Friday, June 30, 2006

Now That's an Entrepreneur

No doubt the next big fund-raising move will be auctioning off the role of groom.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Anonymous Lawyer

I took my eye off the Anonymous Lawyer blog for a while, and was pleased to discover that it's lately been kicked into high gear pending the forthcoming release of the Anonymous Lawyer book. I'm not sure if it's funny to everyone, but I worked at a big international law firm for a while, and let me assure you that if you've ever done that, the site is hilarious.

I'm also pretty sure the humor is transferable to other jobs--say, if you've been an investment banker. In fact, Anonymous Lawyer's personality reminds me of a friend of mine who used to call me long distance just to laugh evilly as he supervised interns at his ibanking firm.

Be sure to check out the accompanying Anonymous Law Firm web site, and in particular their job application. Personally, I think every employer in America is looking for employees who "can be motivated by the vague promise of future rewards which may never actually come."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hell's Kitchenette

I thought I'd be excited when Virginia got nominated--indeed, after her remark about Gordon's spicy hot dog I wished for nothing else. Again, for the video editors, this must be like shooting fish in a barrel. But it wasn't as much fun as I thought it would be, so I'm glad she got to stick around. Her airheaded flirting was actually the least annoying thing in this episode. The prize for most annoying goes to Sara's snarky 'tude (you have to love those coworkers who never make mistakes--they're such a joy).

Overall, I have to say, this series of "Hell's Kitchen" is disappointing. Men versus women is one tired, tired theme, so it's good to see that broken up a little--maybe if they mix the teams up a little or whittle it down to individuals things will perk up a bit. For now the women are catty (wow, what a shock) and the men are just sort of floundering incompetents.

Once again, I can't imagine any of these people successfully running a big resort restaurant. I know that this whole experiment is ostensibly an exercise to scare up some fresh innovation, but I can't help but think there must be lots of qualified people who could really make something of this opportunity. Even really talented people whose peers agree they deserve success can have a tough row to hoe once they're in charge of a restaurant.

Once, when I was in Vegas, I had the pleasure of seeing a man attack a teppan chef in an effort to get the snazzy restaurant he was in to reimburse him for his $500 sweater. Someone--not me, for a wonder--had spilled something on it. Something plain, like water. I'm no expert, God knows, on $500 sweaters, but I think it could have been saved. Let us pause to consider our society's wondrous capacity to create humans such as this, shower them with money, and then release them into an unsuspecting resort population. Now let us pause to imagine ANY of these contestants running a kitchen that has to appease this kind of clientele often enough to avoid bankruptcy.

I can't do it. If you can, my hat is off to you.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Last Watch of the Night

I'm a reader, but I am also that rarer person, a re-reader. There are certain books I go back to over and over. I'm aware that this is a trait often seen in loony people (like the guy who shot John Lennon), but in my defense, it's not always the same book. I read Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens when I need a pick-me-up. For a moral reboot I got back to a little Kant and to Sartre's Essays on Existentialism. And when I need inspiration for my next big move, I pull out Paul Monette's Last Watch of the Night.

Last Watch should be one of the most depressing books on earth. It's a book of essays because Monette was pretty sure he was going to die while he was writing it--and he knew the signs, having watched friends and lovers alike die of AIDS. Death is omnipresent in the book, and even when he reminisces about the good old days, the grim reaper is standing patiently just offstage. I'd be crazy if I told you the book is never sad--the truth about AIDS is heartbreaking, and Monette has lost patience with the lies people tell about grief and death to make them more palatable. Two of his hard truths are tough to bear. Grief is a madness that even time can't soothe. And some people come to the end of their lives with no satisfaction, only the cold comfort of misplaced priorities.

But what I find inspiring is Monette's strength and energy in the face of the truth, and his satisfaction with his own life and actions as his health fails. AIDS is in no way a universal experience--every disease takes people in its own way, and AIDS has an impressive array of weapons at its disposal, an assassin who doesn't have to specialize. But for me the book is at least partly about the universality of being stalked by death. And while that could be depressing, Monette isn't interested in the "woe is me" aspect of death anymore. He's writing to forge determination in his reader. Death is coming--the death of the people you love, your own death, the grief that testifies to the value of what's gone. Your responsibility is to do what good you can with your life, because it's the only comfort you'll get, and the only comfort you can leave to those who suffer your loss.

I always close the book feeling a powerful exhortation. Carry death on your shoulder a little, do and say the things that help you carry your head a little higher, and let your heart gather up its precious cargo--the things that won't be sold in a rummage sale after you're gone.

I haven't found a better foundation for a big decision, or a better motivation to take a little risk. But, you know, if it depresses you, you can always pick up Good Omens, in which death gets a good seeing-to.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

When Touring a Volcano

Today I talked to my folks as they head off on a tour of the Pacific Northwest. My father brought up his tried-and-true joke about Mt. St. Helens. When I was little, Mt. St. Helens erupted when we were on a road trip, and my father kept insisting that if we drove just a little further we'd be able to go and see the action. (Well, you have to admit, it's an effective way to stop your kid from asking, "Are we there yet?") One day when I was absolutely sure we were going to drive right up to the boiling maw of Mt. St. Helens, he pointed out the motel we were going to check into that night and said, "But of course, we'll check in after we see the volcano, because if the volcano gets us, then we won't have paid for the motel."

I told my dad that I hadn't forgotten his joke, that in fact this is my opening volley when there's a dinner party competition about dysfunctional families. It's deliciously deceptive, because people think they're dealing with a rank amateur. Then I bring out the big guns, like the fact that I was raised partly by my dad's version of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.*

Haha--just kidding.

*His name was Dog Rickles--this despite the fact that the dog puppet had a bow on its ear and was clearly supposed to be a girl.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Find me a dodo

Scientists have found a dodo, and surprisingly, they didn't even come to my company to do it.

Project Runway--Again, Already?

In the immortal words of Frasier Crane, "If less is more, then just think how much more more will be." Instead of having to wait until December for the new season of "Project Runway," we're going to get it right now (well, okay, July 12). I love "Project Runway" very much against my will, and I'm not sure I've sufficiently recovered from Santino's relentless assault on my delicate sensibilities last season. I understand that these (the speed, the cheapness, the blatant product placement, the rampant employment of catty video editors) are the great advantages of reality TV. But is there really that much talent (and that much opportunity for drama and ridicule) in the fashion industry?

Oh, wait....

Thursday, June 22, 2006

At Peace with the Pounds

For over a year now, I have been between one and five pounds over the top of my Weight Watchers recommended weight range. I have been officially "overweight" according to them, even though my BMI is in the "normal" range. Weight Watchers helped me get from a weight the CDC considers "obese" to this weight, and the habits I learned seem to have stuck, because I haven't really exceeded the CDC's "normal" range in more than two years.

I spent a lot of 2005 trying to get rid of these last five pounds. They're incredibly frustrating little bastards, and they just won't go anywhere. I could shoo them away for maybe a week, but I could not keep them off. So I've been piloting a little radical acceptance in 2006, and I've decided that I'm happy with the success of the pilot program, and it's time to make it permanent.

I'm not letting these extra five pounds go anywhere. I can get rid of them, but only by starving myself and becoming a shrewish harpy. And once that happens, well, I'll probably wreak uncontrollable havoc at my job, and become a bad daughter, and heaven knows what else. So I'm keeping those five little troublemakers right here where I can keep an eye on 'em. Go ahead, you little fuckers! Try and leave!

My new goal is simple. I want to be able to walk up stairs without looking like I need medical attention. I want to be able to watch a horror movie without thinking, "Wow, that chick can run. If it were me running away from the guy with the knife, I'd have to be smart enough to get away in under a minute, because otherwise he could just walk up and kill me when I doubled over with a cramp." (Jamie Lee Curtis is my hero--she does very little running. I'm just about fit enough to poke Michael in the eye. Go Laurie Strode!) I want to be able to walk next to a tall person and still carry on a conversation with him. The next time I go to London, I want to be able to take in the scenic beauty of the Thames path without catching a bus.

So that's the plan. Ignore the scale and focus on keeping fit. Coincidentally, I'm going to go make brownies.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Get Keanu a Digital Planner

OK. I went to see "The DaVinci Code" last week. It was a pretty good thriller (but to be honest, if you didn't see it with the ladies I saw it with, you were missing a lot--there was a lot of extra 3-D dynamic action). But the thing that's still bothering me a week later is the preview for "The Lake House."

Help me out here. What am I missing? Two years--doesn't that seem like chickenfeed to even your average unrequited lover? And they're even in the same place--it's not like he has to walk the earth in iron shoes or anything, the dude just has to stand still for a while (my knight in shining sweatpants, holding his trusty cable remote). Or, if he has a life, he has to plan carefully and be back in two years. I mean, I understand your day planner might only go out to next September, but we had computers two years ago. Keanu is an architect who should be able to work Outlook (or, in a pinch, slip a note into his project management software--"Why look, my gantt says my building should be finished and I have to meet Sandy Bullock at the lake")?

It's as if the filmmakers saw "Somewhere in Time" on some Lifetime Movie Network tribute to Christopher Reeve and said, "wow, that's a cool concept, but they could have saved a lot of money on period costumes if it were only a two year difference instead of sixty." (Take note, Keanu--Christopher Reeve crossed a whole sixty years and wore a very silly hat to win Jane Seymour. You don't even have to cross the street.)

Seriously, though, I hope he has a good excuse. Something classy. None of that "I got hit by a cab" garbage a la "An Affair to Remember." And he can't be dead, either--it's a delicate balance--he has to be alive but credibly prevented from turning up in a way that isn't reminiscent of "While You Were Sleeping" and doesn't make him a jerk. And I hope the movie manages to catch that special moment where, "Gee, I hope nothing awful happened to him" turns into "Gee he's late--something awful should probably happen to him." Sandra Bullock's probably far too nice to think anything too horrible, but that moment can still be quite cinematic.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Man in the Elevator

Just so you know, if you get into the elevator and accidentally press the wrong button, you have to explain that in fact there's no emergency, you're just an idiot who doesn't know how to use an elevator. It's even more embarrassing when it's an elevator that's in the building that you work at, one that you use...well, not every day, but every time you're carrying way too much or not physically up to scratch. And you know, all the buttons in the darn elevator are shaped the same, and if you don't know braille, well, you're SOL if you push one without looking, hoping to hold the door open for the people hurrying after you.

So I had to explain to the man behind the elevator panel that we were not trapped in the elevator, didn't need his help, and were in fact enjoying our ride to the second floor even as he spoke to us. He said, in a voice that sounded almost genuine, that he was glad there was no emergency.

If the button were as red as my face was by the end of that elevator trip, probably a lot fewer people would think it was the "door open" button.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hell's Kitchen is Back! Hooray!

What is it about “Hell’s Kitchen” that I enjoy so much? I think Gordon Ramsay takes a lot of pride in his take-no-prisoners perfectionism (known to the rest of us as behaving like a jerk, complete with a never-evolving repertoire of “gay sissy” insults). But his enthusiasm and encouragement are as violent as his anger, and if nothing else, Gordon makes reality TV seem paradoxically unedited. There’s something refreshing about someone who says the things we’d all like to say to our incompetent coworkers…and then some things we’d never say because come on, they’re just so mean.

Ramsay has been involved in about a billion television efforts for the BBC, thoughtfully broadcasted here by BBC America. From these programs, a basic set of rules is obvious, and it is delightful to watch the “Hell’s Kitchen” contestants mess them up one by one.

1. If Gordon tells you something, for God’s sake acknowledge it audibly.

2. If you’re told something in a kitchen, make damn sure everyone knows you understand it.

3. If you are standing still in the kitchen, there is something wrong with you (or you are being yelled at by Gordon—you should look him in the eye and try not to cry).

4. If you know something important in the kitchen and you keep it to yourself, your name is mud.

5. If you tell Gordon you’re an awesome chef and you don’t have more Michelin stars than he does, you’d better back it up. (But you can’t.)

6. There are thousands of ways you can make the diners sick or endanger their safety. Don’t do it. If you do, leave town and don’t come back.

7. If the secret to your “cuisine” is anything other than fresh ingredients prepared to the highest standards in a kitchen that is prepared for a public health inspection at any second, you’ll be dismissed as a pretentious idiot.

8. Everything you do in a kitchen costs money. I love this one. It reminds me of the episode of “Chef!” where Gareth Blackstock finds out how much his pate really costs.

9. Gordon has a soft spot for talented women chefs. Makeup, couture, giggling, and flirting are all going to earn you scorn. Having a brain, being quietly more competent than the person next to you and working your little heart out are all good plans. So far, all the other women in the kitchen may as well go home now, because if Heather keeps it up, she will wipe the floor with every one of them.

10. If you try hard enough and want to be a chef bad enough, he might forgive you for not knowing how to cook when you meet him. (Witness the “Faking It” chef with previous experience as a hot dog vendor, or the Lanterna chef from last week’s episode of “Kitchen Nightmares” who thought pot noodles were pretty fab.)

My personal highlights from the series premiere:

The number one highlight was Sara’s cheer when her team got a starter past Gordon. Of course what I really loved was Heather’s reaction--an expression that said, “Dear God, woman, have you no shame!”

I love watching Virginia, who is apparently under the impression that there will be a multimillion dollar award for “best makeup.” I relish the smug satisfaction of knowing that reality TV video editors clap with barely-restrained glee when they see a woman like this, and that we’ll see every moment of her stupidity for as long as she lasts. Seriously—the woman is reality TV gold.

Hats off to Giacomo (for real?) for telling Gordon that he should bring it, because after all those years of looking for his retainer in the garbage behind the school cafeteria, dumpster trolling holds no fear. I was touched. And afraid for him. Really, truly scared.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Once again, I have a tale of flabbergasting stupidity. I got a call from one of my analysts this morning to say that her Esteemed Colleague in another department had informed her that our mutually owned system was malfunctioning. Apparently, numbers above a certain value weren't appearing in her part of the joint system while they appear without issue on our side. The Esteemed Colleague, was, naturally, quite strident in her assertion that this was all our fault. The analyst and I looked at the project and found no issues. We called several other people and they also found no issues.

After about an hour of this, the analyst went back to working with her Esteemed Colleague.

They spent all day on it.

Finally at three this afternoon, she notifies me that the issue has been fixed. The Esteemed Colleague had failed to SCROLL DOWN far enough to see the numbers. And for this we wasted untold man-hours of fixit wisdom and at least 6 hours of my analyst's valuable time--time she could have been using to split the financial atoms of our company.

Yet another example of someone who needs to learn about CTRL+F.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Customer is Never Right

So I've had a ticket open on a report that's not functioning well for about six months now. Friday I was told that my issue had been solved and that the solution was ready for me to test. The report had two problems with it, and it could be run two different ways. Elementary math teaches us that they should have looked in four places to see if the problem was fixed.

Well, it turns out that they only solved one of the two problems (they had a go at the second one, but they fixed it backwards) and that one only works for one iteration of the report. Which means my ticket is 25% fixed. And it's only taken six months. More elementary math teaches us that at their current run rate, the report will be functioning in January of 2008. And that's only if they don't break anything new.

I think Initech would actually be more efficient.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Talk About Incentive

I suppose if I were going to be taxed because I'm overweight (according to the BMI) I might care a little more about those 5 extra pounds. But honestly, I'd probably focus more on finding a way to avoid paying the tax.

I love the BBC News site for this sort of thing, outrageous as it is. Just yesterday I discovered Ethical Man. Ethical Man's effort is a little like a one-man-band version of Morgan Spurlock's FX show, "30 Days." It's also a little bit like being the graduate of a certain small liberal arts college in Iowa, only with less emphasis on paper over plastic.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

What Not to Wear on the Tardis

I admit it, I'm a fan of "What Not to Wear" on BBC America. So this week's episode of Dr. Who (a send-up of cheap reality programming) was a special treat, complete with a robotic Trinny (bosomly challenged and pointy-headed) and Susannah (replete with very non-robotic curves). My only quibble is that if you have to blow the heads off robotic versions of WNTW hosts, why oh why couldn't it be bitchy Americans Stacy and Clinton? It's times like these when I almost wish there were a half-successful American rip-off of Doctor Who, just so robot Stacy and Clinton could get their due, along with Simon Cowell and Michael Kors. (I don't actually want to see Americans try to make Dr. Who. But who doesn't want to see an exploding robot saying he's "underwhelmed?")