Monthly Archives: August 2007

8/28/07 Random Updates

And so we conclude with St. Thomas Aquinas. While I wouldn’t call it exactly the pinnacle of entertainment I will say that it wasn’t nearly as dry and crusty as I might have expected. After wasting a month of my life with Harry Potter it was surprisingly refreshing to get something to read that had real content. All that said, I wasn’t quite interested enough in the content to push onward into the second bit of the book with it’s endless essays on the deeper implications of Thomist theology for the world today. Ah well, one can’t have a deep and insatiable interest in absolutely EVERYTHING.

Next we push on into some more ‘A’ works with a bit of softer fare. There’s a bit of Jane Austen I haven’t hit yet so let’s proceed with ‘Sense and Sensibility’.

On a personal note, I think I may have found (thanks completely to our neighbors at cox-tv) the answer to my ‘too bored to exercise’ quandary. Today I set out on foot for the nearest Geocache around lunchtime and an appropriate exercise period later I’d returned with the laurels of success. This city is literally afloat in random bits of hidden ‘treasure’ and it’s much more motivating to try to exercise if you actually have somewhere to go or some reason to go there. (Even if it’s a bit silly really.) So from now on, all my exercise periods will be of the form: “Find a cache; find a parking space within say a mile of it; go find the cache.” After 20 or 30 caches maybe these chest pains will go away.

Let’s see… what else could I babble randomly about. Um, work maybe? Well, work is pretty much falling apart. Probably construed as my fault somehow but I’m going strictly to the ‘following orders exactly as given’ routine for a bit. If I do things right, they’ll offer me a job in the department that rises from the ashes of this one.

Oh… let’s see… our eldest was practicing her spelling words today and I could not for the life of me figure out why she spelled libraries: libearies. It made no sense. Then as we were coming out her ‘back to school night’ I noticed the display. There were Teddy Bears. They were reading books. The sign said: ‘LiBEARy’. Now how in the name of Nathaniel Webster do you expect kids to spell things properly if every time they go down the hall they see a blatant misspelling. Feh.

Ah, yes. I tend not to wax technological on here because computing and technology are really (ironically) the last things I care about but I saw a new headline that made me blink: Acer buying Gateway. I’m sure I’m behind the times but since when do rinky-dink computer manufacturers sold primarily on the Home Shopping Network buy behemoth computer companies like Gateway? It’s like … um… Tandy Co buying IBM? I dunno, something like that. Clearly I’ve not been keeping up with the news (nor do I intend to start).

Also technews related (I swear, this is the last thing I’ll bring up in this calendar year) I wondered today if the leadership team at my company read this article about the increasing ickiness of hosted software solutions.

Anyway, I think that’s all. Having gotten somewhat lukewarm responses bthe first two people I approached, I’ve got a confirmed Geocaching partner for this weekend and make no mistake about it: we will find your little box of random junk and we will trade your inane items for our inane items. Count on it.

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Visiting Yesteryear – August

Someone asked me about my blog at the company meeting and I gave a sort of vague response on it as recently I’ve not been thinking about it much. The purpose of this blog has shifted dramatically over time but in every case the key point was to archive some things about what was going on that I’ve completely forgotten. To be really useful in that regard though you have to actually go back to those old posts and look at yourself as you were a year ago or five years ago or whatever. It makes me wish I had some written record of the rest of my life. At any rate…

A year ago I was having fun reveling in my first real wordworking project having just sold off my coin collection to buy tools. When I wasn’t doing that though I was giddly being amused at my own silly interpretation of Genesis Chapter 8. For some reason, I now see that assessment of the Bible as somewhat stupid. The literal words of Genesis are, frankly, meaningless. The important part is how they’ve been used to form a whole body of belief for millions of people. I’m still not ready to join them in that but the odd traditions of thousands of years ago are meaningless to any argument of validity in the belief system itself. I guess as long as I was amused at the time it wasn’t a total waste. *sigh*

Most importantly though, I was apparently assessing myself in a number of goals I’d set that June. I threw away the obnoxious habit of ‘collecting’ things with no practical purpose. Of the 5 goals I had at the time that’s the only one that was really all that important and it seems to have left a positive mark on the subsequent year. I’m not attached to meaningless ‘crap’ any longer but I have had the nagging urge to learn a language again for no good reason. That, at least, is a bit of suffering that I think I can live with though.

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8/18/07 – Leftovers

Well, now that we have the company meeting post off our backs it may be time for a few other random tidbits from my notebook of things to remember to write about. At the time, I’m sure they all seemed like deep and immensely interesting topics but now… well, I’m not quite so sure.

Not too long ago I was at ye local CVS buying some non-Diet soda because, of course, the average computer person runs primarily on a mixture of soda and chips. I took my purchases of soda and chips to the cashier and was surprised to learn that they were actually on sale. Finding this ironic and practicing my new ‘extroverted and ton of fun’ personality I cracked wise to the Asian cashier and said, “Oh, that’s nice. The drugstore puts all the best and most nutritious food on sale. There goes my diet.” She looks up at me surprised and says, “Oh no, you no need diet. You look really, really good.” Alright, as flattering as that is I’m still not sure the drugstore should be encouraging ANYONE to buy soda and chips.

As I charged the humongous total of $6.50 or so my mind wandered again. I felt bad that my choice to charge that purchase rather than pay cash might have had a negative impact on CVSs ability to make a profit. I further wondered how many transactions of $.25 they would let me make before stopping me or simply going bankrupt. THEN it made me think what a strange thing it was to worry about the profit margin impact that my choice of payment method had on a store. I’m betting that none of you have ever felt bad when you were forced to charge $2 because you realized that the credit card transaction fee might actually make the transaction unprofitable for the store where you were making the purchase. I’m sure they take that into account somehow in their pricing but it still makes me a little bit sad to see 15% of a transaction wasted in fees.

After that bit of pondering was concluded between the checkout and the car I, of course, proceeded to drive home. As I was doing so I noted most frighteningly that my ability to drive had seriously deteriorated. After sitting at home and driving only tiny distances for the better part of 15 months I’m a scarily bad driver. I’ve completely lost my touch. During our team outing I drove our Geocaching team around for a couple hours and I could almost feel their hands around my throat as I stopped for yellow lights and allowed other cars to pass me without trying to start a race of some sort. Perhaps grandmas don’t drive slowly because they’re old but more because they just don’t get out enough to practice.

I submitted what I considered a damn important This or That topic and it has completely failed to come up. The question seems innocuous enough and almost stupid at first glance. It’s simply this:
2 Minutes Late or 20 Minutes Early
That’s it. Nothing tricky or complicated. Why, might you ask is this ‘damn important’? Well, let’s look at this a bit more closely. If you choose 2 Minutes late then that means that you really don’t mind if someone has to wait for you for 2 minutes. If you’re willing to have someone wait on you then that means you think your time is more important than their time. Alternately, if you choose 20 Minutes Early then that indicates that you hold the other person’s time worth more than yours. Personally, I think this is a matter of simple respect for others. I’m always early to everything because I hate the thought that someone else would have to wait on me or wonder where I am. Whenever I have a meeting with someone else I always take reading material for exactly this reason. I expect to have to wait for them. In fact, for most people I know running 10 minutes or more late for everything is completely normal so I tend to get a lot of reading done in these little interregna. Sadly, my number has not come up on the cox-tv wheel of This or That fun so I have no idea how the rest of humanity feels about this topic.

Finally, I have concluded my foray into children’s literature with the completion of these ‘Harry Potter’ books. Over 3,000 pages later I find myself mildly disappointed. The story was cliche to the very end. Those who you thought were villains really were. Those you thought were good and would survive really did. After all that time and all that attempted development it turned simply into a ‘happily ever after’ despite the fact that she had prepared us for a much better and potentially more meaningful conclusion. But that, I suppose, is all we can expect from mainstream fiction today. More of the same old story. It’s just unfortunate that life does not more accurately reflect our interpretation of it. At any rate, our next literary foray finds us wandering into St. Thomas Aquinas’ works of seven centuries ago. I’m sure he will have more of relevance to say than our friend Mr. Potter.

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Annual Company Meeting

Well, here’s the story… well, at least the background to the story. Every year our company has an all-out meeting where everyone in the whole place (with I think one exception in customer support) comes to Indy. Since our company of about 90 employees is about half Indy-based and half based in random cities throughout North American this involves a lot of people flying in and getting hotels, etc, etc, etc.

So 90% of this has little to do with me except that in the 3 days this meeting spans I am forced to do something that I don’t really ever do any other time of the year. I’m forced to go and meet people and talk to them. In many ways I dread these 3 days but in other ways I suspect they’re really good for me as they draw my attention away from the things I usually do and onto other people. I’ll give the detailed results of this particular company meeting below because otherwise I’ll not remember a dern thing about them later.

Day 1 was a ‘meet and greet’ at some local restaurant. The pointedly memorable bit was seeing my coworkers each take a microphone in hand and introduce themselves giving name, rank and favorite toy as a child. The most intellectually stimulating bit of this was to notice the incredibly wide range of comfort levels people had in front of the crowd. I have no idea how I looked up there but others ranged from “completely casual” to “looking as if they would rather eat the microphone than speak into it.” For the record, my self-introduction was something along the lines of: “I’m Rob S, Junior Web Developer Third Class and my favorite toy was anything but a microphone .” Not my best material by far. My other choices for a favorite toy were somewhat obvious: “fire” or “rocks and a sharpened stick (when I could get it).”

Day 2 was an all day event and did honestly seem to drag on forever. It consisted of the usual company rah-rah sessions about the state of things and a motivational speaker who had a series of VERY obvious things to say about how to be successful in a job. Afterwards we traipsed endlessly around the zoo in a non-competitive race/scavenger hunt. I’m somewhat powerless to explain my team’s motivation to complete this activity given that it detracted from one’s ability to simply enjoy the zoo. There was apparently a secondary assignment during the activity to ‘observe’ your coworkers and when one of the remote employees sought to ‘observe’ me I wove a string of increasingly unbelievable falsehoods for the observer.

Day 3 was another all day event that I managed to partially skip out on due to previous work commitments to customers. By the time I’d returned to the meeting I’d completely missed the activity in which teams built sculptures from non-perishable food to later be donated to charity. I’m almost sad I missed it (and not just because it was my uncredited idea in the first place.) The Q&A session that followed was, as always, amusing. Some of the questions were just obnoxious and I found myself glad that none of them could be pinned on me. I’d forgotten to ask my obnoxious questions this year. The day closed with departmental outings. Every department had something planned ahead of time with the exception of ours (or so I’m made to understand). I’m not entirely sure what that says about our department but I’m dead certain that it’s not flattering. Luckily, one of our more inventive employees was able to come up with a spur of the moment Geocaching race that I thought went extraordinarily well. (Well enough to cause me to add something to my amazon.com wishlist and create an account on this site anyway.) Initially I was, I’ll admit, a bit piqued that the person who organized the race actually won the prize but after due consideration it seems appropriate considering he pulled our chestnuts from the fire and kept us from sitting through some idiotic transformers movie or something equally inane for a departmental activity.

Now that you have the unnecessary detail, what did we learn/observe at the meeting?

One of my coworkers told me (as she seems to whenever we talk) that she was talking to some other people about me. She’s apparently been telling people that I’m funny if you can get me by myself and not in a big crowd of people. They’ve also given me a nickname of ‘Eeyore.’ I guess I can, if I try hard enough, not get offended at being compared to the greatest stoic of children’s literature.

Along the lines of our glum Eeyore, at several points I got the impression that people think I’m incredibly negative. I’ve suspected this for a while but it’s *SO* not true. The simple fact here is that I just don’t say anything unless it’s necessary. If things are going well and everyone’s happy I have no need to say a word. It’s not until something is amiss that I feel the need to speak. Since things being amiss tend to cause negative utterances one tends to hear nothing but negativity from me. All the positive things are shrouded in contented silence. So yeah, stop promulgating some bullcrap about me being negative.

Our company used to have these annual ‘STAR awards’; basically an employee of the year. It seems to have dissipated for some reason. No doubt some people got offended that we didn’t all get one.

After speaking with a few more people I hadn’t in a while, I think I need to do a better job of seeking out human contact as some of the humans I talked to at the meeting seemed pretty interesting. Pursuant to that, I’m starting up the ‘Lunch with Human’ series again. Any humans reading this who’d like to have a bit of lunch should drop me a line to get on the circulation list. Lunchees should come prepared with an idea of where they’d like to eat.

Finally, it has become obvious that the people who plan company meetings really don’t know how to deal with introverted people. This isn’t really all that surprising though since most planners of such meetings are themselves extraordinarily outgoing. At several points during this this year’s events I felt that someone was REALLY trying to push me into getting to know people but going about it in totally the wrong way. So, for the benefit of meeting planners everywhere, here’s the easy key for getting people of all types to get to know people.

Extroverts: Whatever. If you throw an extrovert into a room with 20 strangers for an hour then at the end the extrovert will have made 20 new friends and have 20 new business cards. It’s like some sort of personality magic.

Introverts: If you throw an introvert into a room with 20 strangers for an hour then at the end you’ll have one exhausted introvert and 20 strangers asking themselves, “What the fvck was HIS problem?” Introverts don’t do well in crowds. We get to know other people one or two at a time. If you put us in groups we’ll shut up like clams and make people think we’re just being snooty.

All that said, it’s good to have that over again for another year if for no other reason than I can get back to an appropriate summer haircut.

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8/8/07 – Death, Witches and Masons

Today’s big event was a funeral for my wife’s Uncle John. Funerals always strike me as a real shame. It’s a pity that we get together with each other and talk about how nice someone is after they’re no longer around to appreciate it. It makes me really think we should have more birthday parties as adults to celebrate ourselves a bit more.

Many things about Uncle John fascinate me but the one that stuck out was his membership in the Masons. For some reason I’m utterly unable to explain Freemasonry has always been somehow attractive to me. Now, that’s not to say that I know even the first thing about it. I imagine something equivalent to the Royal Order of Water Buffaloes but really have no clue. I’m sure in many ways it would be a disappointment if I actually bothered to join but it would be a group of people with a noble purpose to hang out with in any case. Kathy has suggested the Beech Grove Lions club as a substitute but chances are good that I’ll just get over this temporary fad and go back to my usual ignoble existence.

Work… work work work… I should say something about work. It’s funny, after taking forced time off traveling all they way to Mount Vernon for a funeral I actually came back somewhat motivated to actually do some work. It seems as if the tension level at work is rising exponentially and I’m amused to discover how much higher that level rises next week when the whole company is sitting in conference rooms for two days. I can tell you with absolute assurance that I’m *NOT* going to be at all motivated to try to come home and clean up the mess created in my absence after I’ve had to sit in ‘team building’ activities all day and into the evening.

All that said, the situation at work seems to be becoming increasingly heated. I find it hard to imagine that things can go on as-is for much longer. Sometime soon something is going to snap violently and cause a pretty significant earthquake in the department. I’m confident that I can maintain my aplomb.

On a personal note, I have recently realized a few things in the ‘vein’ of my own friendly relationships with humans.

Thing the first: By setting my criteria for ‘friend’ status so high, I’m inadvertently insulting people. See, I tend not to call people friends because I don’t want to force them into reciprocating something they’re not ready to. But by doing so, I risk the reverse. That they consider me a friend and I’m failing to reciprocate. This tends to piss people off and they take it as a personal affront. So I think the best thing here is to actually reverse this utterly and consider everyone a friend with whom I have even the slightest acquaintance. So, be warned that you might be getting a call at 4am to bail me out of jail.

Thing the second: I’m a shitty friend. Not, of course, because I intend to be but because I tend to get stuck in my own doings since for so long that’s all there was. I really need to concentrate more on actually DOING things with other people. I’ve been cooped up in this house for a dangerously long time and need to find some sort of not-in-here activity.

OK… lastly and most embarrassingly… So I wondered what all the hubbub was about. I mean they have all these books and all these movies that I get dragged to so I finally broke down and read those Harry Potter books. Alright, alright, stop laughing. I’ll be back to the Oxford World’s Classics soon enough. Anyway, after the first 5 books and over 2,000 pages of text I have to say they’re entertaining but not at all original. There’s not really ANYTHING new here but it performs it’s function of entertaining people. Not great literature by any means. But did anyone really expect it to be? Time to plod onward I guess.

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