Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Face it...


Think of all of the faces we all have (no this is not another koan about showing me the face you had before you were born or what is the sound of one hand clapping). If you live in a city of any size, you know what putting on a sidewalk face is. You know that you have to have a certain face available for riding public transit, a certain face when you are shopping at a mall, a certain face for work, a certain face for a job interview, a certain face for a date and yet another face when you look in the mirror. But which face is the real one?

The face I hate to put on the most is the one I have to wear if I’m at an event, trade show or presentation. That’s one reason I hate going to business conventions like the one I was at in Atlanta. There is nothing worse than my super fake face. I hate smiling unless something is genuinely making me happy.

Much as I love going on cruises, one of the most painful things about them is having your photo taken every ten minutes so they can coerce you into buying them. They are rarely very good photographers so you find yourself painfully holding a frozen smile for agonizing minutes before they snap the stinking photo. Often I catch myself automatically going into a Sears Catalogue model pose when the cruise photographers show up.

Many times I am tempted to buy cruise photos because they are so bad that I cringe at the thought of them being on display throughout the cruise. But in a way, the photo gallery on a cruise ship is part of the entertainment. Because, as you browse through other people’s hideous photos, you realize that perhaps you aren’t as ugly as you think you are.

Does that make me a bad person?

Dorian Gray had the right idea. Put on your best face, have a portrait done and then let the photo age and take on all the ugliness while you stay young and unblemished by time and experience.

As I write this, the mechanical monkey is staring at me and I realize that he has only one face. I guess it would be a bummer going through one life with one face (though I’d opt for going through life with one chin).

Maybe that is why the monkey always has that grimace on his face.

But at least I always know it’s his real face.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Ye Olde Curiosity Shop


There is a tourist shop on Seattle's waterfront that has always fascinated me: Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. Perhaps it is because it looks like my office. Or perhaps my office looks like the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop because of the stuff I used to buy from them. For example, the genuine shrunken head fashioned out of goat skin that is perched on my flashing plastic crow on a skull shown above is from the Curiosity Shop (the skull is actually from Big Lots...my favorite store when I am in the mood to buy useless, cheap crap that I usually end up immediately sending to Good Will). The head is pretty darned realistic looking. But if you go into the Olde Curiosity Shop, you can view real shrunken heads from the Amazon and two genuine mummies...Sylvester and Sylvia.

There's lots of weird stuff like that at the Olde Curiosity Shop. Problem is, it's pretty cramped and almost always full of tourists just dying to buy a t-shirt that says something about all the rain in Seattle. So, I don't really go there much anymore. I mean, after you've bought one shrunken head, what else is left.

Thinking back to childhood, I was always fascinated by weird stuff. My favorite part of field trips to the Idaho Historical Museum in grade school was this stuffed two-headed calf that they had. I thought that was pretty cool. I was never sure what it said about Idaho's history, but I think it had something to do with the dangers of inbreeding. I could have pretty much learned that lesson by looking at the way many of my cousins turned out. My mom came from a family of 13 kids and some of the younger ones pretty much showed what happened when you start scrapping the bottom of the DNA pool. And lord I have some butt ugly cousins.

But, I digress.

I've always figured I keep odd stuff around because they are conversation pieces. Essentially this means I spend a great deal of time explaining why I have a warthog skull on my coffee table. Oh, and that doughnut in the tape dispenser is just about nine years old. It was my own little experiment in mummification. Plus it is practical. I figure if push comes to shove in an emergency, dipped in a little coffee that sucker will be as good as new.

Nevertheless, as I get older, I find myself less drawn to collecting weird crap just for the sake of having it. One, the clutter is really getting to me and two, I don't want to end up like a friend of mine's aunt who collected tons of these porcelain figurines and would superglue them to shelves so they would be easier to dust and wouldn't fall over in the event of an earthquake. Of course, they discovered she had a brain tumor, so that could have contributed to that line of thinking in her case.

Oh well...

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Smile when you say that....



I can't carve a happy pumpkin. Tess carves happy, nice pumpkins. Mine have to be demonic. Because that is the point of carving a pumpkin for Halloween. They are supposed to be scary. They are supposed to frighten away the bad spirits. That's their purpose. Because Halloween is when spirits are supposed to be mucking about looking for a place to stay (kind of like relatives). To keep them from dropping by and staying, you turn of the heat and lights and put a bunch of scary jack-o-lanterns around to fright them (again, like you do with relatives).
Of course, the tradition in the old country was to use turnips. When people came to America, they realized that turnips were a pain to carve and pumpkins were in abundance. Thus, the carved pumpkin tradition.
But every year, Tess carves a pleasant pumpkin that grins at you nicely like the village idiot and you have to smile. But Tess is a teacher and doesn't like to frighten small children when they come begging for candy on Halloween. I carve evil looking pumkins because I'd just as soon answer the door with a chainsaw roaring and send the little mooches screeking away in their Harry Potter costumes and cute little Ladybug suits. Again, they are mocking the purpose of Halloween...to scare the bejeezus out of people. When I was a kid, it was some hideous zombie or werewolf. That's a Halloween costume.
It's this politically correct crap that is ruining everything. Heck, most schools don't even allow Halloween celebrations around here. The school system in Puyallup (yes, that is a town name in Washington...and yes it is pronounced the way it looks, like the sound you make puking...phewwwaalllup) banned Halloween costumes and celebrations because they didn't want to offend WICCIAN's...our modern day witches. I must forgive the people of Puyallup, though their idea of a good time is hanging out at the Walmart. They've just taken the Pacific Northwest desire not to offend anyone to a new and absurd extreme.
But as usual, I digress. I guess it is okay that Tess makes happy pumpkins and I carve evil ones. It all balances out. And we do make a lovely couple, don't we?

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

I meet therefore I am

Most of my day's are spent in meetings. This is particularily ironic because, I'm not a meeting type person. I don't like to get together and discuss things in groups or committees. I firmly believe that any great idea tossed up before a group for discussion is like unleashing a cute little baby seal on the ice in front of a bunch of crazed hunters with clubs. You can bet it's not going to be a pretty sight once they are through.

I suppose it would be different if you were in a group of people with similar intellectual capacity, common backgrounds and fairly reasonable attention spans. But this is rarely the case when you get more than two people together to hold a meeting. If you are lucky, someone will have prepared an agenda. This comes in handy, because once you've danced around each agenda item and blathered around them without resolution, you can at least put a little check mark next to it when the person facilitating the meeting says, "Let's come back to this item next week." This usually means that this is a "regular" or "ongoing" or "standing" meeting. And the first thing that is on the agenda of a standing meeting is "old business." So basically an ongoing meeting is like being stuck in Goundhog's Day (the Bill Murray movie...google it if you don't get the reference...I can only feed you so much information here).

The worst part about meetings are opinions. As I have pointed out in my diatribe on Epinions.com, the world is full of opinions and assholes and assholes with opinions. And meetings are like opinion conventions. And personally, I hate being asked my opinion, especially in a meeting. "What do you think about that, Tim," they ask. No one ever seems comfortable when I respond, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard." This is especially true if the opinion was spouted by a person at a higher pay grade than mine. Generally a person with a higher pay grade states opinions with more conviction than the other people at the table.

Meetings are often held to arrive at consensus. To some people, arriving at consensus is like achieving Nirvana (not the group). To me, arriving at consensus is admitting defeat and accepting mediocracy. Because arriving at consensus requires allowing everyone's opinion to shape the outcome of the consensus. To steal from an old saying, an elephant is a mouse built by committee and consensus.

Truly great things are not created by committees or consensus. Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With the Wind without attending a creative writing class and having 15 other writers give her their opinion on how to improve on what went on to be a Pulizer Prize winning novel. It was her first and only novel (I know this because I visited the Margaret Mitchell house on my recent trip to Atlanta).

Michelangelo didn't rely on consensus to paint the Sistine Chapel (though the Pope did try to give him a few pointers here and there while he was painting it). When the apple fell on Newton's head, he didn't pull together a group of people to talk about it. He derived his theory about gravity on his own.

Oh, I know you are going to start pointing out great things created by groups. A single person didn't build the great pyramids. Though I imagine it was the consensus of the Pharaoh that made it happen. But this does make another point about consensus. The "committee" built the pyramids, but the Pharaoh got to be buried in it.

When it comes down to it, I guess I really don't like meetings because I'm not a team player. But then again, there is no Tim in Team.


Sunday, October 17, 2004

Mirror, mirror...


My last night in Atlanta I glanced in this mirror outside the elevators as you turned to go into the circular hallway. There was this funky wall sconce on the opposite wall that sent out this lines of light like a laser. Having just returned from dinner at the Hard Rock and infused with the uplifting light of the King's stain glass image, I decided to snap this self portrait with my digital camera. Of course, it's altered a bit with the help of software and a few accidental clicks of the mouse. I kind of like the results. Has that Erasurehead look I always try to achieve.
But it reminds me of standing on tiptoe as a kid trying to see my reflection in the toaster that sat on the kitchen counter. And when I could finally catch a glimpse of my own reflection in the mirror, I always felt a bit shocked. Because the face in the toaster was never the face I saw inside. As a boy, inside I always pictured my mature face and wondered who this boy was.
Now, as I age and look in the mirror, I still feel a bit shocked. Because now the face I see in the mirror is still not the face I see inside. Now as the lines on my face increase and my skin sags, I feel the younger face inside wondering who this stranger is staring back at me.
Reminds me of the koan: Show me the face you had before you were born.
Mirrors are odd that way.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Fried Green Blogs


This is the last day of the conference. Our badges are drooping. The consultants have largely packed up their booths and hospitality rooms and moved on to the next conference.

I've survived several mindnumbing sessions of people stating the obvious about the obvious.

Oh the awards...yes, we won three first place awards and two grand prizes. I have to admit I almost tripped my CEO getting up to the stage to accept them. For 15 minutes, all the world was right. The awards are packed in my bag already. They'll go with my other awards gathering dust next to the mechanical monkey.

I finally figured out why I keep going back to the Hard Rock (other than the lack of choices). I went there for lunch yesterday and finally noticed Elvis glowing down from a predominate stainedglass window. I felt at peace until my shrimp fajiitas came.

I ventured into a Durango Steakhouse last night. From the outside it seemed fine. Once inside I realized I'd stepped into the south's version of a Sizzler. I gave up red meat several years ago, but the temptation was too much. My Idaho roots burst through and I ordered crap. And damned if it didn't taste good. If I live in the South, I'd die in a couple of years from the fried stuff. But I'm traveling so it is ok. But Weston, my server, kind of smirked when I ordered the deep fried ice cream for dessert.

But at least I'm catching up on my current affairs here. I've watched several interviews with Mary Kay Lutirno, a documentary about Lorraina Bobbet and several more true crime stories. I miss my satellite and TIVO.

So, it's rise and shine early tomorrow and drag my bags on the train to the airport. It will be good to be home and see Tess. I've missed her most of all.

I wonder what the special is at the Hard Rock today?

Monday, October 11, 2004

The blog will rise again!

I will try and choke out this entry despite my tie. Let's just say this conference is confirming why I don't like conferences. I spent most of the welcoming reception dodging consultants who were trying to get my business card. I think they get paid by how many business cards they collect. I'm amazed, however, at my ability to to fake interest in an explanation of designing software to monitor lubricants for light rail cars.

I also had to talk one of the bartenders at the reception through how to make a bourbon and soda. He apparently was new at bartending and had never heard of bourbon and soda. When I explained that it involved "bourbon" and "soda" he looked very puzzled until I pointed out the correct bottle. He then threw Coca Cola into the glass and seemed very pleased with himself. I didn't have the heart to tell him it was supposed to be Club Soda. But then this is Atlanta where Coke came from. I wished the people in line behind me at the bar luck and darted for the food line. Let me tell you, there is nothing like pecan encrusted chicken tenders.

The four and a half hour flight was ok since I was able to upgrade to First Class on Delta (bless their southern hearts). It was that or battle with the unwashed masses in coach and pay extra for a sandwich. Though the great unwashed in First Class weren't much better. Nothing like businessmen popping off their shoes and parking their dirty feet on the bulkhead. Flying isn't what it used to be.

The hotel is ok. It's supposedly the tallest hotel in America and the view is kind of cool. I can see both the Hard Rock and the Hooters from my window. Though part of the Hooters sign is burned out and it reads "oters" at night. That cracks me up.

The three hour time difference threw me for awhile. By the time I was hungry the first night it was past 11 a.m. and the only thing available was late night room service. I've got to say, the people in Atlanta are very polite. There were very polite when I ordered a $12 plate of eggs, bacon and hashbrowns. I was polite, too when they brought eggs, french fries and no bacon. They were less polite when they brought the missing bacon.

Television is ok. Not my mega satellite system or TIVO. But I was able to flip back and forth between the National Geographic channel and a program about who built Stone Henge and a story on MSNBC about a convicted killer's last days on death row. I never did figure out who built Stone Henge (not the druids, despite their claims to the contrary), but the killer didn't get his last appeal. He did find Jesus, however.

I've eaten at the Hard Rock twice because I'm too embarrassed to go into Oters.

Fortunately the conference is a few blocks away from my hotel. You just have to weave your way through the Marta Station, Peachtree Center and a food court to get here. I haven't really seen much of Atlanta except for the cab ride in. At least I think it was a cab ride. The guy caught me outside of baggage claim and asked if I was looking for a cab. He looked real puzzled when I replied, "Why is one missing?" He offered to drive me to the hotel for a flat rate and proceeded to lead me back through baggage claim, up the escalator and into the garage. The cab didn't have any markings or a meter or radio dispatch. I sat in the back knowing he was going to drive me into the swamps outside the city, kill be and take my Blackberry. The religious music he was blasting on the radio wasn't much comfort. I figured it was just a ruse. Despite my fears, he did drop me off at the hotel and gave me a receipt. I still have my Blackberry (though I offered it to him).

I've tried walking around a bit, but I keep coming to the intersection of Peachtree and Peachtree and I give up. I have found the crackheads here much more polite than the crackheads in Seattle. They are very polite when they threaten you here. That southern hospitality, I guess.

Now I'm waiting for an award ceremony for some marketing projects I've worked on. Because lord knows, it's all about the awards.

Wish me luck. If I win, I may just go to Oters to celebrate.



Friday, October 08, 2004

To blog or not to blog

I've only been blogging for just over a month and already I'm starting to feel the nagging burnout. It's very similar to the way I felt after I got emersed in creating Disgraceland (the Web site) and had answered just one too many fan letters for Friz-Elvis, the Budgie King. I mean it starts out like fun and then I make the mistake of thinking I'm entertaining or worse yet, profound or provocative.

As the last bad guy Brandon Lee hunted down and killed for killing his wife in the Crow, "Sometimes I feel like a little worm on a great big hook." I was always fascinated by that movie for some reason. Maybe it's because Brandon Lee died making it and they still released it. The show must go on. Brandon Lee is one of the Bobbleheads in my "Bobblehead Rapture" photo.

But I digress.

Anyway, I leave tomorrow for a conference in Atlanta. I'm taking my laptop and I may or may not blog. One, I'm not terribly thrilled about the trip. I'll miss Tess and business trips have lost their thrill for me. Plus I hate wearing nametags and ties. And there is something about accomodations for business travelers that makes you feel like you are waking up in a cubicle.

Not too thrilled about flying dealing with the airport, either.

Tim-Elvis has the blues.

But I guess I won't think about it today. I'll think about it tomorrow, at Tara.

I feel an attack of the vapors coming on.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Cultivate your own garden

I always liked Voltaire. And I realize that it was satire when he wrote that the secret to happiness is to cultivate your own garden. But I really think he had a point. I should really know better than to talk about politics. I'll just confine my political self to muttering on the bus and stay out of other people's blogs.

There's no place like home.

Monday, October 04, 2004

My own theory of relativity

All theories must be backed up by a mathematical formula. So I'll just get that little formality out of the way:

PPBO=PN2

My theory is that the number of times people pass by my office (PPBO) is directly proportional to the number of times I am about to pick my nose (PN). And I'm not talking about about a digit to the knuckle up the nostril pick. I'm referring to the more casual, minor pick at something just to the edge of the nostril. More of a brush away than serious dig. I believe Seinfeld called it a "pick" versus a "dig." I just wanted to clarify this before you get the impression that I am crude and sit around blatantly picking my nose at the office. Everyone knows that should be reserved for the privacy of the home.

This formula can just about apply to anything in life that you subconsciously do that may not be construed as acceptable to do when you have company. Farting would constitute a subformula PPBO=FOL2 (people passing by my office proportion to the number of times I fart out loud). Scratching various body parts and having the boss walk by also is explained by this theory.

None of this should come as a surprise to anyone who read my blog about Fibonacci numbers. Everything in the universe is connected in some way. Oh, Einstein touted his "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction" and "Energy can neither be created nor destroy," and everyone thought he was a genius. The same "genius" would get so preoccupied by his theories that he would forget to go to the bathroom and crap in his pants. But I'm willing to bet someone always passed by his office door at the precise moment he would lighten his load, if you catch my drift and are catching on to my theory. So who is the real genius here?

And Thomas Edison with his "genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." Give me a break. Real genius is coming up with ideas and having someone else make them work. Even better is having someone else come up with the ideas, make them work and you get the credit and money for them. Even Tom Sawyer recognized that.

Not to diss on Stephen Hawkin, but he may be able to explain black holes and the expanding and contracting universe, but can he put any of it to practical use other than write books about it that most of us read, nod and then go back to staring at our lava lamps? Now if he could harvest the power of the black holes and sell their naming rights to a major corporation, that would be something.

When you come down to it, we really don't appreciate genius. It makes us feel inadequate. Perhaps that is why we are more comfortable with people like Rain Man and Forest Gump. You've got to admire a slow but special person who can tell you how many toothpicks were dropped on the floor or be successful despite having the IQ of a parsnip. And that is probably the the best explanation for why GW is our president and is so popular. I swear that, as a kid, he played in the banjo scene from Deliverance.

But that's just my theory.




Sunday, October 03, 2004

Doing the claw

It's not in my astrological chart, but I have discovered a talent I have that seems to have remained dormant in me until that past couple of years. I am a veritable genius with a claw machine. If the Who had not have already written the Rock Opera Tommy about a pinball wizard, they would have written one about Timmy, the Claw Wizard.

If you don't know what a claw machine is, they are these carnival like games that you find near the door in many grocery stores these days. The glass case is filled with stuffed animals. The goal of the game is to manipulate a claw with a joystick to pick up one of the stuffed animals and manipulate it back to a chute so you can claim your prize. Sound simple? The road to the chute, as with life, is paved with many pitfalls. First, in many cases, the claw is pretty weak and opens easily. So even if you grasp the stuffed animal, it will easily open when the claw begins its ascent. Next, stuffed animals are soft and give way easily when grasped. And finally, even if you snag a stuffed animal, manage to lift it out of the pile of other stuffed animals, odds are it will strike another stuffed animal on the way back to the chute and you'll lose it.

Despite these odds, there is rarely a time these days that I walk away from a claw machine without at least one stuffed animal. It has become like chess to me without the pretense. I can walk up to a machine and size it up immediately as to which stuffed animals are ready to fall. Not unlike the kid in the movie Sixth Sense, I have a gift. He saw dead people and I see stuffed animals that are primed to fall to the claw.

But even with my gift, I am constantly beset with challenges to prevent me from walking away a winner. I think the Sugarloaf people (the ones who manufacture many of the claw machines) are on to me and have sent their own versions of the Terminator out to stop me. Suspciously enough, nine times out of ten the minute I start playing the machine, some ponytailed mental deficient with beer breath stops to watch and give me advice. "You ain't ever going to get that one...it's too smooth." Cast your gauntlet, geek. Nothing is too smooth for the Claw Wizard.

Then they send the hordes of little kids to watch. "Hey mister, can you get that one...I want that one." I can usually ignore them, but even a wizard has limits. I almost lost it in a Top Foods the other night when a five year old berated me for only being able to snag a Bert from Sesame Street and not winning him a freakish looking NBA bear. Near god that I am, I can only make the claw do so much.

But last night I was pure poetry. I walked away with a gorilla back pack, a Miss Piggy, a stuffed dog and a Bullwinkle. The guy with the ponytail was almost in tears. Greatness is so rare these days.

And what do I do with all of my prizes? Fortunately, Tess, my girlfriend, teaches 4th grade. To her students, I am a legend...an urban myth perhaps. But when Friday rolls around and they get to draw for prizes from the grab bag they all thank me.

"He's a claw wizard,
There has to be a catch,
Claw wizard's got such a supple wrist...."