My Busy Evenings

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about being mellow. As in, how you unwind after a long, stressful day. The first thing I do is change into something more comfortable, like shorts and a shirt or pajamas. Not exactly the serious, aloof image I give out in public. I don’t have to impress anyone at home. Besides, it’s not like I’m having anyone over for dinner. I fix myself something something simple but filling, like a hamburger or sandwich. Maybe a salad, if I’ve got enough ingredients already chopped up. I’m usually too exhausted for anything fancy. If I’m home early enough, I head over to the television and get my Jeopardy fix. I’ll knock out the dishes and clean up during the first half of Wheel of Fortune, then peek back just in time to see the final puzzle. I don’t bother with prime-time television anymore – few shows appeal to me – so I retire to my room.

From there, it’s pretty much a matter of whatever catches my interest. The laptop is usually on all evening, though I’m not obsessed with social networks. I log into Facebook and other emails just long enough to see if there are any messages, then shut them off. I know that if I stay on something like Tumblr or Pinterest  for more than a few minutes, I’ll end up scrolling through pictures for hours. I check my YouTube subscription updates, as well as Nostalgia Critic and Red Letter Media. I’ll usually hit up WordPress and see if there’s an interesting prompt, then think up something to put on the blog. After that, I’ll just load up a movie on iTunes. I don’t watch it, though; I just need something for background noise. I’ll spend the next few hours either writing or reading. Nothing particularly glamorous or interesting, but at least it’s relaxing.

But if I really need to let off some steam, I play video games. Since I’m a reviewer, it’s *actually* work, but it’s fun as long as I pace myself. I’m a big fan of fighters, particularly Street Fighter III: Third Strike. I’m currently the 4th highest-ranked Chun-Li on the PSN leaderboards, which is a good indication of how obsessed I am. Check it out:

Because competing in one of the greatest and most technically-demanding video games ever made is great stress relief…I need a new hobby.

Summertime, Coming Soon

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about summer. As in, what you’re looking forward to about the upcoming summer months. I’m more of an autumn type, but I won’t pass up the chance to enjoy the heat. Especially this year; for the first time in my adult life, I might still be unemployed this summer. I’m not hoping I’ll end up like that, of course. I recently applied for a community manager position at a major website. There’s a good chance I’ll be hired. If that happens, then I’ll be carrying around my laptop a lot in the foreseeable future. If I don’t, then I’ll enter UC Berkeley’s open-enrollment technical writing program and further develop a practical skill set. I could get the pursuit of my M.A. going, but that’s a whole other mountain of problems. I’ll also be delving deeper into the No Excuse List and doing independent studies while looking for another position.

…Doesn’t sound very fun, huh?

I’ve also been invited on a trip to Rome tentatively scheduled sometime in May. The itinerary is still up in the air – it might even be postponed until October – but I’ll take full advantage of the rail system to see more of Europe. The last time I was in that part of the world, I managed to visit Spain, Morocco, and Gibraltar in a single week. Let’s see if I can do better this time around! I’ll also be equipped with a better camera; before, my old camera malfunctioned on the first day, and I had to resort to my iPod. I’ll be sure to take tons of awesome photos for you guys!

That’s a best-case scenario, of course. If I’m stuck here in the Bay Area, I’m going to make the most of it. I spent a considerable amount of 2013 exploring San Francisco on foot, and I’d love to do it a second time. Those long, sunny afternoons wandering off of Market Street, climbing Lombard Street, and walking through Chinatown all the way Fisherman’s Wharf were some of my most cherished moments. I only stopped exploring the city because of winter’s onset; now that the days are getting longer again, I have more hours of sunlight to use. I live in a bad neighborhood of a terrible city, so traveling to San Francisco is like a brief, but lovely escape. I can’t wait to do it again.

Daily Prompt: Quirk of Habit

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about quirks and habits. Specifically, the ones you either love or hate in yourself or others. I know that I’m always the weird one, so I’m all too aware of the little crazy (and probably annoying) things I do every day. I sometimes think out loud when I’m trying to puzzle out a problem, but I do so quietly. Sometimes I even get tongue-tied. Everyone around me either thinks I’m muttering something to them, or that I’ve dived straight into the deep end of schizophrenia. I don’t hear voices; occasionally I just think better if I give myself a little mental dialogue. But of course everyone thinks I’m just crazy like that.

It doesn’t help that I’ve got a thing about eye contact, too. Is it just me, or do people just not appreciate the importance of eye contact anymore? Is it because everyone is too busy staring at their smart phones and tablets? Is it just because we apparently need an excuse to not acknowledge the other individuals in our vicinities? I don’t know. But whenever I talk to people, I look them steadily in the eye. I had to train myself to do it, simply because I still find conversations unnerving. Eye contact is unspoken understanding that yes, I see and regard you as a person. Yes, I am listening to you. Yes, I am interested in what you have to say. You’d be surprised how much more polite and kind people act when they know you’re paying attention. However, I occasionally do it too much; a few extra uncomfortable seconds makes the difference between, say, Omar Borkan Al Gala and Tommy Wiseau.

Gotta strike a balance somewhere.

I also have a occasional tendency to rush. It’s a remnant of my college days, when commuting was literally down to the second. I’ve gotten much better at dealing with it – I haven’t angrily frothed at missed train in years – but it still shows up whenever I’m trying to get stuff done. However, I’m also very fixated on accuracy and procedure. I don’t cut corners, but I make it efficient as I can. It’s like a Point A-to-Point B thought process that gets kicked up to Mach 10. Need to have the office shut down? I’ve not only memorized the checklist, I can have everything finished perfectly in a quarter of the time it’d take my coworkers. All because I just want to get out of the office and getting help from the others would just slow me down. Why sit around waiting for them to make mistakes that I’ll have to waste even more time fixing? The same goes with bringing in groceries, cleaning the house etc. Once the momentum gets going, I just can’t stop.

And yes, I’m well aware that it makes me sound like a terrible, bossy, self-centered, arrogant person. It is a part of me, and I hate that. I’m not a big fan of it in other people, either. Bossy people and I do not get along, usually because I refuse to play into their politics. I’m shy and quiet, but anyone who assumes I’m a doormat is in for a big surprise. Age and title aren’t nearly as important as actual experience and skill, and I don’t respond well to those who try pulling little schemes to inflate their egos. People who underestimate me often end up asking for my advice and leadership, and I’m not sure why. I’ve got a tendency towards snarky insights and straightforward, honest conversations. If people have to work together, everyone should help each other to best of their ability, not descend into petty in-fighting.

…Sigh. No wonder they got rid of me.

Oh, and one last thing: I get random songs stuck in my head for days. Sometimes I sing them silently in the shower. I know more about Wichita Lineman and Under Pressure than I’ll ever want.

If I Had A Billion Dollars…

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about winning. Specifically, what you’d do if you won one billion dollars, tax-free. I like that the prompt included that little bit on the end, because that makes things far less complicated in terms of structuring a portfolio. Nobody likes paying taxes, and doing it for a billion dollars would probably physically hurt. So, what do you do with that kind of money? A lot of people would spring for some kind of mansion, cars, an island, etc. Sorry to be boring, but I don’t think I’d go that route. Not immediately, anyway. Having that much cash suddenly dropped on me would certainly solve some of my short-term problems, but it’d potentially cause a ton more without a good amount of foresight and planning.

There’s a pervasive belief that being rich means you can retire. Maybe you’ll get a big coin vault and go swimming in it like Scrooge McDuck. Or maybe you'll fight crime. Spending the rest of your life in the lap of luxury sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? And while it’s technically possible to do with a tax-free billion, it would be inherently limiting. The amount of money in your account isn’t as important as how you spend it to maintain your standard of living. Basically, stuff adds up. Read up on Warren Buffett sometime; the dude’s lived in the same house since 1956. His lack of extravagance is something I’d like to emulate. For example: I don’t have a car, so I walk and take public transit. Sure, that makes me a scrub in most people’s eyes. But I’m saving thousands annually on insurance premiums and maintenance. The same goes with the phone; I’ve been using the same ratty old flip phone for the better part of a decade. Its data plan is almost non-existent. It doesn’t have a camera, a music player, or even the Internet. But it can make or take calls, and that’s all I need.

General rule of thumb/common sense: If you want to make a profit, earn more than what you spend.

However, that doesn’t mean I could or want do more. Money is one (and certainly not the only) means by which we get resources and opportunities. I may not need a smart phone, but it’d make managing a business and building relationships much easier. So, if I want more opportunities, I’d have to make more money. I’d get the immediate problems out of the way, like getting the house paid off and health insurance coverage handled. After calculating my standard of living and doubling it in case of unforeseen expenses, the rest would be left for investments. Since this money is tax free, I won’t have to put all of it immediately into my IRA, though a portion of it certainly would. Some of it would go towards at least a few interest bearing accounts or fixed-rate CDs, even though the percentages these days are pathetically low.

Did I mention I was in banking for 12 years?

The investments wouldn’t be just in terms of accounts, either. Technically, everything you own is an investment. They just have varying degrees of necessity and returns. I may be a huge geek, but I know a week’s worth of groceries is always better investment than a TARDIS replica. If you’re in the photography business, you don’t just get the best camera money can buy; you get one that doesn’t break your bank and still suits your needs. If you’re a diplomat en route to Beijing, it’s probably a good idea to invest in learning Mandarin. Everything you pick up along the way are just pieces of the foundation of your financial career.

Mine would likely include investments in real estate development, particularly in China. Renewable energy, psychology, educational, food, transportation, and health care technology developments would also be essential. Communications, preferably with a focus online streaming and messaging, would also be a priority. Privacy, too. The stock market is also plausible, but it’s way riskier. I still have chilling flashbacks of working at a bank when the recession hit. I’d rather have a good, steady burn instead relying on just finicky economic confidence. Once I have a solid return, I’d donate to charities, particularly those involved with world hunger, depression, and education. Maybe start a college.

…And build a personal library. Deep down, I’m still a bookworm.

Daily Prompt: Tattoo….You?, Or: Blank Skin, Too Many Choices!

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is about tattoos. Much to the surprise of anyone who assumes I’m a goth/punk/rock star based on my appearance, I don’t have any ink. It’s not because I’m squeamish around needles. And it’s certainly not because I find them unappealing; an excellent, tasteful tattoo can be really attractive. For me, it always seemed like a huge step in an unusual (though not bad) direction. Some corporate workplaces don’t encourage it, at least if the art is visible. There’s this bizarre, persisting belief that professionalism and tattoos don’t mix, as if they affect an individual’s competency. Considering how companies are supposedly pushing for more individuality, diversity, and creativity, the assumptions about tattoos are paradoxical, if not outright hypocritical. One of the most competent, business-savvy people I ever worked under had ink on her legs, but had to wear tights every workday because visible tattoos were forbidden. Social perspectives are starting to shift in favor of competency over personal appearance, but its extent is anyone’s guess.

My family’s attitude, however, isn’t going to going to change anytime soon. You should’ve seen the ruckus that got stirred up when I decided to grow my hair out. My mother was incredulous. Some of my relatives nicknamed me the CDL: Colombian Drug Lord. I’ve never done drugs, and nor been to South America. I still get half-joking threats of someone sneaking in and cutting my hair in my sleep….But I’ll save those shenanigans for another post. Tattoos are a personal thing; it’s ultimately up to the person, not the family, to choose responsibly. My hang-up is with my general appearance. I’m in much better shape than I was in college – I still hike and wander the city regularly – but I’ve got nothing worth showing off. I’m definitely not Calvin Klein model; I’ve got maybe a one-and-a-half pack on my best days. If I’m that average, would a tattoo really look that good on me?

I don’t know.

What I do know are the kinds of tattoos I’d get if I had the nerve. My favorite animal is the octopus. It’s one of the most intelligent and crafty members of the animal kingdom. Most people associate wisdom with owls due to their connection with Athena. However, octopi excel at stealth, dextrous tool-use, spatial memory, and navigation. They look weird, but undeniably awesome. It’d be cool to get a huge, detailed one spanning across one shoulder, with tentacles going down my arms, back, or chest. But since I’m huge literature geek, I’d probably go with a specific cephalopod: Cthulhu. Forget Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean; I want to have H.P. Lovecraft’s god of insanity on me.

But if I’m going with a literary-themed one, it’d probably be a famous passage drawn on my back. Maybe Hamlet’s soliloquy. An excerpt from Tennyson’s Ulysses, perhaps. The openings to Moby-Dick or A Tale of Two Cities. There’s a cavalcade of literary quotes I could use. Or maybe I could just have a huge stack of of my favorite books along my spine. Or maybe I should stick to paintings, like Van Gogh’s The Starry Night or Raphael’s The School of Athens. A Scorpio-themed one would be fitting, but kind of bland. Or I could get a video-game themed one, like Akuma’s Sky/Heaven symbol, the Triforce or Amaterasu. Samus Aran, Chun-Li, or Big Boss would all be serious contenders as well.

But if I wanted to go really esoteric, it’d have to be an astronomy one. Maybe the Pillars of Creation or the entirety of the Eagle Nebula. That probably wouldn’t translate well to ink and skin, though…

Yeah, I should stop. I’m going spend like an hour looking up cool/geeky tattoos that I’ll probably never get. But I can still imagine.