A different kind of bubbly

I'm going to be a bad boy tonight - I bought a slice of chocolate overload cake for dessert and will munch it at midnight as my celebration. I realize this is pretty tame as far as things go, but everything's relative.

I also plan on spending the first in my usual way, which means in as little clothing as I can get away with. Some would argue that this isn't any different from any normal day, but they don't read this blog.

So, there's my idea of a good time: sober, naked and hyper in a hot tub in the middle of nowhere. Oh, with high-speed wireless access.

Here's hoping you all spend your new years how you like it.

Sun, moon and stars

I should qualify the following as pure entertainment... I don't believe in horoscopes. I am, however, very good at suspending disbelief temporarily for the purposes of fun. Patterns and systems are my life, and I always enjoy dissecting and reassembling structures just to see how they work; that holds true for myths and belief systems is well as techinal or logical ones.

In the same way that I can discuss Dagny's shooting of the guard as inconsistent with the larger philosophy of Ayn Rand, I can comment on the self-consistency or lack thereof in destinies determined by the movements of cosmic entities as perceived from Earth. The despairing fact that either is taken seriously by large numbers of people is a topic for another time.

My birthday is June 28th - that's Stonewall for the uninitiated - but I was due June 4th. Yes, I was 24 days late, and was only born the 28th because the doctor induced labor (he picked a Tuesday because it would be a slower day for the hospital). I may not have been a planned pregnancy - my mother was actually told she'd never be able to carry to term after my sister's difficult primi birth and her subsequent miscarriage if she could get pregnant at all, which was doubtful - but I was a rigidly scheduled birth.

Because of my doctor's concern for hospital regimen, I was born under the sign of Cancer. The full chart is here. Most people would say this fits me to a T. I probably wouldn't argue much.

Interestingly, though, my hobbies, interests, and whimsy have always focused on Hermes, the messenger in Greek mythology and their incarnation of the trickster god (like Loki, Coyote, etc.). Hermes represents the synchronistic - the patterns that seemingly emerge out of chaos - and also contradictions: as the patron god of both travelers and thieves, he embodies a dichotomy with which I identify heavily (most people don't know this, but as a youth my serious and silly sides were so distinct that one therapist considered a diagnosis of schizophrenia).

In Roman mythos, Hermes is Mercury - and Mercury is the ruling planet of Gemini, which would have been my birth sign had I been born "on time." Of course, the dualistic nature of Gemini embraces the fact that I could be Cancer as well, but maybe that's going just a little too far down the rabbit hole.

The upshot of all this if that, whenever I'm presented with horoscopes, I always read both Cancer and Gemini to see which "fits" better. Interestingly, it's almost always Gemini.

Of course, now I'm going to be working at an institute that fights cancer. Maybe Gemini isn't so accommodating after all.

Stand up

People are turning out to be a lot more insecure than I would have thought.

I've had people leave the company while I've been here; in almost 13 years, it's impossible not to have had dozens if not hundreds of people quit or get laid off. One of those was my best friend, 3 years ago, who was also my "partner in crime" here - so much so that people seemed to forget our names could be said separately. It was always "go ask x and y if they can do this" or "y and x are supporting it". Granted, when he left, there was some extra work load that had to be passed around.

But I've never felt like the world was coming to an end, or that I couldn't get things done. It was always just an inconvenience of more work, not a catastrophe. I've pretty much always been confident enough in myself and my abilities that, if something unknown or unexpected came up, it was mostly a matter of, "Okay, let's figure this out and move on." It may be more ego than anything else, but I've never considered taking over any task overwhelming - just annoying.

I'm beginning to suspect that I might be the only person here who feels that way.

I'm hearing, from almost every direction, protestations of panic and chaos - "we're screwed!", "who's going to do xxx for us?", etc. - which I have, until very recently, been attributing more to politeness and/or complimentary nature than actual concern: the typical "I don't know how we're going to get along without you" that every departing person hears no matter how replaceable they really are. The actions and results I'm seeing, though, may indicate that these are more than platitudes as people really don't seem to have any clue how to handle things without me.

(Random note: I have one sweater where the torso is fine but the sleeves are too long. This, for me, is unusual, because I have a short torso but long arms. I always feel like a 6-year-old in his older brother's sweater when I wear it, which is odd because I never had an older brother. Still, I always end up with a bit more bounce in my step when I walk around with the ends of my sleeves almost covering my hands.)

Now, I assume that someone will step up and/or problems will get solved in the end: I have no illusion that I, or anyone else really, is irreplaceable. The issue, though, would seem to be the length of time it takes to get everything sorted out. And as I said, I don't see anyone - not one single person - who is stepping up and "figuring it out" the way I typically have in the past. You would think that, out of 20 or 30 IT personnel, there'd be at least one - but then I have to consider that, out of 20 or 30 IT personnel, that one is (or was) me.

I've been often told by people that I have a pretty substantial ego - something I've loosely defined as knowing who you are, what you are, what you want, and how to get it. I consider this a good thing: a true ego, a true sense of self and security, helps to keep one balanced and not be thrown off by minor (or even major) problems or issues. Someone who is self-assured isn't afraid to be wrong or challenged, nor to take some risks, because one's self-perception isn't based on the false premise of perfection or ideals. By no means am I perfect, but knowing that and completely accepting that fact means imperfection doesn't threaten me.

That also means being realistic about one's limits; ironically, true modesty is born of self-assuredness even while one decries one's abilities. It's only when we're comfortable with what we are that we can realistically approach or confront what we aren't. One of my favorite lines from a book comes from Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat series: "False modesty is the refuge of the incompetent."

What I'm finding in most of my coworkers, however, is the false ego born from the insecurities of people who are trying to make everyone else believe they're competent even when they themselves don't think they are. I see people who constantly portray themselves as experts in their fields and, yet, get flustered or even angry at relatively minor challenges to authority or comprehension. Throw in the large unknown of extra work that they haven't been carefully led into and what results seems to be total paralysis. Of course, there are a few who are probably completely competent, but who are also so burnt out that they don't care enough to try. While the mechanisms may be different, the result is the same: someone who sees something mildly challenging and then simply throws his or her hands in the air saying, "oh well, I can't do it."

I know that eventually everything will get sorted out, that problems will get solved and new routines will develop to handle the new issues and circumstances. The question is, though, at what price? How long will it take to knock things into their new shape, to adapt current resources to the new needs? And how much money - real money, in terms of time, expenses, and lost business - will result?

I suppose that's no longer my problem; I can't solve it in less than two working days' time, and it really isn't my responsibility to do so. But I wouldn't be me if I didn't concern myself with the process as a whole, even as I step out the door. That's part of the reason why I'm so respected around here and why I've been recruited so actively by this new company. One doesn't simply turn that off and walk away.

So, as I sit here with basically nothing to do for the next day or two, this shit runs through my head. I really don't think they're prepared, but there's nothing else I can do to prepare them; I wish there was, but they don't seem to want to be prepared. They say the quickest way to learn how to swim is to jump in the pool. The problem is, how much water do you swallow before you make it to the edge?

All these posts about my career change are probably getting boring. So, on to something else.

This weekend was, obviously Christmas. Saturday, I had dinner with my parents and one friend; he and my step-dad like to talk military history and such, since they're both experts on the subject. My mom and I always end up sneaking off to the kitchen or whatever, but they don't seem to notice. My step-dad's getting older, and a few of his old friends have died over the years, so there's not many people he can spar with, intellectually, on these subjects; handing out with Phil fills some of that need.

The day after Christmas, the 26th, is my step-dad's birthday and, traditionally, the day all his kids come over. This, of course, meant their kids as well, and while individually they're all fairly well-behaved, when you get four 7-12 year-olds in a room it gets pretty chaotic. Like most years, I spent the day helping my mom keep the kitchen going - she always makes up these lists of things to do at various times so that she doesn't lose track, but with the extra moving parts in the house it takes a little more effort to keep up. Besides, while I like my step-brothers and sisters, I really don't have much in common with them, so if I'm part of the socializing circle it just feels awkward; helping cook means my mother can spend more time with them and I can legitimately spend less. It's a pretty decent tradeoff, even if it does mean than my ribs are a little sore today from standing for pretty much 12 hours.

Wednesday I'm taking a (hopefully) much-deserved break and driving up to Guerneville, which for those who don't know (probably most of the world; even people in California don't know) is a small town along the Russian River an hour or two north of San Francisco. The salient factor, though, is that 1) it's in the redwoods and 2) the "resort" I'm staying at is gay and has a clothing-optional pool and hot tub. Now, I'm not going to be doing much sunbathing in 50-degree weather, but the hot tub's always great. Plus, I'm getting a massage while there, and in general just trying to relax.

Hard to believe that a week from today I'll be at a new job; luckily, reality requires no belief, only existence.

Good will towards men

Holidays. Enough said.

For an asocial individual, this is one of the worst times of the year, but there are promises to keep (and miles to go before I sleep).

(On a side note, I actually got a call from work today - database went down and the new DBA couldn't even log into the server. This doesn't bode well for the very near-future when I won't be working for them any more.)

Tomorrow (boxing day) I get to deal with all the nieces and nephews for my step-dad's birthday. And then it's my last two days in the office at my current company. Then, I get to disappear up to the woods for a few days, to rest and recoup and hide away from the world.

Anyway, in the interest of the holiday spirit, here's hoping everyone makes the best of it - in whatever method works for them. Enjoy it however you prefer.

... and there's reasons to believe...

So, been a few days. Today I hit that "fuck it, I'm only here a few more days" zone. I think that offically makes me a short-timer.

I've done what I can to make my leaving as easy as possible, but that frankly isn't much. It's going to be hell for these guys; there just isn't a way around it. Almost 13 years of taking it for granted that I'd be here to "fix anything" doesn't just go away in week and a half.

But that isn't my problem any more, and I can't take responsibility. I've already done far more than most people expected me to be willing to do - in the sense of flying to NC for a week, all the extra training and working with folks, etc., trying to get as many details covered as possible. I think, though, I'm done - I've got two more sessions with people, but I doubt much will change.

(Random note: today, for the first time in probably 5 or more years, I forgot my badge at home. Odd, that.)

On the other side, I got poked, shot, and bled at my new job yesterday; I go back tomorrow to finalize one of the tests and then pick up my employee badge. That's the last step before orientation on the 3rd of January. I think I'm finally feeling a little excited about that.

Financially, I'm not in as good a position as I was hoping. The current company is playing hard-ball and won't be reimbursing my expenses from my last trip until the 6th of January; it's all legal, but I was trying to get them in early enough to be paid tomorrow. On the consulting side, I'm supposed to be getting a check from the woman running the project when she's "in town", but I don't know if that is this week or next week.

So, I'm running low on funds, but not drastically. No thousand-dollar Christmas presents this year, but I can cover the bases and likely still have enough to take a trip up north for NYE. Plus, my payroll person told me that I should be getting a direct deposit with all my outstanding pay (vacation and actual pay) on the 30th, which should be a significant chunk of money (about $6k all-told). If I get my consulting check and, eventually, my expense check, I'll definitely be riding high for the new year.

That means it's just a matter of waiting at this point - something I'm not wonderful at, since I'm always projecting ahead what could possibly go wrong and contingencies to handle them. Still, the window is narrowing.

It's been a *long* December.

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear

I may have made a mistake today (yes, it does happen). You see, I put in my notice last Friday, but my management team has been lax about any kind of official notification to the company at large: when I talk to people, I'll tell them (and some have heard through the grape vine), but unless I bring it up most people don't seem to know.

So, seeing as I've only got 6 business days left, I decided that certain users I support really ought to know that I'm leaving. My boss and I discussed today who would be taking over most of the responsibilities, and I've been doing training for the last few days with many of them, so I thought it was a decent time to crack that nut.

Boy, howdy, did it crack.

People are, of course, panicking now, all of them insisting that their requirements are the most important and that I drop everything to make sure their systems are covered to their satisfaction. I think I'm doing a decent job of deflecting and/or depanicking (is that even a word?) most of them, but it's making me wish I hadn't said anything and had just let them find out after the fact.

(Random note: I had a hot dog on a slice of bread for lunch yesterday. I haven't had a hot dog like that since I was like 7. When the lady at the counter handed it to me saying she was out of buns, I just replied, "That's okay, I'll just drench it in mustard and pretend I'm in first grade again." She laughed.)

I also learned today that my company's doing another wave of layoffs, mostly at the location where I am currently rather than my normal location. I think, anyway; the person who told me didn't want to say too much since she's theoretically not allowed to say anything at all, but a wink is, as they say, as good as a nod in most cases. Besides, I had the head of Finance hint at much the same thing, and I know we're losing a major client in the coming year (like, 80% of one location's business). So, I've probably picked a great time to get out.

Flying back to the left coast tomorrow, and heading right to a party - so, it's kind of a win/lose situation. I hate parties, but it's my (ex)boss throwing it, and most of my current and past coworkers will be there. So, I kind of have to show up, if only for the sake of propriety. After that, though, the weekend is mine. Seeing TRON on Saturday; was supposed to see it tonight - even bought the tickets ahead of time - but of course the last-minute trip put a kibosh on that. So, I sent the tickets to the guy I was going with, and I hope he enjoys the movie (and takes someone with him).

Last Saturday, one friend was a little astonished that I wasn't nearly as excited about my new job as he thought I should be (or even as he was). I responded by pointing out that this week would be hell, and that I'd probably be more enthusiastic for it when the week was done. At this point, I think that's true: right now I'm in the burnout phase. I just want to be done with this. By Saturday morning, I'll be through the worst of it. That's when it'll probably kick it.

For now, I'll just be glad to be on a plane back to civilization tomorrow. I always lose the sense of how big Los Angeles is until I go someplace where their idea of a major event is the town bake sale. As one of my co-contractors said, "When you get to an airport where the guy checks you in, changes hats, takes you through security, changes hats again, and lets you on the plane, you know you're in a small town."

It's far easier to be asocial in a crowd of thousands than in a group of dozens.

Midnight in the garden of good and... well, useless

It's midnight here, but my sleep schedule is all fucked up. I caught about 3 hours' sleep on flights from LAX to Detroit Sunday, drove 3 hours because MBS was closed, then was up until 10 working with people. Up again at 7 am, full day in a meeting, then driving back to Detroit (MBS was still closed) to catch an 8 pm flight back to LAX so I could catch a midnight flight to Atlanta and then Asheville. Worked until 3:30 a so, but then the 6000 miles of travel in just over 48 hours caught up with me.

So, checked into the hotel, ate something, took a bath to relax and was in bed fast asleep by 5-ish. Anyway, that's why I'm awake at midnight local time.

Meeting went pretty well, though I got slightly blindsided by the folks running the project: they expected me to run a session on systems I'd never heard of without warning me. Oh well.

(Random fact: yesterday, for the first time ever, I drove in real "icy conditions." Driving SoCal freeways after the first rain in a while is harder, and I've been doing that for years.)

Now I'm in North Carolina trying to explain to folks that you can't train people on 13 years of experience in four days. The boss seems to think I can just snap my fingers and his people - nice ladies and gentlemen but certainly not up to speed on the technologies I support - will be able to handle everything. While he's wishing he should ask for a pony.

By the time I leave here on Friday, I think I'm going to be mentally ready to leave the company.

On a more personal rote, Christmas is going to be a little scant this yes since I'm floating a few thousand in travel expenses. I'll get reimbursed, but I doubt it'll be before I have to buy presents. Ironic, really, since in a few months I ought to be in better financial state than I've been in years. If it had just been the Michigan trip it would have been okay, but they sprung this NC trip on me on Friday.

Oh well, all the more reason to get out of my current job into something more stable, right? Anyway, I should try to get back to sleep.

When the hurley-burely's done

When all is said and done, when the last gun is fire, the last shell exploded, the last scream faded into the night... was the war worth it?

Most people walk around in a daze, sublimely average and only moderately alive: socioeconomic cattle, in a sense, there to support the population. They're content, in a way, and (mostly) living how they choose to live. No one can fault them.

But some people can't be like that. They are fully aware, and in being aware have to live to the fullest extent they can. Sometimes that means chaos; sometimes it means beauty. Sometimes it means great intellect. Sometimes it's all three.

But always, it means war. Making a choice means taking responsibility, throwing away the quiet, careful safety of mediocrity. It means taking a stand for something, which means taking a stand against something. It means war: war against attrition, war against stagnation, war against self.

Pure chaos, and there is no continuity. Pure order, and there is no change. Life exists on the edge between both, the perpetual collapse of order into chaos, and chaos into order, over and over again in a cycle. And always, at the front of that collapse, is the point of decision: the choices we make, the wars we fight.

We can't always choose right. Sometimes, there isn't a right and we're merely choosing between two different kinds of wrong. But the choice has to be made, the war has to be fought, because that's who we are. We are the drivers, the makers, the fighters, the choosers.

We make the best choice we can and hope that, in the end, we can make it the right one. It's how we know we're alive.

... I took the job. Now comes the hard part: making it the right choice.

Tonight on As the Wold Turns...

... Brief update, just because of the novel I posted yesterday.

2:30 conference call with the HR rep went well; this was the HR screening that never got done, where they ask questions like "Are you a mass murderer?" The good part, though, is that they also asked what my targets were for salary, benefits, etc. I gave her what I think are reasonable goals and she didn't sound at all surprised or flustered by them.

She's going to go back to the compensation department, compile an offer and is "hopefully on target" as she said, and then present it to me tomorrow afternoon. So, probably the best practical news: my major concern this whole time is that any offer they made would be completely unrealistic since no one knew what I was seeking.

Oh, and the new boss came grabbed me for a "virtual cigarette break" and basically said that, if this doesn't work out, they're willing to bribe me with a $10k bonus (on top of my regular bonus) if I agree to stick around until the end of March. So, there's that. I hope it's not needed, but it's always nice to have other options.

Either way, I feel like I've ramped down a little and am no longer about to vibrate out of the universe. Of course, that'll probably change when I get the call tomorrow, since that's pretty much the "make or break" moment.

Tune in next time...

Hexagram 23

It's been one of those days.

I was in my manager's office this morning, ostensibly to talk about what various pieces of documentation I need to generated "just in case" I end up resigning. She's my backup for a few critical functions, and she wanted to go over them with me at a later date.

Eventually, though, it was just to chat. Even if I don't think she's a perfect manager, she's a great person, and we get along well. So, we talk, a lot, and one topic that has been coming up more and more lately was the possibility of her manager (who neither of us really likes but she can't stand) finding some reason to lay her off. He already tried once, a year ago, but justification was found to keep her on.

She found out yesterday that he and one of the other directors was flying in for a couple of days but hadn't informed her; her immediate suspicion was that this would be the day. As we stood there talking, someone kept walking past her door. Then, her email started having issues. About that time, I noticed the person walking past was the local head of HR, and believing he might need something from us (we manage one of the critical HR systems), I stuck my head out and asked if he needed anything. He said he needed to talk to her, and asked if we were done. He had a sheaf of papers in his hand, and I just got the impression that he was doing his best to be neutral. So, I walked away and went back to my desk.

About 20 minutes later, her manager was in our office telling us she'd been laid off.

Now, I knew she wasn't going to be upset - not just because she expected it, but because, in a way, she'd been looking forward to it: the office has been really stressful lately, especially for her, and I think this was just the push she needed to get out and do something. Rather than quitting under duress, she gets a severence package and unemployment. So, she'll probably be alright a few months at least.

Instead, the thoughts that immediately popped into my mind were: shit. She's my backup on some very important things. I've been planning on leaving the company for a while, but it was always in an orderly, controlled, reasonable manner - because she was still there and could handle the critical stuff. Suddenly, that's out the window.

I don't care about most of the systems I run; they're not terribly complex in concept, just in detail, so pretty much any technical person could deal with it if they had to. The one piece that isn't true for is the HR system, which is extremely critical in that many people get paid out of it. While Doris was there, it wasn't a problem; without her as a backup, though, I'm the only person in the company who can manage the system.

So, I decided I had to "spook" HR a bit about it, somehow. But how, when I can't legitimately say I'm leaving until I have accepted an offer from another company?

This issue stressed me out for a few hours until, around 2:30 pm, her manager came and asked to speak to me. We went to a different office, and he began some long oration on how this was the only layoff planned, on how we needed to better merge the teams on opposite sides of the nation, how everyone was likely to be nervous for a while, etc. At one point, he flat-out said, "And I'd hope that, if you ever consider leaving us, you'll give me fair notice..."

Well, shit. My boss had known - even encouraged - that I was looking around, but I hadn't told anyone in management other than her. I didn't have an offer from anyone yet, even if I was expecting one. But I also couldn't just flat-out lie when I'm planning on handing in my resignation in a matter of days. So, I told a half-truth. I said, "Well, to be honest, right now I'm looking for a new job. I haven't had any offers yet, but that could change at any time." All of it true, with the only omission being that I was *expecting* to get an offer in the next 2 or 3 days.

It was enough, though, and he was obviously contemplative on the concept. His first statement was that he hoped I'd give him a few days at least to try and "make it worth your while to stick around a few months". He did, later, ask me an approximate percentage of what I was expecting in a new position, so I told him (legitimately) 25-30%. "I was afraid of that," was his only response.

As I walked back to my desk, I made up my mind to tell the head of HR the same thing, that I was looking around but that I didn't have an offer. Beyond that, even if I didn't leave, I still needed a backup to manage the HR system, and it should probably be an HR person. Having decided to tell him, I sent him an email when I got back to my desk asking him to let me know when he had a minute to talk.

Then, I get a phone call from the company where I interviewed last week; I wasn't expecting the call until Thursday. Their HR rep asked if I could speak with her for about half a hour tomorrow, so we scheduled the call for 2:30 pm. This has to be the formal offer; I can't think of what else they'd be calling me about.

The I went and talked to my company's HR rep, and let him in on both the official (I'm looking around, no offer yet) and unofficial (I'm likely to have an offer tomorrow, and I'm probably going to take it after negotiations) details; we've established a pretty decent camraderie over the years, so I wasn't worried about him being able to manage the distinction. He told me he'd actually raised the same concerns I'd had about the HR system with my boss's manager when the layoff decision had been originally told to him, but it got brushed under the rug. He was more than happy to escalate the importance with his manager, and agreed to some of the contingencies I'd been thinking about.

So, that was it. For obvious reasons, I've been in a bit of a state all day. It's not so much nerves as... well, I do projections. It's part of why I'm good at what I do: I can see most (if not all) of the potential outcomes and their consequences, and keep layering and factoring until I think I see reasonable or "best" paths through a situation. Today, I had a lot of random factors thrown into the mix, and I think I'm burnt out at the moment.

I just got my copy of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, and I don't even think I have enough mental cohesion left to anything more than install it.

Monday morning, I put on my facebook "the next seven days will change everything" as my status. Sometimes, being right isn't always fun.

Everything changes

It's officially the last month of 2010. The year is winding down, and another will be starting soon. Of course, the "year end" is an arbitrary designation, but the result is more symbolic than practical anyway.

Most transitions in my life come about around February; don't ask me why, it just seems to be when major moments occur. This time, though, I seem to be stacking the deck: while some of the results won't come about until February or March, I'm building up for some significant changes here at the end of the year.

One big piece of that became official yesterday: I "passed" the last hurdle in gaining this part-time contract I'll be doing for the first 4-6 months of 2011. This is, ironically, the secondary portion of the big financial impacts in my life: a major step in the primary portion takes place tomorrow. However, regardless of how the rest goes, I'm on track for most of my plans for the new year. By the time my birthday rolls around at the end of June, I ought to be in a very good place financially (even if I'm exhausted getting there). If I get a new job that pays more than I earn now, so much the better.

Interestingly enough, having the contract position guaranteed means that I'm less nervous going into the interviews tomorrow: because I've got the guaranteed extra income, there's less riding on getting this new job. I'd still like to get it, obviously, but the pressure's gone. That's why I play the game this way: I hedge my bets, build in safety nets, so that the end result is more likely the outcome I desire.

On a separate tack - universe, I'm tired today. Not sure why. I need to make sure I go to bed a little early tonight so that I'm rested for tomorrow.

I'm officially back in World of Warcraft; I played a bit on Sunday, but not since then. As always, I managed to be online for only an hour or so before someone dragged me into a raid; I hadn't even gotten everything set up again after my long absence, but I think I did okay in general. Gamestop just billed me for the expansion I ordered ages ago, so I assume that will process through correctly and on-time.

(Random note: my desk sits against the eastern wall of the office, so that, in the mornings, the sun shines in through the window - almost floor to ceiling - behind me. Right now I have the almost unresistable urge to put my feet up and nap in the sunbeam.)

A friend of mine is getting kicked out of his rental; while he's made some stupid and probably annoying decisions, the impetus seems to be more related to some kind of mental instability on the part of his landlord than anything he's done. He's asked if I can drive the moving van when the time comes around (he has a motorcycle license but can't legally drive a car); I told him that it depends on when he needs me to do it. Knowing him, I'll get a call one afternoon with "can you come over now?" He's not exactly good at planning ahead.

Phil's gotten some good responses on his book; his agent seems to think they're almost at an offer from at least one publisher if not more. Hopefully they make it in the next few weeks; that'd be the best Christmas present anyone could get him, even if he is Jewish.

More later, maybe. I've got to get ready to tell someone he's an idiot, but in as polite a manner as possible.