Monthly Archives: November 2010

Are you killing time or is time killing you?

In the spring of this year I was in my parents’ backyard when I suddenly smelled cigar smoke wafting over the fence.

I knew that smell meant Mr. Miller was out on his porch again. Mr. Miller and his wife had, for most of my life, been the next-door neighbor. About equally as long – 25 or 30 years, I don’t know – he would head out to his porch in the evening to smoke his cigar.

These days he gets to smoke a few more.

“Hello” I called out. “How’s retirement treating you?”

“Not very well,” he said.

A little taken back by his answer, I probed some more. Things hadn’t been going well since he had recently retired. He was having a few health problems. A scary thing happened the week before when he temporarily lost his eyesight. Yeah, one day he was out with his wife and then he couldn’t see. He told me that everything was really dark and blurry. It got better, but not without giving him quite a jolt.

Me too.

There were countless times I’d see Mr. Miller leaving for work and returning later in the day. He commuted as far as my dad does so there was nothing really that striking about his work.

What got to me that day was this: Mr. Miller put in his hard time, working faithfully for a company for decades, commuting the whole time and then finally got to retire. Now he has all the time in the world to do whatever he wants.

But, he can’t. With failing health, his most capable physical years were spent working. This event has impacted several decisions I’ve made this year such as buying a home, supporting my wife as she started her business and learning to ride a motorcycle.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we all quit our jobs and go unbridled crazy. There’s a difference between risk and calculated risk.

I’m a big fan of calculated risk. Isn’t there something you’ve always wanted to do?

  • Weren’t you going to start that business and give it a go?
  • Was there someplace you’ve wanted to go or something to learn?
  • Do you need to resolve a friendship or forgive a family member?
  • Weren’t you going to have that one book read (or written) by now?
  • Didn’t you always want to get a pet?

Whatever it is – start making plans, now, for how you’re going to make it happen and follow those steps to make it reality.

Because one day you’re going to realize you’ve let time kill you slowly, or you’ve owned it.

So, which is it? Are you killing time or is time killing you?

10 things I hate

  1. Doing housework.
  2. Cold weather.
  3. Working before 4 p.m.
  4. Trying to have an adult conversation only to be interrupted by my children (still love them to pieces).
  5. Debt.
  6. Self-righteousness.
  7. Black or white thinking (there seems to be lots of grey in this world).
  8. Waking up before 10 a.m.
  9. Movie ticket prices.
  10. Ironing.

And you? (I once knew a person that hated that phase.)

Suspending work

Lately I’ve been feeling a little worn out.

Working in web development is so much fun for me (I do it full-time and also with part-time side projects and gigs). I like to design and I like learning and building little programs, none of which I do nearly as often as I woud like.

But I’ve been incredily busy lately. Feeling bombarded, I logged off completely at 5 p.m. last Tuesday and haven’t done anything work-related since.

It’s been fantastic. I’m actually mentally ready to get back into the swing of things tomorrow. Having five full days away has done me good.

Perhaps suspending work for a little bit was just what I needed to get me through to that real vacation I talked about yesterday.

It’s a shame I’m all out of pumpkin pie.

Success and failure

“Success and failure are both difficult to endure.

“Along with success come drugs, divorce, fornication, bullying, travel, meditation, medication, depression, neurosis and suicide.

“With failure comes failure.”

– Joseph Heller

Five things to achieve in 2011

Resolutions are crap, unless you actually resolve them. Here are five things I’ve been thinking about for 2011.

1. Go on a stuff diet. I’m such a clutterbug. In real life or digital, I keep a lot of things because I’m a big sentimental sap. I’ve struggled with this for a long time, but I’d like to make an ernest effort at getting rid of a bunch of stuff. If I could get a few shades away from minimalist, I’d be ecstatic.

2. Hit 4,000 miles on my motorcycle. New motorcyclists who have less than 4,000 miles or six months of riding are considered absolute beginners. In addition, accidents are more likely to happen during this period. I’d like to avoid an accident altogether and get the experience. I’ve owned a bike for six weeks and have about 800 miles so far. With it getting colder, I doubt I’ll hit 4,000 miles before six months, but I’m going to try. Here’s to a warm winter.

3. Get healthy and lose the weight. I’ve tried and failed so much in the last few years, I hate to even mention this. Not to say too much, but I’ve been much healthier and much more slender. Working a job that doesn’t require much movement really does harm to the body. This year’s Red Dog’s Dog Days was a great start, but I lost momentum after the summer. I’ve got a great space in the mancave that could use a used treadmill. I could watch movies and walk and come out much better than I am right now.

4. Take a real vacation. Like a lot of full-time workers, I get two weeks vacation per year. I spent one week of it this year moving, which didn’t feel like a vacation at all. It was a lot of work. I’d love to go somewhere like Estes Park to get away with my girls and the whoa-man. Ideas are appreciated, but must be in driving or train distance to Lawrence. I won’t fly again until the TSA lunacy is over.

5. Finish some personal projects. I’ve got a list of creative projects I’ve wanted to get done for some time now. Enough is enough. These things have been hanging around so long they’re like pets. I’m always in idea generation mode, so I doubt I could finish ALL of them, but there are quite a few I could get done in 2011. I tried to do some this year and allowed myself to get sidetracked.

Have you thought about things you’d like to achieve next year? Let’s hear ’em!

My Black Friday

Black Friday 2010

The register lines at Target were full, but moved quickly.

Only once before have I been a participant in the Black Friday shopping experience. This year, I took another stab at it. Here is my story, which started at 4 a.m.


When I arrived at Target, I was a little surprised to see a line 1/8 mile long from the south entrance of the store to Mass Beverage, a liquor store adjacent to the retail giant. I parked and quickly got in line.

My main purpose was a dual-screen DVD player for our minivan. Now that we have two children, the one DVD player we have isn’t working out so well for our long trips. Target’s doorbuster advert had it for $85, which I had seen for around $150 just a few months ago. This was a no-brainer. It was worth the hassle to save the $65.

“Hassle” is a bit exaggerated. The line moved quick and smooth. Once inside, there was a bit of a bottleneck around the electronics aisle, but that was expected.

I did have one shopper bark at me when I rested my hand on an empty cart. She thought I was going to take it (which I wasn’t – small and agile is my shopping philosophy and carts don’t fit into that) and said “That’s my cart!” So, I punched her in the face told her “I don’t even want it, lady” and began my search.

There was an amazing store associate who apparently knew from memory where everything was in the store. He quickly answered my question, “Where can I get this DVD player?,” sending me directly to where I needed to go. A few other items grabbed, I was through a line fairly quickly as they had a LOT of registers open (see pic above).

Verdict: Target had great deals, order and efficiency down pretty good at this store. For a Black Friday experience, it really wasn’t bad.

Walmart (South Iowa)

Looking for a particular mermaid doll that my daughter wanted was my main objective here.

Walmart has some sort of game for Black Friday that I don’t know how to play, so it was a little frustrating. Complete aisles were roped off in some sort of King Jareth labyrinth and I didn’t know what I was doing. All I wanted was a frackin’ doll (and some $1.96 DVDs, but those were picked over like lint from a Cosby sweater).

Alas, they didn’t have the doll. At least, I don’t think they did. The employees I talked to weren’t well-versed in where the specials of the day were around the store. I talked to three of them and only one didn’t have to resort to some four-page long cryptex to see where the items were located.

Frustrated and a bit tired, I left empty handed.

Verdict: I should have remembered to pick up some toothpaste while I was there. No chaos, but no purchases, either.

Best Buy

I hate this store.

I hate that Best Buy employees have all apparently been told to talk to every single customer in close proximity. I hate that someone “greets” me when I enter the store (although I don’t mind Walmart greeters for some reason, perhaps because they stand and face you). I hate that Geek Squad refers to its customers as “civilians” and its techs as “agents.”

With dignity firmly tucked beneath my legs, I went inside because there was a good deal on a [REDACTED: WIFE READS THE BLOG AND THE PRESENT WAS FOR HER]. I found a sales associate, he helped me find the item and then I got in line.

Oh yeah, the biggest reason I hate this store is the checkout lanes. Best Buy has the second slowest cashiers in town after Walgreens (which I could – and should – do a whole post on that store alone). And, there are four of them. Yeah, that’s right – four registers in an electronics store on Black Friday.

The slow moving and inadequately numbered lanes did me in. I put the item back and left the store empty handed, but not before snagging a picture of the DVD player for the van that I got at Target for $85. Best Buy was selling them for $149.99.

Philips Dual-Screen DVD player

Yeah, I got this at Target for $85. I'd say that was worth going out for.

Verdict: I hate this store and feel dirty for going in there. How this company hasn’t figured out that you can have tons of associates with handheld scanners that take credit/debit cards is beyond my comprehension.

Walmart (Congressional Drive)

Typically, this store doesn’t have anything I’m looking for. It’s not far from where I live, so I decided to stop there with the hope I’d find that mermaid doll that eluded me at the other store.

I was not disappointed.

What’s great about this Walmart is also what makes it kind of suck: it’s small. Because it’s much smaller than the South Iowa store, it’s hard to find items you typically expect to find at Walmart. This sounds like a lie, but it’s not. I’ve given it several chances, as has my wife, and unless what you’re looking for is really mainstream, you can forgetaboutit at this location.

Today, that worked out in my favor. This store was practically empty at 6 a.m. Far from the retail playground of 31st and Iowa streets, the Congressional Drive Walmart was dead and not incredibly picked over. That said, I still wasn’t able to get my $1.96 DVDs I was looking for (all the Bourne movies), but I did get nice deals on a couple others.

Verdict: This store is clean, well-organized, energy efficient and staffed appropriately most of the time. I found what I was looking for, so it was a win. But if anyone from Walmart Corporate wants to fill me in on how this store is supposed to sustain itself, I’d love to hear it.

In closing …

Lawrence’s Black Friday shopping must be different than other places. That doesn’t surprise me. We have a wonderfully strange little culture here and it seems likely that it transfered over to shopping attitudes as well. There were no fights, no stampedes, no trampling, nothing like that. It was just quite a few people looking to save some money.

But, I’m not done yet.

I’ll just try and finish up on my lunch break on Cyber Monday with the millions of others who think shopping in masses is abhorrent.

Grabbing a dream by the neck

My wife started a business on Aug. 1, 2010.

Tiny Tykes Playcare logoThe business, Tiny Tykes Playcare, is something she’s wanted to do for a long time. Amy has worked for some preschools in the Lawrence and Topeka areas, but she always had this idea that she would like to be doing her own thing.

Last year she got the idea that she was finally going to go out and achieve her dream. She wanted to start her own in-home preschool program.

So, she did.

How’s it going? She started in August with 20 open slots and currently only has six available.

I’d say she’s doing quite well. Actually, I’ll go much further than that. I will say that I am very, very proud of her.

Amy has tapped into the thing she’s really passionate about, teaching kids between 18 months and five years of age, and is rocking at it. The kids follow a curriculum, make art projects, sing, play and all the other great stuff that preschools should have you do. The TV hasn’t even been on during class hours since she’s started.

This isn’t daycare. It’s a place of learning.

I’m really into the idea of the American dream. You know the one: work hard, go after your dreams and you will be successful. I know about the lizard brain and how you need to make it shut up to make your dreams come to fruition. I’ve read about how work sucks and how there’s nothing stopping you from pursuing your own work on your own time with your own terms. I’m inspired by people who have thought about “you get busy living or get busy dying” and have chosen to make their own way.

With all that knowledge, you’d think I’d be her biggest backer. I hate to say it, but I wasn’t – at least, not at first. Oh, sure, I supported her in the way a husband is supposed to back his wife, but there was a twinge of fear in me. She’s been working some dead-end part-time jobs to make ends meet since the birth of our first child four years ago and I was reluctant for her to give up the “security” of a make-ends-meet paycheck.

The thing is, deep down inside, I don’t believe in “secure” jobs that much. I believe in people and their ability to follow their passions and their capability to learn what it takes to have those passions also provide an income.

Amy is doing that. She’s happy now with her work. At the end of the day, she has tangible proof that her students are learning and absorbing the things she’s teaching them.

I think that’s awesome. It turns out I had the lizard brain, because my wife knew what she needed to do all along.

And so, the lesson has been learned. My wife doesn’t gripe about the economy and how it’s holding her back. She hasn’t griped about the government and how it isn’t friendlier toward business. She doesn’t mope around because she didn’t take action on what she wants. No, instead she works hard every day to make sure she’s kicking butt at being an excellent teacher to the kids whose parents have blessed us with their presence.

I am humbled.

I am inspired.

I am thankful to be with an amazing person who realized her dream and grabbing it by the neck.

Should you be doing likewise?

Second Thanksgiving

Tomorrow will  be the second Thanksgiving dinner we’ve had where family comes eats with us instead of us traveling.

The last time didn’t go so well. We were living in a total craphole we rented through Gage Management (a sorry little company if I might say) and my wife’s parents came to eat dinner with us. This was in 2005, pre kids.

It was a good dinner, but Amy’s parents got into a bit of a tiff toward the end. Little did we know that their relationship would go downhill after that. We were unaware they were having problems and in less than a year, they were separated. They divorced in the year following their separation.

And now, here we are, doing it again. Her mom remarried a few months ago and will join us with her new husband. With any luck, her sister and her two children will be able to come as well (my wife’s brother-in-law has to work, sadly).

Despite the turmoil that has brought us to this point, it’s nice to know we’ll be having family in our home – and this time, it’s one we own.

Here’s to new beginnings, second chances and renewal.

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re one of the top 85% of the richest people in the world. Be thankful.


What an excellent week! I’ve got freebies!

Footshifted – Nov. 1 I won a free Icon Motorsports t-shirt in a giveaway on the website. The shirt took a little time to order, but it showed up in the mail yesterday.

Talk about awesome. If you’re into motorcycles, footshifted is a great website about motorcycle accessories. Check it out at

LJWorld – Gobble, gobble! I won a turkey today from the Lawrence Journal-World. That thing was a huge 17 pounds. LJW was giving turkeys away in a promotion where they asked people to tell what they were thankful for. I entered via Twitter, repeating what I wrote about on Saturday: I am thankful for my parents.

We already had purchased a turkey, so I took that fine specimen of a bird over to Penn House and asked them to give it to a deserving family in need. I love giving. It’s the one thing I can do that is totally selfish that doesn’t hurt anyone.

Oh hey, that reminds me – if you can, donate to a local charity of your choice and make someone’s life a little better this holiday season. Thanx in advance.


There was a time when I loved to open the Sunday paper and head straight for the comics section.

My favorite was Garfield. I loved the story of a fat cat that loved to eat lasagna who lived with a dim-witted but loveable owner named John.

These days, I don’t care about Garfield anymore. Why is that? Does it have to do with getting older? Geez, I’m only 34 years old. Is it because I’m a parent, a husband or a working stiff?

I just don’t know.

But, all is not lost. There is hope with another in Garfield Minus Garfield.

Now that’s a great comic.