Friday, December 28, 2007

WTF is with this...

For the last few days, when I try to access my good ol' gmail account, I get a message that looks something like this....

It would seem that the gmail, and by extension the mighty Google Empire, is not functioning at 100%. Now I am an understanding fellow, and in fact try to be understanding about things like server errors whenever they pop up. We're only human, after all. Well they're not, the servers that is, but presumably there is some only human person involved who presumably is screwing up and leading me to get this message somehow. Or some whole group of billions of people all desperately checking their gmail at once that is causing the not-only-human server to foul up, or just something like that. So, yeah, I understand, and I'll take this in a zen-like, ultra-calm, super-cool stride. Yup. It's just that, well, bugger. Just bugger. What am I supposed to do without email?! How on earth do I get by? Everything is about email these days. At least, everything related to daily text based communication with friends, associates, and organizations who do not routinely use the phone. And that's a lot! Very nearly everything! And now thanks to someone out there, or something out there, being only human, I'm deprived of nearly everything! And I don't like that. Just bugger!

So, the moral of the story is that if you happen to be emailing me, waiting for a reply, counting on some response, wondering where I am, fuming at the delay, remember something. It's not my fault! It's Google. The Man! Sticking it to me! To you! To all of us! About very nearly everything! Thank god I've got this other forum of electronic communication, Blogger, with which to communicate with you. Thank god there is still one avenue of contact available to me! Thank god for Blogger, brought to you by, uhmmm, Google. Bugger.

Did we learn nothing from New Coke?

I'm coming down with a cold. At least, I think I am. Since I got divorced, I'm hardly ever sick any more, but I feel icky and just spent a week marinading in my mother's cold germs. I sincerely hope I'm not that sick for that long--she's been horribly ill for a week now, and naturally hasn't seen a doctor, even though she's looking longingly at all the cold medicines she can't take because they disagree with her high-blood-pressure medication.

ANYway, my standard strategy when I'm sick is to hunker on the sofa with soup and orange juice and tea and club soda and...and I'm aware that this is Tang. Yes, Tang, the astronaut beverage. Hot and really strong. It's a bizarro comfort thing that an old roommate used to make me when I was ill, and I only ever drink it when I'm sick. It makes me feel loved and marginally more healthy.

So today, as I was heading home from the doctor, having had a rotten day that involved getting lost (not exactly lost, but near enough) on the Manhattan subway, falling down in the street, not being able to find my doctor's office, and not being able to catch a local train back to my station, I thought, well, I can still salvage the day by stopping at the market and buying Tang. That way, when I get home, I can make myself a cup of hot Tang and go to bed.

It looked a little different, but I wasn't suspicious. I bought it and brought it home. It appeared to be more concentrated than it used to be. Now I was a little concerned. I made a cup, and as I sipped it I discovered that they have tried to make Tang healthy by replacing half the sugar with sucralose.

Tang is never going to be healthy. The best you can hope for is a violent dose of vitamin C and a sugar rush that either puts you into a coma or enables you to stagger around your apartment rounding up cough drops. Also, artificial sweeteners taste foul. Now, I'm aware that Tang is not going to win any Michelin stars, but at least any aftertaste it had before was orange-drink-for-astronauts-flavored aftertaste. Original Tang is apparently no longer available. This new stuff is vile, and now I'm sick and extra-pathetic.

Fie on you, Kraft! A pox on your sucralose-loving house.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays!

It's Xmas day, and I'd like to wish a happy holiday, of whatever sort, or a happy lack of holiday (in which case, just a happy day), to any and all readers out there. And heck, even if you're not a reader I wish you a happy day. This has been a good year for ol' Shifter and fam, and I hope it was a good year for all of you, and is an even better one.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Embiggening Our List of Alternatives for Business English

I was an English major in college. Occasionally this means that people ask me things. Like how to spell something. Or whether something is a word. I don't think I'm an above-average speller. And as far as whether something is a word, people would get very frustrated with me.

Me: Hmmm, I don't know. Can you use it in a sentence?
EB: Sure. It embiggened my budget.
Me: I see. Well, if you used that sentence, would everybody know what you meant?
EB: I guess so.
Me: Then it's a word.
EB: That can't be right.

This was never the definitive answer they were hoping for. I think maybe they were trying to piss me off and just going down the wrong track.

But here's what they could have said. They could have said "re-look at." What the hell is that? "We need to re-look at that, because I think things have changed." You bet your ass they have. That dumbass phrase that you used that's completely unnecessary? That's ILLEGAL now, bucko. Because if I have the power to say whether something's a word, this phrase-that's-not-a-word is going down.

Here are a few sanctioned alternatives. Feel free to add your own. Anything but "re-look at." Because it's stupid.

Official Alternatives to "Re-look at," which is hereby banned for all time:
  • review
  • reexamine
  • reevaluate
  • reassess
  • have a second look at
  • have another look at
  • look at it again
Okay, people? Perfectly good English words. I'm fine with y'all inventing your own English words. I'm good with playing with language--I think it's fun, and you should have at it with gusto. But re-look at sounds bad and it drives me nuts, even though technnically it's no worse than lots of things I do myself (mea culpa--just stop saying it).

Use embiggen as often as you like, but please don't re-look at anything.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Whatever You Do, DON'T Follow My Lead

I can pick a good technology. But don't buy it when I do.

I bought an iPod right before they came out with a new, smaller iPod. And also, coincidentally, right before Mac decided to start giving my employer a massive discount.

I also recently bought an HD Tivo. It's an awesome Tivo, and I love it. It's quiet (my old one was stroppy and noisy), it's full of delicious programming all the time. It records more than one thing. It's super. But when I bought it, you couldn't get lifetime service. If I bought it two months later (i.e., Right Now) I'd have lifetime service for only a little more than I paid for three years.

Tivo is great at many things, but customer service isn't one of them. They've essentially farmed out most of their customer service to their many customers (the discussion boards--both on their website and off--are your best bet if you ever have an issue). If you ever have a customer service issue, have a sudoku puzzle or two handy--it took them 15 minutes to get a supervisor to explain to me (none too helpfully) that I'm just shit out of luck on the lifetime service.

Apparently lifetime service is either for people who already have a Tivo (gee, I thought that was definitely me--this is the second Tivo I've purchased and the fourth Tivo I've owned) or for people who don't already have a Tivo (obviously not me). I fall between the cracks, as someone whose old Tivo wasn't old enough (not born before Jan 1 2000) and whose new Tivo is not new enough. I can't transfer or purchase lifetime service without dropping $700 for another Tivo that I don't need.

I like their service, and I don't mind paying for it, but I do mind being fined for eternity for buying something a month early (and, as bonus, being fined for being a loyal customer). He did point out, somewhat more substantially, that I didn't buy the "Series 3." I bought the "stripped-down, economy version"--a Series 3 with exactly 3 things missing:
  • THX certification (oh so useful in my 400-square-foot apartment)
  • backlit remote
  • a sign telling me what it's recording now
For these paltry advantages, they will charge you a whopping amount of money (less now, but at the time I bought it, $200). Since I'm not drooly enough to plonk down $200, apparently I deserve to buy my Tivo service a la carte forever.

So, yeah. Buy what I buy. But buy it at some other time. I'd tell you when, but I obviously don't know, or I'd be buying it then, too.

For Obsessive Compulsives Everywhere

You may have heard that your obsessive behavior was obnoxious. People may (ahem) have refused to go to Target with you, because it takes hours, because you have to look down every aisle and in many aisles, you have to touch every single item that you see (you know who you are--and you know I love you anyway).

But now you can tell them all to go to hell, because you're actually feeding the hungry with your obsessive desire to get to level 50 on the Free Rice vocabulary game.

Oh, wait. That's me. (Stuck at a consistent 48 with brief flashes of 49.)

Sartre Was Wrong

I love Sartre. I consider his Essay on Existentialism my bible (not in the sense that I think it was authored by a divine being, but in the sense that it steers me toward a life I can be proud of, even if I don't always make it there). But when he said "hell is other people," he clearly didn't have all the facts.

He didn't, for example, work where I work. I do not work in hell, and I work with some awesome people. But my job is hell-adjacent, because it requires e-mail. I love e-mail, and I think it's awesome, but a company that doesn't teach its employees to use e-mail is gonna have trouble. I have many, many colleagues whose inboxes are overflowing--I have actually seen at this job an icon that I did not know existed in Outlook--a little disc that appears next to a message, effectively saying, "I thought that since you were never ever going to look at this again, I would archive it for you--if you want to see it, it will take me a minute, because I honestly thought you had forgotten it was here." I didn't even know there was such a thing. I have seen it in my colleagues' inboxes.

Think of that icon and all that it means, and then think of all the CYA e-mail that gets sent in the average business day. Abandon hope, all ye who open Outlook. In vain will ye strive to keep your inbox to one page.

Which is why this should be compulsive viewing at my company, and probably at every corporation on earth.

NY Times Admits Hope Is Toxic

I've just read a thumbnail article in last week's New York Times Magazine about how hope is actually poison that can make us unhappy. That's good news, because I'm still single.

It's not even that there's anything wrong with the men. True, many of them are staggeringly boring. Ladies, the Manhattan-as-male-habitat that you see in the movies is, honest to God, more fictional than most fictional locations (more fictional than Narnia, for example). There really are some snore-inducing conversationalists here--and I'm a gal who can find a spreadsheet interesting, so my standards are not superhuman. So I'll admit, I've rejected a bore or two--I'd rather be lonely than bored to death one agonizing millisecond at a time. I've had one date that ended in that amiable mutual impasse of not calling--not a rejection so much as respectful recognition of a colleague who's pursuing a different line of research. And as for the ones I like who don't fancy me, well, when you come right down to it, guys want what they want, and what's the point of reprimanding them just because it isn't me?

Still, being single is easier here. Partly because I live in a city teeming with small charms and wacky characters--it's a lot easier to be single-for-life in a city where not everyone is a cookie-cutter mom (and the fact that I can say this from Park Slope is truly an indication of the suburban hell that I've escaped--sometimes I have the sensation that I must have absentmindedly misplaced my stroller). Partly because I am, for once, making decent money, and it turns out that money may not buy happiness, but it does make loneliness a hell of a lot more enjoyable.

I still hold out a little hope for the old folks home. I think it's possible that if I hang on to all my teeth, the tide might turn in my favor after I hit eighty or ninety. I suppose that hope is toxic, too, but I have a few years to nip it in the bud before it gets really dangerous.

Friday, December 14, 2007

This is just frightening!

And really, really funny. Scalzi's blog is pretty well known, so you've probably read it, but if not check it out.

Also check out the good ol' Flying Spaghetti Monster while you're at it, of course.

I don't know where modern comedy would be without creationists. I know, I shouldn't be so cynical. I was probably just made that way.

Shifter gets a comment!

So I was randomly looking on the blog, hoping to find that Katy had posted something (Katy, where are you??) when I noticed I got a comment! That's right, somebody read and responded to a post! Thank you, dear commenter, for your thoughts.

You see, on those rare occasions I post I try to think of who I'm writing to, and I draw a big blank, and I figure that's probably because that's who is reading the posts, a big sea of blank, i.e., a big lack of people. So then I have to somehow imagine a population of readers to whom I can address the posts. And as I'm not very imaginative I run out pretty quickly after Mickey Mouse and Daffy. Mickey and Daffy are nice enough guys, mind you, but they're not always the most attentive for the long posts.

But I was thinking about them, and all my other imaginary readers, and my 1 real reader (!) this morning when I stepped on The Scale. The Scale has been capricious lately. It turns out that while running two marathons in 2 months will help you lose weight, resting for a week after a marathon, while you continue to eat as if you're training, will help you put all that weight right back on again. The Scale was almost gleeful as it informed me of this. "204.0," it purred at me one morning. What! No way! Step off, step back on, hope it changes it's mind. Not this time. "I said, 204.0, and if you step on me again, I'll up it to 206." I jumped off the scale and walked away, a shaken, fatter man. So I started running again, tried (not very successfully) to reduce my food intake, and came back a few days later (this morning). "201" it said. Either I lost a ton of weight, very very fast (doubtful), or The Scale needs more lithium. Sigh.

By the way, I feel compelled to note that I Am Tall. What I mean is, yes 200 is a lot of weight, but if I was a stick I'd weight 190 or so, so I'm not actually huge. Don't know why Mickey and Donald needed to know that, but it's better to be clear.

Well, Happy Holidays, of whatever stripe, or just Happy Days (without Fonzee) to those who don't do holidays, to all, and to all a good, well, you know.