Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Flagrance or Ignorance?

Why the hell is it that no one can tell the difference between "then" and "than"?

It makes me want to strangle people when I see this malapropism in the writing of otherwise intelligent people. I must however admit that the other day while revising something of mine, I noticed that I had carelessly used "no" instead of "know". Not wanting to be a hypocrite, I almost didn't survive strangling myself.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Speaking of college in that last post, a professor of mine was very quotable:

On Software Testing
  • Pretend you're stupid. [ed. note: the implication here was that we wouldn't have to try very hard]
  • Error: Stuff may be happening.
  • Users are exponentially stupid, but programmers are only linearly smart.
  • Ha ha, I found your error, you dope.
  • I need an editor when I talk.
  • I hate talking to people.
  • Honesty is usually the best policy.
  • They'll write all kinds of code for you; it just happens to be a bunch of crap.
  • VB [Visual Basic] is for wimps.
  • I'm making a mockery of you. You should be offended.
  • Nobody uses interpreted languages unless they're trying to get away with something.
  • If you can go through life without making any decisions, then that's a good thing.
  • Education is the only service profession where people complain about getting more for their money.
How Computers really Work
  • These bits are traveling across these magic wires.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Watch Out for the Dead Ends

Long about the time that I was a hardened and grisled collegiate of nearly half a semester, I was in the student center checking my mailbox between classes. This was a very important activity because I sure as hell didn't want to miss the coupons for pizza or the offers for free money. No sir. Having just gotten the knack of opening my university PO box and figuring out what it meant to turn the dial to 46.5, I checked my mail hastily, dumped the junk, and headed to my next class. I should probably mention at this point that I was burdened with my bookbag at the time, this being my heaviest day of class both in credit-hours and poundage of books.

I headed out of the post office area, past the computer lab, and into the common area where several dozen students were lounging and milling about during their down time. The architecture in this particular building is quite unique, having been built in the 1970's by, I think, Frank Lloyd Wrong. There was this weird oblong oval ramp that led from the main floor (not counting the sub floor I was now heading towards) to the third floor. It took nine zig-zag-zigs of this ramp to get from the bottom to the top. All of this, of course, is irrelevant at the moment except to illustrate the curiosities of the building I was currently meandering through. Not quite having gotten the hang of navigation in the said student center, I took a wrong turn near another ramp heading down to that sub floor I just mentioned.

The ramp led to the nearest exit and straight to the building where my next class was located. I thought I had planned my course aptly, but realized after peering around a thick brick column that I had come out on the wrong side of the divider between the common area and the ramp leading down. "No problem," I thought. "I can make it over that divider."

So, not wanting to make a fool of myself for having had to turn around in front of everyone in the student center and making obvious my lack of college building geography, I decided to simply hop over the five foot tall, one foot thick concrete barrier. This may sound like trouble brewing, but I actually could and can make it over a barrier that size without much difficulty.

So, I gathered a bit of speed in the few precious feet I had before the wall and vaulted over it by placing my left hand on the top of the wall and lifting my feet perpendicularly to my body away from my supporting hand. I had performed similar gymnastics before in a like manner, but I had made one minor miscalculation. Or rather, I had left out one crucial variable in my calculations. I usually didn't do this with a bag strapped to my back that weighed somewhere in the vicinity of fifty pounds. Myself, I actually cleared the barrier, but my bookbag hung low as I passed over the wall in parallel with it like a pole vaulter in a successful vault. My bag caught the wall, and impeded my landing slightly.

I turned in midair - while horizontal I remind you - rolled on my way down, to the ramp which was probably another two feet lower than the other side from which I launched. I actually managed to land on my ass with my bookbag soon joining me, still strapped to my back. I jumped up quickly, hoping no one had noticed my less than deft aerial maneuvers. As soon as I made it to my feet, I was staring directly up into the face of a young woman who looked stricken with worry about this idiot who tried to jump over a concrete barrier. When she asked if I was all right, I told her, "Of course," in that way that ego-bruised men do, as if everything had gone according to plan, and besides I'm tough and don't get hurt. So, I ran off to my next class without looking anywhere but straight ahead. I know everyone in the commons areas saw my stunt and it was some time before I had the courage to head back that way.

I'm glad I did that so that I wasn't embarrassed about having to turn around in front of everyone. Oh, and my ass hurt for about three days afterward. Go me.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Assault with a Deadly Catfish

Okay. Read this. Utter insanity. I love the way the article is written as if it was an actual crime. Favorite lines: "Sheriff's Office is looking for a 'blond heavy frame female' who allegedly attacked a restaurant employee with a catfish", "Henry was not injured in the catfish attack, but the catfish dinner was ruined.", "The man did, however, flee with the female suspect in the getaway vehicle", "Anyone with information about the catfish assailant". Totally surreal.

Oh, did I mention that I work in that town and sometimes eat lunch at this place. That's how I heard about it. Not only did it make the paper, but it was apparently on the news, although I did not see it and can't yet find it on YouTube.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Fear and Loathing in Little Big Town

I came to Little Big Town some years ago looking for work. It wasn't a good place to look for work because as small as it was there weren't many places to work except the only industry the town had to offer. There was a large manufacturing plant sprawled among the lowly denizens of the putrid wastelands of Little Big Town. I call the land putrid, while in fact, there was nothing much wrong with the land itself. The land was green and healthy, mostly untouched by man's vile embrace. Even though big business affected the landscape with its corrupting touch, having only one such source of it in Little Big Town meant that it was cleaner than most towns. There were small rolling hills - old hills that were mountains millions of years before man slithered his way out of his primordial stew. The hills had their own variety of coniferous and deciduous inhabitants that made up the most noble and also the most intelligent creatures dwelling in Little Big Town.

It's not that the people were in some way debilitated beyond their will - perhaps due to lead poisoning - but rather they spent their days in a willful and deliberate stupor brought on by their own inability to live in reality. Whether it was alcohol, or methamphetamines, or their own miserable mutual company, they all found ways to escape from the dreary existence they called life. For myself, I couldn't bear to live directly in Little Big Town, so I found a place to live outside in a nearby town called Hammerston. This town had redeeming qualities more than none, which put it ahead of Little Big Town. Yet, for all its redemptive traits, it had fewer jobs available and open at any one time. One of the benefits of the plant in Little Big Town was that all the refuse of humanity that made up its workforce tended not to even be able to hold down a job where the only major requirements were to come in to work regularly and not be stoned off the face of the planet. This meant that for me and anyone else looking for a job, there were always plenty of openings.

This manufacturing company situated in Little Big Town specialized in making any sort of small artificial rubber products. The chemicals were brought in by the trainload and processed, molded, congealed, or otherwise manipulated into any one of hundreds of useful shapes for the happy paying consumers of our great country. They made toys for several large resellers, various guards and padding components for other manufacturers all over the world, and were especially proud of their line of adult novelty products they made exclusively for a company called ErotiCorp. That's right. The same company whose former president and founder was recently indicted in a sex scandal involving his own sister and several children of both genders. Little Big Town had never been so proud as to get that contract. To their private shame, they made no condoms at all in Little Big Town. Not that any one living there would know what to do with one. The average household size approached double digits.

Needing a job severely, else risking hunger and death, I signed up at United Rubber Products willing to do any sort of work that would pay any sort of money; as long as you could spend it on food, and on booze. They set me on the floor of the plant packaging various items and miscellany into artificial plastic and cardboard containers so that the artificial rubber wouldn't get lonely on its way to artificial people. The whole plant stunk of monotony and pointlessness: while hundreds of useless humans worked to produce millions of useless trinkets, all so that consumers could fill their homes, devices, and crevices with mass market goods and so that the shareholders of the rubber company could line their pockets of greed through the foolish wastefulness of society and on the backs of its miserable employees.

Of course, part of our benefits package included the title of Associate rather than the lowly moniker of employee. We also were paid a nickel over minimum wage and if you died on the job, the company wouldn't fire you for being late. It was amazing how far that nickel would go when you considered how expensive beer was coming to be. Many so called necessities of life were outed as shameful pretenders once it came down to the bare essentials. Beer could fill the stomach, even while cigarettes, shelter, and love could not. Some of my coworkers had discovered the same thing and said that once their children got used to the taste, the beer really went fine with the gallon bag of cereal that was made out of the same cardboard we packed our dildos in.

And while I kid about the benefits offered to us in our lowly state, there were other intangible advantages of working in Little Big Town at United Rubber Products. It wasn't every company you worked for where you could get a blowjob in the parking lot on your lunch break for three dollars. These favors could be garnered from either from male or female, I might add, where ever your tastes happened to lie. Although the official opinion of the people in town was that homosexuality was an abomination unto the Lord, this didn't stop them from all other manner of sexual deviancy far more bizarre. While I never had the perverse pleasure of witnessing any such acts myself, I frequently heard stories involving children, animals, the unconscious elderly, and other stories that make even me want to wretch. I'm not sure I could recount them as well as I heard them anyway.

Now that I think about it, it is pretty funny how quickly the folks around those parts were to invoke the name of the Lord, when any other time they were using it to condemn someone else to an eternity in hell. It goes some ways towards the praise of the human imagination that these folks living in this place could dream up a place worse in which to banish those found wanting even in this bucket of filth. If any hell does exist, Little Big Town surely lies within its borders. I could go on forever just describing how bad a place it was, but I'll just settle to tell you the things that happened when I was there.

My coworkers being those machines in the plant that still had to be paid, management took whatever chance they could to wheedle down our numbers in a perpetual game of cost cutting and profit plundering. In was understood that any costs inflicted were strictly the responsibility of the employees, while the increased profits were purely reserved for upper management and the shareholders. This developed a very loving work environment that one day led a forklift driver to jam a crowbar through the temple of some manager in full witness of a hundred workers. No one in the plant shed a tear and most were happy for the incident; either to see the enemy lose a battle or to get the afternoon off while police busied themselves taking everyone's statements. Not that anyone there blamed the driver, but when they fried him after a hasty trial, no one shed a tear then either.

One day, during my gracious fraction of an hour usable for lunch, I headed to an abandoned spot in the receiving yard to eat in quiet solace. I frequently snuck into hidden places no one else went in order to find respite from the teeming cesspool this town called humanity. I hadn't been to this spot in some time due to the weather and the way the wind blew through here in the cold months made it as wretched in the winter as it was glorious in the summer. That day, however, I found that this spot was no longer a hidden lunchroom for myself, but rather some sort of congregation hall for various employees with scruffy faces, dark sunken eyes and jittery suspicious demeanors. Once I encroached upon their territory, I was immediately rebuffed in my lunchtime plans.

By the looks of them, I would say I had found a shelter for the indigent, but by the looks of their equipment lying about, I would say that I had stumbled upon the ruins of a mad scientist whose machinery and tools had long ago lost their luster. It turned out that I had actually discovered the largest meth lab the county had never seen. And even though county had not seen this meth lab, they pleased themselves to stay out of Little Big Town and miss whatever such sights it had to offer.

Their were no police in Little Big Town, so the county had to take care of whatever problems arose within. They protested, but the state enforced law enforcement upon them. None of the county police lived in Little Big Town and all of them were quite happy to see sure that their choice of habitation also had a say in where they spent their days on patrol. The meth lab residents, not sure how to take me; whether I was a potential customer or whether I was a possible stool became immediately and undeniably hostile. A hostile Little Big Townian is quite a sight to behold. Already they constitute all the worst that primates have to offer, but when their life or their livelihood is threatened, all that bitter ichor that they called a soul was distilled into a fury that made the ground - or at least my legs, I can't tell which - tremble. Now, if that's what happens when you mess with them, please don't expect any sort of verbal description to do any justice to their reaction when they think their drugs are in danger. To them, that meth was more important than the next breath of oxygen.

I - astutely sensing the danger - immediately turned to leave peaceably, but it was too late. I have no doubt that they would have beaten me to death had they not already succumbed to the deleterious effects of their unruly habits. As it happens, a moderately young adult male who doesn't smoke, do drugs, and only drinks occasionally can quite handily outrun a groggy bunch of methheads. I ran back into the plant and ended up leaving early, too wary to wait until quitting time to leave through the pitch dark gravel parking lot with those same employees ending their shifts the same time as me. My supervisor didn't want to let me go, but I faked some severe chest pains and he let me go rather than having to deal with the possibility of a heart attack victim on his shift. If it happened, he at least didn't want to have to deal with it.

I waited several days before going back to work and to tell the truth, I wasn't even sure that I would. I didn't think much of the prospects of heading back to a deadend shitty job just to risk dismemberment. I don't know; maybe it was the time I had spent in Little Big Town and parts surrounding, but I didn't much like being threatened or run off by the vilest excrement of existence ever to disgrace this world. For myself, while immune to many of the evils inflicting the inhabitants of this place, I was starting to bottle not a healthy supply of hatred and spite that was now aching and crying out for revenge. I knew what I would do, if I ever went back; something they would be talking about in Little Big Town long after I'd left and probably long after I'd died. But that's a story for some other time. I need another beer.