Over a Year

It’s been over a year in the new position and for the most part I love it. The disconcerting thing is the money is dramatically short, and rapidly getting shorter as inflation ravages us. I’d forgotten and/or been less directly affected by it in the seventies and very beginning of the eighties. That and specific things over the years inflated more or less than the overall rate. So housing is insane. I believe rent would be $700-odd now versus 1982, had housing not been encouraged by the government to become less affordable under the banner of affordable and fair housing. I made almost as much in a bindery in shipping, in constant dollars, as I do now in a more advanced position in a more productive environment. Another comparison, entry level tech support in 1994, at more money than I’d ever made per hour but for which the employer was apologetic, is over $2 an hour more than I make now. Then I got a 6% raise after a year. Last time anything like that happened! That’s over $3 more than I make now, solidly into manager pay. Education being ridiculously inflated doesn’t affect me, but it does my kids.

So I’m in the weird position of loving what I do, mostly, and the people, mostly, and eating into savings, such as they are, and looking at a cliff where the money we have won’t be enough. We’re having trouble keeping a particular manager position filled. The latest departure went to pay that would be a 71% increase for me, probably not far off from that for him. It’s disconcerting to know I’m near the top of the pay range for my position, because they hired me with so much relevant background, experience, and time with the company. I may have to figure out how to package my skills and throw applications at the wall to see what happens. A surprising amount of the work is detective work. It’s akin to genealogy. Not something I’d have thought of promoting as a skill, or making a job around, in the past. On the other hand, in my tech support heyday we always said it wasn’t about knowing, but about knowing how to find out the answers.

I’m still trying to figure out the whole side gig thing. With the kids getting old enough to have jobs or business interests, I’m including them in my thinking. We’ll lose tax benefits of having kids as they age out, and benefits of having a sufficiently low income. I figure next year if we can come up with something that we might not have pursued because it would disrupt the cart, we’ll just go for it. Or help one or more kids go for any such ideas they may have that seem viable.

Posted in Economics, Kids, Money, Personal | Leave a comment

Been A While

2018? That was my last post? Wow!

I’m here eliminating spam comments, like 2600 of them. The real ones are few, old, and all approved. Then I’m disabling comments on every post, meaning editing every post to get to that setting. In the process, I’ve been reading the posts, oldest to newest. 2011 Was a big year for posting, and there’s even good stuff. I was working for my current employer, now over 14 years, but needed more money. It was a rough time all around.

I did end up full time for the employer, doing OK, but not getting any younger. Weirdly, having been born with a club foot became an issue. The physical job became excruciating a lot of the time. One foot is essentially one big bone spur, plus arthritis. On the plus side, as I told people, the job kept me in some kind of shape other than round. Then a massive rent increase came along on top of it. And now, inflation, because of course the Covid benefits and other massive spending were outright increases to the money supply.

I moved into a full time Ops Admin position, vastly less physical, several months ago. Biggest raise I’ve ever gotten, not adjusted for inflation. On paper the highest pay I ever made, not adjusted for inflation and not counting amounts I made sometimes in the business that were more on paper than real. Something I’d change. If I were getting the pay from my highest paying job, but adjusted for inflation, I’d be grossing just under 1.5 times my current pay. For that matter, my starting pay at that old job would be over a buck an hour more than I make in this position. Managers make more, but I think I’m better off in what I do, which I absolutely love. It’s disconcerting, though, that the managers are getting a retention adjustment based on location, to discourage them from leaving to work in a lower cost area. 15% Where I am. If I were a manger, that would put me just about up to what it turns out I actually need to make to have enough to live on. This perhaps refines the kinds of things I like and enjoy. A large amount is essentially detective work.
Where was I going with this?

I’m having a conundrum because to make enough money Right Now my gross needs to go up some 35%. Raises are October and I don’t know what kind of numbers those tend to be. I’d feel lucky at 10% based on past experience but figuring a better employer. And people do make that kind of money. More! Or they wouldn’t be able to pretend to afford all those overpriced houses, and apartments that are even more than ours. December was an exceptional month, but in six weeks we drew $3200 out of savings. If I can avoid it long enough, that’ll become 2+ months, but seriously.

What happened is the take home didn’t rise much above what I had made before. More hours, in a normal week, but not as much opportunity for extra hours, and no seasonal bonus pay. There were benefits I could add, both pre- and post-tax. The 401K is automatic. Nobody told me! That’s 6% with a rise 1% each year until it’s 10%. But the company adds a match of 8% and vesting is instant. A shame the market isn’t booming. There’s a FSA on top of the HRA that’s part of the insurance already. There were things like life insurance optional on top of what they provide free. I just wish I’d been told by someone that whatever level you pick initially is the highest you can go in the future with no questions asked. I’d have gotten a higher multiple of annual salary off the bat and eaten the modest cost. In the long run, this is better. The benefits and loving the place are also reasons it’s hard to think about leaving.

Yet I need more money. Side money? I’ve thought about writing for years. Sneak in time for that?

It turned out that self-employment income messed with things like Earned Income Credit, at least from the state. That and Covid cash are why there are savings to abuse, albeit not endlessly. The wife’s disability is going to drop over the next couple years as the kids age off of it. That has the flip side of making things like EIC less an issue. We’ll see what we can come up with. One of the kids wants to engage in a business and is frustrated by having to be 18 for things like Etsy and PayPal.

One thing is for sure, the slipping away from tech I was grumbling about in 2011 has only gotten worse. Despite my still being tech savvy compared to some people at work. I loathe everything being web-based. My bookmark for the web version of Excel I’m stuck using at work is labeled “Fake Excel.” But I found myself a few months ago giving colleagues tips on using Excel, despite it not being something I’ve used the way I did Word and even Access back in the day. I tried to point out to a colleague that it wasn’t necessary to restart the shared computer so the next person could log on cleanly, and that it was simple to log out. Nope. Don’t want to know.

Anyway, this meandered enough. It’s going to be a challenging next few years. The segue to adulthood for the kids won’t be clean or inexpensive, even with them officially being on their own for things like college. Meanwhile, we’ll stop being subsidized for them. No credits. No deduction once they aren’t dependents. It may be that there will be a time during which they make money but can’t move out, so can help out. Meanwhile, it’s six more years before I can collect Social Security and use it to supplement working. By then I’ll probably be over the point where you lose a dollar of SS for every three you earn working over the cutoff, but not necessarily a bad trade.

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When It’s Time To Change?

Pondering whether I have to rearrange.

I’ve been at the very physical package handling job over nine years, and it’s starting to take a toll. It’s one thing to keep it and love it for the exercise and the help it gives me in keeping in shape without purposeless effort. It’s another for it to beat me up and leave me injured in ways I can’t simply work on through.

To be fair, I ended up there because they would actually hire me. At the time, that was astonishing to me. It also paid well. Since the wife had gone back to work, it mostly worked around her schedule. It was easy to accept that tech didn’t want an elderly, mid-forties generalist with skills already going obsolete, so I had to move on. There was a false start at the part time job, a couple years in, when I applied for a full time management position out of guilt. I looked around and saw nobody else appropriate at my location, and felt guilty at the idea of not taking it. It didn’t occur to me someone amazing might be waiting to come in from another location. I also felt guilty at the idea of not taking something better if I could, even though at the same time I had no idea whether the wife would be willing to give up or move to part time in her job, or whether child care might be possible to cover. Since the interview was a disaster, I needn’t have worried, but I never stopped being mortified. Between that, how off-putting the interview process was, and the employer’s reputation – albeit nothing like that of tech – for preferring the young, I steadfastly resisted pursuing anything like it again. It also helped me feel even more hopeless with respect to my ability to get a “real job” more generally. Even though that was a particularly insane interview, it cemented the idea that I’d lost all ability to interview successfully. In the nineties, my problem was in getting interviews, not with dazzling them.

I have many years left before I’d be due to retire in reality, rather than being semi-retired with too little money ahead of time. It seems silly not to do something better. Self-employment has issues, and I may have marketing skill, but I don’t do well selling. See the aforementioned issue with interviews. To make it worth the free time and the combined pay and benefits it replaces, and prospective costs it might incur, the amount I’d need to make full time would be substantial. That is, the kind of money people somehow make, for per capita incomes and living expenses to be what they are.

Recently the universe has seemed to be trying to tell me something. I saw something on formatting resumes for the age of human eyes never seeing most of them (possibly part of my problem in the late aughts). An old client asked if I’d considered getting back into computers. Someone I was helping with a web site asked if I’d considered moving up at my current job. A former partner let me know support people were needed at the place he’s been working over ten years. I should have taken him up on referring me there in 2007, but the offer was obligatory, and I haven’t forgotten his reluctance. Perhaps we really do have an economy again, so things like that are out there and actually pay viably.

For the moment, I’m keeping an open mind. I’m preparing. Someone recommended a professional web site that shows or links samples of work, less relevant than in her case, and of course presents your resume. That was something this site was supposed to be, but it turned into a blog primarily, and I hate to break the internet by taking it down or changing it substantially. In particular, the obituary for an old friend may be the only thing like it findable online. He has relatives who may be completely unaware he died long since. I’m using another domain from my stash, coding by hand to help my HTML skills, and keeping it a professional landing site first and foremost.

Nothing may happen. I may end up a web guy, which would be another career change, in part. Not like it’s new to me. I made my first web site in 1996. I made the site for my old business in 1997, and it’s still up, maintained and hosted by me (what was that about not breaking the internet?) ten plus years after the business closed and twenty plus years after I created the first iteration of it. I created the first, placeholder iteration of a site for the major client of the old business. Working with a web-inexperienced graphic designer, I created the version of it that existed until just a couple years ago. I did minor data updates to it for a few years myself, after my old business had closed. I’ve used various blogging software on many sites since 2003. I’ve helped with or created other sites.

We’ll see. Stability has been good. The ends move, though. Inflation may not be officially a thing, but the cost of groceries sure goes up, and not just because the kids eat more with age. My hours have gone down, these past couple years, while the work jammed in to them has intensified. All well and good to get productivity raises, but they become moot if the hours go down.

Posted in Business, Experience, Finance, Interviews, Job Hunting, Jobs, Medical, Personal, Self-employment, Skills | Leave a comment

Welcome to Help

I updated the Welcome to Help web page, for what it’s worth. It had been basically blank, but then something corrupted in the MySQL database it used, so it threw an error instead. Unsightly. The reason it might be of interest is the biographical aspect. The business for all practical purposes never existed. I did odds and ends that could be said to have been that, but without using the business name. I did work through OnForce (does that even exist anymore?), with the business name and site being tied to my account. That was about as close as I got.

Posted in Business, Mistakes, Self-employment | Leave a comment

Farewell to a Sweet Lady

At least, that was always my impression of Nancy Pimentel, who went on to be Nancy Tracy in a 27 year second marriage.

This is a bit of a strange memorial to write, as I can’t precisely say that she was the awesome mother of a friend from school. She was actually the mother of my ninth grade crush. In more modern terms, you might even say that I was, for a time, her daughter’s stalker. Since I was 14 and had no clue, except that I was head over heels, I wouldn’t put it that negatively.

When I eventually got to know the poor girl in question, a few years later, I decided it wouldn’t have worked out. The cruel thing was that as soon as I provoked an interested response, after lurking around long enough, I fled in terrified confusion. I was nothing if not shy. No surprise I got married at 42, to someone met online, and hardly dated in the interim.

Her mother and sister, though… they didn’t scare me. I wasn’t crushing on them. To what extent I got to know Nancy, and from the impression I developed, she was every bit as wonderful as her obituary describes. She was mutual friends with a close friend of my sister-in-law’s, so I had some insight before we ever met. It’s even possible we had “met.” I had gone to a Tupperware party held by my sister-in-law’s friend, and it’s possible Nancy was there. Weird how that works.

Weirder, though, is that I’d been thinking of her recently. Out of the blue. No special reason. I don’t often think much about her or her daughters from most of a lifetime ago. Then she’s dead. It struck me harder than it ought to for someone I barely knew, so deep in the past. The parents of friends are starting to drop, as will mine, inevitably. Most of them I never met, though I sympathize. Perhaps that’s the difference.

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Lacking Sympathy

There is an imbalance of single college graduate women to men in the dating pool, leaving an increasing number of women in the lurch. The way colleges have been treating men versus women, the imbalance isn’t going to change soon. The way society and family law treat men versus women in familial relationships and, particularly, breakups, there’s less incentive to marry. I was 42 and well on my way to never marrying or having kids, before I met my wife online.

The above things beneficial to women contribute to my reduced sympathy. Personal experience does the rest. I was never exactly Mr. Social (Read: Painfully Shy), but still. It was made crystal clear to me that I was not welcome in the dating pool. If there was such a thing, and there had to be, since I sometimes saw evidence of it. It was clear to me that I was a vile human if I was interested in women. For some reason that was just wrong, even if other guys were OK with them.

I wanted nothing more than to marry someone special and have kids, as many as I could afford. I was left in the lurch, for no good reason I could ever discern. Lack of boldness? Being too nice? Sheer terror on my part? I have the best kids in the world, but I should not have had to wait until I was 43 for my first one to arrive.

I guess I timed my twenties and early thirties wrong. With an imbalance this, perhaps I’d have had a chance. Or perhaps not.

Posted in Economics, Education, History, Kids, Money, Personal, Psychology | Leave a comment

Atlas Shrugged Part 3

I finally got around to watching Atlas Shrugged Part 3.

For Part 1, I had to travel a bit to get to a theater screening it. It was not the best, but that was overshadowed somewhat by the excitement of that book being brought to film. Dagny didn’t look (or seem enough) like Dagny. Francisco absolutely wasn’t Francisco. It was fascinating to see the science fictional aspect of the book rendered more so by extrapolating it into the future, rather than depicting a fictional past as it didn’t happen.

For Part 2, I was able to see it locally. That made it all the more disappointing that the travel required for the final part turned out to be too much to bother. Dagny still wasn’t Dagny. Francisco was perfect. I was intrigued by D.B. Sweeney as Galt, except we really didn’t get more than a voice. The effects were substantial. Definitely science fiction. I thought at the time that it was a step up.

Part 3 I never saw in the theater, as mentioned. I was expecting it to be horrible, based on the reception it got. Instead, it was very well done, I’d say my favorite of the three parts. That could be because of when in the books it took place. It doesn’t hurt that, while still not looking like Dagny, this was the best Dagny of the three. Or perhaps I just thought she was that attractive. Galt was not my vision of Galt, but I am not sure he could ever be depicted as described in the book. He grew on me and will probably be my mental image from now on. Even if he didn’t match my visual, he did well in tone and bearing. Francisco appeared to old compared to the other two. Ellis Wyatt (always loved that name) was arguably closer than the first one, while still not being right. And yet, the first one has now become my mental image. He clearly did something right.

I did have minor quibbles. Why bother with license plates on cars in Galt’s Gulch? I dismissed that as being so they could take them outside without jumping through hoops. Why was there a road in Galt’s Gulch that had clearly been paved and lined by government? The special government project was not the torture device! That was just a torture device. The special project was up there with nukes in terms of secretly developed super weapons, but aimed more internally. I was hoping to see the culmination of that, however abbreviated, as the cause of the Taggart Bridge collapse. Finally, I missed the epilogue.

I thought “this is John Galt speaking” was handled extremely well. The philosophy was more prevalent in this one, which may have been a reason I liked it better than the others. Even in the book it was never clear why we had “head of state” and not President. This film made it clear that the very structure and name of the nation had changed. The entire last third of the book was condensed pretty well for this movie, considering the challenge that represents.

Atlas Shrugged the book is special to me. It can be a slog to read. I’ve only ever read all of John Galt’s broadcast once in multiple rereads. I was living in my first apartment, late 1981, when I read 1984. That book gave me nightmares and threw me into a depressed state of mind. Reading Atlas Shrugged was what snapped me out of it. The whole episode had the side effect of making me question where I was headed and deciding to attend college, three years out of high school. That whole thing could have gone better, but it was a net positive.

At the same time, I can think of at least one book, Terry Goodkind’s Faith of the Fallen, that is Atlas Shrugged philosophically, done better and shorter, in a fantasy setting to boot. Faith of the Fallen is part of a series that starts with Wizard’s First Rule. In that one, it turns out that the sixth rule is: “The only sovereign you can allow to rule you is reason.” It doesn’t get much more concise than that.

Posted in 1981, 1982, Books, Movies, Philosophy, Psychology | Leave a comment

Standing Corrected

Previously in writing about Alone, I was critical of Sam’t shelter, mainly the way the outer tarp flapped noisily. Sam himself has posted a deconstruction of his shelter, including pictures of it at various stages of construction, showing how well-constructed and carefully considered it was. I obviously missed some of the details. It might not be exactly what I’d have come up with, and I still think I’d have been more likely to go into the woods some, but it was well made and did the job well. Further, it was roomy. I could picture myself doing something more like Alan’s, but that wasn’t so roomy, and required serendipity to make it possible.

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Alone Again, Naturally

This seems to be my place for posting my thoughts on History Channel’s Alone, which completed its first season Thursday. There will be SPOILERS in this post. You have been warned. I have restrained myself from posting sooner and from blaring at the top of the post that yay, so-and-so won.

I also fully admit that I have not done the things these guys are practiced in doing, and would have a lot to learn, on paper and even more so in hands-on, before I could hope to put my money where my mouth is. No amount of interest can substitute for experience. Though I do believe, and the wife agrees, that I would be almost unnaturally good at the isolation that provides the psychological challenge inherent in the show’s name.

To recap, in the ninth episode, local guy Mitch went home in third place. I had rooted for him to win, and actually assumed he would, but I lacked the knowledge of his mother’s health being on his mind. Luca went home in fourth place, abruptly deciding he had nothing more to prove – which he surely doesn’t – despite clearly being in as good a position as anyone to remain indefinitely. He wasn’t obviously starving as Sam was. He had decent conditions, as these things go. For him it was entirely a mind game, rather than a survival skills game.

Sam rocked, but was always curiously deficient in terms of shelter. I always wondered why he didn’t build something better, or at least secure the flapping tarp. While he appeared to have food issues, the shelter, the flapping tarp specifically, did him in. Anyone could be driven to leave after three days of no sleep due to the noise of the tarp flapping in high winds.

Alan‘s shelter was partly luck, finding that exact spot, but was also skillfully constructed for dryness and warmth. You could criticize it as little more than an emergency survival shelter, but it’s not like it was an emergency debris shelter, either. Some of what the guys did depended on found items. It would be interesting to see more of the footage, since very little of what they filmed went into the episodes. The episodes necessarily had to be edited for maximum audience interest and drama, while also telling the story of who did what when over the course of time.

Anyway, I didn’t expect Sam to win, given his apparent condition compared to Alan’s, once it was down to those two for the finale. Sure enough, Sam caved at 54 days. Fifty-four days! That’s amazing! I wasn’t sure what to make of him at the beginning, though I can relate to the goofy side. I became a fan and would have been perfectly satisfied had he won. He and his wife were absolutely adorable, and it was nice that he got home in time for the baby to arrive. The weigh-in was jaw-dropping. Going from 245 to 160 at his size isn’t healthy. I’m 5’ 11″ and once dropped from 233 to 178 in eight months. At 178 I looked almost anorexic. Once I got back up into the 200-210 range, though, I sustained it for years. Then I got a desk job doing tech support (after being unemployed for a year) and had my first experience being on blood pressure pills (ironic for those to turn you into a sluggish weigh-gaining machine). After that it was all over! Until I got another physical job, which I hesitate to give up because of how it makes me feel. But I digress.

I wondered, once Sam was gone, how they would approached informing and extracting Alan. Day 56 he was ready to stay indefinitely! Their trick of calling him to say they were coming to do a routine medical checkup begged the question of how often they did such a thing for all the contestants throughout the show. It also begged the question of how much they called to give direction, came out to replace depleted batteries (they each had enough batteries for perhaps a month, from what I understand), or otherwise checked in, and what effect that had on the “alone” psychology. There’s just plain a lot we don’t know about how things were run and orchestrated.

In any event, I thought surprising him was clever. In retrospect, the two day delay post-Sam accomplished two things: It gave time for Sam to be processed and it gave time for Alan’s wife to be brought there. I loved the touch of bringing her for the extraction and surprising him with her walking out of the woods at the appropriate time.

Rooting for Mitch or not, Alan was so good, I am not sure it could ever have been anyone else. The man is a natural entertainer, or so the edits make it seem. Besides skill, he was able to keep himself entertained. He was able to maintain a level perspective. Lucas didn’t have that, though he did have projects to occupy himself, which had to have helped the angst.

Alan’s kids were adorable in his homecoming, and so familiar to me. The oldest, shocked when she saw him. The apparent youngest, still focused on “I want I want.” The driving had to have been incredibly strange, as he noted. I’ve gone far shorter times not driving and felt completely alien behind the wheel. Despite my love of driving. To go months… Wow!

I’d love to see more footage/features from the season while we await season 2. I for one look forward to it, and wonder just where they will dump the contestants. Vancouver was a great, brutal location. Apparently closer to civilization than it might have appeared on screen, but still. For people from eastern North America or the southern US, is was pretty alien. Reusing the same area would have the drawback of now contestants have a better idea of what they face. Thus I assume it’ll be somewhere else, perhaps even a different time of year. Heat and dry instead of cold and wet? Edible flora but not so much fauna (or seafood, anyway, since fauna didn’t play much of a role, mice notwithstanding)? Water was relatively easy. Maybe make it harder? Guess we’ll find out!

That about covers it. If not, I can always post again. Congratualtions Alan! And all four top contenders!

Posted in Camping, Food, History, Interests, Kids, Medical, People, Personal, Psychology, Survival, TV | Leave a comment

Incomplete Data

Makes for imprefect predictions.

As I posted previously, I had predicted and rooted for Mitch to win Alone. And he could have! But how could we have known about his mother weighing on his mind the entire time? I am proud of the local guy regardless. 43 Days!

Lucas was more of a departure of choice, leaving at 40 days, the seventh to go, when he was arguably the best off of all the guys to remain indefinitely. He’s right, though; he has nothing to prove any longer. He was just astonishing. All four who didn’t leave the first week are, but Lucas was a bundle of energy. I understand he lucked out, getting the most random stuff washing ashore of all of them. Luck didn’t give him those skills, though.

I had predicted Sam next, but he’s in the final two, though he appears to be starving and not well off, whatever bravado he exhibits. He could win by Alan deciding he’s done first, but I still see him as most likely to be ninth and Alan as most likely to win.

Alan is looking a bit gaunt, finally, as Sam has been. It is interesting that the final two are big guys with some meat on their bones, while the two to leave before them are the skinny guys. Yet the skinny guys never looked obviously affected by hunger.

I would be proud of either of the remaining guys for winning, but I predict Alan and root for him. Though I have Sam’s goofiness, I relate more closely to Alan.

I just hope the episode isn’t mixed up this week. I come home from work Friday morning, ready to watch the Thursday night episode and nothing’s there! As far as I could tell, they were skipping a week. Then the episode was there Saturday and I was spoiled as to who left prior to seeing it.

On another note, if I am going to post random stuff like this here and not on a blog meant for the topic, I need to change my categories. They all relate to job hunting! One way or another – jobs and projects I’ve done, that sort of thing. Since I don’t intend for a my-name blog to be part of the group of blogs I am creating/revamping on various topics, perhaps if I write about TV, culture, camping, bushcraft, survivalism, or whatnot, it should be on a blog intended for those things. Not sure what that leaves for here, though…

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