Thirty-Eight

Hallo from Ísland!  I turn 38 today, and this is the first birthday (and the first time ever) that I’ll celebrate the day off of the North American continent, although I’m fairly sure that, with Þingvellir to our east, we’re actually still on the North American plate.  I have been on both sides of the rift in the last 13 days, though.

I have enjoyed this trip, and I plan to write much more about it by the end of the year.  We do have something like 120 GB of photos to go through.

28 months ago, I was on a journey out of a really dark time in my life, but I didn’t know what was going to happen.  I felt that, in some ways, it would be a restoration.  I didn’t know that my life would be irrevocably changed on my fourth day in that job.

Unfortunately for the both of us, I’ve been sick for the last few days and unable to do a lot of the fun things that we’d been looking forward to.  Danielle got to see a number of them, though, including the Northern Lights, something that she’d always wanted to see.  They put on quite the show while we were here.

My wife Danielle and the Northern Lights near Geysir in Iceland.  She took this one herself using a self-timer while I was passed out sick in our hotel room.
My wife Danielle and the Northern Lights near Geysir in Iceland. She took this one herself using a self-timer while I was passed out sick in our hotel room.

I don’t really know what my 39th orbit has for me.  This past year, we settled in a little bit to being married to each other, I got certified as a flight controller for the International Space Station, had a contract to build a house, got out of that contract because the builder screwed up the foundation, found another house the next day, bought that house, got the old townhouse ready to sell, put that house on the market, celebrated living half of my life in Huntsville, decided to come here to Iceland while owning two houses, and got very lucky to put the townhouse under contract 72 hours before leaving town.

I’d be happy if life slowed down just a little bit this year, but I’m betting that things won’t.  I’ve got a big thing or two lined up in the pipe (more later, if I get around to writing about it; the pace here has indeed slowed), and work never seems to get much slower.  40 is looming, and I’m starting to come to grips with that.  I often remark that I am not old (I won’t be old for another few decades), but I am clearly no longer young.

We’ll be on a plane home in nine hours, and we’ll be back in the US in 15 or so.  This has been a great trip, but as always, I’m ready to be home.  I’ve been a professional engineer since 2002 and in this business since 1999, and this is the first time that I’ve taken two weeks of paid vacation.  I call this growth.

Thanks in advance for all the birthday wishes.

Lessons from the Sacrifice (?)

  1. I really don’t care very much about Facebook, which is probably not something that makes my mother very happy.  I pretty much didn’t miss it.  I used the hell out of Facebook Messenger, but Facebook itself?  Nope.  I expect that my Facebook traffic will become even more broadcast-heavy and even less about interaction.  I browsed the timeline tonight but got very board.  Facebook is something that I would’ve loved to have had in college, but I’m just not there anymore.  [I mean, I’m in college, you get it, shut up, no you shut up.]
  2. I missed Twitter more as time went by, purely because you can usually just wade into the river and see how things are going on.  I used to sit on the river and watch it go by me, but I feel like that will happen less often now that I know that I can do it and not feel guilty about it.  It was a couple of hours today before my thought was, “What’s on Twitter right now?”  I’ve been on it a bit today, but I also read for class for three hours.
  3. I did miss my friends, but I fought that with a simple email: “Tell me a small story from your life in the last couple of days.”  That kept the focus narrow and light.  I could find out about how my friends’ kids were doing with their spelling homework without having to feel like Big Huge Things Are Being Communicated.  I didn’t do enough of it.
  4. I don’t miss the drama.
  5. I don’t miss being a cause or treble of the drama.  Well, I didn’t miss it, and then I stepped right in it when I got back.  Did I learn anything?  Hmm.
  6. I like email.  I knew that, but I like email a lot.
  7. I can get a lot done when I’m not dinking around on social media.
  8. RescueTime is awesome.
  9. I’m really ready for a break from school.
  10. Lastly, I was really aware of the fact that a lot of what I wanted to share was negative.  I took to doing some private journaling, and there’s a solid week (or more) of me just being really, really angry.  Now, I know exactly why I was angry and what my part in that anger was, but I think that the desire to spew forth the anger is a desire for someone else to make it right, as if that were even really possible.  I’m not going to be zero-anger, but I am going to shoot for less-angry.

I make no promises about that last one being true in these last two weeks of the semester.  No sleep ’til May Day.

Health Insurance

Thank you, fellow taxpayers, for the credit that defrayed about 80% of the cost of my health insurance.  Trust me, I’m ready to be back amongst your number, but while I’m playing the role of underemployed graduate student, it’s nice to be able to afford health insurance.  I’ve had some very mediocre insurance for the last couple of years through a student health insurance program, but that’s required me to maintain half-time status.  I would love to have the flexibility to drop back to a single class that I can focus on and work one or more part time jobs to cover expenses.  This allows me that flexibility.

I will save my complaints about the paucity of health coverage in Alabama for another day.  All I can tell you is that I had six or seven choices in dental coverage and just two in health — both from the same provider.  The silo structure of our insurance system — driven by the states — is another big problem.  If you really believe in marketplaces, you’d want more players in the game, right?  Instead, we have a system that favors consolidation.

[At least today’s application process was smooth.  It’s nice to see how easily the system moves when it’s not full of people.]

Lent Has Brought New Life to the Old Blog

No, I’m not giving up Twitter after Lent is over, but needing a place to write some thoughts down has brought a bit of a rebirth to the old blog.  I was blogging before it was cool, and now I’m blogging after it stopped being cool.  While I don’t really know what all is going on with my friends, I’ve been trying to fight that with email.

When I look at the frustrations in that second link, I remember what they are, but only barely.  I only remember that they happened at all because I made vague references.  Letting the anger out is worth it, but I’m not sure that doing it where everyone can read it is the best thing.  I don’t know if the anger is any better-controlled, but not having a record of it may not be the worst thing ever.

My Healthcare.gov Troubles

I’m a good liberal guy and think that Healthcare.gov is a good thing, but dammit, I was on the phone with them for 1h19m, persevering through terrible hold music and being on hold for an hour while they figured out how to code my meager income, and … then my call gets dropped.

Fuck.  I opened this up purely to complain about the bad hold music (see: safety valve), but holy shit, this is just bad.  They have my number to call me back, I guess, but I’m guessing that they won’t.  So …

Disconnected But Connecting

Social media is a distraction.  It’s good for a lot of things, but one thing that it’s bad for is taking people from the acquaintance level to something deeper.  It’s also bad for maintaining friendships at the depth that are worth having.  There’s a lot of good, but there’s downsides.

Do I still think that?  Yes.  Earlier today, I found myself thinking, “I don’t know what Zach Lowe thinks about the last Celtics game!”  I wonder what my friends are doing, thinking, and feeling.  Not everyone shares all of those on social media (I do), but not being current with what is shared is a little saddening.

I figured out why that is: social media is passive.  I knew that, I guess, but I’m really living it right now.  If I want to know what’s going on with people, I really have to ask them, and that requires showing interest.  Friending, following, and the like are passive interest, but there’s no substitute for actually asking what’s going on.

But I do find that I am connecting with the people directly in front of me better than I have before, even the one person trying to cheer me up today with inane stories.  And in those situations where I am communicating electronically, I’m doing it with intention and interest, and I think that’s a good thing.

But I do miss being able to vent.  I’d go off on a three-tweet spree about how completely terrible GoDaddy is.  I’d recreate it here, but there’s no point in it.  My anger is ephemeral, or at least it should be, and at the end of the day, I don’t deal with these assholes anymore.1 The relief valve nature is nice, and it’s probably 15-20% of what I use Twitter for anywhere.  As I find myself in a cauldron of anger right now, it would be nice to have, but whatever.


  1. I use Hover

Social Media Sacrifice

Social media is a distraction.  It’s good for a lot of things, but one thing that it’s bad for is taking people from the acquaintance level to something deeper.  It’s also bad for maintaining friendships at the depth that are worth having.  There’s a lot of good, but there’s downsides.

I do Lenten sacrifices, but I generally don’t discuss them.  (I’ve never been able to maintain a daytime fast.  I’ve tried.  I’m not made for it.)  But since I am going to give up my Facebook account and @gfmorris for the Lenten season, I owe you notice on that, lest you think that I’m pissed at your or that something terrible has happened to me.  It hasn’t.

I will make exceptions, of course.  I have to help my friend Michael maintain the @weloveuahhockey Twitter account, so I will keep up with that.  I will also keep Facebook Messenger up, mainly because many people use it like they do email, but also because I have a vital backchannel with three of my friends that I would be lost without.  But my @gfmorris Twitter clients have had their access revoked, Facebook is closed and blocked in my browser, and the Facebook app is off of my phone.

Be sure to email.  I love email.

Not quite 30 in 90

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It looks like 30 in 90 won’t happen.  I was on very good pace in early December: I was down to 361, 20 pounds down, with only a few days gone in the month.  Keeping up that pace seemed realistic, holiday eating be damned.  Then I got sick.  I came down with a bear of a cold starting the night December 7th.  Since then, I’ve not eaten that well, and I’ve not been walking, and I’m up to 365.4.  That’s still 15+ lost since the beginning of October, which is nothing to sneeze at, but I will miss my goal since I’m unwilling to do a crazy diet to hit some number.

But 1) I will update here on 12/30 and 2) I will probably try this again in 2013.  Having some external accountability has been helpful.

But that is still 90 pounds gone, in case you were wondering.  😉