Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sorting through my Stuff

The days are ticking by and I am realizing that I don't have too much time until I've got to be down south. And I have a lot of stuff. Too much, most likely. Which, of course, makes me feel guilty and frivolous. Meanwhile, Mom's on the phone telling me not to get rid of anything until I run it past her (and my Dad's behind her grumbling that they need less stuff, not more and he better not be seeing any of my stuff coming their way.)

One of the issues I have is that I'm moving in stages. I'm first going down for a week and a half and staying in a hotel. Then to an apartment, and, eventually, to permanent digs. As I sort through things, I have to decide if it's worth keeping (which is the easy part). Then, I have to determine when I will need it. Will I need it in the future apartment? Can I put it away for an unknown amount of time? And if I can put it away that long, maybe I should get rid of it. 

Unfortunately, making these kind of choices has somewhat paralyzed me during this process. I head towards a closet, full of energy, ready to sort, dragging everything out. And then I start. Am I going to need this in the next few weeks? Next few months? Ever again? Sure, I haven't worn it in 6 months, but I kind of forgot about it. It's kind of cute. And I've lost a little weight since I last wore it... Of course, logic like that is why I have so much crap in the first place.

It's not just clothes. I've got plenty of other, well, just stuff. Notebooks, little stuffed animals, toys the kids may or may not ever be interested in playing with, keychains, computer stuff, resume paper (how quaint!), instruction books to things I may or may not still have around. Most of it is at least potentially useful, but I think it is the volume that's the issue. Having a notebook or two around is a good idea, but I probably have 20, in various sizes. Will I ever need 20 notebooks? How did this happen? (In all fairness, some of them were free, so that's a bit of an excuse.) And then there's the guilt of deciding to get rid of something that I bought years ago but never used. "But, it's brand new!" screams the voice in my head. So wasteful, but how many times can I move an unused item?

And my books. Good Lord, the volume of books I have around the house. It occurs to me that books are my primary clutter. I've got them scattered around the various rooms in the house, piles in the guest rooms, next to my bed, somewhat organized in the study, bags of them in the basement. It's a problem. I've done a pretty good job of keeping the textbooks down to a minimum (well, they're really heavy), but the other books... How do I get rid of my guide to France from 1994? I can't just get rid of books. It's so wrong. I need to know that they may be used by someone else.

Time to make some choices.  I'll still move too much, but I'll try to cut back.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Oh, it's somewhere...

Today I started to pack up the study and it occurs to me that I don't really respect my education. Don't get me wrong, I am proud of getting a PhD and it was probably the single hardest thing I've done. But the props of my education, I don't respect those.

My diploma from grad school is in a dusty envelope on top of a bookcase. I had lost track of it for about 5 years. After I found it, my mom asked to see it, and noticed that my name was misspelled. And I've been too lazy to bother to get a new one. The copies of my manuscripts are scattered in different drawers, some water-damaged, some just copies with missing pages. My college diploma is upstairs somewhere (I think).

I've always insisted that I went to grad school for me, that it was something I needed to do. I guess it must be true.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Changing my life

I have taken a new job in a new area of the country. I'm excited, scared, and a bit in a state of denial. My life is going to change, a lot. Of course, I am assuming it's for the better, that it will all be interesting and wonderful. Okay, that's what I hope, but I know there will be days I'll be thinking, "What the hell did I do?"

(When I was typing that last sentence, I was going to put "when I get home at night..." and I thought "home? For the next few months, what will be home? Back in PA? The apartment I'm renting?" And I may have freaked out a bit. Again.)

I've only done two major moves in my life: one when I was six and my move to Philadelphia 20 years ago. Of course, the move when I was six was just part of the whole growing-up gig, but the move to Philadelphia, well, that was a big one. My parents had moved a few months before. I finished the school year (I was teaching high school), packed up the apartment, and decided to give it a go out here. The trip out was a nightmare. My Civic was completely packed (my roommate cleared out a tunnel through my crap so that I would have some use of my rear-view mirror), it was 90+ degrees, I had no air conditioning. I cried pretty much the whole way. 

It's funny, but thinking back on it, I really didn't want to leave Toledo (I know, that simply can't be right.) But it was the only life I knew. All my friends, most of my relatives, all of my history, it was all in Toledo. And, yet, I knew leaving was absolutely the right thing to do. I can't say that there weren't times that I wanted to go back, but I had to leave. I had to seek the new life. And it was the single best thing I did. 

I sometimes wonder what I would have been if I would have stayed in Toledo. All I know is the best things about my life now are because I have left. There's a group of us from my old high school who left Toledo (sort of a weird fraternity), and we all talk about how the best decision of our life was getting the hell out. And when we go back, we look around and think, "There but the grace of God..."

So, my life is changing. I'm freaking out. But I'm choosing to believe that this will be the best thing.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Did it have to be Toledo?

Let's talk about poor Joe the Plumber. Let's say that Joe's business makes $250,000. Apparently there is no difference between what his business makes and what he makes. So, he makes $250,000/year. Let's do some math:

That's $20,833/month. This is the 33% tax bracket, which brings it down to $13,888. The Ohio tax rate at that income is 7.5% which means he pays out another $1563.

Take a minute and go to and see what's available in Holland, Ohio. Let's say he lives in one of the more expensive houses (I've pick the one on 636 Anastasia Court for $274,900). That's another $1500/month.

According to McCain, his health insurance will be about $485/month for the whole family. Yep, that's what he said last night and we should believe him. So take that out.

So, what does that leave for poor Joe the Plumber? Only $10,340/month for all other expenses. In Toledo. Sorry, dude, that's a lot of money. Congratulations, you get to pay more taxes. 

Joe the Plumber. Joe Six-pack. What about the chicks, man?

Monday, October 13, 2008


I used to love baseball. Love it. I can't remember not having baseball as part of my life. Listening to the Tigers at my grandparents, Papa bitching about the Yankees, Nana's crazy crush on Mark Fidrych. And, sure, I was a Tigers fan, but I was also a fan of The Big Red Machine. Because The Big Red Machine was managed by Sparky Anderson. Yes, I was the dorky kid that was into the manager of the team. Oh George, never step on those foul lines! Needless to say, the day that Sparky Anderson went on to manage the Tigers -- bliss!

I just loved watching every little bit of the game. Following the count. Listening to the announcers spout out the crazy statistics ("The Phils are 1 and 3 when the count is full after 2 outs in the 8th inning...") The dorky sayings  ("a little chin music!") I'd watch every game during the season. It was the background of my summers.

The Roar of '84! The best year ever. Alan Trammel! Lou Whitaker! Chet Lemon! I love them all. Bless you, boys! It was so much fun to follow such gloriousness. When we moved to Philadelphia, following the Phils was a way to pass the time. We'd all watch the games and wonder if moving was the right thing to do. 

Although I enjoyed going to games, it wasn't a big part of my fan-dom. I was actually just as happy to watch them on television or listen on the radio. When I was in grad school, listening on the radio was a way to calm down. The rhythm of the game, the cadence of the announcers, it was all very zen to me. 

So, what changed? Well, the strike didn't help. I know, you've probably forgotten all about the strike, but it broke my baseball rhythm. Once I stopped watching and got used to baseball not being there, it was easy to stay away. Baseball is about sticking it out for the long run. It's a game almost every day. It's nine innings, full counts, hundreds of pitches, no clock. You got to stick it out. I just haven't been able to pick it back up.

But yay for the Phils for now!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pandora, Revisited

Despite its shortcomings, I have not completely given up on Pandora. Also, my ipod battery has died a few times while I was at work, and I have to listen to something. Anyway, I have some additional thoughts on it.

First off, there's an update to the whole system. There's a bar that shows you how much of the song has played (actually, that may have been there all along, but I've just discovered it. Okay, I'm just not that bright.) This I like. Instead of the "skip" function, it's a "don't play this song for a month" function. I'm not sure how I feel about it. Sometimes you just want to skip it, not shelf it. So, a yay and a meh.

Now, I supposedly have only one station (cleverly called "Angie Radio." So creative.) It's hooked to my e-mail, right? But when I listen to Pandora at work, it's definitely, well, harder than when I listen at home. So, is it computer-linked? Time-linked? (It's a workday; she needs X. She's at home; bring on George Harrison.) I thought it was supposed to be my only account, but it definitely behaves differently. Ah, mystery.

I wish there was a master playlist. I can't remember which artists I suggested, songs I gave a "thumbs up" or "down", etc. I kind of want to add some artists to the list, but I can't remember who I've already added. Or maybe add more music by an artist I gave a "thumbs up" to earlier.  I guess I feel that if I had a master list, I could play with it a bit. 

So I haven't given up on it yet, but I'm still not happy with it. But you can't beat the price.


Not that I buy into the whole Oprah thing, but she often talks about "living in the moment." Yeah, sure, great theory, but I doubt that anyone sane could actually do that. Do you want to be "in the moment" of the last traffic jam you were in? No. Just zone out and listen to music, my friend. 

But there are times you should be there. When you should be feeling what is going on around you, what is happening to you. And I realize that at many of those times, I am just floating by. A few months ago, I was with my family at the Franklin Institute, in front of a perpetual motion machine, and I was numb. My family can make me nuts, but I also want to see them. I love me a science museum, and I really love those perpetual motion machines like the nerd I am, but I was feeling nothing. I was watching the balls go through the machine, and it was washing over me. And when I realized what was happening (or not happening), I nearly started crying. 

Thinking about it, I realized that I have been allowing this lack of feeling into my life more and more, this floating through life. And I have been calling this realization my mid-life crisis, for lack of a better name. (I suppose "mid-life crisis" is more acceptable than "dead inside.") The past few months have been an attempt to stop floating through life, changing some things up. So far, it's been working. Scary, but working. I think.

Although there is something somewhat childish about this whole thing. Shouldn't I just be happy? What is wrong with what I have? Do I have to change things in order to feel things? And yet, staying the same wasn't working. 

It's still a work in progress, but I suppose it always is. Just keep moving along. This time, with feeling.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Aiming for Seven

What makes for a happy life? Let's say there's a rating system: one to ten, ten being as happy as you can imagine. Okay, no one is going to be at that ten all the time, that's just crazy. And we'll say that five is just content, so aiming for seven, that seems like a good goal. Thinking about it, I'd say that's what I'm going for. Yeah, that's about right. And assessing the situation, I'd say that I've been hanging out there.

What has occurred to me recently is that there's more to it than just aiming for seven. Yes, seven is the average I would want, but there's two ways to hit that. One way is to hang out at seven pretty much full time: maybe hit eight on a good day, go down to four if something bugs you. But there's the second option of going for ten, and sometimes hitting two. Both ways, you can get that overall seven.

So, which way do I want to hit seven? Looking back on the past few years, I've definitely chosen that first option. Steady, but not too many highs or lows. It's been good, but lately I wonder if it's been good for me. Perhaps I should embrace a life of the second option. But it's so risky. What if I get stuck at two? What if I never see that ten? Can I even change to do this? Have I been hanging out at seven for too long?

An aside: I've been listening to "Is this Desire?" which is rapidly becoming a favorite. 

Sunday, October 5, 2008

No regrets (maybe)

I've been thinking about regrets. I know there are people out there who make choices and are confident that it was the right way to go. Always. I don't know the philosophy behind this: are these folks just that happy with every decision? Do they just simply not think about it? Do they convince themselves that it was the right choice ("The powder blue tux with the blue velvet bow tie was absolutely the right choice for our wedding. In 1998.") I am not one of those people.

I reanalyze my choices. A lot. Which is, on one hand, a really stupid thing to waste time on. The decision has been made, can't go back in time, etc. Of course, I am crazy. Sure, I can wrap it in "next time I am faced with a choice like this..." but, honestly, I overanalyze things. I do it before, I do it after. Oh, I know it's not healthy.

The funny thing is that, even with the unhealthy obsessing, overall, I don't have too many regrets. Maybe my obsessing is an attempt to convince myself that it was the right choice. But I'm pretty happy with how the story has turned out so far. Now, onto the next set of choices.

I do regret the perm I got my sophomore year in high school. How did I get any dates?