For the last week or so, my company's website (I always say, My Website, but that's not strictly true, especially now that I have a blog) has been under attack, if you like, by scammers. It started last Friday, when we got an inordinately large number of orders for things like MP3 players, watches and jewelry--easily re-sellable stuff, natch. The website supports a general merchandise catalog, so of course we get orders for that stuff, but it's rare that we get the same customer coming back every six minutes to buy more. If you took it at face value, there's someone on the other end of the browser who keeps saying, "Oh crap! I just remembered I wanted four of those $150 clock radio/CD/MP3 players, not two, and I just hit the submit key!" Then moments later, "Shit, what was I thinking--I really need seven of those. Better log right back in and get three more."
Not being one to take things at face value, I thought it looked suspicious. Even so, I didn't do anything about it until Tuesday, when it was plain that this was getting out of hand. Once I realized it really was a thing, and I wasn't just imagining things,* it was pretty easy to see there was a problem, and report it to our fulfillment house for them to put holds on all these orders. They've tried to buy upwards of $20,000 worth of fungible goods in the last week, so I'm glad I got suspicious.
I've spent a fair amount of time over the last couple of days trying to put a face on these fraudsters. It's not easy, of course--all the email addresses are with free services, so I'm not going to get anywhere with that--but I was able to pull some stuff from the server logs and get the IP addresses of our unwelcome visitors. From there I was able to find out what companies had been issued those IP addresses (DomainWhitePages.com rocks!), and where do you think most of them are based? Riiiiight. Nigeria.
This really explained why we never got any of these scam orders after about 11 am. It's been very handy, since I can spend the latter part of the day getting real work done without having to worry about those thieving assholes, but it seemed strange at first. As soon as I saw Nigeria, I started thinking about time zones, and sure enough, it looks like I've got some nine-to-fiver in Lagos robbing us in his or her free time at work. Graft only during regular business hours, Sundays off (really--no scammers on Sunday).
Man, I've totally lost the thread. I just got a lengthy preliminary phone call from a company that wants to do coding for me, and it's sapped my will to live. I'm pretty sure I was working up to some great zinger about Nigerian scammers and how it's such a part of the culture there now that it's like a regular day job, but my brain has been turned to mush. Maybe on Monday it'll be better.
On the upside, I interviewed two very good candidates for the assistant job today. I guess the old saying is true--it's always in the last place you look.
* It's easy to imagine you're seeing a pattern in online sales, especially if you're like me and are completely mystified by the crap that people seem willing to buy. When you can't imagine anyone wanting a life-size plaster replica of the foot--only the foot--of some Greek statue, and they buy it anyway, even the more outlandish theories start to sound plausible. "Of course we had a run on sculptures of dogs in London Bobby outfits--there was an article on Yahoo about the Queen's colon surgery today!"
For those of you just joining us, I recently got a resume from someone who had listed "Pirate" as a previous job. Turns out that it wasn't actually on the high seas, but rather some lake-bound pleasure cruise, where she mostly entertained children. That's right—entertained, not killed. I was kind of disappointed. She didn't even have a fucking eye patch.
On the job interview front, it's been interesting. I've only done two so far, but already I'm seeing what it's all about from the interviewer's perspective. First off, it's hard to be organized enough to be smooth. You can write up a list of questions, but unless you're going to kill yourself doing new questions for every interviewee, you generally have to adapt your format on the fly. I'm pretty fast on my feet, so it wasn't too bad, but I was always in turmoil that the interview was going to run out too fast, or I wasn't going to ask enough probing questions, I was going to look like a fuckup, etc. Generally feeling like I was blowing the interview and wasn't going to get the job.
Intellectually, I realize that this really isn't an issue. Since this is an entry-level job, and I've stuck steadfastly to only considering folks who are entry-level people, I don't think their concept of what's supposed to happen in an interview is all that strong. This is good, since I definitely don't know what I'm doing—I got my best questions off a job-seekers website, under the heading of things a prospective employer might ask you. I especially relished cribbing the ones from the you're-going-to-hate-being-asked-these-questions-but-everyone-asks-them section*.
Other work things have not been as fun today—I think it's a real mark of a bad day when I have to blog during real work hours to keep from braining someone with my five-year service plaque. It's probably also not a good sign that spending time listening to vague justifications about why this particular brainless** early-twenties kid is a better choice than the others seems like the high point of the day.
The real drag has been that our CEO has suddenly put the brakes on a project we were nearly ready to start on. We've got a guy here who was hired at least partly to organize the division he's in and get them a database that could do what they want. Various people have spent many hours in consultation with database contractors getting them up to speed with our plans so they could give us their typically exorbitant bids. Now that we've got a bid we like and are looking for approval to start the project up, said CEO is having sticker shock, and wanting to know why we can't do the same basic thing with Excel. Excel. Now I don't think I have to tell clever people like my readers how fucking retarded that question is. "Umm, we can't do that because Excel is a motherfucking spreadsheet, and as such is unsuitable for a task which requires a database." Yeah, it's a lot of money—probably 1/3 of the staff here makes less in a year—but we're talking about an infrastructure investment with growth potential, not a new desk chair and a blowjob.
Our CEO is rumored to smoke a lot of pot, and he forgets things really fast. Like really fast.
So I guess I'd just want to say this: "Look, just because you toked this project out of your short-term memory, and you're panicking about losing your stash because of the cost of it, that's no reason to basically reduce some poor slob's entire career at the company to a question of 'couldn't we do that in Excel?'" If you've completely forgotten why the project existed in the first place, though it's been in the business plan for two years, maybe you need to re-think the whole pot thing, you goddamn hippie***.
*"What makes you a particularly good candidate for the job? What makes you stand out from other applicants?" Hellish stuff, but frankly, those questions are signals that it's bullshit time. That's when I say things like, "pound for pound, I'm the most powerful proofreader in DC, if not the world."
**Not literally brainless, of course. These first two have been pretty sharp, all things considered. It's just how people are when they haven't been around a while. One of them took a job selling copiers right out of school, so he sort of has a whiff of middle age around him, but really he's just a kid. I've gotta say, as a veteran of the first-job copier sales wars, it's a bit like being Michael Jackson—your childhood is stripped away with promises of untold riches. Unlike MJ, though, you are unlikely to actually get any of the money, and none of the underage boy-hiney (yes, I'm so going to hell or bad karma land or wherever for that one).
Selling copiers isn't just the worst job I ever had, it's the worst job I ever heard of. Funny, I have a feeling that this may actually be one of my more google-able sentences—such is my belief that nobody likes selling copiers and that everyone is looking for a fellow lost soul for commiseration.
***Don't fire me, boss—I like working here, and I actually like you. I just find the fact that so many long-planned projects seem to you to have come out of the blue a trifle frustrating. OK, a lot frustrating.
In response to a complaint about the quality of their Dial-a-song service, They Might Be Giants once said, "Hey, we write a lot of songs--they can't all be hits." This guy goes one better--he writes a lot of songs, to order, and probably none of them are hits. That said, his output is simply astonishing. Personal favorites include It Has A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi and the truly amazing, I Am Bjork.
We've all seen the fuss and dustup about the pictures of flag-draped coffins (FDCs). I noticed last night that The Memory Hole was, as we say, "farked,**" and that it's still down today. The Memory Hole,*** of course, is the site of Russ somebody (gimme a break on the name--it's not like I know the guy personally), who just recently got a big consignment of FDC photos from the government via a Freedom Of Information Act request, and promptly put them up on his site, right about the time that the same sort of image breaks in the press.
Now I'm kind of abivalent about the whole issue of whether or not we, the public, should be seeing an increasingly long and wide parade of dead servicemen coming home. I'm not sure it would serve to stir the populace against the war, remind us of the noble sacrifices of our countrymen, or even damage the privacy of the families involved, which seem to be the justifications for arguing about the whole point.
What I see here is that both sides involved seem to want to control these dead bodies for their own purposes. You can be pretty sure that if these soldiers thought their return in a metal box with a flag on it would inflame the populace against the war, they'd be 100% behind the secrecy thing. Don't kid yourself that any significant numbers of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are opposed to our military actions over there. If they're complaining, it's more likely because it's a hardship, and the current administration is a lot more interested in political posturing than in making these extended assignments easier on families left behind or giving the military something concrete to work on. It's turned into a clusterfuck in this instance, but I think mostly the troops are behind the general idea of shooting people to bring democracy to the dirty, ignorant "other," wherever they may be.
I'm not really sold on the concept that an endless parade of these FDCs would make the average American more keenly aware of the cost of this "war," either. I thought the media and liberal argument on these lines was usually that seeing too much of something on TV desensitizes you to it--makes it bother you less. Or maybe that's just artificial violence and death, like in movies and videogames, not real death. I think the people who'd really find the FDCs fuel for their personal inflammations are already ranting about the whole business. Most people already have their ideas about all this, and there's no shifting them--I offer as evidence of this the fact that something over 50% of Americans still think Iraq was directly involved in the September 11th attacks. Where have those people been? With their heads in the sand? Yep. And they're likely to keep them there too, coffins or no. So we're left with the FDC issue as something to beat on Bush about, and not much else.
Does the Administration deserve to be beaten on about this? I think so. They can't offer any better defense of their "no photos" position than that it might invade the privacy of the families of the dead soldiers being shown in completely anonymous, unmarked coffins. That's plainly bullshit, so we're left to assume they're afraid their liberal foes are right, and that body bags=no votes. Given that Bush is too much of a political coward to "invade the privacy" of the families of dead soldiers and attend a fucking funeral or two, or even allow any protesters within a half-mile of him at any time, I'm inclined to think the worst. It would also fit right in with their mania for secrecy which is, to be frank, getting completely pathological.
And then there's the press, who've obviously been gagging for a chance to show FDCs--now that the seal's been broken, they're all blasting that one image all over the place. I realize that it sells papers and brings ratings, thus selling ad space and commercial time, and that mostly that's what newspapers and TV are all about, despite their claims to the contrary, but it seems absurd. We see it time and time again--the press are all above some sensationalist news item until one of them finally breaks down and runs it. Then they can all run it, and choose their angle: "Finally! Someone was brave enough to say it. Here's a picture;" or "Shame on them. Shocked, shocked I tell you. Here's a picture." It strikes me as kind of indecent and more than a little insulting, since they seem to think we don't have the brains to identify hipocrisy like that. It's possible that a lot of people don't have the brains, but you'd think it might be a courtesy to the rest of us to be a little less goddamned transparent.
All in all, though I don't believe in deities or an afterlife and believe that the dead people are just dead and can't possibly care anymore, it seems to me there are more respectful things to do and say about dead soldiers than turn them into political footballs.
With all that said, I sure hope that the reason The Memory Hole is down is because of a ton of traffic, and not because someone, be they government or other, has taken it upon him- or herself to bring it down. If you haven't been there, and it ever comes back, you should have a look at the site. A lot of what's on there is boring, frankly, but the idea that the government is constantly trying to revise its own history and make you forget the shitty (or at least dodgy) things it's done or is doing is a chilling one. This revisionism needs to be brought out into the light, and I hope it continues to be exposed long after the current fucksticks in office are gone.
And lay off the dead guys. They've had a tough day already.
*Google that, motherfuckers!
**I get my concept of "farking" from fark.com, a humorous news aggregator site. Generally, if a website (even some fairly big-time ones) gets a mention on Fark, it winds up collapsing under the weight of the visitors in very short order. Sites that are crushed by traffic from Fark are, natcherly, "farked." Recently, they posted a listing about a guy who built a Tron costume for one total geekfest or another ("Be there and be square."). While you have to give the guy props for the hard work he put in, he looked like a total lame-oid, or perhaps lame-o-tron. He was really too fat for the part, and most of the Fark commentary centered around his alarming camel toe, with lots of people posting pictures of athletic supporters, etc. I gotta say I agree--this guy could have done well with a dance belt, the medieval torture device most male dancers wear to turn identifiable genitalia into a smooth, rounded hummock. He'd have had MAJOR panty lines from it, but we wouldn't have known quite so much about his balls, which would have been nice (Madre de dios! Mi ojos!). Anyway, the guy was generally abused in a public forum by well over 100 farkers. I have to say that most enjoyed one of the last postings, where someone pointed out that this guy's home server had been listed on Fark and Somethingawful.com (another noted site-breaker), and was still running strong. You gotta give props to the guy for being totally true to his geekness and having a bombproof setup.
***Weird--I keep typing "The Memory Ole," which I'm pretty sure should either be "El Recuerdo, Ole!" or "The 'Ol Memory." I'm losing it, I really am.
First off, let me say that someone has been fucking with me. I refuse to believe that someone actually did a Google search on THIS without fully expecting to find my blog. I mean really.
On with the show.
Last Saturday evening, Girlygirl and I went to the Macaroni Grill. A second visit for me, the first for her. If you're not inclined to read the whole thing, let me just say that my opinion has not changed in the slightest since my first review of the joint a month ago. If you didn't like what I had to say then, you're not likely to want to read this either, so just take a day off. I'll post again in a couple of days, and promise not to rip on your favorite restaurant then.
Still with me? Good. In all, it wasn't a bad trip. The olive oil's still good, the bread's still good, if also still tardy, and the inexplicable pepper shakers are still huge. They've made at least one change to the place since I (and presumably the fire inspector) was last there--they've added another row of tables between the two existing rows. When the hostess led us to our table, we were momentarily stumped as to how we were going to get to our table without climbing over other people. The place is a total firetrap now. I don't even think the staff could get out quickly, even though it appeared that they had the ability to dematerialize their legs and pass through tabletops to get to us.
The other change, and perhaps this just isn't on at lunchtime: a singer. Oy. That's right, some college-age girl with an operatically trained voice going table to table annoying diners. When we first sat down, we had no idea this was happening--we only heard the tortured shriek of a soprano singing fucking Rigoletto alone.* Sure, it was fun to watch the people at the victimized tables cringe during the performance and jerk their thumbs in her direction and laugh afterward, but it's hard to concentrate on your meal when you're tracking the movements of a harpy to figure out if you're next to be driven to madness. We never did figure out what to do if she came to our table, but we'll have to work out a plan, in case it happens some other time.** Luckily she took a break to rest her pipes or something before she got to us, so our eardrums and dignity remain intact. We asked the waiter about it, and he said it definitely seemed weird to him to have a singer, and volunteered also that, "sometimes she scares me." We couldn't get any more detail from him on that, though. I think he realized that he'd already been get-himself-fired candid with us, so he clammed up and we didn't want to press.
The food was totally acceptable--variations on the big six ingredients. Strange treatments of some things--huge, and I mean HUGE slabs of romano cheese on top of the bruschetta? Finely grated blue cheese on the salad? Isn't that like bass-ackward? It was weird, but totally edible. This time around, we opted for pasta dishes, and as I predicted on the lunch trip, they were gigantic portions. We both managed to get a second meal off them, bringing the price down from $$ to $***, which wasn't too bad. Certainly not out of proportion to the quality of the food. Word of warning: If you ask to take the remainders home, be prepared to be presented with a take-out box right there at the table. They expect you to shovel it from plate to foil tray yourself. I'm hardly a service nazi, but this is totally unacceptable. At least our waiter was on-the-ball enough to pick up on Girlygirl's "what the fuck" reaction (I think it was when she said, "what the fuck" out loud) and offered to do it for us. Most of the waitstaff I saw pulling this trick just handed the box over to a confused patron and scampered off.
We once again passed on the weird honor-system bottle of crappy chianti. I drank beer, but I have to say the wine list was pretty good, and very reasonably priced. For fun, Girlygirl got a wine sampler--they have several--that consisted of three small portions of italian wines (in three separate glasses, natch). It was fun, and was delivered in this weird custom carry rack (for the benefit of the server) and on a little sheet that said what each wine was, complete with simulated wine glass stains. The wines were OK, if not great, and it was kind of a nifty way to do business.
So did I change my opinion of the place? As I said before: No. It's still mostly a factory for turning suburban livers into forcemeats, but the food is acceptable. Service is still weird--you almost have to know how to work the place to keep things normal--and that carry-out tray thing is just awful, especially since they serve portions so huge that fully 80% of all patrons must either take some home or just abandon half their meal. All in all, it's not particularly good, but if we have midwestern guests or can't get in anywhere else, it'll do. The singer thing puts this place on a risk level that's almost on a par with our favorite Mexican/Salvadoran place in the neighborhood, though, so if that's an every night thing, it's dodgy****.
*OK. I don't know what the hell she was singing most of the time. I've been to a couple of operas--if you can catch one at the Met in NYC, do go. It's a hell of a show--but I'm hardly an opera maven. She appeared to be taking requests, so we did get one Ave Maria, and I think a song from The Abduction From the Seraglio (thanks Amadeus!), but mostly it was obscure to me, as you'd expect. Also, sopranos should never sing unaccompanied. Only the shrieking of tenors is more annoying, and both must be drowned out as much as possible with music, lots of music. For crap sake, think of the dogs!
**I'm leaning toward giving her the Mormon treatment: "No thanks. Really. Go away." Unfortunately, restaurants are lacking the requisite door to shut firmly in her face. Maybe standing up abruptly, giving the crazy-man face, and shoving her away, hard, without further explanation would be good. She may get that a lot, though. Or we could just do like we'd undoubtedly want to, and laugh out loud at her every suggestion that we'd enjoy the aural torture and transmortification (vicarious embarassment--Girlygirl's own term, so spread it around) of her performance. Hard to say.
***When we went to Hawaii on our honeymoon, we had a guidebook that listed prices for things in terms of a number of dollar signs. Lots of guidebooks do this, of course, but that's where we first got into the habit of assigning a dollar sign value to any meal, and also lots of other things. McDonalds is definitely $. Many cheaper sit-down places, like local Thai restaurants and such are also $. Most chain restaurants are $$. Citronelle, arguably the best restaurant in DC is $$!$$holyshit!$$. That's actually off the scale. I guess to be strict, it's a strong $$$$. This guidebook was also fun because it was written kind of informally by a person who traveled in Hawaii with kids, so every single restaurant review included whether the teriyaki chicken was good or not.
****You can't go to Tijuana's on Friday or Saturday night unless you're gonna be out of there by 8:30 or so. After that, karaoke starts. In Spanish. We are rude and prone to laugh at other people, especially if we are together--once they had a live singer there, this old guy with a keyboard and drum machine, who comically brutalized old Elvis standards ("Luff me tenters, luff me swit"), and we thought we were going to get thrown out for laughing so hard. So we skip the karaoke.
I almost forgot--I always check my stats for search engine referrals. Ever since I read that Evany had the number one listing for the search "breast milk ice cream," I've looked carefully to see what brings people to my little corner of the aether.
I got a good one today that manages to tie together three essays.
If the searcher could have worked in something about superpowers, crappy resumes and atheism he or she would have gotten my entire site listed in the Google results. I won't even go into any speculation about the lawsuit he or she was undoubtedly researching.
The workload around here has gotten crazy. I'm still trying to sort through the pile of applications for the assistant position here**, just finished two massive documents, and am working on a third, which will be the King James Bible or OED of Website Redesign Documents. If there can be such a thing.
I'm a little worried about it--it's supposed to lay out to the rest of the division staff what the website does currently and what I think should be changed or added to it. That's fine, but my new boss says it should also be complete enough, like with screen captures and everything, that someone who's not familiar with the site at all (and apparently doesn't have a web connection) can keep track of what's going on, and make further suggestions. I probably don't have to tell you how fun it's going to be to take suggestions for website improvement from a bunch of folks who need me to write Your Own Goddamn Website, For Retards Who Can't Work a Browser so they can track what I'm on about.
I think I'll have reader fatigue*** on my side though--I've not yet known the rest of my co-workers to read more than a paragraph of anything, let alone the War and Peace of statements of work. They'll look at the screenshots, skim, and say they can't think of anything to add. You wouldn't think that would bother me, seeing as how it frees me to move forward with a minimum of interference and asinine suggestions, except that they're sure to come back after the work is done and suggest things that are impossible or impractical, all of which they'd have known if they'd bothered to read the document.
They can go fuck themselves if they're going to do that, for all I care--they're not getting it, whatever it is--but it's tiresome to have to constantly stifle the urge to tell them so in such a direct way. Even when I tell them politely and in very small words that the document explains it all, they'll just say they didn't read it in the first fucking place because it was too long. Where is it written that it's OK to lie about having read it, and if not reading it comes back to bite you in the ass, you can just say you didn't actually read it, because it was too much work? I bet it sounds like this has happened before. And you'd be right to think that. I mean, what is this? The Bush Administration? Can you tell I spend an overlarge amount of time in phone conferences silently mouthing, "where the hell were you when I was asking for this input, you asshole?"
Of course, I never wanted to write the Illustrated Great American Novel anyway--I wanted a bulleted list of about two pages. They wouldn't read that either, but it wouldn't take so goddamn long to put together.
*Milestone! Digression from the headline! Ala Miracle Max, I was rushed to get this together, so you get a lousy miracle.
**Just today, I got the ne plus ultra of geek resumes. The cover letter is essentially unreadable unless you're a programmer--it's all code, showing a sort of decision tree/loop for hiring this candidate. Cute, in a flirting robot sort of way, but hardly what I need.
***Of course I never worry about reader fatigue here. You'll get the words I deem necessary, for the next...however long I fucking feel like it.****
****I've been recently called a wordsmith. Do I have to give back the award because of all the cursing? Doesn't it show me up to be a person of limited ideas and vocabulary? Fuck? Doody?
Yesterday I noticed that the guys who are "renaissancing" our downtown have started construction on a new pedestrian corral. I can't tell you how not thrilled that makes me, though I should have suspected it would be coming.
For the last year or so, my eight-minute walk to work has been disrupted by construction. For a long time, I just had to cross the street and cross back an extra time. Then they started tearing up another block, and I had to cross and recross, but at a new place--one that I'll affectionately call Lake Fenton. In the process of improving my access to exciting new bits of stripmall culture, the construction cowboys managed to fuck up the drainage system of the one main road (Fenton Street) through their rubble heaps. They did this in the wintertime, of course, so there were huge puddles of slush right where I was now being forced to cross the road. Luckily, these engineering geniuses had a plan. They filled the puddle up with gravel, which gave us a heap of muddy sloppy gravel surrounded by a four-foot wide moat. In an effort to correct that disaster, they proceeded to put up makeshift fences and construct the first of the pedestrian corrals.
The pedestrian corral is just a 2x4 and plywood tunnel designed, no doubt, to steer walkers past dangerous obstacles and protect their heads from falling debris. Unfortunately, since plywood comes in 4x8 sheets, it takes a lot fewer sheets to build the whole thing if you turn them longways. Who cares if this yields a walkway something less than three and a half feet wide? Who cares if this walkway begins (or ends, depending on which direction you're going) on the island in the middle of Lake Fenton? The true genius of this became apparent when it got really cold, and not only did the moat around the gooey gravel island become a sheet of ice stretching halfway across the street, but the island itself became a treacherous hump of ice (which, because it was filled with gravel, was apparently impossible to move or remedy). Right at one end of the corral, with fences on either side leaving you no choice but to traverse this hideous no-man's-land of broken tailbone fantasies. Like I said: Genius.
So anyway, I fucking hate the pedestrian corrals, and now I see they're putting up a new one. With a right-angle turn in it, which should double my pleasure. This is undoubtedly because they're preparing to tear up another stretch of my sidewalk and/or install terrifying overhead industrial hazards, making my commute, which really should be a joy, into a fear-filled scuttle, punctuated by being pushed into traffic by the idiots behind me who only want to get clear of the corral, never mind what's at the other end. I think if these folks thought of the corral the way I do, they mightn't be in such a damned-fool rush. As I troop through it single-file with a bunch of other footbound cattle, I imagine that at the other end I'll meet "The Stunner."*
Being at work after my commute hasn't exactly been a picnic lately either. Just a ton of work, and no assistant. Perhaps ironically, one the main additions to my workload has been the search for a candidate to become said assistant. I can't wait to hire someone so that next time I can make them print out all those goddamn resumes. I suppose I'd still have to read them, though.
Going through resumes, especially for an entry-level position with the word "web" in the title, has got to be nearly as soul-destroying as actually applying for such jobs. I've seen a lot the last few days. Because the job is vaguely technical, there are quite a lot of transplants from Asia and India applying. This is kind of appalling--folks who are obviously well-trained and experienced having to go for the lowest-level jobs, probably because of language barriers** and local lack of confidence (misplaced, I suspect) in degrees from the University of Bangalore or whatever. I'm not sure I'd want to live here that badly, but I've never lived anywhere else, so what do I know?
I've also been amazed at the number of people who do not seem to have the slightest idea how to perform this job-seeking task. I'm pretty sure that an eight-page single-spaced resume is not a winning formula. Well, let's just say it: Since I'm in charge, I'm completely sure that sending something like that, or a resume with no cover letter, or a cover letter full of typos, word-os and flat out poor grammar***, or an email that says, "LOOK NO FURTHER" in the subject line, will get your offering a one-way trip to the never-call-this-person-and-ask-a-coworker-to-shoot-me-if-I-ever-think-about-it file.
Toward the end of the day yesterday, I did manage to find a resume I liked. This one had a good cover letter, links to a presentable if unspectacular hobby website, and a number of low-level jobs listed (remember, this is entry-level professional here--if you've been a CEO, I don't want to hear from you). One previous job in particular caught my eye--in her third-to-most-recent job, she listed her position as "Pirate." She is so getting an interview.****
*The Stunner, of course, is the guy at the meat packing plant whose job it is to shoot each cow in the head with some kind of hammer-thingy to, erm, stun them. Presumably so they don't try so hard to make a break for it when approached by the "Throat Slitter" or the "Cutter-in-half" or whatever grisly way they actually dispatch the cattle to the great beyond. The Stunner, to me, has to be about the worst job in an abbatoir.
Sure, I'm an omnivore, so I sort of owe it to the world not to be sqeamish about asking other people to do my dirty work in the arena of changing live moo-cows into dead steaks. The way I see it, somebody's gotta do it--but for economic success and a profound distance from cattle-producing land, there go I. Even if I did have to work for a slaughterhouse, though, I wouldn't want to be the Stunner. Something about being so close to the interface between live cow and dead cow, without actually being at it, freaks me out. I suppose you could convince yourself that you were the merciful one, dispensing pleasant senselessness before painful oblivion, but I think if I wanted to do that I'd be a bartender instead.
**OK, in many instances, if the cover letters are anything to go by, mostly because of language barriers. I'm not down on folks who are learning a new language, but I also can't hire them to proof and edit documents. It's strange, really, how you can feel guilty culling someone from the herd, even though he or she "seems nice," or even, "seems desperate," simply because they're plainly not up to the stated tasks. This differs, of course, from shitcanning the offers from assholes who didn't even bother to mail-merge the right job title into their form letters. That's easy.
***The job description says "detail oriented" right in it. If you can't get it together to proofread your one entry into the twenty-five thousand dollar sweepstakes that is entry-level job hunting, I doubt you're going to do that well proofing my website for accuracy every damn day.
****While I do think she might be a good fit for the assistant post, I just want to get her in here to quiz her about that job. "So, you have here that you were a pirate, but I don't see anything here about skills in skullduggery, timber-shivering or hatch-battening-down. Could you explain this? These are things managers usually expect to see on the resume of the well-rounded pirate."
Here I am again. I've been sitting here a few minutes with this posting screen open, trying to figure out what to write about. You probably heard me breathing.
Mostly, I've not been one to lock up when faced with a blank canvas of any kind. In fact, a favorite trick of mine has always been to just put a mark down somewhere right in the middle of a blank page, to get over that hump. So I guess that's what I'm doing today--once I have that first mark on the canvas, I can get down to work, and though I may not wind up using the original bit.
Trouble is, I'm really drawing a blank today--I'm just not moved to rant (the wellspring of my powers). Well, not a lot on any one topic.
I've been considering a piece on Dave Sim (creator of long-running comic book Cerebus and notorious misogynist) and his views--he's very much of the opinion that most people are almost pathologically opposed to rational thinking, and I agree. He is also, unfortunately, of the opinion that women are the source of this irrationality and, overwhelming focus on feeling instead of thinking, an opinion I do NOT share. As you can see, though, it's likely to be a large undertaking, and until I've gotten myself organized a little better, I can't really work it out.
Then there's a post on Oinkment today about an atheists convention. I share Girlygirl's views on religion, which works out since I also share a house and life with her, though we don't always have the same opinion about motivations. Mostly I was struck by her report that the "journalist" who wrote the article just couldn't get it through his or her head that theism is not necessarily the default setting in human minds. In this person's world (and indeed, in the world of pretty much all religionists), failure to subscribe to religious belief is a conscious change of course from the in-born state of religious belief. Thus, all atheists are somehow pushing an agenda, rather than struggling for acceptance.
It seems to me that the folks pushing an agenda are the ones who say religion is important for more than social functions, the ones who say that I've got a screw loose for not believing, the ones that find me and my compatriots so frightening that they want to force us to believe what they believe. I don't want to convert anyone to atheism. I would like, if it's not too much trouble, to not have everyone assume I have religious beliefs like theirs. I realize that in this country pretty much everyone but Christians are in the same boat with me, but atheism is largely unacceptable worldwide.
If you want to believe that rubbish, go right ahead. Just don't ask me to do so, and don't expect me to want to listen to your beliefs any more than you want to listen to mine*.
I'd also considered a post about writing music. I finally figured out my recording software for my PC last night, and managed to put down a really basic drum loop and about a minute of guitar chords. It's going to be an interesting exercise, I can tell. While I have some skills, and a definite beliefs and understanding about what makes certain music interesting or pleasing to me, I don't necessarily know a damn thing about actual composing. I don't write tortured lyrics on acres of yellow legal pad paper--I am no longer sixteen, and neither am I an axe grinder or zealot who's dying to sugar coat his views with musical frosting. I don't burn with emotions that need to be expressed through my instrument (not that instrument, anyway).
So far all I've got going for me in the recording arena is the equipment, a working knowledge of guitar, and a willingness to put that first mark on the blank canvas. Hopefully I can spin that into something more, just like today's essay. Even if it's crappy. Also like today's essay.
*We had a couple of Mormons come to the door the other day. Pimply-faced teens with badges on that said, "Elder" so-and-so (I scoff). I didn't even open the screen door--just said, "No thanks, I'm not interested. Really," and shut the other door. One of them had plainly seen such things before, and was amused. The other seemed kind of put out--I guess he'd never run into anyone who was completely and unapologetically guilt-free about turning down a Mormon, just like he'd shown up selling something I didn't need. I knew what they had to offer, and wanted no part of it. Why waste their time, just because they were willing to waste mine?
Now don't get me wrong--I think the Mormons' system of making these young kids go to a strange place (usually a big city far from their small town upbringing) is a good one. Kids need to have some experience outside the isolation of their place of origin. Seeing how other people live, facing some of the big, scary world, and getting a shitload of doors slammed in your face is a really great educational experience. I don't agree with their stated motivation for doing so, and probably would disagree with much of what they take away from the experience (closer to god, etc.), but I think it's probably good that these poor deluded saps see something beyond the doors of the temple before committing to staying inside the rest of their lives.
In this respect, perhaps I should have invited them in--"Thank goodness you're here--I understand that you desperately need to be saved from a life of unexamined superstition. I'm ready to help you if you're ready to receive my lessons." Trouble is, I'm not an evangelist. Not even an evangelist of opportunity. If they want to believe in their voodoo or witchcraft or whatever, they're welcome to it. And they've probably heard that line plenty of times before anyway.
This weekend Girlygirl and I went to upstate NY to visit with her parents (well, her Dad and Stepmom. She has too many parents, sporting four against my paltry two). They've recently done major remodeling to their house, and it was high time we saw the changes.*
Though they hadn't mentioned it, chief among the changes at the house was the fact that they'd taken the admittedly-too-short-for-me double bed out of the guest room, and inexplicably substituted a fucking sofabed. This change may even be permanent, Jeebus save us. Anyway, while the 'rents didn't see it as a major issue, it sure was a nightmare for me. Or at least it would have been, if I'd actually had any sleep in which to have said nightmare.
I'm sure there are people who can sleep well on a sofabed, regardless of its quality, and I'm sure there are good quality, comfy-sleeping sofabeds out there. I am not one of those people, and this was most assuredly not one of those sofabeds. "Uncomfortable" doesn't do justice to this implement of torture. "Burlap sack full of tennis rackets, laid inside of a giant bowl" might be closer. You have to make sure there's a way to easily get a couple of the tennis rackets out of the sack though, to beat the occupants soundly throughout the night, to really get the full flavor of this cruel parody of a bed. Even if it had not been hideously uncomfortable in the mattress department, there was the fact that is was easily eight inches short of supporting my full length. Luckily, there was the sharp-edged iron frame all the way around to support any stray body parts, or fracture unwarily plopped down hindquarters. These were not nights on Heartbreak Ridge,** but rather nights in the Pit of Despair, assuming the shape of Deadman's Curve.
I awoke each morning (three times! Curse the urge to make a long weekend of it!) with my kidneys howling from the pummeling, wrists and ankles bruised by the frame members, and having slept only enough to stave off madness. The second morning, I was greeted in the kitchen by Girlgirl's Dad with a cheery, "Did you sleep well?" "Like you don't know, you sadistic bastard--I heard you laughing as you wielded the rackets," I replied. OK, I didn't say that. I think I sort of gaped for a moment, looked away and said something like, "It's amazing how you sleep when you know you won't wake up to chores to do or a lawn to mow." He seemed happy with that response, so I left off the part about how, since I didn't go to sleep, I couldn't have awoken to those things even if they'd had them planned for me.
Overall, the rest of the weekend was fine--they're otherwise very good hosts, and it's relaxing to visit the "country" and see all the wildlife*** around their house. So relaxing, in fact, that I found myself dropping off to a nap on pretty much any comfortable surface presented to me.
*As this also marked the first trip anywhere in several months because of Girlygirl's back injury and subsequent surgery, we could have been going to help clean up a rubbish tip and we'd have been excited to go. The fact that we were going for a fabulous feed or two and seeing how swank their pad has become was just icing.
**My old college roomie had a daybed/guest bed at his Mom's house that had been so broken down by decades of kids jumping on it and folks plunking down on the edge to tie shoes that the springs were completely sacked out everywhere but down the middle. Sleeping on that bed required an uncommonly honed self of unconscious balance, or a tendency to sleep with arms and legs spread-eagled. If you rolled to one side or the other, the bed would obligingly give way and try to roll you the rest of the way onto the floor. We called it Heartbreak Ridge. I spent many a night on Heartbreak Ridge, and only fell from the summit while sleeping once--a major accomplishment, I'm told.
***All kinds of cool birds, including two kinds of woodpecker, hawks, a wild turkey that strode right through the yard, and a pheasant that hiked all the way around the house one morning, with Girlygirl and I running from window to window to track it, deer, rabbits, chipmunks, etc. The neighbors on one side keep horses that will come see you at the fence, and on the other side they have these impossibly small donkeys. Very cool for an animal lover. And they have the world's nicest cat.
I was just referred to the TravelMate site by a blog that I was looking at instead of actually doing useful work. For the uninitiated, the TravelMate is a device that allows women to pee standing up--it's pretty much a cone on top of a tube, or a robot penis for a woman.
On the site, they brag that they've won a major award for the cleverness or humanitarian decency of their product or some such thing, but I can't help thinking the award logo looks suspiciously like the crotch of someone using the device.
See for yourself at their site (curse the lack of image hosting on this free account!): TravelMate. Upper left corner.
My posting the other day was the first time I've ever clearly articulated by belief, or lack of non-belief, that I'd one day manifest some kind of superpower. I'd only embarassingly recently reached the conclusion in my own head anyway, and I'd tried to make it clear to Girlygirl, but I think with limited success.
The same night I posted that info, I went out with a pal of mine (I'll call him Sparky--I think he'll go for that) for a boys' night out. We do this on occasion, as it gives us an opportunity to talk manly things like machining and motors and stuff. We also are extremely manly when it comes to dining and drinking on these trips--they're far too often on a school night, but we usually edge right up to the Beer Of Ultimate Regret anyway. We've crossed that line too, but usually only on a weekend. This extreme manliness is undoubtedly a way to cover for the terribly girly practice we have of helping each other sort of the stress in our lives. It works for us, though, and we both enjoy the time and each other's insights*.
Anyway, we were talking and I mentioned the whole superpowers thing. I then remembered how I reached my conclusions on that, and found it interesting. Let me e'splain. No, it's too much--let me sum up.***
OK, no, let me e'splain. Sparky and I both have a lot of hobbies. I haven't got as many as he does, I don't think, but we both have more than we have free time. Not too long ago, I was having major issues with this fact, wanting to give up one of the hobbies or something. Eventually, though, I figured out something about it all.
I've always wanted to be special, notorious, or otherwise rise above the crowd. I think it's probably a need for outside affirmation or something, and mostly it's been an unconscious thing. I grew up reading comic books, with the obvious theme of being different, and usually superior in one way or another. I also grew up obsessed with music, and since this was the 70s, I was heavily influenced by Rock Stars (and all the capital letters imply). I moved right on into the 80s, where a lot of our culture was about fame and influence--where successful bankers and brokers could be like Rock Stars. At the college I attended, if you weren't rich, you weren't anybody. I learned my lessons well, I think.
I've played guitar for many years, and have dabbled in various kinds of art, and have also been doing the odd woodworking project here and there. I like to try new sports, and have done well, or at least shown aptitude in swimming, cycling and martial arts. In my darker moments, though, I've thrown them all over for some small reason or other. I quit my band when I heard a couple of my acquaintances' (who were making a living at music) bands--there was just no way I was ever going to be able to play that kind of music, so why bother at all? I mostly stopped swimming in college because there was no way in hell I'd make the school team (with umpteen consecutive national championships in a still-running streak, there were a lot of good swimmers who couldn't make the team).****
Years later, I was back at the quitting point with guitar playing--I knew I wasn't likely to have the time or inclination toward poverty and suffering to become a professional, so I couldn't see the point in going on.
I don't know if I'm making my case all that well here, but the point is that I had a tendency to look at most everything I did in terms of whether or not I could be among the best at whatever it was. If I knew I couldn't be a Rock Star, then I didn't see much point in playing guitar at all. If I wasn't going to win national championships, why swim? I applied this same standard to everything I did, even if I didn't quit over it later--hell, I probably still do, to some extent. I often came back to the old hobbies, especially my favorites, but it didn't take long for me to wash out again. Needless to say, this was all unconscious--I didn't have a handle on why I gave up--I'd hardly ever outright failed (or even done badly) at any of these things.
But last time around, when I was looking at my hobbies and thinking I'd need to quit one of them, something clicked. I was suddenly able to see what I'd been doing all these years. I had this expectation that if you didn't want to make the sacrifices and show the drive to be Number One, there was no point in doing the thing at all. If I wasn't going to make it on a national stage, I wasn't going to be satisfied. I also realized that even I didn't actually believe that. I really am satisfied with just doing a good job and trying hard. The fitness benefits and fun of cycling are enough for me--I really don't feel a need to be Lance Armstrong. The trouble was, I'd been laboring under some deep-seated, and outmoded, belief that I DID want to be Lance Armstrong, that I MUST want to be Lance Armstrong. Well, if I accepted that, even though I knew better, then it was easy to see that I'd never reach that bar, so why try? For a number of years, I accepted that I MUST want more than I actually did--that it was unacceptable to be willing to take what I could get based on the amount of effort I was willing to put in, and be happy with that. I think I believed I really wanted to be a professional "whatever," back somewhere in my head, even though I'd never have said it out loud.
Needless to say, it was weird to discover that I had, in fact, been like a slave driver screaming, "faster, faster," when the whole time I was also the slave, saying, "fuck, isn't this good enough? I'm too tired to go faster today. Let's be happy with this speed."
Once I made the discovery, though, it was a major thing. Once I became aware of the slave driver, I could banish him from my head. I did NOT need to be Lance. I just want to be faster than Sparky, which seems like an attainable, but sufficiently challenging goal. I do NOT need to be Stevie Ray Vaughan (especially the dead part), but rather I could be really happy if I just played guitar more often, and maybe tried my hand at recording some stuff. I have known for some time that I have no interest in trading my quality, high-paying job for the uncertainty of being any kind of professional athlete or artist, so I've also known that I was never going to put in the time or effort to be more than a hobbyist with most anything I do. But now the slave driver knows it too.
Once that was figured out, it suddenly became possible to do hobbies like most people do--work on one of them when I feel like it, perhaps go on a jag where all I do with my free time is woodworking or cycling, and occasionally just veg in front of the mighty Tivo. And I can do all of these things without feeling guilty that I'm ruining my chances of being a well-known professional-level artisan in the disciplines I'm currently NOT working on.
And (this is where we tie the superheroes back in) once I had let go of the useless professional athlete, great artist, Rock Star beliefs, it suddenly occurred to me that, on top of all those crazy ideas, I'd also held the exact same belief about being a superhero. If the fact that I couldn't differentiate between the ability to fly or be invulnerable and the ability to write music to thrill the masses wasn't proof enough that the slave driver was fucked in the head, nothing was. And no way was I keeping a dopey idea like that in my head.
So now I know I'll never be Spider-Man or Colossus or anything, but I also know that on any given day I could really take it to Sparky and murder him on the big hill on our regular training ride, or build an end table that stands up without wobbling, and those things are about as good.
*The most trenchant of our insights, and our most powerful weapon, is simply saying shit out loud. Generally speaking, even if you can't hear yourself sounding like an idiot, you can pick up from the facial expressions of your tablemate that you're not making sense. It works a treat, though it's substantially less effective in writing**, so I don't know you can help yourself this way. Maybe.
**(woo hoo! internal footnoting within footnotes!)Witness the Transvestite Executif posting of a couple of weeks ago. A lot of that is just bullshit. There's some truth there, but the reason I haven't been promoted is because I keep managing to get all the work done myself--I don't have any flunkies, so display no management skills. Luckily, I'm getting a flunky soon--the job ad runs on Sunday.
***Bonus points for knowing the reference!
****I also quit motorcycle racing, but I'm here to tell you that I quit that because I was afraid of getting killed out there. If I go fast on the track, I'll do it during a controlled track day, thanks very much, not out there with a bunch of 19-year-olds who don't care if they live or die, so long as they're in front.
Bonus Track: You will probably not notice that I changed the color of the annotations. Apparently on some PCs (fucking PCs!), the grey color I'd spec'd was showing up as dayglo green and as such was totally unreadable. So hopefully this one will be a little more consistent across platforms and browers, without diminishing the joy of trying to read grey type on a babyshit background.
Last night Girlygirl and some friends and I went to see Hellboy*. I can happily report that it was pretty good. I'm only passingly familiar with the comics--in fact the only fan-like judgment I can pass is that Ron Perlman looks amazingly like the pictures in the comics. I mean exactly. And when they put that makeup on him, whoa! It's uncanny. OK, cheap joke, but if you've seen the guy it's no mystery why he's so often cast as one stripe of monster or other. Fine actor, though, and I always get a charge out of seeing unconventional-looking folks working steadily in Hollywood.
Apart from the amazing makeup job, I can't say if it does the comics justice. It does pretty well by the audience, and that was all I really cared about. It's not great art, but it's pretty much the best you can hope for in the superhero genre. I hope you weren't looking for a real review of this movie, or even anything to back up the headline. This is all you get about Hellboy--it was good.
I grew up reading Marvel comics (I'm not one of those idiotic DC fans, or the even stupider "readers" of crap like Richie Rich, Archie, or--heaven spare us--Sad Sack), and was a major consumer of them up until about age 15 or so. Since then I've stuck pretty much with the odd trade paperback compilations or so-called underground comics (almost exclusively the extremely snarky offerings of Peter Bagge and Daniel Clowes). Still, I'm a major fan of the idea of superheroes, and it's really only in the last year or so that I've given up on the idea that someday I will manifest superpowers of some kind. It wasn't as if I clung to a positive view that one day I would, so much as that I'd never acknowledged the fact that it would NEVER happen. I admit there's a fine line between believing that one day you'll be invulnerable and simply never having considered the likelihood that you won't, but it was a surprising realization to me that I even fell in the latter category. I never knew I was that kind of nuts.
Anyway, with my one-time major fandom, I like to see the superhero movies. Hell, I had actively and openly been waiting for a credible Spider-Man live action anything since I was about 7 (yep--28 years or so at the time the movie came out). What pleases me is that Hollywood, because I was almost exclusively a Marvel fan, is most actively mining my childhood favorites to throw up on the big screen. Granted, they have produced (and continue to plan) serious missteps--I cannot see myself going to see The Punisher, though I liked the limited-edition series (the only comics I bought regularly in college), because the idea's too thin (and it looks shitty), I have serious problems with the Fantastic Four as a family sitcom-like thing (such are the current plans), and Daredevil was flat as a pancake (the best I can say about it is it's not actually as bad as you remember)--but they have also put together some credible pictures. The X-men series has been very good so far, Spider-Man was worth the wait, and I thought The Hulk was genuinely brilliant**.
Where was I going with all this? I've totally lost the thread. I don't guess I really had one, when you get right down to it. It's like that sometimes around here, especially on Monday, and especially after the time change. I was talking to a friend about it on Saturday evening, and he was complaining that the time change in the Spring wipes him out for a week. I scoffed, but here I am, so sleepy I can hardly string two thoughts together, unless they're totally unrelated. Maybe I'll just let this peter out, and hope for better combobulation tomorrow.
*The wife and I go to see most of the superhero flicks that come out together (both willingly), which is nice, and I think kind of rare. As you know, it all fits with me, but Girlygirl--in addition to an apparent passion for indulging my more childlike interests--likes fantasy stuff, will read comics enthusiastically if infrequently, and likes action flicks as much as the next person, but hates to see bloody violence. The comic book genre generally offers tons of action and fantasy, and also a short supply of (human) blood. So we go to these movies, and usually both like them.
**I have no idea why people thought it was crappy. It's a very thoughtful piece, nicely directed (the lead actor sucks, but that happens sometimes), and the editing is amazing, showing an uncanny grasp of the appeal (rather than the limitations) of the comic book format. I can only point out that the folks who hated The Hulk and the people who turned the Farrelly Brothers into a market force are the same people. If you liked Crouching Tiger, and actually understood it, then with an open mind you could like The Hulk too.
Sorry that I've had difficulty keeping up here. Things are crazy at work, etc. I suspect that I might actually have to start updating this on my personal-after-work-time, rather than my personal-lunchtime-spilling-over-into-work-time-time.
I guess it's actually been a bit of luck for me, since I haven't been able to come up with anything anyway--it's just as well that I don't have time for more than a few sentences.
I'll promote a couple of funny things I saw today, though:
Izzle Pfaff: Skot writes brilliantly and hilariously about a childhood friend--I swear I knew the same guy, but perhaps without the proclivity for nudity.
Mimi Smartypants: The last paragraph, and the last sentence in particular. Girlygirl and I have such a propensity for absurd catchphrases that I was actually jealous that we don't have a kid. For about half a second, anyway.
Finally, just a quick comment on one of the more popular blog hosting services. I've been reading Evany's blog for ages now, and Mimi Smartypants for almost as long. For many months, I read their URLs as being based in Dairyland. I didn't see why you'd call a blog hosting place Dairyland, but I thought it was kind of cute--named for the play area outside a Dairy Queen restaurant perhaps. I was actually pretty let down when I took about 1/2 second to actually read the URL. After having Evany and Mimi running around in a land where all the locals were named for ice cream confections or hot dogs*, it was quite a letdown to discover that they were, in fact, writing from the annoyingly literal Diaryland.
* This brings to mind something one of my cow-orkers told me recently. He'd been watching some TV program, and for whatever reason, they showed an editorial meeting for The Onion. In this meeting, they were discussing a possible parody of McDonaldland--where everyone's named for a McDonalds treat. Except Grimace, of course. And what's up with that--it seems to me that a grimace is the last thing you want to promote a milkshake. If you're gonna go that route, why not call him Gag Reflex or Brain Freeze? Anyway, the others you know--Big Mac, the cop (because Big Mac is somehow Irish, like a cop?), Mayor McCheese (the big cheese, natch), and Hamburglar (gotta have some work for the cop, I guess, and a way for the mayor to be tough on crime).
The Onion folks had mostly peopled their parody world, based on fruit, and were arguing over whether or not their criminal element was too far over the top. His name? "Grapist." I about died.