What’s So Damn New About New Year’s ANYWAY?

Disclaimer: I wrote this while on a lunch break AT WORK on New Year’s Eve. I have not worked on New Year’s Eve since Y2K was a thing we weren’t sure we could survive. On 12/31/99 I was right where I needed to be – getting drunk. In a movie theater. Where I worked. While I watched “Man On The Moon.” For the 4th time.
I was definitely NOT working… and the world was better off for it. We survived Y2K, didn’t we? And Danny DeVito has a career again, doesn’t he?
For me, the end of the year is a much larger moment, and one I take the time to celebrate. This year, however, is the first year that I haven’t been off of work for the week between Christmas & New Year’s Eve, and I woefully  anticipated the impacts of that. Usually in that week off, I seem to get plenty of time & space for some self-reflection, which requires reviewing the year being completed, and usually leads to plans for a new year. Reviewing the year completed, I generally start to think the next year can be better – which carries with it the implication that this one was, somehow, less than what I wanted.
But now I want to argue that with myself, based on this year’s status as an anomaly. This year, without all the time & space to analyze backwards & plan forward, I don’t really feel that 2016 is going to be markedly better because of some grand intention to make it so. There’s nothing huge sticking out at me, no giant epiphany or insight that’s leading me to say, “I’m going to make a change for the better.” In the past that has been a reliable pattern, and it must also be a significant one, because I’m noticing that it’s not repeating as expected this year. But is the anomaly this year caused by the lack of time & space? or is it simply correlated? Might the real cause be that 2015 just that good? Or that I am just that non-optimistic that 2016 can be better?
I’m feeling certain that waking up in 2016 will be no different than waking up in 2015. Is New Year’s Day a whole new clean fresh bright crisp chance to start doing things differently/better? Nope. Not feeling it.
That bothers me. Why is this year so different?
The Case for No Space
It’s New Year’s Eve afternoon, and I’m just now sitting and spending some time reflecting. Most years in the past I’ve already spent a solid day or two reflecting, planning, resolving, and am anxiously awaiting the fresh slate of opportunity that comes with that next roman numeral on the calendar. Right now I’m not anticipating anything much at all, except maybe lunch & an afternoon coffee.
I’ve been at work today. And yesterday. And the day before. I was off Christmas Eve & had the good fortune to have off on Monday. Christmas Eve I spent prepping for family visitors, for cooking Christmas dinner & for hosting a small thing on Christmas Eve. I liked all of those activities – and they led to one of the best Christmases I can remember (this year with NO gifts for family members, except for Kate). We had a nice menu, a relatively stress-free cooking session, drank some good scotch, and then played board games for a few hours after dinner. Without the upfront investment of those activities it may not have gone as smoothly, so I think they were worthwhile, but that time might have otherwise been spent walking & thinking, or just chatting with R about the year ahead. We haven’t done that yet because we then spent the weekend with family & running errands, trying to get ready for Kate’s little brother (who is currently at risk of being named Brother), and of course seeing The Big Short instead of Star Wars. Then I went back to work on Tuesday, and just haven’t spent much time simply reflecting.
The Case For 2015 Being Just That Good
Holy moley was it a whirlwind year. Spent the first 4 months finishing the 1-Year Program at the American Comedy Institute. Also started the new job (my first in retail) in March. Then Kate’s 5th birthday & reading SO MANY BOOKS together. Then we’d planned a trip to Turks & Caicos for the family, because we wanted someplace we didn’t know, someplace with water, and someplace with better weather than the NJ summers, and because I wanted to see the crystal blue waters of Vanuatu again without traveling across the globe. July was when we also found out Brother was on the way, and that a few close family members would also go through the pain of a career transition. August was spent getting Kate ready for school & me re-adjusting to not having to go into New York every Monday through Thursday for classes. We also decided to list a house for sale & dealt with the calamity of real estate agents who are bad at their jobs, buyers who don’t do the right thing, and a township that tries to assess for back taxes based on an MLS listing. (Hat tip to R for handling almost all of that with aplomb. Some of it just… well, when dealing with some people, there just isn’t enough aplomb in the world.) Then Hipcycle gears up for another holiday season, Kate is loving school, and I decide to start blogging again. Then Kate gets sick for a week, Renee needs constant ice cream deliveries, and I start having trouble getting my flabby self out of bed & to the gym in the mornings. Then it’s Q4, the closing is happening, then not happening, logistics for visiting family over the holidays are nuttier than usual, there’s a wedding in Chicago that we simply MUST attend, and oh yeah my team accomplishes a giant milestone at work that almost goes off the rails.
I know, I know… suddenly it starts to not sound just that good. But stepping outside the dramatic pace of it all, we accomplished:
  • getting me out of a bad situation that was about to get worse at my old job
  • the completion of the 1-year program, which was really a big freakin’ deal & which I could not have done without Team Hansen
  • an answer to will we / won’t we ever give Kate a sibling, which meant we had to add a spot to the Team Hansen roster
  • a definitive affirmation that Hipcycle is ours, is successful, and is growing into something valued at more than the sum of its parts thanks to Renee’s leadership
  • exploring a whole new part of the world & having a great family vacation at the same time
  • closed a chapter on the house that became more work & weight than it was worth, which greatly reduces the geographical constraints of future chapters
  • having fun, learning & growing, while doing all of the above
That last one’s important, and the main suspect for explaining my lack of anticipation for a better 2016.
The Case For Being Non-Optimistic About 2016
There’s one really big reason that I’m potentially non-optimistic about 2016. And his name is
Donald Fucking Trump.
In an earlier draft of this post, I proceeded from here to rant & rail against what his potential nomination (and the support that potential outcome is garnering, at least according to the media) means for this country and for my faith in it. And while I still plan to stew on that a bit & make it its own post (here or in other venues), I will refrain from that at the moment, largely because it’s a giant tangent from the main thrust of this post, and also because I’ve yet to give any political angles to the stuff I post here. There’s nothing wrong with being political here – but I want to make sure I give that sort of stuff the critical thinking it deserves, and my rant, as I re-read it, was just not up to snuff.
But even without that pompous ass on the dais, there is still something nagging at me about having a blind, calendar-based jubilee about January 1st. Usually, I do. Usually, I see the need to switch to a fresh Dilbert Desk Calendar as ‘just the thing I need’ to make all the resolutions, commitments, plans and improvements I’ve been too lazy to make since last March.
This year’s different though. I actually HAVE been keeping the vast majority of my resolutions. I’ve gotten to a point where I am actually DOING all the things that are important to me to do – be a better dad, be a better husband, stay active enough to feel healthy, and balance life with work in a reasonable manner. And none of those principles, which I committed to in late 2014, have changed, and I haven’t failed at them. So they don’t need replaced, and they don’t really need revised or refined or regurgitated just because it’s January and the upper thumbtack has a lighter load. (A moment to appreciate the oft-overlooked thumbtack…. …. …. thank you.)
So 2016 feels like it will be less monumental, more incremental; less of a leap, more of a hop; less watershed, more woodshed.
That’s not a bad thing either – but the transition from anticipation to <meh> was a noticeable one, and being that the direction of it was not in the hopeful, optimistic, positive direction, I sat up & took notice.
After actually taking the time to reflect on why… it actually cleansed a chakra somewhere & things seem less… clogged. (Is that what a chakra is when it hasn’t been cleansed in a while? do they clog? get dirty? twist themselves together into some sort of chakra Twizzler?) I still don’t have any major resolutions to sally forth & declare here… but it’s nice to understand why. That in and of itself is reassuring – it’s not like I’ve become some sort of New Year’s humbug, some guy that thinks Baby New Year is just another shit-filled diaper.
So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.

Oh, Nine…

Yes, yes, the inevitable self-reflecting post that comes with every new year. This year, comrades, will be different. Nine is my favorite number, as it is the first odd perfect square, and it’s the number around which every single math skill I have is built. What does this mean? Well, aside from the fact that I’m a Supreme Nerd, consider that I’m also a bit superstitious. Maybe it’s the little Chinese man in me (we all have one… even Oprah), but I feel like the calendar year that represents one or several 9s has GOT to be especially significant to me – and ever the optimist, I believe it will of course be especially POSITIVE.  For instance, 1999 was a VERY good year.  Full scholarship to Penn State, lost my virginity, and made two of my life-long best friends.  It was 3x as good as any year I’ve ever had, and it had 3 nines in it.  It’s science.

So this year will be awesome, and I’ll start it off with an awesome post.  This could easily be another ‘here are my resolutions that I resolve during this first week of the year when everyone else is also resolving’ blog post, and you would still love me.  But because I am insanely creative & ever so Nerd-ertaining, let’s turn up the Awesome.  Presented below are all of the superheroes I will be by the end of 2009.


Secret Identity: Mediocre analyst who steals time from the company to blog, twitter, and buy stuff on eBay.
Corporate double-speak & nonsensical blurbs (i.e. “it is what it is”); politically correct insults
Able to work 16 hours in a single day
Makes amazingly important decisions with almost no data to support it by relying on “gut feel”
Impervious to actual analysis, busy work, and cubicles
Key Weakness:
Unable to add true value to any business situation, given status as “middle man” between the Supreme Executive Powers and The Data Monkeys.
How To Exploit:
Ask MISTER MANAGER to put together a presentation on what it is he does here.
Secret Identity: That funny friend who seems completely insecure & slightly socially inept unless he’s making fun of  someone, something, or himself.
Pop culture references, politically incorrect ethnic slurs, profanity, poop jokes, dick jokes, boob jokes, sex jokes, synonyms for ‘vagina’, and neoliberalism; also Mexican.
Able to work for hours & hours on stand-up material while only getting paid in laughter
Makes old jokes new again by adding insignificant pop-culture references that last less than two years so that new jokes become old jokes again
Impervious to public humiliation, physical intimacy with a real person, and postgraduate education
Key Weakness:
Inflated sense of self-worth – as this increases, humor & superpowers decrease (i.e. Seinfeld, Al Franken, Dane Cook)
How to Exploit:
Repeatedly explain that he’s “such a good guy” and tell him people still love him even if he’s not funny.
Secret Identity:  The guy who sees sees a bag of Oreos as a buffet, and who treats buffets as a self-defining feat of endurance.
Calories, nutrients, scientific names for parts of body/musculature (i.e. trapezius dorsi, gastrocnemius, gluteals), different types of spandex, perfect usage of ‘no homo’ dialects
Able to fepeatedly rise at crack of dawn to spend 60 minutes validating himself as physical specimen and/or trying to uncover the elusive ‘six pack’ with almost no true progress
Makes protein-packed lunches that are both nutrient-dense and delicious – tuna salad on rice cakes, boiled chicken breast, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt
Impervious to bagels, Bugles, burritos, burgers & babyback ribs.
Key Weakness:
Simple sugars like those found in icing, M&Ms, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and anything creme-filled; also guilt.
How to Exploit:
Bring him a baked good that you made yourself, and deploy Guilt Trip when he politely declines.
Note to Mr. Lee, G-More & JBee:  these ideas are for sale – it will only cost you one cameo spot in each adapted screenplay.

Welcome to 2008

Happy New Year!

We are officially back from the year-ending honeymoon, and I gotta say that being on your honeymoon in New Zealand is a great way to end any year. Lots of good stuff happened in ’07, and I’m very excited to see what happens in 2008.

We’re working hard on priority goals 1 and 2: pick out all the wedding pictures and get them printed & published to the web; and pick out all the honeymoon pictures and get them published to the web & share them with everyone. Other than that, all the wedding/honeymoon hoopla is officially over… which is definitely a sad truth, but a bit of a relief as well. Time to turn our attention to the rest of our lives.

First on my list is training for the marathon. If you read the last post below, you saw that I registered for the BSIM on April 26th. Since that post and this one, my dear friend Choi has decided to pick that exact same day for his wedding reception. (He’s getting married in March, in Seoul, Korea, but having a reception for his gaijin friends that can’t make it to the land of fermented cabbage.) He’s lucky that I love him like a brother, because I was very excited about & already committed to this marathon… but the right thing to do, in spite of the fact that the marathon was booked first, is to go to his reception and forfeit my registration. Though apparently I may be able to sell my number on eBay – anyone ever sold or bought a race registration from someone else? So while I may not be training for Big Sur at the end of April, I’m still going to train and will book one in the same basic timeframe very soon.

Runner-up to that is to keep going with Improv stuff. Roadblock there is that BATS isn’t offering the next class in the series until April (at the earliest)… so that means I gotta go find another school or another pursuit and jump in just to keep momentum going. I’m kinda okay with that though – as much as I love what I’ve been doing at BATS, some of it isn’t indigenous to their school or their way of doing things. I’ve actually had two out of three of my classes disappoint me in some way or another, and have noticed that their crew’s performances (the long-form ones I’ve seen) are not what I really want to do. Those particular performances I saw, and what they seem to preach through their classes, purport that improv is funny by way of being improv… meaning that the funny bits are pleasant by-products of improvisation. I’m starting to think that my preferred method of doing this would actually be to marry the two together. IMPROVISE FUNNY STUFF. Obviously you can’t be funny all the time, especially when it’s completely spontaneous, but … for me, the whole point of this is to get the laugh; that’s why I do it.

BATS is typically not about the laugh… or at least the teachers I’ve had thus far don’t emphasize it at all; indeed they sometimes dragged me away from the laughs, kicking & screaming. And okay, I understand that improvisational acting is more than improvisational comedy, and that the skills involved in the first certainly augment your endeavors of the second but not necessarily vice-versa… but that’s not really what I want to do with my time or money right now. I want to be funny, and I want people to want me to be funny, and then I want to learn about how to be funnier. So I’ll shove off to find a way to do that very soon and will update you accordingly.

R, on the other hand, is about to kick off her first knitting class at Atelier Yarns over on Divis. She put that on her Xmas list, and ’twas a gift certificate that she received from my wonderful parents that paid for it & her supplies. She starts Monday & is very excited. It’s also something that’s going to help her keep one of her resolutions: to make/take more time for herself. Work has been summarily taking advantage of her for a few months now, and she’s had enough and is committed to getting her time back. Let’s all help her keep that one, okay? She’s excited for learning a new hobby, and she’s hoping it’ll turn out to be a therapeutic one – one that will calm her down as opposed to giving her more fodder for her task lists and the cute little heart attack that she knows she’s got half-baked in the bottom of her ventricles.

I’m all for a relaxing hobby, because, love her as I do, I still can’t keep her from being this big ball of stress for a larger-than-fun portion of time. I may still have a talent for talking her out of a complete frenzy like no one else could, but it’s akin to saving someone from drowning but still being stuck in the middle of the ocean – I can swim for both of us only so many miles, and then we both have to figure out how the hell to make it to dry land for beer and crab cakes. (I would only ever get stuck in the ocean in an area where the coast would supply both of these things a-plenty.)

The honeymoon was great for letting both of us totally forget about anything other than being married, being in New Zealand, and being twentysomethings with respectable salaries and slightly modest tastes for food & wine. We had a great time – I’d write a full post about it, but I still haven’t finished the Wedding post, and feel obligated to finish that one first – and now we’re back, trying not to get stressed out by America, by corporations, by what little obligations we do have.

But we’re trying not to think of 2008 as another year of obligations to things that don’t make us better or make the world better… I’m trying to make sure that I invest my time better in ’08. I even toyed with the idea of resolving not to watch ‘Friends’ any more. The amount of time I spend in front of the TV is easily 30-40% consumed by re-runs of episodes I own on DVD. So not only is it not productive time, it’s a REPEAT of a non-productive time. (In my defense, it’s a great show that won Emmys for a reason… but that is not excuse enough.)

I want to invest in this year so that ’09 is easier for both of us. More time out of the apartment, more time taking advantage of living on the West Coast, more time exploring new restaurants/activities/creative pursuits… do away with the days that go by because we’re too busy planning other things. And if we make the effort to take time for doing & enjoying new things, I’m less likely to need that time in front of the TV, laughing at lines that haven’t been said yet but that I know are coming. (There’s nothing inherently wrong with that at certain points in your life, but I’m past that point for now.)

One thing I’m definitely looking forward to doing is finding some open mic nights. Gonna start spectating a few first, build up the ol’ confidence, work on my own material, and eventually make a debut. I’m on the fence as to whether or not I want people I know to be at my first one or not… I’d love to think I’d be funny enough to have my friends & family laugh at me out of getting my jokes instead of loyalty, but am worried about being able to tell the difference. And if I DO bomb, I certainly don’t want everyone I know there to see it or to try and make me feel better about it… If they come and help me feel great my first time, when I go out again & less of them are there, I could bomb & not have that salve of loving ego-strokes with which to dress my wounds. But rest assured, I’ll blog about it either way.

There are LOTS of other things that should happen in ’08, but it’s 6:30 on Saturday night and I’m going to head out to catch I Am Legend at 7:30. (R doesn’t particularly want to go, so I get to go and drink all the soda & eat all the snacks I’ll pick up from BevMo! on the way.) So for now, I will leave you… and I promise I’ll be back in less than the 4 weeks it’s been since my last post. Plus I just bought us a new laptop yesterday and am happy to have a second tool so we can both be productive while at home.

Did learn a lesson though: make sure to ask R before any final decisions on large purchases. Both my Dad AND hers have a tendency to get single-minded on these types of purchases (computers, cars, TVs, dogs, cable packages), and they sometimes neglect to ensure the whole family is included in the decisions… it’s got a lot to do with the way women communicate their apathy about technology or TVs or whatever, but even if they don’t care to know an LCD from a labrador, it doesn’t mean that leaving them out of any decision that affects them is an okay thing. I’m sure this won’t be the last time something like that comes up, but I’m still ruminating on my response/philosophy related to it, so I’ll just let it go at that for now.

PS, thanks to those that have been commenting. I’m trying to respond in the comment threads more quickly than I can post, so if you’re looking for shoutouts or thank-yous, be sure to go back through the comment threads too, kay?