November 29, 2006 :: More random thoughts

The best line in a hop-hop song this year was uttered by Lil' Wayne.

Let's stop and think about that for a second. Yes, in my opinion, Lil' Weezie, from the Cash Money Clique (or however they are spelling it these days), had the best line in hip-hop this year. And I'm going to back it up.

Regular readers know I've voiced my opinion on the state of hip-hop before, once or twice. I'm not a fan per se of CMB or Wayne - I guess he's not calling himself "Lil" anymore since he's now of legal age and doesn't feel the need to honor the promise he made to his moms not to curse so she would let him be a rap artist at age 15 or whenever - but this one line was hot.

I'm not the only person that thinks this about this line, from "Stuntin Like My Daddy". Other people like it too, evidenced by the fact that I keep seeing people quote it. But the ironic part is this: everybody quotes it wrong. I guess that's because he sounds like his mouth is full of a bag of potato chips when he says it:

How you want it
Show me my opponents
(stuffs his mouth with a newspaper)

It is my studied and learned opinion that the only way the line makes sense is if he says "Those are my opponents", i.e. he ate them for breakfast. But everyone I have seen quote it simply repeats the second line again - "Show me my opponents", which makes no sense at all. Of course, I might be giving him too much credit - maybe he did in fact repeat the second line, but that wouldn't be nearly as interesting. Next time you hear the song, listen closely, and then tell me what you think.

Moving on to other topics.... I have a crush on Wanda Sykes. For those of you who know me and know something about my tastes, you might see a pattern with past crushes. It won't last, and I sure as hell am not going to try to explain it. But if you happen to run into her within the next 60 days, put in a good word for me.

And one last rant.... Why did I not discover until yesterday that my DC driver's license expires today? Other places I've lived just mailed me a new license, or at least a reminder if I owed parking tickets (and we won't get into my relationship with parking tickets right now). Thanks DC... just where I wanted to spend my birthday, the DMV!

November 02, 2006 :: Lessons from Halloween

I know Halloween was two days ago, and we Americans don't really like looking back at holidays but instead look forward, but there are some observations I had that I just have to share with you all:

October 19, 2006 :: The sin of low expectations

Earlier this week, we had an offsite meeting at work. The entire department (about 30-40 people) was in a cramped up meeting room for a day and a half, enduring Powerpoint presentations so dry they would make your skin peel. As you can imagine, I had a hard time staying focused during this marathon of boredom. So when we had the chance to break off into small teams and do a team exercise, I jumped on it. We were in teams of five, and each team was required to have a presenter, a scribe and a timekeeper - standard meeting management theory. I volunteered to be the presenter, because I figured that getting up and talking, even for 5 minutes, would be more interesting than listening to someone else talk.

Given some written goals, our team's job was to come up with strategies to achieve them and some metrics to measure progress; standard corporate stuff. So it's not like I had a fascinating topic to discuss. But I got up, did my talk-through, and went about my business.

I must have left some kind of impression on my co-workers (and I use the term lightly, since I'm a sub-contractor and could be gone at any time). A steady stream of people came up to me later that day and the next day to tell me how impressed they were with my presentation and my public speaking ability. I have taken a public speaking class, but I am by no means any kind of orator. But I guess the bar is low around here. You would have thought I was the next Winston Churchill or something.

Now I have to figure out how to turn this to my advantage. Of course, my project manager left before any of these people made these comments, but I am hoping it will filter around to him at some point. My review is ongoing as we speak, so hopefully this will play well into a bonus or something, and not just more speaking assignments.

October 16, 2006 :: At the crossroads

First, let me apologize to my readers, if I actually have any left. I haven't written in well over a month, largely because I had nothing to say. The muse had left me. Of the topics and siutations to discuss that did come to mind, too many of them involved friends and acquaintances and necessitated revealing too much personal detail for a forum of this type. I've found something better to talk about, though.

This past weekend, I had the occasion to take a trip to Atlanta, and I spent a day hanging out with one of my old college roommates. I hadn't seen him in a few years, mostly because out of the rest of our "crew" from those days, no one else still talks to him, and so it is hard for me to integrate him into other trips I've made to Atlanta. He's something of a character - charisma in spades, questionable morals (at least until you find out what his philosophy of life is), smart but not genius smart. I've never had too many problems with him, as long as I didn't personally get mixed up in his schemes, but many others have decided they couldn't deal.

Of course, a lot of these judgments are based on incidents that happened as far back as 1992. I like to think I've grown and matured a lot since college, and I try to give others the same consideration. Who here has not done at least a few silly, childish, or slightly immoral things while in college? And if you're raising your hand, I would wager you missed out on a sizable portion of the actual learning experience in college.

Anyway, my friend gave me some things to think about. We caught up on where we each are in our respective lives. He's always been maverick enough not to work for someone else, and he's been involved in putting together a local TV show down there, having a part-ownership share in a nightclub, and other random entrepreneurial activities. He is not yet rich, nor as famous as he wants to be, but out of all my friends with spoken ambitions, he probably puts forward the most effort on a daily basis towards achieving these ends, whatever that requires.

On Sunday, that required tearing down drywall, closet and wall framing and ceiling materials in a commercial property that he's gutting and remodeling to turn into a tv studio. I helped out for a while, pulling and whacking away with a crowbar, an 8 lb. sledgehammer, an axe and (later, when we got a little smarter) a circular saw. He gets a kick out of telling women he workss in "construction", although that's only been for two weeks, and maybe will last two weeks more. For what it's worth, the young women we met outside Gladys & Ron's Chicken & Waffles thought he looked more like a poet. But they also thought I looked like an accountant (while wearing jeans and a sweatshirt), so maybe their judgment wasn't so good.

We also talked about the steady trickle of some of our friends out to the suburbs, to McMansions, to picket fences and dogs and babies and 401Ks and climbing the management chain at Fortune 500s and a comfortable if boring life. His take on it? They have slowly given up on their dreams, one by one, dream by dream, and accepted comfort and mediocrity and boredom.

So I had to think about that. Of course, not every has the same dreams. For example, we talked about another of our friends, who was among the first of us to plunge headlong into marriage, fatherhood, and suburban life. He's always been that kind of guy, and so by the yardstick in his world, he is fulfilling his dreams, and that works for him. I've never really been in that mold, and so while I watch them go down that path, part of me wonders if I am missing out, and part of me recoils in revulsion. While I certainly don't have the same exact desire as my friend to be rich and famous, I certainly don't want to struggle, or depend on anyone else for my livelihood... and that includes the Social Security Administration, Wall Street, an employer.

I have recently been developing a business idea, and trying to think how I can make my current employer my last employer... that is to say, to work for myself thereafter. Of course, any business will have clients and customers, to whom it still must answer, but that is infinitely preferable to just collecting a W-2 salary for the rest of my life. There is great risk involved, and great reward. I can't yet say I am ready to make the leap. But my resolve and certainty in choosing this path is greater than it was.

The way I see it, many folks come to this crossroads once they cross age 30. Most give up the dreams of youth as mere fantasies, and embrace the realities of the corporate life. Some are forced that way, by unplanned pregnancies and hospitalized parents and health problems and generally, the hand they are dealt by life. Not everyone can decide to run off and be an entrepreneur, much less in a "glamorous" field like TV. And yet, there is no reason why I can't... not TV per se, but to follow dreams and pursue things I've always wanted to do. I don't have any kids, no family obligations to tie me down, no particular ties to my city or anything else. I'm smart enough to figure out most things, and conceited enough to think that I can be in the top 15% of any endeavor with enough learning and practice and a little luck.

I always like to think that I would judge my life and the choices therein by the stories I will be able to tell my grandkids (or, at the rate I am going, my grand-nephew's goddaughter's kids). I never really cared much about money for its own sake, only in the things it can do for me, the doors it can open to places to be visited, experiences to be had, and the creation of new stories to tell. I don't care about fame, but if it happens to be a by-product of the other things, and opens more doors, so be it. But the best way I can think of to have those life experiences and tell those stories is to follow the dreams. So I've decided - I will figure out all the things in life I really care about, things I want to do, and from now on, everything I do will be tied to something on that list. It won't be a long list, either, but it will be broad enough to encompass a lot of discovery.

Stay tuned.

August 28, 2006 :: Friend or foe

A while back, I started hanging out at Jin, a lounge near U st, quite a bit. It so happens that a friend of mine (we'll call her X) started tending bar there, and I liked the atmosphere, and the location isn't far from my house. It's a small place, and I quickly got to know most of the other employees. They're a lot of fun to hang out with, and we often pass the time thinking up ways the owner could get more customers in there. The food is pretty tasty, if a bit uppity, and the drinks are good, plus I get "good customer" discounts... which usually translates to free. I've said before that free liquor will be the death of me, and it turns out there may be some truth to that, but that's not quite what today's post is about.

One of the other bartenders (we'll call her Y) has decided that it is her mission in life to get me drunk whenever I see her. While I appreciate her enthusiasm, her skill in constructing deadly concoctions, and her willingness to slip free drinks my way, this often ends up being a double edged sword, because I frequently drive myself and have to limit what I drink. She never seems too concerned about that, and will often go toe to toe on the shots. Nothing like a bartender who's just as drunk as everybody else.

On the other hand, my friend X, whom I've known for years, will barely serve me anything anymore. She hands me the weakest drinks, albeit all free, and cuts me off very early. She lectures and nags me about being able to drive home, and tells me I drink too much. And I know this behavior is reserved for me, because another one of our friends gets plenty strong drinks from her AND from Y.

Some of the purpose of going out to places like that is to enjoy alcoholic beverages and the intoxicating effects that come with them. Somewhere between the two must be a happy medium. It's good that she cares enough to want me not to crash and kill myself or someone else, but is it too much to ask for even one stiff drink? Oh well, this is all probably going to be moot very soon...