Once I stopped breaking the rules, the rules started breaking me.    

  • Published: 2014 Apr 12
  • Category: Life
  • Comments: None

The Return?

You know, to be honest, I thought I was done with this. With college ended, and the new job started I felt like there wasn’t much left to share. But now I find myself kinda regretting not blogging a little more these past months. Because, as it turns out, my vision of what post-college life would be like couldn’t have been further from the truth.

I spent the first few months after college still angry. Not just angry, angry and bitter. Then, as college faded away and I began to look at the experience as a whole I began to question my own anger. Did I have a right to be bitter, or was I just fooling myself all along?

For years I’ve argued that education and intelligence are 100% disjoined. Time and again I’d point to people with degrees, even “advanced” degrees, who were just dumber than dumb. Scary stupid. Yet I went to college with a sincere expectation of finding a place of learning. School was terrible, yes, and I should call it out for what it is, but what I’m not so sure I should be allowed act so surprised by it.

So I’ve stayed angry, but I’m starting to let go of the bitterness. I wasn’t wronged. The world is just shit.

At the new job, I’ve tried to get into a rhythm. It wasn’t the job I wanted, but as I learned more I began to see that there was indeed room for some (but only “some”) engineering work. It wouldn’t never be a career, but it couldn’t definitely be a first step. I tried to get that rhythm. I did. Really.

I failed.

Work has turned into a comedy of tragedies. No, maybe a tragedy of comedies? No, that’s not it either. Ahh, of course: work has turned into a tragedy of tragedies. And I hope to go into more details in coming posts if it turns out that I’ve caught the blogging bug once again (Yeah, this post may end up being the only post in 2014. Never know.), but for now I want to finish a couple other thoughts.

So I went to school with expectations that were not fulfilled. I had job expectations that have, in no way, been fulfilled. I had graduate school expectations that will likely never be fulfilled. I had lifestyle expectations that have not come close to being fulfilled. In short, I hit 0% of what I aimed for.

To put it bluntly, I gambled, I lost. While failure is never the goal, if we can learn from it then it may still have been worth it. So that’s where I’m at right now, what do I learn from this?

And that’s why I’ve come back to the blog. To share my question with you. What do I learn from this? Add to that: what do I do next? If I do continue to blog, we’ll start picking apart what went wrong and what avenues of change I should start walking down.

Maybe blogging about it will help me motivate me to actually do more about it. To be honest, I have not been very productive with regards to improving my mess these past 9 months. I’ve spent much too much of my recent life as the guest of honor at my own pity party. But I think that would be the shittiest of morals for this story: “Don’t take risks, because you’ll fail and never recover!”.

So. Here we are. Again. I’m older, poorer and lonelier, but the story’s pretty much the same. I continue to be too stupid to know when to quit and just accept life. So I’ll bitch, I’ll moan and eventually I’ll do something moronic.

And maybe I’ll even blog a little along the way.

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Last time

Whenever I choose to blog some of my internal thoughts about things, I always start with a warning. I go into the same schpeel about how this blog is meant to share my adventures, not for soapboxing. Well this is the last time I give such a warning.

The fact is, at this point in my life, anything that’s “happening” is doing so in my head. I can either choose to not share my thoughts or I can just accept that some people won’t like what I have to say and it may affect some of my friendships. I’ve decided on the latter. While I don’t plan on getting balls-deep in philosophical concerns, I will be my thoughts that relate to the topic at hand. If my thoughts reveal me to be an asshole, well then so be it I guess.

Caveat lector.

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  • Published: 2013 Sep 5
  • Category: College
  • Comments: 1

Collegiate Soapboxing

I’m pretty sure that, sometime in the past, I explained that this blog is about me and my life experiences and that this blog is not about my thoughts and philosophies. The motivation behind this separation was the fact that some people like me even though I’m an asshole. By separating life events from personal thoughts people who like me, but don’t agree with me, can follow along without being soap-boxed to death. Philosophy belongs on the “other blog” which, as it happens, I still have yet to start.

But I’ve decided to make an exception. I spent the final months of school angry, and that anger followed me (and was magnified) as I left college and started job hunting. The emotional portion of my anger has been subdued as of late, but philosophically nothing has changed. I’ve decided to share (or at least introduce) some of the issues I have with our garbage education system because I think not sharing it leaves this weird hole in many of my previous statements. And, as it were, I may be bringing up school once or twice more in upcoming posts and I think you guys deserve to be a little more in the know.

So be warned: ahead there be dragons.

First, Set The Bar Low

If I told you I didn’t learn a damn thing in my four years of “higher education” I’d be lying. I learned a lot. But I didn’t have to. This deserves clarification because, really, this is at the heart of my biggest gripe. In saying that “I didn’t have to”, I’m not saying that I didn’t have to learn a lot. I’m saying I didn’t have to learn at all.

I have seen students pass classes that included projects which they accomplished without even understanding the goal of the project itself. Imagine asking someone to build you a bridge and they accept without knowing what a bridge was. They then go about building said bridge and when it’s done, they still have no idea what a bridge is. This was school. We spent many, many hours in the lab trying to make progress. During these times we discussed the projects out loud and in front of white boards. Always the leaches were there. Sometimes asking, other times quietly taking note of component values or circuit topologies. But it’s not as if all they did was lurk and steal progress. They asked questions, they networked, and, more often than not, people would throw them a bone.

And if I got started on “group projects” I would blow a capillary in brain before I finished. I sincerely believe that the only reason group projects exist in college is so that the morons would pass and be able to pay another term of tuition.

The point is, major components of student’s grades (projects) were often faked, stolen, or stumbled through with zero actual knowledge of course material. Now sure, there was more to grades than just projects. There were exams after all.

C’s Get Degrees

This is college’s biggest shame right here. In order to get credit for a class in your major you need to get a ‘C’ or above. In most classes that equates to 70%. I’ve can’t think of a single class where you couldn’t snooze your way to a C. Many classes made you work for an ‘A’, but there’s not a person reading this who couldn’t get a ‘C’ in the vast majority of college classes with little effort.

“But wait,” you say, “everyone knows you need a 3.0 or better to have any hopes of finding a job in your field, and a ‘C’ average is a 2.0.”

Yup. A 3.0 is a ‘B’ average. So let’s look at a “normal” college education. Roughly half of your classes will not be “core” classes where “core” refers to classes in your major. Anything not core is considered “general education”. Take out physics, calculus, differential equations and (possibly) linear algebra and what’s left of your gen. ed. classes are some of the saddest examples of education (higher, lower, or otherwise) in modern America. Getting an A in a gen. ed. classes usually requires little more than a pulse.

To this we add all 100 level (i.e.: freshman year) core classes. These are the engineering classes before you know anything about engineering. It’s the college equivalent of playing with blocks.

So almost half of your classes are easy A’s to begin with. We pad that with freshman core classes which are also easy A’s. Finally, to really make sure you get that paper (after you pay your tuition of course), about 90% of your classes get curved. This isn’t about education. It never was. If you thought it was, learning that you’re wrong will be the education you get. So yeah, in addition to projects there are also exams. But truly, the system is rigged to help you pass.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

So college is a sham. Truly. Wasting my time getting a fake education made me mad. Quickly spending money which took me a years to save up made me mad. Having to take out loans on top of burning through my savings made me mad. But what really fucking burns me up is the value we’ve placed on four years of lies stitched together into a single diploma.

I’ve seen my career severely limited by not having a degree, so much so that I eventually quit and got one. But not everyone is able to do so. I have a friend who is also a technician (and ex-coworker) and I would guarantee he’d make a better engineer most of the people I graduated with. As I’m the first person in my family to get a degree, I’ve seen the lives of everyone in la familia held back by the lack of a diploma.

School is a farce, and we use it as an arbitrary way to create a class system which means nothing. Well, almost nothing. Getting a degree does mean one thing. It means you’re willing to play. It means you’re willing to shut your fucking mouth, pay your tuition, and pretend you deserve what comes after it. Now if you don’t feel like joining our little club (or can’t afford to), that’s fine, but good luck paying for that health insurance.

I’m angry that you don’t need to learn to get an education. I’m angry that my career was capped due to my not having this fake education. I’m angry that the dumbing down of the entire education system also causes education inflation, and now a bachelor’s degree is what a high school diploma once was. But most of all I’m angry that no matter what I do from here on in, I’ve given in to the system and now my hands are covered by as much bullshit as my colleagues.

No matter what I do or say for the rest of my life, there’s a certain level of hypocrisy that I simply can’t defend.

And So

So that’s the nutshell explanation why the college experience has angered me so. There’s more to say, and more detail to go into, but I think this is enough soapboxing. I just wanted to share enough so that when I make references to school, or some reference to the fake world we live in, you know what I’m talking about about.

As for me personally, my emotional anger has subsided enormously over the past 8 weeks. The logical/philosophical anger will hopefully stay with me as long as the problem exists. The system is shitty and we let it be shitty. We keep people down using lies and falsehoods, and perpetuate a system which requires you to buy into it or suffer for not doing so. Intelligence, understanding and education are now passe.

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  • Published: 2013 Sep 3
  • Category: Life
  • Comments: None

And now, some good news:

Tuesday night, two weeks ago, I finally did it. I pumped up the tires and hopped on the bike for the first time in, what, 3 years? 2 ½ maybe? I rode up five city blocks and then rode back down. Last time I rode, I made it one block before the pain in my knees forced me off the bike. Hence I was quite excited when I got home; but I knew it was too early to call it good.

But First

It’s worth detouring the conversation for a second to give you a quick update on my knees prior to the bike ride. I think my knees are done getting better. I can go an entire day without pain, but it’s pretty rare. I’ve gone a couple of days without pain, but that’s even rarer.

Usually there’s at least some pain in at least one knee for at least some amount of time every day. The pain comes in two forms: The first comes as a sharp-ish pain that’s caused by certain motions. Sometimes it’s stairs, other times it’s crossing my legs as I sit. The bottom line with this pain is when it comes up, I stop doing whatever it is that I’m doing and the pain calms down almost immediately. This pain can be between 2 and 8 on a scale of 1-10 (10 being most painful).

The second pain is the duller pain that may not show up all day, or it may hang around for a few hours. But this pain is usually a 1 or 2 (on that 1-10 scale). Actually sometimes it’s a 0 on the scale because sometimes it doesn’t hurt, it just feels noticeable, if that makes sense. I know that’s pretty imprecise, but to be honest, most of my knee issues are. Which bring us to…

And Now, Back To Our Program

That evening I could feel my knees more. There was a little pain, but I didn’t think there was more pain. Nor did the pain feel novel in anyway. The real test was the next morning. When my bladder forced me to stop snoozing and get out of bed, the only sensation I could feel was the one sending me to the restroom. My knees felt absolutely fine. That was Wednesday morning.

Thursday I rode my first “real” ride. I took the bike to the riverfront and logged 3 miles. That evening my knees were a little sore. Friday morning, perfect.

I had made an appointment at a local bike shop to get my bike professionally fitted that Saturday. After the appointment, I left the bike shop with my seat raised up and a new extension bar thingie to raise my handlebar. The girl doing my fitting mentioned many, many times that my stubby little legs required some compromise on bike fitting.

I rode 10 miles on Saturday. This was (part of) my old ride. Down the spring water corridor to Sellwood, cross the bridge, ride back to Portland. I rode another 10 on Sunday. Monday, I did it again.

Shortly after getting home from work on Wednesday I left the apartment with a helmet on my head and bike seat between my legs. An hour later I returned tired, but triumphant, once more.

As I sat in my chair watching some nonsense on Hulu that evening, I could really feel my right knee. The thing about my knees is that, like I said above, there’s (almost) always pain, discomfort, or a sensation (purposefully vague). Also, there are good days and bad days. Wednesday night I began to worry a little, but I really couldn’t tell if this was bike related or not.

Thursday morning I woke up feeling golden. No limping to do the pee pee. I decided to relax for a couple of days and get back to it on Saturday. Unfortunately I got busy with something else I had scheduled and never made it out. Sunday morning I woke up, hit the shower, and put in another 10 miles.

It Ain’t Pretty, But…

My old ride was about 20 miles and had a huge climb. I would do it in an hour and, after getting home and showering, would go about my day refreshed and reinvigorated. When I got to the point where I could leave my apartment, ride 20 miles, and get back without ever touching the floor I was pretty proud of myself.

Now I ride 10 miles in the same amount of time. When I get home I’m sweaty and exhausted. I downshift a lot. If there’s a small uphill I stand (no more “powering through” from my seat), and if it’s anything more than a small uphill I dismount and walk. Dismounting happens twice on each ride, once at the Sellwood bridge and again when I get back to the river and have to walk home.

The climb from the river to my place at the end of the ride used to be that final “I can make it” push. I do miss it. But I will not be complaining anytime soon. Though it will take a while before my cardio has improved enough for my rides to be invigorating again, it still feels fantastic to be back in the saddle.

It may be that I’ll never get my old knees back. But if I can ride regularly again that’ll be good enough for me. I’m still a little apprehensive, as each ride is followed by some level of sensation in one or both knees. But only once has that “sensation” been painful. If I can increase my distance and ride 3 or 4 times a week I’ll be ecstatic.

As I granny-gear the straightaways while sucking wind, I do so happily. As of this moment, I’m riding again. :)

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  • Published: 2013 Sep 1
  • Category: Life
  • Comments: None

Benjamins, Cheddar, Greenbacks, Simoleons

September 1st. A new month. And for me, the first month on my new budget. I may lose whatever remaining cool points I have left when I say this, but I’m going to anyway. Here goes: I really enjoy making budgets. I do and you can judge me, I don’t care.

The last budget I made was about 4 years ago and I’ve been living within it since. Now I’m employed and making lettuce again, it’s time to re-budget. I have to admit it that it feels good to know that my bank account will be growing each month again.

Freedom Over Comfort

I’ve decided to, for now, stay pretty conservative. I’m spending a lot on debt reduction. I came to Portland with something like $8,000 in debt from the house repairs, which I’ve been paying off as slowly as possible due to fantastic interest rates (2% and 3%). But even near-minimum payments over 4 years have cut them down to almost nothing.

I did, however, add a couple of grand in July when I went to San Francisco on vacation (and I’m just now realizing that I never did finish writing about that). But all in all, my credit card debt will be paid off in the next 3 months. Soon after, my student loans will demand attention.

Historically I create a new budget at the start of each year, so this budget will likely last through all of 2014. In planning the budget I made the decision that paying off debt as quickly as possible is more important to me than buying fancy cars, toys, houses, women. Of all the benefits that come with getting a degree (astute readers may recall), it was the freedom to move around that was my biggest driving factor for enduring four years of college. Debt and freedom have a inverse relationship.

Straight Up Ballin’

I’ve gotten 3 paychecks so far, but the third one is actually the first one to fall within the borders of le’ budget a la new (I don’t know…). But that means I’ve been handed dollars twice with no rules on how to spend it! I’m proud to say that I’ve been buying gear like it’s going out of style. In fact, I even took a picture of the loot:

The kids call it bling...

The kids call it bling...

That’s right mothafuckas! New jeans. New boxer briefs. And yes, not one, not two, but THREE new towels. They’re the fancy towels too! And they’re huge! And soft, so soft. But I’m not done! New socks are next.

OK OK OK, I’ve also purchased a top-of-the-line new tablet. But that’s nowhere near as exciting as new underwear. Tablets don’t hold your junk.

And Add A Dash Of Reality

Now don’t get me wrong. My budget is not that tight. Even with the huge allowance I’m making for debt reduction (In the neighborhood of $20K / year) there’s enough left for me to live comfortably. I’ll see how it goes over the next few months and, if needed, tweak it. But as it stands, I think I have my budget such that I can have a soft life and still pick up a couple of toys along the way.

For now though, being able to sit down and look at my finances without getting that ugly feeling in my stomach is amazing. The bank account was approaching scary levels by the end there. I’m not sure how long it’s gonna be before I do my next stupid life-change-thing. Until then, I’ll try and get my finances in order so that when the time comes I can do said stupid thing while still eating dinner.

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