A Case of the Mondays

This is a day in the life (more accurately, a Monday in the life) of a husband & father, foster parent, and data analyst. If you ever wanted to know what I go through in a day - I have typed it here for you.

6:00 - I’m awake. I don’t want to be… but my eyes are open. I guess I’ll watch some news.

6:30 - Attempt to wake up Bekah. Last night, she asked me to wake her up early so that she could run an errand. She didn’t tell me what she meant by “early.” She wants to sleep until 7am.

7:00 - Wake Bekah up again. The three year old is in time out (a bit early… I know. Google reaction attachment disorder… you’ll empathize). Dress two of the toddlers. Feed the kids breakfast. Dress the other three.

7:45 - The three year old is in time out again.

8:00 – Shave. Shower. Listen to Plankeye (Commonwealth… great album).

8:35 - Time out again. Time out thrice before I leave for work… I think that’s a record.

9:28 - I tell my wife that I need to leave for work. She looks at the clock and objects. It’s only a five minute drive… and I don’t start ‘til 10:00. She thinks I just want to get out of the house and away from the kids. She’s partially correct. She convinces me to stay a little longer. I check facebook while she cooks breakfast. I listen to Shiny Toy Gun’s new song (the one from that car commercial... the 2010 Lincoln MKZ).

10:00 - Log in. Read e-mail. Check current status of our markets. Check ending status from the weekend. Check current status again. Call from corporate to review the groups’ performance over the weekend and set plan for the day. Deliver walkie-talkie to point of contact on the third floor.

10:35 - Was going to walk down the stairs, but the elevator door is open so I step inside. The elevator smells like McDonald's. I push the button for the second floor, the door almost closes before a coworker presses the button outside and reopens the door. He gets inside and we stand and wait for another employee to catch up. The doors close and we ride down. One of the coworkers looks like she got hit by a bus and is coughing like an asthmatic cat trying to hack up a hairball. The elevator passes the second floor, and the first floor… it opens up in the basement. The light for the second floor is still lit. Two more coworkers get on. We ride back up. Finally the doors open on the second floor.

10:40 - I should have taken the stairs.

10:55 - Prep for my hourly reminder of why I hate Microsoft Access. Access is of the Devil.

11:06 - While Access exports files into Excel, I analyze pie charts depicting current activity in the markets. I like pie charts. I also like pie. Suddenly reminded that there is no “I” in team, but there is an “I” in pie.

11:13 - My report is completed. One market is good and getting better. One market is bad but improving. One market looks horrible, but I tend not to worry about them. Two of the other markets I completely ignore. I get a call from one of the supervisors; he asks me to move some of his staff from one market to another. Done.

11:29 - So far, four employees have asked for permission to leave early. I probably will not approve their requests. How’s that for a Monday?!

11:50 - Notice that one of our markets has 30 employees doing nothing (but available to do something). Time to organize a training class. Class started: cut availability in half.

12:13 - Several employees are frustrated that I won’t let them go home early. Darn. Experiencing some confusion. The “A” in my job title stands for analyst. Some of the coaches thinks it stands for administrator. I’m sure some of the non-supervisory employees thinks it stands for ass.

12:17 - We still have a baker’s dozen available to do something and not doing anything. So we’re going to give them something to do. Unfortunately… it’s something they probably would rather not do.

12:30 - Conference call. No one has joined, so I’m listening to hold music: smooth jazz. Not the good kind of smooth jazz – the bad kind… the drum-machine-keeps-beat-for-syth-keyboard-player-who-wishes-he-was-KennyG-but-isn’t on infinite loop kind of bad smooth jazz. Logistics thought the meeting was at 1:30. Will try again in an hour. I look forward to the muzak.

12:42 - Check status of one of the markets. 13% above goal. You’d think that was a good thing, but we’re not supposed to go over 5% above goal. That number will need to come down.

1:10 - Analyzing traffic in one of our markets during the 4pm to 7:30pm time frames. Looking at the last two Mondays and Tuesdays. Data might come in handy.

1:30 - Conference call part deux. Other people are on the call. Yea! As soon as the call starts I get distracted. A trainer asks me to switch her class’s skills from training to production. Before I can begin switching the trainees’ skills… maintenance shows up to complete a maintenance request I submitted last Friday. (There’s some hardware for a slide-out mouse and keyboard stand mounted under my desk. I don’t need it but it’s there. The mounting brackets are kinda sharp and I keep bumping my knee on it. I’m worried that I might cut my knee on it once the weather is warm enough for shorts. On Friday, it ripped a hole in my jeans. I requested the hardware be removed.) Maintenance needs to crawl under my desk to remove the hardware, but I’m still on the conference call. So, maintenance and I do-si-do as I scoot out of my narrow cubicle. He is now power-drilling away while my phone’s pigtail is stretched to its limit and allowing me to remain on the conference call from outside my cubicle.

1:44 - The trainer returns to my desk to see if the trainee’s skills had been switched yet. Maintenance is still half under my desk, I’m still on the call, and my mouse and keyboard are out of reach. No... No one’s skills have been changed.

1:46 - Woohoo! My desk’s underside is hardware free. Now I can start switching the classes skills. And I’m still on the call. Hooray for multi-tasking.

1:52 - We finish the call 8 minutes early. My boss says “We should talk about something else. Any one watch baseball?” My counterpart at the corporate office does. Her fantasy baseball team is winning. What about basketball? Yeah, she watches that too… the Nuggets are winning. While they talk sports I finish switching skills for the training class.

2:00 - I’m going to go to lunch, but we need to pull some people of the phones. One of the supervisors volunteer to train a class. I IM him to see if he’s ready. No answer. I call his extension to ask the same question. No answer. I walk upstairs. He’s at his desk. “Are you ready.” He says he is and he just called me to let me know, but I didn’t answer.

2:15 - I’m starting my lunch. The trainees’ whose skills I just switched are done for the day. They’re going home.

2:20 - Mmmm. Onion rings.

2:25 - My counterpart IMs me and asks if I want her to do the mid-day report. I say “Sure... I'll get it when I'm back from lunch.” Lovely way to answer the question and then contradict my own answer. Helps if I read the whole question.

2:49 - Reading Stuff Christians Like on my lunch break. That guy is hilarious. I love having hour long lunches… I get so much reading done.

2:59 - My boss asks if my payroll is accurate. I think so, but I’ll double check. Crap. Payroll has not tracked any of my hours since Tuesday. I must have had a new employee number assigned. Lunch is over early… gotta fix my payroll.

3:18 - Payroll fixed. My boss looks up my new ID (he didn’t know it changed). Check email. 14 people have requested to go home early – including the four I mentioned earlier. And I’m still not approving any of those requests. Suckers.

3:27 - Check status of all of our markets. 5 out of the 7 are below goal. One I don’t care about. Two of the others should have no problem meeting goal within the next hour (maybe two), one should be making their goal but isn’t, and the last one is hooped for the day (beyond repair). The market that was 13% above goal is now 15% above goal. Good thing our call volume is going to spike within the next 30-60 minutes.

3:35 - Wandered away from my desk to speak with a floor supervisor. All of the supervisors are in a meeting. Is it strange that I feel like they’re talking about me?

3:50 - Talked to an agent in the market that should be (but isn’t) making their goal. Trying to figure out why they weren’t making goal. They’re there now… barely.

3:58 - Time for my hourly ritual torture (AKA: Microsoft Access). Thankfully, my counterpart has done the last four update reports. Access works faster on her computer. I’m slightly jealous. But she has gone home… so it’s all me.

4:00 - Microsoft Access error: Database (Access 2007) (Not Responding). I’m looking at an hourglass instead of a cursor. Story of my life.

4:05 - Waiting on files to export. Realize that 26% of the employees in one market are sitting idle… but 0% of the employees in another market are idle. 0% available means there are customers waiting. There’s a few employees in a meeting, so I call the point of contact for the market with customers waiting and ask him to get the staff in meetings out of meetings. I finish by saying “that’d be great” suddenly realizing I sound like Bill Lumbergh.

4:11 - File export complete. Finish report. All groups are improving (though some slower than I hoped for). Spike in call volume started exactly when I expected.

4:17 - I issue a request for a stop & drop. It’s basically an command for all employees to do nothing except what they’re supposed to be doing. You would think that should be the case all day… but you’d be wrong. And if I added a roll to the stop and drop, I’d bring back memories of childhood fire safety lessons. So far, I’ve resisted that urge.

4:20 - Received a big kudos from my boss.

4:21 - Take a short break. Use the bathroom. Call Bekah. Microwave and washing machine have both been fixed. Awesome.

4:25 - Back to work.

4:29 - Chase more employees out of meetings. Start calling people who aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Again, you would think that this shouldn’t be a problem. And you would still be wrong.

4:51 - I want to check the current status of our markets, but can’t until 5:00.

5:00 - Longest 9 minutes ever. I’m now waiting on Access. Again.

5:11 - Report complete. Head up to floor to talk to a resource.

5:29 - Did you know that salmon are carnivores?

5:36 - Continue calling people to get them to do what they’re supposed to do.

5:41 - This is the roughest part of my day. My final update can’t be sent until after 6pm. Our service percentages are dropping. I’m busy calling various extensions trying to get people to be more efficient, but I’m anxious to finish the 6pm update so that I can start my closing reports… but time seems to slow down. It’s like data-entry in bullet time.

6:01 - Access error: Database (Access 2007) (Not Responding). I’m looking at an hourglass instead of a cursor. I’m getting a strange sense of déjà vu.

6:05 - I have a headache. But I have horrible posture… and the only things I’ve eaten all day is a bowl of cereal and some onion rings. So I’m sure the headache is my fault.

6:11 - Update complete. I still loathe Access.

6:20 - I gave one employee permission to leave early. She’s got a bad headache. I feel her pain.

6:24 - A bowl of cereal, some onion rings, AND a handful of tortilla chips.

6:27 - Starting my closing report. The good news is my day is almost over… The bad news is that I get to spend the next 30ish minutes in Access. I’d rather be burnt at the stake, but being the object of a witch hunt is not in my job description.

6:34 - Access error: Database (Access 2007) (Not Responding). I will probably see this no less than 14 times between now and when I go home.

6:49 - Still working on my closing report. I hold nothing but spite for that abomination Microsoft named Access. But I let two more people go home early. So I’m trying to be nice.

6:59 - Every time I look at Access it freezes. If it wasn’t so aggravating it’d be funny.

7:07 - I have finished copying and pasting data from 14 spreadsheets into access. If I have to wait two minutes for access to unfreeze after every set of data, that would explain why I rarely get off the clock on time.

7:10 - I have approved one more employee to go early. But that’s it. I’m done being nice.

7:15 - My closing report is done. Adding it as an attachment and sending it to the staff that needs it.

7:20 - Shut everything down. Enter last minute requests.

7:25 - Go home. Long walk out to the parking lot.

7:35 - I'm home. Two of the five kids are still awake. Bekah must have known that I'd be hungry because she has dinner cooked and ready: pancakes & bacon. (Impeccable timing too... She was flipping the last pancake over in the skillet as I walked through the door.) I feel loved.

7:39 - Bekah and I talk about her day while I eat. She told me about the incompetent receptionist at Fred's Appliance and the nice repairman that came out to fix the washing machine. She tells me about the horde's attitude problems, how two of them didn't want dinner, and why the eldest went to bed early.

7:55 - There's extra batter left over, so Bekah makes another pancake for herself while I cooked more bacon... bacon dipped in pancake batter. (Bekah was appalled, but really - not as disgusting as it sounds)

8:24 - Sit down at computer. Check HBO. Check blog traffic. Check facebook.

8:27 - One of two still awake refuses to go to bed. Instead she goes to time out. Same kid who spent the morning in time out.

8:33 - Three year old falls asleep in time out. (According to Bekah she fell asleep in time out earlier today when she refused to take a nap)

8:35 - Carry sleeping three year old upstairs to her bed.

8:44 - All kids asleep, except for my little Zu.

8:47 - Check facebook again. Look though pictures posted by my friend Steve from when his band played at Austin Reggae Fest

8:56 - Update my facebook status. Christian comes down the stairs and stands in front of the couch staring at Bekah. "What's wrong?" she asks. He bursts into tears. She pulls him up onto her lap. He has a fever.

8:59 - Get some children's strength ibuprofen and a cup of water for Christian. I help him take his medicine then get a cup full of gummy bears for him to share with his mommy. They cuddle on the couch. I head back to the computer.

9:07 - Post this blog. Get off the computer. Cuddle with my daughter while watching Heroes. Yes, I know Heroes started seven minutes ago... No worries, I have a DVR for a reason.


We interrupt the regularly scheduled meme for yet another meme

An old friend from Boise posted this survey in her facebook notes. Being the music obsessive I am, I thought it'd be the worth a shot... twice.

Rules: answer the following questions using the song titles from one (and only one) artist. Don't repeat a song title.

First artist: Pearl Jam
Are you male or female?: Betterman
Describe yourself: Nothing as It Seems
How do you feel about yourself: I Got ID
Describe where you currently live: In Hiding
If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Leaving Here
Your favorite form of transportation: MFC (Mini Fast Cars)
Your best friend is: Faithful
Your favorite color is: Black
What's the weather like: Low Light
Favorite time of day: Let Me Sleep
If your life was a TV show, what would it be called: Given to Fly
What is life to you: State of Love and Trust
What is the best advice you have to give: Do the Evolution
If you could change your name, what would it be: Jeremy
Your favorite food is: Not for You
Thought for the Day: I am Mine
How I would like to die: Rockin' in the Free World
My soul's present condition: Alive
The faults I can bear: Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
My motto: I Believe in Miracles

And for good measure...

Second artist: Steve Taylor
Are you male or female?: Principled Man
Describe yourself: Harder to Believe Than Not To
How do you feel about yourself: Smug
Describe where you currently live: Sock Heaven
If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Meltdown (At Madame Tussaud's)
Your favorite form of transportation: Drive, He Said
Your best friend is: Hero
Your favorite color is: Dream in Black & White
What's the weather like: On the Fritz
Favorite time of day: The Finish Line
If your life was a TV show, what would it be called: I Want to be a Clone
What is life to you: The Lament Of Desmond R. G. Underwood-Frederick IV
What is the best advice you have to give: Since I Gave Up Hope I Feel A Lot Better
If you could change your name, what would it be: Svengali
Your favorite food is: Cash Cow
Thought for the Day: We Don't Need No Color Code
How I would like to die: I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good
My soul's present condition: Under the Blood
The faults I can bear: The Moshing Floor
My motto: Jesus is for Losers

Go ahead. Do it. I know you want to...


Two definitions of "odd"

1. Odd = Bizarre

I've found dozens of old friends and classmates through facebook. That's one of the glories of the internet... the ability to catch up with people you haven't seen in years. As a person who moved away from his hometown two years after graduating high school (and never looked back) it's interesting to see what's happened to everybody. My high school was one of the largest in the state of Washington so there's a large variety of lives on display.

There are a few surprises. Like the kid who's still acting... but now he's doing it professionally. and the kid who's starting law school. (I say kid as if they're all ten years younger than me. Truthfully they're all the same age as me, but I remember them in the way I last saw them - high school kids). Some have surprised me, but most do not. I'm not shocked by those who are now pastors or those who are happily married and have kids of their own. For the most part, I'm not surprised by a few of the single parents. And sadly, I'm not surprised by those that are still single and trying to party it up like they are still 18.

I occasionally skim through the MPHS class of '97 pages on facebook - mostly just to see who's there. Most of them I haven't requested to add as friends; very few of them I would have considered as friends when we were all in school together. I wasn't the popular kid in high school, and I don't pretend now that I was. I hold no delusions about the type of kid I was in high school. I'm not driven on a quest to be the most popular MP grad on facebook. It's mostly morbid curiosity. Sometimes that's paid off. Like finding my first girlfriend - a girl I swore I'd never talk to again - to discover she's just as normal as the rest of us. Other times... that curiosity has led me to the first definition of ODD: bizarre.

There are a few former classmates I've requested requested to be friends with. But for the most part, I've shunned my fellow MPHS alumni. The shunning part is true of one facebook member (who I won't name... in case any of my friends are friends with him - lets just call him "dude"). It's not like I'm trying to be a snob... but I refuse to be some one I'm not. Most of the best friends I've had were not people I knew in high school so it doesn't make sense for me to request a bunch of people that didn't really like me back then to be friends with me now. Yet I still skim the list of my classmates - rarely finding people I want to befriend. Again... it's the curiosity that compels me. Every time I look through the class of '97 I see Dude's profile picture. I have to resist shaking my head. He looks baked out of his gourd. Which leads me to believe that he's now a 30 year old stoner who just recently moved out of his parent's basement and lists his beer bong as one of his most prized possessions. I may be way off base. Maybe the glazed over eyes that could be blindfolded with a piece of dental floss is his natural look - in which case the expression is genetic and it's not his fault. But my assumption is more entertaining. Anyways...

Like most of my classmates, I have never requested that Dude be my friend. But unlike many of my classmates, my motivation to not add him as a friend had little to do with the fact that we weren't friends growing up. No... I didn't add him because every time I see his picture I think "I remember him... that kid was a jerk." Well that and "he must be stoned." Thinking back to my school days, I don't have one pleasant memory of him. He wasn't a bully. He didn't pick on me. But I can't recall him ever saying anything nice to anyone. Even when thinking about kids who did pick on me... I can remember them saying something nice at some point in time. Not true of Dude. He was just mean. So - logic bearing heavily on me - I've never requested to add him to my list of friends.

So you can imagine my shock when he requested I add him. In my generous belief that people can change... I thought that possibly he'd grown up a bit. Perhaps real life (AKA: life after high school) had taught him some valuable lessons. Maybe the pot-head profile pick was more of a just-rolled-outta-bed picture. So I accepted his request and for the last few months he's been able to see all of the stuff I do on facebook.

Then, last night (shortly after midnight) the facebook chat window popped open and Dude had a question for me.

Dude: Did you go to high school with me?
Me: Yeah.
... long pause before response...
Dude: How it going, Nic? It's been a long time.
Me: It's good.

Before I could elaborate on what I meant by good, he unfriended me. My response about how I moved away from Marysville and fell off the radar for a while was met with the following message: You are prohibited from chatting with this facebook member. What a jerk thing to do. I guess he's the same cretin he was in high school. Not that I care - my feelings are not hurt in any way. The whole experience was just surreal. Odd. Bizarre.

2. Odd = Quirky

My job grants me a certain amount of influence. There's one agent who went through one of my classes that still calls me teach - even though he completed the new hire class over a year ago and he's no longer my padawan. Yet every time I see him he asks "How's it going Teach?" However, it seems he has now created a new nick-name for me - "Cap."

Here's how it happened. Last Friday I sent an e-mail to everyone in one of our departments urging greater efficiency. He replied with one phrase "Eye eye, Cap." If it was anyone else, I'd be offended. But I know this employee well enough to know he holds a decent amount of respect for me and would never purposely insult me. He may joke around a bit - but I'm a fan of humor in the workplace. So, I responded in jest. I sent an e-mail back to him with a picture of Captain Kirk that said "That's right - you better call me Cap." All this led up to a discovery that fit the second definition of ODD: quirky.

This morning when I came in to my office, I found a paper airplane propped against my computer monitor. There was a note written on top - "here's to you, Cap." Analyzing the paper airplane, I realized it was the closest representation of the Starship Enterprise one could possibly fold out of a single sheet of paper. I thanked him, but if I'm Captain Kirk... what does that make him? Scotty? Sulu? Odd. Quirky.



Onward we go. 1982 - really an iconic year... musically speaking that is. I don't have a lot to say about the year, so I'll jump right in to the countdown.

#5 Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes: I'll kick the list of with an album that provided much of the soundtrack to my sophomore year high school drama class. Despite being 12 years old at the time, it still sounded fresh. Three of the four singles (Gone Daddy Gone, Blister in the Sun, and Kiss Off) seemed to be constantly playing in our auditorium's backstage area. A good friend of mine was a huge Femmes fan... and I blame her for part of my tastes in music - or at least the music I listened to in high school. The album is alternately sweet, and dirty... utterly minimalistic yet irresistibly fun. And what I mean by fun... I dare you to grab an acoustic guitar and pluck out the main riff of Blister (for those of you that know how to play the guitar) and not smile while doing it. It's not possible. Really, it isn't.

#4 The Clash - Combat Rock: I've said it before, but it bears repeating... I love The Clash. Their '82 release is home to some of their most recognisable tracks: Should I Stay or Should I Go and Rock the Casbah. This is the pinnacle of all that was great about The Clash. Unfortunately, it was the last good album from this amazing band.

#3 Amy Grant - Age to Age: This is another record that is earliest in my musical memories. This is the album that made Amy a star - at least in the Christian markets. Some of these songs are cherished Christian classics (El-Shaddai and Sing Your Praise to the Lord) and personal favorites of mine (Fat Baby and In a Little While).

#2 Michael Jackson - Thriller: You can't take a tour through the musical landscape of 1982 without mentioning Thriller. By '82 Michael had begun his slippery descent into La-La Land, but the sheer musical genius (despite the inner-fruitcake of the artist) is difficult to ignore. Love it or hate it, the facts about this album are staggering... It's sold over 65 million copies. That's roughly one album per 104 people on Earth. Each of the album's seven singles reached the top 10 (quite an accomplishment considering the album only contained nine tracks). And Jackson earned eight Grammys for this single record. All this from a man with a questionable grip on reality.

#1 Steve Taylor - I Want to be a Clone: Why is it that Christians come up with some of the best satire? First let's define satire: (according to dictionary.com) the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc. or a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule. The church is as prone to human folly as any other group of people. Eh... Who are we kidding? There is much within the Christian world deserving of the scorn and ridicule of satire. And honestly - as a Christian - if find the satire that poke fun at the human vices within the Christian church to be funnier than the satire outside the church. And what a better person to make fun of the church than the son of a Baptist preacher. On his debut album, Taylor attacks some of the biggest problems within Christendom with all the wit and sarcasm anyone could muster. The sad thing about this album is that many of the topics teased are still big problems... 25 years later. Church-hopping (Steeplechase); apathy & hypocrisy (Bad Rap and What Ever Happened to Sin?); and sheeple - the peculiar belief held by some Christians that all believers must act and think alike (I Want to be a Clone) - an ideal that was most rampant during last fall's election season. Sure the record may sound a bit dated now... but it is the beginning to a colorful and controversial career to one of the greatest creative minds in the music industry.

Honorable mention: Stevie Wonder - Original Musiquarium I: Would have made the 5 if it wasn't a greatest hits record... however this fantastic collection of songs is still worth a mention - if only for the 10 minute jam Do I Do.



Before continuing on my 30 year musical journey - I must urge you to proceed with caution. A few of my selections for the best albums of '81 may reveal a bit of my inner cheesiness. But that is fitting due to the fact that 80% of music recorded in the '80s is smothered in cheese. Not a block of cheddar kind of cheese... or the peel-apart mozzarella sticks that my mom used to put in my sack lunches when I was in 5th grade (and I now prefer breaded and deep-fat fried). Not the shredded colby-jack or grated parmesan kind of cheese. But the kind of cheese squirted out of an aerosol can. Yes... some of the greatest songs of the '80s are the musical equivalent of Cheez Whiz. You have been warned.

#5 Phil Collins - Face Value: And what a better way to start off the tour of nic's cheese-drenched tastes in music than the man that brought us Sussudio. Face Value was Phil's first album as a solo artist. And if we as listeners and musical consumers had taken this album (as the title suggests) at face value, Phil would not have recorded a second solo album and never quit Genesis. However, this album did spawn one of the greatest accomplishments in songwriting with the lead track In the Air Tonight (not to mention one of the coolest drum solos ever). The rest of the album is kind of a bummer - but the one song is good enough to carry the rest.

#4 Men at Work - Business as Usual: Hey - I warned you. I told you this was going to be a cheesy year. But who can resist singing along with the single Who Can It be Now or bobbing their head along with the funkiness of Downunder? Once you get past the singles, you still have an album worth a listen. Tracks like Catch a Star and Down By the Sea reveal a band that did not get the credit they deserve.

#3 Depeche Mode - Speak & Spell: Another debut album - and this one from from the melancholic synthpop forerunners Depeche Mode. In classic minimalist approach (yet rebelliously different from what many of their peers were recording), the tracks on Speak & Spell are cheerier than the titles suggest and much more happy than any of the albums DM has recorded since. I probably listened to Depeche Mode more than would be considered healthy during high school - by then this album was nearly 15 years old. Now that the album is 28 years old, it is clear that several of these tracks have not aged well. There are a few, however, that are still as good as the first time I heard them - New Life, I Sometimes Wish I was Dead (only available on the British import) and the hopelessly infectious single Just Can't Get Enough.

#2 Rick Springfield - Working Class Dog: Yes, I know... It tastes like cheddar, but has the texture of toothpaste. But I can't resist including Working Class Dog on my list of favs from '81. Not only is this album a lesson in cheesiness... it i also a lesson in crafting the perfect pop song. In the year I spent as a DJ, Jessie's Girl is one of the songs that received the most requests. (That and Friends in Low Places. If it were me I'd prefer neither song be played at my wedding but if I had to pick, you know I'd want, I want Jessie's Girl.) And it wasn't just wedding dances - it was high school proms too. Who would have thought that a song about having a crush on your best friend's girlfriend would be SO stinkin' popular at weddings and high school dances over 20 years after it was written? Simple answer: it still sounds like it could have been written and recorded today. That's a strong testament to Rick's pop sensibilities. Unlike Face Value... this is more than a one-good-song album. While there's one song that everybody knows... there's easily three or four other songs that could have had the same success.

#1 The Police - Ghost in the Machine: The Police finally (with it's third entry in my top 5 picks) get to be #1... and with good reason. Sting and crew pack some heavy punches with this album as they provide both darker lyrical content and more complex instrumentation. There seems to be a greater spiritual emphasis in the words... but this is not just an album with great lyrics. It is that, but so much more. Sting's voice is as much of an instrument as any other part of the album. Individually, each of the members put forth their best efforts than on any of The Police's other albums. Collectively, they fit together like an intricate puzzle - each part in it's place. They sound so cohesive that you would have never guessed the behind the scenes turmoil the band was experiencing. The three opening tracks: Spirits in the Material World, Every Little Thing She Does is Magic, and Invisible Sun, set you up for for a ride through paranoia and spiritual longing and what is the best that 1981 has to offer.


Some translation required

Zu to Bekah: "Have a birdy momma!"

Translation: "Happy birthday momma."

Good thing Bekah and I speak toddler.

Yesterday was Bekah's birthday. Wish her well. And if anyone tells you she's 26... you didn't hear it from me.



As we pulled up to the side of the road across from LCHS's soccer field for our church's Easter egg hunt, Bekah lamented the pouring rain.

"We should have brought an umbrella," she said.

I replied, "ella - ella - ella... ay - ay - ay."

There might be something wrong with me.

On a side note: I believe that Easter has the best candy. Better than Christmas. Better than Halloween. Why is that? I'm just trying to figure out what hidden eggs and bunnies have to do with crucifixion and empty tombs.


digital rain

For five years, I’ve been teaching other people how to do their jobs. At the beginning of the year I stepped away from the wonderful world of training and spent a couple of months fixing other people’s problems. I now analyze data for a living. That’s a lot of change in a short period of time. It’s been an uneasy couple of months – thankfully I’m still with the same company. So, while my job title has changed… my employer has not.

As much as I enjoyed teaching, I suffered burnout. I was great at fixing other people’s problems, but that’s not what I’d consider my ideal job. Now I get to look at facts and figures all day: numbers, and rates, and staffing, and time, and percentages… If the data is good, I tell people that they’re doing a wonderful job. If the data is unpleasant, I have to figure out and report suggestions how to prevent the problem from recurring. And I enjoy it.

An employee that I trained occasionally stops by my office to chat and hang out. He looked over the plethora of charts, graphs, spreadsheets, and databases open on my computer screens and he watched as I copied/pasted information into one of my hourly reports. I’m sure it all looked like a blur to him.

"Looks thrilling," he said, voice dripping with sarcasm.

With zero explanation and a brief glance at the two monitors on my desk, I can understand how anyone would think my job is boring. But for me – it is thrilling. I feel like the crew aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, in The Matrix, "watching" Neo and Morpheus practice kung fu. There’s nothing on the screen but numbers and symbols, yet I see a picture. The sheer quantity of data in front of me is intimidating – it’s enough to make the most hardened emotionless men run away crying in fear. The single fact that I can make sense of it all is immensely gratifying.

Why do I mention all of this? Since the beginning of the year, I haven’t been able to shake this feeling that in the grand scheme of things… this is all so insignificant.



When I think about the '80s, I can't help but think about the music. The glorious, cheesy, excessive, iconic, ridiculous, awesome music. Everything about that decade is in some way tied to music: the hair, the fashion, the movies (Brat Pack, anyone?). The '80s gave us some greatest songs ever recorded, but it also gave us some awful tunes. But the year that started the decade is pretty sketchy as far as the record industry was concerned. Disco was dying, hair metal had yet to take root... (sorry for the bad pun), and new wave was just beginning to make waves. The big picture of music in 1980 was an industry struggling to find it's identity.

How ever, I do have a few favorites. They are as follows.

#5 Blondie - Autoamerican: I've never been much of a Blondie fan. They had a few OK songs, but for the most part, Debbie's voice just bugs me. So, why would I include a band that I don't really like in my top five albums of 1980? Was the rest the albums to pick from so bad that this was the best choice out there? Yes... well, kind of. A better explanation is that I want to give credit where credit is due. The single Rapture was the first song with rapped lyrics reached the #1 spot on the Billboard charts. Kudos.

#4 The Police - Zenyattà Mondatta: This is easily The Police's worst album. I'm not not kidding - it was sloppy and self indulgent, and I'm sure Sting would agree with me (if by the unlikely chance he were to ever read this). There are two good songs on this album: De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da and Don't Stand So Close to Me. One of those two is one of my favorite songs from The Police. I'll let you guess which one.

#3 U2 - Boy: You are free to disagree with me, but U2 is one of (if not the) greatest bands of all time. Boy was their debut album, and despite being rough around the edges, is an album that has aged well. Thanks to Bono's vague lyrical prose, and The Edge's signature rhythmic guitar style - many of these songs still sound like they could have been recorded today.

#2 Bob Marley and the Wailers - Uprising: This was Bob's final album (posthumous albums excluded). It's essential listening for any fan of reggae (which an ex-girlfriend got me hooked on between my sophomore and junior years in high school). While there are good songs throughout the album, it's the three final tracks that make this album one of my top picks: Could You Be Loved, Forever Loving Jah, and Redemption Song.

#1 Keith Green - So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt: Keith Green is another one of the artists that my parents listened to... a lot. My parents had this record (and by record, I mean those big round black disk with grooves in it). This album is remarkable in many ways - most notably that it wasn't for sale. Kieth and his wife funded the production of this album with their own money, refused to charge people for the album, and offered it for whatever people were willing to pay. Roughly 30% of the albums "sold" were sold for free. I'm not sure if my parents paid for it, or if they are one of the 30,000 that got it for free, but this is one of the first albums I can remember listening to. Musically speaking... Keith was part hippy, part Billy Joel, and 100% Jesus music. His music was unabashedly evangelistic, and musically stunning. While many of Keith's peers were trying to make music with a Godly message that was relevant, Keith was making music that was truly artistic. Strip away the overtly Christian lyrics and you were left with genuinely amazing music that was better than what the majority of mainstream musicians were producing. This album gave us a church worship staple (Oh Lord, You're Beautiful) and the funky - and strangely catchy - title track So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt, along with eight other tracks that showed and artist that was pouring is soul into a project in hopes that it would please his God. Whether or not you believe in God, you can hear the sincerity in every note of this album. Nearly 20 years later it is still a timeless body of work that can't be ignored - regardless of your religious beliefs.


About that promotion...

A coworker of mine asked me if I was enjoying my new position.

I asked, "Is it possible for something to be enjoyable if it makes you insane?"

He looked a bit confused, then answered, "Yes."

"Well," I told him, "there's your answer." And it really is my answer. The new position is driving me crazy... but I enjoy it. That statement alone might qualify me as certifiably insane, perhaps near maniacal. If that's the case, it's the perfect job fit for me.

But why, you may ask, does the new position make me bonkers? Because, I spend half of my day looking at this:

Admit it... you'd also go batty.

Seriously though, I am enjoying myself. The promotion comes with a new set of challenges and responsibilities... I actually feel like I'm learning something. And I'm never bored - except (of course) when that blasted hourglass pops up.