Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Thoughts 1/29/10

Here we go.

1. If you haven't seen, I just knocked out a series of posts on Social Media.  I'm glad I broke them up into shorter parts, it wound up being much easier to write once I did so.  See, I'm learning.

2. I've had a failure of epic proportions this week.  Restarting my workout routine, didn't make it once.  blah

3. I'm making an effort to try and remove some of the wordiness of my posts.  I'm attempting to proof read before signing off on them, although I do despise it.  I have no idea why I despise proofreading so much, but after seeing some older posts from last year and cringing at some of the sentence structure, it's overdue.

4. One point I wanted to add on Social Media, that I couldn't find a spot to do so in. the posts.  I came down a bit harsh on status messages for Facebook.  A casual observer might think it's a bit hypocritical for someone who writes a blog regularly to bash status messages. I would understand where they are coming from. 

I have two responses to that train of thought:  a. One of the reasons I don't actively promote the blog is I want people to decide on their own whether they want to read it, if they find it interesting and read it great, if they don't find it interesting, then they don't need to read it.  (and those that do read, a good opportunity to say thank you).  b. In truth, I don't care if someone posts status updates everyday about their bagel, G.W Bush, or Obama.  My point on the status updates is that I don't think people think about how there posts are perceived.

5. Crap, still have five more thoughts to go, I should have made #4 a multiple thought of the day. I guess I kind of just did.

6. It is inevitable that during a January warm up even die hard Clevelanders will hold out hope that arctic temperatures are done for the winter.  I plead guilty to this line of thinking over the last week, even though I know better.

7. We are having a couple's night in tomorrow night with one of my good friends and his wife. I have to come up with something to drink for the night. I'm also

8. Apple's Ipad = Idud.  If nothing else just for the name, I think technologically they really dropped the ball on this one, so many features not available, that realistically needed to be.  (i.e. multi-tasking, removable battery, options other then Apple's hard to navigate App store)

9. Is it wrong that I think I'd consider plastic surgery?  Beyond the question itself, I can't believe I just admitted such a thought.

10. J.D. Salinger passed away this week.  Catcher in the Rye is one of the few classics I've read and enjoyed.  I do understand why it was held in such high regards, but I can't say I ever connected as much as others claimed to with the book.  Having said that, there is no doubt Mr. Salinger was an iconic figure in the history of our country, no easy feat. 

Have a great weekend and stay safe.

Communications and Technology Part 4: Final thoughts

Communication is complicated, technology is simple.  Think about that for a moment, pressing a couple of keys and putting down your thoughts requires very little work. It's not communication, it's one sided speaking.  Communication requires engaging with someone, being sensitive to reactions and words; it's responsive and requires more then one person to do it. 

It's not that technology can't be used to truly communicate; it's that people don't take the time to follow the same process that they follow when they communicate face to face. Engaging and responding are hard to do and given the opportunity to interact with their absence people take advantage of it. 

I'm not saying people do it intentionally, some of it is generational, some of it is the amount of time people have and some of it is that some people are bad communicators regardless of the medium. 

It's never going to be perfect, but it can be better.  Take some time, think about the effect your communication has on others. Think of the mediums you are using as tools of communication.  Like all tools, using it right takes practice and determination to get the best results out of it.  It also means that some tools are better then others at performing jobs.  If you've ever worked on something using the wrong tool and then later on switched to the right one and realized how much easier it was to use the right tool, you'll understand what I'm saying here.  Technology tools aren't an all in one fit. (Even though the marketing for them will tell you otherwise)  So the next time you are using those tools, give it some thought, you might find actually find yourself communicating more effectively.

Communications and Technology Part 3: It's still just a letter

There is something about communication through technology that makes us dumb. Don't believe me; check your email inbox over the last week. How many inspirational messages did you receive from friends asking demanding you to forward this email to (X) number of people or

a. your wish won't come true
b. you truly don't care about the sender
c. the liberals terrorists will win (just a reminder I'd classify myself as liberal minded)
What the hell is up with people? How in the world can you not reply to simple emails, yet you freely forward this crap.

I receive on average 3-5 chain emails from my father a week. I'd classify most of them as agenda focused emails disguised as inspirational messages. I asked him why he would send me crap like this. His response, well I just wanted to say hi. WHAT??? I explained to him a simple 2-3 line email would take care of that much easier and be far more personal. I'm still waiting for one of those emails. Now this is a man who sits 5-6 hours a day in front of the computer. I realize he may not be the best typist in the world but I know that even with the hunt and peck method, it's not overly difficult to bust out a "Hey, how are you doing" email.
Outside of my father, I see all sorts of things with people and personal emails. I have one friend that claims he doesn't know what to say in emails, so he responds with one word answers or doesn't respond at all. It boggles my mind.

I work for a technology company, I've had a computer since I was 8 years old, so I know I'm not typical when it comes to understanding technology.

Another thing I don't understand is why I can send out a mass email to people inviting them to a party and get one or two responses. I understand everyone isn't always able to confirm or reject right away, but does it really take that long for them to type 'Not sure what my plans are, I'll let you know" and then once they know send off a quick response?

I realize people don't always have time to respond that it can take some time to type something up, but how much time are we really talking about for quick reply to an invite or for forwarding garbage emails? Is it longer then typing a quick note that says 'hi' or picking up the phone and talking for a couple minutes?

My one suggestion to people is write a note sometime to someone you haven't talked to in awhile.  Someone who is in your address book, but maybe you haven't spoken with in years.  At worst they don't respond, but maybe they will and you get a chance to reconnect and remember that what actual communication is.

Communications and Technology Part 2: The woes of Facebook

3 out of 10 (insert demographic here) suffer from (insert malady/hardship here), My wish in 2010 is people understand that (insert demographic here) aren't (x). People are ashamed by this issue and won't talk about it. (insert percentage here, typically 73%) won't post this as their status, won't you be part of the other (insert % here) that supports (insert demographic here)?

Does this look familiar?  If you are on Facebook and have over 5 friends, I have no doubt you've seen this posted many times over the last month as someone's status.  I don't have an issue with someone showing support for something they believe in, but reposting something from someone else with subjective terms identifying the demographic's feelings and random statistics to try and prove a point is ridiculous. 

This is why I think people are lazy sometimes or just don't get it.  When you repost something, even if it's something you care about deeply, you should at least take the time and read it and think about what it says.  Otherwise you look like an idiot.  Wow, that's a bit harsh isn't it?  Well think about this, if you were talking to someone face to face and they were spouting off a paragraph such as the one above, what would your perceptions of that person be?

1. Would it be that they are trying to appear knowledgeable about a topic that they don't have many facts on? 
2. Would it be that they are full of shit and are just trying to push their opinion on others? 
3. Or would it be that they deeply care about the issue and even though they can't answer any follow-up questions to their subjective terms and statistics they should be taken seriously?

My guess is in a face to face conversation a good majority of people fall under number 1 or 2 rather then 3. (Notice I didn't use a random percentage here for justification)

Let's step aside from chain mail statuses and move to some other status types that people post. 

1. Political views
2. What I had for dinner
3. Feelings at the moment
4. Witty comments
5. Random song lyrics or Movie quotes
6. Weather updates
7. Status updates of something you are doing
8. Religious view

I know it's the basis of Facebook to post your status and everyone at one point or another posts a status that someone else doesn't like.  There's nothing wrong with that, but if it's something you wouldn't say to someone if they called you on the phone out of the blue, then why in the world would you post it as your status.  Let me rephrase that, if it's something you wouldn't say to over 50% of your friends on Facebook if you were actually talking to them, why would you post it as your status. 

Let's take an innocent phrase like "Yum, I'm eating a bagel".  That must be one magnificent tasting bagel for you to put it as your status, so take a second and tell me where you got it, or why in the world it's so damn tasty.  Because that's what a real conversation would be.  It's also a pretty good idea to limit the number of times you post about your breakfast; after all, if I was talking to you, how many times over the course of a month would you tolerate me talking about my breakfast?  It probably wouldn't take long until you decided that I might be the pretty boring or that my IQ level was just above functionally disabled. 

Another popular status posting is political or religious views. The rule of thumb is not to talk politics and religion with people because it's a disaster waiting to happen.  Personally I'm not inclined to always agree with this rule, but if you want to be shown to be narrow minded or ill informed there is no better way in my opinion to do this then to spout off a couple political postings on a regular basis.  Politics and religion are emotional and complex topics.  Posting statements as your status is at its best showing you are naive to the sensitivity and complexity of the issue and at worst using a shared tool as a pulpit for preaching.  It's just not a forum to engage in complex conversation.  If you feel the need to post a thought or comment on it, at least give a bit of thought too how it's read by others. It also wouldn't hurt to reference my bagel example above and take a hard look at how often you are posting something like this.

My point here is about selection, take a couple minutes to think about what you are posting and how often you are posting on that topic.  People are forming perceptions based on your posts, and it's beneficial to you to think about it.

Communication and Technology Part 1

I started to type up a post about Social Media and Communication and it seemed to go all over the place, so I'm going to attempt to break it down into three parts. 

Let me start by saying this, "Technology has done nothing to enhance communication".  Make no mistake the tools technology has created are valuable and have potential, but the way they are used today is a disaster. 

I don't know if it is laziness or a perception issue, but most people don't seem to understand how their communication is perceived by others when put through technology.  We all have an ego-centric view of the world and in my opinion technology communication does a nice job of exposing this like an open wound.  People seem to forget how to interact when they utilize technology based communication; the result is a series of one sided communications, which people think are social. 

If you are expecting profound solutions in my next posts, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed; it's more of a rant on the state of things. I'm as perplexed as anyone when it comes to finding solutions to the problem.  I do hope that sharing some of my thoughts on the issue opens up the dialogue or gets people to start to think about how they communicate using new media.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Band update

I was hoping to come up with a snarky headline for this article.  You can see that I didn't accomplish that goal. 

I've been replaced in the band.  I found out when the guys were courteous enough to give me a follow up call letting me know they decided to go with the new singer I looked at the facebook page and noticed that the band members had been updated and all references to me had been removed. 

Which brings to a close a rather interesting 6 month chapter in my life. I haven't decided on my next steps. I'll probably scan the web ads occassionally to see if there are openings that fit my style and I'll also visit some spots where I have a chance to run into some musicians and see what develops from there.  I'm in no hurry, if something fits I'll give it a shot, otherwise I think I might pursue another idea I've been kicking around for awhile.  I'll expand on that another time. 

Regardless of how this first experience ended, I had a lot of fun over the past 6 months and I'm definitely glad I gave it a try.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Coffee and the 20,000 foot view for the week

Using one of my least favorite professional catch phrases for the week, here's the 20,000 foot view for the week.  I'm starting with the workouts again today, it's desperately needed.  I can't believe how easy it is to get out of the habit especially in bad weather and with children.  I was hoping that paying for a gym membership would drive me to keep up on a routine, but having to leave the house to work out seems to have the opposite effect.  If only I was about 6 inches shorter or my basement ceiling was a bit taller, I'd get an elliptical and put it down there.  I can't tolerate accidentally hitting my head on the ceiling though just to work out.  This is the reason I avoid the treadmill down there (in addition to despising treadmills, mostly due to my 60 year old equivalent knees). We do have a break in the weather though and I have 2 days where I'm not performing double duty of working and watching the little one, so I'm holding myself to starting after work today and then continuing for Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.  We'll see how it goes.

Sad news on the band front, their former lead singer (before I joined) passed away over the weekend.  I believe he was in his mid 40's.  The only time I met him, he was a bit frosty toward me, but that doesn't change the fact that mid 40's is way too early to go.  I haven't heard what the cause was, but I was amazed during practices how many people the bassist had talked about passing away on an almost weekly basis.  Perhaps it's a sign that the lifestyle might not be my best choice to continue pursuing???

Friday night was a lot of fun, I met Will out at his house and we drank and talked the whole night with a lot of laughs.  Our friend Aaron also managed to join us, after getting lost trying to find the restaurant we were at out in the boonies. I'm glad I stayed out there for the night, but burning the candle at both ends is definitely starting to catch up to me.  Saturday morning definitely seemed to come too early.

The gutter on the back of the house has been replaced, thankfully the repairs didn't cost as much as I feared.  Although my brother was not so lucky, his gutters collapsed the day after mine did.  His gutter setup has them all connected and they run on all 4 sides of his house, requiring replacement of all of them. What a mess this winter thaw out turned out to be.  When the cable guys came by to elevate the wire, they said their next 3 days were booked solid doing reattaching and hanging cables as across the area there were collapses all over the place.

January is almost over, and it can't come soon enough, quite a month.  5 week months always are hard to deal with, but the combination of holiday hangover, cold weather, and long days have made this one seem particularly long.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday thoughts (January 22, 2010)

Let's see if I can come up with an interesting list for the week.

1. I'm fascinated by Social media and Social Psychology overall, the more and more I see social technology in play though, the more I wonder whether it can ever truly be 'effective'.  I have some more thoughts on this, just have to find some time to post on it.

2. I need to get away, whether it's for work or vacation, I need to get out of this house for a couple days and soon.  Combine the weather with working from home and it doesn't take long for your home office to feel like a prison cell.

3. Don't buy a new car in the winter (in Ohio), unless you want that really cool paint job to be dirty every day, even if you get it washed.  (sigh)

4. I keep harping on this, but I really need to get back to the gym, or break out the exercise bike here at home.  Went to the doctor's for an ear infection last week and on weigh in, I wanted to puke.  I forgot to add that one to something I wanted to forget from last week.

5. I had some weird dreams this week.  I thought as men got older they weren't supposed to remember their dreams.  (at least that's what I thought I learned in college during my psych. classes) A couple of the dreams were completely unexpected and sort of shook me up based on their content.  I'll keep the topics personal, but they were unexpected enough to prompt me to write the blog post on emotions. The content of that post focused on some of my current known issues, but the topics of the dreams were much more responsible for the post.

6. I'm heading over to my friend Will's house tonight.  He lives about 70-90 minutes away out in Niles.  I haven't seen him in awhile and he's going through some personal issues, so I thought it might be a good time to get out of the house, go hang out and bullshit, which we do very well.  The only thing that truly sucks is; how far away he is, I decided to just stay the night to make it easier.  Although I hate not being able to get up early in the morning from my own bed on Saturday morning to get things done.  I swear I'm becoming a set in his ways old coot at 36.

7. For those that don't know him, my friend Will, is very different from me.  He's my one friend that people seem to scratch their head at when they realize how close we are.  I consider him to be one of my closest friends. We are polar opposites in many ways. Where Will is a bit hillbilly I'm a bit metro sexual.  Where he's a conservative, gun toting, hunter, I'd lean more to being a liberal hippy.  I like his perspective and he's funny and insightful, although definitely rough around the edges. In truth if I want to work through something, he's one of the first people I seek out.  Even though we are different, I've found he's one of the few people that seem to understand how I approach things, and at times he seems to understand it better then me. 

8. I've been occupying my time playing with the "Wii" I got for Christmas, as an Atari kid and avid video game player for years, I have to say the "Wii" is incredibly fun and in my opinion the "next generation" of video systems.  For those that would argue that the graphics aren't up to par with the Xbox or Playstation systems all I'll say is I've seen video games that used blocks and stick figures, graphics are nice, but they add nothing to the gameplay.  The Wii changes the way developers are going to need to think about making games.  Which is a true step to the next generation.

9. For those that have never been big video game fans, I'd implore you to at least try the Wii at someone's house or somewhere if you can.  I think you'll find that it's vastly different then anything you ever tried and with the ability to play with multiple people, it makes for a hell of a Saturday night party game.  Add alcohol and go.

10. Airfares right now are ridiculous, factor in bag fees for most of them, and it's ultimately $420 for a roundtrip for most standard routes.  My guess is that most airlines are fearful we are going to see oil continue to go up, but just my theory.

Have a great weekend and talk with you next week.

Extinguishing feelings

Extinguishing feelings, is it possible?    I find myself pondering over emotions again, which seems to be a yearly occurrence, maybe it's the doldrums of winter. 

There are multiple things going through my head that prompt the question on whether it's possible.  There's a huge difference between resolving feelings and extinguishing. To me resolving feelings leaves you with little regret, extinguishing means burying it. 

If I had my choice, I'd like to always resolve the emotions, after all, who wants to live with regret and while many of us strive to live regret free lives, as I grow older I begin to think that the concept of regret free living is either not achievable or that by doing so you'd wind up with a rather boring life. 

Before I get into writing on what I'm thinking about, I do notice a difference in where I was at last year in regards to feeling like this.  Last year at that time, it felt like regret was owning my life and that I was faced with dealing with it day in and day out for many years to come.  Getting older will do that to you, as a big part of that feeling was that life is more complicated now, so changing direction seems like a monumental task.  I don't feel like regret owns me anymore and even though enacting change in a complicated life is about as difficult as I expected it to be, the experience of dealing with it, makes me more comfortable in dealing with it.

I seem to be at the crossroads of past, present, and future today. This weekend I was thinking about whether I want to pursue another band if the current one goes with a new singer.  Part of me wants to, and part of me says I'm not up for another roller coaster ride. Have I extinguished my need to sing live?  My guess is no, if I don't take another chance with it, I'm going to regret it, so while I sit and wait on the group's decision.  I keep thinking about what my options are. 

It doesn't help that this whole band situation brings up one of my pet issues.  Rejection, not that anyone likes rejection, but I seem to take it fairly hard.  It doesn't help that I've got a pretty good memory, so it's easy to think about all the other times you've been rejected. None of this helps my current mood. 

While I think about my mood, I also begin thinking about the things that are on the horizon, my wife is continuing to look out of state for a teaching job.  I understand her need to obtain a job in the field she's worked so hard and support it.  One of the issues though is how to deal with leaving behind a fairly large network of family and friends.  I know that moving away isn't going to remove those people from my life, but it will affect relationships and inevitably I will lose touch with some of those people. I've struggled with how I feel about this for some time now, my wife is convinced that I would hate the move and resent it.  I don't think that's the case, but it would affect me.  Which is why I'm thinking about my ability to extinguish feelings, whether or not I can put aside feelings that I'm inevitably going to have in order to function and enjoy life somewhere else? I have to give that some more thought.

This is my third day working on this post over the course of a week, and my mood has changed somewhat, but the dilemma is still there, just in a different muted tone.  As I finished the paragraph previous to this one, I started thinking more about the concept of 'extinguishing feelings'. I'll risk being gender biased here and say, this is definitely a male issue and approach to dealing with feelings.  Resolution isn't in my thought process for things like this, I think of squishing the feeling and making it disappear, not getting it out or fixing the problem. 

I find it kind of fascinating, that I'm able to separate myself from the thought process here and view it with this perspective.  In addition to that, I'm even more concerned surprised that I recognize the danger in continuing to try and extinguish and on many levels see this as the correct path to proceed down. 

And I wonder why sometimes I'm so emotionally strung out.  It's funny that I consider myself an emotional person, yet I've effectively extinguished emotions over the years.  In a brief retrospective, I can completely see how I've worked to squash feelings that I didn't like; relationship issues, work disappointments, and all sorts of rejections and failures. 

Interesting, I think this is what they call a breakthrough.  I think there is definitely something to be learned from here, although in fairness to my actions, that repression also fuels passion to succeed at other times.  So while I can see the danger, there is benefit there.  I'll have to think about this some more, unless of course I decide to extinguish it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Still hanging in there

I'm still around, I haven't had the most interesting week, but I do have some posts I'm working on. One's about 2/3 complete and the other ones kicking around inside my head.

Only 10 days left in January and I won't be sad to see it go, I really don't like this month.  Although you maybe tired of hearing me say it. 

I did get some good news today on the work front, our yearly ratings came out and I managed a top 5% rating for the second year in a row.  I had a good year, but there are a ton of other factors in the rating, including how well co-workers do that may or may not be in your job classification.  I fully expected to not repeat this year for that rating, but I'll take it as our performance bonus is based on it.  Although the pot being drawn from might not be full given the economy for the last year.

Hopefully that will tie everyone over until I can clean up the other posts.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Let's just forget about that week

This has not been one of my better weeks, as I mentioned on Friday, it was already shaping up to be pretty bad.  Let me  recap and add some things that I forgot about.

1. Possibly getting the boot from the band.  Not much more to mention on this at this time.

2. Gutter on back of house collapsing due to ice dam, knocking the full gutter off, killing Mr. Turtle (the sandbox), and knocking down cable and phone wires.

3. New stuff I forgot to add.  Last week, I noticed a smell starting in the car.  Not just a smell mind you, rather a make your eyes water, make you want to flee, something is dead kind of smell.  At first I thought perhaps that some grocery meat had fallen out in the trunk and started rotting, upon searching the trunk I found nothing.  Searched the interior of the car and while I could find the occasional french fry that the daughter had dropped, I could find no source of the smell.  By that point, let's just say that it was getting beyond; something smells kind of bad.

My guess at that point was a mouse had crawled under the hood to be by the warm engine and died.  Upon searching under the hood I found nothing.  I began to worry, that maybe said rodent had gotten into the heat ducts somehow or under an area of the dashboard from under the hood, where I couldn't find him.  I decided to take the car to the car wash for a power under washing. 

Luckily it is a new year, and I needed to do my manly deed for the year to renew my man card.  While I know us men folk have our faults,  I also know that dealing with a rotting smell in the car, falls directly under my gender's responsibilities.  So I endured the 10 minute carwash with rolled up windows in that stench.

Unfortunately, it did not solve the problem.  So on Saturday I decided I had to solve the problem.  I pulled everything out of the car and gave it a relentless cleaning.  I wanted to ensure that there was no way I overlooked a bag of food or something that I missed was the cause of it.  Starting with the trunk, I went through with a fine tooth comb and cleaned the car all the way to the front.  Upon getting to the front and taking out the floor mats, I noticed, that the stench had dissipated immensely.  So I gave the sniff test to each mat and sure enough the passenger met reeked.  Theories range from a resourceful rodent had in fact come into the car from the front, possibly searching for the spoils of a 4 year old and said rodent decided to relieve itself on that mat.  Or possibly a beverage spill from earlier that wasn't quite cleaned up.  My wife had spilled a latté but had cleaned it up and given the degree of the stench and that this was weeks before, I don't think it was a latté.  One last gross update on a gross topic, I'm fairly confident now it was a rodent. The garbage can where I placed the mat was sprayed with cat urine the night after I put it there. Either a cat had decided to match the marking of an area, or it was so utterly defended by the stench that it just had to piss on it. Lovely. 

At least, I no longer have to think I have a dead rodent lingering in the car somewhere out of site. While this was a disturbing situation, in the end I'm pretty happy that it's resolved.  There are days I wish we had to drive our cars more, since we don't use them a lot they tend to sit in the garage making them fairly susceptible to rodents if they wanted to get in.

4.  Back to my list of crap for the week, Trojan horse virus on my wife's netbook.  By far the meanest, pain in the ass piece of malicious software I've ever seen.  I spent 3 hours late Saturday night trying to resolve it with no luck.  I came back and fought it for about 5 hours Sunday morning, before deciding to just give up, back up the system and restore it.  Upon trying to restore the system to the backup I had created or to the factory original settings, I come to find that the backup program that Lenovo installs for the system out of the factory was in fact not installed properly.  A quick call to their 'support team' and I find myself needing to send it back to them for re-imaging tomorrow.  What a pain in the ass. I guess the optimist in me is sort of happy, that this was discovered before the warranty expired, (30 days left).  But I'm not really in the mood to be optimistic this week.  Besides, there are ways I could have re-imaged it, if necessary without sending it back, but I would have had to buy some hardware and spent another 3-4 hours doing so, which I just don't feel like doing.

5. And my last, this sucked moment of the week, off to the store this evening to pick up some supplies for the week, and during my drive home, I hit a massive pothole on Warner Rd.  The kind of pothole that you hit and immediately yell 'oh shit'.  As I stopped at the light at the top of the hill, I started to hear 'sounds' from the wheel well.  I took a quick look at the area and it appears it might just be a plastic covering that was knocked loose.  I'm cautiously optimistic that it's just that and not something more serious.  After the gutter repairs, the new car payment this month, and the first winter gas bill, a car repair bill would just be icing on the cake.

It seems my luck for the week has extended to those I know as well, my borther's gutter fell off on Friday night.  His gutters are all connected, so they cannot replace just one of them, they have to do them all.  

I also found out that some friends were out at a local bar last Thursday night.  Their luck for the week, being witness to a multiple stabbing attack.

I'm now putting this week to rest and to think I didn't break a finger or anything while typing this up.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ice (Damn!)

This has not been my week.  Sitting working today, I hear a huge crash.  (Think Santa and all reindeer falling off the roof like).  Realizing it's likely the enormous ice damn that had built up on the back of the house, I head out to take a look.  Sure enough, it was the ice dam and it decided to take my whole gutter and a couple of utility lines with it.  I'm also in mourning for our green turtle sandbox, who was crushed in the accident.  I'm afraid his shell has been completely broken.

My mind went completely blank on how to handle this, after owning the home for 7 years, I've never really had anything happen to it, outside of replacing the furnace, so what the hell do I do with this mess. 

My first call was to the insurance company, as I realized, hey this might be something covered.  So I called them.

Insurance rep.: "How can I help you". 
Me: "Hi, this is Mike X and I have my home owner policy through your office and my gutters just fell off the back of my house."
Insurance rep: "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that"
uncomfortable phone pause
Insurance rep: "Is there something I can do for you?"
Me thinking: "I didn't really call just to share"
Me: "Yes, I wanted to check and see if it was covered under my policy"
Insurance rep: "Oh (I think finally getting the reason for my call), ok let me check"

And luckily he came back and said it is, and the deductible isn't that bad.  Score one point.

So then I proceeded to call phone, cable, and electric companies because of the down lines.  Electric already showed up and confirmed theirs wasn't down, just the other two.  Phone's coming out by the end of the day to disconnect (since I have voice over IP now) and cable will be out tomorrow.  I was a bit worried about the phone, since I don't have a landline account, but AT&T who the line was through previously had no issue sending someone out and I found them to be fairly pleasant about it.

I've also scheduled a number of estimates (4 to be exact).  I'm a little concerned that I've got two scheduled tomorrow at the same time.  Is that a bad thing?  The other two couldn't get out until next week.  Oh well, I'm guessing they'll lose as they seemed more interested in insulation and other estimates then just fixing my damn gutter.  I get what they were saying about it but seriously dude, I have 50lbs of ice and crushed gutter sitting outside my house, if I had the money to put insulation in last year, I probably would have, but given the fact the house is probably on the market in the next year or two, we are in repair mode, rather then expand, since while not underwater, I'm not making a dime off of it.

Ok, rant over, as soon as I get my flash card loaded, I'll upload some pictures.

R.I.P Mr. Turtle.

One last thing, a friend had posted a comment on facebook last week, talking about his ice dam and how he was worried, as soon as I saw it, I knew I was going to have trouble at some point this year with it. Call it a hunch or whatever you want.  It's definitely one of those things I wish I was wrong about.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Think I'm out

Well, I think I'm out of the band. I hadn't heard anything since we had went on hiatus and when I reached out to some of the guys I didn't hear anything back. 

I got a call tonight from the guitarist, he was non-commital with what was going on, just saying, that the 3 of them had met up and they were having some issues with the direction they wanted to go.  He said he wasn't sure what was going to happen and to just hang tight, but it sounds awfully familiar to what happened with their last singer. 

So based on my instincts and that call, I'm guessing it's over.  Which sucks on so many levels.  I'm disappointed and unsure of what it means going forward for me.  I'll see how things go over the next couple weeks to see if perhaps my instincts are wrong, but I don't believe they are. 

I can't say it hasn't been an experience though, in many ways it flipped my life upside down. A ton of strife has come in my personal life as a result of choosing to try and do this.  Without going into too much detail, let's just say I don't think my wife will be overly upset with the band's decision, she wasn't thrilled with the fact that I decided to try and join one in the first place.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have that gross sinking feeling in the stomach at the moment and it would be easy to sit here and be sad or to regret the last couple months.  I'm not going to do that though, if it's over, so be it. I'll just have to find a new opportunity and any lessons learned during the experience were probably ones that needed to be learned anyway.


Well I talked with our drummer, and it looks like my instincts were good.  Guitarist and Bass wanted to bring in a new singer, so they've been working with him.  They still haven't decided though on whether they want the new guy in or not, so that's where the lack of confirmation has come in on it.  So I'm in a holding pattern for it, for now. 

As the drummer said, "welcome to the world of musicians."  I guess we'll see what happens.

Monday, January 11, 2010

2009: a personal retrospective

I started this blog three years ago, posted one post and then left the blog alone for almost 2 years. I started posting regularly at the beginning of 2009. I thought it would be a good way to sort through the mid-life confusion I seemed to be experiencing. I'd have to say it's been an unequivicol success in that respect.

Quick interruption, holy crap I finally have some actual formatting options.  In playing  looking around yesterday I realized there was a new editor for the blog posting.  This is a highlight of my day today. (yes, it's been that boring).  Sad news though, it doesn't appear there is a spellchecker, which means I've going to have to go into the word processor for checking. 

I've been hesitant to write this recap, because as I posted in my Friday thoughts, I've been in an extremely sour mood.  Talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder. My mood overly affects my views, so I didn't think I'd be able to offer a true baseline of where things are since I started.  I'm going to forge ahead though and attempt to be objective when viewing it and put my mood to the side for now.

I'm up to about 165 posts, which means I almost averaged a post every 2 days.  I'm actually surprised I was able to get that many up.  There are a fair share that are short, but for the most part, I think I was able to deliver enough content to make this something worth following.  One of the things I struggled with last year, is there was no foundation. This bothered me, as I struggled with how to frame posts early on, often times droning on and on to try and get my point across.  I'm less worried about that now, if someone wants to understand, there's plenty to read to give them a better understanding.

I also hoped the blog would lead to a 'change' for me.  I wanted to be more genuine with my feelings and actions with people.  I wish I could say that happened, but I don't think it did. Opening up emotionally at times has been refreshing, but I've found myself applying my everyday tendencies to my writing.  This means, I continue to over complicate things, phrase things with an eye to shaping perceptions, and fiercely protect the deeper emotions.   Whether or not, I'll ever get to the point I want to be emotionally remains, to be seen.  There's a part of me that knows I'm going to always struggle in this regard.

The blog itself has been very cathartic for working through things.  It's given me a chance to sort through some of the feelings I was experiencing and given me an opportunity to try to identify areas I can resolve issues.

Last year, I started struggling with issues of getting older.  Not so much the getting older part, which I could accept (reluctantly), but the notion of how things might be in 5, 10, or 20 years.  I started to realize that where I was at, was going to make for some miserable moments down the line and I wanted to start understanding how decisions today affected my moods tomorrow.

I decided that I needed to turn things upside down a bit in my life and work to break out of the status quo.  Instead of accepting things as they were, I needed to make choices that appealed to me with an eye toward the future, rather then just maintaining the balance in my current life.  I'm happy to say I've made some progress with that.  For lack of a better phrase, I've found my voice again and am starting to get a better understanding of what mid-30's Mike needs/wants. 

The most significant action I took and blogged about was that I joined a band.  By far my biggest outside the mold step I've ever taken in my life. I came back from my summer trip to Vegas and decided I needed to change up my everyday life.  I'd been thinking about trying to join a band for a while, so I pulled up some classified ads and sent off some emails and got lucky in that an experienced group that fit my style was looking for a new direction.  We've had two small shows so far and a ton of practices and while we are in a bit of a holding pattern at the moment, it's only a matter of time before we really start playing out, which I'm very excited about. 

I've had friends ask me "Why a band" "Why now at your age"?  It's funny that I had no interest in doing something like that for years.  2 years ago, I jumped on stage with a band for a 'rockstar' karaoke night. (get up on stage with live musicians and sing to a monitor.) And I realized I wanted to do this needed to do this.  About 8 years ago, I realized that while I was constantly working and building skills in the workplace, I never created anything.  Now, I'm not the most creative person in the world, but I need an outlet, so I took up baking.  It was a great fit, something I could do to start out with a ton of room to learn and improve, and when things went right I'd wind up with something pretty damn good to eat too.  This band gig is the similar.  I love mastering new things, I also hate to fail, so I like to at least start out in things where I'm fairly competent and have some talent.  Joining a band was the next progression of this for me.  And while I think we sound pretty good, there is so much room for me to improve it's not even funny.  On top of that, I'm getting something out of it.  A sense of accomplishment, a chance to get out of the house regularly, a way to meet new people, earn some extra cash, and to experience something that's so outside of 'normal' for my type of lifestyle that it seems surreal at times.

I wouldn't say I was boring, but my life had definitely fallen into a pattern or repetition.  And in thinking about getting older all I could think of was this is the way it's going to be day in and day out for the foreseeable future.  Joining the band not only broke this mold, it smashed it completely.  And for me that was a huge accomplishment.

The band and many other decisions I've made throughout the year, have lead to other issues in my life, many that I've not written about and I'll continue to keep private for the time being.  Many of them in my opinion were coming and as time goes on I may write about them, but we'll have to see how things play out. This has been another interesting part of the blog's development, how much do I want to ultimately share.  I'd love to write about everything and anything, but since so many of our lives are intertwined I realized early on that I needed to be conscious of what I wrote about other people or my thoughts in relation to certain things.  (Hillbilly neighbor being an exception).  Those that know me might be assuming they know what I'm talking about here, but I can honestly say it's not one particular person or situation I'm referring to.  There are multiple topics and people I choose not to write about.  While I haven't overly promoted this blog, I'm conscious of the fact that it is public and therefore I've made a conscious effort to document my thoughts and feelings around things, rather then about them at times.

I'm getting a bit disinterested here in my writing, so I'm going to try and close this up.  Since it's been one of my favorite things to do on the blog, a list format seems sort of appropriate for an ending to the retrospective.

Some of my favorite things from 2009.

1. Unmuddling my emotions, getting beyond the feeling of despair and getting an understanding of me today.

2. Joining "Torrn"

3. Making new friends, whether it's from the band, the blog, or other ways of meeting new people, I'm happy that I've been able to open up the circle a bit and meet so many new people.

4. Buying the new car, a decade is too long to go between new cars.

5. Bronwyn's development, 3-4 was a heck of a lot of fun. So many things I see her developing into and she always makes my day.

6. Reacquainting myself with many friends from my past.  So nice to reconnect with people I haven't talked to in years.  In thinking about this, I can't believe the number of people I've seen or talked to that I haven't for many years.

7. Breaking the status quo of everyday life.

8. Family: Immediate and extended, there aren't words that can express my appreciation.

9. Friends, my friends are my extended family and extremely appreciated as well.

10. Surviving another year.  Whether it's financially, physically, or emotionally, it's easy to dismiss this as a small thing, but given how complicated life can be it's definitely something to be thankful for.

2010 What's ahead

1. Getting out and playing.  It's funny with no practice for the last month, how far away this seems to be, but realistically it could start happening next week if a gig opens up.  Once we get playing, we should break into the schedule pretty quickly and it will be busy.  I'm hopeful it will make for some interesting reading.

2. Continuing to decipher things in my life.  Still a lot of emotions to untangle, but I think things are going to become a bit clearer during the year.

3. Long workouts.  I'm not sure whether they will happen, I'm just saying after the holiday enjoyment, they need to.

4. Continuing to experience my daughter's growth, amazing to watch.

5. I'm looking forward to writing more and finding other ways of breaking the mold of everyday life.

6. Stopping lists at less then 10 when I can't think of anymore to write about.  That's where I am today, between a headache and being tired of typing, that's all I have for the retrospective.  Hope you enjoyed and if you are lurking and haven't left a comment, say hello sometime, nice to know what people think of the content.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Thoughts 1st 2010 edition

Still working on the retrospective, finding it hard to get motivated for anything this week.

Here are some random thoughts though.

1. January needs more Holidays.  Seriously, we seem to have 10 days off through November and December and then back to nothing, which sucks.

2. I saw this article today and it's one of those that make me wonder whether we do any productive studies.  The headline was: Women's looks matter more in cities then rural areas.  I don't know where to begin with this.    You might think it's an article on dating or relationships, which in itself would have its own issues.  But, no it's a study measuring psychological happiness based on attractiveness (oh wait it doesn't even do that, it's based on height/weight ratio studies as they are unable to 'define' attractiveness). In truth in reading over the 'study' I'm not even sure what the hell they studied/measured.   So you can be fat and be happy living in the country, but in order to be happy living in the city you must be thin?  So city living is like high school?

3. If #2 is true for males as well, I should move to the country after the holiday eating I've done.

4. Practice for the band has been off for a couple weeks due to the holiday, which means I haven't got the opportunity to get my hands on the demo files.  Still hopeful to have them soon.

5. F**k snow

6. If the wife and daughter weren't around, I think I'd be settling into a J.D. Salinger reclusive style for a couple of months.  I could see myself even growling at people if I had to go out to the store in an alternate timeline such as that.  But having the people around makes me communicate and even forces me to deal with my cabin fever and get out of the house.

7. Not sure if I mentioned this before, but I bought a new car right before Christmas.  It's been 10 years since I bought a new one (2 used ones in between).  I'm happy as I didn't have to buy the cheapest thing I could find.  I can't say we've drove it much, it's sat in the garage for the last three weeks and we've only put about 200 miles on it.  I will say I'm immensely satisfied with it, which is a bit surprising as I'm not much of a car person.  I think it's due to the fact, that I was tired of driving around in old crappy cars.  It's weird I never thought it would be one of those things that I cared about.  I also never thought I'd care what others think about me in relation to cars but I think it was affecting me.  I'm not exactly sure why it affected me but I know it did, I was going to write up a post on it and still might, if I can figure out why it was bothering me so much.  After all, it's not like I drive them anywhere, since I'm working from home.

8. My daughter upon realizing the silver car was gone and that she didn't have a chance to say goodbye to it, started crying.  She composed herself and then started crying some more as she tried to hold back tears, I asked her why she was crying, and she said it wasn't about the car, it's that she wanted to be 3 again because too much was changing since she had just turned 4. I about lost it there.  So cute.

9. My brother's birthday is tomorrow.  He has the best luck, a birthday right after Christmas where everyone is broke and for the past two years, there have been major snow storms on the days before and on his birthday.  Happy Birthday brother.

10. I think I need to bake something, baking was always my mother's way of getting out of a funk.  Plus we are far enough away from Christmas cookies, that I don't feel like they are completing.  I'm thinking a cheesecake.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The retrospective is coming

It's the beginning of 2010 and I'm determined to write some kind of year end review for 2009. It's a good time to evaluate where things are since I started facing the issues that were haunting me and drove me to writing about it.

Unfortunately, I think it's going to take some time to put it down the way I want to, so this is my way of buying time and providing you with something to read as I put it together. I seem to be suffering from severe Holiday hangover (working only one full week for the past 7 will do that to you). So I've been busy scoping out Caribbean vacation packages this week, err I mean working my ass off since everyone is back.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

First TV recommendation for the year

I've slowly been weening myself off of TV programming this year. Sure we'll still watch a movie or I'll find something interesting to DVR and watch it later, but I found the new TV lineup this year to be severely lacking to my interest level.

I've typically had a hard time viewing cable shows on a regular basis. It's not that I don't want to watch them, it's just always been a bit of an effort to move the station they are on into my viewing habits. I remember seeing commercials for Mad Men years ago and thought I want to watch that, by the end of season one (pre DVR for me). I did not watch one show, and at that point, I really hated to jump in to year two. So I crossed it off my list. (Sad I know).

I had seen previews for Men of a Certain Age on TNT this year, and I have to admit I was intrigued. I'm a big Scott Bakula fan, Ray Romano intrigued me for a drama show and Andre Braugher has always been solid in my opinion.

I also liked the positioning of the show, I've ranted on the portrayal of men on TV before. In my opinion male characters on network television have been atrocious. It doesn't help that commercials have taken on the same philosophy too. (i.e men are idiots and should be portrayed as such). Before I get too far into this, I'll just say that I find nothing wrong with portraying flaws. The American male has his fair share and was overdue for some exposure on it. But the constant barrage made me start to wonder how much of that influence was moving into our everyday views.

I'm happy to say that not only does "Men of a Certain Age" combat this dimwitted view of males, it goes a step further and attempts to get inside the head of average males. With the emotion, thought processes, and challenges they are exposed to.

So if you have any interest in that sort of thing, or are looking for something different on Monday nights at 10pm on TNT. I urge you to give it a view.

You can also view the older episodes online at

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happiness judged by grip of a hug

Happy New Year to everyone, hope you had a wonderful extended weekend. We are getting pounded on by snow here in Northeast Ohio, I've already been out this morning and removed the first covering and am set to follow that up early this afternoon.

The last two days have seen what seems like a constant downpour of snow, par for the course for this time of year, but still a bit depressing. Combine that with single digit temperatures from wind chill and it's meant a weekend inside for the whole family. There only seems to be one problem with that though, a stir crazy four year old will wear your ass out quicker then step aerobics or any other exercise you can think of.

After trying to entertain the little one Saturday, we decided that even with the cold we needed to take her outside to burn off some of that energy while we shoveled the driveway.

The snow that was falling was perfect for skiing a light dry powder. Unfortunately that meant it wasn't useful for snowman building or snowballs, two of my daughters favorite things.

So I grabbed a sled and used some twine/rope to make an impromptu harness to drag Bronwyn around the yard. So I accomplished two things, I got some much needed exercise and entertained Bronwyn at the same time.

We weren't able to stay out long due to the temperatures, but we managed to smooth down both the front and backyard with a sled path.

My wife headed in with the little one in order to make some hot chocolate, while I finished up some snow removal. Upon getting in and getting un-layered, Bronwyn ran in from the dining room and gave me (actually my leg, as I wasn't prepared for it) a huge hug, one of those that come out of nowhere and always catch you a bit off balance (usually because you think they might be up to something :) ). I asked what the hug was for and she said it was for taking her sledding outside.

I wish I could describe the feeling of that hug, let me just say it's one of those perfect moments. The funny part is, I was thinking as I came in that I was sort of thankful that Bronwyn was able to help me see things through her eyes and ignore the cold and snow and all the things adults hate about this weather.