Musings: Settling In

Moving is such a strange thing. I’m not sure whether it’s because I mentally prepared myself for it or because I’m just too caught up in all the small things that need to be taken care of, but DC already feels like a distant memory; a place I lived in a former life. That’s not to say that I don’t, or that I won’t, miss it enormously. I just can’t believe I was sleeping in Navy Yard 5 days ago.

As someone with (albeit self diagnosed) ADD and OCD, I’ve had a healthy dose of being unsettled mixed in with my elation. I know that if I try to stop caring about little things now, I’ll semi-adjust to them and just live with them bugging me for the next year. This has meant hours upon hours of laying cables, binding them in neat bunches, and trying to keep them out of sight. I’ve spent even more time drilling holes, hanging things, straightening them, and re-drilling the holes.

The problem with this whole scheme is that I have trouble focusing on one task at a time. I’ve found myself drilling holes to hang something, then walking to another room to grab the screws, and the next thing I know, adjusting cables behind my TV. When I finally reenter the room, I wonder why there are two empty holes in the wall.

This sums up my mind pretty well.

Things are further exacerbated by the fact that I don’t quite have everything I need just yet. Dishes can’t be put away until the shelves I ordered arrive. Wires can’t be finished being run and covered up until a larger power strip shows up. I can’t do anything comfortably until this damn AC comes in.

With that said, I’m really digging the commute thing. Or lack of commute. I’m continually blown that I can get up, eat breakfast, walk a block, and be on the shuttle to work. The same shuttle I used to take…after a 15 minute bike ride and an hour long train ride. If I need to go home to TCB, I can, knowing that I can get back to work quickly if needed. Sweetness.

Finally, living alone is…interesting. I’ll need to write a full post on that though. Have a good day!

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Musings: It’s the Final Countdown

The trick is up. The shows over. It’s time to move.

Last night, Jenny and I went out to Serendipity in Georgetown for her birthday (frozen hot chocolate is AMAZING) and then came back to Navy Yard to eat cake with my roommate and his girlfriend on the roof.

It was a very weird experience. All four of us have rapidly changing lives at the moment, which is made all the more apparent every time I walk into my apartment and am greeted with stacks of boxes instead of dinner on the stove and Seinfeld on the TV. Sitting on the roof, like we haven’t done since the early days in the that apartment, was surreal. It was the second time in the past week that I’ve sat there with some of my closest friends, looking out at DC and saying goodbye (to the city, not the friends, dummies). The good news is that I’ll be saying ‘Hello” to a bunch of new things very soon.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be rising bright and early to load up my dad’s van with all of my stuff. The amount of crap that I own has expanded significantly this year, so we’ll be playing an impromptu game of Tetris with my stuff in an effort to make it all fit.

In a classic example of the “Why me?” scenarios that sometimes define my life, tomorrow is supposed to mark the return of 100+ degree weather, and old apartments don’t have central air. Such is life. Without a car in Baltimore, it’s going to be an interesting scramble to acquire an AC unit, some rugs, and the other random odds and ends that you never knew you didn’t have…which reminds me, I need to find a microwave.

In preparing for this move, I’ve noticed an emotional trend that arises when it comes time for my annual moves. It goes like this:

4 months in advance – ‘Ahhhhh, why is my rent going up/the school year ending/graduation happening. I don’t want to move’

3 months in advance – ‘You know, I should probably look for a new apartment. Nahhh, I’ve got time’

2 months in advance – ‘WHY ARE ALL THE GOOD PLACES GONE. STRESS STRESS STRESS’, followed by finding the first available place and settling for it.

1 month in advance – ‘This move is going to suck, but I’m pretty excited for all of the positive changes’

3 weeks in advance – ‘I wonder when a good time to pack is. Not now!’

2 weeks in advance – ‘Actually I own a lot of stuff. I should start packing now’

1 week in advance – ‘What do you mean 10 boxes wasn’t enough?’

6 days – ‘I should pack some more things. But not the TV, I need that. Or the video games. Or the computer. Or the clothes. Or the shoes. Or…..’

5 days – ‘WHAT AM I DOING I NEED TO PACK ALL OF THAT STUFF’

4 days – ‘I don’t want to leave’

3 days – ‘I reallllllly don’t want to leave’

2 days – ‘I HAVE TO TAKE PICTURES OF ALL THE WALLS TO REMEMBER THIS PLACE BY’

1 days – ‘Maybe if I just go to sleep, I’ll wake up and either have a renewed lease or find all my stuff already moved for me’

Moving day – ‘FML’

Day after – It’s not even worth saying anything, because no one will hear you from behind a 10 foot wall of boxes.

That is all. Wish me luck!

 

Musings: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Nerdrage

The past few days have been a fun, exhausting blur. Sadly, I’ve been feeling guilty the whole time for not feeling up to writing any blog posts; however, all is not lost. My boss is out of town for the next 3 weeks, so I can take my time and write posts in my spare time at work. Hooray!

My ID badge picture will soon be replaced with this.

My “weekend” started last Thursday evening in preparation for the Deathly Hallows Part 2 opening. The three best friends (Me, J, and H) gathered in DC to make butterbeer, grill some hot dogs, and pound some Little Debby snacks; a proper sendoff to our childhoods, if I may say so myself. We then hopped on a metro to Chinatown around 9:30 so that we could grab seats for the 6 of us who were meeting at the theater.

As it would turn out, 10 is NOT early enough to arrive at a midnight showing of a Harry Potter movie. You would think that after 8 movies (3 of which were attended with a nearly identical group of people) that we would have figured it out by now. We did not. Of the 6 theaters showing the movie at midnight, 3 of which we had access to (only half were in 2D), only one had reasonable seats for 6 people. Although we were in the back row, I consider us to have been extremely lucky.

Knowing full well that I always get myself stoked to see various parts of the HP books in the movies and that I’m always disappointed, I set myself up for the bitter feeling of being unfulfilled anyway. The first viewing is always the worst too; subsequent viewing benefit from already knowing what was cut. The good news is that I liked this film the most upon first viewing out of the 8. The bad news is that I have major issues with two changes that the movie decided to make.

'I foresee grave irritation in your future'

First, the good. David Yates has always done a great job bringing a more mature, cinematic touch to the HP films. I think the first two films in the series did well with what they had, but completely lacked any style at all. The third film was quite good, but maybe a little too stylized. The fourth film sucked. DHp2 maintains Yates’ distinct style and is probably the film best suited for it thus far. Much like what Christopher Nolan did with the Batman reboot, Yates blends a completely over-the-top universe with an abundance of gritty, “someone is going to die” flavor that makes the whole thing feel more realistic than it would normally be.

See, this is what a REALISTIC kiss looks like. You've just been doing it wrong.

Furthermore, for the first time in any of the films, I could understand why elements of the plot were changed. Although it never makes me happy, I can understand how 30-minutes of sidetracking to explain an inevitably minor point does not make for good cinema. I’m just going to have to wait until I get fabulously rich so that I can self-fund a Harry Potter miniseries, where each chapter receives its own episode.

Expect to see this image a lot.

Besides all of this, the movie is just fun to watch overall. Although I’m far from an action junkie, I enjoyed how the film picks up very quickly and never slows down. The emotional bits of the tale are also done exceptionally well. The conclusion of Snape’s story is every bit as draining and moving as it was in the books, even if I would have liked to see even more of the flashbacks that were described in the books.

Now, for the bad. Two parts of the movie made me want to punch somebody in the face for defiling essential plot points for absolutely no reason. The first, and less severe, was the fact that Harry just straight blurts out that he’s hunting for Horcruxes to Aberforth. We all know you are trying to get a point across Harry, BUT DID YOU FORGOT THAT IT IS AN INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT SECRET? Perhaps it slipped your mind that you haven’t been allowed to ask for help from any of the infinitely more powerful witches and wizards on your side because it’s so important that no one else knows?

'This is really supposed to be a secret, but what the hell. WE'RE GOING AFTER BIN LADEN TONIGHT.'

The second point almost ruined the movie for me completely. It’s the type of thing that I might refilm myself and edit directly into my copy of the movie whenever it is released on Blu-ray, because I think it undermines one of the most important themes of the series. If you haven’t finished the books/films yet, get off my blog. Alternatively, stop reading, because spoilers are forthcoming.

At the conclusion of Harry and Voldemort‘s final showdown (which would have been better left in the Great Hall, surrounded by other duelers), Voldemort loses his wand and sort of just disintegrates into dust. Not only is it anti-climactic, but it ruins the point that Voldemort was just as human as everyone else and could die just as suddenly/easily. Conversely, in the book, Voldemort uses a killing curse on Harry, while Harry tries to disarm him (which is supposed to so how pure of heart he is. The movie missed this point too). When Voldemort’s curse backfires, he just drops dead, spread eagle in the middle of the hall. When I first read it, I was shocked at how he was the world’s most dangerous wizard one moment and then suddenly a corpse like any other. Regardless of all of his attempts to avoid death, in the end he was no different than anyone else. By making his death so unique, unnatural, and completely abnormal, the movie seems to push the point that he was a creature all his own. They should have taken some cues from how they did Snape’s death. Now THAT was a shocking death scene.

Pictured: The only thing creepier than Snape's death.

After the movie on Thursday, we got back around 3:30. I begrudgingly went to work on Friday, which was an 8-hour blur. Friday night, the three best friends met some other lovely friends for dinner at Commissary in DC. The food and atmosphere at the place were amazing and made me a bit sad to be leaving DC in 2 weeks. Oh DC, how I barely knew thee.

On Saturday morning, Jenny and I went out to Lake Needwood (lol) to participate in a waterway cleanup at the park. We weren’t there that long, but the collective participants managed to drag out 380 pounds of trash over 3 hours. They gave out  some pretty nice swag too: A t-shirt, a Nalgene, a flag, free subs, organic plums. It was an awesome way to spend a Saturday morning.

Saturday night, the 3BFs made sloppy joe’s and had ice cream (mmmm, Neapolitan. The ice cream of racial harmony). Then, Jenny and I went to see HP again. Although my above breakdown partially reflects my opinion of the movie from both viewings, I assure you that I enjoyed the film a whole lot more the second time and would like to see it a third. Sunday morning, Jenny and I hit up Annandale for some free samples at the bakery and to stop at H-mart. Then we made the 10-mile trek to and from Georgetown to return some things. And now here I am, Monday morning! I hope you all have a good Monday and have a chance to see HP many, many times. Adios!

 

Musings: The End is Near

Honestly, I really do want to tell you all about my lovely trip to California; however, this week has been quite hectic and I want to make sure I bore you all with excruciatingly long winded descriptions. There simply is no time for that right now. Our lives are about to change forever.

Tomorrow at midnight (well, Friday at midnight for the Hermione’s of the world), the final Harry Potter film is being released. All of my most avid HP fan friends and I bought tickets well in advance, of course. We will be seeing the film in Chinatown tomorrow evening. In many ways, this movie marks the death of my childhood.

Like this...but dead.

That may not be completely true, actually. My childhood has been dead for a while now…cheerful, I know. As most of you know, I much prefer the HP books to every single one of the movies. Yes, I somehow manage to prefer the Order of the Phoenix book to the Half Blood Prince film, if only barely. For that reason, I’m more inclined to think that my youth ended when I finished reading the 7th book.

Fittingly, my time reading the Deathly Hallows was probably the most involved I have ever been while reading any of the HP’s. It was over a summer during the middle of college and none of my friends were around when I was reading it. In preparation for its release, I went to a Scottish restaurant and ate Cornish Pasties and scones. I sat at home by myself, reading it late into the night with massive pots of tea. I would occasionally google castles when I took breaks. The only time I wasn’t at home reading it was when I visited my parents at the cabin they were renting…in the mountains…on a lake. So yeah, I was pretty much in the zone.

Ohhh to be young.

Things are obviously different now. It’s still the middle of summer, but I work 40 hours a week. If you count the commutes, it’s 55 hours a week. I’ll be up late into the night tomorrow, but I’ll pay for it at 5:30 on Friday morning. Still, I’m extremely excited for tomorrow. Why?

Like a tiny fraction of Voldemort’s soul, my childhood is still tucked away, almost entirely unbeknownst to me, somewhere inside. The movie tomorrow will probably mark the last time that I gather with friends for the beginning of something new regarding HP, whether its a book release or a movie premier, and I refuse to take it lying down. I’m going to make butterbeer after work. We’re going to go to an Irish Pub to get in the mood. If the enormity of the event seems too overwhelming, then bring on the firewhiskey. We’ll cast a patronus to fend off the melancholy of the end, because I demand one last summer night with the man with the lightning bolt scar.

It's been real.

Musings: Being an introvert

I was trying to avoid work the other day, when I came across an article in the New York Times about introversion and shyness. More specifically, it was about the evolutionary advantages that likely kept these traits alive throughout human history. As an introvert AND someone who thinks evolution is a fascinating model for explaining almost everything, it turned out to be the perfect way to kill time at work.

See, a genius AND an introvert. Sounds familiar...

One of the things that the author hits upon is the difference between introversion and shyness. The former is a preference for solitude; finding happiness in limited company. The latter is a fear of disapproval or rejection around others. I never really thought to differentiate the two, but with it all laid out like that, I’ve decided that I was more shy as a child and am more introverted as an adult.

As a rather intelligent youth, I frequently avoided speaking up in school out of a fear of being wrong. I had an indescribable pride in understanding things, which I didn’t want to have shattered by putting myself out for others to scrutinize. I was extremely quiet in public, never spoke much around new people, and only hung around with one or two very close friends; however, whether it was the trappings of youth or an effect of my personality, I didn’t spend much time alone. I spoke abundantly to the close group of friends and family that I had. I would have sleepovers every night until my parents insisted that I was intruding on other people’s homes. In other words, I was far from an introvert. I just hated opening up around new people.

The older I’ve gotten, the easier I’ve found it to talk to new people. I’m definitely still quiet around people with extremely outgoing and/or loud personalities. I have no desire to compete with their jabber and content myself with quietly agreeing or disagreeing. Still, I’ve developed an abundance of confidence since my elementary school years and, as a result, speak my mind more freely to a larger number of people. I’ve even introduced the concept of “small talk” into my everyday life. I’m friends with the entire support staff at work, the people at the front desk, and the Fedex guy.

Progress.

The main thing that has changed is my level of introversion. I was obviously never an extrovert, but as I proceeded through high school, college, and into working life, I’ve developed more and more of an appreciation for time spent alone. The last time I took the Jung and Briggs Meyer personality test, my results were 99% introvert for god’s sake. It’s obviously not to say that I don’t like hanging out with friends and family. Conversely, I enjoy the time I spend with them more, because it’s a special occurrence. Having alone time just gives me time to let my ever-racing brain zing along at its own pace without distraction. It lends me the freedom to do whatever I want or don’t want to do without having to worry about another person’s opinion.

This is where another point made in the article comes in. Based on a number of studies, introverts are much more likely to consider the feelings of others, be faithful, and generally be more observant of the world around them. On the whole, I think all of these points are grounded in truth. One reason that I enjoy doing things by myself, whether it’s reading a book or taking a trip across town, is that I do feel a constant need to consider others, and it gets exhausting. I hope it doesn’t sound terribly selfish, but when you can’t shut off the instinct to think about others, the only relief is some time spent worrying only for yourself.

Another of the author’s points is one that I grapple with on a daily basis. Introverts tend to thoroughly access risks. As far as evolution goes, this is a great benefit. One can imagine an extrovert who never stops to think, running headlong off of a cliff. An introvert, who is much more cautious, considers what is ahead, and is much more likely to survive (and thus pass on their genes to future generations). On the one hand, I enjoy having this trait. I’ve been able to make myself financially stable by worrying and planning in case of an emergency, never wanting to make a mistake. The overall title for my personality type is “mastermind”; one who sits and plans something, piece by piece, and then enacts it to great success. That’s essentially my goal in life. Hell, I even like video games that are very difficult and take planning to succeed.

The problem is that risk assessment is also a great way to hold yourself back. I can plan all I want, but I’m worried that I’ll hesitate too much to put anything on the line. As much as I enjoy my personality type, this trait is going to be my final frontier. I think I’ll be ready to make it when I find the right balance of caution and recklessness. Keep your fingers crossed; I’m sure I’ll be thinking of everyone when I’ve got more money than I know what to do with.

Musings: Worried Waldo

After writing my post yesterday about being good at problems solving, I started to ponder my greatest flaw. While I’m sure I have many, the one that immediately comes to mind is my penchant for worrying about anything and everything. Well, that and my inability to make decisions, but that’s derived from my incessant worrying, so it doesn’t count.

Ever since I was 5 or so, my mom has always commented on how incredibly nervous I make myself over mundane things. By the time I was 6, I insisted on wearing a life jacket at the beach at all times, just in case a huge wave came. I clearly never thought of how I wound fend for myself when the rest of my non-life jacket wearing family was swept away, but it was half of a good idea.

In elementary school, I’d get pretty stressed about being prepared for school. One time, I left my homework at my dad’s house (I spent the weekends with my pops and the weeks with my mom). I freaked out so hard that my parents had to drive an hour each way to make sure I had it for school on Monday. I even made my them take me to school during the summer to find my classroom so that I would know where to go on my first day.

It wasn’t until high school that I found a bit of relief. It was somewhere around the beginning of 9th grade that I realized that I could either endlessly worry about something or decide to not give a shit at all. To this day, those are my only two mechanisms for coping with anything.

This sums things up pretty well.

I took the slacker approach throughout most of high school, doing the minimum amount of work while maintaining straight A’s (which takes a shockingly small amount of effort). I didn’t read a single assigned book, solely because they were assigned. At the same time that I was ignoring my work, I was stressing myself out about swimming. Whenever we would have meets, I wasn’t capable of thinking of much else for the entire day. I still get butterflies when I smell chlorine. Conversely, I never got nervous about playing shows with my band. No matter how bad we were, it just never affected me. For no reason in particular, I couldn’t be bothered with worrying myself over getting on stage.

My paradoxical moods became even more extreme in college. Months of procrastinating, avoiding work, and generally neglecting my education would give way to obsessive study streaks and unsafe levels of stress. 30 seconds after walking out of exams, I completely abandoned any emotional connection with the test, regardless of how well or poorly I thought I may have done. By my senior year, when I was worried about getting a job, stress took over for completely. From September, when it was clearly too early to be trying to find something, until I got my job offer in April, I couldn’t help but stress about unemployment, day in and day out.

Ohhhh shit...how am I ever going to get this ring back to Mordor?

I was sincerely hoping that this whole thing would subside once I got into the working world. WRONG AGAIN. I still flip-flop from irresponsibly low levels of caring to intensive worrying about dumb things. Right now, I like to stress myself out about the logistics of moving all my stuff into my new apartment…in the end of July. On the one hand, this is why I’m always well prepared for this type of thing. On the other, I’ve probably taken a few years off my life already. I’m just glad that the grays haven’t started sprouting yet. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think that I’ll return to not caring about anything for the rest of tonight. See you tomorrow!

Musings: Problem Solving

A friend of mine recently asked me what I think my greatest skill is. After thinking about it for a few moments, I realized that I am best at solving problems. I’m not sure when I became good at it, but I’ve definitely come to rely on it at my job. As the only person who isn’t working on a well defined, very specific research project, literally everything outside of said projects falls on me. Fedex billed us wrong? Find out why. New incubator that I’ve never seen before isn’t holding temperature? Fix it. We’re in need of a new subzero freezer? Find the best one and get us a good price on it.

I was thinking of labeling this post as “Stuff That I Like”, because in a lot of ways, I like being the problem solver. I get a unique sort of high from rapidly putting a wide range of issues to rest. At the same time, I’m not sure that I actually like solving the problems. If anything, it has become more of a compulsion. It’s like some practical, real world version of a MMORPG, where I want to progress further and further, proving how much I can fix, without much of an endgame.

Speaking of video games, my compulsive desire to solve problems has seriously affected the way that I game. I’ve found more and more that in any non-repetitive game (as in, not a multiplayer game where the same basic tasks are repeated), I keep pushing myself to finish the game, sometimes at the cost of actual enjoyment.

As everyone will find out when I get around to writing about all the games that I’ve really, truly, seriously loved, I get the most enjoyment out of games where I take my time, get immersed, and really enjoy the unique moments. I still come across these moments from time to time, where I want the game to last forever, if only for a chance to experience a few more thrilling moments; however, on the whole, I push forward in games, crossing missions off as I go, more or less enjoying myself, but yearning for the moment when I’ll achieve a final victory.

This is all made worse by the fact that when I do finish a really terrific game, I’m upset that I plowed through it so unenthusiastically. I’ll rarely make it back for another whole playthrough (with the exception of a few true classics that I replay frequently), despite wanting to indulge a bit more. I seriously fear the day when I can’t find a game or two that really sucks me in. It seems to me that a lot of older gamers reach the point where gaming becomes a chore.If I ever reach that point, you will see a very unhappy Chris. I don’t want my childhood to die. I just want to grow up to be like this guy:

Anyway, back in the real world, I hope that I can capitalize on my problem solving abilities/compulsions/desires. The good thing is, it’s one of those skills that never really sounds bad in an interview. Who doesn’t love a problem solver? The downside is that I really need a job where that problem solving provides total satisfaction. Right now, I feel like the only way for me to achieve this is by working for myself. Nothing really sounds fulfilling compared to building a business, confronting and solving new challenges on a daily basis. Now I just need to find a place to start. Any ideas?