I'm putting this at the top, outside the cut, so I have a better chance of getting an answer. When you see a long entry (over 1000 words) like this one, do you generally read it right away, put it aside and maybe (or maybe not) get around to reading it later, skim it, or skip it entirely? Please comment; no need to read the rest of the post if you don't want to.
I'm not in as bad a mood as I was the last time I posted, though I've been feeling kind of inward-focused and passive this week. A bunch of stuff has happened that I haven't written about.
My dad visited me for Easter weekend. The weather was fairly awful for Dallas (it actually snowed while we were at the Fort Worth Zoo), but we had a good time. We cooked a couple of times (I had my dad pick recipes from a cookbook), watched Idiocracy, and went to a baseball game (at which it was also ridiculously cold, but the Rangers beat the Red Sox) and a hockey game (the last of the regular season; the Stars beat the Blackhawks, with no scoring whatsoever until the third period). There were a couple of times when I (very briefly and mildly) snapped at my dad, which I interpreted at the time as indicative of how out of practice I was at dealing with people in general, but in retrospect seems equally likely to be due to the particular nature of our relationship.
The next weekend it was off to DC to visit Laura. My flight was delayed by a tornado warning (the plane was diverted to Austin and then flew back to Dallas, so it was lucky that it wasn't canceled) by 3 hours, meaning it took off when it was supposed to be landing, and Laura and Erik picked me up at the airport at 2 in the morning. Saturday we had brunch with a few people, then blew bubbles on the Mall, at which this picture was taken:
Later Laura introduced me to the Wii, on which I played some of the sports games (Bowling, Tennis, Baseball). It fooled me into exercising! I might get one, except that the TV space in my apartment is seriously lacking in floor space. Maybe it would even be worth rearranging.
Sunday the weather kind of sucked, so we basically spent the day inside, playing a few games (Aquarius, Fluxx, Treehouse, Boggle) and talking. I commented at one point on how when I was talking to someone whom I considered meaningful, it was literally as if a halo surrounded them, and the qualitative character of the interaction was completely different (even if the content might be almost the same). Laura, being the master of determining what you know you want anyway and then getting you to figure out how you might achieve it, pursued this further—in a followup to the same conversation on Monday, after I had explained the reasoning that has thus led me not to meet anyone in Dallas (I don't want to be here for a long time, and don't want to have any reason to stay here; plus all the usual arguments about how, outside of an environment like school, I find it insanely difficult and inefficient to meet people) she commented that she felt like a doctor telling someone to eat their vegetables who replied that they weren't going to do that for a few years, and here were the reasons, etc.
Monday during the day we took the Metro to the Mall, and went to a few museums (portrait gallery, Natural History Museum), walked by and took some pictures of the Capitol and the Supreme Court, went into the Library of Congress and saw an exhibit, and then walked over to a train station that was also a mall, where we got some food. We took the Metro to the point where our paths would diverge, and she hammered home her point about meaningful interaction as I waited for the train. It's still bothering me now, and having discussed it with about everyone I can think of (and done a whole lot of web searching) there still don't appear to be any really good options. But we'll see if it goes anywhere, as I'm trying to learn to better juggle several different threads in my life without totally dropping the ball on any of them.
The next weekend was very activity-focused. First I played paintball with a bunch of co-workers (and learned that a crouch is an incredibly difficult and painful position to maintain; my legs hurt quite badly for 2 days after, and noticeably for 4). Then it was Jeff's for foosball. As much as I enjoyed these activities, they totally failed to fulfill the need that I had been discussing with Laura earlier. I've since determined (partially based on conversation with Charlie) that although meaningfulness is in part a condition that I deliberately apply (or not) to certain conversations, there are also some preconditions that make it vastly more or less likely (principally my pre-existing impression of the person with whom I'm interacting). Furthermore, my personality functioned in a qualitatively different way when I was having such conversations weekly or so (in college, or when I lived close enough to visit Charlie) than now, when they're every 3 months or so (generally only when I travel), and the change has not been a positive one. Charlie thinks such interaction should reasonably be necessary every month or so, though I have no empirical data on the effects of that since it's always been either easier or more difficult (thus, more frequent or less frequent) than that in my actual life.
I've started buying individual stocks. I bought Yum! Brands and Nordstrom, both on bad news that made me think they were undervalued. Yum! is now up around 17% since I bought it (only a few months ago), partly on a very good earnings report last week, making it very tempting to sell it again even though I'd have to pay income tax instead of the lower capital gains rate; I think I'll hang onto it, though, since there isn't anything else I especially think will do better in the short term. Very recently, I also took a small position in Vonage, who are in serious trouble (on the verge of bankruptcy) due to a lawsuit with Verizon; I expect to lose everything, but make a lot if they somehow pull through (making it more of a gamble than an investment, but one with odds I like).
Work has been generally unremarkable. Some of the analysis I've been doing is interesting, but the parts when I'm actually sitting in front of the computer have been dull. I've made it known to the higher-ups that I need some sort of a more significant project, so hopefully things will improve. Two new co-workers have started, as well; one is a combination programmer and business guy, and seems pretty cool, the other only started a few days ago and is fairly quiet, so I can't really comment on him yet (though he seems as good as any of the rest of us at foosball).