Crank it!

I had an epiphany this morning at work as I waited and waited for a simple query to return some intelligible answer from the server: what if network priority was dynamic, and could be set by a hardware device on each computer. And what if that device was a crank handle that generated electricity as you turned it?

Kind of like this, which is a cool product I found when doing an image search.

Kind of like this, which is a cool product I found when doing an image search.

Not to power the computer, though, but rather to express a very simple emotion: urgency.

As you turn the crank a simple current is generated and measured. The more current generated, the higher your priority on the network. If you don’t turn it at all you could be stuck sitting for minutes waiting for your query to return from the server. If you turn it quickly, your priority gets higher and you get your answers more quickly.

I can see benefits and detriments to this idea.

First, the benefits:

1) You get some physical exercise at work. Heck, if you hook it up to a treadmill or bicycle pedals you could get a full workout.

2) You get to relieve some stress at work. Working out is the best way to relieve stress. Well, other than sex, but I think HR would be more comfortable with exercise.

3) You could communicate a sense of URGENCY to the system. If you needed something NOW you could physically push for the results to come faster. This would have the beneficial effect of both allowing you to vent your stressful moment productively at the same time as providing priority to those people who clearly need it the most.

Now, the downsides:

mesmerizing

mesmerizing

1) Work is already exhausting on bad days. Making you physically work for priority as well as having to politically jockey for it would just add to the exhaustion.

2) The smell. Gyms smell bad for a reason. Now add that gym smell into enclosed cubicles with half the people wearing polyester and not nearly enough deodorant.

3) The upper crust would starting assigning people “crank duty” to make sure their spreadsheets come out sooner than your TPS reports. It starts to evoke the image of Egyptian slaves.

But, still, if only there were some way to automate priority to those urgently need it.

Inertia

I have a button on my fridge, I bought it a while back when I was ordering Christmas presents from Think Geek. It says, simply, “I’m not deaf, I’m ignoring you.”
It was funny at the time, and sometimes at work I’d like it to be true, but in general… it isn’t.
I’m not ignoring you. I’m not ignoring any of you. This is just how I am. For all my ability to talk and write, for all my skill at explaining how things are or might be, for all my ability to tell a story… I am, at my heart, a lousy communicator.
My ability to tell a story isn’t talent, it’s compensation. I grew up alone for much of my life and, as such, missed out on some of the social tricks many people take for granted. I completely suck at small talk and other simple social conventions. I discovered, instead, that people will … think less strange of me if I entertain them with stories. Besides, the stories also keep me entertained in my own head.
But that’s a tangent for another time.
What I am saying is that I do not do well at initiating contact. I never call anyone except when I have some specific reason for doing so. I don’t leave my house unless I have a goal, someplace I already need to go.
I never start anything, I wait around until there’s something worth following.
The annual non trad is just the exception that proves the rule. If people weren’t constantly asking me about it I’d eventually just stop.
A number of people have been commenting lately that I haven’t been around, haven’t been calling. Rest assured, it isn’t just you.
I’m slipping, I think. I’m reverting to the sad solo life I used to have where, if it weren’t for Chad’s comic shop or the school’s computer lab, I would go for weeks without talking to anyone who didn’t call me first. There were communal watering holes I stumbled on and returned to for the human contact I knew I needed but didn’t know how to find.
Now all the watering holes are gone. I go to work, go nonstop all day, and drag myself home to distract and entertain myself for a few hours before finally dragging myself to bed for not enough sleep.
On weekends I nap. A lot. Which just makes that tired Monday morning all that much harder to face. If Mondays weren’t so crazy, so constantly-on-the-run busy, they’d be intolerably long. Luckily for me Mondays are days that never have enough time, the hours pass in a blur and I’m home again, on the couch, watching something on TV or playing another video game.
The thought of calling people occurs to me, all the time, but it… feels like effort. I can never think of a good reason to talk to people. It’s easier when someone is already there for some other reason, then some random thought will occur to me and I’ll bring up some obscure topic of conversation. But when I face the dialing buttons of a phone I have nothing in mind, nothing significant enough to be worth calling someone about. So I don’t.
I’ve always been like this. It’s always been easier to go with the regularly scheduled event, the common watering hole, whether it was the comic shop or the computer lab or the regular Monday night movie on an overstuffed couch. You didn’t need a reason to show up, the place was the goal unto itself. The resulting socialization came naturally.
I have no ideas, no plans of my own. I have tasks, chores, and obligations. The rest of the time is balanced between a library of distractions and the proverbial ticking clock, marking the passing hours.
I’d really like to think that finally getting the rest I need would prompt me to changing this, the constant surrender to inertia, but I fear it may be too late. I’ve been like this all my life, it would be a miracle for it to change.
And now I’m late for bed again.

a pigeon with no hole

I’ve tried to go out into the world with a mixed bag of success. I did do some shopping, and found a few things I’d love to buy, but haven’t bought anything. I didn’t find what I’d set out to look for and I’m trying to resist buying stuff I don’t actually need. I’d love to have a 100 candle mag light that I can palm in one hand, but I don’t actually need it. I’d love to have bought the larger stainless steel mug for just nine dollars, but again I don’t need it.

I bought a big pot of tea and a piece of cheesecake. The tea is nearly done and the cheesecake… well, more than half of it remains on the plate. It’s far too jellied and far too sweet for my tastes. I’ve eaten the graham crust and the chocolate coated cookie bits attached to the outside, all of which was much less sweet than the cake itself. I predict the rest of the cake will linger in the bakery display case for a long time and then be thrown out.

I wrote a brief character interaction but I’m not happy with it. In fact I’ve pretty much struggled with it from the start. I’ve written numerous descriptions of the main character, a result of a gaming character concept I worked on last year, but I haven’t fit her into the world yet. A big part of that problem is she supposed to not fit in with the world as she literally lives outside of it and only visits on occasion.

[… long pause …]

Okay, just writing that previous sentence kind of inspired me to go back and add more detail to the character description and I got two more paragraphs out of it and I’m a little… less dissatisfied with it.

I’ve been struggling a lot lately. Nothing new, the same old struggles… no real job and no real future… but they’re starting to really mount up. I am working which had, at one point, lifted my flagging hope, but the part time job feels akin to a dixie cup of water for a dehydrated man; just enough to make him aware of just how thirsty he is. Having the two shifts take out the two most common social evenings hasn’t helped either.

But we persevere.

I’m quickly becoming aware of my troublesome marketability. I have an education but it’s out of date and not adequate to any of the jobs it was originally designed for. I do occasionally look at job postings for IT work but they’re becoming increasingly arcane to me, talking in acronyms and jargon I’ve simply never heard before. It just highlights how stressful that career path was for me. It’s one thing to avoid stagnation, quite another to be running a constant marathon in which the rules change semi-annually.

I apply for other office work but nobody wants to hire someone without either significant experience or specialized training. Long gone are the days, it seems, when you might hire someone and train them yourself. Even something as mundane as filing has an educational certification for it. Even those small, independent offices who are interested in taking someone new and training them “their” way aren’t interested in me because I’m far too old and set in my ways. They want someone young and malleable. Someone who isn’t scheduled to retire in twenty years.

The menial jobs rarely if ever get back to me because I have far too much education and, again, I’m not young. They can’t believe I’d be willing to work in any menial position and, even if they are willing to accept that I’d be willing to take that position on, they’re not convinced I’d be fit enough at my age to handle it.

I avoid using Workopolis entirely. Not because they aren’t a good job search web site, but because I don’t fit any of their pigeon holes. The first question asked is “what job are you looking for?”, not “what sort of work do you want to do?”. I don’t fit any of the definitions they have available and, quite honestly, I have no idea what sort of definition would ever suit me.

It feels like I’m making excuses but when even McDonald’s doesn’t show any interest in your application it becomes pretty evident that I just no longer fit into any recognizable societal role.

So remember, kids, make sure you pick your career niche early and cling to it for dear life or you could end up like uncle Joel here… categorically unemployable.

Just a short blurt into the darkness

With both ladies out of town I’m definitely beginning to feel the lack of human interaction, so it was nice to have coffee with Elizabeth yesterday and to drop in on Mary Ann and Tony tonight, and I’ve got Shane coming over for video games tomorrow. See? I can socialize.

I still need practice at initiating social contact. Not sure where the deficiency lays. You’d think someone who grew up alone would be well practiced at calling out to others but that just isn’t the case. I’m perfectly capable of standing up on a stage in front of hundreds of people and speaking on any number of things, but getting myself to pick up the phone and talk to one person is like trying to pick up a magnet with a similarly charged string. My brain refuses to stay on track and slips off to do just about anything but pick up the phone and make the call.

I’m not socially stunted. Put me in a group of strangers and I can be all gregarious and anecdotal, or at least make polite conversation until the food arrives. I’m not the sort of person who naturally hangs out with the people he works with but I do manage to mine out the occasional rare gem from the common gravel that end up being friends in their own right rather than “friends from work”.

A big part of it is my deep seated aversion to bothering people and I worry that if I call someone I’ll be putting them in the position of having to decide whether to entertain me or to politely let me down and keep the time for themselves. I know a lot of people will reply with “but you’re never a bother, call any time!” but then voices in my head tell me that’s the polite and supportive thing for them to say. In reality I know I treasure much of my alone time and that makes me assume others do too. My mother has long since trained me that people who love you will lie to you and so it has become a difficult for me to trust when people whom I believe care about me tell me they don’t mind me calling. I know that’s convoluted but that’s how my mind works. Or, more accurately, that’s how my mind overworks.

Paradoxically this winds up meaning the people I have the least trouble calling are the people who are most likely to turn me down. Knowing that they have no trouble saying “no” means I can trust their “yes” that much more.

It’s interesting how so many of the Truths that resonate with me come from comedy. Something about the court jester being the one to point out the obvious things that everybody else either overlooks or wants to ignore appeals to me. George Carlin can be so brilliant sometimes. Not all the time, but some times. Here are a few good quotes of his:

“I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don’t have as many people who believe it.”

“Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.”

“If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe, then I’d have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.”

“I love and treasure individuals as I meet them; I loathe and despise the groups they identify with and belong to.”

“The Earth is just fine. The Earth isn’t in any danger. We are.”

“Honesty may be the best policy, but it’s important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy.”

Modest Mouse: Missed the Boat

I really love this song:

While we’re on the subject
Could we change the subject now?
I was knocking on your ears
Don’t worry, you were always out
Looking towards the future
We were begging for the past
Well, we know we had the good things
But those never seemed to last
Oh, please just last

Everyone’s unhappy
Everyone’s ashamed
Well we all just got caught looking
At somebody else’s page
Well, nothing ever went
Quite exactly as we planned
Our ideas held no water
But we used them like a dam

Oh, and we carried it all so well
As if we got a new position
Oh, and I laugh all the way to hell
Saying, “Yes, this is a fine promotion”
Oh, and I laugh all the way to hell

Of course everyone goes crazy
Over such and such and such
We made ourselves a pillar
But we just used it as a crutch
We were certainly uncertain
At least I’m pretty sure I am
Well, we didn’t need the water
But we just built that good goddamn

Oh, and I know this of myself
I’d assume as much for other people
Oh, and I know this of myself
We’ve listened more to life’s end gong
Than the sound of life’s sweet bells

Was it ever worth it?
Was there all that much to gain?
Well, we knew we’d missed the boat
And we’d already missed the plane
We didn’t read the invite
We just danced at our own wake
All our favorites were playing
So we could shake, shake, shake, shake, shake

Tiny curtains open and we heard the tiny clap of little hands
A tiny man would tell a little joke and get a tiny laugh from all the folks
Sitting, drifting around in bubbles and thinking it was us that carried them
When we finally got it figured out that we had truly missed the boat

Oh, and we carried it all so well
As if we got a new position
Oh, and we owned all the tools ourselves
But not the skills to make a shelf with
Oh, what useless tools ourselves

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Another year older, another day wiser…

I now have some pictures to go along with some of this so I suppose it’s time for an update.

Well, long past time, I’m sure. I haven’t written a lot of blogs in the past couple of years and… that’s something I need to fix. I really just need to open up a text window and start typing away.

I turned 44 a few weeks ago. I’ll spare you the existential angst I went through at the turn of double four… suffice to say I didn’t think I’d be where I am at this age. Then again, I didn’t have any firm idea of where I’d be at all so the outcome really isn’t surprising. It’s hard to be surprised when you don’t have any expectations.

It is, however, easy to be disappointed when you don’t have any expectation. And that revelation… surprised me.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. Turning 44.

I have a wealth of friends, more than any man’s share I’m sure, and they all went to great lengths to ensure I enjoyed my birthday. Ronya, in particular, went to amazing lengths.

First there was a dinner party at Shane and Dianne’s place on Friday night with the tribe. Lots of candy and cake and a bit of Scene It: Disney style. We were all kind of curious as to why every single answer had to be prefaced with the word “Disney’s” until we got our first question about Toy Story, the answer to which was “Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story”. It pretty soon became a running joke that every answer was “Disney’s Something” unless the clue was digitally rendered in which case it was “Disney/Pixar’s Something”. It’s amazing how often copyright issues turn even the simplest things into lame jokes.

Playing Xbox at the Chinook Theater

Playing Xbox at the Chinook Theater

Saturday morning a small collection of us showed up at the Scotiabank Theater in Chinook Mall to play some Xbox. Ronya had rented out the the theater for a couple of hours and we got to play Left 4 Dead, Halo 3, and Dead or Alive 4 on the biggest projection TV screen in the world. DOA4 is even better when the jiggly bits are each bigger than you are, but Left 4 Dead was just creepy with zombies twenty feet tall and 130 decibels loud.

Playing DOA4 on the biggest widescreen ever.

Playing DOA4 on the biggest widescreen ever.

After the Xbox we transitioned over to my favorite pub, Limericks, for a lunch of my favorite greasy, cheesy food. It was a bit touch and go at first, though. It took me three tries to finally find a patio chair that wasn’t broken. The food, weather, and company very quickly made up for it, though.

After lunch… well, I had a nap, didn’t I? I’m not getting any younger, you know. An exciting day like that will take a lot out of a man my age.

After my afternoon nap we ventured up into the far northwest to Tony and Mary Ann’s’ place where we grazed on fine food and alcohol. My friends got to enjoy doodling on me like a curved, spongy white board for a while. Dianne had purchased me a plain white t-shirt and then made we wear it while everyone doodled on my with markers and fabric color pens. It’s an odd feeling being written on and it kind of made me appreciate what it might be like to be a notebook. Ronya drew epaulets on both my shoulders but many people felt they looked more like irradiated penises aiming for my ears. Others wrote across my back that I was offering free hugs… after a mail in rebate. I think my favorite bit was the pocket that got drawn on my chest, complete with pocket protector and a varied selection of pens.

Being a human sketch pad tickles

Being a human sketch pad tickles

As the dye dried on my shirt we then dove into Rock Band: The Beatles, drinks well in hand to best adapt to the mindset of the band. I have never, and probably will never, sing for Rock Band but I was given to understand that the addition of two other singers and the potential for harmonizing made the game both more interesting and more difficult. For me it was just cool playing with six people all at once.

We played through the storyline of the entire game. The best I can say is it’s definitely worth playing through once, but beyond that there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of replay-ability. Perhaps if they actually had the whole library of Beatles tunes instead of just the 35 selected tracks, or if they had even just built the game around all their chart-able hits, it might have been worth going back and playing some of them again. But some of their track choices, while providing and interesting perspective on the band’s development (you could actually *feel* the disintegration of the band’s normal cohesion throughout the last set) weren’t compelling enough to go back and play again.

That being said if they made the tracks available for download for regular Rock Band I’d be willing to download about half of them.

Playing Rock Band Beatles

Playing Rock Band Beatles

Last but certainly not least, Ronya’s family pooled money together to buy me the Carcassonne Big Box, a collection of the basic Carcassonne game and five of it’s more popular expansions.

We’ve played the game almost every day since we got it and I’m nowhere near tired of it yet. The game box itself contains an interesting feature that appeals to my detail oriented nature: the interior of the box is formed in such a way that each set of tiles ( the basic and each of the expansions ) has it’s own precision fit storage slot. This way you can pick and choose which expansions to use for the game you’re playing. (ie. if you’re feeling particularly adversarial you can put in the princess / dragon / fairy expansion) The tiles themselves are watermarked with a little symbol depicting the expansion they’re from so it’s easy to sort them all out later and put them back in their respective holes.

Yes, I’m so anal I’m gushing about the organizational packaging that came with the game more than the actual game itself.

But the game itself is great fun as well. So far I think I’ve only won two actual games but I don’t care, it’s just fun to play.

Big thanks to all my friends and family, and to my tribe, for setting up an awesome birthday weekend.

Start with a few questions…

So I’ve actually been looking for a new job for a while now, well before I was let go. I’m sure my employer and I were mutually aware of how unhappy I was where I was.

In the process I’ve come face to face with that all too dreaded situation: the job interview.

I hate them. It’s like all your final exams and first dates all rolled together with one part police interrogation and one part awkward meeting of the parents whom you know won’t think you’re worth the time of day much less a night with your daughter…

But they’re inevitable. Unless you’re directly related to the boss you can’t get a job without one, and sometimes not even then. So as much as I hate them I have to prepare for them.

I never was much good at studying for exams, let alone studying for a “This is your life” grilling session.

It’s the same reason I hated english and loved math.

In math you either have the question right or you don’t… or, even if you have the wrong answer, you’ll get partial marks for using the right methodology, the right formula.

In english class even the right answer isn’t the right answer if you don’t say it the way that one particular teacher wants it. And the wrong answer can get you bonus marks if you convince the teacher it’s what he or she wanted to hear. And in an interview, telling the bald, honest truth is tantamount to shooting yourself in the foot. The most mind bending part is… you and the interviewer both know it.

Even if the interviewer wants me to state the simple, straightforward truth he can’t allow himself to believe me, because most everyone else will be trying to spin and waft everything they say to sound the way they think he wants to hear it. The interviewer is forced, by circumstance, to approach everything I say as if it is, at best, a stretched perspective of the actual or, at worst, and outright fabrication.

Where do I want to be in five years? Working, with a steady wage, at a job that doesn’t wear away at my self esteem nor expects me to be the high and mighty lord and savior. I want enough of a wage that I can live comfortably and with very little responsibility for the same reason.

And if I ever find myself interviewing for a company that I have decided I actually don’t want to work for, I might even say that out loud.

I’ve recently learned, though, that it’s a good idea to have some good questions of your own prepared. Not only for the practical aspect of getting to know more about your prospective employer, but also to give me some feeling of control, some perspective other than simply being in the hot seat. Nothing levels the playing field like throwing a question at them that makes the interviewer suddenly hem and haw themselves.

Which suddenly reminded me of something I used to do years ago: the daily question. Topics for discussion to get my online friends chatting back and forth. Sometimes it erupted into argument, more often it degenerated into snickers and jokes and witty pop references.

So this seems like a good place to start… I’ll test some of my interview questions on you, my dear friends and readers, and see if it sparks any interesting answers or discussion.

First question:

If you were to mentor someone for your job what are the first three things you would steer them towards? (for the sake of argument… if you’re the only one in your position and training someone else to do it would mean you’re being replaced, just assume you’re being promoted and that you would be relying on your replacement to do your old duties at least as well as you did)

Harness that vent

Yeah, it’s from Oprah.com, but it’s still an interesting little article: Why you should stop your complaining

At 63, Minnie is one of the youngest people I’ve ever met. She sparkles, and not just because she’s dressed in a fabulous buttercup-yellow tank top bedecked with rhinestones and sequins. Everything about Minnie, from her laughter to the successful businesses she’s created, seems to shine.
art.anti.complain.o.jpg

This radiance didn’t come easily. Minnie was once a young widow, grieving the death of her husband and one of her two children.

When I ask how she rose from this desolation to her success as a mother and a professional, Minnie thinks for a minute, then says, “I just got tired of hearing myself whine. I harnessed my complaining energy and used it to create a really good life.”

Melancholy is:

Julie posted on her journal that she was “enveloped in the soft sheath of melancholy”. I, personally, am very familiar with that emotion. Or at least I frequently find myself in a mood that fits that description very well. It’s not sadness, it’s not depression, its not even being unhappy, really. I can be very happy and melancholy at the same time.

Okay, wait… *does a lookup* … melancholy is the wrong word for it, I guess, if you go by the dictionary definition. I’ve always used it differently, though, and I suspect I’ve acquired my own view of the word from it’s usage in the fiction I’ve read.

I don’t know quite what word would work better, though… longing? No, that implies, in my mind, that you’re pining for something that you can’t have, whereas I’m talking about reminiscing about the things that have past.

Okay, here’s a quick little exercise for you: think of someone from your past whom you loved, cared for deeply. Someone who meant a lot to you, even if you didn’t know it at the time. Someone who, for whatever reason, isn’t there anymore. Think about the good times you had with them, and how long ago that was. Smile at the happy memories even as you tear up at the sense of longing for something lost.

Feel that? That’s melancholy to me. Remembering all the good things that happened and, even though you’re sad they’re gone forever, you’re happy they happened at all, and cherish every memory as a fragile living thing that must be handled gently lest it bruise, whither, and die.

Why would I enjoy being in that mood? Two reasons, really.

One, it clears my heart of sadness, like bleeding a wound. If you’re sad oftentimes the only way to get past it is to express it. In my experience, at least. And if you can do that with happy memories, it’s like adding balm to that wound even as you bleed it.

And two, it helps keep those memories alive in my mind. I’m forgetful, often to my detriment, and I live in constant fear of forgetting all the good things that have happened in my life, and the people I’ve loved.

I guess that’s why I write a journal.

Heh, and even as I write this someone on my friends list on facebook has updated their status as being melancholy. Seems to be the weekend for it.

The waterboys will do it for me every time. Ronya made a new mix CD for us and used this as the second song:

“And a bang on the ear”

Lindsay was my first love
she was in my class
I would have loved to take her out
but I was too shy to ask
The fullness of my feeling
was never made clear
But I send her my love
with a bang on the ear

Nora was my girl
when I first was in a group
I can still see her to this day,
stirring chicken soup
Now she’s living in Australia
working for an auctioneer
But I send her my love
with a bang on the ear

Deborah broke my heart
and I the willing fool
I fell for her one summer
on the road to liverpool
I thought it was forever
but it was over in a year (oh dear)
But I give her my love
with a bang on the ear

The home I made with bella
became a house of pain
We weathered it together
bound by a ball and chain
Is started up in fife,
and ended up in tears (oh dear)
But I send her my love
with a bang on the ear

Krista was a rover
from canada she hailed
We crossed swords in san francisco
we both lived to tell the tale
I dont know now where she is
oh but if I had her here
Id give her my love
with a bang on the ear

So my woman of the hearthfire,
harbour of my soul
I watch you lightly sleeping
and sense the dream that does unfold (like gold)
You to me are treasure,
you to me are dear
So Ill give you my love
with a bang on the ear

It gives me that feeling. Every time.