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Vacation Tyranny; Plus, Boodle Mining

I have a bunch of vacation time coming to me that, under company rules, I have to use by the end of October. Else it goes poof. But who has time to take time off? No one. It's not that kind of economy. If I took that vacation I'd come back to the office and discover not only that I'd lost my job, but that the entire newspaper industry had collapsed. They need me.

So I'll probably lose some of the vacation hours. But maybe I can take one solid week off. By "solid" I mean no cheating, no furtive blogging, no popping into the office to kill spam in the email inbox. I will be not merely "off" but rather "off-off," a special category. Serious vacation. Off-off-off. Does that make sense? Off-off-off-off, is what I'm saying. Tell me if this is obtuse.

Let's face it, most of in the laboring trades are losing the ability to avoid working on vacation. The phrase "working vacation" has become redundant. The WSJ did a piece recently, I vaguely recall, about the trend in super-short vacations. The two-week vacation block has been whittled down to four or five days, essentially a long weekend. What's maddening is when the amount of time you take off is precisely correlated with the amount of extra work you must do before and after your vacation. There is a set amount of work you are expected to do and taking time off doesn't affect that. And make no mistake: Although no supervisor would admit it, employees who are on vacation are generally viewed as slacking off. You come back to work and the boss says, "How was your goofing-- excuse me, how was your vacation?"

This past weekend when I went to the beach I made the heroic decision to leave the laptop at home. There are moments when you want to test yourself, to see if you're still capable of performing certain time-honored feats, like hula-hooping, or swinging on monkey bars, or not working at the beach. I enjoyed not working, but it did feel like a stunt, and vaguely inappropriate for a man of my stature. The little voice said: Act your age.

Next big conundrum: What will I do if I take a week off? Maybe take a trip to Hogtown. Or visit the bro in Colorado. I could do house projects with power tools that I keep meaning to buy. I could go on a weed-extermination binge. Rain death upon noxious vegetation. Fix up the garage.

Take a language class?

Read some of the great books I keep hearing about?

Work on my people skills? Learn how to "listen" and "be considerate" and all that nonsense?

Hmmmm....It's kind of daunting. It's literally exhausting to think about all that free time!

On second thought, I'll just come to the office and kill spam mercilessly.


You'll like Eric Zorn's homonym quiz.


Via bloggingheads, here's George Johnson reviewing a collection of Freeman Dyson essays.

In a science of unifiers, Dyson prides himself as a diversifier. "I gazed at the stars as a young boy," he once wrote. "That's what science means to me. It's not theories about stars; it's the actual stars that count."


Revisiting my comment yesterday about whether global warming is the gravest threat ever to face humankind: The WSJ has a blog item today about a New Republic story [subscription required] arguing that species extinction is a bigger problem than global warming. Obviously both these things are related, in that they are largely the result of human impacts. But getting tunnel vision on GW isn't a wise idea in a Post-Darwinian World:

'...the danger of global warming has distracted environmentalists from the graver fate of species extinction, say two biologists in the New Republic. The focus on global warming is understandable, in part because the ramifications of a loss of biodiversity are harder to document, say the University of Chicago's Jerry Coyne and Harvard University's Hopi Hoekstra. But the authors say that even at the slowest estimated rate, species extinction is the primary environmental problem humans face, with global warming a related but secondary worry. They say as many as 30,000 species disappear a year due to human activity.'


Speaking of not blogging: I really should spend more time boodle mining. There are so many good comments here. Here are just a few of them:

Eurotrash: Over here we don't (yet) do the Mc Mansions. But we do have this horrible style of housing ... called "fermettes" (little farms) This one is as typical as they get. There are thousands like these all over Flanders. And they seem to get bigger and bigger every year. The landscaping that goes with them is a boring lawn with maybe a couple of raised beds with flowers. If I had the money I'd buy this one: That's my kind of house. (A steal at only 420.000 USD)


TBG: The problem with McMansions is not that they have 16 bedrooms--they usually have only four, just like I do. They are just HUGE bedrooms that open into HUGE hallways. The front hall is usually HUGE, with

a very high ceiling and lots of wasted space. There's usually a big, open HUGE empty area somewhere in the kitchen--much of that wasted space as well. Even if you had a bigger family, a house designed like that wouldn't be much better than my house if you're sharing bedrooms and bathrooms anyway. I wouldn't want a larger house; in fact I'd be happy with a much smaller house--with a settin' porch in front and a screened porch in back.


dr: I love looking at house plans. I think I missed my calling. Very often McMansion plans are not really livable houses, they are just monuments to an idiot. Grand entrances with bedrooms no bigger than some in the mobile homes I've been intimately acquainted with and kitchens so poorly designed that a child couldn't make mud pies in it.

When we first had satellite TV, A & E was showing America's Castles very early Saturday mornings. I can't think of more than 2 or 3 houses which was ever lived in a substantial number of years by the people who built it. Confirmation of my own philosophy that dream houses should remain as dreams. (My dream home actually looks an awful lot like a mobile home, much to the chagrin of mr dr.)

Speaking of European building methods versus North American building methods, I know of a house built here European style. The family was from Germany, the papa was a contractor, and could simply not imagine building a house without building it to last. It has walls feet thick, and is THE coolest place I know.


bc: Personally, I don't need a big house.
When I think about it, maybe I don't need a house at all.

All I need is an 8000 sq ft garage with a 12 ft ceiling, a pair of lifts, hardline fittings for compressed air every 8 ft around the perimeter, a full array of lathes, welders, presses, metal brakes, hand and air tools, a paint booth, sandblasting cabinet, an oven (to bake powdercoated pieces), a stove (to boil ring gears in water before fitting them to differentials), a parts washer/sink, a toilet, refrigerator/freezer, a couch, a bed, and a TV that gets all the sports channels, and I'm good to go.

Hmm. Better make that a 10000 sq ft garage.
1970 Plymouth Superbirds are long, long cars and take up a lot of space.

By Joel Achenbach  |  September 18, 2007; 10:57 AM ET
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