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Monthly Archives: October 2009

Two Small Stories about Work

1.  I’ve gotten into the bad habit of updating people’s Facebook stati for them at work.  This is not entirely my fault: everyone’s always leaving their Facebook profiles logged in when they walk away from their computers, and I see that cursor blinking next to their names, and the reptile brain takes over from there.  My resistance would be roughly the same if they were gluing Starbursts and Cocaine to the computer monitors. 

Usually, it takes a coworker long enough to figure out what I’ve done that a few of their friends have already left bemused comments.  Why did you decide to quote that particular Mariah Carey song lyric, they want to know.   (I’m extremely fond of the song “Touch My Body,” with its bevy of careful insights and groundbreaking poetic style.)    

So when Ed caught me eyeing his idle Facebook homepage from across the room today, he was sure to warn me not to pull any shit with his status, lest I should suffer the consequences.   I nodded that I understood, and Ed will surely be relieved to discover when he gets home tonight that his Facebook status remains unaltered.

He may be a little puzzled when he starts noticing the updates from the Sock Zombie page, though. 

2.  I have two favorite ways to kill time when we’re slow at work: Eat This, Not That and GoogleMaps.  The former is this wretched little tome we sell (alongside Chicken Soup for the Recession and positive thinking books like the The Secret) that basically advises you which fast food and chain restaurant options are less bad for you.  It’s kind of low-class, sure, but it’s also extremely hard to put down.  I have never encountered a Bob Evans restaurant in my whole entire life, and I’m pretty sure there’s nothing on the menu that I could actually eat,  but I have to read the part where they instruct you to get the egg sandwich instead of the whole wheat pancakes every damn time I pick up the book.  It’s as shocking and compelling as the end of a good mystery novel. 

As to the latter, well…even Sour Starbursts and Crack Cocaine do not inspire the same physical dependence within me as does Google Maps.  I vividly recall the day I first took notice of the little orange man in the upper left corner, and discovered that I could plink him down onto the map, and get a full street view of any American city that I desired.  I haven’t vacuumed the store since. 

I likewise remember the ecstacy-tempering realization that the little man turned gray and immobile when you scrolled over Canadian cities.   This was especially disappointing because the Canadian cities are the ones with which I am least familiar, and most curious.  Do they look essentially like American cities, or is there something inherently, indefinably Canadian about them?  I remember when we were walking around Vancouver that all of the constituent parts (buildings, infrastructure, people) certainly seemed perfectly ordinary and American, but the whole just had this air of foreigness, this weird Great-White-North mystique to it.  Is it exclusive to Vancouver, or a connecting thread among cities that lie North of the Border? 

I will not need to wonder anymore.  Today, while I was looking at user-uploaded photos in and around Montreal, I glanced up and noticed that — be still, my heart —  the little man had not turned gray.  Tentatively, I picked him up with my cursor, and — heartened to see that he still did not go gray and rigid — gently, reverently placed him down on the grid.  With no less than a tremble in my soul did I watch as the screen dissolved and returned as…as…Well hello, little brownstone houses on Avenue Prince-Albert.  

Needless to say, my research on the iPhone’s competitive position has been somewhat less than fervent following this revelation. 

Song of the Week.  Can you nominate a song for the Pulitzer?  A Grammy just doesn’t seem worthy here.  Pay extra-close attention to the couplet that starts out “If there’s a camera….”  I hold it in the same esteem as any of my favorite literary passages. 

Epic, Mind-Blowing Cover of the Song of the Week.  Critics always say Aretha Franklin has a knack for picking the best songs to work her magic on, and there is surely no better proof than this.

This Just In.

Soy Curls taste a whole hell of a lot like TVP.  That’s not necessarily bad…just unexpected.  I guess it shouldn’t be, though, cause it looks like they’re essentially made of the same core stuff; TVP’s just more processed.  That ‘V’ is pretty misleading, though. 

Also, TVP isn’t out there marketing itself as the superior alternative to Tofu; it’s comfortable being an also-ran in the curious world of meat replacements, like Seitan.        

Anyway.

Hey, you guys? Please don’t tell GreenPeace I told you it was OK to litter at nuclear waste sites. The last thing I need right now is a well-meaning Hippy chaining herself to my apartment.

The last non-Accounting requirement for graduation is this throwaway class called “Business Strategy”.  It’s supposed to be a cumulative  course that brings together all of the business class puzzle pieces so you can see how they fit together.  The Accounting department has a similar deal, except that it’s not a complete joke. 

I just got done reading the Harvard Business Review article (The HBR is the preferred course material for business classes with pretensions of substance) that coined the that loathed phrase, “Change the Game.”  It was actually more interesting than I expected.

But so we have to do a big analysis on a company or business unit for our final project, and my group met tonight to discuss which ours would be.  UPS was thrown out first, then Estee Lauder, and I suggested DeVry.  All of these sounded like fun.  Finally, the guy sitting across from me, who had up until that point been Twittering, lifted up the flat metallic device in his hand and said simply “iPhone.”  Everyone lit up and nodded, mesmerized by its glow.

NOOOOOOO!

The spell thus broken, everyone turned their attention to the crazy person  with the $20 duct-taped cellular contraption on his desk.

“Um.  My only concern is that the higher-level technology combined with the relative newness of the smart-phone industry may make this more of a challenge than we really want to take on.”  Nice cover, Mills.

The other members agreed that this was a valid concern, and it was suggested that we all do some research, and then email our first and second choices to each other by Sunday night.  I had bought myself some time.

Or so I thought.  By the time I got home tonight, there were four emails waiting in my inbox, all of them indicating the iPhone as choice #1.  “there’s so much information about it out there, and its just so cool!” one of the bastards enthused in hers.  “There’s a lot of information out there on how the Jews in Hollywood faked the Holocaust, too”, I managed to keep myself from pointing out in my reluctant defeat email. 

So here I sit,  trying to find the silver lining in another 8 weeks of hard-core research and discussions about Qwerty keypads and 3G cameras and Android technology, while CameraPigeon draws me a bath and fills my tumbler with scotch to soothe my nerves —  at least, that’s what he would be doing if we had put more of our precious time and energy into developing superior carrier pigeons instead of wasting all of it on godforsaken smartphones and Harvard bullshit speak like “Game-Changing”.  And we wonder why we can’t afford a handbasket for the ride to Hell.

 

Soy curls are the new It product for Vegans right now.  They’re apparently way better than tofu because they contain the whole bean — kind of like the brown rice of soy products. 

On the one hand, I hate this popular belief that the point of being vegan is keeping your membership in the Self-Righteous Club active by being closer to the cutting edge of healthy-eating trends than your neighbor.  On the other hand…at least they’re something new to eat.  Naturally, they’re about twice as expensive as tofu, but I finally broke down and bought some at the store today.  I’ll let you know how they turn out.

The Beauty of Enumerated Entries is that They Do Not Require Transitions.

I.   So it’s fall out here, right?  And I get kind of romantic about the cooler seasons.  I walk out of the record store last night, and the sun’s starting to go down, and it’s getting a little chilly, so I’m thinking some apple cider would really hit the spot.  And lo!  There’s a Starbucks about 4 blocks down the street.  And I’m not really expecting the world, because it’s Starbucks after all, but I’m still kind of excited about some hot mulled cider. 

Do you know what the Starbucks version of Apple “Cider” amounts to?  I watched the guy make it: it’s heated-up apple juice with a couple squirts of caramel sauce –basically a half-hearted attempt at a liquid version of a caramel apple on a stick.   That’s…actually not cider, you guys.  Where’s the cloves and cinnamon?  Where’s the nutmeg?  Hell, there’s a giant rosemary bush outside; rip a sprig off and throw that in there.  Use a goddamned Swiss Miss packet, even; I don’t care.  But this $2.50 sham you have just handed me is a  child’s drink disguised by a classy paper cup. 

So I guess I’ll be making my own cider from here on out.  Any guesses how long it’ll be before I get lazy and start squirting some honey into a glass of Mott’s and throwing it in the microwave (caramel sauce would involve walking to the grocery store)? 

II.  I feel a little weird having a discussion about a consumer product on here, because that’s not really what this blog is about.

On the other hand, this blog is also definitely not about hard-hitting journalism or saving the pandas, so it’s not as though I’m compromising its purity.  Self-indulgent rambling can’t really be tainted by consumerism, you know?  It’d be like trying to pollute a nuclear waste site with styrofoam plates.  But I’m sorry if I let any of you down with my Starbucks beverage discussion.

III.  Fall excursion went on as planned.  The UHaul car-share thing is nice, except that the vehicle I booked had a huge dent in the left door so you couldn’t open it, and it made this awful grinding noise every time you put it in gear. 

But it was a good day drive.  Salem is less than an hour from here, so it seemed a little silly that I’d never been, even if it’s not exactly the most exciting place in the state  (Dig the flatness and grayness of Portland and Eugene?  Turned off by all of the culture and vibrance?  Your kingdom awaits you in Salem.) 

I took the back route: rather than driving straight down the 5, I went east, and curved into it on 213.  213 starts out as Trash Mecca 82nd Avenue, and then it sort of rims (Not like that.  Ew.) the edge of the valley, so the landscape’s got a nice roll to it, and you avoid all of the interurban buildup along the freeway.

Valley

Somewhere off 213 between Oregon City and Molalla. 

Silverton

Mural in Silverton

Bridge over the Pudding River

Silverton is surprisingly well put-together, and has not one but two Thai Restaurants on its little main street. 

Mmm.

I didn't even bother locking my car doors when I got out.  Everyone looked way too listless to be capable of breaking in.

Salem

Salem.  It’s one of those cities like Charlotte (albeit much smaller) that have an intriguing facade, but are still waiting for that nebulous spark to ignite the urban life that will fill the cool buildings and public spaces. 

Point-in-case: the tenants on the block pictured above were an insurance company’s branch office, a shitty Chinese restaurant, and some other nondescript crap I can’t remember.  None of them were open, and this is in the heart of the central city.  The only thing that was open on a Sunday afternoon was the shopping mall.  By contrast, both Thai restaurants in tiny Silverton were not only open, but busy.  Just about all of the population downtown was concentrated in the shopping center with the TJ Maxx and the Walgreen’s.  Our fair capital’s not going to be giving Olympia a run for its money anytime soon*.

Oregon State Capitol

I was pretty impressed by the Capitol, though.  I like how it’s not just a cheap facsimile of the Federal one, like a lot of state capitols are.  The bone structure’s the same, but the uh…flesh, if you will, is sculpted in a different way.  The lines are cleaner, and it’s just less busy.  (It’s Art Deco, according to Wikipedia.  I don’t know enough about architecture to be able to tell you what the style of the Federal one is.  Is Gothic Cluttered an architectural style?) 

It's pronounced wil-AM-et

It was also pretty cool to see the Willamette snake through Salem.  It’s weird to think that this is the same river that starts in Portland, 50 miles down the line.  It’s sort of like a small-scale version of living in Minneapolis and then seeing the Mississippi in Memphis for the first time. 

50 miles south

* In the interest of fairness, I should probably point out that Olympia has a large state school within its borders, which is largely responsible for its reputation as a cool town.  Salem has only a tiny liberal arts college.  In the interest of my own deep-seated opinions, I should probably also point out that I dislike this version of America where University towns get to be the only thriving cultural centers outside of large cities.