Batkid to the rescue!

I’ve always thought the Make-a-Wish foundation was awesome, but combine them with the people of San Francisco and something truly amazing comes together.  SF has been made into Gotham City today, with thousands of volunteers joining in to make Miles, a boy with leukemia, Batkid for a day.  Check out the screenshot of the SF Chronicle’s main website, featuring Gotham City breaking news.

BatkidAnd don’t miss the special edition paper the Chronicle printed.  Seriously awesome stuff!

On another note, I’m moving this site to a new hosting company, so if you follow the blog, please jump over to to continue receiving email notices of new posts.




Follow the links

Who can resist reading about the history of the manwich?  I couldn’t, but was doubly rewarded when I saw a mention of my home-town and the odd misnomer we use there for the sloppy joe…

As always, I have to include a link to something I found quite funny.  I’m grateful for the people in the world that will share their neuroses so openly and with such self-deprecation.  They are among the best teachers because they remind us we’re all a little crazy and we should never take ourselves too seriously…

Graham’s post about opening lines gave me a little shot in the arm.  I’ve been reading like a fiend lately, and I like to go back and read first lines after I’ve put a book away for awhile.  Perhaps it’s time to do that again soon…

This post about kids fighting over and retrieving a boomerang is great.  It reminds me of the crazy things my father let me do as a kid – things that no other person with even a semblance of concern about safety would have sanctioned.  Things like climb to the roof of the barn using the grounding wire from the lightning rod as climbing rope, then sled down the other side, to fly off into banks of snow.

I enjoyed this pensive post about the state of waiting we often find our lives or our selves in.  It’s a gentle thought-provoker…

More great fortunes

I could not confirm that the Ohio pet store ad I wrote of yesterday featured paintings of a dog and a cat.  At first, my friend thought I might be right, but when I pointed out just how stupid that would make the ad, she laughed hysterically for a minute, then decided it couldn’t really be true.  I still suspect I’m right, but I can’t be sure…

In any event, the two of us got some of the best fortunes I have ever read from our fortune cookies (manufactured in Hayward, CA, I noticed on the packaging).  Mine read:

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”

My friend’s fortune topped mine, and by a long shot, I might add – but I’ll let you be the judge…

“No one has ever drowned in their own sweat.”

I want to find the person that writes these fortunes and hire them for something – I don’t know what, but something.

Follow the Links

I’ve shared a link or two in the past to Hooked, a wonderfully interesting blog by an equally interesting woman about her experience as an Alaskan fisherman.  She was recently interviewed for a piece on Oregon Public Broadcasting about the intersection between her writing and fishing lives.  She’s shared the link from her own blog, but I wanted to share it here, too.  This is what writing is about for me.  Finding the voice Tele describes in her interview, and finding other writers like Tele who inspire me to keep refining that voice for myself.

When I stumbled on this post while tag-surfing in the infinitely broad category of ‘Writing,’ I had to read it for a few reasons, all of which are in the title, “My Big Fat Lesbian Life – Demi Moore and Orange Leisure Suits.”  Check it out.  I’m glad I did.

This post made me smile.  It’s a simple reminder that we too often over-classify or underestimate people.  We’re all guilty, and maybe that’s why it feels so good when we recognize and stop ourselves from doing so.

Here’s a humorous look at approaching the big ‘4-0,’ which I am getting ever closer to reaching myself.  When you’re done with that, though, keep going for ‘Gasoline For Valentine’s Day.’

Charlie Hale is a writer I love to read.  This post on family stories is a good example of why I’m constantly drawn back to his blog.  I, too, am a bit of a genealogy nut, but Charlie is a masterful storyteller and he seems to effortlessly stamp everything he writes with a sense of importance.

The history of the fortune cookie

Every now and then, I eat at a so-so Chinese restaurant with a friend, because it’s situated next door to my favorite dive karaoke bar in the strip mall near my home (I know – awesome all around, right?).  It’s always a good idea for me to fill up on fried rice before I head in for an evening of cheap, but strong drinks, or else I will end up singing, which amuses no one.  Of course, each meal ends with a fortune cookie, which some, but perhaps not all, people know is not actually Chinese in origin at all.  There is something of a debate on the true origins of the cookie.  Claims have been made that it originated in San Francisco and in Los Angeles and was based on a Japanese dessert.  No one is really positive, but there is no question it did not come from China.

Now, I’ve seen some ridiculous fortunes come out of those mildly sweet and crunchy (assuming they’re not stale) little delights, but the one I got most recently tops them all.  See picture.  Yes, it really said ‘Made in USA.’  I haven’t yet figured out if that is some cosmic commentary on the state of US economic affairs and the explosion of the China into the world market, or if it was some sly person’s attempt at clarifying for us dumb Americans that we did actually invent the fortune cookie.

Regardless, I like the image of some mischievous wit somewhere  whose job it is to type in a gazillion different ‘fortunes’ into a computer.  Can you imagine how much fun you could have, slipping in nonsense or completely inappropriate phrases, just to see how long you could get away with it before someone noticed?

* Online fortune cookie generator courtesy of Jim Blackler.  Try it here.

Translation challenges

It’s that time again.  I’m in the middle of a deployment tonight – this time it’s not a new software release, but the replacement of a server that runs a portion of the software platform my company is responsible for.  It’s a pretty complicated process, made more so by the fact that The Chinese Contingent is conversing in Chinese in the Skype chat I have going with them.  To keep up, I’m constantly copying and pasting their messages into Google Translator.

Rewind to lunchtime yesterday, at the office.  I ate with Long Back Guy, and we discussed work stuff – no funny stories from him this time.  As I was leaving the lunch room, I said, “I hope things go OK tomorrow,” referring to this server replacement.  He just laughed at me, heartily, as though to say there was no way this would go smoothly today.  Of course, he was right.  We’re having problems as we speak.  Problems I can do little about, except use Google Translator to have some sense of what they are.  The step we’re at right now involves copying data – normally, there is a centralized process we can call that copies all the data we need and we just have to sit and wait around for it to finish.  It takes an hour and a half or so.  This centralized process isn’t working, though, so the guys are copying data for each individual application that runs on the platform.  When the point person handling this was asked how long it would take, he replied with this (Note:  this part was typed in English because the person asking the question asked in English):

there are 39 applications need to do copy

if we figer 5 min for each app, then got 200 min almost

i will update my evaluate, when first app done

So, my task at the moment is to wait for his evaluate.  Since I am stuck translating tonight, I will share the love and give you a different sort of translation challenge to chew on.  Earlier this evening, I got an email about the server replacement (technically called a cutover), and my other half was closer to my computer than I was – I asked her to read the email to me.

There is a  trust from beaver to coyote, I  have confirmed with Mike and we think it should be configured the same way for mouse (from mouse to coyote).  Please ask Frank to do it as well.  We need to make sure that on mouse the following command can be executed without inputting a password:

oracle@mouse:/$ssh oracle@coyote

[Note:  Person and animal names changed to protect the innocent.]  Now, I didn’t give my other half any background before reading this email, and she only got through the first sentence before she looked at me, puzzled, and said, “Is this real?  Is it a joke?”  I said, “No.  Keep reading.”  When she got to the final line, she read $ssh as “Shhhhhhh!”  This was highly amusing to me, though it may not be to you unless you are also a computer nerd.  It is common practice for development shops to give their servers names, and they often pick fairly random classes of terms to use.  In this case, animals.  Our client names their software releases after cars, and their servers after animals – most of the time.

I got this message in a recent email about an unrelated project:

I dropped off the gzipped tarball on nap-happy

I love that sentence, don’t you?  If you are really interested in knowing what it means, let me know, but it’s not actually very exciting at all, and I expect most of you would fall asleep if I spelled it out.  I will say, though, that ‘nap-happy’ refers to a server, so there must be some servers our client has that are named according to emotions – or perhaps the seven dwarves – I can’t really be sure.

What’s in a career?

I’ve spent the past fifteen+ years working in technology, and while I never intended to work in the industry, I’m grateful that I fell into the profession at a time when falling in was good.  It’s a rare profession, in that, you can make it without a degree – or at least you could back when I started, and I suspect you still can if you get the right opportunity at the right time.  I got in during the dot com boom, when spelling the name of a particular technology correctly would often get you the job.  I started in project management, but eventually felt like I’d be a better project manager if I knew how to program, so I learned how to code, and switched direction.  Eventually, I melded the two together and worked my way into management positions.  In the early years, anything I did felt exciting, especially compared to working in a restaurant or a factory, which were the two options available to me had I stayed in the Midwest.  Occasionally, I got bored, and when that happened, I’d switch jobs and things worked out well over time.

A few years ago, I finally decided to go back to school, even though I’d already made it far enough in my career that I didn’t really need to.  It was one of those things I just wanted to do – a Bucket list sort of thing – and so I did.  Three years later, and I’m very close to finishing my Master’s degree.  In the few years I’ve been in school, I’ve worked freelance a bit and did a six-month stint working for a friend whose start-up got funded.  I took another six months to focus on my Master’s, and just over 4 months ago, I joined the workforce as a full-time employee again.  I was close enough to the finish line that I figured I could finish my Master’s while working, which has gone fine.

What I didn’t expect was the impact my Master’s program would have on me in terms of really evaluating what I want to do with my career.  Lots of people that go through the program I’m in come out changed in the end.  I read that a lot before I started, but didn’t really expect it to happen to me.  My M.A. will be in Organizational Leadership, and the focus is very much on the sociological and psychological elements of organizations and management.  It’s also a very personally focused program, meaning practically every course is designed to encourage the student to really reflect on him or herself, and look for meaning in the things we do.  I’m a thinker and I analyze things around me all the time, sometimes too much, but in any case, it was a perfect fit for me.

The problem I face now is in finding the right company to work for.  I don’t want to just work in technology to work in technology.  I want to be able to be passionate about what I do, and I don’t think that will come without finding a company I can feel passionate about.  So, I’m starting again with a short list of companies whose products and services I use and enjoy, whose philosophies are in line with my own.  I have no idea whether I will be successful in getting my foot in the door or not, but I have to think that a smart company will realize how valuable it is to have employees that already love their products.  Of course, I have to have the skills, too, but that’s not the part I’m worried about.  It’s all about getting that first introduction, that first contact, an opportunity to show your stuff.  I sent my resume to one of the places I’d really love to work for last night.  Their job listing made clear they get hundreds and hundreds of resumes for every position, and they ask people expressing interest to make themselves stand out in the email they send with their resume.  Below is the email I sent.  If this doesn’t get their attention, I’m not sure what would…

I am writing to express my hope that this email marks just the first of many conversations I will have with you.  I would like to join your team, first and foremost, because I love [Your Product], but that is not the only reason.  Your company has a unique philosophy, as I’m sure you’re already aware, but you may not know how well aligned your philosophy is with my own.  I think collaboration and open source are great things.  I believe in simple, yet powerful.  I think customers should be happy.  I think people need new things to keep them engaged for more than short periods of time.  I think people need technology to be easy or they will go find another service that makes it so.  I think people that use a free service are more than willing to pay for premium upgrades if that free service is rock solid and high quality.  [Your Product] is all of those things, and more, but I will stop here in an attempt to stay brief, as you requested in the job listing.
On to a few reasons why I may be the best person in the world for this position…
I have worked in technology for fifteen years, almost entirely on web or mobile projects or products.  I love the Internet, writing, playing pool, watching crime shows, and getting things done.  In fact, I am the best multi-tasker I know, which is one of the reasons I would be a perfect [Job Title] at [Your Company].  For more on my multi-tasking obsession, see point 3 on this blog post.  You’ll also be excited to know that I was the co-founder of a web hosting company once upon a time, so I understand what your clients want.  I have worked at a handful of start-ups, and flourish in an environment where good ideas get somewhere, without a lot of bureaucracy and red tape that suck the life out of employees.  I have been a developer, a project manager, a product manager, and a manager of all those types of people in places as diverse as a marketing agency, an insurance company, a utility company, a software consulting firm, and a hair salon.
I have attached my resume for you to review at your convenience.
In closing, I would like to add that when you read my resume, you may think I am overqualified for the [Job Title] position.  If that is your first instinct, I urge you to set aside that concern.  I am currently gainfully employed for a company that pays me a healthy salary, but I am bored out of my skull.  I want more than anything to work for a company that I can be passionate about, and I really would be an excellent [Job Title].  That said, if there are other positions for which you think I might be the right [fit], I am happy to discuss them.  Finally, you currently have only one employee that is a Wisconsin native – or at least only one that is willing to advertise himself as such.  I, too, am a Wisconsin native, and you should really employ more than one person that hails from the frozen tundra.  We bring a unique perspective, especially on meat and potatoes, squeaky cheese, and the Old Fashioned.

Follow the links

I recently started following this blog because a post appeared on Freshly Pressed and I thought it was really funny.  I read some more, and this one had me trying to unsuccessfully squelch my laughter at 1 am so I wouldn’t wake anyone else up.  Why is it that when you try not to laugh, it just gets worse?

This post is so thought-provoking, everyone should read it.  It’s about not speaking up, something we’re all guilty of at one time or another, but something we should all work harder to avoid.

If you read my recent post about spam vegetable strudel, you’ll know why I chose this one

I think I’ve found a new favorite tag to search blogs for. It’s “Stupid.”  You should try it yourself, but first, check out this post about possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of a politician trying to do…

Spam vegetable strudel

Have you ever had one of those ideas that seemed completely brilliant until you said it out loud?  I had one of those today.  It was a thought for an essay, but when I tried to describe it to my partner, it just sounded sort of dumb.  Reflecting on it, the idea isn’t actually dumb – it’s the fact that I can’t articulate it in the brilliant way my brain first conceived of it that’s dumb.  It was a flash thought (though there’s got to be a better phrase for this concept) – a thought that must be made up of more emotion than thought, because at the moment it makes great sense, has tons of promise, and is something I can most certainly write and immediately have accepted for publication in a highly acclaimed literary journal, if I can only find the time to sit down and get it on paper.  Now that I’m sitting down, though, I can’t capture that perfect thought, and I think it’s because the words around the idea never solidified.  They zapped themselves in and out of my brain the way a person’s name does when I’m first introduced to them.  I forget names before I even finish hearing them.

Anyway, I guess there’s not much harm in having a smart thought turn dumb on you.  As long as it’s a thought, anyway.  Say it out loud, put it on paper, inadvertently send something moronic in an email to your coworkers – that could be more harmful, but in my case, it’s just a writing idea I need to kick around a little longer to see if it develops.  If it does, great – if not, no big deal.  Spam vegetable strudel, on the other hand, seems like it is probably a true monstrosity.  As a Google fan, I use GMail, and it doesn’t bother me at all that they target ads to me based on the content in my emails.  The ads are so unobtrusive, I rarely even notice them on the screen.  A few days ago, though, this line virtually leapt off the page at me.

Spam Vegetable Strudel – Bake 20 minutes or until golden, serve with soy sauce.

I couldn’t comprehend first why this ad would appear above my inbox, but more importantly, why anyone in their right mind would not only put those three words together, but actually create a recipe, then pay to advertise something so preposterous.  I believe I have solved the mystery of why it appeared in my personalized ad window.  At first I thought I must have used the word ‘strudel’ in an email.  That would be odd, but not unheard of – I come from a very German part of Wisconsin, and ate plenty of apple strudel growing up.  In fact, we had to sell something like strudel door-to-door to raise money for band at school.  Technically, those were kringles, though, not strudels.  Anyway, I thought maybe I discussed a recipe for apple strudel or something with my sister, who is an excellent baker, and just didn’t remember doing so.

Apple Strudel

I searched my mail, though, and was surprised to find that the other two words were the culprits.  They appeared in plenty of emails in my trash folder.  Don’t worry.  I didn’t intentionally have regular discussions about vegetables or spam with other real human beings.  The words show up at the bottom of other advertising emails I get because I bought something and never bothered to unsubscribe from a mailing list.  ‘Vegetable,’ in the case of a gift from Williams Sonoma, and ‘spam,’ courtesy of Writer’s Digest emails that have a daily ad for some other writing website at the bottom promising that if you sign up for their weekly email report, you will get no ‘spam.’

Back to Spam Vegetable Strudel, though.  Because I am obsessed with looking things up on the Internet, I took a few minutes to Google ‘strudel,’ because I thought strudel was only a sweet pastry.  It turns out that savory strudels are not uncommon in Germany, but I have to think Germans would be mortified at this version of a time-honored tradition that dates back hundreds of years.  Serve with soy sauce?!? Come on.  There’s just something wrong with the whole picture.