Monday, September 27, 2010

productivity

Lately, a lot of people have been asking me how I find the time to have a super-successful high-powered career as a lackey, and still find the time to write childish self-deprecating blog posts.1 I tell you, it's hard to squeeze in that extra hour of writing every week on top of that 40-hour-a-week job, with absolutely zero other commitments in the form of women, children, women willing to call me back, exercising, bathing, etc., but if you're dedicated and smart, and just a hair frightening to young children, you can always find ways to accomplish what you need to get done.

For those wondering how exactly I do it, let me give you a few tried-and-true tips from my own life on how to be a productive, efficient, world-class worker.

First off, when starting your day at work, be sure to start in the right light. That's right, flip on the fluorescent floodlights the minute you get into the office, so none of your co-workers can bask in the peaceful morning sun filtering through the unopenable windows. Cackle maniacally as the luciferian luminescence sucks out their peace-loving souls.2

Next, you never want to start working cold. Like a bloated couch potato who starts running without stretching, makes it five blocks before doubling over in pain from having pulled the lone muscle in his body, then limps back to the house crying with every step, if you start working without first stretching your mind, you could end up hobbling somewhere in Industrial Redwood City wearing short shorts and toe shoes and getting laughed at by recently-arrived Mexicans.3

No, you'll first want to stretch by getting through your Google Reader queue. Then Twitter. Then the BBC. Then the New York Times. Then Hacker News. Keep in mind, while perusing these sites, should any of your co-workers walk up behind you, you'll want to tab away from whatever page you're watching, because there's nothing like a quick shuffling of pages that doesn't arouse suspicion.

Now your mind is ready to go, which is good, because you need to think of a decent place to eat lunch. Absent your traditional meal of bread and jam, which is still a target of derision, never mind how many years you've eaten it, you could try hobbling over to CVS to pick up that lunchable you've been eyeing for the past few weeks, but have not purchased because your co-worker insists on calling you a sissy for even considering it. This is the same co-worker, mind you, who seems to think producing high-pitched yelps also qualifies you as a sissy, so let us ignore her for now.

Having returned from lunch, you can begin your work day in earnest. This could include the mere act of finding the code you're supposed to be working on, and have finished by the weekend so your co-worker who actually does work can come in on Saturday and pick up your slack, or, better, go check your work email and see that you've received ten emails already today, and haven't opened/seen/thought about a single one.

Since the mere sight of emails is hard on the eyes, you should return to Google Reader for relief to see if anybody has updated anything anywhere on the vast wasteland that is the Internet. Absent that, return to your code.

Now comes the hard part: reading your old code. Actually, this is the easy part, because you get to see how smart you are! Look through your old code, and every once in awhile, emit a helpful noise that will show your co-workers how good of a worker you are. Something like, "brilliant!", or "I am the smartest man alive!", or "baaaaaaaa".4

And it's true, you really are a good worker and the smartest man alive. Reward yourself by returning to Twitter and see what work your co-workers are doing, by examining the twelve Python libraries they open-sourced this morning while they ate Cheerios with their children, vacuumed their vast estate, and patented designs for sending monkeys into space on banana-powered rockets.

Realizing that you don't actually understand real code, children, or even bananas, return to yours. Code, that is. Or the banana if you haven't gotten to that yet. At this point, you probably need to use the restroom, or change playlists, or, noticing that he finally went to a meeting, steal some candy out of the drawer your co-worker Len guards. Don't let those tasks go undone, because you need to get everything out of the way so you can truly focus on your job.

Munching on those blessed Snickers, now that it's finally five o'clock, gchat with your buddy about how he read The 4-Hour Workweek, and hear how it changed his life. Ponder if you actually want to implement that in your life, and thereby double the amount you work.

1. The people, the question, and the implied competence at my job are all hypothetical. The childishness is real, however.
2. I realize, of course, that they do it as a public service, and some of them actually need light in order to perform their job; nevertheless, if reading my posts has taught you nothing, the world revolves around me and my needs.
3. This is not as hypothetical as I would like it to be.
4. One of my more unrefined co-workers felt the need to highlight the fact that I happened to unintentionally baa like a sheep this past week.

Friday, September 24, 2010

a sonnet for my beloved

Written1 by my brother2 for his wife. Posted here with permission.

Shall I compare thee to the number Six?
Thou art more perfect than perfect numbers.
Seven is a fine prime that One may pick
But thy primeness doth outshine all others.

Eight is Two cubed, Nine is Three squared; and yet
Infinitely more special thou again
Hast proven. All the records thou dost set
For thou art an Eleven out of Ten.

Thy natural beauty doth far exceed
That of the natural number system.
Pythagorean triples, rare indeed;
Rarer still thy intellect and wisdom.

God the integers created 'tis true
But His finest work He did save for you.

1. He posted this on their private blog, and I laughed and laughed, and had to share. Please comment and tell him how amazing he is so I can beg him to write more here.
2. He may be smarter, funnier, and more successful than me, but I have blue eyes. Take that.

Monday, September 20, 2010

prediction

As they say, prediction is hard, especially about the future.

Fortunately, "they" in this case are not me, and "they" happen to be drastically wrong. Prediction is easy. Most especially about the future. In fact, I've managed to put together an amazingly precise prediction engine that can, with great accuracy, forecast events in my life.

When constructing a prediction, it's important that you first understand the concept of a probability. Probabilities are numerical quantifications of random events. For example, tonight my neighbors will probably make a number of random noises, due to the quantity of events they host behind their fence.

As well as being expressed as whining statements, probabilities can also be expressed as numbers between 0 and 1. Take, for example, a few tried-and-true probabilities:

Probability that a squirrel will attack me at some point on my bike ride to work this week: .25

Probability that my neighbors will wake me up tomorrow at 6:00 AM coughing like wounded elephants: .65

Probability that on any given day I run into a female acquaintance: .05

Probability that said woman, knowing next to nothing about me, will launch into a tirade about how I'm too picky about women and need to "lower my standards": 60,000,000

Please note that some probabilities can, in fact, exceed 1, but at that point they lose all meaning, unless the meaning is meant as a passive-aggressive jab.

Anyways, as I said, given my detailed knowledge of probabilities, I've been able to construct very accurate and reliable predictions.

Take, for example, the subject about which I was recently berated. This woman I ran into obviously has no clue how probability works. I present exhibit A:


You can clearly see that the problem is not that my "standards", if they do, in fact, exist,1 prevent me from dating a woman. I am prevented from dating women because I am only interested in women not interested in me. This can be clearly seen from the figure.

This is, of course, the reason that the only girlfriends I've ever had have been women completely and entirely uninterested in me.2

As a corollary to The First Grand Law of Probability, let me present you with exhibit B:


This conclusively proves, furthermore, that probability also prevents me from being interested in women who are available. There is nothing that can be done. Math itself is the cause of it, and I would not dream of going against math.

One might ask one's self what would happen if one of those unavailable women suddenly became available, and what impact that would have on the probability of my being interested in her. Happily, I can answer that quandary with solid empirical evidence: as expected, the probability also experiences a dramatic change in value, from 1 to 0.

Now, lest you've just trudged through this post chafing at the fact that I only use this publication as a vehicle for complaining about my dating life, let me assure you that I also use this as a vehicle for complaining about my financial life. As proof, exhibit C:


But don't feel too badly for me folks. With the knowledge that my investments are bad with a probability of 1, I'll be using this to start a fund to short all of my picks. Money tree, and uninterested trophy women, here I come.3

1. This is not intended as an insult to women I have recently taken out. If you happen to be one of them.
2. No, really. Ask them. If nothing else, this argues for my amazing powers of persuasion.
3. There's just no way I could make it through this post without mentioning the divide in the statistical world between the Frequentists and the Bayesians, which is sort of like the divide between slobbering monkeys and Sean Connery. The only thing you really need to know is that the Bayesians are right. And better dressed. And more attractive. And excellent lovers. Even if Frequentists rule the world.

Monday, September 13, 2010

job titles

One of my favorite things to do when meeting new people is to ask them what their job title is. This is because I enjoy hearing how people in different fields and occupations denote the state all employees find themselves in: lackeyhood. That is to say, the following job titles can be defined thusly:

Intern: Lackey to the lackeys
Analyst: Lackey
Associate: Lackey
Director: Lackey
Manager: Lackey
Vice President: Lackey
Senior Vice President: Lackey
Chief [inflated adjective] [inflated noun]: Head lackey

People outside of the working world have a hard time understanding this concept, and think that as you ascend titles you ascend in status, and have less lackey-ish responsibilities. This is not the case. You may be able to throw your weight around among an increasingly number of lackeys, but everyone is a lackey to the man.

Take, for example, the CEO of my company. He gets to call me a lackey whenever he wants, could probably get me to shine his shoes with my own saliva if he ever wore shoes that needed shining, and takes great pains to remind me in front of my fellow lackeys that I am single, and I, "go home alone", "live alone", and "never go on dates",1 but he himself is a lackey to the Global CEO, who goes to great lengths to come up with pet names for him like Douggie, McDoug, and Doogle.2

You might also call him a lackey to his employees, as we constantly harass him about providing us with free lunch.3 This most recently came about when Lackey to the Employees (HR Head) flew in from London, along with Lackey to the Shareholders (Global CEO), in order to take us through an exercise on our Things We Should Stop Reveling in Forgetting (Core Values). Said exercise consisted of us lackeys to the head lackeys asking each other questions where the answers were always "provide the lackeys with free lunch". Like, "how can we, as a company, grow in size?", or "what's the best way to work out a dispute with a co-worker?", or "how can we, as a company, stop our lackeys from blogging about their work publicly?" Free lunch, free lunch, free lunch.

Since I paid for my lunch on Friday,4 let me discuss the synonym with lackey that has been most recently bestowed upon me: Director of Analytics.

Director sounds like a pretty snazzy title, and I am sure to bust that out whenever I am speaking to women. In any circumstance.

Woman: Hey Chris, can you help me move some chairs tomorrow?
Me: Sure thing, because I am the Director of Analytics!

or,

Woman: Hey Chris, do you realize those pants are at least three sizes too big and one size too short for you? Were you at one point in your life a bloated whale?
Me: Sure thing, because I am the Director of Analytics!

This normally is met with a combination of confusion and (feigned) respect, but mostly confusion. Unless, of course, my roommate is around, whereupon the conversation normally goes something like this:

Woman: Hey Chris, did you really just go two days and a combined thirty miles on your bike without showering?
Me: Sure thing, because I am the Director of Analytics!
Roommate: Um, yeah, he's the third dude with that title, and has no direct reports to speak of.
Woman: Please, keep your smelly lackeyness away from me Chris. I'm dating a hot VC lackey.

I don't know how exactly this came to pass, but in department of exactly nine people, three of us share the title of Director of Analytics.

Now, my CEO has a very good explanation for this, so I'm not going to harp on it any more, lest he approach me later and reduce the number of people with that title by one.

My only critique of this situation, and, keep in mind, fair CEO, this is a very small critique, a minuscule critique, a critique barely worth even mentioning, is that last week we advertised for another job in the company.

The title?

Director of Analytics.5

1. I am so not kidding on those direct quotes. He is very, very good. I have no response to him when he does that. "Oh yeah, well, you go home in your Mercedes to your beautiful wife and daughter living in your hillside mansion!" just doesn't have the zing that it should.
2. Relatedly, should said CEO read this, I will surely be seeking employment tomorrow.
3. Please, as any competent economist knows, this does not actually exist.
4. Which was a loaf of bread with jam. I happen to like minimalist lunches. However, every single human on the face of the planet feels obligated to call me a hobo when they see what I eat. I'm cheap, okay? Would you please stop forcing me to spirit my loaf of bread out of the kitchen in the folds of a trenchcoat?
5. My lawyer advises me to here mention that this was all written in jest, I actually love my company, the people I work with, the people I work for, and am willing to shine any shoes, lick any stamps, and cut any birthday cakes that might be required of me in order for me to maintain gainful employment.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

ultimate frisbee redux

Some of us have way too much free time on our spare hands. I spam a list every week with an invite to attend a pick-up ultimate frisbee game on Thursdays, and normally include some annoying message. This is this week's:



(click here if you're reading this via craptastic we-refuse-to-embed-videos facebook notes)

Monday, September 6, 2010

bike lights

Like the majority of normal people,1 I despise it when others look out for my well being. Take, for example, the recent attempts by every living soul on the planet to ensure that I do, in fact, use a light when biking in the dark. Never mind the fact that I have a college degree, am within spitting distance of 30, and was once able to do that cool index-finger pen flick trick,2 people feel the need to ask me if I'm an idiot every time I'm about to head out on my bike at night.

Do I look like a moron? Do I look like I can't feed myself? Is there something in my gait that would suggest I'm entirely incapable of understanding the ineptitude behind biking down a pitch-black road without a method of seeing? I would argue the answer to all of those questions is no, but, apparently, given the number of questions I've received lately, there must be something about me that gives the impression of quiet incompetence.

I mean, sheesh. It's not like I once, as a lad, attempted to bike down five miles of pitch-black canyon road at 10:30 PM, at speeds exceeding 25 MPH, relying solely on the light of the cars whizzing by to navigate the road. It's not like I hugged the rock-strewn side of the road. It's not like I did not see, have no recollection of, nor even comprehended the possibility of me being on a direct collision course with a man walking his dog on the side of the road. It's not like I snagged his wrist, flipped over, and woke up ten minutes later on the pavement with an ambulance on its way. It's not like I spent the next week in bed, dizzy, puking, and with a grade-A concussion and headache, and left to this day with a dent in my head. I mean, come on. Give me some credit.

Oh, wait.

In a just world, my decision-making abilities would be vastly improved. Sadly, for the time being, I'm left pondering whether or not my life has been a series of ill-planned maneuvers.

In a just world, scout camp counsellors wouldn't occupy a spot at the bottom of the child employment status ladder, eons away from lifeguard, and grouped together with 'ladder-holder for window-washing brother', and 'man who picks up the neighborhood dogs' poo with a plastic bag'. In a just world, I wouldn't have chosen to work those three bottom-dwelling jobs as a child. In a just world, I wouldn't have spent my summer as a 14 year old cleaning a latrine and getting spat on by 8 year olds for the grand old weekly wage of 'somewhere south of the average allowance of my friends'. In a just world, I would have considered the possibilities of failure in biking home from camp in the dark. In a just world, I would have some recollection of seeing the man, instead of some hazy memories of flying through the dark.

However, evidence in favor of a just world is the nice lady who stopped her truck before running me over, and directed traffic around my limp body. There's also the kind ambulance crew that put me on one of those sweet stretchers. There was, though, a period of a half hour when I thought they were jerks because they had left my head on the hard plastic instead of giving me a pillow, but, in further evidence of a just world, the needles shooting up through my skull were due entirely to my injury, and not to a lack of pillow, as I was later informed by the ER doc on duty that night.3

Furthermore, in a just world, I would realize the complete hypocrisy of getting annoyed at people for reminding me to do something that would have saved me bushels of pain in the past, but, alas, my pride will not allow it. So please. I use a bike light. Stop asking.

1. Let the record show that I define normal people as: those possessing all of the qualities that I myself possess.
2. Lies. It taunts me to this day.
3. Though one might be tempted to think, given the severity of my head injury, that I was not wearing a helmet, let me assure you that I was, in fact, wearing one, which absorbed the initial impact gallantly, then helpfully ripped off my head in the aftermath to expose my head to the road. At least, that's what I presume happened, given the evidence collected at the scene of the accident, and the small rocks implanted in my skull.

the sick day

I don't know about you, but I sure do love getting sick. It's probably one of my favorite things in life, behind calling women who want nothing to do with me and playing sports with dudes who believe, correctly, that giving you the ball would be a sin against all that is just and holy in this world.

When I first got into the working world, I was a little afraid because I noticed the invention of that blissful concept: the sick day. Now, back in my school days, I got pretty adept at gnawing away at my ears and pounding my head on the desk in order to avoid the sound of the dude sniffing next to me all day long. I was worried that since we, as a human race, went to the trouble of creating an entire day, naming it "sick day", and gave you the opportunity to stay at home, keeping your malicious germs far away from my delicate nostrils, all while being fully compensated for any work you might have done, that I would never hear the sound of incessant coughing ever again.1

Luckily, I was wrong.

People use the following decision tree when determining whether or not they should take a sick day:


This makes sense, because you don't want to waste a day feeling miserable on anything other than work.

Aside from combining all of your miserableness into one day, the other great thing about going into the office sick is that you can make your annoying coworkers sick. Did they make you work late on a Friday? Did they spend the entire week complaining about how they might get sick, daintily washing their hands every hour and refusing to speak with you in any context, while you slaved away for the man in supreme agony and pain, desperate to do your duty for the team? Did they call you about work while you were sedated and in labor?2

I think they deserve a few coughs in their general direction.3

Of course, if you were to ignore this advice and stay home while sick, just know that all of your coworkers think you're secretly interviewing. So you might as well be interviewing.

Let us now take a minute of silence to mourn those who have gotten sick while on vacation, the most cursed of all combinations. Someday I'd like to work for a company that allows you to count sick vacation days as sick days, because otherwise that's just cruel.

1. At this point, some of you may be trying to provide the counterexample of someday hearing my children coughing all day long, but I would like to reiterate the "not wanting anything to do with me" aspect of women I know. I've come to the realization that I've evolved perfectly in every way, except that I am only ever attracted to women who find me utterly repulsive. It's a hard and fast law.
2. No amount of apologizing can grant me forgiveness for that act. Though she technically hasn't come around trying to infect me, I wouldn't blame her for it.
3. To my coworkers who all came into work sick last week, I just want to say that yes, I just made fun of your misfortune, and, once again, successfully, argued that the world revolves around me.