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Looking For Quacks In The Pavement

Category: Thoughts (page 2 of 13)

The Rainbow Cone Action

This morning, taking the Sunset Highway from Portland through Beaverton out to Hillsboro, I was treated to a full double rainbow on account of the clear sunrise behind me and a vigorous rain squall in my path. I noticed something as the rainbow “moved” along with the car: It seemed to exist at a distance but also pass in front of objects. That’s when I realized something I probably should have picked up a long time ago.

I always think of a rainbow as a structure which exists as a flat band “over there” somewhere, but in fact any bunch of raindrops at the correct angle from my eyes can be part of that particular illusion. It is, in fact, built by a cone (or section of a cone) in which there’s sufficient water vapor and/or raindrops.

In other words, with apologies to Jim Henson: One day I found it, the rainbow cone action.

Laugh, Damn You

I don’t bring much to the table. I accept this, most days. My looks, unremarkable. My storytelling, awkward. My strength, nil.

Several times per day, however, I can make someone laugh. That skill is one of the things which keep me going. Over the years I’ve honed a talent for responding with a suitable (if possibly off-kilter) quip for a variety of straight lines and situations. I even have some talent at gauging the audience; there’s no point in wasting my time and jabbing their sensibilities dropping a Yakitate Japan “Kurawa-san” joke on someone who can’t stand anime, after all.

And then came Twitter.

On the one hand? One hundred forty characters is near-perfect bon mot length. If you can’t fit the joke into Twitter’s constraints, Twitter is the wrong medium for the joke. You can inject humor into any conversation to which you’re even merely a bystander. If you do well, you earn RTs and Faves and LOLs and such-forth. Validation, ho!

On the other? Millions of folks chat on Twitter, a great many of whom fancy themselves quite the wit. It is so, so easy to wear out a joke by the time you’ve finished typing it. Sure, it’s funny to you, but the recipient may well get three dozen variations on the same punch line. In short: The obvious joke is, more and more often nowadays, the wrong joke. What works in your living room or around the water cooler may be withered and unwelcome, online.

So I’ve been challenging myself lately to think outside the easy one-liners and programmed responses. This can only elevate the general quality of my comedy, on-line and off-line, am I right?

Yes… as the late, great, George Carlin once said: “These are the thoughts that kept me out of the really good schools.”

Government As Sportsball

This, folks, is what happens when your government is run almost exactly like a sportsball league, right down to the corporate sponsorships. It’s all “us versus them,” and “we” can only “win” when “they” are made to “lose.” And the fans are cheering, rah rah rah, in the stands while the nitty gritty details of, you know, trying to run the country are smashed flat and squashed into the muddy grass.

Congratulations, America, this is the government you voted for. Not that you were given much choice.

What truly infuriates me about this even above-and-beyond the “I know people who are directly buggered by this” factor is that there are people delighted by this outcome because it somehow “proves” something. Hell, the only thing worse than this giant ridiculous pileup at the line of scrimmage is on those few occasions when the corporate backers convince both teams to run in the same direction…

A Question About The (Hypothetical) Next Project

Between the “radio play project” and the “serialized story posted online project” I’m leaning toward the latter for now, with the former project as something I’ll tackle once I feel certain I can tell a proper story during a set amount of installments. Or, put another way, I’m making sure I can walk before I attempt to run.

With that stated for the record now, I am curious enough to ask: Would twenty-six weekly installments make for a satisfying story experience, or should I try for something shorter (thirteen installments), or would the same number of installments in a shorter time period be better (twice a week for thirteen weeks, for instance)? And, yes, I’m basing these numbers on the length of typical anime series runs. The other model I could’ve based this on is the BBC’s propensity for six-episode series runs which seems a bit tight for a writing project. (It’s just about perfect for a radio play project, though, AHEM.)

What do you think, ladies and gentlemen?

Less Than A Dozen To Go

There are either ten or eleven more Quacked Panes comics left before the end.

That’s… quite a weird realization. I mean, I’ve known since last year that Year Four would be “it.” I’m not having second thoughts. Four years, though, that’s a long time to have done something week in and week out, reliably, on time. It’s probably the most reliable I’ve been about anything, ever.

Hmm. The less I think about that, the better.

I don’t know what’s coming next, and I don’t know what the next ten-or-so comics will look like… except for the very last one. I’ve known all year what that’ll be.

You’ll have to wait, just like everybody else. (And by “everybody else” I mean “all three or four people who have faithfully followed the comic all this time.” Ah well.)

Technical Versus Management Problems

While searching for a way to make MediaMonkey write “now playing” data into Lync 2010’s “What’s happening today” note field (clearly, this is critical work-related tinkering) I ran across a link to an argument with someone trying to solve a problem the wrong way. To illustrate, I’d like to tell a short story about one of my proudest moments in my previous job. It wasn’t a particularly cunning software or hardware implementation, but rather it was finding common ground with management regarding a problem user.

One of the sales managers at Entercom came to me one day and asked me to find a solution to the problem of a new account rep hire who spent all day on ESPN’s website, among others, checking box scores when he should’ve been writing proposals and making calls. We discussed firewall settings, the pros and cons of various “nanny” software packages, and at the end I politely pointed out that what we were trying to do was to use technology to solve a management problem. The loose nut behind the keyboard was the actual problem, and all I’d be doing is giving him hurdles to jump over on his way toward continuing to goof off.

The manager thought about that for a minute, then agreed that he’d first try direct conversation with the hire, followed by disciplinary action if needed, then come to me for the “firewall fix” only if the other steps failed.

Within a few weeks the new hire was a new fire.

I feel good about this story, not because I avoided any technical heavy lifting but because I was able to communicate effectively with someone from a whole other world (sales) about the limitations and relevance of technology as applied to personnel issues. As a side-benefit, my working relationship with that particular sales manager improved considerably because I was able to give him the tools to solve a problem even though I didn’t actually deploy any software or hardware. We were on the same page, and that’s what mattered.

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