Friday, November 10, 2006

 

Death of a laptop

When you don't have an office, and you are given the freedom to work from all points in The Universe simultaneously, work has a tendency to go on all the time. I'm not complaining. The benefits by far exceed the drawbacks. You just have to be careful to stop working at some point. Work is no longer a "work there, home here" kind of thing. Sometimes you look up and realize you have been working at home on a Saturday for an hour or two, and all you did was sit down at your laptop to look up the address of your favorite proctologist.

Maybe I just shared too much...

Anyway.

It was during one such home work session that a terrible thing happened. I didn't know it was so terrible when it happened. In fact, for a brief period I thought it was going to turn out to be a good thing. So young. So naive. Shattered innocence. It breaks my heart.

I was sitting on the couch with my laptop open in front of me. The TV was on, there was something terribly interesting on The Discovery Channel being broadcast in high definition, and I think I even had a cold beer on the end table. Does it get any better than that? I think not.

Is this a great country or what?

Sure, I was working, but only a little, and I had already found the address of the proctologist so I might as well deal with a few emails. Then, it happened. The screen went black. It just went black. WTF, eh? I could still hear the laptop. The fan was still running. It was sending me it's mojo, it just wasn't showing me it's mojo. I felt like that scene in the sequel to Ender's Game when he shuts off the little transmitter in his head that is connected to the uber computer, which makes the uber computer freak completely out. (Yeah, that's a geek joke. Get over it.) Time, as I knew it, seemed to stop. I think the PVR even paused The Discovery Channel for me so I wouldn't miss any of the high definition happiness because I was obviously very upset and not paying attention. After some careful examination and a quick call to the support line, we concluded that the back light had gone out on the laptop. They would be shipping me a new one. Hot Diggity. It was during this portion of the fiasco that I was still naive and thinking this was going to work out well.
You see, that was a kick ass laptop. It had a big screen, a fast CPU, lots of drive space, and it never crashed. It went everywhere with me. I even took it to the can with me sometimes if I knew I was going to be in there for an extended period of time. (More sharing...I need to stop doing that.) It only had one problem. The laptop had one elusive pain in the ass obnoxious problem that my superior grasp of technology had as yet been unable to solve. I will spare you the technical details, but it involves encryption and connecting to the main office. For some reason the laptop just wouldn't stay connected for very long. It was especially problematic when I was connected from The Satellite Office. I had narrowed the problem down to one of those amorphous "Windows" driver problems that even Bill Gates and his crack squad of "Windows Engineers" wouldn't be able to solve without reinstalling at least 15 pieces of software.

Side Rant:
What the hell is a "Windows Engineer" anyway? That's like saying "I'm a Bagel Engineer". It's "Windows" for God's sake. It just silly code piled on top of more silly code. There's hasn't been a lot of "engineering" in the equation thus far at the Microsoft Corporation. If they had used a few good software "engineers" when they started the whole damn fiasco it would be a lot better operating system today than it is. Wow. I am really geekin' out today. Must be the subject matter.

Back to our story...
So, when the laptop died I figured I would get a shiny new one and maybe the elusive connection problem wouldn't happen on the new laptop. All would be well in The Universe. I just knew it.

Yeah, whatever.

The laptop arrives two days later, and it's a different manufacture and model than my current laptop. I had an HP, and they shipped me a Dell. Nobody from our support team mentioned this when we talked on the phone. It's like they told you all along you were having a boy and then a girl pops out.

I start comparing the features between the new and old laptop, and I am not happy with the results. The screen is smaller, and the resolution is lower. The keyboard doesn't have a good solid feel to it, nor do the keys give an appropriate and satisfying "clicky" noise when I press them. This laptop is also much lighter. I know some people prefer a lighter laptop, but while the HP may have been heavier, it felt substantial. It felt like it could take a good punch and laugh it off. Like if you walked up and kicked it, it would flip its lid open and say "Is that all you got? I get dropped harder than that every week!" out of it's tiny little speaker while projecting an image of an extended middle finger on the screen. This Dell laptop was not going to be anywhere near as tough.

"I feel like I'm going to break this damn thing!"

I had collected a cornucopia of accessories for the HP laptop, and none of them were going to work on the Dell. I had two power cords for the HP, so I could leave one on my desk at home and take one with me in my bag. The Dell, of course, uses a different power supply and cable. The greatest of all the accessories I had collected was the uber battery. It fit the bottom of the laptop like a giant foot and provided 4 extra hours of battery life. It was so cool, other geeks would ask me about it at parties. A guy came up to me once in TSO to ask me where I got it. It didn't fit the Dell. I was not happy.

I called the support line, and they offered to send me a docking station which would include an extra power cord, and another battery. Hope spring eternal. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all. Three days later, the accessories arrive at my house. The docking station did indeed include a power cord, but every time I put the laptop on the docking station it changes my resolution to something lower than the already shitty resolution the laptop uses when it is undocked. I also find another bug. Every time I put it on the docking station, it wacks out the "tap" setting on the trackpad. The "tap" setting lets you double tap a file to open it by tapping on the track pad instead of using the mouse buttons. This is a handy feature. Once you get used to it, the lack of it will make you want to gnaw off your own hand.

This bug is probably related to the fact that the worst thing of all about this laptop is the trackpad itself. The trackpad is shit. There is no other word for it. I realize it can be difficult to get my point at times because I'm not direct enough so lemme make sure we are all on the same sheet of music. This is one seriously shitty trackpad. It doesn't track worth a damn. It's supposed to track the movement of my finger, that's why they put the word "track" right in the name, but it doesn't. It tracks about as well as if you tried to use the sticky side of a piece of duct tape for a trackpad.

Granted, there is a mouse stick as well, but I don't use those. People who use mouse sticks versus trackpads are like Republicans and Democrats. You are either one or the other, and people rarely change parties. I have no idea how anybody gets anything done with those retarded little mouse sticks. Trackpad is the way to go. All else is madness.

The trackpad on the HP worked so well, that I'm just sure it could be used by the doctors of the future to perform surgery remotely. A doctor could have a picture of someones innards on the screen, and using the HP trackpad alone he could remove any of their organs with laser precision and then sew them up. If he tried to use the Dell trackpad for remote surgery, he would kill the patient before they even got him sedated.

To cap off the dissapointment from the "bundle of joy" the support team sent me, the extra battery was just that, an extra battery. It was not an uber footy battery that combined with my existing battery for enough laptop time to play Quake from Los Angeles to New York. It was identical to my existing battery. When the first one died I would have to save my work, power down completely, and swap batteries. Preposterous.

In the interests for clarity, I expressed my displeasure with the entire scenario to the support team, but was informed that the new Dell laptops were "better". I asked for a definition of "better". "They have faster CPU's" came the reply. I asked if there was anything else that made them "better". They have the same drive size, same RAM, and a smaller screen with lower resolution than the HP's. That pretty much caps of the big features that people use to judge what makes one computer "better" than the other. When I add up that score card, I think we're comin' up a little short for the Dell.

But, you can't always fight the power.

The support team said that the HP's were deemed to be too troublesome from a hardware perspective, so there are no more HP's available. I was told we are going with Dell's only. Wow. If they think HP hardware had a high failure rate in the field, wait until we get a few dozen of these cheap Dell's going through airport scanners and getting dropped 3 times a week. They will be passing out replacement laptops like peyote buttons at a Grateful Dead concert.

So, the Dell and I are trying to find a way to live with each other. I don't care for it, and it doesn't seem to care for me, as evidenced by the fact that it does not send me anywhere near as much mojo as the HP.

I can't explain that. Just trust me.

Time will tell. Perhaps we can find common ground. I will keep you posted.

Max



Thursday, November 09, 2006

 

TSO Update 11-09-2006

After some morning shenanigans that involved children, school, and backpacks that didn't make it into the car on the first attempt, I arrived at The Satellite Office at about 9:30 AM.

There she was...

The Stinky Grandma.

She was sitting in the middle of the row of booths, with no stink buffer on either side. Fortunately, she was sitting still, so there wasn't too much pollution. I sat in a booth that left two tables between us because only a madman would park it right next to her. I even picked a dirty table and cleaned it rather than sit at the clean table next to her. Does this make me a bad person? Assuming anybody reads this blog other than the personal friends I have arm twisted into reading, please feel free to comment on what an asshole I am.

I put my bag and delicious bagel in the booth, and went to get some coffee. The coffee urn was empty. Imagine that. Well, almost empty. There is a trick you can do and lean the urn forward and pour out what is in the bottom. There is usually one cup of coffee left if no one else who knows the trick beat you to it. This was of course the moment when Stinky Grandma decided to leave. I was squeezing out the last cup of coffee when she went past me. I got a little dizzy when the cloud hit, but I held onto the counter until I got my balance back.


The rest of the morning was pretty uneventful.

Max

 

A short rant about soup

An older woman came into The Satellite Office the other day, and asked about the soup selection. She looked like your average wealthy senior citizen of discerning taste and culture. The nice girl behind the counter rattled off the soup flavors, and the woman stood there with a pensive look on her face while she considered the ramifications of the information she had just received. She thought about soup. She thought about soup a little more. She stood there for a bit, then stood there for a bit more. More standing. More thinking. The girl behind the counter was trying to keep a straight face but she was clearly getting annoyed with Miss Manners and her contemplation of the cosmic ramifications of the soup flavors. Miss Manners is also lucky she pulled this at 4:00 PM and not during the lunch rush. If she had done it during the lunch rush, after about two minutes she would have been bum rushed by a couple of line backers from the local college football team for taking too long to order. She would then have had plenty of time to consider the celestial soup ramifications from a traction bed at the local hospital.

To help speed the process along, the nice girl behind the counter asked the woman if she would like a sample of the soup. Miss Manners consented to a soup tasting, and the nice girl went and filled a small sample cup with soup. She handed the soup to Miss Manners, who sampled it carefully without slurping because only a goddamned barbarian would slurp their soup. Miss Manners then stood there for about 20 seconds. The nice girl behind the counter stood in this sort of suspended pose while she waited for a verdict on the soup. At this point, she was really annoyed. Apparently Miss Manners was assessing the bouquet of the soup or something. One taste was not sufficient to arrive at a conclusion about the soup, so Miss Manners put the spoon back in the cup for a second tasting.

It was at this point that she spilled the soup down the front of her shirt.

Hot soup. Thin blouse. Miss Manners got very excited. I kinda squinted my eyes up while I watched just to avoid seeing an old lady wet tee shirt contest. I have enough nightmares already, thank you very much. The nice girl behind the counter started hopping around looking for a wet towel, and the two of them did their best to contain the hot soup stain and clinging obscenity that her blouse had become.

So now the two of them are at an odd crossroads. Does Miss Manners go ahead and order some of the soup that almost put her in a burn unit? Or, does she skip the soup, which makes the entire fiasco a complete waste of time and effort? I must admit that at this point I was enthralled with the entire spectacle. When both of them had their composure back, Miss Manners decided to ordered some soup and a sandwich. I thought it was bold of her to do so considering the circumstances. I left for home not long after that, and if the soup found a way to finish off Miss Manners after I left, I hope somebody tells me about it next time I am there.

Max

Monday, November 06, 2006

 

You Are So Busted...


I have children.

The End.




Just kidding. I have two children. One boy and one girl. The girl is seven minutes older than the boy. both are distinct individuals. They work together to suck the life force out of me at a much higher rate than two individual children would be able to accomplish if working seperately.

Let X=The quantity of life force 1 child can suck out of their parent.

Let Y=The quantity of life force 2 siblings can suck out of their parent, or (x * 2)

Let Z=The quantity of life force twins can suck out of their parent, or (x * 14). (roughly 14...sometimes, it's higher.)

The Z Factor
Today I got busted by my daughter for the first time. As a parent, you often have to do things that would upset your child. The trick is not to get caught. This isn't too terribly difficult when they are small, but it gets harder as you go along. You have to throw away old toys and clothes. You have to tell them the medicine doesn't taste THAT bad right before you shoot it in their mouth, then distract them with a cookie. All of these things are a necessary part of raising children. However, young Kojak, you need to be careful when they start to do things like talk and think and analyze their surroundings. That's when the trouble starts. Sometimes I think I liked it better when they just rolled on the floor and made stink in a diaper. The rules on that gig were a known quanity I could get my mind around. Now, I get busted for putting things in the trash.

My daughter is a prolific artist. I know most kids like to draw pictures and cut things out with scissors, but my daughter draws like 35 pictures a day. She has probably made 15,000 snow flakes with folded paper and scissors. For Valentines Day she made 40 paper chains with hearts in various sizes and colors. She has made at least 25 princess crowns cut out of paper, custom fit to her head, and bejeweled with stickers and shiny paper carefully glued to them. She has drawn herself, her brother, and her friends in every setting from the local park to a trip to the surface of the moon. My Significantly Fabulous Other has now taught her to setup a simple object like a cube or a cone in a spotlight, and then draw the object and it's shadow. Basic My daughter enjoys this so much, she asks to do it on a daily basis. We have a cube, a cone, a cylinder, and some other shapes. We have a directional lamp just above them. She sets up the object and the light, and then sits there and draws the shading of the object and shadow over and over.

She is 7 years old.

If the blogging gig doesn't pay off, I figure in a few years I can sell her art and retire.

Like a dutiful father, I try and keep all of her art. I have boxes of it. I have drawers full of it. Every day, there is more. I was trying to clean up the house today, and I got fed up with all the millions of pieces of paper, and I selectively threw some of them in the trash.

Moron.

Later that day, I was upstairs working while the kids were downstairs playing. My daughter came into the office and struck this pose with her hands on her hips and her head cocked to one side. I look over, and she said "Daddy. Why did you throw away my art work?"

Shit shit shit. I am so busted.

This is a new frontier in our relationship, and I am not sure how best to handle it. I must explain my actions to my child for the first time. Prior to this, I was able to behave with impunity. Apparently, those days are over. She is seriously and genuinely pissed. I have never seen this look before. She has never looked at me with such a disapproving expression. My 7 year old daughter is pissed off at me. My mind can barely comprehend it.

I consider all my options. I could lie, but the look on her face says she's not buying what I'm selling. I could throw myself on the mercy of the court, but that will make her think she hurt my feelings by getting mad at me. She's very sensitive. So, I decide, since I am, godamn it thank you very much, still the "dad" around these parts, that I am going to tell her that some of it has to go. I launch into a long winded explanation in a gentle yet firm voice about how there is an amazing amount of art in our house. I tell her what a fabulous artist she is, but that some of it has to go or we will have to move out of this house and get a new one because the quantity art will fill all the rooms up to the ceiling. She stands there for 3 ENTIRE minutes with her hands on her hips and a scowl on her face while I tried to talk my way out of it. I have never seen this kid before. Where the hell did this kid come from? We go downstairs, and she has pulled all of it out of the trash and put it on the counter. Thank God I had just changed the trash bag before I put the art in the trash or there would be banana peels and cheerios stuck to it from lunch. She looks at me as if to dare me to put it back in the trash. I realized at that point that I am overmatched, so I offered to put it in the desk along with the other 345 pounds of drawings that are already in the drawer. She thinks this is a fabulous idea. I put the pictures in the drawer, and consider the possibility of maybe sneaking in later and throwing them away.

Will I actually do that? Hell no. I don't wanna deal with that look again unless I absolutely have to. I will just buy another house. That's much easier.

Max


 

The Joy of Online Banking

I use online banking just like any other civilized techie in the western world, and I am often amazed at how complicated banks make online banking for the average consumer. I recently added a new account to my online banking. A few weeks after I got the new account setup, I was paying some bills online and I noticed that the new account was not in the handy pop-up list of accounts for bill pay. Everything else seemed to work with the new account. I could see the balance of the new account. I could transfer money into it. I could transfer money out of it. With all of that power at my fingertips, wouldn't the ability to pay bills with the money in the account seem kind of a secondary concern? Why wouldn't the bank just add the account to bill pay when they set it up?

I look around the web site, and there doesn't seem to be an "Add my shiny new account to bill pay" button anywhere. I have a vague recollection of doing this a few years before with a different account, so I call the bank. Before we go into the details, let me sum up by saying that yes, you do have to call the bank to add an account to bill pay. It's not done automatically because of "security". Let's assume for a second I had somehow gained illegal access to this account. I can clean the damn thing out, so what more damage is there that I could do? Are they afraid I might break into someones account and pay their bills for them? Maybe if I wanted to be the stupidest online thief in the entire history of the universe, I could break into their account, transfer my own money into their account, then pay their bills. That'd teach 'em, the bastards. "I'll pay their goddamn bills for them, see how they like it. Yeah."

So, I look up the customer service number, and call the bank. I'm reasonably certain I have called the right number. There are like 264 numbers listed on the "Contact Us" page. Contact you? I would be happy to, as soon as I figure out how.

The recorded moron voice asks me lots of simple questions, and can't understand any of the goddamn answers I give him, so he transfers me to an "associate". The "associate", or as I like to refer to him, Ass-o for short, comes on the line after I have enjoyed 7 minutes of elevator music. He begins quizzing me about my account to establish my identity. The first thing Ass-o asks me for is my checking account number. Who the fuck remembers their checking account number in the modern era? I can't even find my checkbook. I use online bill pay for Gods sake. If I had to write a check, I would need my kindergarten teacher Ms. Future Therapy Subject to explain it to me with small words because I hadn't done it in so long.

I tell him I don't have my account number, which makes me feel good and rebellious. Fight the power. Ass-o says, "are you using online banking?" I told him that, in fact, I am. He tells me click here, here, and there, and it will show me my account number. I do so, and the account number pops up on the screen. One point for Ass-o. I read the account number to Ass-o, which seems to make him happy too. I figure at this point, we are now getting along famously, and we can proceed to the business at hand of adding my new account to bill pay.

Wrong. Ass-o is not done with me. he continues to quizz me about my accounts to further establish my identity.

"Please tell me the deposit amount to your savings account on 11/01/06"
"Please tell me your secret word."
"Please tell me the date and time of your last bowel movement."

I thought the last question was a little too personal, but I answered to the best of my recollection. For the love of all things holy, he had just told me to click here, here, and there, and read him the account number. He could probably hear the keys clickin' in the background. Doesn't that establish that it's my account?

Once we got through all the verification questions, I finally get a chance to tell Ass-o what I need. I tell him that I need to add my new account to my online bill pay. He tells me his department doesn't do that, and that he will have to transfer me to another department. The odds of calling the right department were 1 in 264, and apparently I got it wrong. Fabulous. Ass-o puts me on hold. More elevator music. After a few minutes, he comes back on the line with Bubbles the helpful assistant from the department that can add my new account to online bill pay. Ass-o drops off the line, and Bubbles starts asking me verification questions about my account again. Didn't Ass-o pass along the fact that he had already worked me over so much with verification questions that it might mean he and I are dating? Ass-o knows personal things about me that most people don't know, and I get to share those with Bubbles too? Finally, I make Bubbles happy, and she asks me what I need. Apparently Ass-o didn't tell her why he was transferring me. Thanks, Ass-o, for passing along the necessary information. I'll take that point back you earned earlier. We are now in a 0-0 tie. I tell Bubbles I need to add my new account to online bill pay.

Bubbles tells me that her department doesn't do that, and that she will need to transfer me.

Now, for those of you who know me, I have a notoriously short fuse for this level of stupidity. I would normally have gone insane by this point in the conversation. I am already entitled to my daily reward cookie just for not screaming obscenities at both Ass-o AND Bubbles. If I have to go through the Information Violation again, and I can manage to do it without threatening to kill people, I get to eat the whole damn box of daily reward cookies. Bubbles puts me on hold for a few minutes. When Bubbles comes back on the line she has Elroy the helpful redneck to assist me. Before we go any further, I ask everybody in our little menage-a-trois if we all understand why we are here today. When I am certain Elroy can actually add my account to online bill pay I let Bubbles drop off the line, and I didn't even yell anything about how her parents were obviously living near Three Mile Island during that nuclear accident when she was born.
Elroy begins to ask me a series of new and even more personal questions to establish my identity. At this point I feel like a cheap hussy that has been passed around the Super Bowl after party. When Elroy is finally satisifed that I am who I say I am, he adds my account to online bill pay in about 3 seconds. I was almost disappointed. He asked me if there was anything else he could help me with today. I told him no, you guys have done quite enough for one day. We each hung up for the phone, and I went looking for my box of cookies.

Max

Friday, November 03, 2006

 

Observations of the Day - 11/03/2006

Staggering.

What's the first fucking thing they teach you in kindergarten, right after "stop picking your nose" and "Hi, I'm your new teacher, my name is Ms. Future Therapy Subject"? What is it? Can you remember? Of course you can. They teach you how to stand in line. The educational system revolves around line standing, line sitting, lining up, and having shit in lines. Children. Books. Papers. Lines.

"Learn it, know it, live it."

We all learned it, some of us even manage to remember it, and bring it with us into our adult lives. But, there are exceptions. Today's post is about one such person.

I was working at The Satellite Office today, and it had been pretty quiet that afternoon. While working diligently on my trusty laptop, I detect movement in my peripheral vision, and I look up to see a very attractive blonde approaching the front counter. We are nearing the end of the lunch rush, and the only two people waiting in line are two young women that are obviously next to order. There are three cashiers. They stand in a row. All the little customers line up in a LINE along a short wall next to the booths and wait their fucking turn like fucking civilized human beings.

I watch the blonde. Did I continue to watch her because she was attractive or because of my keen sense of observation? You decide. She walks to the spot right behind where the two women are standing while they wait for a cashier to open, but she only slows slightly, and then she walks past them and stands right behind the people ordering food from the three cashiers. She looks up at the menu like she's having trouble deciding what she wants. She stands there for maybe 45 seconds until one of the three cashiers opens up, and what does she do? You know exactly what she does. She steps up to the fucking cashier and starts ordering.

I can just here the lame justifications in her tiny little brain. "Holy sheep shit, there's an open cashier right here in front of me. How did that happen? I'm so lucky! I think I will order some food."

The two women who are still standing in line are incredulous. I can see them staring at the back of the blonde bimbo's head and cursing, but they didn't say anything. Modern society dictates that we just grin and bear it. No big deal. Maybe she made a mistake. She probably didn't see us here waiting in line like a couple of lemmings.

The blonde gets her food and sits down, and I seriously considered going over and saying something. Doing so would have seemed a bit stalker-esque, but it would have been worth it. She had this shitty smirk as she walked to the table, which made it pretty obvious she knew exactly what she was doing. She probably does shit like that all the time.

"What is your major malfunction, numbnuts?"

How can an adult in modern society act like that? What kind of a fucked up sense of your own importance in the universe would lead to that behavior in a full grown adult? Didn't she go to kindergarten too? It astounds me. And, for all the people that will say I get too excited about stuff like this, yes, I realize nobody died. No limbs were severed in the making of this shining example of childish behavior in a full grown adult. I still say, however, that you should be able to plant a swift kick in the ass to anybody caught doing something so stupid.

If she had she done it in front of me, I would like to think that is exactly what I would have done. Maybe I will get another chance someday. I will have to keep an eye out for her. It's good to have a dream...

Max

Thursday, November 02, 2006

 

Observations of the Day - 11/02/2006


People say customer service is dead.

They are correct.

I spent the better portion of the day today at The Satellite Office. I even met a co-worker there, and he thoroughly enjoyed the coffee, bagels, scenery, and free internet, so I guess that means he will be back. He travels every week and usually works out of his hotel room (he is also a member of the Technology Homeless) so TSO is the perfect option for him. It's even conveniently located near his preferred hotel when he is in town. Damn it! It serves me right. Now he will be in there every week messing with my mojo. While I am not thrilled about that, there may be a silver lining. He considers himself to be quite the player, and if the rumors I hear are true he will have all the beautiful women sitting at our table during the lunch rush. Another co-worker that has traveled with him told me that he can go to the bar to order drinks, and come back with all the female bar tenders phone numbers in under 3 minutes. Maybe it won't be so bad after all. I will just promise my Significantly Wonderful Other that I will only be funny half the time and not touch anyone at any time.

So, on to why customer service as we know it has died.

Late in the afternoon at TSO, these two girls came in and ordered lunch. When they got to their table just across from me, one of the girls noticed that her sandwich was not right. She went back up to the counter to get it fixed. The girl behind the counter was not a member of The Sandwich Machine that works the lunch rush. I think she was just filling in while everyone else was in the back playing grab ass or something. The Sandwich Machine consists of a surprisingly efficient group of people that work together like a living organism during the lunch rush. This place frequently has a line out the door at lunch, and they probably make 275,000 sandwiches between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM. Say what you want about their ability to meet the coffee demand in the morning, they can crank out some fucking sandwiches in the afternoon. When you order food they give you one of those obnoxious little flashy buzzer pagers which conveniently notifies you and everyone within 15 feet of you that your lunch is ready. When The Sandwich Machine is "in effect", you can order the most complicated sandwich imaginable, pay for your food, get your buzzer, and the goddamn thing will go off before you can walk to the end of the counter. Bang! Instant sandwich. It's like they're psychic. I think they start making the sandwich before you actually order it. I once intentionally ordered something that wasn't on the menu, I think it was haggis, and they had it done in 17 seconds. I thought my head was going to explode. Anyway...
The girl goes back up to the counter. She had ordered a turkey swiss with mayo, no lettuce and tomato, and she got something like fried pork on rye. The sandwich she received did not at all resemble the sandwich she had requested. She then attempts to explain to the stand-in wingnut behind the counter what kind of sandwich she actually ordered, and it was fucking hysterical.

"No lettuce and tomato. Just mayonnaise. No, no tomato. Leave the tomato off."
"It's supposed to have turkey, not fried pork. Yes. Turkey."
"Swiss cheese, not american cheese. Swiss. And some mayo please. Yes. Mayo."
"Could I get some mayo please?"
"Just a little mayo, for the love of God."

She said the word "mayo" at least 17 times. The wingnut handed the sandwich to her twice, each time, still, with no mayo. The girl would then hand it back to the wingnut and ask again for some goddamned will ya just for the love of Christ give me some goddamned mayo. (She was actually very polite. I'm embellishing for the sake of narrative.) Finally. FINALLY. The sandwich comes back right. She walks to her table, and at that point I think she was too tired to actually eat it.

So what do I do? I realize I haven't eaten lunch, and I decide to order some food. How stupid am I? It didn't click until later when I got the food and it was wrong, how dumb that was. I walk up to the counter 5 minutes after the Fried Pork Fiasco, and try and order food from the wingnut. Big L for "Loser". I decide to try something a little different than what I usually eat, so I ordered a chicken caesars salad. Sounds simple, right? Chicken. Salad. How could that get fucked up? I get my buzzer, go sit down, (because The Sandwich Machine was not on the job or my salad would have been ready in 3.5 seconds) and after a few minutes the buzzer goes off.

I get my salad and come back to my table. I look at it, and there's no chicken. I peak inside the salad in case the chicken is shy and doesn't like open spaces, but there's no chicken. At this point the irony hits me. Of course there's no chicken. After The Great Fried Pork Sandwich Fiasco, there is no possible way my salad is right. I go back up to the counter, and ask the wingnut if I could have some chicken on my chicken caesars salad. The little paper ticket is still on the counter from my order, with the word "chicken" printed right next to "caesars salad". She looks at the ticket, she looks at the salad, she looks at me, and says "Did you order a sandwich?" A sandwich? The question was so fucking stupid I was momentarily unable to speak. A sandwich? It say "salad" on the ticket. I mean, forget all the confusing details like "chicken" and "caesars", the word "salad" is pretty easy to deal with. Salad. I ordered a salad, you stump dumb moron wingnut.
When I was able to speak again, I said that I had in fact not ordered a sandwich. We failed to communicate for another minute or two until she figured out what I wanted, and finally she put some chicken on my salad.

I went back to my table and decided I will never order food again after 3:00 PM at TSO.

The salad was pretty good, and the chicken was in fact not shy at all.

Max

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

 

All I want is a cup of coffee

It bears mentioning that I have actually been a loyal customer of TSO for over 5 years. Before it was The Satellite Office, it was a convenient place to get coffee in the morning before work or a sandwich at lunch. When I became a member of the Technology Homeless, it seemed entirely logical to adopt it as my home away from home.

This extensive period of patronage coupled with my powers of observation has revealed some interesting things. For example, they can never keep enough coffee in the urns to keep up with the morning rush. They cannot seem to do it no matter how hard they try. They run out at least twice per hour, and 4 people end up standing around with pissy looks on their faces waiting for the coffee to brew in the kitchen. I am often one of those people. Well, I used to be one of those people. I have the trusty laptop now, so I can just go back to my table and fiddle about until the coffee arrives.

When the coffee is finally brewed, one of them drags the 40 pound urn to the front of the store, and attempts to lift it up onto the counter. I recommend standing a good distance away during this operation. The urn does not always make it to the counter on the first try. For a reason I have yet to fathom, they usually send the little hispanic girl out with the coffee. She's about 3' 8" tall, and the urn is only an inch or two shorter than she is. I believe the "Tale of the Tape" would show that they both hit the weigh-in at roughly the same weight, but that the hispanic girl has a much longer reach because she has...well...arms. Anyway, boxing references aside, eventually the coffee makes it onto the counter, and about 7 people descend on it and suck it dry.

Do they immediately go back to the kitchen and start another batch? No, they do not. They return to the kitchen to continue walking around bumping into each other and listening to the oven buzzers until somebody says "Hey, did you know you're out of coffee?" This starts the process all over again.

Occasionally, one of the helpful kitchen staff will ask you, "Would you like us to fill up your cup from the brewer while we make the coffee?" Do not EVER say yes to this. I don't care what you have to do. Tell them you would rather wait because waiting makes you feel more Zen like. Say "no hablo ingles" or something else in a foreign language so they will think communication with you is impossible. Make up a lie about being a leper and how they probably shouldn't touch your cup. Start coughing uncontrollably until they go looking for a bucket for you hurl into, but do not let them fill up your cup straight from the machine. I made this mistake once, and it made flames shoot out of my ass.

The thing that most people don't realize is that the first part of the coffee brews incredibly strong. As the pot continues to brew and mix, it gets weaker, and the last part is actually quite weak. The strong and weak coffee blend together in the urn to make a delicious pot of happiness. You can take a chance and hope you get a cup from the tail end of the brewing cycle, but do the math Einstein. They just ran out of coffee. That information was then relayed to the kitchen by an annoyed customer, which interrupted a game of either Fun with Oven Buzzers, or Aunt Jemimah Treatment.The crack squad of coffee engineers loaded the coffee in the machine, hit the big red Go button, then came out to front to do damage control with all the people who are now pissed off because they ran out of coffee...again. When she offers to fill up your cup, the machine has been running for about 45 seconds. That coffee will KILL you.

I've seen it happen. It's not pretty. It cost me a perfectly good pair of pants.

Max

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

 

Observations of the Day - Halloweenie

It's so fitting that I started this blog on Halloween. I didn't even plan that. Seriously. I made mention of an interesting character at The Satellite Office (TSO) to HTI, and he again attempted to instigate me into starting this blog. For some reason, I stopped ignoring him and did so. It was only later that I realize it was Halloween.

The comment I made to HTI was regarding a regular customer at TSO. She is there every day. Sometimes she is there twice a day. I know this, because:

A: I am so observant.
B: I am often there ALL day.

Any mention of the cast of characters I see at TSO must start with her. She is a little old lady. She looks like the sweetest little old lady in the entire world, and she probably is. She always dresses in these cute librarian dresses, has her hair in a bun, and eats a bagel and coffee. She sits quietly in a booth, reads the paper, and never makes a sound. She stays for maybe an hour, and as I mentioned, occasionally comes back for lunch. Why is this noteworthy? Well, she has one other characteristic. She smells. Horrendously. She smells of a combination of mothballs and that old lady perfume that old ladies buy somewhere. I love my own grandma to death, but she wore it too and it was horrible then like it's horrible now. Maybe the capacity of her nostrils has diminished with age, but she puts so much of it on I don't know how she can even see through the haze.

It shames me to say this, but I call her, Stinky Grandma.

I plan my whole morning around her. I'm not kidding. You see, there is a row of booths down the center of TSO, with tables scattered everywhere else. I prefer the booths. They are bench seats, more comfortable, and they have high backs for privacy. But, the Stinky Grandma will be upon us soon, so you must choose booth wisely, young Kojak. If it's late in the morning, say 9:00 AM, she will be there soon, so you try and pick a booth with customers on either side of you as a stink buffer. She ALWAYS sits in the booths. I have never seen her sit at a table. If it's early in the morning, you just go to the far end and hope for the best because there's no point in trying to guess who is staying and who is leaving over the next hour.
I often smell her before I look up and see her. She goes to the counter, gets her bagel and coffee, and heads for the booths. This is where the story turns ugly. She's a very neat and fastidious woman. She goes to the booth, puts down her bagel, and heads back to the coffee urns. Now, if you are between the booth she chooses and the coffee urns, this means she has buzzed you twice. The air grows thick and breathing becomes difficult. When she has her coffee, she heads back to her booth. You may now have been buzzed three times. Your life is in danger. Peer through the haze for a table far, far away, and crawl there while dragging your laptop bag behind you. If you are near the end of the booths, so far you are in good shape. You just need to keep your head down and breath that layer of cool air near the floor like Smokey the Bear taught you in grade school.

The carnage, I'm sorry to say, is not over, so don't get soft and start popping your head up like a goddamned gopher. She invariably forgets her napkin. I don't know why, maybe it's her age, but she always does. There are napkin stations at either end of the row of booths. Will she go back the way she came, to the coffee urns, and spare the lucky souls at the other end of the row? Or, will she head to the back of the store, wafting stink at her unprecedented rate, and finish off the few survivors that remain? Like Smokey said, "Only you can prevent forest fires." I don't know how that's relevant, but it seems relevant, and I'm still a little dizzy from all the stink.

Once she settles into the booth, she reads her paper, eats her bagel, and leaves. The air, however, in the entire area near her is fouled for at least an hour. I often have to move because I can't take it any longer. If she's feelin' feisty, she will go back for a second cup of coffee. This is like calling in a second air strike when you've already walked down the hill to confirm you blew them into hamburger with the first one.

"Man, that's just mean."

If she will just hold still, it's not too bad. If she gets to moving around, it's like the mustard gas they used in WW II. It gets spread everywhere and nobody is safe. You might as well just hitch hike back to Paris, and catch the boat home.

Do I feel horrible calling her Stinky Grandma? Of course I do. Does she stink worse than a box of monkey pellets on a sunny afternoon? Absolutely.

She is the first of many strange characters I see at The Satellite Office. I wonder what her name is...

Max

 

Good advice from our first comment

Our first comment from bagelbabe (I bet she's warm and toasty on the inside) is sage advice regarding the workplace and blogging. It is also a link to a kick ass blog I am certain to thoroughly enjoy. The moral of this kick ass blog page, do not blog about work unless your boss knows about it, seems to be covered at The Satellite Office. Page 1, chapter 1, section 1, verse 1, of The Satellite Office's first post mentions how this was my boss' idea. Yes, he is aware of it. Besides, I would never actually blog about the people I work with, I hardly ever see the people I work with. I see lots of weirdos at The Satellite Office. They are so much more interesting to blog about.

 

Get to the freakin point.

I see some silly shit in here.

Have you ever recognized someone in public, had them look right past you, and never notice you were in the room? You could walk right up to them and stand in front of them, and it would take them a full three seconds to recognize you and recall your name? These are people that are not terribly aware of their surroundings. I am not one of those people. In fact, that's related to my second super power, but as mentioned previously, discussion of super powers is for a seperate post.

The point is, I notice my surroundings. Lots of people don't. One a 1-10 scale, with a 1 being the aforementioned clueless person, I'm like a 12. I look at everybody. Everything. All the time. I do it while driving, shopping, and traveling. I can't help it. The upside of this is I see so much silliness. The downside of this is that it can be kind of distracting. Life has its little trade-offs. I guess that's one of them.

While I spend my time at The Satellite Office, I watch all the other customers. I notice the regulars, of which I am one. I notice the weirdos. I notice the clueless. I listen to the conversations instead of tuning them out. I see and hear hilarious things, and plan to post descriptions of these things, but in a manner so as not to harm the innocent. Unless they annoy me. Then, all bets are off.

It was this "stuff" that HTI was referring to. He's right. It's fairly amusing. If I can do a respectable job of writing about it, perhaps others will find it amusing too. If other homeless breathren have similar stories of their adventures in the wilds of the free internet, and they share them, the community will spring to life. If not, I will probably keep rambling. Either way this costs less than therapy.

 

Who...Why...Where.

I am a "Technology Professional". At times I am referred to as a computer geek. I have no home. I'm not actually homeless, I just don't really work "anywhere". I work "everywhere". You've seen me, although you may not realize it. Sightings include restaurants, coffee shops, and Starbucks. If there are chairs, tables, and internet access, we can frequently be spotted, identified, tagged, and release again into the wild.

I am, in fact, quite good at it, this Technology Professional gig. I believe even HTI would agree with that statement. It could be why he hired me, but who knows. I may have mentioned something about humility in a previous post, but it is often those of us that are the best at what we do that are allowed to roam the universe while working and don't actually have to go to an office on any regular basis. We require minimal supervision. The Wireless Universe makes us efficient and effective at all points in the Universe simultaneously. Contemplate THAT after too many of the beverages of your choice.

We are a growing community. There are millions of us. Well, maybe not millions, but there are certainly more than I can count on my fingers and toes. We all have laptops and hunt the cities of America for free internet access. In fact, we often don't even need the "free" internet any more, because we have wireless cards that work on cell phone networks. I can get connected and stay connected indefinitely while going 100 mph in my sports car with the laptop flipped open in my lap resting against the steering wheel, although that would be an exceedingly bad idea. I mention it merely for the purposes of clarification. For those of you playing the home game, please don't try that. This new found freedom from "internet hot spots" allows me a vast array of locations where I can settle in and get some work done. I can stop anywhere, open the laptop, and work my magic.
"That's where my talent runs rampant, and I charge accordingly."
Why quote a movie line, along with a convenient link for your perusal? Well, because of my super power, of course. More on that later, but you can expect many movie quotes relevant to the subject of discussion along with handy links to read the original line. They come to me all the time. I can't stop them. I can't even fight them off. People have to take my word that I'm quoting a movie line when it happens in conversation. Here, I can actually prove it. (assuming google can find it.)

Though the world may be open to me and my wireless card, I am human, and humans are creatures of habit. There are some places I prefer more than others. One of them is a place with free internet that serves coffee, bagels, sandwiches, and a plethora of other things to eat. It is also the motivation for this blog. I refer to this location simply as the "The Satellite Office." When my friends chat me and ask, "Where are you today?", I reply "The Satellite Office" and they know exactly what I mean. Another reason I frequent this location is that computer geeks are also speed hounds, and free internet is always faster than a wireless card. While I could easily go to the mall and sit in the "wait here while I try this on" chair at Victoria's Secret and work while watching the beautiful babies, they would eventually kick me out, and email is a little slow over the wireless card.

Liberation from hotspots does not mean we shun them. Aside from the speed factor, they also provide a sense of community and entertainment. Please remember that we are homeless. We rarely see any of our ilk. We want to belong to something, albeit peripherally. At least they recognize me here as "that guy that drinks coffee all day and hogs the internet connection". Sometimes the nice girl just hands me the coffee cup and doesn't even charge me. Celebrity status. I belong. Amen.

I felt that perhaps by starting a blog about this place, I could share some of the daily entertainment I observe in The Satellite Office. I could perhaps even create a virtual community for my homeless breathren. They could recount their tales of life on the road, and higher consciousness could come of it. You don't know. It could happen.

Homeless. Deskless. Colleagueless. At times, peerless, other times, womanless.

The Uber Geeks.

This...is The Satellite Office.

 

Humble Beginnings

I am a humble man. I know my strengths, my weaknesses, and what lies between. I know, for example, that starting this blog is probably an exceedingly bad idea. It was not my idea. It was my boss' idea.

HTI: You gotta blog this stuff. It's hilarious.
HTI: Come on, start a blog about that place.
HTI: Did you start that blog yet?

He is a bit of an instigator, so I think I will refer to him as The Instigator, or better yet, He That Instigates. (HTI for short.) He will undoubtedly play an interesting part in this blog, so he certainly needs a name.
One item in the "do not know" Category of Self would be my abilities as a "blogger". I am as yet untested in "blogspace". I have never written a blog. I don't even read any blogs. Well, I read one blog, but I'm not supposed to be reading it, because I found the address of said blog through legal yet mildly clandestine means. We can talk about that later. For now, perhaps a bit of explanation is in order.

Read on, young Kojak, if you seek what it all means...

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