Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Taking the ASS out of Assault since 2009

I know I said I wouldn't write much because of the tiny lil keyboard I'm using, but I felt this deserved an update.

Just about everyone has dealt with this at work at some point or another: the thing that won't go away no matter what you do. Maybe it's an account, maybe it's a person, maybe it's that pesky harassment complaint. Whatever is is, the more you want it to go away, the worse it gets.

For me, it's been this one account. What should have been a minor issue that would take a day or two to fix took close to two weeks. Nothing was every easy and it just kept getting more annoying. All I wanted was for it to be done, and yesterday I finally thought it was.

But OF COURSE it wasn't ... out of nowhere I got an e-mail from a sales rep about one seemingly easy last thing. This account's ads on our website needed to have the one sentence tagline they could edit changed back to what it used to be. Usually we just tell the customer to change it, but because of all the problems I offered to do it. Was it easy, of course not.

What seemed like a relatively innocuous statement was getting blocked by our system's profanity/offensive language filter, and I had no f*cking idea why. Then I thought maybe it was the word violence, so I took that out, and it still wouldn't take. I was ready to throw things, but instead I relatively calmly emailed somebody who runs the system asking why it wouldn't post and telling the sales rep the changes wouldn't be done when I said they would.

The next day I found out the problem, it wasn't that our filter was super sensitive and was picking up violence. Instead, the system was reading the word assault, seeing ASS and shutting down the whole thing. We were able to work around it, but I also had to e-mail my boss and my boss's boss explaining that this issue would take the rest of the day to fix because our system couldn't differentiate an ass from an assault in the ground (that doesn't work and isn't really that funny, but I'm leaving it).

These are the kinds of things I deal with on a daily basis. And tomorrow is another day; a day of all day training about how to train other people. Perfect.

Listening to: Village Idiot Radio on Pandora
About to: Watch some awful TV and sleep

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

R.I.P. Underemploymentness?

Is this blog dead?

I don't think so. There are two things trying to kill this little adventure in literary mediocrity: (1) my lack of computer and (2) my new job status.

The lack of computer is a huge bummer. As you can see in the last post, I got the blue screen of death a couple weeks ago. The computer is completely fried, totally unsalvageable and has taken lots of pictures, video of my friends looking like fools and Itunes purchases with it. Video of friend whose name I won't mention trying to eat a huge slice of pizza in four bites: I'll miss you the most.

Right now, I'm stuck using a year old netbook that was sitting around unused. The keyboard is approximately 2.6 inches across, and typing on this is a huge pain in the ass. I'll probably pick up a new computer in the next week or two, so until then updates will be few and far between.

But the more interesting thing that might lead to this blog going away is the job situation. The big changes I have mentioned in recent posts are starting to happen. Our department is changing from four horizontally equal groups working with basically different accounts to one large group with four vertically different positions. Over the last week or so, we've all found out what our new position was going to be and all that. I'm starting out one group below the top of the four, which, and I'm tooting my own horn here, is pretty f'ing impressive because I've only been here seven months. I have a crapload of new stuff to learn and all sorts of new responsibilities, but it's going to be a lot more interesting. And it came with a nice little raise as well. All in all, I've got nothing to complain about.

But does all of that mean the blog is over? I say no. Even with the bump in pay and responsibility, I still think I'm in the ranks of the underemployed. And I still work with some first rate wackos. So hopefully I'll be able to keep this interesting. But this keyboard is killing me, so it's time to go.

Listening to: Bill Simmons interviewing Artie Lange on his podcast
About to: Focus on the Yankees

Monday, August 10, 2009

Check Ya Later

The blog is on hiatus until the blue screen of death can be resolved, either by gutting my current computer or buying a new one.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I'm starting to wonder what I won't see/hear about when my time with this company is through.

I've already worked directly with coffee throwing sociopaths.

I've already had to sit right near a borderline Keebler elf who can say the same thing in the same inflection many many times each day (side note on her: I was in a meeting with her today and she happened to mention during a break that she has size 3.5 shoes ... is that even possible?).

I've already been told that telling someone on the phone that their request was "not a problem" was a terrible mistake.

And yesterday, during a training session, I played with legos.

Can you just read that sentence again? I am over 30 years old, have two degrees, can have relatively intelligent conversations about a variety of subjects on a moment's notice, but yesterday, I had to sit in a room with 12 other people, and play with legos.

So here's why. As part of the fact that my company is being more integrated into the globo corp that bought us a couple years ago, we have to go through all of the training that new hires at the larger company go through, so that down the line nobody can say they haven't been trained in whatever. This particular training was part II of the very basic intro for people for whom part of their job is to take phone calls from customers, and it was meant to focus on the importance of listening and asking questions.

I feel like I'm describing an episode of Sesame Street as I'm writing this (or perhaps this show that parents everywhere should be making their kids watch, for the kids benefit of course). There were two parts to our Lego festivities. In the first, the trainer gave us a series of instructions to put the legos together, but we couldn't ask any questions. Of course, the instructions were purposely vague so it would take complete luck to actually get it right. And when everything was said and done, nobody did.

Then, and here's where the learning went into full force, we got another set of instructions, but THIS TIME (capital letters means to express my unfettered excitement), we got to ask questions!!! So, of course, asking questions gave us all this additional information which allowed us to put the stupid legos together correctly.

My life will never be the same. Not only have I been given a real world in your face experience of the importance of asking questions, but I can no longer express the amount of time that has passed since I last played with Legos in decades.

Maybe this big corporate America stuff just isn't for me and I need to head back to a law firm or a small company again (no playing Legos as part of law firm training I can promise you that). Or maybe I need to stay here just for blog material.

Eh, those are really the extremes. As I've said to friends that have asked me recently how the job is going, I want to wait for all these changes to shake out, which should be done by the end of the year. At that point, I'll re-evaluate where I'm at and if I should look to make a move. Until then, who knows what's going to happen tomorrow. If I'm lucky, Chutes and Ladders.

Listening To: Spoon
About To: take part in my first practice fantasy football draft

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

If my superiors had the opportunity to peruse the following article in greater depth then circle back offline, I'd be subject to disciplinary action

I'm really not a big fan of corporate speak, the morass of words and phrases people in corporate America seem to use when they want to make the nothing they are saying seem really important. When all we hear about is productivity, why waste time trying to craft something that nobody will try to understand?

Every time I hear it at work, I have to stop myself from literally cringing, because having a clearly negative physical reaction when my boss's boss says they're still blue-skying something would probably be bad.

At the same time, I also acknowledge that in a lot of companies, putting this kind of BS together is an important skill to have. It makes you sound smart, and if you manage people you can get away from actually telling them really bad news but clouding it in a haze of run-on sentences and unnecessary bluster (FYI, I completely realize that adding unnecessary bluster to this sentence was, in itself, unnecessary bluster, I just liked how that reads).

I'm bringing this up now because I got an e-mail before I left today that was possibly the Holy Grail of doublespeak. I know exactly what is going on in my company in terms of some major changes happening over the next 6 months, and I'm really not sure what this says. I'm going to delete some things in here that clearly relate to my company, but nothing that would make it harder to understand what was said, plus I'll put a quick description of what I'm blocking out in brackets and maybe a comment or two in parentheses. Here we go:


Just wanted to share additional progress that is being made (passive voice, excellent) as we transition to [operating as similar groups in our parent company do]. As you may have noticed, our partners from [some place in these United States] are here again on site this week to assist with the work needed to move forward with [new initiative].....we are getting closer to completion of the first phase! (um, yay!)

This week [same city as above] is assisting us through formalizing critical skills needed within the path for [my company]. Many of your peers have been asked to assist in this collaborative exercise (I think that was the word meetings extended to 5-6 words) as first hand input is tantamount to our success. These are data gathering sessions only which will assist us in ensuring we are capturing everything we do as a department.

As I had previously mentioned in our June department meeting, we expect to have Phase 1 completed during the 3rd quarter so please stay tuned. This is soon to be a very exciting time for this department with many good changes. There is a lot of work and this will be a transformation over time but anything worthwhile takes work, correct? I ask that you embrace this very positive transformation and understand that our goal is to improve the customer experience and provide you the tools and training to do your jobs as effectively as possible. After all you [awful new tagline that I wouldn't write if I could].

More to come.....please ensure any and all clarifications you may have are directed to me or your direct manager.

[My boss's boss]

It was painful to read that again. Am I missing something or does that pretty much say nothing? I think it's meant to be reassuring about some of the upcoming changes, but when it's written like this, isn't it just going to confuse more people and make things worse?

Either way, sometimes you have to acknowledge greatness, even if it's greatness in something you can't stand. So boss's boss, way to go, you're written something that I can't understand and if I hadn't been writing this blog probably would have deleted within 30 seconds of receiving it. I have an idea that may have been the intended outcome.

Listening To: Dropkick Murphys
About To: Start to maybe think about packing

Friday, July 10, 2009

Profiles in Underemploymentness - Crazy Janey

First of all, if Crazy Janey brings nothing to your mind, you need to stop reading this and go buy some Bruce Springsteen albums.

For everyone that's left, I was trying to think of some kind of recurring post I could write on occasion, mostly for when I'm experiencing a little writer's block and need a crutch. What I came up with were these Profiles in Underemploymentness; where I'll write a post about one of my co-workers. Most of them are decent people, I even like a good number of them. There's really nobody that I can't stand or don't want to be around ...

And that last statement is only true because the coffee throwing dude I talked about in my last post got fired last week. I guess it's not really a surprise. Turns out he was suspended pending a review of the incident and a couple days later he got the boot. This is probably bad for my blog, but good for decreasing my chances of a sociopath co-worker showing up with a weapon.

So back to the point of this, Crazy Janey (obviously not her real name):

First things first, this lady is SHORT. And I mean tiny, maybe even wee. I have a couple of friends who flirt around the 5' mark, and that's not exactly tall. But Janey is 4'8, and she told us this so I'm not guessing. I just about average height, maybe a little below, and I TOWER over this woman. It's an odd feeling, and I'm not quite used to it.

When I first started this blog, I thought one of my first posts would be about Janey because she drove me nuts. I used to sit right near her. Not only is her voice loud (not something I can criticize anyone else for), she's got a pretty heavy Jersey accent and she says THE EXACT SAME THING EVERY TIME SHE ANSWERS THE PHONE. Plus, she emphasizes weird syllables, it's almost like I was sitting next to a misprogrammed robot with a bad accent. Here's her phone spiel, with capital letters showing what she emphasizes:

customer relaTION dePARTment, this is janey (I didn't leave the s off of relations by accident, she doesn't say it)

do you happen to have the acCOUNT numBER we may reFERence in order to beGIN the proPER assisTAnce (if I heard this on the phone, I'd probably hang up and call back to get someone else)

while i am bringing up the information, may I HAVE the SPELling please of YOUR FIRst name (they are supposed to get every one's name, but why ask the spelling of the first name? and does she say it when Joe calls too?)

I would hear this 20-30 times per day on average. One of the best unintended consequences of my move was that I can't really hear her anymore.

I don't want to be too negative though. She's a genuinely nice person, all the time. Almost too nice. When just about anyone walks by her cube, if she's not on the phone she'll say hi and that it's good to see them. Whether it's me the new guy or some very high up corporate guy from the main offices (I saw her do this), she has no fear. That's almost kind of admirable.

While her voice and borderline unbelievable ability to repeat the same thing every day all day has gotten on my nerves at times, she's also a carefree spirit that really likes her job and the people she works with and wants everyone to be happy and have a good time at work. My brain will never work that way, but she's not 100% wrong and I'm sure I'm not 100% right. Maybe there's something I can learn from this woman I"m calling Crazy Janey, it just won't be cadence of speaking, grammar or how to dunk.

Listening To: The Decemberists
About To: Kill some brain cells with MANswers and then sleep

Monday, July 6, 2009

Am I getting bored at work? You betcha!

But before we get to me, a little bit about Sarah Palin.

Do me a favor. Whether you like her or not, whether you don't care about politics or your opinion about Sarah Barracuda has been fully formed or not, watch this.

I know you didn't, so I'm giving you another chance. That video is a portion of Palin's announcement that she was going to resign as governor at the end of the month at some Governor's Picnic (which in and of itself sounds scary and wrong). This is only about minutes of her announcement, I'm not even asking you to watch the whole thing.

Now I know you still haven't watched it, but I have to move on. If you do watch it, and can actually expect that person to be the President of ANYTHING, I don't now how your brain works. At one point in her speech, she said she had been thinking about this for a while. If that's actually true, why didn't she write a speech, or come up with a better sports analogy?

I'm just dumbfounded about everything associated with her. Back in early 2008, I probably would have voted for McCain if the election had been held then. By the summer, I switched to the Libertarian side or maybe (but unlikely) Obama. Once Palin got involved and I heard her say a word or two, I had to vote for Obama. I'm not exactly happy about that, especially after some of the things that have gone on since Obama was sworn in, but I'm not sure I had a choice either. I simply could not be involved in anything that could arguable have somehow led to this woman (you still haven't watched, COME ON!) being in the White House.

And just to show that not everyone who would call themselves a Republican or a Conservative is a total nutcase, check out David Frum and Conor Friesdorf. I especially agree with Frum. I had hoped a Republican blowout loss in 2008 would get them on a path to normal human thought again, but it hasn't quite happened. Maybe a total Palin destruction in 2012 would have done something. Looks like right now, we'll never know.

B to the ORED

As I've said to people who have asked me about how my job has been going so far, I knew from the start that this was going to be a job that I was overqualified for. The name of this random mess of words generally organized into occasionally coherent paragraphs called a blog is pretty much based on that. Now that we're 5+ months in, at times it's getting hard to focus.

In school, I always did my best in classes where I really liked the professor and/or the subject matter. In my work life, I think I've always done my best with projects where I liked the people I was working with and/or was dealing with an interesting subject. That's probably true for most people, but I can really go off the deep end with it. I mean just not doing basic things I know I need to do because I can't find the interest to do what I'm supposed to do kinda stuff. When something is easy and borderline mindless, my mind wanders, and things slip through the cracks. I've started to notice this happening at work in the last week or two, and I need to stop it.

There are a lot of changes going on in my company, and right now I'm in a path to be in a better place when those changes are fully implemented. But I won't be if I let little crap get away from me. Basically, I'm going to have to show that even though I will have only been with the company for 6-7 months and are still learning all the products and processes that make the place work, I should be in a position to be responsible for dealing with big issues and cleaning up other people's messes. If I can't remember stupid crap, it's a harder argument to make.

So for now, it's all about the focus. I'm not sure how long I'll be with this company, but they did give me a job in the middle of a clusterfuck of an economy. At the least I think I owe it to them to keep on top of my crap for at least six months.

Listening To: Arcade Fire - Black Mirror
About To: Listen to more Arcade Fire

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Workin' the Late Shift

When I was first interviewing for my job, they told me I'd be working from 10-7 for the foreseeable future, and I thought that rocked. I'm not exactly a morning person by trade, and this would give me the chance to stay up late, and as a natural result of that, sleep in.

It hasn't exactly worked that way, but it's still good. I go to the gym before work, which entails getting up around 6:30 am, but at least I know it's done and I get home before 9pm each night. Also, while I'm actually at work, things slow down after 5:30 or so, so I can use that time to either catch up on back work or do nothing. Plus, the boss leaves at 5pm, so not having him there (as much as I like him) for a solid 1/4 of my work day isn't bad either.

Before Friday, I thought the only kinda sucky thing about the late shift was during the summer when I knew all sorts of other people, including my friends, were enjoying beverages and being done with their work weeks at 5:02 pm Friday while I had another solid 2 hours of time left to go. Friday, that all changed.

If you're not a regular reader of this blog, before you go any further I'd like to direct you here. Read up a little on this guy at work Dwight, because he is a key player in the story I am about to tell. I was walking downstairs to check out the end of Employee Appreciation Week! (no good stories came from Employee Appreciation Week!, sorry) free ice cream setup my company had thrown together when one of my co-workers said, "Did you hear about the fiasco this morning?"

Well no, I had heard of no such fiasco, what might you be talking about? "You didn't hear about Dwight throwing a cup of coffee on Rachel*?"


NO, I did not hear about that. Tell me, NOW.

Quick note about Rachel, she occasionally acts like she's the sh*t at work, when she's really not. And it does on occasion get annoying. So apparently on this morning a group of people were gathered talking about whatever, and Rachel was kinda making fun of Dwight (she likes to bust balls) but also tapping his shoulder with a ruler (Rachel is just shy of 6', Dwight's a solid 5'7). At first, everyone was laughing, including Dwight. Then, as I was told, he out of nowhere got a serious look on his face, and tossed a half cup of coffee all over her dress (about belt level and below).

When I heard this, three questions immediately came to mind:

How did I miss this?
How is Dwight still alive? and perhaps most interestingly
Why is he still here acting like nothing happened?

The first one is a simple answer, so let's go to 2 and 3. I was told at first everyone was just silent, and pretty much in shock. Who does this? Seriously, at just a basic human decency level, who throws hot coffee at someone else? And how did the person who had the coffee thrown on them not go into a murderous rage immediately thereafter (as I almost certainly would have)?

After the initial shock wore off, apparently Rachel relatively quietly, and showing much more restraint than most people would, just told the guy he needed to walk away. Now here's where it gets even better. He didn't just snap out of it and apologize. He didn't walk away. He kept talking, telling her she couldn't treat people that way. If this guy wasn't a possible sociopath that might show up one day with an axe to grind, I might almost be impressed by this. It wasn't until another co-worker literally pulled the guy away that he got out of her face.

Now the bigger question, what was he doing there all day. Apparently there was talking of bringing the whole thing to HR, but some people suggested they could both get in trouble based on her not vicious making fun of him and the goofy tapping on the shoulder with the ruler. The final decision appears to have been that the dude is a giant psycho/asshole but it wasn't worth getting into a huge HR mess that might lead to both parties getting in trouble.

So everyone goes back to work like nothing happened. This one isn't over yet though, at least I don't think it is. Her personality/ego is too big and he's just a little too nuts for there not to be a round 2. But next time, if the two combatants could wait until after 10am to start things off, I for one would really appreciate it.

*Names again changed to protect the innocent, and me.

Listening To: John Butler Trio
About To: hopefully watch the Yankees finish of sweeping the Mets

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I don't care that Michael Jackson's dead

That's pretty much all I have to say about it. He had some great songs, and now he's dead. That can be said about a lot of people. Throw in the fact that he might have been a kid toucher, and my skin's been crawling over the last couple hours at all the "so sad MJ is gone" status updates I've seen on facebook.

But I have no interest in saying anything more about this guy, instead I'm going to write about the person who's probably the most happiest that all this happened today, and the people who are getting most screwed over by it: Mark Sanford, and the Iranian people.

First off, the fine governor of South Carolina. This guy is such a jerkoff I can't help but love him. When the story first broke that he was nowhere to be found, the first thing I remember hearing was that he often did this when work had been really crazy. How cool is that? Work has been kind of a pain in the ass for me this week, I think I'm just going to disappear of the face of the earth for a couple of days. I think I'm going to try that next week.

Then, somehow this Appalachian Trail story gets out, but he left a state owned car at the Atlanta airport. Really? You're trying to leave the country to bang your mistress, and you probably floated this appalachian trail story to your staff, but then you borrow a STATE OWNED MOTHERF*CKING CAR and take it to the airport? Nice move.

I've been reading/hearing some people on the right complain the last couple of days that only Republicans get in trouble for this stuff and it's un fair and blah blah blah. Stop getting caught and you won't have to worry about it. And, the reason why Republicans get blasted for this more is because they're the ones who go around judging the morality of other people. Mark Sanford was big time for Clinton's impeachment back in the day, and when he was in Congress and Newt Gingrich had to resign, he was the first Republican to argue that Gingrich's proposed replacement back off because he had cheated on his wife. You don't get to do all that and then get a pass when you're flying down to Argentina to cheat on your wife (side note: why not fly her up here, since he's the governor of a state and already was a leading presidential candidate and all?). Besides, I vaguely recall that Eliot Spitzer guy getting hit pretty hard when he was caught paying for a hooker.

But enough about all that, something more important: Iran. I can't necessarily explain why what's happening there grabbed me right from the start, but I was kind of paying attention to the upcoming election and when I started to see the news that something very bad seemed to have happened there, I just couldn't stop paying attention to it.

Of course, if I wanted to really get information about what was happening in Iran, the web was the only place to go. Monday morning, the first weekday after an election was apparently stolen in the middle of the Middle East, and CNN, the station that made it's name on live coverage of an event in that part of the world (Iraq War Part I), is hyping Larry King interviewing the Jonas Brothers. I know I've got a bit of crotchety old man in me: I couldn't pick a Jonas Brother out of the lineup, I don't know a single thing they've ever done and I don't really want to. The point is that this is a news station and this ginormo story was getting ZERO coverage. It was pretty messed up. Honestly, if you care about Iran and want to try and find as much info as possible concentrated into one place, go here. Andrew Sullivan has been on top of this story since second one, and the passion he has for it comes through in his writing.

Fortunately for Mark Sanford and unfortunately for the Iranian public, their stories will now be buried in the background. It doesn't have to be this way though. When CNN starts talking about Michael Jackson, John & Kate or the next pseudo-celebrity crap fest, change the channel. It's not that hard, and maybe you'll learn something.

P.S. I wasn't going to write anything tonight, until I happened to skip by MSNBC and saw they were running live footage of a helicopter carrying Michael Jackson's body to the coroner's office. That was kind of the last straw.

P.P.S. Right before I started writing this, I was watching the premier of The Real World: Cancun that I had DVR'd last night, so I know I'm not perfect in the bad TV department.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Not a Problem ... Now That's a Problem

I'd say this one fits in the "Really?" category. Sometimes this blog just writes itself.

So one of the many things my group was just starting to get used to around the time I started is that part of our evaluation process would include recordings of our phone calls. Four calls would be randomly pulled every month, and scored on 13 different categories. Basically everything from how you answer the phone to how you say goodbye gets a score from 1-4, so 52 is perfect.

This all started for real last month, and a couple of weeks ago my boss pulled everyone in individually to show us the score for one call, what the forms look like and how this part of our evaluation will work.

I had no idea what to expect, but my first evaluation went pretty well. I got a 49 out of 52, which I can't have any complaints about. One point came off because at one point I let there be too much silence while I was waiting for something to come up on my computer, and I'm supposed to try and keep a conversation going. Ok, that makes sense, lesson learned.

The other two points were a little different, I lost two points in one category because towards the end of the call I used the dreaded phrase that apparently shakes our company to the core:

Customer: Thank you so much for your help, I really appreciate it.
Me: Oh ... not a problem ...

Can you believe I did that? How can I even possibly have a job, let alone succeed? Yup, apparently at some phone etiquette seminar or something, the managers of our team were told that the phrase not a problem is really bad because ... wait for it, it's as though we are saying "oh, if it were a problem, I wouldn't help you."

Really? Is that what it's saying? Or maybe it's a friendly way of saying, it's our pleasure to provide you with this assistance, don't even think twice about calling in because that's what we're here for. This never would have become a big deal, until we had a group meeting a week later and my boss happened to bring up in the meeting that I had points knocked off my score just for saying that little phrase. Then it became this huge thing among the people in my group, and of course, because we're all talking about it, now I'm saying "Not a problem" NON F'ING STOP. I remember one call shortly after the meeting where I"m sure I said it 5 times in about 10 minutes.

Then it just became a joke among the group. No matter what the conversation was, pretty much every time we spoke to each other it ended with Not a Problem. After about a week of this, we won, because we randomly got an e-mail from my boss that said using the phrase not a problem will no longer be a negative score ... as long as we aren't excessive with it. Still kinda silly, but much further down the ridiculousness scale. I'm eagerly awaiting the next normal phrase we aren't allowed to say.

These are the songs I keep singin'
I picked up a new ipod last week, and I"m very happy about it. The gym is so much better with it as is just about any other activity where I'd rather not hear the random crap (i.e. people) going on around me. My first chance to block out this crap was the ride into NYC for the Yankee game last Saturday. I wanted to post this because I think the playlist was a solid example of my decently sized (although nowhere near this guy) but eclectic music collection (comments in parentheses when I feel like it).

Tailspin - moe. (best studio song from a solid jam band)
Bring tha Noise - Public Enemy w/ Anthrax
I'm Gone - John Cunningham (the last song he played at his last Pitcher Wars at The Brewery)
Cry Me a River - Justin Timberlake (ok ok, mock if you must, but it's a really well produced pop song and it pretty much single handedly destroyed Britney Spears)
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap - AC/DC (no explanation necessary)
Dead and Bloated - STP
C.R.E.A.M. - Wu-Tang
Constructive Summer - The Hold Steady (keep pretending this band doesn't exist, I like it that way)
Rusty Cage - Johnny Cash
Beverly Hills - Weezer (they have many songs that are better than this, but it's so damn catchy)
Disarm - Smashing Pumpkins (more on this band later)
It Ain't Me Babe - Bob Dylan (need to see this man live)
Disorder in the House - Warren Zevon (it's Zevon and Springsteen doing an anti-Bush song, if you don't like this, I don't like you)
Walls - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (finishing up an excellent Dylan/Zevon & Springsteen/Petty trio)
Melatonin - Silversun Pickups (Silversun Pickups is what would happen if Smashing Pumpkins and an emo chick banged, had a kid, and that kid became a band)
Word is Bond - House of Pain (yup, from the album they released after the one that had Jump Around on it)
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me - U2 (possibly the first one I'm slightly embarrassed about, but I'll argue it's the only good thing from Batman Forever)
Allison Foley - Better than Ezra (yes they made more songs than Good, lots of them, and if you don't listen, your loss).

Listening To: Marker in the Sand - Pearl Jam
About To: collapse in my bed before 10pm, what a wuss

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Massive Nights

I've been listening to music a lot more recently. Part of it is just my natural rotation of things I do while chilling out at home. Sometimes I'll watch everything I can on TV, sometimes I'll be reading a book a week and sometimes I'll be listening to albums straight through as much as I can; and right now we're on the music train. Part of this is because of my friend's new blog, which you can find here. If you're the type of person that actually listens to music as opposed to having it on in the background, I think you should definitely check it out.

The title to this blog is a Hold Steady song, a quick little sub 3 minute ditty (spelling?) that probably would have made the band well known back in the mid to late 90s when pop music stations actually played semi decent rock music. Instead, it was on an album released in 2006 and they're only played in NYC on the only radio station even conceivably worth listening to; and I only heard of them because a friend of a friend of mine told her (and she told me) a lot of the songs seem like they were written about her and I decided to check out their myspace page.

This song gave me the inspiration to write because I've been missing NYC a little recently. I'll be there on Friday, but it's been just short of a month since my last trek on NJ transit. Even though I'm only a quick 50 minute train ride from the city I need to move back to (or at least much closer to) as soon as I can, there are just some things you can't experience unless you're a cab ride away. One of these things I might miss the most is my version of the Massive Night, the random weeknight that was supposed to be quiet and before you know it goes completely the other direction. Here's a quick recap of a recent favorite.

It was the Wednesday before 4th of July weekend last year. My friends were going to Whistling Dixie's Texas Tavern, a wannabe country dive bar type place that tries to get male clientele to trek to 11th Avenue on Sundays by offering free drinks to strippers. Eh, I wasn't sure I would make the trip until I heard two wonderful words: free beer. The bar was giving away free beer for a couple hours to celebrate their first anniversary. As I was unemployed at the time, free = good. And my plan was to hang out there for a couple hours and then head home for the night. But the night had other plans for me.

We ended up going to another bar nearby $1 mini burgers and $3 beers at all times (it didn't take much to convince me to stop here). From there next thing I know a good friend of mine from college is in town with his wife and will be at a bar down in the Meatpacking District where the wife's sister is bartending.

Now I don't think anything says friendship more than me leaving a bar with $1 burgers and $3 beers to go to a place with $7 Heineken Lights in my least favorite part of the city (and possibly my least favorite place on Earth) to see a friend. But we went there and bounced around a couple of bars and out of nowhere it's 2am on a Wednesday. So of course, when we all piled into cabs, we were headed home so (most of us, myself not included) could get up for another day's work.

Or maybe we went to a Japanese karaoke place in midtown and rented a room for an hour. Because sure, that makes sense. And the night, which I thought would be relatively tame and over by 8pm, turned massive with a room full of (at minimum) slightly intoxicated people singing/yelling Thriller at 3am on a school night. That's the kind of night that I miss, and that's the kind of night I have to know will come around again soon.

Sidebar - Am I turning into what I dislike?

Everyone knows those annoying, inane conversations you have with co-workers where you just repeat tired old cliches because you can't/don't care enough to think of something original to say. The usual Monday again, hey it's Friday blah blah blah nonsense that goes on in offices everywhere across these fruited plains. I actively try to avoid this stuff to maintain my sanity, but I seem to be falling into one of them with my boss.

My boss is a very good guy, and of the four people on his level I could have conceivable ended up working for when I got this job, I definitely got lucky. As long as we do our work, he stays off our back and has fun. If we don't he tears us the new assholes we clearly deserve, and I respect that.

So he works about 7:30am-5pm, and if I run into him around 4:30 on any given day he usually makes a comment like "almost out of here" or "quitting time soon," whatever it might be. And I realized today that I think I've fallen into the awful pattern of always having the same boring response each time:

Yeah ... for you.

Ew. Yuck. Ugh. Pick your one syllable word for disgust. I'm better than this (I think). And now that I've noticed it, I have to try and force myself to be a little more creative in how I respond. Just like I have to be careful not to say "Not a problem" on the phone, but that's a story for another time.

Listening to: Heartbreaker - Led Zeppelin
About to: catch up on some Colbert

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My paycheck doesn't say Initech, but I'm pretty sure i work there

I had a couple new experiences at work this past week. They're probably old hat for anyone who's worked at any sort of giant globocorp for a while, but that's not me. Law firms are an environment all their own, and my other company was a small privately run outfit. International corporations are another story, because often your boss's boss doesn't have an office on your floor, your building, or maybe even your country. That can lead to all sorts of fun decisions, like the one my group is now dealing with.

If I had written this when it first happened last Wednesday, I probably would have broken my no complaining rule, because I was extremely annoyed. After a day or so, that disappeared and now I just laugh it off. Because that's what you have to do: recognize the inherent silliness in what you're being told, and then deal with it. What are your other options.

For me, this issue was our phones. We all have a button on our phones that we can press which will keep calls from coming in. The idea is to use it when the phones are really busy so you can finish doing what you have to do on the computer before taking another call.

My department doesn't really need to use this silly button though, because our phones don't ring as much. On the other hand, the other side of the department basically needs this button to survive because they get calls non stop. Now, one would think that if somebody at our corporate headquarters saw the difference, they may just ask why, have the distinction explained to them, and everything would be good.

But NO, that would be too easy. They did ask the question, but instead of giving them the answer, word came down from the bosses in my building that people in my department are supposed to push the button even if we don't need to. Sure, I'm not that busy and could take the next call that came in, but instead, I'll push this little button and stare at my computer for a minute and then hit it again.

It's a trivial thing, but sometimes the trivial can drive you nuts. But I'm just going to laugh it off.

The other thing was even higher on the silly scale. We apparently have a new Employee Appreciation Committee on our floor. Apparently, some people at work need a little more of that good old appreciation stuff to get through the work week. Personally, the cash I get in my bank account every 2 weeks is appreciation enough, but whatever. First step in our new era of appreciation was the Taste of Summer party last Friday. I walked into the office that morning to see beach balls on top of people's cubicles, little plastic palm trees and other kind of summer related stuff. Then I found out one of the training rooms had various summer related treats, including the big hit of virgin daiquiris. Finally, and apparently most importantly, towards the end of the day we had a Funny Hat & Sunglasses contest, where the winner got a (can' you wait for it ......) $10 gift certificate to a italian ice place nearby.

Am I being the asshole for thinking this is all dumb? Maybe I'm just getting into this kind of work environment too late and aren't used to it. Whatever it is, I don't really know. I'm happy to talk with my co-workers and be friendly, I'm not some lurking sociopath that doesn't talk to people (that's the guy I had to work with on the values thing), I just don't want to make a giant hat out of construction paper and put a huge Spongebob sticker on it (the winning entry in the Crazy Hat contest).

So I'll just keep trudging along, pushing the buttons I have to push and masking my borderline hatred for all things Employee Appreciation (unless it's Taste o' the Irish kegs maybe). If I ever see a PC Load Letter though, I will take no responsibility for what happens next.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Things I don't Understand - Part 2,763

I don't understand a lot of things. And I'm a curious person by nature, so when I come across an idea, thought, person that I don't quite get, I want to know more. My problem, on occasion, is that I usually just come right out and ask somebody about what they just did/said/dated. And I don't really just leave it at one question, especially if they say something that makes more questions pop up in my head. I think one of the main reasons why people who think I am an asshole actually think that I'm an asshole is because I keep asking questions and make them uncomfortable. But that's just me, and I'm not too up on changing just yet.

Today's thing I don't understand going to a bar to watch a tv show. I write a lot of reviews on yelp and often read the conversation threads when I'm bored at home/work. It seems like every couple of days recently, especially because we were finishing up the TV season, somebody was posting a thread asking if anyone knew a bar where they could watch (insert show I couldn't give a crap about here).

Maybe I'm weird, but who watches TV shows in bars? I get it for sporting events. Live sporting events are cool because they have sports and people and noise and beer. Bars also have people and noise and beer, so they work well together. But why would someone want to go to a bar to watch Gossip Girl? Don't you kind of need to listen to what people are saying? Can't you just grab a six pack on the way home and invite a couple people over who know enough not to talk during the show?

I think this started during the presidential debates last fall. That I also didn't get: if you're going to watch the two people who want to run the free world, maybe it's a good idea to be able to listen to them. But I was thinking about this some more while deciding whether or not to write this and I realized that most people going to those parties didn't actually want to watch the debates. Either they didn't care about politics but wanted others to think they did, they definitely knew who they were voting for but wanted to pretend they were still watching political stuff or they just needed an excuse to drink in public on a Tuesday night. Maybe these other viewing parties are just an extension of that same thing. Maybe people just watch the shows so they can talk about them with their friends, and they go to bars to talk with their friends, so why not combine the two?

There are already a lot of questions in this post, so I'm not going to really go any further. Plus, I just set my alarm for 6am tomorrow to go to the gym before work and my food coma from tonight's ridiculously good dinner is approaching at an unstoppable rate. Who wants to get bloody mary's and watch Meet the Press next Sunday?

Friday, May 15, 2009

I didn't have swine flu, but if I did, I could still work!

I was sick the last couple of days, to the point where I actually took a day off. I never take days off for illness. Maybe once a year, at the most. But there I was Thursday morning, calling into the out sick number at work and sending my boss an e-mail just to make sure. I spent the day with the cure to anything: nyquil, sleep and bad tv.

I know it's really too late to write about swine flu. The fear of pandemic appears to have escaped our national consciousness. Now people are arguing about what Nancy Pelosi knew or didn't know about waterboarding (care?) , whether David Ortiz is finished (wow, Ortiz's power numbers dropped right as steroid testing got tough ... isn't that weird) and whatever it is that is or isn't going on with American Idol.

But write about swine flu I must. Not the disease itself, but my company's response to it. Maybe this is part of being in a big company that I've just never seen before. But right when things were at their apex with this whole pandemic thing, I started getting near daily e-mails from work about how our company was responding to this. My thought: who cares what you're doing? If this is as bad as people on the news are saying it could be, I'm not thinking about work. I'm listening to the news, and reports from the CDC, my work isn't on the list. But there I was, getting e-mails attempting to soothe me:

"Given the extensive media coverage of Swine Flu, I thought it might be helpful to reassure you that we have dedicated professionals within each of our businesses monitoring the situation and communicating locally with specific instructions as and when required. This includes a daily teleconference to ensure we share intelligence and coordinate action as appropriate across the company."

A daily teleconference? Really? How is that making me feel better? Are you all going to find the cure?

The next thing just kinda pissed me off. We got an e-mail from the big boss of our department saying that we hoped swine flu didn't affect our office, but we had to plan in case it did.

Plan for what? Um, if there's a global pandemic and thousands of people are dying, I'll be in my basement with an outbreak suit thank you very much. I shan't be thinking about my job. But apparently, my job not only thinks that I should be thinking about it, but thinking about WORKING. I had to fill out a survey about my internet and phone connections at home in case we were all required to work at home. Who are these people kidding?

Then the final kick in the ass came a couple days later. We received yet another e-mail with guidelines on what to say to customers in case they called in asking what we would do in the event of a pandemic. Again, this assumes that thousands of people across the country/world are dying of an easily spread flu with no known cure. My company provides advertising/publishing. WE DON'T CURE CANCER. The response to anyone who calls in asking if their webpage will stay up during the Black Plague Part II is "Put a gas mask on and get over yourself," not "we are actively monitoring the situation and if necessary, will adjust our continuity plans accordingly."

I guess this is part of the big company mindset: we must, and will, be ready for any situation and our employees will be too. That's not exactly my kind of thinking. I'm more like: I will do whatever I have to do to succeed in my job, unless that involves working through smallpox version II, then you can all go screw.

Oh, and to keep the streak going, read
Cara's blog.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Co-worker who you don't really know all that well added you as a friend on Facebook

There are many good things about returning to the world of the employed:
1. Money
2. Trivial conversations about nothing with co-workers.
3. Health Insurance
4. Money (and in the end, it's really all about this anyway, Method Man knows C.R.E.A.M.)

And one of the weird things is figuring out the extent to which you want to socialize with co-workers/ bring them into your non-work lives. I personally tend not to. I have some good friends that I shared a place of employment with at one time, but none of them were actually people I directly worked with. It's kind of an extension of the don't shit where you eat thing that I strongly agree with when it comes to dating co-workers. Work is the thing I do to allow me to have fun when I'm not at work, and rarely the two shall meet.

But the world of social networking brings a whole new wrinkle into this. I can turn down the facebook request from the random person I never spoke to in high school, but what about the girl who sits in the cubicle next to me, or the guy I send contracts to after I've read them? That's kinda awkward. You pretty much have to accept them, but how much do you let them see? And do you want to know what you'll see on their profile? For example, a girl in our billing department has a good sized, generally unattractive tattoo on her back that I saw in her profile picture. Not information that I needed to know.

This is where facebook's excellent privacy settings come into play. I'm not sure most people know this, but you can pretty much tailor specifically how much of your profile anyone you're friends with can see. For example, I've got a good list of people I'm friends with that I only kind of know who can't see my status updates or my website (which is this blog). I don't really need semi-strangers reading this mess, so now they don't know it exists. I've also got a friend list of my co-workers that blocks them from seeing a couple of things:
1. No tagged pictures
2. No status updates
3. No website (since I may be writing about them, I probably don't want them to read it)

But you can't block everything either, because then it gets too obvious. I'd probably love to block them from seeing my wall, but then they'd definitely know something was up. I spend way too much time on facebook each day for nothing to be there. So you have to be vigilant and be ready to delete stuff at a moment's notice. I don't know these people well enough for them to know that I may or may not have drifted off at the bar on my birthday (sorry, that one had to go). And I know that my boss, another boss type person on his level AND their boss (who runs the whole building) are also pretty active on facebook and at some time in the future may choose to hit the little Add as Friend button next to my name.

Just to be clear (in case any of them ever read this), I honestly do like the people I work with (creepy dude I talked about in the drama post aside). But right now, they're M-F 10am-7pm people. Time will tell if anyone makes it through to the Saturday 10pm-4am crowd.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Unemployment Activities

My friend Cara writes a blog. It's better than mine, so you should probably read it.

I'm linking to it today because one of her posts and a conversation I had with a friend earlier this week popped in my head while I was walking home from the gym were the generation of this particular post. Just under a month ago, Cara wrote about the 5 stages of her severance, which almost perfectly matched the five stages of my unemployment from last year. Then the other day one of my fraternity brothers called looking for a little career advice. He has a solid job but it's getting kind of soul crushing and he wants out, but he's not sure how to handle a career change. Career change has pretty much been the story of my life the last couple of years (that and all the bars I loved in NYC closing one by one), so I think he called the right guy. I'm going to run through Cara's stages of severance/unemployment, how I went through them and maybe throw in a little advice along the way.

I definitely wasn't shocked when I got let go from my past job. My boss had pretty much told me it was probably coming for a week or two prior. He was trying to fight it, but I had a pretty good idea it was going to happen. We were a recruiting group that specialized in placing individuals with derivatives experience in large banks and hedge funds in New York City, and I was the new guy. Whether it was in January or December, my being let go was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

Advice: Keep your head on a swivel. Especially now. I don't think anybody's job is truly safe. And if things don't seem good, be proactive. I completely wasted those couple of weeks where it looked like I was probably going to be let go. I don't recommend it.

But even with all that, when you walk out of that office for the last time and know you're not going back the next day, it's very strange. And for me, having only been at the job for five months, there was definitely a sense of failure. I had taken a chance on a career that didn't match my background, and I went down in flames. So I was all set up for the next step:

Those first six weeks or so after I was out of my job were not so great. I went on a couple of interviews, but nothing was panning out, but the going out with no concern about when I had to get up the next day was kinda nice at the time. They hey jerk grow up moment was after spending my entire Saturday out in dark bars for friend's birthday parties, I took a cab home with a couple friends and only realized when I was getting out that I only had 2 dollars in my wallet. The next day I posted an apology on my friend's facebook, and quickly got the "that's nice, but you didn't take a cab home with me" response. Oops.

Advice: Some self medication is necessary, helpful even. But try and keep cognizant of who you're riding home with.

Well this kinda goes with the self-medication thing.

Advice: A large glass of water and 3 aspirin before you go to sleep. A big bottle of Gatorade G2 and some sort of greasy breakfast sandwich (preferably bacon egg and cheese) in the morning.

Oh Hope, you've almost become a cliche in the age of Obama, but you are an actual emotion. Everyone gets to a point where they are sure good things are coming their way any second now. I, for example, TURNED DOWN a job offer because I thought the owner of the company was a little sketchy and I wasn't sure about staying in recruiting. Turns out I was right, but I had to be swimming in a sea of Obama scented hopeitude to turn down a job offer. I had another potential offer that fell apart after I completely BOMBED a phone interview. But who cares! Something else was sure to come along! The birds were singing and the beer was flowing at the beer garden! No problems.

Advice: Now here's where I talk to the career changers. I fully support taking a chance and trying something different, but especially in this kind of job market, you've got to be ready to hear/read a lot of "We'll keep your resume on file" type responses. With things how they are, employers don't need to take a chance on somebody who looks good on paper but doesn't exactly match what they are looking for. But, stay in the hope phase as long as you can. Something good will happen eventually (I am generally an optimist), and hopefully for your sake it will happen before step 5.

Hope's asshole of a brother that kicks you in the face when you least expect it or need it. I left the Hope stage when there was still some doubt as to whether our Hoperific President would actually be our President.

I had an interview at a legal publishing company for a account manager type position. The job would have basically been to travel to a bunch of law schools in the midwest, meeting with professors to make sure they were going to keep using the company's books and soliciting feedback on what the company could do better. I had some sales training from the recruiting job, I had the J.D. and would have loved to BS with professors all day. This job had everything I thought I wanted and the first interview went really well. Then another phone interview was coming and I wasn't going to bomb this one. I read up on how to prep for phone interviews and felt much more comfortable having the first one down.

And I was sure I nailed this one too. The conversation flowed well, I didn't babble or talk too fast like I did in the last one. I felt really good about this. And I've always been a good interviewer. Unless it's getting a girl I'm interested in to see that going on a date with me wouldn't be a completely fruitless endeavor, I'm usually pretty good at getting what I want out of a conversation.

But I didn't get it, I got the "we decided to go in another direction phone call." That was a total soul-crusher. I wasn't expecting it at all, but there it was.

Advice: It's really easy to feel sorry for yourself at this point. But try not to. Basically, my advice is don't be like me. I stopped going to the gym, started eating really bad food and worst of all, actually occasionally recorded The Bad Girls Club and watched it instead of looking for jobs. Please, for the sake of humanity, don't do this to yourself.

But I can't end this on a bad note, because in the end it all worked out. I have a job that might pay a little less than I was making before, and doesn't have some cool title or whatever. But it's a gig with cool people at a company that seems to recognize and elevate talent. Right now, that's all anybody can ask for.

I was going to write something about how good The Wire is and how you all need to watch it, but as soon as I publish this I'm going to watch the 3rd episode of The Duel 2. This means I have no standing to comment on television.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Location, Location, Location

Where you work can obviously have a huge effect on how much you enjoy your job. Personally, anybody that knows me knows that I want to get back to NYC at some point. But I could be in worse places than Jersey, and I'm actually not even talking about the city or the state where you work. One of the biggest factors that can effect your day to day work life isn't where you work, but where you sit at work.

My best seat situation at work was when I first started at the NYC mega-firm after law school. I was on the 24th floor, right by the door. This meant that I could slide right from the elevator into my office, and only really had to worry about the random chance meeting in the hallway with a co-worker if I was running late. But that was extremely unlikely because the rest of my group was all on the 25th floor. I never saw ANY of them unless I was going upstairs to see someone about a project.

I also wasn't very busy when I first started my job, so once we got our blackberries and I could answer e-mail from home, I pretty much did whatever I could to not have to get into work on time. I only lived about 3 blocks from the office, so instead of making sure I got there at 9:30, I'd get ready for work and sit on the couch watching TV and checking my e-mail and voicemail every couple of minutes. Once something important came in on e-mail or I got a voicemail, I'd hustle up to the office and just say I had stepped away from my desk or whatever. I was able to see plenty of Saved by the Bell re-runs and quality morning talk show garbage this way. I was only freaked out once when I was watching something awful and then heard a voicemail from the overall very senior partner in my group. Had to run to the office because I thought I screwed up or something, turns out that the purpose of his call was to see if I was interested in changing practice groups because they didn't have a lot of work for me. Considering I heard his message at home at 10:15 because I had zero incentive to go in any earlier, I'd say he had a good handle on the situation.

In my new job, my seating has been a bit of a mixed bag. My first spot was a bigger cubicle than most other people because it was available. Multiple people made comments about my big cube, and I'm pretty sure there's one girl at work who didn't like me because of it (like it was my choice, but whatever). I didn't want this place though, because of where it was located. I was stuck with my back to one of the main hallways that people (especially the main bosses of the office) were always walking through, meaning there were countless times each day that I could have been caught on facebook, checking my fantasy baseball team, sending personal e-mails or doing one of the countless other things I do other than actual work on any given day.

From pretty early on, people in my group were saying I needed to move because I was separate from everyone else. In reality, I was literally about 10 feet from the people in my group, but because I wasn't in the little row of cubes where they all sat, it was liked I was in another building. That changed this past Thursday though, when I switched to a new spot. Even if the cubicle is smaller, I'm closer to the rest of my group, and most importantly, I'm out of a high traffic hallway and in a location where my boss may walk by a couple times per day but that's it. Now I'll be able to become a fan of people, places and/or things, write reviews and e-mail about Lost in peace. And, on occasion, do my job.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My first foray in to "big" corporate DRAMA

Yeah, I don't update enough. If you're one of the three people reading this, my bad. My schedule blows right now, most nights I don't get home until after 9pm. After then eating some quickly thrown together dinner, I'm not really interested in writing when I can be watching The Wire or trying not to think about the fact that the first two games of this year's Yankee season have been less than good.

But, here we go with the writing again. I don't want the title to suggest that this was big drama, like a merger or something. I mean big among individuals, like my boss had to go talk to somebody on my behalf big. I still feel like this could make a good script for an episode of The Office. Here's how it all went down.

Not long after I started, a cork board was put up outside my boss's office. I heard a couple of people talking briefly about what it was for, but I didn't pay attention. That's not my deal. I go to work and do work. I'm friendly and I talk to people but I have no concern for office drama/gossip unless I'm forced to (quick bit of minor foreshadowing, I was forced to). Well then randomly a month or so ago I get called into a meeting with 2 other people in my department (for name purposes let's call them Dwight and Pam) and 2 team leads (my direct boss and another guy).

Turns out the purpose of the board is to illustrate our company's five Core Values. And the three of us are going to have to develop something to put on the board once every couple of months for each of said values.

This is the last kind of thing I ever want to do. Do companies really need these? How about one Core Value: do your job and we'll be cool to you, but if you don't you're fired. But I'm ready to suck it up and put a good face on things during the meeting. My boss, however, has no problem openly making fun of this thing and how he finds it completely ridiculous. I was doing my best not to laugh in the face of the other boss who seemed to love this thing, but I was in no way completely successful.

So now we start to have meetings among Dwight, Pam and I to discuss what we should do. I basically say nothing because this is not how my creativity works. I think of funny ways to tell dumb stories, I don't come up with a way to visually represent boundarylessness. We ended up coming up with a pretty good idea, and was all set to get it going, when we got sidetracked. DRAMA

As we were coming up with the idea, I realized we could use another co-worker's help because they were really good with photoshop. It was going to take what could be a decent looking thing and make it really good. Since the Core Value we were showing off was Valuing our People, wouldn't we be exemplifying that by taking advantage of another co-worker's skills to make our project better? Well, just when everything was set to go, the co-worker's boss said she couldn't help us out. For some reason, we couldn't have someone help us out with the execution.

Dwight (now you'll see why i picked that name) FLIPS. Out of nowhere he's ready to curse out his boss and possibly go over everyone's head to the boss of the whole building to raise hell. Really? I say just deal with it and move on, but I have to calm this kid down. If he goes nuts, I get involved and I don't want that to happen. So I calm him down (I think), and the work day continues.

At that point I pretty much checked out, I was starting to get busy and didn't have time to deal with something. A week or so later we find out that it was a big misunderstanding and we can use the co-worker to finish the project. Yay, we finalize everything and we're all set to go.

Then we get an e-mail from the team lead that thought the Core Values board was great. Apparently that person's boss asked about the board so he wanted to know if it could be done by the next day. I get ready to jump into action.

If there's one thing my lawyer days taught me, it's how to deal with semi-annoying requests from superiors to get something done by a deadline out of nowhere. It's simple. If you can get it done, (which we could) just say so, boss is happy. If you can't, you better have a good reason why, and make it clear you'll do everything you can to get it done. I immediately write the other 2 people and tell them I'll take care of it. Before I can finish the e-mail, Dwight writes back "I wasn't aware there was a deadline."

Dude, shut the f*ck up! Who gives a crap if there is, we can do it? Take the easy opportunity to make yourself look good. I then quickly write back as though the deadline e-mail was never sent letting the guy know that we all signed off on the finished product today and there was no reason why it couldn't be done by tomorrow. The boss even writes back "That's great. Thanks for the update."

Now, stupid Dwight loses his shit again and decides to tell off his boss in the middle of the work day. How this guy still has a job I don't know. He basically belittled his boss with tons of people around to hear. I figure, whatever, no skin off my teeth, I did what I needed to do. Next thing I know now Dwight is asking us to help him put stuff on the board. Why? Because the boss's response to his little temper tantrum was "ok, tomorrow is a problem, get something up today douchebag." (Note: I doubt he actually called him a douchebag, but it would have been deserved.)

Now I'm stuck in the middle of putting up something that looks like absolute garbage in my name because someone else is a moron. While all this is happening, Dwight is continuing to bitch, complaining about his boss out loud while several people (including my boss) continue to walk by. I basically stay out of it and just want to get back to my desk asap and get this over with. It gets done and I figure everything is fine until we can make it right tomorrow.

Then a little later my boss comes by. Here's the deal with my boss. For the most part, you'd never know that he's ex-Marine. But everyone once in a while, somebody (luckily so far not me) does or says something he doesn't like, and the Marine comes back out. He looks at me and just says "I'm going to talk to Dwight, he used to work for me and he needs to know he can't talk to my people that way." I tried to say it was no big deal, but there was no point. About an hour or so later, my boss comes back again "You shouldn't have anything to worry about." At this point, if Dwight was found headless in the parking lot, I wouldn't be surprised.

But he is in fact very much alive, even though he not only won't speak to me but pretty much won't look at me at this point. It appears that in a matter of two months I've made my first work based sort of enemy. Which should be fun, especially since I have to work with this guy directly on a every other month or so basis over the next year. Maybe working in an environment where hardly anyone gave a crap about you or any Core Values so long as you were willing to work 100 hour weeks and do whatever was necessary for the almighty client (i.e. a big law firm) had its positives.

Friday, March 13, 2009

UNITED! (clap clap clap) UNITED! (clap clap clap)

In advance of Saturday’s massively enormous match against Liverpool, I’ve decided to share some of my favorite Manchester United songs. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to sing them with a large crowd tomorrow morning because my self-imposed ban continues until United loses a match that matters (they haven’t since the last time I was there in November), but I will be singing them to myself while watching on the computer.

We are just one of those teams that you see now and then
We often score six but we seldom score ten.
We’ll beat them at home and we’ll beat them away.
We’ll kill any bastards that get in our way
We are the pride of Old Europe
The c*ck of the North
We hate the Scousers, the Cockneys of course (AND LEEDS)
We are United without any doubt
Cause we are the Manchester Boys
La La La La La (mini mosh pit happens here too)

He’s better than Kleberson
He’s our midfield magician
To the left
To the right
To the samba beat tonight
He is class
With the brass
And he SH*TS on Fabregasss-AN-DER (and repeat)

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA (everyone holding up their pints)
Drink A Drink A Drink
To Eric the King the King the King
He’s the leader of our football team
He’s the greatest
Center forward
That the world
Has ever seen

My old man
Said be a City fan,
And I said
Bollocks you're a c*nt (you're a c*nt)
I'd rather shag a bucket with a big hole in it
Than be a City fan for just one minute
With hatchets
And hammers
Stanley-knives and spanners
We'll show those city bastards how to fight (how to fight)
Oh I'd rather shag a bucket with a big hole in it
Than be a city fan ... ALL TOGETHER NOW (and repeat)

Oh Keano’s f*ckin magic
He wears a magic hat
And when he saw United
He said I’ll fancy that
He didn’t sign for Arsenal
Or Blackburn cuz they're sh*te
He signed for Man United
Cuz they’re f*ckin dynamite

Follow, follow, follow
Cuz United are going to Moscow (yeah I know it doesn’t rhyme, sue me we make it rhyme)
There will be dozens of Reds
And we’ll be pissed of our heads
Because United are going to Moscow (… and repeat)

And my personal favorite ...

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me
An Eric Cantona
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Two Cantonas
And an Eric Cantona
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Three Cantonas
Two Cantonas
And an Eric Cantona

And we finish the whole song. By the time it's over, most of us need oxygen. And that's part of the reason why soccer is one of my favorite sports to watch. COME ON YOU REDS!!!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Everyone's Job Sucks ... sometimes

My friends and I were talking over e-mail about Latrell Sprewell the other day.

Because that's what guys do when they're bored at work. Even though none of us particularly like basketball, we spent a good 20-30 minutes discussing a guy who hasn't played for four years. He's an interesting story, and it led to some thoughts about employment.

After choking his coach and getting suspended for a good portion of a year, Sprewell came back and was such a solid player that the Knicks gave him a 5 year, $62.5 million contract. And NBA contracts are guaranteed, so once he signed it, he knew he was going to no doubt get that much money in his pocket. If that were me, I'd like to think I would meet some sort of financial advisor the next day and make sure that I was set up so that if I never earned another dollar again, me and my family would be fine. Apparently Spree didn't work that way, because when the contract was up and his skills had somewhat diminished, he turned down a 3 year, $21 million contract and said "I gotta feed my family."

Either that's a big family, or Latrell Sprewell is a jackass. Anyway, long story short, Sprewell continued to turn down less and less money and is now completely out of the league and possibly close to bankruptcy. As we're all talking about this one of my friends sent an e-mail that said "How could anyone turn down 1 million dollars to play BASKETBALL?"

I understand the idea of what he was saying, but my first thought was to kind of want to defend the guy. Latrell Sprewell can't be defended, but it kind of led me to the idea that every job sucks, and money alone doesn't fix that. Even if your job is to play basketball, sometimes that has to suck. Maybe your teammate is a dick, or your coach is annoying. Whatever it is, every job has to suck ... sometimes, and if somebody told me I'd have to work just as hard to get paid less than 10% of what I was making, even if that was still a million bucks I might tell everybody to screw off too.

There just isn't a perfect job out there. Some of us are happier than others, but nothing is perfect. I have a friend who got a job working for the company that makes those touch screen cash registers that you see in bars and restaurants all over the place now. Now he's moved up and is more on the design/business development side. But when he first started, his job was to travel around the country (and the world) teaching bartenders and restaurant managers how to use the touch screens. He'd go meet people, spend some time on a tutorial and then drink with the employees. His job was not too far from partying professionally. But even this job had to suck sometimes. Not every bartender would necessarily be cool. Or maybe he just wouldn't be in the mood for travelling but had to spend 3-4 days in a hotel. I guess my point is, whatever it is, don't assume that somebody else has an awesome job they could never complain about. Because there's always something.

What sucks about my job? Getting to work at 8am for starters (although that should be done in a couple of weeks). Needing to document where I am at pretty much all times (my phone basically acts like a punch card clock) is taking a while to get used to also. But overall, it's not that bad. I work with cool people at a good company and I'm a quick train ride back to NYC whenever I want.

Speaking of that, I don't care if you've never heard of any of their songs, go see Dropkick Murphys if ever given the chance. Just do it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

And there's the rub

I've always really liked this phrase, but I only just learned it comes from Hamlet (some movie I watched recently explained it). I've read most of Shakespeare, and I've even seen this movie (Gary Oldman + Tim Roth = goodness). But the classics are not really my thing. I'm currently reading this book, and probably will be until the end of eternity because it's so damn long.

Anyway, back to the rub. The rub is always there, nothing is ever perfect, we all know this. You can meet what seems to be a great girl, everything is going well, and then she lights a cigarette (I don't know how many people cannot stand smoking, but I'm one of them). Or maybe she turns out to be completely insane. Or ... I could on about this particular subject for days, and that could get depressing.

Or maybe you just start a new job, and everything is going great with the people and the work but then you get stuck on a team that needs to illustrate the company's "core values" on a bulletin board and to make it worse, get stuck in office politics along the way (the preceding is not a plot for The Office, it just happened to me and will be explained further soon). The point is, no matter where you are and what is going on, there's always something. The negative people focus on the bad stuff and forget about all the good things going on. The positive people accept that those little annoyances are part of life and aren't worth obsessing over. I try to be positive, but sometimes you just can't help it. Exhibit A: My first trip to my new gym.

I don't expect much out of a gym. Give mean a decent selection of machines and free weights and not too many people so I don't have to wait, and everything else is no big deal. Or so I thought. When I started the new job one of my first goals was to find a gym to join. The gym I belonged to during my last Jersey stint is a little too pricey for me right now and relatively far away from work so it wasn't a great option. Within the first week of the new job, however, I found out that not only is there a gym right across the street, but the company subsidizes memberships. This is perfect. I go visit about a week later. At about 6:15 on a Tuesday night, the place is dead. Awesome. They have all sorts of machines and free weights and treadmills, etc. Super Bonus. The price is about half of what I would be paying at the other gym. I'm fully expecting the bathrooms to be staffed with unicorns at this point. Nothing could go wrong ...

Until I showed up today and actually signed up. Still not too busy. Still plenty of equipment. Still cheap. But then I finished my workout and went to the locker room to shower. I don't always find showering at the gym completely necessary, but I had gotten used to it in the NYC. Well here I walk towards the showers, when we get the rub. Showers suggest plural, multiple showering spaces. This shower had many shower heads, but only one room where 8-10 people could shower at once ... together.

If somebody wants to say I'm not comfortable in my manhood, fine, whatever. But I'm not 15 anymore and this isn't high school gym class (see the Freaks and Geeks episode where the nerdy kids don't want to shower). But even if it were high school gym class, my high school gym class was never full of 70+ year old retirees who just played tennis for an hour.

So there's the rub. I'm going to leave the gym not smelling too good for the foreseeable future. And it doesn't just hurt me, it hurts everyone who has to be around me until I get myself cleaned up. Hopefully sometime soon membership will get increase to the point that I'm not expected to shower like I have to run to History class right after I'm done with dodgeball.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Why I'm Not An Accountant

The easy thing to do would just be to tell the story suggested by the title, and regale you all (or maybe just Cara) with the story of why I'm not an accountant. But that isn't any fun. Let's instead start with how I came to the idea of writing this down.

I came across this video of Louis C.K. talking about what spoiled idiots so many of us can be (thanks to Andrew Sullivan for posting the link). My first thought was to write something about how maybe we act this way because everything cool has been invented, and now all we need is for that cool stuff to happen faster. But that can't be true. There's definitely more cool stuff to come. I don't want to be like the guy in the 19th century who said the U.S. Patent Office wasn't necessary because everything that could be invented already had been, or the dude who said cars weren't necessary because horse drawn carriages were a fine mode of travel.

So after scrapping that, I started to think of caddying, and how maybe my 10 summers of carrying bags on my shoulders while rich guys hit balls with clubs is part of the reason why I can be more laid back, (although I get pissed like everyone else when websites don't load fast enough). I always appreciated the guy who knew he was getting to spend four hours outside on a beautiful piece of land playing a game with his friends, and no matter how bad he played, that was a pretty cool thing. Then I experienced the terrible combination of agony and joy that a round of golf can be, and my thoughts kind of changed, but that's another story.

So thinking of caddying reminded me of the events that led to me not being an accountant. And since this blog is at least tangentially about my employmentness, it's relevant. Time for the actual story:

We're going back to the spring of 1996. In a few short months I will be a high school graduate and am already signed on to attend some big school in the middle of Pennsylvania. I had gotten in planning to major in Accounting and International Business. Back then I was a little more aggressive educationally, I had been told by many people to start with a less popular major just to make sure I got in, then change it during my freshman year. This was not really my style (not then anyway), so I went with Accounting, and I got in.

This was my third year of caddying and there were a solid group of people I would almost always want to caddy for if given the chance. One was this guy whose name I can't remember right now who was an accountant. He was a decent guy, kinda nerdy (accountant, hello) and not so great a golfer. But he seemed pretty happy with his life, and whatever he was doing work wise, he was doing well enough to afford the country club lifestyle. That seemed like a pretty good deal for me at the time.

I had caddied for the guy a couple of times, but this time I was wearing a PSU hat and he started talking to me about college. When I told him I wanted to major in accounting, I was really surprised by the reaction: he pretty much stopped walking, turned to me and told me to change my major.

Really? This guy had the wife and the kids and the country club and the nice car because of accounting, I really didn't know how to react. But then he went further (I'm going to paraphrase):

Son, I know I've got a pretty good thing going here. I play golf with my friends just about every Saturday and Sunday. I've got a nice house, nice car, great kids and I love my wife. Maybe I shouldn't be complaining, but I wake up every single morning and I absolutely hate going to work. I can't stand my job, and I'd change it in a second if I could. But at this point, I really can't. If you want to stick with accounting, I'm sure you'll do well, but there are plenty of ways to make money in this world, make sure you're doing something you love.
When people ask me why I don't want to be a lawyer anymore, I say whatever I say but this moment is one of the first things I think of. It really changed my thinking about a lot of things. If this guy, who seemed to have everything he could want, could actually be so unhappy 5 mornings out of the week, isn't it worth it to do something I like not something that pays well but I hate? When I went up to PSU a couple of weeks later to schedule my 1st semester classes and do some placement testing, I also changed my major to finance. Still business, and still numbers, but the stock market definitely seemed cooler than losing my shit in the weeks before April 15th every year. I'm pretty sure accounting wouldn't have worked for me, so I'm glad about my choice. Thanks random guy who I used to caddy for. I'm sure you don't know it, but the hatred of your life that you expressed to a teenager almost 15 years ago really helped that kid out.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Too Soon?

Typically, when I think of the phrase "too soon," it reminds me of comedy. It comes up in the context of a joke or comment about a recent event (often some kind of tragedy) and whether it's too soon to make a joke about that event. For example, a joke about the Hindenburg on May 7th, 1937 would probably have been too soon, but now it's fair game. Personally I'm not sure there should be any limits in comedy, but that's a story for another day.

Today, I was asking myself whether it was too soon to be so happy about a 3 day weekend. I had multiple months of 7 day weekends while I was out of work. I've only been at this job for two weeks. Shouldn't I have woken up this morning disappointed that today was not another day to show my employers what a great business decision they made by hiring me? Instead, I woke up extremely happy that this week would only include 4 days of 6:30am alarms and had one extra day of no alarm goodness.

After giving it some thought, I say no, it was not too soon. Like many other things, I think the day to day aspects of employmentness, are like riding a bike. After seeing zero need for caffeine for all this time, I've fallen right back into my cup of coffee needed every morning routine (although hopefully this will change once I start my later hours in a couple of weeks). I fall right into the the usual, and generally bland, conversations about weekends (both past and upcoming) like I never left. And, probably most importantly for me, I've already remembered that the certainly un PC comment my friends would have enjoyed (well some of them anyway, I have some PC friends) is probably best left out of the office.

So as I sit here late on Monday night, watching First Blood instead of going to sleep, am I upset that I'm going to work tomorrow? No, I experienced the alternative for way too long to not be happy about having a job to do. Plus, so far I generally like the people that I'm working with, which has not always been the case in the past.

I think I'm going to save my answer to the "How do you like the job so far?" question, one I've been asked about 78,000 times over the last two weeks, for the next post. Until then, watch this SNL digital short. If you don't like it, you've lost cool points.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I completely stole this from Bill Simmons

There's no other way to write it. I saw this in an article he wrote on, and I'm stealing it. Watch now.

Some thoughts not stolen from Bill:

The unbelievable awesome NBA theme song from my youth is called Roundball Rock? Roundball Rock? If I had known the song that got me pumped up for all those Lakers/Celtics games was called Roundball Rock, I probably would have given up on the NBA much earlier than I did (for the record, that happened when the Lakers traded Shaq and kept Kobe).

Yanni owns John Tesh. I'll put the Acroyali/Standing in Motion medley (found here) up against anything Tesh can put together.

I think my favorite part of the John Tesh video is either the dueling violin/guitar solo in the middle, or how everyone seems to follow Tesh's lead and excitedly tosses their right hand up in the air as the song ends. I wonder if they were all told they had to do that so the big man would look less stupid.

Other Stuff:

Judd Gregg bails on Commerce before he can be confirmed. Care? Honestly, who was the last relevant Secretary of Commerce, even behind the scenes? Besides, he once voted to abolish the department. I'm surprised it took him 3 weeks to realize it might not be the gig for him.

Books I need to read:
The Skeptical Environmentalist - Bjorn Lomborg
The Yankee Years - Joe Torre and Tom Verducci
The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq - Thomas Ricks

First paycheck at the new job - tomorrow. Huzzah.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

One Rule

I won't complain.

I can't complain.

The purpose of this little writing experiment isn't so I can feel sorry about myself and my job situation. Too many people are out of work, and too many people got booted from jobs they actually like, for me to be unhappy about having one. On the other hand, I have a feeling the job environment I find myself in is going to provide lots of fodder for mediocre to decent writing (I already have a better appreciation for Office Space after 8 days). I also need a place to get my creative on, and facebook status updates can only provide so much.

So how did I get here? After going to law school and taking a law degree, it took three years to figure out being a lawyer was not my deal. Then after a short stint as a recruiter (note: taking a job in late 2007 where making money was dependent upon large banks needing to hire people was not a wise choice), I was stuck trying to figure out what to do with myself. I came across lots of jobs that seemed interesting and I was sure I could do, but with a background that screams LAWYER LAWYER LAWYER, nothing was really working out.

Then, with the help of some family connections and a manager that was willing to meet somebody whose background didn't quite match up with the description, I found myself a job. It pays less than I would have wanted, and it's not in the city I want to live in, but it's a gig. And it's a gig with a big company that has the potential for some good stuff down the line. Because of all that, I should not and will not be complaining.

This won't just be about me and getting used to this new job. It will be about AR*d and Lost and politics and whatever else I feel like writing about. From here on out, we'll see how it goes.