The thoughts that were thunk and the goings on of my life.

Friday, October 27, 2006

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Detroit: Squeezing the Jell-O

As part of my new position at work, I get the chance to go travel a lot. Sometimes I get to go to cool places like Silicon Valley or New England, but most of the time I get to go where the company needs me. It actually works out really well most of the time though, because sometimes it gives me a chance to go somewhere that I probably SHOULD go at some point in my life, but that I would have avoided if it were up to my own time and money. One of the cooler parts for me is just getting to see new things. It helps to make sure that your perspective stays properly aligned. It reinforces that most of America is pretty much the same, so you’re not missing out on much by not being in Place B instead of Place A because most of America is the exact same.

This week I got sent packing to the state of Michigan to teach a class on the outskirts of Detroit. Detroit has always been on my list of places that I’ve never wanted to go. The only reason that I can think of that I’ve ever wanted to go there is because I liked Eddie Murray who played for the Detroit Tigers. (That was back in the days when I still liked baseball, before the strike in 1994. Those guys wouldn’t PLAY because they didn’t get more money and my family was getting maybe $10k per year for 7 people. Just seemed a little lame, I wish baseball had picked up a bunch of scab players from the minors and started fresh) I guess that aside kinda leads into the main reason that I’ve never really wanted to go to Detroit, Unions. I just don’t really agree with the whole mentality because I think it’s self-destructive. But I’ll get into that in a moment.

Visiting Detroit was like looking in a shop full of old wedding dresses. They are really pretty, you can tell that somebody spent a lot of time and energy making all of the intricate details. In fact, just looking at them can sweep you back to imagining what it was like for that girl/woman that got married in them. So much potential, but it was so long ago that now these dresses are forgotten and the people that once wore them with such pride are gone. While it may be nice to look at the dresses and imagine what things were like, the truth of the matter is that you’d never wear them. Because one, you’re, you’re a dude and you don’t wear wedding dresses. And two, even if you were a girl, the truth is that the dresses are too old, and too forgotten to be worn.

I guess for a more manly analogy you could pretend it was and old gun or baseball glove. Looks cool, you know at one point it was worn with pride, but you sure don’t want to shoot it or try to catch something with it because it might blow up in your face or fall to pieces. There hopefully that partially redeems the man points lost in the prior paragraph.

The truth of the matter is that Detroit is a really pretty city in some areas. The downtown has a certain amount of class and retro cool that I’ve never seen anywhere else in the US before. However, behind that façade you can quickly see that the area is struggling to stay afloat. There are people randomly walking the street like zombies aimlessly looking for prey. In fact, hardly anybody is on the streets at all that doesn’t look like a piece of human vermin except in a few key areas. The problem with this place is that their industries are collapsing beneath them. I think part of it though can really be attributed right back to the people of the city and a lot can be traced to the unions that are there to protect them.

First off let me say that most of the people that I met up there were really nice. I’ve found people across the world to be incredibly nice, caring and helpful as long as you reciprocate the same back to them (even the shady people that your mom might cringe to think you’d talk to). However, I think there is a large chunk of the people that think they are entitled to their job. But you know what happens when you think you are entitled to something? You don’t appreciate it, you don’t try to develop it, and if you are forced to take care of it the best case scenario is for you to return it in the same shape you received it in. More likely than not, you will return it barely functioning. Basically if you don’t appreciate something you abuse it and then blame it for the abuse that you rendered upon it. The reason that unions exist really are good reasons. There is a certain amount of balance that employees need to make sure that they are not being mistreated by the people that they work for; however, I think as many different things in our world it is more like a pendulum that swings from one extreme to another and in this case I really feel that the pendulum has swung so far in the ‘favor’ of the workers that it is doing them a disfavor. Those that don’t appreciate their jobs are so secure they aren’t motivated. In fact, the security of the position makes sure that they are terrified of losing the security of a job that if they really thought about they don’t want in the first place. So instead of trying to do something they love, or trying to achieve more, or trying to better what they’ve been given they are scared into complete inaction by their desire to be secure. And as with anytime that you aim only to gain security you lose it, exactly like Detroit is losing the security now. The jobs are leaving, the industries are collapsing, those stuck in a position that didn’t challenge them are finding that they have no skills because they were too terrified to do something different.

Security is one of those things that’s like a Jell-O. It’s really great to have. When you have it; however, you are quickly tempted to try to grab onto it tightly to keep is from slipping away. But as with the Jell-O if you squeeze it is simply slips thru your fingers and while you may keep your hand closed unwilling to open it because ‘the Jell-O would slip away’, if you did open it you would find there’s nothing there. In the haste to retain it, it is lost.

I don’t want to become like Detroit. What is my personal Jell-O? Job security? That doesn’t exist in this world. My toys? Eventually they will fail me and break apart. My friendships? If I become too needy they will be driven away. Money? A man obsessed with money can never become happy. So life remains this balance. Enjoy what’s sitting in your hands, be willing to look at it and enjoy it for what it is, but don’t clutch on to it. It’s in the grasping that the things we desire in life slip between our fingers.

Detroit, I hope that you one day learn to make yourself anew. There’s a lot of talent, there’s a lot of hidden beauty within you. But you’ve got to be willing to let go and move forward; otherwise you will lose everything that you are trying so hard to clutch to and there will be nothing left.

The Office

Within a day of getting back from my honeymoon, I found out that while I was gone my manager (Boss Level 2 on a 1-3 scale, 3 being highest) at work did what he could to sabotage my career by taking things I had said to him in private out of context and then making it sound like I was an awful employee that only wanted to harm the company.

Meanwhile the only person that could really help me out and prove that I was doing a good job was Boss Level 1. Unfortunately for me, he is a complete and total corporate suck-up who instead of doing what was right and showing instances of where I had done exemplary work saw that Bosses Level 2-3 wanted vilifying information…so he produced it, even if it was wrong, filtered thru his workaholicism, and mildly slanderous. So in an attempt to make me want to appreciate them as a management team Boss Level 1 and 3 pulled me aside and said that if I make another mistake I’m fired, and then pulled several other things out of context to try to make a case. Hindsight, if they actually had anything on me, they would have fired me right away, but you can’t really fire somebody just because you don’t get along with them or don’t like them, and my performance figures were thru the roof…I highly recommend this route to make sure that you don’t get illegitimately canned, have lots of tangible work you are always accomplishing. The biggest insult of it all was that Boss Level 2 never had the balls to see me face-to-face about any of it, he then quit the company 2 weeks later, undeserving suck-up Boss Level 1 is now Boss Level 2, and Boss Level 3 continues to refuse to talk with me as a normal person. It is kinda funny though, because I’m bigger than any of them, I can actually see the fear in their eyes every time they have a ‘meeting’ with me. I really enjoy that. Being a rather intimidating figure really helps in negotiations.

I would like to say I’m over the whole incident and that I got my act together and all is better. But that’s not the case. A few positions came open that I was the most qualified person for, and Boss Level 2 & 3 went behind my back and told the other groups and told them that they recommended against me getting the position because I had behavioral issues! They had nothing on me other than that Boss Level 2 had some unknown issue against me (which was later confirmed by mutual friends that he mentioned me by name outside of work). I guess this was a good lesson for me in several things:
  1. Nobody above you at work is your friend, even if they claim they are.
  2. If you ever make a joke about something make sure it is NOT written via email or instant message. It can always be pulled out of context and used to vilify.
  3. Passive-aggressive ‘happy’ behaviors are actually perceived by management as actual happy behaviors.
  4. Suck up to upper level management and make sure they know about all of the ‘awesome’ things you are doing.
  5. Remember that managers control your future pay raises.
  6. Try to work for a company that bases their pay on Performance and not Merit. Merit is impossible to prove other than by the feelings of the management. Performance is simple math and therefore less susceptible to manipulation.
  7. It doesn’t really matter how much you make if you’re miserable.
  8. If you tell people a lie over and over often enough, and they have no basis for comparison then most will actually believe you when you tell them they have it really nice.
    1. While my company professes it’s a great place to work, many, many people secretly loathe the place and all it stands for.
  9. God, friends, and family are probably the 3 most important things on the planet when you’re low.
Things are great now though. I am a totally awesome instructor, so I got out of the support group and am now the only person in my company that is a full time course instructor. It’s been great so far to be under new management, allowed to be reviewed for what I actually do, and most importantly I feel like what I do makes a small impact on the world and leads towards what I would like to do one day, which is be a professor and a crossing guard at an elementary school. My job actually is harder now than it was, means I need to work more hours, wear fancier clothes, and get up way earlier, but I love it. It’s so much better of a way to spend my life than simply trying to duck around management that’s pretty much only self-promoting and completely subjective in their reviews.

So, How’s Married Life?

In a word. Great!

Yes, that’s the definition I can honestly say to that question that will be asked by those with nothing better to say until they think we should start having kids (which in my mom’s case was within minutes of the “I do’s”).

I don’t really know where to start. I don’t want to put out a bunch of ‘gag me’ lines about how awesome it is having a wife, but it really is amazing. Getting married allows a relationship to grow easily and painfully in directions that are deeper/better/harder than you would ever know beforehand even if everybody told you everything. I highly recommend it, but I more highly recommend getting to know yourself REALLY well before you do. It’s weird, but by being married to keep the two of you together it seems like it requires more self-knowledge and understanding than anything else…oh and a willingness to find what the other person’s self is truly like. Is it all candy and puppies and happiness? No. But like anything worth doing it’s been mostly fun, and what work it has required has been MORE than worth it.

The hardest part was really the first month that we got back from the wedding. The funny thing is that us being married was the easy part. Work is what sucked for me.

Fortunately the last few months have been just cruising along for Mrs. Otis and I. We’ve learned a ton about ourselves thru one another and continued to share our passions for various things in life despite when other parts of our life try to tear us down.


Was absolutely gorgeous. I would try to describe it to you, but I really think that pictures say it best:

Basically we stayed at a really swank all-inclusive place. Definitely the nicest place in Puerto Vallarta. Although, if I could do the trip over again, I’m not to sure that the whole you being pampered thing is really up my alley.

The coolest thing we did was go on an adventure eco-tourism trip that let us go zip-lining and rappelling and mule riding thru the Sierra Madre mountains. Definitely a LOT of fun, and we even met a really cool couple while we were there that we still keep in touch with. The husband is a funny/cranky type and the wife is a happy/go lucky type…really funny combination and they work brilliantly together.

The Wedding

Since I’m locked up in an airport because God has deemed flight delays to be something I find pleasurable, I will go ahead and do what I can to do a quick recap of everything since just before the wedding.

Mostly I would have to say that the whole wedding was a huge surprise. While there were a few crises here and there (like one of my groomsmen arriving at about 30 min till), everything seemed to go really smoothly. Most of the day was just spent hanging out with friends and family slowly working our way to the wedding which was that evening. There’s nothing better than a little Guitar Hero to get your mind off of the wedding (btw, Guitar Hero II comes out in a few days and even has the song ‘Woman’ by Wolfmother and ‘Trogdor the Burninator’ by Home*Runner). Mostly with the whole wedding prep I was really impressed by how everybody stepped it up for us. We have some amazing friends and every one of them did their own part or even more for us. So for those of you who I have yet to thank….Thanks so much!

Alright, so we’re getting closer to the actual moment. I’ve now prepped, gotten on the fancy underwear, slipped on the tie, and omg! It’s time to get out there. Am I sure I want to do this? Yeah, I do, she’s great, quit scaring yourself. So I walk my mom up the aisle, place her down inn her little seat and stand up there with the minister and simply wait. One by one all of the people start walking their way up the aisle and with each one my level of nervousness rises a bit more. Here I am standing up here the focus of attention, waiting on the woman that many of these people have never even seen before and agh! Fortunately all of the people get up, the flower girl does the cute stuff of dumping the petals in one spot and running to her mom, and the stage is prepped. Queue music, the doors open and then Bam! There she is…absolutely gorgeous and completely elegant in her dress. Her and her dad start walking up, I finally get to catch her eyes and do what I can to reassure her that everything is going to be great. Then the real moment to know whether or not this can go on. Will her dad actually hand her over? Fortunately he does (still not sure what you’re supposed to do at this instance. Is it a hug? Perhaps and kiss on each side of the cheeks? Maybe you just shake hands and say, thanks for relinquishing her to me? Still don’t know what I actually did.).

So we work our way thru the ceremony but I’m focused on 3 things
  1. Look at Andrea – Minister – Crowd – Repeat
  2. Hoping that people get a kick out of the funny things that we had prepared for the ceremony.
  3. Praying that Andrea don’t notice the huge array of ginormous insects that my dad so graciously placed in the archway thing.
Everything seemed to go off without a hitch. My favorite parts were the quirky things that we added to the ceremony.
  1. 1. For our first reading we had KLove read a poem that I read to Andrea on one of our first dates. It goes something like this:
    I love and oh.
    Oh oh oh oh oh
    Oh oh oh oh oh…

    From Come Love with Me and Be My Life: The Complete Romantic Poetry of Peter Williams.

    It’s absolutely awful. How this guy was able to pen those words with a straight face and think that people would actually want to buy it, I’ll never know.

    I think most of our guests had no clue how to actually react to the whole thing, but after the first 10 lines of ‘oh’s’ I think they realized it was a joke and loosened up a bit.

  2. Next up for the funny stuff was our scripture reading, brought to us by Mr. Juicebox, the man that introduced me to this gem:

    Ecclesiastes 9:9 – Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun— all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.

    Such an inspirational message! He pulled it off with the class that he somehow adds to almost any situation.

  3. Finally, the one that almost nobody knew about. When the minister said, “You may kiss the bride” my 3rd groomsman Chris Mac (of EuroTrip fame) jumped out of line and said, “Whoa, hold on! Time out.” He then ran behind a tree and pulled out a little collapsible stool and placed it in front of the now Mrs. Otis so that she could come up and kiss me. This went over incredibly well, and I’m SO glad we decided to do that, it was the perfect touch…and made for non-awkward looking first-kiss photos of us being about the same height.
From there everything was just a total whirlwind. We went off to the bridal suite, signed the actual marriagelicense, tried to soak in the realness of everything, then went out and were introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Otis, and sat down to eat. Or at least that’s what we thought we were going to do. Instead, person after person kept interrupting us. I wanted to be like, “Look, if you just leave me along for a sec, I can eat, I’ll be a bit less cranky and then we can talk all you want!” Unfortunately that didn’t happen. After a few minutes we gave up on the whole getting food into our bodies thing*, and went around the tables.

That was the hardest part of the whole thing. We wanted to spend so much time, but there were literally TOO many people that we loved there. I could have easily spent days just talking with all of the different people and still wouldn’t have caught up. Some of them I hadn’t seen in years either, so it was really sad to have only a minute to give to them. Within short order though, we found out that we were running out of non-dancing music and would have to do our first dance. It was great. I think most of the people thought that we were really good dancers…definitely good times.

So the evening went on, and there was cheesecake cutting (the biggest crisis of the night was actually should we cut the cheesecake first or dip strawberries in the fondue fountain first? …I can’t remember, which, but they were both delicious although the chocolate always wins in my opinion when competing against non-chocolate deserts.

More talking more chatting, more laughing, more awkward new relatives…great evening. But then we realized that it was time to go so it was off to do the bouquet and garter toss. Fortunately we switched this part up too. Having been to a lot of weddings where increasingly fewer and fewer of our friends were still single, Mrs. Otis and I realized that the bouquet and garter toss simply isolates single people, makes them feel like they have to get married, and in the case of the garter forces you to look up the skirt of your buddy’s wife and then touch something that was on ‘his territory’.

So instead we had “The Piñata of Singleness.” This new tradition (hopefully it will become a tradition, I would love to see it happen at another wedding) was spawned because I was thinking about how much the tosses sucked, and realized that one thing everybody enjoys is beating things with sticks! So what better thing to beat than a piñata? It ended up working out really well, and I think people had a lot of fun, even the kiddies. Then BAM! Eric busted the thing off of the line, and stuff came pouring out, including little Mexican candies and a few gag gifts. The gifts included, “Wash your sins away towelettes”, “Grow a Boy/Girlfriends”, and my favorite the book of “Everything Men Can Say to Women without Offending Them” which was completely blank on the inside. Funny thing happened with the Mexican candies though, some of them were small round caramel candies, but for some reason the adults with kiddos had a quick panic attack and thought, “Omg! Those are condoms!” Well they weren’t, but it definitely added to my amusement.

From there it was off to leave, but Tim had us watch a nice little video that he made for us first, and then we ran down an aisle of friends and family holding sparklers and dove into the car.

And that’s pretty much the end of the wedding. It was a ton of fun, and thank you so much to all of our friends and family for making it a day neither of us will ever forget.

So this little part is about the honeymoon night. No not like that! Well, kinda. You see we got this room at what we thought would be an amazing hotel, the San Jose Hotel on South Congress. Little did we know that despite the $300 price tag that all of the people there were pretty much yuppie trash (light beer people with too much money). Most of our evening was spent listening to a bunch of them RIGHT OUTSIDE OUR WINDOW yelling and getting drunker as the night went on. Fortunately they finally went to bed…unfortunately; they went to bed with each other. Let’s just say, noisy people + thin walls made for a very miserable night.

For those of you planning something special and unique for your wedding night…just get a nice quiet hotel room. You’re too tired to enjoy anything fancy, and frankly, just because somebody says something is nice, doesn’t mean there is any class involved.

*Major props to the matron of honor who packed up 2 plates of food and put them in our car so that we could eat it later. If you're ever in that position, make sure to save some food for the couple, cause they likely will not get the time to eat anything.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Cool Tech

The other day I ran across this really cool new product called d3o. I have no clue what the name stands for but the product is really cool. It's based off of the principle of a non-Newtonian fluid. A newtonian fluid is like water in the sense that if it flows at a slow rate or a high rate pretty much the same things will happen. However, some common elements don't behave like a normal fluid. For example, if you slow down blood it begins to thicken and eventually forms clots...that's a non-Newtonian fluid. Another example is a solution of Corn Starch, if you run your finger thru is everything is fine, but if you punch it then all of the sudden it is like punching a rock. When under high amounts of strain Corn Starch will resist any forces acting on it. Or for those of you that like Sci-Fi it's like the shields that they wear when fighting on Dune.

So that brings us to the main point. What if you could make a material that was amazing at taking hard bangs and hits, but was still flexible and comfortable to wear? Enter d3o. This stuff is really cool, and I can't wait until it's more widely available.

Check out some stuff on it here:
What is d3o?

Or a similar thing being done with balistics here:
Liquid body armour for soldiers?

Seeing stuff like this makes me really think that we may be finally reaching a new era in material technology. If you look at most things we deal with in our everyday life, they are built focussed around materials that have been around for at least a century, maybe more. However, with the coming of newer materials such as GoreTEX, UnderArmour, and maybe this d30 stuff it is sure to change the way we interact with our world for years or centuries to come.