Useless Blogging

October 16, 2008

The rambling post mostly about luck

Filed under: Family,Friends,My World,Thoughts — steegness @ 1:06 am

College fair #3 is now in the books. After #1, I had three copies of the main glossy left, and was sent about 40 more via overnight UPS. After #2, I had four. Now… I have two, having so few visitors that I didn’t even really move the four copies I had. This is marginally OK, because it kept me from having to hand out materials from the college next to me.

On the other side of me, a Calvert Hall (my high school rival) graduate, also class of 1996, shilling for his alma mater. He was also a teacher for one of the schools that sponsored the event, so he recognized about 20% of the students walking past. He mentioned to me how he likes to help out, because he may not have the paycheck to help, but if he can get three students in the door, that tuition helps make up for it. It made me realize that I’m in a similar situation, even if I wasn’t exactly cognizant of that fact.

Why do it at all? I keep thinking about that every now and again… what is it that drives me to make these trips to sweltering gymnasiums and packed cafeterias to convince people that Juniata deserves their attention? Certainly it has to be that my experience was a grand one, and that everyone should get the chance to have a similar grand experience in their lives. But then, more thinking (the train of thought does not slow down for stations) as I wonder why it was that my experience was so grand. And then it hit me. Luck.

Luck (or providence, or blessings, or karma, or what have you) has played a stupidly large part in my life. Most people seem to scheme or plan in order to move forward in life. Get good grades to get into a good college. Choose a degree with a career path that will bring wealth and happiness. Plan out the project so that it comes to a happy ending. Figure out what you want in a mate and seek it out. I have to presume the list goes on, but never having made such a list until just now, I stand ready to be corrected.

To the consternation of many around me — including myself, at times — much of my fortune has come not because of careful planning, but because I was in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. Grades came easy because school (with the notable exception of European History, from which I remembered only two things) came easy; I didn’t study, I didn’t double-check my work, and with rare exception, I usually didn’t read books outside of class.

I almost didn’t go to Juniata… money problems would’ve held me back. Juniata kicked in a couple large toward the end of the decision process to seal the deal on my #1 choice. (And imagine for a moment, my life had I not gone to Juniata… /shudder) At Juniata, I got a degree with no discernible career path; indeed, probably no career path at all. “Mind and Language” isn’t on any job requirement I’ve ever read.

Speaking of jobs, job #1* out of college came because my mom rocks and Verizon is OK with supporting nepotism now and again for lower level jobs. Job #1 ended with a shock, but given the culture post-reduction and the fact that two more followed in 2008 (removing 43% and 20%, respectively), job #1 ending was a kindness. The kindness is amplified by job #2, which I’d not have found without 1) losing job #1 and 2) having my wife happen across the listing for the job mere moments after I informed her I’d been RIFed.

So that more or less brings me back to today… when I have a loving wife, two great kids, two cats and a dog, a single family home of my very own, an amazing job, awesome parents, great friends, and the time to give a little back. None of this was planned (not that I planned for the opposite, of course).

Is it a plan if — because of the unplanned success — I swear off planning for the foreseeable future? What if I forgo forseeing?

*Technically, job #1 was actually in my senior year of high school. I applied on a dare from the busboy, who went to Calvert Hall. I was hired almost immediately after handing in the application.

October 15, 2008

Missed the Anniversary

Filed under: My World,Thoughts — steegness @ 9:00 am

According to You Don’t Say, I missed the 942nd anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.

Damn.

October 1, 2008

Welcome, One And All, To October

Filed under: Thoughts — steegness @ 12:55 pm

As months go, October has generally been a non-factor in my life. Sure, there are birthdays and the like to consider, but that’s been about it. October is about continuing what was started in September, and carrying it through to November. Rarely (or perhaps rarely memorably) has October brought with it noteworthy happenings.

I don’t know if this October will be any different. Perhaps its one noteworhty happening will be me noting that there were no other noteworthy happenings.

September 30, 2008

Thoughts on Arizona

Filed under: Thoughts,Work — steegness @ 12:52 am

The restroom of the Phoenix airport smelled like Pez. This was pleasing, until a coworker pointed out that such a similarity can make you wonder about one of two things: what’s in the air freshener that is Pez-like, or (more chillingly) what’s in Pez that is restroom-like?

“It’s a dry heat” is surprisingly valid*.
*offer not valid in your car

With great determination, people can overcome their natural tendencies. It’s hard though, when everything in your brain screams NO WRONG BAD. I’ve great confidence in the staff at ACA, but their brains are not wired to do what I was sent to help them to do, which will make the process more difficult than it probably should be.

I ate BBQ ribs for the first time.

An in-car GPS is the key to wandering an unknown city by car (Mesa is not packed tightly enough to travel far on foot).

I bought Wii Fit from a mall store in Mesa, mainly because I had yet to see a copy in the wild anywhere. Luckily it works, because returning it would’ve been rough. It just barely fit into my luggage (a carry-on bag gifted to me by a former boss [if you’re Skwid: it was Jud]).

September 24, 2008

Never sure which it is

Filed under: Family,My World,Thoughts — steegness @ 1:26 am

My posting has gone down a bit, to be certain. It’s weird: I’ll look at the Write Post link, or my front page, or sometimes even the link in my bookmarks, and I’ll wonder to myself “Do I have anything worth saying?” Sometimes it’s “You have more important stuff to do, slacker!” The gists are remarkably similar, as are the net results.

Surely there are noteworthy things…

  1. Emma scoring a perfect 100% on her first math test of the year
  2. Sara running home from daycare
  3. Juniata College off-campus interviews (followed by Mountain Day the next day)

Maybe I wonder how to say them. Maybe it’s that they’re never big ENOUGH events to warrant a few words. Maybe I’m just jaded.

June 3, 2008

The Hard Times

Filed under: My World,Philosophy,Thoughts — steegness @ 10:47 pm

The Hallowed Halls

I went to learn with the Jesuits for seven years, post-elementary. It cost my parents plenty (and I’m forever grateful, as there is no doubt whatsoever that my education there helped make me the man I am today), but the education was top-notch.

The facilities however, did not always reflect the cost of attendance.

The cafeteria was a converted garage. The ceilings were low, the tables and chairs uncomfortable, and the food horrendous. The main building’s basement used to be a gymnasium back in the day, but in my time served to house six classrooms. Four of them were large and spacious. Two were the old showers. No windows, sealed brick walls. Only one place on campus that students regularly went had air conditioning: the President’s Office, which is where my homeroom was during my senior year. 15 minutes in the morning, and that was it for the day.

Sanctum Defiled

I admit that the heading is a little heavy, but it’s going to a larger point, trust me.

These days, much has changed. The old cafeteria has been demolished in favor of a new eating establishment, which itself is attached to a new gymnasium. The basement classrooms have been removed, and the area is again a common area, thanks to the new building now firmly attached to the old one. Aforementioned new building has AC in more places than the whole campus did 15 years ago.

The students of today walk the path I (in some minor way) helped forge.

Gatherings of Old

Whenever I gather with friends from that era though, we can’t help but marvel at how different — different better, usually — things are compared to when we were there. It’s the classic “Life sucked, and we LIKED IT!” mentality, coming from folks like myself, who lived a life of opportunity. It’s a weird feeling to reflect on.

We recall — FONDLY! — the atrocious food of the cafeteria, the cramped shower-cum-classrooms, the sweat that would form by 10AM as summer neared. And it all got me thinking: why is that? What it is about the crappy times we shared that makes us long for their return, and resent that they’re not imposed on the present generation?

Shared Adversity and Personal Identity

There are two factors at work, I think.

The first is that struggles can (but certainly do not always) bring people closer together. Misery, company, you know the deal. People band together to overcome — or in the case of crappy cafeteria food, wait out until graduation — whatever adversity is being tossed at them. It’s not happenstance that commiserate has the etymology that it does.

The second is an inflated sense of self-worth that I think just about everyone possesses. Most people think that they’re good people, at least in their own eyes. Their surrounding situations may often be less than ideal, but inside, they think themselves on the right track. Couple this sense of “I’m decent” with “I slogged through the snow uphill to school”, and you arrive at “Everyone should walk uphill in the snow to school” pretty quickly. Life was rough, sure, but you came out the other side OK, right? The hardship build character, and taking it easy will certainly keep those character-building callouses from forming.

The Paradox of Parenthood

So this shared adversity, overcome in the past, molded a generation into what it is today. Sometimes life sucked, but we fought through it and we came out the other side better for it. Huzzah adversity!

But then you’ve got parenthood. Ugh.

Parents, in general, want life to be good for their kids; want them to have the things they didn’t have. Trouble with that is, providing all of that robs the character-building exercise detailed in the last few paragraphs.

Ease wins out every time, too. My daughters have a giant backyard, a playground with a slide, a trampoline, four TVs in the house, two gaming consoles, and for the older one, a computer in her room. They are 8 and 5. To compare, I had an Atari and an NES by 8 (if memory serves). There was a swingset in my postage-stamp backyard, but rust overtook it quickly. My first computer came in my sophomore year of high school. If you go back another generation, the differences become even more stark: no TVs, no money, and at times, a dearth of hope. Thank Nixon for that, I guess.

We want to give our kids the stuff that we really wanted but couldn’t have. And we usually do, because it not only makes them happy, it makes us happy in a vicarious sort of way.

What I Wonder Now

It’s no secret that I’m doing pretty well in life. I’m no zillionaire or anything, but I can pay my bills and eat fresh food and splurge every now and again if my heart desires it. It’s led me to be an enabler for that give-the-kids-the-stuff-you-wanted mindset that I described in the last paragraph.

All that’s good, I suppose: I want my family to be happy, and not HAVE to put up with some of the crap I did growing up, if at all possible. It’s not referred to as “crap” because it’s a pleasure to put up with.

But it gets me to thinking: what will my kids have for their shared adversity? What force will make the next generation band together and stand tall? Will there be anything at all, even? My generation doesn’t really have a defined stand; my stories are local and anecdotal. Will the next generation be the same? And if so, what in the world will their problems be? We built the new buildings, renovated the old ones, improved the food, and in general took care of the things that both annoyed us and shaped us… what’s left?

March 29, 2008

The Changing Of The Me

Filed under: Family,Friends,My World,Thoughts — steegness @ 11:06 pm

I’ve touched on this before, but I feel like it’s worth bringing up again. Change the channel if you’re not interested in further self-reflection.

I’m still working out where it is that I fit in my new life. Every now and again I try to tell myself that I’m the same person, just with new circumstances around me, but even I’m not buying that too much anymore. The changes that the new year has brought have wrought their havoc, for better or worse.

I’m out of touch with all the people and (literal and metaphorical) places I was before, and in touch with all sorts of other people and (literal and metaphorical) places that are either new or were far less frequently visited than they were prior to the Big Life Shift. Tonight is the longest I’ve been in front of my home PC for weeks, and it’s only been about 2.5 hours thus far.

I’m reading books. I’m not playing games; at least, not with the religious fervor of the past. I’m working 12+ hour days (sometimes) in an office, and driving home with a smile on my face. I’m spending more time with my family (despite the long work days), which sounds like a good thing, but home life is at times strained by the fact that I HADN’T been spending time and life was getting along well without me. This creates this odd sort of feedback loop that I don’t quite get.

And so it seems that I’m not the only one trying to figure out what’s become of me.

February 25, 2008

This post, in lieu of sleep

Filed under: Family,Friends,My World,Thoughts,Work — steegness @ 1:34 am

Over three weeks since the last post. Oddly indicative of how I’ve been feeling about my computer time in general, really.

Discounting the flu-like symptoms that knocked me on my ass since I posted last, my outlook on my computer has been all sorts of different for 2008. I suppose if I had to pin the blame somewhere, it’s the fact that I go into an office for nine hours a day now, and my schedule (as compared to 2007) is pretty radically altered along with it. I don’t know if that’s the WHOLE puzzle, but I know it’s a significant piece. I look at my PC and think “Do I really want to?”, end up answering “No”, and continuing on to other things (often sleep). I don’t know why tonight is different, but hey, take it while you can.

In random news:

I have a Juniata license plate now. Tess sports a pair of plates similar to the one seen here (for MD), but my number is … 0003. Not shabby.

Thursday was a company happy-hour event at Mustang Alley’s (a bowling alley/bistro two blocks from the office). I believe I whupped everyone, and that my team whupped every other team (with the snow on Friday, schools closed and I didn’t go into the office, so I don’t know the official results). Julie was also exposed to the madness that is “My Co-Workers”, and vice versa. I think the night went swimmingly.

Jodi’s surprise birthday party came to pass (yesterday). She was not surprised, though I was able to startle her. I consider that a win.

We are now in the Week of Perfect Health. Anything that seems like sickness coming from my family must obviously be a farce, since we don’t have benefits this week, and are therefore pictures of perfect health.

My desk will be moving, probably this week. I’m one of many moves that fall in a three-week re-arrange-apalooza. I’m not going to recognize my office soon, which is saying something, since I’ve barely been around long enough to recognize it at all.

February 1, 2008

I wish I liked Radiohead more

Filed under: Rants,Reviews,Thoughts — steegness @ 2:21 pm

Radiohead makes good music that I’d enjoy if I were trying to sleep, or maybe if I were tripping on mescaline or peyote or something. The lyrics are vague yet meaningful, and the music itself is unlike most everything I’ve heard. Trouble is, there’s rarely a hook, and as nice as Radiohead is to listen to while feeling introspective, it’s sucks for everyday use.

That is all.

January 23, 2008

Shhhhhh…

Filed under: Family,Friends,Thoughts,Work — steegness @ 8:59 am

At work, and in sort of a holiding pattern before a New Hire Orientation this morning. I don’t want to start on stuff that I’ll shortly need to abandon for three hours, so I’m posting this to end the blog-attendance truancy going on in here.

Things continue to go pretty well. In recent days gone by, I’ve been to a birthday party for a one-year old (which was attended by 52 people), and haven’t been to a birthday party for a six-year old (did I get that right, Julz? And did you get our package?). This upcoming weekend is a Juniata Alumni event, the first in Baltimore for the Baltimore crew, and I’m looking forward to it. 23 people had signed up last I looked (my family being four of them), so the turnout should be very nice for the kickoff thing we’ve got going on.

Friday night was an unofficial employee happy hour, fo which I was granted permission by The Boss to attend. Good thing too, because these folks enjoy themselves; not that co-workers from my past life didn’t enjoy themselves, but I certainly didn’t get to experience it firsthand very often.

My kids are enjoying video games, which warms my heart. Emma has taken to Animal Crossing (I picked up a GameCube controller post-xmas for GC games on the Wii), and Sara is all about I Can Play Piano (a gift from my in-laws). Now to get them into two-or-more-player games…

For those who come here hoping for a deep thought, here’s what I’ve got going on right now: What’s your most favorite sound you heard today? For me, the timpani in Roy Orbison’s “You Got It” is winning thus far.

Baaaaa-beeeeeeee… you got it.

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