What the fuck is wrong with me?! There may be people in my neighborhood, but let me tell you what they never do. They never do shit – for me – for free. We’re talking about outside the realm of possibility here.
The mechanic never says, “Hey, Tom. Your car has a leaky head gasket. I’ll fix it for free.”
The brain surgeon never says, “Let’s whip that tumor out of that precious little head. No charge!”
The butcher doesn’t say, “Fella, you sure look like you could use a New York strip. Think fast!”
Me? I was dropped on my head as a wee child. (This is scientific extrapolation. It’s the only explanation that fits the facts.) Computer geek. Programmer. Webmaster. A true modern day Renaissance man. And the only time in my life I ever run is when I can give my shit away for free.
“Yes, I’d be happy to help you with your website in my spare time. Before spending any money – about anything – talk to me first. I’ll look out for you. I’ll protect you from being gouged. You paid $8,000 for your website? Yes, that affirms my opinion of humanity.”
If I have skills that are useful I figure, what the hell, why not help parasitic life forms who happen to be trapped on the same plane as myself?
I don’t ask much in return. A sincere word of “thanks” would be more than enough. Good form dictates, though, that some effort at appearances be made. It’s like pretending to reach for your wallet after a meal when the other person wants to pick up the tab and have you absolutely no intention. Anything less than that minimal effort is bad form.
Two days earlier…
It was a Friday. The crew and I assembled in the aft quarters to review the weather reports. They said there was a 10% chance of rain on Saturday and a 30% chance on Sunday. We decided to depart on Sunday.
One day earlier…
On one hand it was a good decision to delay because it gave us an extra day to perform dry runs. We ran equipment checks and drills. Our first trip had caught us unprepared. I’d be damned if that was going to happen on my watch.
We took some time on Saturday and got the rigging down to a science. That last portage had almost killed us.
While the canoe was out of the garage, we decided to go home improvement on this old house. For some strange reason we were tired of dry dock consisting of the canoe precariously balanced on the refrigerator and an old bookcase.
A one-hour construction project was about to go 500 percent past deadline.
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This story is the third installment for “Ghost of Christmas Present” in a five-part series of 200-word stories for BlogFestivus, A Christmas Carol. Check out the links (at the bottom of this post) to all the participating “ghost” writers for this year’s challenge. I suspect you’re in for some dark, yet jolly, days. -BD
Scrooge doubled-over and braced himself as the nausea that proceeded Christmas-based time travel gut-wrenched his innards. Here we go again, he thought in dismay.
He undissolved and rubbed his eyes with gnarled knuckles as eyesight slowly returned. He blinked and his watery eyes dried and the world became clear.
Immediately he recognized the R&D department of his very own company. At last, a chance to see what those slackers did behind his back. Always the opportunist Scrooge was already planning to take advtange of these teleportations.
The ghost was about to speak but Scrooge silenced him with a gesture of his hand. He didn’t want to miss anything.
At a computer that mealy bastard Cratchit was putting the finishing touches on a colorful graph. It would be the basis for denying all Christmas bonuses. With alarm, Scrooge saw the graph was trending up. No worries, he realized. For the memorandum he’d simply display it upside down.
Moving along, he came to a table where his nephew Fred worked feverishly at some bizarre electronics. For the first time, the ghost seemed troubled. “What is your man doing?” the ghost asked.
“Oh, you’ll see,” Scrooge replied. “You’ll see.”
Click on the links below for more takes on A Christmas Carol from our other BlogFestivus bloggers:
Linda penning at linda vernon humor
Steve from Stevil
Maria-Christina blogging at MCWhispers
Dylan of Treatment of Visions
Sarah from Parent Your Business
Dawn blogging at Lingering Visions
K8edid from k8edid
Dave bringing it at 1pointperspective
Eileen from Not The Sword But The Pen
Lindsey at RewindRevise
Kandy of Kandy Talk
Sandra writing at In Love With Words
Natalie from So I Went Undercover
Jen at Blog It or Lose It
Amelie from In the Barberry
Cee Cee blogging at Cee Cee’s Blog
Ashley from LittleWonder2
BD writing Blogdramedy
Once upon a time there was a little movie called Back To The Future 2 – This Time It’s That Time. Ol’ Doc Brown lands his DeLorean out front, picks up Marty McFly, then takes him on a ride to the future because Marty’s as-yet unborn son is in some kind of trouble.
Doc’s plan is for Marty to imitate his progeny long enough to resolve the trouble. Brilliant. What could possibly go wrong?
The whole plot of BTTF 2 is predicated on a cutesy throw-a-way line at the end of BTTF 1 when Doc and Marty have this conversation:
Doc: Marty, you gotta come back with me!
Doc: Back to the future.
Marty: Wait a minute, Doc. What are you talking about? What happens to us in the future? What, do we become assholes or something?
Doc: No, no, no, no, no, Marty, both you and Jennifer turn out fine. It’s your kids, Marty, something has got to be done about your kids!
I call this type of phenomenon Star Wars Syndrome. It’s what happens when your movie is so successful that a sequel becomes mandatory but something you thought was a cute detail at the time actually paints you into a corner and now you’re committed because the fans will only tolerate so much hinky nonsense with the storytelling. (Unless you’re J.J. Abrams, of course, then you simply don’t give a shit. You just stuff it in your Mystery Box.)
Because of this, when they made the BTTF sequel, they had to have the storyline be about a trip to the future – no matter what. And then, because of disturbances to the timeline, Marty’s father and girlfriend both end up looking like completely different actors.
I know! That’s heavy.
My point is this: In the future Doc Brown tells Marty to pull his pants pockets inside-out, because that’s what the kids think looks cool and if he doesn’t, he’ll stick out like a sore thumb.
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I know this is the one post my boss will never read. It’s got soap in it. For some people that’s a dirty word.
So I found myself in the home surrounded by fancy anti-bacterial liquid hand soap pump dispensers, apothecary-style, of the Victorian era. They were made from fancy distressed metal with bumpy textures that, I imagine, were supposed to be trendy in some sort of way.
Get your ass down to the nearest Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel and you can get a few of your own.
Haven’t you got a clue? It was Mr. Abyss, in the lavatory, with the soap dispenser. That’s how that bitch Mrs. Peacock got what was coming to her. We all knew Abyss was a cleaner. Personally [sunglasses off] … [pause] … I wash my hands of the whole affair. [scream]
Never mind that plastic refillable dispensers cost something like 42 cents each, much less than the value of the human lives that were spent making them. Why bother with trifles like that. This is your home, dammit! Your castle! You have gots to have soap pumps that are distinguished and worthy of the setting where you throw your worn underwear on the floor.
How much would you pay for elegance like this? $10 per dispenser? Knave! $49.99? The realm approacheth. How about $99.99 each? Now you are talking, Sir Knight!
Finally I could go all classy and shit will I went anti on the bacteria on my filthy mitts.
But there was one wee little problem. The fancy pumps didn’t work. Cue an Abyss-style DIY Project! I’m the man and I’ll show you how.
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This is yet another work-related post in a long series of work-related posts. Sorry, sometimes work just has to come out of me, usually in the form of vomit and/or poop.
The boss came to me a few weeks ago and said he wanted a company-only “wiki.” Yeah, just like that famous encyclopedic one. He explained it would be a good place for everyone on the team to document critical information. We’d all benefit by having searchable information at our fingertips.
Even I had to admit that sounded like a logical good idea, if everyone chipped it and actually used the tool effectively.
I should have smelled a rat.
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My boss used to give me projects. Lots of them. That was his specialty. It was pretty much the entire basis of our relationship. Him telling me what he wanted all day long. Delicious.
As a web site programmer, I pretty much had to “invent” a solution for every single thing he asked. No two tasks were ever exactly the same. The process was simple. Imagineer a solution, plan it, then do it making any necessary adjustments along the way.
Of course, the boss wanted to know up front exactly how long it would take. And that is where estimating came in.
Bosses love estimates. They may not understand the magic of what you do or how to do it themselves, but estimates are something they can understand. Then they can make “management decisions” based on what their “gut” tells them. Again, this is done without the luxury of actually knowing how you do what you do.
Let’s take a look at a typical example:
Boss: I want the web site to email customers a different email depending on if they order product A, B, or C.
Programmer: That’s easy enough. We’ll replace the standard order confirmation email with one based on what they order.
B: Great. How long will that take?
P: Unknown. It depends on several things. You need to give me a detailed project specification sheet (AKA “spec”). What will the emails say? What happens if a customer orders two or more of those products?
That’s usually where the process breaks down because, of course, the boss isn’t going to give you any of those damn things. He just wants to know how long it will take. Asking follow-up questions regarding your understanding of the task just makes you a pain in the ass.
Then, once you do give him an estimate, comes the inevitable follow-up question: What day will it be done?
P: It’ll take about an hour.
B: So you’ll have it done by Friday then?
P: That I cannot say.
B: You just said it will take one hour! That’s plenty of time to have it done by Friday!
Sure, but that means absolutely nothing about what day it will be done. For some reason, bosses seem to have a real problem grasping such a simple concept.
It works like this. You, the boss, control my entire day. You pull me off task to produce reports, work on other tasks, answer phone calls, drive downtown to pick up your mail, work the retail counter, ship packages, and attend bullshit staff meetings where you expound on motivational topics like we can all be fired, you make no money, and how you browbeat a poor elderly couple who run a hotel into accepting half their normal rate because times are hard. (True story.)
The math is simple and works like this: A one hour project (assuming that’s a valid estimate) will take three months if I’m given five minutes a week to work on it. Actually, probably longer, since there is overhead associated with switching on and off tasks so much.
A good analogy for illustrating “task switching overhead” is painting a wall. You have to get the color of paint needed, open it, set up your equipment and grab a step ladder.
Which method of painting do you think is more efficient?
- Paint an entire wall one color then move on to the next.
- Paint 5% of a wall one color, then switch to another wall in a different color, paint 5%, then return to the original wall. Repeat ad infinitum. (Add about 10 minutes of “switching” time each time you relocate.) Bingo! A one hour project now takes 10 hours.
For some reason, bosses always seem to think option #2 is the best one. Then, at the end of the project, they always demand to know, “What the hell took so long? What the hell is the problem?”
Indeed. The only problem was you, goddamn Bossholio.