Work Stuff

The Unabridged Co-Worker Translation Guide

Co-workers: they’re always saying stuff, am I right? Ladies, you know what I’m talking about.

Sometimes the things co-workers say are not the things they mean, and since I am the first person in history to ever notice this, here are some random entries from the Unabridged Co-Worker Translation Guide.

Entry #249: “I can’t figure out how to work my phone” = “I have not made any attempt to figure out how to work my phone”

Entry #106:  “I need help with this” = “Do this for me”

Entry #387: “Hey, quick question…” = “Hey, several dozen lengthy questions…”

Entry #426: “We need to give Cathy a call” = “You need to give Cathy a call”

Entry #325: “Are you going out for lunch today?” = “Get me lunch”

Entry #622: “I think we’re out of pens” = “I do not see a pen within a three foot radius of where I’m sitting”

Entry #88: “Did Todd get a new computer?” = “Why haven’t I also gotten a new computer?”

Entry #139: “Thanks for showing me how to do something in Microsoft Excel” = “You are now the company’s expert in Microsoft Excel”

Entry #320: “I’m expecting a fax” = “I’m expecting you to hover over the fax machine for the next seven hours”

Entry #212: “I don’t like the look of that applicant” = “That applicant is black”

Entry #381: “I copied you on an e-mail a while back…” = “By copying you on an e-mail, I actually expected you to completely handle it despite the e-mail being primarily addressed to someone other than you”

Entry #414: “How’s everything going with you? = “I am about to ignore whatever you say and then tell you how everything is going with me, which is terribly, and which will take an hour”

Entry #198: “The copier is broken” = “The copier is out of paper”

Entry #198A: “The copier is broken” = “The copier hasn’t telepathically divined what I want it to do”

Entry #198B: “The copier is broken” = “The copier is broken, and since you are standing there I’ll just assume you’re the copier repairman”

Entry #198C: “The copier is broken” = “I broke the copier”

Not My Desk

Seriously, What Are You Doing Up There?

I ask the above question with no real sarcasm or snark, but out of simple curiosity. And perhaps a bit of impotent rage.

Lately I’ve been lucky about waiting in lines: at the bank, at the store, at the bail bondsman, and all the usual places lines form. I keep arriving at places to get in line and there’s only one person in front of me, which seems to indicate that my wait will be the briefest it could be besides having no wait at all. There’s only one person between me and doing the thing I am waiting to do. And what could take one person very long to do anything?

But these waits always turn out to be an eternity, and I don’t know why. For example:

1) At the ATM.

There’s one person using the ATM when I arrive. Using an ATM shouldn’t take long, and I’m mentally subtracting the time they’ve already been there before I show up. But the person has either never seen an ATM before and is confused by all the buttons and options or is doing some complicated stock trading or maybe hacking into the CIA mainframe or something that requires at least 7,943 different button presses, with irritatingly long, confused pauses between each.

Not to mention all the fake-outs, when the thing beeps and their card pops out and I figure it’s my turn. But the person pops the same card right back in and goes back to pushing buttons like they’re on the deck of the Starship Enterprise during a war with the Klingons.

And then when they really are done and the card pops out and they get their receipt (which seems like it should be 147 feet long from all the dozens of transactions they had to complete in order to withdraw their $40) they stand there scrutinizing it like it’s a new Dead Sea scroll without actually moving away from the machine so I can use it.

Even when I make a deposit and a withdrawal from the ATM it takes me maybe two minutes. I don’t know what these people are doing up there.

2) The drive-thru

Okay, so maybe people have more complicated meal selections than I do. But once you’re done at the speaker and you drive up to pay and then drive further up to get your food, you should be about done with the complicated, time-consuming stuff.

But there I sit peering in growing confusion through my windshield as the employee passes you a bag of food and you accept it and say something. And then they say something. And then you say something. And then they pass you a drink and a straw. And then you say something and they say something and you pass the drink back and they pass you another bag and you pass the first bag back and they say something and you say something and then they lean out the window and rest on their forearms because they’re about to say something that will last a good four minutes and you say something and they pass you a bag and you pass them some more money and then the drink goes back in and two more bags come out and you say something and they pass you some money and you pass them a receipt and you both look at it and then more things are said and then I turn off my engine and sigh loudly as if that will clearly send the message that I am annoyed.

I do not know what you are doing up there, seriously.

3) The break-room sink

Do you know this guy? At work? The guy who washes out his coffee cup for like ten solid minutes? And you need to get to the sink to dump out your coffee so you can get new coffee in your cup and go back to staring at the internet until it’s time to go home?

Washing a small cup should not take the better part of an hour, but the guy I’m waiting behind appears to be trying to scrub it down until it no longer physically exists. And the rinsing process he’s doing uses more water than an industrial washing machine. I don’t know where he thinks his coffee cup has been since he used it last but it’s apparently filthy. Maybe it’s been sitting in a toilet in a malaria testing lab on the planet Germulon in the Bronchitis Nebula. It’s not even a cup anymore if you scrub all the ceramic out of it, guy.

4) The airplane bathroom

There must be a shower hidden somewhere in those tiny bathrooms, because seriously, people go in and they don’t come out for ages. And you have to stand in the aisle waiting, dodging drink carts, attempting to stand so your butt is not in someone’s face, and trying not to be judgmental about all the Dan Brown books the other passengers are reading. This comes after an hour of sitting in your seat, craning your neck around making sure there’s no line, and then having to wake up the guy sleeping next to you so you can get into the aisle. He will of course be fast asleep upon your return.

5) The toll booth.

Okay, this time I know what you’re doing up there. You’re asking for directions. To the Bronchitis Nebula. That’s the only way it could take this long.

Work Stuff

The Office Mate — A Play In Two Acts

The Office Mate is a play in two acts. It was written by Christopher Livingston.




PETER: Do you know where the drawings are for that Railyards project?

CHRISTOPHER: Um, no. I think Matt downloaded them a few days ago.

PETER: Do you know where he put them?

CHRISTOPHER: No, no idea.

PETER: Did he put them on the X-Drive?

CHRISTOPHER: I don’t know, maybe.

PETER: I don’t see them on the X-Drive.


PETER: Do you think he put them on the X-Drive?

CHRISTOPHER: I don’t know. Maybe.

PETER: Where would he put them on the X-Drive?

CHRISTOPHER: I don’t know. Did you ask him?

PETER: No. Do you think he saved them on his computer?

CHRISTOPHER: I don’t know. Maybe. You should ask him.


PETER: Did he save them somewhere else? On another drive, maybe?

CHRISTOPHER: I really don’t know. Matt would know. Matt could tell you.

PETER: Where did he download them from?

CHRISTOPHER: I really have no idea. You should check with Matt.


PETER: Do you think he put them on a CD?

CHRISTOPHER: I, I really, I have no idea. You should check with Matt.

PETER: Yeah, I’ll ask him.


PETER: Did he print them out?


CHRISTOPHER (eventually): Sorry, what?

PETER: Did Matt print them out?

CHRISTOPHER: I don’t know. You know who would know? Matt. Matt would know. Ask Matt. He’s sitting thirty feet from here. Ask him. Ask Matt, for the love of all that is holy, just get up and go ask him.



PETER: Did he save them as a PDF?






PETER: Did he save them to a flash drive?



Life Stuff

The Project Engineer Is Present

An artist named Marina Abramovic is performing in the Museum of Modern Art, in an installation called The Artist is Present, where she sits in a chair all day, from the museum’s opening to closing. Apparently, that’s all she does, sit in a chair, staring straight ahead, which is apparently art.

Well, shit. I’ve been sitting in a chair at my job, staring blankly, from opening to closing, every weekday for years. I wouldn’t call it art, but I think it could be considered an art form since I haven’t been fired yet.

Some photos of the artist and museum visitors, who are allowed to take turns sitting across from her. Interestingly, a number of them sitting there watching her sit there start crying.

If you came and sat at my job and stared at me sitting and staring at my job, I don’t know if you’d start crying. I might, but you probably wouldn’t.

Life Stuff

The Quitter, Part 2

If there were a children’s book about me called What Makes Christopher Go?!? it would be two pages long and contain colorful illustrations of a pack of cigarettes and a cup of coffee.  Over the past two weeks I’ve had neither, and it has severely affected my ability to, shall we say, go.

See, I had planned to do a daily running commentary, to mine my quit-smoking misery for laughs, but frankly, I’ve been miserable to the point of not being able to laugh about it.  It’s been a rough 14 days, and my original plan is completely in shambles, but I’ve still managed to not smoke.

The plan was three-pronged.  First, to not buy cigarettes using my natural procrastination.  That’s been working fine. In fact, I’ve been using my natural procrastination to do nothing whatsoever. I knew I could count on it!

The second prong was to to push-ups every time I wanted a cigarette, in hopes of punishing myself into not wanting cigarettes.  This worked pretty well for the first couple days.  Early on in the process, the desire to smoke hits hard and often, probably once an hour.  But it only hits briefly.  The desire is overwhelming but only lasts for a few minutes, then goes away until the next one.

Problem is, after the first few days, the sudden, painful pangs go away and are replaced by low-level yet constant urges. It’s like going from an occasional hard smack in the face, which hurts but quickly fades, to what amounts to someone flicking you in the earlobe, non-stop, all day, every day. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s a constant annoyance and it eventually wears you down to the point that you want to crawl into a ditch and die.  It’s sort of like a car-alarm going off a few blocks away: even though the noise is distant, soon it’s pretty much the only thing you can hear.

So, that’s been fun. Right now, if I did push-ups every time I wanted to smoke, I’d be doing push-ups roughly 24 hours a day. I’d be ripped, sure, but I’d probably also be dead.

Finally, the third prong was to substitute sunflower seeds for cigarettes. And I have done this. I have eaten so many sunflower seeds that the inside of my mouth is basically a tattered, stinging ruin.  The sodium and sharp shells have torn and gouged and shredded and destroyed my mouth to the point where — no exaggeration — I can’t actually whistle anymore.  Each seed is like pouring salt in a wound because it is literally pouring salt in a wound.  My mouth is one big injury.  I was actually reduced to buying jello because it was the only thing I could eat without causing myself pain.

Also, a weird side-effect of quitting smoking is that, for some reason, coffee now tastes and smells like liquid skunk shit. It’s bizarre. I’m almost physically incapable of allowing coffee into my mouth. This means, along with the nicotine withdrawal I’ve also got daily headaches from the lack of caffeine.  Plus, I used to love coffee. It’s like I lost custody of coffee in my divorce with cigarettes.  The entire experience is quite exhausting.

But, apart from the pain of withdrawal and the pain of my shredded mouth and the pain of headaches, I’m doing swell!

Movie Stuff

I'm Not Here to Judge: Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus

There are already plenty of movie review sites out there, so I thought I might just dispassionately describe the films I choose to watch, trying to keep my personal opinions to myself. Sort of like a news reporter, only, like I said, I’ll be keeping my personal opinions to myself.

I recently watched the movie Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, a low-budget thriller shot in twelve days in southern California and released straight to home video. Below is a description of the events of the film as I witnessed them; you are left to make your own decision as to the quality of the film.

I’m not here to judge.

Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus begins with some long aerial shots of a snow-capped mountain range, a natural choice for a film that will take place mostly in the ocean.  After the credits, we meet 80’s pop-sensation Debbie “Deborah” Gibson, who is a top scientist in the important and challenging field of Looking At Whales.  While she pilots a research submarine, a military helicopter drops an experimental sonar device into the ocean, which disturbs the whales and causes them to crash into a glacier, freeing a Quite-Large shark and an octopus that is also Abnormally Big.

Back on land, Debbie Gibson, who had stolen the submarine, gets chewed out by her boss, a sunglasses-wearing, gum-chomping hardass who seems to think he’s been cast to play a jaded homicide detective instead of a marine biologist.  They examine the corpse of a beached whale that has a huge bite out of it, though Detective Scientist claims the whale died from some sort of boating accident.  Debbie Gibson, suspecting otherwise, sneaks back later to extract a large pointy tooth from the carcass.

Meanwhile, on a commercial airliner, a stewardess walks down the aisle individually asking each and every passenger to put their seat-backs up.  The plane experiences some light turbulence, causing a male passenger to leap from his seat and announce that he’s getting married in two days.  After the stewardess calms him, he glances out the window in time to see Mega Shark leaping thousands of feet into the air and biting the plane to death.

This is your captain speaking. We're flying at 35,000 feet, and in a few minutes, those of you on the right side of the plane will be able to look out your window for a nice view of the digestive tract of an enormous prehistoric shark.

Debbie Gibson gets in touch with her former professor of paleontology, an irascible Irishman named Lamar. Lamar and Debbie Gibson try to determine what the large tooth-like object that looks like a tooth is, and after pouring Hawaiian Punch from one beaker to another and analyzing the results, they eventually realize that the tooth is a tooth. Lamar quickly jumps to the conclusion that the tooth belongs to a Megalodon, a prehistoric shark.

A Japanese scientist, Dr. Shimada, asks for help with Giant Octopus, who attacked an offshore oil platform while two workers were discussing whether or not it’s acceptable to urinate on co-workers.  Shimada also reveals that Lamar was kicked out of the Navy for crashing a nuclear submarine in order to avoid hitting a dolphin.  It is not explained how Lamar saw the dolphin from inside the submarine, or why the dolphin was floating motionless and unable to get out of the way, or why the Navy let an Irishman drive a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine in the first place.

The film then presents an important environmental message as Debbie Gibson announces that we deserve to have our passenger jets and oil platforms eaten by monsters because we’re letting the polar ice caps melt.  As if to prove this point, Mega Shark then eats a Navy destroyer.

Debbie Gibson, Lamar, and Shimada are taken to meet Lorenzo Lamas, who is one of the few top-ranking government agents allowed to have a ponytail, and who describes Mega Shark and Octopus as a “menace”, as if they were some foul-mouthed teenage skateboarders rather than creatures responsible for the deaths of thousands of people.  He also demonstrates an amazing skill: the ability to pick up any nearby phone and instantly be able to yell at the specific person he wants to yell at, be it a jet pilot, boat captain, or someone in a submarine, without having to actually push any buttons or ask someone to connect him.  He can just automatically connect through rage.

The scientists do some science, pouring various flavors of fruit juice into different-sized beakers, looking at the beakers, and shaking their heads because the juice is apparently not cooperating. Science is hard!

Exhausted from a day spent looking skeptically at juice, Lamar sleeps while Debbie Gibson and Shimada compare stories about why they became whatever kinds of scientists they are supposed to be.  Shimada explains he was a fisherman until he witnessed the tragic death of a dolphin caught in one of his nets, which convinced him to go into the field of beaker-related science.  His description of the agonizing demise of the helpless dolphin naturally arouses Debbie Gibson, and they have sex.

Afterward, Shimada starts sniffing Debbie Gibson, which doesn’t creep her out but instead gives her the idea of using pheromones to lure Mega Shark and Giant Octopus to shallow waters in hopes of trapping them.  Energized, they scientifically pour more fruit punch into beakers until the formula glows bright green, which indicates they’ve invented either Mountain Dew or the perfect substance to make giant prehistoric sea creatures horny.

Alas, things go awry. Giant Octopus swats a fighter jet out of the sky as it attempts to locate him.  Mega Shark becomes a nuisance as well, sinking another battleship and eating the Golden Gate Bridge, which was crowded with traffic due to no one bothering to tell the citizens of San Francisco that a five-hundred foot prehistoric shark was being lured into their city and they might want to stay away from the water.

The direct result of you refusing to switch to energy-saving light bulbs.

Since the plan to trap Mega Shark and Giant Octopus failed, Lorenzo Lamas wants to nuke the monsters, but Debbie Gibson has the idea of tricking the shark and octopus into attacking each other instead.  While luring the beasts together, Giant Octopus destroys an entire fleet of submarines by whapping them with his tentacles. “All five ships… destroyed by Octopus…” a submarine officer reports sadly.

Mega Shark starts chasing the last submarine, and after the submarine driver pulls a gun on everyone (don’t ask), Lamar knocks him unconscious and steers the submarine to safety, redeeming himself in the eyes of the Navy.  Mega Shark and Giant Octopus finally do battle, with Giant Octopus repeatedly wrapping his tentacles around Mega Shark because that’s apparently the only shot of the titular battle the filmmakers produced.  Eventually, both creatures die and sink into the deep, their deaths probably less a result of the fight than from trying to digest several thousand tons of boat and airplane wreckage.

Our heroes, clearly transfixed by the climactic battle. Or possibly thinking the camera wasn't rolling. Hard to say.

In the end, Shimada decides he’d like to continue living in the United States so he can keep sniffing Debbie Gibson. Lamar shows up and they all happily and excitedly run off to investigate some new monster stuck in ice somewhere, because it was so much fun the first time what with the thousands of people dying and the billions of dollars of damage.  The end.

Life Stuff

The Quitter, Part 1

I discovered something disturbing the other day. Cigarettes are apparently bad for you! I can’t believe no one ever thought to mention this to me.

So, this weekend, after roughly twenty years, cigarettes and I will part ways.  I’ve tried to quit before, generally with no success, save the time I quit for about eighteen months a few years back. With each failed attempt, however, I’ve learned a little something to bring with me to my next attempt, and I’m fairly optimistic that this time will be the final time.  With a bold new plan in place, I think I will kick them for good.

This will be a cold-turkey approach, which I think is the only way to do it. I tried the patch once, which didn’t work. Having a patch stuck to me all day irritated my skin, gave me bad dreams, and was so uncomfortable that I couldn’t forget it was there, which meant I was constantly thinking about the patch and thus constantly thinking about not smoking and thus constantly wanting to smoke.

I tried the nicotine gum, which sounded good: chewing on something keeps your mouth busy all day. While I’m sure I’ll be chewing gum during this attempt, it won’t be nicotine gum, because you don’t just pop in a piece of nicotine gum and chew away to your heart’s content. There are rules.

You have to chew the gum a certain number of times, then park it between your teeth and your cheek for a certain amount of time, then chew it a certain number of times again. Keeping track of each piece, how many chews I’ve given it, how long it’s been parked in my cheek… it’s all very scheduled and precise instead of the mindless chomping I need. The last thing I want to do is spend all day thinking about how I’m quitting smoking. It’s the same problem as the patch.

So, I’m flying solo: no prescription drugs, no crutches, just stopping using the following plan, which I call my Three P plan.

The three P’s of quitting:

Procrastination: This is the keystone of my methodology. I will use my natural procrastination to help me quit smoking by never actually quitting, just delaying my next cigarette indefinitely.

See, I hate bumming smokes off people. I hate it. I think it’s rude and I’m always annoyed when someone does it to me. It’s like going up to a stranger in a restaurant and asking for a bite of their steak. With my anti-bumming policy, the only way I can smoke is if I go buy my own.

Something else I hate doing is literally everything else. If there’s one thing I love to do, it’s nothing. Putting things off is second-nature to me, so why can’t I just put off buying cigarettes? Forever!

Anytime I feeling like I really need to smoke, and find myself thinking about buying smokes, I’ll just tell myself: “Okay, fine, but not right now. Put it off until later.” When later comes around, I’ll put it off again. And again. This practice of procrastination has kept me from going to the dentist and learning Javascript for years; I don’t see why smoking should be any different. I’ve trained myself for years to be lazy and unmotivated, and now it’s finally going to pay off. In lung dollars!

Punishment: Of course, there are times when my need for nicotine will overpower me. When my brain will be all but demanding that I have a cigarette. When I might be in such dire straits that I actually consider asking someone for one. This is where I will have to retrain my brain.

The plan is, when my brain decides it absolutely needs nicotine, I will give it something else: push-ups! Every time my brain tells me it wants and needs a smoke, I will instead drop to the floor and give it the agony of doing as many push-ups as I can (granted, this is not very many, but I’m sure dropping to the floor and doing push-ups a couple dozen times a day will increase the amount of push-ups I can do). I’m hoping that my brain will eventually realize that asking for nicotine equals getting a lot of pain instead, and will eventually stop asking. Hopefully not too quickly, though, I’d like some well-sculpted biceps and triceps to go along with my new well-sculpted lungs.

Sunflower seeds: Okay, this doesn’t start with a P, but it’s the third prong of my attack, and the Two P and One S plan isn’t very catchy.

I’m not simply addicted to nicotine but the ritual of smoking itself; doing something with my hands and mouth. And what better way to kick the disgusting habit of smoking than by picking up the disgusting habit of crunching on and spitting out sunflower seed shells? It’s gonna be a real pleasure to be around me for the next couple months.

One of the places I always feel like I need to smoke is while driving to and from work. In my half-hour commute I usually have three or four cigarettes each way, sometimes more if there’s traffic. Last week, however, I started eating sunflower seeds while driving, and it fills in nicely. Added bonus: cigarettes don’t come in zesty ranch flavor!

Finally, I’ve come up with a way to face the incredibly thorny issue of deciding which cigarette will be my last. Planning a set date and time to quit smoking is a terrible idea, because how can you pick your last cigarette? Knowingly smoking your last cigarette is a sure way to make that last cigarette taste like crap and feel completely ordinary, not the perfect, tasty, wonderful cigarette to end a smoking career with. And I can’t just pick one at random because I have no willpower, which was what got me into this mess in the first place.  That’s probably why I’ve put it off for so long; it never feels like the right time, it never feels like the last one. But at some point, there has to be one.

So, I’m leaving it to fate. Friday night, after work, I’m letting fate decide my last smoke. After every cigarette I have, I’m going to roll a six-sided dice. If 1-5 comes up, I’m not quitting yet. I can have one more.  When 6 comes up, that smoke I just had was the last I’ll ever have. There will be no hemming and hawing, just a decision made by the dice, probably followed by me bursting into tears and unhappily stuffing sunflower seeds into my mouth.

That’s the plan! It goes into effect this Friday night. If you’d like to subscribe to my Twitter feed and keep track of how miserable I am in real time, feel free.

Site Stuff

Site Stuff

I added a tab up top that will take you the old Not My Desk site.  The archives and features are fully viewable through that link: essays and field guide are not, for the moment.  I’m going through and doing some editing, choosing what I’d like to put in my book, and I’ll be reactivating a number of links over the next few weeks. Everything is currently viewable again!

Book Stuff

Not My Desk: The Book(s)!

Welcome to the new Not My Desk blog! It’s March, 2010, which means Not My Desk has been around for a full ten years, which is a pretty long time for something to be on the internet.

In related news, Not My Desk is no longer on the internet. Edit: it’s all back up now.  Click here for the old site.

There’s a reason for this, which clever readers may have gleaned from the title of this post. Finally, at long last, it’s time for what literally tens of people have been waiting for: a chance to pay me for essays that have been free to read for almost an entire decade.

I’m currently working on putting some of the essays from Not My Desk into book form. First, an e-book, which will be available on Amazon Kindle and the Kindle app for the iPod, hopefully by the end of April. Then, somewhere further down the line, possibly this summer, a real honest-to-goodness paper book, also available from Amazon. Note that I don’t have any kind of book deal; this is a self-publishing effort, so my dreams of owning a gold helicopter are still on hold.

What’s the difference between Not My Desk: The Website and Not My Desk: The Book? Excellent question. I’m glad I asked.

Frankly, uh, not much. I’m re-editing the essays, cleaning out the typos, dumping some of the junk, and adding a few all-new, never-before-seen essays to the book. I’ll have more details when I’m closer to having the e-book done next month.

As far as pricing, it’ll probably be between $3-$5 for the Kindle book, and maybe $13-$15 for the paper book, but I won’t know for sure until the books are ready.

But wait, you may be saying. I don’t have any money! Or, I have money, but I don’t want to give you any because I’m horribly selfish! Or, I never read the original essays, so how do I know if I want to buy a whole book of them?

Never fear. For those who can’t afford a book, or don’t want to pay, or have no idea what kind of writer I am, I’ll have some sample chapters up to read for free in the next couple weeks. And as for anything not going into the book, which is most of the archives, I’ll be re-posting all of that eventually as well for people to read for free. If you check the “Book” tab at the top of the page periodically, I’ll add more information as I get closer to publishing.

Also, in the meantime, I’m going to try to start blogging here again. This won’t be anything spectacular, but I’ll fill you in on what I’ve been doing in the past few years, and what I might be doing in the near future. And whatever else I can think of.

Welcome back! And, if you never left, thanks for sticking around.