Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday review #17

Cover of "Fast Food Nation"
Cover of Fast Food Nation
So what have you been up to?

Last Friday, Chris and I decided to take it easy, so we took a walk to Il Bambino and got some really great panini. It's kind of ridiculous how cold it was that night when you consider how hot it is today. Every year, people joke about how we only got like a week of spring; they seem to forget that those jokes get made every year.

Saturday, after stopping by the eye doctors' for some adjustments to our respective glasses, Chris and I went out to the outlets. We stopped halfway through to get a late lunch out in wine country, and tried to do a tasting, but most of the wineries were closing up for the evening by the time we got there, so we split a glass of wine on an enclosed, heated porch before heading back to finish our shopping.  Biggest downside?  The Totes store isn't there anymore, so we couldn't buy the new umbrella we need.  Oh, well.

On the way home, we stopped at John Harvard's, where we had a light dinner -- sadly, they didn't have my beloved lobster bisque on the menu -- and then went home, where we watched about half of Inception before temporarily walking away to prevent brain breakage.

Saturday I watched part of John Adams  on DVD while Chris went to a Yankees game, and Monday we just kind of stayed in, took it easy, went to the gym, etc.

After a weekend like that, it's been a pretty quiet week, except on Thursday, when I went to see Dan Savage speak at Bryant Park. That was a lot of fun. Then, today, knitting group.

I'm reading Savage's latest, American Savage, which I bought and got signed on Thursday, and I'm still working on Washington: A Life and Fast Food Nation. Knitting is going well; I'm focusing mostly on a baby blanket for some friends right now.

And that's about it for this week!
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Thursday, May 30, 2013

CNN: Why 'follow your passion' is bad advice

English: The CNN Center in Atlanta.
English: The CNN Center in Atlanta. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What's my passion?  What's my purpose in life?

Maybe it doesn't matter?

In August of 2012, CNN's "Route to the Top" feature included an article by Cal Newport. In this article, Newport argues that most evidence that supports "finding your passion" as the best career move is anecdotal; actual scientific studies don't bear it out.  Instead, people are happiest in types of jobs that may or may not have anything to do with their passions, but that fit their personalities well.

He then describes three ideas for helping you find work you love, "passion" or not:
  •  Passion is earned. Ideally, what you want is the levels of autonomy, respect, competence, creativity, and sense of impact that are right for you -- but you have to be good enough at your work that your boss will grant them.
  • Passion is elusive. Let's say, in a perfect world, I write the Great American Novel. I'm then going to have to spend years selling it, first to publishers, then to readers, then maybe to filmmakers. But if my passion were sales, I wouldn't necessarily be trying to write a novel, would I? You do the thing you're passionate about, and you'll still get stuck with a job you're mostly not passionate about.
  • Passion is dangerous. If we're just supposed to follow our passion and then find happiness, what happens when we're not happy? Do we just job-hop until we find the elusive perfect job -- which doesn't exist? Actually, that sort of sounds like "making the marriage work", advice, too, now that I think of it.
So I'm not sure I agree with Newport's thesis, that following your passion is a bad idea. But he makes a very good point that it's too simple an idea, and I think that's a good point to keep in mind. What do you think?
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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I am not Google

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase
It starts innocently enough.

"Hey, Laura, how many ounces are in a cup?"

Well, that's one of those things everyone knows and no one remembers, right? So of course you ask the person next to you.

"Hey, Laura, what time is the fire drill?"

Could be the same situation, except I never got the original email.  The person asking me was the person who forwarded it to me.

"Hey, Laura, how do you get to [anywhere]?"

You don't want me to give you directions.  Trust me.

"Hey, Laura, what day does the 4th fall on?"

Isn't there a calendar right next to your head?  There's not one next to mine...

"Hey, Laura, what's the difference between 'thee' and 'thou'?"

Are you writing historical fiction?  Then why do you need to know?

"Hey, Laura, what should I put in my online dating profile?"

I've never made an online dating profile.  I've never answered one. I have no idea.

"Hey, Laura, how do you spell 'discombobulated'?"

Did your spellchecker crap out?

"Hey, Laura, is it Tuesday or Wednesday that the bar has discount hot dogs?"

Don't know, don't care, don't eat hot dogs.

The common thread here isn't just "Why on earth are you asking me?"

It's "Why on earth are you asking me when looking it up yourself would actually be faster?"

Google "ounces in a cup".  Check your email. Download HopStop. Look at your calendar. Google "thee vs thou."  Read other people's profiles. Run your spellchecker. Check the bar's website.

Because all of those are things I'd have to do for you if you're asking me. Cut out the middleman, would you?

Because I'm not Google, I'm not Wikipedia, I'm not Outlook, and I sure as hell am not HopStop.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What makes you happy? #12

My mom and I have a joke about "winning" at the outlets.

Growing up in Philadelphia, I would be a part of family trips to the outlet centers in Reading, PA, a couple of times a year. There used to be a lot of real, old-school factory outlets there, because there used to be a lot of real, old-school factories there. At one point, there were three outlet centers of various quality in Reading.

Now there's only the one, the VF Factory Outlet Center, but they've been making it a point to keep up with modern centers like Tanger.  Besides, there's a relatively new outlet center in Limerick, PA, that is almost directly on the way from Reading to my parents' house.  If I'm in Philadelphia for a holiday weekend, it's not unusual to hit both.

There's a Tanger outlet on Long Island. Chris and I will go there once or twice a year.  We did this weekend.

So the joke about "winning" at the outlets? It has to do with shopping.  I'm kind of itchy about conspicuous consumerism, but I still get a real kick out of making up a list of things I need or just could use (sneakers, underwear, an umbrella, jeans, tea?) and then checking things of that list for way less than they'd cost otherwise.  I don't care much about trends -- though I love it when stuff I like anyway is trendy, because then I can stock up -- so last season's colors in a basic, classic cut are just fine by me. And if that means I can refresh my wardrobe without worrying about the cost? So much the better.

I think Chris won this time, though.  He got a new suit.
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Monday, May 27, 2013

I Don't Know What I Want... Chapter 2

So now that I'm unemployed again, it's time to jump back into the ideal-career read-along!

As a reminder, we're reading:

I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This

A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work

by Julie Jansen

Chapter 2: What Is Your Work Situation?


Oh, wait, we have to read the chapter. OK, carry on.

So Jansen outlines six work situations that readers may be facing.  Let's go through them and see which actually applies to me... and maybe to you. Let me know in the comments!

Where's the Meaning?

Your current job doesn't offer much reward, satisfaction, personal fulfillment, or opportunity to help others... or, for that matter, fun.  That seems to be, well, most jobs, actually.  Certainly most I've had.  I mean, that's why it's called "work" and not "super happy fun time."

Could explain why I put so much pressure on my vacations, though.  Hmm.

Been There, Done That, but Still Need to Earn

You're successful, you're making good money, you have no reason or excuse to leave, things are maybe so good you don't think you can leave... but you're bored. I don't think I've ever been in this position; I'm not sure I've been in any job long enough to be.

Bruised and Gun-shy

Honestly, I'm more concerned about whether both parts of a hyphenate should be capitalized... but anyway.

The changing workplace has gotten to you. You've been laid off (hi!) or discriminated against (no, thank God!), and while you need a job, you are really reluctant to get back in there and go through it again.

Yeah, this sounds like a good fit for me. Print is dead, right?

Bored and Plateaued

Sounds a lot like "Been There, Done That," to me, except you're specifically looking for new challenges.

Yearning to Be on Your Own

You want to be your own boss.  Notice the gap in my blogging?  I don't think that's a great idea for me. That said, this section also talks about the contingency workforce, which doesn't sound like a terrible option.  I've done freelance work before, just never enough to pay the bills.

(Interested in hiring me?  Leave your contact info in the comments!)

One Toe in the Retirement Pool

You're ready to retire or semiretire. But then what?

...Yeah, I'm definitely not expecting to retire any time soon.

So next comes a quiz.  Let me take that and I'll let you know just what my situation is...
Primarily What's the Meaning, secondarily Bruised and Gun-shy.  Called it!

There's a lot more going on this chapter, so we'll pick it up next time.


Updated 1/27/14 to correct formatting.

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday (mega) review #16

Cover of "Washington: A Life"
Cover of Washington: A Life
So Chris and I went to Spain, which is part of why why I've been out of the loop lately.

Since the last time you heard from me! We went to Philadelphia to do a birthday thing for me and my sister-in-law with my family. That was fun. Good food, nice presents, and I bought much-needed shoes.

Sunday we did the bulk of the packing. Monday was quiet -- I ran errands and went to the gym while Chris chipped away at his pre-vacation workload.  I also obsessively refreshed my Twitter feed  for updates about the Boston Marathon tragedy.

Tuesday was more errands, pretty much the same as Monday. Wednesday, we stayed up way too late doing our last-minute packing, as we always do the night before a big trip.

Flying out Thursday night means we effectively lose part of Friday... and I was fine with that. The marathon bombings, the ricin letters, the fertilizer plant explosion... I'm not even discussing the gun control bill, I don't have the energy to moderate that conversation.  I was done with the week.

Although, have you seen the video of the New Zealand Parliament legalizing same-sex marriage and then breaking into song? Thank you for being a redeeming quality, New Zealand.

I got pretty badly dehydrated on the plane, but felt fine once we landed and I drank a ton of water.

We arrived in Tangier, where we were supposed to meet our tour guide at the airport, but he flaked on us, so we took a cab to our hotel and arranged for a different tour guide.  We had a wonderful day out, but ended up having dinner in the hotel, which is pretty disappointing when you're trying to be a gastrotourist.

The next day we took a very nerve-wracking ferry to Spain, picked up our rental car, and drove to Gibraltar... and no one clicked through to read a travelogue, so suffice it to say we worked our way north to Madrid and had a lovely time, even if my feet pretty much fell off by the time we were done.

I went back to work Monday with no problem... and was promptly laid off on Tuesday.

Since then, I've had a hell of a time reworking my routine; I have more time to do certain things, but I don't have a specific time to do them in, so they don't get done.  I'm trying to be more on the ball with this blog.

Hmm, what else? We celebrated Chris's birthday, went to book club a few times (Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed and Old Man's War by John Scalzi, currently reading The Door Into Summer by Robert Heinlein), and watched some sports (too bad about the Islanders, but the Flyers will always come first for me).  I finished reading Reporting at Wit's End by St. Clair McKelway and am about halfway through Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow.

I've been doing a bit of knitting, since I have time to go to daytime knitting group on Fridays, and I finished a square on my sampler afghan.  I've also been doing some writing, but I just can't seem to focus when I'm writing at home; I try to get around this by showing up for knitting an hour or so early.

So that's what I've been up to!  What's the latest on your end?
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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Slate: MoneyBox: The Neglected Economics of Trying To Find a Job You Enjoy Doing

Slate (magazine)
Slate (magazine) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Been a while since I've done one of these, hasn't it?  I need to get back into my routine, but you'll hear more about that tomorrow, I think.

Anyway, back in November of 2012,  Matthew Yglesias at Slate's MoneyBox blog wrote a post... let's be honest, I'm not sure I understand it entirely. I know I have at least one reader who's taken, at minimum, Econ 101; lend me a hand in the comments?

Anyway again, the point seems to be that, in our economy, we should be seeing wages rise, but total incomes stay flat or rise more slowly, because as our wages get higher, we don't feel the need to work as many hours to make the same, or even slightly more, money. That leaves more leisure time (which presumably leads to more consumer spending, and that's supposedly good for everyone, and yes, I know I'm oversimplifying -- no economic background, remember?). But instead, people cut back their hours even more, and spend that time doing not-really-leisure activities -- creating, working on their side hustle, etc. The exacmple Yglesias gives is a couple of consultants who quit to run a barbecue business. If they love doing it, is the time they spend doing it leisure?

Like, I said, I'm not sure I understand it, or if anything I said here is even accurate.  But I know some of you do, so let's have a conversation.
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Friday, May 3, 2013

Post-Workout Euphoria: a follow-up

English: Mid drive fluid motion quantum ellipt...
English: Mid drive fluid motion quantum elliptical trainer. A mid drive crosstrainer has the driving cranks centered under the user. A front drive elliptical hsa the driving cranks located at the front of the unit and the rear drive has the cranks at the rear of the unit. Houston Texas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In response to my post about exercise, Dawn left a lengthy and really insightful comment, and I felt the only way to do it justice was to devote a post to it.

I don't want to quote at length, because this isn't a guest post on her part and internet rights are weird, so I'll just touch on the points:

She asks what kinds of exercise I'm doing.  Right now, it's largely alternating between weight-training with Chris, which probably isn't the best routine since we're of different biological sexes and have different fitness goals, and cardio.  I'm currently using a couch-to-5k app, and once I finish the training program, I plan to treat myself to the Zombies, Run! app. Zombies aside, these are chores. Do laundry, cook dinner, go to gym, wash dishes. 

What have I rejected?  Pretty much all organized sports. I suck at them, pretty much consistently, so if our team has any interest in winning, I sit on the bench.  And that's a lot of money and boredom to sit around.  I can do that at home and get some knitting done.

Plus, there are sports I  just don't really know how to play, and Google has not found me many instructional leagues for people over the age of 6.

She (and other people not commenting on this blog) mentioned yoga. I've never done yoga, and my gym doesn't offer it, so I'm wary of joining a yoga studio on top of my gym membership. And Netflix doesn't stream exercise videos anymore. Now, if you know of a good one for beginners on YouTube, I'll check it out...

Learning new things is rough.  I'm very wary of taking on the expense and commitment if I don't know I'm going to enjoy it.  I suppose if something was a good enough workout, I could cancel my gym membership, but I don't know... Then again, I've lost track of how many sports leagues Chris participates in (at least basketball, softball, and he just added soccer, although never more than two leagues a season,  plus he's in the New York Road Runners),so maybe our budget would allow a class of some sort, if I'm smart about it.

I'm well aware that comparing myself to people at my gym is a bad idea -- what's the saying?  Never compare your insides to someone else's outsides?  But the gym is largely about "outsides", so that's tough. And I suspect part of the problem is when I go -- I try to avoid the right-after-work rush, so I mostly see people who aren't trying to stay fit while working around a day job, but instead people for whom this is, well, life. I'm never going to look like that, because I don't want it to be my life.

I'm frustrated with my progress because, while I know, on paper, I'm doing  well (the amounts I can lift are consistently going up! I can run for longer stretches of time than ever!), I feel like I look worse, and I have yet to notice any health benefits -- I'm not sleeping better, I'm not less anxious, I'm no more coordinated, I'm not more energetic, I'm not seeing any increase in mood or memory,  my acne hasn't improved, my immune system isn't any better, and dagnabbit, my pants still don't fit!

Now, Chris makes the valid point that I don't have a solid goal to work toward.  He wants to reach his college peak; I've surpassed mine, in terms of lifting and running, and I'll never see it again in terms of weight. But being the strongest I've ever been is still, objectively, pretty darn weak.  I think he's right -- I need a goal.  Thoughts?

Thanks again, Dawn.  You've given me a lot to think about.

 Updated 9/24/15 to fix typos. 

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