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Monday, July 31, 2006 No comments

The Rise of the Creator-Consumer, Part II

Continued from Part I

II. The Producer

The phone rings. Husband and wife look at each other for a moment, and he says, “I’ve got it, I’m closer.” There’s nothing on anyway, he thinks — perhaps as close as it gets to “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” for him.

“Hi Dad!” came the voice of his son over the line, more cheerful than usual as of late. “I’m over at Jim’s, just wanted to let you guys know.”

“OK,” he says. “Doing anything interesting?”

His son laughs. “Just making a movie. Jim got a camcorder for his birthday. Do you think I could get one for my birthday too?”

“Um…” A memory stops him. Through the eyes of a younger self, waiting for his mom to pick up her pictures at the local camera shop, he stares wistfully at the Super-8 movie camera on the shelf behind the counter. He remembers a dream, boldly walking into the old abandoned house down the street, camera rolling, ready to interview a ghost. He would have been famous — but that camera was as out of reach financially as it was physically. That movie maker was gone, but…

“I’ll talk to your mother about it,” he says at last. “But your birthday’s in February — we’ll see how your grades look once school starts up.”

“I’ll get straight As if that’s what it takes!”

“I’ll hold you to that. Say hi to Paul for me, and be home by ten.”

“Ten… yeah. That’s enough time. Thanks, Dad! Bye!”


“You can stay ’til ten, Kyle?” asked Jim, as Kyle hung up the phone.

“Yeah, and I might get a camcorder for my birthday, if my grades are good.”

“That’s… seven months from now,” Tony said, counting on his fingers. “Maybe you could get it for Christmas, that would be better.”

“We’ll talk about it later,” Kyle said. “Let’s get these last two scenes done — we’ve only got two hours to wrap this up.”

“It’s not like we’re on a schedule or anything,” Tony laughed. “We can finish up tomorrow if we have to. It’s more important that we do it right.”

“You haven’t seen the comments page, have you?” Jim retorted. “There’s at least fifty of ’em, everyone’s all, ‘Hey, when’s Episode III coming out?’ We can’t leave ’em hanging.”

“OK,” Kyle picked up Tony’s script. “We still haven’t figured out how to wake up the crew — or why we’re awake to begin with. We’re all getting up from the table when the red light starts flashing — Tony, is the foot switch where you can hit it? Good, turn it off. We’re going to dub in the buzzer, right? Then we have do the bridge scene, where we see the asteroids.”

“And that’s the end of Episode III,” Tony grinned. “It’ll give us a month to figure out how we’re going to get out of it in Episode IV.”

“Let’s do it,” said Jim, turning on his dad’s halogen work lights and starting the camera. “Places, everyone,” as he grabbed a chair in front of the solid blue wall.

Continued in Part III

Sunday, July 30, 2006 4 comments

Three fools in a pool

The Boy, me, and Daughter Dearest at the resort last weekend. I have since had major bush-hogging done to my hair.

The Rise of the Creator-Consumer, Part I

This is a true story. That’s not to say I saw it happen, but I have seen its light shining from sites like Blogger, MySpace, and YouTube; its shadows cast across the living rooms of American households. It’s my story, and yours too... if you let it be.

I. The Passives

Another near-silent family supper is over. “Family” supper, although the four of them sat together for maybe two minutes with all the late arrivals and early leavings. Being (as he thinks) an enlightened kind of guy, he carries his dishes to the sink before entering the sanctuary of his living room. He bows to the altar of his lounge chair, picking up the remote before dropping himself onto the altar, presenting himself a living sacrifice of another evening to his one-eyed god. His god asks little of him but attention, and usually fills his empty evenings with empty entertainment in return.

But there’s no ball game on tonight, and nothing else strikes him as particularly interesting as his slack-jawed, belly-scratching worship carries him from channel to channel. He looks up as his wife comes in from the kitchen, having loaded the dishwasher and left the pots to soak in the sink. She looks past him as she settles into her own chair, picking up the romance novel from the lampstand.

He watches her for a while, pretending to watch the TV. She turns a page, then another; her expressionless face could be mistaken for a mask of anger.

That’s not the best she’s ever looked, he thinks; an echo suggests he has little to talk about. Sighing, he points to his god once again and communes. Persistence may be rewarded.

Continued in Part II

Go Back To Shopping, America

D-Day lays out our whole economic dilemma in one fine rant. In a nutshell, if we don’t spend ourselves into bankruptcy we’ll bring down the economy.

Anyone who has been out of debt for 33 years is worth listening to.

Friday, July 28, 2006 5 comments

The Boy: America in Microcosm?

Current music: BassDrive

The Boy has done yet another one of his in&out maneuvers. He came home Friday evening, and flaked off back to the New Party House Wednesday night after going to see a movie with M.A.E. Amazingly(?), this came after he started looking for a job and Big V offered him one when their regular guy quit. Of course, there were strings attached to the job, like getting a haircut and putting the hardware in his pocket (he has chunky pointy earrings and a lip ring that even his friends think looks stupid). There’s also the minor detail of cigarette addiction (we’ve been after M.A.E. to quit too). He supposedly has also embraced Rastafari, but I’ll bet you a beer that he can’t tell you who Haile Selassie is or what he signifies to Rastafari — his supposed conversion is probably exactly what you would guess it is. (I’m still trying to figure out whether white people are even allowed to be Rastas… if anyone who knows happens to be reading, please feel free to comment.)

So I was huffing and puffing on the evil exerbike last night, when I started thinking about how The Boy’s self-destructive behavior is a small-scale version of what our nation is doing to itself:

  • The Boy is using Rastafari to justify his ganja use; America picks and chooses parts of the Bible to justify a selfish, judgmental lifestyle that has little to do with either Judaism or Christianity.

  • As The Boy is addicted to nicotine, so is America addicted to oil. Both use their addiction as an excuse to continue doing what they want — and both will continue until it’s too late, most likely.

  • The Boy and America both want what they want, and want it right now.

  • Neither The Boy nor America is looking ahead 20 years (or even two years) to see where their respective paths are leading.

  • Neither seem to respect nor care for anyone else, no matter how much those others love them.

It’s difficult to stand by and watch both The Boy and the nation going to hell in a handbasket. But I have very little influence over either one. I do what I can about them both, but I fear it’s not enough.

Thursday, July 27, 2006 3 comments

Too much happening!

Work is driving me nutz. Home is driving me nutz. Got a long weekend coming a week from now though, and I’ll probably take Solar up on his invite & go roast myself in Florida next month. Then we have a week of vacation scheduled in September. Just gotta hang on a little longer.

The Boy has been partly the reason I haven’t been writing, and partly the inspiration for an upcoming essay. I’m also trying to wrap up a rather long essay on the rise of the creator-consumer, which fortunately lends itself to serialization.

Just got off the evil exerbike (puff, puff) and have some bread in the oven. This is the first night in a long time that I haven’t had to run out and pick up somebody. Yesterday would have been it, except that a friend of The Boy and his mom were out of gas & I got drafted to help them. At least they paid for their (and my) gas.

Back to it....

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 3 comments

Musical humor

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) is perhaps the first US Senator to be immortalized with a techno remix of his infamous “series of tubes” speech. Absolutely hilarious!

Monday, July 17, 2006 4 comments

The $3/gal threshold

This hit home yesterday... gas prices have stayed just under $3/gal here for a while now. At that price, if you use two gallons per day on your commute to work & back, working at home two days per week saves enough on gas to pay a $40 DSL bill each month.

So if you're trying to convince your spouse that you need broadband (or need to keep it), here’s your ammo.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Sometimes, it’s best to bring the camera along instead of wishing you had.

A bus stop bench near where my uncle Sonny used to live. Look carefully at the model (click on the pic to get a bigger image).

If I could choose my clients, it might not be a bad deal!

I had a look inside. It was full of spelling books.

I’ll bet he’s against gay marriage. Only a Republican would miss the irony....

DSL fixed, no longer neutered


Sunday, July 16, 2006 2 comments

The No DSL Blues

Awhell came out and fixed our noisy phone lines yesterday, but the line technician must have goobered the DSL at the same time. A call to customer support got a promise for someone to come out... tomorrow.

Daughter Dearest is having net.withdrawal symptoms, and I’m glomming an open wireless network after dropping M.A.E. off at her work.

Friday, July 14, 2006 2 comments

World Cup Headbutting analysis

There was more to the Zidane headbutting incident in the World Cup final that we were aware of. Now we know, thanks to more quality journalism by The Register!

Falling flat

Heading home from work Wednesday, quick stop along the way to pick up a couple of pizzas. Between that, a coffee, and lunch, the $80 I got in the morning was half gone — and it was supposed to last through Friday.

Off the four-lane, heading into town, the car wanted to stay straight in the curves so I backed off a bit. Hunh? I thought I’d imagined it, until I got to the next curve... definitely something going on. A second later, the rumbling from the front of the car told me what was going on: I’d borrowed ten miles too many from those Bald Eagles on the front. $#!+!!!

The Civic is built to be a practical means of getting from Point A to Point B. However, it is also versatile enough to be turned into a teenager’s wet dream machine — and Splat’s older brother did his level best with it before he had to buy a truck and sold the thing to us. One of his little trick additions was this monster speaker box, nestled in the trunk behind the back seats (which can be pulled down as shown here), complete with a 200W amp. It works pretty well with Goa trance and other music where deep bass is a primary component, but the box normally sits on top of the spare tire and can’t be pulled out of the trunk. I'm going to whap this guy over the head next time I see him.

I took the few other things I have in the trunk out (a change of clothes and a box with brake fluid and oil, basic stuff you should carry with you anyway) and pushed the box back as far as it would go — pulling some wires out along the way, dangit — but I had enough room to wedge a dead UPS battery under the thin sheet of plywood to raise it up. I called the house and Mrs. Fetched said they would come out ASAP, so I got back to work. Naturally, the wingnut holding down the fake spare was really hard to turn, and I didn’t have any pliers with me. I got out my Swiss Army knife (Victorinox, don’t leave home without it), wedged the screwdriver blade into a slot, and finally got it to turn. I was pulling the fake spare out when Mrs. Fetched and The Boy arrived: just in time, because there’s not a jack in the car either. At this point, I was ready to commit nephewcide, but The Boy was in a more practical frame of mind and started jacking the car up. I had a spinner lug wrench, so I was at least able to get the nuts loose.

The fake spare was a little low on air — about 20 PSI when it should have 60 — so I went really slow for the two miles it took to get to the gas station. I fortunately had a couple of quarters to run the air pump (leave it to oil companies to figure out a way to charge for air) so I was able to get home without further mishap. This particular gas station has a Subway in it, and The Boy grabbed an application for Subway. He missed the “Drug-Free Workplace” sticker, so I pointed it out to him in the car.

“I can always get a detox kit,” he said, naming a couple of brands and incidentally admitting (in a left-handed sort of way) that he has been using. (Gotcha!)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 4 comments

Should he stay or should he go now?

We interrupt this series of essays for another round of real life.

Here’s one of the few points on which The Boy and Mrs. Fetched aren’t alike: when she wants something, she goes straight for the jugular; he usually takes a few trips around the bushes before homing in.

We came home from church Sunday to find a message from The Boy on the answering machine: “Hi, I was wondering if you would come and get me,” and some other ramblings, but he didn’t quite get around to saying “I want to come home.” We called the number he left (on my smellphone because it was another smellphone that was long-distance from our landline). Once we got the connection established, which took a minute of “Hello? Can you hear me now? Is this better? You’re breaking up, you’re breaking up, that’s better,” (Stinkular claims the fewest dropped calls, probably because it’s hard to get one started) I got the kid (who turned out to be the one who ran up $570 worth of airtime on The Boy’s phone) to pass the phone to The Boy.

“Hey, don’t worry about it, I’ve got a ride.”

“Are you coming home?”

“Everything’s okay, you don’t have to come get me.”

“Are you coming home?”

“It was good talking to you.”

“Are you coming home!!?!??”


Somewhat concerned about his state of mental health, we went over to the place he said he’d called from. Cousin Splat’s truck (which used to be Lobster’s) was there, the significance of which will become apparent later. He came outside, while his two friends reluctantly went back in, and we chatted for a while before Mrs. Fetched started one of her screeds while I tried to get a word in edgewise. The upshot was, he wasn’t ready to come home yet, and he was still looking for a job. Yeah, I thought, good luck finding a job with a lip ring, chunky earrings, and your hair hanging in your face. I must have actually said it, because he said he took the lip ring out and pushed his hair back on interviews. Not like it helps much... he can almost get a job for a long time.

So we went our way, he stayed where he was, and then thunderstorms and Mrs. Fetched made it a No Computer Day. We (Daughter Dearest, Mrs. Fetched, me) played Yahtzee and Uno on the porch and I wrote about two-thirds of another essay (on paper!) that I hope will see the light of blog shortly.

Home from work yesterday, nobody home, (as usual) no supper, and my muffler CAME LOOSE ON THE WAY HOME. I had just enough time to send off some emails I wrote through the day at work before Mrs. Fetched came in and gave me the latest news of the free-range insane asylum that I sometimes call Planet Georgia. Turns out that the party house, where he usually stays when he’s not here, has been a bone of contention between the woman who owns it and her ex-husband. The guy apparently has the upper hand at the moment, because the house reverted to his ownership at midnight last night. This wouldn’t be an issue for me at all, except that The Boy’s car has been stranded there since the female who (unbeknownst to him) turned out to be in a mailbox theft ring asked to “borrow” his car (intending to run for it) one night last month. The ditzbag put diesel in it, leaving it in a non-running state, and abandoned it nearby. Now if he’d had his head on straight and had a job, this wouldn’t have been any big deal: a couple tanks of gas, fuel filter, and new spark plugs would have got it right back on the road. But he didn’t even have money for gas, let alone the rest, so they ran it dry and it’s been sitting there ever since.

Now the new owner of the house had informed his ex that she was to have everything cleared out of the house and off the property by midnight, and he’d have the car towed if it wasn’t moved. So there goes my evening, including supper… Mrs. Fetched’s idea of addressing a problem is to do something NOW; whether it makes progress toward actually solving the problem is of less importance. Knowing the car was out of gas, even if it would start, we grabbed a gas can and went over there. Turned out one of the jerks who had been hanging out there with The Boy stole the keys (and was on the run for other thefts). Some of the other kids who lived there gathered up his backpack (including his diabetes medication) and the one insulin pen he had with him. We went back home and found the other set of keys, dumped some gas in, and I cranked it until the battery started to run down, getting nothing but a feeble cough for our trouble. I figured the plugs were fouled. This we did until it was time to get M.A.E. from her job (which she has held longer than any of her others, hooray!). We used the bathroom at the nearby Kroger to wash up, just before midnight, and I bought a pack of sushi for my supper before going to Toxic Bell for the wimmin (neither of whom were about to eat sushi, although Mrs. Fetched’s shellfish allergy is a legit excuse). At this point, I had neither the time, energy, nor inclination to look at the muffler.

Morning arose, Mrs. Fetched faux-reluctantly woke me up and gave me the phone number for the towing service we usually use when we have car trouble. The plan was to try yanking and cleaning the spark plugs on The Boy’s car, if it was still there and the new homeowner was inclined to be reasonable, and hope the sucker would start — and if not, we would have it towed to our mechanic. I arrived just before 9 (no breakfast) in the old Barge, which is pretty much full of tools because it‘s the farm vehicle, to find the house empty. I figured I’d talk to the guy if he showed up, called into work to get a personal day, and started on the car.

A half hour later, I was ready to take the pliers I had in hand and twist the nuts off the engineer who thought it was a good idea to mount a V-6 engine sideways. How do they get those backside plugs out, anyway??? I gave up and called the tow service, who told me it would be an hour before they could get there. I managed to waste most of an hour by staring at a small tree, then pulled up the news about the Mumbai bombings on my smellphone, then it started ringing. Mrs. Fetched said she would be coming with the checkbook, because they would want to be paid right away, friends were calling for this and that, and that was fine because it killed some time. I spent the last 15 minutes out at the road, finding a spot both shady and having a good signal, and the tow truck showed up only five minutes late. We (I say “we” because I steered while he ran the winch) got the car onto the truck well before Mrs. Fetched arrived. Surprisingly, she had The Boy, who was now ready to admit that he wanted to come home. Oh, and incidentally, his PlayStation and games were probably buried in all the stuff everyone moved out of the former party house last night. After a brief attempt to find it (she moved to the next house down), he figured it would turn up later and we went to get some lunch.

The Boy walked to Big V’s to ask her about working for their landscaping business (no), then we got the dangling muffler off the back of the car and DROVE IT TO THE SHOP. My day was pretty well shot for working by this point, so I didn’t even bother trying. But it wasn’t long before he wanted to go to Devil’s Elbow, a people’s park of sorts where there are several high jumps and rope swings (some rather extreme) over the river. I let him borrow my swim suit — he weighs 196 pounds now, probably his lowest weight since his early teens, so it fits him — and a friend we know came to get him.

A couple hours later, Big V calls looking for Cousin Splat (who hasn’t been home in a couple of weeks himself, and lost a good job at Kroger over something really stupid — right after getting a promotion), since there are some insurance issues with the truck. I suggested they check at Devil’s Elbow, since I heard The Boy mention something about Splat meeting them. Off they went, then the phone started ringing (waking up Mrs. Fetched from her nap) with this person or that wanting to talk to her. I think it was Lobster’s mom on the line when I saw Big V and her husband pull up. Splat wasn’t at the Elbow, nor were any of the others. Hmmmm. They got in Barge Vader to go looking for Splat (and The Boy) — they immediately found The Boy at the same place we found him Sunday, and one of his friends knew where Splat was.

So at this point, I’m not sure whether he’s ready to come home — or be home — or not. I don’t think he does, either. He said he’d mow the lawn when he got home… how many feet high will it be by then?

Saturday, July 08, 2006 5 comments

Why They Get Away with It

We’ve all seen them or dealt with them: they cut in line, or they shoplift stuff & try to “return” it, or they scuttle our weekend plans, or they tell people who don’t agree with their politics that we hate America, hate our troops, doing their worst to project their own hate onto us (and then accuse us of being “mean” or “angry” when we fight back). Basically, those who do any of the million and one things that violate that most uncommon of all things, “common” courtesy. And they get away with it, almost all of the time.

Why? Because the rest of us let them.

On the way home from work today, I turned off the radio, pocketed the iPod, and gave this one a little thought. People act like @$$h013s for a reason, and that reason is because it works. But why does it work? Because, again, we let it work. But why do we let them get away with it? That’s a little more complex, and sometimes different situations have different answers....
  • Maybe we’re feeling too unmotivated to do anything about it, or we don’t feel as strongly about the situation as the @$$h013 apparently does. A nice way of saying we’re too lazy to stand up for ourselves (sometimes, we won’t stand up for ourselves as readily as we would for someone else).

  • Perhaps we’ve been conditioned, via strict parenting or parochial school or some other means, to meet the expectations of others. The @$$h013 knows (or senses) this, and make its expectations clear so the rest of us know to meet them.

  • Sometimes, we’re just intimidated or shocked into inaction by the breathtaking effrontery of the @$$h013.

It’s not always enough to call the @$$h013 on its behavior; those who have been there know that brazening it out is often the best way to go. Oliver North is the perfect example — in my opinion, there’s someone who should have been tried for and convicted of treason (defined in the Constitution as “making war on the United States, or giving aid and comfort to its enemies”). He certainly gave aid & comfort to Iran, and at the time just about any American (in or out of government) would have defined Iran as an enemy. But he appeared before Congress, blamed them for all his wrongdoings, and walked away basically scot-free.

So if an @$$h013 jumps to the front of the line, and I (from a few places back) say something about it, the @$$h013 can simply ignore me. The only way I would be able to have any effect would be to walk up there and shove the @$$h013 out of line myself — becoming an @$$h013 myself, in a sense. But now I’m the bad guy, at least in the @$$h013’s eyes, because I escalated the situation into the physical realm. But the person who should have been next in line can confront the miscreant instead. That’s the person who has been directly wronged by the @$$h013’s behavior and thus can act from the high ground, so to speak.

Some Christians, and especially the neo-Pharisees that look so much like them, often natter about “taking a stand.” All too often, they end up being @$$h013s about whatever “stand” they take, forgetting the compassion without which there is nothing Christian about it (or them). But if we want a more polite society, we have to take a stand to enforce good manners, unfortunately. Mrs. Fetched, one day, saw someone park in a handicapped spot, hop out of his car, and walk toward the store. She yelled at him, “You must be mentally handicapped!” and he actually turned around and moved his car. We have often applauded cops writing tickets to people illegally parked in handicapped spots — I mean, Judas Priest, we could all use a little more exercise. One of my favorite TV news spots was one I saw while on vacation at Mom’s: the Tampa station covered a deputized wheelchair patrol, who were writing tickets to people parking in mall handicapped spots who didn’t need them. It was amusing to see the miscreants whining about how unfair it was, there were plenty of other spots, why did they have to get singled out, boo freeking hoo.

But that’s the modus operandi of the @$$h013 — nothing is their fault, they always have a good reason to believe their immediate need is more important than everyone else’s. In brief, they’ll try to project their @$$h013ry onto anyone who confronts them if we let them. I will close this with a great story that circulated in email a long time ago:
A man pushed his way to the front of a long line at an airport ticket counter, demanding that he get his boarding pass right away. “Sir,” the attendant told him, “you’ll have to wait in line with everyone else.”

“But this is important!” the line-cutter protested.

“I understand that,” the attendant replied, “but all these people have to be served, and their needs are important too. Please get in line and we’ll take care of you.”

The line-cutter flushed. “Do you know who I am!?” he barked.

The attendant picked up the pager microphone and told the entire airport, “Attention, please. We have a passenger here who does not know who he is! If anyone can identify him, please come to the XXX ticket counter.” That was enough to embarrass the @$$h013, who slunk to the back of the line, while the rest of the passengers clapped and cheered the attendant.

Friday, July 07, 2006 No comments

Cool Program – Journler

I stumbled across Journler in a MacDevCenter post today, and it took about 10 minutes to get me hooked — at last, I can write posts offline and send them directly to Blogger when I’m ready. I really need to send Phil a check.

I do have a couple of nits that I hope he’ll fix:
  • import of an existing blog (with comments?)

  • blockquote style

  • Blogger titles; option to save as draft

  • smart quotes

I have a feeling I’ll be spending a lot of time inside this application.

How much is enough?

A recent post from The Homeless Guy prompted me to think about this while I was in front of my blog for a change. He wrote, “I think I've finally learned to be content with whatever I have, or don't have. Thats a big step for me, as I think it would be for any homeless person.” HG, that’s a big step for anyone. In my book, you’re ahead of 99% of the population, homeless or no.

That kind of contentment is not only hard to gain, I can testify to how easily it can be lost —and not always by your own doing. Before FAR Manor, we lived in a double-wide about a half mile from here (the rental property I’ve mentioned from time to time). Sure, it wasn’t a huge place, but we added onto it and the total climate-controlled area was nearly 1800 square feet. Yes, it was cluttered. Yes, it was a little cramped in the kids’ rooms. But the arfing thing was totally paid off, it was secluded to an extent that most people east of the Mississippi can’t even fathom (1/4 mile to the nearest neighbor), and we were barely keeping up with the bills we had at the time. To say I was content there may have been a stretch — the chicken houses and the in-laws were constant irritations then as now — but I was content to live there. Mrs. Fetched would complain that we needed a bigger house, and I would point out (rightly so, IMO) that we didn’t need more house, we needed less stuff. The Boy and I put up a nice deck out back that I could get to from the bedroom; I would take my coffee out there in the morning, and sit out there on pleasant evenings and irritate the squirrels by imitating their territorial calls.

But I digress. It seems like most people have a broken “enough” switch — look at Bill Gates; he has more money than... probably any random million people or so, but it’s only recently that he’s been able to stop. The one thing I would have wanted to say to him if I ever met him: how much is enough? Even Mrs. Fetched would have a hard time spending $30 billion — I believe she could do it, but it would take her a lot of effort.

Maybe somebody was able to ask him that question, and he listened. I think most of us would be better off if we considered that question, and came up with our own answer.

Programmers. Argh (2.0)

Seagull: someone who makes a lot of noise, craps all over everything, then flies away.

It’s been a while since the last one of these, before I started Tales from FAR Manor in fact.

One of my recurring work projects is a four-volume set of software firmware documentation — one volume each for features, provisioning (i.e. installation and configuration), management, and troubleshooting. These are the “wonk” documents, as opposed to the consumer documents. I depend pretty heavily on the developers (i.e. programmers) to get me the information that I need to put into these documents, and their usual modus operandi is to wait until the last minute and drop a ton of changes on me.

On occasion, some of the things they want just, as Mrs. Fetched says, “get all over me.” In Programmers. Argh. 1.0, it was a request to add text to the manual, verbatim, that contained a howling grammatical error. This one is a bit more complicated, and started a couple of months ago with this request:
We *really* need section numbers in the documentation. I am asked *all the time* to explain how certain features work. I would like to just reference the correct guide and section number for the answer. With the way the document is structured, I have to go into the document and find a *string* to reference that can be searched on to find the information.

Now you have to remember that this is a programmer manager asking for section numbers. I haven’t used section numbers in customer documentation in nearly 20 years, and 98% of what I’ve done was for technically-oriented audiences. Not to mention that section numbers really wouldn’t solve his problem: the manual needs a better index, and he can use page numbers to refer them to the right place. I need to do a better job of indexing, I’ll be the first to admit, but the thing that bothers me is that they didn’t even think to include me in the discussion, or even forward any kind of post-mortem to me. I like getting comments about my work, so I can make it better (and if you, yes you, are wondering whether I want comments on my blog, the answer is yes).

Now it was my turn to make a mistake: I quickly wrote a response, saying pretty much what I just wrote, and Notes (once again) came up b0rk3n. I saved the reply in my Drafts folder and promptly forgot about it until it came up again.

Fast-forward to last week. Here come the comments, courtesy of the guy who pulled 1.0 on me, and guess what was at the top of the list? I started looking for the original request and found the response in Drafts. Cursing Notes and the IT department that forces us to use it, I updated the reply and sent it off. The bit-munchers were copying everything to my new boss, which only irked me more — not only do I suspect them of deliberately waiting to drop all their comments at the last minute so I’ll be the one late and officially holding up the release (giving them more time to fix their problems), they are trying to make me look bad to my boss. I sent him the general history of the project, including the stuff that has gone on before, and suggested he contact previous managers for confirmation.

He dug in, I dug in. You can’t out-flame a writer, and he probably knew that: all he had to do was stonewall until it was time for him to leave on two weeks vacation. But he may come back to find the company short one tech writer. One of my co-workers helped to diffuse the situation somewhat, arranging (and refereeing) a meeting between me and this guy’s manager (who kicked off this particular request). We compromised: I agreed to put chapter numbers and titles in the headers, especially since I’d planned to do it in the first place, and he agreed to start copying me on customer squawks that involved documentation. But I’m still pretty cheesed about the whole thing.

Time to find my resume and start emailing, I guess.

Thursday, July 06, 2006 2 comments

There's a sign...

... on the road ahead... and it says: “JOB BURNOUT - KEEP GOING.”

The question is: where do I turn off?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006 No comments


A while back, I wrote that Ken Lay (and Jeff Skilling) would stay out of jail because Bush-league would write them pardons on his way out the door. As it turned out, I was half-right — Ken Lay will never spend a day in jail — but I got the reason wrong.

That’s really too bad, and I truly do feel bad for Mrs. Lay. I’d hoped that Ken Lay would live for a long time... behind bars, of course. Skilling may have been just as involved, but he was lesser known and he might slip by with a pardon, if Bush-league remembers to give him one.

But this pretty much ends the Tale of Enron. Skilling’s appeal and eventual sentencing (and possible pardon) really only rates an afterword or appendix.

Monday, July 03, 2006 2 comments

Future boom regions

I'm no sociologist, but that’s never stopped me from pontificating.

In a world of change, one constant is that there is always a boom region — a place where people move en masse for whatever reason is in vogue at the moment. California comes to mind: the 1849 gold rush, the Dust Bowl migrations during the Great Depression, and the dot-boom of the late 1990s (that became the dot-bomb of 2001) are probably three of the better-known examples. Southerners moved to Detroit and other midwestern locales through the 1940s and 1950s to work in the auto factories, and midwesterners returned the favor during the Sun Belt migration of the 1970s and 1980s. And until last year, it seemed like everyone was moving to Florida — although now many Floridians no longer think the warm winters are compensation enough for a summer of hurricanes, and are moving to high ground (often around here).

Predicting where and when the next booms will happen is a guessing game, but I see trends pointing to two places in particular during the next 25 years:

Michigan (and the entire Great Lakes region)
One word: water. Many southwestern (and even southeastern) boom areas are straining to get enough water for drinking, irrigation, and industry. Eventually, they’ll need water more than warm weather — and what with global warming, Michigan’s winters are getting milder (I remember when snow cover all winter was normal, now it comes and goes). Naturally, the dry states will resist the trend, expecting the Great Lakes region to just give them water. In fact, their first attempt went down in flames some years ago. There will be a nasty political fight over water sooner or later, but many people will give up waiting and move their homes and businesses to a place where water supplies are reliable.

An excellent infrastructure coupled with a declining population makes Europe another likely destination, although there are some factors that may limit or kill the boom a-borning: lingering tribalism (the EU notwithstanding) and a little too much government for some peoples’ tastes are the two major ones. But with fewer Europeans, property values will begin declining and businesses (and governments) will start offering incentives for skilled foreigners to immigrate, and many people (especially liberal and moderate Americans, fed up with their own government) will take the plunge.

Of course, I could be totally wrong — things can change overnight and the next boom could be in Thailand or Namibia, for all I know. You, dear readers, might have your own ideas about future boom regions — leave a comment or a link if you’re inclined.

Sunday, July 02, 2006 1 comment

Argh! My eyes!

Yesterday, I came in from doing something or other, and walked down the hall toward my bedroom. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement as I passed M.A.E.’s room, and made the mistake of looking. There she was, in her underwear, putting something on. Good thing she was sideways to me, because she wears thong bottoms. Yeesh.

I went eyes forward as quickly as possible and continued down the hall, hearing her door slam behind me. I’m still trying to decide whether I should scrub my eyeballs with iodine or bleach.

Saturday, July 01, 2006 2 comments

Uncle John

Family Man posts a lot of great stories; today’s was about The Hay Field. It reminded me of a story about Uncle John, a colorful character who is the genesis of many family stories. Uncle John was the oldest of my dad’s brothers, has been a farmer all his life, and... shall we say, has a bit of a temper. I actually saw him go toe-to-toe with an uncooperative horse once, and the horse decided to cooperate.

But Family Man wrote about his experiences in a hay field, so the first story is one my dad told me about a hay field. He and Uncle John were getting ready to bale some hay — it was cut and dry and ready to go. So just as they started, it started to rain (and as Family Man said, that’s not good news). So Uncle John raised his face and his fist to the sky and started cussing the rain — and it stopped. He cussed it right back into the sky.

In his later years, he developed diabetes and lost circulation in his legs. They amputated one leg, and then the other some time later. So he’s laying in the hospital bed after the second amputation and a male nurse came in to get some information. He asked about name, address, date of birth, then said, “How tall are you?”

“I don’t know,” Uncle John replied. “The doctor didn’t tell me how much he cut off.” The nurse got so flustered he walked out. He gets around pretty well with prosthetics and a walker — he needs a little help getting on and off his tractor, but he’s fine once he’s in the seat.

His farm is 105 acres in southwest Michigan, in an area that’s turned into a bedroom community for several of the nearby cities, and the subdivisions have grown up all around him. He just keeps on doing his thing. Every once in a while, developers come by and ask him if he’s willing to sell his place; his response usually boils down to, “Get your @!&$##& #$!@!! the $&#@&! off my property!”

Old farmers can be among the most stubborn folks on God’s green earth.


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