Dear Santa…

I hope this lett…this blog post finds you in the best of health, and that the economy hasn’t forced you to layoff too many of your overworked, enslaved yet surprisingly cheerful helpers.

With Christmas a mere 60 days away I thought I’d take a moment to clear the air with you. I’m not going to go into details about if I’ve been bad or good since, well, you know that already. But what I’d like to do is explain what’s going on in the video below:

As is obvious, it’s my son Anthony riding his go-kart with what appears to be a gigantic stuffed replica of your most famous reindeer, Rudolph, behind it.

Ahem, allow me. There was no malicious intent, malice, or anything else going on in that devious mind of his when he decided to attach Rudolph to his go-kart. It was just a kid having a little fun is all.

I hope you find it in your heart to forgive the little devil because behind the evil smile, he really is a good kid and does deserve a little sumpin’-sumpin’ this year for Christmas.

But if he gets nothing but a lump of coal I wouldn’t be too surprised.

Thanks,
Dave

Signs

 

"Machines..."

 

You know, there are certain signs once should heed. It could be one of those instinctive things that your gut just naturally tells you not to do or it could be one incident that might just eventually lead to a chain of catastrophic events.

Mine came a few weeks ago and yes, I should have listened.

I’m a brown-bag lunch kind of guy and have been since I decided to lose weight. Granted there are times when I decide to eat out for lunch or tag along when a group of co-workers goes somewhere but for the most part, I pack my own. And on occasion I look in my bag and decide that what I packed wasn’t quite enough or not exactly what I wanted.

That’s when vending machines come in handy–or drive you crazy.

It was a few weeks ago when I posted this picture to Twitpic, expressing my overall disappointment in the fact that my bag of Pop Chips was thrown into a state of suspended animation as it was dispensed. As you might be able to see, there is another door inside the vending machine that I suppose is designed to deter or discourage theft. When you stick your hand in the machine, the secondary door appears from out of nowhere and protects the machine’s precious cargo from those looking for a freebie. (But should you be fortunate enough to have pliable limbs like Plasticman, you’re still good.)

This somewhat superfluous door, however, presents a few problems as well. First, it increases the chances of items getting caught while making their break for freedom and, if they do get stuck and no matter how hard you shake the machine, it’s damn near impossible to get them out.

But let’s get back to the signs.

This morning, instead of opting for what’s becoming an extremely unwanted habit of drinking a cup of Michael Jackson Coffee (you figure that one out), I meandered over to the cafeteria for a can of Diet Pepsi. I had brought enough change from home to easily buy a few if I needed to.

So I plop 75 cents into the machine and make my selection. Nothing happened.

I try it again and still, nothing. It was then when I looked at the blue LED screen and it was flashing “EXACT CHANGE ONLY” (or 65 cents). Only having quarters I figured I might as well try the bottle machine instead. I wanted my fix.

I take a few steps over to the bottle machine which gladly took my 5 quarters. I make my selection and this time the machine’s display reads, “Please Make Another Selection”. I guess I didn’t want that Diet Pepsi today.

A bit disappointed, I hit the Change Return button–and only get 4 quarters back. Sonofa…

Dejected, I trudge my way back to my desk and get to work. Hours pass and it’s now lunchtime so I head back.

I entered the cafeteria and gave both machines the stink-eye. I could almost hear them telling me, “GET OUT OF HERE, MORENO!” But I didn’t. Instead, I walked right past them and thought I’d take my chances with the food machine again. After all, what were the chances of having another bag of chips get caught in there, right?

There were bags of Harvest Cheddar SunChips in there. My favorite. Much like Sun-Dried Tomato Wheat Thins, I think the secret ingredient is crack or something because once I start eating them I just can’t stop.

I reached into my pocket, grabbed 4 quarters and dropped them in, make my selection and as the machine dispensed my 15 cents in change, I could almost taste the cheddar cheese goodness that was about to hit my tongue.

Except for one small problem… Continue reading

Friday 5: Holy Moly!

In what could become a regular feature here on ye olde blogge, I’ve decided to take a cue from Kimberly at LadyGypsy.net and take part in this week’s Friday 5 list. Not sure if this is strictly a girl thing or not so I thought I’d give it a try. Besides, I figure that since I’m on a roll with two posts in two days, I might as well make it three.

This week’s topic: Holy Moly!

1. What gives you the heebie-jeebies?
I’d have to say confined spaces or being trapped in a small space or the fear of being buried alive. I’m not entirely sure why but there’s something about being trapped in a small space that will absolutely freak me out. More to the point, being confined and not being able to escape, that is having my hands tied or being extremely restricted in movement. One time I was playing with Anthony and I wanted to play a trick on him by hiding in a deck box and jumping out in the hopes of scaring him. The problem was that he figured it out and laid on top of the box which then fastened the latches. When I realized I couldn’t get out, I immediately fucking freaked out and started kicking and screaming. Once out, I had to sit and collect myself because I was so disheveled. This is why whenever I get on an elevator, I hope to [insert appropriate deity here] that the thing doesn’t get stuck because I would panic myself to death. I get the feeling that in a past life, I met my fate in a similar fashion as there is no rational reason why I should feel this way. I also believe that I was some kind of architect/designer from the ’30s back then since I have this thing for Art Deco architecture (but that’s another story).

2. When you were most recently in trouble?
Wow, I can’t even recall the last time I was in trouble.  Honestly I can’t. Moving on…

3. What puts you in the mood for some hanky-panky?
I’ll just take the Homer route on this one: “Oh Marge…I’ve been watching women’s volleyball again…” That isn’t necessarily true but…I’d rather keep it this way. Now don’t go on thinking I’m a furry or anything…

4. What easy-breezy task is still a pain in the neck to accomplish?
Mowing the lawn. It all seems too easy, right? Just push the damn thing across the lawn and cut the grass. But then there’s the chance it might run out of gas, then the gas can may be empty, and if your grass is long, having to empty the bag every few passes. And that’s the part I detest the most: emptying the bag. Shaking that heavy thing vigorously to empty it and having grass fly all over the place (and in your face) and getting sore arms is not exactly my idea of fun. I’ve often told Ann that in the 9th Circle of Hell, one of the most severe punishments is shaking a bagful of grass that never fucking empties.

5. What area in your life seems especially rife with mumbo-jumbo?
I’d have to say my career. Not so much my current job but a career in general. I’ve had so many ideas in the past, whether as a child or young adult, about that I’d eventually like to be. Obviously, none of them worked out if I still drag myself to my job every day and get no satisfaction out of it other than a paycheck. I just think I need a job away from people, i.e. working from home with my own business. That would make me very happy because I honestly don’t know which way to go at this point.

So you get 3/5 answers. Not too bad, I guess.

We have lots planned this weekend including taking Anthony to the driving range which makes Dear Ol’ Dad a happy camper and right now I have a date with the treadmill. So don’t let us have all the fun this weekend–go out and make it a good one!

Dave’s Rules of the Road

 

Driving since 1982

 

Now that I have gotten a somewhat respectable (albeit temporary) job, I have once again joined the ranks of the thousands of commuters who drive the freeway to get to the office every day. And in so doing, I’m getting a grasp on what it was I missed out during my time of unemployment.

Take, for example, today.

While traveling down the southbound 405 into Orange County, I witnessed a woman that was slowly–and I mean slowly–making lane changes whenever she had the opportunity to do so. The woman, in her 50s with a Moe Howard hairdo and driving an SUV, had her hands in the dreaded 10-and-2 position, a stance which indicates to us veteran drivers (click image above) that the driver of the vehicle is either a) offer her nut or b) just graduated from Sears Driving School yesterday.

Seriously, nobody drives that way in SoCal. If you do then you’re probably the type with a comb-over, thick, dirty prescription glasses, faded Bush/Cheney bumper stickers and ham radio call signs all over your beat-up Ford Festiva. A creepy dude. Me, I usually have my hands in the 7-and-bag-of-Carl’s Jr.-fries position. Because I’m cool like that and I don’t have a ham radio.

Mmm…ham…

But what made this woman’s hand position even more malevolent was the fact that she wasn’t just holding the wheel that way. No, if that steering wheel could talk it would have probably said, “Jesus Christ, woman! Ease up!” Her grip was so tight on the wheel that, even though she was already a shade of pasty white, her knuckles were a whiter shade of pale that has yet to be named: Ultra White, Super White, Electromagnetic Spectrum White, Brilliant White…whatever. It seemed she was so fearful that someone would simulate a game of Spy Hunter by dropping an oil slick in her lane that removing one hand from the wheel, if only for a nanosecond, was unreasonable and most certainly would put her life in jeopardy.

That said, all of her lane changes where made without signalling. Yes, in her quest to survive any potential freeway catastrophe that a 50-something woman with cat-like reflexes (HA!) might encounter, she wasn’t thinking about all of the other drivers around here that she was cutting off–myself included.

Thanks for nothing, lady.

So then I got to thinking about the little things that I do to make my drive, as well was that of my fellow motorists, a bit easier and more friendly. I now proudly present that list along with a few other handy-dandy tips for anybody that cares to try them. Ready? Here we go.

Continue reading

A Day at the Office

What exactly goes through the mind of a proofreader? Let me entertain you with what I might experience on a daily basis.

I’m a bit of an anomaly at the office. I’ve noticed that people tend to stare or glance at me with regular frequency which I find kind of strange. I guess there are a few reasons for this:

  • I’m not Asian so I can’t be considered one of the chemists or brains around there
  • I’m not in a custodial outfit so I can’t possibly be the janitor
  • I don’t wear a labcoat so I’m not in the R&D Department

As far as anybody knows, I’m a visitor around there and by the time they really do figure me out, I’ll be out of there (read: contract will be up).

My desk. It’s nothing more than a long table with illumination that is shared between four people, three of which are proofreaders. It’s also equipped with a file cabinet and overhead storage compartment where I can safely store my ubiquitous backpack and have it ready should I ever need to use it as a flotation device.

I’ve also got the tools of the trade: red pen, blue/black pens, magnifying glass, desk lamp. And my iPod. I have no computer but there is a phone between me and that other proofreader that sits next to me. Neither of us answer it when it rings.

While I’ve proofread before, this job has a different set of rules than my last one. My previous employer stressed the importance of proofreading as well as accuracy but quantity was more of a factor. Here, however, we’re dealing with documentation for medical devices so the emphasis is on quality. After all, how else will that Croatian doctor learn how to jam that balloon probe into his patient’s sphincter?

We log the time we spend on each document we proof and in fact, I’ve been told that I need to slow down while proofing just to ensure that things are as accurate as they can be. That said, it’s not unusual to spend anywhere from 3-4 hours proofing certain documents that have instructions for use in several languages.

And that’s when the job gets challenging.

Some documents can have up to 24 languages that need to be proofed against what’s called the redline, or marked-up copy that represent the absolute final draft of the document. Each document I proof is accompanied by a stack of supporting documents, include said redlines, attachments, and previously changed proofs. It’s my job to make sure that what I’m proofing matches the most recent redline letter-for-letter, accent-for-accent, umlaut-for-umlaut.

As you might imagine, sitting at a desk and proofing these things for eight hours a day an get a bit tedious. And while English is obviously the easiest to proof, things get ugly once you start some of the other languages, like…

Swedish. I’ve proofed stuff in Swedish before and it’s an amusing language just because some of the stuff sounds funny in English. Want an example?

  • Beslutfattande: decision-making
  • Sex: six
  • Farten troten: minute when
  • Designmonster: design patterns
  • Snart: soon

The list goes on and on. Not only that, but sometimes it looks like they just crammed a bunch of words together for the hell of it. I often thought that “soaker hose” would translate into “sökerhös” in Swedish.

Bulgarian. Here’s when I have to step away from the document and gather my thoughts because goddamn, that’s one fucked-up language. Here’s an example of what’s going on in my head while proofing Bulgarian letter-by-painstaking-letter:

Ectocooler…kayak…moxie…pi…lasik…backwards N…uh, 3…weird shape…Space Invader…

So today I was in the middle of a huge job when the foreign letters that sat in front of me began to taunt me with their nonsensical jibberish. I think I even saw a Greek letter flip me the bird. This is a common occurrence while proofreading jobs of this size: despite their near-perfect formatting by the time you get them, reading these documents for hours turns them into a kind of mushy alphabet soup that can gently lull you to sleep if you’re not careful.

I had to snap out of it so I dragged myself over to the coffee table. The funny thing is that I don’t drink coffee but at this point I was jonesing for something that would keep me awake—and keep those punk-ass Turkish letters in line.

I poured a cup of the blackest, nastiest coffee available and took a sip. No, I still don’t like black coffee and still don’t know how others drink that shit. It needed flavor for this Starbucks Frappuccino of a guy.

So I started to randomly grab shit and pour it in my mug, taking a sip now and then for quality control purposes. By the time I was done ripping, dipping and plunking the virtual mother lode of chemical additives into my Jack Skellington coffee mug, I had crafted a concoction that not only morphed from used-motor-oil black to a shade reminiscent of an animated character’s skin tone, but one possibly toxic enough to make my intestines cry uncle. But fuck it, the experiment worked and each sip kept me awake. Yes, I’m a frou-frou Coffee Pussy.

Coffee in hand, I made my way back to my desk and continued to read the document. The coffee kept me awake but I wasn’t surprised to see that the letters still weren’t making much sense—and still looked like a jumbled mess.

That continued the rest of my day until I went home at 4:30. Total documents proofed today: two. That’s it.

And guess what? Tomorrow I will do it all again.

I just hope there’s some coffee ready…