Friday, May 28, 2010

It really is surprising how much time people spend traveling on a day-to-day basis. My hour-long commute isn't annoying because I more or less made a conscious choice to trade time for money and convenience (that is, using public transportation takes longer than a car would, but it's cheaper and I don't have to worry about parking or insurance or maintenance), but still, every workday I walk 10 minutes to a bus stop and take the bus to a metro stop and when I get off the metro I take a shuttle-bus to my office, and that takes between 40 minutes and an hour.

My mother commuted at least 20 minutes one way to her last job. My father... I'm not sure what his commute is right now, but I know that he has spent more than five years working at jobs with commutes of more than an hour, and those jobs also happened to be more than eight-hour days on most workdays. And both of those are worse than mine because driving pretty much demands full attention; at least I can read or talk on the phone while on a bus. And so on; 10 minutes is a short amount of time to spend on going to work and half an hour or maybe even more is probably average among everyone I know. Half an hour twice a day five times a week for a person's whole working life, while I struggle to squeeze in another hour or two a week for games with friends or whatever. And for me at the moment, it's the same amount of time to see any friends or go to most restaurants and so on. Wow.

Hoping to cut that commute down has always been a minor reason to want to move into the city, but really, maybe it should be more major. (The irony being, where I work might change, but anyways...)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ugh. Mild headache all day today. Probably just caused by a little too much beer last night and staying up too late and then getting up too early this morning. No good reason for that, I was just watching TV.

In addition to tiredness, stress or busyness more generally is probably making things a bit worse. Planning to move in with T. is going well so far - that was the lifestyle change I vaguely alluded to before, but there's no need to be vague about it now, I don't think - but it's a bit annoying how gung-ho she has been about this.

She says she doesn't mind that she's doing almost all the work of looking for a place (we've visited at least six places together, she's seen a few more on her own, and she's answered at least a dozen more ads that turned out to be scams or otherwise didn't lead to visits), and I believe her, but I mind. I don't want to be that guy - the juvenile slacker getting led around by his significant other just because he can't be bothered to contribute. The problem is, I also don't want to be gung-ho about this, both by temperament and because there's no point. She doesn't need to be out of her apartment until the end of August and I've committed to paying rent on my current house through then, to give my roommates plenty of time to look for a replacement. If we find and sign a lease on a place now, I'd be paying double rent for the next three months. And there's no reason to think there's a shortage of places to live. We've already seen one place which was almost perfect and just happened to be snapped up before we got our own applications in, and a couple more more places which aren't what we were looking for but we could put up with them.

We could find a place in a week if we were willing to settle for less than ideal and/or get our applications in right away, and we don't even want to move in until July or August, but she is still e-mailing me three times a day with links to ads and reports on places she has visited. It's annoying.

Moving in together was originally my suggestion, and it's still a good idea, but on this bad day, this process of apartment-hunting feels particularly unpleasant.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wow, this is horrible reporting. Sure, it's hardly the worst example out there, but two paragraphs in this article about Specter's primary loss really jumped out at me:
Specter is 80, but for Democrats in 2009 he was the new 60, the parliamentary crowbar Democrats needed to help muscle President Obama's policies past Republican opposition in the Senate... With Specter's loss, expect a major storyline Wednesday to be whether Obama has lost his golden political touch. His track record of late has not been so good.

Right, because someone who has been a Democrat for less than a year getting primaried and defeated from the left reflects badly on Obama. It doesn't even make any sense on its own terms; this isn't Obama's first defeat of any kind, this is way, far from Obama's biggest defeat, and this isn't a defeat at all but a positive victory for the left or liberals or whatever. If Sestak wins the general he will probably vote with Obama more than Specter did, it's too early to say whether he will win the general, and the article doesn't even try to speculate on that. I suppose there could be some kind of double-reverse-judo in this article intended to drum up support for Obama by making him appear centrist because he's opposed by the left too, but that's giving the writer too much credit for intelligence. If I was still a reporter and was trying to write an article like that or was getting input from my edit pushing me in that direction, my brain would melt out my ears.

And "expect a major storyline to be" means, of course, "we're making it a major storyline, and fuck you if you care if it's true."

Also, you know what's missing from that article? RESULTS. Sestak beat Specter 54-46, but I found that out on Wikipedia, which cites Politico. Neither the CNN article I was just complaining about, nor the one summarizing all the primaries, had those numbers in the articles. Sure, CNN probably has them somewhere, but if they aren't in the article, the site doesn't deserve the traffic.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Wow. I wonder if anyone I know was here?

Well, probably. At first I couldn't name that crowded plaza in all the pictures, and I thought of two different places it could have been until I realized that the party was so big there are probably pictures of both places out there... but still, I lived in that city for a year as an exchange student, and there were 9,000 people at this apéro. Even if I can only claim to "know" someone I could still name or would recognize if I bumped into on the streets*, I know at least a dozen people from Nantes in their mid-twenties. Some probably still live in or near the city and some of those would probably have been at the party. It's almost impossible that I knew the dead guy, though, and at such a big event it's pretty unlikely even that I know anyone who knew him.

But on the other hand, OK, so someone I "know" was at this event. So what? Maybe I grasp at any hint of connection I have to distant or newsworthy events a bit too much. If I had been friends with the guy who grows the pumpkins purportedly used in the craft microbrewed beer a co-worker bought once, then yeah, I'd argue that was pretty cool. But if I just met him once or twice... maybe I was making a mountain out of a molehill when I got all excited about that.

Still, I'll try to remember to check Facebook this weekend to see if I can track down Nantes people. Da dun DUNNN!

* That might seem like a broad definition of "knowing" a person, but give me a break, I have a bad memory for names, and recognizing someone on the street after all this time might be a bigger feat.

Monday, May 10, 2010

At my office there's an "X days since last bad thing Y" sign on the first floor. There are three Ys, actually. The numbers are suitably high to be impressive; the top number is in the 20s right now, the middle number is around 340 and the bottom number is in the 60s. OK, cool, good work everyone, 340 and 60 days are indeed good lengths of time to go without letting those bad things happen. But in the time the sign has been up - I'd estimate six to eight months - I've noticed something funny: the numbers never go below 10 or even 15. The counter has reset one or another of the numbers at least three times. The one on top seems to be in the 20s fully half the days I walk by. And yet I never, ever see single digits.

So apparently it takes at least 10 days for word to reach HQ when these bad things happen, or for someone to get around to updating the numbers. Demonstrating this laxity is probably not the message they wanted the sign to send.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Since I mentioned work, though, I might as well vent a bit.

Two days ago, I finished a project similar to this - not the same thing, but the same type of thing and I was having the same problem with it. And yeah, I wound up doing a half-assed job on it. Oh well. The person who gave me the assignment came back to me with a few problems with it but accepted the glaring vagueness of the data without a second glance, as far as I could tell. It seems funny how it's easy for me to not worry about problems, as long as they aren't the problems I was expecting - that's happened before, and it happened here too. On the deadline day for these things I was frantically shuffling papers trying to find something, anything, that would make it clearer what I was supposed to do, and I handed it in after the last minute and was walking on eggshells, dreading that my half-assed job actually did matter and was as obvious to everyone else as it was to me. Then the following day they come back with problems - I updated a number in one place but not another, I didn't show part of my work - but even though they're arguably just as big as the ones I feared they're completely different problems, so I'm all, meh, who cares?

The other thing, from just this morning, is that I'm glad the big project I mentioned is a group thing, because if I had to work directly with some of the people we've got feedback from, I'd have a hard time not showing my contempt for those assholes. (By which I mean the reviewers, not the team members, with whom I get along great for the most part.)

For example, here's one comment: "We are following the international guidelines here but reject the... number earlier. This picking and choosing of international standards seems arbitrary." (The ellipsis elides a part that might identify where I work. Or at least it could if it wasn't misspelled. Still, can't be too careful.) This is in the context of earlier suggestions to disregard the method of choosing the number earlier, which would be a very big change, almost sending us back to square one, for no apparent reason. To the comment complaining about picking and choosing, I started to write something like, "Here, we are following a simple, generally-applicable principle, but the earlier rule doesn't apply to that situation very well. Do you think we should disregard the rule that is appropriate, or follow one that is not?" I knew before I finished the sentence that the reviewer could never be allowed to see that, of course. In blog comments, that is the picture of civility. As a question for a boss, not so much.
Nothing is hanging over my head at the moment - mailed off a Mother's Day present on time or very close to it, finished my taxes on time, completed some minor but particularly frustrating projects at work - and it feels great. I'm still keeping busy, but as far as I know I've finished all the stuff that I "need" to take care of in my personal life for at least the next month; everything I do between now and mid-June will be just for fun or self-improvement or out of the goodness of my heart. At work, I've finished up the stuff that's all on me directly, and more generally things have slowed down compared to a week ago or two. Tonight I'm planning to watch "Iron Man 2" (which should be great, if previews and the first one and the actors in it are any indication at all) and have dinner with T. and tomorrow I'm going to do touristy stuff at embassies, and the day after that I have a perfect excuse to go home early and relax without causing anyone else any problems. Good times.

I'm almost superstitious about writing this; what if I jinx it and something goes wrong and the weekend sucks? But seriously, the real reason I'm in a good mood is that I finally took care of all the stuff I needed to take care of and my plans for this weekend are just a cherry on top of all that.