September 30, 2010

Beyond Here Lies Madness

I have to be honest. I'm basically faking my way through this whole parenthood thing. Oh sure, I may look like I know what I'm doing, but behind the cool facade of confidence I radiate is a terrified doofus who is mentally screaming "AHHHHHHHHHH!!!" 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

My son is now officially one year old, and when I look at him I can't for the life of me figure out how he's still alive. Despite all the odds stacked against him, my wife and I have managed to feed him, regularly put clothes on him, bathe him nightly and get him to bed at a reasonable hour.

In short, I've managed to do things for my son that I routinely fail to do for myself. I mean "bathe nightly?" If by "nightly" you mean "maybe shower once every three days." "Regularly putting clothes on" for me means wearing the same pair of pants for a week, and my eating habits have deteriorated to a point that most rats would look away in horror come dinner time.

I'm not sure, exactly, when I descended into such a state of human disaster, but I'm pretty sure it was during the stretch last winter when my son woke up crying every 20 minutes at night because he couldn't find the pacifier that had fallen from his mouth. After about a month-and-a-half of Guantanamo-caliber sleep deprivation, my mind simply decided enough was enough and started stripping away the non-essential life activities so it could concentrate on maintaining a heart beat and regular breathing. Everything else became extraneous nonsense that got in the way of precious sleep.

In those rare moments when I can engage my brain and actually think for a change, I notice how much things have changed in a year. The house, for example, looks like a small nuclear device detonated in a Toy-R-Us store. There are toys EVERYWHERE, and at some point my mind just decided that was the natural state of the world and I shouldn't think too deeply about it, lest I sacrifice further sleep. For example, I recently stepped on a Rubik's cube on the bathroom rug, and I gave it no more initial thought than if I had stepped on a wash cloth; a Rubik's cube seemed perfectly appropriate in the bathroom.

Even discussions with my wife have taken on a surreal quality that defies the conventions of polite society. We've had serious disagreements about whose turn it is to change a diaper, and I've found myself trying to make the case that I've changed the nastiest diaper ever, not her. That's just a plain old stupid thing to try and establish because, seriously, every single diaper is nasty in its own unique way.

And so now I look back over the past year, and I wave wistfully back at the man I used to be, while at the same time confronting the disheveled specter looking back at me each morning in the mirror, and I think "Only 17 more years to go."

And then I go change a diaper, with just the hint of a tear in my eye.

Posted by Ryan at 11:24 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 23, 2010

I has a net?

Awhile ago, I posted about jumping without a net from the world of the employed to the world of the somewhat self-employed freelancer nevertheless looking for more gainful work.

It's been an interesting month, to put it mildly. I've transitioned into the role of primary daycare provider for my son, with frequent sojourns into the home office to pound out paragraphs for various freelance gigs I've managed to lock down. I also jump frequently into, and LinkedIn, looking for opportunities that seem likely fits into my rather niche skill set.

I'm much happier than I ever was in my old job, but that's not saying much, I suppose. I could have a job skinning live cats, and I'd whistle a happy tune because I'm not in my old position.

I've had several phone interviews, and one face-to-face interview for a position I didn't get, mainly because the two hour commute each way each day wasn't deemed acceptable for a position that wanted me in my desk bright and chipper each morning at 7 a.m.

I do have a limited editing contract pending, with an ironic twist I won't divulge until I actually have the contract signed and am sequestered in my home office, editing dutifully. It's a daunting editing position, dealing with technical information that would challenge a Cray super computer, but I think I'll be up to the task after a few projects are under my belt. As I said, it's a limited contract, with the option to extend further contracts if I prove satisfactory. I'm supposed to sign the contract sometime next week, and I'm rather excited about the prospect.

I wouldn't suggest jumping without a net unless you have a bit more of a plan that I did, however. Sometimes, you just can't take it any more. You know what I mean?

Posted by Ryan at 07:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 16, 2010


Ryan: I just applied for an editorial writer position I'm not remotely qualified for.

Caroline: That's pretty awesome

Ryan: "Summarize your interest, skills and experience relating to the position for which you are applying."

Ryan: "I basically have no interest or skills related to political writing. If anything, politics and regulatory agencies bore me to the point of tears. Regardless, the opportunity to apply for an editorial writing position happens about once every 20 years, so I figured I'd take a shot. "

Caroline: You didn't.

Ryan: I totally did.

Caroline: LOLO

Caroline:::fingers crossed::

Ryan: LOLO!

Ryan: I saw no reason to sugar coat my answer.

Ryan: I mean, come on. From the job description: "Versatility will be essential in this position. The successful candidate must be a strong writer with a track record of producing high-quality, deeply reported editorials on a range of topics. Preference will be given to candidates who have experience writing about national issues, including Congress, federal regulatory agencies and national politics."

Caroline: EW

Ryan: Why not ask that candidates also be able to shit gold nuggets and sing pitch-perfect arias.

Caroline: Can't you sing pitch-perfect arias whilst shitting gold nuggets?

Caroline: Over qualified!

Ryan: If I was shitting a gold nugget, chances are good I'd sure as hell be singing SOMETHING.

Posted by Ryan at 12:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 15, 2010

Writing it all down

One thing that keeps me perpetually amazed about my son as he continues to grow is the myriad ways his personality emerges. As his mental operating system continues to install updates, everything comes into more and more focus.

He's fiercely independent, but when he wants attention he announces it with incessant screams. He's extremely curious and will sit quietly for ten to fifteen minutes, studying whatever item he has in his hands at the moment, but when he wants to just play for the sake of playing, he can be as loud and distracted as a howler monkey.

One of the curious developments I've noted is that he now absolutely despises the changing table. It used to be his favorite place in the world. When we first brought him home, he would lay contentedly on the table, staring out curiously and intently at the large ash tree in the backyard. He actually fell asleep on the changing table a couple times during the first couple months.

Now, as he approaches his first birthday, he's a holy terror on the changing table. Even before he is placed upon it, he's crying and carrying on in anticipation of being changed. It's the damnedest thing. If I were sitting in a loaf of feces so huge is coated my scrotum, I'd very much like to be changed ASAP. Not so with the boy, for some reason. Perhaps he enjoys the insulating feel of digested corn casserole covering his buttocks. It's as good a theory as any.

Before he arrived in my life, I had fully intended to turn this blog into a chronicle of his development, but I quickly discovered he's just too mentally and physically exhausting for me to sit down each night and write about his day. By the time we put him down for the night, I have only enough energy left in me to surf for the day's big news and tinker with a few odd Web projects before retiring to some Discovery or History channel viewing, which soothes the brain and prepares me for a hopeful night of recuperative slumber.

I hope I'm not forgetting to post about the important stuff though, because I'll need this blog to remember those, I"m pretty sure.

Posted by Ryan at 02:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 14, 2010

Falling Back on Technology

There's this relatively new show on some cable channel I surf by occasionally that's dedicated to chronicling the behavior of "hoarders." "Hoarders" is a generous term given to people who just refuse to throw anything away and eventually live in houses packed to the rafters with trash.

While I don't necessarily consider myself a "hoarder" in the vein portrayed on the cable television show, I have to profess, when it comes to computer technology, I tend to save a whole lot of stuff that is way, way, way past its useful shelf life.

Take, for example, the several dozen 3.5 inch formatted diskettes I have stacked on my desk. These little gems of a long gone computing era can hold a whopping 1.44 megabytes (MBs) of data (non-compressed). I have no idea what's even on 95 percent of the disks, and yet I hold on to them for reasons not entirely clear to me.

Or, consider the choking number of CDs and DVDs that have data burned into them that may have been useful eight years ago, but today are about as useful as a head cold. I simply can't prompt myself to dispose of them, because there's part of me that can't accept the idea that a 2001 version of Microsoft Works won't somehow come back into technology fashion. So, it all sits on my desk, chaotically lined up and categorized in no particular order, waiting for a nuclear war that will one day put humanity back into the computing days of Windows 95 or, worse, DOS.

Diskettes and CDs are relatively minor hoarding items, but I also have three fully functioning computers, spanning the last 12 years of computing innovation, which take up far more space that would frankly be better utilized for storing shoes, or old Playboy magazines.

I hold on to old computers for one simple reason: I never know when my current computer will take a dive on me and leave me in computing limbo, which happened last week. I came home one evening, tried to fire up my computer, and it responded by not responding at all. When your primary source of income comes from freelance writing conducted at home, not having a computer is sort of like an Olympic marathon runner waking up one day without legs.

In desperation, I turned to a computer I mothballed back in December of 2007. Computer technology really is astonishing. You wouldn't think two-and-a-half years would be considered all that long, but as far as computing technology goes, it's like five generations ago. When my old computer was plugged into the Internet for the first time in 2.5 years, it was like shaking Rip Van Winkle awake after 20 years.

Within minutes of coming back to life, my computer was pleading with me to install software update after software update. It was like a parched man who had been wandering in the desert, begging for a glass of water. "There's a Windows Service Pack 3! Install it! Install it!" "Java updates! Give me Java updates!" "Don't you know there's an Adobe 8.1 available? Give it to me NOW!"

The problem with all the upgrade demands my computer was making was that it only has a 80 gigabyte (GB) hard drive, which is sadly pathetic by today's standards, so even though it was frantically updating itself, it was basically filling itself to capacity.

Thankfully, I should be able to muddle through with my old computer long enough to troubleshoot and repair my other computer, and hopefully I won't have to fall back on my other OTHER computer, which was mothballed back in 2001 and frankly couldn't take the shock of learning about a Windows Service Pack 2, let alone Service Pack 3.

In the meantime, it's kind of neat having a 3.5 disk drive again, so I can find out what's on all those old disks I have laying around.

Posted by Ryan at 08:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 13, 2010

Aiden's First Steps

Aiden and I went for a walk today, and when we got back home, he had a surprise in store for me when he showed me he could now actually WALK walk. It was one of those moments when carrying around that Flip video camera all the time, everywhere, FINALLY paid off.

Posted by Ryan at 07:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 10, 2010

Waiting to be picked down on the docks

Job hunting online is the equivalent of throwing a penny into Lake Superior and hoping it somehow lands on the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Or something.

Point is, it's a long shot process. Oh sure, I had a couple nibbles a few weeks ago, but that was the culmination of literally scores of applications going back to January.

Back in my day. . .

*overturning the milking pail, taking a seat and breaking out my whittlin' blade*

Back in my day, which is to say when I graduated from college in 1998, practically every hiring company required a hardcopy resume and cover letter, which you had to mail with a stamp and everything. I mean, you had to put some serious effort into being rejected.

Nowadays, you can just click "Apply Now," attach your resume as a .doc file, scrawl out a cover letter--which is even conveniently spell checked, if you so wish--and then you click "Send" and wait for a confirmation e-mail to land in your inbox, after which follows several weeks, if not months, of silence. If you're really lucky, you'll get a rejection e-mail, but mostly nothing happens. So, it's still all about swimming through the rejections, but you can send out the applications so much faster.

So that's progress, I guess.

One major drawback to this online application process is that I've sent so many applications out to companies over the months, I can't remember all of them. I've had two phone interviews, during which I spent the first five minutes trying to figure out which job it was the company was advertising for. I could be mistaken, but it can't bode well for the first impression when you have to interrupt and say "I'm sorry, but what position was this for again?"

I find one of my bigger stumbling blocks is that I've been writing for the information technology (IT) space for so long, I'm wary of stepping too far out of my comfort zone. Plus, freelance requests have been coming in pretty regularly from my previous employer and others, so that kind of reinforces this idea that I have to write for an IT audience. Writing jobs are hard enough to come by without handicapping yourself with stupid limitations.

I was approved to be an writer several months ago, but after a couple experiences trying to write for them, I decided their business model of not paying writers boo unless the article gets a jillian Web hits isn't quite my cup of tea.

Not that there aren't a lot of hungry writers out there willing to craft 500 word missives in the hopes of scoring the big hit. That's the other thing: there's a lot of writing competition out there. They're not necessarily GOOD writers, but the Internet today tends to favor quantity over quality, which is a strange shift, now that I think about it.

I'm not too worried yet, because as I said I have freelance writing and checks coming in through the rest of the year, so it's not like I'm going to lose my house next month and find myself on a street corner with a hand-scrawled cardboard sign that reads "Jobless. Please give. God bless." Still, I have my concerns.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some job rejections I must apply for.

Posted by Ryan at 03:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 08, 2010


Yes, this ThunderJournal has been quiet for awhile. I'm working on two freelance articles and, as you know, those pay the bills. This ThunderJournal hasn't paid a bill since August of 2007.

Don't worry. I'll have something up before the end of the week.

Posted by Ryan at 12:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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