Wednesday, February 18, 2009

This Will Be My Epitaph

"The day started out as uneventfully as any other, and continued thus to midday and from there it was nothing at all to ease into an evening of numbing, undiluted monotony that survived unmarred by even the least act of momentary peculiarity-in fact, let's skip that day altogether and start with the day after."

-- Jon Starr

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Le Bilan

O, for the joys of higher education. Wife stopped by Son's school today to pick up The Report Card, and arrived home in tears after talking with the teachers, who feel he needs to be "evaluated" by an Ergotherapist.

Evaluated? (Visions of hot lights and uncomfortable probes danced in my head.) Ergotherapist? What the hell, they want to make him more ergonomic? Improve his posture? Does he have carpal tunnel syndrome or something?

I took a look at The Report Card, and obviously it was time for a Long Talk. I put on my Serious Face and called Son to the Big Bed. (You can tell I was serious by the copious use of capitalization.)

Gone are the days of grading by percentages, letters, numbers, shapes, happy faces, mysterious odors, or anything resembling your old school rating systems, though our particular school does provide a fairly simple "1 to 4" rating, except for the final grade, which is "Tuna to Chartreuse". So simple, even a parent can understand it.

1 is good, and 4 is bad.

I tried to explain to Son the difference between English, French and Greek, as The Report Card indicated he seems to get them mixed up.

"Think of all the words you know. There are a lot of them. They buzz around in your head like flies. Some of the flies are red, and those are the words you use with Mommy and Daddy. English. Some are Yellow, and those are the words you use with Mme Lianne. French. Some are Blue, and those are the words you use with Yaya. Greek."

Then we tried to think of some "Blue" words, and some "Yellow" words. In the end, I think I just confused him more. I've been a little leery of trying out metaphors on him ever since I explained to him that his conscience was a little voice in his head that always told him right from wrong, and that he should listen to his little voice.

And then he went around telling everyone he heard voices in his head, telling him to do things...

Another thing that caught my eye: Son has missed 13 days of school this semester. I often bust Wife's (figurative) balls about keeping him home from school on the slightest pretext, so it's nice to have actual, shocking statistics to back up my arguments. He missed fully 25% of his school days this semester. I cocked an eyebrow at Wife, but did not belabour the point. Discretion is the better part of continued survival, after all.

I don't think I missed 13 days of school between grades one and eleven.

Maybe it's time to think about outsourcing this parenting thing.

My own performance evaluation is coming up at work (or so they've been telling me for the last three months), and I do not anticipate superior results.

Imagine an architect. He's gone to school, got his Master's degree, apprenticed to all the greats in his field, built stunning edifices of surpassing elegance. Now the firm has been handed a contract to design and build the 2012 Olympic soccer stadium in London. This is his big chance. This is where he gets to make a name for himself.

"No," say the powers-that-be. "We will hire an overpaid, unskilled consultant for this job. Your responsibility will be to sharpen his pencils."

After a sufficient period of drunken mourning, the architect thinks "Oh well, at least I have all my other projects".

"Think again," say the powers. "This stadium project is too important. we want you to transfer all of your projects to other architects and focus one-hundred-percent on sharpening those pencils."

And every morning, the head of the firm says "These stadium plans are terrible! Make those pencils sharper, dammit!"

PerpetualStartup has some sort of scheme going on where you buy a Valentine's card for a co-worker, and the profits go to charity. I got one for ThinFast, Queen of HR, whose brainchild this is, because I think she needs cheering up.

ThinFast gave a seminar today on Leadership. This was similar to the "Situational Leadership" seminar of last year, and the "Leadership in Action" seminar. Since so much of the material had already been covered, this one only took three hours. I took copious notes, against the possibility that I might be given the opportunity to, you know, actually lead someone at some point.

So far, in my brief experience as manager, I've had my entire team laid off, my product line closed down, and new employees fired out from under me by Obelix. I used to be a software developer, then I was a manger, then I was a developer again. And now I sharpen pencils. Perhaps I may yet aspire to be a leader of pencil sharpeners, a fisher of men, with a destiny ouside the ken of mere mortals. But I doubt it. I'm thirty-five, and I sharpen pencils.

IronMan recently returned from a trip out west with a gift for me of a cubic metre of hot-smoked wild pacific sockeye salmon, hand-smoked by the official smokemeister of an indian reservation. Artisanal style. Delicious. Like a heavenly marriage of sushi and cigarettes. Two of my favorite things!