Your Weekly Planner


Friday

9:30 am. Wake up late. So apparently that melatonin you took to help get to bed Wednesday night was stronger than its 3 mg label suggests. Boy, those things are great. Can you imagine how awful life would be if any of this stuff were regulated or anything?

2:00 pm. The conference call. It starts with great promise. Logemein isn’t working, and no number of panicky e-mails to the people who insist that no, it is too working will make it work. Matters shift quickly to GoToMeeting. This allows for a great five minutes trying to find some talk small enough to wait for the password reset. After that’s done there’s plenty to talk about. What does “custom content error module” even mean, for one? Do we have those words in the right order? Surely “custom module content error” makes more sense as a thing a computer might have trouble with? Or perhaps it’s the “error content custom module” that wants attention and has chosen this moment to ask for it? Anyway, be ready to deploy your joke about “error module contented costume party”. It will be the most appreciated part of the day, judged by how much everyone grunts in acknowledgement that this was a thing said.

Saturday

1:30 pm. Plan to go out to the bagel place for a late lunch disrupted by how you’ve got to share these Private Benjamin plot summaries. And wait, there’s an episode where the Ordnance Disposal Unit accidentally blows up a guy’s house and there’s one with a robot and there’s one where the colonel gets mugged and feels he can’t be a leader anymore and that’s the same season Benjamin tries to save a space-program chimpanzee? The heck? This is way more compelling than onion bagels with the spinach-artichoke cream cheese they’re trying to make.

Sunday

1:56 am. Remember to go over to the kitchen to watch the radio-guided clock automatically correct itself for Daylight Saving Time.

1:59 am. Return to the living room with the bag of microwaved popcorn you didn’t actually want but which, on entering the kitchen, was the only reason you could imagine entering the kitchen at this hour of the night for.

11:25 am. Remember the clock thing and now very angry with yourself. But the memory of the time you did watch, and how as the clock had ratcheted the minute had ahead only about two-thirds of the way the battery died and you were left standing there for three minutes trying to figure what was up, doesn’t do anything to make you feel less bad about missing this.

11:32 am. The battery didn’t die so at least you didn’t miss that excitement maybe?

Monday

6:20 pm. Moment of regret for longstanding institutions gone forever as you notice the vacuum cleaner repair shop has closed. I mean, that has to have been a money-laundering front even more baffling than the United Nations store, right? But it was there forever and it was nice to think that if for some reason you needed to repair a vacuum cleaner there were people who were willing and, presumably, able to do it? But in this loss of a place you never visited and never seriously thought of visiting do you feel the loss of charm and personality and identity of the town you live in, and you feel the touch of oblivion that, most days, you ignore in your own life.

6:21 pm. Wait, the vacuum cleaner place moved two flipping storefronts down? They didn’t even move across the block? They’re just … they … the flipping heck is any of this even about? Money laundering, that’s what it has to be.

Tuesday

11:30 am. Reach the 100th consecutive day of telling the computer to “Remind me tomorrow” about that system update it thinks is so all-fired important and that you can’t even begin to car about.

4:45 pm. Nurl. That’s all it has listed here. Good luck with that.

Wednesday

6:30 pm. Michael’s sends you a good-for-one-day 70% off anything in the store coupon and the only thing you can find that’s even remotely slightly of need is a $2.99 spool of ribbon.

10:10 pm. Oh yeah you were meaning to get that good rubber cutting mat for like ever.

11:25 pm. No luck getting to sleep. Better take a melatonin.

The Conference Call


The call is scheduled for 2:00 Friday. PM, the office manager sent out a follow-up e-mail about, as though AM were up for discussion. It’s the same joke sent out every time. But we must respect the rituals of the Conference Call. To leap in without the assurance that everyone was not getting together at 2:00 AM would be unthinkable. And it would bring about the ambiguity about whether they meant the 2:00 AM reached by staying up late on Thursday or staying up late on Friday.

The subject is the M’Gregor Project. The M’Gregor Project has been going on for so long and gotten discussed so well that it has achieved organizational Nirvana. There is no task on it, however minor, which can be completed by any known means. The attempt to establish how to complete any part of any task on it results in the task splitting, like a free neutron, into three smaller tasks and administrative neutrinos. And yet these smaller tasks are no more completable. And yet call for as much discussion. It is not that anyone is avoiding work. They put reasonable, responsible efforts into their tasks. It’s just that everyone needs something someone else does before they can finish, and there is nothing that can be finished first.

Thus the need to set a careful agenda. There should be time to review outstanding tasks. This is all of them. There will not be time to review outstanding tasks. The group will get through about ten minutes of this and then ask whether there’s anyone falling behind. Everyone feels themselves falling behind. Even without trying to subdivide tasks two or three new ones have appeared to everyone. Tasks are like feral kittens scratching at the break room door. After consideration most everyone accepts these newly subdivided tasks. They set them up in the least-used corner of their workspace with a small bowl of kibble and bedding made of shredded printer instructions. There is special time given to the person who’s found five new tasks. Two of them are given away to people who think they could whip that out Monday. Monday’s when the printer is set to explode, but that isn’t on the agenda and so is not considered.

There is no one at the company who remembers the M’Gregor Project’s start. There is no one at the company who will be there when it ends. There is no one at the company who can explain why it’s not MacGregor. There is no one at the company who can convince those separatists that it should not have been McGregor. All agree there is some benefit to the company if the M’Gregor Project should be completed. Something, surely. But to just make some clear progress before the end of the quarter would be good too.

Nothing is completed. Nothing could be completed. There is something. There is the possibility of reorganizing tasks into new categories. This is more than trading tasks that haven’t got finished. This would be the chance for everyone to think carefully about what they’re good at. To think of what they feel engaged in doing. To think of which of their assigned tasks are too boring to even let fail. A chance to own up to it, to show what one accepts one will never do, and give them up to people who still think themselves ready. To set about such a reorganization is work. A large number of people have to devote themselves to rationalizing their projects. This is a major task. A great many people would like to have done it.

The Conference Call is a chance to share anxious anticipation of explaining why your task is not finished, or fear of getting a new task. In this way do the participants reassure one another that they are part of the group. That they are some of the many, many people who have been involved in the M’Gregor Project. It is the socially acceptable substitute for our instinctive desire to groom one another’s fur for lice and tics. And this, of course, is why the thing is done.

We’re ready for you to join on line two.

Betty Boop: Minding The Baby, and the livability of cartoon worlds


Eh, what the heck. I’ve got a cold, I can do something relatively lazy. Let me share the 1931 Betty Boop cartoon Minding The Baby. It was the next Talkartoon released after yesterday’s installment, Bimbo’s Express. It came out the 9th of September, 1931, just a couple weeks after the previous cartoon. This seems to have been when Betty Boop took over top billing from Bimbo, a sign of her rising star. It would be a couple more cartoons before she got her own introductory song, and less than a year before she’d get a series all to herself. And this for an installment where she’s not got a lot to do herself. Before starting, though, a warning: the story is driven by an obnoxious infant. If you can’t stand crying babies in your entertainment you might want to give this a pass.

I do want to say, this is a fantastic print. I don’t know why it looks so crisp. I suspect it was restored, and then uploaded to archive.org by someone who figured since the underlying cartoon was in the public domain so were cleaned-up and restored copies. Perhaps they are, legally, but it does seem to me that the work involved in making an old piece of film look new deserves its respect at least. I will suppose archive.org knows its business, but I’d like to know how we do have such a good print.

This is another cartoon that’s pretty much just hanging out. Betty wants to see Bimbo for what I suppose is a solid night of canoodling, but he’s got to watch the baby who’s every bratty baby you get in this sort of cartoon. There’s a bunch of puttering around as everyone gets into minor scrapes and gets out again because the world isn’t all that harsh. The jokes barely have anything to do with each other and could almost be shuffled and make just as good a cartoon.

I think I’ve worked out why I like it anyway, though. Have you ever pondered what it would be like to actually live in a cartoon world? One that isn’t just seven minutes on a couple of sets but rather a whole city, one that’s always awake? Sure, people try. There’s the Toontown sequence in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. There’s the animated-background sequences that I swear are there in Cool World. There’s some other glimpses. They’ve mostly struck me false. They’re too high-energy, too busy, too active. If everything is running at a fever pitch then there’s no everyday life.

This is different. This feels like a more lived-in cartoon world, the sort of place where you as a cartoon could just go home and have an ordinary night, listening to the radio (that smiles at you and turns its dial to a show it likes better) or making dinner (catching the hot dogs trying to sneak out of the boiling water and shaming them into putting on a bun, as a robe). Funny stuff happens, all around, but it’s a very low-key, very ordinary sort of thing. It’s an inhabitable place. I feel the appeal. Do you?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose a point today in anticipation of a conference call that everyone expected to be a disaster and instead turned out to be a kind of silly muddle.

208

How The 11:00 Conference Call Turns Out


10:45. You set your cell phone on the table. Turn it on. Stare at it anxiously.

10:55. Wonder if there’s enough time to read all of TrekBBS before the call starts.

11:00. Watch entire minute pass without the phone ringing.

11:01. Elation: you have avoided being called into the conference call. Elation gone when you remember they probably haven’t excused you from the call, they’re just saving up to have you be even more in the conference call.

11:04. Realize that you have a need to go to the bathroom more intense and more urgent than any other need you have ever felt in my life. It’s the way you might feel the need to move your foot if it were underneath the rear tire of a truck holding a lump of neutron star, although with less of the mass of three Jupiters pressing down on your foot and more a wondering if you could hear the phone from all the way in the bathroom.

11:10. Wonder if they’ve forgotten you.

11:15. Send e-mail to someone supposed to be in the conference call to see if they’ve forgotten you. Kind of hope that they have, except that might encourage ideas of maybe they don’t need you for non-conference-call things. Wonder if maybe you should’ve been running March Madness pools so they’d want you around for that at least. It’s desperately far from March. It’d look odd if you started talking up next year’s anytime before June 22nd. The conference call will probably be settled by then.

11:25. Phone rings. This call is to warn you the real call is running about a half-hour late but they didn’t want you to worry.

11:32. You’re worried.

11:38. It may be preferable to explode from bathroom-related needs than wait for the call.

11:40. They call. The conference call is starting, except two of the participants have to finish up other calls that have been going since the late Middle Ages. These calls are cherished, handed down from a long line of mid-level management, to be someday handed down to levels of mid-level management not yet imagined. They cannot be discharged or dismissed lightly. You might be on hold. Suddenly you appreciate hold music: listening to something you don’t want to listen to provides reassurance that you are remembered to exist by telephone systems that are not aware you exist.

11:43. Everyone is able to talk with everyone else and would like to explain how glad they are that everyone else is glad to be there, and doing well, and all agree that it’s been far too long since we had a chat like this, and we’re looking forward to the way we’ll smooth out a couple of little issues.

11:46. The conference call enters that condition of being pretty much the same as guiding your parents through updating their digital camera’s device drivers only your boss is listening in.

12:02. The phrase “the button marked SUBMIT in the upper right corner” is proven to be either intolerably vague or to not refer to anything the other people on the call have ever seen.

12:05. logmein is summoned.

12:07. Emergency e-mails to people who thought they were going to lunch already establish that logmein would have worked except we had the password wrong, the capitalization wrong, and some kind of domain thing wrong.

12:18. You apologize for needing to step away for a moment, which they take to mean that you need the bathroom, which you do, but you use the moment to step outside and berate a chipmunk who proves to have a perfectly good understanding of the limits of Ajax-enabled web technology blah blah blah and why yes, it does have to have Internet to work.

12:29. All agree this has been about the greatest and most productive conference call since the idea of communication began and we’ve done enough of it, and hang up before anyone can suggest otherwise.

1:04. You emerge from the curled-up ball of yourself that was underneath the table weeping.

2:45. You finish editing the things you needed to get out of the conference call into a series of four questions, e-mailed to the other main party, with the explanation you need to know which of the two options for each question they want before you can do anything.

Three Days Later, 9:15. The e-mail is returned with the note, “That’s great, exactly that! Thanx for understanding.”

Eight Days After That, 3:23. The suggestion is floated that maybe we just need one more conference call to sort it all out.