Thursday, May 31, 2007

Work: When Less is More

I have been saying for years that Americans simply work too much. And by work too much, I mean that Americans are "at work" for too long not that we get too much done. You see, every person has a limit and at some point in the day, almost everyone gets a little burned out. I know that in the latter part of the day, I have no ability to focus on much at all.

So I found This Article in The NYT rather interesting.

The thing is, *everyone* I know wastes time at work. People might be clocked in for 8 hours a day but no one does 8 hours of work or rather no one does 8 times the work they do in a really productive hour. Some people work slower the rest of the time. Some people take lots of "mini-breaks" where they surf the net or just stare off into space when management takes measures to stop the web surfing. Some people chit chat with their co-workers. There are a million different ways to goof off at work.

The managers where I work have done everything they can to limit goofing off. They break up conversations so no one can chit chat. They have designed the work space so that everyone's monitors are in view so they can just walk up and down the aisles to make sure no one surfing. They monitor people as closely as they can.

But it doesnt work. One of the things I observe with great interest is all the many ways people hide their goofing off. They have mirrors in their cubes so they can see if a manager is coming. They also have ears which allow them to hear the managers walking towards them. They chit-chat only with co-workers who work near them so both talkers can remain seated since the primary way management knows they are talking is when they see them standing up. Generally people put great energy into hiding their goofing off. Some people I know who work in other jobs make it a point to go to work early and to stay late just so the boss will think they are hard workers. When I ask them if they think they get more done by doing that, they almost always say that they dont get more work done or they only get a little bit more done. The extra time is purely for appearances.

But what if people didnt have to do that? What if people really were judged on the amount of work they do rather than how busy they appear to be while at work. What would happen if people focused just half of all that energy into work? Would they be more productive? I think that most people would be. And most people would find themselves a bit less stressed out and that goes double for people with families. Sometimes I think about the impact such a change in the working culture would mean to people who raise children or care for elderly relatives, I get all angry that we dont have a movement blooming where workers demand it.

But then, I think that a lot of people, managers and workers alike, simply cannot believe that most people will do the same amount of work in six hours a day as they do in eight. When I go off on this particular rant (which is one of my favorites, as anyone who hangs out with me face to face can tell you.), I am always amazed at how many people just can't believe it is true. Or they believe that it is because people are lazy and if they could just come up with some better method to make sure people goof off less, they could squeeze more work out of people.

Oh well, maybe someday

Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse!!!

I used to go winter camping a lot and I'll freely admit that there are certain things about winter camping that I dont like. For instance, sleeping in the cold or rather *trying* to sleep but not being able to because it is TOO COLD does not rate high on my list of things I like about winter camping. But there are things that I like about it and oddly, two unrelated things have reminded me of very positive things about my winter camping days.

One of them is my Astronomy class of all things. You see, Orion has always been my favorite constilation and it is so easy to see in the winter sky that one of the activities of any winter camping trip for me was to just sit there and look at it. So, we've been talking about Orion in my class lately because it happens to be a really active part of space with lots of nebulas and cool stars and such. Everytime we talk about Orion, I always kind of remember sitting outside in the dead of winter gazing up at it and the very peaceful feeling I would always get then.

In a completely unrelated coincidence, one of my main winter camping buddies, Terry, is in town for a visit. He and his wife, Jen, are coming over this weekend. I'm all excited about that because they are awesome and they have been doing a lot of traveling so I know they'll have good stories.

And just to draw another crazy link in this mix, I will mention that one of my memories of Terry involves him dancing around singing Harry Belefonte's Day-o which was on the soundtrack of Beetle Juice which, or course, sounds just like Betelgeuse which is, of course, a star in Orion.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Post in Which I Blame The Sun For Not Blogging

Man. This past week has been pretty nice. There has been lots of sunshine so I have been doing stuff outside. I have even already been swimming up at the lake! Yesterday was the BEST because there were no boats on the lake and I just swam all the way down the shore and then back. The water wasnt too cold although it wasnt warm either. Not bad though for a pre-memorial day swim.

The other main reason I havent been blogging is that I have been going to school full time for this short spring semester. It is intense and it has been keeping me busy. One of my classes is an online class which is nice because I have a wireless internet connection so I can sit outside and do my homework.

My other class is an Astronomy class. This class is essentially my last class at EMU. It is one of those science classes I put off because they sounded lame and hard and just not something that would be interesting. I thought I would hate it. But what do you know? I dont hate it and rather, really enjoy it! I kind of wish I had taken this class earlier because now I want to take a Physics class since the physics part of Astronomy seems the most interesting part. And of course I want to take more Astronomy classes too.

I got to look at the Sun through a telescope earlier this week in our class. That was really cool. I didnt take a picture of it myself but I found this one from about 11 years ago on the NASA web page. This is pretty much how the sun looked to me since we were using a similar filter (obviously, it is a bad idea to look at the sun through a telescope without a filter). This picture was also taken during a period of low activity on the sun. Sun activity goes in cycles of about 11 years so this picture was taken during the last low activity period. So it was very neat even though it wasnt very active. I can only imagine what it must look like when it is in an active phase!

So there you go. Instead of blogging, I have either been out playing in the sun or out learning about the sun.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Still a Loser!

I am bummed because I didnt get that job with the non-profit I applied for recently. I cant remember if I mentioned it here or not. But about six weeks ago, I applied for a pretty cool job with a private foundation. I did get four interviews into the process though so I must have been seriously considered. That is something I guess.

Anyways, I always have a hard time dealing with rejection and to be honest, that has me more bummed out than not getting the job. Oh well. There will be many many other jobs I can apply for and I imagine that I'll get turned down for most of them which will give me lots of opportunities to work on whatever issues with rejection I might have. And the HR person was nice enough to tell me the reason they picked someone over me and it certainly was a valid reason. They picked someone who already has been working for that particular non-profit so they are more familiar with it. I will just remember that old cliche that successful people tend to fail a lot because successful people takes risks and try. Yup. I am going to keep trying. I am going to be that kind of loser guy who always has dates because he asks *everyone* out ;)

It is funny too how the whole "sour grapes" thing can kick in so powerfully. I mean, my thought pattern right now is that I really didnt want that job anyways. I am really feeling that too even though I know it is a lie and that I really *did* want the job. But you know, it wouldnt have given me the experience needed to advance in the direction I think I might want to go and I am pretty sure that if they hired me at close to my current salary, I would have been at the upper end of the pay range for the job which isnt exactly the best position to be in if one wants things like raises. And so on.

In the mean time, another person has quit my small team of six. Someone else was fired recently too so we are down two. That means, of course, that I will spend the next several months working my butt off just to keep my head above water. Even if they hire replacements soon, it will take a while to get them up to speed. And ok, I'll admit that a big reason I wanted that other job was so that I wouldnt have to deal with the mess that is coming now that we are so short staffed.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A week revolving slightly around Anna

It has been a very busy week for me. I kind of like it...having stuff to do.

On Sunday I had lunch with one of my oldest friends. It is nice having friends whom one has known since forever. I think I must have been around 4 y/o when I met Anna/Auhna which means she is one of the few people outside of my family to have known me when I was a kid. We went to the Blue Nile in Ferndale which is pretty much like the Blue Nile in Ann Arbor. Very good but kind of expensive. Mostly we talked about Anna's glamorous life in L.A. I didnt have as much time to spend with her on this trip as I would have liked. She returned to LA on Wednesday.

Then, today, I went to Detroit with my friend Heather because I had free tickets for a play at the Hillberry. We got there early so we went for a little walk and then ran into "BillyLeopard" , an old high school friend of mine who also just happens to know Anna. I didnt have too much time to talk to him because we had to go to the play but it was nice to see him anyways.

After the play, Heather and I went for a little drive around the city. We drove up to the old neighborhood where I showed her where I used to live. And then we noticed that Anna's old house was for sale and having an open house! The owner was very nice and let us have a quick tour even though I admitted I wasnt really looking for a house to buy. Still there is a part of me that wants to just because it is a great house at that price. It is not only a great house but it is a GREAT neighborhood: all tree lined streets and beautiful old houses built mostly in the 20's. The 1920's is just one of my favorite eras for houses. My own house was built in 1925.

In between all of that, I am working full time and going to school full time and trying to keep my lawn mowed.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Let me Give You a Hand!

ugh. Someone stole my hand chair from my front porch. That always creeps me out a little bit. I mean. I know strangers do come up onto the porch from time to time. Sometimes they knock and try to sell me stuff and sometimes they come to leave fliers from local restaurants. Still, when something goes is a reminder that *anyone* can come onto the porch.

This chair used to belong to my friend Gary and I have to say that although I have owned it for a while now and although I have occasionally parked my butt into the chair's surprisingly comfortable cupped palm, most of my best memories about the chair were from when the chair belonged to Gary. Still, I always really liked the chair and it used to give me a smile every day when I got home from work. Oh well, it had some sentimental value but I am trying to have less stuff and I suppose one way to look at this is that it is the universe's way of liberating me from some small portion of my stuff.

I always wonder about the sort of person who would walk onto someone's porch to steal a hand chair. Did they steal it because it seriously is a cool chair? Or was it someone who thinks they can resell a used hand chair? It is funny too because I know a lot of people who have stolen stuff before. Some people have cheated on their taxes. Some people have stolen cable or illegally downloaded music or whatever. Still, it seems that actually stealing a physical object from someone's porch is not something most folks would do. Oh well, it was probably a Gary groupie. Someone heard that Gary's ass used to OWN that chair and they couldnt live without it.

Honestly though, I have often wondered why things like lawn and porch furniture dont get stolen more often. I think about that every time I sit down with the Smith and Hawken catalog. I mean, I love the teak benches and I know they last forever and I know that one of those benches would look lovely on my porch. But even if I could afford one, and I most certainly cannot, wouldnt a thousand dollar bench on a front porch just be a little bit too tempting?

I did call the cops about this though. I told them they didnt need to send anyone over but they did anyways. They sent a very nice woman who took down all of the information. Man, it has got to be boring being a cop sometimes. I mean, I can not imagine that The Great Hand Job is a caper worth writing home about.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Silly Dream

I always think it is very funny the way real world things can become incorporated into our dreams. While I know that generally, no one likes to read about other people’s dreams, allow me to share a snippet from my dream last night:

I was Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth was *of course* Mr Darcy. We were walking in the English countryside during a thunderstorm and then a train came by so we rushed to check into a motel. In the motel, there was one of those old beds that would shake if you put in a quarter. We put in a quarter and the bed started shaking and then a giant clap of thunder...woke me up.

It was then that I noticed that my bed was shaking just like the beds in those old motels. And there was thunder and lightning. Which is of course, why my bed was shaking. You wouldn’t think a 35 lb dog could shake a whole bed but it turns out she CAN!

As you might imagine, the whole idea of Mr Darcy in a cheap motel with a shaking bed has had me laughing a little bit all day.