Friday, February 27, 2009

Requiem for the Newspaper

Requiem for the Newspaper

I’m sure I don’t need to provide the thousands of links to stories of the Rocky Mountain News closure. All day I’ve been browsing photo galleries of sobbing staff, packing up their desks. I spent nearly 45 minutes browsing columns written by some of the most talented the Rocky Mountain News had to offer, discussing the highlights of some of their 20+ year careers. I felt as if I were watching some sick 24 hour channel of live funeral home footage. I couldn’t look away. Every picture of an employee packing up their desk, hugging co-workers, staring at the scrolling marquee outside the Rocky Mountain news announcing the closure ,affects me in ways I hope I never forget. I want to tell my grandkids about this, the beginning of the death of papers.

I’m not from Denver, but Sallie and I visited Denver for a few days two years ago. It was still a time when some newspapers were making money. Sallie was mere months from having a journalism degree, and Denver was one of our top choices to move. We walked about the gorgeous downtown area discussing where we would take visitors, where we could live, how often we would visit the mountains, how we couldn’t wait for our first blizzard. We still had hope for the newspaper industry. We still had hope that exactly what we wanted to do was only a mere few months away.

Even though I’m not from Denver, I have that sickening sad feeling in the pit of my stomach. Not only is this closing further proof of a self-destructing economy. Not only does this put more of the information elite, brethren of Sallie and I, on the streets and in jobs they never would’ve imagined being at. It hurts the very soul that burns beneath the fragile skin and bones that make our bodies.

Last night, a defeated sounding Sallie said, “I’ll never get to work for a newspaper again.”

She didn’t say, “I’ll never work for a newspaper again” like she was angry at the industry for laying her off last year. She said, “…never get to…” meaning it was a privilege and dream to work for a paper. It was a dream that the economy, internet, bad business decisions, and greedy executives all conspired together to take from her and the thousands others that have already lost their jobs. I think the most heartbreaking thing is that there’s not a single thing any of the writers, reporters, editors, HR people, payroll, press operators… all the way to the janitors could’ve done. To some, yes this was just a paycheck, but going to Mizzou you quickly find out that to most the newspaper is a dream.

I couldn’t help but think about the Ben Folds Five song, “Fred Jones pt. 2.” It was one of the first Ben Folds songs that hit me. I even wrote a short story based off the song. The lyric that comes to mind is the beginning of the song.

“Fred sits alone at his desk in the dark
An awkward young shadow waits in the hall
He clears all his things and he puts them in boxes
Things that remind him, life has been good.

Twenty-five years, he’s worked at the paper
He’s forgotten, but not yet gone

And I’m sorry Mr. Jones
…its time”

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Today a few friends at work and I were discussing Jesus. This is one of those conversations that should've happened while smoking pot.

So, Jesus knew/knows everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen. So he knew how delicious Pepsi was 2000 years ago or that Disco would reign for 10 years and then suck forever after that.

We came up with a scenario where Jesus is walking through the desert with all of his disciples. Its something like 110 degrees, they are dying for a miracle. Jesus murmers under his breath, "This would be a lot easier in a car."

"What was that Jesus?"

"Oh, um, nothing. Just can't wait for the stars that's all."

I wonder if Jesus let stuff slip to certain people. Maybe to mess with their heads. "And I say, the Raiders will win the Superbowl in 1983."

"Uhhh... hum, not really sure what that means Jesus, but what are we going to do with one loaf of bread. People are hungry."

"BLAMO! You now have hundreds of loaves of bread..." people clap, "and the Beatles will at one point be more popular than me, but soon apologize for being blasphemous."

Everyone got puzzled looks on their faces and shrugged their shoulders.

"I don't take offense, the White Album is genius. I wish you call could hear it. I really do."

There has to be a reason Egyptians had paintings of aircraft in tombs. They didn't just guess.

I mean, that blows my mind. God is a programmer. He created language, humans, animals, universe. He created code that would bring about war and curse words. He knew what he was doing all along. Are we just a program created in Visual Basic. Are we Earth 1.0 and waiting for an upgrade?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Zip Up Those Abs

Sallie and I have been literally busting our butts to get into shape. Every year we pack on the pounds from about November to March and then spend all summer working off the extra pounds. This year, we've held each other accountable for working out. However, running is just not an option when its 18 degrees out. If your joints are freezing, stay inside for God's sake.

So we turned to those horribly written workout videos with the synthesizer/cheap keyboard backing soundtrack.

Being the man that I am, I want my home workouts to feel manly. I picture a rusty workout bench, in a moldy dark damp basement. Maybe with some graffiti on the wall. Yeah, a real prison gym. It should smell like sweat, blood, and tears.

The closest workout video is Tae Bo. Billy Blanks will yell at you and tell you that you aren't working hard enough. He's been known to count so hard that space shuttles have launched preemptively hundreds of miles away. He'll tell you you're doing good. After he's done punishing every muscle in his body, he offers up a prayer thanking the lord for not exploding your chest. My abs burn just thinking about.

So Sallie tried this with me a few nights ago. She liked it and was sore for three days afterwards.

She had made a comment about how Denise Austin is much like this, and wanted me to try the video with her. Being the good compromising husband I am, I went along with the kickboxing.

I started doing the warm up moves, but couldn't get into it. At first I couldn't figure out why, but I've now detailed why it was hard for me to get into Denise Austin.

A) She's a woman. Yes, this is a little sexist, but there is something man affirming when getting screamed at by a guy twice your size while working out.

B) She often would change up what you were doing without warning. I'm kicking forward only to look up and see that Denise is doing some sort of ribbon dancer crap with her arm and now kicking sideways.

C) Every few moves, Denise likes to throw a small pelvic thrust in. I'm a dude. It's not dancing for me, its doing inappropriate things in a room occupied by my wife and two cats.

D) She looks like a soccer mom. I half expect to be invited out for Starbucks after our workout. I should only expect to be called a wuss and spat on after my workout.

Anyway, I'm getting/staying in shape. We've both lost a lot of weight, so whatever we are doing seems to be working. I promised to attempt one more Denise Austin video before writing her off completely, but I think for the winter months I'm either sticking with Billy Blanks or going Rocky style and running in the cold in a sweatsuit.

Friday, February 20, 2009

My Dad's Face is Magical

So I was talking to my dad by the back door and then I heard a familiar whining. I opened the door and Slider took off under the steps. I threw the phone down, gathered Sallie, and we snatched him back. So basically yes, my dad's face does have magical Slider attracting properties.

He did smell like sewage and had thick, crusty hair. So the first contact with him upon his return was a bath... yeah, he's going to try to run again. Tomorrow however, we're going to collect all of our signs and wander to Petsmart. He's getting a shiny collar and updated ID tag.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Kitten Watch

So if you haven't heard yet, yesterday was fairly horrible.

Sallie got off work early enough for us to spend time together for the first time in 4 days. We went to the grocery store and bought all the ingredients we would need for a successful dinner. We got home and immediately realized we'd left one of our bags at the store... the expensive bag with all Sallie's hippie fake meat.

I was thinking about running back to the store when I looked into our bedroom and noticed the front door was wide open and Slider was missing.

We don't think it had been open long because the house was still fairly warm and everything we owned (besides the kitten) was still in tact as far as I could tell. We immediately dropped everything, forgot we were starving, and took off screaming Slider... for 3 hours. We covered a good six miles and wandered around until about 10:45 at night screaming his name. Of course this is the windiest and coldest night in a while. Every corner we turned we heard creaking wood, or a child screaming, and plastic bags blowing in the wind. (Its insane how many discarded plastic bags you notice when looking for a kitten.) Basically when two kitten parents are freaking out everything sounds like a meow.

Instead of sleeping last night, we woke up every hour thinking we heard tapping on the front door. Crash was constantly meowing and trying to get outside. I think everyone was worried. I officially gave up on trying to sleep at 6:15 this morning. Called in for the first three hours of work, woke Sallie, and went to Kinkos. We printed up 50 Slider posters and again walked for three hours.

Side Story: We woke up and went to Kinkos, but didn't have a staple gun. So we drove to Home Depo, bought staples that were the exact dimensions the staple gun said and came home. The staples wouldn't fit. We then walked to Home Depot thinking we could hang posters on the way home. We left the spring piece of the gun at home. So we wasted 45 minutes walking back and forth.

We hung about 45 of the 50 posters around the 12 block area around our apartment. Ate lunch and went to work. We were both zombies and couldn't really function.

Its weird, I came home today expecting Slider to jump on my shoulders like a pirate parrot like he does everyday. I never realized how much I talked to the cats either. This morning I was using Crash as a therapists/rescue unit. I kept asking her "Where is your brother?" I told her to "stay in the windows in case he comes by and doesn't know which house it is." I was saying it to try and lighten the mood, but somewhere in my subconscious I meant it.

Anyway, we're now playing the waiting game. I hope Slider comes back because even though he keeps me up at night, tears everything up, and breaks things on a regular basis, he's my cat. Part of the reason I couldn't sleep was because I'm used to his dead weight on my shoulder where Slider sleeps.

Rob said I should fly my dad back here and use his face to attract Slider back home. If we don't get him in the next couple days, maybe we can try that.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Candy Hearts

Whereas most other holiday traditions have morphed into disgusting modern consumer carnivals, Valentines Day has remained essentially the same. Its still about Cupids, chocolates, and Sweethearts (Also known as Conversation Hearts). Where Christmas used to have hand carved wooden trains and BB Guns, now Videogames and expensive jewelry bring in baby Jesus birthday. Easter used to involve Easter Egg hunting, now has been replaced by "just another Sunday blues." Valentine's Day is still about those little chalky candy Necco brand hearts.

I've always loved these hearts and gladly accepted them from other people that acted disgusted when they chomped into them. I love everything about them. I love how you almost break your teeth biting into them. I love how no matter how many boxes you eat, you never feel sick. I love the little phrases printed on the front of the hearts that always seem to be off center.

My fondest memory was in high school where you could pay $1 and have a box of Sweet Hearts and a small hand drawn by art students Valentine and have it sent to your love interest, crush, or hottie of the moment that you want to attract during one of the 7 class periods during the day. I received 7 boxes of Sweet Hearts that day. All 7 of them were carefully crafted Valentines from me, to me.

I spent time writing a unique message in each. Things like, "Dear Future Dan, You know so much more than I do, and probably look better. Love Past Dan." This was the most meaningful and fulfilled Valentine's Day to date. Self love is the most pure.

People thought it was comical and a joke, but on the inside I cheered every time one of the art students delivered a box to me. Especially since there were times were I was the only delivery.

I still enjoy Sweet Hearts, but the other day at work while I was chomping down the third box someone threw my way, I noticed that my once treasured messages were a bit off.

Whereas before, simple messages like "Love You," "Hug Me," and "Be Mines" were printed in pink. I found drastically changed messages that I found much less "lovey" and romantic.

Examples of messages this year:
Text Me, Page Me, or IM Me- How romantic would it be if your cell phone lit up and said, "I luv u ;)"? The winking smiley face emoticon means they extra love you. And who even has a pager anymore?

Fax Me- This one has been around for a bit, but Fax Me? Really? You hear the paper being fed into the machine grinding out a cover page with a subject of "Important Message" and on page two an entire sheet with "Love You" printed at the top. Faxing has never been sexy or romantic. Get rid of this heart.

Cool, Get Real, Awesome, or :)- None of these say anything. And I'm fairly sure Get Real is an insult. I heard next year we will get "dude," "WTF," "alcoholic," and "As Good as Bacon."

Yes Dear- The battle cry of the "Everybody Loves Raymond" married couple. This candy not only says, "I give up, whatever you want" but tastes delicious.

And then probably the most "let you down easy" message of all UR Kind- I don't love you, I don't want to go to the dance with you, I actually don't find you attractive, but you sure are beautiful on the inside.

I know Necco is trying to keep up with the times and be trendy. You know, the hip cool sugar hearts of todays generation, but if they knew anything about this generation of people, they would know that they hate reading, they hate everything their parents once liked, and the don't have time time in their high-speed internet worlds. Keep it classic for those that actually are and have always been fans.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

If I were to post a blog from hell... it would look like that

Day 34254: Its still hot here. Lots of demons. Lots of punishment. Sweet potatoes taste bitter. We only have S.U.V.s and gas is $47 a gallon. Yep, still sucks here.

Day 34255: ...

Basically work still hasn't calmed down. I keep getting the calls where the person calls pre-pissed off. So I've been yelled at a lot in the past week. Strange thing is, I'm getting good at it.

Help desk is a weird job.

1. People blame you for everything. Things you didn't program. Things you didn't make them have. Bureaucracy you didn't put in place. Non-IT related items like the fun one I got today, "The water pressure in the ladies bathroom on the 3rd floor is low." Essentially I fix other people's mistakes, while they never have to hear the complaints nor fix them.

2. I'm more of a psychiatrist than a tech person. I have to calm people down to the point of doing their job again. I'm always one question away from asking the user, "Did your parents abuse you as a kid?"

3. If I'm doing my job well, people start to learn their basic functions and troubleshooting techniques, eventually getting to the point where they don't need a help desk. Basically, I'm my own worst enemy.

Today I kinda messed up I guess. The bigwig (like real bigwig. The all knowing Oz that we never see big wig.) was walking the floor and I had just gotten yelled at for 45 minutes because someone's machine wasn't working correctly. I went to the restroom to clear my head and when I came back everyone asked me what happen.

I told them "I was yelled at for installing some incorrectly, 4 years before I started in the company."

My boss grabbed the back of my neck and told me who was right behind my desk after I said it, and basically said keep a low profile for a bit.

So hopefully nothing comes of that. Don't think I can get into trouble, but apparently this guy can't take any complaining.

This conversion so far has been crazy, but still I'm thankful I have a job at all and that I'm getting overtime.

I wish this could be more interesting, but honestly I'm just too tired. Almost two weeks of my four crazy weeks finished. I just hope by March things get back to almost normal where I actually have some time at home.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What Does it all Mean?

So I'm in the midst of my first full week of 10 hour days and its already wearing on me.

Last night, after most the staff went home, the entire West Coast network went down. Our phones blew up with over-achieving power brokers wanting to stay late, but unable to connect to the internet to do any work. I was yelled at, cursed at, and told that I was worthless.

I came home and went to bed well before 10 pm.

Today, our phones were flooded. We joined the Wachovia phone system this week and the number assigned to us used to be an old branch help desk number. 70% of my calls were spent explaining to users that we aren't the branch help desk and we would be transferring them. 70% of those calls I was yelled, told to fix their problem, told that they had the right number and I was wrong, and told I didn't know anything.

Then around 2pm this afternoon I got a call from a guy that had administrative rights on his computer, and that to no known factor, was stripped of these rights halfway through the day. This man needs administrative access for his job. He admins a Mobius database and manipulates files used by what he says are 100s of employees.

I cannot give him local administrative rights because its against protocol. I have the abilities, but not the bureaucratic power.

This man obviously can't accept that. After 45 minutes of being called a jackass, among other expletives, he wants to speak to my manager. (Who happens to be working from home today, how perfect right?) So I grab the nearest manager who then talks to the guy.

After they disengage I ask the manager if there is anything further I must do. Apparently, promising these people "pots of gold" is the help desk version of the customer is always right.

The manager promised that I would:
1. Find the form he needs to fill out to have admin rights
2. Fill out the form for the man
3. Email the man the form so he could get his managers approval code
4. Email the form to the correct group
5. Contact the group and get this finished by 5am tomorrow morning

Essentially I had to go 15 extra miles for someone that had tore me down. I did as I was told. When I contacted the group that could grant admin rights, they said at soonest, if everything on the form was filled out correctly, they could get him admin rights within two days. This was at 3:15. Since we are dealing with the east coast, these people go home at 4. Basically this man doesn't have a prayer to be set up by tomorrow.

What this means is tomorrow at 5am, this man will come in unable to access what he needs. He will then call the help desk asking for me, who is still sleeping at home. He will complain and yell at the analyst on the phone. The analyst will email me, the user will email me, and my inbox will be filled with hate mail that I can read whilst getting bombarded by the calls we will get tomorrow.

Then you read things like this

Like so much of the corrupt and greedy in America, the leaders of our company failed and brought the economy to rubble. When given a second chance, they blow the money on lavish gifts for a select few. They say they throw this Vegas party for the employees, but the people on my floor doing some of the toughest work don't see the trickle. We're told that we no longer have to wear ties and that at some point we will get ice cream. This is what we are told we should be thankful for when we ask what they will do to boost moral.

It put me in a very what does it all mean sort of mood. Why am I giving up my breaks, working 10 hours days, getting paid about 10,000 less a year than I should for the very people that killed the economy and will probably lay me off in 6 months because they can't afford me.

All I can say is there better be a bigger plan because sometimes that's all that keeps me waking up in the morning to go to work. Surprisingly enough I came home with a positive attitude. I'm in survival mode. Every time I send another check to pay off more unavoidable debt, I feel accomplished.

I've got my health, a wife, and much better conditions than most the world. How much can I really complain?

And for those guys making millions of dollars and giving themselves 10 day vacations in Vegas and $500,000 bonuses, I have a quote from the 2006 movie Half Nelson.

"Second chances are rare, man. You ought to take better advantage of them."