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Wednesday, February 5, 2003

It never ends, does it? As soon as you've made it all the way across the desert, you have to climb the mountain. If you make it to the top, you just have to find your way down again. It's always something.

I've managed to stagger into the next phase of my year-end accounting. Everything for the government is done. Now I'm working for the Company again, trying to get all the details of last year lined up for the accountant. Then he'll wrangle with the Boss, and together they'll turn out a financial statement, based on my numbers. So my numbers have to be right, and they have to be ready soon.

Since it's a different kind of work, different rules apply. There are a lot of raw numbers that can't be disputed, but if you can squeeze in between the numbers, maybe you can nudge them in the right direction. That's called "interpretation." There are even some guesses that have to be made. How much, for example, do we really expect to collect from certain people we did work for last year?

These guesses have to be realistic, but it pays to be optimistic, so we skew them to make ourselves look good. It's better to look good than to scare off potential clients by looking weak. Which we're not, except when we're struggling to keep enough cash in the bank to pay next week's bills as well as this week's.

We're struggling these last few weeks because the expense of putting work together is currently running ahead of our ability to collect on that work. We're buying labor and materials for jobs we won't be paid on for weeks or months, so we have to borrow money to stay ahead of the bills. This creates more bills, but it's the only way to stay afloat in this business.

The main difference between filling out government forms and working on my own spreadsheets, as I'm doing this month, is the fatigue factor. When I'm doing forms, I'm up and down and back and forth, looking things up and writing them down. When I'm doing spreadsheets, I'm sitting glassy-eyed and stiff-backed at the computer for hours and hours on end.

This means that interruptions are more welcome than usual. If the phone rings, at least I can stretch my neck and my legs for a little while. If the phone doesn't ring, I have to make my own interruptions. I might even have to get up and walk outside in the fresh air, or lie down for fifteen minutes. I can't let these breaks keep me from doing the work, so they can't last long.

But I can't let the work keep me from taking breaks, either, because in the end that's an even less efficient method of getting the spreadsheets done. And getting them done, as they say, is what it's all about. It's the name of the game, the bottom line, the chewy center.

I prefer this kind of work. I like doing spreadsheets, and I like taking a few brief breaks during the day. This is more or less what I signed up for when I took this job, and it's something I don't often get to do any more. I should be in a better mood in the days ahead, as long as unexpected crises don't keep me buried in the less savory parts of my job. I'd much rather be plowing ahead on spreadsheets than wrestling with state bureaucrats over a clause in a contract or a missing check.

People will probably be able to tell when those kinds of interruptions are interfering with my day. They won't have to ask.


The stones on my garden walkway are nearly hidden by the grass and weeds.

All this is easier articulated than accomplished, of course (though some would doubt that). When I'm on a roll, I don't easily stop myself to take breaks, no matter how stiff my neck or back might get. I hate to stop because sometimes it's hard to get started again. Bodily imperatives will sometimes get me out of my chair briefly, but I've also been known to skip meals. Not often, but it happens.

So it's good I had some pleasant interruptions today, to keep me from petrifying where I sat. Suzanne needed rides to and from the Ford dealer, where her shiny new red Mustang was being made even shinier (it couldn't be any redder) by getting the "treatment." And Eric dropped by for a few minutes this afternoon on his way to class. So I didn't have to manufacture any breaks of my own today.

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A new Gilbert and Sullivan DVD set was released this week, and it was my good fortune to find a copy of The Mikado, my very favorite, from Netflix in the mailbox today. I swear, I laughed until I cried, as I do every time I hear Ko-Ko sing "Tit Willow" to Katisha.

Recent recommendations can always be found on the links page.

One year ago: Quiet, Too Quiet
"Sometimes it pays to be a pariah. If nobody's talking to me, I don't have to listen."

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Our warriors, in serried ranks assembled,
Never quail — or they conceal it if they do —
And I shouldn't be surprised if nations trembled
Before the mighty troops, the troops of Titipu!