June 02, 2004
Joseph Haines put on his website an invitation to post made-up memories, taking the lead of a similar request on another website (Jed Hartman's). Joseph is a fellow writer, and was previously a police officer in Los Angeles.
He asked that the imagined memories be posted to his site in the comments section. I may have taken some liberties with the assignment. Here's what I posted:
I'll always remember the time Joseph and I got to know each other during that trial in LA. The FBI had me under witness protection because I was the star witness in a big money laundering scheme, and Joseph was one of the cops assigned to take care of me while I was hidden away at some flea-bag motel.
I remember the way we used to play cards until the wee hours of the morning. Joseph said he felt a little awkward, "playing" while on the payroll, but that kind of duty still takes away your time, does it not? As for me, I was playing with counterfeit money, so what did I care?
I remember Joseph's big hearty laugh as we would swap stories about life on both sides of the thin blue line. The raw intensity of his compassion for the people he worked so hard to help; his no-nonsense attitude toward the scum who would dare to harm them.
And I'll always remember the way he listened -- really listened -- whenever I told a story of my own. About the joys and perils of the outlaw life. About the outrageous things you'd get away with, and the small things that would trip you up. About the goofy things that crooks do, or the small but clever ways big crimes could be hidden in plain view; like the way we hid that large sack of money in a department store window for all to see.
And, of course, I'll never forget the time he was late for his shift that last Friday, and how someone had tipped off my former partners-in-crime, and how they tracked me down, and that big shoot-out in front of the hotel.
I'll always remember how I heard -- later, while I was recovering from multiple gunshot and stab wounds over at County -- that Joseph had retired from the force and just up and moved away to somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, never to be heard from by his fellow law enforcement officers again.
And I'll never forget how once I had finally healed enough to walk and talk again, and the trial finally concluded and I could once again walk the streets as a free man, how almost all of the places I'd stashed the money I'd been skimming off the top had turned up empty. Joseph had expressed his doubts about the wisdom of the hiding places I'd told him about, and I guess he was right. Funny that the one I'd forgotten to mention to him hadn't been touched. Maybe if he'd known about that one, he wouldn't have been so skeptical.
But mostly, I guess what I remember best about Joseph was the look on his face when I turned up at his doorstep three years later, and the way his face turned red with rage and the veins seemed to pop from his taut skin as he knocked me to the ground and stepped on my neck and told me to never, NEVER darken his door again.
That, and his exquisite taste in carpeting.
June 08, 2004
The following was first published to this site on April 24th, 2000. However, that was just before I had this handy content management system, and the original pages were tossed about three and a half years ago. I had written this piece for a parody web site founded by my friend Eric Francis, along with an article that pathetically tried to defend the superiority of the Chinese Zodiac against the more popular Astrological Zodiac. Since that parody web site has come down, I've decided to post it here again. That, and a friend of mine was making a comment about horoscope parodies....
"Semi-exclusive to Planet Wavering Zodialogical Society:"
RAT (1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996)
It's pretty mind boggling when you stop to think about it: all of your life has been leading up to this one particular moment. Everything you have done has prepared you for exactly where and what you are right now. Your entire history has converged upon this one nexus in time. What will you do with this golden opportunity? Answer quickly -- you will be killed in a random act of violence before the day is over.
OX (1937 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997)
"Platitudes are the Sundays of Stupidity." I don't recall who said that, but they were talking about you at the time. Don't be taken in by any aphorisms today. The free advice you hear will be worth exactly what you paid for it. Instead, trust your gut. Chart your own course. Be your own man (or, in this day of political correctness, be your own woman, if that's your kind of thing). Remember: you are unique. Just like everybody else. You must destroy anyone who tries to tell you otherwise.
TIGER (1938 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998)
Good news! That rash is finally going to clear up. Maybe not today, mind you, but soon. Odds are that the negative side effects from that topical ointment you've been using won't be noticed for some time. You still should have seen a doctor about that, but you wouldn't listen to me, would you? No, you wouldn't. That's the problem with you Tigers: you're too damned smart for your own good. Why do I even bother writing an entry for you?
RABBIT (1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999)
If you happen to know any Oxen, today would be a good day to offer them advice. Let's face it, we all need a little guidance from time to time, and you are just the kind of person who can help them make sense of it all. Your natural tendencies as a teacher will shine through today. Unless, of course, you were born in 1999. That would be stupid. If you encounter resistance to your advice, keep at it. The results will be well worthwhile.
DRAGON (1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000)
Happy Birthday! Or, twelfth anniversary. Or, twenty-fourth. Or, whatever. Oh, nevermind. Why bother? You probably read those other zodiacs, don't you? Those lunar calendars with their stupid little star charts and their "House of Uranus" and all that. Whatever, man. Look, just because the Chinese didn't have cool names for their signs, like "Aries" or "Gemini", doesn't mean the Chinese Zodiac is any less cool. I mean, hey, you guys are fuckin' Dragons. Everyone else is a stupid Monkey or Rat or something. So, show me some respect, okay?
SNAKE (1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989)
Your professional career is poised on the launching pad, and today is the day that the ignition is switched on. Can you here the automated voice counting down to lift off? Be sure to get as far away as you can by T minus Zero, because when that sucker goes off, it's going to evaporate everything within a twelve mile radius. You should have proofread that e-mail to your boss/teacher/probation officer before you clicked 'send'. Idiot.
HORSE (1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990)
I had a dream about you last night, Horse. In the dream, you were standing naked in front of your fourth grade class, trying to recite the words to Robert Frost's "Stopping by a Woods on a Snowy Evening." Normally, this kind of dream bothers me, but since you were the one standing naked in front of the class, and I wasn't, the dream didn't seem so bad. Nice birthmark.
SHEEP (1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991)
Whether we study physics or philosophy or Batman Comic Books, we're inevitably confronted by a singular truth: that no matter how good or bad a life we lead, the sun will explode in about a few hundred million years and wipe out the entire solar system. Pretty cool, huh? So, really, what's the harm if you had another twinkie after lunch today? When you put things in perspective, you can ascertain their true worth.
MONKEY (1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992)
Remember the movie Thelma & Louise? Remember that part where they drive off the edge of the cliff at the end, and into the grand canyon? Remember the movie Presumed Innocent and how we found out at the very end that the wife did it? Remember how the Kevin Spacey character in The Usual Suspects turned out to be Kaiser Souze all along? I'd tell you what's in store for you today, but I know how you hate it when someone spoils the surprise for you.
ROOSTER (1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993)
One of my contemporaries, who writes for that other zodiac, somehow keeps tying his forecasts to sexuality. Hey, sex sells. Unfortunately for me -- and you -- the odds are pretty good that you're either too young (1993) or too old (1969, 1957, 1945) to enjoy sex. But, to boost my ratings, I've got this tidbit for you Roosters in the middle there (1981): this year will be a pretty good year for you to have sex.
DOG (1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994)
It's been a very turbulent time for you, but the shake-ups are about to end. The only question is, will you land on your feet, or on someone else's? As a palm reader friend of mine once told me, similes stick out like a sore thumb. That's why I've been using metaphors, instead. This may not make things any clearer for you, but it sure beats shaving your wrists with a potato peeler.
BOAR (1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995)
Jealousy is one of the most potent emotions, capable of ruining a life in a single stroke. Make sure it doesn't ruin yours. By the way, your mate has been cheating on you. With a Rat. Think about it. The signs have been there, all along. You know who I'm talking about, don't you? Remember what I said: don't let jealousy ruin your life. Turn those destructive natures loose on those cheating bastards, instead. Today.
June 10, 2004
June 23, 2004
"So, Allan, when you gonna tell us how you got your job?"
Shortly after I began my job with Data Fusion, I flew out to Maryland to meet the team in the Cockeysville office. Data Fusion maintains three formal offices: one in Maryland, another in New Mexico, and another in California. There are also a few other folks scattered throughout the country who work out of home offices or satellite offices. There are folks like that in Texas, Colorodo, and Ohio. Probably elsewhere, too.
But that's the thing about a company like this: you can have twenty-five employees, and several of them have never met several of the others, even after many years.
And yet, after being at DF for only a little while, I was flown out to Maryland to meet the gang there. Turns out, many of them had read my website, and noticed a teaser I'd put up about how "soon I'll tell you the story of how I landed my new job." From time to time, they prod me to put up the story.
So, here it is: I got my job at Data Fusion because I am a former Lunatic.
Well, okay, that's not how I got the job, but that is how I got the chance to get the job.
Toward the end of 2003, the founder of the Cornell Lunatic humor magazine got in touch with a few of us former editors because he wanted to assemble an alumni network. As the network started to come together, he thought it would make sense to put together a newsletter to send out to all of the alumni to help us become better connected and also to encourage financial support of the magazine.
The fellow who volunteered to assemble the newsletter asked if any of us had anything we'd like to contribute, and I got into a long discussion with him (and did a lot of research) on one of the former editors who had died a couple of years ago. I suggested that we put the article about his death in the "Where are they now?" section of the newsletter, with a photo of his headstone.
Yes, I know, that's sick. But if you knew the guy, you might think he'd have wanted it that way. RICHH had a very twisted sense of humor.
The fellow assembling the newsletter and I got to talking about employment situations, and he thought that maybe there would be a fit for me at his company. And that's how I got the audition. By being a former Lunatic.
But I got the job by passing the audition.
For pretty much every other job I've held, I've had a series of interviews with future co-workers and bosses and the like. In this case, after talking with my future employer on the phone -- and having never met in person, ever -- he decided to set up a test condition. He sent me a laptop, some installation disks for software I'd never used before, and e-mailed files to me. My task was to set up the software on the laptop (there were three versions of the software in question), and then "upgrade" the files from version 3 of the software to version 5. After doing that, my task was to see if there was any way to speed up the way the files worked.
There is something fascinating to me about this method of selecting a candidate for a job. It relies not upon how well you can bullshit your way through an interview, but rather upon how well you can actually do the job under test conditions. Working at Data Fusion often involves going into someone else's system, figuring out how they got it set up, and then solving the problem.
Funny thing about this audition, though. The e-mail files that he sent me became corrupted along the way. And the laptop stopped working after only about eight hours. It just went ka-put.
Now, keep in mind that at one time in my sordid past, I had also interviewed for (and was hired by, and later even conducted interviews for) a certain software company that is notorious for their interview process. Books have not only been written about this company's interview process, but they have actually reached the NY Times Bestseller list.
One of the things that is stressed in the interview process at this company (whose initials are MS) is the "get the job done at all costs" kind of thinking.
Example interview question: you're working on a [whatever] on your laptop while in an airplane en route to [wherever], and you absolutely must must must have [whatever] completed by the time you arrive. The batteries to your laptop have just run down completely, and you're only halfway done. What do you do?
The way this works in the interview is this: with every answer you, the interviewee, give, the interviewer gives some reason why that doesn't solve the problem. (example: "I pull out my power outlet and plug it into the port that is now standard on all airplanes." Response: "You discover that you left your cable in your office.") The interviewer wants you to see how creative and determined you are to get the job done.
Remember: I not only interviewed with that company, I worked there.
So here I am, auditioning for a new company, and I've been given a test environment to test my skills, but the test materials are failing on me. Oh, and also: I want the job. What do I do?
With the MS example firmly planted in my brain, I set about resolving everything I can by going beyond the bounds of the test. I have a PC laptop of my own, so I load the software onto that. In the meantime, I figure out that the laptop they sent me was under warranty, so I call the office administrator and get information on sending it back to the manufacturer to have it repaired under warranty.
After figuratively banging my head against the wall for several hours and unable to get the software to open the files I'd been sent, I open them up in a text editor and realize that they are corrupted. I reconstruct them as best I can, and then finally manage to have the software load them correctly.
After upgrading the files, I read through the online documentation on the software, perform a lot of trial and error, and finally get the job done. I turn it in on time, while the computer that I'd been sent is still being repaired by the manufacturer.
My future employer and I talk about what I did and how I went about completing the task. I told him how I cleverly figured out that the files had been corrupted, etc., etc. And finally asked the question that had been plaguing me throughout the process: were the problems with the files and the computer known? Were they, in fact, part of the test?
"No," my future employer said. "I have neither the time nor the inclination to make the test any harder than need be. But you'd be surprised how often that kind of thing crops up just in the day to day job."
Or words to that effect. And he was right, of course. I've been surprised at how often that kind of thing crops up in the day to day job. It happens all the time.
So there you have it. Because I was an editor of a college humor publication fifteen years ago, I ended up with a job performing database work for some of the biggest law firms in the country.
June 28, 2004
Here's one of my many self-referential haikus:
takes up two whole lines.
Copyright (c)1998 - 2010 by Allan Rousselle. All rights reserved, all wrongs reversed, all reservations righted, all right, already.
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