Category Archives: Personal

Identifying the Madness: Jason and OCPD

While researching OCD for fiction, I stumbled upon OCPD: Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. Suddenly I was reading most accurate personality profile ever presented to me. From Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary 18th ed 1968:

[OCPD] is characterized by a pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, mental and interpersonal control at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency.

That’s broad, so let’s not leap to conclusions. I have hypochondriatic tendencies (though as we will shall see, that itself is a manifestation of OCPD). According Brainphysics.com, OCPD is when everything has to be “just right”:

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is the mental disorder of striving for too much success. Perfection is the ultimate goal of the OCPD person, and failure is seen as earth shattering. OCPD is the disorder that, on the outside, seems useful. A drive to succeed is very appealing, but OCPD pushes it past the line of success and into the realm of isolation, anxiety, and depression.

I’m a perfectionist, and utterly crushed by failure. I see failure everywhere: My ability to navigate a 4-way stop, order food at a restaurant or make small talk with coworkers. When I lose a video game, or my OS glitches, I’m not merely annoyed, I’m furious. I want to destroy things.

But let’s not take the perfectionism/anxiety relationship as proof of OCPD. Read More →

We loved our prima donna, and we’ll miss her terribly.

I’d never played poker before Brenda’s party, but it wasn’t the cards I remembered when I left. It was the cat. The improbably-named “Flurffy” associated me with a previous tall, curly-haired owner and spent more time on my lap than I spent on cards.

When Brenda got pregnant and wanted to downsize her number of pets, she turned to Flurrfy’s original adopter, Jason Quigley, but his allergic wife and young daughter were reasons why Brenda had Flurrfy instead.

Quigley and Brenda turned to us. Read More →

The move

Mission comprete

The trouble with multiple passions.

Recently, a good friend from work changed jobs, which prompted the exchange of all manner of contact information. Including, naturally, my website, where I hope all friends past and present will converge in unanimous pride once I make good on my career as a writer.

This event forced me to realize the website is woefully behind.

The reasons for this are simple, but multitudinous. Speaking of work, for example, I devoted a good deal of time to applying for a position more suited to my talents; sadly I did not get it, but bucking for a promotion (even a beneficial lateral move) can be all sorts of time-consuming.

Additionally, I have begun playing guitar again. But as with any of my hobbies, it is not enough to merely do the hobby; I have to explore new outlets for the hobby. So not only am I playing guitar, but I am practicing vocals, and trying to take recordings for the purpose of eventually producing a demo album and posting on Youtube.

And if that weren’t enough, several long-awaited video game titles have occupied much of my leisure time; among them, Final Fantasy XIII and Starcraft 2. As with guitar, merely playing is not enough; I have to go Achievement hunting. In Starcraft 2, I have to compete in leagues which are unlikely for the casual player to attain.

It’s not enough for me to merely experience a thing. I have to explore the ramifications and possibilities of it. The advantage of it is that I learn lots about many things. My friends who are serious video gamers do not have hobbies like writing and music. My friends who are musicians are not gamers. My friends who are writers are normally not either one.

Trying to be all three — and many more, such as, for example, a competent chess player, or an educated film buff, or decent theologian — takes its toll on the expertise I can bring to any particular role.

One reason I created this site was to force myself to admit that though I have many passions and hobbies, writing is first and foremost the one in which I want to succeed above all others. Now and again, it does serve to remind me of that.

Laptop In For Repairs

Bedroom 1 is our master. Bedroom 2 is our gaming office.

Bedroom 3 is my writing office.

Of course, without having two computers for myself, having this extra office was useless. We kept the door shut and the vent closed to save on energy, and never entered it except to retrieve something from the closet.

But for months last year, I saved up and finally bought a laptop to serve both for mobile gaming (when necessary), but primarily as my writing computer. This made my office truly a place for writing for the first time since we moved to this apartment.

But now I’m getting white lines across the screen horizontally. I checked my warranty online, which is one year full service (Asus has good warranties).

Unfortunately, the instructions were to take the machine to the point of sale. A trip to Best Buy yesterday revealed that they would have to send the laptop offsite for ten to fourteen business days for repairs.

“At no cost to you,” the young man assured me. “It’s covered by your warranty.”

At no cash cost to me, you mean? Time is money. Every day that my laptop is in the shop is a day that a whole room of our apartment can’t fill its designated purpose.

This may not seem like a big deal to you, but the transition from having a designated place for writing was huge. It affects you mentally. There’s a psychological reaction that kicks in when you return to the same place for the same activity. This is why sleep experts advise you not to read or watch tv in bed, but only to sleep, because then even the act of getting in bed will trigger a Pavlovian response of shutting down your brain and body.

Ever turn on the tv and IMMEDIATELY want a snack? That’s because having eaten in front of the tv, you’ve triggered a psychosomatic response wherein your body equates television with food.

I know I’m not alone in wanting to write locked in a room by myself. I just read the introduction to Rachel and Leah by Orson Scott Card, and due to weird schedule constraints, he wrote the book in the passenger seat of a car during a regular trip. He confessed this was the first book he’s ever written with someone else in the room.

It makes a difference.

And now I get to go without my laptop for up to 14 days. This is 14 days where I’m effectively wasting 1/5th of my rent (the cost difference when we moved from a 2B to a 3B). So no, amateur-counter-retail-guy, it doesn’t ‘cost’ my anything to have my laptop fixed in your pea brain.

But out here in the real world, it DOES cost me.

Fortunately, I have continued writing on my desktop (gaming) computer, but I’m not happy about it.

The Most Valuable Gift I Got This Christmas

Remember the non-fiction book I mentioned? Of course you don’t; imagine my ego to assume that you would! The nerve of me.

Doesn’t matter. My grandparents gave me the book pictured left, which before cracking it open and reading a page, I thought, “That’s nice” and didn’t think much else.

Then I started to read.

In just two weeks I have become the biggest fan of Dave Ramsey’s teachings about money management. I’d already heard of another book by Ramsey, Financial Peace, because I have a coworker whose a big fan of it. I had already begun to enact some of those principles in how I spend money, for no other reason than because they just made sense. The Total Money Makeover appears to be the cliffnotes version of Financial Peace in shorter, broader strokes.

He begins the book by telling you what the book is NOT, which I love:

The book is NOT politically correct.

It is NOT a way to get rich quick.

It does NOT contain secrets (or even details) of investing.

It does NOT solve your problems without hard work.

What it does do, at least what it has done for me, was convince me that with a little sacrifice and a lot of effort and attention, my wife and I can be debt free in a few short years, and through rigorous investing thereafter, might retire as millionaires.

Again, no “get rich quick” schemes or gimmicks; he’s talking about spending years and years and years investing, and that’s only after you’ve freed up tremendous amounts of your income compared to the average American.

The steps themselves are simple, but most people just don’t exercise the discipline to put them into action.

1. Save up $1,000 liquid emergency fund.

2. Pay down your smallest debt. After that debt is paid, use its monthly payment as additional money for your next smallest debt. Use both those payments in your third smallest, and so forth.

There are more steps, but I’m going to pause right there because that’s the one that has me fired up and excited. Because it’s so easy if you just actually do it.

I’ve tried to talk to friends and co-workers about this, and as Dave predicts in his book, they just don’t get it.

“Imagine having no payments except your mortgage by 2012,” I posit.

My friends answer this as if I’d said, “Imagine having a flying horse by 2012,” and they answer appropriately.

“That sure would be nice. Keep dreaming.”

What? No. I’ve already done the math.

In our case (me and my wife’s), we attended an expensive private school (we didn’t know any better. We do now.) So our debt is going to take a bit longer to pay off: ~4 years at our current salaries. That may sound like a long time, but in my case, that’s roughly half the time it took me to go to school. Had we started the first year we were out of school, we’d be done by now.

It’s not magic, it’s not mythical, and it’s not hypothetical. It’s posssible.

But most Americans truly cannot even imagine living without debt, and dogmatically insist that it’s impossible to have no credit cards and no car payments, and no payments of any kind.

In the meanwhile, I’m convinced that most people have no idea just how much money they make because they throw quite a lot of it away. I’ve looked at the numbers in our budget, and without loans, we’d have a lot of spending money, even after rigorous investing. And I can tell you, we don’t make that much money overall. Neither of us pulls a salary I would consider even remotely “comfortable”. But when you look at where all the money is going, and how much of it is wasted on interest, it becomes clear there’s a lot more to be had than we thought.

If we manage it intelligently.

Step 3 is to save 3-6 months of expenses in some liquid form.

Step 4 is to invest 15% of your gross income. Which should be a cakewalk if you have no bills except mortgage and utilities.

Step 5 is to save for your children’s college eduction.

Step 6 is to pay off your mortgage. Entirely.

During all of this, you don’t charge ANYTHING to a credit card or loan. Ever. No 90 days same as cash. No car payments – you pay cash. No student loans; if you want to go to school, you pay cash.

People will insist you need a good credit rating. Why? If you aren’t borrowing anything, whom do you have to depend on for credit?

I’m sold, and I’m determined to be a millionaire by the time I retire, even if (god forbid) I never sell a single book. Not by some magic formula or get rich quick scheme. But by making the necessary sacrifices now to eliminate debt and keep more of my own paycheck.

I’ve done the math myself. There’s no reason it won’t work, except possibly lack of follow-through.

But by now, most of you already think I’m crazy for trying. That’s okay. I expected that.

Happy Blue Year

A Blue MoonWelcome 2010.

To me, a new year is intimidating in much the same way a blank sheet of paper (physical or word processed). My imagination offers me limitless potential, which has a way of freezing me in place. There are too many possibilities, and I don’t dare sully the new page or year with throwaway text. Whatever I write next sets the tone for every page that follows, right?

There’s just too much pressure to get it right.

What shall I cover?

The most dangerous drive, round trip, of my entire life?

Finally seeing my family again after a year and a half?

North Carolina’s new ban on smoking in restaurants and bars?

My co-worker who was arrested after living for years under a secret identity?

New Year’s [yawn] resolutions?

My vote is:

None of the above. As a storyteller, I have an obligation to share with you each of those tales. But I have a bigger obligation to get them right, and there just isn’t time right now.

Mentioning the constraint of time remains me that a New Year is less like a blank page than you might think. It is already filled with commitments and obligations; we don’t return to work to scrap last year’s projects and start with new ones. Our financial situation is the same on 1/1 as it was on 12/31. There’s no mystical erasure at work when the clock strikes midnight.

Just an opportunity to reflect how we might do better going forward. Last year, for example, I started this website. It didn’t magically infuse my writing career, but it has helped mold me as a writer.

So let me contend myself with wishing you well, and hoping you had as much fun over the holidays as I did, sans road hazards and travel aggravations.I urge you not to make undeliverable promises to yourselves or others. I think it’s more useful just to consider how we might improve in general, and to make progress on some of the goals we already had.

A New Year, much like a blue moon (which occurred this New Year’s Eve), is a mundane rarity. Make use of it without letting it hold you in awe.

But make it a good one.