It’s been ten years… really?!?

I happened to look down at the Archives list on the blog the other day and realized that it’s been ten years since I started blogging. Looking back at the early entries, it certainly feels like another life. I was about 2.5 years out from finally leaving graduate school and going to working for Company O. The job there still seemed shiny and new, and I was generally happy with it. Mrs. Geek and I had been in a dating relationship for almost a year, and were a couple months away from making that relationship more permanent. The Second Iraq War started.

I’m trying to remember how I actually found myself at Diaryland (the first home of this blog). I think it was due to the band the Asylum Street Spankers. Wammo had a blog on Diaryland that I found through the Spankers web site, and I started reading that regularly. From there, I started following a few other bloggers… among the first (if not the first) being Mrs. Roboto. From there, it just blossomed over the next five to six years, through my wedding, the first couple years of my marriage, and buying my first home.

In the process, I became the “imaginary friend” of a group of people I still associate with on Facebook. Looking down the Diaryland favorites list, I see Harri3t Spy (she eventually became not imaginary), who introduced me to Lass, Jeanne at Necromancy Never Pays, JoyHowie at The Crooked Line, and Freshhell. Mrs. Roboto introduced me to Eve Roboto(also not imaginary.) Through her, I met her husband and got involved with their web site Geeks of Doom until my day job and parenting responsibilities made it difficult to keep up with the pace of their growing web site. I wrote some popular early articles there, and feel proud that “I was in the room” when that web site was born. I also met Ariadne518, Teranika, and Eleanorio. I also get the odd, once in a while, update breadcrumb about Ilonina. Finally, I started reading the blog lionessden. I think there are three or four Ph.Ds conferred to that group in the decade (joining my own), a few moves across state lines (and occasionally international boundaries), a successful web site, a t-shirt I wish I hadn’t sent, some mix CDs both from me and to me, and a lot of very wonderful words.

Thanks everybody, for putting up with me this long and for letting read about your lives in return.

those first two estates

I’ve been trying to follow the whole story this week about executive compensation in the financial sector. I’m having difficulty comprehending the mindset. Perhaps if I try to reason it all out, it will eventually make sense.

Ok, let’s say that I head a large multi-billion dollar bank. To do this, I’ve gotten a degree or two, worked in the trenches, networked like crazy, and gradually climbed up what Disraeli called “the greasy pole”. Theoretically, I know a thing or two about high finance, show generally good judgment, have a well-developed bullshit detector, know enough to gather good people around me, and challenge them to provide me with honest answers. If I am successful at all of this, I deserve to make a lot of money — and we’ll leave what “a lot” means as fuzzy — because my good leadership skills cultivate enthusiasm and loyalty throughout the organization, bring profit to the shareholders, and steer the bank away from unnecessary risk.

Sadly, this does not seem to be what being a bank president means. Being a bank president seems to involve climbing to the top of the “greasy pole” in part by having the gall to ask for a pay package bigger than what anyone else has asked for yet, hiring mercenary underlings who will only work for me if I offer them a base salary that is several times the median wage with guaranteed bonuses at three to five hundred percent of their base pay, and believing in the old mafia theory of betting: “I win, I collect; you win, I don’t pay.”

Why? Because only certain special people can do this job. People who can make the big decisions. People who are born to command. People who can still ask for big bonuses when they wreck the economy — because that’s all someone else’s fault and they’re playing great defense by keeping losses low… uh… low-ish… uh… less than the GDPs of most of the world’s nations… uh… combined.

Nope, I’m still not getting it. Didn’t some French people get together on a tennis court and decide to get rid of a bunch of people who thought that way?

nativity

Today was a “best laid plans of mice and men” day. Roadblocks popped up in multiple places despite earlier promising portents and signs. Nothing quite got finished, as a result.

An event at the end of the day indicates pretty much how the day went: my parents’ Nativity Set arrived today. Mrs. Geek has a small wood-carved set, that is kind of high on concept and low on detail. We decided this year that a new set was in order… just when my Mother was saying that she had little desire to use the set she bought in the early 1960’s — the set that sat atop my Mother’s Story & Clark baby grand piano in the living room all through my childhood. After a quick check with my sister (the agnostic non-practicing Catholic), the set was wrapped in bubble wrap, put in its box, encased in brown paper and shipped to us.

The set arrived broken. The stable building a had a couple loose nails and a split board or two. A shepherd boy with a lamb on his shoulders was split in two at the waist. One of the three astrologers has a hole in his knee. One the sheep had a cracked ear.

I called my parents to let them know that the set had arrived, and to find out if they knew what the figures were made of. When I finally spoke to my Mom, she kept saying “Oh, that’s too bad… do you think it will still look good enough? Maybe you can put it in a place where there isn’t a lot of direct light…” She didn’t know where exactly she’d purchased it, or what the figures were made of. I assured her that I could fix the set up and make it presentable.

Closer inspection revealed that the figures were likely some kind of paper mache or paper composition. So, some cabinet maker’s wood glue became the order of the day… both for the stable and figures… though that poor astrologer may never get his knee fixed. I think it may all come out ok… no low light required.

Though I have lived here almost as long as I lived in the Land of my Birth, I have very little of my childhood here with me. It’s all in boxes… in my parents’ attic or in a closet in my old bedroom. Almost all my memories here are “new” memories from the second half of my life… except now, this Nativity set. Do I think it will still look good enough? If I can help it, it will!

I am with Brahman

When I was a senior in college, I took a Buddhist Philosophy. While we were reviewing some of the older Hindu philosophies to understand the basis for Buddhism, the professor related a story about an Indian gentleman he had known in college. Part of Indian philosophy treats waking and dreaming states with equanimity. In fact some consider dreams to be communion with higher, transcendent reality, or Brahman. So this Indian fellow liked to sleep late and when roommates would wake him in the morning by pounding on his bedroom door, he would yell “Leave me alone! I am with Brahman!”

If that is really the case, then Brahman is a pretty messed up place. I’ve been having some pretty weird and sometimes scary dreams lately. One one occasion, I dreamed that I was trapped in the second story bedroom of a house, and undead zombie hordes were trying to get in. The zombies didn’t look particularly menacing but I had to flee out over a garage roof none-the-less. In another dream a few nights later, an emaciated corpse is found in a space suit-like contraption. After the helmet is removed, revealing a withered and shriveled face with skin and white hair still on it, I turned for a moment and the corpse had left the suit… evidently undead and very fast. Finally on a third night, I found myself trying to take a test being administered by my dissertation advisor and several of his other Ph.D students. Though I knew in the dream that I was out of school for several years, I felt compelled to take the test. I looked at some of the problems and some seemed understandable, but one confounded me. It was a graph theory problem in which I was being given small lattices that I was supposed to shape in to a ring, and then make some predictions about how long the distance was around the ring. I knew that finding that distance would have to do with the properties of the pieces… and the words used to describe the pieces were unfamiliar to me. I tried to get the attention of the people administering the test, but to no avail.

I described this last dream a bit on Facebook. An acquaintance who now is a Professor of Applied Mathematics initially said “Hey! Math problems? Call me and we’ll work them out.” When I described the problem in more detail he said “Oh man! That’s a hard problem, unless you know something about the pieces. Math anxiety, I know it well.” Well, validation of the complexity of ones dreams is something I suppose.

angry

The mood of the twelfth of this month was: angry.

I’m not usually an angry person, but on that day things just boiled over and I felt like I wanted to put my hand through a wall — more than once. The anger was rooted in some frustrations that Mrs. Geek has been having with her job. The anxiety that Mrs. Geek felt and continues to feel has been building over the last couple of years. She loves many aspects of what she does and where she works, but there are some personalities that just do not mesh with hers, including some people in authority. She also relies on me for advice and “advanced tech support” for some problems she can’t handle.

On that particular Monday, Mrs. Geek got ambushed with a surprise request for which my help was needed. When I heard about the request and how it was made, I got mad. When I started to help her do the job, and realized that I could complete it too quickly and botch it, my feelings only became more intense. When Mrs. Geek called back and pointed out a related problem that had been festering since last Spring, I became livid. All the frustration, all the heightened tension, other insecurities (about money, about my job — feelings I have done enough to share with Mrs. Geek) it all linked together and turned to rage.

My first impulse was to reach out… and I couldn’t talk to Mrs. Geek about this — she was busy at work. So, I called my Mom, and chatted with her for about 45 minutes, during the middle of my work day. That got me through the rest of my work day, though the bulk of that day was spent working on the festering problem that Mrs. Geek reported, not on Company O. business.

The anger eventually dissipated… though I didn’t sleep well that night or a couple others that week. I didn’t let the anger control me to the point that I did anything embarrassing… though there were some repercussions a few days later.

Being angry felt good at that time, in that moment. It’s left me with a sort of emotional hangover, if there is such a thing. It’s kind of like a flood changing the course of a river — while I don’t feel anger, I know it’s been there. It will take time to forget it.

i am

I’ve been struggling for a while with what to write here. A good many ideas have come and gone about what it might be nice to write about. Certainly there are some things I want to say about the music I encountered in 2008. There’s also the proposition of turning a nice round number like 40 — I try to approach living as a continuum, not like so many teeth on a cog that have clicked by — yet the roundness of the thing does inevitably present the temptation to take inventory and make some kind of pronouncement. There is also the political enthusiasm of the moment that makes me feel like I’m taking walking out into warm late morning air after a hellish all-nighter that seemed to go on, and on, and on, and on.

Yet I feel I must start somewhere more basic by simply saying “I am”. It’s a sort of an existential defensive crouch — a lowering of the center of mass if preparing to wrestle. The simple act of being seems to take much if not all of my energy. Either I or my world are somewhat unsettled, I am not sure which. Mrs. Geek was watching the new 90210 last night, and it offered a line that appeals at this moment: you need to make some choices about this event (a teen pregnancy) before this event chooses for you. That’s what I feel like… some event has chosen for me.

I’m not sure what that event is. Is it the fact that I devoted nearly a whole decade of my life to getting a Ph.D? Is it the fact that I purchased a house just as the wave representing the mortgage crisis was breaking? Could it be the issues that Mrs. Geek and I have had during the last year with having a child? Or the fact that she is seriously pondering a change in her place of employment during these uncertain economic times?

The future is in front of me, but it completely opaque. I cannot see the way forward. I just keep trying to put one foot in front of the other, and stay on the path. I just hope that this path doesn’t lead to the loss of one or both of our jobs, our house, and the money invested in it — money scrimped and saved by my grandparents over years or decades. (A comforting thought to be sure: a wrong step not only fails me, but them.)

Yet I must ward all these thoughts away. I must be strong and stable. I must battle with the sums in my checkbook. I must cook food and do laundry. I must go to work, and go to the gym. I must take fish oil capsules twice a day, to try to lower my triglyceride levels. I must live up to the description made by the priest at my wedding to Mrs. Geek: “steady, steady, steady.” I must present that everything that seems fragile is really solid, and that somehow we can move forward.

I am. *deep breath* I continue.

the year of no safe harbor

As the year 2008 on the calendar comes to a close, I find myself taking stock. This was a year of poor relations with family. Mrs. Geek and I don’t know what happened to cause it all, but we didn’t seem to be on the same page with several people. Well, we know the facts of what happened, but we’re not sure why there has been a lack of communication in certain quarters. Is it because we now live at a new address, and moving 10 miles further away from some family members has made seeing them just that much more infrequent? Is it that the process of getting established in our first house has left us looking more inward to ourselves than outward to others? Are we just being too touchy? I don’t know.

All this even popped up on Christmas Day. We visited two groups of Mrs. Geek’s family, my in-laws. The first group has a couple people in it who just seem to communicate on a different wavelength than Mrs. Geek or myself — so talking with them since the miscarriage in September has been a series of awkward statements that seem to lack empathy about what happened to us. Christmas Day was no exception, though to be fair, what was said mostly fell into the “where on earth did you come up with that?” category.

Our problems with the second group on Christmas were more overt. We had a bit of a dust up with this group back in June that I didn’t mention here… over money. We’d received a financial gift last Christmas and it was felt that we’d not properly acknowledged it. This was false — Mrs. Geek had provided a verbal thank you last January, after some grumbling even then that our gratitude had not been shown quickly enough. This conversation was initially not remembered, and the way the whole thing was brought up made Mrs. Geek feel like she was about five years old. It was eventually all settled… or so we thought. Well, we got a financial gift this year again from the same people — along with a box of thank you notes. Again, Mrs. Geek and I five years old…

I realize lately that I wake up in the morning with some part of me emotionally clenched. I need to stop that. New Year’s Resolution #1: relax. After that, maybe we can start having better relations with different members of the family.