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Posts Tagged ‘work’

Nappertunity knocks — very, very softly

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Taking the nappertunityOne of the things I miss about my youth and young adulthood is the chance to close my eyes for a few minutes in the middle of the day… seizing the “nappertunity” as it were. I still love to spend an hour or two in the early afternoon lying on a hammock in the sun or under a bright reading light, either reading a book or doing something relaxing like a crossword puzzle or sudoku, and letting my eyes slowly blink closed.

Babies and toddlers are of course allowed, encouraged and even cajoled to nap. But in our American society, naps are something you’re apparently supposed to outgrow as you get older. I learned this hard way when I was on my first job.

As with most things I accomplish, I’d worked my way into full-time employment slowly. As a grad student TA, I held office hours right after my 8:30 morning class, and didn’t have my own class until after 3 pm, so I had a few uninterrupted hours to eat lunch, watch the Carrier Dome get built and put my feet up and contemplate the human condition.

I didn’t easily adjust to the lack of nappertunities in the working world. I continued to put my feet up and “read” after lunch, until the day I looked up from my reading to see my boss’ boss smiling down at me. Oops. Like a grown-up Cookie Monster, I had to make my naps a sometimes treat.

It wasn’t until the birth of my first child that I truly discovered the joy of nappertunities. Sleep deprivation had been taking a harsh toll, as I’d been using the kid’s sleep time for my “me” time. Bad move. The best advice I ever got as a new parent, and the only parenting advice I ever give, is to sleep when the baby sleeps. Naps are restorative for the adult caregiver as was well as the child.

With kids all moved out, and as I age and naturally sleep less at night, I find myself more open to nappertunity than I have been in a long time. I do still occasionally nod off at my monitor at work, but mainly I look forward to lying down for a few minutes when I get home, NPR droning in the background. And for me, the best part of taking a vacation is being able to indulge in the twisted twin pleasures of staying up all night and napping through the day.

How and when do you like to nap? On your back, belly or sitting? On a bad, on the grass, in a train or bus? Morning, afternoon or night?

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Categories: Essays Tags: , , ,

Geeky by Design

September 5, 2010 5 comments

In the early, wild-west web days, there were no University degrees in multimedia design, no mail-order certificates in HTML. Most of us who worked in the area — and by “worked” I mean either did stuff for free or levied a hidden HTML tax on their other projects — knew what Yahoo* stood for, visited Matt’s Script Archive regularly, and created pages that looked just like everyone else’s: bold H1 text at the top, a bunch of smaller text on a grey background and maybe a few images or diagrams.

When the newfangled Netscape browser introduced tables, and you could actually control where things went on a page, the actual discipline of web design was born. But most pages still looked pretty crappy. Probably because most pages were still being created by computer geeks like me. There was no Dreamweaver or even HoTMetaL yet. And there were no degrees in web design: if you wanted to learn, you went to VSU — View Source University — and copied the same ugly layouts and arrow buttons everyone else was using.
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Categories: Essays Tags: ,

You know we’ll have a good time then

March 12, 2010 2 comments

Sometimes in my current pre-divorced state I find myself kicking the tires on single parenting: going it alone on shopping, meal preparation, laundry, getting kids out the door in the morning, checking on homework and all the other things that don’t sound nearly as important as going to the office and pushing out a report on the US Immigration Courts but nevertheless become my primary focus when my soon-to-be-former partner is out of town.

While on daddy-duty I tend to focus on the tasks at hand, and frequently feel too harried and put-upon to listen to a synopsis of the latest book in the Warriors series or a preview of the features expected in Portal 2. At times like this I wonder if I’m sounding a little too much like the dad in the Harry Chapin song who never had time for his kid.

But once in a while I manage to step out of what I’m doing and really pay attention. And then I wonder what life is going to be like when seeing them get up in the morning and go to bed at night is the exception and not the routine. Sometimes I admit I’m impatient for the day when I’m on a predictable schedule of responsibility. But there are some moments when the enormity of the coming change smacks me in the face and I get maudlin for the kind of idyllic suburban family life that I occasionally glimpsed but never really had.

This morning I had one of those pauses. The two younger boys had just gotten on their bus, which was mercifully only ten minutes late. It’s been as much as a half hour late, and when that happens I have to choose between leaving the kids sitting outside so I can get to my bus, or waiting and giving up on getting to work at anything close to my normal time.

So they got on their bus and I had twenty minutes for the thirteen minute walk to the bus stop. I like this time because it gets me exercise as well as time to think or even, if it’s not too snowy or rainy, do some reading (yes, I read while walking). I also get to watch the parade of yellow buses go by: besides the three public schools in the vicinity, there’s a private school just down the street, and I’m always amazed to see all the far-flung school districts represented by these students.

One of those buses turned out to be the very one my kids boarded a few minutes earlier. I looked up to see my eleven year old flashing a toothy, goofy grin while he waved at me. The bus stopped at a light and I caught up with it, creating another waving opportunity. It passed me again, only to stop at the intersection to make a left turn. As I walked by a final time, I turned and caught one more wave from my youngest and that’s when it hit me that I’d probably have a lot fewer of these wonderful silly interludes. Of course I’m already having fewer as the kids get older. Even if I weren’t moving out, I’ve always made it clear that I expected them to.

But what I’m realizing in these countdown days is that while I shouldn’t idealize my parenting experiences — there have been plenty of frustrations all around — I nevertheless want to cherish my kids and the good times we have while I’m still part of their daily lives. Whether it’s cooking something like broccoli quiche that they like so much they’re too busy stuffing their faces to tell me so, or trying to appreciate the various kinds of music they create or consume, or watching with satisfaction as they make friends and little by little go about the task of replacing their parents as their principle avenues of companionship and support. Basically trying to Be Here Now. And of course, avoiding those “Cats in the Cradle” moments.

Categories: Essays Tags: , , ,

Love of Chair

February 2, 2010 2 comments

What’s the first thing you think about when you start a new job?

As an information worker — and doesn’t that sound better than desk jockey? — I spend a good amount of time in the saddle. Add to this my chronic lower back pain and you might understand why whenever I start a new job, my main concern — before finding out whether I’ll have a window, free coffee, or a garage space — is where I’m going to be parking my butt.

But unlike the guy in the picture above, I’ve never had the perk of getting whatever chair I wanted — otherwise I’d be luxuriating in an Aeron right now. And when I’m shopping for a home-office chair, it all comes down to what’s on sale at OfficeMax and making the necessary tradeoffs between price and comfort. So it helps me to think about what’s worth spending extra for and what’s just a frill. Here’s what I look for in an office chair, in order of importance:

  1. Back support. And by this I mean the whole back, especially the lumbar. Chairs with just the little thing that goes across the mid or upper back? Pure agony in half an hour.
  2. Adjustable height. Even though desktops are generally a standard height (about 28″) I find that, because of my long torso, ordinary chairs make my wrists come down at a sharp angle. That gets uncomfortable pretty fast. Adjustable height is also good if you use a table as a workspace because tables tend to be a few inches higher than desks.
  3. Armrests. Yeah I know this moves most office chairs from the “nearly stylish” to the “fugly” category but then I don’t get paid to look good. The rests should be wide enough to support an arm, and at least somewhat height adjustable.
  4. Swivel. I like to work in an “L” formation, with my keyboard and monitor slightly to my left and room to spread out papers on my right, so being able to turn is nice. But if I’m just working at a desk, I can give on the spin.
  5. Casters. When my desk was in the same room as the office fridge, rolling was a definite plus. Otherwise I can give on this. But if there are wheels, there need to be five and not just four because I have a tendency to lean back and stretch from time to time. Speaking of which…
  6. Lean-back. Another nice-to-have but only if I can adjust it to make it very firm. Frankly I’d prefer a non-wheeled, non-leaning chair that was well built enough that I could rock onto the back legs — just like my mom always told me not to — but you can’t really find those with adjustable height.

I tend to spend a fair amount of time in office supply stores with someone who enjoys hanging out in the pen aisle so I’m looking forward to test driving the chairs soon. But no matter how much planning or sampling I do, I won’t know if I’ve got the right chair until I can go an entire day without even thinking about what’s keeping me off the floor — besides the coffee.

Categories: Essays Tags: , , ,