On weddings and rings

I spent time with a couple of friends this weekend that will, within the next couple of years, likely be getting married and starting a family. They spent much of our time together talking about houses and children and wedding rings, which brought me to an interesting revelation.

I care not one whit about wedding rings. Dresses, either, but the ring was a big topic of discussion.

He’s planning on getting her a ring from Tiffany’s. It’s important that the diamond not be synthetic, because their love is real and the ring should be, too. Nor should the ring be less than about $1800, because their love is worth a symbol of at least that much monetary value. The ring is from Tiffany’s because their rings shine across the room, and that’s important.

I was so disappointed.

I know that this really boils down to my “people vs. stuff” issues — I care very little for “stuff” and even less for “stuff” that pretends to be symbolic. I have no need of a reminder of my love for my SO or my friends, because I already think of them often (even if I don’t email or call). I have no need of a public status symbol — no, you may not call me “Mrs.”, and I’ll tell you if your attentions are unwelcome (you can believe that!).

In fact, I realized that night, talking with WO, just how foreign all the trappings of traditional American weddings are to me. I didn’t know, for instance, that there are traditionally three rings: the engagement one with the rock, and the matching pair of his-and-her simple wedding bands.

I certainly had no idea they were so expensive. My friend will probably spend upwards of $3000 on her engagement ring, given what they were looking at in Tiffany’s.

That’s a lot of money. I still don’t quite — emotionally — understand what that money’s being spent on.

My thoughts on weddings are simple. Their purpose — to me — is to make public, to your “community” (with “community” being selectively picked, rather than everyone and their uncles you don’t want to offend) your vow to the person or people you’re marrying. Then you go celebrate that vow and everyone’s involvement in that, and trust that your friends/community will support you and yours when times get rough, just as you have and will for them.

That involves no broomsticks, no rings, no fancy dresses, nothing old or new or blue. Nothing but a nice room that will fit everyone, some well-picked words, a big-ass cake for everyone to share (tiered cheesecake, for instance), some punch (spiked or otherwise), and hot music of our choice for dancing. Just like almost any other celebration.

It’s a reason to come together and celebrate with those you love. How did we end up so wrapped up in rings and dresses and reading canned vows?

User-focused development

Examine, if you will, the core design, development, and support trio of a company’s flagship product. This trio considers the product’s users dumb and stupid and “fucking retarded”. They’ve been told 30 times that a date looks like 3/19/2008, not 3/19/08, and certainly not “next Thursday”. They’ve been given the manuals and a tour through the product. They must be retarded if they repeatedly break the software.

Customer support is, of course, a supremely annoying job. The customers don’t know what they’re talking about, and almost everything is a training issue.

But those users keep that company afloat and its employees able to eat. Their needs are simple, and many are easy to ascertain: they’d like for places where they put in data to gently remind them of when they do it incorrectly. They’d like the system to, if/when it fails, to fail gracefully and with a helpful message. They’d like consistency in navigation, and ways to do common tasks in their workflow with a minimum of steps and mouse clicks.

But if the customers are “fucking retarded”, their requests for help are best put aside until coding is done on this or that feature, and their needs irrelevant in the development of the software…

Who exactly is this software made for?

Shameless plug: MS Walk

March 29, 2008. 07:30. Symphony Park. Charlotte, NC.

I’ll be walking in the MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Walk with Dulin, Shelly, and several others. The walk is either a 2.5 mile or 5 mile walk, depending on how I feel that morning (and, likely, what others are doing).

I’m crazy excited. It’s not a race, but I consider it a first step in my goal to engage in races in the near future. Plus, it’s the first fund-raising walk I’ve done since freshman year of college.

To make the walk worthwhile as a fund raiser for MS, however, I need to, well, raise money. If you’re in Charlotte, you could also join Team Chipmunkabun (don’t ask… I didn’t name it) through the same page.

Multiple sclerosis is unpleasant stuff. I’ve known two people diagnosed with it, one of which will be walking with me that Saturday. Another was a young girl, just 3 years old, who often couldn’t get out of bed. I was young then myself and didn’t really understand her affliction beyond that it was “MS” and what her symptoms were. I was in her proximity for about 5 years, and she always struggled, every day. There didn’t seem to be much hope of relief for her.

The proceeds from the Walk will be used by the National MS Society to fund research for a cure and help maintain and instantiate programs to help support those diagnosed with MS.

So. If you can or are willing to spare a few dollars, I’d very much appreciate your support. I plan to have a fully-charged digital camera there with me to get pictures of the turnout.

Succeeding at life

I’m at an interesting, forward-moving period in my life. As you may have noticed by the abundance of links around here on the topics, I’ve been studying up (geeking, if you will) on productivity and personal finance.

My personal finance skills have been shit all my life. My parents were horrible role models in finance — no savings to speak of, horrendous amounts of debt, and a nice stack of neglected debts (foreclosures and the like). What I learned from my parents was how to live paycheck to paycheck. It wasn’t that money slipped through the cracks, necessarily, but it was that they were fine living in the moment.

Living poorly off of a teacher’s salary for 6 months (which is really plenty of money) taught me that I don’t want to live that way. I’ve written already about my debt — I have it, and ignoring it won’t make it go away. I’ve also written already about my budgeting. Nothing new there.

But I’ve been integrating personal finance with Getting Things Done productivity with Zen-To-Done productivity, and I’m in a strangely elated place.

I read both of Dave Ramsey’s “important” books — Financial Peace and Total Money Makeover. There wasn’t much new in the books, since I’d read the details of his process through blogs. What was new, though, were the forms in the back of the book. I’ve digitized those forms into Google Spreadsheets for my viewing and editing pleasure. I don’t use his paper budget, but I did get ideas for expenditure categories I hadn’t thought of from his.

Now, my budgeting isn’t quite settled yet. I started budgeting at the beginning of January, and left CMS at the end of January. I didn’t have steady income for about a month after that, but kept up on the budgeting. Now that I’m gainfully employed, the checks will start rolling in. So I haven’t had a full month of income while budgeting yet. Nonetheless, PearBudget is serving me well.

Next up is GTD and ZTD. When I left teaching, I decided to spend my time off focusing on my productivity, projects, and goals. I did a very good job on the productivity and projects. I use Palm Desktop and ShadowPlan for my GTD implementation — nothing particularly fancy there. What’s nice, though, is that my PDA (especially when combined with my Targus Stowaway keyboard), is a complete mobile office for me, sans Internet. (In fact, the first draft of this post was typed in SiEd.) I’ve gotten into the habit of doing weekly reviews and setting my 3 Most Important Things every day. It’s been awesome, and I feel like I’m making progress in my life.

Last weekend, though, was the first of the month. It was my first First of the Month, though, so I woke up on Saturday at 06:30 very excited. I did my GTD weekly review and ZTD monthly review of my goals.

Goals? Hmm. I have projects, but I’d been treating those as goals. A bit of reading I did (here and here) suggests that I should set yearly goals separately. I don’t like New Year’s resolutions, so I didn’t bother setting any back in January. Last weekend, though, following that advice, I wrote out my lifetime goals and set my one for the year. Rather than focusing on several goals this year, I’m going to go full out on one. Zen Habits suggests that you make one of your MITs every day something that helps you reach that goal.

It’s hard. There’s so much I want to do. My plate is full of projects — the game WO and I are writing, my volunteering, my cats (who require a decent amount of playtime, lately), weight loss, upwards financial progress — to take just one goals and hit it every day is intense.

I have a slew of posts I’m writing and even more topics I want to write about. Now that I’m more comfortable with my job schedule, posting here will become a higher priority.

And I’ll finish with what I promised so long ago: cat pictures! They’ve been out of their cones for about two weeks now, but I still load up these pictures when I need a laugh.

Jackie (my Sexy Mama kitty):
Big cone!

Look me in the eye...

Greg (my distinguished gentleman of a cat):
Gorgeous Greg

Greg in a cone