Everyone has an employer-from-hell story, but I think mine ranks pretty
highly. Right out of college, I took a job with an AV contractor in
Chantilly, VA. At the time I had just started getting into sound as a
hobby with my band. I figured this was a cool opportunity to learn more
about audio tech.
The company, Custom Fit, was run by a guy named Steve. I didn't know it
at the time, but this was apparently Steve's third company or so. He had
a habit of starting new ventures, which he would then run into the
ground, ruining the credit of whoever he'd conned into providing
funding. Originally Custom Fit had been a beige-box computer builder for
people who couldn't spell "dell.com" (hence the inexplicable domain
standardparts.com), but Steve soon figured out that there was more money
in bilking local government organizations for publicly-bidded contracts.
So that's what we did.
Working at the World Bank could be ethically ambiguous at times, but for
me it never compared with dealing with Custom Fit's clients: building
managers for town meeting halls and government facilities laboring under
the mistaken assumption that they were going to get a pristine new sound
system or video projection setup. As far as I could tell, Steve had no
interest in doing that. Instead, a significant portion of his business
simply combed government sites for contracts, then figured out the bare
minimum that he could possibly bid in order to undercut the competition,
while using cheap parts and substandard design to ensure profitability.
Of course, I was the one who had to break the bad news to the client
when things inevitably started to go wrong. I should have stood up for
myself sooner, but I have to admit: I was totally unprepared for the
possibility that my boss was a borderline con man.
Oh, the stories I could tell: the accountant that I once inadvertently
caught browsing porn (I whistled when I walked around his part of the
office after that). The time I tried to order supplies for a job only to
be turned down because we hadn't paid our bills on previous orders.
Having to constantly go back for more training on the company's
home-grown inventory database because Steve (perhaps believing that
humiliation builds character) refused to teach anything in sessions
longer than five minutes ("Come back when you think you've got that
under control," he'd say after showing me how to work a single menu
In retrospect, it should have been a warning sign when one of the
interview questions concerned XLR cabling, and Steve said that my answer
was "wrong, but a good try." I looked it up later. Everything I had said
was basically correct.
I learned a lot about how (not) to manage people at Custom Fit. And I
learned it well. After two weeks, I gave my two weeks notice (at which
point my employment experience actually improved significantly). My
parents probably freaked out in private, but they were very supportive
of me, and I soon found a new job at the Bank. I got lucky: about a
month later, the IRS raided the company and Steve was forced to close
Here's the funny part, and the reason I'm writing about it today: the
experience at Custom Fit was so traumatic for employees that many of
them have kept in touch to this day. It was a bonding experience, like
being taking hostage by terrorists or having Comcast as your cable
company (ba-zing!). There was a mailing list for Custom Fit refugees.
People hosted reunion picnics. Today I got an invitation to the
"Survivors of Custom Fit Inc." group on Facebook.
Let this be a lesson to employers large and small: thanks to the
Internet, you will be remembered by an organized group of people,
possibly with axes to grind. When Steve tried to relaunch the Custom Fit
webpage, word went around quickly, and someone (not me) quickly wrote a
script to send his page-counter skyrocketing, just to mess with his
head. Don't be like Steve. Treat your people well. Misery may love
company in general, but it doesn't have to love yours.
No kidding, it's a heck of a pancake.
Player 10 adds support for PCM sound generation. The bad news is
that the latency is bad, partially because Actionscript isn't threaded
and so audio must be buffered. In a bit of a strong-arm move, Adobe's
keeping people from pushing the limits of the buffer by randomly
determining its length (anywhere from .2 to .5 seconds) at the player's
launch. So, no realtime instruments in Flash yet, in other words.
Klein's article on Chinese privacy monitoring is more than a little
chilling. Whether it's an argument for Little Brother-style
vigilantism or David Brin's transparent society, I'm not sure.
- If at first your ill-concieved techno-educational project doesn't
- Campaign ads are generally pretty stupid anyway, but this McCain ad is
just unbelievable. As Crooked Timber says, you almost expect it to
promise free ponies and perpetual motion machines.
- The "snare" on our Rock Band drums went out a while back. You can
still play by pressing the regular-sized gamepad buttons in the center
of the unit, but obviously that lacks the mad joy of using the sticks.
We've been waiting a week and a half now, I think, just for the box to
ship it back to EA for replacement. Not impressed, guys.
- Someone stole my car radio the other day. Seriously, who does that
anymore? And what's up with the lack of standard wiring on the backs of
car radios? I blew two fuses in the car when the caps came off my wire
splices. I realize that people don't upgrade the radios often, but
there's no good reason that anyone should be rewiring parts of an
expensive item like a car by hand.
- Since loading up VMWare to run Ubuntu, I've also found a copy of OS
X (10.4.7) on Bittorrent to mess with. It doesn't include iLife, but I
wouldn't have any use for that anyway, so I've ignored it. Instead, what
I've been trying to do is figure out the big deal with Mac shareware,
which seems to get an incredible amount of praise: take, for example, this
fawning review of Delicious Library, a program that (as far as I can
tell) is neat but not particularly mind-blowing. In fact, that seems to
describe most of the "must-have" apps I've tried. Perhaps I simply have
no joy in my heart.
- I really dig this Lifehacker
post on using a cameraphone as a to-do list. It reminds me of one of
my favorite travel strategies: when entering a new city, make a point to
immediately take a good, high-res picture of any subway/bus maps you run
across. It's definitely worked for me in New York, Chicago, and
office in-jokes, let me show you them.
True story: during a game of Taboo at a party the other week, I actually
got Belle to correctly guess a word using "My blanks, let me show you
them." We are dorks.
Should have put this up a long time ago: The
Song Chart Meme.
By flickr user xianjessen.
It never fails: the undead show up, and invariably the property values
- I have a short article in The Escapist this week: Anomalous
Materials: Half-Life and Science. It's pretty nerdy. But it was fun
- Josh's slow-loading link section today includes this
Wired editorial on Ron Paul (with the amusing slug "st_ronpaul").
It's the usual lament: why does it have to be the fringe candidate who
understands the Internet? But personally, I think he's got it backwards.
Ron Paul's campaign didn't understand the Internet. In fact, it
showed repeatedly that it saw the Web only as a vague, magical
fundraising force. It would be more accurate to say that the Internet
understood Ron Paul, with supporters crawling out of the online
woodwork to put together flickr accounts and Youtube campaigns. It was a
great example of self-organization--but note that none of it translated
into on-the-ground machinery, which is the actual domain of an effective
political campaign. If you want to see someone who really used the
Internet effectively in combination with traditional political savvy, I
think you'd have to look more toward Obama, not Ron Paul.
- I picked up a Yahoo! mail account a while back when I needed access
to some discussion groups. For kicks, I got a Yahoo! Canada address. But
I started using the account to handle my webhost transition, and to
follow Warren Ellis's Bad Signal. Then I noticed that the whole thing is
in British English. What's up with that, Canada? There's no U in color,
- The Upside-down-ternet
is a pretty neat hack. I forget where I saw this link--from an XKCD
comic, I think. If I had a lot more time and a spare functional router,
I'd have to give it a shot. As it is, I'm more likely to just change the
name of our wireless network to something obscene.
- Music Thing has the details on the Anarchy
Cowbell: the cowbell that fights The Man! There's not nearly enough
cowbell-related news out there.
- Unfortunately, I didn't get to attend the Anonymous protest against
Scientology in DC. The Scientologist headquarters for the city is up
near Dupont Circle, in a building labeled the "Hubbard Dianetics
Foundation." Flickr user MynameisAnonymous seems to have gotten some
good snaps here.
If you missed it before, the Anonymous video guide to protesting can be
It's quite sensible. I wish Bank protestors had been that smart.
- Harlan Ellison hates writers who work
for free. So please don't tell him that I donated a post to Rain
Recording's upcoming Pro section.
- I realized a long time ago that I was not cut out to be a good
programmer--that, in fact, I was a very bad programmer. Not because I
couldn't understand the logic or the frameworks. I was a bad programmer
because I didn't care, and I just wanted to get whatever it was
done. To my surprise, Flash is a pretty good fit for that.
The category "comedy_and_tragedy" has never seemed so perfect as it does
now: presenting the Despair.com DIY Demotivator.
...because we don't keep this cat around for her brains.
Yesterday I got a package, wrapped in those little sticky pull-tabs,
which I removed and left on the table while I opened up the rest. From
what I can tell, Neko must have wandered up onto the table, explored the
remains of the packaging, and then sat on the tabs. Stupidity ensued.
My favorite part comes at around 1:16 in, when she runs under the
stepladder and becomes startled all over again at this invisible thing
that has clamped onto her haunches.
I've had that line from The Thin Man going through my head for
reports that Korg has recently sold its 20 millionth electronic
tuner. Doesn't surprise me a bit. Every musician I know has at least one
Korg tuner, usually something like the CA-30.
They're small and cheap, they work well, and they last forever on a pair
of AAAs. Cockroaches of the music world.
- This is probably one of those things that you should never bring up
on the Internet, plus it's very old, but author
David Brin's commentary on the fascism of Star Wars is pretty
great, in a very nerdy kind of way.
- Also from Salon, but much more recent, I thought that this
article on Guitar Hero as a gateway drug to real instruments
was interesting. In my limited experience, musicians react in all kinds
of ways to the game--some with disdain, others with amusement. I think
it's a fantastic stress reliever, myself, and one that does (to some
extent) use the same reflexes as the real thing. I'm sure that much of
my GH skills are owed to my real-life bass playing. And I do
think that it can serve as a goad toward learning to play the real
instrument--as well as a buffer against frustration, because learning to
play a real guitar can be a slow and painful process.
- In other musical news, the Tenori-On was released a couple of days
ago. Designed by Toshio Iwai, the man behind Electroplankton, and
manufactured by Yamaha, it's a pretty cool little groovebox. CDM put up
a great set of pictures, videos and impressions. In turn, I have a
journal post up at Ars about it here.
- Television site TiFaux has been
doing profiles of their most personable commenters. One of them is John
Walker, whom gamers probably know better from Eurogamer and the newly-launched Rock, Paper, Shotgun. I am
really uncomfortable with different parts of my blogroll mingling
this way. What's next? Music Thing contributes political commentary to
First Draft? Brad Delong starts leaving troll comments about the Wii on
Joystiq? Members of the bass forum appear in Warren Ellis's infamous
don't-look-my-eyes-they-bleed links? If the latter, I may weep openly.
- For the last week or so, I've been reading from Raymond Chen's blog
The Old New Thing. Chen
is a programmer for Microsoft who specializes in
backwards-compatibility. It's really kind of fascinating. Very few
companies do as much as the Redmond giant to make old software work on
new hardware. New software on old hardware, not always so much. But it's