Live! At the Whiney-A-Go-Go!

July 28, 2006

Nothing left to say

Filed under: friends, life — letslucky @ 7:54 am

A good friend and good person is dying.

She was first diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago. After two remissions, fabulous doctors, support from literally hundreds of friends and strangers, and especially her own outrageous tenacity, the cancer finally won. Lin surrendered.

And now I want the damn cancer to realize that it won, the fight is over, and it can quit torturing her. If I could take away her pain I would, but I can’t. I just want it to end.

Even if it sounds goulish, that’s all there is left. If you know Lin, you’re already as sad as I am. And if you don’t, I’m not a fraction of the writer it would take to do justice to her.

July 20, 2006

Finding Screws

Filed under: life — letslucky @ 8:24 am

It’s kinda hard to describe what I do for a living. I’m a freelance writer, and I go into companies, usually software startups, to get their documentation in order so that they can turn a project into a sellable product. But once I’m settled into a client’s office, there are a bazillion other things that I do. Lessee, in the past few weeks I:

  • Figured out how the phones worked and wrote a cheat sheet on it.
  • Made sure that some Very Important Guests had the coffee and comforts needed during their visit, which meant things like ordering lunches, serving snacks, and printing maps from our office to wherever they needed to go.
  • Gave a presentation to my co-workers on a wacky thing I know how to do in Excel.
  • Found an obscure bit of scientific gear that might help demo our product.
  • Learned everything possible about automated utility metering systems, wrote a proposal about it, then promptly forgot it all.
  • Broke down then reassembled a complicated setup of servers and devices, mostly because I wanted to scavenge the long network cables for something and this setup would do OK with short cables.
  • Oh, yeah, wrote a bunch of documentation.

Basically, no matter what I was hired to do, I turn every job into the same one, which a friend describes as “being competent.” I used to think that calling someone competent was an insult. Then I spent a few years in the work world.

Anyway, this client is an appliance company, which means that there are hardware aspects to the product as well as software. And hardware means physical objects, so in addition to organizing all the knowledge stuff like I always do, I’m organizing the physical stuff as well. So I sort and label and contain and toss out entire rooms full of unsorted jumbled stuff. The objects range from nine foot tall towers to bits of electrical components that are only millimeters long. It’s a lot of sorting.

The office tends to plummet toward entropy as I desperately try to slow its degeneration. So while I’m in the back area untangling miles of network cables, the front area is becoming piled with boxes and tools and debris. It’s a messy, active, creative place.

But it looks… well… it looks lived-in.

Which was a problem when we were getting ready for the Very Important Guests mentioned previously. We wanted to present ourselves in the best way possible to this rather conservative, much larger company, so I set about cleaning up the public areas of the office. For two days I broke down boxes and put away tools and tidied up dangling cables. I was almost done, but somehow every time I walked away from the demo area, when I returned there was a little pile of screws somewhere, from someone working on assembling or disassembling something.

It’s a huge priority for me that I don’t make someone’s job harder, so I’m very careful that whenever I have to clean up something like little piles of screws, I keep them together and keep track of where they came from so that I can retrieve them quickly if it turns out that they were in active use.

But every time I came back to the demo area, there was another pile, and another, and another, appearing everywhere like droppings at a dog park. I swear someone was trying to play let’s-taunt-OCD-girl.

Anyway, they all got cleaned up, Very Important Guests were suitably impressed and departed happy, and work continued on shipping some products to one of our customers. But when I arrived on the morning that we would ship, one of my co-workers asked where I put a pile of screws that was next to his project. I brought the bin that held all the stuff from that project… but the screws weren’t in it. The clock is ticking, the shippers will pick up the product at any moment, and there are no screws to hold the product together. We looked in all the project areas: no screws. We looked in all the drawers and nooks around the area: no screws. We looked behind the boxes that I’d cunningly arranged as a shield for some messy stuff: no screws. We looked in all the other project boxes I’d made: lots of screws but none of the kind needed. We looked in the hardware box where I keep all the screws not in use: no screws of the right kind. Finally I had to give up and say that I don’t know where they are. And do you know what my co-worker said? “I guess you’re human after all.”


He called me human.

I staggered under this blow, and determined to completely reinvent my organizing system because it had failed me, even tho I had no idea where it went wrong. But even if it meant taking a digital photo and caliper specs and assigning a catalog number to track every screw we had, I was going to fix it. As God is my witness I’ll never say “I don’t know where that is” again.

A bit of time went by. I’m not sure how much because I was feverishly researching data management applications, storage systems that could accommodate single screws, and classification systems for small hardware. My co-worked walked up with a sheepish look and a handful of screws. He had hidden them in his desk drawer because he was afraid that I would lose them.

July 17, 2006

Thumb of Darkness

Filed under: life — letslucky @ 8:57 am

I am a serial killer. Of houseplants.

They rotate through my lair, never suspecting that this will be their last stop. In the next life each plant will be a vicious child and I’ll be the fly they pull the wings off of, over and over as I’m resurrected so that each one can take a crack at me.

I had a consultant come into the office to design our “interior-scape” and give an estimate on what a plant service would cost. Right now the office has three plants, supplied and “cared” for by me. One is fresh, one is not dead yet, and one is almost dead. The consultants said “we can use the other two… but this one you should just ditch. Or take it home and nurse it.”

He so funny.

I’ve needed to repot my plants at home for, oh, a year or so. All those books that say what time of year you should plant, repot, feed, prune, etc. are useless to me because these things happen when I get around to it, and not a moment sooner. If it’s not the right time of year, then the poor babies are screwed because it will be months before I’m in a potting mood again.

I spent the afternoon mixing new soil, excavating the dead plants, putting everybody in nice new roomy pots, and watering them all (except the cactus) very thoroughly. By then it was sunset, and I wanted to give them a chance to drain before bringing them inside, since I usually kill plants via root rot. When I don’t kill them from underwatering, that is.
I left them on the back patio to drain and rest overnight, then spent the evening pulling cactus spines out of my arms and hands. Then I, um, lost track of time.

Two days later, all these little darlings who are used to the low light I barely allow them indoors have been baking in the sun. It’s not that they’ve dried up — it’s that they sensed the abundance of sunshine and started the chlorophyll cranking away. And cranking and cranking. Now their leaves are white and droopy, feeling the plant version of a thanksgiving day where you have to visit three or four houses. Bloat.

They’re indoors again, and we’ll see how long they last. See, plants need consistency, and if I’m anything, I’m inconsistent. Except for the things I’m very consistent about, which really just proves my point.

I bet they’ll all die anyway. Except the frickin cactus, who has a weapon against me.

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