Friday, March 23, 2007

Flyin' A's, kidneys, weddings

It's been an okay week. We're headed out tomorrow for the wedding of Erica F., taking place somewhere in the greater Houston area. Erica's an old pal of mine from my days in high school, who wound up as one of Jamie's roommates in college. So, yeah, we go back a piece. Actually, if memory serves, Erica and I were tied for ranking in our high school class.

I've not actually met the husband-to-be as he came into the picture while we were in PHX, but early reports have been extremely positive. The bottom line is that I like a good party, and as long as they keep the ceremony short, who doesn't like a good wedding, too? It gives you a chance to really space out until the "I Do's" and the applause. I am unsure how much dancing I'll be doing at the ceremony, but I suppose I shall have to put in another round of doing The Robot.

I'm returning Monday, but Jamie (and Melbotis) will remain in Houston for most of the week. I have some business to attend to in Austin, but Jamie's getting worked up at Methodist Hospital in order to get back on the kidney recipient list. So, Karebear is taking jamie under wing and will be managing that detail. I feel sort of bad about not being there, but I don't think the procedures are going to be terribly upsetting or invasive. If they are, I guess I'm headed back to Houston.

Depending upon your religious preference, I would ask that all of you GET ON THE ORGAN DONOR'S LIST and then INFORM YOUR RELATIVES AS PER YOUR WISHES. If you die and your organs can be donated, many families refuse to go along with the checked box on the driver's license indicating organ and tissue donation. Understandably, it's an emotional time, and many people going through the grieving process may not wish to think about organ donation at one of the roughest times in their life. SO... make sure you speak up beforehand.

Last night we went to see Hilary and Stuart's band, The Flyin' A's, play at Artz Ribhouse. Turns out they're really very good, which i sort of knew, but it was my first time seeing them live, and they more than confirmed my suspicions. The Flyin' A's play some nice Texas country, but covered some Etta James and Johnny Cash as well. They play all the time, and I don't have a very good excuse as per why we haven't gone out to see them, but that's going to change. Folks in Austin (or other places they play (they go on tour this summer) should check them out. Our San Antonio contingent should know they're playing at Specht's on Saturday evening.

Hope all is well with all of ya'll.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


When I was in high school, I first came across the term "McJob" in Douglas Coupland's book Generation X.

McJob: (page 5)

A low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low-benefit, no-future job in the service sector. Frequently considered a satisfying career choice by people who have never held one.

And I think that last bit is the sinker.

Anyhow, it appears McDonald's is outraged that the job of burger flipper/ burger warmer is not held in the highest of esteem.

Read about it here.

Apparently unaware of how the English language works, McDonalds has started an effort to convince those they see as the "owners" of language that they've not given the term "McJob" a fair shake and seen the word the way their corporate decision makers would like the world to see the term "McJob". Oddly, these chroniclers of the language seem to go with how billions of English-speaking people use the term. What to do when you're an enormous corporation and you can't buy your way out of your sorry reputation as an employer.

From the article:

The Oxford English Dictionary, considered by many wordsmiths as the gold standard for the English language, is one of those that will be targeted. It defines the noun as "an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector."

I get freaked out by Newspeak at the best of times, but when you get the feeling a corporation is considering doing something pretty vile to try to demolish an image that's been somewhat fairly earned... I dunno. Kind of freaky. Rather than cowboy up and address the issue, is it really that much better to publicly take on the Dictionary?

Somehow, this generates images in my head of the burger wars from the mostly not-discussed Frank Miller comic "Give Me Liberty" in which the US goes to war to protect fast food cows in the Amazon.

I don't want for anyone to misconstrue this particular rant for some sort of disrespect for the hard working burgermeisters who prepare my fast food. The League has not worked fast food, but... We DID work at Chuck E. Cheese, which is mediocre, slowly produced food delivered in a temple in which all pizza eating worshippers must halt eating and conversation in reverence to a mechanical gigantic mouse in a hat. We swept up pizza crusts, handed out tokens to kids when the machine "ate" their token, oversaw the ball crawl*, and polished the vertical bars on the mini-carousel. I've slung records at the Camelot and pimped Tinkerbell shirts at the Disney Store. There is such a thing as a job where the downers (usually created by inept or negative management) greatly outweigh the $4.75 an hour. In two of these three jobs I was asked to wear an ill-fitting and humiliating uniform (we actually requested silver jumpsuits to wear when I worked at UT. Request denied). And had managers that, on a good day, were indifferent to me at best.

I had no skills, no experience, no future within the organization, and was constantly reminded of as much. If not for school and the promise of becoming a middle-class wage slave, I might have given in to the gripping despair that one can only find when told to keep glass doors clean in a restuarant full of children who've been handling pizza, tokens, tickets, and wiping snot on their own palms. For $4.25 or whatever minimum wage was in 1990.

But I also lived with my parents, and/or was earning supplemental money while in school which my folks generously assisted with. I am not an eighteen year old kid living in Goober Springs, Alabama where options are McDonalds or tending to my Uncle's Used Tire Emporium. So when that kid hears "McJob", I have no idea what he or she must think. But I hope to God that with the power of television and our educational system, Buddy McBarnes from Goober Springs at least knows that there may be more opportunity available than what ends when you pass the Exxon and it's all trees again along the freeway.

Thusly, mad respect for folks in the service industry, but I also know that the bright-eyed promising student is far and few between who says "I want to spend my life earning minimum wage and microwaving McMuffins."

Curiously, the CEO of McDonald's from a few years back was once a burger pimp, himself. Here's an article from when someone died and Bell took over.

Bell began his career with the fast-food chain at age 15 as a part-time crew member at a McDonald's restaurant in Sydney, Australia.

He became the company's youngest store manager in Australia at 19, a vice president at 27 and a member of the McDonald's Australia board of directors by the time was 29 years old.

"This is an absolutely right choice," said S&P's Milton. "Cantalupo relied on Bell a lot for crafting the turnaround. This is someone who has been with the company for a significant period of time."

That's awesome. I bet Bell's staff is made up entirely of the crew he started with at that Australian McDonald's**. What happened to you, Bell? You used to be from the street, dawg! You knew what it was to flip a burger and clean up some kids' barf from the McDonaldland Playscape!*** You sold out, Bell. You sold out.

Minimum wage isn't really the thrust of the phrase "McJob". A McJob is more about the drudgery of many jobs that's cropped up since the Industrial Revolution as people become cogs in an assembly line, whether that be McDonalds employees leaping into action when the frier makes that awful "WHEEEEEEEEEEET! WHEEEEEEEEEEEET!" noise. Or whether that person is wearing a tie, sitting in a cube where they can't be seen, anyway, and calling people to donate to the Austin Policemen's Charity (the tie makes you all professional-like).

There's something far more frightening about the white-collar McJob. It's a job intended to mark time, is mostly insulting to the intelligence, and can usually be identified by how often the manager insists that they are a professional of some sort and how unnecessarily cumbersome the tasks assigned to wage slave actually are. Usually because nobody ever bothered to ask the employees how to improve the processes they do all day, which the executives have never actually performed. But they DO pay well enough, these jobs... and there's not necessarily the same sense of temporary employment that pervades when one is loaned their pants and told they must return them when they quit. And, of course, in the white-collr McJob, you are surrounded by lots of other people all doing the same job, many of whom have been their for years and never once considered a promotion.

What's curious is that McDonalds is going after the dictionary in the same manner they go after our elected officials whenever it's suggested the minimum wage see an increase. As I recall, in order to try to dodge out of some legislation or other that might effect the bottomline, McDonald's attempted to reassign their employees from the food-prep category to some sort of assembly line technician. I can't find it now, but in my commute in PHX, I recall hearing the story on NPR.

Perhaps if McDonalds paid a bit better, perhaps if the drudgery of the position wasn't punctuted only with being shouted at by furious managers and customers... McDonalds might be able to actually convince those of us who've used the term "McJob" without blinking for fifteen years to drop the term if their employees did not always look miserable and their turnover wasn't well known as one of the highest turnover positions in any industry. (As someone who has managed part time employees, turn over is a huge time killer and makes managers grumpy.)

*some new parents read this blog. I beseech of thee, if you care at all for your health or the health and safety of your children... do not let your child enter a public ball crawl. New parents don't want to think about this, but little kids are germ factories. Not only are they perpetually ill, they also have no concept of hygiene, and will wipe their nose with their hands and then leap into the ball crawl. It is IMPOSSIBLE to clean the balls in the ball crawl. And dozens and dozens of kids pass through a ball crawl each day, leaving their trail of germs on everything.

Also, while your child may be an angel, other kids are irresponsible horrors with no respect for their safety or that of anyone else. So expect for your kid to get a shin to the back of the head.

And last, but not least... and i can't believe I have to share this, but I speak from experience... Ball crawls are not a good place for infants. Do not toss your infant into the ball crawl in the high hopes that the disgruntled 16 year old watching the crawl will watch your kid while you pound back a cool Coors 16 oz'er. The ball crawl is about 3 feet deep. Your infant could easily disappear and not be found again until the semi-annual ball-crawl vaccuuming. Also, the note about the shin to the back of the head? Kids like to jump off the walls, pretending to be their favorite luchador, often in the direction of your infant's still unfused skull.

When considering the ball crawl, just.... don't.

**I know they eat beef in Australia, but what else is on the menu? Filet 'o Platypus? Koala Nuggets? Ah, it's funny to make fun of Australians. FACT: They're all reprehensible savages****.

***Why is it that really low-paying jobs often require the removal of vomit? I do recall that one of the reasons I was not liked (and I hadn't thought about this in a while) at the Disney Store was that when I was informed that some kid had tossed her cookies in the store, on carpet, I declared "I am not paid enough to clean up barf. At least not without that pink, granular stuff." Apparently not wanting to clean up barf makes you "not a team player". But, you know what... they weren't paying for benefits or nuthin'. I was supposed to shift from fixing the stuffed anaimal arrangements to scooping up vomit.
Other people's barf is super gross, and I don't think it's unreasonable to expect some sort of special compensation for cleaning it up. If we all worked together and refused to clean up barf for minimum wage, just imagine the utopia we'd all be living in.

****This is not an actual fact. I've met a few Australians, and while I get tired of hearing about how they find my slection of knife completely substandard, our friends from down under couldn't be a more decent people. In fact, if you'd like to point to anyone as an utter savage, it's Canadians, who, FACT: eat babies*****.

*****It is mostly not-true that Candians eat babies. At least not Canadian babies, or there would be no actual Canadians. I suspect some Canadians of cannibalism, but can prove nothing. They probably clean up barf for a shiny dime, too.******

******I feel sort of bad about that. That may have gone too far.

King of Hobos/ PROJECT: H.A.R.M.S.

So last night Steven and I had dinner and he showed me some work he'd been doing lately for the Mellies. Steven is working on an application that will allow Loyal Leaguers to enter a UI and fill in their responses to the queries. This doesn't particularly help you, but it sure as heck helps me.

And, because Steven is King of the Hobos, he has decided to live his life on The Rails. he's trying to learn the technology, and I'm trying to get free help. In this way, my lamprey-like life continues. I'm a bit fascinated with what he's doing, and when he wraps up, we'll have a chat about what this is doing that a JAVA/ Cold Fusion interface wouldn't have done, or what else might have been a competing option. I can feel my work brain kicking in again after too many months of dormancy. Plus, it's a new technology, and while I may never learn to write for it, I can certainly learn about the features.

(I am thinking we need BLOCKS for the users to fill in rather than scrolling lines).

Anyway, Project: H.A.R.M.S. is saving the day.

But what does H.A.R.M.S. stand for?

You decide...



So I was working on this sort of pointless, mid-week filler post for Comic Fodder regarding the value of Power Girl in the DCU, even when artists are complete morons.

Cover to JLA #10, which defies logic and gravity

There's nothing like a Michael Turner cover to suddenly make you embarassed for buying a comic. This is the JL-freaking-A, not Juggs Magazine. I, along with 80,000 readers, was going to buy this comic if the cover was blank and made of butcher paper. But, Turner went and ruined it.

Anyway, the point was that this sort of nonsense detracts from a character, especially one that is already treated like the class joke by a lot of creators who still giggle like a thirteen year old when they think of boobies. There was a dicier portion of the post for which i needed quotes, links and whatnot as I disagreed with a blogger's statements I'd read elsewhere. I just couldn't remember where I'd seen the post.

I looked and looked.

I'm currently using the latest Explorer, which is not unlike Firefox in that it provides me with tabs. Over at Comic Fodder, I try to behave as a bit more of a journalista, citing sources, lots of linking, etc... the tabs help me stay organized as I jump from pane to pane, looking for material.

All i really needed to do was find that last link and I could start wrapping the thing up. I'd looked at more than a dozen likely sites, and hit a site which was clearly NOT my site, and which didn't want to load...

And then IE went all IE on me, and shut down my unsaved post, the page I was looking at, and a few other references I had in pocket. I was utterly shocked, but felt like I'd learned an important MS IE lesson. I don't know what sites I'll hit, so I need to start saving more often and consider going back to just using multiple windows.

Maybe it's for the best. That post won't see the light of day, and I can maybe think about it a little harder and do my proper legwork before writing. Still, that was a particularly large amount of documentation for that particular column.

That was like 1.5 hours gone poof on me.

Darn you IE.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Congrats to Jeff and Keora

I sort of quickly mentioned it the other day, but congrats to Jeff Shoemaker and his new bride, Keora.

They were married Friday at the Travis County Courthouse with family in attendance. I've known Jeff since 1993 where we shared a community bathroom in Jester. Keora I did not meet until this Fall when we returned to Austin.

You see a lot of couples that you don't have a whole lot of faith in, and you see other couples that, together, might drive you a bit nuts. Not so these two. Together they provide a united fighting front that's really going to clean up crime in Star City.

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Bit of Difference

As I recall, Leaguer Randy once opined something along the lines of "Why does The League obsess about Austin? Stop living in the past, dude."

The past week or so has proven to me in no small degree that our return to Waterloo was a well-conceived plan, if you don't take my current jobless situation into account.

1) Last Friday, my former roommate and eternal pal was here for SXSW hi-jinks. I was able to see the guy and dine out with he and other friends. This led to running into old pal, Amy C. No longer same-city e-mail pals, we got to catch up.
2) The parents were able to come for a nice weekend March Birthday celebration last weekend.
3) Monday night, Nathan C. (no relation to Amy C) was in town for SXSW. Got to catch up with one heck of a guy and once-again expectant father.
4) Not much going on Tuesday aside from Crack fun.
5) Wednesday, outdoors in the rain, got to see some fun music and rock out. Also allowed to participate in said rocking.
6) Wagner arrives for the rocking.
7) Wednesday night was "booze night".
8) Thursday mostly uneventful, but Wagner continues to linger.
9) Thursday night prioved difficult to find a place to eat as SXSW is everywhere. Jamie grumpy, but, honestly, I was just happy we had options. Just not something we had in AZ.
10) Friday braved the crowds and hit certain shops in pursuit of Jason's birthday present.
11) Friday night somewhat tame as I miss the FREE Public Enemy Show, then proceed to miss a birthday party as I just couldn't bear the thought of going into town during SXSW.
12) Saturday hit Curra's for Jason's b-day lunch. (Finally re-locate Texicalli... which is next door to Curra's).
13) Saturday night is Jason's B-Day party at his place. I hang green streamers and almost deafen the birthday boy when "popper" is actually very loud and does not just shoot confetti as I believed.
14) Spend some time with Jason's quality friends, including catching a rare glimpse of the elusive Meredith Shaw. Although the evening's highlight may have come with Ellie's gigantic Hulk hand beer holder.
15) Nearing midnight head to Pat's where I see The My for the first time since 2000, meet his wife, and am also able to celebrate wedding of pal Jeff Shoemaker (formerly a Loyal Leaguer) who had a small civil ceremony on Friday.
16) Sunday, some folks from Saturday late party drop by, we all wind up having a late dinner at Trudy's.

Last year at this time we were getting rained out of the Ostrich Fest.

Sure, this week was crazy. It was nutty crazy. And next weekend we have a wedding in Houston (Bug's wedding)). The following weekend the lovely La La is marrying this Mike fellow.

The League likes a busy calendar. We enjoy having stuff to do and peopel to do it with. Somehow this tops the weekend trip to Target being our only journey out of the house from Friday to Monday.

Yes, it's been a good week.

Now, if only I had a job.