Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Oh mama, I'm in fear for my life

Last weekend was interesting. I had the best steak dinner, and the worst dinner of my life (all in the same meal), saw Styx and REO Speedwagon in concert, bowled a 92 in my second game ever, ogled some sweet-ass cars, and left a casino with more money than I walked in with.

Let me take it from the top. I left Friday evening for Reno, with Justin, his mom Nancy, and her fiance Bill. After the 3 hour drive, we checked in, and went to that steak dinner. It was my pleasure to be introduced to Justin's aunt Judy and her husband. If I had known what I was getting into, I probably would have left.

Judy is...hard to describe. In fact, mere words cannot capture the essence of Judy. And I think that's a good thing. Let's just say that if I had to choose between having a conversation with Judy and having my nuts slammed in a car door, I'd have to think about it. The steak was great, the best I had ever had, and to this day, have ever had. But the whole dinner experience, with Judy, and her husband John, is an experience I hope I soon forget.

So after that horrendous dinner, I was ready to go back to my room and sleep for a day. But I only got about 6 hours. The next day, Nancy and Bill had to go to fabulous Doyle and take care of some business. So Justin and I had the whole day to do whatever. We didn't feel like gambling our hard-earned money away, so we went bowling. We both stunk up the first game (Justin won 63-54), but we tied with 92 on the second. Damn, that was fun.

So that evening was the concert. Styx rocked the house, REO Speedwagon, not so much. I enjoyed both bands, but Styx was definitely better, and they only had one original member.

The next day, before we headed back to Stock-town, we stopped at "National Auto Museum" or something or other. It wasn't Harrah's Auto showcase thing (which I understand is fucking huge), but most of the cars were donated by Harrah's casino. It was awesome. Bill took like 200 pictures with his digital camera. I can't wait to see those.

On top of all that, Nancy and Bill gave me a graduation present (100 bucks!). So when I walked into the casino, I had a twenty in my wallet. When I left, I had six twenties. So there you go.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

6-figures, here I come, baby

I'm coming to get ya! *bum bum beyowh bum bum beyowh* Foxy Lady!

Jimi Hendrix rocks.

Anyway, I can't wait for my stuff to get here. You see, I've ordered some books, and a laptop. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

A few weeks ago, I overheard Ben talking to Marisa (the assistant Dean) about a new position. It would be for a Mac tech, although preferably the person hired would be proficient with PCs as well. This was my chance.

About a week passed, and the opportunity arose. Ben was telling me about the position. We need a Mac expert (which I'm pretty damn far from, as of this writing), as about 10% of the University uses Macs. The position would be 9 months out of 12 (summers off) and be re-evaluated every year. Ben mentioned that the only reason the Provost was persuaded into providing the money for this position was because we have no one who can support Macs.

At this point, I said something like, "He couldn't be persuaded to pay for another PC person, huh?" To which Ben replied that if that was the case, he would have just hired me. Excellent. I had suspected that, but here was proof.

So anyway, I went on to say that it would be too late for this year, but perhaps I could do my Mac homework, and be able to take on that duty next year. Ben said that was a great idea.

So I bought a book called "Switching to Mac," since it's specifically geared towards PC users who want to learn Macs. I also bought an iBook for which to hone my craft.

But that's not all. I've been talking to Josh about certifications, and we both want to get certified. He holds an A+ (which covers basic hardware and tech support), but I've got enough experience that it would basically be a waste of time and money for me to go for. He suggested I get a Network+ (all about networking), and that we both get our MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) in Windows XP. Starting pay for holders of that particular certification is 40-50k. Experienced MCSEs haul in 6-figures.

Needless to say, I ordered some cram manuals for those exams. I'm gonna study my ass off, because when I get certified, it's on.

EDIT (10/10/2005): Or not. I've since decided that PC/Mac support just isn't for me. It was fun while I was doing it, and I learned a lot I wouldn't have on my own, but I'm an economist, with a degree in economics and a minor in business. I simply don't have the qualifications to do high-level tech support, and don't really want to.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Where's my shotgun?

Because I need to blow some people away. Grab a sandwich, something to drink, and sit down. Here's a little story.

I come into work on Monday morning, and Ben tells me that OIT (the other IT department on campus) is looking for some help with the student check-in this semester. Apparently, they want to make sure that student's computers have virus protection and the latest security updates before they plug them into the network. Makes sense. So I send the coordinator lady an e-mail expressing my interest. She e-mails me back ten minutes later and says I need to come to a training session either Wed or Thurs. I reply, saying I'll come to the Thurs session. All this occured before lunchtime on Monday.

Fast forward to today, 1:55 pm. I show up at OIT, ready for the training that's supposed to take place from 2-4. They're not ready. 10 minutes later, I get called in. I walk into the conference room, and I swear I've stepped into the wrong room. There's no one there (besides me) that doesn't work at OIT. I hesitantly take a seat, and wait for some clarification that this is, in fact, the wrong room. It turns out that I'm in the right place afterall. They hand out a step by step "training manual" and then commence with a 45 minute spiel on how to install and update McAfee VirusScan, go to the Windows Update site and download critical updates, and set up Wireless Networking. All of which I already know how to do.

Here's the sad part: the other folks didn't. A few of them did (those heading the presentation), but the others were completely clueless, based on their questions. Just to clarify, these people work in IT. They use/troubleshoot/support computers every day. It's their fucking job.

Which begs the question: Why are the regular employees wasting their time to do this check-in? If they had put out a listing asking for students, they would have gotten plenty of replies. Hell, students already know how to install programs and run Windows update, they wouldn't have had to waste the time and money to hold not one, but two 2-hour training sessions and print up 2-3 dozen manuals. That's the way OIT does things, though. Extremely inefficiently.

So after that guy gets done blathering, another lady steps up to talk about HEAT. HEAT is a program that OIT has a hard-on for. We use it at COP IT only because OIT does. Basically, it's a program that we can record trouble calls in, mainly so there's a record of the work we've done. Sometimes, when we can't complete a task (such as needing a network port activated) we assign the HEAT ticket to someone who can. It's actually a nice system, to keep track of what's been worked on where, and by whom. Extremely useful in certain situations.

OIT, on the other hand, uses HEAT for everything. Call them on the phone, it goes in HEAT. Send them an e-mail, it goes in HEAT. Ask them a question in person, it goes in HEAT. This bitch has to talk about how they've set up automated HEAT tickets for frequent issues. Including one for if a student asks directions. To a building. That's right, if someone wants to know where the Registrar's office is, they put it in HEAT. She goes on to explain that this is so they can generate reports on what the most prevalent problems are, so they can release training material and help users help themselves. Great idea on paper. OIT must have burned that paper and pissed on the ashes, though, cause it doesn't work that way.

Ben informed me that after OIT had rolled out HEAT, they told him about the reporting capability. He goes, "Great, can you send me a report on this and this and this?" And they go, "Uh, well, we have to send someone for training on that." So they send the guy to get trained, and he comes back and makes the report. Ben gets it, and it looks real nice, but contains no useful information whatsoever. Great job, OIT.

So anyway, I've just spent an hour and a half sitting in a conference room, learning absolutely nothing. "Ok, that's it, we're done." So I go to leave, walking back down the hallway I came from initially. I start to turn into a doorway that I thought was the way to the exit. I quickly realize that it's some guy's empty office, do a 90 degree spin, and continue back down the hallway. A split fucking second after I took my one and only step into the office, I hear a voice from behind me down the hall, "Whoa, not that way."

I ignored the prick, but I was extremely pissed. See, even though OIT does exactly jack and shit, and their employees are just this side of brain-damaged chimps, they got a brand spanking new building last year. Inside and out renovation and expansion. I really wanted to whip around and say, "Well, if you fucks had a building the size of your IQs I wouldn't have gotten lost, now would I?" but I just wanted to get out of there.

So I'm walking over to the COP IT office, fuming, and I flip open the manual to the page that lists the schedule for the check-in weekend. It says who's supposed to be where, and when. There's just one problem: I'm not on it. Remember when I said that I got in touch with the coordinator on Monday? They held a training session on Wednesday. The manuals they handed out then had mistakes, so they reprinted them for today. I was informed today, Thursday, that they still had mistakes, and would have to be reprinted a second time. So, they had 3 days and a reprint in order to put me on the schedule, and they couldn't get it done. At this point, I wasn't surprised.

I had always suspected that this was the way OIT operated. The reason all their employees are always so busy isn't because they're actually solving problems, it's because they're organizing/attending fucking meetings and committees! No one knows what anyone else is doing at any given time, and they don't care. What's worse is that they don't even try and get better. If they run into something they can't handle, they call someone else. There's no communication, so that guy has to try a bunch of shit the other guy already did, and if he does manage to fix it, neither one of them has learned anything. In fact, they actually get dumber, because as they increase their "specialty" knowledge, they forget everything else that actually makes them a useful team member.

You know what I say? I say give us OIT's budget, and their building. We get to choose who gets hired (competent professionals), who gets fired (all the fucking morons that work there now), and what projects to tackle. Then, the faculty and staff fills out a survey six months in. If at least 50% think it's better than before, we get to stay in control. If not, things go back to the way they were like it never happened. Except that as the employees of OIT were fired, they were lined up against and wall and executed, that is.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Possessing a PhD doesn't make you smart

You might know a lot about whatever subject you completed your doctorate in, but just because you have a PhD doesn't mean you're necessarily intelligent.

Case in point. Today, I had no less than four professors come in demanding (well, not really, they asked politely, but they were rather urgent) that I do/fix/install something or other. The semester starts in 2 and a half weeks. I can handle those requests, and get them up and running in no more than 2 days. This is just the tip of the iceberg, however.

In an ideal world, these professors (and the myriad others to come) should have periodically dropped in during the summer to catch up with goings on, and make sure nothing had changed drastically that would shoot their careful planning all to hell. Now, for the profs I helped today, they're fine and dandy. But what about the folks who show up the day before classes start (or even the same day) and realize they need a program installed, their computer needs to be hooked up, their profile needs to be copied over, and/or their OS needs to be updated? Well, they're simply shit out of luck.

You might think I'm being harsh. Surely, I can help these poor, untimely professors. Oh, I can help some of them. But when a dozen professors are requesting all of the services I mentioned and need it done in a day, that's just plain fucking impossible.

The worst part is that they never get it. It can happen to them once and they'll still do the same thing the very next year and every year after that. Hey Pavlov, your dogs are misbehaving. Why do they do this? Is it chronic procrastination, or just plain stupidity? Hell if I know. But I do foresee quite a bit of overtime pay in the next few weeks.

Monday, August 02, 2004

How does an Average Joe cope?

What do they do when something goes wrong with their computer? Do they buy a new one? Or take it in to a store/tech place that overcharges them for a bunch of problems that they didn't have? Or does everyone have a resident computer tech in the family that they call to help out?

The reason I'm wondering about this is that I recently replaced my video card. It's actually a downgrade, but only a slight one (Radeon 9800 Pro to 9700 Pro). The only thing is, once I swapped the card, my computer refused to boot. It would get to the POST screen, and then freeze.

"What the hell?" I was heard to remark. Maybe the CMOS needs to be reset. I've got onboard video and onboard sound on my mother board (and a video card and sound card plugged in), so maybe my computer thought both video cards were present, or something. I flip the jumper to reset the CMOS, and turn my computer on. It goes to the POST screen, and I press Delete to get into the Setup. I arrow down to disable the onboard video, and my computer freezes. In the CMOS Setup. No, I'm not kidding.

"What the fuck?" my remark is now upgraded to. Let's try the other video card, maybe it just doesn't like this new one. I swap it, reset the CMOS, and boot back up. I go into the Setup, same result, frozen computer.

Now I'm getting pissed. I try another, much older video card. Freezes in the Setup. I go back to the 9700. I tear my computer apart, unplugging everything except the processor, and then plugging it back in. Resest the CMOS again, and boot up. I get into the Setup, disable the onboard video and sound, and save. It reboots, and goes into Windows. I dance a jig. I then turn it off.

Later that night, I surf the web, listen to some music. This goes on for about a half hour, and I get a Blue Screen of Death. Some cryptic error message about IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL. I've seen this before, and researched it. Basically, it can be caused by a hundred different things. Chances are, though, if you're changed something recently, that's the problem. So my video card is conflicting with something else. I reboot, and download new drivers. Other than making my computer slow as molasses (why the hell can't ATI test their new drivers before releasing them? But that's a whole other rant), I still get a BSOD ten minutes later. It's late, so I power off my computer in anger and decide to work on it the next day.

I power it up first thing the next morning, and it doesn't boot. No beeps, no monitor turn on, it just sat there, whirring its fans. Hit the reset button, no dice. "God fucking dammit." Reset the CMOS, reboot. POST screen, CMOS Setup, freeze. Power off, remove the video card and sound card, reset CMOS, power up. Boots into Windows. I stress test it, works fine. I continue to use it for almost 2 hours, no problems whatsoever. At this point I'm thinking something's screwy with my AGP slot or something, and have resigned to return my case/motherboard for replacement.

Today, I talked to Ben (my boss at COP IT) about the problems I was having. He said I should try flashing the BIOS. Duh, why didn't I think of that. So that's what I did tonight, reset the CMOS, disabled the onboard sound and video, and plugged my cards back in. I've been running for 45 minutes, no problems. I'll have to buy Ben lunch tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


Or Democratic National Convention, for those not familiar with the acronym. Did anybody see the coverage of this last night? Good stuff. Al Gore, Jimmy Carter (who ripped Bush a new one, BTW), Hillary and Bill Clinton all spoke. Man, oh man, how I wish Clinton was still President. He's one charismatic son of a bitch.

Which begs the question: Why did Al Gore cut Clinton out of his Presidential campaign? Ok, so there was this scandal and that scandal, and he eats babies or something, but so what? The American people, as a whole, didn't care, because he was the best President we had had in a quarter century. If Clinton had been campaigning for Gore, the election in 2000 would have been a foregone conclusion. We know Gore won, but with Clinton on his side, there would have been no room for Bush to steal the election, because he would have lost by a landslide.

Regardless, I think Clinton should still be President. The only reason he's not is because some conservative bastards thought it would be a good idea to pass an amendment that limits Presidents to 2 terms. The reasoning was that the founding fathers wanted to escape British rule, so having a President for more than 8 years (like Roosevelt) would be too much like a monarchy. They forgot one key difference, though: when the President is ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE, it's not a fucking monarchy! If the people are willing to vote for the same man 10 times in a row, that man should be able to serve as their President, plain and simple.

So I say, instead of worrying about passing an amendment to ban gay marriage, or allow non-native US citizens to run for President, we should remove the Presidential term limit. Clinton in 2008!

Monday, July 26, 2004

Fucking Post Office

Those goddamn incompetent bastards. Is Lance Armstrong the only one of them that's worth a damn? Do they think just because he's doing so well, they can fuck up right and left and be covered? Sons of bitches.

I'm subscribed to Gamefly. It's a great service, think Netflix but for console games. I've been a subscriber for about 7 months (not consecutively, but only because school intervened). In that time, I have never recieved a game more than 3 days after it was shipped, and they have never recieved a game more than 3 days after I dropped it in the mail.

Until 3 weeks ago. I rented Spider-Man 2, which arrived at my house on a Saturday. I finished it that weekend, and dropped it in the mail on Monday. I figured they would get it on Wednesday, and ship out another game. Wednesday came and went, and it still showed that it was out. Thursday, same thing. By the end of Friday, I was worried. I checked the website to see what I could do, and they said to wait 7 days after mailing a game to report it lost. On the next Monday, I did just that. They were real nice about it, said they'd look into it, and shipped my next game.

Fast forward a week and a half. I get Rainbow Six 3. After I'm finished with it, I drop it in the mail. That was last Wednesday. It's Monday night and it still shows as out. *deep sigh* I'm probably going to have to report this one lost, too.

Here's the thing that makes me see red: there's a bit on their website that says any account that has too many lost games is subject to investigation and/or termination. Now, I understand why this blurb is there. I'm sure there are fucksticks out there that rent games that they like, and then decide they'll report them lost instead of returning them or paying for them. But I would never do something like that, and more importantly, haven't done that with these two games.

However, there is a very real possibility that if this happens again, my account will be terminated, and I may never be able to join again. Why? Not because I'm a thief, but because the post office is filled with fucking morons (or thieves, possibly) who wouldn't know their asses from a hole in the ground. Because of their incompetence (and nothing else), I may have to go back to renting games from Assbuster and Shittywood Video. And that makes me so angry that I want to kill someone. Thankfully, I don't have a firearm handy.

EDIT (10/10/2005): Apparently, 7 games lost is the magic number for Gamefly. It doesn't matter how long you've been a member, how many games you've rented and successfully returned, and how many games you've purchased from them, if you rent 7 games and don't return them, they cancel your membership. And they don't let you rejoin unless a) one or more of the games are returned (which would be easy if I had stolen them, but since I didn't, I'm screwed), or b) you pay for the lost games (which again, would be easy if I had stolen them, but I'm not about to pay for something that some shitlicker at the post office stole). So, as much as I love Gamefly, and would give anything to be a member, I'm not. All because of the post office.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Go read this and then come back. (Don't bother, the link's broken. If I remember correctly, it was an article about how Linda Ronstadt was banned from performing at some hotel after recommending her audience go see Fahrenheit 9/11.)

Finished? Ok, so is anyone reminded of that shit that happened with the Dixie Chicks a while back? That was bullshit then, and this is bullshit now. "People paid money to see a show, not a political forum." Oh really, so now suggesting people see a particular movie (that just happens to be about a certain politician) is akin to holding a political forum? Fuck you.

And then they throw her out of her room, and ban her from ever performing again? All over a simple comment about Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 9/11? I'm pretty sure there's a free speech issue there, if Ms. Ronstadt felt like pressing the point.

This kind of activity only serves to lend credence to the idea that we, as a country, are headed towards a "1984" style of society. Any sort of dissension, anything that goes against the grain, anything that questions the authority is immediately responded to with rage, retribution, and attempts to silence the dissenter. After what happened to the Dixie Chicks, and now Linda Ronstadt, I think it's clear that the conservatives control the discourse. They can say and do anything to those who disagree with them, and their supporters and the fence-sitters will eat it up with a spoon.

On a related note, at Yahoo (where I found the link to this article) there's a sidebar that lists Opinion and Editorial columns. Every last one of them was decidedly pro-Bush, and dismissive of Ronstadt's comments and/or Michael Moore. What was that about a liberal media? Here's a debating tip for you: if the evidence doesn't back up what you're saying, you don't have a valid point, asshole.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

The Last Post about (name of national electronics chain removed for the protection of the guilty), I swear

I swear this is the last post about (name of national electronics chain removed for the protection of the guilty), because I'm done working there. I've bitched a lot about that place, but let me give you the 411 on the straw that broke the camel's back.

I was working at COP IT on Friday, and Ben asked me if I could come in on Sunday to do some work at the South Campus lab. I said sure, since (name of national electronics chain removed for the protection of the guilty) hadn't called me with my schedule at that point.

Fast forward to dinnertime on Saturday, my phone rings. I don't answer it, since I'm eating, but when I get the message, it's my manager. "I need you to come in tomorrow from 11-7. Ok, thanks buddy."

*raised eyebrow, mouth agape* Let me get this straight: I'm working part time hours, getting part time benefits and part time pay, and yet you want me to work an 8 hour shift on a Sunday?!? Fuck you, buddy.

I call back and let them know that I had a prior commitment to my other job, that I had made on Friday (I actually said that, just to be clear). After I finish the explanation, the lady I was talking to says, real pissy, "So you won't be able to make it in, right?" Yeah, bitch, that's right. Did you even hear what the fuck I just said? No, of course you didn't, you stopped listening after I said, "I can't come in tomorrow, because..." She just assumed I was lying about my other job in order to get out of working, I guarantee it.

So today I was working at the University, and my phone rings. It's my manager. He asks me "what the deal" was with today. So I explained to him that I was working at the University. He asked when I would be done. I said about 2 or 3. He says, "So you can come in after, then?" I said, "Uh, yeah, I guess I can do that."

After I hung up the phone, I was super pissed. I did some thinking about the costs and benefits of working at (name of national electronics chain removed for the protection of the guilty). Benefits: money. Costs: my free time, less hours at COP IT (where I get paid more than at (name of national electronics chain removed for the protection of the guilty)), my moral fiber, pain in my feet and back, and self-respect.

I called back and told my manager that I quit. I gave him some bullshit about how I thought I'd like retail sales, but it just wasn't my cup of tea (which is half the truth, really, I never thought I'd like retail sales), and that I was thankful for the opportunity, and terribly sorry about quitting (again, half the truth, I was thankful for the opportunity, but sorry I took it). He didn't seem too upset, so that was good.

So that's the last you'll hear about (name of national electronics chain removed for the protection of the guilty). Fucking cockknockers.

Friday, July 16, 2004

News Flash

Your vote doesn't count. It has never counted, and it never will, unless you're the only one voting. And since that's not likely to happen, your vote doesn't count.

"But local elections have been decided by one vote before!" Only a handful of times, and that doesn't prove your point. If anything, it strengthens mine. Since it's only happened a small number of times in the history of democracy means it has a very small statistical chance of occurring. Therefore, your vote doesn't count.

"If everyone thought their vote didn't count, no one would vote!" True, but let's say I buy that argument and decide to vote. Whoops, my vote still doesn't count because everyone else is voting, too, and as we now know, one vote is statistically insignificant.

"If everyone who doesn't vote suddenly decided to, it would make a difference!" Right again, but if I decide to vote for that reason, everyone else still won't, and my vote still doesn't count.

"It's your civic duty to vote, people gave their lives so you could have the right to vote!" And I thank them for it. But it still doesn't change the fact that my vote doesn't count.

"If you don't vote, you have no right to complain about the results!" The hell I don't. I still pay taxes, and I'm affected by the outcome whether I voted for the asshole who got elected or not, so I damn well have a right to complain.

"One man can make a difference, just recruit others to vote the way you do!" But that's not one vote counting, is it? That's a bloc of votes, which obviously does count. The fact remains that my vote doesn't count.

Voting is inherently illogical as your vote is insignificant. I'm not saying people who vote are stupid or ignorant. They have reasons why they vote, and that's fine. What I'm explaining is why your, my, or your neighbor's individual vote doesn't count.

That said, I still plan to vote for Kerry in November. Why? Because he's not Bush, that's why.

P.S. Credit goes to my good friend, Justin Flynn, for refuting some of these arguments.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

I'm tired of bitching about (name of national electronics chain removed for the protection of the guilty)

And today was my day off anyway. I was supposed to get a call today about when I'm scheduled to come in again, but my phone never rang. *shrug* I ain't gonna take the initiative, it's not like I need the money that bad.

But anyway, time to bitch about something else.

You know who I hate? The South. Fucking southerners with their bible-thumping, holier than thou bullshit. I really wish they had won the Civil War and seceded. They're the reason Bush is in the White House, they'll be to blame if he gets re-elected, they're the reason this country has a Christian majority (and why porn is generally looked down upon), they're the reason the United States is so fucking gun crazy, they're the reason civil rights has made such meager progress, they're the reason gay marriage isn't legal in every state, and their intolerance of everything different from them and their beliefs has rubbed off on everyone else.

But really what it comes down to is Fundamentalism. If there were no fundies, the world would be a much better place. Religious persecution? Not here. Discrimination? Hell no, in fact, there's no scientific basis for different races, only the human one. Gay rights? They're people, so they should have the same rights as all other people. Women's rights? Of course. Abortion? A woman's right to choose. Stem cell research? It's not playing God, and even if it is, so what? We can do a better job than the "intelligent designer" did.

Once you get rid of fundamentalism, you also get rid of stupidity, or at least the gross offenders. Who else would believe in a magical sky pixie (who supposedly loves you but fucks you over every chance he gets) but people who are out of their fucking mind? By eliminating stupidity, you cut down on crime, fear, hate, racism, sexism, war, Republicans, all kinds of stuff.

So go ahead and wave that Confederate flag, because you believe in what it stands for: religious intolerance, slavery, male domination, and bigotry. Wave that flag, and I salute you with a raised middle finger. You're what's wrong with this country, and if anybody should leave, it's you.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Four on the floor

Yes, I know that's a reference to a manual gearbox, and no, I'm not going to be talking about cars. So fuck you.

What I will talk about was my first full day on the floor at (name of national electronics chain removed for the protection of the guilty). I actually sold stuff today, like over 1,000 dollars worth of stuff, too. The difference between e-learning and actually working the floor is like night and day. I actually felt good about today, even though my manager treats me like I'm an idiot.

There were some open box TVs that he wanted me to write price tags for, and the first one I wrote wasn't good enough. He said, "Is that your best handwriting?" I wanted to say, "Yeah, actually it is, and if you're so goddamn concerned about the fucking price tags, do it yourself, douchebag." Instead, I rewrote the tag much slower, but my handwriting is my handwriting, and my handwriting is inherently shitty. If he doesn't like it, fuck him. I don't care what the fuck he thinks, cause even if I fuck up the piddly shit he tells me to do, it isn't going to get me fired. After all, they didn't ask me to demonstrate my handwriting ability before they hired me.

But anyway, I was able to help 3 or 4 people find what they were looking for, and rung them up accordingly. I've said it before, but I'll say it again: I'm not a salesman. I sold stuff, but I didn't tell them to get all the shit that my manager wants me to push. But the way I look at it is that at least I'm selling stuff. My goal isn't to be the top performer in the department by selling stuff I make people think they need, but to do my job the way I want to and help people get the stuff that I know they need. It's a subtle difference, but an important one.

I mentioned in the previous post that (name of national electronics chain removed for the protection of the guilty) is not a good place to work, but didn't elaborate. Here's a few reasons:

1. The managers don't manage very well, if at all. I've got a training book that says I'm supposed to go over a bunch of things with my manager like ringing up sales and whatnot. But we haven't done any of that, because he's "too busy." Doing what, I don't know, but it's certainly not managing. Maybe that's why they're so stingy with promotions, since they can only afford to pay 4 people 10 bucks an hour to jerk off all day.

2. While the majority of my coworkers are extremely helpful, there are a few who are extremely unhelpful. Either they forgot what it was like to be a noob, or are simply too much of a selfish prick who's concerned for their job, since they're completely unwilling to explain or help out with anything. Especially this one guy, who derided me for not knowing how to do an audio demo. It's a good thing I didn't have my pocket knife with me, or I would have stabbed him in his fucking eye. (EDIT (10/10/2005): The cocksucker also got my name wrong. He saw me across the floor, and walked up, peering at my nametag. He called, "Health? Is your name Health? Or Heath?" Lemme ask you a question: Have you, or anyone you know, ever heard of someone named Health? I didn't think so. Apparently this douchebag had, or he was just a fucking idiot. I'm leaning towards the latter.)

3. Holy shit, my feet feel like they're on fire. I need to get some of those gel insoles or something before I go back to work, cause I'm not going through this shit again. Repeat after me: 5 hours straight on your feet is not healthy. That's the kind of bullshit that fucks you up for life.

4. I'm a product specialist, not a fucking janitor. So why, then, was I spending time today cleaning up garbage from the registers, moving shit (TV stands and TVs) around, and stocking shelves? Don't ask me. The guys from the warehouse move shit for a living, get them to do that shit and stock the shelves. And I throw my garbage away instead of leaving it at the register. Make the fuckers who were too lazy to do that clean up their own damn garbage.

That's all I can think of right now. I'm sure there's probably more that I haven't experienced yet. Goddamn I wish I was working full time at COP IT.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Third impressions of (name of national electronics chain removed for the protection of the guilty)

Perhaps I was a bit hasty with my initial reactions. After all, I was basing my conclusions on the training material, and a few candid conversations with/between employees.

Today was my third day at (name of national electronics chain removed for the protection of the guilty), and I (finally) finished the initial block of computer-based learning. I was also able to learn a little about how the point of sale system worked from a fellow associate, and even got a bit of hands on training from my manager (surprise/shock). I think most of the vitriol in my previous post was because, after the first 2 days, I felt like I was a student again. I hated being a student, and after I was finished, I was so happy that I'd never have to sit through a boring class again. And yet, there I was, being lectured by a computer program for 6 hours straight.

The other thing I hated about the e-learning, as it's called, is that I don't learn that way. I have to actually do something in order to get it. You can sit there and explain things to me all day long, but as soon as I go to try it, I'll say, "Now how do I do this/that again?" If you tell me how to do it as I'm doing it for myself, I'll never have to ask you again; that's just the way my brain works.

The other realization I had today was that it doesn't matter if I'm a salesman or not, and am willing to sacrifice my moral fiber in order to push DirecTV on some unsuspecting shmuck. As I said, I'm not at this job for the long haul, I'm just making some money and getting some experience until I find a better job. Ben (my supervisor at COP IT) told me today that his Dad used to tell him, "Get in, do what you need to, and get out." I'm in, I'm going to learn what I need to, and then I'm going to get out. If it takes 6 months, fine, if takes 4 weeks, that's fine, too. (EDIT (10/10/2005): As it turned out, it took 4 days)

What's more, is that the disgruntled employees I overheard were probably in the minority. I talked to some more of my coworkers today, and they don't seem to have a big problem with working there. Most of them are students who are currently attending, or about to attend, college, and are simply working part time to pay some bills. It doesn't matter that they don't get full time benefits, because they're not there for the long haul anyway.

Also to my relief, I was able to ask for a nametag, and got to sign in today (as well as get credit for the hours I worked yesterday and Saturday). So I'll actually get a paycheck in a few weeks.

Still, I don't think (name of national electronics chain removed for the protection of the guilty) is a good place to work (unless you're a student), and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone I know. There are better part time jobs out there, to be sure. And there are damn sure better jobs if you have a degree.

Monday, July 12, 2004

First (and second) impressions of (name of national electronics chain removed for the protection of the guilty)

Ok, so I did my initial training on Saturday, and it was mind-numbingly boring, but apparently necessary. It's computer based, so I didn't have to strain myself physically. However, if you imagine the most useless, common-sense, boring and totally uninteresting 4 hour lecture (with pop quizzes every half hour) that you can think of, what I did on Saturday was it. Even so, after leaving the store on Saturday, I was optimistic about my next scheduled day, and the rest of my employment at (name of national electronics chain removed for the protection of the guilty).

Fast forward to today, my second day "on the job." On the job is in quotes because I didn't actually do any work, just more computer based learning. Instead of common sense bullshit that a trained monkey could regurgitate on command, today's 6 hour lecture was on product knowledge, selling techniques, and customer service. Of course, those are the buzzwords that the training program uses. Here's what they really mean.

Product knowledge: stuff you can learn about by reading a manual, a website, or the goddamn box. Being a Product Specialist apparently entails knowing just enough to impress the shmucks who come in the store, but not actually having any useful knowledge that you could use in a discussion with an actual expert.

Selling techniques: getting people to buy shit that they wouldn't buy on their own, but have been convinced that they "need." Don't get me wrong, getting an extended warranty on a big screen TV is a very good idea, but that same extended warranty for a 90 dollar VCR, or "Monster" AV cables and power supplies that cost 2-20 times as much as normal cables and power supplies (and do the exact same thing) is fucking ridiculous. Besides, if you really want quality audio equipment, don't come to fucking (name of national electronics chain removed for the protection of the guilty).

Customer service: the training program uses this term to refer to things like home theater installations, or DirectTV recommendations. As if anybody with an instruction manual can't hook up a surround sound system to their TV/DVD player, (name of national electronics chain removed for the protection of the guilty) wants folks to pay 150 bucks or more for somebody to come over and do it for them. When we sell a TV, we're supposed to push DirectTV. "Hey look, this guy just spent 3 grand on a big screen, lets sucker him into a 1 year agreement for satellite television cause his cable connection won't take full advantage of the increased resolution!" Give me a fucking break. I've got satellite TV, and while I agree it can be cheaper than cable, it certainly doesn't look as good. If you don't know what I'm talking about, imagine watching streaming video on the net. Notice those occasional blotches of pixels? That's what satellite TV looks like. In other words, like ass.

While I was doing my "training," I got a good cross-section of my co-workers opinions on the job and the managers as they came in and out. Apparently, everyone hates working there. Unless they're a manager (which there seems to only be about 4 for 25 or so regular employees), they're not full time, and yet they're working close to, if not more than, 40 hours a week. One guy's been working there for six months, and has been the top performer in his department since he started. So, he's close to being promoted, right? No, he's not even full time.

The managers also don't seem to do much managing unless someone fucks up (e.g. calls in sick, comes in 2 minutes late, or forgets to offer the extended warranty). I suppose I can understand the lack of support for the established employees, but I've been there two days (for a total of 11 hours), and I've talked to my manager 3 times (and seen him 4 times). Hell, I haven't been given the official uniform (a red polo), nametag, or sign-in sheet. I really hope they don't expect me to be doing this training voluntarily, because I expect to get fucking paid for this bullshit.

So here's what I'm thinking: my job search is in no way over. I've got a fucking degree, for christ's sake, and I'll be damned if I'm going to be a fucking clerk at this point in my life. As soon as the economy picks up and I get a better job, I'm gone. I might not even wait that long. (name of national electronics chain removed for the protection of the guilty)'s a good store to shop in, but it fucking sucks to work there. (EDIT (10/10/2005): Upon further review, it's not a good store to shop in, either. After my experience working there, I have never since, and never will again, shop at this particular chain. I just won't.)

Friday, July 09, 2004

How can I bitch when I'm so happy?

I've got a couple of pieces that I wrote a few days ago that I could post, but they're just too angry. I'm not in an angry mood right now. In fact, I think nothing short of Bush getting re-elected could bring me down right now.

Why am I so happy, you ask? Cause I got a fucking job, that's why! Well, I already had a job, but I got a second one (at least until they bump me up to FT). I am now a "Product Specialist" at (name of national electronics chain removed for the protection of the guilty). It's basically a non-commission sales job, but the way I understand it, advancement is fairly quick (if you're not a fucking idiot), and lucrative, so sweet action. Plus, starting pay is 8 bucks an hour, which is only 50 cents less than I'm making at COP IT.

So hooray for me. I start tomorrow. Well, I start training tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

This is Total Bullshit (tm)

What the fuck is this? (This link's broken. The article was something about terrorism and it's effect on fuel prices, I think.) No, seriously, what the hell? The Bush administration sees the economy running relatively smoothly, gasoline prices falling back to reasonable levels, and John Kerry getting a big boost in the news (but not the polls) by picking a VP, and what do they do? Spout some bullshit about terrorism!

And don't give me any of that shit about a tinfoil hat theory, they're doing this on purpose. The article even says that the market tends to get a boost whenever terrorism is brought up.

Just a side note, whoever wrote the article apparently never took a college Econ course. He says US oil inventories didn't rise as much as expected due to a high gasoline demand. Well no shit, Sherlock, of course there was high gas demand, the price per gallon of gas has dropped some 50 cents in a few weeks! Low price = high demand, fuckstick. Remember that. There'll be a quiz later.

But back to the point, the Bush administration doesn't want low gas prices, so they prattle on about terrorism and the price of oil (and thus, gas) shoots up. That, my friends, is Total Bullshit (tm).

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

History repeats itself

Why do people have such short memories? Every decade or so, during a boom, there's talk of a "new economy." Since it's a new economy, we'll never have a recession again! Is that so? That's exactly what you said ten years ago, before a bust. And twenty years ago, again, before a bust. Surely you remember people saying that during the mid 90's. We all know what happened to the new economy, right?

But maybe I'm being too harsh. After all, a decade is a long time, so maybe it's understandable that people can forget. That doesn't explain what people have forgotten about Bush, though, and what happened only a few years, months, or even weeks ago.

Remember when we went to war with Afghanistan in order to find Osama bin Laden? Where is he, by the way?

Remember when we promised to rebuild Afghanistan? How come the little Afghan children still don't have schools?

Remember when Saddam Hussein was affiliated with Al Qaida? Oh wait, no, he had weapons of mass destruction, right? Or was it just oil? Jeez, I can't keep all the false motives straight.

Remember when the war with Iraq was over, even though handfuls of soldiers were dying every day?

Remember when we weren't in a recession, even though now that we look at the data, it turns out we were?

Remember when the economy was recovering, even though we still haven't replaced half the jobs that were lost?

Remember when the Iraq prison scandal broke, and the talking heads dismissed it as if that's what the Iraqis deserved? Remember when those same assholes were shocked and outraged when Americans started getting beheaded?

Remember when Bush backed an unconstitutional gay marriage ban amendment?

Remember when the Patriot Act was passed and we were supposed to be safer, but all it really did was take away our freedoms?

Remember when Bush didn't get reelected and got hit by a car on his way home from his concession speech? Oh wait, no, that was only a dream of mine.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Is it just me...

Or does I, Robot look like ass? I've read the I, Robot short stories, and from what I've seen of the movie and it's plot, it has nothing to do with anything Isaac Asimov ever wrote. At the most, the movie uses some of Asimov's ideas, but it's certainly not based on one of his stories.

So that begs the question: why didn't they just adapt one of his novels? It would have been a better film, and it wouldn't have pissed off any fans. You wanna put Will Smith in it? Fine, but don't write some shlock that urinates all over a dead man's work.

On a semi-side note, I really think Will Smith should go back to TV and/or music full time. He hasn't made a good movie since Enemy of the State, and his last good summer "blockbuster" was Men In Black.

Anyway, back to the point. So the trailer shows masses of robots breaking out and doing some bad shit. Excuse me, what? One of the short stories was about a particular series of robots being made without one of the 3 rules, but rampaging robots? Talk about a hackneyed plot. Let's hope they don't screw up the adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

EDIT (10/10/2005): Yep, they screwed it up.

Something that pisses me off

This past weekend was the 4th of July. We Americans love our Independence Day; so much so, in fact, that we have to blow shit up. Having nothing better to do, I decided to partake of the annual ceremony downtown, and watch professionals blow shit up for my amusement.

Of course, after 9/11, everyone's real concerned with security, and any gathering of more than 100 people has to be accompanied by police and/or a cadre of security guards. This event was no different, as there must have been 50,000 people within a 2-block radius. The fenced-in area was evidently the place to be, since it cost a buck to get in and everyone had to be patted down.

Here's what pisses me off. Until that evening, I had carried around a pocket knife on my keychain. Nothing special or anything, just an inch long blade that was only sharp enough to cut packing tape, a bottle opener/screwdriver, and a nail file. I didn't even think about it when the hand-held metal detector went off and I removed my keys and put them in the tray. The security guard immediately picked them up and unfolded the tiny blade, looking at it and me as if, together, we were the two most dangerous things on the planet.

"You can't bring this in here," he said, all pissy. "We don't allow knives inside the park. We don't even let people bring in umbrellas," as he showed me an umbrella that had been left behind.

I wanted to say that it barely qualified as a knife, and that I couldn't do any damage with it if I wanted to, but I'm the kind of person who doesn't really make waves. If I had said anything contrary, it would have only escalated the situation, and probably would have ended with me riding home in a squad car over a fucking pocket knife. And why the hell were they taking people's umbrellas?

What I did say, or started to say, was that I could just leave it at the gate and pick it up on my way out, but he interrupted me.

"Either leave it here, and we'll throw it away, or give it to the officer over there and he'll throw it away."

Throw it away? Throw it AWAY? It's my fucking pocket knife, you douchebag, not a piece of trash! Jesus ass-fucking Christ on a pogo-stick, this is my personal property. I don't give a fuck if you think you're in charge of a crack security operation or not (which it was far from being), you can't treat people and their belongings like shit.

If I had been thinking clearly, I could have walked twenty feet away and passed it to a friend already inside, or just chucked it over the 10-foot fence. Hell, I could have disappeared into the throng of people, put the knife in my shoe, and walked back, no one the wiser. The prick wasn't even running the detector over people's shoes.

Unfortunately, I wasn't thinking clearly, and didn't want to raise a commotion, so I lost my pocket knife. As far as I'm concerned, the city of Stockton now owes me 33 dollars for a replacement knife.

Besides their obvious holes in security, the other thing I just don't understand is why I could carry a knife outside the fence, but not inside it. Granted, there were more people inside than out (or at least, more densely packed), but there was still a shitload of people outside. You know what that's called? An illusion of security. People see folks getting patted down, getting their knives taken away, and they say, "Hey, that's pretty good, I want to be in there, cause it's safe." No it isn't, it's not any safer than outside, it just looks that way. Someone once said, "Those who give up freedom for security will get neither." In order to be "secure," I had to give up the freedom to carry a knife.

In conclusion, fuck Stockton and fuck their half-assed security. I'll be working on extracting my 33 pounds of flesh.