Monthly Archives: July 2005

“A thousand dollar car, it ain’t worth nuthin’
A thousand dollar car, it ain’t worth shit
Might as well take your thousand dollars
and set fire to it

If a thousand dollar car was ever worth a damn
then why would anybody ever spend ten grand?”
Bottle Rockets

I was reading about Jeff Jarvis’s problems with Dell today and it reminded me of something that everyone should know:

When it comes to computers, you get what you pay for. Some brands cost more than others. There are reasons for this. And I can guarantee you, it’s not because some companies just upped and decided to charge you more money to increase their bottom line.

As the computer market has become more competitive, prices have dropped. This has come at the expense of parts. Brand names once known for their quality (Gateway) sold their brand name for a cheaper box. Others, like Dell, have become customer support nightmares.

There are good brands out there. Macintosh computers cost more, for instance, but you’re getting integrated parts that are less likely to conflict with one another or the operating system. IBM, my personal favorite, costs about 33% more on average, but you’re getting a computer that is much less likely to break down. You’ll also get great customer service with both.

But you have to pay more for it. Most people are unwilling to do that. They look at the sticker price and leave it at that. Then they complain when the tech support person is an Indian or they get no support (I’m not speaking of Jeff Jarvis here, he purchased the warranty plan and he is entitled to it. He’s been wronged).

If I were to give you one piece of advice, it’s this: Decide what you need and then get the best you can meeting that criteria. Don’t try to get as much as you can for as little as you can spend (which, I know, is the hallmark of capitalism). Sacrifice processor speed, get more RAM. Customize your own. Don’t take what they have stocked.

Why not?

Because computer companies have no financial interest in you being a satisfied customer. On the contrary. The dirty little secret of the computer industry is that most people can do what they need to do on a processor built over five years ago. But most people bought a crappy computer that didn’t have enough RAM and was loaded down with software packages they didn’t need. But those were the “deals.”

And people take for granted that you have to keep buying new computers. So in return for shortchanging you on RAM and video memory, they are rewarded with another computer being purchased sooner rather than later. They’re rewarded for cutting corners.

So before you decide to save some money, just remember that you’re not getting what you’re not paying for. If you’re not getting the warranty plan, you’re not getting customer service. If you’re not paying for a quality brand, you’re not getting a quality product.

Remember this next time you see a computer for $400 in the Sunday advertisements. Don’t buy a computer cause it’s cheap. By a computer cause you need one. Then buy the computer you need.

Category: Elsewhere

Me: I heard there was a shake-up in management today. What gives?

Willard: Nothing too big. Mickey Holden is no longer with us.

Me: Who was he?

Willard: He’s our former part-time Accounts Cheif.

Me: Tall guy? Buzz-cut?

Willard: Yeah.

Me: I didn’t realize he was part-time.

Willard: He wasn’t supposed to be. That’s why he’s ‘former.’

Category: Office

Nothing kills a good mood like a corpse taking over where a living person left off. Especially when the person was one of Clancy’s patients and they were not supposed to die.

But enough of the dead, for the time being, and on to the living.

Clancy has something of a barbed tongue. She also has a suffer-no-fools attitude when it comes to work. If someone is drugseeking or paving their own quick route to the afterlife, she is pretty quick to say so. Not to the patient, of course, but to herself or a nearby sympathetic ear. She is a genuinely compassionate person and a great doctor, but we all have our limits and working in a low-cost clinic subsidized by the state puts her face-to-face with a lot of very unfortunate people.

Not too long ago, two cop shows that I was watching broached the subject of police calousness. In each case, the officer made a somewhat crude remark about the victim in earshot of the victim’s loved ones. Tempers flared and the victim’s loved one demanded that the officer be taken off the case. In the case of the more serious police drama, the loved one was pulled aside and told, as clearly as possible, that it’s not the officer’s job to grieve. Every homicide cop grieves their first victim. By the fortieth it’s not so big a deal anymore. And that’s a good thing because it allows the officer to focus on the task at hand. And the callousness is a defense mechanism that allows then to distance themselves from the situation and approach it more objectively.

Clancy deals with a lot of drain-circlers. People that are, as mentioned above, paving their own road to death. Drug users, alcoholics, and people just off-kilter enough in the head to not be able to take care of themselves but not off enough for the state to intervene. People that can’t seem to take care of themselves or steadfastly refuse to. Seeing those kinds of people come in and out of your office unvariably takes a toll. But she has to pick the ones that she gets emotionally invested in. The lost causes are given the best medical advice she can offer and then ignore it, for the most part.

The deceased was not one of Clancy’s better patients. Less “Oh, no, what’s wrong,” and more “Oh brother, what is it now?”

But the defenses come crumbling down. Part of it is self-recrimination (“What did I miss?”), but most of it is being human and having seem someone a few weeks ago alive and knowing that they are no longer so. And the guilt of your last thought when you last saw him a negative one. And again, just being human.

As helpful as it is to provide emotional distance with self-destructive patience, it’s also important to mourn their passing. Even when – and maybe especially if – no one else notices or cares. As she struggles to regain her composure today, some day down the line she may struggle to be as affected as she now is just so that she can remember that she’s human.

It’s a struggle worth embarking on.

Category: Hospital

Most of what I write takes place in the fictional state of Deseret. This post is somewhat unique in that it’s more of an outside look involving the real world. As such, for the sake of this post, state lines are drawn as they are in real life and unfictionalized.

Believe it or not, the Mormons have a temple in Las Vegas. A Mormon Temple is different from a church. They have churches everywhere, but temples are only built in places that have enough members to justify one, enough money to build one, and/or another reason. Las Vegas falls into the latter category. Basically enough Mormons wanted to get married in Vegas that they set up a temple almost especially for marriage. Despite the fact that there is already a temple in nearby St. George, Utah. Who says Mormons are not flexible? They built the temple on the east side of town. When Jesus returns, he is supposed to return to Jackson, Missouri, where they believe the Garden of Eden to have been. On the top of all of their temples they have a statue of Moroni, the angel that gave Joseph Smith the tablets. Moroni faces the way of Eden. So he’s on the east side of Las Vegas, facing away from Sin City and looking at Utah.

That’s quite appropriate, both in their disdain of sin and the special place that Utah holds in the faith.

The Salt Lake Tribune has an interesting series of articles on the declining population of Mormons in Utah. A quick word about the Salt Lake Tribune and Salt Lake City in general. Salt Lake City has two halves and two newspapers. The oldest newspaper, Deseret Morning News, is actually run by the Church. For a church-run entity it is actually a decent news source, but it comes with its fair share of biases (as all newspapers do, my newspaper back home was so in the pocket of the Chamber of Commerce it was not even funny). The Salt Lake Tribune represents the other half of SLC. It bills itself as Utah’s “independent” newspaper. It doesn’t say “independent” of what, but it doesn’t really have to. Most of the writers for Deseret Morning News are presumably Mormon. Most of the writers for the Salt Lake Tribune are not. So when one reads negative news about the church in the Salt Lake Tribune, you have to consider that the writer probably took a little pleasure in writing the story and the intended audience is being served with news they will find comforting.

According to population estimates, Utah may no longer have an LDS majority by 2030. The article does, however, acknowledge that this is unlikely to change the state’s atmosphere. Regardless of the actual populations, Mormons tend to be more civic-minded and are extremely over-represented in the voting population. More than that, the institutions are all theirs. They run the Little League, they are on the school board, and so on. Frankly, it would likely take at least a generation of a non-LDS majority before real cultural changes started to be instituted. Needless to say, my wife and I will not be in or around Utah any time soon.

One of the ironies here is that Utah is a victim of its own success. Out-of-staters are moving here in large part due to opportunities. The Utah economy is doing really well. A lot of this is owed to Mormon industriousness. Some of it is due to a friendly business environment owed in part to Republican dominance that is based largely on conservative social issues. Besides jobs, the fact that Utah is such a family-friendly place helps attract conservative out-of-staters. The LDS connection there is more straightforward. The other thing that helps is the environment, which is bringing in all the “wrong” kind of people.

But places are apparently feeling quite a pinch. Inner-city wards are closing because families are sprawling in Utah just like they are elsewhere. On the other hand, while the LDS majority is being cut across the state, I’d be willing to bet that the largest cut is in Salt Lake City, which may not even be 50/50 anymore.

The original article alluded to another article about LDS families praying for other LDS families to move in. It also discussed that what may be necessary is an economic hit to get those not culturally devoted to Utah to move along. I’d be willing to bet that some people are even praying for that. The Mormon population spills heavily into eastern Idaho as well as in to Nevada (Nevada Senator Harry Reid is Mormon, in fact) and Arizona (most of the wacko fundamentalist Mormons are actually in Colorado City, Arizona) and Wyoming. The one state that has comparitively few is Colorado. There is little concern that Utah will ever turn in to heathen Nevada, but turning into a secular Colorado is quite a concern.

I suspect quite a few Mormons would take an economic hit to ensure that it doesn’t happen.

Category: Church

Note, half of this was written yesterday, half today.

Tagged by Barry.

Ten years ago: I’m not sure I existed ten years ago. The person with my name, idenfification, and fingerprints was quite different. I was in between my freshman and sophomore years in college. I was dating Julie rather intently. It was this particular summer than an old flame that dramatically hung me out to dry came back with the intent of reconciling. But at that particular point I’d played a Jedi mind-trick on myself and didn’t think I had ever loved her or could have ever loved her again. I was wrong about that and if I could “undo” a dozen or so things from my life, how I treated her would be one of them. One other big thing a few months less than ten years ago: Pregnancy. Scare.

Five years ago: After being laid off, I was desperately looking for work. I was with Evangeline for the second of three stints, though this was towards the end of it. There was a strong sense of powerlessness in my life and my problems seemed to all feed back on itself. Evangeline was mad because I was unemployed, I was turning down job offers because the scheduling wouldn’t allow for things to get better with Evangeline and was also spending too much money on her. My relationship with my mother was also deteriorating at this point because of my financial problems and my relationship with Evangeline, of which she did not approve. Parental disapproval, of course, put more pressure on my relationship with Evangeline. It was a mess.

One year ago: Unfortunately, almost exactly where I am now. Almost exactly. Ugh. I need a drink.

Yesterday: Worked till 6:30, got home at 7:30, exercised till 8:30, went out to eat and got back at 9:30, went to bed at 10. In the process, spent some time reflecting how many of my days are spent this particular way.

Today: I’m trying to set it up so that both Clancy and I can have our computers on the Internet at the same time without spending an extra $10 a month.

Tomorrow: More of the same, depending on how things go. If they go well, I’ll do some Internet surfing. Since it’s a weekend, I won’t have to go to bed quite so early.

5 snacks I enjoy: I’m trying to get away from snacks, but I’m a sucker for peanut M&Ms, string cheese, turkey-pepparoni, offbrand dry cereal of the Lucky Charms variety, and those Take-5 candy bars.

5 bands that I know the lyrics of most of their songs: Eagles, Frank Black, They Might Be Giants, Son Volt, and Genesis.

5 things I would do with $100,000,000: This may be elaborate, but here we go. I’d figure out how much I needed to live on for the rest of my life. I’d double it in case of emergency and figure out how much I would need to put in the bank to live off the interest. If I have kids I would probably put aside a couple hundred thousand apiece, make sure that my parents retirement is taken care of (as well as Clancy’s, of course). There are some things I’m missing here. But once I get the money put aside for myself, my friends, and my loved ones, I would take the rest (which would almost certainly be a majority) and find some good causes for them. Charity is a funny thing because you don’t want to subsidize habits that keep the poor poor, but you do want to help them get a better life. But there are some charities that I think are undeniably worthy of funding. At the top of that list would be women’s shelters for abused women, alcohol and drug treatment programs for those that want it but cannot afford it, and college scholarship opportunities for gifted students that come from troubled homes. But for the most part, I wouldn’t want to be too wealthy and since I dispise conspicuous wealth, my outlets for it would be limited.

5 locations I’d like to runaway to: Belize, Alaska, eastern Europe, Turkey, and Britain.

5 bad habits I have: My mind gets caught in negative feedback loops, I don’t sit still, I eat all the wrong foods, I smoke, and I drink way too much caffeine.

5 things I like doing: Reading, watching television and film, having intimate discussions (privately) in public places, going to the beach after dark, and watching people.

5 things I would never wear: Sandals, bow tie, nail polish, jewelry (except my prodigal wedding ring), emo glasses, empty beltloops, and a solitary moustache. That’s seven things, but I stole the first two from Barry. Woulda come up with sandals on my own, though.

5 TV shows I like: 24, Boy Meets World, The Shield, Frasier, and Law & Order

5 movies I like: Twelve Monkeys, Hedwig & The Angry Inch, Memento, Unbreakable, and Ghost World (I chose those in particular because I own them and I only own ten or so total, I’d wager)

5 famous people I’d like to meet: Comic writer Alan Moore, Ben Folds, M. Night Shyamalan, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton

5 biggest joys at the moment: Clancy, music, writing, reading, television

5 favorite toys: My computers, my exercise bike, my digital camera, my CD/MP3 player, and my wacky and thorough imagination.

5 people to tag: Until I get up a readership, I’ll avoid passing these along.

Category: Elsewhere

After a tense and heartwarming discussion with Clancy, we came to the conclusion that we should get a second clock. My lack of a clock has been well-documented on this site and it was finally decided that enough is enough. The conversation went something like this:

Clancy: My alarm clock isn’t waking me up in the morning anymore.

Me: I don’t know what your problem is. Whenever it goes off I have to go to the other room while you hit the snooze button for an hour.

Clancy: Yeah, but lately I don’t even have to hit the snooze button. I just sleep through it.

Me: Hmmm. Well we have the lights come on and the alarm go off. What more can we do for you?

Clancy: Get a louder alarm clock.

Me: Can I have your old one?

Clancy: Sure.

Of course, I haven’t been able to plug my new alarm clock in or anything silly like that. But it does make a good cell phone alarm holder until I can get a new extention cord.

One step at a time, here.

Category: Bedroom

Big Time Drama in the Adjoining Cubicle – I shall never complain about overly talkative coworkers again. Though, on the other hand, none of them are quite this interesting. Some Office Guy recounts the mutterings, screaming, and conversations of his coworker.

Call Girl Confessions and Call Center Purgatory and Worst Call Of The Day – Those of you that have had to work phone support will appreciate this these. I worked for one briefly and this blog was almost born at that time.

The Boss Man – While I can’t help but think of The Big Boss Man, this is actually just a guy in charge of a call center who writes an interesting blog.

Big Picture, Small Office – The view from the corner office.

Morale in the Workplace – Unfortunately this one hasn’t been updated in a while, but it’s a really thoughtful look at the work environment. Lots of stuff to chew on.

Work Hate – This one also seems dead, but there looks to be some amusing archives to wade through.

Addendum: While cruising through sites I inadvertently forgot one of the first sites I visited, Corporate Peon. If you’re using Firefox or Opera her site might not load right, but it’s one of the more frequently updated sites of the bunch and probably the one with the best name!

Category: Server Room

Reports and Legal Documents is split between two different groups. The first group is OSI. OSI deals with the newer software that allows us to create a better product. It’s immensely less frustrating, it looks better on a resume, it takes less time to get more done, and our product is better in the end. And we get paid more. Our sister group, ANG, has a more frustrating job that isn’t as resume-friendly, takes more time to get less done, and has a goofier looking finished product to no fault of their own. OSI pays also pays more than ANG and has better opportunities for advancement.

In an amazing coincidence, our department (OSI) is completely male. Theirs (ANG) is almost completely female – the two supervisors are men.

When I first got here, it wasn’t so uniformly split. OSI was 90% male and ANG 90% female. My partner Simon’s girlfriend Paige worked in ANG and was the first to suggest that the company had a sexist tilt. She was upset because she hadn’t gotten the transfer (to a different division) she wanted, but once she said that I started looking a little bit closer and it became pretty hard to deny that I have a rather sexist employer.

From a sociological standpoint, it’s very interesting to have two different gender-specific groups doing similar tasks. Things are a lot more… dramatic… in ANG. They have at least one meeting a month to get whichever employees are feuding at any given time to calm down. At OSI, however, we all tend to get along (at least, since Teddy Forbes left). We don’t exactly all like one another, but no reason to rock the boat, y’know? Inversely, they all hang out together in their free time. We generally go our separate ways.

But sociological studies aside, this company is just asking for a lawsuit. I mean, really. But it’s a subject that no one really talks about. A while back I joked that Clem Hartford, who had just been hired to ANG, would be transfered over before Sandy Keller, who was told six months ago she would be transfered over to OSI after a month. Sure enough, it happened. When they were juggling applicants (you don’t apply for OSI or ANG but rather for RLD and are placed in one of the two upon being hired), the guys always got shifted to us and ladies to ANG. Except for a few of us that have noticed, the ladies just shrug and chalk it up to coincidence.

To be clear, I do not believe that FalStaff hates women. I would even venture to say that they do not even believe that men are more capable employees for the better jobs. I do believe that since OSI’s job is more technical they believe it’s better suited for males. But more than that, I think that that they look at men as the probably breadwinner of their household. When they see a female applicant, on the other hand, they see supplimental income. So in their own eyes they’re doing the right thing.

Doesn’t really work out that way, though. Most of the ANG ladies’ husbands work in the fields for less than they make here. Most of the OSI guys are unmarried and certainly have no children to support. To add further to it ANG requires more training and because it’s staffed by ladies, they have higher turnover due to pregnancy. But these sort of prejudices run deep, even when they’re not in the companies best interest.

I keep waiting for some day an ANG employer to just stand up and say “Wait a minute!”

Category: Office

Due to circumstances beyond my control and what was apparently an attempt to hijack my website and turn it into a linkfarm, approximately a bit under month’s worth of writing has been lost.

Addendum: Thank heavens for Google. It had actually archived enough of my website that I was able to recover every lost post except the most recent and one that I never actually posted. Unfortunately the comments are lost. So thank you for all those of you that have commented, even if they’ve gone into the great internet ethar.

Category: Server Room

I hate getting caught off-guard.

I just got off the phone with one of my cousins in Carolina. I haven’t spoken to him in a couple of years at my brother’s wedding. Before that it was actually longer. I had to ask him to repeat his name a couple of times before I recognized who it was.

He was extremely friendly and seemed to be trying to draw me into a friendly conversation. Meanwhile, I was trying to figure out what he wanted. He wanted some help with a website. No problem there, I’m going to do some looking in to hosts for him. But unfortunately I feel that I was kind of short with him.

This also happens when one of my brothers calls. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to them, it’s that I haven’t thought about what I want to say. I guess I’m sort of the kind of guy who has to prepare for daily conversation sometimes. I like to have a stock reply to such simple questions as “How have you been?”

“I don’t know, let me get back to you,” doesn’t seem appropriate over the phone. It’s one of the reasons I excel in a chatroom environment. I get a good 90 second delay. I can pretend to be multitasking.

The conversation of alcohol came up at work the other day an I commented, to the disapproval of a few, about how much I appreciate it taking the edge off when I am in a situation with the capacity to be awkward. Say, for instance, a cousin gives me a call and pretends to be really interested in how I’m doing because he wants something. That’s not to say that was the case with my cousin, but one can’t know for sure.

A while back another conversation came up about rhetorical questions. “How are you doing?” while passing in the hall is not asked to elicit an answer. You don’t want to be the one guy who traps someone just trying to be nice into a conversation. So you come up with stock replies. “Great!” when I remember, or “Pretty good” when I forget that “Great” is a better answer. But it took my young self a while to get uncomfortable with half-incomplete conversations. “How are you?” “Good, you?” “Great!” “Good.”… how mundane. But necessary in order to keep things light and upbeat.

You’ve got to do the same with family. Particularly since I’ve moved out here, aunts and uncles and everyone wants to know how things have been for Clancy and I. Your time is limited, so you don’t want to talk too much. God knows that I could bore someone to tears with the intricacies of my work environment or a comparative analysis of gas station prices between towns that I find utterly fascinating. No one cares! In most cases, unless something is seriously wrong, they don’t care how I’m doing. They just want me to know that they care about me. Maybe that I can call them if I need to talk or work through a problem.

And I’d do the same for them, of course. Family works that way. But the truth is that I haven’t spoken to my cousin in almost two years. I’ve seen him once in the last five years or so. I’m not going to go to him if I have a problem because I don’t really even know him. Nor him me. Our respective mothers aren’t particularly close – and neither of us particularly close to our respective mothers – so it’s unlikely we’ll ever need to know each other really well.

It’s not that family doesn’t matter to me. I enjoy time spent with my father’s side and some with my mother’s side as well (particularly since some torn relationships have mended). But when you stop seeing them on a regular basis, it turns in to something else. A few months back I spent some time with Clancy’s family at an annual Easter retreat. They have a certain cohesion that my family lacks. The Trumans meet on a few holidays a year, but other obligations make it an incomplete set. And since I have come out here there is just less opportunity.

It’s the price I guess we pay for autonomy and mobility. My mother moved from one coast to the other to get away from her family, Clancy went a distance to get away from hers. I followed Clancy because getting out was more important to her than staying was to me. But everything comes at a cost, I guess, like stilted conversations on the phone after two years of not having spoken.

Category: Elsewhere