Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Have Become Carver . . .

. . . Destroyer of Gourds.

I light a candle in each one for you.

Every Halloween, it is the same.
I wait for the black of night to fall. I make my way to the Old Murphy pumpkin patch just outside of town. Once inside the fences, I look out over the field, admiring the crop.
It is then that I reveal the blades inside my bag. One by one, I remove each of the terrible implements from their wooden display block, admiring their fine stainless steel and full-tang construction that not only offer me confidence, but comfort for the awful task at hand.
And then my dark work begins.
The pulp and the seeds spray and splatter. The ease at which the flesh of each pumpkin separates under the edge of my steely friends causes a manic grin to crawl across my face. And as I carve and slice my way through the madness, I think of you, killed by that truck of pumpkins so many years ago. That horrible horn, the squishity-squish-squish of that awful murder under the pulpy mass of the Orange Menace, they haunt me still. Only this yearly ritualized squash-icide can halt that horrid scene from playing in the theater of my mind night after night.
It ends when every last gourd in the field has felt my wrath. There, among the muck and the slime of the patch, I sit among the carved pumpkins, all glaring at me with your face, tears streaming down my pulp-stained cheeks. Their maddening song has been silenced.
I then gather my tools and return home, satiated for another year.
Now, we are at the end of another October. The horrible yearning for pumpkiny death begins anew.
I hope you can hear the screams of the Cucurbita, and that they please you as much as I.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Next Batman

Also, if you ever feel the need to start a fight on the internet, posting the image above will do it no matter the audience.
Since Gwynyth has been enjoying our Superhero movie collection again recently, I've been giving them a lot of thought.
Well, not Daredevil. But the other ones.
The Dark Knight was a fairly perfect Batman movie, and making a good Batman movie without churning up all the muck and history of the source material is pretty much impossible.
One also has to consider the prospect of making a movie which will sell action figures, which means both kids and geeks must be interested.
And we can't forget the Batman's arch nemesis is short an actor now, so future movies will need to do without the Joker attempting to communicate his crazy to Batman's crazy.
Plus, Christian Bale is off ruining other franchises at the moment.

Isn't there a Machinist 2 in pre-production somewhere?
What I thought I wanted at first was a return to the very early days of Batman, where he wasn't trying to save the whole city. He was just stopping bank robberies and beating up pimps.
This concept lends itself more to a return to Batman on television.
Or maybe not, on closer review.
Adam West is a busy guy.
So I started to think about a Batman TV series without Batman. It's been done, after all.
But Birds of Prey was bogged down by having someone besides Batman fight Batman's enemies. Also, the ratings sucked. What a Batman show without Batman needs is solid freaking ratings.
Back in the pre-Robin days, Batman was always swinging into crime scenes, punching bad guys, and swinging off. Sometimes a good punching was all a classic thug needed to clean up his act.
The other thing the good old Batman would do is hand out business cards to the less hardcore criminals who responded to the punching (or even just the threat of a punching) especially well.
These business cards could apparently be redeemed at Wayne Industries for one (1) career change and meaningful employment, signed Bruce Wayne.
He gave cards out to muggers, shoplifters, and hookers mostly, but it would be awesome if they were also given to people who were crazy beneath the level diagnosable in a quick swing-punch-lifechangecard kind of way.
And that is the basis of the best possible Batman-free Batman TV show.
Wayne Enterprises Human Resources.
You've got Gotham City as a backdrop, Batman swinging and punching and leaving, and the poor slobs at Waynetech placing the ex-criminals into cubicles and assigning tasks.
Think of it like a highly-rated office comedy, but with serial killers and hookers.
So The Office, meets Dexter, meets Desperate Housewives.
It is the perfect storm of can't-miss televised awesome.
Also, the Mad Hatter could totally work in the Mail Room.

I've been working from home a lot, lately, though I hear there is a desk somewhere which actually has a nameplate. And the nameplate actually has my name.
But I haven't tracked down the building yet. Maybe Thursday?
Anyway, major stuff is going down this week as we ramp up for Saturday.
My costume is mostly ready.
A pumpkin is sweating nervously on the kitchen floor.
And I've put up a fake Sex Offender sign in the yard to deter trick-or-treaters (the neighbors will thank me later for lower property taxes). I don't hand out candy. Halloween isn't about tooth decay and childhood obesity.
Halloween is about acting like an idiot and freaking out the normals.

Except somehow less like my job.

Monday, October 26, 2009

In Memorium

Let us take a moment to pay our respects to a fallen giant.
Long before your favorite Parent Teacher Organization configured the RSS feed on their blog to keep you up to date on the meetings you would rather skip, before you were forced to abandon whole email addresses to purge an Instant Messenger contact list, and before your mom started following you on Twitter, a service existed and was embraced by the semi-technical.
GeoCities allowed anyone to make a website, and people did.
Almost 28 Million users were active per month in 2002, which isn't bad considering Yahoo had purchased the service in 1999 for a mere $4 billion. In 2002, that was a substantial percentage of total Internet traffic.
And without the brave features pioneered by GeoCities, I have no doubt that the current face of social networking would be a bleak and desolate place, devoid of embedded music files, tiled backgrounds, and spinning animated images.
In the course of allowing everyone to design their own webpage for free, GeoCities also amassed what is arguably the largest collection of awful color combinations and "Under Construction" images with little working guys, all backed up nightly and served up to meet the high-traffic demands of the day.
GeoCities bravely told the growing throng of internet users,"Come here, you! There is room for whatever the hell it is you think looks good right here on our servers!"

"Whatever your technical ability, design certification or taste, we've got a place for you." And people came, making GeoCites the third most visited domain in 1999, right after AOL and Yahoo.

Apparently, 1999 was an extremely dark time for the internet.
15MB of free storage online was a pretty sweet deal in 1999, though. You could cram dozens of images into that.
Fortunately, is stepping up to save what it can for posterity.
My daughter has grown up in an Adobe Flash world. It is comforting to know that she will still be able to visit an animated Gif in an online museum in the event some school project requires it.
AOL and Yahoo, huh?
It's amazing anyone stayed online at all.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Job Responsibilities

When I was told I'd be working with a "special needs" business unit, I assumed the definition was the standard.
I expected that sometimes they would blow up their equipment.
From experience, I thought they would overwrite vital data with crap and then fling blame.
I entertained the possibility that written instructions should, perhaps, be read in reverse for the purposes of functionality.
All of these things I have seen.
What I had not seen, and did not expect, was that they would not be nice about it.
I've worked with difficult people. If elaboration is needed I suggest hitting and archived post at random and running with it.
I am not what one would describe as "thick skinned", and I tend to take a lot of stuff personally which maybe I should not.
At the same time, repeated where-the-hell-are-you-i-needed-this-thing-done-twenty-minutes-ago instant messages while I'm on the phone with my manager are not the key to wringing a response from me.
In fact, since I was on the phone with my manager specifically about how obnoxious they were, I felt it was a more valid use of my time, overall.
The key in this case is the proper re-direction of fault. Geek Fu is less about technical ability than it is about using a user's mass and momentum against them.
"Why don't you answer your desk phone?" when I don't actually have a desk was not a question I could answer in any way except, "Given that I've gotten so little documentation from your developers I'd prefer all contact from you to be written and not verbal so that I can create my own documentation by copying and pasting."
Of course, it also helps to find the place in their code where a file is sought in half a dozen non-existent locations in the half second before the server blue screened.
I'm still quite often driving 90 miles to work and 90 miles home.
I also have not located a place in my part of South Carolina which has decent coffee before 6am.
This is the price of having a job in finance, I suppose.
Or, perhaps in a past life I burned down an orphanage and karma has chosen to catch up with me here, in the southeastern United States.
Stupid karma. There's nothing to do here north of Orlando.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More Updates

First off, if you've recently purchased the Veggie Tales Bob & Larry Cookie Cutter, be extremely careful when you frost the actual cookies. It can make all the difference between a wonderful birthday party and a restraining order.
Also, it should be noted that 'poking' someone on Facebook is considered a legal violation of those restraining orders. Some judges have absolutely no sense of humor.
Most judges, actually. I blog this in order that these lessons can be learned here instead of in court. Here is much less expensive, even for the paid subscribers.
If you aren't following me on Twitter, you may be missing out on whatever random crap I encounter in the course of a normal day. Sure, there is a sidebar over there with the last half dozen or so, but since Miley Cyrus quit, no one has anything better to do than listen to whatever inane stuff I can squeeze into 140 characters. I'm totally followable @PrettyGeeky, as featured on io9 for my brave stance on our latest noble military efforts.
Perhaps most importantly, Internet, I've learned a few more important facts about working in this building in downtown Charlotte.
The Coke machine (Coke Zero, for the win!) happily accepts my bank card, $1.25 at a time in exchange for ice cold 20oz drinks which fly at me through an elaborate soda roller coaster and robotic arm. The whole process makes me giggle and clap my hands, each and every time. This disturbs the normals. I love disturbing the normals.
Also, the building's sliding glass access doors open slowly from the outside following a badge swipe but very quickly from the inside in reaction to motion. It is too fast to kick them from that direction. So far.
Lastly, if the people who share the break room refrigerator on the 12th floor don't start packing some decent lunches I'm going to stab someone. For serious.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pumpkin Flavored Awesome

The new job is certainly interesting.
I've been made responsible for a high-demand business group. This means a couple of things.
It means that all aspects of the functionality of their varied applications are flung to me first for resolution.
It also means that they users are a whiny bunch of asshats who have gotten the idea that they are entitled to some measure of attention.
Strangely enough, I've held this exact job in the past.
The key isn't solving the various application issues. A few can almost certainly be knocked out pretty easily.
It also isn't getting the users to send valid information about their errors instead of "some application on server 11 blew up" so that a baseline can be established including valid activity parameters, though that would be nice as well.
The absolute must-do in this type of role is to reset the user expectations, first to the limitations of modern computing ("No, the server cannot do your laundry while it calculates your spreadsheet adjustments if you never, ever let us schedule it for a reboot") and second, most importantly, in the responsiveness of their assigned consultant ("Oh, it did 'it' again, did it? Awesome. Please send me the data I requested the last time 'it' happened, in addition to the same data for this occurrence, and I'll see about getting you a better diagnosis than 'it crapped out' this time. Once I get back from lunch, probably.").
The tightrope to walk here is in not ever sending a response to them that is more vague than the request they flung at me. As long as I have a use for the data I demand, there is no reason for it to not be provided.
This is my core skill set. People-hacking.
The other great thing is that I laid all this out in the interview, so no one on my side of the technical fence should be at all surprised by any of it.
The drive from Columbia it Charlotte and back to Columbia every day sucks quite a bit. It is easily my least favorite part.
Hopefully, the house will be on the market soon and we can begin our final drive to Charlotte.
I can endure until then. Some days I work from home. Today, for example.
Today I was productive without pants until about 10:30am, when I needed something out of the car and it was cold and rainy.
After that, the pants seem to have quelled the earlier productivity, though the correlation wasn't made until after lunch, when I'd again dressed the part of working from home.
Why did I take my pants off after lunch? Because I'm a professional and there is a certain standard I like to acknowledge and subsequently ignore.
Pumpkin-flavored everything makes all of this infinitely easier. It's like falling off a log onto a large orange gourd, given the proper no-sugar-added enhancements.