The Big Two Oh

Hard to believe, but today marks my twentieth anniversary at .

Yup, the big two oh. 2 0.

Twenty years.

Hardly seems possible.

Early into my working life, I remember worrying that “job-hopping” could make you seem risky to potential employers so I made a point of trying to establish lengthier stays at jobs. For a brief period, even having multiple jobs at the same time. In fact, when I started at MCH, I was only halfway through my 4 year stint at America Online and was still doing occasional weekend shifts for Washington Inventory Service auditing grocery stores’ inventory in the wee hours of the night—a mind-numbing job if ever there was one, but it taught me 10-key proficiency and the value of Mountain Dew: it had almost twice the caffeine of other soft drinks! Somehow I thought that all of this would make me look more attractive on paper to prospective employers.

But somewhere during the past 2 decades, there’s been a big shift in the value of job longevity. It used to be a much-admired trait. We used to marvel at hearing about friends’ Dads who retired from their companies after many, many years of service. Building tenure at a single company was considered a sign of dependability and fortitude. Accordingly, I’ve always been—and continue to be—proud of having been able to remain a productive, ever-growing employee for the long haul.

But these days, when I tell someone I’ve held a job—tho a number of distinct postiions—at the same company for so long, I’m sometimes greeted with a mixture of sympathy and thinly-veiled disgust. This is especially the reaction of “Gen Y” people, for whom self-loyalty is most often the focus. They seem to think of long-term employees as stagnant or non-ambitious. For this group, dependability does not equal consistency. For the newer entrants to the job market, job-hopping is practically required for professional development.

And maybe some of this is due to the job market quakes we’ve seen in the past decade. The ripples from downsizing and corporate disintegration may have forever changed the old rules. Where employers once promoted job security, corporate loyalty to employees seems almost dead. Employee loyalty still seems to be kicking, but it’s detached from the idea of long-term security and aimed more at skill-building and growth opportunities. Visit to learn more about workplace rubrics and labour laws.

What do you think? Are your views on job longevity different than that of your parents? Or do you have a different outlook on job security now than you did when you were just starting your working life? And how much do your employment benefits (paid leave, insurance, etc.) play into this? Have benefits and/or security ever kept you at a job in spite of wanting a change?

New Year, New Job

ID badgeMaybe 2010 doesn’t quite qualify as “new” anymore since we’re now more than 5 months in, but the year continues to usher in sweeping life changes for us!

First, there was the new car.  Ok, it was sad to see Caliente go, but I sure do love the new ride.

Then the new house. That was a toughie! As much as we do love the new house, it’s been really tough letting go of our old home. And getting used to this whole “having a mortgage” thing hasn’t exactly been fun, y’know. Sad that at that time we didn’t had to make the whole process of home buying more easy.

Now, hot on the heels of those changes, I’ve also switched jobs! Yup, after nearly 15 years at Medical Center Hospital—a job that saw me through a number of big life changes too (marriage, becoming a parent, and finding lots of fantastic friends)—I very suddenly and unexpectedly ended up with a new job earlier this month! So, now I’m working as a systems analyst for the school district. The move was very nerve-wracking at first, but I’m settling in and getting to know a great new set of co-workers and with the new work schedule that’ll be more in sync with Liam’s routine once he starts school, this is a really positive change.

Whew! Somehow we’ve managed to pack a lot of “new” into the first half of 2010. Let’s hope things calm down a bit now…

My Birthday Gift

Sorry, I’m a day late on posting my birthday gift photo but due to scheduling conflicts, I had to move my appointment for tonight.   Without further ado, here it is — and YES, it did hurt!   But it was worth it!

foot tattoo

Thanks to Anita’s great recommendation, I made my tattoo appointment with Calvin at Blue Collar Art Co..   What do you think?

Update:   I found this excellent tattoo care video by Pat Fish in Santa Barbara that offers fantastic advice on the care & maintenance of a new tattoo.   Tattoo aftercare varies widely from artist to artist (and with some, it’s barely even addressed) but Pat provides more detailed instructions & explanation than any other artist I’ve dealt with.

Living On the Edge

straight razor

Over at The Art of Manliness blog, Brett & Kate McKay recently capped off their “30 Days to a Better Man” series with an article extolling the manly virtues of that tapped into a soft spot I’ve long since had.

Y’see, the day before my wedding, my brother Rich (whom I hadn’t seen for several years prior due to him being stationed at a USAF base in the Philippines) & I went to get haircuts together.   We scoured the town trying to find a barbershop that offered old-fashioned straight razor shaves but we were advised that (at that time) nobody was doing them out of fear of AIDS.   So I just kinda dismissed the notion and never really looked back.

That was 13 years ago

On a whim last week, I phoned around to see if I could find a barbershop that does this now and on Saturday, I took the plunge and finally got that elusive straight razor shave I had backburnered for so long.

Was it everything I’d thought it might be?   Well, my usually-stubbly face felt as soft & smooth as a baby’s bottom and my moustache & goatee has never looked more neatly & precisely trimmed.   And to be sure, it was a distinctly masculine-feeling thing to do.   But…

I’m not sure I chose the right barber to do the task.

There were no hot, moist cotton towels or fancy facial prepwork to soften my whiskers.   No ceremonial stropping with that ominous schtick, schtick sound of the cold, glinty steel razor being dragged across a timeworn piece of leather to finely hone its edge.   No bushy badger brush clinking in the old ceramic cup of soap to whisk up a warm soapy lather.   Nope, my first ever old-fashioned straight razor shave sadly featured none of the quintessential rituals that would’ve made it so much more of a momentous venture.

There were, however, lots of nicks that stung like fierce little rattlesnake bites when the barber hit me (without warning!) with the thankfully unscented, but nonetheless very potent post-shave astringent.

Still, if you were to ask me if I’d get a straight razor shave again, I’d say “Yes!”   Now that I know that some barbers do offer this service again and I’m past the initial apprehension of having someone come at my tender face with a big, gleaming piece of sharpened metal, I do think it’ll happen again — but with a different barber next time!

Still Kicking Butts!

stubbed out cigarette buttI could think of no better way to start the new year on a positive note than to take a moment to commemorate a significant milestone…

As of today, Dede has been kickin’ butts for three years — cigarette butts, that is!   Yup, she stopped smoking on Dec. 31st, 2005 and hasn’t picked ’em up since!

Do They Have Mangos in Moscow?

Mango Languages logoMango Languages just launched their online language learning product in beta.   They’re offering 11 free languages courses – including Russian!   Each course is comprised of 100 lessons, presented in a PowerPoint-style sideshow providing the written form of the words along with the spoken dialog.   The focus is on learning short, conversational sentences.

Even though we’ve fallen way out of practice since our classroom-based Russian language primer course at U.T.P.B., I was surprised at how much of this seemed familiar.   As we begin to prep for our first trip to Cheboksary, maybe the combination of the Mango online lessons and the Pimsleur audiobook courses will help to ease some of the language barrier.

(You have read the latest exciting news over on our Russian Adoption Journal, right?)

Me, Metrosexual?

At the end of May each year, Pat Fierro’s students in the Odessa College Massage Therapy program have an internship period during which they amass 50 hours of (wait for it…) hands-on experience in preparation for becoming registered massage therapists.   Karen W. tipped me off about this a couple of years ago.   So each Summer, I look forward to taking advantage of the opportunity for a great massage (or two!) in their amazing recliners at an incredibly reasonable price.   And over the past weekend I did just that.   It was well worth the wait!
metrosexual cartoon
Likewise, over the past few years, I’ve also become accustomed to getting a pedicure every 4-6 months to alleviate ingrown toenail problems.   So, a few weeks ago, Dede & I visited MCM Eleganté Getaway Spa & Salon for some pedis.   As is customary, Christy did a fantastic (and pain-free) job at whipping my gnarly dogs into tip-top shape for Summer.

And of course, I suppose that I’ve gotta come clean about getting my hair cut at a “salon.”   Our pal Jen over at The Palms Salon has been doing my “do” for several years now and I couldn’t possibly keep up my stylish coiffure without her skillfull scissor support.

Not to mention that I moisturize after showering each morning.   Oh, then there’s also the fancy Crest Spinbrush for cleaning & brightening my choppers.   And don’t forget to go shop body groomers and get a beard trimmer…

Sheesh, I’d never really considered all of this cumulatively, but it sure all adds up to a lot of, um, fussy primping & preening for just an average guy.   Sure enough, I’ve unconsciously been a lot more mindful of my general appearance & health since my gastric bypass surgery almost 3 years ago.   Now I’m pretty secure in my manhood, but I started thinking…   This could have me bordering pretty close to metrosexual

metrosexual   (met-roh-SEK-shoo-ul)   n   [coined by Mark Simpson, 1994.]
A usually urban heterosexual male who has a strong aesthetic sense and/or an inordinate interest in appearance and style, similar to that of heterosexual females or homosexual males.

Ack!!   Could it be true?   Am I becoming metro?   Well, hopefully not, but at least I can take solace in knowing that I’m not nearly so extreme or clichéd as the metrosexual hipster doofus pictured above.

Update:   I had a tough time chasing back down the source for the cool cartoon, but Dede finally nudged me in the right direction.   (She is the Google guru, y’know.)   “Nutless Tendroid” and many, many other hilarious “Bane of My Existence” cartoons by Rod Filbrandt can be found at Chowderhead Bazoo.

Hacks Awe

Years ago, the term "hacker" carried a connotation of a malicious meddler who attempts to gain unauthorized access to sensitive computer systems to steal, change, or destroy information as a form of cyber-terrorism.

But today, it’s come to mean something entirely different and much more flattering. Now a "hacker" is someone who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations — someone who makes things work beyond perceived limits through unconventional means or skills. And there’s a whole new social culture of hacking that’s emerged as a result of information-sharing via Internet-based communities.

Some of our favorite websites to visit are hack sites, where off-beat, sometimes-radical thinking folks put forth creative ideas to make everyday things work just a little bit better, easier, and/or cheaper. Here are just a few:

Lifehacker logo banner

Lifehacker makes getting things done easy & fun with simple tricks for managing your information & time. If you don’t already have this site bookmarked, well, do it now! logo banner

Danny O’Brien’s is a frequently-updated blog built around the theme of hacks, tips, & tricks that get things done quickly by automating, increasing productivity, & organizing.

Parents Hacks logo banner

Asha Dornfest’s Parent Hacks is a collaborative weblog that collects useful parenting tips, recommendations, workarounds, & other bits of wisdom. It’s the stuff that would’ve been left out of the instruction manual — if there were one to begin with.

ikea hacker logo banner

ikea hacker is a a nifty site that offers simple tips on repurposing, tweaking, & otherwise improving the cool stuff from Dede’s favorite store, IKEA.

What’s On Your Life List?

New Year’s Day is a reflective time to look back on what's happened during the previous 365 trips around the Sun. Many people begin to form some plans or hopes about the coming dozen months and make resolutions to do projects, enact lifestyle changes, travel, or fulfill other personal goals.

Dede's pal, Ellen Degeneres has been on a “Life List” kick over the past season. Not just a simple to-do list, but list of dreams & goals, no matter how fantastic or unreachable they might seem at the moment. We all have those, “I've always wanted to…” or “Someday, I'm gonna…” dreams but most often, those interests go unachieved or abandoned because we get too busy, broke, cynical, tired, or whatever. Ellen contends that you can harness your energy & direction by creating a personal “Life List” — that you’re far more likely to commit or follow-up once goals are listed out right in front of you.

Then yesterday I read this insightful quote on post by Thom G. on his interesting (and sometimes quite candid) Surface Tension blog site:

“Mortal man has but one physical destination — a six-foot hole in the ground, or decorative urn collect[ing] dust on some mantle. I'd like to think it's the journey that makes the destination more meaningful.   For me, now on the cusp of 2007 and nearing my 43rd year, it is the journey that is the teacher.”

This was Thom's attention-grabbing lead-in for 43 Things.

43 Things was founded 2 years ago by Seattle trio Robot Co-op as a social networking tool where you setup an account, start your own list of hopes & dreams, and can even collaborate with others who have similar ambitions. It can also schedule future reminders to help keep you on-track. Nope, ya don’t hafta have 43 things to do — it’s just a catchy title for the site.

After just a few minutes, I had nearly a dozen items on my list on 43 Things. Some are piddly, some just fun, and some downright life-alterting! Will having a list make a diff? Dunno. But having things in black & white does make them seem more possible.   So, what’s on your “Life List?”

A Year of Kickin’ Butts

Today marks an exciting & significant anniversary. Dede’s been kickin’ butts for a whole year! She put down the smokes on Dec. 31st, 2005 and hasn’t picked ’em up since. It was a conscious & deliberate decision — she still has an unopened pack of cigarettes in the freezer.

According to Wade Merideth’s article What Happens To Your Body If You Stop Smoking Right Now on, there are some remarkable & fairly immediate benefits for those who kick the habit. In the first year a former smoker’s risk of heart attack will have dropped by half!

Suck on that, Marlboro Man!!