Sunday, December 22, 2013

The real Santa

Most folks who know me, know that if you catch me in the right mood, I can tell quite the story. Today, I'd like to tell one of my very favorite stories.

Favorite, and true.  

This is the story of the time I got to meet the real Santa Claus.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Spawn of blogger

The best piece of news I've had all year, is also one that I haven't shared here on my blog. Despite the wonders of our beloved pseudonymous internet, there's some things you don't want to share online until your friends and family know about it.

One of those is when your wife is pregnant.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The high cost of living (in a house)

This week's life improvement project has been working with a mortgage broker to get a pre-approval letter so we can start house hunting in earnest.  We've finished the initial application process, and we're waiting for the great and powerful Underwriters to send word to us through the kind and benevolent Mortgage Broker.

It's been a fascinating experience, and I've learned a huge amount about the process. For instance, I always thought that the biggest obstacle to home ownership was down-payment funds, or possibly your credit score.  It turns out that I was wrong entirely.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A week of successes

Welcome, friends and neighbors, to the Correct Direction™.

I mentioned last week that I was on my way to take my CompTIA 220-802 exam, which was the second and final exam required for my CompTIA A+ certification.  First, I'm happy to report to anyone who doesn't know, that I passed with a score of 95.5%, and I am now a CompTIA A+ Certified Professional.

By itself, the CompTIA A+ certification is not terribly useful.  Well, it's useful, but it's not a free ride.  It shows perspective employers that I have a basic level of competence, which will help to get my foot in the door, but that's about it.  Most will still expect some verifiable experience. For now, I plan on enjoying the holidays, and digging into our next big goal, which is getting out of this apartment. (more on that in a minute) I'll also be taking a look at the CompTIA Network+ certification, but that one may be a more realistic goal with a bit more working experience.

In any event, come first of the year, I plan on making the rounds to local churches and other non-profits that may not have a lot of budget for IT support, and offering up my services free of charge, asking that they provide a letter of reference if they felt I was helpful and deserving of their recommendation. It's a nice way to get something that looks like experience, while also helping the community.  That's two very good things.

Now, I mentioned that our next goal was getting out of this apartment.  My wife and I have been saving, and have just about enough saved up for a down payment.  Not a 20% down, no PMI, 'ideal' down payment, but at least enough to get into a starter house.  As a matter of fact, I spent some time talking to a mortgage broker today, so with any luck, we'll be in our first home within just a couple of months.  The scary part is the mind bending number of options.  There's FHA, conventional, USDA (if we want to move out of town), we can use the small amount we have for a down payment or we can pull out some 401k money (I know, Dave Ramsey would throttle me for considering it) and give us a much larger down payment, which means a better loan and lower monthly payment, but the risk of terrible tax penalties.

None the less, I now have a widely respected entry level IT certification, our finances are well under control, and we're rapidly approaching home-ownership.  I've even trimmed off a few strips of bacon this week. That's all kinds of win.

Sadly, buying our own home will mean saying goodbye to some things.  I'd like you to join me, as you read this week's blog post, in a moment of silence for all the things we'll be missing once we've moved to a house of our own, such as:

  • Neighbors smoking pot under our balcony
  • Neighbors playing their music at 1:00am, so loud that it shakes the floor of our apartment
  • Neighbors having screaming matches when they walk in on their cheating girlfriend with another guy. (admittedly, that one really was kind of entertaining)
  • Neighbors walking out into the parking lot wearing boxer shorts and carrying a shotgun to menace other neighbors who won't stop their screaming match in the parking lot at 2:00am
  • Neighbors getting into a 'who can bang on the walls harder' match with each other because I walked too quickly and they were able to hear the footsteps
  • Neighbors underneath us
  • Neighbors we share walls with
  • A prime view of the busiest and loudest street in town
*begin moment of silence*

*pick nose*

*inspect findings*

*end moment of silence*

Yeah...  ...that's long enough.

As I look at that list, I can't help noticing a pattern to the things I hate about this place.  Sometimes, a USDA loan on a house in the country suddenly starts looking like a better option.

Monday, November 25, 2013

You are what you eat.

We all have moments when our mouths run just a little bit ahead of our brains. This week, I was on the receiving end of just such a moment.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Customer Service training, and other useless things.

*Small apologies on this post.  I could have sworn I hit publish before I logged out yesterday.  Looks like I was mistaken.

Before I dive into this week's entry, allow me to bring everybody more or less back up to speed.  First and foremost, for anyone who doesn't already know, I passed my CompTIA 220-801 with flying colors on my first attempt, and I'm currently studying for the 220-802, which I plan to take within the next couple of weeks.  Once that's complete, I will have completed the CompTIA A+ certification, and will be one step closer to a meaningful career.

Between the test, an early Thanksgiving with the in-laws, studying, and some other really good stuff on the home front, I've missed a few blog entries, but I should be back on track for a little while now.  I've got enough material to last for several more weeks, and by then I should be done with phase one (doesn't it sound more exciting when I say "phase one" than just "step one?") and have an awful lot of other things to talk about as well.

In the meantime, I thought I'd take a break from my regularly scheduled studies to talk about Customer Service, and Customer Service Training.  I know that seems like a boring topic, and it is, but I promise to make it fun.  Well, that was a bald faced lie*, but I do promise to make it more fun than the last customer service training video I had to watch.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Staying on topic

One of the primary things I started this blog to chronicle was my attempt at getting some IT certifications, starting with the CompTIA A+, and shifting my career away from a dead end job at a casino/hotel, and into somewhere that I can feel like I do something useful.

I mentioned in my last post that I was only about 10 days away from taking my first certification exam, but my schedule at my lovely dead end job got in the way, so I pushed my test appointment back one more week. It seemed like a bad idea to work 6 days straight, have only 1 day off, and then take the test in the morning before work.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Science fiction is not about science or fiction

As of now, I am scheduled for my 220-801 exam in about 10 days, which is the first of two tests for my first IT certification.  So, since I'm in a holding pattern for the next week and a half,  I thought I'd take this week's entry to talk about one of my favorite things; good science fiction.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Things you can buy for $183.

I spent some time this evening taking practice tests for my first A+ certification exam, and I think it's time to schedule the first of two exams.  The exam vouchers run $183, and like most things in life, there's no guarantee.  I'm feeling pretty confident, but there's always the possibility that I've miss-judged, in which case I'm out $183.

In honor of the $183 I'll be parting with soon, I thought today would be a great day to look at a few of the other things a guy could get for $183.

(Side note to all friends and family members: This is not a birthday/Christmas list)

  • A new video card.
  • A box of 10 Don Carlos Robusto cigars
  • 75 cups of espresso
  • Dinner for 25 at Burger King
  • An iPod nano, and still have $33 left to try and replace my soul
  • Another tattoo, but not much left over to tip the artist
  • The world's worst toupee
  • Two $50 lap dances, plus $83 for pillows and blankets to make the couch I'd be sleeping on into a tollerably comfortable bed
  • A short lived and pointless shopping spree to thinkgeek, Sharper Image, Brookstone, or Hammacher Schlemmer
  • Dinner for 10 at a decent Chinese restaurant including a good tip
  • 10-20 Sea-Monkey kits; also known as "enough brine shrimp muscle to take over the world"
  • Of course, if I wanted to take over the world, why go with Sea-Monkeys when you can buy Uranium on Amazon?
  • Speaking of Amazon, I could pick up a couple of these bad boys and never have to worry about a Cartman-style probe again.  One for home, one for the car, and I'd always know when one of those sneaky aliens was near by
  • A speeding ticket
  • Dinner for 3 at the most expensive restaurant I've ever eaten at
  • I could walk past my wife's car.  Seriously folks, just walking past it.  That car either loves me and wants me to be close to it all the time, or it hates me and wants to watch me suffer up close. There is no third option here
There you have it folks, exam 1 of 2 for the Comptia A+ certification, or enough brine shrimp and uranium to create my own radioactive mutant brine shrimp army.

Forget about certifications, Pinky.  Tonight, we try to take over the world!

Monday, September 30, 2013

I can tie my shoes, too!

So, I've been on this whole Growing Up™ kick for a while now, but I think I have to admit that no matter how hard we try, there is going to be the occasional slip.  Those little moments when your inner 12 year old comes out.  That happened to me recently when a coworker who is quite a bit my junior decided to explain some things to me.  Things like, the definition of the word "aisle."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dissatisfaction is not an excuse.

I mentioned last week that I had experienced some of the worst customer service I have ever encounter at the Service Center at Capitol Toyota in Salem, Oregon.  As promised, I'll tell you a little more about that this week, and share some of my thoughts on the importance of maintaining a strong work ethic.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

Real life gets in the way sometimes.

Over the years, I've developed a few phrases and quirks.  Things that I'll say, for lack of a better term, as catch phrases.  It's cheesy, I know, but it's not something I've ever done deliberately.  They just pop into my head, and then pop out of my mouth.  Think of it as cliché turrettes.  Some of them I've ripped off from books or movies, some I came up with on my own, and quite a few others, I couldn't honestly tell you where, when, or how they came about.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Taking tech for granted.

As we grow up, we also grow older, and the strangest thing tends to happen; we begin to take for granted that which we would have seen as miraculous only a short time ago.

When was the last time you complained about your cell phone?  Complained about your DSL connection?  Your laptop?  We take these things for granted every day, but the reality is that they would have seemed fantastic and unimaginable in our childhoods.  For most of us who are 30 and up, it's highly unlikely that you had a computer in your home when you were a small child, but today there are 6 year old kids running around with iPhones.

The first computer we had in my household was purchased at Sears, the day after Thanksgiving in 1986 or '87 when I was 6 or 7 years old.  It came with a 33mhz CPU and my dad paid quite a bit extra to upgrade it to 1MB of RAM, and insisted on a 40MB hard disk drive which the salesmen tried to discourage him from by saying, and I quote, "trust me.  It's not worth the money.  You couldn't fill a 40MB hard drive in a million years."

Today, I carry a cell phone in my pocket that has a processor which cycles 57 times as fast (never mind improvements in efficiency and the fact that it's a quad-core).  It has 2,000 times as much RAM, and more than 400 times as much storage.  Even the screen, which is small enough to fit comfortably in my pocket, has nearly 7 times as many pixels.

Even if we ignore the fact that it's a massively more powerful computer than what was available just a couple decades ago and we ignore the fact that it costs roughly 1/10 of what that old Packard Bell desktop cost my dad, we still have to admit that it puts the original Star Trek communicator to shame.

Voice, text, data and multi-media in something ¼" thick and roughly the outline of a dollar bill. It'll even do GPS navigation, connect to my car stereo, and connect to my car's on-board computer for diagnostics.  It keeps track of how long I've been jogging, and calculates how many calories I've burned.  You can even connect them to some bathroom scales so that it can monitor your weight, body fat, hydration levels, and countless other aspects of your physical health.

It's a communicator AND a tri-corder.

In the 47 years since the debut of Star Trek; secure, pocket-sized and crystal clear 2 way communicators have gone from science fiction to something we complain about if we have to reset them once a week.  Just imagine the technology that our children and grandchildren will take for granted.

It's staggering to imagine that 30 years ago, a portable phone was the size of a briefcase and incredibly rare.  50 years ago it was pure science fiction.

90 years ago, people routinely died from every day bacterial infections that we can now cure with a single shot.

A brief 600 years ago, Johannes Gutenberg was a teenager, and still almost 30 years from inventing the printing press.

Of course, above and beyond all that, the next time you take your high speed internet or your cell phone for granted; before your complain about or malign the marvelous technology that helps our world run so smoothly in this very young millennium; consider this quote by Cory Doctoro, my favorite novelist who has yet to write a great novel:

"Ten thousand years ago, the state-of-the-art was a goat."-

Monday, August 12, 2013

Shopping for things no man wants to buy.

There are many things in life that are unavoidable.  Death, taxes, and if you're a married man, buying feminine hygiene products.  That's right guys; sooner or later you're going to be sent to the store to buy pads.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Top 10 signs that you may be working in the wrong position

My apologies for this re-post. The blogger app for android leaves a lot to be desired and unposted this entry.

I think that we've fairly well established by now that I'm working in the wrong job.  That's fine for me, since I'm studying towards certifications for a better job, and generally working hard at improving my life.  So far that's all going according to plan, and there have been some interesting developments in other areas that will have to wait a little bit before they hit the blogosphere.

I've talked a good deal about what to do when you find yourself in the wrong job, but after a conversation I had with a coworker recently, I thought I'd share a few thoughts on just exactly how to tell when you're in the wrong job.

Co-Worker: Wow, Stephen, I need to get the !#$( out of here.  I can't believe you can fit this many stupid people in one building.

That was the opening comment from a coworker last week.  It was the end of her shift, and she'd simply had the same experiences at work one time too many.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is a solid indication that you're not only working in the wrong job for you, but that you've also been working there way too long.

She went on to rant (I do love a good soap box) about the attitudes of her subordinates, guests and employees asking stupid questions, lazy people, and the fact that she had finally come to realize that while she kind of likes her job, she hates her employees and the need to babysit them so much she's afraid she'll lose her mind if she stays here much longer.  I suggested a few books for her that were written by better authors than me, and we'll see how long it takes her to quit.

Folks, don't let a bad job go that far.  Take it from me and my first hand experience; not loving your job but being stuck in it for the next 6-12 months while you shift directions towards something better, Absolutely Sucks™.  Now she's right in the same spot that I am.  She can't just up and quit, because if you're even sort of a Grown Up™, then you know you can't just walk out on your job unless you've got another one lined up, or there's something going on that violates your values or puts you in danger.

With that in mind, allow me to share a list of early warning signs that you need to quit your job.  Think of this like one of Jeff Foxeworthy's, "You might be a redneck if..." lists, but for people in the wrong career.

You might need to find a new job if....

  1. You regularly think, "Oh God, it's Monday,"  and/or, "Thank God it's Friday.
  2. You've called in with a bad case of, "I'm not working today."
  3. You've ever done a salary comparison between your current job and Panda Express.
  4. When a coworker comes to tell you they've been fired, the first word out of your mouth is, "Congratulations!"
  5. The end of the week office trip to the bar starts on Thursday at lunchtime because nobody can actually make it five days.
  6. You've become convinced that many of your coworkers and/or employees who all seemed fine a year ago, have been replaced with mentally challenged, adolescent, space aliens wearing foam rubber people-suits.
  7. Your Vice President of Human Resources has taken down the traditional motivation posters in his/her office and replaced them with these.
  8. You regularly miss, "the good old days when I worked in fast food."
  9. You've stopped crying at the sight of your tiny paycheck, but it hasn't gotten any bigger.
  10. You've started a blog about how much your job sucks, and all the things you're doing to find a better one.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Bad habbits

I started smoking cigars when I was 15 years old.

Mostly macanudos, but the occasional natural as well.  When I was 19 or so, I also started smoking pipe tobacco (apparently, at 5'5" and overweight I didn't look enough like a hobbit)  The funny part was that the first time I was ever carded I was 23 years old....

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's time to study.

The day after my wife and I got home from our anniversary, my study materials for the Comptia A+ certification exam were delivered by FedEx. (hence the lack of make-up post) They actually tried to deliver them the day we arrived, but as usual, they tried to deliver when nobody was home so I just got a 'sorry we missed you' slip.  I'll skip that particular rant for now...

In any case, I've spent much of my free time since then studying for the Comptia A+, and I've come to a number of conclusions.

Monday, July 15, 2013

2 Years down.

I'd like to apologize briefly for the lack of post this week.  I'm currently in a wonderful hotel suite in sunny but cool Seaside, Oregon with S.W.M.B.O. (She Who Must Be Obeyed) to celebrate our second wedding anniversary.

Keep any eye out for a make-up post over the next few days, and regularly scheduled Monday posts should resume next week.

Monday, July 8, 2013


As an update to my process of getting my career back on track, I've ordered study and practice test materials for the Comptia A+ certification, which I believe to be a reasonable way to begin making my way into the IT industry.  However, since there's little for me to do in that regard for the next couple of days (other than stalking the mail man) I have some thoughts of a more literary and entertaining nature to share.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Just say no.

It's not just a drug awareness slogan, it's a sign of maturity.

Unfortunately, it's one my wife and I are having to practice a lot right now.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Yes, it is your fault.

I used to have a roommate who had just split with the woman he'd been shacking up with. (there's that term again)  At the time, I was just starting to pull myself up out of divorce.  

As you can imagine, we weren't exactly the dynamic duo.  The only time the townhouse got cleaned properly was when one of us had a date; and to be perfectly honest, that didn't happen much.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Gossip pants.

Sometimes it seems that work, family, hobbies, and maintaining your health are just not enough to keep a person busy.  We look around at our spotless home, our finished work, our already fully assembled scale model of the Death Star and think to ourselves, "Wow, if only I had something else to occupy my time and energy, because this certainly isn't enough to keep me busy."

The solution is a simple one:


Monday, June 10, 2013

Get your butt to work.

People need to get their butts to work.

I'm not talking about job hunting here, although that's a great topic.  What I'm talking about is something a lot more basic.

When you have a job, go to your job.  Go there every day.  Go there on time or early.  Actually work while you're there.  You'd think that such a statement would be obvious; but you'd be wrong.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Making people change.

Everyone knows that you can't make a person change.  You can support people.  Provide inspiration and motivation.  You can set an example and encourage people to follow your lead; but at the end of the day, each person has to do their own heavy lifting. (some of use more than others)

Friday, May 31, 2013

Growing up doesn't happen every day.

Growing up can't happen every day, and unfortunately, neither can a blog about it.

If you're really working on getting your life moving in the right direction, you have to spend a lot of time and energy focusing on that, and limit the time you spend on hobbies.  To that end, Growing Up After 30 will be moving to a weekly release.  Starting June 3rd, you should see a new blog every Monday, so keep checking back.

For those of you who don't want to miss a post, there are some handy subscription options on the right side of the page.  You can follow me on Google+, subscribe using several popular online news aggregaters, or just subscribe to be notified by email when a new post lands.

I may occasionally let a nugget of wisdom slip out in between, but a steady release schedule should work well for all.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Please don't thank a soldier today.

Since today is Memorial Day, I want to take a small break from my usual format, to make sure we understand what this holiday is really about.

People often get confused between Veterans' Day and Memorial Day.  These are not the same holiday.

On Verterans' Day, we should take the time to stop and thank people we know in the Armed Forces, particularly veterans who have come home.  Regardless of your political affiliations, The Armed Forces of the United States serve to protect this country.  Sometimes their leaders may use them for actions that you or I think are not in the best interest of this country, but that's a debate for another time and place.  The simple fact is that they are there to keep us safe, and protect our way of life from other nations that would see it end.  When Veterans' day rolls around, thank a soldier.  Thank a veteran.  Shake someone's hand.

Today, however, is Memorial Day.  Today is not for veterans.  Today is for the men and women who didn't make it home, and never got to experience a Veterans' Day as a veteran.  Every day, all around the world, there are men and women in the United States Armed Forces who risk their very lives to defend their country, and on Memorial Day, we step back from our jobs, our daily grind that they protect, and we give our heartfelt thanks to the ones who's hands we can never shake.  Our thanks to the men and women who died in the service of the country they loved.

So today, enjoy your life of freedom.  Have a barbecue, go to the beach, and enjoy this beautiful country that we call home.  While you're at it, just remember that the reason we celebrate this day, is in the memory of our fallen soldiers.  If you're a person of any faith, say a prayer for their souls.  Pay a rosary on their behalf.  Today is also a day to visit the resting places of those we can, and to tell their stories to those who will listen. Tell the story of your great uncle's plane crash in the Air Force, of the day your brother left for boot camp.

Don't thank a soldier today.  Say a prayer, tell a story, and do something to enjoy the freedom their brothers in arms died to protect.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

How to get better mileage and more performance.

A strange thing started happening on my commute to work this week.

Without so much as lifting the hood, my little red corolla was suddenly getting better gas mileage.  It even seemed to have better performance.  I was passing Porches and careening past Cadillacs.

The secret is actually pretty simple.

I wasn't towing a car loan anymore.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Talking to Professionals

When I first decided I wanted to move to an IT career, one of the things I did was to talk to IT professionals that I know in my area about my ideas, and whether or not I was heading in the right direction.  I think this is a great way to go, and can really help you to figure out the most reasonable path to reaching your career goals.

Pretty quickly, I figured out that around here, lot's of experience working around/with/on computers in non-IT jobs, combined with a few useful certifications, was a reasonable place to start.  It won't get you into a network engineer or IT manager position, but it will get your foot in the door with an entry level position.

I think that regardless of what you're trying to accomplish in your life, talking to people who are farther down the road than you can be helpful.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Make a plan, and make it loose.

Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, "In preparing for battle i have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."

I've mentioned plans quite a bit lately.  My own plans, what makes a reasonable plan, and so on.  Today, I'd like to dig a little deeper into that subject.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It's okay to admit that you're not satisfied.

A couple of days after I started this blog, something completely unexpected happened. I'd just asked my wife to review a draft of a post, which I could tell she actually liked because she was still laughing when I left the room.  After I asked a few questions, and wheedled some more feedback out of her, she looked at me with her Serious Face™.  (if you're married, you know the one I'm talking about)  She looked at me, and she asked very quietly, "are you really that unhappy with your life?"

Monday, May 20, 2013

Fat will be trimmed, again.

So, I used to be really fat.

5'5" and 283 pounds.  (That's 165cm and 128kg for anyone living in any country in the world except this one)  Like a lot of less than wonderful things in our lives, it snuck up on me slowly.  I didn't wake up one morning, and suddenly find that I was enormous.  It took years.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Maybe read a book once in a while.

I have a filthy horrible secret....

I enjoy reading self-help books.

Really, I feel better now.

In all seriousness, there are some great self-help books out there.  Even the not-so great ones can give you interesting perspective if you can stand to wade through the psychobabble.  The late John Wooden is remembered in small part for saying that, "Five years from now, you're the same person except for the people you've met and the books you've read."

Friday, May 17, 2013

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I think we've probably all heard the old joke that goes - Why are people always asking kids what they want to be when they grow up?

They're looking for ideas.

The very fact that we can laugh at, and relate to, such a joke tells me there are a lot of us who should have grown up a long time ago; who are still looking for what we want to be when we Grow Up™.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A little success makes everything else suck.

Stop and think about the last time you had a win that was centered on one specific area of your life.  Maybe you got a promotion at work.  Maybe you met a new girlfriend.  Maybe you lost 5 pounds.

Yay for you.

Did that make it easier, or harder, to tolerate the stuff that was still in your lose column?  Sure, it made it all easier, for about a day.  But if you're anything like me, it probably made it all a lot harder after a little while if your win turned out to be a Real Win™ and not just a nice moment that gained you nothing in the long run.

A few definitions.

I suppose it's only fair that I lay out a few definitions here for my readers (still theoretical at this point).  I'm sure anyone who reads my blog will know exactly where I'm coming from and never take unintended offense, but just to be sure I deserve any hate mail I receive, let's lay out some terms I like to use, and what I really mean by them.  Rest assured that I'll update this entry from time to time, and link back to it when I come up with any fantastic new terminology.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Growing up after 30

Given that this is my first entry in this lovely new blog, chances are good that if you're reading this, you're my wife.  Maybe my brother.  It could even be that you're my mother in law.  (shame on you for snooping)  None the less, come on in.  Pull up a chair, kick off your shoes, and watch the show.

Since I'm over 30, preparing to build a family, still living in an apartment, and just recently getting off my butt to get myself into a real job™, I thought, "Growing up after 30," was an appropriate name.  We'll see....

Before we begin, let's figure out where we've been, shall we?