Archive for January, 2011

challenge accepted

Woke up from a dream this morning at 3:30, my mind working on how to create a water fountain that would change design according to the desire of the viewer. This wasn’t my mind trying to solve a real world problem that I had been working on, it was only a dream, but in waking I realized that I was enjoying the challenge of solving the problem. I closed my eyes and tried to go back to sleep, but it was too late – my mind was up and running.

Most often it is not the details of a dream that matter, but rather the underlying message of the dream, and this one was clear to me; I have not been challenging myself. I have settled into a routine of just making it through each day.

Forty years of doing the same kind of work has made every workday a tedious bore. Are there ways to make my work more interesting or more challenging? Yes, there could be, and most self-help gurus would tell you to try to do exactly that. To tell the truth, though, I am so done with this work that I can’t bring myself to make it into something that will require me to work more at it. That isn’t the kind of challenge I want or need.

The odds that I am going to go out and find a different, more interesting job at my age, and in this economy, are slim to none at best. No, my challenges are not likely to come from working for someone else. I am going to have to create my own opportunities in order to thrive. To some people that may mean starting their own business, but that isn’t where my passions lie, though I would not discount that possibility if it was a natural extension of my other interests. What I am going to have to do is move away from spectator activities and into doing. Get out from in front of the television and World of Warcraft and do something creative, challenging and involving.

Actually, I have recently done something to challenge myself. I have always been a bit of a techie kind of person, being into computers for a long time (like in punch cards and punch tapes – before personal computers even). However, I know that I have not been keeping up with current trends and technology as well as I would like.

Not being much of a social person, social networking stuff like Facebook and Twitter doesn’t hold my interest, though I do want to be familiar with what they have to offer. No, I’m more of a hardware and software kind of guy. Unfortunately, that stuff costs money, which is in rather short supply. My son has the latest iPhone and it’s pretty cool, but the cost of the phone plan needed for it will not fit into my budget. I’m not a big cell phone user anyways. My old, pay-as-you-go, candy-bar cell phone more than serves my needs.

So what to do? Buy an iPod touch (4G) No, that wasn’t in the budget either, but an unexpected bonus check made it possible. An iPad would have been nice, but holy cow, I ain’t wealthy. At least the iPod touch gets me into the game and so far it’s been a fun experience. I know, it’s not a big step into newer technologies, but at least now I know what Angry Birds is all about.

That’s one small example of things I need to do. It isn’t limited to computer technology. I have plenty of other areas of interest with which I can challenge myself. The hard part is keeping up the enthusiasm to keep moving ahead. Things get to feeling so pointless that it is hard to maintain an interest in living let alone in new things. It comes down to the old “chicken-and-egg” routine – life isn’t worth living if you don’t have anything interesting to keep you involved, but you don’t care about being involved if you feel like life isn’t worth living.

As an old fart, I know that I have to keep my mind engaged or I’m sunk. Hell, my body is already that of someone twenty years older than I am. If my mind goes that way, too, then I really might as well just pack it all in right now. I guess I’m not quite ready for that, at least not at this moment, so I better scare up a few challenges for myself for the weekend. If nothing else, I need to get the dishes done. Believe, me, that’s quite a challenge.

sick of it

The shit is spread so deep and wide that I don’t know where to begin shoveling, hence the lack of posts. Besides that, I am so damn angry that avoiding thinking about politics is almost a necessity to keep from falling into a pit of despair or from being destroyed by high blood pressure.

What in the hell is wrong with our politicians? Perhaps a better question is, “What the hell is wrong with the people electing our politicians?” Is there no end to people’s greed and lack of personal responsibility? Will this country go down the tubes because too many of its citizens demand to drink deeply from a well that the rest of us cannot fill fast enough, or even at all? It sure is looking that way.

I live in Illinois, one of the most heinous examples of government management gone wild in this country – hell, in the world! There is no such thing as controlled spending here, only desperate efforts to get more government income. The state is willing to beg, borrow or steal money, but never, ever is it willing to cut spending.

We have just had a massive state income tax increase jammed down our throats, or rather jammed UP somewhere else – a whopping 67% increase. Every vote for this increase came from Democrats, and most of them are from Chicago, including our governor, who signed the bill in private, behind closed doors with no cameras present. After all, what campaign fodder that would be for the Republicans in the next election. Sure don’t want to give pictures to the opposition to use in their campaigns. It is just a freaking shame that the next gubernatorial election is four years away, not that I have any faith that the idiotic voters in Illinois who re-elected Quinn this time won’t do it again, in spite of the tax increase.

During his campaign for re-election, Quinn himself said that he would not sign a bill that had more than a one percent increase in income tax (it was a no secret that he did want a tax increase). Obviously that meant nothing when it came to signing this bill. How do you know when a politician is lying? His mouth is open. Quinn once presented himself as a reformer, but he has shown himself to be a true “party man.” One of the radio talk shows I listen to in the morning was calling him “Quinnochio.” Clever, but nowhere descriptive enough of such a slimy weasel of a politician.

Then we have the shooting incident in Arizona. A crazy person get unhinged, shoots and kills a bunch of people – including a congresswoman – and every liberal gets just as unhinged. Oh, it’s talk radio that caused this. It’s conservatives being nasty. It’s the incivility of the “tea party.” Give me a break!

These are the people who hung and burned President George Bush in effigy and who called him every name in the book, or at least every bad name. These are the same people whose sense of civility required them to ignore the concerns of the citizenry over the health care bill they rammed through on a party-line vote. They force their views on us but when someone dares to contradict them they wail that we should all just try to get along, but the only thing that means is that conservatives should shut up and just let the liberals go on their merry way destroying our country.

After the shooting, the political posturing got to a point where I couldn’t even listen to the radio any more. People were making no sense at all, and it was pathetic to hear conservatives tying to argue against such insanity. The liberals were twisting reality and the conservatives were treating it like a legitimate exercise in discourse. You cannot argue with a madman, as the victims of the shooter found out. The people blaming everyone and everything other than the shooter for the shooting were/are just as crazy as the shooter.

These are two examples of things that make me want to go live someplace where I cannot hear what is going on in government. Maybe someplace in the wilds of Alaska where there is no radio or television reception If I were a younger man, maybe I would, but being the old fart I am I feel trapped where I am. A long time with the same company with half-way decent benefits, health concerns and the need for doctors, family in the area, a house that can’t be sold in this market – all things that keep me tied to Illinois.

Still, things can change. The income tax increase in Illinois doesn’t affect just the employees in this state; the corporate tax rate was increased even more. This has the potential to keep new employers from coming to this state and of encouraging existing Illinois employers to leave. I have good reason to believe that the owners of the company I work for could easily decide to move the business out of the toxic Illinois environment. That sure would free up my employment concerns, because I would be unemployed.

Without the health insurance I get through my company, and not being quite old enough for Medicare or Social Security, I would not be able to afford medical care, so I would have to rely on whatever might be provided by the government (or do without entirely) and I could do that someplace else as easily as in Illinois. Losing my job would also solve my house problem. No work would mean I couldn’t pay the mortgage, so here you go, Mr. Bank – take the damn house and I’ll go live in a cardboard box.

Ah, don’t mind me. I’m just a crotchety old man pissed about people who think that it is their right to take what is mine or to tell me how I should live my life. Somewhere along the line the insanity of our government will come home to roost. They cannot keep spending and borrowing and spending and taxing and expect to keep the pyramid scheme from collapsing. I’ll probably be dead by the time that happens though. Hell, that may be what kills me. No loss to this world, but I sure as hell hate to see my son bound to a system that his elders fucked up. One hell of a legacy, eh?

a unique year for dates

This is kind of a cool year if you are nerdish enough to notice things like interesting dates. If you use the abbreviated form of dates – month/day/last two digits of year (or day/month/last two digits of the year, depending on where you live and what you are used to using) – this is a year that won’t repeat itself in quite some time.

Each year at the beginning of a century has one or more dates where the three fields match, or at least kind of match. For kind of matching, for example, in 2002 we had 2/2/02 – not an exact match because of the zero in the year field. It’s not until we get to 2010 that we have a real match – 10/10/10. This year, in addition to the exact match of 11/11/11, we get 1/1/11, 1/11/11 and 11/1/11 – all the same digits if not an exact match.

Next year we get the last matching date of this century – 12/12/12. Somehow I doubt that I will be around to see the next set of dates like this.