January 30st, 2k7

January 30st, 2k7
Current mood: chipper

Brian’s Saga continues:

______________________________________

Brian’s day began like every other day, a hellish commute to a job he didn’t really care about so he could pay for an apartment he didn’t like. There wasn’t REALLY anything wrong with the apartment. As far as “box” housing goes, it was pretty average. He was more attached to the memories he had in the place than the place itself. That and he had a really good parking spot if he beat Mrs. Grabowski home after work. In the logical part of his head, he knew that he really needed to find a place closer to work. Or a work closer to his place.

After the break up last year (don’t ask) he just didn’t really give a shit. He knew that it was really stupid to live in Gig Harbor and commute to Kent. He knew he was wasting a fortune in gas every week, not to mention car repairs and all the crap that goes with it. He just didn’t have the heart to leave the place that had been “their place.” The sad part is that it would actually be cheaper to go to a shrink! Gas at three fifty a gallon and the toll on that stupid new bridge were going to bankrupt him.

He left home at 6am, and barely clocked in on time. Two hours to go less than 40 miles. Another start to another mind-numbing day. Thank the gods for the home-brew espresso maker. If he didn’t work at a roasting plant, he’d be broke from supporting his caffeine habit. At least he’d been able to give up the nicotine before the breakup. One bad habit was more than enough, thank you very much.

Pulling in to the parking lot, Brian tried to clear his head, and forget about last month. It was a daily ritual for him: Shake off the breakup, shake off the commute, and prepare his head for the day. When he told most people what he did for a living, they either laughed at him, or made some comment along the lines of “must be nice have such an easy job.” Arrogant assholes had no clue that roasting coffee beans was an art.

Buzzing in through the employee entrance, and made his way to the lab, wondering for the millionth time why coffee beans smelled like popcorn during their first roast. He always walked the length of the plant on his way in, to get a feel for the temperature and the humidity inside the old brick building. About half way to the office, his pager started going off.

He didn’t even need to look at it. Only two people had his pager number, and she was on her honeymoon. Brian ducked into the nearest office, some regional veep of distribution or some such crap. Without bothering to ask, he grabbed the phone, and punched in the extension. The VP gave him a dirty look, which Brian ignored. MBA’s were a dime a dozen around here; he never even bothered to learn their names. After a few rings, Deborah picked up.

“hey Deb. Yeah, it’s me. Yeah, I got the page. Calm down, I’m already here. The QC lab? Yeah, I’ll be there in a minute.” Figures. Leave it to Deborah to overreact.

Deborah, known as ‘the duck’ was the token on-site HR person. As there wasn’t much “HR” work to do, she spent most of her time migrating around the plant, leaving little droppings of wisdom with the employees: “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little ‘extra'” “It’s time to think outside the box!” and the perennial favorite “E-mail is not to be used to pass on information or data. It should be used only for company business.”

She was known as ‘the duck’ for several reasons, not the least of which was her penchant for wearing dark (mallard?) green sweaters and a horrible orange-ish lipstick that you could swear was color matched to a duck’s lips. She also had beady eyes, and a tendency to sort of waddle when she walked. ‘Ducking the duck’ was common practice in the old building, and you could occasionally find a whole group of workers on a scaffold behind the storage silo, talking quietly, all avoiding the latest middle-management catchphrase.

Doubling back he headed for the QC lab, which was on the other side of the plant, closer to the shipping docks. His normal “office,” if you could call it that, was on the receiving end of the plant, where the green coffee beans came in. As the master-roaster, he was directly responsible for the quality of every batch, and monitored every step from sorting, resting, first and second roasts, right up until the batch was handed over for packaging.

The biggest part of his job was closely monitoring each batch of beans as they roasted, and controlling every facet of the roast: temperature, drum speed, humidity, and most importantly, time. The real art was in killing the burners before the second “pop” of the beans, and letting the residual heat finish the job. The result was a perfect second pop without over-roasting the beans.

There was a visible bustle of activity surrounding and inside the QC lab. White coats scurrying hither and thither, looking like so many albino ants. As he got closer, he saw a flash of gray wool in the midst of the lab coats, and felt a twinge of uneasiness. Nobody in this plant wore a suit. He was the senior staff member, and the closest he ever got to a suit is when he had to walk past them on his way to electronics at Sears. Something pretty serious must be going on to warrant a suit. It was only a few miles up the road to the headquarters building in Seattle, but that commute was worse than his.

He could see through the window as he got closer that Deborah was holding a clipboard, having a very animated discussion with the suit. Presumably she was talking to the occupant, but for all the response she was getting, she would have done just as well to converse with the fabric. Steeling himself for some unknown unpleasantness, Brian walked in to the QC lab, and seemed to bring a blanket of silence in with him. Even Deborah seemed to sense that he was there, and rushed to him, waving her clipboard around. Her green sweater conjured the most absurd image of a mallard duck trying to take off with only one wing.

“Mr. Griffin, it’s about time! There’s a problem with yesterday’s roasts
! It’s all decaf.” she said, jabbing her finger into the clipboard.

Brian took the clipboard, and started looking over the figures. He wasn’t about to talk to the suit unarmed. The figures on the clipboard was the results of caffeine content testing from the liquid chromatography machine; all the numbers were flat zeros. It couldn’t be right. It was impossible for coffee to have 0mg of caffeine. Even decaf wasn’t completely caffeine free.

He had never trusted the “magic box” method. There had to be something wrong, and the obvious suspect was the chromatography machine itself. They had tested for years with the standard lead acetate and methylene chloride process. It was the way he had been taught, and this “magic box” robbed the process of its romance.

In a move that would probably get him a rebuke later on, he turned heel and made for his lab, where he kept all his own equipment and chemicals. He would do his own tests, and prove that everything was okay. And he needed a cup of coffee.

_________________________

So a couple quick notes. At least for now, I’m going to re-post the beginning every time I write more. At least until I get a good portion finished, and I’m not going to re-write it. For now. I’ve run across some interesting sites trying to find information on caffeine and whatnot. I’ve posted some links below.

The Coffee and Caffeine FAQ

Caffeine Analysis (at the department of energy, no shit)

Starbucks Case Study

And a note for wuff… Wow. To hate myspace so vehemently is admirable. I felt the same until I started making contact with some old friends. It is pretty bogus that you have to sign up to even view profiles, but I feel that the pain-in-the-ass of the registration is depreciated with every new/old friend I make contact with. Plus, it gives me a place to cross-post my blog, and feel important 😀

All I can really say with any authority on the subject is this: If I had lost contact with you over the years, it would be worth signing up for 1000 myspace accounts to find you. Even if it violated their TOS.

Thanks for Reading….

This is, as always, cross-posted with http://360.yahoo.com/nxtplato

January 30st, 2k7b

January 30st, 2k7

So, over 1,000 words last night. I’ve got some ideas brewing (no pun intended), and I’ll probably have more for the story tomorrow. I’m thinking that I’m somewhat lacking in descriptive details. So, pending more developments, I might ease into it with a small re-write.

But anyways. I’m playing with my iTunes again, and I’ve got Office 2007 on my laptop now, so I’ve got another toy. I can’t believe how much Microsoft changed the interface.

Anyone who reads this regularly can probably tell by now that I’m going to cop out of writing a real post tonight.

So, l8trs

January 29st, 2k7

Did they ever change Link’s name to URL?

HAHA!

Up Early. Maybe this time I can make it to the castle, and save the princess before those damn plumbers get there!!

January 29st, 2k7

I’m sure that all two people that read this are just dying to know what’s going on with the story. Well, I’m sorry to say that there’s no update yet. I’ve been sitting here for an hour or so trying to force some more of it out, but it’s just not coming to me right now. I guess I need to wait for the muse to strike again. Or buy more rum.

We went to Seattle for a visit this weekend, and went to see Epic Movie. It wasn’t quite the laugh-a-second romp I thought it would be, but it was still pretty good. Financially, we really shouldn’t even have gone; money’s scarce, and we’re getting ready to move. I could spout off with all sorts of “you only live once,” but anyone who reads this knows my philosophy on that by now.

It’s weird listening to my music collection with iTunes’ “shuffle.” I have a very strong “music memory” (for lack of a better term), and if I close my eyes, a Blink 182 or Savage Garden song can take me back to FreeInternet.com, and Eminem can whisk me back to Fat Boy’s. Pink Floyd? Wow. Uh… way way way back. Anyways…

I can’t believe I had over 100 visitors to my 360! site last week. Wow. I feel popular or something. I have no doubt that it’s thank in part to Beowuff’s blog linking to mine. 😀 Thanks. It looks like we’ll be spending most of next week in PA, so I won’t be able to spend a whole lot of time messing around with iTunes (I keep most of my music on a USB hard drive). With any luck that will translate in to more posts, and maybe even more story time, huh?

Some folks have asked why I don’t spice up my myspace page. Well… To be brutally honest, it’s because I just don’t care. I see so many absolutely HORRIBLE myspace pages, I don’t really want to participate in that part. I’ll continue to put up pictures as I come across ones that I like. All the pictures on there are ones that I took, btw. I maintane a myspace page soley to communicate with people whom I would otherwise still be out of contact with. I don’t really care how it looks. There’s so many ads and so much other crap on there, it wouldn’t really be possible to make it look nice, so I’m not going to mess with it.

Also, on re-reading this before posting, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is possibly my MOST A.D.D. POST EVER! OH, well. Up and on the road in about 5 hours, so once again, thanks for reading.

January 24th, 2k7

January 24th, 2k7

So, I started working on a story that’s been floating around in my head for a while. You, my dear blog reader, get to be my treasured first reader. Why? Because I value your opinion, and because I really don’t have anywhere else to put what I write.


In typical fashion, though, I’ve allowed myself to get completely sidetracked, and spent a bit of time reading up on what is going to be a part of my story. If y
ou’re interested in how to run a business, check it out. If not, then.. uh.. don’t.

Of course, this is after working all day, driving to PA, and spending a couple hours messing around with my iPod. Yes, my addiction is there, and strong as ever, thanks for asking.

so, after all my messing around, I’ve managed to put together just under 300 words, and done no editing at all! Yaya!!! For clarification, my regular blog posts will be in a different font than any story posts, and if I actually write a lot on the story, then there won’t be any blog post other than the story. Blog posts are in Arial, and story posts will be in.. let’s see… How about times? Ok.. So here goes:
——————————————————————

Brian’s day began like every other day; a hellish commute to a job he didn’t care about so he could pay for an apartment he didn’t like. Not that there was really anything wrong with the apartment. As far as “box” housing goes, it was pretty average. He was more attached to the memories he had in the place than the place itself. Well, that and he had a really good parking spot if he beat Mrs. Grabowski home.

After the break up last year (don’t ask) it just didn’t seem to matter. He knew that it was really stupid to live in Gig Harbor and commute to Kent. He knew he was wasting a fortune in gas every week, not to mention car repairs and all the crap that goes with it. He just didn’t have the heart to leave what had been “their place.” The sad part is that it would actually be cheaper to go to a shrink! Gas at three fifty a gallon and the toll on that stupid new bridge were going to bankrupt him.

Every morning, he left home at 6am, and barely clocked in on time at 8. Two hours and a thermos of dark-roast to go less than 40 miles. Another hellish start to another mind-numbing day. Thank the gods for home-brew espresso. If he didn’t work at a roasting plant, he’d be broke from buying beans. At least he’d been able to give up the nicotine before the breakup. One bad habit was more than enough, thank you very much.

———————-

So that’s the beginning. Where’s it going? Not sure, but you’ll know when I do.

MD

January 23th, 2k7

January 23th, 2k7


Hello… My name’s Addict, and I have an iPod. uh.. I mean.. um…. My name’s iPod and I have a di…. um. that’s not going to sound right.

So this is just another part of my love affair with my iPod. The real story isn’t so much the iPod itself, or even the music. It’s iTunes. That wonderful terrible software that comes WITH the iPod. Steve Jobs quoted some computer guy in this year’s keynote address (available as a download on iTunes). He said “If you want to develop truly innovative software, you must create your own hardware.” This statement is so very true when it comes to the iPod.

The iPod itself it a beautiful little piece of engineering. Functional, easy to use, and even pleasing to look at. But iTunes is one hell of a piece of software. This brings me to my little addiction. I’ve used many programs to try to “organize” my MP3 collection, and all have failed miserably. Too clumsy, too bulky, not enough features, or just too damn hard to use. iTunes is the antithesis of all of those programs. Searching is as fast as typing. Editing your tag (the file details) is just as fast, and it will even download album covers for you.

I have thousands of MP3 audio files on my computer all of them legally ripped from CDs I used to own but which were destroyed in the tragic “dashboard” incident of ’02. I have so many audio files, I’ve turned in to an audiophile. haha. yeah, it was dumb, but it’s 1am, give me a break. So anyway, where was I? Oh… I’ve had my iPod (and hence, iTunes) since right after christmas. In that short amount of time, I’ve spent more hours than I care to count organizing and “fixing” my MP3 collection.

Something about audio files just drives me bonkers. I’m going Darwin on my whole collection, cataloging, categorizing, naming, and sorting. There is this irresistible compulsion to have everything just perfect. The artist, and title, the album, the year, the track number, the album cover. The ones that really drive me batty are all the damn “greatest hits” collections. Is this copy from the original, the re-mix, the duet, greatest hits 1, greatest hits 2? HHEELLPP.

I’m listening to music as I write this, and the urge to go back and “fix” the song I’m listening to is almost overwhelming (for proof of this, look at my LAST post. I was listening to music when I wrote it, and only managed a couple meager paragraphs).

I’m hoping that this obsession will pass when I’ve reached some level of completion, but I’m scared I might move on to Lyrics, or that dreadful little “composer” field.

Oh, if you’re looking for some sort of “why” or “whynot” or pros/cons or some crap like that, keep looking. This is just a really shallow “i’m tired” post, and they’ll be none of that here tonight.

uh, oh. I just found a whole album with the wrong release date AND album cover. damnit. I’ll be right back… I just need… to…. uh…


P.S. The picture is DUH copyright Matt Groaning and Fox and the Simpson’s and everyone in the Tibet and Guatemala but not me.

January 22th, 2k7

January 22th, 2k7

So I’ve been thinking that my blog entries lately have been kind of “heavy.” I’ve been sitting here for the last half hour or so, trying to think of something to write that would be on the “lighter” side. Maybe something a little comical, or an anecdote or some such thing.

I must confess the process isn’t going very well. I only write funny when I’m hyper. I’m usually tired when I write this, and that leads to emotional, rambling posts.

So.. I’m going to call it for tonight, and try to write during the day. After a Red Bull and a quad-latte.

l8tr

ps Thanks for the encouraging words on the pictures. as always, more can be found at http://360.yahoo.com/nxtplato

January 21th, 2k7

January 21th, 2k7

I alluded to having some thoughts on personal credit in my previous post (about looking for a house to rent). So here goes:

The personal credit system currently used in the US SUCKS. There are three companies who keep track of your credit, whether you want them to or not. If you were to get your credit file from all three at the same time, they would contain three different versions of “you.” Which one is correct? Odds are, none of them. They are probably all incomplete and sometimes just plain wrong.

But that’s cool. I don’t really care too much about that. Chances are, there’s going to be as much bad as good left off of a given report. Whatever.

My pafuckingly HUGE problem with the current credit system is this: ANYBODY CAN REQUEST MY CREDIT FILE. There are certain procedures, if you want to keep everything legal, but it’s just enough to keep the honest people honest. About as effective as the cute little lock on the church collection box. What’s wrong, you ask, with any-old-body looking at my credit? Well, for one, it’s personal. It’s nobody’s damn business what my credit report looks like.

This wasn’t a big deal 15 years ago. If you wanted a JCPennies card, they might have looked at your credit, but that’s it. Now, everyone from a prospective employer to your insurance agent to your satellite TV company wants to take a peek at your credit. They claim it’s smart business, and saves them money. Hey, I’m all for saving money and bringing the consumer’s prices down, that’s freakin sweet. But it doesn’t really work that way.

My insurance quote went up when they looked at my credit. I didn’t know that not paying my Visa bill on time made me a bad driver. And what about employers running credit checks on prospective new hires? And this stuff isn’t even what really has me bent out of shape.

What pisses me off is this: These companies think it is important to them to check your credit, but none of them think it is important enough to report your payment activities to the credit agencies. The message here is pretty clear: It’s important to us that you HAVE good credit, but we refuse to HELP YOU BUILD good credit.

The solution is pretty simple, though. At least it’s simple at a legislative level. New law: Any company requesting a credit report on an individual must report that individuals payment history with that company. I don’t know about you, but my credit would have a hell of a lot more positive activity on it: Power, Phone, Cable/Satellite, Insurance, Cell Phone, and on and on.

But what do you think? Plausible?

January 18th, 2k7

January 18th, 2k7
Current mood: pissed off

..

House hunting. What should be a fairly enjoyable experience – sucks. I’ve done this before, so I really should know better, but I guess some fools never learn, huh? So, I set out with a list of things that I’m looking for in my “dream rental,” and end the day tired and frustrated.

Normally, I can clearly see both sides of a given argument. When it comes to rental applications, I’m lost. This is the scenario: I want to rent your house. You want me to fill out paperwork with my life story, and a current phone and address list for every person I’ve talked to since the first Tuesday of February, 1998.

Is that enough? No it most certainly is not. You also want me to pay so you can have someone else verify that I didn’t mis-spell the name of the street I lived on six years ago, and I don’t have any bounced checks, and my second cousin’s stepsister’s cat isn’t a pedophile.

So that’s certainly the end of the humiliation, right? Nope. I get to PAY for this privilege . The amount varies of course, but usually it’s between $25 and $100 per person. Whatever the amount is, in most cases it’s deducted from your first month’s rent IF you pass their inspection. If you don’t? They get to keep it. That’s a lotta lattes just for you to tell me that I’m not good enough, thank you very much.

In case I’m being overly-subtle, I have quite a few problems with this process:
1) I understand a property owner wanting to protect their investment. It would be foolish not to. But why should I have to pay for their insurance policy? If you want to screen people before you’ll rent to them, YOU pay for it.

2) First/Last/Deposit. wtf? First/Deposit I understand. Why do you want my last month’s rent NOW? I could move out ten years down the road after you’ve jacked up the rent five times, then what? What if I die, and you rent the place out two weeks later? The rental agreements always stipulate a 30 day notice anyway, so why the hell does it matter? It’s just more money that YOU get to earn interest on until I move out.

3) Credit. I have probably talked about this one before. The credit situation in America (and probably most of the rest of the western world) sucks! I want to rent your property, and you want to make sure I pay my bills on time. That’s what the references are for, but you want MORE. So you run my credit, and find out that I didn’t pay for my Penthouse subscription, and I owe my dentist so much money they repo’d my dog’s braces. Does this mean I don’t pay my rent? But I “apply” for four or five different places because I don’t know who’s going to accept me, and I don’t want to live in my car. So this ends up being five “hits” on my credit, which is a negative mark on my credit for a year. So how the hell does this help me? It doesn’t. Once again, the consumer is hosed. (for more of my thoughts on credit, check back tomorrow)

That anyone thinks they could discover the “character, general reputation, credit and mode of living” (a direct quote from the application) from a credit check baffles. It also scares me. But hey, it takes all kinds to fill the freeways.

But what is one to do? How can you get past this crap? You know you’re not going to find anyone at one of these rental agencies who actually gives a damn, so there’s not an “inside” solution. But you still need a place to live. Well, I do. I’m not sharing my Explorer with my cat and my roommate, that’s for damn sure. We’ve decided to narrow our search to private party rentals only. Reasonable people looking for decent renter, with realistic expectations.

I haven’t figured out how to tell a rental application “hey, my credit kinda sucks, but I’m working on it. My rent it paid before ANYTHING else, and I’ve gotten my damage deposit back from every place I’ve ever lived.” But I can walk up to a human and say that without hesitation.

My point, I guess, would be this: Housing is just one more area of our daily lives that has been striped of its humanity. People are afraid to talk to each other. Property owners are afraid their going to let someone in to one of their places that is going to destroy it; but at the same time, they’re too afraid to talk to you one-on-one and figure out if you’re high on life, Starbucks, Red Bull, Jagermeister, or eightballs. (or some weird combination)

Twenty years from now you’re going to need to present your RFID-enabled federal identification card, your equifax-ID and a DNA sample. Don’t want anyone with superstrain avian flu in my hepa-sealed condo, ya know!

But it’s not quarter to midnight, and I’ve been up since 5am, so I’m going to sign off. Tune in tomorrow for more.

SSDD, yeah?

January 17th, 2k7

January 17th, 2k7
Current mood: blah

So… To properly organize the timeline, starting with Sunday night: (late night + early morning + long(ish) day) * lots of driving / working in a new environment = a very short blog post.

To translate, this is going to be a very short blog post.

Got our xbox 360 back from Microsoft repair today. I’m so glad they extended their warranty from 90 days to 1 year and we didn’t have to pay to have it fixed. So YAY there.

Other than that, it has been a pretty uneventful day. Work. Fun driving around in the snow. some more work. oooh, and Laundry. We all remember how much fun Laundry is, right? So. it’s now time for the Simpsons, and hopefully an early night. Look for a longer post tomorrow, after an exciting day in PA.

January 16th, 2k7

January 16th, 2k7

Another night, another blank screen waiting to be filled. Sometimes I feel like this is part of some horrible sleep deprivation experiment. I guess I could just write earlier in the day. Ha. Who am I kidding? I write late in the night – early in the morning depending on one’s point of view – because it’s my “quiet” time. I can pop in my headphones, and only get interrupted two or three times, as opposed to the hundreds of times I get bugged when everyone is still awake. Besides, night time just seems to be the right time to compose one’s thoughts for the day.

Anywho.. What to write about? I could regurgitate some news, but that’s kind of boring. There isn’t much I could post here that hasn’t already been covered in depth elsewhere. Castro is sick, we’re supposed to get snow on Tuesday, and there was a pretty major wreck on Mile Hill Dr in Port Orchard that closed the road for a while. Everyone up to speed now? I’ll nevert understand how there are so many 24 hour news networks.

Oh, well. I’ve now become completely sidtracked, as I often do. Thus is the nature of the internet age. The whole world is using the w.w.w. to develop a terminal case of a.d.d.