My Yahoo! It's mine! Get your own
stinkin' Yahoo! Ya no-own- Yahoo!-havin' mofo!
Technology - Reuters
Microsoft Debuts Cable-Free Computing for
Tue Oct 15,12:06 AM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Once I had submitted my freelance profile,
Wendi wrote me to tell me she had passed it on to their profile
editor, who would proof it, let me know if any rewrites were needed,
and submit it to the client, Cathy, who would let her know if she
was happy with it. Wendi also asked me to submit an invoice so
they could pay me. I did.
Then, I waited.
I've never done this before, this whole freelance thing, and I
guess I was expecting some sort of thumbs-up/thumbs-down thing from
the profile editor. I didn't get either. I didn't get
anything. Which was fine, really, but being as paranoid as I
am, I started worrying after a few weeks had passed and I hadn't
heard word one. Did it suck? Did it suck big time?
A few more weeks passed, and still nothing. Also, no
check. My contract specified payment within 60 days, and when
the 60th day had passed without hearing anything or getting my
check, I finally broke down and called the publisher. I asked
for Wendi, and was told Wendi no longer worked there.
Doom! Disaster! Not only did my profile suck, but
they'd fired Wendi since she was the one who had hired me! Or
she had quit in shame! Argh! Yipes! Run!
I wrote Wendi, who had taken a job elsewhere, and she assured me
the profile had been good. I also called the publisher, asked
for the profile editor, and spoke to her for a few minutes.
She assured me that the profile was fine, there had been a few minor
changes from Cathy, nothing huge. Whew. I also talked to
Accounts Payable, who told me my check was due to be sent out the
following week. Also whew. And, the book was being
printed up within the next two weeks. Whoo!
So, there you have it. I wrote, I wrote well, and I got
paid to do it. The End.
At least, that was The End when I started writing this
ridiculously drawn-out story for my website. Sometimes,
though, a story changes while you're writing it, as this one
did. In fact, I was sitting down Thursday evening to write
Friday's (which became Monday's) installment, when UPS came by and
delivered my promised two copies of the Oakland book.
In it was my profile, which I read. I noticed two very
small changes, that's it. I thought it looked good! The
entire book looked great, in fact.
However, I also noticed that my bio, a little three or four
sentence blurb I had written about myself, was absent. My
name, as far as I could tell, and I looked for hours, does not
appear anywhere in the book. My profile is there, but there is
no indication that I am the one who wrote it.
Now. If I had known from the outset that this was just a
write-and-get-paid deal, it wouldn't be a problem. I'm not
attached to the profile I wrote, other than that it is something
that I can use in a portfolio. It's not art, it was just some
work I did. I can deal with that just fine.
But I was promised a bio in the book. Hell, it was in my
contract that I'd receive a bio. I was expecting my name to be
there, I'd told people it would be there, and the first thing I felt
when it wasn't there, was embarrassment. I feel like a
schmuck. After telling my family in friends that I'd appear in
a book as a contributor, now there's no mention of me. So,
that in itself sucks.
And I'm pretty pissed off. It was in my contract, dammit.
What the fuck? I did my part, they didn't do theirs.
It's unprofessional. Sure, getting a buzz on to conduct an
interview probably isn't professional, either, but if it had
specified in my contract that I had to remain sober, I would
And, I guess I'm depressed about it. I wanted to see my
name in a book, y'know? A real book. With a cover and
everything. I think that would have been pretty damn
cool. I know there will be a next time, but this was my first,
and I wanted it to be perfect.
So. There it ends, for now, at least. I'm going to
call them this week and find out what happened to my bio. I'm
not sure what answer would satisfy me, really, but we'll see what
I am still incredibly grateful to Wendi for the chance to write
for the book. She was funny and helpful and great through the
whole thing, and I really appreciate her giving me the opportunity,
for trusting me not to screw it up, and for making me feel like a
Thinking about it, I guess there is a bright side to the missing
bio. Sure, something went wrong, as something always, always,
always fucking does with me, but hey! This time it ain't my
Previous Technology News
With my woozily-conducted interview fresh in
my mind, I slipped into writing mode. Namely: wait as long as
possible before doing any actual writing.
Hey, this is me we're
I'd had every intention of completing my assignment early.
Really! I had a few weeks before it was due, and although I
was working my temp job, I still had evenings and weekends and time
on the bus and, well, time at work, to get some writing done.
Having time to do things isn't the same as doing them, though, I
mean, I've had six months to wash my dishes, and have I?
No. Not a one. Hell, just five minutes ago I stirred my
coffee with the handle of a can opener. My plastic bowl of
coffee, that is.
So, I let a week fumble by before I even listened to the tape of
the interview. I took about four pages of notes, figuring if I
could write 400 words per page I'd be set. I also jotted down
blurbs and quotes as best I could, although Cathy's tense-shifting
made that a little tricky.
My notes completed, I waited another week and a half to actually
draft the profile. In fact, I took a day off work to do just
that, thereby losing a day's pay which would ultimately come out of
my freelance check. Oh well! At least I was finally
starting to write! Sorta.
The writing was a bit tricky. I'm not used to working from
notes, I'm used to just making shit up or writing things down that
happen to me, so I worked haltingly for a while, until I gave up
trying to make it sound pretty and concentrated on getting the
simple facts down in some sort of order. When I finally did, I
had a word count of about 900 words, a tad short of my 1,600 word
I went back to the interview tape and took some more notes, wrote
a little more, and wound up with about 1,100 words. Still way
short. Poop. I decided to take a little break, stretch
my legs, get some coffee, and a short six days later I was back at
Six days later, by the way, was Sunday, the night before my
You know, when I found out that I would be getting paid to write,
I thought it would things would change for me. I thought it
would make me responsible. I thought it would improve my work
habits. I thought it would make a real difference in my
life. This wasn't goofy website shit, this was real
writing. And there I was, procrastinating, wasting time, and
putting things off until the last minute, just like I always
did. All I could think was: Thank God! Success hadn't
I managed to whip the profile into shape by about 11:00pm Sunday
night, and I sent it to my friend Bob, who is an editor in Chicago,
for a look-see. He kindly look-see'd, gave me some helpful
suggestions, and eased my mind by telling me he thought I had done a
good job. My final word count came to 1,587. Close
Still, I was stuck on the 75-100 word quote I needed, due to
Cathy's frequent tense-switching. I knew I could probably
tweak a few words here and there in some of the quotes I had jotted
down, but I wanted a real, word-for-word honest-to-goodness,
something-hyphen-something quote. I just couldn't find a good
one, and it was getting late. I listened to the entire
interview again, start to finish, sweating the whole time.
Nothing. Crap. I was boned! If only I hadn't
waited so long, I could have called her back or sent her e-mail or
somehow gotten a nice neat clean perfect quote! Damn me!
But wait. I remembered something. Something from my
drunken haze... yes... yes... after the interview, Cathy had taken
me to another office to show me her awards and plaques... hadn't I
left the tape recorder running? I must have, I was too potted
to have turned it off. Hadn't we talked in there? I
played the tape past the end of the interview, listened to us
walking down the hall, listened to us making chit-chat, listened to
myself tell her that I was doing lots of freelance writing in the
Bay Area (um, yeah), and then heard us talking about her awards and
honors. And then she started talking about how hard she'd
worked and the challenges she'd faced to receive those awards... not
speaking specifically, but generally... sort of an overview... sort
of a QUOTABLE overview! I listened, thinking "COME ON,
STAY IN THE SAME TENSE, BABY, YEAH, BRING IT ON HOME!"
And she did! I had my quote; it was a good one, it was an
inspiring one, and it was about 75 words long. Perfect.
I submitted my profile, my lovely quote, and my freelance
writer's bio at about 1:00am, the day of the deadline.
Triumph! I had done it! I'd completed my very first paid
writing assignment! I was a writer! A real
Hooray! Everything was great!
Tomorrow: Shit! Everything sucks!
Previous Technology News
Taking a seat at the bar, I ordered a Bud
Light and a shot of Peppermint Schnapps. White trashy, sure,
but look where I was. I'd had to wade through knee-deep peanut
shells to reach the barstool. This was a bar where no one
shouted "Norm!" when Norm arrived, because Norm never
A few things dawned on me as the bartender poured
me a beer. First of all, buying drinks as I was, I wouldn't be
able to afford cab fare back to the train station. Not too
smart, considering it was probably a two mile walk, it was scorchingly
hot out, and I was already pushing the limit on how long I could be
away from my temp desk without being missed. Secondly, I only
had about eight minutes until the interview, so I was going to have
to drink fast.
The bartender delivered the beer and a glass of water, then
vanished into the back, possibly to shoot some rats. I
wondered if she'd be back with my shot at some point, and as I
chugged my beer and the clock ticked, I figured I'd have to forgo
the hooch after all. I finished half the beer and took a sip
of water, which wasn't water. It was my shot. It was a
huge damn water-glass sized shot of Schnapps. Oy.
Well, I was brought up to always clean my plate, and seeing how
there was no plate around, I finished the shot, downed the rest of
the beer, and headed off to interview my subject.
I walked into the lobby of the security company, introduced
myself to the security guard there, and took a seat to wait. I
was apprehensive, still feeling a bit like a fraud, still worrying
about the impending interview. Eventually, the president's
assistant came over and led me back to Cathy's office. She
hadn't pointed at me and screeched like in Invasion of the Body
Snatchers, so I felt a little better.
Cathy sat at her desk, stacks of folders around her, not a
computer, monitor, or keyboard in sight. We shook hands, I
turned on my tape recorder, and realized I was kinda buzzed.
Sure, I'd only had a beer and the one giant shot, but I hadn't had
lunch, breakfast had been a cup of coffee, and dinner the night
before had been some Pringles and a couple dozen cigarettes. I
felt comfortable, though, at ease, and started asking questions
about the company and its history.
Cathy worked through the entire
interview, processing paperwork. She talked a lot. I asked my lame,
elementary questions, and she answered them at length. She was
intelligent, funny, interesting, and even inspiring as she talked about the
obstacles she'd had to overcome to own her business and make it flourish.
She spoke of hard work, determination, and beating the odds, and I was moved
nearly to tears. Sure, part of it was that fact that I was kinda loaded
and thus feeling sappy and emotional, but I was honestly impressed with her.
There was however, that other concern I'd had when we'd talked on
the phone. Part of my writing duties, as specified in my
contract, was to provide a 75-100 word quote, for use in a
sidebar. And as I listened to Cathy speaking, the concern
Cathy is from Nicaragua. As a result, her English is, well,
not quite perfect. Don't get me wrong, she was well-spoken,
articulate and, while she did have an accent, she was still very
easy to understand. Her main problem was one of tenses (sort
of the same problem I have with my writing). She'd start in
the past tense ("I went to Los Angeles ") switch to the
present tense ("and everything is great") switch back to
the past ("so I went to apply for a job") back to the
present ("and so now I get the job") and then slip into
the past modal pluperfect progressive tense ("and I were to
have been the happiest since tomorrow.") So, I found
myself leaning forward when she started saying something seemingly
quote-worthy, praying she'd stick with a tense and save me from
having to present a bracket-littered sidebar quote. Often,
she'd get almost all the way through something before her tenses
changed or some other little word-usage problem would crop up.
Still, I was taping everything, so I relaxed a little and decided I could
listen to the interview later and pull out a usable quote. We finished the interview in
about forty-five minutes, and I spent some time in an adjacent office, looking
over her awards and honors and plaques, noting each of them in case I wanted to
mention them in the article.
I stepped back outside a few
minutes later, feeling good about the interview, except for the blurb part. I felt like I had enough
to run with, and she'd said I should feel free to call her with any follow-up
questions I had. Still tipsy, I started walking towards the train station,
fervently hoping Cathy wouldn't drive to lunch and pass me along the way. Isn't
that the freelance writer who just interviewed me? Why is he walking along
the side of the freeway like a person who isn't a real writer? SCREEEEEE!
(That's an Invasion of the Body Snatchers screech, not her tires
screeching. Although, it could be both, I guess.)
I made it back to work, sober and sweaty, around 2:30, and sat at
my desk for a few minutes, waiting for someone to ask me just where
the hell I'd been for the past three hours. When no one did, I
went to lunch.
Tomorrow: The Writing Begins... Eventually!
Previous Technology News
When I moved to California about five or six
years ago, I wasn't exactly sure where I was going to end up.
I had started the cross-country drive from Florida fully intending
Los Angeles to be my final destination, but somewhere along the way,
I decided to come to the San Francisco Bay Area instead. I'd
visited San Francisco a few times as a kid, but really didn't know
much about the city or surrounding area.
My first night in
California was spent in Oakland at a Motel 6 next to the
freeway. Oddly enough, though I eventually settled in Marin
County and later moved to Portland, Oregon, I now live in Alameda,
just across the bridge and less than two miles from that same Motel
The night I arrived, not knowing any better, so I took an
innocent evening stroll in search of someplace to eat.
Wandering the dark, empty streets, I eventually found a little bar
and grill by the water that was still open, a dingy dive named
something like "Cap'n Salty's Seadog Grille And Saggy-Breasted
Barfly Pub." Years later when I was living in the area, I
could always spot the Motel 6, but I could never again find the pub
I had eaten in that night.
So. My writing gig. For phase one, I needed to call
the president of the security company, a woman I'll call
"Cathy," to set up an appointment to interview her.
Phase two would be the interview, and phase three would be the
actual writing of the company profile. It was July 22nd when I
picked up the phone to schedule my appointment, and my deadline for
submission of the profile was August 12. I figured that would
be plenty of time.
Getting Cathy on the phone wasn't quite so easy, however.
I'd leave a message for her, then she'd leave one for me, then I'd
leave another. A few days passed like this. I was
working a temp job in the meantime, and I didn't want to give her my
work number since I didn't have access to voicemail. The
problem with giving her my cell number was that I had my phone
turned off while I was at work, except during my half-hourly
cigarette breaks. Naturally, she'd only call when I was
actually upstairs doing some work.
I finally managed to get her on the phone and we arranged a time
to meet, but I finished the conversation with a few
misgivings. First of all, Cathy wasn't overly talkative on the
phone. She didn't seem at all chatty or eager to talk at
length, not something I'd normally complain about, but this was
someone who I was going to have to interview. I'd interviewed
a few people face-to-face in the past, and as you might guess, it's
generally helpful if they do most of the talking.
The profile I was hired to write, by the way, needed to be 1,600
words long. That's not a whole lot of words, really (my "Fired"
essay, for example, is about 1,700), but I was trying to keep in
mind that all 1,600 words would have to be about a security
company. What the hell can you really say about a security
company? "They guard stuff!" Well, that's
three words down. She was paying to have her profile in this
book, so I hoped she'd be a little more generous with her words in
person, but still, I was a little worried.
As for my other concern, I'll mention it in detail when it comes
up later. At the time of the phone call, it just popped into
my mind and then popped back out. Later, though, as it
completely kicked my ass and made me eat dirt, my worries would
prove to be fairly well-founded.
Now that I had my interview arranged, it was time to dig up what
I could about this company and its president. I'm not much of
a researcher, but I wanted to be prepared, and besides, I could do
this research online at my temp job, and therefore get paid for
it. Not a bad deal.
The security company didn't have a website, unfortunately, but I
found tons of stuff about Cathy. She was very active in the
Oakland business community, had won an amazing number of awards from
an amazing number of groups and panels and committees for an amazing
number of different things. I made some notes and started
listing some questions I wanted to ask her. I looked at a few
other security company websites to at least get a feel for what
these companies actually did, and how they did it, and how this sort
of thing might be parlayed into 1,600 words.
It hit me the next morning as I got up. My interview was
scheduled for noon, and I hadn't asked for time off work that
day. I ultimately decided not to, mainly because I didn't want
to lose pay for being off the temp job, which would, as I saw it,
deduct from the money I was being paid to write the profile.
So, I just went AWOL for about three hours. I snuck out of the
building at about 11:00am, got as close to the security company as I
could by BART train, and grabbed a cab for the rest of the
trip. The cab fare was about seven dollars, and I had another
nine left in my wallet for the return trip. Perfect.
I had my pad of paper. My pen. My back-up pen.
My list of notes and questions. I had my tape recorder, which
I had tested approximately 700 million times the night before.
I was early, by about a half-hour, so I strolled around the area,
enjoying the extra time I had to get incredibly nervous about the
Shit. What am I doing? I can't do this, can I?
I'll walk in there and say "Hi, I'm the writer," and
they'll look at me and say, "No, you're just some tiny twit
with a website consisting primarily of toner humor and fart
jokes." I'm not going to be able to do this.
Something is going to go wrong. I'll ask the wrong questions,
or lose my notes, or the tape will get erased, or, most likely, I'll
fuck up the writing part. Shit. Shiiiiiiit.
My stomach was a knot. I needed to get a grip. I
needed to calm down. I needed to relax. I needed, well,
I needed a drink.
Whoever invented booze invented it for people like me.
People who can't function, talk, think, or act like normal human
beings without a nice buzz on. I decided if I had a beer, I'd
relax enough to be talkative, should Cathy turn out to be as
uncommunicative as she was on the phone, and should I need to drag
the information out of her a bit at a time. I'd be at ease,
comfortable, something I never am with people, especially people I
need to interview professionally. Just a drink, and things
would be much better. I walked down the block, looking for
somewhere to get a beer. A deli, a restaurant, a bar, or, you
know, Cap'n Salty's Seadog Grille And Saggy-Breasted Barfly Pub.
There it was. After all this time, I'd found it
again. It was my first stop in this fair city, years ago, and
here I was, walking back into it on the cusp of my first real
writing job. It was a sign. An omen. This was
meant to be. It'd be okay. I'd do a good job. It
would go smoothly. Everything was going to be just fine.
Once I had a beer, anyway. Well, as it turned out, a beer
and a shot.
A big shot. Like, a really, really, big shot.
Tomorrow: The interview! Hic!
Previous Technology News
It's a conversation I've had hundreds of
times. In elevators, hallways, copy rooms, parking lots, and
cubicles, it's the first conversation I have with the people I'm
working for and among. The four questions, and my answers, are
like a script, rarely deviating from the following:
"Are you a new employee here?"
A: "I'm a temp."
Q: "Are you in school?"
Q: "Looking for permanent work?"
A: "Not really."
Q: "What do you do besides temping?"
I hate answering them. The question about school pisses me
off, because it seems like they can't believe I'd be a temp without
some special reason behind it. And the question about
permanent work is annoying. Can't they just accept the fact
that I have no ambition? Can't they buy the idea of a guy who
will work for low wages and no benefits? Don't they know I'm
As for the last question, I guess they don't see temping as being
particularly fulfilling. There's gotta be something
else. They're right, there is, and I'd love to be able to say:
"I'm also a writer."
Thing is, I don't feel like a writer, really. I mean, I
know I am a writer. I love writing, it's the only thing I've
ever felt I was any good at, it's the only thing I've done steadily
for any amount of time, and it's the only thing I've done without
pay (save for the extremely generous and much-appreciated donations
I've received), without prompting (save for the gentle "UPDATE
YOUR FUCKING SITE ALREADY ASSHOLE" e-mails I get, sometimes
even from my own parents, when I don't produce new content), and
without any real reason except that I enjoy it. I can't sing
or play sports or use power tools, I can't paint, draw, sculpt,
dance, kick-box or waterski. I'm too small to be a bodyguard
and too large to be a professional jockey. I don't communicate
well enough to deal with people and I'm too timid to be in charge of
people and I'm not charming enough to con people out of millions of
dollars. Writing is the only thing I have to offer.
Still, I've always felt that to consider myself a writer, a real
writer, I'd need to be getting paid to write. Most musicians I
meet don't say "I'm a musician," they say "I'm in a
band." I hear "I write poetry" more often than
"I'm a poet." Unconvicted child molesters tell me
"I fondle kids" rather than "I'm a
pedophile." So, if I did tell someone at work about
myself, I'd usually say, "I do a little writing."
Part of it is that I don't want to tell coworkers about my website
because, chances are, I've written about them unflatteringly the
night before, but mainly it's that I've always thought boldly
proclaiming "I'm a writer" would have to wait until I was
offered a job writing something for money, which finally, thankfully
happened this past July, shortly after my 30th birthday.
I received an e-mail from a woman named Wendi, who was the
Editor-In-Chief of a publishing company in Alabama. According
to her e-mail, the Oakland Chamber of Commerce was sponsoring a
coffee table book about Oakland, which would include a section of
corporate profiles. Basically, certain companies in Oakland
were paying to be promoted in this book, and, while the Alabama
publisher's writers would normally interview the companies over the
phone, there was one, a security company, who had asked to meet with
their writer face-to-face.
Wendi told me that normally when they create these coffee table
books (which they do for many cities), they will send a writer out
to whatever city they are covering to interview all the companies
that want an in-person meeting. In this case, since there was
just the one, they thought that instead of flying someone out,
they'd look for a local freelancer. Me! Whoo-hoo!
Wendi's e-mail made it clear that she read and enjoyed my site,
that she knew I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, and that she
was aware I absolutely despised Oakland. So, who better to
write something complementary about Oakland than myself? Much
like Josh, the reader who was brave enough to hire me to do some
bookkeeping and filing for him, I admired Wendi's choice to look
past everything I've said about being a shiftless slacker, a
horrible procrastinator, a thief, a masturbator, a back-stabber, and
a cutter of corners, to offer me my first ever freelance writing
I was thrilled. Someone was going to pay me, me, to write
something! It would be in a book. A real book!
With a cover and everything! I'd get a bio in the back, a
couple copies of the book, and a check. And I'd be getting
paid to write! Paid for it! Man, I was happy.
Nervous, sure, but incredibly happy.
I called Wendi the next morning while walking to work, on the
noisy, feces-strewn streets of Oakland. Over the sounds of
passing buses and gang warfare, we discussed the project, and I
asked the questions I'd asked my friend Nikki to tell me to
ask. I'd called Nikki in an excited rush, looking for advice
on what sort of stuff I should ask Wendi as to appear professional
and not like some inexperienced putz who'd caught a lucky
break. Basically, would I get a signed contract (yes), would I
have to wait for the book to be published before I was paid (no),
and a few other things. At the time, since I was working, I
wasn't concerned about the money at all (this would change), but I
was ecstatic about having something to put in a professional
portfolio, as well as to be gaining a contact in the publishing biz.
On the phone, Wendi was like her e-mail; pleasant and humorous,
and seemingly just as excited to have me involved as I was to be
involved. My professionalism disintegrated fairly quickly as I
thanked her profusely, gushing about how great it was to get a
paying writing job and how much I loved her and wanted to marry
her. Hey, I was happy. It doesn't happen often and I
don't know how to deal with it. I told her I was standing in
Oakland that very moment, and we joked about how much I hated this
disgusting, smelly city.
Over the past few months, by the way, the city of Oakland has
been running an ad campaign, aimed at keeping the streets cleaner of
trash and refuse. I say "cleaner" rather than
"clean" to be realistic; I mean, it's Oakland, after
all. I'm not the only one with doubts, either: the ad
campaign itself seems downright pessimistic. One sign I
recently saw read something along the lines of:
"We understand throwing an apple core on the sidewalk... but
a sofa? Keep Oakland Clean!"
Hm. Well. This, to me, doesn't seem particularly
ambitious. It seems to be saying, basically, we know you're a
bunch of disgusting littering slobs, but try to limit the refuse you
hurl in the gutter to five pounds and under. It's not
"Just say "no" to drugs," it's "Just try to
think about saying "maybe not" to drugs, if you feel like
it." I expect to see future signs reading:
"We understand urinating on the storefronts of local
businesses... but in the lobbies?"
"We understand vomiting in the middle of the street... but
"We understand tossing corpses in the Dumpster... but in the
"We understand drive-by shootings at elementary schools...
but two drive-bys in the same day?"
So, as you can see, I was the perfect candidate to write
something nice about Oakland. In truth, I was looking forward
to having at least one happy memory of the City of Light Assault
Weapons, and hey, what could be more ironic than writing about
security in a city I don't feel safe walking around in?
Last Week's Technology News
If you're a good temp, a really good one,
temping is more than just filling in for someone who isn't
there. It's becoming that person, an exact copy of them, not
just doing their work but being them, knowing what they know and
acting how they would act. No one wants to hear that you're
new, that you've just started, that you don't know where the person
you're replacing keeps their forms or supplies or documents.
They want to hear what they'd hear if the regular employee was
actually there. Which is why, when I fill in for someone, the
first thing I do is try to figure out who they are, how they think,
and not just what they do but how and why they do it. I
usually start by poking around on their computer, looking for porn.
I'm not a really good temp. You should know that by now.
Your average office worker
doesn't know a lot about covering their tracks, as far as computer use
goes. You can see what websites they've visited, what they've downloaded,
what pictures they've saved to their hard drive, and the best part, read their e-mail.
I've found that hardly anyone I fill in for
uses webmail, like Yahoo! or hotmail; instead, they use their work e-mail to do most of their personal
correspondence. And, while they often delete the mail they receive, few of
them seem to realize that most mail programs save everything they route to the
trash, as well as saving a copy of everything they send. Even better, a
lot of assistants can access the e-mail of their boss, meaning I can too.
Man, there's noting more entertaining than reading a few months worth of
personal e-mail to make the day fly by.
At a recent job, I had been
enjoying some nasty trash-talk between two employees, via e-mail, while also
reading some horribly written pornographic e-mail between the employee's boss
and his apparently much younger boyfriend. A taste:
"And tehn I would go to the kitchen! And get some
oil! And tehn come bask and rubs it on you! All
over! And tehn I woulds climb on you! And rub you!
With teh oil! And Then take off my pants! And
Hot enough for ya?
I was in heaven! Not only
did I have something to do besides work, I had tons of potential blackmail
material. I was a little sad, since the employee would be back at the end
of the day, and I'd have to leave her desk and work at a less
entertaining computer, but it had been fun while it had lasted.
While I was sitting there,
though, reading the incredibly exclamatory porn, a new e-mail came in for the employee I was filling in for. It
was from someone I recognized as having sent some embarrassingly flirtatious
e-mail to this employee before, and I really wanted to read it, especially since
it had a subject line of "Ooooooh, baby." I figured it would be
nice and juicy. Problem was, if I looked at it, it would no longer appear
as "new" mail in the employee's inbox, instead, it would be marked as
"read" and the employee would know I'd been poking through her
I remembered, though, that with
this particular mail program, by forwarding the e- mail, I could read the contents
without actually opening it. I'd done this in the past at a prior job, and
it had always worked. I could forward the mail to myself, then read it,
and it would remain "new" in the employee's inbox. Sweet!
So, I forwarded it to
myself. Turns out, it was just a dumb forwarded internet joke of some
sort, not a personal mash letter, so I was disappointed. Also, it had
been sent not just to the employee I was filling in for, but to approximately
5,678,940 other people, as these things generally are. Lame. I
deleted my copy of it, and went back to poking around.
That's when I saw that it had
been marked as "read" in the employee's inbox after all.
Um. Huh. Damn. Looks like the old forward trick didn't work
anymore. Damn software upgrades! Well, now what should I do?
I decided to simply delete the "Ooooooh, baby" e-mail, figuring the
yutz who had sent it was the type who forwarded every single joke/urban
legend/inspirational religious story/virus warning/remember 9-11 schmutz that came his way, and there was no way
this one would be missed. Click. Deleted.
A few minutes later, another new e-mail appeared. Subject
line: "RE: Ooooooh, baby." Hm. Well,
someone else on the mailing list had "replied to all," not
a particularly shocking occurrence. I deleted it as well.
New mail. "RE: Ooooooh, baby." Da
hell? Some other putz did the same thing. Delete.
"RE: Ooooooh, baby." Gah! What was
with these people? Were they morons? Delete.
"RE: Ooooooh, baby." Dammit! Delete!
The day was coming to an end, and I knew the employee would be
back soon. The replies kept storming in, and I realized they
must actually be discussing the e-mail, mailing-list style.
Shit. What if they kept replying into tomorrow? Or for
the rest of the week? If this employee returned to find a
bunch of replies but no original e-mail, would she know I'd read and
deleted the original? Bad temp!
They were coming even faster now! "RE: Ooooooh,
baby." "RE: Ooooooh, baby." "RE:
Ooooooh, baby." "RE: Ooooooh, baby." I
clicked like mad, deleting every one of them, ignoring the actual
work I was supposed to be doing, thinking "Ooooooh, shit,
ooooooh, shit." Finally, they seemed to be slowing down,
and by the end of the day, they had stopped.
The employee showed up a few minutes later, and I left her desk
guiltily. As she sat down, she said "Oooooh, I've already
got new e-mail!"
"Ooooooh," I thought. "Time to go
Previous Technology News
Still Another Not My Desk Mystery
(previous NMD Mysteries here
You know me. You've seen
me around. You've probably smelled me. You may have even hired me at some point.
I'm a temp. A temp who
solves crimes. Sometimes, however, the crimes... solve me. That's
actually not true at all, but it sounds kinda cool, so I'm going with it.
I guess should have said: sometimes
the crimes find me, as one did this sultry October
afternoon. (Again, not true; it's October, so it isn't sultry at
all, but it just sounds better). I'm sitting in my office, working on The
Case of the Stuff In The Fridge That Is Probably Too Old To Eat But Possibly
Not, when suddenly, there's a knock at my door. I reflect on the fact that
knocks at the door are always sudden, I mean, how can they not be? What
could you precede a knock with to make it less sudden? I guess you could
announce "I am preparing to knock" before actually knocking.
That might work. Anyway, it doesn't matter, as a sudden (!) kick sends the
door flying open, and a large man dressed all in
black lumbers into the room, brandishing a huge scimitar.
"Is this about the
rent?" I ask. His answer comes in the form of a swing of the blade at
my head, which I nimbly duck under. At least, that's what I'll tell people
later, since the only reason I am able to duck is because my knees give out in
fear. I scramble away, shrieking like a toddler, my hands groping for
something, anything, that I can use as a weapon. Stapler, paper weight,
empty whiskey bottle... anything! Ah, here we go, a TOS-1 220mm Multiple
Rocket Launcher. I turn and blast my attacker into red glop.
Hm. Someone was trying to
kill me. Not unusual in my line of business: I'm a temp, after
all. But who? And why? I go through the remains of the
attacker's clothing. I suspect someone has hired this would-be killer,
and I find proof in an invoice in his wallet. It reads:
For The Services of Killing
Christopher Livingston With a Huge Scimitar: $13,500.00
Paid By: Joe Reynolds,
Hm. Well, now I have the
"who" behind the hit. But what about the "why?"
I read the next line.
ordered because he temped for me for six months and never did any work.
Well. Now I know the who
and the why... um... crap. What kinda mystery is this, anyway? That
leaves the where, the when, and the how. Well, here, just a second ago,
and with a huge scimitar.
I poke a cigarette into my mouth. This mystery has too many
questions. Answered questions. I don't like it.
Could be a frame job. Maybe this Joe Reynolds is innocent,
just a pawn in this little game of Yahtzee. I reach for the
phone, grinding my cigarette in the ashtray, which is somewhat
foolish since I hadn't actually lit it.
Reynolds answers on the first ring, and I identify myself. "Oh,
hey, Chris. Huh,
I guess the assassin I paid to kill you with a huge scimitar didn't actually kill
you. That sucks."
I slam the phone down. I know everything about this case,
now. Well, that might be enough for some detectives, but not
for this one. There must be more answers to find. Er,
no. Questions to find. I grab my coat, determined to
leave no stone unturned in finding some vital clue that doesn't lead
anywhere. Some evidence that will make this case harder to
understand. That one final puzzle piece that just doesn't fit
at all. It was time to find out the word on the street.
I know him only as " Diamond Dog." You know how
these streetwise sources are... shady and mysterious. And I
needed a little mystery right about now.
"Well, well," I say,
sliding up to him. "If it isn't Diamond Dog. How are the "mines,"
"Excuse me?" he says,
turning to face me.
"Just wondering if you've
dug up any valuable " rocks" lately," I say. "How about it,
Dog? Got any "gems" for me?"
He sighs. "Look, do we
have to go through this every time? My name is Albert."
"Sure, sure, Dog, I
understand. Keeping it on the down-low, I get it."
"Uh, yeah. Anyway, how can
I help you?"
"The same way as always, D.D. Just tell me what the word on the street
is, and maybe this portrait of Benjamin Franklin," I slip him a folded
bill, "will find its way into your pocket."
"Look, I'll say this
again. This is a Kinko's. I don't know anything about the word on the street. If you need
something copied or bound, I can do that for you, otherwise, I'll need
to help the next customer."
He handed my bill back to me. "Also, that's George
Washington," he adds.
Since Dog wasn't playing fetch, I
left, making a mental note to find more helpful and cryptic sources in the
future. It was clear I had only one option left: to stake out Reynolds'
I sit and wait for hours outside the building, drinking cheap
coffee, eating fast food, letting the trash pile up around me.
Finally, I spot Reynolds. He hops into his SUV and speeds into
traffic, and I follow, losing him in a matter of seconds since I'm
on foot. Well, that's okay. I know where he's
going. Wait. I... I don't know where he's going. I
have no idea! Finally, after searching for hours, I've found a
question I don't know the answer to!
"Where was Mr. Reynolds going?" someone asks from
behind me. I turn and see two employees leaving the building.
"Oh, he was going home, to his house at 1517 Canyon
Drive," the other employee answers. I leave while they're
discussing the easiest route there.
A few hours later, I confront Reynolds' in his dining room.
"Surprised to see me?" I ask as he looks up from his
"Well, no, you me called a little while ago when you
couldn't find the street."
"And then again, when you couldn't spot the house
"I know, but--"
"And then when you couldn't find the dining room."
"And then you cooked me this dinner."
"Yes, yes, that's all well and good. But do you know
why I'm here?"
"Yeah, because I tried to have you killed for being on my
payroll for 6 months and not doing any work."
"Right." I fix him with a gaze. "But before I call
the cops, there's one little thing I don't quite get."
I stare him down. "There's... one little loose end
I've got to wrap up."
He waits some more.
I glare at him piercingly. "There's one little question
He goes out to a movie, comes back, and keeps waiting.
I look at him in a way that is different than the other ways I've
looked at him previously. "You, uh, need any office help
Previous Technology News
(10-16) I realized the other day that
writing really sucks. It's a lot of hard work. It takes a lot of
time. It requires the use of both of my hands. I should have chosen
to do something easy. Something really easy. Like music.
Before I hear from a lot of
pissed-off musicians saying how darn hard it is to be all musicy, let me explain my position. As a writer, I sit down
at my desk, and I write something. I stick it online, it is read, hopefully
enjoyed, and then the next day (or week (or month)) I sit down and write
There's the problem with writing.
Writing something else. Why the hell am I writing
something else? Why isn't what I wrote yesterday (or last week (or last month))
good enough to get by on? Why do you people require new stuff? Why
can't you read the same damn thing every day? Huh?
Now, musicians. They sit
down, and write a song. They practice it a lot, with fellow band members,
if they have any. I understand this process takes a lot longer than it
takes me to write something for my website. But then! Then, the
musician lets people listen to the song. If it's a bad song,
people probably won't want to hear it again (except in the case of Billy Joel), but if it's good, people will listen to it
over and over again.
Now, I'm not saying no one
reads the things I write more than once. I've been told by readers that
they've gone back and re-read some of my stuff. My essays, particularly,
get a second look from time to time. Still, it's not the
same. When I hear a song I like, I'm content to listen to it over and over
again, many times, in succession. Sometimes I'll play it for weeks.
I'll learn all the words, the tune, I'll sing it or hum it even when
I'm not playing it.
And here's where we start getting into the real difference between being a
writer and a musician.
If I like a song a whole lot, I will pay a shitload of money
to go to a crowded place with tons of other people who also like the song, and listen to the musician or band play the same song,
the one I've listened to over and over again, in addition to a bunch of other
songs. And it's the same song. Same words. Same
tune. I know it by heart. I have it at home. It's
This doesn't happen with writers like myself. If someone
likes something I wrote, they won't read it over and over again,
simply starting from the beginning right after they've finished, the
way people listen to music. No one will learn one of my
essays, word for word, and recite it while they're driving or in the
shower. They won't find themselves mumbling it under their
breath, and going "dum-de-dum-doo" over the words they
can't quite remember. No one will ever get one of my updates
stuck in their head and have to read some other writer's stuff to
get it out. I'm lucky if people read my crap once, and even if
they do, well, I just have to crank out some new shit the next day
(or etc (or etc)). What a gyp!
I know there are writers who have their stuff read over and over
again, even memorized, taught in classes, and what have you.
People memorize poems and Shakespeare. And
successful writers, authors, can go places where people will pay
them to read their writing live and in person, word for word, which
seems to be the same thing that musicians do, but it isn't.
Reading something you've written aloud isn't writing, it's
reading. The only way it would be the same as what musicians
do is if the writer went and wrote live and in person. Wrote
something he or she had already written. And that never
happens, as far as I know.
So, here's what I
propose. If there's an essay of mine you particularly like, I will sell
you tickets for about $35 each. Using the tickets, you can come to an
auditorium along with hundreds or thousands of other readers, and watch me write, WORD FOR WORD, the SAME EXACT
ESSAY YOU'VE ALREADY READ. I will
not READ IT TO YOU. I'm not a READER. I'm a WRITER, so I'll sit
there, hunched over the desk on stage, writing my essay verbatim, while you
cheer and throw panties and hotel room keys at me. I'll write some other
old essays, too, maybe a few previous updates, a couple sections of my Field
Guide, and jot down the URLs of a few Diversions. Then, I will get up and
leave, and if you cheer loud enough, I'll come back on stage, sit down, and
write a Vision of the Future or a movie review. Not a new one, mind you,
just one of the ones I've already written.
Sound good? 'Cos it sounds good to me. I can travel
the country, more or less copying my old essays in front of live
audiences everywhere! It's a hell of a lot easier than coming
up with new stuff. And who knows! You might even get to
see me write today's update! Again! And again!
Hi! I should mention that the NMD
Store is now selling jerseys!
Check 'em out and buy a few dozen. I thought I might also
rattle my tip jar, as I've been having a
lot of trouble locating any sort of temporary employment for the
past month or so. I know I haven't been doing a whole lot to
deserve free money from you fine folks, but just thought I'd
ask! If you can spare a buck or two I'd put it to good
use. Thanks a lot!
Diversions for this
week: Swron! It's like that Tron motorcycle game thing.
Fun! Also, Crab Volleyball, which is a lot like Slime
Volleyball was, but still fun. Finally, a neat game called
Yard Invaders. Fun!
I dig it. Links in the left-hand bottom box (on the main page).