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.

The Universe is Expanding & All I Got Was This Lousy Haircut

Okay okay, catch your breath – I know it’s a shock that I’m FINALLY writing. It really shouldn’t be – I always wait months in between posts on a blog that I claim is updated “regularly.” It’s a simple formula really – surprised you haven’t figured that out yet. Hmph. I thought you were supposed to be a nerd.

I am currently undergoing many changes. So many changes in fact that it’s like puberty at 28, with less hair & more schadenfreude. Lest you stop recognizing me amongst all the other oh-so-recognizable Bay Area actor-comedian-blogger types, here’s the run-down of all the things that are in flux or that have just recently come out of flux, or that are about to change so rapidly that I’m just gonna call them “what the flux?!?”

But rest assured that none of these change the fundamentals of me. I’m still the only Bay Area actor-comedian-blogger type that can directly reference Freud & then a split sentence later obliquely reference Spielberg, whose name is of course German for “storied jew”, and bring that circle to a close.


Flux Element #1: I’m about to be a father. May 3rd is the official ETA, but any daughter of mine would totally wait 48 hours to join us on Cinco de Mayo & let the world enjoy all the pinata jokes. So let’s call Cinco de Mayo de Diez the day my life changes. FOREVER. And more than in the way everyone’s life changes everyday blah blah existential hooey blah. A FRIKKIN’ FATHER. Buckle up.

Flux Element #2: I’m way more productive these days… and my focus is somehow able to spread over multiple areas without stretching thin. Working, husbanding (not the animal kind), running, acting, prepping for Baby Girl Hansen, and let’s see what else OH YEAH being awesome. I’m like Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, without the accent, abs, orange skin, or pathetically under-developed vocabulary. Wait… so… the only thing left is the fact that he nicknamed himself “The Situation”. So I should mention that heretofore I shall be known as Brian “The Current-Set-Of-Circumstances” Hansen.

Flux Element #3: My nickname is Brian “The Current-Set-Of-Circumstances” Hansen.

Flux Element #4: There may be a marked shift in my creative efforts underway; I’ve been considering the ‘writing’ part of drama/comedy a lot more often. Aside from my ill-fated attempts at using the word schadenfreude in the world of blogs, I’m usually WAY more capable of being funny in writing than I am in person. As proof, here’s a recent email survey that a beloved friend & sometimes-mentor asked me to fill out about my thoughts on bilingual education, which is to be used for one of her MBA projects. Note my oh-so-effortless use of racial profiling, stereotypes, and things that could be offensive but aren’t because I’m Brian “The Current-Set-Of-Circumstances” Hansen. (Hmm… that’s getting annoying to type. Can I abbreviate that CSOC, pronounced “sea sock” or potentially “seize hawk”? Is that legal? Wait, what am I asking you for? I’m frikkin’ CSOC.)


(1) How old are your kids? Negative 2 months… she’s still baking.
(2) What language(s) do you speak at home with them? The only two I speak – English and Bad English.
(3) Do you have family members / an au pair / nanny who speak in a foreign language with them? @#$* no. Those people are @$&*ing expensive.
(4) Are you interested in your children being bilingual? Yes!
(5) If so, why? (And, if not, why not?) Because a) I truly believe learning two languages expands the mind’s ability to think critically and recognize patterns in analysis mode; and b) this world ain’t gettin’ any smaller, and it’s unrealistic to think that US hegemony will continue much longer – meaning English may soon pass out of the “major” tongues of business & political discourse; c) I want her to be able to order off the Five Dollar Menu when McDonald’s sells out to China and becomes McKimCheeWongHsuTsong.
(6) What products (if any) do you use for your children to learn another language? (Example – teaching materials used at home like workbooks and DVDs up to immersion school or special classes). None yet, other than my spotty understanding of Dora the Explorer’s teachings of Spanish culture (“Always abra la puerta when you go to the potty!”) and what I’ve learned from my disco lessons – disco’s totally a different vibe, sheila.
(7) How did you select which language to teach your child? I declared my Aladdin puppet the “Arabic & Middle Eastern tongue” representative, I threw Miss Piggy in the ring to represent Hebrew (I heart irony), and drew some slanty-eyes on a stress ball to represent China (the irony there is that the stress ball was made in Taiwan… HAH!); I threw all three into a death match together – Aladdin strapped dynamite to his own chest, ululated a little, and then threw himself on the the porcine princess with only a three-second fuse. The stress ball survived the explosion because it was bouncy.


See? Funny. And I came up with that in ten minutes (all except the ‘English & Bad English’, which is a credit to my man-crush Bruce Willis in ‘The Fifth Element’), much like I used to write my Movie Quote of the Week (MQotW) emails. More often than not, I can sit and make up funny stuff. I haven’t learned how to tell a funny story with plot points and characters to save my g-d life, but after talking to my screen-writing sister & her acting boyfriend, I’m convinced that’s a skill I can learn. So learning & honing that skill may soon come into laser focus for CSOC.

Flux Element #5: I’m back on the roads, running regularly & loving it. Several contributing factors, but I’d say the biggest one is that I finally bought into the idea that setting goals will create the motivation to accomplish them. In November, I set a goal to run 50 miles before Thanksgiving. I had 8 days. I did it. Then I kinda stopped – I recently realized it was because I had no goal. I also believe that actually publishing those goals outside of the whiteboard in my brain doubles down on that bet, so: last Monday I laid out an albeit ambitious but still realistic goal of running 200 miles before Tax Day. Two months to run two century bike races. It’s been a week and I’ve already logged 24.5 miles. Almost entirely on pace – would be AHEAD of the game if the weather had cooperated yesterday. That’s right. That’s how we do it… CSOC style.

Flux Element #6: I’m doing less. That’s right. LESS. I recently read & highly recommend the book “The Power of Less” by Dr. Leo Babauta. I’ll let you ferret it out for yourself, but my biggest take-away was the power of purposeful planning. So I now set up each work day with THREE (and only three) Most Important Tasks. I get those three things done at work, and everything else for the day is 100% gravy. I’ve also used it on the personal side of life, but with less success – because I always make extremely grand plans for all my free time, and can’t seem to limit my lists to only three things – but that’s mainly due to the fact that I haven’t really applied my ‘Set A Goal’ philosophy to most of my activities other than running. I’m not worried about claiming to do less at work – because my productivity has actually soared in the last month or so. I’m no longer overwhelmed, my sense of direction & motivation at work is no longer changing every day, and I get far more frequent doses of a sense of accomplishment – when none of those things were true, it frequently meant a frustrating & unrewarding day at the office. Yes, I still think there are other jobs that would be better for me out there, but at least my approach to THIS job is no longer a liability. That makes this job, ANY job, way more tolerable, because I’m no longer relying on other people to give me that sense of direction or that sense of accomplishment. Seriously. “The Power of Less.” Check that sh*t out. CSOC style.

… That’s six fluxes. That’ll do.

What the Hell Do I Do Now?

It’s been a few months, and I know you’re all aware as to why I’ve been too busy to blog.  A) Work, and B) I’ve been Acting instead of just writing about Acting.  Well, explanation a) is now sliding back into normalcy, leaving me with pockets of time & energy which I can now use for writing (or at least thinking about writing).  And explanation b)… I can’t honestly think of a better excuse than “Actually Acting” for being too busy to write an acting blog.

Now that “A Hot Day In Ephesus” is officially over, though, it’s time to capture the experience & thoughts here, for my own posterity & perhaps for your own enjoyment/encouragement/inspiration/mocking.  (Yes, it’s okay to mock me – you still read it.)

Before diving into the details, the ultimate result:   This experience in Bay Area community theatre has answered the questions “Do you love this as much as you think you do?” (YUP) and “Are you even remotely decent at it?” (Signs point to Yes); but it has unfortunately forced me to consider new questions, like “Do you really have the time to do this?” and “If you love this & aren’t horrible at it, why are you still chasing a paycheck in corporate tomfoolery?”

The Experience

As we wrapped each show (and even some of our dress rehearsals), I’d come off the stage, and I’d have a new memory of making someone laugh.  Of making an audience laugh.  Of being part of a great cast of people & taking part in a great script & score to give the audience a few hours of entertainment, creating something at which they could laugh.  If I was lucky, I’d even have the awesome occasional experience of being onstage & in character, but somehow still able to hear & appreciate that laughter at the precise moment we earned it.  Whether it was the after-show memories of those laughs or the in-the-moment recognition of them, they both served as the only reward I needed for putting in all the hours & hard efforts that we put in.

And yes, it was a LOT of hours & more effort than I ever would’ve guessed.  Most of the last 10 weeks have seen me scurrying up to Mill Valley for 2-4 hours of rehearsal three times a week and a fourth occasion on most Saturday mornings.  I wrote raps, I learned dances, I memorized lyrics, I warbled through melodies, I got light-headed from the breathing warm-ups, I got rained on in the redwoods, I sweated through my boxers during a particularly grueling rehearsal in the middle of the rare Bay Area heatwave, and I put mileage on my kneecaps & thumbs from the pratfalls & stage-slaps.  We never did ANY of that in my acting classes. :)  In acting classes, it’s no more than 3-4 hours a week, lots of variety, minimal physical effort, and it’s always a new session – you never really know what’s going to come of each class.  When you’re in rehearsals & up on stage for production, that’s what you go through.

I had no idea.  Doing the SAME chorus or the SAME dance routine 37 times in a row forwards (and sometimes backwards) was HARD WORK.  But let it be said officially and for the record:  as repetitious and grueling as some of those rehearsals were, NONE of it was as soul-sucking as a spreadsheet that never goes anywhere.

There was also a completely different mindset.  I’m almost as Type A as you can get and still call yourself “spontaneous”:  I find value in organization, planning, efficient networks of communication, etc.  The AHDiE crew basically said, and I quote, “Nah, that’s no fun.  Let’s figure it out as we go!”  We were literally writing & re-writing, scoring & re-scoring, metering out & re-metering for the first five of the 10 weeks of rehearsal.  (It didn’t stop after the 5th week, but it became secondary work – week 6 we actually got to blocking and, you know, acting.)  To a Type A guy that was there without a lot of musical numbers or dances, that initially felt like a hell of a lot of wasted trips to Mill Valley & a lot of frustrating re-work for no reason.  It felt as useful as work.

I slowly started to realize, though, the key quality of “figuring it out as we go” in musical theatre.

It was FUN.  Makes it hard to call it work when it’s that much fun.  What’s a good word for “fun work that ultimately rewards & satisfies completely?’  Hmm… the word “sex” is taken.  As is “streudel.”  Perhaps the word is “effort”.  Yes, that’ll do nicely.  It’s a lot of EFFORT to have a successful show that people enjoy as members of the audience.

But that’s what we did.  We put in the time and effort, figuring it out as we went, and it paid off in spades.  When an audience can enjoy it that much & have nothing but positive things to say afterward, the Type A part of you gets bound & gagged & stuffed in a cabinet by the performer part of you.

The Question

So now my quandary:  this is exactly what I’ve been looking for – work that’s creative, fun, rewarding & so enjoyable that it doesn’t feel like work.  I’ve found what I love to do.  That’s even scary to write down, let alone acknowledge it, embrace it, and ask for permission to do it.  What the hell do I do now?

The Problem

Unfortunately, I can’t pay the electric bill on smiles, laughs & a warm sense of accomplishment.  (Note:  I’ve been working on a LaughLamp, which is basically a flashlight powered by the kinetic energy you expend when you laugh – but every time I try to use it I fall off the couch.)  I’ve gone so far as to start figuring out what parts of our household budget are critical vs. nice-to-have vs. “we only spend this because we can”.  I say I’ve started this; it’s REALLY hard to do, especially because the lines are blurry, and my definitions of those categories differ from R’s.  Allow me two examples to illustrate.  First a clear one.

Critical:  food & water.

Nice-to-have: a fully-stocked wine rack (albeit with BevMo $0.05 wine) in the dining area.

Because we can: $150 dinners at places like Bobo’s or Frascati every two or three months, sometimes more.

Now the muddier example.

Critical:  clothing & shoes.

Nice-to-have: shoes that are both comfortable AND stylish AND go with several dozen different “looks.”

Because we can: 4 different pairs of “casual” shoes (me) and 37 different pairs of stubby flats in various shades of black (R).

Okay, so maybe that’s clearer than I thought, but these are still things that would get debated in any discussion about giving up corporate life & corporate pay.  A lot or most of the things on the ‘because we can’ and the ‘nice-to-have’ lists would get no funding.  And all my seed money for ideas like LaughLamp completely dry up.

Once again, the word is balance.  I have to continue to balance some sort of well-paid “career” with the “side-gig” of acting.  In order for one to increase in share of mind/time/energy, the other will have to decrease.  (Either that or my life turns out to be a video game & I can just eat a glowing flower and start spitting fireballs.  Superpowers are cool.  And trippy.)

But I don’t wanna!  That’s what I sound like when I talk about it with R.  I DON’T want to spend the current amount or more of my time & energy in a soul-sucking cubicle with an environment where people use the words “bottom-line” and “workforce efficiency” to describe potential reasons to do away with people’s jobs or the entire company’s fringe benefits (like free samples of our products).  You might say that’s just business, and I would tend to agree.  But it’s NOT just business when the people throwing around those words use company money to ferry themselves between Colorado and California, then hotel themselves in the Bay Area, EVERY WEEK for several years because they have chosen not to relocate.   These are also the same people that TALK about doing things instead of ACTUALLY doing them, that hem & haw about making decisions then finally make a decision that you tell them probably won’t work but then they ask you to push that decision through the process anyway and then they see the outcome and then they pull a complete 180 on that decision and ask you to back it out of the process.

You should say that’s just bullshit, and you would be correct.  You should say that sounds like a completely unencouraging environment where nothing gets done and that would engender very little motivation to stay let alone get deeper in the muck of it.  Saying that makes you Jesus, who’s almost never wrong.  (Still think he should’ve shared that whole “water into wine” bit.  Superpowers, people!)

The problem is that the skills I use there are valuable to them, and they keep asking me to do more.  I don’t wanna.  I’m tired of being a puppet for people who’ve got one foot out the door and the other foot up their own ass because they haven’t got the sense to know it belongs on the ground.  Granted, I don’t work directly for any of these people, but their minions have an incredibly high amount of influence on me & the guys I DO work for.

So what the hell do I do now?

Step #1A:  Find a different paycheck to chase.  That’s in the works, and should give me more autonomy, which I will use NOT to firmly plant my own foot in my ass, but to actually use what I know and make a difference that doesn’t involve a subtraction sign.

Step #1B:  Get an agent.  Less in the works than #1A, but definitely started.  This runs parallel to #1A, actually, in that if the goal of getting an agent (making dollar bills at commercials, voice-over, extras work, or hell even an actual starring role in a large production) materializes, the different paycheck to chase doesn’t even matter and I will dance an Irish jig right the hell out of my cubicle.  I may even introduce a hammer to the inkjet printer on my way out.  (Would feel good to be a gangsta.  Even an Irish one.)

Normally, this is where I would list Step #2, but honestly, if I had more than just the next step planned out, it would mean I’ve become one of those a-holes that spends too much time planning and not enough time doing.  That’s one thing that working on AHDiE taught me – plan all you want, but until you start doing it, you have NO idea what’s going to happen, so you may as well just start doing it & enjoy the act of doing it, then adjust as needed.  It’s a hell of a lot more fun that way, and you don’t waste all that time planning only to have waste laid to those efforts.

I’m off to make things happen.  I’ll figure out one or both of the above, and worry about everything else along the way.  That’s what the hell I do now.

Oh – before I go… a big Thank You to all of you who supported me & got me on the stage.  An even bigger Thank You to those who actually got to see the show.  I couldn’t have done it without all the “you can do it”s and “just make the time for it dummy”s and “look how happy you are”s.  Clap hands!

Immersed But Not Extinguished

WOW.  I think you all would have left me by now if not for microblogging.  It’s been SO long… yet some of you still come by every once in a while; I appreciate that.  I appreciate even more that, in the last week, I’ve had three friends tell me they read the blog & that they want a new entry.  Let it never be said I don’t give the people what they want.  Unless, of course, by ‘people’ you mean John McCain, and by ‘what he wants’ is my vote.

Hark!  Could this be a political post?  Nay, dear reader.  I only spice up the intro with the occasional buzz term to increase my popularity with web robots who have no idea how boring I can be.  Case in point:  Sarah Palin, Tina Fey, BARACK OBAMA IS MY HERO, I Want to Be A Plumber, Al Smith.  See?  Simple.  Part of me is even tempted to use the words BREAKING NEWS STEVE JOBS HAS REALLY DIED to see if Bloomberg picks up on it, publishes it, and causes yet another stock dive for AAPL.  (Mentioned that on the podcast, which is going well, by the way, and we’re recording episode six on Sunday morning.)
No no, you’ll simply get the update.
Job:  Going well, if at a BLISTERING pace.  For a while we were actually back to the work schedule I kept on a regular basis at Corporate HQ in New Brunny.  My boss is gone, and still not replaced, so I’ve been able to step up and take on some new responsibilities and some more ownership.  I’m the only guy on this huge trade funds project now, and that’s the thing that’s been keeping me there so late – yes it’s huge, yes it’s important, and yes I’m the owner, but no, it’s not exactly filling me up with the sense of purpose or fulfillment that I’d feel if this was what I really loved to do.  But on the upside, I have learned that I get more enjoyment out of projects that I feel I can own – and projects that I can own & understand, more importantly.  So the trick is to learn things quickly & then start to own them as soon as possible.  Seems intuitive, but then so does your choice for our next president, and at least the middle portion of the country will still manage to vote for their prejudice instead.
Wyf:  Doing great things at her job; health could be better, and it actually has gotten better in just the last two weeks.  Was quite rough & tumble there for a bit, and we still have lots of follow-up appointments to check off, but for now we seem to have emerged from that dark cloud.  We just celebrated our first anniversary by going down to SLO for a quick weekend getaway; we had an awesome time, stayed at an awesome place for two nights, and even got surprised with a dinner reservation at a great spot in downtown SLO.   But you know that rule about not drinking while in a hot tub or a jacuzzi?  Yeah, there’s a reason that’s a rule.  Almost collapsed like a naked sack of potatoes.  Twice.
Running:  did the Bridge to Bridge 12K, and it was probably my least favorite race experience to-date.  eading up to this one, I basically gave myself a bye on regular runs because I had just ran the SF Half Marathon about 5 weeks earlier & figured there couldn’t have been much lost if I just warmed pine for a while.  I was wrong.  1) I ran pretty slowly during a race when I really should’ve been able to cruise along much closer to an 8-minute mile; 2) I ran alone – Wyf was supposed to run it too, but hasn’t been feeling up to snuff for training for something like that, so we decided abstinence was prudent; 3) my form was off and I got a pretty bad feeling in my right hip flexor, which I’ve never really felt before unless I was running lots of hill repeats.  The bright side is that it’s probably one of the worst experiences I’ll EVER have at a race, because I learned not to run alone & to make sure I keep up with regular short/medium distance runs even if I’ve trained well over the distance of the race.  Plus, now I have a ‘bad race’ under my belt, and you only need one of those.  Check.
Improv:  this is a completely blank slate this time, and I have no one to blame but myself.  If I was REALLY craving it, I would’ve found a way to make it happen even with all the crazy work hours.  I let it be disposable, and thus it became disposable; yet I refuse to dispose of this part of my life.  I definitely let myself get immersed in work, but this little light o’ mine ain’t extinguished yet.  Another upside to the long work hours is the improved work environment:  because most of my team has put in some longer hours, we’ve gotten closer & I feel more comfortable joking around with them & working on some routine material (more on that soon) while at work.  So I’ve been able to augment work to fill a little bit of this void, but it’s still a big gaping hole in the middle of my psyche.  This means my psyche is donut-shaped, which also means my psyche is delicious.
Podcast:  thanks to TechGuy’s limitless patience & flexibility, we’ve actually managed to get these recorded on a regular basis.  We record #6 this weekend.  I’ll admit that I feel so self-conscious about whether or not I’m just a rambling idiot on the show that I still haven’t listened to any of them after they’ve been uploaded to iTunes (hint hint: go subscribe to it!).  But we have a ton of fun doing it, even though I think it has more of a ‘wung’ quality to it than TechGuy’s probably comfortable with.  For all the technology out there, we still haven’t found the Doc Brown that lets us create more time (or go back in time to drive a sweet Studebaker), so none of the three of us really have time to do tons o’ research & scripting beforehand.  I think it’s fine – feels green, organic, wind-powered.  And we’re THIS close to getting sponsorship!  ;-)
Goals:  I think I need to look up what this means.  Based on my current definition, I count 19,818 ‘goals’ that I’ve yet to achieve.  (Actually, that’s Excel’s COUNTIF function.  One of the 407 goals I’ve actually achieved was to ‘Put Goals in spreadsheet for ease of tracking.’  Suck on that one, Propensity to Procrastinate!)  Makes me feel like I fail a lot.  Which, as we’ve all learned, is okay.  But I’ve yet to find anyone who goes & tells people about all the things they failed at.  (That’s Goal # 15,722:  Find the one guy who only has stories of extreme failure that isn’t a Bush.)  So I think I need to start whittling down the list and make it at least all fit on one page.
That’s the key though, I think.  Focus.  Pick three elephants to juggle & do it the best you can until you do it well enough to add another.  Never been something I’ve been great at – look at this blog entry, for example.  Three political jokes, minor cultural references, and a bunch of randomly generated “topics” to fill in my readers & try to drop knowledge (see! minor cultural reference!).
So before the wyf decides to go to our date night dinner establishment without me, let me wrap up by picking the next three things on my list.
1)  Figure out a viable next step in the Career.
2)  Keep physically active until such time as you’re inspired to create a more audacious goal, like a Marathon.
3)  Finish writing a solid 5-minute routine of open-mic material AND JUST GO DO IT ALREADY.
Oh… and just one more thing:  watch this space for a new idea I have that’s very related to #2 and possibly something I could craft into accomplishing #3.
Also… thanks for coming back.  Good to see you again.  Did you bring me anything?  ‘Course not.  You never do.  And now you expect me to let you watch our new 52″ LCD HDTV that I got for half price at Best Buy.  You are SUCH a Republican.

Cloud, Meet Silver Lining

I know I talk a lot about being depressed because I work in Corporate America, because I don’t work for myself, because I squander creativity on decorating my cube with funny pictures. But it should still be said (if I already said it, it’s worth repeating) that I have the extreme fortune of really enjoying the people/team around me. Yes, they’re all quirky & have quirks that are occasionally more like murderous-rage-inducing idiosynchrosies. But JayCee, let’s be real – they put up with me as much as I put up with them. I sing, I burp, I crop-dust (on occasion), my language leans more toward Sailor than Salesmen, and I don’t react well when someone surprises me with a request or silly question. … Makes you really excited to work with me some day, doesn’t it? But anyway, for these guys, it’s definitely tit for tat on the idiosynchrosy scales. But we’re all good people, and we’re all here to do a job, and more & more, we’re doing that job as a team.

Part of this environment is directly related to my boss, who has the uncanny ability to keep us all engaged, informed, and excited about what everyone’s doing. Now, she’s no Shai Agassi , so this does actually take a lot of effort on her part, but it pays off. I’m more fully engaged in this role now than I ever remember being (short of my stint at Corporate in New Brunny, where, again, I had the extreme pleasure of working with a tight-knit group of people who shared responsibilty, recognition, and a similar sense of humor). We’re all more engaged in our mission because of the way she leads us.

So here’s the bad news: she’s got a sick mother & a six-year-old girl. Sick Mother was primary caretaker of Six-Year-Old Girl. Now, my boss is the person responsible for both of them. So she’s left us for the time being, with a very hazy timeline of a possible return. She left so quickly, it actually made a sucking sound as the huge hole ripped open a vacuum of emotional intelligence & professional capability. My whole team’s in a bit of shock from it, but we muscle through as best we can. My boss’ boss, our veep, is actually now severely under the weather after the Labor Day weekend. (Note: I’m becoming more & more convinced of the Stress-Relax-SICKNESS syndrome – you stress yourself out for more than a week, then you take some time to actually relax & let go of that, your adrenaline levels fall, your system slows down, and the immune system takes a back seat to the body’s need to repair your mind & your ticker from all the go-go-go, and you get a knock-knock from Mr. Rhino Virus.) So he’s working from home in the middle of one of our busiest periods yet. Don’t blame him for trying to keep us all from catching it, but it’s just an unfortunate situation.

This is all just an unfortunate situation, but I needed to take the opportunity to recognize that, while it sucks that Boss Lady is gone, she built a great team & we’re still reaping the benefits of the strong fibers of teamwork she wove together during her 10 months here. She began a PROCESS of building a network of capable people, and that investment, that process, is continuing on even in her absence. (Think the term here is legacy.) We miss her, and we wish Sick Mother full recovery, and when that happens, we hope Boss Lady comes back, but it’s a relief to see that we didn’t just fall apart, that the vacuum she left didn’t turn into a black hole of productivity. That I still like my job, enjoy my team, and am engaged when I’m in the office. If Boss Lady never does come back, at least her legacy is a positive one. That’s an achievement I’d like to put on my résumé as well.

List #1

I’ve spent the first two hours of my day thinking about the following list. I think about it in spurts, so it took a while. Luckily blogging about it should move quickly. Below is The Top 50 Realistically Alternative Jobs That Would Be More Fun Than Corporate America. Qualifications for this list include:

-has to be something that I would actually do. Being an adult film star would PROBABLY be more fun than Corporate America, but I wouldn’t actually do it, therefore it won’t be on this list.
-has to be a JOB, not a career. Again, porn star would probably get excluded here, but so would Architect, Real Estate Agent, Race Car Driver… basically anything that would occupy my time FULLY and preclude me from having another job at the same time. Actor does not get excluded, for instance, because while it could be a CAREER, it would most likely just be a part-time thing, at least until I can get to a gym often enough to stop looking like Chunk from the Goonies and more like Tyler Durden.
-has to steer me away from the doldrums of desk work and at least feel less routine.

So, without further ado, I give you The Top 50 Realistically Alternative Jobs That Would Be More Fun Than Corporate America. These are in no particular order, because I just don’t have time to prioritize them right now.

50. Skydiving Instructor

49. Line Cook – not chef, too much responsibilty & looks more like a career option.

48. Movie Theater Owner/Operator – not too careery; could sell out at any time.

47. Phlebotemist – not a full-on nurse, just the guy who takes your blood and/or plasma, like for Red Cross.

46. Actor – duh.

45. Comedian – double duh.

44. Movie Quote of the Week Administrator – LOVE that sh!t.

43. Video Game Tester – would probably get bored eventually, but hoo-boy would it be fun.

42. Homemade pastry chef – think bake sales, not Kara’s Cupcakes.

41. Carpenter – so what if I know nothing about it now? I can learn. Carpenters need math skills too, right?

40. Cashier – working in Martin’s Grocery Store #32 in Waynesboro was one of the least boring things I ever did.

39. Croupier – as in the guys who work the craps tables or roulette tables in casinos; must be non-smoking casinos.

38. Sailing captain/instructor – of course I’d have to learn how to do it myself first. Details, people, details.

37. Blogger

36. Movie critic

35. Restaurant / Food critic

34. Travel writer

33. Improv teacher – believe me, my profs make next to nothing at this, but dammit do they have a good subject to teach.

32. Opinion leader – as in people actually come to me for my opinion on something, like socks. How many socks opinion leaders would you need? I’d be the Oprah of socks.

31. Oprah’s chauffeur – realistic because I drive REALLY REALLY well.

30. Jerry Seinfeld’s assistant – realistic because I look Jewish, even though I’m not.

29. Lewis Black’s best friend – realistic because I’m just as angry, and will probably end up just as ugly, as he is.

28. Julia Roberts’ smile consultant – realistic because … um … I have teeth too.

27. Movie Theater projectionist – much less responsibility, all the fun, half the money.

26. Courier – getting paid to ride around on a bike and drop sh!t off for $30 an hour? Hell yeah!

25. Marketing consultant (part-time) – helping a friend or relative get their business/restaurant/career off the ground by helping promote it in new/creative ways. I’d be AWESOME at this.

24. Student – could be a career, but I can probably only afford to do it for a few years. Hated papers & tests while in college, but now think I’d appreciate it more & would learn more.

23. List maker – seriously.

22. Part-time book editor – for instance, why do I care enough about punctuation & grammar to make sure that every note on this list has some form of punctuation at the end of it?

21. Charter pilot – SERIOUSLY.

20. Child wrangler – as in the guy who works at the day care center but is really only responsible for not losing the kids & making sure they learn / have fun. No need to change diapers.

19. Lifestyle guru – if I could just give up all this financial security crap and just go after doing what I want to do, I would love to tell people how to do the same thing. Plus, guru is just a cool title.

18. Counselor – as in not a full-blown self-help diva or psychiatrist/ologist, but just someone people can lean on / trust / talk to about their issues. I do this now for friends & family, but wouldn’t mind doing it for others if earning a buck or two.

17. Hotel critic

16. Hotel reception

15. Wedding Maitre’D – this guy basically gets paid BUKU dolares for being super-organized and efficient for 5-10 hours a day, maybe 3 days a week.

14. Landscape “architect” – as in the guy who plants shrubs & maybe even knows a thing or two about how to design a landscape. Did this for a summer – Best Job I Ever Had.

13. Consumer advocate – put my sense of respect and duty (as well as temper) to good use by helping other people fight against The Man, without getting into politics.

12. Deep sea charter boat captain – my grandfather seemed to have the most fun in his life when he was out on the open sea, trying to catch big fish. Would love to bring that experience to people.

11. Customer service representative – obviously prefer to do this for a company/product that people LIKE, but could handle just trying to solve people’s problems with their bank, credit cards, etc.

10. Waiter

9. Bartender

8. Speech writer – not a career one, but a personal one; some people make a decent go at writing wedding/bar mitzvah/Oscar speeches for people, and I know speeches.

7. Founder of ‘Friends’ Fan Club – maybe that’s less-than-hetero, but I seriously love that show. Maybe my sister & I could run that sh!t together.

6. Board game designer – this one borders on career, but holy Hannah, if it was for a small/independent/family company with minimal bureaucracy, I’d be in.

5. Caterer

4. Greeting card writer – along same lines as speech writer, only potentially more lucrative/stable.

3. SNL writer – only Al Franken and Lorne Michaels have done this their entire life, but the difference is that I would be GOOD AT IT.

2. Presentation skills consultant – these people make lots of money for just telling folks how to present better; whether it works or not, they still get paid. Plus I’m not bad on stage.

1. Church founder – new type of church that’s based on humor and the healing power of laughter. Check out Tom Robbins’ “Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates” for a looksee.

I could combine a few (dozen) of these and still bring home the bacon, but I’d probably have to give up a lot of ‘free’ time or personal time… and I do love my free time… but I might be able to survive with less of it if I got to do these types of things all day long. It might start to feel like my whole day was free time, y’know? Wouldn’t that be sweet.

Any thoughts on this list, drop a comment. And if this post, or ANY post, particularly inspires you, PLEASE let me know. That’s what this is about people!

Back in Action Question Mark

I have 18 minutes before the weekly staff meeting is supposed to start. The BRIEF update:

Just got back from the Sales Rally in Vegas. Had fun. Lost money (surprise!). Very little free time. Sampled lots of new products, some of which you’ll love. Met lots of great people, already feeling more at home there than I did at any big meeting of non-Financey people in health care.

New boss starts today. MyLinh (mee-‘lyn). Met her in Vegas, seems nice, just moved here from Minneapolis. She’s already nervous about managing our VP, already scares me into thinking she’s going to kill us both to make sure he’s got EVERYTHING he could possibly need or want. Which means I’m already nervous that I might start hating life here too. But just nervous.

Got lots of friendly emails over the past week I’ve been incommunicado. May not have time to respond to all of them immediately, but between the blog and what emails I CAN write, you should be relatively informed as far as my life is concerned.

Wife’s birthday is coming up in 3 weeks. NO idea what she wants. Pretty sure she doesn’t expect a whole lot, but c’mon. Any ideas, let me know.

Next improv class starts next Wednesday; can’t wait for that.

And for those of you who rely on WYLT for all your worldly news, THIS WEEKEND is the weekend you get an extra hour of sleep by turning your clocks back an hour at 3am on Sunday morning.

Wow, that was quick. Had I known I could get through all that in 8 minutes, I might have also planned a deeper thought for this morning. But alas, I haven’t.

OH, but I did want to catch you up on the running goals. So I was trying to get to 45 miles before Thursday. I’m at 21. So that means either two very long runs beginning at 4:30am the next two mornings… or that I’ll miss the mark. And (here goes…) I’m okay with missing the mark. (Admission of defeat! Ownership of failure! Woohoo!) I thought it was a fairly realistic goal, and honestly, I did GREAT for the first three days I was in Vegas. Then the lack of sleep caught up with me, and I haven’t run since Thursday afternoon.

But this is one of those opportunities where I can either dwell on f***ing up, or I can own it and move on to the next scene, which is training around 30-40 miles per week by Christmas. (That means building up to that distance by the time we peace out for Kiwiland, not running 30 miles next week.) I want to get back on that regular schedule. Keep me honest, folks. Could’ve used your help last week, but the blog went dark so I can’t really fault you for not checking in. But grazie to Mr. anonymous poster, warning me about the perils of shooting for a minute:seconds goal per mile at my first marathon. That’s a good reality check, assuming you’re a runner yourself. If you’re not… maybe your my art teacher from 3rd grade who never wanted me to succeed and sent me to the school counselor for anger management. I still hate you a little bit for that, Mrs. Ressler.

More later, but I’m back.

If Everyone Did What They Loved…

I’ve got like ten (!) things competing for my time at any one time: R, other friends, the blog, the job, physical activity, mental activity, de-stressing, future planning, financial decisions, and my share (small may it be) of doing wedding stuff. And that’s just the stuff I “have” to do. What about all the things I WANT to do? Learn to sail, ride a motorcycle, get a pilot’s license, skydiver’s license, be around dogs, help people in a meaningful way, entertain people, bring new things into the world and make it a more interesting place.

Am I the only one in this situation? EFF-EWE-SEE-KAY no I’m not. In fact, we’re (mostly) all in this situation because we’ve created all these different things that we can do, that interest us, that get us going, that make us whole. Why? BECAUSE WE ALL SPEND 40 HOURS (more than a third of our waking life) DOING SH!T THAT BORES US TO TEARS. Some are more bored than others, but there’s degrees to everything.

Because we’re so bored, we look for other avenues of getting excited, getting passionate, attaining some sense of fulfillment. And because we only have ~80 hours of “free time” left when we’re not getting beauty sleep, we feel the need to be on all the avenues as much as possible, as quickly as possible, and usually even be on more than one avenue at the same time. Think about it: we add functionality to technology so we can be less connected to our desks, but we end up standing in line at the coffee shop or riding the bus while thumbing some wallet-sized device into oblivion because we’re “wasting” time if we’re not multi-tasking.

I’m not arguing the impulse to be productive. That’s great, and that’s a wonderful input into this capitalistic machine that’s proven itself as the (mainly) self-sustaining model of an economy. But my question is this: would we all be JUST as productive, and perhaps even more so, if we JUST chose, for those 40 hours, to do the ONE thing that would fulfill us? We wouldn’t expend nearly as much energy trying to put ourselves into multiple efforts, and therefore we can be more productive at the singular effort.

So here’s the vicious part of the cycle. We get BORED doing the same thing (unless it’s THE thing, the one thing that Curly bestows upon Mitch during their cattle drive) BECAUSE there are so many options out there. AND because there are so many options out there (including new ones that we create everyday), we tend to think that spending most or all of our time doing any ONE thing is wasteful because WHAT IF we’ve chosen wrongly? What if the thing that we think will fulfill us DOESN’T? There’s no dress rehearsal to this life, so we’ve gotta make this one count, so dammit we have to make sure we find the right roles for us. In order to do so, we attempt to try them all & then pick one.

This kinda ties into an earlier post from this month about the fear of dying and the fear of being “not right.” After all, why else would we care about whether or not the one thing that we’ve chosen to do is the ‘best’ option?

But for shit’s sake, if you look at the rates at which we are DYING from stress-related diseases (indeed, I believe the vast majority of diseases are induced via some sort of stress), cancer, smoking, obesity… we’re so worried about finding the right thing that we’re not even paying attention to where we are right now. We are rowing faster and faster over that waterfall, trying to make sure we see every postcard-perfect snapshot along the way (so that people will see them and remember them & us fondly), and we rarely stop off to check one out or (heaven forbid) pick one spot, moor the canoe, and pop the cooler open.

The big deal here is this: we should all try to figure out one thing and make that our purpose, our goal. Capitalist or not, productive or destructive, trash or treasure, I really think we would all benefit from pulling out of the current, tying the boat up at a cozy spot, and having a beverage. And to Hades with dystopians who think we’d all choose to be loafers, that we’d all choose to be bacchanalian freaks. (These people know crap – they spend their time saying “Everyone, we’re going to hell in a handbasket, but if we did anything differently, it could get worse, so this is our best-case miserable scenario.” How’s that for a mindset?) I firmly believe we’d all be more EFFICIENT (meaning less effort for the same amount of productivity) if we all specialized in our thing. Competitive advantage or some other economic term applies.

And no, I haven’t figured out my one thing yet. For your sake, I hope it’s not this blog. “You are entering a world of pain, son.”


Good thing it was a good weekend, because it looks like it will be a BAD Monday. ANOTHER fire drill project, gotta be done today, CEO review tomorrow, blah blah blah… it’s frikkin’ ice cream.

Sorry for not writing over the weekend, and I’ll apologize in advance if this is the only post I get to write today, but mayhaps over the course of the week I’ll get back into the bloggy groove.

Before I go though, quick anecdote from Sunday: we’re walking back from the movies at like 7pm, it’s about 65 degrees out. We’re a block away from our place, and one of our locals (the 50ish-year-old Asian man with constantly spray-painted hair, as in he HAS hair but chooses to spray-paint it odd colors of green and or yellow) comes out of his apartment TOTALLY SNOWSUITED UP. Face mask, huge puffy coat, big orange hunting hat, only the unmasked part of his face revealing that he’s not a well-insulated automaton.

We both see this at about the same time, coming at us like a half a block away, and R totally observes “Ooh, it’s cold outside.”

Timing & delivery both dead-on-balls accurate. Had to bite back my guffaws until after Poofy-san had passed us. Laughed the whole way home.

We’re getting married.

I Almost Forgot!

You should DEFINITELY check out the new flavor of Haagen-Dazs launched today. Caramelized Pear & Toasted Pecan. Not being much of an ice cream fan to begin with, I had a spoonful as a mid-morning snack just to try it… and man, it’s good. Of course they don’t put the nutritional info anywhere near the bunker of free ice cream, but I’d almost be prepared to say however bad this stuff is for you, the way it tastes is worth it. Give ‘er a try. (BTW, it was announced as the contest winner today on GMA.) And no, I can’t get you free samples. Unless you come visit me in Oakland.