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Posts in: December 2005

It’s Been Awhile

…but I’m back. Not exactly with a vengeance, but I still exist. Here’s a brief review of the past five months, for the folks keeping score at home:

  • A few weeks after my last post, I got a job as a cubicle drone (my favorite kind of drone!) at a reasonably large technology firm based in Chicago. Since then, I’ve been staring at invoices, contracts, and computer screens on a daily basis, trying to make sense of fairly incomprehensible numbers. I’m no math expert, but the tedium and repetition definitely helps my obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
  • At this job, I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement that precludes me from discussing the details if my job with any more specificity than what I wrote in the previous bulletpoint. After getting the job, I gutted this site. I thought I’d reinvent it with a semi-fictitious spin, portraying the adventures of “teenage Stan,” who has just started “high school” in a “new town,” and I’d turn my entire job life into one big hilarious metaphor. And then the site languished blankly for months because, let’s face it, I’m fucking lazy, and when I actually feel like doing something, it’s not writing half-fake blog stories. Fortunately for you, gentle reader, further investigation of the details of my NDA have revealed a loophole: I can’t talk specifically about my work, but I can ramble with all the incoherence and rage you’ve come to expect from this blog about the broader details of corporate life and my clashing with coworkers. Again, I wanted to metaphor this up so my secret identity wouldn’t be revealed, but at the same time, I hate my job, so if I get caught and fired for whining about my boss, fuck it. Hopefully I’ll have moved on before anyone discovers it.
  • I spent several days basking in the sunshine and humidity of Coralville, Iowa, with my best friend in the whole world, Lucy, and her new roommate who, a few weeks after my visit (and a few weeks after signing a 12-month lease), left the state (there was a warrant for her arrest after she decided not to go to court over a DUI charge) and sent an email stating she will no longer be paying rent or utilities, so sorry, Lucy’s on her own. This, traditionally, would be comedy gold, but I actually felt kinda bad.
  • In spite of my verbal cocky strut, I did not get into the band I auditioned for. No hard feelings on the surface, but I secretly said, “Well, fuck them anyway!” and have started compiling all the songs I’ve written in the past three years to record what I can only assume will be the worst album in the history of rock music. I may post some demos or outtakes if I feel they’re worth sharing.
  • One of the songs I referred to in the bulletpoint above details the tragic story of a Ukrainian drunk who is recruited by an undercover CIA agent to become a pro wrestler in America. It doesn’t end well. I am telling you this to illustrate that when I say “worst album in the history of rock music,” I am not just being self-deprecating.
  • My sister, Tracey, and her fiancé, Jack, finally got married. The ceremony was nice, in spite of the weirdness of Tracey trying to hook me up with her best-friend-since-sixth-grade. The classiest moment was when I drove them back to their hotel after the reception—they were blitzed, so I became the default designated driver—and I made a sarcastic comment about the Corner Bakery, to which my sister gleefully yelped, “My best-friend-since-sixth-grade loves the Corner Bakery, too!” Shudder.
  • I received a rambling, suspiciously desperate email from Hollywood, USA, saying that, despite my propensity toward quitting without notice, I am still a Valued Person for some reason, so would I be interested in doing some minor consulting in the form of giving notes on scripts that are faxed to me on a weekly basis? Gosh, why not? I assume that since they came after me, they might actually care what I have to say. Plus, a little—very little—extra cash. I’m finally taking an extremly tiny portion of that Hollywood pie!
  • I wrote the first draft of a novel, then stuck in a drawer. Now let us never speak of it again.
  • I went out with a woman from work who seemed nice, then dropped the single-mother bomb on me and believed I’d be a very pleasant surrogate pseudo-father-figure-type-guy. It was awkward. I still know how to pick ’em!
  • I got very tired of this job and decided, once again, to start looking for better opportunities. So far, nothing. Oh well, at least this time I’m getting paid while I look for another job.
  • As soon as I pay off my student loans (assuming I don’t spend any more money and don’t change jobs or pay rates, the second week in March!), I will take out more loans to go to grad school. These I probably won’t pay back. Serves the government right for trusting me!
  • Last week, a bird got into the office. It was weird.

Well, that about brings us up to speed. I’ll probably post again in five months or so.

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The First Known Motion Picture

The first known motion picture

“Produced by Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince at Roundhay House, Leeds, UK, some time before October of 1888.”

I found this very interesting. I’ve mirrored the movie because the NMPFT site was running slow.

More on Le Prince and evidence that this really is the earliest single-camera motion picture ever captured:

Roundhay Garden Scene, 1888

Photographic copy of paper prints from a film taken in the garden of the Whitley family house in Oakwood Grange Road, Roundhay, a suburb of Leeds, Yorkshire, Great Britain. Le Prince’s son, Adolphe, who appears in this picture, stated that it was shot in early October 1888 (he suggests 14October) as it shows Mrs Sarah Whitley, Le Prince’s mother-in-law, who died on 24 October that year. The other subjects are Joseph Whitley and Miss Harriet Hartley. They are plainly having fun walking round in circles, keeping within the area framed by the camera.

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Caffeine

Tomorrow, Monday, December 5th, marks four full weeks since I first attempted to very, very slowly wean myself off the wonder-drug commonly known as caffeine (more commonly known as “sweet ambrosia of the gods”). The first two weeks were easy enough: rather than consuming my normal 40 ounces of coffee, I dropped down to 32 (two 16-ounce cups, which makes it easier to divide than, say, drinking one 16-ounce cup, then adding another 4 afterward). I suffered almost no withdrawal symptoms and, in fact, felt an immediate reduction in the chronic heartburn that has seemed to plague me pretty much since I reached my all-time regular peak of 72 ounces daily (during that exciting 18 credit hour semester in the spring of 2004, which was followed by getting all the free coffee I wanted in Seattle.

The second two weeks started a little rougher: I switched from 32 ounces of coffee to a 16-ounce cup of coffee in the morning, and a 16-ounce of rank, fetid green tea around mid-morning. It was not nearly as bad as the 36 hours I spent caffeine-free in Coralville, during which time I suffered from chronic, violent migraines and rarely could pull myself off the full-body vibrating massager on the extremely comfortable couch. However, I did suffer from occasional, mild headaches every few afternoons. Those stopped by the end of the first week, and this last week has been just fine.

On Monday, I take it to the next level: no coffee, just 32 ounces of putrid green tea every day for another two weeks. My theory is that nothing will convince me to quit caffeine more quickly than having to consume that much green tea on a daily basis. At the end of this two weeks, I will take it to the second-to-last step: two weeks of green tea in the morning, followed by a delicious mint tea I used to peddle while working in Seattle. Two weeks later, I go to mint tea full-time, and, theoretically, I should be completely free of caffeine.

I love coffee, I love tea (I love the java jive and it loves me—that’s right, I know you all missed my trademark references to the 1940s jazz-pop catalog!), but I’m getting a little tired of the heartburn keeping me up at night and leading to generally unrestful sleep in the unlikely event that I actually can fall asleep. I’ve changed my diet in a variety of ways over the past year, and that helped slightly, but the coffee-and-green-tea switch produced a night-and-day difference within a few days. So it’s either consume so much caffeine that I never sleep at all, or cut it out altogether. I’ve made my choice.

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Utility Player

Motorola emphasizes team-building in all of its many departments, and what’s a team without a good utility player, the guy who doesn’t (necessarily) excel at any single task or skill, but he’s competent, even proficient, in many different areas. The utility player, if properly utilized (see that pun? I’ll bet you all missed those), fills gaps in the roster and creates a well-rounded, undoubtedly successful team.

By default, because I’m the New Guy with No Seniority, I’ve become the “utility player” of the office. And let me tell you, it kind of sucks.

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Mall Walker

Since I’ve started this job, I’ve gone for a long walk every day during my lunch three-hours. The campus is fairly huge, and it’s full of manufactured hills and shit, so I’ve done a few laps around my building and its parking lot, walking in the grass for maximum uphill-downhill workouts. A week or two ago it snowed, but the ground wasn’t cold so most of it melted by the time I got out there. A few weeks ago it was fairly cold and very windy, so I barely made it around once. Otherwise, I’ve had no problems. Until today.

Today it was cold. According to the thermometer in my car, it was 1° at noon. It snowed a bit on Saturday, so nothing has melted. One of my coworkers—who also walks around during her lunch—approached me today to discuss the weather situation. I told her I probably wouldn’t be able to walk; it’s just too cold. She agreed, then said, “Well, you could always go walk around the mall.”

That…actually wasn’t such a terrible idea. I contemplated it for a little while: am I really ready to take the plunge reserved only for retirees and confused shoppers? Would this be humiliating, or not too much because there would be so many people in the mall at that time of day? Although, with all those damn shoppers, will I actually be able to walk at a quick enough pace to get any real exercise? Maybe I should go someplace that’s also large, and indoors, but not quite so crowded. There’s a Target up the street that I run to sometimes on my lunch hour, and it’s virtually deserted. And pretty huge. If I went down there and walked around like an idiot, chances are nobody would notice that I was making a continuous loop around the main perimeter.

I kept thinking about this, even as I made the drive to Target. I started thinking about the possible humiliation of an employee noticing and calling me out. “Can I help you find something? No? THEN STOP WALKING AROUND IN A CIRCLE.” Not that this would ever happen, necessarily, but in my mind the possibility of public humiliation is far more terrifying than the inevitable actual humiliation (which occurs, roughly, seven times a day).

I got out of my car, and it seemed relatively wind-free, and, despite being 1°, it didn’t feel very cold. So, I decided, fuck going inside. I’ll just walk around the creepy semi-gated community behind the store and hope that nobody in one of the giant houses thinks I’m a hobo and calls the cops.

But the walk was pretty much uneventful, and the neighborhood was deserted. Unlike my neighborhood, which is teeming all day long with the varied activities of the chronically unemployable, the people in these gargantuan homes clearly had jobs.

And yet, the walk was nice and peaceful. Nobody driving like assholes through a nonexistent corporate parking lot; nobody else walking around and giving me funny looks because they’re walkiing to another building and I’m walking in a huge circle; no fight-or-flight instincts whenever I see a security truck drive by and instinctively assume they’re coming to chase me down for being some sort of Interloper. And no questions and strange looks when I come back from lunch red-faced and sweaty.

I doubt I will ever set foot in the mall to walk, but…I may make this strange neighborhood my permanent walk location.

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Daily Caffeine Withdrawal Update

This is the first in what will be a daily series, until I forget and stop writing them.

I think it’s important to remember that yesterday was a Monday when I write that I decided not to switch to green tea as I mentioned earlier. Mondays are widely regarded by corporate drones and office- and cat-themed comic-strip writers as the worst day of the week. So cut me some slack.

This morning I made the switch to green tea. It goes down a little more smoothly than coffee. This is mainly fortunate because it has such an awful taste and texture that I want to drink it as quickly as I can. It also saves me just a few minutes in the morning, which I guess is nice. I spend it reflecting on my life. I’ll start coffee again tomorrow.

As far as actual withdrawal symptoms, I feel a little bit more sluggish, and I started to have a bit of a hard time concentrating in the afternoon, but none of this is any worse than when I switched to mid-morning green tea two weeks ago. Assuming this trend continues, I can look forward to a mild headache this evening, followed by an extremely difficult time getting up tomorrow. With any luck, I’ll get used to it before the end of the week.

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Feeling Better?

I took Thursday and Friday off because my dad is on vacation this week, and we needed to install the bathroom fan. He asked me last weekend, after he and my mother had failed—for a second weekend in a row—to properly install it, “How much do you know about electricity?”

I flashed on the five-minute crash course we had on how not to blow a fuse with film lights, my vague recollection of the various formulae and wattages pooling together into a soupy lack of remembrance. I told him the truth: “Almost nothing.” I suggested that perhaps my sister, who spends the majority of her life fucking around with electrical wiring, might be helpful, but my dad helpfully pointed out that she’s a girl, and he doesn’t want to be humiliated by his incompetence. He wants both of us to be humiliated by our combined IQ of 14, because we inevitably failed and had to call my sister for help. Then we failed again; yes, the fan now officially works, but only by flipping the switch in the other bathroom.

“Who cares about your bathroom fan?” you, impatient gentle reader, are undoubtedly asking right now.

“Nobody,” I can respond safely, and fortunately for you, this entry isn’t really about that.

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The Thr3e

You might recall I was recently asked, and by that I mean forced against my will, to do the job of myself, a guy who got fired, and a guy who quit. On top of that, they added another layer of responsibility to the job I’ve been doing all along, which essentially means that what I’m doing takes twice as long as it used to. I described my fear of not being able to handle the workload but also secretly wanted to prove myself that I could, in fact, do the job of three (three and a half?) people without any additional pressure.

Yes, gone are the three-hour lunches, excessive breaks and mysterious disappearances from my desk. But I was only doing that because I had nothing to do. I still take a full hour for lunch, plus two-half hour breaks (essentially doubling the amount of breaktime I’m allotted), and I’m still leaving half an hour early because fuck this job, and yet…now that I caught up on the other guy’s work and got into the groove of all the new crap I have to do—

I performed the daily workload of three (three and a half!) people, with ample breaks, by myself. For a fleeting moment I was proud of that. I proved to myself I could do it, and now I feel better. Now I’ll go back to being lazy, and let us never speak of this again.

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Daily Caffeine Withdrawal Update (2)

I felt extremely tired this morning, and it was kind of hard to concentrate. My eyes kind of sting, and I know part of that is the fluorescent lights and the computer monitor, but part of that is the faux-weariness effect of caffeine withdrawal. I got a very mild headache around 1:15 this afternoon. I still have it, but it’s so minor that I can’t even really notice it unless I think about it.

All in all, not too bad.

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Daily Caffeine Withdrawal Update (3)

I had a splitting headache around 9 o’clock. It went away around lunchtime.

I’ve been cranky and irritable all day. I know the bulk of this is the caffeine withdrawal, but I can still attribute a big chunk of it to the fucking assholes who don’t know how to do their fucking jobs and therefore prevent me from getting my job done or, if not that, make it take five times as long to do. And my superior didn’t help. “We like to get as much processed on Thursdays as we can. Stay late if you have to.” FUCK OFF.

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