Copyright

All blog posts, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted to the Author (that's me) and may not be used without written permission.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Moving Day (again)

I've worked for my current employer for about 4.5 years (hired January, 2001). This Friday I need to pack up my cube for my 5th move. For the first time, I'm going upstairs. (Feels like being called to the Majors or something)

It's a good move because we will be closer to Product Management and Programming, but farther away from Product Support.

I do find it amusing that my boss and I have been requesting this move for over a year now and there has been "no availability" each time we have asked. This time, one of our senior execs asks us to be moved and ... surprise surprise ... there suddenly are a couple of choices of offices and cubicles into which we can move.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A Small Effort

Bliss

Sensual lips
Soft caresses
Strangers kiss
Sinful excesses
Summer bliss
----
As always with my poems, do not use or copy without permission of the author-- me.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Preoccupations

I've been preoccupied the last two weeks. It is funny, though, because most of the time I'm preoccupied it has adverse side effects on the rest of my life. So far my current adversities include:

  • Watching very little TV
  • Reading more
  • Cleaning my apartment more conscientiously (still in process)
  • Writing more (blogs, emails, and my own stuff)
  • Doing more at work, and faster, so I can get home
  • Volunteering more at work for new assignments
  • Even delaying reading comic books, because some things are actually more fun than comic books (did I write that? Who am I? and what happened to John??) ;-)

I guess, in the end, it depends on the preoccupation? The right one can drive you forward, the wrong one can hold you back.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Follow up to the Follow up

It was nice to see mom post she has the same problem with her body going all wonky with insomnia. Maybe my semi-annual insomnia-fest and lack of eating is a genetic thing? Of course, since she indicates she still experiences it, that means I may get to experience this for my whole life. Oh joy!

Anyway, sure enough, I went to bed about 10 pm last night, very early for me, and was asleep by 10:30 or so. My alarm startled me awake at 7:15. So I good a good, healthy amount of sleep. Feel great today.

And the hunger issue is gone, as well.

Happy happy joy joy.
(imagine very white man, with no inherent rhythm or dance skills, cabbage-patching and duck-walking around-- hmmm, better yet, don't) ;-D


Also, I'm very glad for another reason-- Insurance Man (Alan) is coming to apartment today so we can discuss investments, retirement savings, house buying, and my insurance/ death/ disability requirements. Yes, I'm only 34 and I have an Insurance guy. You should too! Give him a little $$ now and you'll have a lot when you need it in 30-40 years. Wait, why are you still here reading this--- get off your ass and get going! Scoot!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Fun with Light

Waste time on this site.

Follow up

Well, I barely slept at all last night. Was up until almost three, then fell into a light, fitful sleep. Was awakened around 4 by neighbor opening garage (right beneath me) and working on motorcycle for about half hour, then letting it idle for another half hour while he finished tinkering. Then Calypso decided to start chasing a big pile of nothing in the middle of the floor and then running and leaping onto the bed with me. This amused her for quite awhile. Cat came close to reincarnation.

Slept for another half hour or maybe forty-five minutes at six, and then was pretty much awake until the alarm went off at 7:15.

However, this is all a good thing. I am certain I will sleep well tonight.

And, on way into work today, I get peckish and stopped at store and picked up some water, chocolate milk, and a morning snack item. So the hunger issue looks to be heading back to normal.

All in all, except for the deep bags under my eyes, it is a good day.

Sometimes you just have to empty your cache and reboot the system from scratch.

Lon McCallister

Before logging off to read, I happened to see this article. What an amazing life. I love the attitude of this man and how he stuck to his guns, even when he was enjoying all that success. There's a lesson to be learned there.

If he were a star today, he wouldn't go gracefully out while on top... he would fade into bad TV pilots and "reality" TV shows designed around celebrities.

1 am and all is well

Had a great time today, chatting. It is a rare gift when two people can just... chat. About any and everything. Thanx.

I am juiced. For whatever reason, my body is undergoing its semi-annual metamorphosis. This means I am no longer hungry and cannot seem to get to sleep. Usually takes about two weeks and I snap back into a normal food/sleep pattern. I have been going through this since at least high school. I have no idea what triggers it and it happens usually not more than twice in a year, frequently only once.

So, for example, I just didn't eat today. I finally thought about going to lunch at about 2 pm, but then wasn't really hungry. My boss came to me with a new problem she wanted me to work and that took my mind off it entirely, so I never even left. So, since Saturday morning I've eaten an omelette (around 9 am), a bowl of pasta with some Ragu poured over it on Sunday (around 12:30 pm), and nothing today. I am hopeful tomorrow will be a hungry day. Least I never lose my thirst-- that would be bad.

As to sleep, I am granting that there has been a wonderful outside distraction to keep me awake later, but I wouldn't be sleeping anyway. Got a solid 4 hours on Saturday evening, just under 4 on Sunday evening (and woke up Monday morning early, but very pleasantly). And it is now 1 am, I am tired, but can't sleep once more. The worst is when you finally think, "This is it, I'm tired and can rest." Then you lay your head on the pillow and your eyes snap wide open and your brain kicks in. Most sleep aids involve alcohol or other drugs that I cannot have, even in small quantities. So I just let nature take its course.

The good thing is I get stuff done. I have cleaned three piles of paperwork that desperately needed it. Only reason I stopped is because I have another good sized pile to shred and I figure my neighbors will hang me if I do. Unlike the 3 am vacuumer (who finally moved out!), I do think of my fellow apartment dwellers sometimes. I've written some personal, non-blog stuff, always good. Edited a couple of things previously written. Tried to get my scanner working, realized it was hopeless (one of the belts is broken and it is not worth it to fix), and put it in the newly created "Throw away or give away" pile in my kitchen.

I'd like to pick up and continue Da Vinci, but I told someone I would wait so we could read it together and discuss. So back to either "Once..." (James Herbert) or "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (Ray Bradbury). Maybe some of my left over comics... something more fun than comics has come up lately. ;-)

Now that I think about it, I still have a ton of shirts I could go through and give to that girl at work. She gives them to her mom, who takes them to Mexico and provides them to deserving, poverty stricken people. Some sort of church program. Happy to help.

However, I do not care how late it gets-- I am NOT folding that damn pile of clean clothes. They can sit there lurking smugly at me all they want. I refuse. I hate folding clothes. Don't mind ironing, but hate folding... go figure. If I don't do it immediately after the dryer or hanging, it doesn't happen.

It is funny, though. Calypso doesn't like it when I'm in these phases. Every time I move, she gets excited and runs to my bed thinking it is bed time. Poor kitty, I'm ruining her routine.

I get a sense that this phase will be shorter. Not sure why, but I feel that it will end this week or by the weekend at the latest. The food thing started last Tuesday and the sleep shortly afterward on Thursday night (5 hours). So tomorrow (today) is week one. Hmmm... maybe not shorter after all.

Well, I'm off to either read or sort shirts. Sorting shirts feels to close to folding and putting away. Reading it is.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Batman Begins

I have been a Batman fan for many years, owning probably around 1000 comics starring the character, spanning from the 1970s through today.

The 1989 Batman with Michael Keaton and directed by Tim Burton was good. It was dark, moody, and gave us the “Dark Knight” for the first time on the screen. I enjoyed it. However, each sequel got a little worse, with the two Joel Schumacher movies killing the franchise with the poor choices the director made.

Memento is now one of my all-time favorite movies. Insomnia was insightful and intriguing, even if I did not ultimately like it. Christopher Nolan is someone I really respect. Upon hearing that this man would take over the relaunch of the Batman franchise, I was ecstatic.

As I watched Batman Begins, I kept thinking, “This is what I’ve been waiting for.” Although Act 1 was a little long, and I hated the use of flashbacks (and some in the audience became a little confused by them… just put the flashbacks at the beginning as actual story, and go from there!), it gave us a concrete background and foundation for this self-made hero. It was not word-for-word what I know from the comic’s history, but that is fine. They tied aspects together in a coherent fashion that made sense within the world Nolan depicted.

Once Wayne first dresses in a prototype costume (not involving bat paraphernalia yet) and meets with Jim Gordon for the first time, the movie really takes off.

As a geeky fan boy, the scene where Wayne initially wears his bat costume and attacks a gang of thugs in a container yard had me on the edge of my seat. It was like watching the first part of Jaws, where you never see the shark, only the effect it has on the world around it. Like Jaws, you only see flashes and glimpses of Batman as he takes the men down one by one at first, using many different tricks and subterfuges. Finally, when you are envisioning that the remaining group members have all stained their shorts and have ganged up, Batman jumps into the middle of the group and thrashes them all as only Batman can.

Now this is BATMAN! This scene could have been ripped right from any Detective Comics or Batman issue and it felt so true to the spirit of the character.

Christian Bale was inspired casting, the first actor to really show the dichotomy of the Wayne and Batman personas. In one scene he is interrogating someone for information. The anger and hatred that Bale is able to convey is so right on I smiled broadly and actually clapped my hands together. Later, when he acts like a drunken boor as Wayne at a party thrown in his honor, Bale once again shows that he gets it. Bruce Wayne died shortly after his parents did and is now the mask. Batman is the real person. Everything he does as Wayne is an affectation; a means to an end. Batman is his reality now. Surrounding Bale are stalwarts of cinema; Morgan Freeman is perfect as Lucius Fox, Michael Caine plays a very affable and sincere Alfred, Rutger Hauer is great as the CEO of Wayne Enterprises, Cillian Murphy made a very good Scarecrow, Liam Neeson is powerful as Henri Ducard, and special cudos go to Gary Oldman for his turn as Jim Gordon (it is nice to see him playing a good guy again). Katie Holmes didn’t seem to be doing much more than an older version of Joey Potter, but she looked good and didn’t take anything away from the movie with her presence. The role called for heart, and Katie delivered that.

This movie will quickly be considered one of the all-time great comic book adaptations. Outside of this, it is a very well done action adventure movie for those who do not normally see a “comic book movie” because they think they won’t get it or follow along. It is an adult story, with a lot of violence and some scary scenes and I would not allow a child under the age of 10-12 to see, and certainly not without supervision.

Closer

Closer, the movie starring Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, and Jude Law, is a beautiful piece of shit.

The direction is superb and understated. The acting is spot on and powerfully real. The sound and cinematography are sublime. The score is worth the listen.

The story, however, had no focus. All the movie shows us is the banality of life. The lowest of the low decisions people make. At each opportunity that the characters have to turn back from the train wreck that is quickly becoming their lives, they choose the poorest option. The repetition of these poor decisions is so consistent as to be absurd. Pure random chance would cause some of this story to turn out better than it did.

Closer is about four people whose lives commingle in such a way so that everyone’s life is lost in the banal.

Movies can be about real life, and I have enjoyed films that are. Films can be about common people making common decisions, and they can be good. But in these cases they usually hold a mirror to our own lives, have a cautionary tale to tell, or a moral judgment to make. In Closer, every time it seems like a comment is forthcoming, or a moral, or something, the story shies away. At first I thought this might be about the duplicity we all bring to relationships. Next I figured it was cautioning that too much truth can hurt as much as it heals. I also flirted with the notion the movie was warning against mistaking passion or lust for love. Lastly, I thought maybe it was saying that people by their very natures are spiteful.

Closer shied from each of those, just as it had the chance to score the point. So in the end, I am left choosing between one of two morals to this story: People are stupid, which I already knew, and that relationships are a lie, which I refuse to believe.

A slice of life only works if you comment on it. Otherwise, the viewers could be living their own lives rather than watching what the filmmaker chooses to show them. This beautiful piece of shit enthralled me with its beauty, but, ultimately, left me unfulfilled.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Another Earthquake

Hmm... we just had a >=5.0 earthquake that lasted about 10 seconds (which is pretty long for an earthquake). This one was located in Yucaipa, which is very close to Irvine. That's two of similar magnitude near Yucaipa in less than 1 week. Plus the one just the other day at >7.0 up north of San Francisco. You have to wonder.

Actually, our building is still moving from aftershocks, too. Just felt another shift and roll.

Gotta love it.

Thursday Thoughts

Three best “love” scenes in cinema (in no particular order):

  1. The trunk scene in Out of Sight. George Clooney kidnaps Jennifer Lopez and they escape in the trunk of a car driven by Clooney’s companion. During the drive, and the ensuing conversation, sparks fly. Note Clooney’s hand as he ever so gently touches her arm, hip, and waist with his fingertips.
  2. Shaving scene from Phenomenon. John Travolta has finally reached his “quiet place” and is learning to deal with the strange new thoughts and lack of sleep. He decides to go speak at a local event so that people won’t be afraid of him. Kyra Sedgewick visits and gives him a haircut and a shave to help him prepare for his presentation. Note how she is continually brushing against him, touching his neck and back, and, at the end, presses her cheek to his.
  3. The Player. Tim Robbins is having sex with Greta Scacchi. On screen, Robert Altman (the director) chooses to show only their faces in front of a fireplace. Without showing any overt actions, strictly through great acting, dialogue, and facial expressions, you see their vulnerabilities and passion.

Notable mention:

  • Pump Up the Volume. After finding out who Hard Harry is, Samantha Mathis waits for Christian Slater near school. As he nears, she moves and they start circling each other, smiling and glancing at one another. Their circling gets closer and closer until they kiss. This circling theme is repeated a couple of times in the movie, to great effect.
  • Titanic. Leonardo DiCaprio drawing Kate Winslet wearing the necklace (and nothing else). Yes, it has become cliché and often mocked, but it was still a great scene, much better than the one in the car.
  • Pottery scene in Ghost. Another cliché and oft-mocked scene, it was pretty big in its day.

None of my best “love” scenes involve anything overtly sexual (and most of them don’t even involve nudity). A good love scene is so much more than nudity and blatant actions. Wish more filmmakers would learn that lesson.

What is your top love scene in a movie? And what constitutes a good love scene in your mind?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Censored

I started this blog so I could stand naked on my metaphorical mountaintop, flipping the bird to the world. I needed a place where I could vent all of the shit that goes through my head at work and at 2 am on those (many) sleepless nights. Some of my closest friends are quite happy that I started this, because they were tired of listening to my wild conjectures, lengthy discourses on comic books and movies, and weird political ideas. I honestly believed for the longest time that no one would read it or that they would stop in once and move on, never to return. I certainly never expected the response I have received!

One of my best and oldest friends reads this regularly. His girlfriend reads it. My mother is a faithful reader and commenter. An intriguing new female friend and her compatriots have become regular readers. Other friends and coworkers are at least semi-regulars. My ephemeral anonymity is gone. Many of these people see me often and know me well.

This is a good thing; it allows them to know what is going on with me without having to guess or make arrangements for lunch or dinner. They need not write an email or pick up the phone. Sometimes, what I share prompts them to contact me because of the severity of what I write or a need they sense. All very positive and I have grown because of it.

The crux of the problem is that I am finding it harder to continue posting here without censoring myself. Sometimes I want to post things that happen as they relate to my group of friends. At least two of them are regular readers and would instantly recognize themselves or others of the group if I did this. Would they be offended? Would it prompt discussion? Would I be blacklisted with the rest of the group for negative comments? Would I or they be embarrassed by the positive comments? And that intriguing female friend I mentioned—would she be embarrassed if I posted the glowing things about her that I would like to? Her friends read this too, remember, and they will quickly guess about whom I am posting. What about family issues? Will I offend, embarrass, or just annoy my mom by posting such things? What about my sister’s opinion, an infrequent visitor to this blog?

These thoughts have been weighing more heavily after two recent events, both dinners with friends.

First, I had a dinner get-together with a good buddy, Evan, whom I have known for about eight years now. Evan is one of the smartest and most unique individuals I know, and I value his opinion. He mentioned that he is amazed at what I am willing to post to my blog. He was astonished I would share so many intimate things. He will probably be surprised that I post this.
Secondly, about a week after dinner with Evan, I was invited up to a spontaneous dinner/movie night at Chris’. The participants were Chris, his girlfriend Cynthia, and me. This was one of a handful of times I have been around Cynthia in person. Maybe because of the few times we have met in person, I was surprised by how confidently she spoke with me on certain topics. Of course, as a frequent reader of my blog, she knows many more things about me than I do about her. My knowledge is limited to the info Chris chooses to share and what I have learned in the limited personal contact I have had with her so far. Do not mistake me; I am happy she feels she knows me well enough from my blog to talk with me about such topics. But I was caught a little off-guard at her openness toward me and realized it came from her “knowing” me better than I knew her.

The easiest solution I can see is to anonymously start a new blog. Do not share it with my cadre of friends or my family and go on posting. But this seems false to me. It seems like a concession that I am saying things I somehow should not be or that I am doing something wrong. Plus, I honestly feel and believe the things that I post or I would not type them. It is cathartic to know people who care about me are getting the information that I may not necessarily share if we were face to face. It is not that I would not tell them if they asked, but that I may not think to share such things (and they may not think or know to ask).

I am generally well spoken in conversation, however, many times I need to write something out before I can wrap my head around it or get comfortable with it. That act of assaulting the blank page helps me to think things through and come to conclusions better than almost anything else. It slows down my rapid fire thoughts and allows a whole to coalesce from the pieces in my mind.

And, in the end, that is why I am making this post. I need to wrap my head around this conundrum and come to a decision. Do I continue posting here, for all to see? Do I censor myself on those topics I think may cause issue (good or bad) for myself or others? Do I start a new blog and keep it to myself?

Hopefully a solution will resolve itself in my mind soon.

Idle Thought, Appropos of nothing

Time and distance suck.

Specifically 4 hours and approximately 3350 miles (or around 5400 kilometers).

(cracks open a book on wormhole theories)

Tsunami in California?

With the huge destruction of life and property in the Indian Ocean still fresh in mind, it came as quite a shock to have the Emergency Broadcast System interrupt my TV viewing last night with a tsunami warning for the west coast of America.

I have lived in California all my life and earthquakes are a fact of life. Having the rational knowledge that earthquakes in the sea floor are the number one reason for tsunami creation does not necessarily translate to real-world expectations, however. From what I can see, the last tsunami to really hit this coast was back in 1964. That is prior to my birth and outside of my experience.

Secondly, I have only lived near the coast for a little over 4 years now. I am around 8 miles inland and live on the second floor, which should mean I am safe from the vast majority of tsunami effects. Because the coastal region in California has a number of challenges, including floods, liquefaction, mudslides, earthquakes, storms, and fires, tsunamis become something that happens in other regions, not here. There is enough to deal with already.

The amount of stress and anxiety that I experienced after the EBS broadcast its warning seemed out of context with the threat level. I attribute this to the images from December of people getting washed away in the floods. And all of the stories the news repeated during the first few days of the hundred who were missing and presumed dead.

The wakeup call was probably good. Today I am reading articles about areas that got to practice their emergency response systems (many failed), dry-run their evacuation techniques (many were successful), and got to see how certain infrastructures supported the emergency (phone lines clogged and became unusable in many areas, but other services seemed to hold up to the sudden strain).

Now for the real question on many minds: is this a precursor to more movement of our tectonic plate, or is this it for the near future? This makes two quakes above 5.0 in the last week with numerous 3s and 4s as aftershocks to those two.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Flows like Water

Well, I took some advice from Chris and once again took a stab at fixing my overly complicated DVD, VHS, Receiver, TiVo, TV setup. I picked up some S-Video cables recently, and used that to link to my receiver. I have everything running through the receiver and out to the TV now, which means I got rid of two cables and the entire switch box I was using before. The only thing sound-wise not going through the receiver is my TV. This is good because the cable signal, for some reason, winds up a half-second behind the display when I run the TV through the Receiver. It shouldn't, but does, so every show is like watchng Kung Fu Theatre on Saturday morning. This is bad because one of the speakers on the TV has a small short in it and sometimes gets real quiet. Best to just ignore the receiver and use the speakers. It's not like I watch a lot of TV without the TiVo anyway.

The other bad thing is that I had to take the VHS out of the loop for now. I couldn't get it to display and have sound at that same time. I think I may have just been tired, and I'll look at it again today sometime. It's only noon, so I have time to review today.

Dad, as an electrician, telephone guy, and teacher of electronics on the Marine Corps base, insists that electricity should flow like water. As long as you use that analogy and install your cables accordingly, everything should work and the signal/sound should "flow" from one device to the next in perfect harmony. My only response to this: I must not know how water flows. I do some sort of overly complicated version that usually ends up working, but uses about ten more cables, a couple of switch boxes, and duct tape in order to get the same result. Reminds me of those cartoons-- can't remember the cartoonist, but he was famous for presenting overly complicated devices to do simple things. Many of the Tom & Jerry cartoons used this same principle when demonstrating how to catch the mouse.

BTW, I've tried several of the $15-40 "universal" remotes and they all suck. I saw one recently that looked like a Palm Pilot, was about $150 and actually was truly programmable and you could download new devices through a USB cable and an internet connection. Anyone have an opinion on their successful use? I am, frankly, willing to pay this kind of money if I can truly have one remote that will actually run every device (and all the little features). Post a response with your opinions, please!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Working on a Saturday

I became a technical writer for many reasons. Some of those reasons are that it is a generally low-stress, don't have to work much overtime, never get paged in the wee-hours of the morning type of job.

So here I am, at work on a Saturday, wondering where I went wrong. Now, I don't mind the occasional overtime; it comes with the job (any job, for that matter). But this is already the third time this year I have felt the need to work on a weekend to stay caught up. Frustrating.

The good thing about it is that you can get so much more done without the constant bustle and distraction of the other people with whom you work. In only a couple of hours today I have managed to do about the same amount as I can on a work day. My email hasn't twitched once since coming in this morning. My phone has only sounded once, and that is my friend with whom I arranged to have lunch today. The rest has been music-turned-loud, nose-to-the-grind-stone get stuff DONE time.

And, I think I have done enough that I do not need to come back after lunch or tomorrow. I feel good about my Friday deadline and that I can get everything else ready by then-- and maybe earlier. Think I will shoot for Wednesday. ;-)

Shave or not to Shave

I've been letting my hair, such as it is, grow out. Now I am sitting here debating on whether to shave it bald again. It's been warm enough to handle the shaved head (you would be amazed at how cold you get without any hair at all!), but I've had it so short or shaved for so long I've been toying with the idea of growning it out again.

Pic of me on the side is with head shaved bald. Decision will be made tomorrow morning, so comment before then if you want to weigh in on the debate.

Friday, June 10, 2005

New TV

I need to buy a new television. I would like to get one that fits into my current cabinet, which limits the sizes I can purchase. I currently have a 27" TV with about 4-5 inches to spare in my cabinet, so up to around 30" is likely doable (yes, I need to measure exactly; I'm getting there!).

Whatever I get MUST play DVDs as clearly as possible. I have some 120 DVDs (and counting), and equal number of VHS, and am a Netflix whore. Which means I'm leaning toward a TV with the nice digital connectors for DVD and VHS players. I also have a surround sound receiver and speakers to which I would want to connect the TV (which I cannot do with my existing TV).

Do I stay with a standard TV picture tube? Should I look long-term at a rear projection TV or a flat-panel TV of some sort? Should I get the movie aspect ratio screen (16:9) or a standard square picture?

I am constantly reading about the changing standards in TVs and in the broadcast signals which makes the decision more difficult. Apparently, a new law was just passed that will stop manufacturers from making TVs with analog receivers starting in about a month. Everything is being forced to digital. First, why is the government passing laws over such stuff and, second, digital receivers are much more expensive than analog receivers (typically by one to two hundred dollars).

There is always the great High Definition tuner debate raging in my head. Should I get a set without HD (much lower cost). Should I get one that is "compatible" (higher cost, but still requires a separate tuner). Should I get one that is fully compatible (has all equipment). If I go this route, will I actually sign up with an HD provider? Or will I be paying for something I will never use.

If I do get a digital TV tuner, will I actually upgrade to a digital tuner from my cable provider? Or will I stick with the no thrills service I have now? I am leaning toward the digital tuner even now, so I would likely upgrade at least that portion.

I cannot watch TV without my TiVo anymore. When friends suggested it would change the way I watch TV, I scoffed. But they were absolutely right. You get used to being able to pause live TV, rewind, schedule it to record things from work when a work-mate suggests a show you might like, etc. So, I have to make sure that the new technology I get does not interfere with my TiVo, DVD player, etc.

I live upstairs. Most of the 27" or bigger TVs I would be interested in weigh in at 100 lbs or more. I have to get that thing up the stairs and into the cabinet and my current TV down those stairs. Should I pay for delivery and/or set up?

Lastly, where do I put my current TV. It still works and could make someone a nice starting TV for whatever years it has left in it. It is feature poor and has two small burn spots starting in it (the main reasons I want to replace it), but someone who cannot normally afford a TV would probably be thrilled to get it. Is Goodwill a good idea? Should I try to give it away? What about trying to sell it cheap?

I hate these mid-range decisions. They are expensive enough you want to think them through, yet low-cost enough that all this planning and thinking seems strangely useless. In some ways the big purchases (like a car) are much easier.

Decisions, decisions.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Thursday Thoughts

It is funny how much reinforcement can make the difference. At work, I was slacking a bit. I had a project that I did not care for, and was working with a group of people who were difficult at best. Because of this, I was not giving one hundred percent and knew it. My boss sensed it and she took me into her office and basically said, “John, I know you can do more and can work harder than this. How can I help?” We worked out some ways in which I could be better motivated to do those tasks and, when it recently came time for my mid-year review, I was given a good mark to go with what I had accomplished since that little talking to.

So, my boss gave me some reinforcement by suggesting I was not working as hard as I could and helping me to reconstruct my priorities so that I could, and followed it by giving me the at-a-boy I deserved for kicking it back into gear and getting back on top. Now I want to continue on this trend so I can continue to succeed.

I play a cooperative game called City of Heroes. Many people are down on “pick-up groups” because you never know what you are going to get when you throw your lot in with a bunch of strangers. My last pick-up group wound up being a very good one, and I got a lot of compliments because of the quality job I did in helping everyone out. I raced around making sure that anyone who got attacked was safe, I ‘aggroed’ as much to me as possible (even though I was not the tank of the group) so that those who were more easily hit and killed within the game did not have to suffer defeat. Not only did a few people publicly state that they thought I did a good job, but they also asked if they could put me on their friends list and team with me in the future. What great reinforcement and I am much more likely to team with those people again if they ask me for help.

When I am Dungeon Master for my group of friends, I like to provide additional awards to people when I feel they did a particularly good job roleplaying their characters. This positive reinforcement, I feel, makes them want to do that same good job again and those who do not get the award want to follow suit next time so they can get the bonus award. In this way, I get players who want to play the game the way in which I want to DM it.

If IT does something to help me out, I like to say “Thank you.” Many people do not, as they assume that IT is ‘just doing their job.’ That may be true, but if they do it well, quickly, and with patience, why not say “Thank you” or “You do really good work” to the person? It makes them feel good about helping you, reinforces their perception of themselves and the job they do, and is polite.

Compliments are also another way to provide reinforcement. When someone is looking particularly good or fashionable, I like to tell them so. By complimenting them, I am reinforcing their ego and their decision to go with that style choice. It makes them feel good.

I also find that when I genuinely reinforce someone else, I tend to perk up and feel better too. I do not get this boost if I reinforce someone insincerely, which leads me to compliment, thank, and reinforce only when I truly mean it.

So, my task to you in this Thursday Thoughts is to find someone who you feel genuinely deserves some reinforcement and give it to them. Compliment someone on his/her choice of clothing, hairstyle, or other notable change. Thank your teacher or your boss for helping you learn and grow. Thank that person who just helped you do something faster or better. Compliment that man who wore a tie today, or that woman who put on her business suit and looks snappy. Show your appreciation to your parents, children, or neighbors. Thank someone for the job they did well, even if it does not relate to you or what you do in the least.

I think you might just find that you feel even better about yourself and your day will breeze on by.