General

Just Enough to Get By?

I have a little desk clock that I keep by my computer.  It’s a little freebie-thing from Brookstone that I got for spending $40 there one day (I had a birthday gift card for the place) but I like it because it has a nice big clock face, displays the date and day of the week on it, and if you rotate it 90, 180, or 270 degrees, it turns into a thermometer, count-up timer, or world clock, respectively.

Just Enough ClockI’ve been out of the office pretty much since last July, so it was only this morning I noticed something interesting – instead of showing the year 2010 as ’10, my trusty little clock has rolled over to ’90.  Yes, I get to live the 90s all over again!

From what I can tell, the clock (made in China) uses some sort of cheap computer circuit board that was programmed with the minimum function set required to provide the features advertised on clock.  Rather than expand the memory/processing power of the clock to handle dates outside the range of 1990-2009, the designers decided to just let the clock roll over and never show the correct date after the functionality-imposed “end-of-life” of the clock.  Probably they expected that the hardware itself would only have a lifespan of a few years, anyway, so those folks like myself who got the clock in 2003 would never have it last long enough to see this bug “feature” in the design.

But my clock survived (against all odds?) and is a great of example of what I like to call the “Just Enough” syndrome.

“Just Enough” can apply to any number of aspects of your life, whether it be you doing just enough work in your job to get the task at hand completed, paying just enough on your credit card debt to stay off the “finance charge” list, cleaning just enough of your house/car/workspace to keep it from looking like a total dump, or studying just enough to get by on your test/presentation/speech.  The results of “Just Enough” work can be described by a single word – mediocre.  Mediocre can also describe the quality of life you might have if you employ the “just enough” attitude regularly.

However, attempting to go “Above and Beyond” on everything you do creates a different peril; spending so much time and effort on a single task could mean you end up not having enough time/resources to finish everything else, and have to sacrifice something to make up for it.  This is what I personally tend to struggle against, both at work and at home.

The solution, or course, like so many other things in life, is moderation.  The “Just Enough” attitude is perfect for throwaway work that you don’t need to deal with ever again, or things that would suck up your time without providing you with enough return on your time investment.  You can still go above and beyond on things that are important to you, whether it’s playing with your children, putting together that big report for work, cooking a fantastic meal, working to get out of debt, doing something creative, or participating in a hobby.  The key is thinking about what you’re doing, and really consciously deciding up-front how important the activity is and how much you want/need to invest in it.  Waiting until you’re halfway done (or sometimes, even after you’ve been done for hours/days!) won’t work – you’ve missed your chance to repurpose your time for more important things, and all you’ve got left now is a lesson to learn from for next time.

Do More or Less?I hope my poor little clock continues to run.  I’d like to keep it here on my desk to remind me to evaluate whether what I’m working on deserves more than a “Just Enough” solution.  And because that isn’t always the right answer, I’ve paired it with my Staples Easy Button to remind me that I often take things well beyond what is needed, and need to scale back my effort and time investment accordingly.  If I can keep my behavior somewhere in the middle, I’ll have a few new single-word handles to hang on my quality of life – Happy, Contented, Fortunate, and Worthwhile.


Birthday Extravaganza

Today is the Color Princess' 5th birthday.  I can't believe she's 5 years old already! (Of course, from her demeanor, you'd sometimes think she was 11 or 12, but that's the subject for a whole different post.)

For her birthday today, CP gets an afternoon of Mom and Dad all to herself – Dee's sister is coming to babysit the Tenacious Bean so we can take CP to her first movie-theater movie (How to Train Your Dragon), followed by a trip to Chick-Fil-A for a special treat of chicken nuggets, waffle-fries, and a milkshake.  She's going to be so excited!

This wasn't all of the birthday celebration the CP got this year, though.  We had a surprise party for her earlier this week when all the family could get together – it was an absolute blast:

When the Color Princess walked in the door, she was blown away by the streamers and decorations my wife had put up while she was over at her cousin's house.  Here's the CP and her cousin posing in front of the fireplace decorations:

She loved her birthday cards (this one lit up when you pushed a button) and her summer-themed presents (two swimsuits, a play sprinkler, and a giant wading-pool).

She adored her cake (princess-themed, of course), and even her sister got into the festivities a bit.  Everyone had a great time, and the CP can't stop talking about how much she loved her birthday.  I think it was a hit, don't you?

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Innovative Approach to Spam?

Not only are the spammers coming after you in blog comments as well as through your email, but now they're telling jokes!

I was cleaning out the spam comments on my blog when I came across one that I actually enjoyed – unlike the linkfarm/gobbledygook/viagra ads of most blog comment spam, this one contained a joke that was not half bad:

Moishe had been single for a long time. One day, he excitedly tells his mother that he’s fallen in love at last and he is going to get married. She is obviously overjoyed.

Moishe then tells his mother, “Just for fun, Mum, I’m going to bring over 3 women and you try and guess which one I’m going to marry.”

His mother agrees.

The next day, Moishe brings 3 beautiful women into the house and sits them down on the couch and they all chat for a while. Then Moishe turns to his mother and says, “Okay, Mum. Guess which one I’m going to marry?”

She immediately replies, “The redhead in the middle.”

“That’s amazing, Mum. You’re right. How did you know?”

“I don’t like her.”

Obviously these kind of comments still aren't going to make it onto my blog, but if the spammers can keep me laughing while I delete their comments, so much the better!

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Yet Another Netflix Junkie

This past Sunday, I bit the bullet and joined Netflix.  I'd been considering it for a while now, but between Mariser's recent post about Netflix coming to the Nintendo Wii and my own restlessness about being laid up on the couch with nothing but crappy movies available on the television, I decided now was the time to join up.  So I subscribed, set up an initial queue of about 50 movies I've been looking forward to seeing, and got There Will Be Blood in the mail on Tuesday.  Dee and I finished it last night and I packaged it up and mailed it back today.  Can't wait for the next movie to wing its way into my DVD player!

However, the part that really sold me on Netflix (over Redbox, which works out to just about the same price with no subscription commitment) is the Instant Viewing capability.  Any computer with a broadband connection can be set up to stream a subset of the Netflix movies for viewing with absolutely no wait.  This is where the service really shines – there are more than enough movies, miniseries, and television shows available for instant viewing that I've always wanted to see but never got around to watching when they came out.  Currently, I'm watching a half-hour episode of the British miniseries of Gaiman's Neverwhere at lunch every day.

My wife isn't quite as excited about the service as I am, but I think once I have the capability to play Netflix movies from a Wii across to our TV, she'll become a convert – if for no other reason than it'll allow her to find novel new shows/movies for the kids to watch when she needs a break, and she won't be subjected to the same episode of Imagination Movers or Phineas and Ferb that's she's already seen about a billion-and-two times before.

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Business as Usual

This week is my first week back in the office after a lengthy period off for Achilles tendon surgery and recovery.  I'm still  wearing a walking boot, but ironically am not allowed to walk on my leg yet.  I'm still crutching around and fumbling along, but now I get to add some stretching exercises into the mix to try to stretch out my sewn-up tendon and get it back to snuff.

The office is the same as usual, and everyone's been very friendly and helpful while I'm getting back into the swing of things.  I have a desk full of papers to sort and either file or take action on.  I have an inbox full of emails to catch up on the same way.  I have a to-do list a mile long, but I'm feeling pretty good about the progress I'm making through all three, getting back on top of things and up to speed on the latest developments on my projects.

Yesterday, I decided to take a break after lunch and found some business card origami ideas.  You see, I've got a box full of old business cards from my old job, and being a hoarder of useless crap, I held on to them when I moved down to North Carolina a few years back.  Over the years they've sat in a desk drawer, gathering dust until yesterday, when I discovered all the fun things you can do with business cards you don't care about anymore!

First, I made a business card cube, just to try my hand at basic origami.  Then I followed it up with the business card box, and filled it with some business cards that I'm keeping by my phone to use as scratch-paper during phone calls.  It took a little bit of time, but I'd label it about a 1.5/5 on a difficulty scale.

 

I might follow up with a couple other origami crafts today at lunch.  I especially like the idea of some of the 3D shapes (tetrahedrons, octahedrons, etc) even though they look to be a little bit above my skill level at the moment.  But I've got a lot of cards to go through and practice with to get them right!

 

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The Friday Drabble – Episode 2

Fridays are the days I post one or two "drabble", the 100-word stories that test your ability to convey an entire story idea in an extremely brief format.  Feel free to join in and write your own 100 word stories on Fridays, and tag them with "friday drabble".  Link to them in the comments and/or on Twitter with the hashtag #fridaydrabble.

ALSO! Some of the drabble I am writing are part of the 100 Word Stories Podcast Weekly Challenge! Because of this, I will also post an audio recording of my reading of any challenge submissions.  Hope you enjoy!


Looking For Work

“And why, Mr….”

“Loki”

“Yes, Mr. Loki. Why do you think you'd be suitable for the Demigod position?”

“Well, I have plenty of deity experience from my last place of employment.”

“Yes, about that – it says here in your letter of recommendation that you were… a bit of a troublemaker?”

“Well, I pulled a couple practical jokes, but I wouldn't call that making trouble…”

“Yes, I see. And do you have anything that would prevent you from starting as early as next week?”

“Only Ragnarok.”

“Okay, thank you very much for your time, Mr. Loki. We’ll be in touch.”


Like a Candle in the Wind

They called him the Human Torch. He was like something out of comic books. Flames crawled all over his flesh, and little yellow and red tongues licked at his hair, but never ignited so much as a single strand.

They remember how he had to sleep on a ceramic bed, and left charred footprints in his wake.

They remember how he kept the local nursing home residents alive when the Blizzard of 2042 knocked out power for three weeks.

But then the CIA discovered he was an arsonist, and guilty of murder. And quietly, surreptitiously, the Human Torch got snuffed.

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