Sitting On a Hill

When the opportunity arises, I like to head out for a walk to a nearby park that has one of my favourite places to sit. The park is one of the larger public green areas nearby and has an immense grassy area where a thousand kids can run around like the little maniacs they are and never come into contact with another person. In the northwestern corner of this park is a rather tall hill that rises 53 metres above the neighbourhood, where two massive cylindrical tanks exist to supply the surrounding buildings with fresh drinking water. On the top of this hill, less than 10 metres from one of the half-million litre reservoirs, is where I like to sit and watch the clouds go by.

Looking North

Despite the stereotype, there are actually quite a few parks and green spaces in Japan. So long as a person isn't living in the very centre of a bustling city, there will be a decent-sized park no more than half a kilometre away from their home. In my case there are four, all of which have decent hills to sit on, but none are quite as secluded as the one I tend to frequent. When I climb the hill, often with two cans of vodka and some sort of snack, there is never any disappointment from finding that someone else is sitting there.

Looking Up

I've invested a lot of time learning while at the top of this hill. No subject is off limits, but I generally stick to the standard topics of philosophy, religion, history, and — when I'm feeling particularly isolated — Linux1. The lack of distractions and human interaction makes it possible to completely lose oneself in a podcast, book, or YouTube video2. Why this spot isn't one of the most popular places to sit, I simply do not understand.

Looking Down

The one downside to this location is the lack of protection from rain and bright sun. Despite being surrounded by trees, there are none immediately south of the sitting spot, which means that part of the hill is forever drenched in sunlight during the daylight hours. This can make it rather hot during the summer, limiting the amount of time I can spend there. Of course, because it's open to the sun, it's also wide open to the rain. I've been caught on a couple of occasions sitting on the hill when a rainstorm begins3, and it's no picnic. A little pavilion at the top of the hill would be ideal, but would probably attract more people. One must take the bad with the good.

If I'm lucky, this secluded area will remain "my spot" for the foreseeable future. Working from home means it's more important than ever to escape the house and just relax somewhere different from time to time. There are certainly other places and other parks where I can loiter while losing myself in a podcast, but none quite so peaceful.


  1. Listening to some of the Linux podcasts is like being in a room with friends. Sometimes it's important to just sit around and geek out about tech, debating the pros and cons of systemd, the fate of the Linux desktop, and just about anything else that most people using a computer would not care one lick about.

  2. I "cheat" not having a phone with data by using a corporate-supplied iPad with 4G.

  3. Not all rainstorms in Japan announce themselves. Sometimes a sky can be dark for half the day, then rain like a typhoon for 5 minutes before clearing up completely.

A Place to Relax

Over the last few weeks I've been trying to remember the last time I felt really relaxed for more than a handful of hours. "Slow time" has all but disappeared since moving out of the classroom and into a development role at the day job. This isn't just because of all the new responsibilities and expectations that arose from the career shift, but a rapid series of changes at home, too.

Reiko received her master's degree in March of 2016 and almost immediately received an offer to work at a university, a dream she's had for as long as I've known her. Then I moved into my new role at the day job. A few weeks later we discovered Reiko was pregnant with the boy. Then we invested a great deal of effort into getting everything and everyone ready for a new member of the family. Then the boy was born, which drastically changed … everything. While getting accustomed to parenthood, we took on the challenge of buying a house, which I've documented on this site quite a bit.

And all the while Nozomi patiently waited for everything to slow down and return to normal. Or as normal as one can hope for, considering the new addition to the family.

One of the many things I've wanted from moving into our new home is the ability to slow down and enjoy time with the people and puppies closest to me. While there are still a lot of constraints as everyone settles into the new neighbourhood, I have made sure to set aside an extra bit of time for Nozomi. She doesn't ask for much aside from nice walks, nice tummy rubs, and a nice meal twice a day. These things are not too much to ask for and, fortunately, there is a lovely photogenic park literally 45 seconds from our front door.

Nozomi Enjoying the Scenery

Nozomi Exploring the Grass

Hopefully Nozomi doesn't mind if I use our walks to do a little photography.

It Can't Be That Bad

Over much of the last six months, I've been battling a slow-losing battle with the Demons of Self-Doubt. They sneak into thoughts and ideas, sowing the seeds of uncertainty everywhere. After a number of months, one is left wondering whether there's ever any such thing as a "good idea". Many people all over the world struggle with a ceaseless pessimism, and a high percentage of people likely listen more often than they should. When I'm feeling particularly low, one thing I tend to do is just do a random image search for simple words that describe abstract concepts, such as "happiness".

Happiness

Looking at these top search results, I can't help but wonder if the results would be exactly the same if I were to look for images that describe "freedom". This is what most of the pictures say to me, and it likely goes without saying that people who feel the most free are likely the most happy with life. I'm more like a fish in a Kool-Aid pitcher-sized bowl.

Is This Freedom?

Is this feeling of entrapment the result of life changes involving young people and large mortgages? This most likely plays a large part of it. But the intrinsic pessimism that burrows itself deep into my creative processes isn't helping matters at all.

While it's still way too early to know what 2018 might have in store1, I do know that some changes need to be made at the day job as well as with my personal time management. This coming year simply cannot be as rushed as this one, where every spare minute is dedicated to some fabricated priority. There must be time to sit down to think. There must be time to sit down to play. There must be time to shoo the Demons of Self-Doubt away.


  1. aside from moving into a new house, that is

Time and Space

The last few months have gone by in a flash, with people demanding so much time and attention that I've scarcely had time to think about myself or even sit down to read a book for fun. Just about every waking minute has been put to use for some grand purpose with deadlines that are always set in the past, giving an added octave to the sense of urgency others project when discussing these arbitrary dates. I look forward to a time in the very near future when I can just shut the world out for a few hours, sit back, and truly relax with some nice music and maybe a jigsaw puzzle. Anything is welcome, so long as it does not require a great deal of brainpower or interpersonal communication.

Open Field

Many years ago, while living in Vancouver, I would often set aside Sundays as an "offline day". In the morning I'd do laundry and clean the apartment. In the early afternoon I'd buy the groceries I would need for the coming week. Around 3:00pm everything would be done and I'd have a good seven or eight hours to enjoy as I pleased, which usually involved playing one of the many Need For Speed racing game editions. When the weather was nice, though, I'd do something different and head to a cafe in the next town over to read a book in quiet isolation. This was the time and space I would often need in order to "reset" my mind and prepare for the coming week, with all the silliness that comes when working alongside others in a corporate environment.

After moving to Japan, time and space were two things that seemed to be in short supply. That said, after a bit of adaptation, it was possible to carve out a few hours every week where I'd just "disappear" for a while during the day and recharge. This often involved reading a book, playing sudoku, or just people watching somewhere out of the path of traffic.

The schedules as they are now, however, leave very little time for rest or relaxation. I've not been able to give Nozomi her regular long walks anymore, as there simply isn't enough time in the day. This isn't just because there's a new member of the family who wants and needs attention, nor is it the fast-moving house purchase, nor is it the day job and the endless parade of emails and personality clashes that come with the work. Instead it's the expectations I have built into my weekly goals that are no longer being met that's giving me the stress that I would once whisk away with some quiet time. It's something within me that needs to be changed.

But how can I do this without the necessary room to mentally work through the reality that time and space are no longer resources that I have ample of? As someone who tends to introspect and overthink a great deal, this isn't something I can "just get over". That's not how my mind works. That's not how the Selfish Me accommodates lifestyle changes. Instead what I need to do is find a new outlet; a new way to unwind, rest, and relax without asking for several hours a week of alone time.

The question that needs to be answered now is how? … which will undoubtedly take a bit of time.

We Shouldn't Be a Fan of Our Work

Last year, after almost a decade of circumventing rules at the day job to help people serve students better, I was moved out of the classroom and into a full-time development role to continue doing what I was doing as an instructor, but without all the cloak and dagger to make it happen. A lot of people were happy with the news, including myself. It meant that I could play a role in making something that colleagues all over the country might find value in, rather than something that just a handful of schools would use without really saying much to upper management about it. Over the last 15 months, though, I've come to dread going to work. I despise checking email. I want to be invisible on Skype all the time or, better yet, just shut the distraction down so that I can make it through the day without wanting to hurl a computer five stories to the pavement below1.

The problem is not with my colleagues. The problem is not with the endless complaints from people who storm into the little space where I do my work. Believe it or not, the problem is not even with the sound of silence from human silos within the organization who refuse to share their knowledge of the home-grown CMS my project must interface with. The problem boils down to a very fundamental issue that will never be resolved so long as I am working for someone else.

The issue is the result of an unsharable vision.

Steve Jobs and the First iPad

Way back in 2010, soon after Steve Jobs walked on stage and showed the world the iPad, I started thinking about how such a device could be used in education. By that time I had been teaching for almost three years and had the hubris to think that I could write software for a tablet that would make education easier for teachers, students, and all the support staff that are required to make a school function. Looking back at the early design sketches, I almost cringe at the naivety on display. The concepts I was dabbling with were far too similar to the way Microsoft approached tablet software in 1999.

Suffice it to say, the sketches went nowhere and I shelved the idea for a few years, revisiting the idea whenever I'd read an article about how tablets were being used in education.

Fast forward to 2013, I was asked to create a special kind of report for a new type of class that was being trialled in the area. Excel was a mainstay at the day job, and every report we gave to students or their sponsor came from this spreadsheet software. Me being me, I was one of the few people responsible for writing all of the reports in the region to ensure that every student and every sponsor would see a consistent message with consistent formatting and consistent quality. This new kind of report, though, needed something that Excel was not particularly good at without a complex series of macros. Instead, I used this opportunity to push through an idea that had been bouncing around in my head since the year before: build a data-collection website that is designed to be finger-friendly so that teachers simply tap-tap-tap their feedback and let the database do the heavy lifting.

Selling the idea was not easy, as people "just wanted an Excel report", but I used a long weekend to prototype the site and build some dummy reports. I presented it to the managers the following week, and they loved it.

This was shortly after my employer had rolled out iPads to all of the schools in a bid to make us seem more efficient and professional. Both counts failed and the project was bleeding money but, again, I had enough hubris to think that I could push through my own agenda while using company resources to solve company problems. Within six months the project had expanded to include several different types of reports, and people were generally happy with the system. A few times the project came close to being shut down when certain members of IT learned of the project2, but there was always just enough pushback from the local schools to keep the project alive.

In 2015, after a redesign of the iPad software teachers were supposed to use in class, a number of people gave up trying to use the tablets in the classroom. We still had to use them to record attendance, lesson goals, homework, and other details, but a large portion of the teaching staff gave up trying to use the tablets beyond the bare minimum. The problem was that the software was poorly designed for the job it was hired to do. The textbook application was nothing more than a frustrating PDF reader that stuttered and crashed every 15 minutes. The pedagogical tool was sluggish, hard to look at, and buried all of the student profile information, making it very difficult to learn more about students — or record updates — before walking into a classroom. Despite transitioning from paper to digital two years beforehand, people were pining for the day when we'd drop the iPads and go back to paper records. The older textbooks that made use of cassette tapes were easier to use and less embarrassing than the iPad software.

So I decided to do something about it.

Again, over a long weekend, I mocked up a new pedagogical system that would work on the tablets while making the system easier to use for teachers and staff. Information would be easier to find and filter. Textbooks would be searchable and come with custom lesson plans to help inexperienced or fatigued teachers. Reports — my specialty — would be built in to the pedagogical system meaning that teachers would spend less time writing them while students and sponsors received more data from them. In the space of four days the demo was ready and I started to show it around to people at the day job.

People loved it. Managers loved it. Even some of the students commented and said that it looked simpler. HQ, however, wouldn't hear of it. There were processes and procedures and hierarchies to obey, and I was bucking the system. They demanded it be shut down, even though there was zero student information in the system. I "conveniently forgot" to do so.

Then, in the fall of 2015, an interesting thing happened. The president of the company caught wind of these projects I was working on and asked to see them. He then asked why I "was being wasted". A week later I was approached with the opportunity to transfer to do software development in the IT department and, in March 2016, it became official. That 4-day design of the pedagogical replacement system is still being worked on and refined today, and people are generally happy with it … except when they aren't.

Back to the Problem

Earlier I said that my problem boils down to a very fundamental issue that will never be resolved so long as I am working for someone else, and this is completely accurate. I have been working quite hard on the problem of creating effective software for use in education for almost five years, the first four years of which was in near isolation where I was able to design and implement features and functions as I saw fit. When I would watch people interact with my software, I would find problems. These were often actions they would do that I never once considered, and I would go back and find a better way to support their goals while also ensuring mine were met. People would come at me with ideas or complaints, and I'd listen and find ways to make the system better for them, again ensuring that my goals for the system were not lost along the way. The way I looked at the tool was very simple: the UI is for the teachers, the printed reports are for the students, the database is for me.

By doing this I was able to create something that teachers actually liked to use. Students were happy. I had a nice database full of numbers from which to quickly answer questions from managers.

Since moving into a role with IT this has changed. People at HQ are accustomed to working with software that fights you every step of the way. Want to record someone's attendance? You'd best have 3 minutes to spare, because what used to be a circle or an X on a piece of paper needs to be infinitely more complex in the name of "security". Want to know what textbook your student will be using after they finish their current book? Go ask one of the school's support staff, because the teaching software will not let you know that information without a fight. This is the state of corporate software in the world, and the previous solutions for the iPad and schools all came from this group of people. My software with it's opposite approach to the same problems is completely alien to the way they think about the job. This isn't a criticism or a disparagement. It's a fact. They're looking at problems as A⇢B⇢C⇢…⇢Z, and I'm looking at problems as A⇢F⇢Z.

It's no wonder there is a great deal more confusion at head office than at the schools. It's no wonder that when members of the various departments in Tokyo report "bugs" in my software, it's because they're not accustomed to software understanding a person's job and performing a bunch of steps transparently on their behalf. From a big picture point of view, I completely understand this. In the heat of the moment when I'm reading that email or new issue on GitHub that has nothing to do with an actual bug and everything to do with making the software harder to use, however …

Flip that Table!

I'm too close to the project. I've invested a great deal of time and effort into making something that is designed to be used by people who really couldn't care less what the corporate interests are. That's why I invested so much time into making the UI for the people who would actually use the software rather than the people making snap decisions months after the initial decisions had already been made. This is why I call people people instead of using the same language as other people in the corporate structure. The whole thing has been designed to serve the people at the bottom of the totem pole. HQ wants things changed to serve their interests3, and I am growing tired of pushing back.

There are, of course, a lot of people that I've worked with over the last year at HQ who do understand the goals of this project and have gone to bat on my behalf more times than I can count. A lot of very smart people with very sharp insights have helped take a rough idea hammered out in 4 days through to the state it's in today. Many of them are just as frustrated with the various emails, non-issues, and Friday 5:30pm deployment cancellation calls as I am. But there's not much that can be done to change this. The vision of the project is simply too foreign at the moment for people, and the sole developer is too angry all the time to cast it in a positive light. I really need to take a step back …

… and another step …

… and one more.

Because it really doesn't make much sense to continue dreading going into work. There is a lot of good about going in, too. I like a lot of my colleagues. I like the ridiculous amount of freedom I have within the organization. I like seeing people use my software without realizing they're doing more in 30 seconds today than they did in 5 minutes last year. It's a great feeling! I just need to stop being so attached to this specific project.


  1. This would be especially bad, given that I'm using my computers at the day job.

  2. these are the same people I work with now

  3. 15 months into the project, mind you …

Not Doing Too Good

The last few weeks have been pretty rough as it seems there are too many people vying for some of my time, my experience, my presence, or some combination thereof. These things are often freely available in moderation. When there are too many demands for the same resources, though, constraints can drive a person's stress levels through the roof. This is where I find myself this week.

The Sacred Bridge in Nikko

Being angry and frustrated is not a wonderful thing. Creativity cannot thrive under these conditions, yet it seems that whenever a person is under the gun to deliver before a bunch of arbitrary deadlines, creativity is needed in excess. While it's not at all realistic, I'd really like to take all 26 of my banked holidays at work and go for a walk with Nozomi every morning rather than head into the office where it seems artificial problems wait and artificial priorities jostle for artificial expedition which results in a very real lack of time for larger priorities. When asked why the larger priorities are yet to be completed, people are told about the other items that managed to jump the queue … not that it matters. Apparently, when items are deemed "too important to wait", they are to be resolved alongside the larger projects, as though we all carry with us two or more extra arms that can be deployed in such a scenario.

It's ridiculous.

How many times must a person refocus during the day before they can begin to work on the things they're expected to complete? Given that very little of what any of us does today will be remembered in five years time, why is there always so much of a focus on artificial priorities?

We spend so much time stressed out over the imaginary objectives of people who pretend they own us that we ignore the very real objectives that drive us to get out of bed in the morning. Looking at all the things that are stacking up in front of me, I'm not even sure why I even leave the house in the morning.

I'm not doing too good.

Remembering to Breathe

Like many people around the world, I tend to work a little too hard when sitting in front of the computer. I'm very fortunate to be working on not one, not two, but four different projects for different groups of people to solve different objectives with ultimately the same goal. Very few people can say this. And while I might shout and holler when managers get in the way and make decisions I strongly disagree with, things could genuinely be worse. So why get worked up about things?

A few weeks ago I changed my desktop background to this one showing Calvin & Hobbes enjoying an idyllic day in a tree. The colours are gorgeous and these two friends are enjoying so much of what makes life great. When I start to feel the buildup of stress and anxiety, I make it a habit to minimize all of the applications currently open on the various computers I use to essentially stop and breathe.

Calvin & Hobbes — Chilling in a Tree

When the rage and frustration that comes from being too invested in a thing starts to get a little out of hand, it's important to step back for a few moments to ask ourselves if what we're feeling is really worth it. In my case, I need to remember to read emails twice, wait fifteen minutes before responding, and above all, breathe.

Looking For An Escape

The last month has been pretty stressful at the day job. Despite putting in a solid 50 ~ 60 hours every week, I don't feel I've actually accomplished anything as there's next to nothing for me to show for the time I've been paid for. The problem is that I'm attempting to have my software interface with the existing CMS, and the people who have the answers to my questions are either keeping quiet in order to protect their silo of information, or have left the company. As a result, I've invested close to 200 hours reverse-engineering a bunch of code that is so obfuscated for the sake of obfuscation that it's hard to see any way out of this predicament. The stress has gotten to a point where I just want to throw my hands up in exasperation and shout "If certain people in the company don't want me to write this software, then that's fine. They can write it for me!"

But this wouldn't go over very well with most people. Friction is the keyword at the day job, and the more friction there is, the happier certain people are. That said, friction is exactly what I try to eliminate when I set my mind to solving a problem. This often results in some rather heated exchanges and miscommunications. So more than anything, what I am looking for is a place where I can go to simply escape from the silliness that is corporate politics and reset my mind. It doesn't need to be anywhere exotic or far, but it does need to be quiet and well-stocked with coffee.

Hot Coffee on a Table

Back in 2003 I lived in a small place just outside Vancouver called Steveston. It's situated right on the shores of Lulu Island and had a lovely view of the Straight of Georgia separating Vancouver Island from the rest of the country. My apartment was on the waterfront, and just down the street was a little boutique coffee shop that was wonderfully relaxed throughout the week. I'd often stop by on my way home from work for a hot drink and some warm conversation, occasionally splurging for the feta and spinach turnovers they sold, as a means to "reset". There was something special about this place that I've yet to find anywhere else.

When I think about the various places I like to go now, none of them are quite like the boutique café in Steveston. There's a quiet coffee shop near the office where retired people like to congregate, but it's nowhere near as comfortable or relaxing as the place in Canada. On weekends I enjoy heading out for a nice 8km walk through some parks near my home, but this isn't really feasible during the week, especially when I'm wearing a suit and carrying a large bag. There are some smaller specialty coffee shops in town, but they are all far too loud or incredibly fake. More than this, I don't want to spend $5 on burnt coffee just to get away from the office.

Perhaps it's time to look into a new hobby? Ideally one where I am physically active. Maybe if I join a gym …

Unmotivated

The 28th day of every month is considered "payday" at the day job. Money is transferred from the corporate account to our own, and we're sent emails with links to outdated websites showing how much to expect in the bank. My colleagues tend to be pretty happy on this day, as it means bills can be paid and overtime efforts can be rewarded. Unfortunately, I do not share this same level of happiness. For most of the last three weeks, I've been able to get very little work done at the office due to various political battles, software battles, and network insecurity battles. More than this, the money I'm paid every month, which is a good deal more than I earned in the classroom, feels dirty.

Japanese Money — Not From My Actual Paycheque

Over the last few weeks I've written about my desire to escape the day to day, the summertime blahs, feeling blasé, and even working myself stupid. Heck, it's been a recurring theme on this site for nearly a decade! But these ideas are seldom far from my thoughts. Why is this?

I've been reading a number of books on psychology and motivation this year and a common, unspoken theme in just about every book is the fact that we are all ultimately in control of our emotional state. If we want to be happy, then we'll be happy. If we don't, then we won't. More than this is the idea that happiness is ultimately manufactured as a form of self-delusion to override our constant desire for "more". The people around us who are often smiling have learned this incredible skill, and the people who seem to frown incessantly have not. This second group is most certainly the category that I would fall into.

So what's the solution?

The more I read about how our mind apparently works, the more I'm surprised it works at all. We seem to build up an illusionary world around us in order to make sense of the universe and our place in it, but these convenient views are little more than smoke and mirrors. The people we surround ourselves with need to use similar illusions in order to maintain the grand ideas that we tell ourselves. One other crucial element is the verbal reinforcement of the illusion. Without this, doubt can begin to manifest itself in dangerous ways. Is this what I'm missing? Or is it something more fundamental, like physical community?

When I try to convey these questions to others, I'm often met with the "Buck up and grow a pair!" response that inspires so much nothingness. Just charging through something accomplishes nothing, and grow a pair of what? Testicles? Why would I want four of the things? Testosterone (or lack thereof) is not the reason for my disinterest in work or the asininity surrounding the various fiefdoms within corporate offices. Just the suggestion that one should do whatever this sentence is supposed to mean also goes to show that the listener is not at all empathetic with the speaker, or plain not listening. Either way, they are not the people we should be talking to.

And there are so many people like this …

So what is it that I think would make me happy? Even for a little while? A small list. Nothing crazy. I do live in a relatively safe part of the country and am doing the job I tried hard for 8 years to get. I have a lovely puppy and some good friends who live less than an hour away. But what I'm looking for is this:

  1. a comfortable home life
  2. self-agency at the day job
  3. a bit of pocket money every month

The work will be determining how to go about making these three things possible.

Clean Hands. Obsession. Madness?

This past week I've been struggling to uncover the reason for a new compulsion that seems to have crept up out of nowhere. It's not a bad problem, per se, aside from the amount of water it uses. That said, I do have concerns that it may be seeded by a deep-seated, subconscious issue that is starting to surface. My (new) problem is that I wash my hands too much.

Running Water

Over the last twenty years or so I've had the terrible habit of keeping my fingernails and toenails incredibly short not by using clippers, but instead tearing at them with other fingernails. I rarely take "too much" nail off, but very rarely will people see more than 1.5mm of whitespace at the tips … unless I'm incredibly relaxed. During incredibly rare periods, my fingernails have been permitted to grow out a few millimetres, right up until they start to cause problems when typing. But this has rarely happened since high school, though. The Demons of Self-Doubt are quite good at stirring up anxiety about just about anything, and that is part of what drives me to keep trying to accomplish things; It keeps my feelings of inadequacy at bay¹.

The excessive hand washing is a little different, though.

I noticed this over the weekend when sitting on the sofa in my living room. Like many people, I don't like the feeling of sticky things on my hand. Normally small bits of dirt can be scrubbed out with friction, but I couldn't for the life of me get my hands to a point where they felt clean. So I went to the bathroom sink and started cleaning … and cleaning … and cleaning … until I recognized the futility of continuing and returned to the living room, where I fought the urge to clean my hands. This is something that is seen in movies and books when a person is beginning to go crazy or is otherwise teetering on the event horizon, but I don't think I'm going crazy. Sure, I really want to eat sugar, I'm feeling dizzy often during the day, and I'm under a great deal of pressure at the day job to deliver results against all odds … but this is normal for many people … isn't it?

Since the weekend's excessive use of hand soap, there hasn't been a repeat of the incident. That said, it's at the forefront of my mind as I go through the day. Am I turning into a hypochondriac? Is this just a nervous reaction to the various things going on at the moment? Is this a sign of something else?

Putting all of this down in words has me wondering if perhaps it's time for a break. A real vacation away from everything² where I just spend time with the people in my life. None of the "professional" goals that I'm working on will disappear or become impossible to complete if I step away for a while. If anything, the time away would let me re-evaluate some of the decisions and directions these projects are taking. Perspective is a wonderful thing, and I mine is both narrow and biased.

The question now revolves around how to accomplish this.


  1. for the most part, anyway.
  2. a real vacation? What's that? Haven't had more than three consecutive days off work in years …