In review

Well, I’m skeptical that anybody will even notice this update. Apparently it’s been about 1.5 months since the last one. Time flies, hey?

Anyway, life got busy, I got tired, and updating the blog clearly didn’t happen.

But I’m here today to say, mission accomplished. After 20 weeks of study, today I passed the last practice test for the Life Insurance course. So I’m now free to book the real test, and get it done. It’s looking like the second week of April for that, based on the exam schedule. Which is probably just as well with spring break coming up.

So, apart from doing some daily review so that I don’t forget everything, I’m basically done the course.

Happily, I also managed to get through it within my self-imposed schedule. I was always figuring it would be 4-6 months, based on what other folks had told me. In total, I’m in for 25 weeks (discounting a 2 week break at Xmas), which is basically hits the 6 month mark. There were ups and downs in terms of daily activity, and I probably could have completed it quicker, but overall I managed to stick with it and get it done. So I’m pretty happy with that.

So, what’s next? Well, that’s not all clear right now, ’cause… well, life. But hopefully things will start to become clear in the next few weeks.

For now, it’s just “Yay!” for me.

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That’s entertainment!

This one is all about movies and TV shows, so if you don’t care about those sorts of things, then may I suggest learning about the latest board games?

Anyway, I’ve found myself thinking a fair bit about the shows I watch. I suppose that’s partly because I have more time than I used to for watching shows. But it’s probably also a stage of life thing. Maybe. I dunno for sure, so bear with me.

Over the last while, I’ve mainlined the first 3 seasons of Homeland. Netflix has a bunch of seasons now, so it’s easy. Plus, I found the first 3 seasons to be pretty compelling even if they were rather unrealistic. I liked the characters (except for the angsty, self-important teenage girl) and had fun seeing the whole thing unfold.

Now we’re into season 4, and I’m just not sure anymore. Basically, our main character has just abandoned her baby. The main character, who I sort of need to be sympathetic toward, has just done something I have zero forgiveness for. Let’s not dwell on why – let’s just understand that she’s fully capable of not abandoning her child, and I’m finding it hard to sympathize with her at this point.

So, what do I do?

Similarly, the latest season of The Walking Dead has riled a lot of people up. I haven’t seen it because it’s not on Netflix yet, but the first episode was by all accounts a complete brutality fest. Basically televised torture. And not surprisingly, there were a fair number of people who didn’t enjoy watching that. I suspect I’ll feel the same.

So do I even bother watching it?

This uncertainty is compounded by the fact that I tend to watch “gritty” shows. Y’know, serious subject matter, frequent violence, people being bad to each other. In general, the stories behind these shows are the most compelling to me. But…

I’ve come to realize that there’s such a thing as too much. I find myself surfing the Netflix queue for something lighter. Something with laughs. Something fun. Something that can cleanse the palette and let you go to bed feeling okay about the world.

Surprisingly, those things are harder to find. Too many of them are just plain stupid. And it’s real easy to burn through the ones that aren’t, and then have nothing left to watch.

I’ve watched Brooklyn Nine Nine and Last Man Standing, and basically enjoyed them. I’ve tried to watch Kimmy Schmidt and The B**** in Apartment 13, and have just not been entertained.

Then there’s the rare gem that is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. This is a movie that strikes just the right chord. A quiet movie about everyday hope. Not life and death hope, not world changing conflict. None of that. Just the simple hopes of one person, and a strange adventure he goes on.

I admit to being very surprised by it. I sort of like Ben Stiller in his more serious roles, but this one caught me by surprise. It has an unexpected depth.

So, where am I going with all this?

Well, first, I guess there’s a question behind the first part.

When do you just plain stop watching a show? The simple answer would appear to be “when you don’t enjoy it anymore,” but I’d say it’s not that simple. We tend to stick with things we know. We tend to hope they’ll get back to what we enjoyed about them. It turns into a harder decision than it should be. What if you miss something you would have enjoyed?

Deeper than that, I suppose, is the question of why we choose certain shows in the first place. Do I choose gritty shows because I think they reflect real life? Do I like all that pain and misery? Do I somehow think it expands my thinking?

I’m thinking no, but there’s obviously something behind that regular choice I make. Maybe it’s just that they have better stories. More intricate, less stupid. I’m a big reader, and I’m compelled by a good story. Always.

As a bit of an aside, one of my guilty pleasures (that I tend not to feel guilty about) is Anime. And sometimes these shows are ahead of their time. For instance, Sword Art Online explores the idea of what happens when VR is good enough that people log into Fantasy worlds for real. And then they get trapped there by the hardware they’ve got strapped to their heads. It’s a fascinating exploration of the potential problems of advancing technology. And it’s sort of a fun story, ’cause it’s all hack ‘n slash swords and sorcery, which I like.

But some of these shows have started to bug me, too, because of the scantily clad females. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a guy. I don’t really have anything against scantily clad females per se – I think there might be something biological at play there. But as the father of a growing daughter, I have trouble imagining being comfortable watching some of these shows with her.

Which brings me back to guilty pleasures. ’cause honestly, I don’t mind watching them so much, but I think they send the wrong message to people who don’t know any better. And sadly, there’s far too many people who don’t. So how do you reconcile that?

Well, honestly, I don’t have the answers today. But this is what’s been bouncing around my head these days.

Anybody know any good, light-hearted shows that I should watch?

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So, about that…

Turns out that getting back to basics didn’t work out all that well for me, and yet… well, it sort of did. I studied diligently all last week, and got myself into book #4 as promised. So that’s all good. But as the regular reader(s) can probably tell, I didn’t manage to post much on the blog.

There were reasons, of course. Wednesday, I just plain forgot. Thursday, once I got the kidlet to bed I was exhausted and crashed. Friday was sort of like Thursday. And… well, you get the point.

Anyway, this week has a been a mix of things, with moderate but not great progress through the last book. I’m about halfway now, although I figured I should probably be further. It doesn’t help that this “ethics” book is so far nothing more than a pretty boring review of the legalities surrounding insurance. I keep waiting for ethics to come into it, but as one of my friends pointed out today, maybe they mean something different than me when they use the word ethics.

“I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”

So, we keep going. I figure I’ll be into review in the next week or two, and then we’ll see when I can line up the actual tests. Remembering that I have to pass four practice tests first. Oh well, at least it’s open book, right? Not sure whether that means it’ll be easier or harder.

I have something else to talk about today, but I’m’a do that in another post to spare people who don’t care.

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The soul of wit??

I was going to start this with a title about brevity, because I was thinking I’d be brief today. That would save us all a lot of heartache, wouldn’t it? And besides, I didn’t really think I had that much to say.

But then I remembered that there was some quote about brevity, and I did a search. Apparently, according to a fellow named Hamlet, brevity is the soul of wit.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I recall this Hamlet guy as having one heck of a lot to say, and spending a lot if his time saying these things to… himself. Yeah, that’s right, talking to himself like a loon all the time, and being obtuse in his language to boot!

So honestly, I don’t think I’m prepared to take him as the expert on the subject. How’d that particular one become a famous quote, anyway? I mean, that’s right up there with, “I don’t know, but I know there’s no animals in there.” (Place that one if you can. I dare you!)

So yeah, enough of that. Today was a success. Four solid hours of study, and I’m about 10 pages away from finishing book number three.

Now, some of you may be sitting there, on some high horse or other, thinking, “10 pages? Why didn’t he just take another 20 minutes and knock those out?”

Simply put, I’d never remember anything. This whole thing has been an exercise in writing extensive notes as I go, so that some of this stuff will actually stick in my head. I’ve actually thrown away 2 pens in the course of this, because they stopped writing. I don’t remember the last time I threw out a pen because it ran out of ink. Must have been in university.

Also, quite honestly, those last 20 pages were turning into a trial. You know how it is, right? You get near the end, and you’re itching to get it done. Maybe you go a little faster, maybe you take a little less in, maybe you skip a few examples. Well, that just wasn’t happening. Those last 20 pages were a solid wall of text. Minimal sub-headings, few examples, just a whole bunch of condensed knowledge that I needed to take notes on.

So in fact, the whole process slowed down when I hit those pages. Which was somewhat frustrating, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Upshot, I’ll be done the third book tomorrow, for sure. I’ll probably also have a few hours to dig into book four.

Whee! Are we having fun yet?

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Back to basics

Or maybe this should be called “first principles.”

Anyway, let’s get ourselves up to speed quickly. Last week I posted and said something like, “I might be done book 3 this week, if I study over the weekend.” Well, not only did I not study over the weekend, I also didn’t study on Friday.

For the record, I’m not proud.

On the other hand, across Fri/Sat/Sun, I did manage to get a lot of other stuff done that had either come up or been ignored for long enough. I count most of that stuff as work, so maybe I broke even?

Regardless, last night as I gorged myself on snacks and marathoned a bunch of Netflix shows, the shame spiral started to set in. I had started this adventure with a very simple premise – spend every morning studying for 4-5 hours, then do whatever. Hopefully something creative. (But we all know how that turned out, don’t we?)

Anyway, I stuck to the 4-5 hours for a good while, but I think the real slide started when I got invited to go into the office and sit in on actual financial adviser meetings. The simplicity of my schedule went out the window. It was worth it, but it was also a challenge to get the studying in at the same time. Then, honestly, Xmas became the death knell. Two full weeks off, to watch the kid and host the family, then a slow start back. Last week, although I did better, I found myself finishing one of my study days at 11pm in the evening.

Because let’s face it, when you’re sitting home alone with nobody to answer to, it’s just a little to easy to find a slippery slope and start your way down it. Bobsledding for dummies not required. So this week, I’m back to basic principles. Studying from 8-12 each morning, then getting other things done afterward.

Key to this is avoiding distractions. Today, as other things occurred to me, I actually jotted each one down then went right back to studying. Then, the first hour and half after lunch was spent getting those things done. Including writing this blog post.

Which is a second point I need to make. Writing this blog was meant to be many things. A way to keep a few people in the loop if they were interested. A way to be creative, since these posts actually do take some thought and talent.

Well… okay, some of them do. (You can all vote on which ones, just for fun!)

But perhaps most importantly, this blog was meant to be a public reality check of my progress, intended to keep me honest. And if I’m honest, also intended to shame me publicly should I fail in my appointed task each day.

Yeah, yeah, you’re already thinking it:

Good job, dude! I’ve read your blog (as much as I can stand), and you just ain’t cutting the mustard!

Well, I can’t argue. It started out as a daily frolic that kept me going, but in all the mix up I got too tired to keep it going some days, and not motivated enough other days.

So here’s the reboot. I don’t have Christopher Nolan to shepherd me through this one (although how cool would that be, right?), so I’ll just do the best I can on my own. Studying, posting. That’s the routine.

And yeah, I already know it’ll get messed up again as soon as I start going to the office again. But that’s alright. We bend with the wind. We refuse to break.

Huh… you bored yet?

Screaming Condor! Let’s talk about it fast. Today was a good 4 hour session, and I made good progress. There’s an off chance I’ll finish book 3 tomorrow, but more likely it’ll be Wednesday.

But let’s look at the BIG score chart. That’s where the cheques get written and the bills get paid!

I originally started this adventure hoping I could do one book per month, for a total of 5 months. Then the first book took 5 weeks, and I realized I might not get through it as fast as I hoped.

Where am I now? Okay, hang on while I count weeks on the calendar…

Hmmm… since I started, it’s been 16 weeks, not including the two weeks for Xmas. This is the start of week 17, and I’m almost done book three of this course, which is really book four overall. So where does that put me?

Well, 16/4 = 4, last time I checked. (Which was just last week, while practicing times tables with my kid.) So, that’s 4 weeks per book.

So… uh… ta da!?

That’s actually one book per month. Look at me go, Ma!

Now, I’m expecting to need some extra time after I get through the last book to do some serious review. Four books in a row with no review is just bad business. So it might actually take me 6 months overall, depending.

But I have to say, despite the ups and downs, I think I’m doing okay. I’m sure some could have done it faster, and I’m sure some would have given up by now. Makes me solidly marginal, doesn’t it?

Let me just say, I’ll take it!

And I’ll have more to bore you with tomorrow. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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Office space

Despite my last post, I have to admit that last week was a little shoddy when it came to studying. It turns out that I’m pretty tired of this, and getting back to it after the Xmas break was a lot harder than I thought.

I thought it would be hard. Apparently, it was harder than that. That’s not to say that I didn’t study each day, but I didn’t exactly knock it out of the park. This week I’ve managed to settle back into a groove, and hit a solid 4 hours per day. Well, for two days so far anyway. But that meets my goals, so I won’t complain.

For those folks who joined my Slack channel, it will come as no surprise that I’m hitting the hump in terms of sitting home alone all the time. I’m pretty tired of it. And it’s not even that I want to have lengthy conversations with anyone – it’s just nice to have another presence for the occasional quip, or just to recognize on a daily basis that you’re still alive and still at it. I do get some of that from the Slack channel, but it’s not the same as being in person.

Which all leads to this weird thought – I’ll be glad to get back to an office.

Never thought I’d say that. Although, honestly, I never thought I’d be spending this long away from the office at my age. The office really seemed like the place I’d spend the rest of my days.

Now, I’m pretty sure I’m bound to be in an office again. And eventually I’ll wish I wasn’t. But for years I’ve been on record – I don’t like working at home. This is probably worse, because at least if I was working I’d be interacting with coworkers, even if it was only remotely.

I will point out, though, that I’m not married to an office per se. Really what I like is having some place that is not home to go and focus on work. And to see coworkers. Could be a construction site, or an archaeological dig, or whatever. But despite having spent time as a construction worker, a taxi driver, and even “security” at a bar (ask me sometime, it’s a short enough story), my skill set is really focused on office work.

Well, and maybe solo writing, but that’s why this blog exists.

Well… sort of.

Anyway, the point of all this is that I continue to make progress, I’m roughly on schedule, and dear God, I’m ready for this to end.

So, what’s my ETA? Well, I’m a little over halfway through the third book. Optimistically, I might put a bow on it this week, but that would mean studying over the weekend. Which I might do just to get it done.

Then… one more book to go. The shortest of them, at 145 pages or so. This time, it’ll be ethics. I studied ethics in University. The Chair of the Philosophy department stopped me in the hallway to ask if I’d ever thought of majoring in Philosophy. Meaning I had some aptitude. So hopefully this won’t be so bad, but I still expect it will take 2-3 weeks to make my way through it.

So, hopefully we’ll wrap up the books in early Feb. Then it’s all review until I feel like I’m ready to write the tests, which they’ve very considerately provided practice tests to help me gauge. Of course, as I’ve explained before, I HAVE to pass those practice tests to even be allowed to write the real ones.

So… you know… no pressure.

As a complete aside, you want to know my biggest victory so far in all of this? I’ve gone from a 37 minute workout 5 days per week, to a stunning 57 minute workout 5 days per week. And I’ve maintained that schedule pretty rigorously. My good cholesterol is up, and maybe I’ll see some impact on my blood pressure as well. Sadly, I don’t monitor my blood pressure closely enough to know for sure right now.

But that’s good, right?

I’ll take the wins I can get.

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Still screaming

The holiday season is officially over, and Operation Screaming Condor is back on. I was back to the books today, although I didn’t quite manage to get my 4 hours in. Other real life concerns got in the way, but I’ve made good progress on that so the rest of the week should be set for some good study time.

I’d regale you with tales about annuities and how they work, but let’s face it… most of you might stop reading, and who wants that? Suffice it to say that I’m still learning things.

So, what else should we talk about?

Ghostbusters! Okay, so over the holiday season I finally got around to watching the reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise. Y’know, the one over which there was so much hubbub, with people being outraged about an entirely female cast and a whole slew of other nonsensical things.

Verdict: it was a wonderful movie, and Kate McKinnon was the absolute bomb as the crazy scientist.  She was positively Puck-like and spritely. The movie paid homage, moved in new directions, thoroughly entertained, and should be a solid launch pad for more sequels. Y’know, if so many idiots hadn’t turned it into a horrible experience for the actors.

Oh, the Super Secret Project! I can talk about that now. Basically, my current financial advisor has been incredibly supportive of my career change. This is remarkable, because it tends to be a pretty cut-throat business, but I’ve managed to find one of the few people who believes in teaming in this industry. So anyway, she’s invited me to come into her office and sit in on client meetings as a way to further my education.

It’s been great! Getting to see a little slice of her day to day life, and that of her staff, has really helped me get my head around what it would be like for me. And it hasn’t dampened my interest at all. What is has done is slow down the studying some, since a day full of meetings makes for less study time. But it’s been totally worth it, and I’m sure that seeing some real world application of this knowledge is helping me understand it all that much better.

So… it’s all coming up Milhouse!

And yes, if you get that one, you’re laughing right along with me right now.

But seriously, things are going well. All I have to do is keep my nose in the books and keep the train rolling.

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A rock ’em sock ’em boxing day

Boxing day, for my American friends, is what we Canadians call the day after Christmas. Used to be, this was the day the big sales started in Canada. It used to last one day and one day only, then as the madness of the day increased each year, they eventually turned it into boxing week.

It was good times, until the big American retailers who had moved into Canada decided they need to get a jump on things and brought Black Friday here. Of course, Canadian retailers had to follow suit, so now we have both Black Friday and Boxing Day. Which basically amounts to weeks of sales around Xmas time.

Anyway, it’s been years and years since I’ve actually tried to brave retailers on boxing day. The traffic, the crowds – it just ain’t worth it. This year was no exception, apart from driving my brother downtown and dropping him off so he could explore downtown Victoria. While he was doing that, the rest of us hit the theater and took in an afternoon showing of Sing.

So, what can I say about Sing?

Well… I laughed. I cried. It became a part of me. Oh, and I also told my kid to shut up when she loudly pointed out, “You’re crying, Dad!”

It was a seriously fun, funny, and entertaining movie. Me and my kid looked at each other so many times during the movie, with a grin, or shock, or some other emotion. Definitely a good one to share with the little ones.

Y’know, unless you cry at movies. Then you’re better off just leaving the soulless little hell spawns at home so you can actually express some feelings in the relative privacy of a dark theater. Mind you, it was pretty fun later when I got to mock her for not having any feelings.

For the record, she didn’t think it was funny.

Then we came home and had Tacos. “Tacos! They’re not just for breakfast anymore!” Now THAT should be an advertising campaign, ’cause Tacos are just good eating and people aren’t ridiculous enough these days.

So, Operation Screaming Condor is still on hold. Of course, regular readers already know that, which is why I’m repeating it here.

See what I did there?

Looking forward to just spending a few days sitting on my rump with no responsibilities. That sounds fun.

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Xmas at ground zero

Yep, another quotable song title. Not all of my quotes actually come from songs, and not all of my titles are actually quotes, but I’d say that song quotes represent a high percentage. Makes sense, I guess. It’s really the poetry of the modern age, although I’m sure real poets would hate me for saying it.

So… what happened? I started posting again, then abruptly stopped. Well, both me and the kid got sick at the same time, then just as I recovered, school got out and I had my daughter full time, and then family descended (literally, in planes) for the holidays. Meaning, I just didn’t get around to updating the blog. Which I’m sure was a great disappointment to all my fan(s), and I apologize for that.

Where did I leave things? Well, I’m into book 3 of 4, maybe about 60 pages in, and my memory tells me there’s about 200 pages in this one. I really would have liked to get further before the Xmas break, but I can’t complain too much. Operation Screaming Condor is still going strong, we’re just on a break.

I do think I’m going to take some extra time, though. I’ll give myself until school’s back in, which means that once the family has flown away again, I’ll actually have a few days just for me. Which will be super nice.

In the meantime, what exciting things have happened?

Well, I got summoned for Jury Duty. Seems it was for a criminal case with an estimated time frame of 19 days. Considering I’m unemployed, have zero income, and am living off my retirement savings while I try to retrain for a new career, I have to admit that I was reluctant to go. Normally, I honestly wouldn’t mind. Last time I was summoned I didn’t argue, but they ended up cancelling the whole thing.

Anyway, this time I asked to be excluded and that was approved the very next day. So not only did I dodge a bullet there, but I only had one day to stress about it before it was resolved. I’m telling you, that’s how all problems should go.

I got a couple of awesome ceramic coated frying pans for Xmas. Just in time, since my teflon pans were starting to lose their coating. I also got a bundle of Steam gift certificates, so I can get my game on in style. Y’know, once I can actually kick my family out of my office and get to my real computer. And I got some nice, comfy new slippers from my daughter, which are real nice. And replace the cheap ones I bought last year that were starting to fall apart.

I haven’t managed to connect with many friends over the holiday season so far, but whether they like it or not I’ll be bugging the heck out of them once my family has gone. So, they have that to look forward to. (Although I guess if they don’t know about it, they can’t really look forward to it… but we’re splitting hairs here.)

So, I guess that’s the update. Merry Xmas to everyone reading this thing, and I hope the new year brings positive change. For the first time in a long time, I’m looking forward to a very different kind of year. And you know what? I kind of like it.

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Well… how did I get here?

It’s a banner day, as I have now completed book 2 of 4 on the insurance course. One day behind schedule, if I’m honest, but I can live with that. Hear the mighty scream of the condor!

And yet, I find myself waxing philosophical… thus the Talking Heads title.

It probably also has something to do with the movie I just watched. A little gem called Sing Street. It’s typical teenage, coming of age stuff, done with a fair bit of flair and some good music. But honestly, the themes aren’t particularly new.

I suppose for a middle-aged fellow going through a mid-life career change, it shouldn’t be surprising that those things resonate again. Although honestly… that thought smacks a little too heavily of mid-life crises tropes for my liking.

Read: I’m not running out to buy sports car.

However, the idea that time is running out is a lot more powerful now than it was when I was actually the target demographic for those movies. For some things, I could argue that time has run out. For others.. well, it’s coming.

So… is it a life of quiet desperation?  Do I succumb to the opiates the world provides? Or has my radical departure from my established profession signalled something else?

And will the stupid spellchecker ever give up on trying to make me spell like an American?

Yeah… I didn’t think so.

PS. The opiates are figurative. You got that, right?

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