Category Archives: Rants

Things might get a bit heated here. It’s probably a good idea to take these discussions with a grain of salt.

Balancing Act

Having people visit from the home office can be nice.  Our local contingent is still pretty small, so having a few more personalities around can really liven up the place.  But with that, of course, comes the obligation of entertaining the guests.  And in the office environment, this usually comes in the form of going out to dinner.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the people I work with well enough.  But having to go out to dinner every night and make small talk with people you don’t know that well can be quite draining.  Oh, and there’s of course the issue of spending time outside of traditional work hours on work-related activities.  At the expense of one’s own private hobbies or need for down time.

Because I treasure my down time.  I’ve been lamenting for a while how little I have, and it’s often planned out in such a way to allow me to accomplish everything I want to before whatever deadline I have.  Too many hiccups from my (admittedly loose) plan, and things begin to trudge inexorably towards failure.

Am I the only one that feels this way?  On the one hand, I feel like I should get to know the people I work with.  On the other hand, I really resent work life infringing on my personal time.  Maybe there are some people that enjoy it, but I really need to keep work and home life separate.  I don’t live to work, I work to live.  I work so that I can enjoy my hobbies.  And when work means that I have to miss fencing practice or that I don’t have the time I thought I did to finish my sewing project, I get upset.   Especially since I can’t comfortably say no.

Not Quite Pulling Teeth

I’ve been finding it really hard to write lately. For whatever reason, blogging has felt more like an obligation and less like a hobby. It’s something I have to remind myself to do, something that often makes me feel guilty when I don’t. I’ll be looking forward to a nice quiet night of video games and very little human contact until I think “oh wait, I still have to blog today,” which tends to bring down my mood.

But at the same time, I really don’t want to stop blogging. It’s just that I don’t seem to have much to say about things, and I keep getting easily distracted. For instance: it’s almost 9pm as I write this. What I meant to do upon getting home after grocery shopping was put away groceries, write quickly, then start a new video game. What I have done is put away groceries, sort out junk mail, surf the Internet, watch a few videos, buy a few games on sale, waste time on Clicker Heroes (one of those idle games that will suck your concentration, accomplishes nothing, and I can’t stop playing), and finally, write yet another post about how writing is hard.

Maybe I’m just low on energy in general. The past few weeks have been busy, and I’ve missed posting the past few Fridays because I’ve gone out of town for one reason or another. And while those trips have been really enjoyable, it’s still taken a lot out of me. Luckily I’ve got a free weekend between now and Thanksgiving, otherwise I’m not sure what I’d do.

But because I’m so drained, things are piling up, both pleasure and obligations. I can’t help but think that something’s going to have to give. I just really don’t want it to be this blog. But I don’t know what I can do. I’ve thought about putting it on hiatus, queuing up some of the fiction I wrote in college to keep new content coming. But I don’t want to use that option until I have to. After all, what would I do if I needed more some time later?

I don’t know. I’m just tired. But at least I’m still writing.

Too Many Choices, Not Enough Time

So I finally have some down time tonight (sure, I had to sacrifice practice for it, but that’s beside the point) and what do I do? I pass the time with a stupid click/idle flash game because I can’t decide what I want to do.

There’s of course a bunch of stuff I should do, whether packing for the weekend or doing something about the backlog of volunteer webmastering I’m still on the hook for. There’s also a bunch of stuff I want to do, mostly in the form of video games I want to try. I’m itching to get to my backlog, maybe for the simple reason that I can’t right now.

I’m starting to see why people take personal days off of work. While the past week or so has been fun, I’ve done some math and figured that with my weekend activities past and future I’ll have gone 19 days without a day completely off to do nothing. Even my evenings are going to be few and far between with travel time and practices.

But that’s not what I started out wanting to write about. Mostly I’m annoyed by how breadth of choice can have a paralyzing effect on actually being able to make said choice. I mean, it’s 9h30 and I’m already getting to the point where I just want to curl into bed. If I had more energy, I might write something more profound about that. But not today.

Oh well.

When To Write?

I’m not sure my method of writing after work is working as well as I’d like.  Work apparently takes much more mental energy than I think, leaving me writing fairly hollow “I don’t know what to write” posts.  Writing during my lunch break also doesn’t seem to be working; I seem to need the down time more than I need to write.  Writing during the morning also hasn’t really happened; it’s about all I can do to wake up and get going on time with everything I need for the day.

When am I going to write?

It’s gotten to the point where I feel like I’ve got so little time for my hobbies (read: reading, writing, video games, etc.) that I’m seriously considering setting my alarm earlier, just so I have more down time in the morning.  I suppose I could stay up later, but that only works up to a point.  Sleep doesn’t seem to recharge Spoons at the same rate as quiet time does, but borrowing too much from the former to increase the latter can also take Spoons.  That is to say, sleeping isn’t always the same as resting, but too little sleep isn’t good either.

So I’ve got a bit of a conundrum.  I want to continue writing, but I’m not sure when I can fit it in.  But does that mean I don’t really want to?  If I really wanted to write, wouldn’t I find a way to do so?  And of course, the self-loathing engine then starts up.  Because I have a number of things I “want” to do, of varying levels of engagement, but trying to do them all just results in mediocrity all around.  Of course, the irony of the fact that I’m writing this at the last minute before heading off to fighter practice while wishing I could just stay home and play video games isn’t lost on me.  I just wish the whole situation wasn’t something that my negative internal voices tended to latch on to.

But hey: humanity has landed on a comet.  That’s pretty awesome.


What a fine week to be feeling the need to curl up and be a hermit.  Which, of course, I can’t do.  The Big Boss is still in town, and dragging everyone out to dinner again.  Coronation is this weekend, and I’m still going back and forth on whether or not I want to go.  If I’m being completely honest, I’ve been brooding a bit too much.  It’s one of those things where I should go, but don’t really want to.  At this point, a weekend off is sounding very appealing, especially since I’m already planning on being out of town next weekend.

But I’m probably not going to get that.  I’m fast approaching the end of my ability to make decisions and/or deal with others socially.  So this is probably going to be all I get to post for today.  All I really want to do is go home and zone out, or at least go hit my friends with sticks.  But I’m probably not going to even get that.


Networking, I Guess

No post tonight (obviously, at this point).  People from the home office are in town, so of course we had to take them out to dinner.  Which means I didn’t get home until late.  Which means I haven’t had time to write.  And the best part is, we’ll probably have to take them out tomorrow night too, so I’ll be missing heavy practice.  All right before an event that I’m not too excited about that I really should go to anyway.

Plus, the news from the political front has me depressed, so I’m just going to bed.

L’esprit d’Escalier

The French have a phrase: l’esprit d’escalier. Often translated as “staircase wit,” it refers to when you think the perfect thing to say to someone, whether as witty retort or poignant parting words, just a moment too late. Like, for instance, walking down the stairs out of a meeting or interview (hence the term).

I had one of those moments today, one that is still bothering me hours after the fact. It’s of course well past the time I could do something about it, but maybe writing will help expunge my feelings. The Big Boss (heh) is in town to visit some clients this weekend, and spent the afternoon in the office. As the day wound down everyone got to talking, and the subject of the business side of architecture came up.

Now, believe it or not, but a lot of architects aren’t the best businesspeople. There’s more to running a practice than sketching designs on paper. As the Big Boss said, architecture is a service industry, and it’s our job to meet the needs of our clients. But architects often have to go out in search of work, which can lead to a feast-or-famine mentality. Thus, the challenge often becomes: how do you balance work demands with worker resources?

A common tactic is to hire people on a temporary basis, adding them as needed when the projects are rolling in and cutting them loose once the well dries up or moves. Luckily our office doesn’t work like that, otherwise I’d be a little more paranoid. But a lot of firms do. Unfortunately, some firms also attempt to enhance their bottom line by hiring less experience people at a lower rate. This may save money in the short term, but in the long term it may cost you more, since inexperience people will need more training (as an inexperienced person, I keep quiet during this bit).

But as the discussion continued, one of my coworkers, talking about the low pay/low quality bit and how that relates to motivation, said something to the effect of “They’re hiring people to work at $XX an hour, and you can’t live on that.”

The kicker, of course, being that “$XX” was less than what I’m making.

Here’s where I had my esprit d’escalier moment. What I wanted to do was pipe up and say something to the effect of “Actually, I don’t do too bad.” But with the Big Boss there, I wasn’t sure that was the best course of action. After all, I’m still within my probationary period, and would prefer not to step on any toes.

The conversation moved on, but as I went about my errands on my way home the comment (and missed opportunity) still gnawed at me. It’s a bit of a sensitive subject for me: while I’m now working in my field, I’m not making that much more per hour than I was as a Costco retail grunt. Sure, I get more hours and a more regular schedule, but I’m still far below what my (brief) research indicated was the going rate, as well as my expectations were.

And I’m not sure how to bring that up. Maybe it’s due to cost of living differences between here and the home office, but I’d like to be making more. Plus it’s a little annoying to hear someone dismissively say “You can’t live on $XX” when you’re actually living on less. And not just living, but managing to pay all your bills and student loans in a timely manner. I’m sure my coworker didn’t mean anything by it, but like I said, it bothered me.

And I’m sure that the dreary day and unnaturally abrupt change in daylight (DST can bite me) hasn’t helped my outlook either. But writing about it seems to have helped. There is a chance, after all, that I may get a raise at my 90-day review, Assuming I have the wherewithal to properly advocate for it. But for now, I’ll just have to settle for being mildly annoyed, as the dark strips away what precious little free time I have.

Two Steps Back

So I was at work today, slowly but surely chugging through a set of construction documents. I’m not the fastest in our office by any means, but I like to think that I’m getting better. Even if I do have to occasionally stop from comparing myself to my friend who graduated about the same time I did (they’ve been working in the field about a year more than I have, so of course our skills will have diverged). But as I prepared to set up the next drawing, I noticed that dimensions weren’t adding up.

The base plan, on which everything else was built, was wrong.

Needless to say, I was thoroughly annoyed. I mean, I’m already a bit self-conscious about how much time it takes me to produce a drawing set. Throw on top of that needing to go back and fix everything you already “finished?” Yeah, I wasn’t a happy camper.

Now, I know that it’s a good thing I caught this error now, rather than later in the CD phase. After all, if you’re building in an existing structure, it kind of makes a big difference whether or not your dimensions are accurate. And the longer you wait, the more costly mistakes get to fix. But since we use AutoCAD, I have to do all the updates by hand. Other programs, like Revit, allow you to build a digital model of your project, which is then manipulated to get the views you need. One of the advantages of this method is that if you make a change in one view (say, move a door on a floor plan), it automatically updates your other views (say, elevations or sections). AutoCAD doesn’t work like that. AutoCAD uses dumb lines, which, while they may have color and thickness data, are really not that far removed from dragging graphite along a straightedge (by comparison to something like Revit).

Anyway, yeah. I thought I was halfway done with something, but I wasn’t. I’m already worried about appearing “slow” to produce drawings, and this didn’t help. Time to put the Ranty Pants on and get the Drama Llama out of the stable.

Demand Matches Supply

Have you ever noticed how no matter how much time you try and leave yourself to complete a project, you always seem to be rushing at the last second to get everything done?  Or is that just me?

I used to think that this was just a result of poor planning on my part, or another case of my inherent procrastination working against me.  But the more I talk to others, the more this seems like a fairly universal problem.  In fact it even has a name: Parkinson’s Law.

Plainly stated, Parkinson’s Law is the adage that “work expands so as to fil the time available for its completion.”  Time and again, I’ve seen this to be the case in my life.  Even if I deliberately set aside more time than I think I’ll need, I always manage to somehow fill it up.  Maybe I expand the scope of my project, or maybe I spend my time procrastinating.  But no matter what, it seems like things always get pushed to the last minute.

And if that’s the case, what motivation is there to start things early?  I found this to be especially true when it came to writing papers for school.  If a paper I wrote the night before got the same (or better!) grade than one polished and refined over the course of weeks, what reason was there to avoid putting it off?  After all, things worked out in the end anyway, right?

Maybe I just don’t have a good concept of how much time various tasks take to complete.  Or maybe I overestimate my ability to stay on task.  Or maybe both.  Maybe I’m just completely inept at planning and execution.  Or maybe everyone is just as incompetent as I am, they just hide it better.

All I know is I have what feels like quite a lot of sewing to do, and not enough time to do it.

Stop Moving The Goalposts!

As much as I love this time of year, it does get difficult for me when it’s full dark by 6h30.  And of course, Daylight Saving Time just exacerbates the problem.  In a little more than two weeks, the sun will set a full hour earlier, for no apparent reason other than a misguided, habitual attempt to “save energy” or some nonsense.

For as little as I spend time outside, I am apparently very sunlight-driven.  If I don’t have ambient light when I wake up in the morning, it freaks me out; I can’t use blackout curtains, otherwise I tend to wake up in the middle of the night with no idea what time it is, which means I start freaking out about missing work/school/whatever.  Combine this with the fact that it’s very hard for me to fall asleep once I wake up, and it’s a recipe for badness.

In a related way, I assume that when it’s dark outside it’s time for sleeping.  Whether I want to or not, I start winding down as it gets dark, which makes it really hard to do anything remotely productive when it’s dark before I even get home from work.  Once it’s dark, I don’t want to do much else except read and play video games.  The day is done, and so is the day’s work.

And to top it all off, I start to get all wonky without enough sunlight.  The time I spent working in a windowless office was especially bad, since I would occasionally get to work before sunrise and leave after sunset.  But my exposure to sunlight, even indirectly, has a noticeable effect on my mood.

I complain a lot about not having much of an internal concept of time, and I wonder if these habits and preferences are related to that.  Is my body taking its timing cues from the sun, whether I want it to or not?  That would make sense, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying.  My inborn productivity drive isn’t the greatest to start with, so anything I can do to trick more motivation out of myself is kind of important.  It’s just hard to do so when your body is telling you it’s time to go to sleep.