Sunday, January 26, 2014

What is the molecular formula of yominum sulfide crystals & other difficult questions


At the start of “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”, we find the crew from the Enterprise on the planet Vulcan, preparing to return to Earth.  They’ve been in exile here for 3 months, where their friend Spock has been recuperating from the last 2 movies.

We find Spock looking at a row of  computer screens, flexing his Vulcan brain muscles; he’s being asked a series of scientific, historical & philosophical questions and he’s answering them as fast as the computer can ask ‘em.

Then the computer says “How do you feel?” and Spock stands there, motionless.  The computer asks him again, and again.  He doesn’t know how to answer the question.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this scene lately, because God help me, I know exactly how he feels.

After these past few months, I’ve had no choice but to become a Vulcan.  I didn’t ask for it to happen, but it was either that or go off the deep end at my job.  After months of endless, nonstop requests for data uploads and downloads and reports and new calculation & new validation processes, do this and redo that and undo this and triplicate that, I think I’m starting to go through some sort of metamorphosis.  Why get upset?  Why clench my fists and yell “aargh!” to no one in particular, or rage about it to coworkers (who seem to have a bit more free time than I do)?  Just stare straight ahead, remain emotionless and complete the requests as quickly as possible; it is pointless to do otherwise. 

I expect to awaken one morning soon with arched eyebrows and pointy ears. 

I’m not sure when this transition in my biological makeup started, I believe it was shortly after Christmas.  It finally hit me that things are not going to get better anytime soon.  My company is taking on more & more lines of business, and I’ll be expected to somehow fit them into my schedule.  But how?  Well, I do have that left hemisphere that I was saving for so-called creative stuff, like writing and drawing and composing sci-fi musicals in the shower.  I should probably dedicate that to business as well, for excel spreadsheets and SQL code.   Okay, I know I’m being a boring smartass but it’s just how I feel.  Dammit my company should be paying me double if they want that other half.

So until things change (I’m guessing in a few years when I’m able to retire), my coworkers should expect a Vulcan Doug.  I’m not pouting or sulking or resenting anyone, I’m just emotionally blank right now.  Asking me if I want to vent is just an exercise in futility, I know humans like to do that (particularly the female ones) but it’s not getting the job done.  Besides, that’s what I have this blog for!  Oops, got a little emotional there.  Kolinahr, Kolinahr…

So if you ask me how I’m feeling, you’re going to get is a puzzled look in return; I don’t have an answer to that right now.  But like Spock, I’m sure in time I’ll be able to say “I feel fine”.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Yes, God Bless America—but sometimes things can hit a little too close to home


I hate my neighbors.  The constant cacophony of stupidity that pours from their apartment is soul-crushing.

It doesn’t matter how politely I ask them to practice some common courtesy. They’re incapable of comprehending that their actions affect other people.

They have a complete lack of consideration for anyone else, and an overly developed sense of entitlement.

They have no decency, no concern, no shame. They do not care that I suffer from migraines and insomnia.

They do not care that I have to go to work. Or that I want to kill them.  I know it’s not normal that I want to kill them.  But I also know that I am no longer normal.

god-bless-americaOkay, those were not my words—but they might as well have been, as people who read this blog must know by now.  Earlier today I watched “God Bless America”, a very black dramedy written & directed by Bobcat Goldthwaite—and it’s not like I had some great epiphany or anything, but here I am, sitting on my couch hours later & I can’t stop thinking about that film.

It opens with a fiftysomething man (Joel Murray, brother of Bill Murray) in bed, staring at the ceiling while listening to his neighbors loud noises from the apartment next door.  Those are his thoughts up there, and he fantasizes about going over there with a shotgun and inflicting some serious damage.   (Brother, I feel your pain!)  

Instead he gets up and turns on his tv, flipping through channel after channel of reality show dreck: the Kardashians, the Real Housewives of Wherever (hurling obscene things at one another), and a trio of judges laughing at a chubby, talentless contestant on American Idol.  He’s tired… and disgusted.

The following morning after arriving at work, Frank has this wonderful exchange with his coworker:

Soon after, he’s fired.  “Frank why did you access Karen’s personnel file?”  “Well, when she was out sick, I wanted to send her some flowers.  I needed her address for the delivery.”  His boss tells him  “She considered it an invasion of privacy and we have to let you go.”  While on his way home, Frank calls his ex-wife to talk to his 8 year old daughter, but she won’t come to the phone; she’s in the throes of a fit because her mother bought her a Blackberry and the kid wanted an iphone.  Can it get any worse?

His doctor calls him:  bad news Frank, you have an inoperable brain tumor. 


Later that night, he decides to put himself out of his misery.  And then he sees it:  a teenage girl screaming at her parents (for buying her the wrong car) on MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16”.   Frank puts the gun down.  Oh he still plans to kill himself… but he’s going to kill that obnoxious teen on MTV first.

I don’t want to give away the rest of this (violent but well scripted) movie, let’s just say he meets a psychotic named Roxy who believes in his cause.  “Let’s kill the country music fans!  The people who give each other high fives!  People who say they’re stoked!” 

Frank tells her no, he doesn’t want to shoot someone simply because they do unlikeable things; he just wants to kill the mean ones.  

I was surprised by how much I identified with this character (but the last thing I want to do is shoot anybody, honestly).  Yes I’m disgusted with most of the reality crap on tv today, and garbage like TMZ & Howard Stern turn my stomach too.  But let’s face facts, this kind of exploitation has always been around in some shape or form, and always will be. 

(Still, I confess to feeling a small degree of satisfaction when those religious nuts with their neon colored “GOD HATES FAGS” signs run for cover from Frank’s gunfire!)

Anyway, I suppose one can always turn off their radio or tv or website.  Too bad you can’t do the same with your neighbors.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

I know why the caged bird sings, but he hasn’t had anything to crow about lately


Here we are, the fourth day into 2014, and I am at a loss for words.  I want to write, I’m anxious to share something (to show that I’m here, still alive and kicking) but I’ve been wracking my brain for the last couple days for a new topic and keep coming up with nothing.  If we were sitting here face to face, it’d be a different story—it’s a lot easier to drone on about meaningless stuff when I have another person looking at me across the table.  (Just ask Karan or Danielle, two coworkers I had lunch with yesterday.  I couldn’t shut up!)

I was going to offer an apology for my last blog (about that Keurig coffee machine I got myself for Christmas) but now I’m tempted to write more about it.  Last night when I got home from work, worn out and frozen, there was a carton of assorted coffees on my doorstep.  When I opened it up and saw the various flavors inside, it felt like Christmas again.  (Banana caramel?  German chocolate cake?  Southern Pecan?  They seem so… indulgent.)  I sure am getting a big kick out of that Keurig though, I may be late to the party when it comes to the newest gadgets but I show up eventually.

Anyway, right now those fancy coffees are the only creative juices flowing—I think my brain is dried out from my job.  Every year, from mid-November thru the end of January I’m working nights, weekends, even in my dreams, trying to meet 1,001 deadlines.  (In fact, this is one of my biggest motivators for wanting that early retirement!) 

As long as I’m on the subject (and then I have to shut up about it, a friend told me my retirement blogs are real snooze-fests), I recently added a ‘Countdown Date to Early Retirement’ at the bottom of the teepee, in the right hand column.  The folks at supply a date (that jumps forward or back whenever my stock portfolio goes up or down, I make a bank deposit, pay my rent or credit card bill, etc). 

 A week ago it was October 20, 2017: see what a couple recent slides in the market have done?   Hopefully as time marches on, this little Indian and me will meet somewhere in the middle

Also, I recently found yet another retirement calculator (after watching some financial guru on CNN talk about people being scared into thinking they’ll need a much bigger nest egg than they can ever save up for). 

You enter your current salary, years to retirement & number of years you plan to stick around, and it gives you TWO nest egg totals:  what the typical retirement calculator says you need (Traditional) and what you'll probably be needing in actuality (Reality) which is a lot less than the traditional amount.  (It’s based on statistics showing most people spend less after certain ages, not more.) 

If I haven’t bored you into a coma yet, click here to see it.  Here’s my numbers (the two yellow boxes).  I plan to fall somewhere in between:

This is based on wanting to retire in 4 years, an annual income equal to 65-70% of my salary & living to 85.  Okay, I’m done!

And finally, it’s my first blog of the New Year and I haven’t come up with any resolutions for 2014.  Let’s see…

  • Stop blogging so much about retirement (it’s years away)
  • Drop 20 lbs without sacrificing that weekend bowl of butter pecan ice cream (I’m convinced it can be done)
  • Hire a painter as soon as the weather warms up—and build those bookcases (stacked in my bedroom since 2011) 
  • Get some new glasses
  • Get some new neighbors (I wish I was joking)

I need to you-know-what or get off the pot—Happy New Year!