Friday, November 03, 2017

Hank and I observed our 20 year anniversary last year. We had grand visions of celebrating the occasion with a fancy trip to Europe, smoking croissants, and visiting whatever Europe's version of Mt. Rushmore is. However, as you might expect from a couple that eloped to Vegas and still hasn't planned their long-promised wedding reception, we never got around to actually booking that trip. We justified it by saying, "well, if we postpone the celebration another year, we'll have shipped our kid off to college and we can travel teenager-free!"

(Oh, by the way, we shipped Daisy off to college. More on that another day, but she's doing great.)

So, last month, we actually flew to Europe to celebrate our 20th anniversary a mere 13 months late. We visited Amsterdam, Paris, and Barcelona and had an amazing time. Part of what made our trip great was all the recommendations we got from friends. So, I'm going to pay it forward and pass on my personal recommendations to you all.  yw.


Amsterdam is a beautiful and clean city with gorgeous canals and a rich history. It's also famous for great museums and a "coffee-shop" culture that features weed. If you love the Dutch Masters like I love the Dutch masters (oh my god, I hate the Dutch Masters) I recommend combining Amsterdam's world-class "coffee-shops" with their world-class museums. Together you'll find the Dutch Masters to be hilarious. I'm sure some sober people can appreciate ancient paintings of nearly bald women accompanied by dead birds and bowls of fruit, but I am a lesser being.

Of course I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention Amsterdam's famous cuisine. Think back to your favorite Dutch restaurant...

Yeah, me either.

I guess I'd recommend one of the following approaches if eating non-bland food is a priority for you:

1) Throw money at the problem! Good food is all over the world, but sometimes you have to pay more for it.

2) Burgers! The Dutch don't mess those up at all.

3) Hit an Indonesian restaurant. Colonialism has ensured that there are many of them in the Netherlands so if you make sure to ask for some spicy sauce on the side, you can actually get a flavorful meal.

All this being said, we really did have an excellent time in Amsterdam. The city is charming and walkable and I could happily live there provided I had steady access to hot sauce.


You know it's a great trip when Paris is the crappiest city on your itinerary. I don't feel like we really figured out how to best spend time in the city, so instead of making recommendations for tourists, I'm going to tell Paris how to fix itself.

1) The city is filled with gorgeous old buildings that are both charm-filled and soot-covered. How about an annual powerwash day?

2) Visiting The Eiffel tower is a worthy tourist experience, and as you might expect, it's crowded. I knew that it would take a while to get in/up the Eiffel tower. What I didn't realize is how long it takes to get down off the tower. How about a slide?

3) As near as I can tell by walking past the Louvre and gazing into the windows, there are spaces in the main building which appear to be underutilized. Monetize with condos!

4) Eating in a Parisian restaurant is an experience that is not to be rushed. This is an ideal approach for those people who have infinite time, For the fraction of us that expect to die some day, how about bringing the check?

5) I know wine is a thing in France, but they need to up their cocktail game. If I ask for a martini and the response from the waiter is "Red or white?" you know you are far from home.

Note that we also very much enjoyed our time in Paris. Hank hated the Moulin Rouge, but I'm able to find joy in the campiest of shows, so I managed to even enjoy that evening. Also, boobs.


This was our favorite city. It's architecturally interesting. The food is fresh, varied, and bursting with flavor. It sits on the Mediterranean so the temperature is pleasant and there are lovely beaches. And everything designed by Gaudi is striking, clever, and weird.

See a lot of Gaudi. Make some good dinner reservations. Explore the city on foot, bike, and train. It's all amazing.

My favorite moment of the trip, however, might have been on the flight home. We were on an older model airplane that didn't have any entertainment screens, and my "window" seat was in the one row of the plane that did not actually have a window. The meal was classic airplane food featuring a potato salad that wildly veered bite-to-bite from blandly unpleasant to unpleasantly bland.

At one point Hank entertained herself by grabbing the paper lines from my meal tray, and using it as a drawing pad. I couldn't see what she was drawing but my interest wasn't really piqued until she flipped it over and carefully applied four dabs of potato salad to the backside of the paper. She then leaned over me and slapped the paper against my wall. That potato salad might have been blandly unpleasantly bland, but damned if it didn't make a good adhesive.

She followed up by drawing me an entertainment screen.

Thanks, Hank! Happy 14-month belated 20th anniversary!

Friday, September 15, 2017

What's a good word to describe me? Jokey? Wise-assy? Nonsenselicious?

Those are probably in the ballpark. Words not in the ballpark? Reverent. Inspirational. Sentimental.

So, when my friend, Rand, messaged me back in June and asked, "Have you ever officiated a wedding before?"  I was a bit surprised.

Yep, the dude was asking me to perform his wedding. Weird. Now, let me be clear that I am a big fan of Rand. I've known him for nearly a decade and during that time our friendship has evolved from we-do-nothing-but-argue-about-stupid-shit to we-sometimes-don't-argue. If you know me at all (and since you're reading this blog, you probably live with me), you know that if I've paused my argument with you, I've either slipped into a coma, or maybe we're friends now. Definitely the latter for Rand.

But officiate his wedding? That's bizarre for about 7 reasons:

1) I know Rand pretty well, but his fiancee, Sadie, was nearly a stranger to me.

2) The tiny amount of time I had spent with Sadie, I pretty much spent making fun of her. (Note: totally justified)

3) Nobody, not my wife, my parents, my co-workers or my long-ago rabbi would describe me as reverent or ministerial.

4) The only other wedding I've been a part of happened in Vegas. It was, uh, informal.

5) I have zero wisdom to offer about love or matrimony. Full credit for my enduring marriage goes to Hank and her astonishing ability to put up with my nonsense.

6) Virtually all of my public speaking experience in the last 20 years has included bullet-point-filled Powerpoint slides and self-deprecating punchlines.

7) I'm way better at talking about me than talking about you, or love.

But being asked to officiate a wedding is like being asked to be a godparent, or hold someone's beer. It is a sacred duty that is not to shirked. I may not be all heartfelt and blissy, but I am not a shirker.

So, off we went! For the next few months, I spent time getting to know Sadie, becoming ordained (thank you Internet!), and going back and forth on a suitable wedding script that met their wedding needs while also taking care that the words wouldn't burn my mouth like holy water. (Turns out, that's a pretty narrow path.)

But we did it! A few days before the wedding, with the script intact, I met with my boss to remind him that'd I'd be out of town for a few days:

Boss: Oh, right, you're officiating a wedding.
Me: Yep.
Boss: I went to a wedding this last weekend.
Me: How did it go?
Boss: Actually... not very well. The officiant totally blew it.


This was not what I wanted to hear. Bossman told me how the officiant screwed up both the audience-handling and the audio system. These were aspects of the wedding I had not even considered. Ugh. Panic set in.

By the time the wedding rehearsal rolled around, I had a pretty long mental list of things that could go possibly wrong. What I hadn't prepared for was how very noisy the wedding venue was. Rand had warned me that the outdoor venue was susceptible to noise from nearby streets and frequent airplanes overhead. What he failed to mention were the train tracks literally 10 yards from where I'd be standing. A train screeched and honked its way to halt right next to our rehearsal and then SLAMMED into a train car, presumably to couple with it.

It was ridiculously loud. Comedically loud,. Novelty-sized loud. Wedding-ruiningly loud.

But I looked over at Sadie, the bride-to-be, and she was busting up. Having the wedding interrupted by a 30-second train whistle or crash was not wedding ruining for her, it was hilarious.

And I knew it would all be ok. Even if I messed up the ceremony, or mis-handled the audience, it was going to be ok. Nothing was going to ruin their day, not some noise or a public speaking flub by me.

And it was ok. I didn't lose the rings. I said the words I was legally obligated to say. I successfully signed and mailed the wedding certificate. I done married them. And it feels nice to be connected to their wedding in this unique way. I mean, I was already somewhat connected to their wedding since they scheduled it ON MY WEDDING ANNIVERSARY, but this is pretty cool.

As an additional bonus, Hank is really digging her new role as The Minister's Wife.

Contact me if you require wedding services.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

When I embarked upon my job search, I contemplated what was most important to me in a job. I distilled it down into three must-haves for my future job:

1) A sane commute. No more hour-plus commutes, allowing multiple transit systems to potentially ruin my day.

2) Warm and friendly coworkers.

3) Good compensation

It's a pretty reasonable requirements list. I primarily applied to companies with management jobs (good $$$) here in San Francisco (good commute) with companies that were known to have a great culture (friendly!).  This was shaping up to be a pretty good process.

In the middle of this effort an old co-worker reached out to me and talked about an opportunity at the venture capital firm she works at. This would be a part-time job that might only last a few months (strike 1) taking place a couple of train rides away (strike 2) working with a bunch of venture capitalists (strike 3). I immediately rejected the notion but thanked her for thinking of me.

That was on a Friday. I spent much of that weekend thinking about how interesting this job was compared to all the other jobs I was looking at, which appeared to just be different flavors of the same thing. Did I want to manage engineers fixing bugs in education software? Or did I want to manage engineers fixing bugs in real estate software? Or did I want to manage engineers fixing bugs in human resources software?

All those other jobs were numbingly similar. This job at a venture capital firm was the one interesting one.

So, I took it. I violated all my rules. On the plus side, my title appears to be "Entrepreneur in Residence" which is baffling and pretentious and totally inapplicable to what I do there. Apparently they often call this role an EIR, so the "E" doesn't have to stand for Entrepreneur. It could stand "Engineer" or "Executive".

In this case maybe it means Experiment in Residence. Cross your fingers for me.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Today was unemploymently amazing.

First I set up a meeting with some dude who undoubtedly reached me by doing a search on LinkedIn for anyone who had "consultant" in their profile, and then spamming them all. I'm pretty sure he's trying to enlist me to sell his services to all my "clients". Given that I hadn't responded to any spammers all week, I was due. Can't wait to chat with the guy! I am accepting all meetings!

Next I headed down to the Four Seasons to meet with a billionaire venture capitalist. Seemed like the logical thing to do after responding to spam. He laid out his 30-year plan to fix capitalism while I interjected with my folksy charm and self-deprecating humor. I used all my standard interview chuckle-getters. They thudded chucklessly. However, when I told him about my personal project to write the world's best baseball betting program, his eyes lit up. I think I passed that round of interviews.

I literally had to pause when leaving the Four Seasons so that I didn't unintentionally skip with delight.

The day was rounded out by a company founder reaching out to me, saying that they saw my profile online and the part about wanting to work in a warm and collaborative environment really resonated with him. We're chatting later this week.

I need to keep all these warm-fuzzies in mind tomorrow when I'm sitting in a 7-hour interview, talking to 16 separate engineers and managers.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

I had two mega interviews this week, one with BoringCo, and one with EvilCo.

The five hours BoringCo interview was fine. One might even describe it as boring. The only surprising part was at lunch when the recruiter handed me a boxed lunch and then shut me inside a small conference room by myself to eat it.

"Don't worry that we're running late," he reassured me, "I delayed your next interview for five minutes! He smiled and then left, shutting the door behind him.

Ok, one strike against the friendly culture at BoringCo! Overall, though, the interview went well. I might actually be hitting my stride at interviewing for management jobs.

Earlier in the week I interviewed at EvilCo. That one was a tougher interview, including multiple technical sessions, and lasting a full seven hours. The best part of that one was today, days later, when the recruiter called to debrief me on the results. He explained that, overall, the team liked me. Although they thought that a different position in the company might be a more appropriate fit, everyone agreed that I had good ethics!

What exactly does it mean when EvilCo says that you have good ethics? I honestly do not know whether or not to take this as a complement. #teamSatan

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Although I'm dreading the formal interviews I have coming up next week (6 hours EvilCo interview and a 5 hour MarketingBlahblahAnalyticsCo interview) in general the process of looking for jobs has been delightful. I did not expect that to be true.

Mostly what I'm doing is talking to people. I'm talking to everyone who is willing to talk to me about their jobs or projects, and everyone who has requested some of my time.

Friend of a friend who works on his startup during nights and weekends? Sure, let's see if there's a way to work together!

Old friend from high school who popped up on Facebook asking for time to discuss the politics app he wants built? Yes, let's talk through it for an hour!

Random dude on a website for startups who spammed everyone that had "CTO" in their job history? Not only will I meet with you, but I'll give you an afternoon and hack on some code with you!

I am taking all meetings. If you're a Nigerian prince with some fund transfer issues, this is probably the time to reach out to me.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Holy cow, I am not good at interviewing. Literally every single interview or phone screen I've had so far has had some sort of awkward Mike Moment (tm).

Did actually I tell marketing company X that their website was, "dense with buzzwords"? When they gave me a polite out by saying, "Oh, really? Well, yes, it used to be confusing, but have you seen it recently?", did I really confirm my idiocy by saying, "Uh, yeah, yesterday"?

When the Engineering Director at Evil Corp described a poorly managed product with an anecdote that included this line, "...So then they re-evaluated the schedule and said they could deliver it by New Years......... Chinese New Years..." did I actually stop him in mid-lecture and ask if that story always included that pause and punchline?

Did I actually tell the CEO from last week that if they hired me, I was going to be their laziest employee?

I did, I did, I did!

Of course once in a while, I nailed the interview. When a recruiter was interviewing me to manage a data science organization, he repeatedly asked me if I was "passionate" about machine learning. I fought every snarky instinct that ultimately defines me, and actually managed to puke out the sentence, "Yes, I am passionate about machine learning."

And one recruiter, after reviewing my resume and apparently seeing that my last job was, uh, brief, referred to my time doing "antics with startups". I laughed out loud on the call, repeating the word "antics" to myself.  The recruiter was aghast and instantly apologized for referring to my experience so flippantly. I assured him that it was ok, that normally it was me saying offensive things in these calls.

So, yeah, the job hunting is going well.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

I've been unemployed for 8 (glorious) weeks now. Although I've earned a few bucks from some part-time consulting, it's time to start looking for a big boy job. Me big boy!

I really really hate interviewing. I feel like one of my strengths as a human being is describing in painstaking detail all the things that I'm terrible at. Interviewing, as I've learned in the past, is apparently the opposite of this.

Also, during an interview, you're supposed to express puppy-like enthusiasm for whatever crappy corner of the business world the company is trying to "disrupt", as opposed to the cat-like disdain I actually feel. Conversations with hiring managers are supposed to go like this:

Hiring Manager: Why do you want to work for CyberMetricMarketers?
Me: I'm really passionate about this space! Obviously the total addressable market for marketing metrics is exploding and I'm literally pissing my pants with excitement about cyberizing it.

(or something like that)

Instead, the conversations go like this:

Hiring Manager:
 Why do you want to work for CyberMetricMarketers?
Me: Rumor has it that you pay people. I'd like to exchange my time and effort for your dollars. I think I can fake my way through this job.

I had a couple informal chats with the CEO and an engineer of a company in the "people analytics" space. When I was alone with the engineer, he said, "I know this isn't the most interesting business to be in."  I agreed but assured him that I had worked at way more boring companies. Sadly, that is true.

The one thing I think I am going to be honest about though, is the number of hours I'm willing to work in a typical week. The CEO I chatted with said they had great work-life balance at their company, not like those crazy 80-hour week startups, but rather a balanced 60-hour week! He seemed proud.

If I pursue that job, I'm going to explain that I will be the laziest employee in the office. We'll see how that goes over.

Really what I should do is send Hank on these interviews instead.

Monday, March 27, 2017

After dinner last night we all grabbed some dessert and retreated to our screens/chores. The part of the day where we interact with humans had seemingly come to an end. I had my chocolate, Daisy had a couple of chocolate chip cookies, and Hank had whatever sugar-free and dairy-free monstrosity passes for dessert in her head. I think she had air juice (Note: did not contain actual air).

A few minutes later Daisy returned back to the kitchen and calmly announced, "Apparently these cookies have pecans in them."

Oh, shit.

Although Daisy grew out of several of her food allergies a few years back, nuts and sesame seeds still give her a strong reaction. We keep the house stocked with Epi Pens, but we've never had to use one. Any time Daisy accidentally consumed nuts, we've managed to get away with just stuffing her full of Benadryl.

So, we gave her a Benadryl, but her throat was still feeling affected, so we crushed up another Benadryl and had her swirl that around in her mouth and throat. That seemed to do the trick, so we re-retreated to our screens/chores.

An hour later Daisy came back and said that she was feeling worse and was having some difficulty breathing.

We're big fans of breathing in this house. I do it, like, almost every day, so we decided further action was needed. There's an emergency room 5 minutes away from our house, and Daisy was still successfully moving oxygen from the atmosphere into her red blood cells for the time being, so we piled into the car for a Saturday night trip to the hospital.

Long story medium-short, she lived! The docs in the emergency room promptly gave her an IV full of Benadryl and steroids, which simultaneously made her drowsy and jittery, and then monitored her for the next couple hours. All of which means that I sat in a San Francisco emergency room waiting room for several hours on a Saturday night.

If you can only spend one night in an emergency room waiting room in San Francisco, I'd argue that Saturday night is your best entertainment value. Such a good cast of characters!

There was the loud-banging-and-moaning guy in the next room, the weary seen-it-all-before security guard, and the wait-until-my-mother-gets-here disgusted wife of the drunk guy. It's hard to pick who entertained me the most!

Actually, it's not hard at all! It was the security guard! He barreled into the room about thirty minutes into my detention and threw open the door to the restroom.

"Man! You gotta get outta there!" he hollered to someone who had apparently been holed up in the restroom for a loooong time. Bathroom dude shambled out of the bathroom and collapsed into a seat. Thus began the next 2 hours of the cat-and-mouse game played by the dude who had no intention of leaving, and the hospital security guy whose job it was to gently move people to somewhere more healthy for them.

The most entertaining part was that every once in a while someone would go into that bathroom and would immediately bounce back out, repelled by something mysteriously horrific in there, demanding that the hospital staff find them another restroom.

I sat in my chair the entire time, wondering if I dared look into that room. Would it give me nightmares? Would I puke? What WAS in there?

Hank texted me just before midnight saying that Daisy had been discharged. It was now or never!

I cautiously made my way across the waiting room, gingerly opened the bathroom door and found.... a pile of yellow fuzzy stuff! It was not even recognizable as human. It literally looked like couch stuffing but apparently was something obviously vile to everyone else.

I didn't take a picture, but it looked like a yellow version of this (sans sweater or razor):

Any ideas?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

When I transitioned to becoming a manager from being a do-something-actually-useful-er, one of the minuses was that many of the people I had been eating lunch with and hanging out with, now reported to me. I was the boss. That made happy hours a little less happy for all of us.

So, when a new manager, Andrew, transferred to our office, I decided he would be my new friend.

Making a new friend as a male in your forties is not an easy to thing to do, especially when most of your social skills involve typing, but I threw all my charm at the problem, meaning that I mocked Andrew mercilessly and got him drunk regularly. That pretty much did the trick. I was very proud of my new friendship.

One of the things I learned about Andrew early on was that he was working on a collection. He was trying to construct a complete deck of playing cards entirely out of cards he'd find on the ground. This sounded absurd to me. Think about the last time you can across a playing card sitting on the ground somewhere. Was it perhaps never? Sounds about right. Now imagine finding 52 different ones to make a complete deck. Heck, I'll even give you a head start. Imagine you have 51 of them and all you need is the exact right card to complete your deck? How long will that take you? Perhaps forever? Sounds about right.

I couldn't get this out of my head. I imagined he'd probably got so excited each time he stumbled across a card somewhere. I realized it was probably crushing to occasionally realize that he already had that particular card.

This is about when the light bulb went off in my head. 

What if I manipulated this? What if I discreetly left cards for him to find out in the world, but it was always the exact same card, over and over and over. This would drive him nuts! I love friendship!

I scoured our house the next day, digging through all the game drawers, and finding about a dozen old decks of cards: regular decks, Winnie the Pooh decks, corporate-branded decks, etc. I pulled the Two of Clubs out from each deck and tossed the other 51 cards. I smiled fiendishly at my dozen cards and made sure to always have one in my back pocket.

From then on, every couple weeks, I'd drop a Two of Clubs somewhere I thought he might find it. I dropped them in bars and restaurants we'd attend. I'd leave them occasionally laying around the office, and a few in the neighborhood. I tried to be somewhere else by the time he found them.

Soon, I was buying packs of dozens of decks of used cards from mixed casinos. I'd distress each Two of Clubs in a different way to give it some charm and history, using a combination of folds, markers, rips, and fire. I carried them with me constantly and left them in any place I knew he'd show up soon, including hotel lobbies, Ubers, baseball games, our local haunts, and sometimes right in his jacket pocket. I enlisted my friend, Leonarda, to leave cards in places where I'd never be so that they didn't all have me in common.

I did this for four years. In those four years, I saw him pick up one or two of those cards, but by and large I made myself scarce shortly after dropping the cards. I really had no idea if he was finding any of those cards, or maybe even worse, had already figured out what I was doing.

So when I gave notice at my job, I realized I needed to wrap it up soon. That day I invited him to meet me at our local bar, and on my way there ahead of him, as I had done many times before, I placed a couple of Two of Clubs. One of them I left sticking absurdly ramrod-straight out of the top of an eye-level shrub.

Andrew strolled into the bar about 15 minutes later. He held one of the cards in his hands.

Me: Hey there. What's with the card?
Andrew: I found it on the way over here.
Me: Oh, that's right! You've got that card collection thing!
Andrew: Yeah, and what's weird is that I've found quite a few cards outside this place, and they're always the same card, the two of clubs
Me: What? That's weird. How can that be?
Andrew: I think I figured it out. I think the parking valets from the restaurant are using them for their parking system.
Me: Ohhh, that totally makes sense.

Of course this did not make sense. If you're a parking valet and are trying to keep track of different cars? Would you use identical cards to do so? Answer: you would not.

More importantly, Andrew HAD been finding my cards! And he had no clue that it was me. This was a glorious day. Now I just needed to find a way to bring this to an appropriate close.

The next day I called our mutual friend, Rand, who had been friends with Andrew for over a decade. I needed his help planning the grand finale.

Me: Are you familiar with Andrew's ridiculous card collection?
Rand: Of course!
Me: Ok, I need your help. Here's the scoop. For four years now...

And I laid it all out.

Rand and I batted a few ideas around. We decided an appropriate ending would be to gather our friends, and then utilize Rand's impressive card trick skills. I would buy 50 identical decks and would construct a deck completely of two of clubs. Rand's trick would end with me revealing the deck, showing how I had been surrounding him with twos of clubs.

A week later we made plans to grab a drink after work at our usual bar. Rand, Leonarda, and I were prepared. No one else knew a thing.

After we all had a cocktail in front of us, Rand kicked things off by asking if anyone wanted to see his newest card trick. He pulled out a normal deck, fanned it out for Andrew to see, and then performed some trick that was pretty good. Then, unbeknownst to Andrew, he swapped the deck for our deck consisting of all Two of Clubs, and asked Andrew to pick a card, any card.

Andrew of course chose the Two of Clubs, and chuckled to himself. He placed the card back in the middle of the fake deck, and Rand then magically "found" his two of clubs. Andrew was impressed.

Leonarda followed this up by offering to do a trick of her own, starting with asking Andrew to select a card. He picked, surprise surprise, the Two of Clubs. Leonarda then performed a byzantine set of cuts and swaps while furiously trying to throw cards under the table to Rand. The trick ended with Rand pulling the Two of Clubs out of his shirt pocket. Andrew was impressed again.

I then said I had one more trick and asked Andrew, one more time, to choose a card from the deck. Bafflingly (at least to him and half the people at the table), he chose the Two of Clubs again. There was no sign of recognition in his eyes. I did some lame trick and ended by displaying that I had found his Two of Clubs. And another Two of Clubs, and another. And the whole deck was Two of Clubs.

Andrew stared at me ununderstandly. He knew something was going on, but had no idea what it was.

"Andrew," I said, "For four years now..."

And I laid it all out. Four years of cards in bars, conference rooms, and baseball games, across multiple cities. Four years of Two of Clubs.

His eyes bugged out. 

Andrew: Wait, that card in the hotel lobby in Portland...?
Me: That was me.
Andrew: The card in the Uber?
Me: That was me too. 
Andrew: Did you leave the one in the alley on the way over here? I picked it up and then threw it back down in disgust when I saw it was the two of clubs.
Me: Of course that was me. They were all me, Andrew.

Andrew literally curled up into the fetal position in the booth. He was stunned. He was stunned that even after finding dozens of improbable two of clubs, he had made ridiculous theories to explain them away. Occam was nowhere to be found.

We all toasted and celebrated the long con. It remains one of my favorite times.

I got an email from Andrew the next day. He explained that when you're a kid, sometimes there are events that surprise you so much, they open your eyes and rewrite your understanding of the world, like when you find out about the tooth fairy. He said those things never happen as an adult, but that I had brought back that childlike wonder to him for an evening.

I like that a lot. Sure sounds a lot more lofty than what I thought I was doing.

I hope he completes that deck. It really is an amazing collection.

Friday, March 17, 2017

I grabbed the leftover chili out of the fridge and slid it into the microwave. I set it for 90 seconds and let 'er rip. The microwave made the god-awful noise it always makes, indicating that it's busy exciting water molecules, for about 10 seconds, and then went ominously silent. That's like my 3rd least favorite kind of silent after "deathly" and "everyone-is-expecting-me-to-say-something-smart-now-ly".

Lo, our microwave had died.

With me being the unemployed member of the household, it was my to-do item to get that bad boy replaced. I'm the go-to guy for all appliance-buying, chauffering, appointments, and chores, basically anything that doesn't require skill, knowledge, strength, or savoir faire.

I wasn't actually sure that I wanted to replace the microwave. It seems like the sort of out-dated device that we should have grown out of by the teens of the 21st century. Having a microwave feels like having a laserdisc player or compact fluorescent lightbulbs. Even the name is terrible. I'm sure it was futuristic sounding when they invented it, but now the microwave sounds as modern as stereophonic headphones. Plus, they're goddamn loud! Still a pretty fast way to re-heat chili though.

So, off to Best Buy I went, to acquire a new mic-ro-wave. Knowing that our kitchen counter space is a precious commodity, I carefully measured the old microwave to ensure that I got one that was no bigger. There weren't many models at Best Buy that were the right size, so I grabbed the most powerful one out of those few and brought it home. I don't have a lot of complex requirements for a microwave, so I knew this would be fine.

And I was completely wrong.

Somehow, in spite of being the most powerful microwave of its size, this new one was 200 watts less powerful than our old one. How did microwave technology evolve to get less powerful?

Also, there was no way to microwave something for less than 30 seconds. If you hit '20' on the keypad and then 'Start', it would launch into an ear-rattling 20 minutes of chili pulverizing.

Finally, despite being the same size on the outside as our old microwave, it was substantially smaller on the inside! What? Is this an optical illusion? Did I buy this at the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot? Was it made by Escher? Was it a blivetwave? Baffling!

This microwave was crappier than my old microwave in literally all 4 dimensions, including the time I'd have to wait for something to get unevenly warmed.

I sat back and marveled at how things really do just get worse over time. This is what the old people have been complaining about for generations, and they're right. The old microwaves were better!

Hank took all this in. I believe she used it exactly once before going to Amazon, searching for microwaves, clicking a few search options, and finding the annoyingly perfect model. It arrived 48 hours later.

I'm still go-to guy for chores though!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

First, sorry.

Second, hi!

Third, ok, let me catch you up.

You (by which I now only mean 'me') may have noticed that I've been a very bad blogger for nearly six years. I've decided to restart, but here's a quick recap on what you've (I've) missed:

When last I left my anti-hero, he was wrestling with transitioning from being a computer programmer to being a manager. I've basically been doing that ever since. I went from managing one team, to two, to various teams and other managers. My most recent gig was being the Chief Technical Officer for a small startup. All that was the primary reason I stopped blogging. Almost all of my good blogging material consisted of either making fun of people who reported to me, or ridiculing my nonexistent managerial skills. Blogging about the former seemed more mean than funny, and blogging about the latter seemed career limiting if my blog ever got found. So, that (plus a stupidly long commute, plus laziness) put a big ol' pause on blogging.

Otherwise, life is pretty much unchanged. I'm still living in San Francisco with Hank and Daisy. Daisy is a senior in high school with college looming and Hank is still awesomely Hankish. I still run, and play Scrabble, and delight in arguing over inconsequential preferences.

Oh, and I quit my job just over a month ago. So, look who has time for blogging now! (Spoiler: me)

So, again, sorry and hi. It's nice to be back. I really missed having this be part of my life and I look forward to rebuilding this muscle.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Today at work the Human Resources department hosted a two-hour meeting to teach us all about sexual harassment (more of a "Don't" than a "How To").

I sat down in an empty chair next to our corporate lawyer, Thomas, and asked for a favor.

"Thomas!" I whispered, "I have ONE GOAL for this session and that's to keep my mouth shut the whole time.  Don't let me say ANYTHING.  If you see me even begin to look like I'm thinking about uttering syllables, just elbow me, ok?"

Thomas laughed nervously.  He doesn't really get me.

"Seriously, Thomas, you don't know how tough it's going to be for me not to make smartass comments during this!"

Just then another coworker, David, sat down.

"Oooh! I want to sit by Mike during this.  Should liven things up!" he said gleefully.

I explained to David that I was going to be silent for the next two hours.  No puns, no repartee, no smart-alecry.  No sexual comments.  No masturbatory gestures.  No "that's what she said"

Just then the VP of Human Resources stood up.

"Thank you all for coming!" she announced.

I clamped my mouth shut.  Two hours to go.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

After our last 4-digit repair bill our mechanic suggested that it was probably time to stop investing money in our 13 year-old VW Passat.   When your mechanic tells you that, it probably means two things:

  • You have a very good mechanic.
  • A great mechanic probably would have told you this a couple of repairs ago.

So, Hank and I prepared to buy a new car.  We did a ton of research online and visited many dealerships to test-drive certain models.  Mostly what I learned from this experience is that being a salesman on a car lot is probably way more annoying today than it was the last time I bought a car (back in the 20th century).

People don't buy cars the way they used to.  I can sit at home in my bathrobe, look up invoice prices, compare features, email dealerships asking for price quotes, and not leave my house unless I either need to see a car in person, or am actually ready to buy a car at a pre-agreed-upon price.  What's left for the guy on the lot to do?  Narrate my test-drive and hope that the next customer is less annoying.

For example, we strolled into the Hyundai dealership and asked to test-drive an Elantra one afternoon.  The salesman was super knowledgeable about the car, telling me about the various buttons while simultaneously announcing haughtily that he didn't care for the look of the new Porsche.  I interrupted him early on in the test-drive and explained that we only had a few minutes available for the drive.

"Oh... ok, "he said disappointedly.  "Well, I definitely want to let you see how the car handles, so we'll check out the turning radius, go up some steep slopes, and drive down the REAL curviest street in San Francisco."

Sounded good to me, so we took off.  After about 60 seconds, the salesman said, "Uh... do you always... um... drive this way?"

Given that I was driving exactly the way I always do, which is pretty damn reasonable, I said that I was.  We continued the obstacle course of a test-drive he had planned out, and then I reminded him that my time was about up.  

He suggested the best route back to the dealership and then as soon as I changed lanes to get into a shorter red-light line, he said, "Wow, um... you know, you are NOT going to get the stated gas mileage if you drive THIS way."

I didn't end up rejecting the Hyundai BECAUSE this guy criticized my driving, but I would have liked to.

Meanwhile, the Acura salesman made no such faux pas.  By this time, we had narrowed down our choice to two cars, the Mazda 3, and the new Acura ILX.  I explained to the Acura salesman that we recognized that his car was nicer than the Mazda, but there was a large price gap between the two.  We had not had any luck pre-negotiating a price online with this car due to its newness.

"How much flexibility do you have on the price?" I asked.

"Zero.  I have no flexibility on the price," he stated firmly while simultaneously making a zero symbol with his thumb and forefinger.

"Zero?" I repeated, "You can't move the price at all?"

"Nope," and he crossed his arms across his chest.

"Well," I said, looking over at Hank.  "I guess we need to to figure out exactly how much more this car is worth to us over the Mazda 3.  It costs about $7,000 more, so let's see if it's worth it to us."

Hank agreed and we launched into our calculations in front of the salesman.

"It's got a fairly quiet ride," I started, since I knew that was a plus for Hank.  "That's probably worth about... $1,500?"

Hank agreed while the salesman watched.

"And alloy wheels!" the salesman added.

"That's worth zero." I replied.

"Alloy wheels are worth zero?!?!" he asked, stunned.

"Look, I don't care how much they cost to make.  They're not worth anything TO US.  This calculation is  about how much more this car is worth to us."

"Alloy wheels improve your braking distance!" he insisted.

"Ok, but this car is hundreds of pounds heavier than the Mazda 3, so it could very well have worse overall braking.  Unless you can show me that the braking is better, alloy wheels are worth zero to me."

The salesman shook his head in disbelief as Hank and I continued our calculations.

"Oh!  Remember that you noticed that dome light in the car is further from the front?" I noted to Hank. "So when Daisy turns it on to read in the backseat, it won't bother us as much!  How much is that worth?"

"That's worth about $300," Hank replied.

"What??" the salesman sputtered, "A dome light is worth MORE than alloy wheels?!?!"

"Yes, worth more to US," I explained again.

We continued down this path, adding in arbitrary amounts for incalculable things like "overall niceness" and "ipod integration".  By the end of the process, we had made up about $3,500 of the $7,000 difference between the two cars.

So, we're the proud owners of a Mazda 3.  Can't wait to do this again in a dozen years.