Saturday, July 22, 2017

Silver Linings

As I sit here, watching Fight Club for the nine millionth time, a thought rings through my head. For whatever reason, Fight Club has always had a resonance for me that I never really understood. Very little about it has any direct connection to my life. But, I sit a little longer, and eventually the movie gets to the scene about Tyler's job as a projectionist. As the scene concludes, it occurs to me, "it's probably a good thing that I have the kind of epilepsy that's controllable by medicine."

I expressed this thought to my wife. Initially, she didn't see where I was going with the thought until I explained it to her.

Let me preface by saying: I've never particularly considered myself to be a nice person. Indeed, when a co-worker recently told me that one of the new hires was talking shit about my particularness for writing, I responded back to him that I'm not trying to win a popularity-contest. When it comes to work, I'm there to get shit done, and get it done well. If my standards annoy some people, so be it. Again, not seeing myself as being nice, I feel free to do things that don't align with being a "nice guy".

At any rate, the explanation. I point out to her that having medicinally-manageable epilepsy meant that I always sort of had to worry about retaining (financial) access to medicine and the specialists that prescribe them. Epilepsy medications can be ridiculously expensive (one medication I was on, at one point, was $1500/month). The easiest way to do so being to have the kind of employment that typically includes health insurance. Being hirable to those types of jobs generally means not being able to engage in the more anti-social thoughts that randomly enter my brain and rattle around.

Hearing that explanation, my wife laughed. But, she also agreed with the line of reasoning.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

It's a Racket, I Tells Ya

Even when the whole IT certifications thing started, it felt like a scam. But then the certification-sellers (and, not to be unduly uncharitable, but all that the vast majority are doing is selling false assurances) did away with "forever" certifications and replaced them with expiring ones. While you can argue that there's validity to skills being "perishable", most of what's certified is "you either know and have internalized the principles or you havent". While specific symptoms and scenarios may evolve, the underlying principles are generally fairly static. That said, a 3-5 year validity window isn't awful, just inconvenient. You drop down to 2 years (the guilty certification-players know who they are) and you've gotten uncomfortably close to doing to certification what has happened with password-expiration policies.

To illustrate, one set of certifications I have has a two year lifetime. Six months before they're due to expire, the certifying authority starts sending out, "you need to re-test to stay certified - do it early and we'll cut you a break on pricing". Here's the thing, though: if I do the early re-test thing, the next chunk of 24 months' validity isn't tacked on to the end of the soon-to-end 24 months. No, it starts the day you're tests are verified as having been passed. So, if I retest early, I've sacrificed up six months of that 24-month validity (i.e., up to 1/3 of that already short validity is pissed away). So, yeah, "I saved money by re-testing early".

It's like, "dear certification sellers: when my logins start getting that 'you've got 14 days till your password expires' thing, my response is generally, 'good to know: I'll change it in 14 days'. Not having stackable re-certification creates the same kind of outcome."

Friday, June 23, 2017

Why Have a Car

When I see commercials for new cars and they're talking about the monthly payments, they just don't make sense to me. It's like, ok, your monthly payment is less than $200. Great. But your down payment (on a rental?? I mean, they're not calling it a "deposit", presumably for a reason) works out to more than a year's worth of monthly payments ...and the lease-term on some of them is now down to only two years. Meaning that, to get that $200/month term, you're paying three years' worth of money and committing yourself to paying down-payments every other year.

Of course, the above ignores that the amount of mileage you're allowed to put on your rental is trifling (unless you commute the way I do)? And, if you live in a state like I do, just because you don't own the vehicle doesn't mean you're absolved of the tax-liability for the vehicle (VA has "personal property tax" that you have to pay whether you own or lease) Seriously: why do people lease any more?? I just don't understand the financial advantage of it.

Granted, the purchase options seem kind of silly, now, too. When I was first buying cars, typical notes were still three years long - though four-year notes were starting to become the norm. However, it seems like we're now into terms that are six years long ...and the typical warranties are lagging the notes' lifetimes even more than they used to.

And car-makers are wondering why those damned millennials have less interest in cars than previous generations. I mean, if I were forming my buying habits during the current market, I probably would have low interest in owning or leasing a car.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Pricing Complaints

With Whole Foods being in the news from the Amazon announcement, I'm seeing all of the old "Whole Foods is overpriced" rants being re-hashed. Maybe that's true in other areas of the country. Dunno. All I know is that at the ones closest to me, they're price competitive when you do actual apples-to-apples price-comparisons. What I've found, price-wise, is:
  • if they carry something that is sold elsewhere (e.g., a "regular" grocery store, they're price-competitive - often beating Giant or Safeway on those items).
  • if they carry a local product from, say, a farmer/producer that sells in the local farm market, their prices are the same (unless the seller at the farmers market intentionally undercuts Whole Foods' pricing
  • they're a skosh higher than, say, Total Beverage on same-item-pricing for wines and beers
  • they're about the same as Wegmans on items from the dairy-case, seafood counter and butcher's counter
  • You get positively KILLED on things like prepared foods (though, the ingredients on one of their sandwiches tends to be different than the ones you'll find a Potbelly's or Jimmy Johns ...and in a completely different class than your local Subway)
  • You get killed on vitamins/supplements ...but they're usually carrying brands/options for which there's no meaningful point of comparison
The problem ísn't that they're overcharging for what they carry, it's that their inventory tends to be weighted towards "premium" options. Complaining about Whole Foods' prices seems a lot like whining that the pair of hand-crafted full-grain leather shoes you saw at Nieman Marcus are so much more expensive than the machine-made "Genuine Leather" knockoffs at Payless.

Note: I made the shoe comparison b/c it's fair (see Leather Grades article)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Freaking Campers

I only use the desk at my "official" work-site 1-2 days a week. On the days I do come in, I arrive early (before 0600) and leave early (by 14:00).Some people assume that, because they never see me here, I don't actually use this desk. So, if they don't have an assigned desk (or don't like the one they have) they'll start camping at my desk.

It's always kind of funny when some camper comes rolling to my desk first thing in the(ir) morning and find me sitting at the desk. They get this butt-hurt look on their face ...probably b/c they realize "shit, now I need to find some other workspace to borrow, today". It's really great when they ask, "is this desk going to be available soon." It's like, "uh, no fucker: this is my desk - I'll be using it for as long as I want to use it."

When it comes to spaces I use, I have spartan tendencies, to begin with. That it feels like we get moved every so often to accommodate the whims of "the powers that be," I don't feel especially compelled to violate those spartan tendencies.

My boss told me, "you need to make your space look a bit more lived in. That will discourage campers." I need to get a couple of my longer-haired, female friends - preferably ones with kids - and have them dress up "sister-wives" style - and then go for studio photos. It would be great to leave a "family" portrait in my cube that looked like I was a fundamentalist LDS.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Musical Memery...

For the past few days when I've logged into Facebook to see what friends are up to, there've been more and more people participating in a "10 bands" thing. As good as my memory is, it's hard for me to remember bands that I haven't seen:
  • First couple years after moving to DC, my one housemate was buddies with the staff at the old 930 club. Meant we saw bands a couple nights per week for 18 months - all for the price of bar-tab and tips.
  • After I moved out of there, I had a job with SGI that had me on the road most of the 22mo that I worked there. Saw bands in venues all over the US.
  • Somewhere late in my tenure with SGI, I met several event promoters in DC. In exchange for hosting their websites for them (I had an old SPARCserver co-located at a local ISP), I got into pretty much any show I'd want to see for free. As a result, much of my 20s was spent in rock bars, small nightclubs, larger indoor venues and the very occasional pavillion and arena shows. Only stadium shows I went to were festivals (several Lollapaloozas and couple Ozzfests - including the 2000 one in San Jose).
So, it's hard for me to pick bands I haven't seen ...that probably aren't immediately obvious. It's only further complicated by the fact that, in recent years, I've been making more of an effort to try to get out and see live acts, again. And the acts I'm seeing now are radically different than the ones of my pre-40s.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Opportunities in Loss

I used my blog to help me work through the process of loss. Being a pet owner - particularly when you tend to get pets via rescues - means that dealing with loss is an inevitability. It sucks. It's like a kick in the guts that keeps on giving long after pet's final breath has been drawn.

That said, I have been quite fortunate. Thus far, I've generally been in the position to open my home to a new pet when one of the incumbents has died. While we opted not to replace the cats I'd had for seventeen years, we've replaced each of the prior dogs that has passed. Most recently, after Cira's passing, we got Kaiya — the black dog in the video, below:

Lady (the white-headed dog) has displayed some iffiness with new dogs - at least while we've had her out walking on-leash. Kaiya was described to us by her rescue organization as being a mostly chill dog, but had some on-leash iffiness of her own. Fortunately, we were able to meet her in a scenario where both dogs were able to be introduced and monitored off-leash (they were leashed, but the leashes were dropped ...available for use if something went sideways). The introduction was promising, so, we returned the following week to make her ours.

As you can see in the video, the two dogs seem to be getting on well. They rough-house, but that's bullie play-style. If you knew Lady's barks, you'd be able to hear that she's play-barking throughout the entire video. As I write this, both dogs are laying curled up with each other on the couch-pillow next to me. It's very warm. It's also very happy-making.

18 Springs

Eighteen springs ago, I selected two kittens from this bundle to be my companions for 17 years. The kitten at the far left came to us as and remaind "Bella" - she was the breeder's pick of the litter. The kitten to the far right became known to us a "Grumbles" - a name that his actions and demeanor demanded (I don't even remember what the breeder had named him as he name changed the first time I fed him, it changed to Grumbles).

I do wonder if either of the siblings outlived my pair or even lasted as long as my pair. I know that Jagger - the one crawling on top of the pile - was the last adopted because he had some early health issues. Never knew the name of the fourth kitten as she was already promised to another before I selected Bella (and came back for Grumbles).