All work and no play

Sometimes it's hard to remember that reality is thermoplastic, not thermosetic. Not for long, though, as reality will inevitably remind me.

If I say the phrase "Vinny quit", it will mean nothing to 99.9+%of the world. To the few dozen (perhaps more) who understand the implications of those two words, it is heard as if spoken by 3-foot-tall men in odd clothes dancing around an old farmhouse that has inexplicably fallen from the sky (I suppose, to clarify, it is inexplicable how it got into the sky in the first place - one there, the falling was pretty much expected). Without going into too much detail, I will state that this particular individual is personally responsible for a large portion of my workload, not because he actively sought to dump it on me but because he was so incompetent as to drive his management to seek alternates. Quite literally, I have had to take over functions or business for this person 3 times because clients were on the verge of cancelling contracts. Of course, he got promoted to management (the Dilbert principle is alive and well) while I got sacked with more work.

I've got a potential contract position coming up, in which I'll help a company set up their Kronos Time&Attendance system. It's a 3-month project at 10 hours a week; if it works out correctly, that'll be a nice bit of extra money on the side (I suspect somewhere between $50 and $100 an hour, so after taxes I'll be getting $350-700 dollars a week). Nice pocket money, if nothing else.

(Random note: I have two pairs of black jeans, one that fits and one that's too big for me. They're identical other than size. For some reason, I always grab the ones that are too big. I'm walking around to day pulling my pants up because they keep slipping down.)

Still looking for more permanent positions outside the company, though I haven't been digging as much as I should. I'm excused last week, as it was Blizzcon and, frankly, that's just go-out-and-play time.

Speaking of, Blizzcon was fun, though not as exciting as it's been in the past. No real major announcement this year, and many of the panels felt as if the teams more "punted" than anything. Of course, they just released SC2 a few months ago, and Cataclysm is about to come out, so I imagine they're a bit busy. Still, Metzen's always great, and there were some interesting tidbits and such. Plus, you know, geeking out with friends is always good.

I may have to go back to WoW for Cataclysm. I just read through "The Shattering", which is a kind of prequel novel to the expansion pack, and it teased with a few storylines that could be very interesting. I've always been a lore geek - I actually walked around and read the in-game books *before* there was an achievement for it, and I'm always looking up stories outside the game to find out what's going on. This is obviously a major change for the game world, but it's also got a few major storyline changes. It may be with reluctance and while holding my nose, but I'll probably re-subscribe some time next month. I think I'll stick to game cards, though, rather than simply giving them my credit card info. We'll have to see.

Hallowe'en is coming up this weekend (and, yes, I use the contraction since that's the correct form). I've never really been into the holiday - I don't like dressing up in costumes, and I'm not big on candy. My mother will make me carve a pumpkin for her; that's tolerable. She buys these carving kits that have patterns and such you cut out. Some are pretty complex, but they generally end up looking pretty cool. Certainly more interesting than the standard face.

Might be going out tonight - was originally planning on it tomorrow, but tonight might be better. At least I slept well last night, after reading all evening. Just as a bit of trivia, I read about 100 pages an hour for most fiction. So, "The Shattering", which is about 330 pages, got dropped off by UPS at around 6 pm and I had it done before 9:30. It's a handy ability when you have a friend who regularly gives you 500+ page manuscripts to edit.

/rant on

I am so going to strangle someone at work today. It feels like I get "blamed" or have to take responsibility for everything that goes wrong with any system to which I'm even remotely associated. I've spent a good portion of the day telling people that I'm not completely responsible for everything. For example, the public internet is beyond my control. So is, amnazingly enough, the functioning of processes our clients designed and manage. Strange how that works.

I understand that there's history here: I tend to fix - or expedite the fixing of - most issues. So, there's a tendancy to just point at me and say, "Give it to him, he can fix anything." Which is flattering, yes, but it's also totally obnoxious as well as completely unfair when you consider that we've got employees specifically hired to work on these problems, and they're not me.

I also hate managers who try to manage by spreadsheet. If you have to go around asking your employees for a list of projects on which they're working, you have too many employees. I'm sorry, but if you can't interact with them and keep a reasonable idea of what's being done in your head, you shouldn't be managing them. Yes, this means most people shouldn't manage more than 4 or 5 direct reports.

The current director of IT wants a list of all projects by all personnel, and he wants it updated weekly. He admits this is a huge timesink but wants it anyway. To me, this says a something interesting: he doesn't trust any of his subordinate managers to - well, to do a lot of things. Like actually manage. Or to be able to accurately prioritize the tasks about which he needs to be notified. This is the sign of a director who can't do his job, and likely for a bunch of managers who either can't or aren't being allowed to do their jobs. It also means the communication structure is abysmal, which I know from other factors.

There's no reason why anyone in a management position needs to know the minutae of every single thing going on beneath him. Not only is it totally impractical - the whole point of having multiple levels of management is to filter data and manage tasks on a more relevant level - but it also sets an impossible expectation: that one can know everything that is occurring. While I agree that a manager should know, on a general level, everything about every task beneath him or her, I don't think s/he needs to be involved in every day-to-day specific.

... All in all, I need to get the fuck out of this place. My patience is almost gone. We all have bad weeks, I know, but it's hard to chug through under the banner of "it'll be better tomorrow" when you know it won't, when you know that there's a bullet in a gun with your name on it. At this point, it's probably a matter of weeks before they give me my official "xxx will be your last day" speech, and to be honest, part of me is looking forward to it: if they do lay me off, I'm pretty much set for 6-9 months. And at least I won't have to answer my cell phone at 3 o'clock in the morning.

I'm also looking around, trying to find something that'll get me out of here. One iron's in the fire, but who knows if that'll work out. I've been scanning other job openings, but I haven't found many that are in the right combination of location, pay range, and skill set requirements. Being a specialist means one is generally immune from all but the most severe of economic downturns, but it also makes it harder to find positions. My only advantage is that I don't have to be a specialist, but since that's the only way to get the salary I want, I'm still a but pigeon-holed.

(Random note - a friend of a friend did this short. It's cute.)

Maybe it's just that time of year. This is when we typically take more vacations, get more time away from the office, etc. It's also when many of the divisions of the business ramp up to "peak season", so there's a much higher chance of shit going wrong. Combine the two, and it's almost guaranteed I'm going to get harassed by coworkers during "off time" - either on vacations or just after hours. It's also the end of the fiscal year, which means this is when most major decisions about future employment are made: if they get rid of us before the end of January, they don't have to pay us our bonuses.

Not that I have a bonus agreement this year. Hell, I never even had a review or signed anything agreeing to the completion of last year's bonus or my raise (such as it was). They just pushed through paperwork and never even had us look at it, much less agree to it.

... I just put a vacation request on my boss's desk for the week between Christmas and New Years. Hopefully I won't be here by then, but if I am, I'd go over my cap. And if I'm not here, it won't matter, so no harm in doing it.

Anyway, I suppose I should "shut the hell up" and "get back to work". More worlds need saving. People better start being reasonable, though, or this Atlas will do more than shrug.

/rant off

Papers, please

... on a completely separate note...

In case of emergency, don't call anyone

I have to say, when I came to "friend"/"coworker", I was seriously giggling.

I'm glad I never travel anywhere with my parents, because I don't think I know the address for anyone else - even the guy I pick up every Saturday. It isn't that I can't remember things - hell, I can still remember the license plate number of every car my parents ever drove (long story, when we'd do car trips I kept getting asked "go read our plate and tell me" at every single hotel). It's just that, with cell phones and such, I don't think I ever actually had their addresses. I can drive you there, drop you off on the spot, but I can't tell you the street number.

I'm sure that's a sad indication of something, but I haven't the foggiest what.

Laundry Day

I have about 50 pairs of white socks in 6 different styles; about 15 of them are crew socks, the rest are ankle or "booty" style. I didn't bother counting the non-white ones.

I have an entire drawer full of undershirts; they are mostly not-white. Generally black or grey. Ironically, I rarely wear them as undershirts; usually, I'll wear a regular shirt as a kind of jacket, but the undershirt is really just the shirt.

I have a drawer of underwear that I don't wear, and when I do wear them, they're not under anything. I used to be an underwear fiend; I've got silk, satin, flannel - boxers, briefs, boxerbriefs, thongs, one-piece - black, white, grey, red, blue, pattered... I stopped about two years ago wearing underwear for almost all occasions (I do with a couple pairs of pants, simply because they're almost transparent; while that doesn't bother me, it tends to make religious folks titter). Between my socks, underwear, and undershirts, I could probably clothe a small tribe in Africa. Well, a skinny tribe, anyway.

The main reason I have so much in the way of socks, underwear, and undershirts is to facilitate laundry. See, most of the "outer" clothes I wear are dark-colored: blues, blacks, browns, dark grey. So, if I did laundry every other week (like most people I know), I'd have a large pile of darks and about a quarter of a load of whites since socks, underwear, and undershirts don't take up much bulk. This way, I can wait to do my whites for 4 or 5 weeks and still have clean stuff, so that by the time I do a load it's actually a load.

I have no logical reason for why I have 47 ties. I hate ties, and generally will not wear them even on formal occasions. I usually manage to get away with vests and mandarin collars in formal wear, though once in a while I have to resort to strangulation. I think I've been given most of them.

I have a black silk robe. If you ever come across a situation where a black silk robe is appropriate wear (that doesn't involve the Playboy Mansion), let me know.

I only own three pairs of jeans: two black, one blue. I own a pair of white pants that are jean-ish, but they're not really jeans.

I own four suits, though - three black, one grey. Only the grey one would be considered a "buisness suit"; the others are, technically, tuxedoes.

(It probably says a lot about me that I own as many tuxedoes as jeans.)

I've got about 15 sweaters or sweatshirts of various types. Most of them my mother bought for me as Christmas presents. She's got pretty good taste, and never knows what else to get me.

Of course, there's also a slew of long sleeve shirts, short sleeve shirts, and non-jean pants. They take up two drawers and about 4/5ths of my closet, and are far too varied to count in any reasonable way. They range from a hocket shirt and a rugby shirt (blue/white and purple/black, respectively) to dress slacks and old pirate-style lace-up shirts.

As far as shoes go: one pair of running shoes, one pair of slip-on vans (my day-to-day shoes), two pairs of dress boots, one pair of dress shoes, my flipflops (Armani Exchange, for a laugh) and a pair of water shoes (a kind of rubber-soled cloth sandal designed for walking in streams or in tide pools).

So, all in all, I have about 85 cubic feet of clothing. That's 4/5ths the cubic feet of books that I have just in my room.

At least the books don't need to be set for knits-gentle-low.

(I skipped the "random fact", since this entire post pretty much qualifies. But, Don Henley rocks.)


(I wrote this years ago for a friend. It's one of the works that seems to strike certain people in a certain way. Enjoy, or not, as you see fit.)

For all the words I've left unspoken,
For all the hours spent by phone,
For all the times I've left heartbroken,
For all the tears I've cried alone,
For all the meals I've cooked for one,
For all the nights I've wished you'd stayed,
For all the poems I've written to none,
For all the moves I've never made,
For all the stars I've wished upon,
For all the dreams that won't come true,
For all the chances I've pass on,
For all the love I've felt for you...
Forgive me Father, for I have sinned:
I've passed up all that could have been.


It's been a slow week, but at least it's Friday.

For some reason, Fridays tend to end up being "exciting" days at the office. We're not talking good exciting here. For example, this morning for about 30 minutes the entire network went down. I hate to see what the rest of the day will bring. I've had Fridays where, minutes before walking out the door, major production systems crash. I was once driving to San Francisco on a Friday; I left the office at 12 sharp, and by 12:05 someone had managed to crash the main production DB for the company.

Yes, my coworkers are special.

Today at least has the advantage of being cooler; it was actually drizzling a little this morning, and I woke up to that fresh rain smell again. Our weather this fall's been very chaotic, but the hot-to-cool-to-hot at least beats the normal hot-hot-hot we have until the end of October. Sun's out at the moment, but the temp still reads as 66.

(Random note: I emptied my change holder yesterday and took it to the store. $38. That isn't the highest I've ever had: I once had one of those coin machine receipts for over $100. The clerk thought I was insane. Little did he know...)

If it keeps like this over the weekend, I might try and go hiking on Sunday - L.A. is normally too hot in the summer for real hiking, so it's been a while. One firend wants to go on a "photo safari", which means I at least need to find some place interesting to look at. Maybe a trip to Catalina if it's warmer.

Another friend keeps talking about starting a political blog. He's a writer, and he automatically assumes that, because he can write novels or essays, he can successfully write a blog. I've been trying to get the idea across to him that successful blogs are a lot different and that I don't think he's got the right personality to be that kind of public figure, but he doesn't want to hear it. Of course, he'll make me do the "hard part" in getting everything set up, advertised, etc.

Sometimes, there are disadvantages to being known as "good at what you do".

One week 'til Blizzcon, and then there's no planned vacations through the end of the year.


So, saw The Social Network over the weekend. It was alright. There's nothing actually wrong with the movie; I just didn't find it all that exciting. Parts are cool, parts are dull, and overall it's a decent movie. Timberlake as Shawn Parker is awesome, though.

The problem with something like Facebook is: how do you make money? The only asset the company really has is the personal information of everyone that has signed up for it. Right now they get by on ads, but as I said before I think that's ultimately a losing deal. How, then, can the company make money?

They can't sell the data - that kind of breach of trust would instantly kill them; just as Blizzard, who tried to roll out a "real id" system earlier this year to their World of Warcraft subscribers and ended up facing what can only be described as an insurrection: a single thread on the subject reached quite literally hundreds of thousands of posts in a matter of hours, and Blizzard was forced to severely curtail their plans. So, sale of info is out.

Likewise, you can't just charge for the service. Something most old-model business folk don't understand is that "free" is a big part of why Facebook has so many people. Students - even college students - likely wouldn't pay for such a service at this point. Putting the content behind a paywall would be more disasterous than selling data: they'd likely lose 99+% of their client base overnight.

Could they offer some services for pay while leaving others free? Maybe; it's still a fine line to walk, and most of the services people would be willing to pay for as "defaults" are already there (and thus can't really get stuck behind the paywall): email, chat, searches, etc. And what would you charge for? Custom shopping? That's basically advertising. Microtransactions for games and such? That could generate some revenue, but it'd be mostly for the gaming companies. Maybe Facebook could become a content delivery system and charge developers instead of users - for example, charge Farmville a fee for every person who plays it or some such. That's really just a modification of the ad business, but there are lot of people trying to get into content delivery.

The point is, having 500 million subscribers doesn't mean much when the whole model is based on free services and privacy. Generating income in spite of those limits is tricky.

(Random note: the new Terry Pratchett book "I Shall Wear Midnight" isn't one of his funniest ones, but it's still pretty good. I read it in about 4 hours, which means it's probably 300-400 pages.)

(... and yes, that means I read about 100 pages an hour, usually with 80-85% retention. I'm also dyslexic. No, none of it makes sense; you should be used to that by now.)

In other news, I officially start looking for a job today. No, I'm not laid off or anything, but I know it's coming down the line: upper management is doing everything they can to minimize the location where I work. They've already transferred most of the central services out of the building, so it's just a matter of time. I've already given an informal application at one place where a friend works, but I haven't hear anything from them so I have to assume either it's been indefinitely delayed or that I'm not suitable. So, on to other options.

I *hate* looking for jobs. Interviews are mostly about sales, and I hate sales. I just want to be able to walk into an interview and say, "I know this, this, and this, I learn pretty quickly, and I'm loyal enough to have been working at the same place for over 12 years." That's not how the world works, unfortunately.

Three weeks until Blizzcon. For those of you who don't drink the kool-aid, Blizzcon is a convention held in Anaheim by Blizzard to talk about their games: Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo, and now apparently some new title coming out. It's actually pretty fun. I know most people think MMO and RPG gamers are weird introverted socially-inept freaks, but - wait, actually, most of that is true. Except - and here's the interesting part - gamers aren't socially inept around other gamers, just around people who don't get it. Regardless, Blizzcon ends up being fun, and even if I'm not playing WoW anymore, I play StarCraft 2 most nights and will probably try Diablo 3 when it comes out.

Besides which, I get to spend a weekend hanging out with my best friend who I don't get to see very often even if he only lives a mile away. Can't beat that. Speaking of, go check out and marvel at his pandaness. Er, pandidity. Panditude? Something like that.

Anyway, enough for now.