Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I was never one of those kids who was ever able to get a faraway look in his eye and say, "I want to be when I grow up." There was a stretch in high school when I was sure I wanted to be a Secret Service agent, but then I got older, had sex, learned about the political process, and decided that perhaps my life was more important than some Presidents' after all.

So, lacking any direction from myself, I've let my career drift down whatever path fate (or laziness) wanted to take it. Eventually, I became an office manager--excuse me, Overlord--and cashed in little pieces of my soul on a daily basis in exchange for mediocre compensation and the ability to sleepwalk through most of my duties.

Not exactly the American Dream, is it?

So I've been thinking about a career change for a while, for this and other reasons I'll maybe write about another time. The problem is, how do I apply my past experience to a new career? If I really want to strike out in a new direction, how can I do so without sacrificing the decade or so of experience that I've gathered to this point? How do I admit that those years were, essentially, a waste of time as far as my career's concerned?

Then I took a look at my resume. I've worked for four companies since college. Here's where they are now:

Company One: Expanding as I joined. Began to shrink shortly thereafter Moved into a massive new company headquarters built in large part just for them; when we did so, our 20-person department was the only one on an entire floor designed to accommodate hundreds. Eventually broke apart and was bought out. Fortunately, by then I had left for...

Company Two: An energetic young consulting company started by a good friend. I was the third employee in; at our height, we were up to three times that number, and moved into a custom-built-out space to house our growing numbers. A year later, I was the third-to-last employee laid off as we spiraled down and out of business. After an ill-fated attempt to follow in my Dad's footsteps, I answered an ad in the paper that led me to...

Company Three: A promising, publicly-traded company with scads of cash on hand--no worries about bankruptcy here! Except that we had no source of income. Apparently, this is a problem. This company moved out of its fancy, custom-built space into a smaller, cozier office, then rented a second office in order to expand again. Shortly afterwards, it began to shrink once more. Or possibly expand. It really depended on the CEO's whim that day and whether or not someone was willing to park their car next to his in the garage to keep his from getting scratched. Last I heard, they had moved twice more and were being threatened with de-listing from the stock exchange. But that didn't matter, because I had long since moved on to...

Company Four: A well-meaning but evil family-run business whose financial difficulties began, quite literally, the month after I joined, also the month they moved into their much-anticipated new office. After some ill-advised (but admittedly necessary) dealings with heartless bankers, a loan shark, and (shudder) the federal government, we'll be forcibly parting company next month, along with about a third of the rest of the staff.

This is the experience I'm concerned about giving up? I'd have more success trying to build a castle in a swamp. Entry-level position in my new career, here I come. Wonder if Ramen still tastes as good as I remember it?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Today's Business Lesson:

Being nice will only get you so far.

Unfortunately, being a dick will only get you so far, too.

Oh, Dalton, you were so wise beyond your gorgeous, gorgeous hair. (Fifth quote down, in case you don't know Road House's most memorable lines by heart.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Go do something (not this)

But first, check out this article from Cracked.

I know, it's not at all what I've come to expect from them, either. But I kinda like it. And now, as much as I'd love to surf back to Digg and Reddit for a while, I think I'm going to go finish refinishing a highchair.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Halloween by the Numbers

Number of kids: 28
Number of kids who dressed up as…
Princesses: 2
Ninja: 1
Fashionable Ninja or possibly Mortal Kombat characters: 1
“Kids”: 15
Number of moms who took candy for their kids: 0
Number of moms who took candy for themselves: 1
Number of candies offered to kids trick-or-treating with moms: 2 apiece
Number of candies taken by moms: 3
Number of candies offered to moms: 0
Percentage of times "help yourself" was interpreted as "take as many handfuls of candy as you can, as fast as you can": 100%
Number of Twix bars given out: 27
Number of Twix wrappers found on lawn the following morning: 1
Number of candies brought to the door by neighbors who had bought candy for my two-year-old but didn’t get home from work until after he was in bed: 4

All in all, a good night.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I'm 32 years old, a husband and a father. The last election I voted in was for prom king and queen. No, I'm not a slow learner--that was fourteen years ago.

In a week or so, I'm going to change that.

I'll admit it; I'm lazy. I can be irresponsible. I've had less lazy, more responsible friends point that out to me. I've heard them argue that I should vote, that it's my right and my duty, that there's no excuse not to. And, to cover up my laziness, I always struck back with the one point that they couldn't refute: simple practicality. On a national or even state level, my vote is virtually meaningless. A grain of sand on the beach. At least with the prom, my choices counted for 2% of the total votes cast. (Congrats again, Garth and Olivia!) But for President? The closest race in recent history was still decided by over 500 votes. Even if I happened to be living in the right county of the right state, my influence would be less than a fifth of a percent. I may as well stay home and do something more useful, like catching up on whatever's on the DVR.

So what's different this year?

Is it really the most important election of our lifetime? Meh. They're all important. Well, maybe not '88, but pretty much all the others.

Have I grown less lazy? Sadly, no.

Have I moved to a critical electoral region with 499 like-minded friends? No again, although I do happen to live in a so-called "battleground" state.

Did I illegally register my two-year-old son so I could vote for him? No--but getting warmer.

See, I've looked at a lot of things differently since he came along. I've started viewing my own actions through his eyes. Like most dads, mine has gotten considerably cooler now that I'm no longer a teenager, and I'd like my son to think the same about me someday. As he enters the Terrible Twos and his vocabulary grows from "Waaahhh!" to "Oy doy doy" to "Don't eat your shoes," I've started preparing for the upcoming "Why?" stage. And since I always hated "Because I'm your father and I said so" as an answer, I've tried to make sure that I do, indeed, have a reason for the things I do.

That's how I've discovered that, when you say it out loud, "Because I'm lazy" sounds pretty stupid. I sure as hell (oops, heck--gotta watch what I say, now) wouldn't let him get away with it. How can I?

So I'm not. I've registered to vote. And since I travel occasionally for work, and I have a tendency to put things off until it's too late to do anything about them, I've sent in my request for an absentee ballot. No time for last-minute excuses. No chance of finding something so engrossing on the DVR that I can't tear myself away from it for thirteen hours on November 4.

It still doesn't mean my vote counts for anything. I'm still a grain of sand on the beach.

But at least now I'll have done something where, when he asks "Why?", I will say, "Because it's the right thing to do."

Put that way, it seems pretty practical after all.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Motivational techniques, by Goofus and Gallant

Remember them? From Highlights Magazine at the pediatrician's office? For the uninitiated, they were a pair of cartoon boys who would teach morality. Goofus would forever be doing something wrong, and Gallant would continually be a paragon of model behavior. Of course, being a morality play aimed at kids, it tended to leave the subtlety at the office door:

"Goofus drinks the blood of babies.
"Gallant donates half of all his internal organs to needy children."

I had one particular boss who was so unashamedly corrupt that a co-worker and I used to make up Goofus and Gallant-style morality lessons about him:

"Goofus sneaks inside information out to major shareholders in exchange for lucrative kickbacks.
"Gallant always shreds confidential information to prevent insider trading."

I thought that, when I left behind that executive, and that co-worker, I'd have to leave behind that particular joke, too. But then I found a new manager who seemed to have a knack for choosing the "Goofus" route when it came to motivational techniques. So, I'm pleased to present a few examples that I've observed in my time with said managers:

On the manager's first arriving at the office in the morning

Goofus answers the employee's "Good morning" with "Yeah, yeah. I'm parked down on P2. Can you go move your car next to mine so nobody scratches it?"

Gallant brings Dunkin Donuts for the employees without even worrying about spilling coffee on the vinyl seats of his '87 Taurus.

On creating an annual budget for the first time in both the company's and the employee's history

Goofus says, "I can easily divide our income and expenses by twelve in my head to come up with the information these spreadsheets show. You haven't done anything here."

Gallant says, "This is a good start, but we should redistribute income and expenses to more closely reflect when we think they'll occur. Also, we should include more gifts for the downtrodden under 'expenses'."

On meeting with an employee to ask him to take a temporary pay cut in order to help offset the company's lack of fiscal responsibility

Goofus says, "Normally, we'd just fire you and figure out how to do your job ourselves, but we don't think we need to do that yet."

Gallant says, "You are a valuable employee, and not only will all the executives reduce their own salaries by an amount proportionally greater than yours, but we will give you a promissory note for the salary you are deferring. The executives will also begin selling blood as often as the Red Cross will take us, even forging fake IDs if necessary to donate more often."

Isn't it fun, kids? Try a few of your own!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Vital Idols

Back by popular indifference, I will attempt to show that I have my EKG on the pulse of the heartbeat of FOX's producers by guessing the order in which the remaining American Idol contestants will be voted off. Last year, I was right about Gina Glocksen going home at #9, and nothing else, so this year I'll start with the Top 8. If I'm right about any of these, maybe I'll start from that place next year, or maybe I'll just get a life. I could go either way.

As the watermarks indicate, all photos ripped shamelessly from American Idol's site.

8. Kristy Lee Cook

Ah, Kristy, we've had quite a journey together. I remember seeing your audition and thinking, "Wow, what a babe! I hope she makes it to Hollywood!" Then I saw you in Hollywood, and thought, "OK, she can pretty much only sing 'Amazing Grace', but what a babe! I hope she makes it to the Top 24!"

And now? Well, Kristy, I'm starting to feel sorry for you. You approach every week's results show with all the enthusiasm of Drew Carey upon hearing he has four and a half years left on his Price is Right contract. (I was always waiting for Bob Barker to snap and recreate his fight scene in Happy Gilmore after the 4,000,000th time a contestant looked out into the audience for help.)

At any rate, you can't lust after someone you pity, so I'm ready for you to go home. Thank you, Kristy; you've taught me that looks, indeed, aren't everything. And yet, because this is "Idol Gives Back" week, the theme is Inspirational Songs. Which means...that's right, ladies and gentlemen, "Amazing Grace"! Again! And while I would appreciate the hilarious irony of Kristy getting voted off after her best performance of the show, I don't think it will happen. So...

8. Jason Castro

Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Homer got behind the medical marijuana movement and got the issue onto the ballot, only to space out on the day of the vote? I've been waiting for that to happen to Jason's fans all season. An excessively long inspirational episode might just do it.

7. Kristy Lee Cook

Unless you wanted to leak a sex tape to try to hang on for another week? No? OK, then, we're done here.

6. Syesha Mercado

Her ability to imitate a baby's cry narrowly edged David Cook's revelation that he's a "word nerd" as the Biggest Waste of an Opportunity to Win More Fans this season. So far.

5. Brooke White

I think--

"It's OK. It's OK. No, it's fine."

I mean, I really--

"It's OK. No, really, it's OK. That's fine. OK."


"Thank you. Thank you so much. Thanks. No, it's OK."

Brooke White, ladies and gentlemen!

"No, really, it's fine..."

4. Michael Johns

I'm going to buck my own "Someone always goes home too soon at #4" rule, partly because I don't think either David is ready to go home yet, but mostly because Michael Johns really bothers me for some reason. He strikes me as the kind of guy who would steal your girlfriend, then cheat on her with your mom. I can't really justify my dislike for him, but it bothers me that I've let him get this far. This is where it stops.

3. David Archuleta

At some point, you have to be able to do an up-tempo song without looking like you missed your ride to the "Up With People" revival. I haven't seen it. On the plus side, he'll always have his Star Search victory to fall back on.

2. Carly Smithson

Note that this assumes that the wardrobe department doesn't get even with Simon's criticisms by dressing Carly in progressively more and more hideous outfits. ("No, feathers are making a comeback this'll look great!")

Which leaves us with...

1. David Cook

Let's review the necessary qualifications:

1. Talent - Check.
2. Southern roots - According to wiki, he was born in Texas, a native of Missouri, and working in Oklahoma before Idol. Check.
3. Consistently chooses the right songs - Check.
4. Experience and stage presence - He used a vocoder in a performance for crying out loud. Check.
5. Nothing about his personality that could turn the viewers off - Check--almost too much, actually. Let's elaborate:

Ever since Simon's "I don't think you're as good as you think you are" comment, David's been very careful to not look too full of himself during or after a performance. Let's call it believably humble; not the "Aw shucks, really?" response to every compliment, from first to four millionth, that got old with Melinda Doolittle last year. David's is more of an "I'm letting my singing do my talking for me" attitude. It's polished and professional without coming across as slick. I love it.

But what really sold me on his self-awareness was last week's performance. The two biggest criticisms out on the Interwebs were: 1) "He's getting credit for his originality when he's really just copying other people's covers of the songs!" and 2) "He's sharing barbers with Michael 'Pay No Attention to my Baldness' Bolton!" So what does he do? Gets a new hairstyle and actually creates an original arrangement. Bam. That is someone who knows his perceived weaknesses and, just like the Dutch boy in the story, puts his finger in the duck before the leak turns into a flood.

Is he essentially Chris Daughtry II: The Christening? To some extent, yes. But he has the advantage of having the way paved for him by Daughtry's success, just as Chris had Bo Bice's coattails to rock upon. Will that be enough for him to win? Well, since I don't feel like rewriting everything above, I'll say: maybe.

Bonus question: How much longer do you think the producers of American Idol will put off the inevitable "Billy Idol" week? Two seasons? Three? As long as it takes for everyone to forget his Wedding Singer cameo?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ship of State Ahoy!

I've been thinking a lot about our Presidency, partly because it seems like it's been in the news a lot, partly because one of the side effects of having a God complex is that you assume all powerful positions of leadership should be personally vetted by you. (I'm kidding, of course. How could God have a complex?)

Anyway, it seems to me that this system's all messed up. (I know, I'm the first person ever to have this revelation. Bear with me.) The candidates battle it out for months, digging up more and more dirt on each other until all of them look like complete tools (a process which should take hours, by the way). Eventually, the (usually) lesser of two evils is elected. No matter who wins, though, it won't be long before some sort of crisis comes along that he or she--ha! I kill me--he can't handle quickly enough or cheaply enough or manfully enough, and America thinks he's even more of a tool than they already do. Things go downhill for the remainder of four years, then repeat.

Seriously. This is dumb. But I have a solution.

Hang on, I just found out what the President makes in a year. I don't think I could feed my family on that.

Never fear, I have another solution.

Look, being a President is a big job. Huge. Too big, some might say, for one man. So what's to do?

I see you're right there with me. And you're right: the solution is simple. Multiple Presidents.

But we're not talking a council. This isn't a democracy. No, we're going to recognize that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and like a baseball manager, you need to match those strengths to the task at hand. You don't send in your left to face a left-handed batter, do you? Or wait, do you? Anyway, it's not important. It's the manager's job.

But how do we select these fine leaders? Simple: we take the most experienced ones available. No, I'm not talking about actual Presidents--haven't we just established that they were no good? Being the President is all about image and inspiring confidence. So let's get the people who looked the best at the job.

For the ordinary day-to-day political stuff, we'll have Martin Sheen. Terrorists attack? Dennis Haysbert sits in the big chair. Comet coming to wipe us all out? Morgan Freeman's the man. Alien invasion? I want Bill Pullman in the Oval Office (or in an F-18). Harrison Ford would pretty much just ride around on Air Force One at all times. Geena Davis, maybe not every fictional President would need to have a role. We could figure that out as we go.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I Am Tina Turner

Unfortunately, my chosen career path is Ike. It frustrates me on a daily basis. I used to just go home angry; now I go in angry, too. Road rage? No, just office rage that keeps getting out of the office. Well, that and a lot of moronic drivers on my commute.

My work desk was purchased from IBM in a surplus sale sometime in the 1980's. As near as I can tell, IBM got rid of it for being too conservative. Anyway, it's got those pull-out extensions on either side, just above the drawers, designed to give you more work surface when the rest of your desktop is too covered in hookers and blow. For about the last six months, I've had an eight and a half by eleven photocopy of my middle finger taped to one. Whenever I'm getting particularly frustrated with someone, I just pull out the desk extension, smile, and put it back. Lately, I've been pulling it out upwards of three or four times a day.

(Now there's a phrase I never thought I'd be able to say about the office!)

Seriously, at some point, you just have to say, "Enough." Which I suppose would make me more like Julia Roberts or Jennifer Lopez than Tina Turner, but I have a little more self-respect than that.

So what to do about it? The obvious answer, of course, is nothing. The slightly less obvious answer involves doing unfunny things with firearms, high explosives, and/or a naked molerat. A safer answer would be to find a new job, but having done that three different times already, and found myself in the a similar place after a similar interval every single time, it's becoming obvious that just getting a beating from a different-looking guy probably isn't a long-term solution. It's time to find a guy who will let me wear the strap-on.

You know, this whole extended metaphor is getting odd. Time to give it a rest. I am no longer Tina Turner.

I think my dream career still involves getting paid for sarcasm, rather than simply giving it away for free. Let me start with just getting my writing stuff in order. If any of the three people who read this know of a really well-organized writer's website that I can plagiarize wholesale, feel free to post it in the comments.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I Think I Can Manage Without It

You know, management really isn’t hard. You make sure your people have what they need to function on a daily basis, make sure they’re all moving in the same (or at least the right) direction, act as their champion when they need someone with more weight to throw it around, take the blame when they fail, and give them credit when they succeed. Seriously, that’s it. 75% of the people in the world would go to war for a manager like that, and the other 25% are worthless pricks that you don’t want on your team anyway.

Why is that such a problem for so many people?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Poetry in Motion

Yellow diamond sign
Does not excuse your driving.
Tot's first words: "Bite me!"

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Be Honest

Does anyone REALLY call you The Space Cowboy?

I didn't think so.

There, now. Didn't that feel good?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Bits and Pieces

Typically, I'm the last one up in my house. Most nights I'll turn off all the lights downstairs, and then before I go up to bed, I like to look out the window and just gaze thoughtfully at the street for a while.

I don't like to do it for to long, though, because in the movies, that's when a zombie would come shambling by my window. Then I would have to stumble backwards in horror, just as they started smashing their decaying limbs through the windows, driven by their insatiable hunger for brains. And, frankly, replacing windows is a pain, and I'm in no hurry to do it. Although it would do nice things for my heating bill.

* * * * *

One of the dangers of sharing a public restroom with the rest of your building is that, at any time and without warning, other people can render it utterly uninhabitable. I work in a fairly small office, in a building shared with several other similar offices. Every floor shares a single common restroom for each gender.

Our men's room suffers frequent (almost daily) assaults from one individual who seems to be suffering from a severe fiber deficiency. In our office, we've taken to referring to this man as the "Sh*t Cannon". If you don't have the good fortune to get your business done before the Cannon fires, just forget about it, because it's not happening afterwards.

The other day, one of my co-workers came back from the men's room with an oddly triumphant expression on his face.

"What're you so happy about, Bob?" I asked.

"You may refer to me as Saint Bob," he replied.

"Saint Bob?"

He nodded. "Oh yeah. Because that bathroom's just been canonized."

What I'm trying to say is: sometimes, you need to find little ways to motivate yourself.

* * * * *

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

This is what we're reduced to without Whedon

From a comment thread on The AV Club's message boards, regarding Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles:

i also feel the need to watch anything starring a cast member from firefly, be it this or a made-for-abc-family movie about a sorority that turns out to be a coven, so really watching this series is beyond my control.

7:01 AM Mon January 14, 2008

I watched half a Lifetime movie the other day because it had Fred in it. This was a step up.

11:57 AM Mon January 14, 2008

You know, it's people like this that are hurt most by the writer's strike. The bloggers...won't somebody please think of the bloggers?