Archive for July, 2011

Beige People

Friday, July 29th, 2011

I had the recent misfortune of needing to interview some job candidates where I work. The misfortune aspect of it comes in for several reasons, some of them are: I don’t really enjoy talking to people I don’t know. I don’t like having to pass judgement on other people, especially on such flimsy evidence as a job interview provides. And even, I don’t like feeling responsible for someone not getting a job that they need or want, whether it’s because I didn’t vote for them, I didn’t lobby for them strongly enough, or I just liked someone else better.

Let me just say a little more about the first reason I gave… Sometimes, of course, I do enjoy talking to people I don’t know; it’s just most of the time that I don’t. Mostly it’s due to my own insecurity. I’m afraid I’ll be wasting the other person’s time, either by not being useful enough or not being entertaining enough or just not having anything to say that meets their needs, whatever those needs may be. I try to tailor my banter to my audience, yet with someone I don’t know I don’t know how to do so. Probably I do this tailoring due to some inner need to be liked. I want to be funny, I want to be insightful, and I want to be informative; that’s why I write this blog. But I’m never sure I’m any of those things, or when I am sure, I’m never really sure that anyone else will also perceive it. After all, the line between “funny, insightful, and informative,” and “annoying, stupid, and obvious” is often wide enough to completely cover both sides of whatever it was I just said.

But enough about my insecurities and back to the subjects of my interviews.

Kind of thankfully, but mostly not, even in this downturned economy, we didn’t have a lot of applicants. (Or at least not a lot that made it through to me from HR.) The “kind of thankfully” part is just that at least I only had a few interviews to do, not dozens. A couple of applicants stood out to me though, not so much for what they said but for what they wouldn’t say. I asked God about it and she told me that they were just trying to follow the advice of real estate agents all over the country who encourage people to paint all their walls beige. She said what they were trying to do was to not offend, to not give me a reason to reject them. What they did do was go out of their way to not have strong opinions on anything, to not express dislike for something, perhaps in fear of dissing something that I like, but also to not express a particular liking for anything. When I’d ask questions like “what are the strengths and weaknesses of different scripting languages?” they’d answer something like “different languages can be good for different things, some of them are a better fit for certain kinds of problems than others.” Well, yeah, that was kind of the point of my question. I’m trying to find out if they can see how to map problems to the different available tools, and when they do if they can justify their choices. I’m not trying to find out if they like the same ones I do, although I’m not against finding that out.

So what it really came down to, is that while they weren’t giving me specific things to dislike about them (other than general wishy-washiness) they also weren’t giving me anything that I could like about them. They didn’t seem to understand that if they were a good fit for the job that they needed to show it, and if they were a bad fit than it would be better for everyone involved, including them, for us to figure that out.

So sure, when you’re selling something, be it yourself or your house, you should maybe avoid covering it in swastikas, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show a little color. By being too bland you may avoid offending anyone, but you also won’t inspire passion in anyone. And we all want to feel a little passion.

It’s All Happening

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Too much good stuff. You’ve probably never seen the movie “Brainstorm,” so let me tell you about a bit in it. The premise of the movie is that some scientists develop a way to record the actual experience that someone has in their brain when they, well, experience something. As with all new technologies, someone immediately decides to harness this for pornography and proceeds to record himself having sex. One of the guys on the project then gets ahold of the recording, goes off into a room by himself and splices just the orgasm into a loop. Which he plays. When they find him the next morning and pull the playback headset off of him, he just lays there and twitches. Even days later he has a tendency to blank out, twitch a little, and grin.

That may be the ultimate example of “too much” good stuff.

This week I find myself almost ready to just lay down and twitch a little.

There’s a new operating system (Lion) for my Mac. Spotify, a music streaming service that is highly regarded in Europe, just came out here in the U.S. but I’m not getting to spend much time with it because my music exploration is being taken up by Apple’s iTunes Festival on my iPad. My RSS feeds are overflowing which is making it hard to find time to keep reading the novel I’m in the middle of. I got out to theaters to catch the final movie in the Harry Potter series, which was better than I’d hoped and nearly as good as I’d’ve liked. And I’m trying to find time in my schedule to see the Billy Elliot stage musical while it’s here. All while I’ve just given up three weekends to a film festival and a science fiction convention. There’s more but those are the highlights.

It’s times like this when I really envy God. He actually does have all the time in the world to enjoy things. He actually can listen to or watch everything that is worthwhile. Me, I barely have time for whatever’s shiniest at the moment, and right now, I’m feeling a little dazzled.

The Quickening

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Like most people, I have a lot of faults. One of mine is loyalty. It takes a lot to lose me as a customer once I’ve determined that you have a good brand that meets my needs and has an acceptable value proposition. All the pants I own are Levi’s, despite a considerable amount of bad sewing that I’ve encountered the last several years. I’m still willing to buy Sony, though only after seriously evaluating each purchase against their competitors, since they’ve mostly behaved themselves since that whole root-kit debacle a few years ago. And I stuck with Apple through even their leanest years, and despite their appalling level of control freakism.

But Intuit… They’ve finally pushed me away. I’ve been using Quicken almost since it first appeared on the Mac. I loyally upgraded to every other version, whether it had any new features I cared about or not. But their last new version was in 2007, and because of my “every other” rule, I’m still on Quicken 2006. But that alone is not what finally chased me off. They’ve just announced that Quicken won’t run on the new version of Mac OS X that’s about to be released. The reason why is because all of Quicken’s versions still require PowerPC emulation to run. In the five years that Apple has been shipping Intel machines (after pre-announcing the move by a year or so) Intuit has not been able to produce a new version of what is little more than a glorified general ledger. They’ve put out a similar product, with the dubious moniker of “essentials” but it doesn’t include certain features that I and most other users actually do consider essential.

Even incompetence on the scale of Microsoft can’t explain this. Clearly they decided that the Mac was not worth supporting and have managed to get by on platitudes and promises while Apple has made a stunning comeback that has none-the-less not managed to capture Intuit’s attention. It was just announced this week that Macs have climbed back up to more than ten percent of current PC sales, but apparently that’s not enough.

When I told God that I was finally abandoning Intuit he wasn’t willing to recommend any replacements, but he did tell me it was about time.

Love is Hate

Friday, July 8th, 2011

I have a love/hate relationship with my fellow humans. I took notice of that anew this week after God pointed out to me that I have a lot of things in my kitchen of which there’s just a little bit left. Enough amaretto to fill half a glass. A scant handful of chocolate covered almonds. One last can of tomato soup.

Sure, things have to get down to being almost out before they can get down to being actually out, but that’s not what God was pointing out. What she forced me to admit is that I’ll often go like gangbusters through the first ninety percent of something and then that last ten percent will sit around for a very long time. On a lot of stuff I get around this by buying more of it, before it gets down to that last ten percent. That way I can keep going like gangbusters until I get tired of whatever it is.

Where does my love/hate relationship with humanity come into this? It’s simple, I just don’t trust that when I get to the store, whatever it is that I want will be there. Sometimes it’s that I’m afraid that I’ll end up really wanting something that I ran out of before I get a chance to go to the store and get more, but more often it’s that I just don’t trust the store to keep carrying it, or the manufacturer to keep making it. I mean, there’s only been one shampoo in my life that worked really well with my hair. I used that shampoo for years. I occasionally tried others but none of them left my hair as nice as the one I liked.

Then I went to the store and they were out of it. It’s been more than twenty years now and they’re still out of it. I know that means it’s not made anymore, but somewhere in the back of my head I keep thinking that if I keep thinking they’re just out of it, that maybe someday they’ll get it back in. But they won’t.

And somewhere in the back of my head, I think I’m convinced that everything I like will go that way. The store will be out of it and they’ll be out of it forever. Which makes that last can of soup kind of precious. At the same time it’s too precious to actually eat, but only precious because it’s something good to eat. This is the kind of cognitive dissonance that I try not to spend too much time thinking about, but when I do… Well I end up thinking that I love the things that modern society makes available to us, but I also end up thinking that I hate that nothing lasts forever.

Naked Follicles

Friday, July 1st, 2011

So my last post talked about how time seems to speed up as we get older. The older we get the more we find ourselves asking, “Where did all the time go?” But that’s not the only thing that goes. For me, one of the main things that’s going is my hair. But the hair doesn’t just go all on it’s own; before the follicles go their color goes.

Actually, when I think about it, that’s kind of backwards. Sure my hair is going grey, but it’s not the parts that have gone grey that are going away. My hair first started going grey when I was twenty-six. Okay, God is reading over my shoulder as I write this and he complains that that’s not strictly accurate. What happened at twenty-six is that the hair at my temples went grey. Nothing else lost its color until sometime in my early forties. And before God starts splitting hairs over my claims of color, let me just say that my hair has never been on the dark side, so while the parts that have changed are technically grey, they’re close enough to white that you could call them that as well.

But anyway, I was saying that the notion that the color goes and then the hair goes is kind of backwards. What seems to actually be happening is a two-pronged attack; part of the hair turns grey, and other parts of the hair fall out. And actually, if you want to get technical, all of the hair falls out, it’s just that in going bald, not all of it then grows back in. And again, “but,” but what I actually wanted to talk about now is not the going bald part but the going grey part. In my case, the grey at the temples has spread somewhat, but this just means that all of the temples are grey rather than merely the dashing streak that I had in my twenties. As to what else of the hair on top is going grey, pretty much nothing. My beard, on the other hand, is now nearly completely white.

And that just seems wrong. Going grey is a sign of growing old, but it’s my youngest hair that is losing its color. I pestered God about this and he gave me the kind of story that you’d expect out of a con man. He told me that since men only have beards for at most about four fifths of our life, that that means that the beard’s lifetime is shorter than our lifetimes. So that means that every year that goes by for me is like a year and a quarter going by for my beard. It’s sort of like dog years but not as extreme. Anyway, this means that relatively speaking, by the time I reached a certain age, my beard was older than me, and so it going grey first was actually the expected thing. Even though it makes a certain amount of sense, I still think God is probably just pulling my leg on this one. What I need to do is to start looking at pictures of older men naked. If the theory is true, I should see that first the beards go grey, then, in even older men, the underarms and groin, then finally the hair on top. I can’t wait to get started. Now I not only get to look at porn but I get to say that I’m doing it for God. Not bad. Not bad at all.