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January 31, 2006

The Accumulation of Years

Until I agreed to host my girlfriend at my apartment, I did not realize how much I had accumulated over the years. With the exception of the past year (from November 2004 through about August 2005), I have generally been a neat and tidy person. My mother got me in the habit of doing cleaning every weekend as a child, and, except for that period, I have maintained that habit. I by no means mean that you would not find piles here and there, but everything was kept tidy, the floor was vacuumed, the bathroom clean, things dusted, etc. If you stopped by on a Saturday, the place tended to be the worst because I usually designate Sunday as my cleaning day.

I did not realize either how much stuff I owned or how single-person oriented where I lived was until I felt the need to get the apartment “in shape” for her visit. The cleaning started a few months ago and has been going non-stop since. I have thrown away volumes of stuff; rid myself of one 4-drawer filing cabinet and another 4-shelf shelving unit full of stuff; and I have cleared half of the unwanted stuff out of my bedroom closet and two large boxes of stuff out of the front closet.

And yet, every time I turn around, I see something that looks like I have not even touched it. It is ridiculously frustrating.

I will not even mention the damage the two years my cat was sick caused, or the constant upkeep the shedding and other pet-ownership issues still cause.

The thing that makes this the most frustrating is that most of this accumulation and disrepair happened during that year. I basically said to myself, ‘I’m going to be single forever, so why do I bust my hump to keep everything so tidy? Let it go!’ And I did. Until then, I kept everything in fairly organized locations and, while I recognized I was a packrat, I used a variety of methods not to be overwhelmed by the quantity of stuff I owned and continued to accumulate.

In just that one year “off” all that organization was destroyed. So, now it is days until I pick her up at the airport and I feel like I am still so far behind. I do not feel like she will be seeing the “real me”—the one that has kept things fairly neat and tidy for most of my life, and she will be overwhelmed by the “me” that came about in that one off year.

I am now basically down to needing to clean the bar top in the kitchen, finish tidying the front-room book case, clean one of the bedroom book cases, and clear the donate-worthy items out of the kitchen. I feel like the place will be close to what I want her to see after I complete those tasks (along with the generic vacuuming and dusting that needs constant attention).

I have all of that to do tonight and Thursday evenings (after 8 pm), because I pick her up from LAX Friday evening. Wednesday evening is bowling night, so I can only get minimal cleaning done then. Well, at least, not without seriously bothering my neighbors, which I try not to do.

The end result of this will be refreshing. My apartment already feels a little bigger having so much stuff gone. It will be easier to maintain and I have plans in place for all the incoming stuff as well. Plus, hopefully the future holds a move by one (me to Canada) or both of us (to a bigger place together). At which time the cleaning I do now will be even more beneficial, as I will not have as much stuff to go through or get rid of before I go.

Miles to go before I sleep!

January 30, 2006

A Driving Plea

The way people drive and the large number of accidents and near-accidents I see on a daily basis has had me thinking about why this is—and I believe the missing component is concern for other people.

When people get behind the steering wheel of a vehicle they become megalomaniacal egoists. Nothing can hurt them, it is all about them and their needs, and everyone else on the road is an impediment to their ability to get somewhere.

However, if you look at the rules of the road more closely, and even the make-up of your car, you will start to notice that most of the rules are not about you—they are about the other people on the road. Nearly everything about driving is about watching out for, being careful around, and paying attention to the other drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and others on the road with you.

All right-of-way, lane change, and similar actions involve “flow of traffic” rules that are designed to ensure that you know what the other drivers around you are doing before you do something. This is to make sure that your actions do not surprise anyone else on the road. Turn signals are designed to alert those around you to your desire to change lanes, and the reason the driving manual suggests you turn it on for at least 5 seconds before turning or changing lanes is so that those around you have plenty of opportunity to notice it and react accordingly. Turn signals are NOT designed for you to use halfway after you have crossed the white line, cutting off the flow of traffic in the next lane, to tell people what they have already figured out and have had to react to.

Matter of fact, nearly every light on the outside of your vehicle is designed to allow others to see YOU and figure out what you are doing—not to let YOU see better. Driving lights, turn signals, backing and break lights all tell others what you are doing or where you are on the road. Even your headlights have that as a dual-purpose with allowing you to see well. As a friend of mine once said in reference to the twilight hours in the morning and the evening, “Just because you can see me doesn’t mean that I can see you. Put on your damn headlights!”

My main problem with people drinking, eating, putting on make-up, reading, and talking on the cell phone while driving is that it makes the person less conscious of what is going on around them. It interferes with their ability to pay attention to the road, the other drivers, and other people sharing the space around them. It is, once again, all about them. Now, not only do they have some place to be, but they have something else they must do while they get there. Who has time to pay attention to the jogger on the side of the road? I’ve got to turn! Oops, that’s my exit, I better get across these three lanes of traffic as fast as possible—they’ll make room for me.

Consider this a plea—the next time you get behind the wheel, try paying more attention to those around you. Leave plenty of space, drive with the flow of traffic, and be conscious that others may not be able to figure out what you intend to do without some clues. Use your turn signals, pay attention to the flow of traffic, and try to be a team player. I think you’ll be surprised that you get where you are going just as quickly and with a lot less trouble and consternation along the way.

Remember, there is only one of you. But your actions could affect dozens, hundreds, even thousands of other commuters on the same road. Pay attention!

January 26, 2006

Bowling Update

I’m not saying it was the shirt, but the team went 3-1 and bowled well.

The shirt in question is the “Lucky Strikers” bowling shirt that M got me for Christmas. I finally managed to wear it to bowling. The team seemed to right the ship and finally had another winning week.

Arvin had a near-200 (186 – 40 pins above average) second game which was instrumental to our winning it. Tai followed that with a near-200 (194 – 50 pins above average) that definitely won us the third game. Those two great scores, combined with an average night from Jean and a slightly above average night from me (189, 221, 177), allowed us to squeak out the victory.

It will be nice when Tai, Arvin, and I all have a 200 game during the same game. And I’m still hoping that Tai can pull out the 550 series—he will shave his head if he does!

So, I think it wise to wash the Lucky Strikers shirt and have it ready for next week. Seems like the right thing to do.

January 17, 2006

Shaving Solutions

I shave me head. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows this. The act of shaving my head has evolved quite a bit since I began doing it, about 4-5 years ago.

It started as an unpracticed mess. It took me forever to do. I quickly learned that I needed to cut off all the existing hair as short as possible before breaking out the Bic. And then I quickly learned that Bic was not the way to go! Soon I was researching new head shaving systems, looking and reading online for other’s opinions and practices. I quickly latched onto Headblade as a pretty nice way to shave, but that still wasn’t smooth enough. Some days I had razor burn so bad I was somewhat embarrassed to go to work. But I persevered.

When I visited M in Canada for the first time, she was excited because Dom, a local barber, still performed traditional straight-razor shaves and she knew I was very interested in that. She was thrilled to take me there and was very pleased with how happy I was with the result. During the shave, Dom let slip one of his secrets: American Crew Shaving Oil. After heating and wetting the area, he covers the skin with this thick oil before applying the warm shaving cream. The oil, as he said, “helps the blade glide over the skin.” If the blade is gliding, it is cutting better and the chance for razor burn is reduced. A-ha!

Upon returning home, I tried to mimic the same results using my Gillette Mach 3 and Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Oil. Overall a favorable response, so I continued to shave my head (and beard) using this system until I returned to Canada.

M had, in the meantime, procured the American Crew oil (and after shave) and gave it to me for Christmas. I also went back to Dom (who, in the tradition of good Italian barbers, remember who I was instantly) and got my head shaved again.

Since returning from Canada, I have shaved my head three times, each time using the American Crew oil. The difference between these shaves and what I achieved even with the Baby Oil is marked.

This morning I performed the ritual again. I prefer to shave my head during my morning shower, as the hot water and steam seem to help things. (I know of only a few men who shave their head outside of a shower). This morning the ritual went like this:

  • Thoroughly wet head and massage scalp in hot water.
  • Apply 5 drops of American Crew oil to hand and then massage into scalp (trust me, 5 drops will cover).
  • Re-wet and massage scalp in hot water, “activating” the oil (Dom’s word, not mine).
  • Apply shaving cream liberally.
  • Use Headblade razor first to get the bulk of the hair off my head. Use long, smooth strokes with this razor.
  • Use Mach 3 blade to finish up and do any against the grain type of strokes to “fine tune” the shave. Use shorter strokes and use your off hand to stretch the scalp around the area you are shaving to get every last hair you can.
  • Rinse thoroughly.
  • Wash head with soap, feeling for any missed spots.
  • Use Mach 3 on soapy head to shave missed spots and “clean up” the shave job. Stretch skin as needed.
  • Rinse thoroughly.
  • Pat dry head and then apply after shave lotion to sooth and moisturize shaved region.

My head is smooth today. This is the best job I have done shaving my head, ever. You can rub your finger forward and backward on my head and feel barely any stubble at all, even after nearly a full day’s growth between shaving and writing this. I wasn’t even using new blades in either razor today. With the oil on the head and using safety razors, it is virtually impossible to cut myself, although accidents can still happen if I get careless (none today).

I think I have finally found the key to successful shaves. It takes time to do, but the result is exactly what I want. I highly recommend a similar routine for anyone who shaves their head—or any other body part, for that matter. The difference the oil makes is huge.

Superman Returns... I Hope

I was writing, in my spare time, something about the resonance of Superman in today's world. The fact that Superman is a "Boy Scout" and has ideals from a bygone age is part of what makes him so relevant in today's society of angst, anger, pessimism, and ADD.

I found this article relating to Bryan Singer's new Superman movie, Superman Returns. It touched on just those very thoughts and gives me hope that his movie will properly pay homage to Superman's roots as well as reinvigorate him for today's audiences.


Of course, I'm always hopeful. But Singer didn't let us down with X-Men or X-Men 2, so I trust his feel for the character will make a great movie.

Or, rather, I keep hoping. ;-D

January 13, 2006

Another Funny Quiz

Your Love Element Is Earth

In love, you have consistency and integrity.
For you, love is all about staying grounded and centered.

You attract others with your zest for life and experiences.
Your flirting style is defined by setting the scene, creating a unique moment in time.

Steady progress and stability are the cornerstones of your love life.
You may take things too slowly, but you never put your heart at risk.

You connect best with: Fire

Avoid: Wood

You and another Earth element: need each other too much to build a good foundation

La Nina

It appears that we are shifting toward a La Nina condition on this coast, which means we will have a mild, dry winter.

Looks like M may get her wish of having a 70 degree (F) winter when she visits.

This is great news for her, but, as I recall, the last time we had a La Nina it led us into a drought cycle in So Cal from which we are only now recovering. People forget that we are a desert and rely on a lot of rain in the Sierras and Rockies and elsewhere to provide us with the water we need. A dry and warm winter is not what we need to stock our water tables.

It amuses me to think of the vast differences in climate between here and M's area. They are so much wetter, colder, and driven by weather than are we. They have to have actually different wardrobes for different weather conditions. We have one wardrobe, for warm weather, and a few accessories for the times it is wetter, a little colder, or windy. They average 4 inches of precipitation every month and 6 inches during the winter. We average under 1 inch of precipitation most months and up to around 3 inches during the winter. Their hottest months are cooler than some of our colder months. And their coldest months are a good 25 degrees colder than our coldest months.

I think some adjustments are in order for whomever moves. *smiles

January 10, 2006


One problem with having a girlfriend in an environment and location that is so much different from mine is that I got very sick after leaving there and returning.

First, most of her family was pretty darn sick and many of her friends were unwell too. So all the visiting exposed me to more illness than I would normally see. Second, her location was averaging about 30-40 degrees colder than where I am. Leaving 70s for 20-30 degree weather and then coming back has been a huge shock to the system.

Lastly, I'm sure some of the illness is simply from leaving a happy environment and being back alone in my apartment. I miss her. Going from actually seeing her every day for two full weeks to chatting via the interweb is hard. It takes an emotional toll that we are both feeling.

So, I am working from home today after having been home not working yesterday and sick over the weekend. Fever, sore throat, headache, digestive issues, coughing, sneezing, stuffy head (which I rarely get!), and alternately sleeping too much and not enough. My poor suppressed immune system is struggling to overcome the cocktail of illness I ran afoul of while up in Canada. At least I was well enough on Sunday to go to the store and restock my meager supplies so I have plenty of beverages to drink.

Hopefully she won't experience the same thing coming here in February. She will be leaving even worse weather and coming to our So Cal weather and back in a week. It may hit her just as hard upon her return!

January 4, 2006

Coming Home

So, I am “home.” I am not happy about it. If home is where the heart is, then I did not come home—I left it. I enjoy my time with M so much that coming back is more of a responsibility than anything else.

I arrived to a pile of bills that needed payment, a cat that was upset that I haven’t been there for some time (even if Julie did a great job of keeping her fed and watered), rent being due, and a job that a) seems to have gotten along quite well without me and b) I slid back into without even a hiccup.

That frustrates me the most. That I sit down at my desk, turn on my PC for work, and the calls, emails, and visits by people needing my help start up as though I haven’t even been gone.

The builds that need documentation continue. The alerts for those builds keep coming. The updates to the existing documents and help files keep flowing in. They do not seem to care that I want to be in Canada. They do not care that my head is not in the game yet or that I am still thinking like it is 4 hours ahead.

One of my favorite quotes is “We kill ourselves a little each day with the things we deny ourselves.” I have 29 more days to survive until M arrives here for her first visit. IM, phone calls, emails, and the like are a poor substitute for being together.

We knew it would be difficult to start this long-distance relationship. We did our best to talk ourselves out of it on many occasions and in many ways. But everything just seemed so right, that we kept going anyway. Tucson and Halloween only cemented our desire to be together. Now it is just a matter of time before hard decisions and difficult choices need to be made.

Once I get settled back at work, it is time to talk to HR, my boss, and the ARAG legal group about immigration/emigration (so we are covered no matter who goes where), working issues, and related.

2006 is going to be a very interesting year.

January 2, 2006

Last Full Day

Well, today is my last day here. Tomorrow I get on a plane and head back to sunny So Cal.


I don't want to go. I am happy here, even with the mind-numbing cold and the extreme (to me) weather.

*another sigh

The good news is that M is coming to see me in a month. She arrives Feb 3 and is staying a week. During that time, we need to make the rounds to my friends (hopefully a Super Bowl Party?), out to the desert to see my mom and dad, and then into LA for some touristy stuff-- she's never been to So Cal before.

All that will be fun, and I look forward to it, but I am not looking forward to going back to Blue Calisto and Purple Benguit Frisky on IM.

I like Saint John, I like M's friends and family, and I enjoy being here. Of course, this also means that M and I need to take a hard look at things and start making some serious decisions once she has experienced So Cal. We can't keep this extremely long distance relationship going indefinitely, nor would we want to. The point in the end is being together.

2005 wound up being a good year, even if it started with a lot of illness and malaise. I met the girl of my dreams, I have grown and found new successes at work, and I have made positive changes in my life.

It looks like 2006 will be filled with even more challenges, changes, and growth opportunities! Dammit, I'm tired of growing and changing. ;-)