Inhuman Swill : Work
            

In his recent New York Times interview, Louis C.K. offers a good reminder of what it takes to build a career, for those who've been toiling away for decades:

NYT: You have the platform. You have the level of recognition.

LCK: So why do I have the platform and the recognition?

NYT: At this point you've put in the time.

LCK: There you go. There's no way around that. There's people that say: "It's not fair. You have all that stuff." I wasn't born with it. It was a horrible process to get to this. It took me my whole life. If you're new at this -- and by "new at it," I mean 15 years in, or even 20 -- you're just starting to get traction. Young musicians believe they should be able to throw a band together and be famous, and anything that's in their way is unfair and evil. What are you, in your 20s, you picked up a guitar? Give it a minute.
Read the full interview here: The Joke's on Louis C.K.
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I learned something very cool yesterday. Of course, I'm a science geek, but I still thinks it's cool enough to share.

I'm in Los Angeles this week, doing what I hope will be ongoing programming work for a new client. The client is a big printing facility that spits out reams of paper by the minute, sorts, collates, folds, stuffs, and meters. If you've ever received a one-page explanation of benefits from your health insurance company, or a huge booklet with all the legalese for your policy, this is the kind of place that produced it.

I went on a tour of the facility yesterday afternoon. Among the huge laser printers and folding/inserting machines chained together like a mechanical version of the Human Centipede was a big blue roll printer. It was fascinating to watch in action. At one end was a giant roll of white paper, about six feet in diameter and 17 inches wide. The paper was fed at high speed into a unit that printed two pages side by side. As it emerged from that unit, the continuous paper strip went through a complex series of rollers, some set at a 45-degree angle, that turned the paper over so the blank side was facing up as it went into the next printer. As the paper emerged, now printed on both sides, a blade sliced it lengthwise. The two narrow side-by-side strips were then brought together, one on top of the other, and fed into a cutter that chopped them up into perfectly collated stacks of 8.5 x 11" duplex-printed paper.

That was cool enough, but I noticed that as the paper emerged from the machine that sliced it lengthwise, it passed beneath a piece of wire that had obviously been juryrigged. The wire was wound with a spiral of tinsel, the kind you'd use to decorate a Christmas tree. The tinsel brushed the paper as it sped past.

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Why I love Malcolm Tucker

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I think most people know me as a fairly laid-back guy in person, never getting too exercised or losing my cool, even when someone's being a jerk to me. If that's your opinion, then you've never worked in an office with me. Seriously. Ask the good, long-suffering people at BenefitsCheckUp or Sesame Workshop. (Actually, don't ask the people at Sesame Workshop. Most of the folks I used to work with there got the ax even before I did.)

If you talked to them, you'd find out that I could be a real bastard in the workplace. Some people at my last job were apparently afraid to talk to me when I thought they'd messed up, or at all. I made at least one producer at the Sesame Street website cry. Mind you, I'm not proud of this. No, wait, actually I am.

Over the past week or so, I've watched the recent film In the Loop three times on DVD. Besides its scathing, cynical view of the political process that lubricated our way into Iraq, I can't get enough of Malcolm Tucker, the angry, profane press secretary who never encountered a functionary he couldn't intimidate or a problem he couldn't spin his way out of. I want to be Malcolm Tucker, or at least be that articulate when I'm enraged.

Tucker, as played by Peter Capaldi, is also a character on the BBC comedy series The Thick of It. That's the source of the short video clip below (decidedly NSFW in its language), which pretty well sums up the Tucker philosophy.

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What goes up must come down

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Dear Miz Manorz,

I find myself flush with discomfort, and I hope you'll give my predicament a swirl.

At my shared workspace, a sign over the privy clearly requests that writers of the male persuasion put the seat down when finished, yet at least one of my upstanding colleagues consistently leaves it up. I'm about to flip my lid! It not just the effrontery that peeves me so. It's also the idea that my female colleagues, in toto, might judge me the culprit!

In loo of direct accusation, please advise me how I might call this breach of manners to the men's attention without upsetting the honeypot. Your priceless advice is of the first water, and I would be greatly relieved should you bowl me over with your insight. I can handle it, and I don't want anything to hit the fan.

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Unemployment saved my life

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I will have more thoughts to offer on this milestone later, but for now let me just say that my job has ended. Like a wounded deer it kept dragging on, but at long last, finally, my last day working steadily as the senior software developer and architect for (the fine and worthy) BenefitsCheckUp, my employers lo these past six and a half years, came yesterday. This has not quite sunk in yet (probably due to the fact that I'm a little punchy from working every day since mid-June—51 hours Monday to Thursday this week alone—which is also why you haven't seen much of me around these parts lately). I thought the day was never going to come.

Now I'm a full-time writer. (No pressure!) And as such, I'm of course going to procrastinate work on my novel for a three-day blowout with Laura at Lollapalooza. (Thanks, Shana!)

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Rotary four

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[info]
Laura sent me the link to this YouTube video of a full four-minute round-trip on the conveyor belt at a rotary sushi bar. For some reason, watching it just made me feel happy, same as it did her. Oh, and hungry too.



That combined with a lunch out later today with my birthdaying workmate makes for a great morning at the office.

Oh, and ianmcdonald's latest, Brasyl, just arrived here at the office from Barnes & Noble via courier. (Same-day delivery in Manhattan rocks the free world.) I pre-ordered this months ago, and I had completely forgotten to expect it.

Oh, and Ella and I went to the park this morning for the first time in weeks. She had been limping a little, so we rested her until the limp went away. That makes four, four vonderful reasons to be happy today.

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What a hectic day yesterday was! After most of a frantic morning at the office, I sneaked out to spend an extended lunch hour watching the new independent supernatural thriller First Snow, after which I rushed back to the office to crank out a quick same-day review for SciFi.com, then stayed late at the office working frantically to try to make up for some of the chaos my absence had caused.

At home that night, even with a nice glass of Lagavulin in hand, watching Borat on DVD did little to relax me. Call me not a fan.

This morning Laura and I hauled two rolling suitcases full of books from Queens to the Strand in Manhattan. Nice little payday, and not one of our books was rejected. Laura has really figured out what books they'll take and which ones they won't—which is nice, because the Strand used-book counter I remember from my early days in the city is one characterized by sneering and snobbishness. I like this morning's Strand much better.

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If ID10T then stop

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Remind me never to try explaining Boolean logic to lay colleagues again.

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I know it's probably too much to ask, but would it kill them to give more than 45 minutes notice for an office pizza lunch? I mean, what if I have already have lunch plans?

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Did you ever send a message in IM that wasn't very complimentary toward some third party? And then, just after it's sent, you realize you sent it to the third party, and not to the friend you thought you were sending it to? And you can hear the third party talking loudly at the other end of the office, so you walk over to the friend's desk and quietly explain what's happened? And so the friend walks by the third party's office to check if they've seen their screen yet? And the friend comes back and reports that the third party is at a fourth party's desk talking, and says you should cause a distraction so the friend can get to the third party's computer? So you walk up to the third party, shaking, and ask if they can come see something at your desk? And you have no idea what you're going to show them, but the third party trails along with you, and all the time you're wondering if somehow they did already see the (very) uncomplimentary IM? And you sit down at your desk and fumble for some weird half-remembered problem with the site you can show them that will keep them looking over your shoulder for a few minutes? And you stumble over your words as your fingers fumble for the keys, and you're not making any sense even to yourself but you manage finally after a few tries to find the path through the web site that results in a very obscure error? And meantime your friend is slipping past you out the door, and the third party agrees that this is bad but not worth holding up work on other bugs? And the friend slips back into the room, but then slips out again almost immediately? So you start jabbering incoherently about how you're worried about what would happen if the clients happened to stumble across this path, and the third party considers this, sounding friendly but a little confused, and you wonder if it's because they did see the message you sent and are just trying to cover it up with a brave façade, or maybe your own nervousness is just rubbing off on them and you better get a grip, or maybe you're just scary in general and people in the office always walk on eggshells around you? And then thank fucking Christ your friend slips back into the room and nods that everything is good, and you let the third party go back to what they were doing? And lo and behold it turns out that the weird bug you dredged up is really something bigger, and suddenly the testers are IMing you other examples of it? And you're so fucking happy to fix the bug you can't even speak? And you resolve NEVER EVER to say a SINGLE BAD THING about anyone in IM or email or sign language or hieroglyphs or assembly language ever fucking again until the heat death of the fucking universe?

Nah, I didn't think so. Me neither.

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