Friday, July 29, 2011

Thrown Away

I had my first 40 hour a week job when I was 18 years old. I was a sophomore at Georgia Tech and I was Features Editor for the newspaper. I was responsible for about 10 employees, determined their pay and everything. I recently had some beers with my old assistant editor after losing touch for 20 years and he pointed this out to me. Well, my career pretty much went downhill from there. I have a terrible resumé. No matter how I rewrite it there's never a smooth transition from one job to another one exactly like it with increasing responsibility. Back in the '90s I went to the career counselor at Georgia Tech for some advice on what to do about it and he told me to group my experience by topics like Management Experience, Technical Experience, Marketing Experience. But he warned me that people would still hate it. Anything besides chronology is foreign and weird and why should they bother when they can just go to the next one in line that looks the way they like it? I actually got my last job without ever showing them any kind of resumé. The head guys went to Georgia Tech and just assumed that any graduate of that fine institute could manage the job they needed done. After a few months I realized my boss thought I was an Industrial Engineering major.

Anyway, the other day I got an invitation to sign up for this new thing, a visual resumé. Here's the example, Ashton Kutcher. It's a start up and it's not ready yet, but I thought what the hell. I can do that myself, just to see what it's like.

I thought I'd throw something in Excel just to get my information organized. After I figured out how to get it to generate dates going back in time in quarterly increments I thought I might have to add that to the top as relevant engineering experience. Man, Excel is a bitch with dates. When I exported it to Google Docs it totally hosed them up, too. So there's a tip. Mac Excel dates are not compatible with Google Docs. I haven't looked at the details, but just be warned.

I messed with the fonts and column size until I got it one page wide and it was seven pages long. Oh good lord. As my friend Steve Leacock says, Excel is not a design tool. But at this point I was so disheartened by the truth in the image I didn't really feel like there was any point making it look good. The data on it would still convey the same cruel message. I am a has-been wanna-be. It reminded me of this scene from Better Off Dead. This movie came out when I was working for the newspaper and the studio sent me a package of black and white glossy stills. I ran a picture of Jon Cusack through the hot wax machine and stuck it on my Calculus binder. Seems we have come full circle, Lane Meyer.

Yes, that is Steven Williams, Mr. X from the X-Files.

I did export the Excel file and shove it into Illustrator to mess with it enough to get a GIF I could throw up here. I'm amused by scrolling.

In my daily comics email today I got this Peanuts that also reminds me of my situation, only this one is sort of sweet. It reminds me to thank those of you who read this blog and commiserate with me in my anxiety about the state of the world.

Thank you, readers. I'll try to think of something interesting to do next so I can write about it for you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I saw this man this morning while I was waiting at the light to turn left. I stealthily got out my phone and took his picture. If you can't read it here's what it says:


What does it mean? If I was holding that sign you could interpret it strictly literally and be right on the mark. Actually most people I know could agree that "less anything will help" at their home. I have too much stuff, don't you? I will work to get rid of it, too. I was actually on my way to patch sheetrock at a friend's house to help him sell the whole damn thing. And I am a big proponent of less God.

But I think context dictates this guy is actually after more stuff, ideally cash. So his sign just puzzles me.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tree Rings

Lady Longleaf needs to explain tree rings to the Sierra Club graphic designer. I got some bulk mail from them with a poster in it that made me utter a string of obscenities so vile the rats in my ceiling started coughing. 

This is the poster. I'm pretty sure that end view of a tree isn't even a Sequoia, and it damn sure isn't 3,500 years old.

What the hell?! That first interval is about 4 years, not 177. I think this is a farm raised tree. How in the hell did they decide where to put these marks? Half an inch is 100 years?

I have a counter back in Beachton made from virgin longleaf that has 100 years of rings in about an inch. I don't have a picture of it with me, but I do have a table my uncle made out of some old growth longleaf.

See how tiny these rings are? And not all perfectly even. This is how trees with a long lifespan grow in a forest.

Here's another piece of longleaf I have here in Texas. It's a stud cut out of my ancestral home when my aunt put in a French door. This tree was cut down over 100 years ago and was easily over 100 years old at the time. (This is ~58 years worth of rings right here.) Something unusual happened to open up a bright spot in the woods in a wet couple of years so it could grow really fast when it was young. My countertop tree has about 300 rings in this same space.

The Sierra Club should have access to better tree ring images or at least more resourceful designers. I mean, this is what I can come up with just in my own house. I'm extremely annoyed that the people involved in making this poster have jobs and I don't.

Friday, July 15, 2011

John Oliver goes to Cape Canaveral

Yeah, this made me cry.

What made me laugh was a story on NPR this morning where the interviewer was talking to a Russian about how proud they must be now that American astronauts are depending on them for their ride to the space station. He said not really that proud. To loosely quote from memory:

If a man's Mercedes breaks down in the desert he'll find other transport until he gets another Mercedes. If he sees a camel on the shoulder he might ask for a ride and the camel rider says, "Sure, give me $63 million dollars and climb on." But it doesn't make a camel better than a Mercedes.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Last Launch

I haven't said much about the space program this week because frankly every time I think about it I start to cry. I've been saving up for the actual launch when there's just no help for it. My Twitter feed is keeping me fully informed about what's going on at Kennedy Space Center this morning. About 5 am I got a text message from my friend with a NASA badge saying he was standing outside the launch control center, ready to see what there was to see. I set Spaceflight Now's feed to text notification in case something happened while I was asleep. About 6:30 the messages started coming in so fast there was nothing to do but get up and turn on the live webcast. The talk about the future and past of the space program is really bringing me down, though, so I might just turn it off and follow the actual launch prep on Twitter only. They're aiming to launch at 10:26 am CST for us Texas people, or 11:26 local launch time in the Eastern time zone. The weather is not good and they probably won't go.

Spaceflight Now has the best status updates and Livestream video.

There's also Ustream of NASA TV if the other doesn't work.

Here are my favorites to follow in order of good information:
@TreyRatcliff (taking photos at NASA Tweetup)
@Cmdr_Hadfield (Putting up frequent photos)
@SethGreen (mostly retweeting today)
@NeilTyson (In a foul mood today. Just called weather predictors ignorant.)

And a photo retrospective of the shuttle program from The Atlantic. I didn't get past the photo of the Star Trek guys. As much as I wanted to just laugh at Scottie's shirt it was really a cry.

Watch live streaming video from spaceflightnow at

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Men, please don't proposition women in elevators

How can somebody contradict a statement like "I felt scared"? I don't understand. If somebody says they felt scared and they have no reason to lie about it then I believe them. This is what baffles me about the recent kerfuffle that came from Rebecca Watson telling a story about being uncomfortable when a man propositioned her in a hotel elevator. Her point was "Men, please don't proposition women in elevators." I think that's pretty straightforward. There's certainly no reason to discuss it. But man, is it being discussed!

This issue really went all to pieces when Richard Dawkins weighed in on it. He basically dismissed the whole idea of privileged women being creeped out by men on elevators. He made some argument about genital mutilation and other really horrible atrocities against women. You can read all about it on Phil Plait's blog. It's a blog about a blog about a blog, so here's another blog about it just in case some of you don't read the other ones. Phil gets it. Thanks, Phil. He defends Rebecca Watson and maybe jumps to some extreme conclusions that I don't really think are necessary. To me it's not relevant what MIGHT happen in that scenario or WHY a woman should be on edge. The point to me is that it's totally involuntary. I never think of any of the stuff Phil mentions that might happen.

This Richard Dawkins thing blows my mind because I'm pretty sure women's instinct to feel afraid the minute a man steps on the elevator alone with them is evolution. Women are afraid of men like everybody is afraid of snakes, or big barking jumping dogs. It's perfectly natural. We can't help it. All men live in fear that women will humiliate them and all women live in fear that men will kill them. This is just how we evolved. It is unavoidable that a woman would have a stress reaction to being put in a position to humiliate a man when she is trapped in an enclosed space with him. He might kill her. We don't REALLY think that EVERY man is going to kill us, but it doesn't matter what we THINK. Our body evolved to react with fear. All Rebecca Watson did was point this out because clearly all men didn't get the memo. She was trying to do you all a favor and fill you in on what women want.

I posed this situation to my friend who travels a lot and rides a lot of hotel elevators. He said he HATES getting on an elevator with a woman. He is petrified that he will scare her. "Please don't think I'm a creep!" He hugs the wall and keeps his eyes on the floor so he doesn't make eye contact in the shiny door. He said it enrages him that it has to be that way. Yeah, it does suck. But that's where we are. Somehow our evolution got us to where women are afraid of men and some men are empathetic and don't want to make us feel worse. But judging by the comments on these other blogs some men have not evolved to this point. They insist women are wrong to feel this way and they can ask us for sex whenever and wherever they want. These men will prevent women from evolving beyond this fear because it is still preventing some of us from putting ourselves in harm's way. Our fear makes us alert. Actually, it kind of makes me a hermit. It's why I like the Sunday matinee at the theater downtown because I can walk back to my car in the daylight. Actually I feel bad calling it "fear" because it's just a mild stress reaction. But it goes from mild to overwhelming when somebody actually talks to you and asks you to go to their hotel room. For my delicate constitution I expect it would be enough of a brain chemistry change to trigger a migraine, no kidding.

Now another friend popped up on chat and made me realize that more about this topic that is argumentative. I want to be really clear.
  • This discussion is not about what actions the woman on the elevator could/should take
  • The stress reaction is automatic. The brain releases the chemicals without conscious effort
I had to explain this to my friend with a lot of caps lock. Especially when he said this.
Women need to work on that innate fear/stereotyping, because there is a huge variety of men of all different stripes on a broad spectrum of sexuality
We cannot "work on" an innate fear. It's innate. You might as well tell me to work on growing red hair. That's the whole point of this discussion. How do you not get it?! MEN ARE SCARY! I tried to equate it to snakes. He said he doesn't agree all men are snakes. What? No, all men are men. All snakes are snakes. Some snakes are harmless. But people have an innate fear of ALL snakes. Women have an innate fear of all men.

OK, great. Another man friend of mine has popped up taking the elevator man's side. Saying he didn't do anything wrong.
Well, I don't think the guy in the elevator did a damn thing wrong... Except, perhaps, not be attractive to Rebecca.
If he was someone she was interested in, this would have been a Good Thing.
No. Listen. This is the reason she brought it up. He did do something wrong. No man should ask a woman back to his room on an elevator. Period. That's it.

I'm still having the argument with this guy on IM. I can't believe it. He's proposing scenarios of what she could do or say. See bullet point one above.
Sorry, I'm not going to put limits on men speaking, politely, to women.
OK, what aren't you getting? It's NOT POLITE TO PROPOSITION A WOMAN ON AN ELEVATOR! EVER! There is no leeway on this.

So of the four men I talked to today about this two instantly got it. The first one had already heard about the events over the weekend but not the Richard Dawkins part. He immediately said that arguing something worse exists doesn't make a minor wrong go away and that was the end of that discussion. The second one is already well aware of this problem of women being scared. The third I convinced quickly, and the other is stubbornly arguing stuff that's not cogent to the point, which is very specifically, creepy behavior in hotel elevators. He finally came around after watching Rebecca Watson's video from the link in Phil Plait's post.

The part where she talks about the elevator incident is at 4:30. My friend says now:

I still maintain there are scenarios in which this might not be creepy, but it is clear that this was not one of them...

So he came around. I asked him why he automatically defended the man instead of just taking the woman's word for it that she felt creeped out. He said he automatically defends people who are put upon.

Ooooohhhh, I think I get it. Men are jumping to defend the other man because they think he's being attacked. I really didn't see it that way at all. She was just using that experience as an example for other men of what not to do. She never said that man who made her uncomfortable should be sanctioned in any way. That's why I didn't understand why he would need defending. She wasn't even talking about him really. It was meant as a broad lesson.

Apparently the details are important to men. My friend explains:

One thing that is a give-away was the guy said "don't take this the wrong way." That's a huge red flag...
It says "I know this seems creepy but I'm doing it anyway."
"you're interesting, wanna get a coffee sometime" may not be creepy... May not...
"Don't take this the wrong way, but you're interesting and would you like to come to my hotel room now for coffee" at 4am is fucking creepy.
Why did I jump to the conclusion that she was over-reacting? Because I assume the first situation, because I would never do the second - it's truly hard for me to imagine doing that to someone...

I think this is the same situation my second friend was in. He couldn't imagine anybody would really be genuinely creepy. This is why I'm writing this. This is why Rebecca Watson started the discussion about it in the first place. It doesn't happen to me a lot because I'm a complete freaking hermit. But it has happened to me enough to make me want to be a hermit. There are a lot of men out there who are seriously socially stunted. They are ruining it for the rest of you.

I'm really sorry for my friends who get it and who have to worry about making women uncomfortable in elevators and on the street at night. I don't know what to do about it. All I can say is if we are tough enough to deal with our physical effects of this stress you can just suck it up and deal with it too.

Of course I'm not happy with this argument as I'm an engineer and all problems have technical solutions. I think I will pay more attention to which hotels have glass elevators looking out on giant public atriums if I ever go to a conference.

*Update already. I have to put in a link to this letter to Richard Dawkins from victims of sexual assault. It is very well written and succinct. I wonder if Richard Dawkins is like my friends and he just can't conceive of somebody being that creepy? Too bad he doesn't have a friend like me on IM to 'splain it to him. In all caps. With curse words.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Tim Minchin Rocks Nerdy Atheist Austin

Oh, Tim Minchin is so wonderful. Went to see him tonight in Austin with about 1100 others.

Tim started his show at the Paramount with "Rock and Roll Nerd." It was just like they start movies at the Paramount. No cartoon, no previews, no message about turning off your cell phone, just roll 'em!

The crowd didn't need warming up anyway. This was the perfect opening number for Austin. They came to see Tim and they were ready. Some people can really yell loud. Somebody in the balcony loved Tim at the top of her lungs. He loves her too, even though he can't see her, as it should be.

The piano was well equipped with microphones too. The sound was actually quite good. It pleased me immensely that the songs were familiar to me from YouTube, yet the live sound was SO MUCH BETTER than on my built in computer speakers. It reminds me why I studied audio and acoustics in college. I just love how good live performances can sound. Everything was perfectly understandable, I didn't miss a word. They used just enough reverb in just the right places and it all made me very happy. That's why I buy tickets and go out.

He did some lovely jokes between the songs. He did "If I Didn't Have You" to a recording of himself singing harmony. I like this song because it's about how fate is bullshit. It's really the ultimate love song because it doesn't attribute any mystical nonsense to why two people get together and stay together. He also did "Storm" to the jazz track like in the animated version. Pretty much the rest of the time he played piano.

And I mean to tell you, damn, he can play piano. I really enjoyed it a lot. I appreciate that he knows he can play too, as evidenced by his beat poem "Mitsubishi Colt" which he didn't do tonight, but that one ends up with him hitting a guy in a bar who implied he was inferior to Elton John. He is not a comedian who plays piano. He's a musician.

He did his new song "Context" that I'd seen on the Comedy Central web feed from Bonaroo. That went over well even though it's pretty corny. He did "The Pope Song," very catchy, I love that one, have mentioned it here before. He did "Prejudice" which is a favorite of mine. I can go a whole day singing over and over "Only a ninja can sneak up on another ninja."

He did a joke about his 4 1/2 yr old daughter and then played a lullaby in the "Go the Fuck to Sleep" vein. This makes four shows I've seen at the Paramount since I moved here and in every single one somebody did a bit about their kids. I feel compelled to rank them.

  1. Patton Oswalt -- "Lack of sleep smells like cake mix and violence"
  2. Tim Minchin -- "My heart says I love you but my brain's saying fuck you! I'm hoping a child trafficker will abduct you."
  3. Adam Savage -- His twins are teenagers. He told of catching his son looking for internet porn for the first time. He knew it was the first time because browser history showed he googled "Nudies." They had a talk where he explained the concept of things you can't unsee.
  4. Craig Ferguson -- I can't remember, which is why he's #4. I just remember at the time thinking Patton Oswalt's bit was better.
Tim closed with "Dark Side" enhanced with a funny fog machine then came back to do "Confessions." For his second encore he did "White Wine in the Sun" which I was really hoping he wouldn't do because it makes me feel bad about how Christmas goes with my family and makes me cry. For the third encore he did what he calls butchering Cohen, but it was a really lovely version of "Hallelujah" with the audience singing the lead and Tim on harmony.

I hope Tim had a good time in Austin and it wasn't too hot and weird for him.