Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

To celebrate . . . Singing ZOMBIES!!!

Music is by Jonathan Coulton.

Quote of the Day

Idiot Box, n.: The part of the envelope that tells a person where to place the stamp when they can't quite figure it out for themselves. -- Rich Hall, "Sniglets"

Courtesy of an email from my father this morning!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Public Service Announcement #2

If you pay attention, and I know that's really hard for some of you, you'll notice that those little arrows on elevators light up. When the elevator arrives, if you look at that little arrow, it will tell if the elevator is going up or if it's going down.

If you do this, you won't have to look like an idiot by asking which way it's going!

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Public Service Announcement

This is directed at those who drive the I-10 in the Phoenix area.

As you drive out of Chandler on the eastbound I-10, you may notice that there are a bunch of Christmas decorations going up on the south side of the road. Let me assure you, you DON'T have to slow down to see what's going on!!!

These decorations are, in fact, a perfectly normal thing around here. They go up every year (although it seems a little earlier than usual this year) and they'll be up until after New Years. You will have plenty of time to see them as you drive by. And please rest assured that what you can see from the road can be seen just as well at 65-70 mph as at 10-15 mph. In fact, in some ways, they are better when seen at 65 or 70. That way it only takes you a second or two to see it all. When you're going 10 or 15, you have to spend most of your time checking on all the cars around you so you don't either get rear-ended or rear-end someone else.

For fuck's sake, they're just Christmas decorations! It's not like they're something you're never going to see again anywhere else in the world. And really, just how interesting are a bunch of fake trees and some over-sized fake packages? It's not like it's a bunch naked people running around, juggling flaming chainsaws or anything really cool like that.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Art of Being a Bastard

As I have said, I do actually enjoy being a bastard at times. It is not something to be done indiscriminately, however. The whole thing with my roommate the other night got me thinking about the way I respond to problems like this. I have come to conclusion that I will pursue reasonable solutions to problems for only so long. I give people the chance to respond in an appropriate fashion. I will give people multiple opportunities to respond. At a certain point, however, I say "fuck it" and take a more "creative" approach to problem solving.

But there are three forms of bastardness. The first is the kind I used on my roommates. It is very clearly being a bastard, but a slightly indirect fashion. This form has a very specific target, and is applied to a very specific end.

For example, during the course of my first year as a graduate student, one of the grad students did a series of things which angered a number of us. They accused some of our colleagues of being stupid because they did not speak up in class very often, and declared that they did not want to work with these people on a group project (the groups were put together by the professor for the class who is also the director of our program, and he only assigned the groups after observing people over the course of most of the semester - he basically told her "too bad, get over it, go to work"). Both of the people in question here happen to be good friends of mine, who I knew to actually be far more intelligent than this person. She also made some disparaging remarks about the rest of us because most of us because we were younger than her, and since she had "real world experience" and we did not, she was in a better position to tell us how to be grad students (despite the fact that this was her first year, too!) and how to live our lives. Yeah, didn't go over so well with us. The next semester, I had my chance to be a bastard. We had another class with a group project. I ended up being on one of the "committees" with her. Over the course of the project, I found out that she hadn't really done anything for any of the committees she was on. As part of final report for this project, we had to write up a short paragraph on what each of did to contribute to the project. I had assumed editorial control over compiling this final report and had asked everyone to send my their little write up. She didn't. After several requests, I reached the "fuck it, I'm going to be a bastard" point and wrote it myself. I gave her name and said she "reported to be on the following committees". And that was it. Everyone else's write had information on which committees they worked on, what specific duties they carried out, etc. It became very clear to the people we were presenting this report to that she hadn't done jack shit. It took a while, and was done in a fairly subtle fashion, but I was able to play the bastard.

This form of bastardness must be used very carefully, however. It must well planned and carried out in such a fashion that it hopefully prevents further or escalated problems. It also must be done rather sparingly. If you are this kind of bastard all the time, it begins to lose it's effect. People just end up saying "yeah yeah, whatever" and ignoring it. This defeats the point of being a bastard. The entire purpose of being this first form of a bastard is to achieve a specific goal. It is most effective when people don't necessarily see it coming. It lets them know you are serious. When it works, it works beautifully. When it doesn't, things get bad. If you do it sparingly, and plan your approach right, you will succeed without too much fallout or collateral damage.

The second form is really just being a bastard for the sake of being a bastard. There is very little planning involved and it is a response to a specific situation, applied on the spur of the moment. This is blocking out someone who is trying to speed ahead in a construction zone. It's just responding in a bastardly fashion because you can. If you want an example, check out this Anywhere But Here strip. (I hope Jason Siebels doesn't mind me using one of his comics, but it really is just a perfect depiction of my point!)

The third form is is my favorite and most used form. But this is usually only carried out on friends in appropriate situations. Again, it is being a bastard for the sake of being a bastard. There is no real malice behind it. It's just giving your friends shit.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I Win

I have spent much of the last ten hours or so (at least, the hours I was awake) contemplating the Art of Being a Bastard.

A few months back, I picked up some new roommates. And there has be a . . . breaking in process involved. From everything I can tell, based on what they've said and what they've done, this is the first time that either of them have lived away from home. This despite this fact that they are both in their early to mid 20s. Until now, I think, they have always had someone to take care of them.

Well, I'm not their mommy. And I fucking shouldn't have to be. They are perfectly old enough to be able to function as adults in a shared apartment space. Most of the time, the things they've been doing have been fairly minor in the grant scheme of the universe. But it's my apartment - they just live there. I'm the only one on the lease, and they rent from me. I explained my basic rules when they moved in. Things like keeping music/movies turned down at night (that whole trying not to piss off the neighbors thing), putting their dirty dishes in the dishwasher and no the sink does NOT cut it, wiping up spills and crumbs from the kitchen counter, floor, and dining table, if you borrow one of my DVDs return it promptly and put it back in the right spot (not that hard when they're all in alphabetical order). Little things. I do not expect perfect cleanliness. I can't manage that, why should I expect it from them?

Well, they haven't done these things. So, I tried talking to them. When that didn't work, I took to leaving notes. What that too failed, I moved into Bastard Mode. I took to placing dirty dishes and the trash they left out in their doorway (if you haven't figured it out, they are a couple and are sharing a single room). If this didn't work, my plan was to threaten to hire a cleaning crew and charge them for it. Fortunately, I don't think it's going to come to that. One of them confronted me last night about leaving stuff outside their door. My response was simply "Well, pick it up in the first place I won't have to." At which point I explained that the glasses and trash I had placed there that morning (it was now about 9:30 at night) had been sitting on the table for 3 or 4 days at this point.

The mere fact that it has annoyed them to point of confronting me means that they are finally starting to get the message. They now understand that I can be a bastard and I will make sure that do these things one way or another.

I. Win.

It is not that I especially enjoy being a bastard. Okay, I actually do enjoy it, but I do not like being forced into being a bastard. If I am going be one, I want to make it a deliberate choice to do so. And while there is a whole philosophical argument that I always have a choice, I'm not going to go into that. The point is that I hate it when I feel compelled to act a certain way because of the particular situation. It this case, I had the choice of: (1) ignoring the situation - which would have been a good choice because that would just add to my stress level, and I really don't need that and neither do the people around me; (2) continuing to play mommy and leave them notes asking them to pick their stuff - also not a good choice because that will only result in me being pissed off, again not good for me or the people around me; or (3) be a Bastard - it may not really reduce my stress, but at least I'll be having some "fun" in the process. I took option #3.

I actually have a philosophy on the Art of Being a Bastard. But as this post is already getting fairly long, I'll save that for maybe this afternoon or tomorrow.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Priming the Pump

I was just pumped for information!

I don't know if I've mentioned it before or not, but I serve as a commission member for my local historic preservation committee. This is actually pretty impressive, given that I am still fairly young in terms of my professional career. I haven't been at this all that long and I'm already serving on a semi-judicial governing body. Pretty cool, huh?!?

Anyway, recently, we lost our Historic Preservation Officer (HPO) to another city in and another state, which means the city is in the process of trying to hire a new HPO. As it turns out, I know at least one, more like two, of the candidates. And he stopped by my office this morning to "chat".

Knowing this person the way I do, I can say that his intent was not really to try and get information out of me on other possible candidates or on how the committee was going to go about our business. But I can tell that he was hoping I would let something slip! It was a very passive-aggressive approach to the whole thing, really. But still slightly amusing!

Naturally, I realized what was going on and didn't say anything that he couldn't have found out through other means, so I'm the clear there. But really, how oblivious does he think I am? Did he honestly think that I wouldn't see what he was doing right away?

I know I've admitted to being a cynic before, so you can believe when I say that I was rather expecting something like this at some point. While I've not seen an actual list of people who have applied for the HPO job, by keeping my ear to the ground and by simply walking in the circles I do, I've heard of some of the people who were considering applying. And I know several of them. I'm actually rather surprised that it took this long. I mean, I am rather easy to bribe - a beer or two is usually all it takes!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Lack of Posts

I know, it's been almost two weeks since I last posted anything. If I said I really did mean to post, can I be forgiven? Things have just been really bust around here the last few weeks and I simply couldn't find the time to sit down and write for even a few minutes - or at least not when I had energy enough to write.

The reason I've been so bust recently is that last week was the National Trust for Historic Preservation annual conference. As I'm just about the point of needing a real job (now there's a rather frightening thought, me a professional!), I decided that this year would be a good one to attend the conference and network. Unfortunately, since the conference ran all of last week and since I'm still a grad student, that meant I had NO extra time the week before last. I needed to not only get all my work for last week done before I left, I wanted to get as much of my work for the first part of this week done as well. Didn't get all of what I wanted done, but got enough that I could go to the conference with a (mostly) clear conscience.

The conference was fun, so it was all worth it. I got a chance to see St. Paul, MN, which I had never been to before, and the weather was quite nice. I went to some interesting sessions - even if I already knew most of what they were presenting. I had the chance to network with a bunch of interesting people, including the top two people from the historic preservation office I would really like to work for. Handed out a bunch of business cards and even a couple of resumes, which was good. Even if they don't really look at them right now, it means that if I end up applying for a job with one of them at some point, they are more likely to at least recognize my name - and name recognition is a great and good thing!

And best of all, Journey was able to get the time off and come along. I tell you, there's nothing quite like coming back from a day full of meetings to find a beautiful woman waiting for you! And it was really good be able to spend some real time together. We're both so busy that we don't get to spend as much time together as we would like. And even if I was gone for most of the day, we were able to have dinner together every night. And we had all of the weekend together, although a good chunk of Sunday was taken up with traveling.

That was actually one of the things I was going to write about before I left and never got the chance to - traveling. (We break from our regularly scheduled post for this important side-rant.) I have come to the realization that people love to tell you how go about traveling. Even if they have never been where you're going, they'll have some advice for you. And I'm quite sure that I am just as guilty of doing this as everyone else. When I told people Journey and I were headed to St. Paul, I got all kinds of recommendations on where we should stay (I already have booked the hotel), which airline we should fly (again, already done), what the weather was going to be like (that's what is for), and what it was going to be like. Telling some one what a place is like is kind of like trying to tell them what it's like to hang-glide - talk all you want, but they're not going to really know until they do themselves. And before you ask, no I've never been hang-gliding, and no, I'm not planning on it! (We now return you to our regularly schedule post, already in progress.)

Anyway, we had a good time. The conference was good, the chance to relax some was even better. And we only heard one person say "eh?" or "don-cha-know?" (our cab driver to the airport)!