Monthly Archives: December, 2010

The Abyss 2010: Year in Review

Click image to buy your own Geek Alarm Clock

2010 was much like any other year. Like many others in the media today, we now endeavor to “review” the year.

This is an appropriate activity that is seemingly enjoyed by humans when our most favorite planetoid has completed yet another circuit around our most favorite star.

Depending on IQ, if it is low enough, most will celebrate by crashing pots and pans at what they incorrectly deem to be “midnight.” Others will blow things up and shoot their guns in the air.

Because I’m cursed with intelligence all I can do is write this post and be in bed by 8:30.

2010 started like most any other year. Jan. 1, 2010 at midnight (GMT) was the first second of the year. In “epoch time” that is also known as 1262304000.

Epoch time, also known as Unix time, is a system of used by computers to keep track of the date and time. It counts the number of seconds that have elapsed since midnight Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) of January 1, 1970, not counting leap seconds. (If you really want to blow your mind you can read the Wikipedia article on Unix time. It will make your head feel funny.)

A “second” is a unit of time most of us are very familiar with. It was originally defined as 1/86400 of a “solar day.” There are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 24 hours a day. So if we multiple those values, 60 x 60 x 24, we get 86,400 seconds. Viola! Therefore, 86,400 is the number of seconds in a day. Don’t believe me? Count to 86,400 and see how much time has gone by. Go ahead, try it! It’s fun!

But wait. It turns out that the rotation of the Earth, known as a day, is not always exactly 86,400 seconds. It turns out that the solar day is 1.7ms longer every century due mainly to “tidal friction” and “glacial rebound.” I don’t know about you but that scares the shit out of me. Our planet is getting slower!

The year will end on December 31, 2010 at 11:59:59 pm (GMT). This is 1293839999.

Now that we know the starting and ending epoch times of 2010, we can do the math. Simple subtraction on those two time values shows there were 31,536,000 seconds in 2010. That translates to 525,600 minutes, 8,760 hours and 365 days.

Wow, when you look at it that way, what an exciting year! I hope you all enjoyed those 31.5 million seconds as much as you possibly could.

A dog’s work life

Ready to help push the button, Fluffy? Woof, woof!

I’ve been in the ecommerce business since the year 2000. I’ve got a little experience under my belt as far as that goes. Since then I’ve enjoyed a bit of an education in the ways that ecommerce companies can lie, cheat and steal.

And I think I’ve documented fairly well my work history as it pertains to my proximity to toilets. My current position happens to be a personal best. My workstation shares a wall with the bathroom. As I like to say, this office layout is “good to the last plop.” And I just found out yesterday that the network cable that connects my computer to the internet physically wraps around the toilet. Win win!

But there is another aspect of my work history I’ve neglected to mention. It is the phenomenon of dogs in the workplace.

Oh joy.

Did you get that? Dogs! In the motherfucking workplace! What the hell???

No, I’m not talking about legitimate service dogs or even dogs that belong to customers. I’m talking about dogs brought in as a matter of routine by either the business owners or fellow employees.

It seems my career (ha!) is destined to remain entwined with that of dogs. Seems only fitting, though, since my place on the employment food chain is actually lower than that of canines.

Since 2001 I’ve primarily had three jobs in this small town. They have turned out to have some surprising and remarkable similarities.

Now I can add one more similarity to the list. Dogs. I guess I could call it “Dog Wars.” At last, including my most recent change of employment, the circle is complete.

In 2001 I accepted my first job in this small little town. The owners brought their dog into the office. Every day. The dog had a little bed, food dish and water dish in the owner’s office. The dog would often crawl around my feet. Ugh. When customers came in, the dog would run around the counter and greet them. How professional. Some customers ignored the dog, some others would make whoopie with the dog. “Oh, look there! Aren’t you adorable?” Blech.

In 2005 I switched from that company to another local company hoping to improve my situation in life. It turned out to be a huge mistake. The exploits of that particular job have been fairly well plumbed in the annals of this blog. The added bonus, of course, was the owner’s little dog, who was given free reign over the entire facility. My boss, control freak that he was, extended that control over his dog, too. To levels that were frighteningly sick. He was one of those dog owners that expected perfect obedience to the Nth degree. You know the type: Placing food on the floor and making the dog wait for permission, etc. He was always testing the obedience of that animal. He took great pride in it. The dog seemed to be, above all else, a way for him to demonstrate to the outside world, the sheer extent to which he could control another life form.

The dog had a bed on the boss’s desk and little steps leading up the desk. The boss would talk to the dog all day long and let the dog lick his lips. Ugh.

You want to talk about smell? One day the boss arrived with the dog. In under a minute the dog had pooped right in the middle of the retail floor. By coincidence that was about six feet away from my workstation. Such a lovely odor. No doubt the customers loved it, too. I was ready to quit on the spot if ordered to clean it up, but, this once, he actually did the deed himself.

The part I found funniest was that every time he left the front door open (because he was too cheap to turn on the air conditioner) that dog would run for the hills. When the boss finally became aware his toy was missing, he’d desperately dash out the front door to look for his fleeing friend. Always hilarious! “Run Fido, run!” Maybe you’ll find the dream of freedom this time!

And now, here I am, in my new job. And guess what? My coworker brings her gigantor dog into the office. For the life of me I can’t understand why this is even allowed.

She actually asked me if I minded. I said, “Well, I’m sure you must have a good reason.” Then she blew my mind by saying there was no special reason. She just wanted it near. WTF?

I love my cats. Mind if I bring them in every day, too? Meow motherfucker! I wonder how we would determine animal precedence and interactivity in the workplace?

Alas, no, my cats are forced to deal with a little something I like to call “reality.” Namely, when I’m gone they have to be alone. And that’s not just for work, either. That even includes things like shopping, dining, and going to the movies. For some strange reason I don’t take them with me to places like that and make them wait in the car while I’m out living my life.

Did I mention I’m allergic to dogs? Who gives a fuck? It’s only a place of business, right? If I don’t like it I guess I should switch jobs, right? Perhaps to the next place where the odds are 99.44 percent likely there will be even more dogs.

Once, when I was a kid, I was bitten by a dog while walking along the street, minding my own business, on the way to school. That may have tainted my opinion of dogs. But then, later in life, I had a bit of a realization. The owner of that dog did absolutely nothing to restrain his animal. He wanted his animal to roam free. As usual, it’s all about selfish wants and damn everyone else. “My dog is too good for that!” I walked by, the dog sprinted from the porch of a house, and the dog bit me on the leg.

Good times.

Later, still a kid, I asked for a puppy for my birthday. Yeah, I hadn’t learned my lesson yet. My parents took me to meet Estes, a German Shepherd who was a retired police dog, and decidedly not a puppy. I did not like Estes. When asked my opinion about Estes, I said, quite clearly and distinctly, “I do not like this dog. I do not want this dog.” Therefore, of course, we got him anyway. “Happy birthday to me!”

Upon reflection it’s almost like that birthday wasn’t about me at all. Go figure.

Estes was the worst birthday present ever. He peed on my parent’s bright white sofa, leaving a nice yellow stain that remained until the end of time. (Sure, he had some redeeming qualities, too. Hilarious! Maybe karma still existed back when I was a kid.) The dog didn’t listen. He wasn’t fun. Then, shortly after we got him, I was out taking him for a walk and he got away from me (he was very hard to control) and ate the neighbor’s poodle! Mom and dad had to pay a lot of money for that one and that was the last we ever saw of Estes. (Who was, by the way, my only birthday present that year. There would be no others to replace him. Tough shit, kid. That was your birthday. Now go run outside and enjoy your nothing.)

Later in life, my son was also bitten by a dog. (Like father like son, I guess.) He was at a friend’s house sitting on the floor playing video games. Suddenly, out of the blue, their dog went batshit crazy and mauled my son’s shoulder. (It wasn’t merely a “bite.”) I was called from work to find my son at the hospital where they needed my help to physically hold him down on a table while he screamed and they gave him some shots. (He was super freaky about needles.) More good times!

The dog owners, of course, said, “Fluffy has never bitten anyone before.” Well, gee whiz. Of course not. There’s waa chance that statement is even true. (Assuming they weren’t lying, a distinct possibility.) Now I’m going to go way out on a limb and express this thought: Every single dog who has ever bitten a human had a “first” time.

Seems pretty simple to me.

So now, here I am, dealing with a dog in my workspace for the third consecutive time, thus completing an entire decade of employment dogness.

A whole decade? Wow! That must be some kind of record for dealing with dogs in office settings. Someone please tell me what I’ve won.

I have inches to go before I sleep

The streets were cold, dark and dreary. The skies completely overcast, gushing forth a slushy rain that was just on the verge of becoming snow. It was still dark out, that twilight time when day was scrabbling to establish a foothold but night was stubbornly refusing to let go.

I was at a stop sign waiting to cross the street. I checked for traffic to the right. Then left, then right again. The street was clear so I eased down on the accelerator and entered the intersection.

Something tickled the hairs on the back of my neck and caused me to look to the right. There, where only moments before the street had been empty, was a dark gray car, headlights off, barreling down in my direction.

Many questions crossed my mind in a very short period of time. “Why is he driving so fast? Where did he come from?” I realized the car must have been there but perfectly blended in, especially with his lights turned off. Somehow I had completely missed seeing the car and had pulled out right in front of him.

Time was up. I was vaguely aware of the skidding of his tires, in vain, on the wet asphalt and watched, in proverbial slow motion, as the car slid in approach to join up with mine. I only had time for one last thought before everything went dark for the very last time: “Fucking asshole!”

This little piece of fiction is inspired by actual events and actual assholes.

I still remember the incident above. It actually happened one dark morning on my way to work. I tend to look very carefully before crossing streets so I was mighty surprised by the magical appearance of a car rolling in out of the darkness and bearing down right at me. It scared the shit out of me.

The second response came a few seconds later. Why was this fucking asshole zooming through residential streets at a high rate of speed (much faster than the posted limit) and with his mother fucking headlights turned off? His car was effectively invisible. I had looked right at him yet seen nothing.

I’m not kidding. If you have the right conditions and the right color car, you might as well be a friggin’ stealth bomber. Super heroes and the military should be pursuing this technology.

People seem to forget that the act of transportation is a deadly one. For most of us driving around in our cars is so routine that we fail to give it the attention is deserves. These days “texting while driving” hogs most of the media spotlight but other things, like turning on your headlights when it is still dark out, are just as important. How many of us really concentrate on the act of driving? Personally I like to think about death the entire time I’m behind the wheel. It tends to keep me focused and on my toes. Fuck daydreaming, fiddling with the radio, cell phones, conversation, the kids in the back seat, etc. If something else needs my attention I’ll find a place to pull over.

Just the other day, on the highway right by my house, a grown adult person just a few years older than me was killed while trying to cross the street on foot. Perhaps he was trying to get his mail. A lot of people who used to live on rural roads seem to have attitude about that when that road turns into a fucking highway. Whatever. That’s just speculation on my part.

The press release from the police said pedestrian killed was dressed all in black. It was night. It was raining. The driver never even saw the fellow and was not cited by the police. This pedestrian forgot that the act of transportation, even while on foot, is a deadly business. Perhaps he assumed the driver would see him? If so, he assumed wrong. He won’t be making that mistake again anytime soon.

For some strange reason, people around here seemingly get off by not using their headlights. It’s the damnedest thing. I guess some of the small-minded think it is “cool” or something. “I’m too damn cool for headlights!” And you’ll see these cars with headlights off in all sorts of weather and times of day. And when I see them I mentally spit in their direction. Why the hell would you deliberately try to increase the odds of being in an accident? It makes absolutely no sense to me.

This morning I had just dropped off my wife at work when it happened again. I watched a dark sedan materialize right out of thin air and right in front of my very eyes. Dark conditions, dark car, rain coming down, poor visibility – and here is this son of a bitch driving with his lights off.

I momentarily had the urge to follow the bastard and show him the light, if you know what I mean. Instead, I merely shrugged and drove home as the opening paragraph to this post began to write itself…

I just don’t get it.

Seeking investors: Ground floor opportunity

It be subtle, but that switch is in the 'off' position - heh!

As a self-styled “inventor” I like coming up with fresh new ideas.

I’ve been thinking a lot about so-called “social media” lately and wondering, “Is there a way I can milk that cash cow, too?”

What I need is a way to put my own twist of negativity on sites like Facebook and MySpace.

That’s about when I had the idea for my next big thing. I’m calling it “anti-social media.” (Alas, a Google search reveals I’m not the first to dream up this particular phrase. It’s damn hard to be completely original these days.)

My very own spin, however, is to take that phrase and loosely apply it to the social networking phenomenon. My concept is a web site called I’ve already made the logo for the site, too.

The premise for the service is simple. Just like social sites, people will sign up and create their online personas. The rub is that they’ll never be seen. Ever.

I like the elegant simplicity of that. There will be no friends. All invitation requests will automatically be handled (and rejected) by the service. An “accept” button will not exist.

Backgrounds? Only one will be offered, in black, of course.

There will be at least one online game. Perhaps something like iQuicksand. “You’ve just sunk three more inches. Your request for rope has been answered by 0 friends.” Yeah, that sounds like good clean fun to me!

The primary function of the service will be something I’m calling “profile masturbation.” Visit the site, log in, and tweak your profile to your heart’s content. Upload your “avatar” image. Quippishly enter your favorite quotes. List all of your favorite TV shows, types of music, iTunes playlists, and books you’ve read recently. Come up with pithy and clever snippets that prove how fucking witty you are. If you’re having fun, that’s great! You’re the only one on the planet who will ever have the chance to enjoy it.

What is needed now is investment capital. If you love the concept as much as me, it’s time to open your hearts (along with your wallets) and get me da money. It’s scrilla time. Operators are standing by. (Unfortunately, just like friend invites, their phones can’t accept incoming calls.)

Start-Up Costs Estimate Sheet – Total Needed: $2,507,595

Domain name: $10
Design: $25
Web Hosting: $60
Licensing fees for Taco Bell’s “Black Taco” to be company mascot: $7,500
CEO Bonus: $2.5 million

In exchange for your generous donations I’m offering private stock certificates in equal amounts. I’m calling these “Nothing Shares.” And they are literally priceless, if you know what I mean.

I can’t wait to show you my profile (or not). This is gonna be epic!

WordPress tip: Show up in email

A rare glimpse in my secret garden

Here I am again with yet another tip to help improve your WordPress experience. Yes, I’m still here to help, even though Freshly Pressed has forsaken me because of the undocumented WordPress bias against negativity. Fuck that!

Anywho, the screen shot above is taken from my email inbox. I’ve added some red arrows to indicate a wee problem that might be affecting some of you. If you don’t subscribe to WordPress blogs by email you might not be aware of how your emails show up.

Erm, have you entered a “site title” for your blog?

One way to confirm your site’s title is to visit the public site of your own blog’s home page. Once there, look in the browser window and see if the title of your blog is shown. If it only says something like “Mozilla Firefox” or “ – Windows Internet Explorer” then you have this problem.

In the example shown above, I’ve received four notifications of new posts on blogs that I heartily enjoy, yet the sender is simply shown as “WordPress.” I suspect “WordPress” is the default shown when an actual title hasn’t been entered yet. Wouldn’t it be better if your blog title was shown there?

To remedy this problem, visit your blog’s Dashboard, scroll down and click Settings, then click General. On the “General Settings” page you should find a field named “Site Title.” Just make sure something meaningful is entered there and your problem should be fixed.

Please let me know if any of you find this helpful. I’ll be eagerly watching my inbox to see what happens next…

The gift of giving can be free

Image source: Wikipedia

Today’s fortune cookie reads:

“Don’t worry about money.
The best things in life are free.”

Negative powers, activate!

Alas, this one is far too easy. What’s the universe trying to tell me? Obviously that I’m never going to have money so I need to avoid the Christmas rush and start preparing for it now. The last line is merely a lame attempt to make me feel better about the whole thing.

Thanks for rubbing it in, universe.

Ever see the sort of person who steps outside and breathes deeply and says, “At least I have fresh air in my lungs! And the feel of the warmth of the sun on my face!”


I’d rather have the damn money, thank you very much.

The universe obviously feels differently and thus shoved that fortune in my face. So, in the spirit of that message, I’ve been thinking about Christmas gifts that don’t cost a penny.

A lot of people like to say, “Make your own gifts.” Screw that. All you end up with is a piece of crap that no one wants. “Look! Here’s an Eiffel Tower I made for you out of paper clips.” I think a better idea is to give the gift of service. And that’s something you can always do even if you are a tightwad (like most people I know) or just plain broke as hell (like me).

Before Christmas I had given my wife two service gift ideas. One was finding my leather gloves that have been missing since last winter. (I can’t stand the feeling of a cold steering wheel on my dainty little fingers. The heater in my car is broken.) The other idea was to find my missing Smothers Brothers CD because I want to upload a song to YouTube and share it with y’all.

Well, she didn’t do either. Instead she bought me gifts that I really enjoyed like a remote control helicopter. (It’s nice to have at least one practical gift each Christmas.) She also gave me a flashlight after I stormed around the house many, many times during the last few months bitching, “I can’t believe I live in a house without at least one goddamn flashlight!” I love that thing and it even fits in my coat pocket, right next to my skinning knife, so I can take it everywhere I go.

Yesterday I was bitching and moaning about the lack of effort on her part to come through on either of my “service gift” ideas. Suddenly she was determined. She went out to my car convinced she’d find the missing gloves there, but I had already looked there, too. I was convinced they were gone, and I was right.

Finally she gave up on the quest and came to my office to report the bad news. As she was standing there, she happened to glance at my bookcase. There, on one of the lower shelves, she spotted the gloves, laying out in the open plain as day. Oh yeah, that’s where they went! I’m still smarting from how hard she punched me after that one.

The Smothers Brothers CD is still MIA.

For our son, the gerbil, I had two other service gift ideas. Since he’s so poor (not counting his food stamps) and still without a job of any kind I figured he’d really appreciate a way to give his mom some inexpensive gifts. But he found solution completely on his own, though, also known as “absolutely nothing.” A clever and audacious move.

I have to give him credit. On Christmas Eve while opening his gifts he lamely tried to have a guilty look on his face. You still got a long way to go, son.

My ideas for him were simple. One was to arrange a pickup truck, provide the manual labor, and unload our storage unit stuff into our garage. Since that damn thing costs us $50 a month that would be a yearly gift of $600 of savings, and that’s pretty good! The other idea was he could fix her walk-in closet and hang up all her clothes. (Yeah, I ain’t got a round to it yet.)

Time will tell if he’ll come through on either idea, but I won’t hold my breath…

Remote chance of Christmas miracle

American ingenuity is not dead! It's never too early to start next year's Christmas list...

Ever since we added a Roku to our family, life has been pretty good. (But still negative, mind you! Don’t get too carried away!)

But there was still one little fly in the ointment…

The Roku was wired up to display a picture on our TV and the audio through our home stereo. Finally, Pandora through the big speakers and it sounded good.

Our state-of-the-art home theater system features a Sony receiver my wife cleverly picked up at a yard sale for only $5. That has got to be one of the best bargains we’ve ever seen.

But it did not come with a remote control.

So there I was, enjoying my Roku and living the good life with 42 different remote controls – and no way to remotely control the volume on my home theater! It was agonizing torture of the worst possible kind.

See, the Roku* isn’t perfect. One of its problems is that one channel will be quiet as a mouse, so you’ll haul your lard ass out of the comfy chair and adjust the volume way up. Then, when you switch to another channel, suddenly your head is blown off and the wife is yelling at you (even though you can’t hear what she’s saying).

I started to develop channel switching phobia due to this phenomenon. The volume level would sometimes change dramatically even while on the same station. Pandora even has the problem.

Apparently, as a civilization, we have yet to master the technology to make our devices work properly. That isn’t a component of the Information Age. I have dubbed the next age, assumed to be inevitable, as the Volume Equalization Age. Personally I can’t wait.

Anyway, you can easily imagine the living hell on Earth where I found myself stuck. I was literally forced to get out of my chair all the time just to make volume adjustments. Physically touching the home theater system was simply distasteful. The situation was unacceptable. And I was dangerously close to burning an actual calorie or two. Something had to be done.

I began to tell friends and family about my plight. I was hoping against all odds that one of them would put it all together and get me a universal remote that could control the volume level on my home stereo. It could happen, right?

Birthday came and went. No remote. Then Christmas itself came and went. No remote.

It was the most helpless feeling in the world.

And then, the miracle happened…

For some odd reason I actually stopped and looked at the remote controls I already owned, all 42 of them. The one we used to control the TV had lots of buttons. I squinted and tried to read some of the tiny print on buttons that were never used. Lo and behold, guess what? One of them said “Receiver” on it! What the hell?

I looked on the back. It had a web site! I sprinted to the computer. Conversation in the house paused as all watched me with a growing sense of dread. I never move that fast. The computer was already on and actually worked. Two more miracles! This was getting good. I punched in the web site and it actually loaded. Miracle number four!

Long story short, the web site gave me a four-digit code that I punched into my little remote control. I dashed back to the living room and gave it a test. It worked! It worked! It worked!

It was a true Christmas miracle!

It turns out that the answer to remaining the laziest human that ever existing was literally in my hands the entire time. It breaks my heart to think of the two years wasted getting up to adjust the volume when the answer was right there, within my grasp. Pathetic, really.

Now you can add me to the list of the true believers in the miracles of Christmas!

* Roku Glitches We’ve Seen So Far

  1. Volume levels are not consistent
  2. Some channels have long loading times
  3. Just like most routers I’ve ever seen, there is no “on/off” switch
  4. The unit has crashed twice requiring reboot by reaching behind and unplugging the power cord (again, just like most routers I’ve ever seen)