Writer's Workshop: The End Of The Line


I apologize that this isn’t a very good picture of our last cat, Molly. Over the years we’ve had many cats (and let’s leave it at that), but gradually the clowder has shrunk and we decided a while back that there would be no more. And Molly’s the end of the line.

A friend of Mary’s found her and wanted to find a good home for her, but couldn’t keep her at her house because her cat was not pleased she was around. The friend called and asked us if we could keep her until she found a good home for her, and we said "sure! Why not?" Within two days we called our friend and told her she needn’t search any longer, we wanted to keep her. Molly had managed to win us over in a hurry.

Naturally, she started with me, because she could tell that getting in good with me would be her ticket in. While I was sitting on the couch, Molly came and sat on the armrest beside me and started licking my face. I was torn between thinking that she was licking my face off and thinking it was about the most precious thing a cat had ever done. Mary saw this and asked "Do you think we should keep her?" Well, you know the answer I had.

Molly’s about fifteen and still in very good physical shape, spends as much time on Mary’s lap as she can, and no longer feels the need to compete for our attention. She’s pretty easygoing now. We love that she’s happy here.

One day, hopefully not in the immediate future, Molly will find her way to the Rainbow Bridge, and the nest will be empty. We’ve agreed that we’ll wait at least a year before we consider another pet. We’ve done our part. Time to pass the torch.

Writer's Workshop: A Class of '74 Gold Ring

My high school graduation picture. I look like I should be sitting on Edgar Bergen’s lap.

I never bought a class ring from high school. I think I was just so tired of it by the time I got out that I wanted as few reminders that I had ever gone there as possible. I think if I could have run out of the gym on June 6, 1974, after getting my diploma, I would have, but (a) I couldn’t talk the girl I walked out with into running with me, and (b) the shoes I was wearing were really slippery and I probably would have fallen on my backside and broken something.

To hear some people talk about it, high school was the greatest four years of their life, but honestly, I wonder how many people actually feel that way. I know I don’t. And of those who actually do feel that way, I wonder if the rest of their lives have been as fulfilling. My guess, again, is probably not. I mean, if the years between 14 and 18 are the high point of your life, the rest of it must really suck.

Well, the assignment was to take a song I love and use a line from it as the title of the post. If you’ve known me long enough, you know what song it is…

Writer's Workshop: I Was In The Mood To Write…

A black cat, because why not? Source: Scopio

Usually, I look at the prompts and choose the one that says some like "Write a post inspired by the word _________," of which there are two this time around. This time, however, I’m going to take the other four prompts and answer them, because I’m in the mood to write.

First, there’s "Happy New Year! What resolutions are you making? How did last year’s resolutions turn out for you?" I don’t make resolutions, because nine times out of ten I forget to do them. I mean, totally forget about them. I’m hoping to get into the habit of writing myself a note at the end of the day that summarizes what I did that day, because I’m always stuck for an answer when Mary asks, "so, what did you do today?" Not to mention when I’m asked questions like "what were the high and low points of the past year?" or "name something you learned last month." It’d be nice to have an answer.

Then, "Did you buy yourself any gifts this holiday season? Share what you selected for yourself." Mary and I have basically shopped for ourselves for Christmas the last 20 years or so, because otherwise we would have to write out exactly what we wanted the other person to buy, and even then half of it would go back. Mary buys knitting and crocheting books and patterns, not to mention yarn, and I have no idea what she wants, but she does, so she buys the stuff and says "thank you for my presents!" I do the same for the stuff I want, which this year was a 6th Generation iPod Touch with 32GB of storage. The iPod I had had since about 2006 bit the dust earlier this year, and I bought myself a little MP3 player to provide noise for myself when I sleep. After living with it and its limitations for a few months, I decided I wanted something better. Strangely enough, the new iPod (which I bought through eBay) cost just about as much as the other little player I had. Battery life on the iPod is better, I can run my noise apps as well as play the MP3’s I have on it, and the sound quality is much better. A winner all around.

Then, there’s this: "Write about your New Year’s Eve celebration. How wild do you get?" Not wild at all. We had pizza rolls for dinner, as has become our tradition, Mary was tired and went to bed at 10:30, I was in bed by 11:30 and asleep five minutes after the kids in the neighborhood stopped with the fireworks. We really live life on the edge.

I saved the biggest one for last: Share a quote you remember your parents using often when you were growing up. The one I remember Mom using all the time was "J-O-B does not spell F-U-N." In Mom’s opinion, work was not supposed to be enjoyable. If it were fun, it wouldn’t be work.

I think that attitude toward work is part of what kept me at the software company for such a long time. Something crappy would happen, I’d get mad about it, then I’d shrug, decide that it was just another example of J-O-B does not spell F-U-N, put my head back down and keep on keepin’ on. It was something I think I learned from her: I’d hear her complain about her wild kids, her crazy principal, the shitty neighborhood her school was in, the idiots downtown, the fools that ran the union and the school board, and I’d ask her why she didn’t find something else to do. "Oh, I can’t do that," she’d say, and drag herself through another crappy day, after which she’d come home and complain.

I never understood that. Mom was the most intelligent woman I ever knew and probably will ever know. She could do anything she put her mind to. Any company would be thrilled to have her. She could have taught in the schools that she sent us to, which were head and shoulders above the Chicago Public Schools. "I need a Master’s" or "I couldn’t make the money I make in Chicago" or "Oh, come on! I could never do that!" with a wave of her hand.

And I ended up doing the same thing. I’d get it in my head that I should look for a new job, then it’d be "I’m under/overqualified" or "I wouldn’t make anywhere near the money" or "I’d lose two weeks of vacation." And I’d stay, because J-O-B does not spell F-U-N.

And it’s taken me this long to realize that was BS.

My Top 10 Posts of 2019

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

We’re taking a week off from Writer’s Workshop, so I thought I’d figure out what my most popular posts were this year (knowing we still have a week). Like last year, I omitted all my A to Z Challenge posts (because they’re always big) and left out my own comments. We ended up with a few ties, as you’ll see in a minute.

Thanks to everyone who commented this year!

Writer's Workshop: Double It and Add 30

Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay

I have never been one for lists, task lists or others. This was not always appreciated when I was working in programming. I’d be assigned a project and start right in on it, and more often than not would get the job done on time and usually exactly what the client (internal or external) wanted, or close enough that I could clean it up in a short amount of time. As far as I was concerned, coming up with a detailed plan and isolating the tasks required to do the project was a waste of time and a pain in the ass.

Nevertheless, I would often find myself in the position of having to come up with detailed plans and estimate the time it would take to complete each task, after which I’d have to cope with a manager who would then want to sit down with me on a regular basis to go over said list, checking off the tasks that had been completed and to see if my estimates for the time required to finish the remaining tasks and finish the project. At times, I would be halfway done with a project before I delivered the estimate, at which point I would turn in an estimate showing the tasks that were already finished and a list of the things that had yet to be started. And of course I’d get chewed out for doing things that way, but hey, the project was half finished, so who cared, right?

My manager, of course, was less interested in whether I could do something than in knowing how I’d do it so he could pass it on to someone else. Which I never quite understood. Why do I have to come up with what I thought it would take a junior programmer to complete a project when I knew I could finish it in a couple of long days?

So I developed a system: when asked to estimate a project, I’d figure out what it would take me to get it done, double it and add 30 hours. If a project would take me 20 hours, I would give an estimate of 70 hours. If they asked me to justify it, I’d come up with a plan (research, 7 hours; coding, 35 hours; testing and debugging, 28 hours) that did just that. And more often than not, that was how long it took.

Ain’t I a stinker?