Monday, July 26, 2010

In which I bid a fond adieu to vacation

Today was the end of my first vacation in WAY too long.

It was a good vacation.  There was much mirth and merriment.  Friends and family were seen.  Places were traveled to and seen. Tickets were purchased. Pictures taken and souvenirs bought.

I miss vacation.  I must do that again sometime.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Awkward moments

It's been a long time since I last had a vacation.

My last vacation was in October of 2008.  Yes, that particular "vacation" lasted until January, 2009, but I only got paid for a very small part of it.

I have vacation coming up next week, and I can't tell you how much I'm looking for it.  I'm looking forward to it a lot.  Okay, that was a lot easier than I thought it would be.  We've got family visiting, we'll be doing a little traveling, doing some visiting of our own, and generally doing our best impression of people trying to relax but not really succeeding.

I can't wait to come back on the Monday and saying "oh, man, I need another day just to recover".

But this blog post isn't about that.  It's about what happened to me on the weekend.

We went to our company picnic on Saturday.  It was a hot, bright, sunshine filled day and we were really looking forward to finding out what kind of shindig the company put together for us.

I walked up to the first available person at the check in table and gave the woman working there my last name.  She seemed very happy to help me, which I took to mean that she was serious about her customer service skills.  In retrospect, it was probably something else.

She gave me our tickets and told us where everything was and I thanked her.  As I was turning to walk away, she held up her hand: "Just a second!"  She looked like she was about to give us some kind of legal disclaimer.  She took a deep breath and, with a great big smile, said...
I was confused.  She looked like my cat after dropping a dead bird at my feet.  I stared.  She continued to smile.
"It's the only word I know!"
I stared a little longer.  Then I said the only thing I could think of.
"I'm...not Japanese."
Then we walked away.

She had the best of intentions, I'm sure she was trying to respect my diversity.  But what she was really saying was "You look different, and you have an Asian name, so I'm going to speak some ASIAN."  It was truly the most awkward racial moment I've had at work in recent memory.

Afterward, I realized I should have responded:
"Buenos dias!"
 Because, you know, she looked European.

Monday, July 12, 2010


I have a really nice monitor.

It was kind of a gift from one of my best friends - I mean, I paid for it but he did all the work.  No, wait, I think he paid and then I paid him back later.  The year was 2006.  Or maybe 2007.  No, wait, I'm sure it was 2006.  Anyway, it was a few years ago, back when I was working for another company in a role that brought me equal parts grief and money.  Let me put this in perspective: when this happened, I could go to the movies with my wife AND get popcorn AND a drink for just $32.50.

I, of course, was having what you could call an incredibly bad day at work.  Not like my normal regular bad days at work, but one of those epic ones where you sit there and wonder how the world got so stupid as to put you in a situation where everyone seems to be actively trying to make things worse.  A real "hey, we ran out of diesel to run the back up generator, so we just poured gasoline that we siphoned out of the cars in the parking lot. Also, we hired blind schoolchildren to do the siphoning. Well, they weren't blind before, it was mostly after they got gas in their eyes, but they're young enough to learn a trade like panhandling" kind of day.

That's when my awesome friend came to my spiritual rescue.

In a move that has gone down in history as one of the most awesome moves ever, my buddy found a website that was having a sale on 22" LCD's for $300.  I know, that doesn't sound like such a great deal now, but trust me, it was.  This was back in the day when 22" LCD's would be going for $400+.  Plasma TV's were going for $3000.  It was a crazy time.  So finding a deal like this was just... stupid.

The following is a re-enactment of what that scene probably looked like.
HIM: Dude, look what I found.
ME:  That's crazy. Nobody sells 22" LCD's for that price.
HIM: It's happening.  You are getting one of these.
ME: I can't.
HIM: You need this monitor.
ME: I need this monitor.
HIM: Damn right Skippy.  The sale starts at noon, so you need to sign in and be ready to hit submit.
ME: I can't do it.  I am in meetings all morning with crazy people.
HIM: You are getting this monitor.  I am getting you this monitor.

True to his word, he knocked on my door later and gave me the good news.  He'd waited all morning, doing nothing but making sure that the network was clear, that his browser was refreshed and that the order details were ready.

Doesn't end there.

I have to go on a business trip.  When I get back, not only has the monitor arrived, but he came over and set it up for me.  I walked in and there was a brand new awesome monitor sitting on the desk, ready to go.  Yeah, normally, we always put that stuff together on our own, but it was frigging awesome to just see it there.  Made my day.

And really, every day since.  Because when I sit at my computer, at some point I always sit back and go "damn, that's a nice monitor".  I really, really love my monitor.

And that's why I am so very sad right now.

I was watching TV and caught a flash of light out of the corner of my eye.  I looked over, and the monitor was on a black screen.  Nothing odd there, I thought.  It's just running the screen saver.  Then I caught another flash about 10 seconds later.  Strange, I thought, the screen saver isn't on.  I went over to the computer and touched the mouse to get back to the desktop.  Time to see what's going on with my screen saver.

Giant. White. Screen.

The entire screen went totally white and totally unresponsive.  I couldn't even get the menu buttons on the monitor to do anything.

It's almost worse than when I was suffering complete and utter computer failure earlier this year (which turned out to be cat related).  Okay, maybe not that bad.  I at least have all my files.  I've got the wife's monitor hooked up to it right now, and I need to put this in perspective.

I ran programs in windows that were larger than this monitor.

If I turned this monitor on its side, it would not be as tall as my old monitor.

For Pete's sake, I'm running in 1024 x 768.

You may not understand my pain, so I'm just going to put that in bold.

1024 x 768 
I just looked at this post in preview and my blog is wider than this monitor.

I feel like I'm going to throw up.

Anyway, it turns out that I may have blown capacitors.  According to everyone, blown capacitors are the new smoking handgun of technology.  I opened up my monitor, which I felt bad about but only until I got it open and saw how cool it was inside, and to be honest I can't really tell whether the capacitors are bad.  They look fine, but it turns out that everyone who has taken a picture of one of these tiny things has never used a camera before.  Imagine that you were taking a picture of your mother standing in front of, Stonehenge, and managed to somehow get every erect stone (heh heh) in such perfect focus it borders on 3D, but your mother is a blurry blob that only somewhat resembles a person but also resembles one of those whacky inflatable waving arm things. 

I'm going to call the shop in town that handles all the warranty work and see if they can help me out.  The monitor is way out of warranty, but I need to know if the cost to fix outweighs the cost to buy a brand new one... I mean, yeah, I love my monitor, but I'm not crazy.

Friday, July 9, 2010

What do The Twilight Zone and My First Job Have in Common?

Nothing, except I'm writing about both here.

At the place that I work, there is place that we lovingly refer to as "The Twilight Zone".  The inhabitants of this space are all ladies, with the exception of one poor guy.  Can you guess why we call it the Twilight Zone?

Quote from today: "It's hot like Jacob out there."  I can't make this stuff up.

It's a little creepy.

No, wait.  It's a lot creepy.

I refer you to the following.

It's true, you know.  The only place that guys can get away with this kind of behavior is Japan.  And man, you don't even want to know what that's all about.  Japan is one messed up kind of place.  I have a theory that all trends in pornography start in Japan.  I'm willing to bet that Rule 34 got started in Japan.  Just when you think you got a handle on what the kids are up to these days, Japan comes out with a new Playstation.  And something to do with squid.  Seriously, you don't want to know.

But getting back to Twilight.  What is up with that?  I tried reading the first book.  I watched the first movie.  My soul cried a little when I realized that an entire generation of people will grow up with this as their first exposure to vampires and werewolves.  I'm not against it or anything... Like Kevin Smith said, those young girls will grow up to be adult women at some point and they'll already be predisposed to geekdom by these books.  Still, I weep.

We had a short discussion today about what it would be like if we decided to start talking about Hannah Montana in the same way that the Twilight Zone talks about Twilight. Best comment: "I'm so over the Olsen Twins since they got old."

Aren't we all, though?  Aren't we all.

Anyway, none of this is in any way related to what I originally sat down to write about.  I wanted to talk about my first summer job.

I am not counting mowing lawns here, because while that was a job that I did in the summer, it was more of a chore that I got paid for.  It did teach me one thing, and that is that I will never be one for hard labor.  Fear of being in a prison work crew is what has kept me out of trouble.  That and my singing voice just isn't right for those songs you always hear them singing.

No, my first summer job was as a tour guide at a museum in St. Andrews, NB.  "Ooh! St. Andrews-by-the-Sea!" I hear you saying.  "That must have been lovely!"  Yeah, I was 18 and I'm from St. Stephen.  Everyone in St. Stephen knows that all St. Andrews is good for is keeping the tourist dollars coming through.  Plus, because I was still living in St. Stephen, I had to commute every morning to work.  That may also have done something to teach me a lesson about how much I hate commuting.

I also don't want to hear any "Oh, but all the girls..." speeches either.  Yes, there were lots of hot ladies there in the summer.  No, they did not come to the museum.  But when they did, you better believe I made sure I was right there to help them out in any way possible.  Both times it happened.

In my capacity as a tour guide, I got to walk people through the museum and answer any questions they may have. To accomplish this amazing feat, I was given a one or two page history that I had to memorize, and I got the walk through several times by my co-workers. 

It wasn't until my second week there that I realized that I was as much a security guard as I was a tour guide.  If there were people in the building, someone had to be with them.  We couldn't have them running around getting into who knows what kind of trouble.  Whether you wanted the tour or not did not in any way prevent me from being part of the scenery for the duration of your visit.  Either you were going to follow me, or I you.

It was not my favorite job that I've had in my life, but I do have fond memories.  I liked my co-workers, and being the only male employee had some benefits.  I got to strut my manly stuff whenever a box needed moving.  That further emphasized the lesson that I should find something not so...physical to do for a living.

Biggest lesson I learned: never work anywhere in the summer that doesn't have air conditioning. 

I don't really have any dirt to spill about my time there.  As it turns out, this story was not nearly as entertaining as I had anticipated it would be.  For a much funnier first job story, check out Melissa's blog I Smile at Stuff.  In retrospect, this whole post has just been one big commercial pushing you toward her blog.  So, go on then.  There clearly isn't anything very funny going on here right now.

Maybe we'll mess with the Twilight Zone tomorrow and I'll post how it goes.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Knight and Day: A Review

We were sitting around the house on Sunday evening wondering what to do with ourselves after an early supper.  By early supper, I mean that we had cooked, eaten and cleaned up before 5.  It turns out that the older we get, the older we get.  There were a number of theoretical activities proposed, but the winner was the one that had air conditioning and popcorn in generous portions.

I'm sure you've all played the next game more than once with your significant other.
  • The movie has to be interesting to us both - scratch Jonah Hex
  • It has to be one that we feel will not lower our otherwise low standards further - scratch Killers
  • It has to be one that we feel should have a true big screen experience - scratch Get Him to the Greek and Grown Ups
  • It has to be an early show because one of us has to work the next day - scratch Toy Story 3, The A-Team, and The Karate Kid
  • It has to be a "passes accepted" movie so we don't end up having to take out that second mortgage - Knight and Day it is
  • (Note, no "vampire" movies were ever in consideration during the making of this list.)
It's a pretty good movie.  There's lots of action, some fairly funny bits, and there's even a few twists that I wasn't expecting.  I know that a lot of people are saying favorable things about the fact that it's old school Tom Cruise in this movie and not that crazy dude.  I hate to be that guy that just goes along with it, but it's true.  He's a totally charming guy.  It made me nostalgic to see Risky Business and A Few Good Men.

There were only two things in the movie that made me groan.

First:  After a long day/week of being chased, kidnapped and shot at, you would think that Cameron Diaz would learn the lesson of doing whatever the hell Tom Cruise tells you to do.  If she doesn't stop when he says stop, she gets shot at.  I'm not disparaging anyone here, I'm just saying that my three year old niece learns lessons faster than Cameron Diaz.  Yes, there's a lot going on with all the shooting and running, so maybe her mind was on other things.

Then there's this one scene where nothing is going on and he says "stay here" and she doesn't bloody stay here.  We looked at each other in the dark of the theatre and said "really?"  It was a pretty trivial point, and it could have been done a half dozen different ways, and in the end it didn't really amount to much, but you'll know the scene when you get to it.  And I bet you'll think the same thing.

Second:  Tom Cruise's character is named Roy Miller.  SPOILER ALERT: that's not his real name.  Not really a spoiler, he's a frigging spy.  If you thought he was going to use his real name, then you are a dummy.  Yes, I wrote dummy.  Because I haven't written it in a long time but I've used it twice today already and it feels kind of good.  Try it.  So Roy's real name is Something Knight.  Yep, his real last name is Knight, hence the Knight of Knight and Day.

Cameron Diaz's character, as you probably guessed, is June Havens.  June Havens.  And that's why it's called Knight and Havens. 

You know me. You know that's the kind of thing I'll get hung up on at a movie.  Guess what her sister's name is.  April.  But it's not called Knight and Months, because that would be a dumb name, dummy.


Good flick.  Try not to get caught up in the end, which doesn't make a lot of sense, but let it slide and you'll feel better about the whole thing.  Kind of like when you get cut really badly and you're bleeding everywhere and everyone is excited and then later when you get the stitches and the bandage taken off and all there is is a tiny scar that totally isn't representative of the gigantic wound you suffered earlier but you at least have that great story to tell.

Yeah, just like that.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The sad truth about the impending zombie apocalypse

I like zombies.  Not in the same way that some people are enjoying the current incarnation of vampires - there's not much, but I do have some self respect.

I've always enjoyed a good zombie movie, and I've tolerated more than my fair share of bad ones.  I've read The Walking Dead and World War Z.  Like many of my fellow geeks out there, I like to believe that I would recognize the signs of an impending zombie apocalypse and that I'd be ready to do what needs to be done.

But it's time to face facts.

I am not in great physical condition.  Mentally, I'm all over it.  But if I need to run for extended periods of time (say, further than from my front door to the ice cream truck), I get winded.  Additionally, there will be a need to be able to carry a lot of supplies and equipment.  I'm not obese, but I am overweight and none of it is muscle.  Before I have to deal with any zombies knocking on my walls, I'll need to get a good exercise program started. 

There's also the whole "I'm nearly blind" thing.  I'd need to buy a bunch of pairs of back up glasses just in case.  My contacts are great and all, but anyone who wears contacts knows that you can't depend on them all the time.  Eventually, one will fall out, or you'll run out of solution, or one will rip... No, I'll need back up glasses.  And they're expensive. Since my benefits only cover new glasses every 24 months, I'll need to hold on for a while.

But those are things that I can overcome.  I can get healthier.  I can buy extra glasses.  The things I can't do?

My food rules  
I don't eat any meat that came from an animal that has more or fewer limbs than I do.  I also don't eat anything "yucky". I am nowhere near as picky an eater as I used to be, but I still don't like anything that I consider icky.  And that's usually anything that's put in front of me that I don't immediately recognize.  I am getting better, but I just can't eat seafood.  Or bugs.  Gak.

It's okay though, because eating will only make me have to use the -

I need a private facility.  With running water.  And that is clean.  Outhouses are none of these things, no matter how much you tell me they are.  It makes me queasy thinking about it. Not Monk level queasy, but up there.

If I could make my own fortress, I'd build a private bathroom for myself.  But I can't, because you see I -

Lack practical skills
I am not a practical man.  I am not a carpenter or a soldier or a mechanic or a hunter or a farmer or an electrician or plumber or doctor or nurse or policeman or inventor or cowboy or construction worker or architect or athlete or a scientist or a chemist or a pharmacist or anything that might have some practical application in a world overrun by the dead.

If you need a formula for a spreadsheet, I may be your man. I could help you with some TV show plots, and I'm pretty good at movie trivia. I've got a bad feeling that my role in a zombie apocalypse would be as "dead weight", "bait" or "expendable".  This will only lead to shouting and that's a problem because of my -

I've got a bit of an attitude issue.  Hard to believe, right?  But when someone tells me to do something and I don't think it needs to be done, well... I'm probably going to get yelled at.  When you're being overrun by a horde of the living dead, you don't want someone questioning why you need more ammo.  Why would I assume I'd only be carrying ammo?  Because I've -

Never used a weapon
I picked up a bow and arrow in high school. I kind of messed around with a broom handle as a bow after watching Robin Hood when I was six.  I think I picked up a fencing foil back in university on a dare.  I held an old tommy gun that had been converted into a prop.  But I've never used a weapon.  I've never fired a gun.  I'm sure that most of the weapons that people will be using will be improvised anyway; a headshot will down a zombie, but it the noise it makes just attracts more.

Oh!  I did once pick up a hatchet.  And I hit myself in the face with it.  True story.  Didn't do any damage, just had  a weird kind of line across my face from it.  Just proves that I can't even whack someone in the face properly because I've -

Never been in a fight
Ever.  Fights with siblings not withstanding, I've never been in a fight.  I've never thrown a punch, I've never had to risk anything, I've never felt that my personal safety was in jeopardy let alone my life.  That's a bit of a wild card situation that should be fixed before I'm toe to toe with a shambler.  I'd do it, but I'm also-

A bit of a coward
I'm calling this out as a separate item from never being in a fight.  I could probably resolve that by getting into a fight.  But I know that I don't want to.  If I ever did get confronted by someone who wanted to fight me, I'd back down.  The best I could do would be run away, and as I stated above I can't do that very fast or very far.

In summary
The role that I'll probably serve in the zombie apocalypse will be that guy that shouts "Zombies!" while being devoured.  The best I can hope for is to avoid standing in front of any recently barricaded doors or windows and saying something like "there's no way they'll get through THAT!"