Friday, June 29, 2012

This is also a crazy reason to run in hot weather

Yesterday I worked from home (WFH). This allowed me to sleep longer and still manage a 3-mile run before the workday got rolling. The only reason I went for a run at all was to burn calories, not because I was worried about the 9 miles I will run tomorrow. If the training had called for a longer run, say 5 miles, I would have flat-out skipped it. The difference between sneaking off for a 3 mile instead of a 5 miler, especially in this heat is significant (25 versus 40 minutes). 

I looked at the temperature around 8:15 and saw that it was 77, according to my phone weather app. I decided that I could manage a 3-mile run and burn off some of the calories we consumed in the form of wine, which somehow tastes better on our deck. However, I decided to do some chores first like loading and running the dishwasher and starting a load of laundry. So by the time I got out the door, 30 minutes later, the temperature was now 88 degrees.

Surprisingly, I had a decent run.  It was faster than I expected though slower than my training pace.  I would not have been able to say that if it were a 4 miler or longer since I was pretty gassed by the end.

In years past when I trained for marathons, I would get it in my head that if I had a poor marathon performance, it had to be because I missed too many runs.  I now know that missing a run here and there isn't going to make a huge difference, as long as you don't miss too many runs.  The test is easy when you do the homework.

In years past, I also missed too many runs because of my inability to wake up and run before work and my social commitments after work. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Open House Sunday: Oak Park edition

There weren’t many new listings or Open Houses in the city that we were interested in, so this week we decided to check out some OH in OP. Oak Park is one of those suburbs that most of the people I make fun of for thinking Chicago ends at Lincoln Park have at least heard of. My friend JoshV just bought a home in OP and his theory is that OP is has a younger turnover because generally people buy in OP while they raise their children and then sell their homes as soon as the last kid is finished with high school so they can escape the high taxes.

Besides high taxes, OP has a no parking on residential streets rule in place. Therefore, any home we might buy not only has to have a garage, but an extra parking pad or drive way would be awesome for when Nightingale’s dad comes to visit with his F-150.

House No 1: Albany Park
4447 N Christiana
5 bd/3 ba $389000

Actually, we did have one city house to check out, a few blocks from our current place. It is a very nice rehab that has a lot going for it. The first floor has an awesome open floor plan from the Kitchen to the Great Room (dining room, living room and front room.) There’s also a little alcove with a desk which would be perfect for Nightingale. There’s also a bedroom on this level which would be a nice office or den.

What is the difference between an office and a den anyway?

This was definitely designed for entertaining. I think the only reason we aren’t snapping this up is we have made the decision to move out of our particular section of Irving/Albany Park.

Note:  House has been on the market for 24 days and had an initial price adjustment from $420K to $389K in the first week. This makes me think it was more of a listing correction than an organic price drop.

House No 2: Oak Park
805 N Cuyler, Oak Park
4 bd/ 2.1 ba $299900

Based on the listing sheet, the current owners updated things like roof, water heater and windows, which is good. The bad news is the kitchen and bathrooms need updating pronto. Also, the basement failed to pass the Can Icarus Stand in it Without Having to Slouch test.

About the only thing we liked was Its nice big yard, with a 2 car garage and extra-large parking pad for 3 cars.

It originally listed for $309K and has been on the market for 118 days.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Oh Yeah, this part I don't like so much

It was way more crowded than this
Made it out for another LR this morning, this one was 6 miles. Two interesting things to point out.  The first is that this is what's called a Cutback Week.  The training program is sort of divided into three-week cycles where you build up mileage for two weeks and then cutback the last week.

"These step-back weeks are important to give your body a chance to recover from all the hard work you've been asking of it."  our handy CARA newsletter points out.

The thing about the very first cutback week is that the mileage is so relatively low, especially for veterans, that a lot of runners sleep in and skip the group run because even in the hot summer, you can probably manage 5-6 miles on your own later in the day or even Sunday morning if needed.

Since no one in our group admitted to being Novice, we did 6 miles. When we get deeper into the season, there will be more people who speak up and not want to do any more miles than they absolutely must.

The second thing is I had almost forgotten how much I dislike getting up early in terms of having to be good on Friday nights.  I turned down a ticket to the White Sox game which turned out to be a good decision since they lost in extra innings.  Instead, I got my bike out of the storage locker, put air in the tires, and joined Fitz and Tracy at Moody's Pub.  They were there to socialize with a ski club group even though Fitz doesn't ski.  Stacy was grumpy because she was hungry and the service was slow since it never seems to occur to establishments that have outdoor beer gardens to check the weather report and equate warm weather with people wanting to eat outside and staff appropriately.

I wasn't too hungry because I had my usual All-You-Can-Eat Buffet lunch at Roundhouse in Lombard.  However, after biking 4.5 miles and then having a couple beers, the hunger arrived so I ordered the shrimp basket (it's more carbs than a burger, right?).

I'm going to have to scale back on the visit to the Roundhouse if I want to lose weight.  While I love the pizza and the fried chicken, there is nothing on the menu that is even in the zip code of healthy.  I mostly do it to kill time and get out of the office.  I think I made a faux pas anyway because I asked the first waitress I saw for a diet coke and apparently this other waitress who has served me before was whom I was supposed to deal with.  Waitress protocol is a messy business and I don't want to be on the wrong end of a pissed server.

At Moody's, I was pleasantly surprised to run into another friend who apparently got engaged to a guy she's been dating for the last three years and has known forever.  It was cool to catch up and share some quick Here's what you can learn from my wedding experience advice.

Also at Moody's was this Asian Lady that Fitz and I use to run into at Eurocircle back in the day.  She's a chiropractor who is also part of the ski club and a friend of Engaged Friend.  She was actually being kinda annoying by talking about nothing relevant. She was trying very to keep the conversation flowing, so I give her credit for that.    When she got up to get another drink I leaned over and ask "is it me or is Dr Asian kinda annoying?" 

Tracy confirmed that Dr Asian was also getting on her nerves -- and at this point, Tracy had her food and beer so she was happy again -- though Fitz said he hadn't noticed. 
To use Fitz' new catch phrase: Shocking!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

House Hunting via the Open House route

So another Sunday spent enjoying the great weather and realtor spins on the market. Because we are house hunting, a regular feature on Mysteries of Life will be our experiences viewing Open Houses (OH) or Listings viewed with an agent. I may change up some details to mask the date of the visit and/or protect the identity of the agent.

Also, because agents use all kind of tricks to make a house appear new on the market even though it's been re-listed and de-listed to death, I'm going to include address, price and links to the properties. The links may disappear or the price might change so this is just a snapshot of what they were when we looked at them.

House No 1: Irving Park
4253 N St Louis Ave,
4 bd/3.1 ba $409,000.

While we're not likely to stay in our current area, every now and again I like to look at what is on sale in our neighborhood. The first agent was a lovely lady who took me for a tour of the house. At most of the Open Houses I’ve attended the format falls into one of two buckets. Either the agent lets you wander through the place unsupervised and will answer any questions when you are finished or they follow you around without being on top of you. This was a rare guided tour where she took the time to point out some features and try and explain what the builders were thinking.

Alas the house has some External and Functional Obsolescence working against it. For one thing, it was across the street from a school. This can be a minor problem if you have people visiting you during the day and they have to park a street away because you cannot park in front of a school during school hours. It can be more of a problem if your street is the side that is optimal for parents to drop their germy, projectile-barfing poopsacks off at school.

The house did not have a basement but it did have three floors of living space. The master suite on the top had a bathroom door that would prevent having a king or perhaps even a queen sized bed in the room. This can be resolved, as the agent pointed out, by re-working the door hinge so that the door swings open into the bathroom …odd that they did it this way in the first place.

The agent probably doesn’t realize that I do my homework. For instance, I know that the builders bought the house for $80K and while they deserve to make a profit on their work, they probably didn’t put $300K into this house. Yeah they might have put higher end finishes and more expensive cabinetry and the spa showers and lighting looked impressive.

Drywall costs the same whether you buy it for a house in Irving Park or Lincoln Park and with a contractors discount plus a good efficient crew; your costs should be relatively the same from house to house. The two big variables are how cheap you can acquire the initial property and how much you want to spend on items like bathroom vanities, lighting fixtures, cabinets and appliances. Also, I’m guessing most builders have more than one rehab going at a time so they might be able to get a slight bulk discount on items so that coincidentally that new construction in LP looks a lot like the rehab in Irving park.

Rehabbers tried to do the same thing to another house up the street. They also initially priced it at $409K and have been chasing the market ever since. This is a $325K house.


House No 2:  OIP
3902 N Central Park Ave,
3 Bd/3.1 ba  $600,000.

This is a home I would like to live in and have my grandchildren visit. In fact, when I first started looking at Real Estate Porn researching the market, this was the type of home in the exact neighborhood I wanted.  Unfortunately, it is $200K over our price range.

Swiss Cheese Weekends

It was so hot, we wore our Invisibility Cloaks
 The weekend was awesome in that we didn't have many obligations. A lot of our weekends are what I call Swiss Cheese Weekends. We have a couple of things planned and have pockets or holes of time between events which are not really enough time to do anything but are too small to go unnoticed.

I anticipate that most of my Fridays this summer will be spent at home since I have to get up early for Group Leader duty. When I was single and younger, I still went out on Fridays and would do a lot of my LRs slightly hung over. Usually by the first mile the blood was flowing enough to snap me out of it though I do recall a run or two where I probably would have been better off sleeping in. That behavior not only won’t fly at my age but also is unnecessary. Though it wouldn’t hurt my feelings to have a short beer with a friend and make an early evening of it.

So my first group leader run was fine. I was surprised to see that my old co-group leader wasn't there. His platonic girlfriend told me he's training with another running organization this summer. So instead I had two new GL to work with. As far as I'm concerned, it's there group and I'm just here for the ride.

Our distance was 7 miles for novice and I did about 6.6 (took a pit stop at the restrooms near the turnaround point). I picked a good week to come on board because not only is 7 miles well within my current ability but also this coming week is a cutback week so the mileage will drop by 2 miles. Although everyone will probably want to do 7 because Marathoning = ego and at this point, 5 miles seems like too short of a run.

Saturday night we went to my friend L’s Annual Taste of Randolph party. L lives half a block from the fest and has had a party in honor of that for the last couple of years. We brought along DrDrea who aptly described it as basically a college party for 40 year olds.

It’s sad but true. Many of the ladies there missed their window of opportunity on catching a guy when they were younger and hotter and are trying to re-capture that lost youth. And why do I say such a judgmental snarky thing? Because those are the type of women who wouldn’t give me the time of day when I was the younger guy referenced in paragraph two. These same women didn’t seem to notice Nightingale or my wedding ring until I blatantly pointed it out.

Sunday was a lazy day of doing nothing except hit a few Open Houses. I’ll post those stories separately. SHB and Nightingale have been hanging out by hitting the gym on Sundays, and she came along for the OH in Logan Square. She liked it, said we should buy it. Of course that was from the lens of someone not truly invested in the decision as us and not thinking beyond the initial warm rush that seeing a home that you could buy brings.

We all went back to our place to hang out on the newly decorated deck. A few weeks ago we bought some new furniture for the deck and got the planters out and filled. Nightingale also bought a deck rug which pulls it all together nicely.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Marathon Training but not partaking

Sort of the schedule I will follow

I've decided I am going to group lead for CARA marathon training. The only way to force myself to get up early enough in the summer to beat the heat and run double digit miles is to be tethered to an obligation like leading a pack of runners.

I emailed my friend who happens to be the a site coordinator at CARA, and she hooked me up with the group leadership gig, same as I did 2003-2008, and 2010. I'll help lead the 8:30 group out of Monroe Harbor probably doing the Novice Mileage.

I won't run a marathon this fall however. While I haven't officially retired, my marathon running days are probably over. I've run 21 marathons and while I'm certain with proper training I could finish #22, I doubt it would be with a finish time I'd be happy with.  Just finishing your first or second marathon is accomplishment enough.  When you do more than that, you're targeting a specific time, usually to Boston Qualify.  Since that dream has pretty much been filed away with my childhood desire to be an astronaut, there's really no reason I can think of to run another marathon today.

The most I'll do is the Detroit half marathon in late October. I suppose if I have a phenomenal July and August of running I could change my tune. More realistic is that If I find that I cannot hold pace and run the required mileage, I'll politely resign and go back to sleeping in on Saturdays.

Even though I cannot feel any pain in my knee, the damage continued running that my doctor alluded to might become more severe forcing that retirement issue altogether.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

We need to get a Team of Asians on this

We were out of town last weekend hence the Haircut Trilogy, which I need to wrap up.

Background: Earlier this spring, Nightingale's sister Janet, her husband Peter, and their two young sons moved back to Michigan for a variety of reasons. This pulls at Nightingale's heartstrings because she misses the boys terribly having helped practically raise the first one. Janet is the reason Nightingale moved to Chicago (so thank you for that Janet) and since the early days of our relationship, we’ve spent many a weekend at Janet’s house.

So trips to Michigan were always on the table, it was just a question of when could we get there (If Nightingale had her way, we'd go once a month.)

Credit to my locker partner for finding this one

This weekend provided the first feasible and optimal opportunity because her parents were also going to be in Michigan for FIL’s high school reunion. Ironically Saturday was also my 25th high school reunion, which I had to miss because it was the perfect opportunity for Nightingale to see her Sister, her parents and our nephews.

I'm not upset or even terrible disappointed. In Heaven and at HS reunions, most of the interesting people are missing.* While high school was certainly better for me than junior high and grade school, it was a transition point, not an end station. Many people I know peaked in high school or college and then failed to launch.

Five years ago we got together informally for our 20th and a small contingent showed up. This was about 10 minutes before everyone was on FB so it was kinda cool. I even re acquainted with my HS biology lab partner though just like in high school, she disappeared after freshmen year.

The week of our 20th reunion I was changing jobs from the No-Name Software Company to the Low Rent Consulting Firm. So it would have been nice to see everyone and let them know that things have improved a lot. Except with FaceBook, I already have --  plus I get to avoid the one or two douchebags I would have had to deal with at the reunion.

My only real regret is that I didn’t get to see some of the teachers that showed up – though I could certainly crash the class of ’88 reunion if I get a chance.

The visit turned out fine although a bit expensive. We booked a hotel near the airport because it was roughly halfway between Gross Point and where Nightingale Parents were staying. They got to stay on what's left of the old farm that FIL's brother owns. [There's a whole backstory about how the land was divided up, not necessarily evenly, and sold to developers, which I won't share today.] We were not invited to stay there even though there's plenty of room and while I can appreciate both points of view, even in my dysfunctional family you don't make relatives stay at a hotel if there is room available.

In the end, staying at the hotel two nights worked out but with better planning we might only have had to stay one. Almost everyone in Nightingale's side went to University of Michigan so I tease her about how good of a school could it really have been if we couldn't figure out the best way to achieve our goal. The goal was to maximize the time six adults and two children spend together in a 48 hour period. Do we need to get a team of Asians on this?

* Quote modified with respect to Friedrich Nietzsche

Haircut Hang Ups, Part 3

In my previous posts, I talked about how I evolved from dreading haircuts to going out of my way to get one from a stylist I really liked who gave a good cut. So much so that I was jumping through hoops to meet her schedule.

Seriously, one of you has to have something profound to say
After doing the first available route at Halo for a while, I did finally happen upon a stylist I liked. She was part Lithuanian, part Polish and all Chatty. She also went through the full arsenal of clichĂ©’s like “it's too beautiful outside to be inside” to “Life is too short to worry about such and such.”

I figured since this was going to be a superficial relationship anyway, might as well go with the lady who I bonded with over ethnicity. So I started requesting her.

During one of my haircuts, Chatty Cathy told me about a customer appreciation night that Halo was having. She practically begged me to attend. I figured why not, some free drinks would be fun. Maybe even get past the superficial chit chat so that the next time I came in we could have more of a substantial conversation.

And it was fun, for about 5 minutes. The thing about a party hosted by superficial ladies, who could care if you die, is the fact that you only know your superficial stylist and the lady who schedules your appointment. Chatty Cathy was too busy chatting up one of the bar tenders to talk to me for more than 30 seconds.

After that, I went back to first available and she noticed when I was there. It didn't take her long to figure out that I wasn't choosing her when I called for my appointments.  She's chatty, not stupid.  She broke the stylist rule and actually talked to me even when someone else was cutting my hair.  So I eventually gave her another chance.

Unfortunately, I cannot get to the Halos nowadays because I work in the burbs. So I found this place near my office. In the suburbs, when someone says near my office, they mean 10 minutes or less driving. I get the same haircut without the extras. I also get the same awkward small talk conversation at half the price.

I go to a place called Exposed in Glen Ellyn. The ladies who cut my hair are more than half my age on average. It took a few tries, but I've found one who doesn't even bother with small talk. She just gets my hair cut in 15 minutes so she can have another smoke break. However, she does trim my eyebrows without me asking.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Haircut Hang Ups, Part 2

Former Salon Diva - They obviously kept the curtains
In my previous post, I talked about how I evolved from dreading haircuts to going out of my way to get one from a stylist I really liked who gave a good cut.  So much so that I was jumping through hoops to meet her schedule.

I followed Aimee to Lincoln Park and then to Lake View because she was good. Good to look at and good to cut my hair. However, two things happened that caused our relationship to end.

One, she became harder and harder to get an appointment with. She only worked Thurs-Sat and she was booked. I had to plan my haircuts weeks in advance. Second, she decided to get out of the owner business and simply cut hair, thus she closed the shop on Ashland and went to work for one on Broadway, near Diversey. While this would have worked fine when I lived at Ashland and Montrose, it doesn't work too well now that I'm further across town.

So I thought long and hard about it and decided that the person who cuts my hair should be available on my schedule, not the other way around. They should also either be in the zip code where I live or work, or conveniently on the way from one to the other.

When she moved I used the opportunity to break up with Aimee. Breaking up with your stylist is easier than cheating on them because you basically make a commitment to never set foot in their shop again.

So once I was free to find a new stylist, I vowed I would never get committed to a specific stylist again. My coworker at the law firm suggested Halo for Men. They had a cut called The Man which is expensive but comes with little extras. I’ll describe those in a second, but first, Halo.

Halo is pretty much like the Hooters or Twisted Kilt of hair salons. You have a ton of attractive women who would never give you the time of day outside those walls along with the token homely gal whose entire purpose is to prevent any discriminatory lawsuits.

My thought is I don’t care what they look like as long as I get a good haircut, though if they are easy on the eyes all the better.
Halo's Signature Service, THE MAN, is our Haircut which comes with the following services included:

-Haircut & Style
-Shampoo & conditioning treatment
-Scalp massage
-Paraffin hand wax
-Hand massage
-Hot towel & facial toner
-Cleanup shampoo after the man
-Free touch-up within two weeks of previous appointment
-Complimentary beverage
Depending on who cuts your hair, the quality of your scalp and hand massage might leave something to be desired. In the two years I had gone there I had yet to get any facial toner…and I’m okay with that.

Alas Halo has devilish side as well.  Whenever I made an appointment, I went with first available.  The first time I went, I got some skinny bleached-blonde who I had absolutely nothing in common with and we struggled with the small talk.  I recall after the haircut seeing her on the street outside the shop...she didn't say boo.  Next time I called for a haircut, I went with next available.  Bleach-blonde starred at me all throughout the haircut as if I had slept with her and not called. 

I did finally happen upon a stylist who I did like.  She was Polish-lithuanian

To Be Continued.....

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Haircut Hang Ups, Part 1

Time to find a new stylist if she hangs out here
For some reason I use to hate getting haircuts. Probably because I didn't like the way I looked with a fresh haircut, or maybe I just didn't like the way I looked period (discussion for another day). I’m sure the experiences of my mom giving me in-home haircuts as a child factor in. A fidgety kid like me and a perfectionist like her was never a good combination. It was such an ordeal that we would put off the next haircut as long as possible and thus each haircut took a long time.  The first of many disastrous patterns began.

Once I started paying for my own haircuts, I was always trying to find the combination of economical (cheap) and stylish (not looking like a dork who just got his hair cut). These are mutually exclusive as you get what you pay for.
The first place I recall going to on a regular basis was Juanny's back in Humboldt Park. He often had a keg tapped and of course there were Playboy magazines in the waiting area. His shop was actually a converted Laundromat that my grandmother and I often went to when I was a child. Juanny hired a bodacious young lady to wash your hair and as she worked for tips, she did everything just this side of a massage to boast her earnings by casually grinding her chest into you.

I moved to the burbs for six months and when I returned to the city, Juanny and his shop were gone so I needed a new place to get my hair cut. At the urging of a female coworker, I went to a trendy salon in Lincoln Park and got a pretty decent cut from a young stylist. I don’t recall the name of the shop or the lady so let’s call the shop Long out of Business and replaced with Another Haircut Joint and let’s call the stylist Jessica.

Jessica called me a little while later and said she was branching out on her own and wanted to know if I’d like to become one of her clients. I had no loyalty to the shop so I jumped ship and Jessica cut my hair for the next 3-4 years or so. She was really good at remembering what she did the previous cut and repeating it. This was key because I could never remember what worked and what didn’t.  This was back in the day when I would get maybe 4 haircuts a year. Cost and effort kept me away. I was in G-school at the time and every dollar counted, not to mention I didn't have a ton of time between school, work and later marathon training.

Jessica clued me into a concept called "Industry Night." Apparently people who work at restaurants, clubs and hair salons are part of The Industry and since weekends are their big nights, they typically have Monday off.  Which was clear a case of Irony smacking me in the face since Monday was usually a rest day as far as my marathon training was concerned.

Jessica moved to Pilsen and I just wasn’t going to make the commute for a haircut, especially since she was a bit of a whackjob once I got to know her a little better. She was always talking about the now long gone Mad Bar in Wicker Park. She said she hung out there and that if I'm ever there I should look for her. One night I was there with some friends and bumped into her. She practically jumped out of her skin.

So living in Sheridan Park at the time, I went to the salon a few blocks from my house. It was called Salon Diva and I could call for an appointment and usually get in within the hour. I went through a few stylists since turnover there was relatively high, I don't think I worked with the same person more than twice.

At some point Aimee, the owner cut my hair. She managed to do the one thing I really depend on, remember how we cut it last time and do the same thing. She also liked to trim my eyebrows, which at the time I thought was too girly (the Metrosexual Revolution was a few years away) but I let her.  Over time we came up with our summer cut and our winter cut. She would also offer a complimentary touch up within a couple weeks of a haircut, which I rarely used because by then I had more of a life with marathon training and social events etc.

To Be Continued.....

Shouldn't always listen to Realtors

But does it have Central Air?
During the early years of my house hunting research, there have been a few houses that I liked enough to consider buying but were way out of my price range.

Even with an FHA loan maximum of $417K (and 3.5% down) these homes were still out of reach.  The interest rates were somewhere between 5.5 and 6% which, factoring in salary and other variables, put my comfort level at around $375K.

There's this house on Tripp which once listed at $499000 and then dropped to $439K after 509 Days on the Market (DOM), it finally sold for $375K. 

And this one on Berteau listed for $474,900 when I happened up it in late fall of 2008.  It ended up selling for $410K in October of 2009.

And this one on Kilpatrick was originally listed for $519,900 and ended selling also in October of 2009.

And the realtor that showed me the home, hoping to become my buyer agent, said that the seller would never, never, NEVER come down to my price range, yet in each case, they pretty much did or came very close. 

Of course it isn't that cut and dry. It was the beginning of the bust and while it was bad, no one really knew or admitted just how bad it was going to get. Interest rates were good but not nearly as low as they are today. Interest rates are now below 4% which means I would be hating that I couldn't refi my 5.5 - 6% loan.

I didn't realize how hard it would be to sell my 2/1 condo or get financing if I didn't. I suppose I'm lucky that I didn't get those houses because the time wasn't right, tough circumstances have occurred and my needs have shifted.

In 2008-2009 I wanted to live within walking distance of the Irving Park or Jefferson Park Blue Line Station. I really wanted to live in Old Irving Park because I really thought I could somehow get a Queen Anne Style Victorian for bargain basement price.

Now that requirement has been supplanted by access to the expressway. My job turned from Heaven to Hell and I had to leave in for brighter pastures in Suburbia and an increase in pay that would have taken 2-3 more years at the law firm to achieve. Fiancé 1.0 bailed and was replaced with SigOther 2.0 who happily became Wife Final Edition.

Now that I've done more research and investigating, I know that fixer-uppers need to be closer to Move-in-Ready than simply Move-in-Condition. All in all, the realtor probably did me a solid by not helping me chase that pipe dream.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Quirky co-workers and relatives

Lessons from Corporate America:  One of my earliest experiences navigating the Corporate Ladder came at the No-Name Software Company. My team lead at the time – JT, which stands for Jealous Troll – wanted all the benefits of being in charge but none of the responsibility.

I recall asking JT for a day off about a month in advanced. JT's answer was to ask him when the time drew closer because he didn't want to endure the overhead of tracking vacation requests. Because, you know, it would be such a hassle to put a note on his Outlook Calendar.

Even with my inexperience in CA, I could see where this was going, especially since I heard him say the counterpart to another teammate earlier in the week. Someone had asked for a day off and he said:

"Oh so and so already requested that date off and he has seniority." Pause. "You should have asked sooner."

JT had many of these management quirks. With new hires, new equipment was often ordered. As is the nature of the timing, that equipment is sometimes slightly better than what the current staff had. JT would not only order a new laptop and swap it out with his old one, giving it to the new hire, but he would also brag about doing it.

The interesting thing is that a guy like him was able to thrive and surive at a place like the No-Name Software Company because it lacked infrastructure and governance, especially our little support department.  Eventually the company grew enough to no longer ignore JT's behavior and while he was smart enough to be valuable, they had to take away his title, his responsibility and whatever semblance of power he had.

I've long since left the No-Name Software Company.  The last time I visited, JT was still there and he was miserable. Most of the people he use to have seniority and authority over are higher on the Corporate Ladder than he. 

Not in the Top Five:  My cousin Wednesday just had a baby and I found out on FaceBook. I'm not sure how I feel about that. From a geeky, techy POV, I get that it was probably the easiest way to get the info out. It's also a cousin I’m not particularly close with and am over a decade age wise so it’s not like I was anxiously awaiting the news with baited breathe (the kid was also a week early).

On the other hand, I’m sure some shout-out must have gone out to some of the family and it makes me wonder how come we weren't part of some smaller private family related communication.   It's probably nothing. Wednesday doesn't seem to be a big emailer and prefers FB chat and text messages, so it might just be that the medium is what it is.  At least she and her husband remembered my birthday, since FB is good enough to remind people of that these days.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Weddings and the Workplace

The following is a re-post from an old blog/column I wrote for another medium a long time ago. I've tweaked it a little to bring it up to date while hopefully keeping the content intact.
Bad enough we work together, did you have to seat us at the same table?

Wedding invites at the office are tricky business. Let's say you have a standing arrangements with three co-workers were you pretty much eat lunch together almost every day. Unless you have a really good reason for omitting one of them, it's best to invite them all or none of them to your wedding.  Otherwise, until you change jobs or departments, it makes for an awkward moment in the employee break room.

I’ve been to weddings where I was the only person invited from the office.  I’ve also worked at places where I seemingly was the only person not invited to a wedding.  Most of the time it was simply because I wasn’t close to the person and just didn’t make the cut. I've said before, you cannot invite everyone and hopefully the person getting married is classy enough not to talk incessantly about it in front of your face.   
A few years ago, two co-workers at the No-Name Software Company got married the same summer (not to each other). I was invited to one wedding, not to the other. I was perfectly content with not being invited to Jacob's wedding. We were not best buddies and we had little in common other than both having started at the company around the same time. In fact, he’s rather a DBag.  I was a little surprised that he had invited someone else from the office who had only been there a couple months.

Had he invited me however, I would have gone out of some misguided sense of obligation and, as it would turn out, give up a Saturday evening that was better spent at a street festival getting some hottie's phone number [I was single at the time]. Worse yet, I would have shelled out cash for a wedding gift that would be better spent on said hottie.

Hanna on the other hand, did invite me to her wedding. But the difference is we are friends in the sense that we talk about subjects outside the realm of work and even share advice on personal matters. She not only invited me to her traditional Indian wedding, but I also somehow scored an invite to the rehearsal dinner.  It was a little ackward because I didn't know anyone there and no one else from the office was apparently invited. 

Perhaps the culture at the No-Name Software Company simply bred odd behavior.  A few years later I was invited to my co-worker Jacob's wedding.  Jacob and I happened to go to high school together and he also invited our mutual friend Larry, whose parents practically raised him. He said he could not invite Larry's parents because he was at the Wedding Guest Limit. At his reception, he had invited our boss, Director Palpatine, and a couple of other mangers from the office.

I get inviting the Big Boss and your direct manager. It's a good career move and it doesn't hurt when it comes to asking for time off for the honeymoon.  Jacob also invited two goons who were not his direct boss but merely Palpatine's hand-picked band of merry ass kissers. [They all came over to the No-Name Software Company under the Motorola Outreach Program our director implemented the moment he was hired.]

How do you not invite the Parents of your high school best friend in lieu of two people you barely interact with at the office?  You only get one first wedding and what a beautiful way to say thank you to the people who you claim helped raise you and provided a safe place to hang out after school?  It still boggles my mind today.