The song I currently have stuck in my head

“Love Child” by Diana Ross and the Supremes.

Yesterday I made a run across the street to Walgreens, passing a girl in a tube top on the way (remember, it’s still June). As I was getting my shopping done, “Love Child” was playing on the store speakers.

Now I can’t get it out of my head. I’ve been playing it over and over nonstop for the past two hours, alternating between dancing around the apartment and writing the previous blog entry.

What sad lyrics.

I’ve changed my mind: July WILL have a theme after all

This is going to be a stark contrast to tube top month, but it’s a series I’ve been thinking about writing for a months and months now. I’m going to call it “Life Lessons.” It will be a summary of some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned over the years, usually presented with examples. I haven’t thought through the exact format yet. It will probably evolve over the course of the month.

I will be writing these for me as much as for my blog viewing audience. But, you the reader are encouraged to send me comments and life lessons of your own.

Unlike June, I am not promising that every journal entry will be about life lessons. So you may well tune in and find me talking about how I went down to the basement of my building and watched a cockroach lay an egg. Or what the bums are drinking this week. But I will say that I am going to make a good faith effort to make this series happen.

It’s not July yet, but how about a little preview anyway:

Life Lesson 1
Enjoy the process, love the process, focus on the process. Not the outcome.

My first exposure to this lesson (at least when I recognized it as such) occurred when I was teaching college. It drove me positively crazy to see my students overfocus on grades.

I’ve got to pull my average up to 90 so I can get an A!

Please, sir, can I get some extra credit so I can add two more points to my grade? It doesn’t have to be meaningful or anything, I just need the two points.

I hope I can memorize this list of facts long enough to get through the final exam and get my B.

I tried so hard to make them understand that they should be focusing on the process of learning. That if they took full advantage of all the resources they had – textbooks, their teacher, supplementary materials, their naturally curious minds – good grades would be a natural consequence. Some of them got it. Some didn’t. But those that did were generally the ones that were happiest and most successful in the real world.

If you work in sales, you better take this rule to heart. Last year when I tried my hand at credit card merchant sales, I hadn’t and I positively SUCKED at it as a result. I’d get most of the way – I’d get a second or third meeting with a fitness center, or restaurant, or limo service. And at that point I’d start thinking, “I have to make this sale. If I do, it will prove that I really can do this. And if not, oh my God, I’ll be a failure, and this is my livelihood, how will I eat? How will I pay my rent?”

And inevitably, the deals would fall through. The limo service went with their bank. The fitness center owner had a friend in the same line of work as I was. The restaurant cancelled their order for my $800 terminal and bought a $200 used model on eBay. And my day would be ruined. There would be days when I’d knock off at noon and just go sit at the coffee shop because I couldn’t deal with that again.

Sometimes I’d get one. But I’d still be so attached to the outcome – the sale – that I’d negotiate away all or most of my commission. So I’d come out feeling miserable even when I won.

How much better would it have been if I had said, “Let’s go in there and see what happens. Maybe I’ll get the sale and maybe I won’t, but if my goal is to learn from the situation and improve my game so that I sell more effectively in the future, there’s a 100% chance of success.”

Then I would’ve looked at the encounter with the limo driver and thought, “Yeah, I didn’t get it, but I got him to the third meeting. I obviously peaked his interest or he wouldn’t have invited me back. What did I do right those first few times that can be repeated on future sales calls?”

I could also have said, “There was a point when I blew it, when I didn’t get the sale. What can I notice about that, so I can head it off next time?” And then learned the lesson, and put it aside.

Perhaps the most important application of this rule, however, is in relationships. Focusing on one particular outcome is the kiss of death. “I have to be with this person. If only I could get them to like me… how will I live without them?” This kind of mindset will make you too serious, smothering the lightheartedness/playfulness that is so very important to success in relationships.

When I’ve successfully applied this rule, I’ve found that getting the “does she like me? does she like me?” question out of my head allows me to focus on her. It allows me to notice when I’m really connecting with her, so I can take steps to make that happen again in the future. It allows me to notice when I’m doing something that annoys her, so I can learn not to do that again.

This is a hard one to actually apply in practice though. For every time I’ve gotten it right, I’ve messed it up dozens.

All right. That’s the first in the series. I’ve thought of two more as I typed this one. Some of these are going to be basic, some complex. Many of them are ones I’ve compounded from various sources; a few will be completely original. Over and out.

Mail bag

As promised, it’s time to catch up on the mail once again.

Subj: Have more fun in the bedroom

You know, I’ve been thinking about buying one of those ten-in-one game tables and putting it in my bedroom. One of those ones that lets you play checkers, chess, backgammon, parcheesi, and some other games. That would certainly add more fun to my bedroom, don’t you think?

Subj: Bigger? My, my!

Okay, this is one where the image in my head is so funny that I can’t stop laughing long enough to think of something witty and amusing to type in response. I mean, imagine if I had a girlfriend, and I bought the penis enlargement system advertised in this e-mail. And one night we’re getting it on, and she sees it… and says, “Bigger? My, my!” Oh god that’s hilarious.

Can’t wait to sober up and see if it’s still as funny then. I have a feeling it will be Monday before that happens, because it’s almost time to go to church. And by church, I mean Sleep Out Louie’s.

My friend/neighbor Carmel owns a tube top now. It’s baby blue, according to her. Haven’t seen it yet. That has nothing to do with anything else in this post, but I had to get the theme in there somehow.

Oh, and Meredith had a tube top on last night too. Most of the people reading this blog don’t know Meredith. Then again, as drunk as I was she could have had on an Eskimo parka and I would’ve mistaken it for a tube top.

Is it July yet?

Subj: paul is your pen1s on call all the time

Some of my friends who are employed in the information-technology sector have to be on call every other weekend. Meaning, if the server goes down, they have to go in. If a critical bug in their code causes their applications to crash, they have to go in. That absolutely has to SUCK. Their weekend is not truly their own. So, I wouldn’t wish that on my pen1s. I want my pen1s to be free to do whatever it wants. Sounds like I should stop wearing underwear.

Subj: Girls like it

Must be an e-mail about Tupperware.

God. This blog is hitting an all-time low. June, hurry up and get over.

All right. It’s 10:15 AM, which means the bars will be open in 45 minutes. Plans for today:

1) Go to Sleep Out’s and drink a bottle of

Wait, scratch that.

1) Go up to the roof and see if my cute neighbor from the second floor is laying out in her bikini.

2) Go to Sleep Out’s and drink a bottle of Tott’s Brut. And probably eat some fried crawfish tails.

3) Come back home. Pop open one of the bottles of Cook’s champagne in my fridge. Drink it.

4) Pop open the other bottle of Cook’s. Drink it.

5) Write a blog entry even stupider than this one, if that’s possible.

6) Back up to the roof to watch the sunset and see if Carmel has her new tube top on.

Obviously a very full day. Whew, it’s 88 outside already! Time to get started.

Why July will not be a theme month

June is drawing to a close. Only 4 more days left to celebrate tube top month. But, as I mentioned in the last entry, July will not be a theme month for my blog.

Ever watch The Real World on MTV? The first few seasons were just awesome. Remember the San Francisco season, with Puck? Good times.

Then they ruined it. They started doing a theme every season. The roommates had some kind of job that tied them all together. One season they worked at a radio station. Another, they gave tours on sailboats. Another, they volunteered at a children’s center.

The roommates couldn’t be themselves anymore. The common/shared job became a limitation more than a uniting factor. We couldn’t see them being spontaneous. In the early seasons, some of the roommates went to school, some held jobs, some pursued music careers. They all did their own thing. But once the job came along, all that changed. And they had to start recruiting neurotic/psycho roommates to make the show interesting.

Anyway… point is, in July I want to be free to express myself, without limitation. So, no theme.

Hope this made sense. It’s almost 10 AM as I type this and I’m still drunk from last night, and not in the best of moods. Maybe doing a “Mail Bag” will turn me around, there’s lots of mail in the inbox. There may be another entry coming real soon…

My work, featured in an art gallery…sort of

Last night I headed to South Main for the monthly Trolley Art Tour. My first stop was 314 S. Main, where my friend Danita Beck was having her farewell-to-Memphis show. As I was walking around looking at her work, what did I discover on the wall but a quote from this very blog!

June 3, 2004: “Friday night I will be attending a reception for my friend Danita Beck’s exhibit “Biopic – A Narrative in 25 Images” at Universal Art Gallery, 111 G.E. Patterson near the corner of Main. Not only is Danita an accomplished artist, but she’s also the chair of Mpact’s Community Involvement Pillar. Please come out and support her! The reception lasts from 6 to 9 pm.”

It was on the wall in two places. As far as I know, that’s the first time anything I ever did was featured in an art gallery. Probably the last, too.

About an hour and five glasses of wine later, I ran into a friend of mine who is a regular Trolley Tour attendee and also a regular reader of this blog. She and I had a great conversation about what qualifies as a tube top, and she made some very insightful comments. “If it’s a real tube top it should be form-fitting all the way down,” she said. “I’ve seen some that are tight at the top, but then they flare out. I don’t think those are tube tops. They’re strapless tops, but not tube tops.” Excellent, excellent point. It’s a pleasure to speak with someone who communicates herself so eloquently.

She continued, “If it has straps that tie around your neck, it’s a halter top, not a tube top. If it has straps that go over the shoulders, it’s a tank top. A tube top doesn’t have any straps.” She also agreed that untying the neck strap of a halter top and saying “see, it stays up without the strap” does not turn it into a tube top. (ATTN CARMEL: Go back and re-read this paragraph a few times)

Today is June 25…just think, only five more days and this will go back to being a regular blog and you won’t have to read this idiotic blabbering about tube tops anymore. I’ve decided there will NOT be a theme for the month of July, for reasons I’ll explain in a future journal entry.

So, anyway, not much else happened for the remainder of Trolley Tour night. By 9:00 I had drunk an astounding TEN glasses of wine, and then I went to Earnestine & Hazel’s and had a beer at Nate’s upstairs bar. I was home passed out by 10:45.

Other random stuff:

– Happy birthday to my friend Kenny, who is one of my oldest drinking buddies from my Six-1-Six days in the 1990s. Kenny is one hell of a good pool player, and taught me how to use english, draw, follow and other concepts that vastly improved my game. One hell of a good guy too. Gonna try to make it to his birthday party tonight.

– Plans for the remainder of the month: Was going to go to a wine tasting this afternoon, but am now leaning toward skipping it because I need to get a friend’s website done. Tomorrow I’ll start the day at Sleep Out’s, and probably hang out on my rooftop later on – one of my neighbors is talking about having a Jimmy Buffett party. (How to get mentioned in my blog: wear a tube top or bikini, feed me, give me a vacuum cleaner, or have a Jimmy Buffett party.) Wednesday is the Mpact General Membership meeting at DISH, and I think I have a Membership Committee meeting afterwards. Thursday the Dempseys are playing on the Madison rooftop. I may have to take off after their first set though (dammit, that means I’ll probably miss “Thunder Road”/”Summertime Blues”, which lately they’ve been doing in their second set).

– If you live in Memphis and you’ve ever wondered what Los Angeles looks like, go outside. The worst smog I’ve ever seen is covering the city. Worse, these huge droplets of rain, like nothing I’ve ever seen before, are falling from the sky. Smrain?

Well, this journal entry certainly wandered all over the place. Guess I’ll get some work done on my friend’s website, and then go out and enjoy the weekend downtown. Ryburn’s Tube Top Removal Service is open for business!

Sunday change of venue

I’m thinking about re-routing my Sunday champagne festivities back to where it all started, Sleep Out Louie’s. Since July of last year I’ve been going to the downtown Blue Monkey, but I think it’s time for a change. Nothing against the Monkey – they still have great food and great service. It’s just that anyplace is likely to get a bit boring when you go there week in, week out for almost an entire year.

And, I’m starting to miss Sleep Out’s. With their huge windows, it just feels so open and airy there. They also get quite a few girls in tube tops who come to grab lunch before heading to afternoon Redbirds games. (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a girl in a tube top in the Monkey on Sunday.) And, Sleep Out’s fried buffalo crawfish tails are really, really good.

Now, I do love the Monkey, and could never give it up entirely. So rather than going back to Sleep Out’s exclusively, I’ll probably split the two restaurants 50/50. That could mean that I go to one the first week and the other the next, or it could mean I stop at Sleep Out’s and then the Monkey in the same afternoon.

I’ll have to give my fellow drunk Terry a call and see what he thinks. But most likely I’ll be at Sleep Out’s on Sunday.

My job

Just realized, I haven’t talked much about my job since I started back in October. The other day, a recruiter who saw my resume online called, and I told him, “Thanks, but I’m really happy where I’m working now.” It kind of surprised me when I said that. For a long time I didn’t ever think I’d be happy working regular business hours in an office setting.

The company I work for handles rebate and spiff programs for large corporations. We program websites so people can claim their rebates online, and we create reports for company management. We also handle the financial side – the transfer of funds. The company also offers other services that I’m not involved in, such as verifying that a manufacturer’s logo and model ran correctly in retailer ads, and doing research so manufacturers better understand how their competitors are advertising.

(I’d list the company’s name, but when people do Google searches for it, it’s probably best that they don’t turn up a blog site that talks about tube tops, bums, pigeons, and getting drunk.)

I “skin” websites, meaning I make our rebate and spiff websites look as much like our clients’ websites as possible, so people don’t notice that they’ve clicked over to us when the claim their rebates. I also do a lot of custom programming of reports and search functions.

From a technical standpoint, I write web pages mainly in ASP.NET, and I also maintain some older sites that were done in classic ASP. The sites pull data from Access (small companies) and SQL Server (large companies). I’ve learned a lot about SQL Server the past year – written a lot of stored procedures, and some DTS (Data Transformation Services) packages.

We’re also getting into a new area called “literature fulfillment” and I’m getting assigned the first project. This could be a big new source of business for the company, if done right.

Our biggest client is GM, but I got hired at the wrong time to get a piece of that account. I’ve been working mainly with air conditioning companies such as Bryant, York, Luxaire, and Coleman. I’ve also done some stuff for Shell, Volvo, Panasonic, Samsung, and Xerox.

Overall, it’s just a fantastic career path. I’m learning the programming and database skills that are the most relevant in the market today, and it’s interesting work.

In addition, it’s a comfortable place to work. One of the biggest advantages is that I don’t have to be there until 9:00. That means I can get up at 8:00 and still make it to work, which means I can stay up until midnight or even 1:00 on a weekday night and still get a decent night’s sleep. It’s a 7.5 hour workday, which means I can take a 30-minute lunch and be out by 5:00.

Most days I can wear a T-shirt and jeans to work, and even when there are clients in the office I only have to wear a shirt with a collar and pants that are not jeans. I don’t even tuck the shirt in most days.

I get along with everybody here, and have learned a lot from my boss and co-workers. Usually there’s at least one neurotic asshole in every office who makes life difficult, and in some places they’re the majority (Autozone comes to mind). But there don’t seem to be any people like that here. I guess an easygoing corporate culture attracts easygoing people.

So, basically, work is going well. Life is going well. I’m happy.

Great moments in the history of the tube top

In honor of tube top month here at paulryburn.com, it is my pleasure to present this look at one of the great moments in the history of the tube top.

The year was 1979. Hollywood, California. The game show The Price is Right was filming an episode. This was back when Bob Barker still dyed his hair, and the original Barker’s Beauties – Diane, Janice, and Holly (was Holly one of the originals? not sure) were still on the show.

But this story isn’t about them. This story is about an unsuspecting woman in an audience of maybe 250, who just thought she was there to watch a game show taping. But then the announcer told her to COME ON DOWN! And she was thrilled beyond belief. And come on down she did. And as she screamed and jumped and squealed, the tube top she was wearing came on down as well.

And that was a beautiful moment in the history of television, and the history of the tube top.

Social Security forum

Tonight I went to the Social Security Forum at the Marriott, presented by the Federal Reserve Bank and sponsored by Mpact. This was a nonpartisan attempt to explain to the public what is going on with Social Security reform. It was the best Mpact event I’ve been to this year, except for Impacto (where there was free liquor and one of the Promote Memphis pillar chairs had on a tube top). Here are highlights of what I learned:

– When Social Security payroll taxes exceed paid-out benefits, the extra money goes into a trust fund by law. But the government simply buys T-Bills and in fact uses the excess for current federal spending. So the “trust fund” is nothing but debt – the government takes out loans to itself.

– Right now, payroll tax revenue > benefits paid out. But by 2018 (assuming no change in payroll taxes or benefit formula) benefits will be > payroll tax revenue. At that point the government will begin cashing in the IOUs to itself – which means it will have to come up with extra money through higher taxes, reduced spending or more debt.

– In 2041, the trust fund will run out. At that point, benefits paid will amount to 74% of scheduled benefits, if payroll taxes and benefit formula remain as they currently are, because income will have to equal expenses. By 2079 it will go down to 68%.

– One proposal is not to use private accounts, but to do one or more of the following: increase the payroll tax, increase the retirement age, raise or eliminate the $90,000/year income cap on Social Security payroll tax, reduce benefits for higher-income earners, or switch benefit formula from wage indexing to price indexing. We learned that, although the cost-of-living raises for retirees and the maximum yearly contribution cap are indexed by inflation, the benefit formula determining how much you get as you’re about to retire is indexed by wages. In general wages grow more quickly than prices. This proposal would preserve the current system for at least another 75 years.

– Other proposals allow for a portion of your 6.2% old-age Social Security contribution to be invested in financial markets – generally 2 to 4 of the 6.2%. People will have options in terms of risk, but options will be limited. The private accounts could be either voluntary or mandatory – under the Bush plan, they’re voluntary.

– Diverting dollars to private accounts will mean less money is going into the trust fund – so the government will have to borrow even more over time.

– Some people feel that the no-privatization plan will reduce economic growth because it will mean increasing taxes and increasing the cap on contributions.

– On the other hand, there’s a public fear about retirement income depending on the market.

– Private accounts will be able to pass from one generation to the next, as 401(k)s do.

– Private accounts are not guaranteed to restore the long-run solvency of the system – we can’t be sure the market will actually go up.

– The reform plan most likely to pass is the one that is favored by the age/income cohort wielding the greatest political influence. As we move closer to 2018 this is going to become a hotter and hotter political issue.

– In the long long run, private accounts will almost certainly outperform the non-privatization solution. But in the gap between now and then, it will cost trillions.

And those are the notes I took. I’ll maintain the nonpartisan stance from the presentation and let you draw your own conclusions. Thanks to the Federal Reserve Bank for a most informative presentation. I learned a lot.