Tag Archives: Work

How Not To Grow A Beard: Day 28

Only a few more days of silly beard pictures and it’ll all be over…or will it? The beard is definitely coming off in December, but I think I’m going to have some fun with it first. Stay tuned for ever-increasing levels of foolishness.

In non-beard-related news, I’ve started packing up my stuff at work. Swarthy men wearing swarthy shoes will transport boxes of my stuff from the building in which I currently work to the building in which I’ll be working starting on Monday. The new place is closer to home, but I’ve heard there are random alligator attacks in the parking lot and that bands of gnomes steal the toilet paper out of the third floor men’s room. Since I’m going to be working on the first floor, the gnomes don’t really concern me. On the other hand, I’m horribly allergic to alligators. One bite and I start bleeding all over the place; it isn’t pretty.

Windows IT Pro: Minds in Motion

One of my co-workers has his subscription to Windows IT Pro magazine delivered to his work address, so every month or so I leaf through the magazine, ignoring all the articles and useful content and skipping right to the back page, which features “Ctrl-Alt-Del”, a collection of strange error messages and other IT-related humor that shows just how backwards and bizarre the field can be.

Yesterday, I noticed that the November issue was sitting on our shared table, but instead of picking it up and flipping to the back page I just stared at the cover for a long minute; something wasn’t quite right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. The feature story is “2007 IT Innovators Put Their Ideas To Work”, and the accompanying graphic, a stylized cranial x-ray, reveals the symbolic gears of innovation, presumably turning away inside the head of one those innovators. ((Failing to find a suitable image of this cover on line, even on the magazine’s own website, I dutifully borrowed the magazine so I could scan it and provide the accompanying visual aid, which you can click to enlarge for full effect. You’re welcome.))

It’s a very appropriate image but for one tiny detail. The three gears in the illustration, meshed as they so clearly are, will never turn. Two gears together would turn just fine, one clockwise and another counter-clockwise (or, if you prefer, anti-clockwise). A third gear would also turn just fine, provided it only meshed with one of the other two; but meshing with two gears turning (or trying to turn) in opposite directions creates a forever-frozen mechanism.

Is this an unintended metaphor for the lack of real innovation in the Windows IT world? I’ll leave that for others to debate, but the irony is rather delicious. Perhaps the December 2007 issue of Windows IT Pro will feature their November 2007 cover in the “Ctrl-Alt-Del” column.

The Sword of Damocles

The Sword of Damocles fell at work today. I was not beneath it, but an unfortunate number of people I know (and an even more unfortunate number I don’t know) were.

To say that productivity was low in the aftermath would, I think, be a gross understatement. We were all stunned beyond belief, and spent much of the day wondering if maybe, just maybe, our names were on “The List”, too, and any minute now someone would notice the oversight and take steps to correct it. Every time a manager walked by, the first instinct was to hide; the second, to run, and though I’m sure their intention was to be helpful and reassuring and to answer any questions, the hovering did little to ease anyone’s discomfort.

As I left the building late this evening, I almost…almost turned around to make sure my badge would still open the door.

5 O’ Clock Shadow: Bonefish Grill

Bonefish Grill
Yesterday’s 5 o’ clock shadow picture was taken a little after 9:00 at the Bonefish Grill in Willow Grove, PA. As you can probably tell, I was in a lousy mood after a second less-than-spectacular day at the office. I’ll skip the boring details; it should be sufficient to say that our upgrade did not go as planned.

In my college Creative Writing class, I learned that ascribing human feelings and/or thoughts to inanimate natural objects is called a pathetic fallacy. This was true when the rain stopped (“its work finished” or something along those lines was what I wrote) after washing Jimmy’s blood off the roof and I suppose it’s true now. The weather in Huntingdon Valley is overcast and rainy, reflecting the general mood here.

We’ll be wrapping up here shortly and then hopping on a plane back to sunny northeast Ohio. Surely it’s sunny in northeast Ohio.

Non Sequitur: Biblioptimus Prime

Moving day looms like an ancient monolith at work. We scurry around in its shadow, fully aware that the hour of its descent draws nigh. When the simile topples, we will scatter or be crushed beneath its awesome mass.

I will be moving approximately eleven feet west, which means I need to pack everything at my desk (except my laptops, which currently number five) into boxes and vacate the building by 4:00 Friday afternoon. When I return on Monday, the journey from MVoD to desk will be approximately eleven feet shorter.

Today, I decided it was time to get rid of some technical tomes that I haven’t touched in a couple of years. I brought Newton’s Telecom Dictionary, The XML Bible, Teach Yourself HTML 4 in 24 Hours and a slew of Microsoft “core” references for Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 and IIS to Half-Price Books, where the going rate for out of date computer books is approximately thirty cents per pound. This came to six whole dollars, the voucher for which burned like the innards of a freshly-microwaved Hot Pocket in my hand.

Browsing through the store, I saw a few possibilities: Sudden Strike II was only $4.98, but I decided that I don’t really need another computer game right now; Dungeons & Dragons: The Movie could be had for a paltry $6.98, but that would necessitate dragging out the debit card for a mere dollar and change; ((For some reason, I can’t bring myself to pay with a debit card if the total is less than about three bucks. I’ve gotten better; I used to balk at anything less than $10, and would wander around a store until I found something to bring the total over that threshold.)); Black & White 2 was available for $7.98, but that’s another sequel to a computer game I didn’t play enough in the first place.

I was ready to turn the voucher in for cash (which I would undoubtedly have blown on iced tea and Frappuccino®) when Miscellaneous G™ came to the rescue. Like Prince Adam lifting his sword high in preparation to invoke the power of Greyskull, Miscellaneous G™ held aloft a copy of Transformers: The Movie on DVD. The price tag: $9.98, which amounted to an acceptable $4.73 on the debit card.

The original value of the books I traded in probably topped three hundred dollars but I was glad to get six bucks for them, and Half-Price Books will be lucky to sell them for twice that; just another testament to how quickly computers and nearly everything related to them become obsolete.

Transformers, on the other hand, will never be obsolete to me. In the immortal words of Peter Cullen, ((Peter Cullen provided the voice of Optimus Prime in the Transformers cartoon as well as Transformers: The Movie. Fans of the original television series were delighted to learn that Cullen would be reprising his role in the upcoming live-action movie directed by Michael Bay. To date, Cullen’s inclusion is the only thing about the upcoming film that hasn’t led to indignation, outrage and rampant bitching from said fans.)) Autobots, transform and roll out!

Non Sequitur: Going Vertical

I work on the third floor, but — thanks to science’s failure to deliver flying automobiles back in the year 2000 — the MVoD is parked at ground level. Also at or near ground level are the dispensers of beverages, microwaveable foodstuffs and conveniently packaged snacks, ((I originally typed “conveniently packaged snakes,” which would certainly make the vending machines more interesting.)) not to mention a host of offices and conference rooms. Thus, there are a number of reasons for me to move between the first and third floors of the building throughout the day.

There are two elevators in the building, the use of which reduces the number of vertical steps between the third and first floors (and vice versa) from forty-four to zero, likewise reducing the amount of physical exertion necessary to travel between those floors. For this reason alone, I should avoid the elevators at all cost. My job and most of my leisurely pursuits require very little physical activity, so I should get exercise whenever possible, even if it’s just four flights of stairs.

Laziness often wins out over common sense, and I find myself riding the elevator instead of taking the stairs, especially if someone else has already summoned the vertical conveyance to my current floor. Shaky rationale often reinforces laziness in this case, for surely I am saving valuable corporate dollars by decreasing the cost-per-passenger when I join someone else in an elevator that is already bound for my destination.

This week, building maintenance swept in to aid laziness. Painting in the stairwells has produced fumes, turning those enclosures into nausea-inducing gas chambers and making the elevator all the more attractive as a means of traveling along the z-axis. Unless, of course, the previous passengers consisted of two individuals returning from their smoke break and a third carrying his bag of recently-microwaved popcorn; the combination of the two odors is enough to turn the stomach and conjure images of Marlboro Lights drizzled with melted butter.

Perhaps it’s an as-yet-untapped marketing niche: Buttered Popcorn cigarettes could take their place on the shelf next to the ubiquitous menthol and never-expressed-but-always-implied burning dog ass flavors. ((There goes my G-rating for today.)) Tempting as it may be, I’m not going to jump on that potential cash cow. I’ll let Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds fight over it. I’m nothing if not magnanimous.

There’s a lesson in all of this, I suppose. Something as simple as “take the stairs, you lazy bastard,” but disguised in layers of abstract symbolism and metaphor to make it seem deep and philosophical. Time for me to try my hand at proverbs, I guess.

“Even the laziest dog knows the proper time to lift his leg.”

Yeah, that’s it.

Travelogue: Monroeville, PA (Part the Second)

The team went out to dinner at DeNunzio‘s last night, despite the fact that someone in the office claimed Johnny Carino‘s is superior. The fact that Johnny C didn’t send some of his boys down to make sure the DeNunzios slept with the fishes last night (at least, not while we were there) leads me to believe that he’s no capo.

I enjoyed a cup of the wedding soup, some fried calamari and the chicken saltimbocca, all of which were pretty tasty. During the meal, I was filled in on some of the antics that occurred after I retired on Tuesday night. Listening to the tales of drunken revelry, I determined that there is one advantage to returning to the hotel at 10PM instead of staying out at the Tiki Lounge until 3AM: plausible deniability. Everything I “know” about what went on after I left is hearsay, and will never hold up in court. What happens in Pittsburgh stays in Pittsburgh until the special task force is assembled.

After dinner, we said farewell to three of our elite shadow force and they vanished like the colony of Roanoke. Then the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and the X-Men teamed up in an unprecedented across-the-aisle effort to defeat the forces of Apocalypse. That went on for about two hours before the involved mutants got sleepy and went to bed.

The other apprentice and I will be fleeing the state this evening, but I did add two of Monroeville’s more exotic locations to my “Been There, Done That” list. The first is a local eatery called Quizno’s, which features a menu chock-full of delectable sandwiches. After your chosen ingredients are piled high atop whole wheat (or white, if you must) bread, the entire assembly is placed on a conveyor belt where it descends into the very bowels of the Earth and is cooked to perfection by molten lava. They have raspberry lemonade, too, which is made by either faeries or elves, whichever is less likely rile the lawyers at Keebler.

Finally, there is The Exchange, an establishment spoken about only in hushed whispers behind tightly closed doors. So secret is this place that even The Internet has never heard of it. There are wonders to behold behind the doors of The Exchange (provided you can actually find the damn place) the likes of which my tripping fingers cannot begin to describe. I will say only this: at The Exchange, you can purchase a Shadowrun SEGA Genesis cartridge for a mere two dollars and fifty cents. Well, actually you couldn’t, because I did.

I have uncovered all the secrets this town holds, I fear, and soon it will be time to journey westward once more. The final stop in this town of hidden treasures and ancient mysteries will be a gas station, where the MVoD will drink deeply of the enchanted elixir that is the lifeblood of Monroeville, PA.

Travelogue: Monroeville, PA

I was in bed by 11:00 last night, which is apparently four hours earlier than the rest of the team. We all ate at Fat Heads, but I bailed early in order to get one more dose of Advil Cold & Sinus and seven hours of fitful sleep. I will say that the Pittsburgh skyline after dark is very nice when approaching on Interstate 376, and the Bay of Pigs sandwich was pretty tasty, if a bit spicier than I anticipated.

While eating raisin bran and drinking orange juice in the hotel breakfast nook this morning I saw (but did not hear) part of a morning show piece concerning out-of-control snakes on a plane, presumably in Florida. They showed the results of a confrontation between a 6-foot alligator and a 13-foot python wherein both critters died; you may recall the incident from last year. That’s just the sort of random stuff that’s likely to make it into my dreams tonight. If I wake up tomorrow morning to find that my pillows have eaten me, I’ll be all sorts of upset.

Today and tomorrow, we’ll be in the Monroeville office. I’ve now visited five locations in Monroeville: the hotel and the adjoining Outback Steakhouse, Eckerd pharmacy (Riiiiiiicola!), John Harvard‘s microbrewery and restaurant, and GameStop (X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse: $17.99 used). Though I’m far from an expert on the area, I feel fairly comfortable declaring that the traffic around here is off the colloquial chain. When one is mired in the seemingly endless river of fiberglass and sheet metal, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that the length of time a given light remains red can only be calculated by measuring radioactive decay in the vehicle’s occupants.

On the bright side, we figured out the quick (if not intuitive) method to get the hotel television to use the auxiliary RCA input jacks. This has resulted in many of my curvaceously polygonal avatars falling before the awesome power of Kilik‘s mighty man-stick.

On the not-so-bright side, my coughs have chunks. I’m pretty sure I have a pallor, too. In my experience, there are three types of people who can be said to have a pallor: goths, the sickly, and corpses. As I have no inclination to dye my hair black and begin listening to The Cure, I’m pretty sure that eliminates the possibility that I’ve somehow contracted the goth (which doesn’t necessarily preclude the goth from being communicable). Also, I’m definitely coughing, which is a form of breathing I guess, so I’m probably not dead. I am, therefore, the sickly. Excuse me while I rasp pathetically and mewl about “the vapors.”

Non Sequitur: The Other Apprentice

When I speak of “my young apprentice,” I’m referring to Kyle, who is now eleven weeks old and has decided that he likes diaper changes very much. This is a relief to Laura and I, as Kyle used to pitch an unholy fit whenever we began the process of changing his Tinkle-in-me-Elmo undergirding. He also smiles a lot now, and not just because he’s got gas. He smiles when I do silly things like playing the alien greeting from Close Encounters of the Third Kind on his nose, cheeks and chin.

It occurred to me yesterday, however, that I currently have another apprentice — though perhaps “protégé” might be a better word. This other apprentice goes by the name of Stuart (or s2), and I am in the process of transferring my current duties to him so that I can pursue other opportunities. If the phrase “pursue other opportunities” sounds like workplace jargon, that’s because it is. Generally, when people use that phrase, they mean “find another job,” which is not the case with me. I’m just going to focus on different types of projects once the brain dump to s2 is complete. I could probably be more vague, but obfuscation is a lot of work, and I’m on my lunch break.

One of my apprentices (apprentici?) cries and fusses when he’s hungry, has a tendency to stare at lights and occasionally spits up on himself; the other is a cute little baby.

There you go, s2, you’ve been mentioned in the blog. You can stop pouting now.

P is for Plastic People.

Busy, busy weekend.

On Friday we had a “team event” at work. My team consists of five peons and one overlord, and we decided a month or so ago that we’d all like to see the Bodyworlds 2 exhibit at the Great Lakes Science Center. Most of us ((All but one, who opted to drive his motorcycle and wound up having to leave before dinner.)) piled into the MVoD at noon and within moment escaped the gravitational well of the office. We had lunch at ¿Que Tal? and then it was off to the Science Center.

The exhibit was fascinating. That Gunther Gebel-Williams von Hagen is either a straight-up old school mad scientist or a stone-cold serial killer. Either way, he put together an impressive array of human cadavers that provides unprecedented insight into human anatomy. I came away amazed that the world doesn’t break us into tiny pieces on a daily basis.

After the exhibit ((We also saw Mystery of the Nile at the OMNIMAX theater. It’s the story of the first expedition to ever successfully navigate the Nile from its source to the Mediterranean Sea. It was breath-takingly beautiful and the music was excellent. I’m hoping there’s a soundtrack CD available online.)) we proceeded to the New York Spaghetti House for dinner. We all split the mozzarella marinara appetizer and I enjoyed a raspberry martini, house salad (excellent dressing), lasagna and tiramisu. It was all excellent.

Saturday morning I was supposed to go cycling with Bob, but it rained, ((Well, it threatened to rain. We argued that the precipitation factor was simply too unpredictable to chance. We’ve both got caliper brakes on our bicycles, and they don’t work all that well when wet.)) so we opted to forgo the cycling in favor of breakfast at IHOP. To make up for not doing 10+ miles on the bike, I practiced my power-eating on four pancake-wrapped sausage links and a large orange juice. I’m pretty sure that qualifies as aerobic exercise.

Project Gotham Racing 2
After breakfast, the Xbox LAN party commenced. ((While I was getting my game on, Laura and her mother spent the day shopping for porn corn. I’m told that they actually bought some sweet, juicy porn corn, too, but I won’t get to experience it until this evening.)) There was much playing of HALO 2 and Project Gotham Racing 2, which lasted until at least one wee hour of the morning. I got home at about a quarter of two on Sunday morning and was just as surprised as Laura to find me still in bed when she got home from church at one in the afternoon.

Laura and I had lunch at Red Robin, did a little shopping, then went home so I could get the printer connected to her newly-moved PC. I played a little Tetris Worlds while Laura napped, then I mowed the lawn. It was just the sort of hectic, fast-paced, action-packed day that separates our thrill-a-minute lifestyle from the mundane, humdrum existence of “normal” folks.

Apart from learning that Laura is eighteen weeks pregnant, that pretty much sums up our weekend.