Email is just email

Many of you, over time, discovered that emailing me was darn near as fast as IMing someone else. I’ve long since largely signed off of AIM and MSN and Yahoo and the others because of the time vacuum they became for me, but now I’m even rolling back how frequently I check my email.

I’ve come to the realization that multi-tasking is a farce. Truly. It seems like you’re doing more, but in reality you’re doing more of less. So where a blog post will take me ten minutes to pound out. If I’m reading the news, emailing, talking on the cell phone and blogging, I can do all of those in 45 minutes, each of them has lower quality in the end and if I did them sequentially it would only take me thirty minutes to do all of them.

So, over the past week, I’ve begun experimenting. First, I removed the mail notifiers in Firefox. But even then I used the easy to access bookmarks and checked it even more frequently to see if I had any new email. So the next step was to actually create a second profile in Firefox solely for the use of email. When I open that account my start pages are my two main personal email accounts. That’s all that profile is for.

I was astounded by how much more I accomplished in my day. So I took it a step further.

I removed Google reader notifications, so I no longer have a new blog post to distract me every 3 minutes. Now I check my reader twice or three times a day. Yes I still read 70+ feeds, but with the mastery of the Google Reader key controls I can skim through them in a matter of ten minutes usually. Sharing or starring entries of interest to be read later.

I check my work email when I get to work, since I come in when the other employees are halfway through their day I have to catch up on any events or changes, but it doesn’t need me to keep Thunderbird open on the laptop. Now I check it after the completion of other tasks. At this point, I can pretty safely avoid opening Thunderbird for the rest of the day, everyone else is gone and it’s just me here.

It’s amazing how much more productive I am when I make tasks sequential rather than simultaneous.

Questions and Credit

I think the fear of asking things is a horrible horrible thing. The most clear cut example is in school when kids are afraid to ask questions, worried of slowing the class progress. Professors and teachers address this repeatedly, even with the horrid quote “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” I’m guilty of it to a certain degree I suppose, but I’ve gotten quite better in recent times.

But this fear of asking questions is so deeply threaded in our society that the idea of haggling is almost taboo. You don’t go into stores planning to haggle except for local shops. This is such a sad thing. Sure you can’t negotiate a Snickers bar for $0.25 but you can most definitely haggle for that $2500 stereo.

Today’s lesson though is a bit of a victory for me. It has to do with the ever-evil credit card companies. I only have one credit card, and it’s one I’ve had now for almost two years I think. It’s an American Express Student card and since I originally got it with the $600 limit on it, they’ve since let me rise up to $3000 in credit. Something I took advantage of when I was out of school, off of financial support and living outside my means.

Now I’m struggling to pay it back. Though I realize my debt is measley compared to much of the US, and indeed it’s small compared against most people my age, I’m determined to make the right financial choices.

Sure I eat out a lot and spend fairly freely, but I always have enough to make $200 on my credit card (which I no longer use.) Well last week I come across a fantastic down to earth article about personal finance. If you haven’t read this article you all should: Become Wealthy by Clayton Cramer.

And he points out the evils of credit card debt. So I sat down and figured out how much my credit card was costing me and was shocked to discover that my AmEx had ballooned to just over 30% APR. I had missed some payments when I was in tougher times but I hadn’t kept a close eye on the interest rates. So they were saying my minimum payment was $85 and I was spending $75 on it just in terms of interest. Sweet Jezus! I nearly wet my pants when I read that.

Paying $200 a month meant 17 months before it was paid off (I used some online calculator, CNN Money’s credit card calculator is excellent.) So my $2600 was going to end up costing me $3400, on top of whatever I’ve already paid to them. Ugh.

This morning I decided to ask them what I could do. I knew they would change APRs for people struggling to make payments, but would they do the same for someone able to pay up and over their minimum payment? I called them and spoke to a chirpy gal named Lisa and after phrasing my question she asked to put me on hold while looking over my account.

About two minutes later she came back and told me they had changed my APR to 16%!!! Nearly halving my interest rate. So now still at $200 a month it will only cost me ~$2900 to pay off my credit card. Still not ideal but oh so much better than it was earlier.

Five minutes of my time saved me $500 in interest. Eat that Geico.

Now to just get a job where I make more money. Anyone out there want to hire me as their blogging liasion? Hey, it never hurts to ask. 😉

The Devil Tempts Me

Today began like most any other Thursday morning. My alarm goes off at 7am and I bleary-eyed make my way to the shower, trying to wake up enough to put the shampoo in my hair and the body wash on my body. After the shower, I finish some homework and head off to class.

Class proceeds as usual, I on my laptop half paying attention, until we’re dismissed. I know I know, I should focus. I’m just so tired and the teacher rambles off into all these random topics which don’t relate to the topics at hand.

After class I run home to grab a check to deposit, and my list of errands to run. I hit the credit union and then I hit Men’s Wearhouse where I snagged the shirt I’ve been looking for. From there I head across the street to GNC, I’m almost out of my Whey protein powder so I go in there to snag another container. While I’m looking around the sales clerk/manager comes over, his name is Marlon and he’s a decently built guy, good shape, muscular frame, and he sells me.

I mean, this was a great pitch, hook, reel and sale. I just went for it like a moth to the flame. He sold me on the diet supplement, Hydroxycut. I knew about it, but hadn’t done any reading in depth about it and so I bought a month’s worth to “tryout.”

I get home and I log online, I research it looking for reviews. This is the new formula which is without the now FDA banned ephedra, so according to most reviews I read what MuscleTech (Hydroxycut’s maker) did was to bump the caffeine up through the roof.

If I take the recommended 2 pill servings, I’d be ingesting 600mg of caffeine. SIX HUNDRED milligrams. A red bull has 80mg in a 8oz can. Sweet Jesus. One Red Bull at 4pm lights me up until 2 in the morning. 12oz of Mountain Dew has 55mg of caffeine. (I’m getting the numbers from here

Past the caffeine, there are no resounding positive reviews, sure some people say it helped but nothing definite. So I decide to return it.

I finish my stuff around the house, making my food for the day and getting ready for work. I grab the Hydroxycut and receipt and head out the door. I swing by GNC on my way to work and talk to the same guy, explaining that I’m pretty damn sensitive to caffeine and that I don’t think I should take it.

He tells me to ignore the recommended doses and just to try it out. Even if I have opened the bottle, if I keep the receipt I can bring it back in for a refund. I, at this point, am very dubious and aware I’m being resold on it, and yet I relent and head out to my car.

It’s at this point I begin to reason with myself. On the one hand, I’m not looking for Hydroxycut to be a magic bullet, I’m working out and eating better, I’m just trying to get a boost on the weight loss to get me off this damn plateau. The proverbial angel and devil perch themselves on my shoulder and each plead their case.

My gut (haha) tells me I don’t want to take it. Something inherently feels wrong about it. I’ve always been a guy to avoid medicine, I hate taking pain killers and such. And so to consider taking this unnatural thing is bothering me. But also I’m trying to lose weight and it can help me.

I’m on a very slippery slope and very aware of it. I don’t like slippery slopes. So I think I’m pretty well set that I’ll be taking it back, but it’s just so tempting to get that extra oomph in my workout, to get that extra leg up on my weight loss.

The devil is perched next to me, promising me kingdoms of gold.

The Big Show

Well the show has come and gone and it went well. Very well. Monday was a blur. I took a test in the morning, sat impatiently through class then went to the theatre to do some work. We had had a fairly busy weekend and so I needed to stock concessions for the show. After about an hour the unthinkable happened, I dropped a bottle of Pepsi.

The world slowed to a crawl, I watched the bottle fall, and fall, and fall. It fell perfectly such that the neck slammed into the ledge of the cooler, cracking the plastic cap and it spewed Pepsi all over me. I grabbed it and muffled the spray in my hands, throwing it into the nearest trash can and listened to it hiss as I glowered in the now Pepsi soaked clothes.

Thank God I was aware that the universe would try to mess up the day, and so I literally had worn a completely different outfit than I planned for the show that night. So I had, in my car, a change of shirt, pants, socks, etc…

Once I was changed and toweled off I left the theatre and met my family for a pre-show dinner. We went to TGI Fridays and relaxed for a while, caught up with my Aunt and cousin and just generally laughed.

We all got to the theatre early, the show was at 8pm, I had to be there by 7pm, and my family got there early to guarantee that they got good seats. It was then that I really began to get pumped. The green room was abuzz with the energy and excitement and we were all eager to get the show going.

We warmed up in the theatre and then moved back into the green room, then watched in shock and eagerness as the theatre filled with friends, family, and passerby. We literally filled the theatre with over 200 people. It was to be expected with a cast of 14 players, but still, to see it is amazingly cool.

Finally the time came and the theatre went dark, John did the introductions and my team ran out on stage to thunderous applause. My family and friends had gotten great seats, center stage two and three rows back (my personal favorite seats in the house.) Dad was hooting and hollering as loud as I’ve ever seen him.

Common sense would say that coming on stage, for the first time, in front of 200 people, would be terrifying or exhilarating or something at least. The fact though is that I fell into my normal routines, sure I had a little more adrenaline, and I knew the audience was there, but I also knew that whether I was funny or not – I would be okay. And therein I found peace.

The show went by extremely fast, almost 2 hours long but for me it was done in a flash. I won’t recount the scenes I did, to retell them would only be academic and would lose all the humor in them.

After the show, we went out to the lobby and the people came by. Family and friends told me how great I was. Strangers congratulated and shook my hand. I smiled. I thanked them. But I was a zombie. Simply put, I was high. I stood next to myself, watched as someone shook my hand or hugged me, I watched as I hugged them or shook their hand back. It was an out of body experience. An amazing out of body experience.

After the show, the real wait began. The show is part of our graduation evaluation for the class, and as such our teacher gives us all individual reviews. With fourteen people, it is obviously going to take a while. We began around 10pm, and at first Dr. D was moving along at a good pace, 10 minutes a person, but by about 11:30 we had slowed down a fair bit. I was the last to go, I had to lock up the theatre on my way out. When I finally finished with him, we left the theatre at 1:45am. Almost four hours after the show ended.

By the time I left, my mood had dimmed. Not because of my review, in fact the review lifted my spirits, but because I ended up missing any post show celebration. People had left Fridays (where we were supposed to congregate) around 1am. I don’t blame Dr. D, it was unavoidable, I just wish that I had been able to get out and celebrate.

But the fun didn’t end there. Since then, I’ve enjoyed a minor taste of stardom. The next night at a normal show for the theatre I got a few compliments and pats on the back from people who saw the show. And then last night I went to the opening night for the new local show at Universal Studios, the Blue Man Group has opened a permanent venue down here. K had tickets to the show which had a reception/party afterwards and I got a huge boost to my ego because two people at the reception afterwards recognized me and told me how much they enjoyed my show. Wow. Talk about being blown away.

So the show went well. Life is good right now. Now to just keep on making the funny.

Remembering

Yesterday I was hit with an intense but short lived blast of stage fright. Today I was hit by something I already knew. It was something that has flashed through my head dozens of times, but today it took center stage. The show on Monday is going to miss a very important person in the audience.

Mom.

Yes, I know she’ll be there in spirit. But as good as that makes me feel, I still wish I could look into the audience, past the stage lights, and see her there grinning and waving to me. I wish it with all my heart, with all my being.

There was no greater joy than to be on the field playing Football in high school and to look up in the stands and see mom there waving at me. She and I talked about it during my freshman year and that I couldn’t wave back to her, the coaches wanted our heads in the game, so I told her that I would grab my face mask and “adjust” it as my way to wave back to her.

And so every game I played, sometime during the first quarter I would look into the stands and find the parents, then mom would see me looking and wave eagerly, and I would grin up behind the face mask, gripping the plastic coated bars and shift them visibly. And there we would share a moment, a bond between us.

God I miss her. She would be so excited about Monday. I can imagine her telling her friends, she’d be eager and excited to see it, to see what I could do. That was her joy, seeing her children accomplish things. Man, this is rough.

The show will go well on Monday, I’ll push these thoughts out and I’ll perform like I would if she were there, but until that point I’m embracing my memories of her and working through the emotions that come with it.