made of office cubicles, each one identical save for differences in clutter, and, rather than increasingly-lethal death traps, each one is inhabited by increasingly-annoying co-workers (including regular appearances by the manager who keeps telling you to stop wandering around and get back to your desk).

And then the ultimate crossover sprang unbidden from my brow like Athena from the Brow of Zeus.

This is a concept that need never be made; just the conceptual existence of OFFICE CUBE is enough. Anyone who's seen both movies -- and worked in an office -- will immediately Understand, and Be Enlightened.

Though the idea of this as a computer game -- text-based or visual RPG -- also has an appeal. I might even PLAY that one.

If I didn't play it five days a week already.


athelind: (happy)
Dear Princess Celestia:

This weekend, I learned some very important things about back pain.

First: don't touch your toes to "work the kinks out", and most especially, if you have trouble touching your toes, DO NOT I say again DO NOT push yourself until you CAN.

IT JUST MAKES THINGS WORSE.

Second: if you're tempted to skip a shower because your back hurts, DON'T GIVE IN. Hot water does everything that touching your toes to "work the kinks out" DIDN'T.

Third: the evidence seems to suggest that using an exercise ball as a part-time office chair causes more problems than it solves.

Your faithful student, Athelind Long
athelind: (Ommm)
... well, you know; we all want to change the world.

2011 draws to a close today, and for the first time in a long time, the farewell I bid the passing year is a fond one. I know it's been a hard year for many of us, and certainly, in the Big Picture, there have been grim tidings and outright catastrophes. I hope 2012 is better for every one of us.

On the small scale, on the personal scale ... 2011 has been a good year for Your Obedient Serpent. I haven't mentioned it often, but I finally landed full-time work that taps at least some of my science background, and while there were a few rough patches mid-year, I think I've settled in solidly now. Better yet, it looks like I'll be getting to do even more sciencey stuff in the upcoming year.

As for me, personally ... well, as Gloria Gaynor once sang, 2011 was the year that "I grew strong, and I learned how to carry on." I'm not the person I was, and for the first time in a long time, it feels like I'm starting to become someone I want to be.

So ... thank you, 2011. I know you won't be hearing that from many people, but you did right by me.

As for the Shape of Things to Come:

If the theme for 2011 was Crawling from the Wreckage, then 2012 is Building from the Wreckage. I've found my place to stand, precarious as the footing might be (it is on a pile of wreckage, after all); now it's time to get my levers into place and see if I can move the world, just a little.

Really, it comes down to Extropy, and the Extropian Ideal: Live your life to improve the human condition ... starting with the local human. I'm still assembling a solid foundation for Maslow's Pyramid, but I can at least start sketching out the higher levels.

So, here's the Outline for 2012. If you don't like calling them "Resolutions", think of it as a TO DO LIST ... )
That seems like a good start.

Again, my best wishes to all of you, and I bid you all joy and hope for 2012.

footnotes )
athelind: (work)
It's called "Friday" because, by the time it gets here, you're fried.

It's called the "Weekend" because, by the time it gets here, you're weakened.


athelind: (work)
Ah, the life of a grown-up.

Long commutes, manic-depressive coworkers, unexpected bills.

When this song cued up on my MP3 player, it exactly fit my current mood.






One more compromise I won't be making ... )

Too many windmills in my way ... /center>
athelind: (ouroboros)
The last panel of today's Shortpacked! sort of capturtes how I've been feeling lately. I need to snip it and resize it for an icon, if the text will still be readable at 100x100.

"We're finally growing up?"

"Screw that. We're finally catching up to all those bastards we know on Facebook who are having their third kid."



I need some kind of tag to indicate "This is a good thing, really!"
athelind: (Warning: Group Intellect)
I like tea.

I like honey in my tea.

Honey is too damned sticky and messy to deal with at work.

Is there, like, crystallized honey out there? In nice little packets, like sugar?


athelind: (ouroboros)
I am not a scientist.

I am not in a job where I am doing science, particularly not the kind of ecological sciences that I thought was my calling.

For years, for decades, I had I Am A Scientist, and if I am not Doing Science, I am Wasting My Life carved on my soul.

And because of that, I wasted my life.

But you know what?

I Got Over Myself.

I Am Not A Scientist. I Am Not Doing Science.

And I am finally Doing Something With My Life, because I have let that go.

I am in a position to make good use of my skills and experience. I am in a position to do some good with the second half of my life.

Hell, that's right there at the top of my resume:

Coast Guard veteran with degrees in Earth Systems Science and Biotechnology seeks a position that will integrate his education and experience, to make positive change in the world.


I am there. I've got that.

And it's not at all the job I saw for myself. It's not the job I was expecting.

Life surprised me.

And Life is Good.

Allow yourself the possibility of surprise.


Edit: On reading this the next morning, I realize I didn't clearly state something very important:

I Am Not A Scientist. I Am Not Doing Science.

I am not "following my dream"—but I love my job.

I haven't "settled". This is not "disappointment".

I am in a job that leaves me engaged, fulfilled and, at the end of more days than not, happy.

Life surprised me, and Life is Good.
athelind: (Default)

The Bay Area is under a Tsunami Warning after Japan's 8.9 quake.



A Tsunami Warning means that all coastal residents in the warning area who are near the beach or in low-lying regions should move immediately inland to higher ground and away from all harbors and inlets including those sheltered directly from the sea. Those feeling the earth shake, seeing unusual wave action, or the water level rising or receding may have only a few minutes before the tsunami arrival and should move immediately. Homes and small buildings are not designed to withstand tsunami impacts. Do not stay in these structures. (Emphasis mine.)




Japan is reeling. Hawaii is waiting and watching.

Forgive me if I make this All About Me for a moment, but I work in a direct line-of-sight to the Golden Gate and the Pacific Ocean:



It kind of defines "low-lying coastal region near a harbor".

The effects are expected to hit San Francisco at around 8:08 this morning.

Right after I get to work.

Oh, Coyote. I was wondering where you'd snuck off to.



(Local news reports indicate that waves out on the San Francisco coast are likely to only be a foot or two. Previous tsunami advisories and warnings I've experienced have barely produced a ripple in the Bay. You never know, though.)
More updates, 05:10: According to the radio, no evacuations for San Fransisco, Marin, or Sonoma counties. The only evacuations are West of Highway 1, which is already The Ocean in most places. They aren't even MENTIONING the East Bay.
athelind: (YAY)
After all these years, I understand the true meaning of this holiday.

I can look past the faux patriotism, the attempts at historical relevance, past Valley Forge and Gettysberg and the collision of two different chief executives from two very different historical eras.

I now understand what this day means to other people, and it has, for me, a deeply personal significance:

I have today off.
And I'm getting paid for it.


I think this is the first paid holiday I've had since I got out of the Coast Guard in 1990.

I've been paid on holidays, but it's usually because I've been working. This suited me just fine in the Coast Guard; I'd volunteer to take the duty shift on Thanksgiving and Christmas, since I didn't have any local family, and many of my fellow Coasties Puddle Pirates "Guardians" did. .

At the hospital, I continued my Coast Guard tradition. While my parents lived in the area, and, in fact, my stepfather worked in the same department I did, we officially Didn't Do Christmas. The sole extent of our celebration of the day was to have dinner together—and since Tri-City had an exceptional cafeteria that belied the hoary stand-up comic tropes about "hospital food", we had more than one "Christmas dinner" downstairs on my lunch hour.

Time-and-a-half was a fine Christmas Present—but it wasn't the same as a paid holiday.

Student workers in university jobs generally don't get holiday pay. Neither do most temp workers, or "short-term consultants*".

At Legends, of course, holidays are just a Slightly Busier Day, typified by customers constantly asking why we don't have a sale going on. Once or twice, as an experiment, Da Boss has had us open up on a holiday when most of the rest of the mall was technically closed, to see if we could catch some overflow business from the never-say-closed movie theater.

... damn. I have today off. I can finish laundry. I can work on the DC Adventures game I'm going to run. I can spend a couple of hours reading the last two months of comics that I finally picked up at my old job yesterday ("I'll clear out my box as soon as I get my first paycheck!"). I can do my taxes.

And I can do it all without feeling guilty for spending time I should be using to look for work.


* [SEMANTIC ANALYZER: "Short-Term Consultant" = "We don't want to pay an agency's commission fee for a temp."]
athelind: (Default)
Upon awakening this morning, Your Obedient Serpent had one of those epiphanies that keep expanding his mind these days.

For the last couple of days at work, I've been in and out of training. Training at my new job leans toward the casual and conversational. They take it seriously, but they want to know that you're engaged.

I've found that, when discussions of safety, odd technology, and strange experiences lean toward the conversational .... I frequently have A Relevant Amusing Anecdote.

And they all start differently.

When I was in the Coast Guard ...

When I worked in the hospital ...

When I was at Cal State, doing Seafloor Mapping ...

When I was in the comic book store ...


When you're clinically depressed, one of the things that gets into your head is the idea that "I haven't done anything with my life." And that's a hard one to dislodge.

But ... by GAD, sir! I've done all manner of things with my life.

I am ... INTERESTING.

You may have noticed that, over the last year or so, a phrase I've used more than once is 'I don't want to be That Guy. "Nobody wants to be That Guy."

Well, I think that I might be This Guy:

... and I think I'm good with that.



Pity poor [livejournal.com profile] kohai_tiger, who, in the course of two to three hours of daily commute, occasionally gets stuck in the role of Hapless Gentleman's Club Member Buttonholed by Pompous Windbag McBragg ...
athelind: (work)
I don't often mention events at my current job, but last night bears some note.

Around closing time, I noticed that the mall was starting to get busy. This wasn't unexpected, since the new Harry Potter movie was slated for a midnight debut. I had some puttering around to do -- normally, I vacuum during the slow periods on Thursday night, but I had a few other tasks and not that many slow moments.

i decided to stay open while I was vacuuming, and see who wandered in.

A little after 9, I called my boss and let him know that I had more people wandering around the store than I'd had at any other point in the day.

Lots of bored people standing in line = lots of after-hours sales for the comic store.


... particularly after I sent a co-worker out to drum up business by handing out freebie comics and letting folks know that we had Harry Potter wands left over from Halloween, and were selling them at 20% off.

(I didn't clear that particular discount with the boss, but given that I sold all but two of the wands, and most everyone who came in to look at and/or purchase wands wound up buying other stuff, I don't think he'll complain.)

We wound up staying open until 11; a full third of yesterday's sales were made in those last two hours. There were, evidently, several thousand people in a line that ranged all the way around the mall. The theater wound up shutting down other shows so they could open Potter on more screens and clear the crowds out faster.

The energy of the crowd was infectious. Everyone was upbeat and happy and excited, and the realization of just how long two hours of waiting in a line really was only diminished that slightly (and fueled the impulse to head into Geek Heaven to find reading material, decks of cards, and other ways to kill time, so hey, bonus). That aura of enthusiasm kept me rarin' to go (RAR) well after I normally would have been fading out (aided and abetted by a 7PM can of Dr Pepper), and I have to admit: I had fun.

Pity we didn't have more Potter paraphernalia in stock.

My last customer of the night was also my favorite: a person in a Green Lantern shirt who admitted she was really there to see the GL trailer on the big screen. You gotta respect that.


athelind: (facepalm)
So there I am at work, in what I hope are the last stages of a cold, running on generic DayQuil, GatorAde, and Fisherman's Friend menthol lozenges, blowing my nose whenever the store's empty, and hoping that bottle of hand sanitizer is keeping me from playing Patient Zero.

My sinuses are draining. My throat doesn't hurt, thank goodness, because working at a comic store entails a lot of conversation -- especially a comic store in a mall, where you have a lot of Curious Neophytes who wouldn't wander into your typical Android's Dungeon.

Nevertheless, the cold has affected my voice. It's not quite gravelly, per se, but there's that odd kind of vibration it gets when the vocal cords are ... pray forgive me if this is too vivid ... coated.

Not one but two different customers complimented me for my pleasant voice, and said that I should go into radio, or do voiceovers, or something of the sort.

As I'm suppressing a coughing fit.


gruuuuuh

Aug. 2nd, 2010 03:43 pm
athelind: (work)
I profoundly do not want to spend the evening hawking comic books.
athelind: (AAAAAA)
I can sleep through earthquakes and storms at sea. I can sleep through my car getting demolished by a drunk driver out on the curb in front of my house. I plug Rush and Meat Loaf into my CD player to rock myself to sleep.

I cannot sleep through the sound of mice rustling around my room.

The bottle of Melatonin with Theamine that I picked up at CostCo on Wednesday is supposed to be for "Stress Relief and a Sounder Sleep". It is not supposed to give me super-hearing.

When I've taken Melatonin in the past, I've consistently gotten six hours of sound sleep, and then snapped awake. I was hoping to get more useful hours in the morning, since evening shift in the comics store has made it increasingly difficult to get started.

I'm on less than four hours of low-grade sleep, but after snapping awake to rustle rustle rustle and Dawn's Early Light, I'm pretty much done for.

I need to tidy up in here.


athelind: (Warning: Group Intellect)
Question:

When responding to a job posting that doesn't list a specific contact person, what's the best way to open a cover letter? I've been using "Dear Sir or Madam", but that sounds a little vague, a little stiff, and a lot like the opening to a Beatles song.

Obviously, the ideal option is to address a cover letter to a specific person, by name, but this is not always possible.

Should I stick with "Dear Sir or Madam", use some other gender-neutral salutation, or just leave it off entirely and dive right into the "Look At Me, I'm Wonderful!" part of the letter?

[Poll #1561114]


athelind: (caustic)

First Superman Comic Sells For Record $1 Million



I dread work this week; odds are far too high that at least one bozo will come in every night, all excited about this, and wanting to talk about comics and collectibles as "investments".

He won't want to buy things, per se. He'll want my advice. What should he look for? What should he buy? What's the best return on his money?

How can he make a quick buck?

Your Obedient Serpent is honestly sick to death of comic books, superheroes, and pop-culture ephemera, but he'd still rather deal with people who read and enjoy these things than someone who bumbles in asking questions so clueless they defy an answer, simply because he's heard about someone who made huge returns on stuff that he's always dismissed.

How can you make a quick buck in the comics market? You can't. It took seventy godsforsaken years of carefully babying a fragile bundle of crappy, high-acid paper, starring a character nobody in the industry thought would catch on, to get that ten-million-fold return on Action's 10¢ cover price, you idiot.

Resolved: I am going to do my damnedest to sell these sleazy fools every worthless piece of crap I've got in the store, every random Big Event Comic, and most especially, every High-End, Hard-Sided, Nitrogen-Filled Comic Preservation Device I can dig up.

Because that's the real answer to the question. How do you make a quick buck in comics? By selling crap to the gullible.

Barnum was right.


athelind: (Default)

First Superman Comic Sells For Record $1 Million



I dread work this week; odds are far too high that at least one bozo will come in every night, all excited about this, and wanting to talk about comics and collectibles as "investments".

He won't want to buy things, per se. He'll want my advice. What should he look for? What should he buy? What's the best return on his money?

How can he make a quick buck?

Your Obedient Serpent is honestly sick to death of comic books, superheroes, and pop-culture ephemera, but he'd still rather deal with people who read and enjoy these things than someone who bumbles in asking questions so clueless they defy an answer, simply because he's heard about someone who made huge returns on stuff that he's always dismissed.

How can you make a quick buck in the comics market? You can't. It took seventy godsforsaken years of carefully babying a fragile bundle of crappy, high-acid paper, starring a character nobody in the industry thought would catch on, to get that ten-million-fold return on Action's 10¢ cover price, you idiot.

Resolved: I am going to do my damnedest to sell these sleazy fools every worthless piece of crap I've got in the store, every random Big Event Comic, and most especially, every High-End, Hard-Sided, Nitrogen-Filled Comic Preservation Device I can dig up.

Because that's the real answer to the question. How do you make a quick buck in comics? By selling crap to the gullible.

Barnum was right.


athelind: (work)
… I have an icon for "pointless, repetitive, soul-destroying work", but not one for "vital, productive, fulfilling work".


athelind: (Default)
… I have an icon for "pointless, repetitive, soul-destroying work", but not one for "vital, productive, fulfilling work".


athelind: (Default)
A statement like that might seem to need qualifiers, but really, it doesn't.

I don't know what the hell I'm doing.

About very nearly anything.


athelind: (Default)
A statement like that might seem to need qualifiers, but really, it doesn't.

I don't know what the hell I'm doing.

About very nearly anything.


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