Periodically, I’ll get to the point where I’m almost incapable of writing new posts because every post idea I have is an old half-cooked one from two and a half weeks ago. And at the point at which there are twelve of these or so, it’s time to clean out the closet and just put the leftovers on the table for consideration. Could I mix my metaphors any more? Could I care any less?

Think of this like your Lewis Black interlude in The Daily Show, only way less painful and with punchlines that, where applicable, are capable of inducing at least a chuckle. On second thought, please consider nothing that I do remotely akin to Lewis Black in any way.

Stocks are the New Fantasy Football or It Takes a Distraction
If I’ve learned anything about trying to live life while somehow enmeshed in the trash compactor known as an American Day Job, it’s that one must find things one looks forward to doing at, around, or directly after work or one will spend far too much of one’s energy contemplating different ways to throw oneself in front of the train (or swerve the car off the road, etc.). I wish I were less serious.

The difference that having this (or these) upside distraction(s) make(s) cannot be underestimated. Simply cannot. It makes the difference between a spring in one’s step as one whistles on the way to the next lobotomizing task and being so overwhelmingly Eeyorishly depressed that one cannot hide it from one’s supervisor. (At least for me. Your possibly more emotionally flatline results may vary.)

When I worked at Seneca, I had to pull 16-hour shifts on Sundays with no breaks or lunches. This is legal, they told us, because we were technically in medical care, where apparently rules about taking care of people do not apply to employees. I think some people were told they could have breaks if they really raised a stink, but it was on them that the ratio dial was being turned from “Absolute Minimum Containment” down to “Life-Threatening”. And who wants that on a Sunday morning?

Nevertheless, there were natural downtimes in the rhythms, such as “Quiet Time” (less of a misnomer than the “Quiet Room”, I can tell you), where the kids played in their rooms for 15-20 minutes and staff got to be on the computer. Theoretically we were supposed to work on mental health notes during this time, but anyone who could write even such rote stuff in the midst of a 16-hour shift was differently constructed than I. I checked Fantasy Football.

It was perfect. I don’t even like football that much, but Sunday is devoted to football in America and the scores would roll in over the course of the day. Looking for opportunities to check football stats was the highlight of every Sunday, to the point where half the year was considerably more dreary because there was no football. But I started the job in August and that’s right when football gets going, so it acclimated me to 16-hour shifts as much as imaginable. And I wouldn’t have been able to get into it without Fantasy Football as a reason to care about so many different games and players. This whole association may actually be a big reason that I can’t play Fantasy Football any more – the associations are too strong.

Anyway, reading books on the train is definitely a big help in the current compactor, but that becomes inconsistent. Especially when I’m still immersed in The Idiot, which is really starting to show why it’s not discussed in the same breath as C&P and Brothers K, at least by most people. Basically, it seems there are about 40 pages of scattered brilliance that mostly consists of asides and non sequitirs sprinkled across a rather unremarkable story. Though I can sort of see why this book would’ve shaken up Russia’s society at the time it was written. Big D still has about 50 pages to salvage a message, though, so I’m holding out. Anyway, the point is that books help, especially if they are engaging and thus give me a reason to want to ride the train to work.

But stocks – stocks are the biggest help. Starting to play the stock market (I’ve basically broken even so far over 9 months, which I’m guessing is beating the average experience) has been my recent salvation from eight unending hours of drudgery. There’s always plenty of five-minute spurts in which I can take a break and get the rundown, and being on a computer all day makes it easy to keep in the background and monitor live-update sites. It’s gotten to the point where there’s a little pang of sadness in part of me every weekend because there are no exciting stock movements to keep an eye on. Which is perfect – if one’s resigned to not resigning a day job for a certain period, one wants a distraction so great that one misses it (just a little) during the weekend. (Please note that if this is making you want to stay at a job you should be leaving, you’ve gone too far. Use this method only in moderation to stay at jobs you have to for brief to middling periods of time.)

Huh. I guess that was plenty of post by itself after all. But wait, there’s more….

Time is Just a Bit Outside or Calendary Dreaming on Such a Winter’s Day
It occurred to me walking home from work in early January (maybe the first day back after all the breaks) that our calendar almost makes sense. I noticed that the days were getting longer again, as they say, and it was a new year. But these events are not quite aligned. Winter Solstice is 9-10 days before year’s end, when really it makes perfect sense to have it right at the end of the year. The shortest day of the year should always be the last, with the longest at mid-year. Doesn’t that just make obvious intuitive sense?

The only complication of this I can really see is that, for some reason, the Solstices and Equinoxes don’t always fall on the exact same calendar day. Which, if you think about it, seems to indicate that our calendar is off. Shouldn’t those always come around at the exact same time if a year is really what we say it is? But, of course, there are complications like the quarter-day (leap year every four) and the skipping of leap year every few leap years and the extra second and such. Years don’t comport with days perfectly, so there must be a little flexibility. However, I don’t think it would be too much trouble to alter our year length to ensure, at least, that the last day of the year is always Winter Solstice.

Anyway, this got me thinking about calendars and time and whether our current incarnation of a year really makes the most sense. Without going all Robespierre on you, I was going to present the case for a new 8-month calendar of evenly-sized 45-day months, punctuated by a brief universal holiday period of 5-6 days each year. But I wasn’t sure that was right – I was then thinking about changing the lengths of weeks to align more exactly and then maybe going back to 30-day months… it all got jumbled to the point where I decided I couldn’t post on it, pending further study.

So I’ll get back to you on the full-scale new calendar proposal, replete with equivalences of every current day to the newly proposed day. That might take a while. But I’m convinced that we should end each year with Winter Solstice. It’s just sort of obvious.

Analyze This or I Miss Debate
I’ve been dreaming a lot about debate lately. A lot. Sometimes the dreams make sense and sometimes they don’t, but it’s sort of reaching a critical mass.

This is not particularly new, though this recent wave is above average. For a long time, especially when I was still debating, I had debate anxiety dreams that closely mirror very common school anxiety dreams. I had a round about which I was uninformed, I was ironmanning (no partner), I didn’t have a case, I couldn’t find the room, I was late, etc. etc. (Sometimes, I swear, every single one of these would happen in one dream about one round.) Those have thankfully faded over time, though they still crop up every once in a while.

The last few years have graced me with many more painful dreams about debating in important rounds, often finals or at least outrounds, and realizing very sharply that I need to savor and enjoy this round because I will miss debate terribly painfully when it’s over and there will be no more chances to be part of a debate league and I don’t want to feel like I’ve left something on the table. The crippling disappointment that comes from waking up from these dreams long since retired from the debate circuit is indescribable. Especially since, in almost all of these dreams, the round never really got going. I just sort of lived in the milieu of the round without actually kicking off the debate.

(Which is a fairly typical thing in dreams for me – for the first fifteen years of my life, I could never eat anything in a dream. I would have dreams in the middle of grocery stores or restaurants and be unable to consume anything. Attempts to do so would either magically be rendered impossible or directly wake me up. This prohibition was actually lifted right around the time I became a vegetarian and started having accidental meat-eating anxiety dreams. Of course, I’ve always been able to die or splat on the ground or what have you in dreams, which is supposed to be impossible – or at least rare.)

It’s gotten to the point where I can actually identify and describe a place that is a frequent setting for my dreams that doesn’t seem to exist in real life. There are only about four such places I can think of, whose recurrence is so strong that they have become real places in my mind despite not tying to any real locale during waking hours. In the dreams, it’s always called “Dartmouth” but is absolutely nothing like any venues actually on the Dartmouth College campus. I think a subconscious association of that school’s tournament and my success is in play here, even though my sophomore year there was my only final. It was my first varsity victory, after all. It’s (the dream venue) a relatively modest GA/final round lecture hall – modest in size, I should say, but pretty grand in decor. It’s aligned a certain way, with the lectern raised about half a person’s height atop ascending stairs on the right side and the colors are vaguely red and gold, but faded in the way of day-to-day college campuses.

There are more details, but I won’t bore you. The point is that this place has become real and I think about it often, even though it doesn’t exist. A place hasn’t ensconced itself this substantially in my mind since the aquarium room with the shark tank and the holes in the glass and the paralyzing dilemma about drowning vs. death by shark tooth. Which still pops up from time to time, but has mercifully receded from the fever-pitch of a decade ago.

I was going to talk about a specific debate dream I had just two nights ago, but maybe another time. It’s getting late and this Roundup has become more of a Cattle Drive.