A corner office

Thanks to office politics (two supervisors who both want an office), boss edicts (supervisors should be out on the floor with the office staff), and manager preferences (for the smaller of our two offices), on Friday I moved from my cubicle into the large corner office at work. I now have two windows that give me a lovely view of the parking lot—it’s a one-story building—and the strange people that pass by.

I like to refer to this scenario as the “split baby” outcome of King Solomon.

My first job was to clean out all the crap that had been left behind by the previous occupant. That included:

  • Four Ikea-branded loops of metal (later determined to be bookends that need to be screwed into the desk)
  • Two three-inch-thick books of US Zip Codes from 1996
  • A black box marked “Recognition” containing feminine hygiene products and an untouched New York Times crossword book

My new office has no real storage, outside of an endless sea of desk (upon which my tiny computer is now adrift) and two little office drawer/filing cabinets. One of the two cabinets was locked, however, with the key long gone. This inspired my first foray into the dark arts… and in under ten minutes, including tool creation time, I had access to my full storage space. The contents of the locked drawer?

  • The cash box that’s been missing for the last year
  • A large quantity of gold stars (used to thank and/or recognize staff)

I’m torn by this move, to be honest. The tiny amount of socialization I got in my old spot is now gone, as is the occasional serendipity of my overhearing people talking about something that I broke and/or can help with. On the other hand, closing a door when I need to think will be nice… as will knowing what season it is (or what the weather is!) when I’ve been working all day.

Kids these days

I danced with Chris, ex-president of the ballroom dance club, this evening. She’s working towards becoming a teacher, and is currently helping out in a kindergarten classroom.

Some of those kindergarteners were drawing fan-art for Five Nights at Freddy’s, and one bit her hard enough to break skin when she took away their drawings.

The biting, enh. But Five Nights at Freddy’s?

Post-apocalyptic office

My office had the mother of all power outages yesterday around 5:20 pm, just as I was thinking about packing up and heading home. The power continuously flickered for a good thirty seconds straight (!); it took me at least ten of those seconds to figure out what the devil was going on and finally pull the power cord out of the back of my computer, after watching it try to boot multiple times in a row.

When the power stabilized, half of our lights were out, and another bunch were flickering wildly. Our egress lights (i.e. the bulbs you see on either side of those “Exit” signs) were on, which I think is the first time I’ve ever seen them in action. At least two computers were beeping loudly and repeatedly; the one I was able to echolocate had a red power light instead of its usual blue, and defaulted to beeping at me when I tried to boot it. The air conditioning units on the roof struggled to turn on, eventually gave up, and then struggled again to turn on. A coworker’s fan, which had been running at the time, now lazily spun its blades. (As in “stick your finger in there without risking injury” lazily).

A loud, constant electrical vibration and hum emanated from the back maintenance room. The smell of failing florescent lighting—an acrid, burning electrical stench—started to fill the rear of the office.

Attempts to contact people who might actually know something (e.g. maintenance numbers) ensued, all while that electrical hum—the clear and present danger of the moment—continued unabated. We finally got a hold of the fourth person we tried, our old boss, and he kindly came in to try and figure out what was wrong.

There are at least five circuit breaker boxes in the maintenance room. Two of them are marked “OUT OF SERVICE”, and the others have helpful labels such as “deep fryer.” (There is no deep fryer. The place was a Kinko’s previously. I do vaguely recall my dad telling stories about how that building used to be a grocery store, though, back when he was a kid.) After isolating the humming box, Old Boss somehow managed to find a breaker that shared the same label—”Roof Cell”—and threw it.

Finally, silence.

While Old Boss fiddled with the other circuits, resetting them for the halibut, the power cut out for real.

I made my way to the server room to shut down the machines nicely, while the others packed up and headed out. The servers had already lost power, though, despite being on a UPC big enough to store a body or two in. Figuring I had done what I could do, I went home as well.

I decided to go to sleep “early” that evening, and so was getting ready to go to bed just after midnight. While brushing my teeth, I wondered if I had turned the office’s overhead lights—the ones that had been giving off an electrical burning smell—off. I cussed.

I had not. Somehow, though, the place was in fine shape. All the lights were working; the various foul smells were dissipating; the servers were on; the machine that wouldn’t boot earlier now was well-behaved. One copier broke, but that’s nothing compared to what I thought we were facing.

Favorite “To Your Good Health” paragraph of 2016 (so far)

Marin found this gem in a followup on a column on breast biopsies:

One woman suggested I have a large needle placed in the scrotum to see if it caused me more than “discomfort.” That wasn’t very nice. [END COLUMN]

Best Amazon Question of 2015

The Pencil Grip: Would these help my 4 year old, he holds his pencil like he’s Goin to stab someone?

Boring answers, though.


A wild ASAP Deadline appeared! in the Tall Grass at work today, which meant I was going to be staying at the office later than usual. At 5:00 pm, the last of my coworkers warned me (just prior to leaving) that the budget pizza joint a couple doors down was throwing some sort of block party with a live band, and that there was a decent group of sketchy-looking bikers already gathering in the parking lot.

I feared for my sanity (programming with unwanted loud ambient music isn’t really enjoyable), but was fortunate enough to finish up prior to the party really getting going.

Later this evening I was at a west coast swing dance, and was describing my brush with “almost having to murder a band and a bunch of bikers” to Jacki. Her first question was what I would do with the bodies. (I hadn’t thought things out that far.) She then suggested that I use the budget pizza joint to sell mystery-meat pizzas to hungry college students.

Holy. crap.

Ten years

Ten years ago today I released the first version of a program I wrote for my office. I remember going into work that Saturday morning (I didn’t have remote desktop access back then) to fix some last-minute bugs—and I remember leaving for PDX and Japan later that same day. That the thing actually worked while I was gone remains a modern-day miracle to me, given my n00bish programming skills and lack of anything resembling testing.

That program has defined my job for the last decade—and it all came out of a desire to find some reason to use my last shot at an educational discount for database software. (I never did actually buy that copy of FileMaker.)

Mr. Roboto

Marcus occasionally uses his West Coast Swing technique class to expose us to other types of dance, and last week was one of those occasions. So instead of working on connection or stretch or rolling our feet, we learned a short, simple contemporary dance routine.

The theme? Robots learning to love.

Turns out there’s an uncanny valley for robots, too.

Heart-stopping excitement

Just over five weeks ago I happened to wander home early from work one day. While drooling in front of the internet, as I do, I got a call from my dad: Can you take me to immediate care? I think I have an irregular heartbeat.

Dad is a retired doctor, and doesn’t tend to bother worrying about health issues that aren’t worth worrying about. (If you were to ask my sister or me, he doesn’t worry about some things that he should worry about.)

Immediate Care didn’t seem to take Dad’s concern seriously, and—blaming that their imaging department was going to be closing in the next hour—brushed him off to the Emergency Room. The ER was similarly laid-back, and took their time collecting all of his information. The nurses and ER doctor seemed amused, almost, as Dad described a heaviness hanging around his head during these periods where he couldn’t find his pulse. He also described how he was lying down to take a nap, and then woke up because he felt like he was about to pass out. (Passing out, of course, is your body’s way of making you lie down.)

Amused or not, at least they did listen, and hooked him up to an EKG. Within a minute of being hooked up, the machine blared an alarm: Dad’s heart had stopped. And then, a handful of missed beats later, it started back up again.

I’ve never seen an ER staff switch so quickly from let’s listen to this guy and his theory which is obviously wrong to holy shit this guy is going to drop on us at any moment.

Protip: doctors think that, if your heart stops beating for any length of time, you will pass out. Period. If you haven’t passed out, then your heart hasn’t stopped beating.

Dad got shock paddle stickers stuck on him in a hurry. I’ve never seen him protest anything (in the “oh nonononono” sense) as much as those stickers—later I learned that those things are supposed to hurt like a mother. (I had no idea! Though that does kinda make sense…)

Once the ER was sure that they were as prepared to keep Dad alive as they could be, the gears of the hospitalization process were engaged: we waited a whole lot. (My sister, mom, and aunt got called at this point, too, and arrived before much had happened.)

There’s a whole lot of waiting in a hospital. So damn much waiting. Dad’s heart stopped more times that I could count while we sat in the ER, though he never did lose consciousness.

After meeting with a cardiologist, Dad got a temporary pacemaker placed that evening. (Keep in mind that they put leads down a vein in your neck, into your heart, to do this; Dad had no complaints about that, unlike the shock paddles.) White lines on the EKG monitor denoted when the temporary pacemaker triggered, and you could see his heart stopping ever-more-frequently as the evening progressed.

The permanent pacemaker came the next morning. Dad went home a few days later, and has been (knock on wood) fine ever since.

Only in retrospect did Dad or I ever consider the possibility that he might die. (Marin and Mom weren’t quite as dense.) Part of that is a credit to the ER staff; though it was painfully obvious when they got serious, they never did anything to incite any amount of panic.

Still, this is way too soon for any health emergencies. Watching your parents fall apart is the worst.

A coincidence

8:20 am: I leave my house to get my hair cut. A neighbor has an RV-esque trailer attached to their large truck parked nearby, but otherwise all is right in the world.

9:00 am: I return from my haircut. The truck and trailer are gone. The stop sign (including pole) closest to my house now lies on the sidewalk, the street signs attached at the top twisted and bent.

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