Saturday, June 27, 2009

Google doesn't work in Charlestown

I spent an hour today failing miserably at picking up a friend's dry cleaning. How? You ask--seems pretty straight-forward.

My boyfriend and I went to go pick up the laundry of one of our friends. The friend in question is an older woman with mobility issues, so we were doing her a favor. We went to go get the laundry at Bunker Hill Cleaners in Charlestown. We followed the directions given to us by another friend of ours who had dropped the laundry off.

When we got to the place where the dry cleaners was supposed to be, there was nothing called Bunker Hill Cleaners. My boyfriend tried goog411 with no success. He called the friend who dropped the laundry off. We wandered around for several blocks and found nothing. Finally, the friend who'd dropped the stuff off decided that the cleaners was called Bunker Hill Laundromat.

Again with the Google on the iphone. This time we did score a hit within a few blocks (not remotely corresponding to the directions we were given but never mind.) We walked in to the place and gave them the name and telephone number of the person whose clothes we'd come to collect.

Nuthin. The woman behind the counter suggested we check out the place down the street which also, according to her, is called Bunker Hill Laundromat. We went down the street and found Monument Laundromat.

We entered a laundromat/laundry drop off shop full of bags of clean clothes. A large woman was speaking Russian into a cell phone while folding clothes. Several other employees appeared to have brought their children to work.

We spoke to the proprietrix. No luck. For a change, we also gave her the name of the friend who'd dropped the stuff off, the date it was dropped off and the amount of laundry he'd brought in. She (and we) made several stabs at finding the laundry by looking at the dates and names on the clean laundry bags. She claimed that she could find the bag if we'd had the ticket number (I find that hard to believe as I didn't see a computer and having the ticket number would have meant repeating the search we had just performed using names.)

"Maybe it's not at my shop." She suggested. "Is this Bunker Hill Laundromat?" I asked her (thinking that perhaps she would direct us to a third shop down the road where we might find the laundry.) "Yes, this Bunker Hill Laundromat." Said the owner of Monument Laundromat.

Well I'm not surprised that Google doesn't work in Charlestown.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Nadir of Dork Nerdism

So, one of my coworkers needs to buy a new computer, because his PC predates the Bush Administration. He stops by once a day or so to talk about caring for an ailing PC and buying a new PC. I don't mind at all. It's actually kind of nice, for a change, to talk to someone who actually knows something about computers (as opposed to my boss--who wanted to update all our PCs to Windows "Visa".) So I'm perfectly happy to share the things I've learned and discuss alternatives to spending a butt-load on a new PC (Ubuntu anyone?) Besides, having an interesting conversation about PC care and feeding is much nicer than the conversations we usually have ("I'm going to kill our boss?" "What did he do now?" "Is that legal?")

But today we hit a weird patch. We started talking about the first PC we ever had and then he said "A 386--like what they use in Homestar Runner." Is it just me or is it deeply weird to make your point of reference I mean yes, Strong Bad has an old computer (the really sad thing was that half an hour after the conversation it occurred to me that I should have mentioned that he had upgraded to a 486 because Bubs had shot his 386.)

It's not like explaining about LP Records by saying "You know--like at Grandma's house."

I could just hear Strong Bad saying "Dork Dork Dork" in my head. (I could also hear the dude who sits in the cubicle behind me telling his girlfriend about the conversation--filed in the category "The Weird Shit My Coworkers Talk About" in my head.) Apparently so could my coworker because the conversation ended soon after that.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

If Tolstoy was writing about me*

The Bagginses, Mike and Chrissy had two problems to contend with, both of the them urgent but one a good deal more significant than the other.

Their friend (and Mike's part-time employer) Saul Goldberg, was in hospital about to undergo an operation on his brain. Saul was in his 80s, and had seemed perfectly healthy previous to his hospitalization for a brain complaint. Now though, in the hospital he was clearly seriously ill and at his age unlikely to bounce back easily. Worse, Saul's wife Gena was ill herself and couldn't stay with him all day in the hospital. So he was being looked after by his former wife Sherry and all the guys who worked for him. Saul ran a rare book store in the North Station area of Boston and as he treated his employees well, they were eager to do what they could for him during his illness.

Their other problem was that they desperately needed to buy a new mattress. Their current mattress was causing Mike back pain and he'd taken to sleeping on a sofa instead. While the Bagginses considered themselves savvy and adaptable they'd never had to buy a mattress before and as such were alarmed by the number of things they'd never considered.

Firstly, mattresses are expensive. You can't just get one for $50. Plenty of mattress companies offer *financing.*

Secondly, you can't just buy one online the way you would a computer or a book or a TV. Even if you plan to buy one online, you have to go and try the models out first. No one loses (much) sleep over buying the wrong computer online but buying the wrong mattress could be disastrous.

So when Chrissy called Mike at 3:00 PM on a Thursday, she was asking him if they would be mattress shopping or visiting the hospital that evening.

*names changed to protect the innocent and the guilty

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Arian Heresy

I'm reading When Jesus became God, by Richard Rubenstein and attempting to make sense of it. I am not doing this because I'm seriously considering Christianity as a faith (in fact, reading this book has pretty much convinced me that even though I'm a confirmed Catholic, I'm not really a Christian, for reasons mentioned in an earlier post.) I'm reading this book out of a general fascination with Christian schismatism (my other related historical interests include the Greek Orthodox split from Catholicism, the Protestant Reformation and Henry VIII) and maybe just a little schadenfreude.

Reading this book is not unlike reading any of the other European history books I've read (before World War II) or even reading Alexandre Dumas (without the jokes about Gascons and doctors.) The characters in this book are bishops priests and emperors. These most Christian men have no problem slandering each other, excomunicating each other and inciting mobs to kill the bishops with whom they disagree.

The Emperor Constantine decided to change the official religion of the Roman empire to Christianity. There are several legends, but it seems he did it much the same way an office manager would choose to work with Account Temps or WB Mason (as opposed to Professional Staffing Group or Staples.) The empire wasn't holding together well and he needed people who were organized to help him administer it (and the empire needed to have one religion to keep it unified.)

After deciding upon Christianity as his official religion, Constantine asked for the equivelent of a press release, explaining what it all meant. And then all Hell broke loose. There were Christians (mostly in the east--In Egypt and Greece) who thought that Jesus was either a man "promoted" to God or perhaps a being less than God. This theology proposed Jesus as a model human being which we could all aspire to be if we just loved our neighbors as ourselves, turned the other cheek etc. The head of this faction was Arias.

There was another faction that believed that Jesus was God from the get-go--that he and God stood on equal footing to be equally worshipped. The found the idea of relegating Jesus to the status of a "lesser God" insulting.

Both sides had difficulty in reconciling this all with monotheism. Constantine brought both sides together (repeatedly) favored first one side and then the other and overall failed to grasp why they couldn't just agree to disagree (as many pagans had before them.) Unfortunately, with Christianity (and later with Islam) it doesn't work that way. Christianity (occording to this book) was the first of the religions to claim a severe monopoly on God and, more important, offer a pleasant afterlife as an incentive for joining up.

So it was not possible at this time, for either the Arians or the Nicenes (after the Council of Nicea which is where the fun really started) to agree that they were all Christians-one or the other had to be correct--the other had to be a herasy.

Fast forward through several pages of excommunications, mobs, changes of emperors, flights from the emperors soldiers and having toned the argument about Jesus down, they now have to define the holy spirit. Part of what mellowed everyone out was that the Emporer Julian decided to rename paganism as the official religion of the Roman empire. Suddenly, bishops who would have happily spat on each other's corpses are happy to come to an agreement.

Because the arguments have mellowed out, three men postulated that God could be God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and no-one, apparently, started a riot.

Meanwhile, the emporer (who was an Arian) was killed in battle and the Nicenes used that as evidence that God was on their side in that argument. Eventually they won.

But mon Dieu! Is the divitity of Jesus really worth shedding blood over? How Christian is that? I look at the current state of US foreign policy and thing "apparently, very."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Why Working in Tech Support Sucks

I do desktop support and new software implementation for a living. As business is slow this year I've mostly been doing desktop support in 2009. I know everyone loves to hate tech support, well guess what everyone--tech support hates you back.

For starters, the work is interrupt-driven. I get to drop whatever I'm doing and help someone go change a printer cartridge. Upon reflection, being interrupted isn't nearly as bad as finding out about a crisis second hand ("No one can save any files on the network? When were you going to tell me?")

One particular thing that bugs me is that the solution to a given problem could be anything from "Reboot and it will go away" to "I'm sorry, no one on the Internet has encountered this before-I have no idea what's wrong. I'm a conscientious person-if someone comes to me with a problem I like to be able to solve it for them. I will gladly sit on hold until Dell or Microsoft or Adobe tech support is available and then let them insult my intelligence by asking whether the keyboard is plugged in if it will resolve an issue, but sometimes all they have to say is that they're not supporting that version of the software anymore. I wonder what other people I work with think of when I tell them things like "did you try rebooting?" or "Well it seems to be working now right? Let me know if it breaks again." Do they think I'm lazy or uninterested in helping them? Incompetent? Or do they understand that sometimes the answer is elusive. This makes me wonder if I really am incompetent and simply unaware of this.

And then there are the users. There's the guy who told me that he couldn't install software from a CD because his computer had a DVD player, the guy who was sure his keyboard was broken because he kept failing to type his password and the guy who keeps blaming Outlook for his lack of productivity (he has too many e-mail messages--this is hardly Outlook's fault.)

I'm really not sure why I felt the need to post all of this. It's well documented elsewhere on the inter-webs--maybe I just need to write about something other than religion for a bit.