Monday, February 19, 2018

For What It's Worth: It's Internet, and not the other thing

I appreciate a good grammar argument, and always have.

I also appreciate words enough to know that their meaning shifts, and is contextual.  So not only is it a waste of energy and breath to go around pointing out error in the way that most people use the words "peruse" and "notorious,", it's actually wrong to do so.  As in, the pointing out of the wrongness itself is not entirely correct.

If someone talks about his high "self of steam" or wants to boil an argument down "for all intensive purposes" then as long as the meaning can be accurately inferred among the audience, there really isn't a problem.  Far be it from me to stop the show.

And in that spirit, I'm willing to let go of "Internet."  Most style guides have already gone against me, Wired has gone against me, and shoot, as of some point last year, the Tech Review has gone against me, too.

But hear me out -- there are many parks, but there is one Fenway Park.  There are many canals, but there is one Rideau Canal.  And so on.

There are many interconnected networks.  There are many internets.  But there is ONE worldwide network that meets all of the specifications described in the snapshot above, which came from a textbook I'm using this semester.  This network -- the Internet -- conforms to a very specific set of rules that lend themselves to worldwide interoperability.  These protocols, like Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, are part of a suite of protocols built into our operating systems and our hardware that enable the PFM* that occurs when you bring your brand-new computer out of the box, turn it on, and it can suddenly find a router, join a network, and connect you to, well, the Internet.

Almost inevitably, when I've heard die-hard fans of 'internet' make their case, they compare it to other services like 'laundry' or 'cable television.'   "Are you implying that hotels should offer Laundry and Cable Television?," they ask, with barely concealed derision. 

I will bet you all the money in my checking account that the person asking the question above can't appreciate -- let alone explain -- the paragraph that came before it.  Nor does he care to. 

All THAT said?  Before I let this issue become my own personal "Old Man Screams at Cloud" storyline, I'll surrender quietly into the night here.  I obviously care (remember, any time a person tells you that they "don't care" about something that you didn't ask about in the first place, they certainly do care -- and that 'level of care' is directly proportional to their insistence otherwise).

But for all intensive purposes, there are other things to do, this ain't it, and the ship has already sailed.

*Pure Flippin' Magic

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Primary Way in Which Teaching is Easier Than Tutoring -- Prep Time Amortization

I've done plenty of teaching in the past 5 years, and I've also done plenty of tutoring. 

Teaching is what I do exclusively now, and it's what's in the cards for me for many years to come.  For many reasons, I far prefer classroom teaching to one-on-one tutoring, and one the most important of those reasons is this:  the way the necessary preparation time amortizes with experience

You might *think* this to be the case with tutoring -- after all, take subjects like Calculus, Economics, Statistics, Accounting, etc.  They don't really change much year to year, right?  You learn the material once and then you just sort of have it, right?

Not exactly.  Every instructor at every school teaches each of those subjects just a bit differently.  Interpreting meaning can sometimes be just as difficult for a tutor as it is for a student.  I still remember the Macroeconomics Professor who tried to explain everything through these way-too-unnecessarily-complex arrow diagrams.  All of the assignments were based on those diagrams, so as someone who hadn't ever been to the class, trying to help someone who had (but was lost) had a deaf-leading-the-blind sort of pain factor to it. 

Even at the time, I had begun teaching part-time, and I figured out the key difference between the two jobs -- playing offense vs. playing defense (pardon me now as I blur the metaphor across different sports).

Offense is fun.  On offense, you control the flow of the game.  You decide where the ball or the puck goes.  If you don't like how a play is unfolding, you can simply stop the play.  You can run out of bounds (we'll take our break now), you can throw a challenge flag (that's not relevant to this, but...) or you can even break out the old hidden ball play (I'm not sure what that meant, so I took those slides out of the deck 10 minutes prior). 

On defense, you have to be Grant Fuhr and Patrick Roy every single time.  That gets really stressful, and no matter how good your reflexes, no matter how sharp your skates, no matter how solid your pads, you can't keep every puck outside of your net. 

As a result, the preparation time required for playing defense -- and really playing it well, at the honest-to-goodness NHL equivalent -- never really goes away.  It drops off a little, but that's it.

Offense, on the other hand?  Way different.  It's really hard to do the first time.  But once you've moved the chains all the way down the field once?  You work out the kinks, you know what the endstate looks like, and you can far more easily brainstorm better ways to get from A to B.  But when you don't even know what B looks like, because you've never seen it?  Pardon the cliche, but it's the proverbial building-the-plane-in-midair problem. 

You're not really supposed to get stale, and you shouldn't, but if you have to wing a class you've taught 11 times before?  Yeah, you can do it.  It's your show. 

Even when you really do it right, and you're updating your stuff, your prep-to-class ratio is still probably somewhere around 1:1, which is far better than the 6:1 or even 10:1 that a first time go-around can require. 

Right now, I've got three new classes running a la fois, in addition to one that I've done umphteen times.  That one?  I still go full-tilt on grading, but prep is a breeze.  Those other three, though?  I can assure you, I'm feeling the full weight.  

But I also know that there's a wonderful silver lining to it all -- it'll be far, far easier to do any of these again.  And even easier the time after that, and so on. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Stop Me If You've Heard this One Before...

TL; DR:  Beware of open-ended agreements.  Saying "no" to something up front could cause an ounce of pain now that spares you a pound of pain later.

A quick personal update before I write the vignette to explain the summary above:   

Things went from crazy to normal to crazy again, and now they're back to normal.  Back in the summer, I accepted an opportunity to come onto ADOS (active duty for operational support) status at Fort Devens for a while, and thereby jettisoned my self-imposed adjuncting-and-tutoring hamster wheel life.  Uncle Sam handed my unit an end-of-fiscal-year surprise with virtually no warning, though --  on 30SEP I was no longer on active status, and had missed the start of fall semester.  I took a very blue collar job in Billerica at a warehouse, working for a large corporation.  The hours were weird, but I loved it and it served the immediate purpose of paying a lot of bills.  A happy twist came in November, and I was hired as a full-time lecturer at BU  -- my first-ever non-military, permanent, full-time position (I held out long enough though, didn't I?) I started this week, and now I *just* do that, plus the Army Reserve.  Life has never felt so normal.  

Okay, we're totally caught up now.  In broad strokes, that was the past eight months of my life.  

While I was working in Billerica, I befriended a guy who was a decade-plus younger, had immigrated to the States just a couple years ago, and got to work each morning via bicycle.  As someone with a fellow hustler's spirit, I admired this kid -- he only lived a mile or so down the road, but it's dark and cold at 12:30 a.m. in Massachusetts in the winter, and this kid pedaled his way through to grind it out and earn some money over on Salem Road.  I'll call this guy Pierre.  

I gladly gave Pierre rides home when I saw him on the way out.  He mentioned to me that he wanted to get a license, but couldn't pony up the dough for a driving school.  In a combination of sympathy for his situation and admiration for his hustle, I gladly volunteered some instruction of the free variety -- after work, we tooled around in the parking lot, starting with the gears, the gas, the brake, etc. and graduated to driving laps, backing into a space, parking between the lines, using lights and blinkers, etc.  We even took it to the mean streets a few times and he drove around on some quiet back roads, without incident.  

Our after-work driving sessions would end with me dropping him off at home.  On one of those days, as I was dropping him off, Pierre asked if I could begin to pick him up on my way in each morning.  Reflexively, I said "sure."  He was *basically* on my way, after all, and my only admonition was "don't make me late -- if I get here, and you're not ready, that's it, I'm taking off."  He agreed.  

I picked Pierre up all through our "peak" holiday season, right on schedule, six days a week, like clockwork and without incident.  

After the New Year, though, my schedule started to get a little bit complicated.  There was an Army Reserve weekend, and there were days that I had to get to Boston and wouldn't be at that job at all.  

Naturally, I coordinated with Pierre to relay this information.  

Still, some balls got dropped.  

There were times I had to waste half an hour playing "Where's Waldo" at the end of the shift after I couldn't find him in the parking lot.  There was the day that he forgot I was coming to pick him up beforehand, despite multiple confirmatory texts the day prior.  There was another time when I wasn't coming but got woken up anyway by a 1:30 a.m. text message to see whether I was on my way.  

At some point, I decided that I'd had enough.  Figuring out my own schedule was getting hard enough, let alone having to juggle this voluntary -- and increasingly complex -- coordination with someone else.  I reached out to let him know that I'd no longer be offering my ride service in the mornings, owing to the scheduling difficulty.  

So what do you think happened?  

Do you think:

(a) I got a thoughtful message of gratitude in return for all the help I had provided across the past couple of months?  An acknowledgement of that positive contribution on some cosmic, karmic scoreboard somewhere?  or

(b) A continued stream of text messages repeatedly asking for rides, that I initially responded to but then just began to ignore, culminating in him becoming angry with me, raising his voice, and then storming away on the shop floor on my last day there? 

Well, stop me if you've heard this one before...and if you've ever been in such a situation, you probably chose (b), correctly.  

For the record, I didn't help Pierre with the expectation of getting anything back in return -- not gas money, not some obsequious display of gratitude...not anything.  I helped him when I could, because it made sense, I didn't mind, and it was the right thing to do.  

But when it *stopped* making sense, when I *did* mind, and when it no longer felt like the right thing to do, I no longer felt obligated to some open-ended commitment that I never remembered signing up for in the first place.  

...and the point of this blog post isn't just for me to vent and whine -- it's to make a much bigger, very general, and hopefully helpful point to someone reading this:  be very, very hesitant about entering into ANY open-ended commitments, anywhere.  The ounce of pain that could come with an up-front "no" is far less injurious than the pound of pain that will come when the open-ended commitment breaks (which it inevitably will, somehow).  

Absolutely, by all means, be helpful.  

Give people rides.  Help them move out of their apartment.  Walk their dog when they go on vacation.  Start their car once a month while they're deployed.  Let your cousin crash on your couch while he looks for a new lease.  

Do these things not in search of chits to call in later, or to annoyingly lord it over them for years afterwards, or to seek elicit some explicit acknowledgement of how great you are, or how grateful they ought to be.  Do these things just to do them.  

But make sure there's an expiration date built in to the favor.  It's like, I'll gladly weed your garden and help water your plants today, but no, I can't do it every Sunday.  I'll gladly let you stay here while you get situated, but *this* can't be your indefinite plan -- don't put your name on my mailbox.  

When you ignore this rule, a collision course scenario will unfold -- eventually, you'll get tired of whatever *it* is, and this will come after the other party has come to expect it.  You'll tear the band-aid off, and when you do, all of the accumulated goodness that you might've imagined is for naught, replaced only be resentment and confusion.  

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Difficulty Surrounding "Difficult Conversations"

First, as I always say after a long blogging hiatus, thanks for reading.

The past couple of years have certainly seen their share -- and then some -- of divisive rhetoric.  I sort of don't *want* to believe this, because it cuts against the grain of my all-American optimism and general sense that we're constantly on the march towards something better than we had before, but it looks like the overall climate around public discourse is deteriorating.

Who's to blame?  Well, familiar bogeymen include the President, the media, whichever political party you don't belong to, and social media.  And maybe all of them are a bit guilty of something.  Regardless, that whodunit is way more ambitious undertaking than my time and inclinations allow for here.

So in the meantime, I'll just say this:  my LEAST favorite expression in the modern public vernacular is "difficult conversations."

The reason I dislike it so much isn't because I am afraid to have difficult conversations; on the contrary, I'd really love one.  Or several.  Instead, it's because the phrase is so loathsomely disingenuous.

Almost invariably, someone proposing to have "difficult conversations" or generally opining that Americans need to have more "difficult conversations" is suggesting anything but.  Rather, he or she is really saying:  more people need to wake up and see the world they way that I do.  Now, I don't have a problem with that per se, and I probably have a lot in common with whoever is saying it, at least in terms of their intent -- people in comparatively privileged, comfortable positions don't just naturally, on their own, even consider the points of view of marginalized people, without considerable prodding.

So prod.  If you want to lecture me, then lecture.  At least to a point, I'm eager to listen.  But please don't call it a 'difficult conversation.'

If you want conversation?

Well, first of all, that term by its very definition involves two sides.  So that means that you can tell me how terrible you think Aziz Ansari is, but it also means that I would be able to offer up some mitigating details on his behalf.  That doesn't mean I think the two sides in this -- or any -- dispute or mix-up are equal parts valid.  And it doesn't mean that I have some knee-jerk, male reaction to every #MeToo allegation that's bubbled up since last fall.  But it is, well, a conversation.

Ditto for anything else.  It's not a difficult conversation to just yell about some government policy that "sucks" so your social media echo chamber can tell you that you "totally NAILED it!"  It's a LOT more difficult to look at the policy itself, think about ways it could be better crafted, and even -- gasp -- to ask whether someone in trouble with ICE could've done anything differently along the way. It's also really difficult and uncomfortable to ask why the media took a pass on the Mesa, AZ police execution of a man desperately pleading for his life, but ran unquestioningly with a false narrative in a different instance after a particular police shooting two years prior, sparking weeks of riots.

Those would be conversations that might be difficult for people from across the ideological perspective.

The perspective that I see the world through is that of a white, conservative, upwardly-mobile, well-educated, Protestant, heterosexual (is that what the kids means by cis?) male who has never been harassed by police, sexually assaulted, forced to worry about immigration status, or had to deal with an ongoing physical disability.

So is it important for me to step back from that and think about the worldview of someone who might not default as naturally to a lot of my assumptions and views?  Absolutely.  But do all those boxes I checked in the paragraph above invalidate my opinions and worldviews?  Do they necessarily make me wrong -- and you right -- about the things that we both observe? Absolutely not.  And that is precisely my point of departure with most of the Progressive voices I hear calling for these "difficult conversations" while describing something else entirely.

Please, I beseech you, let's just have some truth in advertising along the way.

Unless, of course, it's a conversation you're after.  In which case...

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

...And Wisdom, Always, To Tell the Difference

There are three instances of what I'll call "useless zero sum-ism" that I observe on a daily or near-daily basis:

(1) Market Basket parking lot.  People will fight tooth and claw for parking spots, at risk of fender-benders, road rage (lot rage?), and irascible temper provocation over the prime parking spots when there several, sometimes dozens, of completed uncontested spots ten or so yards away.  I will never never never be able to understand this. Nor will I ever try.  I will simply take one of those spots "in Guam," walk the length of a a first down, and avoid the sturm und drang.

(2) Boarding the commuter rail at North Station.  When the train is announced, that merely kicks off a ten-minute warning to departure.  During those ten minutes, everyone at the station has to walk maybe 50 yards or so, on average, in order to board.  Yet, some people will jump into super-aggressive mode to be sure to get on the train...first?  Some sort of primal, irrational instinct kicks in (maybe the same one that leads kindergartners to squabble over 'line leader' status?) and the rational part of the brain, which knows that the only way to get home sooner would be to move from Lowell to West Medford, or from Woburn to Winchester, gets shunted aside in favor of the reptilian brain, which commands a person to knock down old ladies like so many bowling balls in order to grab a seat before they do.

(3) The Staircase of Doom.  Literally, every single day I see physical aggression on the Staircase of Doom at Gallagher Terminal.  In nearly all cases, it doesn't boil over into actual fisticuffs, but it's completely unnecessary.  Here's what happens -- a train pulls into Lowell.  People arriving in Lowell need to get off said train, and move their way up a 'fairly' narrow staircase in order to exit the train station.  However, people preparing to board that very same train -- soon to be bound for Boston -- must descend those same stairs.

This does not, however, need to happen at the same time.

In perfectly rational land, the Boston-bound people would be able to say "'s now 2:52 p.m., and this train won't leave Lowell until 3:15 p.m.  Rather than push my way through the tide of people coming up these stairs, perhaps I will wait until this clears out a bit, and then amble my way downward."

People don't think like that, though.  Even if we "know" we have 23 comfortable minutes to move a very short distance to board said train, we're more likely to think "There. Train. Me. Need. On."  The same instincts that lead people to continuously change lanes during stop-and-go traffic nightmares on the highway, as if somehow that extra 20 feet of daylight will get you home faster, kick into gear.   Rather than wait at the top of the stairs and be a sucker who might miss the train for his politeness, we barrel down through the crowd, with *maybe* the courtesy of a couple "excuse me" or "coming through" utterances.

But wait!  You might wonder -- what if people just walked along the right side of the staircase in each direction. It's wide enough to accommodate bi-directional movement.

Well, yes and no.  That *would* make sense if everyone followed that norm, but inevitably, someone decides that the flow of upwards movement isn't fast enough for his or her liking, and does a little bypass maneuver on the stairs.  Now the left side is in play, and other pedestrians follow suit.  Believe me, I've seen it play out a million times.

But here's what I really think, and here's why I titled this piece the way I did:  These sorts of situations are absolutely unfixable.  I mean, you can make your own fix when you can control it -- for instance, you can always decide to park in Guam when you go to Market Basket, and avoid the reindeer games being played by someone who insists on taking 10 minutes to park because hey-man it's-just-way-cooler-to-back-in, right?  You can let the madness subside when your train boards and THEN get on the gigantic people tube.

As for the train station thing, though?  I would say there's only one fix, and I hope it's coming with the ongoing round of station improvements and the neat stuff that seems to be happening to the Thorndike Building -- we need an over-the-tracks pedestrian footbridge in addition to the staircase we have.  It just needs to be really wide (like, four person-lengths wide).  That would create enough elbow room to make the daily game of Human Accordion that occurs along that other antiquated staircase go away.

The alternative might be a public awareness campaign to encourage Boston-bound people atop the stairs to simply take a breath and WAIT for a train that will not -- ever -- leave before its scheduled departure time.

And if you think that such a campaign is enough to override scores of millennia worth of wiring that overpowers all that fancy cerebral stuff that came along later, then we need to talk -- I've got this amazing piece of real estate to talk to you about.  It's a bridge, and it connects two of NYC's boroughs...and it's much potential. Call me.  

Friday, June 23, 2017

Income Investing: Only for Goldilocks

Yep, I'm pretty prolific right now.  I just realized I'll write 200% more entries this afternoon than I did all of last year.  Full context -- I'm proctoring a final exam, so I:

a) am stuck in place; and
b) have some time to write.

Something I've mentioned here and there on this blog is income investing.  Each time, I probably included some sort of disclaimer that I wouldn't turn this blog into some stock-hawking site (and trust me, I won't).

However, I will say a little bit here about income investing, and why it suits certain investors' temperaments.

First, income investing is about buying and holding securities that generate cash flows to the investor. Those could be REITs, BDCs, closed-end bond funds, or just good old-fashioned companies that pay dividends back to shareholders each quarter.  It doesn't require any special sort of talent or skill, and it's certainly not very time-intensive.  However, it does require a lot of patience.  Anyone can model returns on a spreadsheet and show you how well someone would've done over the past 20 years buying, holding, reinvesting, and periodically adding to a position of a JNJ or an MMM.  However, people are often their own worst enemy -- they want some fast action, so they sell their shares when the value moves up a bit to realize a profit, or they panic and cut bait after a drop in value.

I'm not going to say that either of those approaches is necessarily "wrong" by the way -- just that it's not my style.

Just as Goldilocks rejected one type of porridge for being too hot, and another for being too cold, before settling on the 'just right' bowl, I see a parallel with income investing.

  • Investors are who 'too smart' will always reject it.  They are into something way better.  Sometimes they'll even insult income investing (must be pretty miserable for some dinosaur company that can't do anything better with its cash than give it away to shareholders, eh?), and sometimes they'll just dismiss it without being insulting. They have some hot tip about an IPO, or they have some "can't fail" strategy that involves shorting or day-trading some triple-leverage crude oil fund, or S&P futures.  If that's you? Power to ya.  I personally couldn't care less.  Go for it.  You do you.  But I also know I've never met a single person who lives off of their "short the VIX here" and "buy the out-of-the-money crude futures there" strategy, or some crazy options thing that's "just common sense, really" and involves the names of exotic birds.  NOT A SINGLE ONE.  But if you listen to someone tells you how obvious it is that anyone can just print money by executing some quick trading strategy, you should then ask that person why he's still working.  Instant buzzkill, guaranteed. 
  • People who are too skeptical will always reject it.  You could show someone that aforementioned JNJ/MMM data, or similar data about other "Dividend Aristocrat" stocks, and you might be met with "yeah, but isn't the stock market rigged so a bunch of white guys in the Hamptons can buy boats?"  My answer to that would be something like this: "I have no idea, but even if it were, how would that invalidate the data that's right in front of your nose?"  Answer: it wouldn't. Many others think that work is only 'work' when it involves grunting and sweating, and that any money earned otherwise is somehow stolen or just plain illegitimate.  If that's how someone thinks, I won't make it my job to convince them otherwise.  
Other types of people are 'just right' for income investing -- people who don't mind a little boredom, people with some patience, and people who don't think they can out-time or outsmart the market.

Every now and then, you might catch those news stories about a retired custodian or librarian somewhere who managed to squirrel away an $8 million nest egg, often without even telling anyone (it's the family that discovers it after the person dies, or it's the building or charity in some small town that unexpectedly gets a massive donation).  When you dig past the headline to see what that person did, I can guarantee you that it wasn't some "short the VIX" crock of horseshit -- it was buying and holding Dividend Aristocrats.  

Unlike the Gordon Gekko fast-talkers who ooze condescension when they think they've lost you in their complicated options strategy, lots of income investors walk the walk.  

The Gig is Up! At Least for Now...

"There's numerous ways you can choose to earn funds."  -- Prodigy, Mobb Deep

So for the past few years I've had a bit of an unconventional work situation.

I didn't plan it this way.

As you might know if you read this blog, or know me from Real Life, I started a business during business school.  It went sideways (no shame in my game, I learned from it!), but along the way I picked up a few side jobs that I knew I'd need to support myself & family with cash flow while trying to launch the business.

So even after the business went tapioca, I found myself still doing some things that I loved (Adjunct teaching at three different schools, plus Army Reserve), and something that I sometimes loved but sometimes didn't love (tutoring).  If you added up all the money I made annually, it basically worked out to what you'd expect from a Sloan MBA a couple years out.  So it wasn't all bad, for sure.

But the Gig Economy ain't all about glamour and freedom!

When you sort of "string it together" with a part-time job medley, you do have some nice upsides:

  • You're not going to the same office everyday, in the same way, with the same people 
  • You've got a lot of so-called "anti-fragility" built in to your employment situation; that is to say, one particular job could ebb, or flow, and the system is robust enough to handle that (this is important, underrated, and not something that people with 'just one' job might realize)
  • Your income isn't really 'capped' in the way a salaried income is...I guess that cuts both ways, but I'll just say that some months (October and April, usually) can be really, really lucrative, with the work (and the dollars!) flowing handsomely.  
  • In theory at least, you could carve out time in your day for creative pursuits, like writing.  At a more traditional job, I feel like that'd be harder to pull off, as you're on someone else's clock.
However, in come the downsides:
  • No benefits.  If you're lucky enough that one of your 'gigs' covers health insurance for you and your dependents, then that's a big win.  But things like paid leave, 401(k) matching, etc.?  Don't expect it...but I guess if you really made it big, money-wise, you could sort of build a DIY bennie package...
  • You're sort of 'always working.'  THIS is the part that's hardest to explain/convey to someone who does the regular 'punch-in/punch-out' sort of thing.  Let's say you're teaching a class in Boston at 9:30 a.m., tutoring a kid in Harvard Square at 2, and then teaching near Kenmore from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.  That day starts with a train leaving Lowell before 8, and it ends with a train getting BACK into Lowell at 10:30-ish.  Admittedly, there are gaps in that schedule.  It's not fair or accurate to call that day "15 hours of work."  But here's the rub -- that's not entirely inaccurate, either.  Teaching and tutoring both involve preparation beforehand, not to mention travel time.  On top of that, there's the 'buffer time' -- if I'm meeting you at Starbucks or ABP at 2:00 p.m., that doesn't say "show up at 2 p.m." to me -- it says get there beforehand, settle in, etc.  
  • There can be a not-so-nice degree of uncertainty.  Around the holidays, or in early June? Tutoring can slow to a halt.  During peak?  It could break $2k/wk, multiple weeks in a row.  
  • Taxes can be nasty when you're earning those big bucks on 1099-MISC.  
All that laid out there, no one who voluntarily casts their lot into Gig-Town should deserve your sympathy.  

Someone who complains all day about Adjunct teaching pay & predictability but "just loves to teach?"  Tell them there are openings in the public schools, and watch how quickly they change the subject.  

I've wondered on many occasions whether I should 'give it up' and start shaving, wearing a suit, and knocking on some doors in vicinity of Atlantic, State, and Devonshire with some resumes in hand. 

Thankfully, I didn't have to -- a full-time opportunity to do some uniformed work out of Devens, (with some occasional travel to Dix and Totten), stumbled upon me, and I'm going to do it, effective the first of July.  

So for a while, anyway, I'll get to feel normal.  I've got some evening teaching commitments through mid-August, but once those are done, I'll drive to work in the morning at a normal time, like a normal person...and then do the same thing in reverse at the end of the day.    

The only downside?  The duration is unknown.  It might be three months, or it might be three years. 

And whenever that train runs out of steam, it's either back to the gigs, or it's the shave-and-a-suit option, which the would-be entrepreneur in me always seems to want to resist.    

Either way, I'll be grateful.  

Before this new thing and its start date became official, I felt quite a bit of stress -- and this stress was far different, and far worse than anything I ever felt during some never-ending workday with a FILO (first-in, last-out) train schedule.  This was the stress of uncertainty, and even feeling it for that brief period of time was a great reminder that while we can argue all day about whether it's better to have 5 jobs or 1 job, one thing should be ironclad -- either number is far, far better than zero.