Sunday, June 29, 2008

Still in Orlan-D'oh!

Still on my business trip. Our testing seems to be going better and we may even finish our testing on time. That would be sweet. This has pretty much been a 6 or 7 day a week job this trip. Very little time for things like blogging. To my adoring audience of 0 readers, I apologize.

It looks like I'll be working through the July 4 weekend and going home shortly after that.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sometimes, work sucks

...or, it's always darkest before the dawn (I hope!)

So I am on a two- or three-week business trip to do some testing of equipment my company builds (and I helped design). This project has been crazy. Our customer keeps squeezing the schedule down to the point that we have to do six months worth of work into three months.

This leads to cutting corners. The essential work is getting done, but documentation is a bit dodgy, although it's the best we can do. Our customer knows full well how squeezed we are, but they nitpick away at what we've done. At our review meeting today, it came just about to the point where the testing was called off. We have a deadline and if the testing isn't complete by a certain date, the whole project gets shut down.

The worst case is that I could lose my job over that, although I think that won't happen. But it could.

On the other hand, if we can slog our way through the next couple weeks and get the testing done, it will definitely be a feather in my cap and may even open the door to better assignments (and maybe even a promotion).

When I started working in the 80s, it was not uncommon to expect to work for the same company for a whole career. In those days, it was assumed that American technology was superior to, or at least the equal of, any other country's. You got a job with a good company and you were set. At least that was what I believed at the time.

Maybe that was naive. Maybe that never existed.

So now here I am, in middle age, doing some of the best work of my career and it might not be good enough. Maybe I'm just more aware of my own vulnerabilities. Maybe I've just grown cynical.

I hope not. I hope that this current funk is just the darkness before the dawn. Maybe in a few weeks all this testing will be successful and I will be more firmly established at my company than ever before... maybe even tapped for a leadership position.

I have to hold that carrot of a favorable outcome out in front of myself. Sometimes it's the only thing that keeps me going. If I take care of my own business and everyone else does likewise, this might just work out.

I hope so.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Just normal life things

If I'm lucky, I'll get Father's Day off this Sunday, which would be my first day off in nearly two weeks. The following day I leave for a two-week business trip. The second half of that trip, Mrs. Doohickie will be in the same city for a business trip as well, but I think we might not even get a chance to see each other.

Son-2 will be at camps the next couple weeks- Orchestra Camp next week, Church Camp the week after that.

The big news is that Son-1, who has been kind of in a rut, is finally looking to dig his way out. He's looking into online university programs and has found one he may try. He also recently had dinner with one of his best friends from high school whom he hasn't seen since graduation. He thought his friend was mad at him and that's why they'd lost contact. His friend didn't remember it that way at all, and they've renewed their friendship.

These have been trying times between Son-1 and myself. He had been just a great son, doing all the right things for so long. After a bad experience at college, he kind of fell into a rut... not exactly destructive, but not moving forward either. He is of an age where simply commanding him to do things is useless. If he does things because Mom & Dad tell him to, he has no enthusiasm for them and therefore he does not follow through.

I'm hoping that the online program will work because this is something he's sought out on his own. Only time will tell. Parenting of adult children can be so trying because the whole term is an oxymoron. They're no longer children; they're adults. When they're little, you can guide them along the path you envision. At some point, though, they have to stop following your vision and find their own vision to follow. With Son-1 that has taken a little longer than any of us would have expected.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Baby Boomer/Generation X Line, and Graduations

I was born in 1962.

I always thought of myself as part of the Baby Boom generation. Some people draw the line that ends the Baby Boom just before that in, say, 1960, but I identify more with Boomers than Xers. Some of the reasons include a clear memory of the Moon landing and Vietnam. People just a little younger see those more as historical events. Another one is whether one remembers the death of John Lennon versus the death of Kurt Cobain as being a world-changing event. I've seen these distinctions discussed on various message boards.

Then there is a divide where kids just barely younger than mine (the youngest of which will be a high school senior next year) will have graduated five times* before their high school graduation. For those families on the older side of that divide, this seems kind of strange. For those on the younger side it is perfectly normal.

*Five graduations before high school graduation in our area include:
- Nursery School
- Kindergarten
- Elementary school
- Middle School
- Ninth Grade

Yes, after only a single year of high school, they actually graduate, because in our school district they have a separate Ninth Grade campus (mostly to keep the freshman girls away from senior boys to keep the pregnancy rate down). Heaven forbid they change buildings without a graduation ceremony to acknowledge.... changing buildings I guess.

I hear that in Europe, completing high school is not even treated as a graduation. Graduation is completion of a university degree. After that, if you get a more advanced degree, it's post-graduate education. Here in the United States these days, everything after pre-school is post-graduate work. There is a generation of kids where every event of their lives is celebrated and duly documented. If an event is not celebrated, I guess the rationale goes, it never happened.

My kids are Generation Y. A little beyond that is a whole different generation. The Celebrated Generation I guess.

If this sounds like a rant, I guess I'll just get it out in the open and be done with it. I think celebrating the little things in someone's life too much kind of spoils them. Celebrate the big things. Okay, end of rant.

For the stuff that is not so ranty, I guess file it under observations.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Two songs that haunted my childhood.

I was a little kid when these songs came out- the first when I was 3 and the second when I was seven. I never particularly liked them or listened to them. They were just square pop melodies. I didn't even pay attention to them, but I'm sure I heard them many times. In another few years I would be introduced to rock and roll by my older brother- Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, that kind of stuff. That era of rock and roll is still at ground zero of my musical tastes.

Yet.... those earlier songs stayed there, in the background. I consciously noticed California Dreamin' when I was in college. I don't know where, but I heard it on one of those fall days when I was in a blue... no, black... mood. It was cathartic. I never got the exact gist of what was going on in that song, but the conflict, the wanting... something, I don't know what, kind of resonated with me freshman year. I decided that the Mamas and the Papas weren't so square after all.

When I listen to Wedding Bell Blues, I get the opposite vibe. Watching the video, you see the frustration of the would-be bride, but I always saw the story from the other side- I kind of wanted to be that guy who's woman was totally wanting him. In the video, the guy just looks scared. Yeah, I know the Fifth Dimension are just playing around for the video, but I wanted to be adored by someone I adored. I can remember thinking that long before I met my wife, but once we met, it was just like that. (And fortunately, it still is.)

(2014 update: Marilyn McCoo, the singer, was engaged to Billy Davis Junior (the object of her affection in the video) when the song was recorded. They are still married.)

And the things that made those songs square- the flute solo, the horns, the perfect (or at times not quite perfect) harmonies- are the same things that stand out in my mind. I grew up with rock and roll, but the jazzy vibe behind these songs caught in my ear. I thought about other songs by the Mamas and the Papas and the Fifth Dimension, but none of them really grab me the same way as these two examples.

Maybe those two songs are a summary of life: The longing for what you can't have, and the hope that you eventually will get it after all. And the best music burns into you. You don't even have to like it; it just grabs your soul and doesn't let go. It haunts you.