Archive for January, 2010

The Captain Is Thrilled To Stay Put

Yesterday was something of a milestone for me; it marked my one year anniversary with my employer.

This may not be an accomplishment for some people, but for me it’s a big deal.  Since I graduated college in 2001, I’ve only had one job that lasted more than a year.  That job lasted from January 2002 to February 2004.  So it’s been about six years since I enjoyed an anniversary with my employer.1

During the past six years I’ve switched jobs at least once every year, except for 2009.  So beginning my second year at my job today is a cause for celebration.  I usually go out of my way not to discuss my job here at the Captains Quarters, but a milestone like today is a good reason to express my gratitude.  But I am grateful for so much more than just keeping my job.  I don’t say it enough, so let me take this opportunity to state it:


This was the exact type of job I had in mind when I enrolled in graduate school.  The whole purpose of grad school was to enable me to get a job that I actually enjoy and pays a decent salary.  I had a job like this in mind when I graduated with a Masters in 2006, and it took me a little over 2½ years to obtain it.

While I love the work that I perform every day, there is so much more about my job that I enjoy.  I have a very manageable commute to work and I park in a covered garage.  I work in a nice high-rise in Clayton.  I have a decent sized office with a door.  My benefits package is remarkable compared to most job sectors.  I only have to wear a tie for important meetings.  I have a laptop that I can take home every nite.  And perhaps the most amazing aspect of my job is that I actually enjoy my boss and coworkers.2

It may sound like I’m trying to boast or be a braggart, but I assure you that I am not.  I’m actually quite humbled that I was able to obtain such a great job in these tough economic times.  I’m reminded how luckily I am when I see the news reports with high unemployment and low worker satisfaction numbers.

2009 was by far the happiest I’ve ever been with my employment and today seems like the perfect opportunity to acknowledge it.  So here’s to year #2 of my job, Cheers!


The Captain

1. Six years is a bit misleading.  I spent two years in graduate school full time during that time.

2.  My boss is a hip, young guy that I would actually be friends if we didn’t work together.  But my #1 rule in life is don’t shit where you eat.

The Captain Gets Consistent on Fridays

I’m feeling quite excited about the idea of consistency this year.  There are so many aspects of my life where this will be useful.  I have lots of ideas in mind, but in the spirit of moderation, I will be rolling them out slowly instead of all at once.

Number one on my agenda is my health.  I have ideas on how to improve my diet, but those will be gradually implemented.  The easiest way for me to improve my health is by becoming more active.  To that end I decided to make only one New Year’s resolution, a sure fire way to increase my activity.  I have decided to not ride elevators this year.  Ever.

Taking the steps instead of riding an elevator is basically free exercise.  It won’t change the outcome of my day at all.  The stairs just sneak in extra activity, much like walking to work did last year.  Since I now must commute to work in an automobile, taking the stairs seems like a good replacement.

Always taking the stairs wouldn’t be a major change to most people.  However, I park two floors underground in my office’s garage, and I work on the 8th floor.  So up and down ten flights of stairs at least once every workday is actually quite a commitment.

I started taking the stairs on Monday and by the end of the week I am definitely feeling the difference in my calves.  While I’m enjoying this for the most part, I’m still undecided on how I feel about these motivational posters:

On every floor and half-floor these are posted.  While I like the fact that my employer is actually encouraging employees to lead more active lifestyles, I think that this is a cheesy way to accomplish that goal.  I get the feeling as the year progresses I will come to loathe these.  But on the other hand, they could be a lot worse…

My other big target for consistency is actually right here at The Captain’s Quarters.  As my long time readers can surely attest, my posting schedule on this blog could be described as sporadic at best.  It’s not from lack of desire, more like lack of time and/or motivation.  So I’ve decided to be much more consistent in updating this blog.

Similar to my health aspirations, I will be gradually implementing my ideas into The Captain’s Quarters.  I’m starting off with what will henceforth be known as the Friday 5.  I’ve decided to post a Top 5 list every Friday for discussion purposes.

This seems like the ideal way for me to consistently update this blog.  It will guarantee I write at least once a week for recreational purposes.  It will feed my lifelong habit of list making.1 It will hopefully provoke some interesting discussions with all of the random people I’ve known throughout the years.  And by posting it on Friday it will hopefully get maximum exposure to my readers, since it seems that everyone turns off their brains at work on Fridays.2

So on this first Friday3 of 2010 I’m going to kick it off with a topic that I’ve seen discussed quite a bit over the last few months.  With the 00’s officially over, the internet has been abuzz with Best of the Decade lists.  I’ve been eager to weigh-in, but I thought I should wait until the decade was actually finished.  So for my first Friday 5 I’m going to rank my favorite films of the decade.  Keep in mind that I don’t necessarily think these were the best five films made, these just happen to be my favorite.

Top 5 Films Of The Past Decade

1.  The Royal Tenenbaums

This was by far my favorite film of the past ten years, and quite possibly my favorite film of all time.  I know that loving Wes Anderson totally makes me a white guy, but I can’t help it.  I love everything about this film:  the script, the score, the actors, the setting, the constant literary references, the narration, etc.  EVERYTHING!  This is the first film where that I felt like I was the only person who “got it.”  It’s funny in the way that I think things should be funny.  The first time I saw it in the theatre in 2001 I was the only one laughing through most of the movie.  All of the films on this list I saw at least twice in the theatre, but this is the only film of the decade I saw three times.  The introduction to this movie is probably the best ever recorded to film.  It’s fitting then that I start out this list with the best introduction credits ever made:

2.  The Fountain

This is easily the most polarizing film on the list. I know many folks who actively dislike it and I understand why.  All of the films on my list tend to have weak, underdeveloped female characters and this one is probably the worst offender.  But the visuals alone put this on my list; they’re unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  To me this was the most stunning 96 minutes of the decade.  The score, besides being hands-down my favorite, was perfectly integrated into the story and the amazing visuals.  And while many dismissed the plot as too ridiculous or new agey, I thought it was a beautiful reflection on the two most basic elements of existence – life and death.  The climax of this film is the most intense scene of the decade and by far my favorite.

3.  Punch Drunk Love

Let me begin with a caveat.  Of the two films that P.T Anderson directed this decade, I think that 2007’s There Will Be Blood is the better film.  The magnificent screenplay is perfect for Daniel Day Lewis’ unbelievable performance.  However, this is my personal favorite of his and my choice for number three.  What can I say, deep-down I’m a sucker for a quirky yet dark love story.  And they don’t get any quirkier or darker than Punch-Drunk Love.  Anderson managed to focus the script around the only enjoyable parts of Adam Sandler the actor: his childlike, meek behavior and his lightning-fast rage.  This film also features an amazing score and probably my favorite single scene from the decade:

4.  The Dark Knight

Here’s another good example of the difference between best and favorite.  Christopher Nolan’s first film of the decade, 2000’s Memento, is his best film.  The novel backwards-to-forwards construction of the film was a wonder to watch the first time and was even better in subsequent viewings.  But being the nerd that I am, this was my favorite of his films.  I adore dark comic books and Nolan managed to paint Batman pitch black in 2008’s The Dark Knight.  Once again, an amazing script, amazing cast (especially replacing Katie Holmes with Maggie Gyllenhaal!), amazing score.  And bonus points for the best action sequence of the decade:

5.  Brüno

Of all the films released in the decade, this was definitely the one I was most looking forward to ahead of time.  After Borat I anxiously awaited for three years to see what Sasha Baron Cohen would do with my favorite Austrian fashion reporter.  Once again, there are many other films this past decade that were much better than Brüno.  I almost put Children of Men or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as my last pick.  But I had to include Brüno somewhere!  This film is the perfect combination of what I find funny: gay panic, fake German accents and dick jokes.  It was hard to notice that there wasn’t really a plot to the movie because I was laughing the entire time.  Cohen goes after jokes no matter what the cost and the results pay off big time.  This was the hardest I laughed in the past ten years and that’s enough to include Brüno in the list.  And that’s my Top 5 films of the decade. Brüno, sing us out.


The Captain

1.  I’ve been making lists on scraps of paper since I was quite young.  It helps my thought process work more efficiently.  And ever since I read High Fidelity I’ve been in love with the idea of making Top 5 lists full of trivial, pop-culture material and then debating the content with friends.

2.  I’m looking at you, Facebook.

3.  New Years Day doesn’t count.  It’s officially a hangover day, not a weekday.

The Captain Trades Stability for Consistency

Another year ends and another year begins. And my annual tradition of reflection and declarations starts yet again. As you may recall, this time last year I declared 2009 to be The Year of Stability. I decided that 2009 should be a calming year, one in which I lived and worked in the same place all year. It was supposed to be a year with no big events and a more active lifestyle. Funny how things work out…

As it was, 2009 was yet another year in transition for me. Shortly after I dedicated The Year of Stability, life sent me on a radically different course. In January of 2009 a first time homebuyer credit worth $15,000 began being discussed in Congress. Megan and I immediately began saving additional money to put towards a down payment for a house. By February it was announced that it would be only $8,000, which is still nothing to sneeze at. Spurred by this amazing opportunity, we had signed a contract to build the house where we now live by the end of March. And since then we’ve been consistently busy preparing to become homeowners.

So pretty much from the start The Year of Stability was destined not to succeed. All of the work involved in purchasing a new home made stability next to impossible. And once again, my life is dramatically different one year later. However, I wouldn’t call The Year of Stability a failure. It ended up taking a similar path as the previous year.

Also around this time last year I observed that The Year of Focus was a struggle for almost the entirety of 2008, and then somehow I managed to obtain it right as the year ended. Strangely, that seems to have happened again this year. After working hard all year I found myself with a job I love, living in a place I love with a family I love deeply.

Much like focus in 2008, stability was not the theme of my 2009, it was the goal. And it was a goal that I ultimately was able to achieve. Moreover, I would not have been able to work so hard at preparing for homeownership if I had not been successful at finding my focus. By the time the idea homeownership was introduced this year, I had a very clear picture of how I want to live my life. Without the ability to focus on what was important to me I would have never been able to commit my year to homeownership so quickly.

So if I had a redo, I would declare 2009 to be The Year of Working Towards Stability. But either way, I ended up in the place where I wanted to finish. Which brings me to 2010…

I’ve been thinking a lot about the year ahead of me lately and I’ve come to some conclusions. This year I’m determined not to dedicate the year towards a goal I work towards. Instead I want to have a plan from the beginning and stick to it closely. With that thought in mind I’m declaring 2010 to be The Year of Consistency.

While I’ve been able to accomplish many wonderful things over the past few years, I’ve been very inconsistent in how I’ve lived my life. 1 I feel like I’ve been all over the map when it comes to many aspects of my life. While the results have mostly been great, I haven’t been happy with the process. I’m ready to stop concentrating on the ends and start pay attention to the means. Some of what I’m talking about is difficult to discuss, but I’ll try and give a few examples.

Since 2006 I managed to lose about 30 pounds and find most of them again. At the start of 2010 I’m only a few pounds lighter than I was when I left for Florida, which is unfortunate. I’ve been real guilty of yo-yoing my diet and exercise over that period. Typically I’d work really hard at being healthy for several months, and then burn myself out. The same could be said about my personal finances, my alcohol consumption and my dedication to family and friends. Many aspects of my life suffered from the same cycle: get stressed out about it, work hard to change it, get burnt out by it, forget it.

The missing piece in my approach towards my problems has been moderation.2 I tend to approach many things in my life as either all or none propositions. I’m either gonna solve a problem right away or not at all. I’ve learned that the major areas of my life where I desire change will need to be worked on gradually. Moderation prevents burn out, which is why so many of my problems perpetuate.

While moderation may be my goal, I’m trying not to dedicate my year to a goal this year. I don’t want to feel like I’m sprinting towards something every day, only to eventually burn out from exhaustion. I want 2010 to be a steady jog, a comfortable pace. With that in mind I decided on The Year of Consistency for 2010.

After years of trying to make the final product better I think I’m ready to work on making the process better. So here’s to The Year of Consistency; may you be even and unswerving. Cheers!


The Captain

1 While it’s true that a good chunk of my inconsistency has been a result of dealing with the large amount of change I’ve experienced in that time, it should not be an excuse. Change will always be a part of my life and I can be consistent in how I respond to it if I so choose.

2. One of the few things I remember my maternal grandfather telling me in my childhood was “Moderation in everything.” He was a wise man; it’s something I’ve struggled with my entire life.

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