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did you get me anything? October 30, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Experiences.
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from PostSecret

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Everyone wants to go on vacation, and when they come back from a particularly good one, their desks become a nexus of activity: what did you see? Do you have photos? Did you get me anything?

The first two, fortunately, are fairly easy to get around what with the prevalence of Facebook and its heavy use among corporate employees; you’d be hard-pressed to find a computer in your office without Facebook somewhere in its browser history over the past three business days. When I was in San Diego for a wedding last spring, I posted a ton of stuff on my Facebook, and I uploaded occasional mobile pictures to both Facebook and Twitter. Then, when I came back (and recovered from the jetlag), I posted all the photos to my Flickr and Facebook accounts. Everyone who cared to see the pictures could go see the pictures.

And as for gifts? My wife got a shirt, and my daughter got a stuffed toy and some clothes, all of which she likes very much.

But that’s just a trip across the country. What about if a co-worker goes somewhere truly special, such as Donnie, who — for work, mind you — got to take a three-week trip to China. Sure, he sent back photos, and sure, he e-mailed his accounts of what was going on, but no one asked him to bring anything back (as far as I know). I certainly didn’t. So I was quite surprised when he stopped by my desk to say hello and gave me a 1-Yen (yuan?) note. It cost him about 15 cents (according to Google), was light and easy to carry, and is something I think I would never have gotten my hands on on my own. It was, in short, the perfect souvenir, and I displayed it on my desk.

I personally have never asked for anything expensive from a co-worker going overseas; I’m a bit of a mass-transit version of a roadgeek, so I ask people to bring back subway maps if they can. From Ari, who went to Siberia, I got one of Moscow; from my friend Loco (referenced here), I got a postcard from Germany that incorporated a mass-transit station because he couldn’t find a map (or, probably forgot, but whatever). Neither one cost more than $1 — the map from Moscow was free — and they weren’t things I was particularly attached to the idea of receiving.

On the other hand, in 2003 I went to a convention as a guest broadcaster. I was pretty much in charge of the music for the entire event, and I had a deejay station set up in the dealers’ room. It was pretty cool; I got to meet a lot of people. And, on the last day, I walked around to the various booths and picked up souvenirs — good stuff for me, my wife, and a couple of friends who made specific requests — and a ton of little keychains and tchotchkes for my coworkers. They were all very appreciative.

So what do you do when you’re going to go on vacation? Do you offer to bring back gifts? Do you say “does anyone want anything”? Do you bring back surprises like I did in 2003? Do you bring back nothing but photos and memories? And if you’re the recipient of a vacation gift, what do you do with it? Especially if it sucks, or if it’s clear there was no thought put into it?

The people you work with are like your family, except that odds are you enjoy their company more because an artificial set of social rules is being imposed on your interactions so by rule you actually have to be nice to each other. At least you can tell your brother that the t-shirt he got you is stupid.

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That Guy’s Tips For Not Looking Stupid On The Internet, #4 October 29, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Did I Hear That Right?, Technology Trouble, Tips for Not Looking Stupid.
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Don’t type when you’re frustrated.

funny pictures of dogs with captionsAs a writer, I know that writing is one of the best ways to work out frustrations — you can put together a fantasy e-mail, do a quick story where your character kicks your boss’s character in a very uncomfortable place, whatever — as well as your fantasies. Some of which are driven by your frustrations.

But remember this: if you’re at work, you’re likely using a computer owned by the company. You’re probably complaining to a co-worker about how annoying or stupid someone is. You might even be doing it via IM instead of e-mail.

Don’t. Just stop. Step away from the computer.

Example: over the last two weeks, a client asked my department to mount a logo onto one of our pages and send them the mockups. I did so. They sent it back, saying they weren’t pleased with the amount of space around their logo. I increased the space (by decreasing the size of their logo — the area available has hard boundaries around it) and sent it back. They said it still wasn’t enough. Finally I e-mailed back my client representative (the person who is a co-worker of mine who actually talks to the clients so my department doesn’t have to) and said “please ask them to tell us exactly how much space they want, and warn them that, as I increase the space, their logo will get correspondingly smaller”.

Finally, after three more days, they gave me an exact measurement and I was able to provide them with a mockup they liked. But instead of going back to my CR and saying “this has been an exercise in futility”, I mentioned it to her during a meeting we were both in. I didn’t commit it to anything electronic because it’s perfectly within the company’s policies to hold such words against me — and in this economic client, you really want everything that reflects upon you to do so positively.

By the same token, proofread your “to” and “cc” fields; if you’re discussing something a client sent, make sure the client is removed from the chain. Before the reorg, whenever people replied to customer comments, they often did not remove the “all-production-employees” e-mail address, and we were just lucky that very few people realized exactly what they had.

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another post about poop and work October 28, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Seen Elsewhere, Wasting Time.
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Yes, that’s right, it’s another post about poop and work. This has been on my mind lately because my stomach has been giving me hell and I’ve been… um… indisposed at work far more often than I probably should be. At least I don’t have to account for my bathroom breaks. Although, funny story: a few Fridays ago I went to the bathroom at 5:50 without my ID and at 6:05 when I tried to go back to my desk I was locked out of my own floor. Fortunately someone else was coming along and she let me in.

I also alluded to the fact that, once upon a time, that my ex-boss walked into the bathroom, realized it was me in the stall, and struck up a conversation. I think that was probably a little more disturbing than this:

I sneak into my workplace bathroom everyday to play some PSP. After 6 months of playing at the same time, I hear a voice comin’ from the toilet next to mine saying: so… watcha playin? wanna go wifi? It’s been 5 days and the company’s CEO and I play everyday at 3pm!

I’m guessing this guy works at a design firm or some sort of art-related job, or somewhere with a very small group of very eclectic people. I just can’t see any CEO, or even any regular manager, where I’ve ever worked actually doing this. Except maybe myself, when I was a manager, but in those bathrooms the lights shut off after ten minutes unless someone triggered the motion sensors, so on the plus side you knew how long you had.

This one, however, is a little more likely:

I just talked to a CEO of a Fortune 500 company while pooping. I LOVE being self employed.

My friend Park isn’t self-employed, but he works at home 90 percent of the time. He’s a programmer who designs billing systems for web commerce. You’ve probably seen his work while surreptitiously entering your credit card information into a website that promises you access to college-age women performing intimate activities for your enjoyment. Anyway, Park talks to everyone while he’s at home — his boss, his co-workers, his clients, whoever he has to. I don’t think he’s talked to a Fortune 500 CEO, but it’s certainly possible that people who work at home as much as Park does have at least talked to some pretty powerful people while pooping.

The closest I ever got was taking a call from a recruiter while pooping. I’m pretty sure he had no idea.

Why did I write this post? Besides to talk about poop a lot? Basically to say this: stories like the ones above are the exception, not the rule. For the most part, pooping should be done privately. The only person you should tell is your poop friend.

What, you don’t have one? Make one immediately.


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if you have received this communication in error October 27, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Technology Trouble.
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cc-licensed photo by SAN_DRINO

cc-licensed photo by SAN_DRINO

Being that I’m working with some fairly large agencies that are concerned with intellectual property theft, I’ve lately been seeing e-mails with something like this at the bottom:

The information contained in this message and any attachment may be proprietary, confidential, and privileged or subject to the work product doctrine and thus protected from disclosure. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, or an employee or agent responsible for delivering this message to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify me immediately by replying to this message and deleting it and all copies and backups thereof. Thank you.

I realize that this is all at the behest of the legal department, but what does it actually accomplish? If you received the e-mail in error, you’re more likely to delete it out-of-hand than actually pay any attention to it. I understand asking people to reply if the message was received in error because the sender needs to know, but it’s that last part that kills me:

If you have received this communication in error, please notify me immediately by replying to this message and deleting it and all copies and backups thereof.

Deleting all copies and backups. Right. Because you’re going to call IT and say “hey, I got this message in error, can you delete the backups off the server to comply with their legal statement”?

Of course not. You’re just going to throw it into your deleted items and go on with your life.

If you’re the e-mail’s sender, well… it’s your own fault if the wrong person gets it. You should proofread your “to” field.

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the five phases of caffeine intake October 26, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Free Food!, Pictures, Seen Elsewhere.
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It’s funny… because it’s true.


Though there are plenty of ways to prevent the coffee runs — starting with cleaning the coffee pots and the coffee maker so that you have to use less coffee and there’s less crap clogging the system. If your office isn’t cleaning the coffee maker properly, stay late one night and do this. Your co-workers — and your bowels — will thank you.

(Seen on The Chive.)

fridge sign week: for sandwiches only October 23, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Free Food!, Pictures, Seen Elsewhere.
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Is this office populated by ten-year-olds? Who throws mayo packets on the sidewalk anymore? First of all, if you want to fake blood, you’ll need to use ketchup or red-dyed cornsyrup, not mayonnaise. Secondly, people wouldn’t need packets if others would stop dipping into their brought-from-home mayo that they spent extra money on because they wanted something that didn’t taste like vinegar and ass. Third, if you can’t figure out who’s doing this by seeing who snickers when they see the note, then you don’t need to be in the corporate environment.

Thus ends Fridge Sign Week. Hope you enjoyed it. If you have signs of your own, take photos and post links in the comments. Feel free to add stories, too, because if you don’t I’m just going to make something up.

fridge sign week: provide me with some cookies October 23, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Free Food!, Pictures, Seen Elsewhere.
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I figured I’d end this week on a lighter note. This particular sign can be taken in a few different ways:

  • Retaliatorily: Perhaps Peter stole some of Jon’s cookies, Jon found out, and Jon is using this sign to shame Peter. If so, he’s done it in an amusing way that doesn’t explicitly call Peter out for what he did.
  • Admonishingly: Perhaps Peter is an inveterate note-leaver and recently wrote about someone stealing his cookies. I’m pretty sure Jon didn’t steal said cookies, but if cookies were stolen and Jon didn’t get any and he’s sick of reading Peter’s notes about his missing food, he might have written something like this with the specific purpose of making Peter realize how annoying his notes are. (And anyway, most cookies don’t need to be refrigerated; hide them in your desk.)
  • Teasingly: As with “admonishingly”, it’s possible Peter and Jon worked together to write a funny note that takes on other note-leavers.
  • Disappointedly: If Peter is the guy who’s in charge of bringing snack-type foods for parties and gatherings, and Jon’s birthday went unnoticed, then Peter really is at fault here for not treating Jon the same way as he treated other employees in the company.
  • Truthfully: Or it could just be that Peter told Jon he’d bring him some cookies for whatever reason — maybe Jon helped him out in a pinch, or stayed late to work with him on a project — and has consistently forgotten. In that case, I get the feeling Peter probably thought the note was funny.

I’m not a big fan of notes, but this one isn’t so bad, I think.

fridge sign week: if you want this October 22, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Free Food!, Pictures, Seen Elsewhere.
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So here’s something interesting: what do you do if there’s a piece of food, open to the elements, with a note saying you can eat it if you want? Do you eat it, risking contamination from the contents or the amount of time it’s been sitting out? Do you leave it for someone else to take a chance on? Do you throw it out so no one has to face the perilous decision to eat or not to eat?

I think in most cases it’s safe to eat stuff that’s been left out for a little while. The trick is to know not only how long it’s been left out but who did the leaving. If it’s someone you trust, then by all means eat away — I used to make food every now and then with the express intent of sharing it around the office, to test new recipes. But there are certain people you just don’t want to take food from.

Would you eat this burrito?

fridge sign week: some of us have OCD October 22, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Free Food!, Pictures, Seen Elsewhere.
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Wow. This is what you’re going to crusade against? Really?

Look, I know it’s annoying. It annoys me too, especially when I don’t realize it’s extra time and spend 15 seconds pressing buttons to no avail. But this sign is ridiculous. Redonkulous, even. You and your OCD are just going to have to get over it, because if anyone figures out that you put this up, you’re going to be subjected to ribbing that makes sixth grade girls look like founts of compliments.

fridge sign week: jesus is watching you October 21, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Free Food!, Pictures, Seen Elsewhere.
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Okay, first of all, kudos for using the Buddy Christ. That was funny. But it’s the only positive thing about your note.

First, let’s tackle the religion angle. You just invoked a person who was, to many, the most important once-living individual in their personal belief system. And you did it to chastise someone who was stealing your Diet Cokes. It reminds me of that joke about the guy who kept saying “God will save me” and when he gets to heaven and asks why he wasn’t saved, G-d says “hey, I sent a boat and a helicopter; what more did you want?” When your first Diet Coke was stolen, you should’ve put the rest in your desk and gotten an ice tray. Pretty much the same thing as I recommended for Green Tea Dave (on Monday).

Second, there are two ways people view religion at work:

  1. Important — People who think that religion is important enough in their personal lives that it has to spread out to work, including ending e-mails with “Have a Blessed Day!” or telling co-workers to pray more or inviting them to church functions.
  2. Personal — People to whom religion is personal, who pray and believe but don’t think it should be part of work. I prefer these people.

There’s also the non-religious people.

Whatever option you’ve hit, though, you’ve offended every one of them. The very-religious people will be upset because you invoked Jesus to defend your soda, thereby making fun of the religion; the personal-religious people will be upset because you invoked Jesus to defend your soda, thereby being stupid about religion; the non-religious people will laugh their asses off, steal all your Diet Cokes, and leave a note, probably with a picture of Satan (the South Park or Tenacious D versions, for preference), saying that Jesus doesn’t exist. Not only will that piss off the religious people, but it’ll piss off the person who owned the Diet Coke.

Who probably wasn’t even being religious.

Who probably thought he was being funny.

There’s no way to win. And, honestly, it’s only Diet Coke. Grow up.