The most noticeable effect of this is that when I get home in the evenings, I am much less restless than I used to be. After standing all day, I don’t mind sitting, whereas before after sitting all day I would get home and feel like I needed to be up and moving.
Yo dawg! I heard you like desks, so I put a desk on your desk!
I got my first real job in 1992 just after graduating high school. Prior to that I’d done baby sitting and lawn mowing and other odd jobs for cash, but with my diploma in hand and heading to college, I needed a real job. I applied at a few places but I ended up taking a job at Kroger, a grocery store, for two reasons. First, it was a night stock position and for some reason I liked the idea of working 3rd shift. Second, as a 3rd shift job I was offered a rate of $3.55 an hour. Technically it was a minimum wage job, and the minimum wage at the time was $3.25, but Kroger offered 30 cents per hour “premium” to 3rd shift employees. When the summer came to an end and I was preparing to start college, I needed to kick 3rd shift, so I got a transfer to day stock in the “non-foods” department (which also included the video store – yes, Kroger used to rent movies). At the time, I’d done a good job and they let me keep my 30 cent “premium” as a raise. About eight months later I would take the position of “Lead Video Clerk” and wind up making $4.25 an hour.
I told you all of that to tell you this… My parents paid for my first year of college, which I royally screwed up. After that, they stopped paying and I had to take over if I wished to continue. I took the Lead Video Clerk position and my 40 hours a week, moved out with a roommate and paid for my own college. The college I went to cost around $500 per Quarter for a full load (12 credit hours) of classes. At the time, they were on the Quarter system, so 3 Quarters for a standard year, but you could also attend the summer session. The school says it was $1,500 a year, which is about right. The summer session was short, 8 weeks, so I usually skipped it as a break from school and to allow myself the summer to do other things. I was making around $8,000 a year, give or take, after taxes and then my refund. So, 8000 – 1500 = $6,500 per year for “everything else”. 6500 / 12 = $541 a month. In 1993 I could live on that. I believe my share of rent and utilities was around $300 a month, then food and gas (average of $1 a gallon, or less) and stuff… I wasn’t saving much money, but I wasn’t living on credit. By the time I graduated in 1998, I’d upgraded jobs through the school’s intern program and was making $7 an hour as a PC technician/Tech Support guy (minimum wage in Georgia was still $3.25), tuition was up to a little over $2,000 a year (though 2 Semesters now instead of 3 Quarters), rent and utilities had gone up too, but I was doing quite well. (It wasn’t until after college that I screwed up my credit – but that is not germane to this story). Even so, had I still been making minimum wage, or close to it, I could still have afforded college. I probably would have needed a another roommate or two, but still.
Now, before I go on, keep in mind that the fees I listed above weren’t really just “tuition” but the final out-of-pocket price, including other school fees. So, my $1,500 a year was actually around $400 tuition a Quarter plus some administration fees, parking pass, etc. Currently, my alma mater boasts a tuition of about $5,000 a year for local students, but they also tack on about $1,600 in fees. A year there will cost a student about $6,600 just for the school. On top of that a student will need an apartment, food, car, etc…
Problem. Minimum wage right now in Georgia is $5.15 . Don’t worry though, thanks to the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, a state can’t be lower than federal except in certain circumstances, you’ll get $7.25, so working full-time will earn you about $14,500 a year – if you can get full-time. Lots of people are having trouble getting full-time work these days, so you’ll either need multiple jobs or settle for less. So let’s say you’ll get $12,000 a year as a fresh-faced kid out of high school with no experience. Most anything you get taken in taxes you’ll get back in your refund. 12000 – 6600 = $5,400. Divide that by 12 and a minimum wage making student going to my old school will have to figure out how to live on about $450 a month. You would need like 5 roommates, live in a shit hole apartment and eat nothing but rice, potatoes and other bulk foods. I mean, a decent cell phone plan is going to run your about a fifth of your budget if you want a smart phone. Oh, wait… we haven’t even bought textbooks yet! There goes another fifth of the budget! Hope you live real close to the school and have a car that gets good mileage, gas prices are more than 3 times what they were when I was putting myself through college! In fact, everything is more expensive now than back in the 1993 to 1998 time frame of my college days, and I had nearly $100 more a month to live on.
It has become all but impossible for a minimum wage earner to put themselves through school without help. And yet in 1993 I was doing it, without running up a bunch of debt. Twenty years later and you almost require financial aid of some sort – scholarships, grants, loans or parents. This is not good. When the people at the bottom cannot afford to better themselves, everyone loses. I don’t want to get all political, but people on the Right always talk about self-starters and people picking themselves up by their bootstraps and making successes of themselves without the help of anyone else… those stories are more rare these days, and crushing debt from getting a college education is a large part of it.
I’m not sure what needs to be done about it, but it’s something that I don’t think can be ignored for much longer.
Kicking off what I hope will be the triumphant return of Zombie Wednesdays here at Aim for the Head, I bring to you a classic tale of boy meets girls. Or zombie eats girl… or, well, he doesn’t eat her. Not on camera anyway, that would get much higher than a PG-13 rating.
I’m talking about Warm Bodies. Based on the book, it is the story of Romeo and Juliette set in a post-zombie-apocalyptic world and casting Romeo as a zombie. And as dumb as that sounds – like Twilight levels of dumb – surprisingly it works.
The movie opens with R and he… wait… they put the first 4 minutes of the movie online, so why don’t you just watch them:
So, he’s a zombie, and then we cut to the survivors, living in a walled off section of the city, struggling to survive. And we meet Julie, daughter of the man in charge who isn’t happy with the status quo. She, her boyfriend and a few others head into the unreclaimed city to search for medical supplies. Things don’t go well for the survivors, but R and Julie meet, and R saves Julie from being eaten. And the movie goes on from there…
I don’t want to spoil the film, so I’ll stop talking in specifics. Instead, I’ll just say that you’ve never seen a zombie movie like this before, in a manner similar to how you’d never seen one like Shaun of the Dead before, but not in remotely the same way. Warm Bodies leans far more toward a typical romantic comedy than it does a zombie horror film, but that’s okay – as I’ve said many times on this very blog, zombies are best as a setting for human drama. The biggest shift you have to make in the world crafted here is that there are two kinds of zombies, corpses and skeletons. The corpses shamble around looking for brains and in their “downtime” they shuffle through almost normal human stuff in normal human places. The skeletons have given up all pretense of humanity, they hunt food with purpose. And like with many zombie movies, the humans are divided into two groups as well, though they don’t get cute names to group them under. One group is content to hide behind a wall and scrounge their survival from the ruins of pre-zombie life, while the other group wants to get back out there and live again.
Anyway… is this the best zombie movie ever? My wife thinks so. I disagree, but I do think this movie is very good and I like the message it delivers in both its subtle and completely unsubtle ways. Most movies about zombies wind up being about hope, or crushing hope depending on how it ends, with a side helping of “people are the real monsters”, but Warm Bodies brings along a message of connection, about interacting with people and looking them in the eye. It isn’t the best zombie movie ever, in my opinion, but it is well worth watching.
When I was 18 I considered getting a tattoo. I didn’t, mostly because I instituted a series of stages. First, I must design the tattoo. Perhaps not a fully fleshed out design, but I had to have a solid idea. Second, I had to sketch out that design and let it sit. I’d put it in a place on my desk or somewhere else I’d see it often, so that every time I saw it I’d ask myself, “Do I want that on my body forever?” Third, temporary tattoo. You can make a temporary tattoo yourself. Just draw/print your design onto a piece of paper – in reverse. Then use a pen (or pens if it’s multi-color) to go over the design – really heavy on the ink. Wet your skin, lay the paper ink-side down and then wet the back of the paper, hold in place for a while and then peel off the paper. Fourth a final step, get the tattoo.
The rules were a good idea. The first tattoo I came up with was terrible and I would have hated it within months. And over the years, many ideas never made it past stage 1. Most ideas died in stage 2. With the drawing sitting on my desk, or my PC as a JPG, it wouldn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t like it enough to have it forever. Once or twice I got to stage 3, but within a few days I would wash it off and not put it back on.
Getting to stage 4 was going to take an idea, a design, that had great meaning. It would have to resonate through me, to ever fiber of my being. The wife and I have been working on a tattoo we would share, but it’s been a slow road going through several iterations and isn’t quite ready yet. But this one…
I first encountered “nanakorobi yaoki” in 1993. I had just transferred from Southern Tech to Kennesaw State, and in my efforts to try to find something that inspired me to learn, I signed up for Japanese 101. We immediately jumped right in to learning the katakana, hiragana and kanji. The teacher wanted to forego the basics and get right to smothering us in Japanese, so along with the traditional lessons the school required her to teach she also brought in magazines and books. And art. Seeing large paintings peppered with the picture writing was inspiring. I took two years of Japanese. I loved it. And in there, somewhere during that first class, we were given a sheet of proverbs.
Seven fall, eight rise. That’s the most literal translation. When a person is born, they literally rise the first time. They learn to walk, their family and community lift them through childhood. And when they fall, and they will fall, it levels out the rises and falls. And you get back up. Get up more times than you fall down. Or as Chumbawamba might say, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.” Or Cmdr. Peter Quincy Taggart you said, “Never give up, never surrender.“ Seven fall, eight rise.
I like to think that this, more than anything, describes the core of my being. Despite many failures, both internal and driven by outside forces, there is always a point where I get back up. And so, I made a design. I printed it out and had in on my PC. I made a temporary tattoo. I got a tattoo.
I have survived a week of standing on my feet all day.
I think the most surprising part is that none of my coworkers seem to think that it’s weird. It just is accepted, “Jason is standing now.”
I know the question you all have… how does it feel?
To be honest, it feels… fine. I’m not experiencing some dramatic boost in energy and weight loss – it has only been a week after all – but I am also not in terrible pain. I’m learning. If I wear my hiking boots, my back is cool but my legs get a little sore. If I wear my running shoes, my legs are fine but I get a little pain in my lower back. Of course, sitting all day resulted in different pains. My posture isn’t horrible, but it could be better. I’m trying to make sure I stand with a neutral spine as much as possible, and it helps.
I also still make sure to take little breaks. Not to sit down, but to do some squats or walk around or just bend over and touch my toes a few times.
I need a standing pad. Two reasons. One, to provide a little more cushion. The carpet in the office has cushion, but I suspect after a few years of me riding a chair over it the padding isn’t as good as it used to be. Two, despite all my attempts to ensure proper measurement of the height of the keyboard shelf, I came up a little high… well, it’s about perfect in my hiking boots, but in my other shoes with thinner soles the shelf could be lower.
All in all, the new world order of standing at work has been successful. I’ll report in again when I hit the one month mark.
And because of the stupid caption on the photo, I now have a song stuck in my head. Enjoy!
I picked up Bastion as part of the Humble Indie Bundle V in early April 2012. It’s a two-dimensional isometric action RPG. You play “the Kid”. A catastrophic event, referred to as The Calamity, has broken the city of Caelondia. As a survivor, you head to the Bastion, where everyone is supposed to go in times of trouble. Once there you find Rucks, apparently the only other survivor, and you being the adventurous sort he sends you off on the Skyway to other remnants of the city and surrounding lands to find the cores with can be used to power the Bastion and rebuild.
The first thing you encounter in this game is the narrator, which you learn quite quickly is Rucks. But what makes the narrator awesome is that unlike other games where narration fires off based on events or locations – i.e. you cross a certain doorway and a block of narration kicks in telling you about the place you’ve just entered – it is also based on your actions. When you first get into the game, your character is in bed. If you do nothing, nothing happens, but the moment you move the controls and the Kid gets up, the narrator fires off something like “the Kid gets out of bed”. Later, when I was in a room full of boxes, taking my time to destroy them all and collect the items the game uses for money, the narrator said, “the Kid rages around, destroying everything in his path” or something close to it. If you double back on your path too many times it might say, “the Kid wasn’t sure where he was going, but he was getting there fast”. If you run past enemies rather than fighting them you might get a “the Kid was moving fast, no looking back”. It adds an element to the game that other narrations don’t simply because the narration is based on my actions (or lack thereof) and not just my location.
Being an RPG means that you have to level and upgrade your character. You get to improve your weapons, adding extra abilities and special properties, as well as equip the Kid with things that improve him directly. And it wouldn’t be an RPG without choices, so you only get to have two weapons and one special attack at a time, which you can swap out at an armory. To augment this, in addition to the normal game levels, there are a series of Proving Grounds designed for each weapon where you can practice using them as well as earn more bonuses by beating the third, second and first place goals. I really like this mechanic that lets me step out of the story and go play a little, improving both my skill at the game as well as earning new upgrades to my weapons.
The art style of the game is beautiful. Sometimes I just want to stare at the screen. Most of the game play shots below were actually taken during my second play through, in the New Game Plus mode where you get to keep your levels and everything from the regular game, because I was too busy enjoying the game, the play and the graphics, to remember to hit the F12 key.
I made it through the first run through in a little over 11 hours, which feels about right for the story. It never got boring, the pace never dragged, and I never needed to needlessly grind out cash. That last point is important. Being an RPG, you have to buy stuff – weapon upgrades and skills and such – and while you don’t earn enough money to buy everything, you also don’t need everything to finish the game.
As I said above, once you finish the first play through you get the option to do it again while keeping your previous levels, meaning you’ll be able to finish buying everything and get to level 10 – I only got to 6 the first time around. I look forward to continuing playing the game, getting all the items and seeking to get the Steam achievements.
Another great element of the game is the music. Instrumentals, songs with voices & lyrics. When I got the game I also got the soundtrack, which can be purchased through Steam, and it’s good enough that I’m certain I will listen to it even outside of game.
All in all, from top to bottom, I really enjoyed Bastion and would recommend it to others. What a great little game. Now, before I go, enjoy these screenshots. Be warned, a few of the artistic cut scene shots might be considered spoilers.
In the age of the e-book, I still buy physical books. Firstly, these books often come from favorite authors whom I might one day meet and wish for them to autograph it and from books, though I have been considering reviving the old autograph book to collect signatures.
The Wall Street Journal just published an essay. Go read it, I’ll wait. Done? Okay. I want to call attention to one line in particular:
In fact, according to Pew, nearly 90% of e-book readers continue to read physical volumes.
The second reason I still buy physical books is that some books aren’t available as e-books. I went to buy a bunch of books for my wife for Christmas (it’s how I spent the money my father gave me, because reading lots of books was something the two of them shared) and half of them weren’t available as e-books. There is a good chance that many people who would like to go 100% e-book simply can’t. If they won’t sell them, we can’t buy them.
The third reason I still buy physical books is that some publishers seem to think that an e-book should sell for nearly the same price as a hard cover. Seriously, go browse Amazon for a while and you’ll find plenty of examples where a physical hard cover can be bought for $12 or $15, and the e-book will be $15 to $20. This is primarily due to that agency model kerfuffle a while back where Amazon wanted to sell e-books the same way they do physical books, i.e. they wanted to pay the publisher the price the publisher was asking and then sell the book for any price they wanted. The publishers were afraid that e-books would destroy their physical book market, so they aligned against Amazon and force upon them the model of “We set the price, not you.” But only for e-books, Amazon still discounts the physical books.
See, Amazon, like any other retailer, pays (guessing) $12.50 per copy of a new book. The suggested retail price is $25. This is so the retailer can make a profit AND still run sales on it. “20% OFF!” brings it down to $20, still a nice margin from what they paid. Amazon, on the other hand, not needing to pay as much – no stores, fewer employees by volume, etc – can sell the same book for $14 and make up for the narrow margin by selling more copies. They were doing the same thing with e-books. Now they aren’t (can’t), though there are cases in court that might change this.
The fourth reason I still buy physical books… the technology just isn’t quite there for some books. It’s getting close, but frankly for long prose I’m always going to prefer an eInk screen like the older Kindle because I stare at a computer screen for 8 hours a day, when I get home I don’t want to stare at a computer screen for more as I read. But, tablets are becoming more advanced and the publishers and reader tech is catching up so that graphics heavy texts like manuals and comic books are beginning to work better. I can see myself in the future getting a large 10″ screened tablet to use for browsing and other tasks as well as reading graphics heavy books… I’ll still have the eInk reader for the novels.
The fifth and final reason that I still buy physical books: bookshelves. Someday, I will renovate my home and in that renovation I will have a library. Floor to ceiling books, preferably two floors, with a spiral staircase, and a fireplace with big comfy chairs where I will be surrounded by books… reading on my eReader.
A couple of weeks ago, I purchased the items I needed from IKEA to construct my standing desk. I had already gotten permission to make the desk, and then it took a while for me to remember to go to the store and buy the bolts I needed to finish it. But it is done.
Yo dawg! I heard you like desks, so I put a desk on your desk!
After getting it set up, I set about my day – standing instead of sitting. I had done my reading and knew to expect some foot and/or leg pain since I’m not used to standing for so long. I did sit for lunch, and toward the end of the day I found myself leaning on the other part of my L-shaped desk.
On the whole though, smashing success. I hurt a little, and I’m a little more tired, but in general I actually feel better. We’ll see how I feel in a week…