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Archive of August, 2003

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[Permalink 2003-08-29] The Last Entry About Brady

August 29, 2003:

First, some randomness.

Odd... while I was on my way to Palomino's to join some co-workers and vendors for dinner (woo-hoo -- free meal!) I ran into John as he was leaving for the day. He seemed rather amiable. That seemed strange, given that I'd heard through the grapevine that the cut-it-the-hell-out letter I got last summer was the result of him seeing my please-hire-me site and going ballistic. The "active snubbing" Rob received at PPG Place a while ago added to that feeling.

Maybe he decided that it'd be tough to "ignore" me when we were passing within two feet of each other and were the only two people around. Or maybe he just decided to bury the hatchet. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt here (ain't I just so naive?), so I'm going to say that after almost a year and a half he decided there were no hard feelings. Can't say that's not a good idea. Definitely the healthiest one physiologically and mentally.

Met up by accident with some former co-workers the next week at the PPG Plaza food court. They're all doing OK, still there. Never really hung out with them as much as some others (one's an account manager, the other two are production), so they didn't get counted in my last entry about Brady. Just sat around and shot the breeze for a few minutes before I headed back. For some reason that made me feel better about the place. Not sure why, since my coworkers were never a problem.

And now for the stuff I planned to write.

I got my job at Brady in September of '99. A friend and fraternity brother, Mike, got me the interview. I found out a little while later that I got the job; I may have been the only person they interviewed for all I know. Anyway, I started on my first "real" job (the stuff I did at CMU doesn't really count) and everything seemed to be going fine.

Well, except for the fact that I was 23 and still an immature little shit. But if you've seen much of the archives, that isn't news. And I haven't exactly changed much.

Anyway, as time went on I noticed a few things that didn't quite sit right with me. For starters, John (the head honcho) seemed to be a big fan of buzzwords. He went so far as to use the phrase "grow the business," which is one of my pet peeves. Some of the people played Buzzword Bingo in his meetings. I knew I'd laugh and get busted; I stayed out of that mess.

Now, this may very well have been how John drummed up business. But in my experience, using jargon and buzzwords indicates one of two things: (a) I have no idea what I'm talking about and hope to befuddle you to avoid questions, or (b) I don't want to take the time to communicate clearly. So you can see where I'm not a big fan of that style.

I also noticed that the only people I ever saw getting reamed frequently were in production. Designers and project managers caught it every once in a while, but production seemed to bear the brunt of John's temper. That struck me as odd: The production person (and the programmer, who has the same role in the not-print parts of the business) can really only work with what they're given. Designs always seemed to go to production and programming later than expected (usually the clients' fault, the designers were good about maintaining a schedule) but there would be no deadline change for production; if they had to work 12-hour days to make up for someone else's delay, so be it.

Finally, there was the work load. John had been in business for about 20 years when I got there, and he'd gotten print stuff down pretty well. People doing print stuff were always busy. But he'd only been doing interactive stuff for a couple years, and I was (I think) only the third person hired specifically for interactive work.

What that basically means is that we'd go for pretty long periods of time without any projects to work on -- there were some weeks where my only billable hours were 15 minutes for a Web update that took me less than 60 seconds. Going by billing time, that's 3.3% productivity. If you factor in actual work, it's more like 0.2%.

But when projects did hit, they tended to come in bunches. We were fortunate that we didn't have to work loads of overtime like production, but there was still some. I always thought it was avoidable; to go from 3% productivity to 133% (10 hours a day out of 7.5) in the course of a week just seemed like bad project management.

And like I said, I pissed some people off. When John hired a new project manager, Mark, I reacted kind of skeptically. The guy struck me as a cheerleader type. Turns out I was right. I think he honestly was excited about the work he was doing and the stuff he was bringing in, but I wished he'd dial it down a couple notches. At the beginning he also micro-managed. I hate that.

I don't like feeling like someone's looking over my shoulder. In fact, given that I'm partially distracted by it I tend to make more mistakes. Which usually leads to more micro-management. It didn't help matters any that I dealt with it in a very passive-agressive way. Oh hell, the time for euphemism is gone: I was a prick to the guy.

I don't know who's idea it was for what basically amounted to a timeout for the two of us (although I have my guesses) but it's probably why I was employed there as long as I was. Between me being within an ant's antenna of telling the guy "fuck you, I quit" and how close I was to getting fired (which I found out about a little later... kind of sobering, that) I probably wasn't going to be there much longer.

In fact, after that Mark and I worked together pretty well. We balanced his desire for frequent updates with my desire to be left alone and managed to avoid stepping on each other's toes. In fact, he did something that I never saw any other manager do -- he'd ask my opinion about projects (as far as timeframe and doability) before talking to the client, and took me along to get the word straight from the client's mouth so there wouldn't be the possibility of a mistranslation.

At the time, I'd forgotten what it was like to have my thoughts taken seriously. It was rather nice.

I was still pretty frustrated though. I was looking for work on and off, taking personal time to interview, going so far as to change into my suit a couple floors down and taking the stairs to avoid accidentally bumping into someone from the office. It felt very cloak-and-dagger. Probably as transparent as a sheet of glass, too.

Oh, before I forget, I actually spoke with an HR person once about how I worked the least amount of overtime in the company, and how that wasn't a good thing. I realize that since I'm overtime exempt (Employer-speak for "w3 0wnz j00") that it's in the company's best interests to squeeze as much work out of me as possible. But should it really matter if I'm making deadlines and helping other people out? I didn't do it terribly often, but I did stay late on more than a few occasions to work on a project I wasn't even assigned to. My coworkers were good people after all, and I helped them when I could.

But apparently since I like seeing my apartment during daylight hours I'm not dedicated enough. I had no answer for that when I heard it; I was too flabbergasted.

To skip ahead a little, my job searches never really went too far and I always gave up after a month or so. Then the company got ready to move to its new office. A consultant was brought in to help with the IT aspect and somehow wound up doing project management. Apparently she'd "heard" that I made "a lot of mistakes" with projects and was going to make sure it didn't happen again, that it was unprofessional.

No, actually, making mistakes is part of being human, everyone does it. One mistake I know of almost lost the company quite a bit of money. The unprofessional part comes from frequent mistakes, which I don't think I was doing, and not correcting them in a timely manner. And I know it wasn't the second, because I treated mistakes -- even typos -- as a drop-everything-and-fix-it thing. I don't like my work looking bad any more than the client likes having "teh" on their Web site.

Suffice it to say, her and I didn't get along to well. After spending a couple nights preparing for the move and unloading afterwards, saying my morale was in the toilet would be an understatement. It had already been flushed and treated, and was halfway to the Monongahela. Honestly, I don't know how anyone could stand to be around me. I was making snide remarks for no discernable reason, other than to be contrary. Once again, I was being a passive-agressive prick.

I was assigned to work with the consultant that I didn't get along with, and things got worse. I mis-estimated a time requirement by a huge factor (I'd never done a project of that scale before and had no clue how complicated it would be) and was talked to by the "consultant" (now my boss, for all intents and purposes) about my "unprofessional behavior."

So with a lousy attitude that had been festering for two years or so, I delivered a GFY to the "consultant" while I was working late one night and got fired the next day. In a way, it's the best thing that ever happened to me. My hair was starting to gray and fall out, and I was popping Tums like they were candy. I probably would've taken 10 years off my life if I'd stayed.

Looking back with a year and a half of experience and introspection, I'm not the completely wronged party I thought I was. Yes, John ignored his programmers and operated through an environment of fear (if I had a nickel for every time he said "the next person to [do X, Y or Z] is fired" in the middle of a tirade...). And none of his managers really had a clue how to run an interactive project.

But I also learned all my skills there: Professional-grade HTML, ASP, Javascript, databases. I'm employable now because I was allowed to experiment and occasionally crash a server there. And for all my bitching both there and online, I never once took any action to improve things. One thing I've learned from Brady is how not to handle those situations, and in a way it's good that I learned them when I did -- I'm happier at this job partially as a result of knowing to do things differently should the situation arise.

But here I have a boss who used to be a programmer, and understands that programmers usually like to be left to their work. He even understands that I need to take a quick break and read CNN from time to time. As long as I'm getting things done in a timely manner, everything's cool. He's even let me cut out early and still put eight hours on my time sheet.

Well, that's it. The whole shebang. No more posts about Brady, and probably no more "at the old job" except for comparisons. I'm through. And yes, this isn't the hate-filled diatribe you might have been expecting. It's hard for me to think of someone as an evil little troll hiding in his office for half a day when he's civil to me. And I think putting it all behind me with a minimum of ire is the best way to go. Maybe I've matured a little bit after all.

[Permalink 2003-08-28] Rambling Story Followed By Book Review: Dancing Barefoot

August 28, 2003:

I just spent three months waiting for a book. And it wasn't one of those pre-order deals like they do for Harry Potter, either. The book was out when I ordered it.

I ordered Dancing Barefoot on May 30th. Now, Monoloith Press, from what I can tell, is basically a two-person operation. I'm not expecting something like Amazon where I get my book within a week. I figure two weeks, tops. A little while later (the mail was probably sent immediately but spent some time languishing in Hotmail Purgatory) I get an e-mail that says there are more copies being printed, and it may be a while.

(In all honesty, that's what I remember happening. Like a dumbass I deleted the e-mail and am going on a three-month-old memory at this point. But I'm mostly sure it happened.)

Anyway, it gets to be a month after I order and still nothing. The author, Wil Wheaton, is talking about taking copies of the book with him for book signings so I figure I must've gotten lost in the shuffle. I send an e-mail, which I'm doubting got read before he left. (Sure, the guy's a geek, but only the truly hardcore will read e-mail right up to the point of going out of town.)

So he probably came back to roughly a gazillion e-mails, and since mine was (a) from someone he doesn't know and (b) from, he probably junked it without a second glance.

A little while later, he notices a problem: He goofed on some of the orders from about the time I sent in mine (he said the 27th and 28th of May, I ordered on the 30th). Worth a shot, at least. I forward my PayPal receipt and explain that even though I didn't order on one of those days I think my copy of the book may have been a casualty.

Nothing. The guy was very rapidly changing in my mind from "Wil Wheaton, author" to "WIL FUCKING WHEATON," the goat-felcher who took my money and wouldn't send me my book.

I send a third e-mail to him, CCing myself just in case. I still think there was probably a mixup somewhere, but the lack of any response was bugging me from a customer-service point of view. As a backup plan, I dug around and found a mailing address that looks like it really exists. I figure anything sent to Wil Wheaton c/o Wil Wheaton Dot Net will get to him there, so I file that nugget away in case I need to got to step four: A certified mail asking where the hell my book is.

Step four is not required. I get an e-mail back three hours later (a little after 8 AM on the West Coast) saying, basically, sorry you haven't gotten your book. It was apparently sent, and the USPS fouled up somewhere along the line.

A couple days later I get a hand-addressed envelope from California with a copy of the book in it.

Now here's where I show you just what an idiot I am: I ordered a book made up of five short, autobiographical stories. No big deal you say, this guy's probably had kind of an interesting life what with being an actor and all. Well, these same stories are all available in his Web site's archives. If I weren't lazy I could read them for free. In fact, I waited three months to get something I'd paid for that I could have gotten for free.

Well, I never said I was bright.

Anyway, on to the book itself. I think Wheaton has a decent writing style. It's basically not too different from what you'd imagine you'd hear if you were just talking to him. Frankly, I like that type of writing, and I try to do it here. Wheaton seems a bit better at it, and he had an editor to help him tighten things up.

The stories themselves are good, too. I remember reading "Houses in Motion" on his site, and it didn't seem like it had changed much. Which is good; I don't think editors should go around re-writing people's material for them. Four of the stories are short, no more than 20 pages or so, and the fifth story (Sponge Bob Vegas Pants) is by far the longest, taking up half the book at a rough estimate.

SBVP is essentially a diary of a convention in Las Vegas with a story about meeting William Shatner on the set of Star Trek V dropped in for context. On its face it's just a good narrative, but I also feel like this is where Wheaton let go of a lot of bad feelings relating to Star Trek (apparently he didn't leave "Next Generation" on the best of terms).

All in all, I think it's a good book. My only beef is that it's on the short side, about 150 pages. Since he's got two years of material to work with I would've liked to have seen another story, or maybe expand a little on some of the other stories if possible. (Really, though, I'm not sure how much he could expand on what's already there. Everything looks like it's been covered.) So pick it up, especially if you're a Trekkie. The other-side-of-the-table aspect of Sponge Bob Vegas Pants makes it a good read. Especially if you have Klingon battle armor in your closet.

As a recap, Dancing Barefoot is worth the money, in my opinion, even though you can get it for free. And Wil Wheaton is not a jerk, just a busy guy who doesn't pay too much attention to stuff from Hotmail.

[Permalink 2003-08-26] Blah

August 26, 2003:

Not much interesting going on today. Got my copy of Dancing Barefoot in the mail yesterday (yes, I bought a book written by the guy who used to play Wesley Crusher), and I still need/want to write about that seeing as how it took almost three months. Still have to write up my piece on Brady, since I kinda scheduled that for Friday and promptly forgot about it. And I was five minutes late for work after leaving the house five minutes earlier because the surest way to slow down traffic -- even better than a tunnel -- is to have a little bit of rain.

[Permalink 2003-08-25] Blame the Fools Who Appointed Him

August 25, 2003:

I hope I never get arrested in Montgomery, Alabama. Well, actually I hope I never have any reason at all to be in Alabama, but getting arrested and having to go before this Bible-beating 'tard would be even worse.

Look, if your existance is so sad that you have to have an imaginary friend to make your life worth living, be my guest. But the people who wrote up the Constitution at least had the good sense to realize that no good can come from mixing religion and politics.

But now this twit wants to force God down everyone's throats. Think any atheists (or Hindus, or even Jews or Muslims) would be at all confident of getting a fair trial from this nut-job?

Gah. I'm at work and don't have time to think this out all the way. If I get a chance I'll come back to it but right now I have things to do and I'm too stunned at this guy's actions to write the essay I should be writing.

[Permalink 2003-08-22] Are You Ready for Some Football?

August 22, 2003:

Hoy got hold of a couple tickets to the Steelers-Cowboys game Thursday night, and made it all the way down his list of people to invite until I got to go :) It was a pretty good game, although it was most definitely pre-season caliber play. Watching the Steelers play, though, I realized that if I weren't a Browns fan I could very easily root for these guys: They play the same type of game.

The crowd was pretty into it, too. But they were nowhere near the levels I'm expecting when I go to the Browns-Steelers game in Cleveland this November. (OK, I don't have a ticket yet -- I'm working on it.) Should be a damn good game.

OK. 1:00. Off to bed.

[Permalink 2003-08-21] Giving Stuff Away Can Be Difficult

August 21, 2003:

So I've got two disposable "Sport & Water" cameras left over from rafting that are just taking up space. I should probably return them to Eckerd's, but I'm lazy. Then, Monday I get an e-mail from one of the actives about Fall Rush. I won't go to any of the events, but I see they're going caving. Hey, maybe they could use the cameras. Sure it's only a $20 donation, but what the hell, right?

I e-mail the guy back about the cameras. "If you guys want them they're yours" is what I remember typing. Three days later I haven't even heard back from the guy. Guess I'm returning the cameras after all. At least I get my $20 back this way.

[Permalink 2003-08-19] I Usually Prefer My Brakes Medium-Well

August 19, 2003:

I went rafting on the Youghigheny with a bunch of people over the weekend. Went pretty well considering there were four people in the raft (out of six) who'd never rafted before. We didn't flip over, and even managed to keep all our water bottles somehow. And, as if to make up for us being late getting there and not having enough time to put on sunscreen, the Sun decided to stay behind clouds for most of the afternoon.

The only downside is that while I was driving around the Ohiopyle area trying to find the place (the directions they give you from Yahoo suck) I wound up behind a van that was engine-braking. Good for him, not so much for me. My engine doesn't generate enough compression to slow itself on hills very well so I had to use the brakes to keep from rear-ending the guy. Well, after several minutes of this we started getting that overheated-brakes smell and putting the pedal on the floor didn't do much more than slow us down on hills.

Everything's fine since they had all afternoon to cool off, but they squeak really loudly now the first couple times I use 'em. I'm guessing I should get them looked at when I go in for an oil change about 950 miles from now.

Well, I would have pictures -- I bought a pair of waterproof disposable cameras for the trip, except that since I was in a rush when we got there I left the damn things in the car. They do take pictures of each raft on the trip, and I'm trying to get a scan from someone who bought a copy of our raft, so I'll at least have one pic of me trying not to get throw into the Yough.

[Permalink 2003-08-18] Time Wasters

August 18, 2003:

Funny, you'd think that spending more than a third of my day at work I'd have fewer Web sites I waste my time on, not more.

How wrong you are.

Online comic Megatokyo (you'd better start at the beginning). One of the main characters is an obessive gamer who gets lost in his take on reality, the other has no clue whatsoever about women. They pick up and fly to Tokyo on a whim. Hilarity (usually) ensues.

Then there's Something Positive. On the upside, the main character here makes me look like King Tact. On the downside, he still gets more than I do. I will attribute this to the fact that it is made-up.

More online comics: Real Life and Mac Hall. They have their moments.

And the big time-killer, the Straight Dope Message Boards. General Questions is good for Straight Dope-like stuff; MPSIMS and The BBQ Pit are just fun reads. Sometimes.

Yep, I pretty much spend my entire day in front of the computer. I'd be annoyed over the loss of my social life, if I'd ever had one.

[Permalink 2003-08-15] Horns

August 15, 2003:

When some 'tard failed to comprehend the concept of the four-way stop the other day, I realized that I actually need two horns on my car. Probably using the same button, with a pressure switch to decide which one gets used. The standard Honda ronadrunner-esque "meep" horn works just fine for signaling "hey, the light changed." But after that twit I realized that I also need a semi-sized airhorn. For those "WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK, FUCKER" moments.

I promise I'd only use it when necessary. Right.

[Permalink 2003-08-14] Random Baseball Minutae

August 14, 2003:

Raphael Furcal, who plays for the Atlanta Braves, recently pulled off the 12th unassisted triple play in major league history.

[Permalink 2003-08-12] Mustn't... Send... All... My Money... to Think-Geek...

August 12, 2003:

Online stores are evil. I could spend so much money there...

Doing some quick math in my head, I really ought to just block their IP range and save myself the time. And money.

[Permalink 2003-08-11] Happens Once a Year

August 11, 2003:

Checking ESPN's Browns page, I saw that they have the AFC North standings posted already, even though the regular season doesn't start for about three weeks. The Bengals are currently at the top of the list. At least they'll get to say they were in first for a little while.

Edit: Made a minor change to the entry after Dallas pointed out that I apparently am having trouble with the alphabet.

[Permalink 2003-08-08] Faucet-nose

August 08, 2003:

Don't know what, but something really set my allergies off today. I've been sitting here sniffing ,sneezing and dripping all morning with no end in sight. I'm not feeling at all tired or run-down, so I know I'm not sick. But having to stop every couple minutes to sneeze is a real pain in the ass.

[Permalink 2003-08-07] Politics can be fun. Or at least funny.

August 07, 2003:

Seems a member of the St. Louis school board is crazier than a shithouse rat: Here's the story and the letter that started it.

[Permalink 2003-08-05] Time For a New Phone?

August 05, 2003:

Just saw on MSNBC that I could, in theory, keep my phone number if I switch wireless carriers. The downside? It probably wouldn't actually work.

The other downside is that the Samsung I currently have is the only one I've seen that allows multiple phone numbers per entry. For example, instead of "DadHome" and "DadCell" I have an entry "Dad" that contains home and cellular numbers I can pick from whenever I call my father (usually to borrow money). An extra step sometimes, but I like it better.

So... if I find a phone that does the same thing, and if the phone works on the Verizon network, which I'd probably switch to after seeing many good things about it, and if I can keep my current number, I think it's new-phone time.

[Permalink 2003-08-04] In the News

August 04, 2003:

· Looks like those picture phones are good for something other than taking surreptitious locker room pictures.

· It ain't my fault; the Freshman 15 is real.

[Permalink 2003-08-01] Just Wondering

August 01, 2003:

Do some foods really cause people to have messed-up dreams, or are dreams usually that odd, and certain foods are just more likely to wake you up in the middle of said dream (gas, heartburn, whatever) making you more likely to remember it?

And, more frankly, does anyone care?

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