Archive for August, 2007

The Captain Hates Explaining What He Does

Days Until I Am Married:  55

Current Weight:  172

As I have mentioned before, my career goal is to eventually become a City Manager.  There are numerous reasons why I find this job attractive, but perhaps the most basic reason is this:  The easy explanation of my job.  I’ve always hated having to explain my job.

My entire professional career I have never had a job that is easy to describe to a stranger.  When someone asks what it is I do for a living, I inevitably have to oversimplify my job or give a long explanation.  I usually end up saying “I work for local government,” or I give my job title.  Neither one of these statements explains squat about my actual job.

It seems to me that all most people are looking for is a vague idea of my profession.  This is why I’ve always desired an easily explainable job.  Teachers, lawyers, chefs and doctors can answer this question with a few words.  My hatred of job explanations stretches back to when I was a kid.  My mom was a nurse, which sounds noble and is very easy to explain.  My dad had an extremely complicated job that involved updating computers systems.  When asked of about my father’s profession I would inevitably shrug and say “Computers.”1

I currently have the best job of my entire career, and by far the most difficult to explain.  I now don’t even have the luxury of saying “I’m in local government”.  The best I can say is “I’m a governmental consultant.”  That sounds about as legit as “I’m a venture capitalist” or “I’m an importer/exporter.”

I’m so excited about my new job, but there is no simple or quick way to explain what I do to anyone.  So with this in mind, I have decided to explain my job in blog form with the hopes that this will reduce the number of times I am required to have this conversation.  Feel free to skip the next paragraph if you are not interested, I take no offense.

I work for the consulting that is hired by cities and counties here in Florida to assist in set up special taxing districts for local governments.  Special taxing districts are a way that local governments can tax their residents for specific services.  The State Legislature of Florida is currently severely limiting the ways that local governments can collect tax dollars.  This makes my companies’ services quite useful right now.  So, to make a long story short2, I will be working with several local governments to help them set up these special taxing units.

What this means practically is that I will be doing a lot of travel to cities across Florida to meet with local government leaders.  This is quite exciting to me.  The job I had between college and grad school involved a lot of travel, and I really enjoyed it.3 I find business travel a great way to break-up the monotony of the work week.  I’ll be traveling anywhere from 1-3 days a week, sometimes driving and sometimes flying.

I went on my first work trip this week and I already love it.  I flew into Orlando on Wednesday, spent the nite, and flew back to Tallahassee on Thursday.  I had quite a rare experience while waiting for my flight in the Orlando airport on Thursday.  I discovered something that horrified and excited me at the same time.4 At the Orlando airport on Thursday I signed up for the CLEAR program, which made me want to rejoice and barf at the same time.

The CLEAR program is being tested at a few big airports across the country, i.e. New York, San Francisco.  CLEAR is basically a VIP line for security checkpoints at the airport.  I pay about a hundred bucks and give the company an insane amount of info about myself and in exchange I get to breeze through security checkpoints.

First off, I can’t really believe that this is legal.  I can’t believe with the massive level of scrutiny that is currently associated with airport security that TSA is going to make it easier for some people to get though checkpoints.  Granted, I am required to provide a ton of information about myself to qualify for the program, including a passport, birth certificate, fingerprinting and even a retinal scan!  This information is combined with an exhaustive background check that is required for my approval into the program.  Once approved, I get a little card in the mail and I’m on my way to skipping the line.

This is troublesome to me on several levels.  All any of the information that is collected can really prove is that I am who I say I am.  This has nothing to do with my proclivity for doing bad things on an airplane.  Sure, it can tell security what I’ve done in the past, but is that really enough?  Timothy McVeigh, the DC Sniper, Richard Reed and the Unabomber probably could have gotten one of these cards.  This possibly could make it easier for nefarious people to do horrible things using airplanes.  Is that worth it just so a couple of business travelers can catch a plane faster?

On a practical level, I don’t really think a governmental sanctioned VIP line is fair.  One of the cornerstones of our government is that it treats all citizens equally.  Like the post office and the DMV, airport security has always been a place where everyone has to wait in the same line.  The people in suits flying first class may get to board the plane first, but they have to wait in the same line as the mom with the screaming baby.  Granted, really rich people can simply charter a plane or use a private airport and skip the whole process.  However, the point is that people wishing to use public airports are all subjected to the same process.  This could be the start of a disturbing trend.

Of course none of these reservations about the program prevented me from applying for a CLEAR card.  A chance to skip the regular security line is just too sweet and opportunity to pass up.  My whole life I’ve never really been the VIP type.  I’m usually waiting in line like everyone else.

Given the chance to skip something as awful as the airport security line is just too tempting.  If Dumbledore couldn’t give up the Elder Wand then how am I supposed to turn this down?  He’s ten times wiser than I’ll ever be!  I’m actually going to be flying in and out of the Orlando quite a bit in the near future, and this will make my life a whole lot easier.  So next time you’re in the Orlando airport and you see some assbag in a suit cutting the security line, feel free to call me a sellout.

Besides traveling, I spent the week hitting the gym trying to get back on my exercise routine.  The elliptical machine and I are best friends again.  As is typical during my first week of exercise, I somehow gained a pound.  This used to infuriate me, but it has happened so many times that I now just find it amusing.  My legs are sore and I’m sleeping better at nite, so something must be working.

All in all I had a great second week at my new job.  Establishing a routine really helps me with time-management, and traveling helps to break up the monotony that inevitably comes with a routine.  I really feel that my new job is perfect for me, but please don’t ask me to explain why.


The Captain

1  A trend that continues to this day…

2  Too late…

3  That is until I eventually burned out due to the gigantic workload piled on me by my crazy boss.

4  The last time I felt these same emotions about something was the first commercial I saw for Flavor of Love.

The Captain Is The Best Of What Is Left

Days Until I Am Married:  61

Current Weight:  171

So I’ve got a lot on my mind as of late, and very few outlets to empty said mind.  I’ve never been much of a phone talker, and my emailing proclivity is much the same.  This makes contact difficult when you live far away from almost everyone you know.  Blogging has seemed to provide me with some fraction of relief, but my last several have focused more on recapping the events in my life and less about what is on my mind.  No more.  Time to tap a hole in my keg of a head and let the frothy goodness pour out.

At the front of my mind is the wedding.  Today is officially the one month mark, which seems unbelievable even as I type it.  I’m going through the too-much-to-do-not-enough-money emotions that are typical before the big day like I knew I would, but they are still surprising.

Without going into too much detail1 the thing I am finding most difficult is the struggle to make our wedding unique to us.

Sometimes I feel like it is impossible to make a wedding unique because there is only so much you can do with the given framework.  Other times I wonder if I am getting caught up in my high school non-conformity conundrum, being different for different’s sake.  I don’t want an Abercrombie by-the-book wedding, but I also don’t want a Hot Topic look-at-how-different-we-are affair.

Planning requires quite a bit of time and effort, which is difficult considering the new home and job thing.  Moving three months before a wedding is not recommended, especially to a place as strange as Tallahassee.  If Sarasota was the beach, Tallahassee is the South.

I’m 1½ hours from the beach, which doesn’t sound too bad.  However, the whole point of moving to a place like Florida is to be close to the beach.  My first two months in Florida I kept saying “Why the hell would anyone live in the middle part of this State?”  Well, I’m about to find out.  So far Tallahassee feels like I’m in South Georgia.  Lots of Southerners, muggy all the time, no palm trees.

The two main features of the town are the Capitol and the Florida State University.  Logistically, Tallahassee feels like someone took Jefferson City and Columbia from Missouri and made them one city.  College Kids and Big Wigs in a city with exactly one of any chain store you can think of.  However, Tallahassee is not all bad.  I’ve already seen more young people walking around here in my first two weeks in town than I did the whole year I lived in Sarasota.  I’m hoping this will translate into friends for us eventually, but right now we are too busy to try and start meeting people.

We finally finished setting up our new home, which looks great.  Our three bedroom house feels gigantic, but I already love it.  We live across the street from a gigantic field that is full of free-range cows.  I can see a herd of cows out my front door, which is a big change from my 7th story downtown view from Sarasota.  And they’re the cool black and white spotted ones like in the Chick-Fil-A adds, not the ugly brown ones I typically see.2

The other day I sat on my couch and stared out the front door for like an hour watching about 100 cows pass.  Then, when the rain started I watched 100 cows run awkwardly towards a group of trees.  At one point I actually turned off the television I was watching and just stared out the front door.

Getting me to turn off the TV this summer is actually quite an achievement.  Between Big Love, Entourage, Flight of the Conchords, and Rock of Love, I can’t remember enjoying summer television so much.  Moviewise, I’ve been rather disappointed this summer.  The only move that really stood out thus far was Knocked Up.  And even that was simply an A- movie in a summer of B- movies.  We saw the new Harry Potter last nite and I was underwhelmed.  I struggled a bit to figure out what was going on in the film, and I read the damn book!  I’m hoping that Superbad will save the day next weekend.

Musically I’ve also been disappointed by the summer.  After the flood of good music from the spring, I was hoping for more of the same.  I thought the new White Stripes disc would define my summer.  I definitely like it, but I don’t know if I love it.  The only thing that has sparked my interest a bit is the whole 60s-girlgroup-throwback movement.  I’m not quite sure how to take it.  The pop side of me wants to like Amy Winehouse and the Pipettes, but my hipster side thinks this is the same as the ill fated swing revival of ’99.  The jury is still out.

The heat hasn’t really gotten to me yet, but that’s because I spend most of my time indoors.  I stopped going outdoors at the beginning of July, and that was when I was still in a city with a bit of a breeze.  August in Tallahassee feels similar to August in St. Louis, except it rains almost every afternoon here.

The heat kept me from exercising back in July, but now I am ready to jump back in.  My neighborhood has a YMCA in the town center that Megan and I recently joined.  I wanted to join as soon as I got here, but I dropped a dresser on my pinky toe and was unable to walk right my first week here.  It’s been almost two months since I stepped foot in a gym and I am actually looking forward to it a bit.  The elliptical machine does wonders, especially with an ipod full of dirty techno music.

Hopefully I’ll get my new iPod in the next day or two.  The iPod I was using, Megan’s third generation iPod from 2002, finally died back in May.  I decided that I actually like the big, clunky one I was using, so I bought a new one on eBay for $50.

Speaking of purchases, I actually purchased a tie rack this weekend.  It made me feel equal parts responsible and lame.  My closet is almost too organized now.  It seemed like such a Chas Tenenbaum thing to do, and I like to consider myself more of the Ritchie Tenenbaum type.  Luckily, I’m wildly irresponsible when it comes to other things, so I guess it all balances out.

Speaking of wildly irresponsible what is going on with the Cardinals?  This is the Jekyl/Hyde team from ’03, but with more ups and downs.  What makes this all the more difficult is the fact that I pay $15 a month to watch the games on the internet.  The Cardinals will suck so bad for a couple of days that I vow to cancel my subscription, and then the next day they turn around and dominate.

This wouldn’t be as bad if I wasn’t forced to listen to the benign banter of other Fox Sports broadcasters from terrible teams.  The broadcasting team from Houston is terrible, but they’re nothing compared to Pittsburg and Cincinnati.  Since no one normally watches these broadcasts, no big deal.  But it sucks for this guy.  I’m hoping the Redbirds can man up and gain some real ground against the Brewers and the Cubs this week.  And speaking of the Cubs, HBO has a documentary airing right now about the Curse of the Cubs.  I highly recommend it, rarely have I taken so much delight in other people’s misery.

At this point I feel the need to explain the moustache I sported recently.  I didn’t shave for the whole week I was here unpacking.  Megan arrived in Tallahassee to find me trying to pull off the Grizzly Adams looks.  So for fun I decided to shave a goatee for the day just to make Megan squeal.  It worked so well I shaved off the bottom and just kept the moustache.3

Megan proceeded to squeal even louder until I shaved it off completely.  It has been quite a long time since I went a week without shaving, and it will be quite a while longer until I do again according to Megan.

Well, my mind tap is running dry at the moment, so I will take this opportunity to quit blogging.  I realize that this is the second time I have used blog as a verb, but I am attempting to broaden my horizons a bit.  With two months to go till the big day, I’m going to have to make lots of thing work like they normally do not.  Here’s hoping I can pull it off.


The Captain

1  Which seems odd to say considering detail are what weddings are all about.

2  Even better is the fact that they have a gigantic field to wander around, which translates into the neighborhood not smelling like manure.

3  Or the Pedro, if you will.

The Captains 44 Days Off

Days Until I Am Married:  64

Current Weight:  171

So it’s a day shy of two months since I last posted a blog.  In my last blog I wrote a lot about not knowing what the future would hold.  I think I said something to the effect that I would let everyone know what my future plans were as soon as I found out.

Obviously I forgot to do that.  I don’t really know how to sum up two very busy months, so I guess I’ll just start at the beginning.  My job with Sarasota County ended on June 22nd, two weeks after my last blog.  At the time, I still had no idea what my next job would be.  Luckily by that point I had a couple of prospects.  I had three interviews lined up over the next two weeks.  One was for a private company called Government Service Group (GSG) based in Tallahassee, doing consulting work.  The second was for a City Manager position in Fort Meade, Florida.  The third was for an Assistant City Manager position in Crestwood, Missouri.

As it turned out, I had scheduled a weeklong trip to St. Louis to celebrate my first week of unemployment and I wound up interviewing with Crestwood while I was in town.  I ended up spending one alcohol drenched week in St. Louis the last week of June, and I had a blast.  At the last minute I decided to rent a white Mustang convertible for my trip, which ended up being a great idea.  Although I would never own a Mustang, it was quite fun driving one for a week.

The highlight of my week back I St. Louis was definitely catching the Phillies and the Cards at Busch Stadium.  I did way too many other things while in town to mention, but I ended up getting to spend some time with almost everyone I know in St. Louie.
After a week in Missourah, I flew back to Florida and drove to Tallahassee for my interview with GSG.  The interview went great, and afterward I returned back to Sarasota.

I had a fantastic 4th of July with my friends in Sarasota.  We packed four couples onto a boat and drove out to a sand-bar in the Gulf of Mexico.  We dropped anchor and chilled out in the middle of the Gulf for a good 4-6 hours.  It was truly gorgeous out that day and it felt like we were in the Caribbean.  Not bad for unemployment.

The first week in July ended with a phone interview for the City Manager of Fort Meade.  All in all, my first two weeks of unemployment were a blast.  Interview, travel, beach, fun and the best part was that I was still getting paid from my built up vacation time that I was paid out when I left Sarasota County.

After the first weekend in July, it really set in that I was unemployed.  Instead of freaking out, I made a conscious decision to treat the time I had off like vacation.  I put faith in my ability to secure a job, and decided to enjoy living by the beach for one more month.  I bummed around the beach, got caught up on sleep, and just enjoyed myself.  After about a week, I made the decision to accept a job with GSG in Tallahassee.  My biggest priority in looking for a job was allowing Megan to keep her job as well.  The company that Megan works for in Tampa has it’s headquarters in Tallahassee, so she was able to transfer offices without disrupting her job drastically.

Megan and I drove up to Tallahassee the second week of July to find a place to live.  We ended up renting a 3 bedroom house in Southwood, a planned community in the Tallahassee area.  Southwood was designed to encourage a sense of community in the neighborhood, and it really shows.  All of the houses were built with front porches and street-scaping.

Southwood also has a town center and several miles of walking and hiking trails.  It seemed to us like a great way to meet people in our area, and it is very close to where both of us work.  Megan’s work commute went from an hour fifteen each way down to five minutes each way!

After selecting a new home, we had a little over two weeks to finish up as much planning as possible for the wedding and pack up the house and move.  With a little bit of time left to enjoy my unemployment, I took a mini-trip to Miami.  I spent all day July 18th on a boat by myself in Miami.  It was amazing; the water in Miami is simply gorgeous!

After cruising the Downtown and South Beach for a couple of hours, I checked into my hotel and headed to Dolphins Stadium to catch the Cardinals playing the Marlins.  The next day I woke up and drove to Fort Myers to attend to some wedding business.  First, I took a boat out in Fort Myers to see the lay of the water near the resort where we are getting married.  Afterwards, I met Megan at the resort and we knocked out a bunch of wedding stuff, including a tasting of the reception food that was unbelievable.

Megan’s parents came down for a visit the third weekend of July and stayed with us.  We went out on a boat up in St. Petersburg with her family and had a great time until we got stuck in a rain storm.  Right after their visit, I got stricken with Potter-mania and I ended up reading Deathly Hallows in two days flat.  That gave me just under a week to pack the whole house up and get ready for the move.

I ended up doing almost the whole move by myself.  I rented a 35′ U-haul truck, hired a couple of guys to help me load it, put my car on a tow-trailer, and left the morning of July 31st for Tallahassee.  Driving in a vehicle with a max speed of 55 and no cd player sucked, but I motored through.  The five hour trip ended up taking seven, but that was quite a good time considering the circumstances.

Once I was finally in Tallahassee, I unhooked my car and then proceed to unload the whole truck by myself.  Considering this is by far the heaviest and largest amount of furniture I’ve ever moved, I managed to impress myself.  Unloading a double dresser with just a dolly and pigheaded determination is quite challenging indeed.

I was finished unloading by Wednesday the 1st, and spent the next several days unpacking.  Megan arrived from Tampa on Friday nite, and we spent the weekend getting the house in order.  We both started work on Monday, Megan at her new office and me at my new job.  So far I really love my new job.  I have my own office with a window!  I will explain what my new job entails in a future blog, but suffice to say that it is right up my alley and is great experience for my resume.

This brings me to today, new city, new job, new house, but the same old Captain.  I now live about an hour away from the Gulf, which isn’t ideal but I’m not complaining.  While there was a lot of amazing things that happened over the past two months, perhaps the most amazing thing is that my weight didn’t flux that much.  I didn’t exercise much due to my haphazard schedule, but I tried to eat right when possible and I managed to stay about the same weight.  Over the past couple of years, I’m usually either noticeably adding or subtracting pounds from month to month.  I actually managed to remain stable for about two months, which makes me happy.  With only two months till the wedding, I’m ready to put my exercise back into driver’s seat.

My 44 days off were a blast.  Much like my two years in Grad School and five years of college, I once again managed to make to make unemployment look easy, fun, and glamorous.  With that being said, I’m glad to be back working on my career.  Too much of a good thing never seems to work out.


The Captain

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