January 30th, 2004


Why Rhyming Dictionaries Are To Be Kept Out Of The Reach Of Children

Current Events:

Found out today that the prestigious Collage de Snatta Phi (College of Santa Fe) offers an evenings/weekends computer science degree program*. I might just sign up. I am told that The Workplace of Tomorrow will cover a goodly chunk of the expense. If I go slow, they'll cover the whole thing cuz their "tuition aid" program pays so much per calendar year, not so much per course or credit hour or whatever. If I do it though, one of my goals will be to finish before I die, so I might want to pay enough out-of-pocket to keep up a snappy pace if I can. I'll have to see what it costs and if I can actually do the work.

I can probably do the work. I have programmed computers of one kind or another off and on for most of my adult life. For one four-year stretch I did nothing else. I am, however, remarkably ignorant of the latest greatest front-end technologies, HTML, web design and such, which I am sure would be a major focus of any modern program. There are still more web-based applications jobs in the newspaper than any other kind. I have done mostly "embedded systems", little computers that make things go like in microwave ovens and TV sets. I never actually worked on a microwave or TV, just things sort of like that. And databases. Dear God, I have done database design and management till I couldn't uncross my eyes.

Anyway, this could be interesting. It might even have an entertainment coefficient greater than one.

Compelling Chronicle:

I have, over the years, stumbled (almost literally) my way into an electronics engineering job. For better or worse they actually call me a Senior Engineer. For that distinction, whatever it's worth, I owe the Goodrich Corporation. I had never been called an engineer until I worked there for three years one time**. The title stuck, however, and I've been an engineer ever since.

A number of years ago, sporting only a high school diploma, I came to the rude realization that Techno-Weenie Without Portfolio was a uniquely unlucrative profession. The fact that I had co-owned two semi-successful businesses*** and had single-handedly designed a product that sold nation-wide (for a little while) didn't seem to impress anybody. So I bit my lip, sucked in my gut and got a two-year certificate from a local tech school. It was a bitch. I know that other people have suffered and sacrificed far more than I in the pursuit of academic achievement, so this is not likely to impress anybody either, but this tech school wanted you in class seven hours a day. I left the house at five to seven, had an hour at home from about three to four in the afternoon then went to work till eleven, then had to work five hours on Saturday to make up for the fact that I was only working seven hours a day during the week. Luckily, the classes were easy enough that I could do the homework for one class during another most of the time. When I started, I had a cat and a live-in girlfriend. Within two weeks they were both gone****. I didn't really blame them because, between work and school, I simply wasn't around anymore.

The whole miserable experience paid off though, because I've been employable ever since. I learned the hard (but very educational) way that I wasn't really entrepreneur material and that the only way that I, personally, was going to live a comfortable existence was on somebody else's payroll.

So, I defected to the Dark Side and have worked nine-to-five (so to speak) since. I have job-hopped a bit which I have been able to do because I have, voluntarily or otherwise, kept my life remarkably free of commitments to anything but my own entertainment. That's not meant to sound like some great achievement. It just happened that way. The few women I have been ga-ga over have not been ga-ga over me and the ones who were have driven me nuts. Though I have spent considerable time "adrift" without any Supreme Purpose driving me forward, I am never really bored when I'm alone. At the very least I can rent a video or read a book. It might sound kind of pathetic, but pretending to be interested in people I don't find interesting or trying to be interesting to them wears me out and I eventually wander off.

Oops. Freudian subject slip. The point is, I have never pursued a real degree because I never really had to. I could have done noticeably better financially with a BS or MS degree and I would recommend unequivocally to anyone that they get a real degree (as opposed to a tech school certificate) first. If you decide later that you'd rather fart around than work, more power to you. And I think the fact that I have managed to remain employed and even advance a bit has been due to some innate talent with the subject material and quite a bit of luck. I'm fairly amazed that I've had the opportunities I've had. I certainly wouldn't bet on them happening again.

. . .

*The College of Santa Fe is known (if they are known at all) for their Liberal Arts, Film and Education programs. So I know not what kind of "prestige" their Computer Science degree would carry, but I want it mostly for decoration anyway, so it might suit my purposes just the same.

**Three years ago I could not spell en-ginn-ear, now I are one.

***The fact that I was currently looking for a steady job might say something about their "real world" successfulness.

****Independently of each other, I believe. She did not like the cat and I doubt they left together.

. . .

Poetry Corner - (Really) Bad Poetry From The Great American Workplace:

The Last Donut (or Why, mama, why?)

In dark of dawn before first ray
In steely wheel-ed motor sleigh
A minion’s moored at asphalt quay
Before the eerie bright cafe

Cannot at first, try what he may
Hold the pink-gray-blue at bay
Though hand to brow does some defray
The garish glam and glitter gay

He ventures forth so to assay
Prodigious goods in vast array
Thrust proudly forth upon display
Crystal shelves, glass cabaret

The premises does he survey
For first a bar-wench to purvey
The objects of his dawn soiree
Lest his mission they belay

Long, at last, meets he with they
He makes his choices yea and nay
Our deepest yearnings to portray
It’s finished then he’s underway

Not truth nor myth nor mere cliché
Before day’s light he makes his hay
He acts right now, without delay
Portentous cargo to convey

That morning, then, were seen to lay
Upon a patterned pressboard tray
A score and four of shapes like clay
Our dingy drab resolves to slay

For free they were, not whores for pay
Once dearly bought; now free to stay
Free, the better our wills to fray
To loose our lines and leave us stray

Accept the free and simple way
See not the massing passion play
Another grain, the scale’s to weigh
Against our souls on judgment day

Wat'ry wills in disarray
For two days running did we prey
On sugared dough, the death buffet
And no one heard the minion bray

All hear me now! (cried in dismay)
Take the last, none disobey!
But not one person could he sway
For days it lay there anyway

That cadre’s last left just today
In misty shroud lined pail of gray
The rest, their ends met yesterday
Or day before, who now can say?

A little past its last hooray
Bereft of sprinkles or bouquet
Vows only thirst and tooth decay
The unchosen donut slips away

Techno-Weenie Heaven

Current Events:

Had a stellar day at work today. I mostly like my job. God knows it's cushy enough most of the time, but today was a genuine example, eruption even, of the fabled "irrational exuberance" syndrome.

Last year my "team leader" and I applied for some company R&D bucks to pursue an idea for a product that we could not get a customer to fund directly. The Workplace of Tomorrow sets aside some money each year for just such projects. Mr. Team Leader Person had a very bad attitude at first, saying that the selection committee would make us jump through a bunch of hoops then kick us to the curb and deny our request just for giggles. I kept pushing and convinced him we should try for it anyway. Well, we actually got it. Since then there have been some significant budget cuts in the main programs and we are currently afloat solely on the R&D bucks. If not for them, we would have nothing to do which is dangerous in Corporate America. He has had the decency to thank me more than once for saving his royal butt.

The whole point of R&D is to try something that you, and probably nobody else, has tried before. If it's really R&D, you don't honestly know for sure if it will work or not. So there is an element of risk. But we abhor risk, so we live in denial that anything could really go wrong. We live, also, with this nagging feeling that it might not work and we might look like fools.

Anyway, that's where the irrational exuberance comes in. Just before I left today I proved out a little circuit (of my own design, brag, brag) that was, as we say in the biz, "the long pole in the tent", the aspect of the project voted most likely to fuck the whole thing up. Well, it does not just work, it works BEAUTIFULLY! It doesn't make adequate pulses, it makes the prettiest, most aesthetically satisfying pulses I've ever seen! There are still some hurdles to get over, but this dog can hunt!

See what I mean? I need to go chill out before I stroke out.

. . .

Lunch Crumbs:

If I win the lottery or become financially independent in some other way, I want to take the time to do things like sit down and analyze in detail why I found Kill Bill kind of tedious but found Once Upon A Time In Mexico a hoot or why I got totally sucked into the battle scenes in The Last Samurai but was holding my wristwatch up to the screen trying to see what time it was during the "harrowing" freeway-chase/martial-arts-battle sequences in Matrix II. It seems a bit contradictory. Apparently it's not violence per se.

One reason Once Upon A Time In Mexico is a hoot is because Robert Rodriguez is a hoot. Witness the "Ten Minute Cooking School" featurette on the DVD. It's worth the price of the rental. He's one of those people who is serious enough about making movies with no intention of ever taking it that seriously. He has fun with it and it shows. Geez, to have half his talent and a quarter of his energy. Another reason is the cast. Everybody's really good and they do have fun with it.