Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

For us, the holidays started in earnest when we visited Santa this past weekend. Our city has a wonderful holiday kick-off celebration, with music, food, puppet shows, speeches from local celebrities, reindeer for petting, a nativity with live animals (the camel looked cold), and of course Saint Nick hisownself.

MPCs 1 and 2 visit with Santa. I believe he's talking to me in this shot. If I recall, I believe I asked for honest elections.

This is a bittersweet year regarding the big red guy because it's likely the last year MPC1 (in the middle there) will think he's real. One of those little snots who revels in slaying belief in Santa happens to be in my daughter's class this year, and she's gone so far as to say her parents admitted they hid the presents and stuff. My daughter and one other boy in the class are the only holdouts who still believe, God bless'em. (Our cover story is that if you don't believe in Santa, he no longer exists for you and doesn't visit your house, and sometimes parents feel bad for kids like that and take over for Santa. It's worked so far.)

My favorite Santa was the one at my daughter's Montessori preschool. The groundskeeper and husband of the woman who owned and operated the school looked just like Santa - even more so than the one in the picture above. Even though the kids saw him all the time, when he showed up at the yearly Christmas party (the school was wise enough to admit that's what it was, even though it had children of many religions attending), he was transformed, and even as an adult I was impressed with the illusion. It made me think of how those fictional people never connected Clark Kent with Superman, even though the only difference were clothes and a pair of glasses.

Even better, he had a great story about why you would sometimes see him around town throughout the year. He said he had to go around and make sure the kids were being good, so if you saw him cruising around in his white Chrysler sedan with the red interior (his real car, btw, a sight to behold), he was just doing the Santa thing, so you'd better watch out, etc. He was a consummate storyteller; so much so that you could see the tweens in attendance have to mentally remind themselves this was just pretend.

At work this week we had our little obligatory Thanksgiving party, which was interrupted by a small drama. No, it didn't involve the vegan who yearly champions the rescue of a turkey or two (though we did have that). One of our lucky crew was just informed that she'd won a neat little gadget via a drawing at a conference she'd attended. She bounced around shouting yippie I've never won anything, this is so cool, etc. Well, envy and the general Office Space vibe conjoined and our version of Roz from Monster's Inc. rasped:

"Company policy states that we own the [device] since we sent you to the conference."

And then everyone dogpiled on her, asking if she'd used a company printed business card to enter (she hadn't), a company pen, perhaps? (nope), and so on. It was a shitty thing to witness. And allow me to connect the dots for you: These are the clods who couldn't wait to go to school one day and tell everyone there's no such thing as Santa.

TLD: It just dawned on me that there's a striking resemblance between Roz and Dick Cheney.

"Company policy states that if you joined the National Guard, we can send your ass to Iraq to be blown off, even if you're middle-aged with kids. Suck to be you."
Seperated at birth? Hmmm.

Ok, I guess I should be counting joys rather than sorrows in light of the season. Lessee... Ok, here's one: At the guy's poker game last Friday, I saw someone pull a natural straight flush. Never seen that one live before. We had so many guys that we were playing with two decks, and in that same hand, someone got five of a kind. Well, there is no such hand in poker, so the straight flush won. But what a hand.

But then that reminds me of the kurfuffle before the game. We make fliers for our parties, campouts, poker games, what have you. For the ones that are guys only, we have the admittedly juvenile tradition of putting a tasteful nude (typically a 50s pinup girl) somewhere on the poster. (And to demonstrate how tasteful, one of the guy's pastor saw the poster for the guy's campout on his fridge and remarked on how clever it was and how wonderful it was that we have such a close group of buddies.) It's supposed to be a little playful tweak to the wives, but the main in-joke is that nothing of the sort (girls, particularly naked ones) will be in evidence at the bash. In other words, it's supposed to be a backhanded reassurance that while boys will be boys, we'll be good boys where it counts.

Anyway, the one wife on the block who won't let her husband attend any "guy only" thangs got her ruffles in a bunch over this poster because someone from outside the circle of friends saw it. (This poster in question had a topless girl playing cards in keeping with the poker night theme.) Oh, the wailing. Oh, the gnashing of teeth. All the old, hoary cliches were trotted out: Demeaning to women, Pornographic, Tasteless, this should stop immediately, blah de blah. They say that when you talk on the phone, people can somehow tell if you are smiling. When my wife got the call, I'm pretty sure Ms. Underbunch could hear my wife's eyes rolling throughout the call. We've now planned to always produce a second poster now, just for her. It will be entitled something like "Shiny Happy Puppy Time" or some other sticky-sweet engrish concoction. And I'm sure we'll hear about that, too. (Maybe I'll Chuck Jones' old, sneaky trick and get a cartoon characters whose eyes look just like breasts.)

Ok, I'll stop. It's time for shiny happy turkey time. Though its reaffirmation by way of negative expression, I've always loved the line from U2's "Acrobat": Don't let the bastards grind you down.

So, this year, I go into the holidays doggedly reminding myself of all the blessings in my life. I have a wonderful family. I could not ask for a better wife and daughters. Everyone's healthy (knock on wood). Our house has new carpet and tile, so it's looking pretty spiffy. I have gainful employment, of which I'm grateful. And of course, I have God on my side, too.

I hope each and every one of you who reads this can find as many blessings in your life as well. Have a joyous holiday season, why don't you!


(Btw, I used Dooce's "Lovely Glow Effect" for these photos. It's a nifty little trick.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Uh-uh. No you didn't!

Salon has a post referencing an article in the Guardian about UC-Berkeley performing a study on what goes through men's minds and what distractions they may face whilst they are self-pleasuring. (You've gotta click through the ad to read, but please do, o.m.g!)

When I encounter such reports, I invariably flash to the particulars of such a thing, such as:

- Who determined how the test would be administered; how they set up the steps and so-forth? Wouldn't that have been a meeting to experience? ("No, Tommy, we have to consider that one hand is busy, so how do they record responses? I don't want to have to be in the room to assist.")
- How did they solicit participants? What did the ad or flier look like?
- So you're the person who has to instruct the young buck on what to do (at least the part he's not had plenty of practice at). How do you not die of embarrassment, or not burst out into laughter?
- Did they plan for the contingency of having accidental, uh, spillage on the recording mechanism and/or forms? (Anti-stick paper, perhaps?)
- Why no women? (Or is that rhetorical since most women would respond with "You want me to what?" and that'd be the end of it.)
- Apparently, they record what the dominant hand is.
- You are the guy who decided to stroke for science. What the hell?
- Who in the hell thought of doing this in the first place and why?

Ya'll have any additions/thoughts on the topic?

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Joys

The joys of parenting are sometimes briefly overshadowed by the troubles. I speak specifically of the stomach flu.

I have a major vomit phobia, so I have lived with the small dread of the inevitable visit of that particular disease to our household. Yea and verily on Saturday morning at 12:31 A.M. it splashed into our existence. Melted chocolate, anyone will tell you, makes a carpet stain that even the darkest red wine envies. Just off of Halloween, and having to make chocolate chip cookies for school, the tummy in question (MPC1) was choc full ... well, you get the drift.

Thus far (as I imagine we are not through the storm yet - the baby (MPC2) hasn't evidenced symptoms YET), I have had discovered that I have more of a tolerance for cleaning up accidental personal protein spills than I once thought. I still gape in horror during the actual event itself - especially that as caused by the stomach flu. Someone yarking from drinking too much has a relative elegance to it. They display a confused look, ralph it up, have some dry heaves, then we're done. The flu causes one to experience a long and miserable lead up to the event, and then the actual retching is much more tearing. The whole body convulses. Other things occur that just shouldn't be described, so I won't.

The resulting puddles, should the victim not make it to the designated receptacle as was the case this weekend, just didn't throw me as much as I thought they might.

And here's why, I think: Our damn dog.

Our dog has a wonderful personality. He's a sweet, little West Highland Terrier. His only personality fault is that he barks ALL THE TIME when he's outside; we've run through two entire shock collars and over 10 $20 batteries to power the same.* Other than that, he's a sweetheart. But, he pukes nearly every night, and if something further upsets his sensitive little digestive tract, he follows that up with voluminous turds which transition to sprayed diarrhea. (Some of his more extreme trails bring to mind an example of evolutionary changes as demonstrated in poop.) Being one of those who think that nearly everything happens for a reason, I feel God gave me this dog so I would become inured to cleaning up vast canvases of gloppy, malodorous bodily products.

I was on the couch at the end of the weekend, musing over the fact that the hurl cleanup hadn't really thrown me, when my daughter, the recently pukey one, says, "The dogs smells like diarrhea." My sinuses were clogged from cleaning product fumes, so I had no idea, but the dog chose that moment to wander away (perhaps sensing the upcoming event) and sure enough, his butt was caked with stool. I chased him down, pulled, scraped, and cut it off, all the while thinking of how much worse this was than mopping up hurl, and that's when I put it together.

My next hour was going through all the places he'd sat down, leaving little shit kisses on the carpet. MPC1 trailed me anxiously, pointing out the sites of destruction, and asking if we were going to get rid of the dog. What was intriguing about that last line of query is that usually her tone is "dad, you had better not get rid of the dog," but this time it was, "Even I now understand that this is a bit much, and I still hope you don't get rid of him."

Not to fear, the dog is safe for now. His upside still outweighs his downside.

But, dog, if you read my blog (and I wouldn't put it past the sneaky little shit, since we have to have a toddler gate on the basement stairs so he doesn't sneak down there in get into territory marking wars with the cat (where the catbox is), consider this fair warning. Keep that "pro" list on the heavy side, my furry little friend.

*TLD: When my wife and I finally decided we had no choice but to get a shock collar or give up the dog, we shopped around and tried to find the one that seemed the most humane. It starts out with a small warning shock, jumps up three levels if the barking continues, but then shuts off after the forth level, under the assumption that if the dog is still barking, it's serious and someone should come check out the problem. I don't think our dog has made it past the second level more that a couple times, and never to the fourth. Nonetheless, we felt we couldn't be comfortable having him wear it if first we didn't know what it felt like.

The instructions warned against applying the collar to exposed skin, because it was intended to be shielded by the fur of the animal, so we decided not to try it on our necks.

MPC1 was only about three at the time, and we didn't want to do this in front of her for several reasons, the two main ones were we didn't want to model the behavior and later catch her shocking herself, and we didn't want her to see us in pain and hear the inevitable profanity that would most likely result. So, we put her on the couch, cranked up a cartoon, told her to stay put, and retired to a bathroom to hold it to our bare thighs and set it off. I went first because I'm the man of the house and so wish to protect my family from harm (if it hurt too much, the wife was to be let off the hook), and because I'm the bigger weenie regarding pain, being the man of the house.

At first, it was high comedy, because there we were, holding this collar to my bare leg, both barking at it loudly. This drew MPC1 from the couch, "Mom? Dad? Why are you barking in the potty?" My wife replaced her on the couch saying we'll explain later, hoping that her attention span would wander far enough that we wouldn't have to. We finally discovered that rapping your fingers across it quickly fooled it into thinking it detected a bark, and it shocked the holy heck out of my leg. I tensed up, dropped the collar, and hissed an expletive through my grit teeth. Of course, nothing is funnier to a wife than that category of husbandly behavior. (That's why all dads on sitcoms are slapstick idiots.)

Verdict: It hurt less than putting your finger in the wall socket (something I had managed to do at three years old while trying to plug in my record player), but it hurt just a little more than the dry, Colorado static shock you get after taking off a fleece jacket and touching a light switch, which usually results in a bright, painful three-inch arc. The dog could handle it in my opinion.

Of course, after recovering from her guffaws, the wife disagreed, given my reaction. So I reminded her that that was why she's going next. After quasi-intense renegotiations which drew the MPC1 again (this time I took her back), I won on the fact that we could never leave the dog outside unless we had something to stop the barking, and this was probably it. So, she went through with it. Being a woman, she didn't do much more than say, "Ouch! ... Dammit!" and after another pause: "Yeah, he'll be fine."

For those of you who would try to connect the dots between the shock collar and the constant barfing, let me save you the trouble right now. He barfs because he refuses to eat his dogfood dinner at night because when we first adopted him, we would give him table scraps after our dinner. After a year or so of this, he developed the screaming monster-turds-transitioning-to-power-squirts I wrote of above, so we had to stop this indulgence. (One liquid turdfest took two days to clean up, and a week for the smell to dissipate, it was so huge.) But, thank you Dr. Pavlov, the conditioning was complete. He now will not eat his own food after our dinner because he waits for the scraps, thus his tummy fills with bile in anticipation, and rather than just eating, he arises around midnight, hurks it up all over the floor, then goes back to bed. It helps if we remember to give him a milkbone at night, but sometimes we get in the habit of forgetting.

However, we're getting new carpet since our old is so trashed. Perhaps we'll remember from now on. I know I will.
The Hours

Man, if this kind of thing is what passes for deep (what with critical hosannas and the Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award nominations out the woz), puddles around the world can now harbor aspirations to greatness.


Here's the plot:
Suicidal Virginia Woolf pens a novel, Mrs. Dalloway, where apparently the heroine commits suicide because the agonies of living in quiet suburbia are too much for her, which of course is what really happens to Woolf. (I've not read the book, nor will I, so I may be wrong about the plot.) Years later, a woman experiencing the same thing (oppression of the suburbs, the demands of making a birthday cake, and suppressed lesbianism) while reading said novel nearly commits suicide, but instead just abandons her family. The boy who's abandoned grows up, meets a girl, they have a child, but then he realizes he's gay, leaves her for his lover, but gets aids, writes a terrible novel, then dies by diving out of a window in front of the very same girl he left. All these years she's pined for him, and so nurses him as he dies of AIDS (and inexplicably has become a lesbian herself*). He calls her "Mrs. Dalloway" after the novel (hence the inclusion of this storyline), because she, too, is suicidal over the events in her life: Primarily planning a party for him as a last hurrah before he succumbs to the disease (not knowing he's planning to go skydiving), all the while becoming distressed over the tedium of it all. His death somehow releases her, as his mother's abandonment released her, and as Virginia Wolf's suicide released her. Lovely. The end.


All of this is relayed through achingly slow scenes where everyone either 1) stares at the other person in the scene who's talking, 2) cries, or 3) both for the really intense scenes. In short, excruciating. And, yes, I watched it all the way through, only fast-forwarding through the middle part of a fruitless argument at a train station (as I've said before, sometimes I'll hang with something I hate because of the very fact that I hate it so much, as it arouses my interest in it).

Thus I beseech you to save two hours of YOUR life and avoid The Hours.

*I have a theory about this, since it's not really explained in the movie. I didn't know previous to viewing the flick that the author of The Hours is gay , but this plot point made me suspect he was, and he is. A plot device I've identified that is common to gay fiction is someone straight inexplicably "turning gay" for either the convenience of a plot line, and/or because it's a gay fantasy to be able to turn someone gay out of sheer desire or love. I think the thinking behind it is a gay trope that "everyone is partially gay, they either just don't know it or won't admit it if they do," so the idea is we are all fungible. Well, we're not. It's silly that this woman is now gay, especially since she admits the love of her life is this gay man who left her. Action does not equal reaction in such things. (Of course, someone straight is not allowed to come out and say these things, so I apologize in advance for any flames in the comments.)


Let's pound it to China:
If you ever are faced with the choice between The Hours and Scooby Doo II, like, go with the Scoob. I kid you not.
The Candy Man

Saw the remake Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was more charming than I thought it would be, and MPC1 dug it enough for repeat viewings. I still like the original better because I think the songs are superior and Gene Wilder manages to radiate charm, even when he's being gruff. Johnny Depp continues to be a revelation as an actor, because he's charming, too, but he invests Wonka with the kind of charm you find in a savant; they're just so who they are that you enjoy that mere, but overwhelming fact. In other words, Wilder's Wonka was an adult in control, and Depp's was an everlasting child whose genius provides a means of functioning in the world, even though he's clueless about that world.

For the record, MPC1 opined that she likes both versions equally.

The primary problem critics had with Depp's performance was that he appeared to be using some Michael Jackson in the mix. I believe it was in there, but it's not the primary engine to the performance, imho. There are many creepy parts of the performance (though it's only just creepy enough and does not overwhelm), and the Gloved One's element is just one of them. I believe Depp did it intentionally to invoke that specific brand of man-child creepiness. Though there is not one hint, not one iota, of pedophilia, so parents shouldn't be concerned.

Some of the set pieces are excellent. The squirrels in particular were one of the more awesome sequences ever filmed (given that they had to be computer generated). The oopma-loompas were better in the first flick, but Deep Roy - the Eastern Indian dwarf used to play all of the oopma-loompas - invests his tribe with a hinky sort of charm.

Really, though, the star is Depp. I would recommend this even to folks who don't have children, as Tim Burton's films are all interesting in some regard. And, again, Depp is something to see, a must for fans of his. Check it out.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

When someone puts a universal truth out there, I am compelled to pass it along:

Garrison Keillor on why men need a shed of their own.

(Click through and watch the commercial; it's worth it.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Truth
by Al Franken

Pounded through The Truth in the last couple days. Al Franken is a national treasure. I honestly hope he never runs for office because he's much more useful as a pundit. Anyone who can communicate like he can needs to keep doing it. Someday he will have a statue or two raised in his honor, and it's my fervent hope that they make him look tall.

As the title implies, this is the sequel to his historical take-down of the wingnut movement ( ... "movement" ... yeah, that has a nice fecal ring to it), Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. Even though this is as good, it has the feel of anticlimax because of course we're living in the second term of Turd Blossom's puppet. Yes, we have the comfort of the indictments finally rolling in, but we all know that even though maybe one or two of these crooks will go to Martha Stewart prison, it will not change the administration. We even have the ignored-by-the-mainstream-media fact that the last election was stolen, too. We are stuck until the next election.

Still, it's good having down on paper all the mind-boggling and mind-numbing corruption and abuse that is the current Republican regime. I finally feel sorry for moderate Republicans. Being a Christian and having to live with the animosity stirred up by fundies, it must be galling to be an honest, decent Republican (yes, dear reader, they do exist) in this age.

Franken is a superior humorist, so regardless of his topic, he's a fun read. I recommend this to everyone. I would especially love a few wingnuts to read this, though I know I'm essentially wishing the moon were cheese. A few times I would laugh out loud while reading, so heads would swivel to see what I was reading, and thus the instant litmus test would ensue. Moderates and liberals would smile and nod when they saw the cover, wingnuts would frown and look at me as though they were memorizing my face so I could be one of the first ones up against the wall when the revolution comes. I take comfort in the fact that I'll be standing next to the likes of Al Franken the Dixie Chicks (I think Emily Robison, the tall one, is freakin' hot!). We'll have songs and laughter before the bullets fly.

I especially like the light touch he has with religion. He's essentially a Deist (def: there's something bigger than us out there, I just don't know what it is) by way of Judaism, with a dash of Minnesota polite thrown in. His stories about his experiences with religion, and this recent post by Sharon on church music, brought to mind an experience of mine. We haven't had a Third Level Digression in a while, so here goes:

TLD: When my wife and I first moved to our new town, we went church shopping because our old church was now over an hour and a half away. There is a Presbyterian church just a few blocks away, so that seemed the natural choice. We attended the all-important Easter service as our introduction.

When we entered the vestibule, we saw a big box of rocks with a sign that said "Take One." I shot an "uh-oh" look at my wife; she shrugged and picked up a rock. So we sat down and started trying to busy our first daughter, who was three at the time (I think), part of which included explaining why she couldn't have a rock. The pastor got up to deliver his sermon and its message was, and I paraphrase: "Sometimes in life we get bogged down by troubles, so I want you to imagine all of your troubles going into this rock, take it home with you, and then toss it away somewhere as a symbolic gesture of laying your troubles down."

I imagine the look on my face was something close to this:

This was Easter freakin' Sunday. If we were to hear anything about rocks, it should be about Jesus rolling one back to emerge triumphant into everlasting life. But no, we were supposed to project our troubles into a piece of landscaping material (not even bringing into consideration that viewing inanimate objects as receptacles of anything living was spelled out pretty clearly as a big no-no several places in the Bible). If I want squishy, feel-good pop psychology, I tune into PBS during a pledge drive. My Easter service had better come with a big helping of steaming Jesus, maybe with some shocked apostles on the side. I'm not even sure if Christ was mentioned even in passing...

Anyway, about the only thing I admire about that sermon was the fact that he had the stones (heh heh) to give everyone a rock and then deliver a sermon like that on Easter Sunday. Perhaps I can take solace in the fact that it turned into an unintended lesson on resisting temptation. (And 20/20 hindsight, maybe I should've given my daughter a rock after all. You can at least plead innocence when a baby chucks a rock at someone.) The only thing that would have made the experience complete would have been if one of the songs we sang were Dylan's "Everybody must get STONED!" (aka "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35"). Mwaharhar.

Anyway, Franken rocks. Check out The Truth.

Monday, November 07, 2005

In Through the Out Door

Three of the best movies about working in an office are:
- Office Space
- Brazil
- Galaxy Quest

Office Space nails the inanities that everyone faces in the workplace with an accuracy such that you'll find yourself matching movie characters with people at your job.
Galaxy Quest is an allegory about what happens if you pretend you know what you're doing: Someone will appear and actually expect you to do the real thing.
Brazil is about the hopelessness brought about by incompetence rising to the top - an pre-Dilbert take on "The Dilbert Effect" - and the inevitable outcome for those who try to do the right thing in spite of it all.

I bring this up like our cat brings up a hairball because I have faced a waterloo at work and spent one night distractedly bumping into walls from being overwhelmed with the tsunami of stupidity I'd endured. Coming into work the next day, a compatriot reminded me that I'm still getting paid to do the inanity I've been asked to do, so at least there's that. A reasonable perspective, I decided, and so I put the box of shells back into my trunk. (I kid. I kid.)

This brought to mind the worst job I'd ever had to date, that being a clerk at a chain bookstore. Helping customers, basic shelving, and the incessant tidying up after customers have pawed through a rack (as they should) were actually not all that unpleasant, in a raking-the-Zen-rock-garden sorta way. No, what made things bleeding gums and clumps of hair falling out was bizarre company policy and a manager who simply thought that if someone asked you to pound a railroad spike to China, well they probably had a good reason, so don't ask why.

The main culprit of woe was a stack of paper literally a foot high that was a list of all the books in the store, generated from computerized inventory list the main office kept of all books in every store, that was maintained by our cash registers and shipping centers. Our job was to go through the entire store, write the number of copies we had in the little square next to the title, and if the price on the list differed from that on the book, we had to change the price mark on the book. This in itself was not a bad idea, or a bad thing at all, because over time shite happens and the computerized inventory becomes incorrect. What was silly is we had to do this twice a year, and it took about a month to do, resulting in the discovery of maybe 5 to 10 "lost" books, and maybe 15 price changes (of about $1 each). The sheer cost of printing this had to have outstripped the gains of exercise. This was a thing that should be done every third year on the outside, and once a year at most. The biggest sin was because it was so labor intensive, customer service suffered directly for those two months a year. If you're in the middle of counting 27 copies of something and a little old lady wander up to ask if you've got the new Harlequins in, you couldn't give her the "wait a minute" gesture, finish and help. No, you had to drop everything and help, which made us begin to hide out, or literally run from customers just to finish some notes or a count.

And that was just one of the many insults we had to endure for minimum wage (and even less during the month of December, where we were expected to put in an extra 10 hours a week for free).

I think the sole reason I had that job (and I'm one of those who thinks most everything happens for a reason) was to give me perspective on the relative suckitude of jobs later in life. As much of a pain as things are right now, at least I'm not in the midst of marking up one of Bill O'Reilly's blowhard tomes only to have a mother appear around the corner of the shelves announcing that her child with Dizzy Gillespie cheeks is about to barf and where's the bathroom?

(Which reminds me another challenge of the bookstore job; we didn't have a public bathroom. Moms were always running in with a desperate child asking to use the bathroom. We were told we could under no circumstances (even Dizzy Gillespie cheeks) allow a customer to use the bathroom; one item on the multi-page list as to reasons why not was that our stockroom was a hazard what with all the stacks of books lying around. (It was safe for us because we were professionals, and had apparently signed something upon hire that bereaved families were forbidden to sue the company should one of us die due to a case of terminal papercuts should a stack attack.) Once, out of the sheer goodness of my heart, and the empathetic fact of actually having a bladder, I let someone take their child back under full escort from me to guard from malicious book assault. I was alone in the store and thought I'd be safe. Well, an employee of another store across the way in the mall spied my deviation from policy, and made sure my manager found out. I was taken into the back room and given a severe tongue-lashing and a warning in my file. Sometime later an elderly and terminally annoyed regular customer asked if she could use our bathroom. She got very angry (I'm surprised she didn't pee on the carpet) and said the policy was stupid. I agreed and even told her what had happened the one time I'd transgressed. Well, mentioning my manger gave her an idea, and of course she called her. The next day I was taken in the back room for another tongue lashing for angering a repeat customer for not letting her use the bathroom.)

One of the things that stick in my craw is the futility of being able to do much when the train jumps the track at work. As an employee, you pretty much have to find another job if you don't like the way things are going because:
1) If you try to present the situation to upper management as an issue that needs fixing, you are the messenger and you will be shot.
2) If you take it to Human Resources, you will simply be viewed as a problem employee and it will go in your record (unless sexual harassment's involved). Chances are if they talk to upper management, they will only mention that you are a problem, and won't mention the problem you're trying to bring to light.
3) If you try to "transform it from below," this will merely provide an opportunity for those who are responsible for the bad policy in the first place to pinpoint you as someone not following the rules, and you will be reprimanded or fired.

No matter how many assurances from the company that this is not the case, this is the case 99% of the time. This is because organizations that are broken enough to allow the situation in the first place are typically broken to the extent that fixes will not occur without great trauma to staff (loss of jobs, for those of you in the cheap seats, even for those who are trying to correct things - the great correction machine is blind to who's helping and who's hurting, because it's often considered too objective a thing to really ascertain in time), and this is only after trauma to the bottom line has occurred.

I've always wondered if it's better to search for a job at the end of the year or the beginning in regards to layoff odds. Companies tend to balance the books on the backs of their staff these days, meaning that if in the 4th quarter things aren't going as planned, a lot of companies will simply schedule layoffs, which is why there are so many layoffs in American at Christmas. My theory is that if they hire you in the 4th quarter, it indicates that they're doing well enough to do so, and so you probably have a safe year, at the very least - more if they are competent enough to manage their finances accordingly. If a company hires you early in the year, while the budgets are flush, it means you are a step below contract work because you have no indication if the company is one of those that does egregious Christmas layoffs (and they certainly won't tell you that in the interviews even if you ask). You are one step below contract work because at least they know their job has an end date, and they even know what it is (in theory, because I imagine companies can just tell a contract worker to just leave, too - I've not done contract work, so I don't know firsthand).

That's it for now. This guy in a jumpsuit just showed up in my cube to invite me to work on a software project located somewhere in the belt of Orion. I hope they have good benefits...
Misc. Elsewhere 11-07-2005

These are about the coolest Flash menus I've ever seen. I like the artwork they lead to, too.

Speaking of artwork, I enjoyed this large collection of "picture postcards" on artnet (that I'm guessing are like a "pic of the day/week/etc." since they're not explained).
- 2005
- 2004
- 2003
- 2002

Goshdarnit, I really like this new CD called Thunder, Lightning, Strike by The Go! Team, but it's so damn silly, I will probably be alone in the crowd on this one. It's like a bunch of band geeks got together and formed a rock band. It's got those rolling drums that high school bands specialize in during the football games, it's got cheerleaders chanting, it's got surf guitar, it's got samples, it's a freakin hoot.

So, here's their site, which has some samples of their stuff under "music" (and I kinda like the flash menus). Here's their label's site, with more stuff. And finally, if you want a small sample of every tune on the disc, you'll find them here.

I think this is either a love it or hate it kinda thing.

But, everyone loves Magical Trevor!

Finally, I won't make you surf there and will include it whole. This item in Salon's gossip column "The Fix" amused me greatly:

'In an exchange we have a hard time imagining, when Ozzy Osbourne ran into Prime Minister Tony Blair at a Downing Street party recently, all Blair -- who apparently plays guitar -- wanted to talk about was old Black Sabbath riffs. "All this Iraq thing's going on and I was amazed that he turned round to me and said, 'I could never quite understand how to get the riff to Iron Man,'" Osbourne said. "I'm going, 'Kids are dying, people are getting blown up and you're talking to me about f**king Iron Man'"'

Indeed. Obviously Ozzy just doesn't grasp the importance of being able to nail the riff in "Iron Man." Being the vocalist, he just can't see the point of worry about the guitar stuff, I'd imagine. ;)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Evil Bastards

Not a big surprise, but still totally disheartening; according to the GAO, Bush and his cronies did steal the 2004 election, too. Here's the GAO doc itself. (Links from

This last weekend, we got the sad news that one of the dads on our daughter's soccer team has to go to Iraq for 18-month tour. He's in his 40s, and he's got a wife and little kids. He's in the National Guard, and I don't know if you know this or not, but they're essentially doing what's been called (somewhat inaccurately) a backwards draft where they're sending these older, married guys to the war because they can't get enough recruits. I know these guys signed up to serve, and I'm not disparaging their contribution by any means, but in past wars our nation didn't stoop to this kind of thing.

And all of this from a two-term, illegitimate president, and his under-indictment team.

I used to wonder in history class how citizens of various nations in the past felt when their government was blatantly corrupt and abusing its power. I no longer have to wonder.