Friday, May 25, 2007

I Dot the "i" and I Cross the "t"

I've been battling "Writer's Block" this week. For those who don't know, "Writer's Block" is a periodic affliction that strikes most writers and blocks them from writing - thus the name. I use the verb "battling" because it is exactly that - a horrific, internal struggle between a writer and his personal demons.

You can tell when a serious writer is battling writer's block because he or she is watching something on television.

It's easy for the layperson (especially the wife layperson) to confuse this television-viewing activity with the procrastination that regular people do in order to avoid regular work. But it's important to remember that "Writer's Block" is different in that we writers are sensitive, creative geniuses and when we watch television we are not "procrastinating", we are "battling".

Writers use television to battle Writer's Block in several ways. One method involves watching Jewel Kilcher music videos. Writers consider Jewel the patron saint of Writer's Block because she literally made millions of dollars writing the song "You Were Meant for Me". She filled this song with lines like "I brushed my teeth and I put the cap back on" and "I break the yolks; I make a smiley face". Clearly, this woman triumphed over Writer's Block. And dental tartar.

Writers also watch episodes of "Lost" because it seems afflicted with Anti-Writer's Block. Just one character, Sawyer, has watched his father kill his mother over a con man, become a con man himself, gone to jail, gotten out of jail, gone to Australia, killed an innocent man, been in an air plane accident and though he's been on a deserted island for only two months has managed to sleep with with two hot women. And Sawyer is just one of 22 characters.

The writers of "Lost" can't seem to stop writing that show.

Sometimes, even television won't cure a tough case of writer's block. When you've battled Writer's Block and lost, there's really only one thing left to do. Watch more television. Or, if you're really desperate, write a blog entry about Writer's Block. Sure, it's a cheap move, but the first sentence practically writes itself..

I dot the "i" and I cross the "t"...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Full Jenkinson

I sat in the kitchen eating cereal when my seven year-old son reared up and let me have it.

"Dad, did they have cars when you were a kid?"

"Are you joking?" I asked.

I looked at Gabriel. He was not joking and stared at me with a mixture of intense curiosity and mild pity. I recognized the look because my neighbors make the same face when I work in the yard without a shirt.

Honestly, the question irritated me. My first impulse was to irritably lash out at my son because he dared suggest that I was born prior to the widespread adoption of cars. My second and more rational impulse steered me toward educating my son about my childhood. Because rational responses tend to be boring, I discarded this option.

I decided to go all Clay Jenkinson on my son.

For those who don't know, Clay Jenkinson is a humanities scholar with a syndicated radio show who makes his living by impersonating Thomas Jefferson and other notable historical figures. According his Web site, Clay Jenkinson is "one of the most sought after humanities scholars in the United States". I like that his Web site says this - because it always seems that everyone concentrates on the illegal immigrant problem and almost no one is doing anything about the widespread proliferation of humanities scholars.

"Good Day, Citizen," I said to Gabriel.

To his credit, Gabriel turned to walk away immediately. I stopped him with a patriarchal hand on his shoulder.

"Though I cannot pretend to understand anything but the barest principles of your internal combustion engine and your "motor cars"...

Gabriel looked panicked.

"...I do feel that I can illuminate the effect of mechanical vehicles on the gentleman farmer and his place in a republic."

I think my gambit worked. The next time my son blindsides me with a question like that, though, I'm gonna let loose with the "Full Jenkinson". I can't give you all of the details, but it definitely includes wigs, man stockings and one of my childhood friends impersonating John Adams.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Most Fired Man in America

Editor’s Note:

For years, workers have suffered through the advice of pundits, over-achievers and corporate lackeys, some of whom have had only three or four jobs in their entire lives.

Wouldn’t it be better to get career advice from someone with experience at literally thousands of jobs?

Baz Truman thinks so. Since the early 1980s, Baz Truman has been working at and getting fired from more jobs in a week than most people get fired from in a lifetime. Baz’ single-minded determination to excel at his career - no matter the cost – has gotten him fired from some of the world’s biggest and brightest companies.

The Most Fired Man in America
By Baz Truman

Q. Baz, I've been caught playing computer Solitaire twice by my boss. She says that if I'm caught one more time, I may be in danger of losing my job. My boss have even moved my cubicle assignment to just outside her door, so that she can check on me. I get my work done, but sometimes I just need a break from work. What can I do?

In Solitary Over Solitaire

Dear In Solitary Over Solitaire,

One accounting company estimates that employees spend half a billion hours a year playing computer games during work, resulting in a loss of $10 billion dollars in productivity. Most managers will look at this figure and say, damn, our company needs to get this work gaming thing under control. As America's most serial employee, I see this:

If you divide $10 billion dollars by half a billion hours, you'll see the average person playing Solitaire makes $20 an hour. That's a pretty good wage. Clearly, playing Solitaire results in a better career.

First, you need to get some space away from your boss. I recommend farting. Often and loudly. Eat the right mixture of flatulence-causing legumes for breakfast and I give it a week before you have your own laptop and a cubicle in the parking lot. Take it from me, though - if you follow this route, beware the unintended consequences of this covert operation. I believe the CIA calls this "Blowback".

I call it that, too.

Next, realize that network monitoring software makes it almost impossible to play games at work and not be caught - even if you're working alone in the parking lot. Your only rational choice is to stop playing games.

Personally, I like to get caught early and get it out of the way. This is why I give all of my work projects names like "Minesweeper", "Freejack" or "Goal-oriented Team Accounting III".

If my boss catches me, I like to open up my Outlook Calendar and point to my schedule.

"See? Right there. It clearly says I'll be working on GTA III from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. today. You approved it."

This approach hasn't actually worked for me, but I have high hopes.

In closing, remember one thing. If America wants to beat its record of half a billion hours, we need every American doing their fair share.

That's right. If you're not being unproductive, you're not being productive.