When I accepted the project back in February, I only expected it to last six or eight weeks. At first I expected to be finished by the end of March, then mid-April, and then the end of April. At the end of the thirteenth week I had done all I could do. At the end of the day, I turned in my badge and went home.  They’re keeping me on the payroll in case they need my services again.

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work on the project and to have it last as long as it did. It was a good place to work and everyone was great to work with. It may have been the first place I’ve worked in quite a long time where I didn’t have to deal with any assholes. It wasn’t without frustrations; there were some things that could have been thought out a bit better but no project goes perfectly. Working there helped me through the transition between my last regular job and retirement. The first retirement check is still over a month away but next week’s paycheck should help me get over the hump.

I’m certain that I will have to occasionally supplement my retirement income with part-time work but I want to work on some projects at home before I worry about that. It’s not the first major transition I’ve gone through but I’ll get through it. I intend to scale back my lifestyle, get rid a lot of shit that’s weighing me down, and simply my life. This afternoon I tweeted that life as a gentleman farmer sounded appealing. It does. I’m looking forward to a simpler life with less stress, more spirit, and more fun.


The Pit of Despair

Five days a week I spend eight to nine hours in the Pit of Despair, named for Count Rugen’s place of torture in the film The Princess Bride.  There I am metaphorically attached to a machine that sucks the life force out of me. The machine consists of management driven procedures and accountability. Management is Count Rugen and my direct report is the Albino. Often, after the end of a day or a week in the Pit, I feel, in the words of Miracle Max, “Almost dead.”

In the Pit, I spend my time filling little squares of time with packets of productivity. Sometimes, if there is meaningful work to be done, I fill the squares with that. However, most of the tine I fill them with empty packets of superficial busyness that passes for work. It rarely matters which I use to fill the squares as long as I can fill at least eighty percent of them in a week. If I can fill the squares with actual work, I will but if that is lacking, then the filler is used instead. It’s interesting to note that squares filled by approved time off are given full credit and are considered to be one hundred percent productive.

There was once a more joyful time in the same place when I didn’t have to enumerate my time in such precise detail. It was a time when it was understood that I provided a service and it only mattered that I was available to perform that service when called upon and to perform it well. In the beginning I enjoyed a certain level of independence and autonomy in how I provided my services. As time passed, management sought to have numbers on spreadsheets to show the executives and the clients just how “productive” their service providers were. Thus began the enumerations. My perceived value as an employee came to be represented by a number on a spreadsheet.

I am no longer a young man and I don’t recover from the stress as quickly as I once did. Miracle Max’s chocolate-covered pill takes longer to take effect and by the time it does, it’s time to get back on the rack. I really don’t mind the actual work, it’s the life-sucking machine and the loss of my independence and autonomy that I detest. I only wish to work a few more years at something that brings joy to my heart and raises me up, a job that provides for my needs but without undue stress. This is no longer that job. I need to be free from the machine.

Life As Lunch

Here’s a bit of poetry I wrote many years ago.

Life as Lunch

I am sandwich.
And you, my friend, are apple turnover.
Is it by some act of Man or God
That we should meet here
In this world called Lunch?

I am salami as you are fruit pie.
Despite our outside differences
We are made from the same flour
And we shall churn together
In the same digestive tract.

And when we reach our final destination
We shall be one and the same,
Returning to the soil to bring forth a new life
In which I may be jelly donut
And you, my friend, pastrami on rye.

©1976, Richard Romig

The poem reflects some of my basic beliefs about the cycle of life, the idea that our existence is not just one shot at getting it right. Our souls (spirits) are reborn into different bodies in different circumstances to follow a variety of paths so that we can continually learn and ultimately achieve oneness with the universal spirit.

Mandatory fun accomplished

Song: Centerfield
Artist: John Fogerty
Album: Centerfield
Released: 1985

Today’s Quote: “Half this game is ninety percent mental.” ~ Yogi Berra

I was directed to attend a baseball game. The email stressed the importance of participating in this “exercise.” I’m not sure what he meant by that but I’m sure it’s something from a management seminar or something. I did notice a certain lack of randomness in his pairings for the games. He paired each employee with the person they work with most closely. Maybe he’ll pass out a survey or call a meeting to discuss our feelings. Perhaps he’ll have us write essays. I don’t know.

At first I was resistant to the idea of mandatory fun and reluctant to participate. But after the paintball thing I decided to go along with it. Not that I had anything planned for Tuesday evening anyway and the only out of pocket cost was parking. (Can I get reimbursed for that?) I took a vacation day because, otherwise, the logistics of getting to the game on time would have been difficult at best.

Although I’m not a sports fan by any stretch of the imagination (guess how many Olympic events I’ve seen), I did find the game interesting. Misty and I had good seats on the third base line near the home team’s dugout so I had an excellent view of the game. I even stayed for the entire game. I’d probably go again although not because it was my idea. Baseball still isn’t a sport I can get enthused about but watching a minor league game can be a nice change of pace for an evening’s entertainment.

A 10-day week


Song: Half a Dozen Provocative Squats
Artist: Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention
Album: 200 Motels
Released: 1971

Today’s Quote: “I would like to live as a poor man with lots of money.” ~ Pablo Picasso

I had a big, long rant I was going to post but decided against it. If you really want to read it, go here.

The past week was a long one. It felt like about 10 days to me. The time devoted to my employer wasn’t nearly as stressful as I had anticipated. I had three days of training and orientation for some kind of teaming and conferencing software but apparently my involvement wasn’t required. The day they demonstrated it I was at the other location so I wasn’t able to attend. I’m sure I’ll be intimately involved with it at some point. There’s plenty of crap to keep me gainfully employed and potentially stressed out but lately I seem to be handling it better. I’ve taken as my motto a quote from Teddy Roosevelt, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” That seems like a good philosophy and so far it’s working.

There are some other things going on that I’m not ready to talk about publicly at this time. I’m still trying to wrap my head around some of it. I’ve been expecting this eventuality for years and now that it’s starting to unfold and in a way that I really hadn’t counted on, it’s quite stressful. There may come a time when I can really discuss it but now is not the time.

It looks as though it will soon be time to get out my hammer and power tools. Home improvement season is fast approaching. I may even do something with my own home. I’m still looking into my options for affordable, not-too-labor-intensive backyard privacy. My excursion to Lowes today didn’t look as promising as I’d hoped. The ideal solution would be something I could put up or take down relatively quickly since I wouldn’t want to leave it up permanently, just when needed. I’m sure there’s something out there. Maybe once I’ve completed my indentured servitude, privacy fencing around the entire backyard might be an option that’s still about 3 years down the road and there will be higher priority projects.

Leap Day

Today’s Quote: “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

Harry_Nilsson_Son_of_SchmilssonSong: You’re Breakin’ My Heart
Album: Son of Schmilsson
Released: 1972
Sample lyric: You’re breakin’ my heart / You’re tearin’ it apart / So fuck you.

Could be one of the greatest break up songs of all time, direct and to the point.

Although, for the most part, February really sucked, it seemed to end on a positive note. My workday was fairly pleasant. There wasn’t much in the way of stress and frustration and things went rather well. With the close of the company’s fiscal year, I was able to end it with no outstanding repairs and only two open help desk items. For one item, I’m waiting on memory for an upgrade and the other entered the queue this afternoon and I wasn’t able to get hold of the guy to look at his problem. I’ll probably close that one on Monday. I finally heard from the folks who provide off-site storage for our backups. I’ve been trying to get hold of our account rep for nearly two months only to find out today that he hasn’t been employed by them for some time. Gee, thanks for letting us know. I suspect I’m hearing from the now only because I emailed my request to the national support request address. There’s something about sh*t rolling downhill that gets peoples’ attention. I know I don’t usually bring up work here but today was a good day at work and they don’t come often enough.

With the end of the month paychecks, we seem to be in better shape financially or, at least, better than we have been for the past month and a half. Our tax refund came in earlier this week and was pretty much gone the same day. At least I was able to bring my meager savings account up to a balance that doesn’t incur fees even if the interest it earns to so negligible that it’s nearly nonexistent.

So, at the moment, March looks hopeful. I may even make it all the way through Lent with my vow of abstaining from Internet porn intact. So far I’ve made it through 21 days of Lent (probably a new personal record) plus three Sundays. I must admit, however, that the temptation is getting harder to resist. But I’m over halfway there now. The month that begins tomorrow holds hope in other areas as well.

Friday Madness

Today’s Song: We’ve Got To Get Out Of This Place
Artist: The Animals
Album: Animal Tracks
Year: 1965

Today’s Quote: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” ~ Hunter S. Thompson

My mortgage payment is due today and I haven’t received a monthly statement or my 2007 tax information. I called the mortgage company’s special number for special people who have been deemed to be too financially retarded to handle their own affairs. I explained to the very friendly, yet condescending, representative that I had not yet received these documents. She explained that they may have been mailed separately and that due to my special category, a monthly statement may or may not be mailed to me during any given month.

I didn’t realize that knowing my balance, having a semi-convenient method of payment, and having the necessary information to file my taxes was such a privilege. Then she asked if I’d like to have an address where I could mail in my payment. Oh, may I? Like they were going to get the payment any other way. Then I asked if I could get the breakdown of how this payment was going to be divided. I have this thing about keeping track of my finances, something they don’t usually expect from a retard like me. She seemed to be a bit put out by this request but she gave me the information.

I can understand that because of my situation my account is handled differently and that they ought to be able to place certain restrictions on it. That makes sense and I’m okay with that.

However, since this is an account where it is absolutely imperative that I make the payment every month, wouldn’t it be beneficial to both the mortgage company and me if I had a convenient and reliable method of payment and the ability to review my account just to see where it’s at?

Online payments are obviously the most convenient and reliable method of payment but they’ve closed that avenue to me. I can’t even go online to see what my balance is, when my property taxes and homeowners insurance are going to be paid, what the escrow balance is, or how much interest I’ve paid. It makes absolutely no sense. Allowing me online access in no way endangers the mortgage company’s interests. But no, they’d rather depend on the United States Postal Service to get my payment and send me whatever information they wish me to see. They already post my check electronically so why not let me send it to them electronically? It saves everyone a lot of work.

The idea of not paying ever increasing rates for curbside trash pickup is very appealing to me. It seems that my current trash hauler increases their rates every quarter. Now they want $62.62 for the next three months of trash pickup. That’s over $20 a month which might be worthwhile if I had mountains of trash every week. I’m thinking it would be much cheaper if I got an extra trash can and took them to the dump every couple of weeks or as needed. That would cost me less $10 a month, including fuel. I was also thinking I could get containers for my recyclables then take them to a recycling center where I would actually get money for them instead of paying someone to recycle them on my behalf. I definitely think I should cancel the service. You with me, kids? (This month having that extra $62.62 in my checking account would be very handy.)

Why do things like “I’ve been getting blue screens all day” or “You need to set up a new system to be ready first thing Monday morning” always occur around 4:30 on a Friday afternoon? I guess that’s what the “exempt” part of being an exempt employee means. It means that I’m exempt from enjoying two days away from this place, I’m exempt from having a personal life. Well, I’m going to try to enjoy my weekend anyway and put my place of employment out of my mind for two days.

I hear there’s supposed to be some kind of big, important football game this weekend. If there isn’t going to be any gratuitous nudity, I’m not interested.