Look, a post!

June 12, 2009

blogging every six months means that you have to fit a lot into each post, so here goes: short updates on various happenings.

I’ll start with my usual refrain, which is that in combination with a full time job, graduate school sucks the life (literally, I lose lots of weight) and free time out of you, and the time pressures of work make it impossible to put more than a token, last minute effort into your studies. But that don’t mean I can’t still pull of A’s.

Megan and I bought a house a few months back, after a few months of looking. Romanticism about more historic neighborhoods gave way to concerns over taxes, renovations, affordability and convience, but those worries largely faded once we found our place in Solon. Cutting down our commutes and being walking distance from the gym, library and two (TWO!) ice cream parlors helps. So does not having to drive 40 minutes each way to do laundry.

Modest renovations have begun, although we are still somewhat occupying the old apartment. Flowers and vegetables have been painted, bushes have been pruned, chimnies have been tarred. Inside, attempts at painting have been stalled by the necessity of removing layers of paint, wallpaper, adhesive and more paint.

For the past two years, we had 4 channels of tv, all of which were fuzzy. As of May, we have 300+ channels, all available at our convience thanks to the miracle of DVR. Its amazing how quickly a luxury turns into a necessity, although our views differ on the subject. Megan watched a lot of tv for a few weeks and has since retreated back to her evening pursuits of making dinners, reading and staring at the cat. My more easily seduced brain has left me staying up to all hours, sitting at attention captivated by the sheer maginitude of options vying to command my attention. Deadliest Catch is the clear winner, although I’ve become somewhat numbed to the potential dangers and drama faced by Alaskan crab fisherman, and have taken to spending a fair amount of my evening hours watching bad movies, fast forwarding through dialoge to view implausible action sequences accented by dubbed in exclamations of “shoot”, “darn” and “crap”.

My  littlest sister is all graduated from college now. I’m very proud of her, and the graduation day/ceremony was lovely. Although after brunching on the lovely lawn of the university president, watching her walk onstage, and talking with all of her very complimentary professors, I think that the one indelible memory of the day will be watching my well-educated sibling, in full graduation regalia, ordering a round of late morning shots in little plastic cups at what was probably one of the least sophisticated bars I’ve ever set foot in. And this is from someone who has spent a lot of time in some pretty shitty bars.

My other little sister is getting married. I guess I need to get a tux. And start planning all of the wonderful ways I’m going to trash the newlyweds’ car. I used some firecrackers and a toilet plunger on Melissa and Nick’s, but I think I can easily top that now.

I’m typing this while enjoying the panoramic view outside of my 17th story hotel room (free upgrade to deluxe king suite!), partly cloudy skies topping the chaotic skyline of Southern Bangkok. Pink Mitsubishi taxis flit around closely packed detached houses and small apartment buildings, punctuated by 20-story glass and concrete  office buildings and hotels. The sheer volume of greenery is incredible for a city. Megan is sleeping off the cumulative effects of a 13 hour time change and 36 hours of travel, while I’m grogging but not quite able to get much sleep. I’m spending the weekend preparing for some client meetings and finalizing a looonnngg presentation I have to give on Tuesday morning to a client, while Megan relaxes and explores, and then we’ll have a few days to play full time tourist before heading back to Tokyo, Chicago and home.

Working with companies on getting into the “green economy”  was always something I had hoped to do years down to road after finishing school and gaining a lot more experience. I never expected to be sent on a solo business trip to the other side of the world to do so this quickly. I’m very excited about this trip, which is, minus a few smaller projects, the first time I’ve been able to put my international studies, economics and environmental background all together in a big way. I’m a little nervous too, in part because I really want to do well on this – if I can pull it off, I may just have a good future in this sort of green business consulting gig.

I guess I’ll close on noting that if you ever want to catch someone by surprise, send someone completely unsuspecting a plane ticket to a trip to the other side of the world a few days before their departure. Megan was somewhat flabbergasted.

Random Crumbug Thoughts

December 16, 2008

When I logged in to wordpress tonight, it helpfully told me that 48 million words had been blogged on their site so far today, in 285,000 posts. At that rate, somewhere in the blogosphere (I hate that word) the complete works of Shakespeare are floating around, disguised by out-of-focus pictures of housecats and a collective recording of the fact that everyone went to work today, where their lives were made miserable by that one coworker that’s out to get them out of sheer spite. I hate that guy.

Two day’s before the deadline on a huge project for work, I get sick. I blame Megan, also sick, mainly because she is the most conveniently located to offer sympathy, and really easy to get on a guilt trip.  More hot tea with honey, please.

The previously referenced deadline has ruined the fun of being sick for me. If I’m going to use up a personal day, it needs to be spent on the couch watching bonding with the tv and eating crackers, not stuck in my home office banging away at a keyboard (except the brief breaks to watch Home Alone, Shrek, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Three and a Half Men, Charlie Brown Christmas, etc). Either way, today will be counted as “working from home” on my timesheet.

I not actually going to be cheating my company, since I’ll be working late tonight once I finally get some data from a collegue of mine who’s auditioning for the coveted role of “coworker out to get me”. Seriously, in the last 24 hours before a deadline, mid-afternoon and ten pm are not the same time.

Everybody Loves Raymond really isn’t that funny when Ray’s parents aren’t on screen.

Everyone has different reactions to being sick. I tend to like to be left alone and ignore the world for a few days. Megan likes to play “hide the used tissue” in couch cushions,  between bedsheets, under pillows, etc. The only thing worse than waking up to a wad of used tissue stuck to your neck is waking up to a wad of someone else’s used tissue….

But since my other arm is twisted behind my back from all you people bugging me to post, I’ll have to make due.  Seriously, its only been six months since my last post…

I guess an update is probably the easiest thing to do here. With that in mind, in the last six months I have:

a) started a new job at the company I used to work for, and had been consulting to for the past year or so. As of June somethingish, I am a “senior research analyst” doing “client-directed industrial market research”.  Thanks to my company’s rather rigorous expansion plans, I spent my first 4 months on the job sitting at a card table in what was basically a hallway.  Then I got to share an small office with three other people, seperated from the rest of the building by a construction zone. But as of Wednesday, December 3rd at 8:40 am EST, I officially have my very own cubicle. Score.

b) finished up my second degree, in economics. Three weeks later, I was back in the classroom, since I still have at least another year to go until I finish my environmental studies degree. School has begun to drag more than somewhat, but come January 2010 I will getting home from work at 6:00, not 9:00, without any homework to do.  All those extra hours will be used to do something productive, like becoming the greatest tetris player the world has ever seen.

c) watched the global economy kinda slow down, a little bit.  Seriously, reading the wall street journal these days is like looking at some sort of financial mad lib. “Financial markets fell (adverb) today, with the crash brought about by investor concerns over (noun). (number) stockbrokers jumped out of their (number)-story windows today, while in the housing market, a 4,000 square foot tudor-style home was bought in (city) for a dozen (fruit, plural) and a small (farm animal).”

d) procrastinating adding more commentary about the economy to part c) above. I’m sure I’ll get motivated eventually, but since much of the past few months at work have revolved around this sort of thing, I don’t feel like it right now.  Deal.

e) Beyond these exceptions, continued my day to day life as before. The cat still wakes me up three times a night. I still sneak off to Wendy’s and McDonald’s when Megan isn’t looking. And I still visit mom every week or two to do my laundry and mooch food.

f) Oh yeah, I bought a new car.  The valiant white Saturn has come to an untimely end, or at least was sold at auction to someone with a thing for plastic door panels. At the end of the summer, I started looking for a practical replacement for the Saturn…some reliable, cheap car that would get me too and from work.  I looked at some small Fords, Hondas and Toyotas. However, through some creative rationalization, justification and some spirited test drives, I ended up buying this:


2009 Nissan Maxima.  Three times the horsepower of the Saturn. All leather interior with something like 38 Bose speakers. Push button starter. $400 performance tires (at least, $400 to replace. Some cars are too much fun to drive).  0-60 in 5.5 seconds (or so wikipedia says.  I never take it above 55).

sidenote: I found it extremely ironic that of all of the cars that I looked at, the only one not made in the US was the Ford Fusion, which is made in Mexico. My Maxima was made in Tennessee.

Favorite person (outside family)? I’m pretty much obligated to mention the girlfriend here.

Favorite food? Apples and peanut butter, if I’m cooking. The list is longer if someone else has to do the grunt work.

Quirks about you?
I can’t leave a rubik’s cube unfinished.

How would the person who loves you most describe you in ten words or less? (Ask them) – In the interest of convenience, I asked the cat and she looked away.

Any regrets in life?  Not being able to watch Top Chef due to a lack of cable.  The show is addicting.  And I regret admitting to liking cooking shows and the Bravo network.

Favorite Charity/Cause? I give to the Cleveland Foodbank every month.

Favorite Blog recently? Probably Melissa’s, if only because she updates it constantly.

Something you can’t get enough of? Food of all kinds. Except mushrooms, ham and anything coffee-flavored. And those cereals with the freeze dried fruit in them – its like eating expensive chalk.

Worst job you’ve ever had? There were elements of lifeguarding that I could have done without – generally the parts involving fishing floaters out of the pool.

What job would you pay NOT to have? Wouldn’t it make more sense just to quit if the job was that bad?

If you could be a fly on the wall, where? Your bedroom, just as you are trying to sleep…bzzzzzzzzzzz

Favorite Bible verse right now? I like the one about the bunny that brings candy in little baskets and lays colorful eggs.

Guilty Pleasure? Food that I can purchase without leaving my car.

Got any confessions? I’m supposed to be writing a term paper right now. Its probably not going to get done today, but I’ll tell the professor I had “software problems”.

If you HAD to spend $1,000 on YOURSELF, how would you spend it? If I HAD to? Geee…. As much as I talk up wanting a plasma tv, I really don’t need one. I’d probably use it to do some kind of travel adventure.

Favorite thing about your house? Its walking distance from a movie theater, a grocery store and a dozen restaurants.

Least favorite thing about your house? To come home, I have to stop my car, unlock the garage, open the garage, park my car, close the garage, lock the garage, unlock the outer door, unlock the third floor door, unlock both front door locks, lock both front door locks, remember I left my bag in my car.

One thing you are bad at? Keeping to other people’s timetables.

One thing you’re good at? Rationalization. The art of convincing yourself that things that you screw up are unimportant.

If you could change something about your circumstances, what? I’d like to be working. Or going to school. Not both. Winning the lottery would be nice too.

Who would you like to meet someday? The champion hot-dog eating guy. We could do lunch.

What makes you feel sexy? My Homer Simpson boxers. Or the ones with the little penguins on them. Maybe even the Bullwinkle boxers. It would be hard to pick a favorite.

Who is your real life hero? Batman. Yes, he’s real. You just never see pictures because he’s that frickin’ good.

What is the hardest part of your job? Haven’t shown up in two months, so I guess its remembering not to go?

When are you most relaxed? Beer number 3.

What stresses you out? My internet/computer combination doesn’t work half the time. Frustrates me to no end.

What can you not live without? Contacts. I hate wearing my glasses outside of the apartment.

Do you agree or disagree with the recent article that reported that blogs are authored by narcissists? Who isn’t a bit narcissitant these days?

Why do you blog? Peer pressure. How do you turn off italics on this thing? No seriously, I love these “meme” things, whatever the hell “meme” means. Especially all the people bugging me to write about what makes me feel sexy, or my favorite bible verse. Which is kind of an odd combination.

Okay – rules:

1. Answer the questions

2. Link back to whoever tagged you

3. Tag eight bloggers to do the same, 2 from each category.

• New/newer bloggers —

• Bloggy friends –

• Bloggers you’d like to get to know better –?

• Bloggers you don’t think will respond, but you hope will –

(I refuse to do this stupid little rule things. I answered the sexy question, isn’t that enough?)

I miss my market

April 4, 2008

One of the great things about where I live is the weekly farmers market 50 yards from my front door.  Anything you could want, produce, milk, cheese, eggs, potatoes, grains, sides of beef, honey, chocolate cake…all there, all fairly cheap and its all just…food.  I’ve been trying to get more interested in my food lately, beyond thinking about just what I want for dinner (pizza, obviously).  It amazes me how little we know about food.  Not just the intricacies of what particular diet is the secret combination to good health (Atkins!  South Beach!  Grapefruit and Pistachios!), but what it is I’m eating, where it came from, how it go so darn tasty, etc.  I was reading an article about our food system the other day, and the author pointed out that as kids grow up they get the founding of the United States pretty much every year, but are never really taught simpler everyday wonders, such as how to make bread.

So, here are a few unconnected thoughts:

It amazes me to go to a grocery store.  Beyond the sheer variety, and the huge number of things that, until a recent advance in chemistry, wasn’t even FOOD, its just the idea that out of a few hundred or so plants and animals, we can have tens of thousands of different types of food, all carefully formulated, packaged and advertised for each of our carefully segmented demographic markets.   And the ingredients are amazing too…its all chemistry.  I’ve been trying to avoid eating too much sugar/corn syrup, and its impossible to find stuff without any in it.  Bread, crackers, juice, soup – the other day I was looking for corn, and almost all of the cans had corn syrup or sugar in them as well.  It’s a frickin’ vegetable, not a Snickers bar!

I’m always amused watching M cook, because we have very different styles.  I stare at the recipe carefully, get out all the ingrediants before starting, and slavishly follow the rules.  She’s more of a “this needs more leavening to account for the humidity, and then I’ll need to eyeball this much of this weird spice and heat it for, oh, this long and then stir counterclockwise until I can see Orion’s Belt, because its a Tuesday” type of cook.  Recipes shmecipes.  But when you think about it, cooking is really becoming a lost art.  60 years ago, most people could cook, and do so with whatever is at hand.  “A little butter, some flour, two onions and a chicken…I can work with that.”  Last weekend M made spaghetti sauce from scratch, I think because we had diced tomatoes and some peppers.  But if you think of a typically spaghetti meal, the one everyone can cook, are we really cooking it?  Pre-made sauce, noodles, bread, parmasean cheese, wine….none of it is really being cooked.  What if it was wheat, a cow, some tomatoes and a plot of grapes?  We don’t really know how to make food anymore, unless you work for Lean Cuisine.  I think real cooking is becoming a lost art.  Not that I’m going to rush out and milk a cow tomorrow.

I have a bunch of other little thoughts like these, but that will have to wait for another day, cause I need to go to class.

Sleepy time…

April 3, 2008

…seems to be all the time some days.  The hazards of everyone attempting to cram way more things than they probably should into a given day, that energy-destroying sin nearly everyone is guilty of.   But it does lead to amusing mornings.

M really needed to get up at 5:00 today, the byproduct of an over-busy week.  I’ve become sort of the backup alarm clock lately, although I’m no where near as reliable as a $3 piece of plastic.  Normally I just roll away while subtly stealing all the blankets and occasionally using cold feet as the brutally effective weapon they are.  This morning I was feeling more creative, so on her second whacking of the snooze alarm, I started “singing” a well known motivational ditty:

Softly, but with increasing enthusiasm: “duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh”

Louder, and quite off key: ““da da DAAAAA da da DAAAAA da da DAAAA da da DAAA da da da da da da da da DAAAAA!”

Nothing like the Rocky theme to get someone up and moving in the morning. Makes you want to run up a flight of stairs, if only to get away from my singing.  Recordings are available, $5.99 plus S&H.


M gets her revenge when I go to bed, since I typically do so a good while after she does.  I have to unwind after my late classes, or I just lie there thinking about….trigger strategies under oligopolistic competition with multimarket contacts.  Its about as confusing as it sounds.  This means I have to find myself a) space to sleep and b) blankets to sleep under.

M likes to sleep in a particular fashion, known geometrically as “diagonally”.  This is usually fairly easy to solve, by way of nudging, lifting, shoving, etc.  The blanket situation is more complicated.  The American Medical Association classifies M’s sleeping style as “the blanket burrito”.   Those familiar with attempting to unwind the burrito sleeper will recognize the inherent problem here: the tradeoff between blanket and space.  Because if you pull on the end of the blanket in hopes for some coverage, Newton tells us that the equal and opposite reaction will be the dreaded body roll.  So now you have some nice pre-heated blanket and eight inches of bedspace on one side, and 5 open feet with no blanket on the other.  I tend to go with the blankets.


All of this is, of course, in jest and with substantial exaggeration.  Except the Rocky music.   And I really can’t complain, because anyone that watches someone wash down two bowls of chili with a couple of beers at 10 p.m. and doesn’t force them to sleep in the garage is clearly making a few sacrifices.


April 2, 2008

Around 2:30 this morning, M and I both woke up at the same time.  The culprit?  On the floor next to me, a little furball was making the dreaded “hornk” sound.  M cut through my semi-intelligent babbling to tell me it was fine, just that cat throwing up again.  Thinking slowly, I grabbed a magazine off the nightstand and got it in front of the cat, right before detonation.  If I’d thought a little faster, I might have realized that its easier to clean up kitty presents from a hardwood floor that we don’t own than a magazine I was planning on reading the next day.

Five minutes later, I’m still a bit out of it and standing in the kitchen in my underwear, cutting the nasty spots out of the latest issue of the Economist over the trash can.  M is in the other room comforting the cat, having already taken care of the small amount of vomit that wasn’t soaking into my late night reading material.  Several thoughts went through my head:

– why am I getting cat vomit all over my hands to salvage a magazine I can either read online or get for free at the school library?

– the cat loves attention at night.  M is now paying much attention to the cat.  Let’s hope this doesn’t start any kind of association between throwing up on the floor and getting attention.

– why is M comforting the cat, who is fine, and not me, who is gagging in a futile attempt to save a magazine?  My guess is that at 2:30 in the morning, covered in magazine clippings and puke, I am not the most cuddly of individuals.

– is this what having a kid is like?  Randomly jerked from sleep to deal with vomit everywhere?  Actually, it kind of reminds me more of the frat house days….


March 31, 2008

I am trying to break myself of a serious case of school apathy right now.  Not very successfully, as I’m writing this when I should be in a class.  I just can’t seem to get my butt motivated to have anything to do with school, or at least the parts of school that involve sitting in a class having a textbook summarized for me, as a two of my professors tend to do.

It was easier to attend my mid-day, very easy environmental economics class when it gave me an excuse to cut out of work.  Less so, when I have to spend all afternoon on a campus without a student center (due to construction) to catch an hour lecture on things I’ve already had a half dozen times.  When faced with going to campus at 1, sitting through the class and then spending FOUR hours sitting in hallways, random corners of buildings and the occasional overcrowded lounge because the school closed the building that contained most of the study rooms and all of the food,  staying home doesn’t sound so bad.

And I feel productive staying home.  I went running, cleaned, read for a useful class, played with the cat and caught up on sleep.  I think I’m starting to drift back toward one of my phases where I start judging things moreso on where they fit in my priorities versus where I’m told they are supposed to fit in my priorities.   This can have benefits – it tends to make me less stressed and more satisfied with my life.  Drawbacks include just not getting some things done and feeling guilty for that fact.

Office? What office?

March 29, 2008

As of last Thursday, I am done working for the next several months.  I’m looking forward to the opportunity to concentrate on finishing up my econ degree, and dreading the coming internal struggle between the sudden distractions of free time and the need to put time into research papers.  Because when you get down to it, econometric analysis is much less fun than learning how to get really good at Jenga.

As I was cutting out on my last day, I said goodbye to my former boss and walked across the hall to meet with my new (future) one to try to work out a start date.  He dangerously offered to let me start as late as June 15, which is a full month after I finish finals.   Although I’m still burnt out, I dare say that a month of nothing whatsoever to do would be both wonderful and terrible.  I’m torn at this point.  On one hand, there are so few opportunities in adult life to voluntarily take such an extended vacation (I’m hoping to avoid involuntary long vacations, unless they come with a big severance check).  On the other foot, doing so also means not getting paid for that month.  My new salary will be MUCH more than I was making in the past, so its kind of hard to throw away that much money so I can sit around in my underwear and attempt to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy (Extended Edition) and eat an entire box of cereal in one sitting.

It amuses me how much your concept of money changes as you get older.  M and I were driving past a Mongolian BBQ in one of my old college stomping grounds and talking about how we need some special occasion to go there.  I’ve never gone in there without it being for a celebration or a work function.   I felt kind of silly realizing that, as an adult, I no longer need a special occasion to spend $14 on dinner, and can actually go to that restaurant whenever I want.

Ah, adult money.  I’m reaching the point where I no longer feel I have to justify spending $8 on going to see a movie or buying the cheaper beer.  At the same time, I feel insecure about money to a degree that I never did in college.  In part its because the economy is, for lack of a better term, tanking, and will probably continue to do so for some time.  (did you know that the average US family makes less now, after inflation, than they did 5 years ago?  Even scarier,  some measures have that total being lower than 30 years ago)  But moreso its the cumulative effects of 6 years, going on 8, of higher education.  I may be renting an apartment, but I’ve already got a pretty good sized mortgage out on my head.


I’m quite excited to have a new nephew, as of this week.  Especially because when it comes to teaching kids things their parents don’t want them to know, there are so many more options with boys.

“Look Mommy!  Worms!!!!

Spring Break!

March 11, 2008

Its Tuesday of spring break week, and I thought I’d post a little update.  Its 10:45 at night, and I’m (obviously) at my computer taking a little break from the work I started at 8:30 this morning.  Bleah.  Typing for 14 hours, minus a break to wash, but not dry my laundry, seems to be missing something from what MTV says spring break should look like.  I keep looking, but I don’t see any fruity drinks with umbrellas or bikini girls.

I got offered another contract to do some econ work today.  I’m still debating taking it.  I’d hoped for a needed break to focus just on school for two months, but given financial circumstances, its hard to turn down a big chunk of money.  I feel like Sisyphus, only my rock is student loans and my mountain is…still a mountain I guess.  Its not a perfect metaphor.

I think I’m going to go make myself a drink…if I’m going to be working past midnight again, I might as well do it spring break style.  I think there is some orange-peach-mango* juice in the fridge that would work well with vodka.

*Ever read the ingredients on all of the 100% juice blends at the grocery store?  No matter what the box says, they are all mostly apple and white grape juice.  I guess apple-grape-orange-peach mango, or apple-grape-strawberry-kiwi just doesn’t have the same ring to it.