Last night Jacob and I (plus the roommates, of course) watched the movie Nine Queens. Netflix's blurb described it as a heist flick, but it certainly wasn't a heist flick in the same way that, say, The Italian Job was a heist flick. It wasn't fast-paced and exciting, exactly. It was slow and elaborate and dialogue-driven, which means you have to either speak Spanish or keep up with the subtitles (watching the dubbed version instead is not to be considered).
The bottom line is this: it's brilliant and satisfying, and, like a good heist flick has to, it pays off nicely. Go watch it. Do it now.
Let no one call me Luddite or old-fashioned. No, no. I believe that the march of technology is a wonderful, wonderful thing.
When I started working at my beloved library, we had the oldest and simplest time-tracking method in the book: a timeclock. It sat there ticking away the minutes and obediently stamping the date and time onto any piece of paper you stuck into it. Every employee had a timecard for every two-week period, and they all sat in an alphabetized rack above the timeclock. We would walk in, take our cards from the rack and punch them on the "IN" line, work, take our cards down again and punch them on the "OUT" line, and leave. At the end of two weeks the supervisor sat down with all the cards and entered our hours into a sheet which was submitted to payroll.
Sometime last year, the timeclock was declared obsolete and an exciting black and red machine called Kronos was installed. Now you walk in, hit asterisk, enter your 8-digit employee ID number, hit enter, and see your name displayed on the machine to verify that you clocked in. The downsides to this are many. For one, you can't check afterwards to see if you've clocked in or not, so for each time you're not sure you have to fill out a manual-entry request and give it to the supervisor. For another, its convenient ID-card-swiper has never managed to work at all, and for another, it rounds hours up and down in some capricious fashion which none of the supervisors can understand, let alone explain. For yet another, our beloved Kronos has the classic electronic values of expensiveness and fragility. When one of the supervisors lost his temper and punched the machine, breaking the display screen and keypad, it cost the library a day's work for four payroll and maintenance employees plus a replacement Kronos unit to provide us with a working machine again.
To my fairly certain knowledge, no one ever punched the timeclock and broke it. The lesson here to learn is this: the virtues of heavy-cast-metalness, bolted-to-the-wallness, general industrial-bad-assness, and consistent-actually-workingness are a genuine asset to a piece of office hardware.
Today I witnessed the installation of an entirely new timekeeping device (henceforth to be referred to as a time machine). The new time machine is sleek and black, and about 4 times the size of the old timeclock. It has a larger array of bells and whistles (and beeps and error lights). It accepts no manual ID entry; all employees have to dig out their ID cards and swipe them through. At least two people found that their IDs were too warped or worn to be read; a replacement card costs $15 or $20 out of the employee's pocket. Employees who work in more than one department on campus have been told that they'll have to enter a code to tell the machine which job they're clocking in for each time, but they're yet waiting to hear what it will be.
However! Do not make the mistake of thinking that this is a foolish, frivolous, expensive and generally stupid move on the part of the library and the university. Perish the thought! After all... with this new machine we can now see in mere seconds whether we've already clocked in or not.
Just... er... like we could with the timeclock.
"AUTHOR ANNOUNCES MORTAL WORK OF ART
Writer Shelley Jackson invites participants in a new work entitled "Skin." Each participant must agree to have one word of the story tattooed upon his or her body. The text will be published nowhere else, and the author will not permit it to be summarized, quoted, described, set to music, or adapted for film, theater, television or any other medium. The full text will be known only to participants, who may, but need not choose to establish communication with one another. In the event that insufficiant [sic] participants come forward to complete the first and only edition of the story, the incomplete version will be considered definitive." Read the rest of the announcement here.
I am, as you can perhaps imagine, participating like a mofo. I've signed all my forms and whatnot, and I'm just waiting to get the letter telling me which word I'll be. Feel free to question my sanity, express interest, rhapsodize, express skepticism, flame, or otherwise comment.
The outside universe intruded entirely too much on my sleep last night. For starters, I was having disturbing dreams about my friend's son River. River's an adorable and extremely intelligent 7-year-old with, unfortunately, the emotional problems of a seriously troubled and angry teenager. Hence, I've been hearing a lot about him, mostly involving phrases like "no clue how to help" and "what's gotten into him". In last night's dreams he was winding up in places where he was in physical danger and help couldn't quite reach him... later he was identified as not actually being River, but rather some other entity in a River disguise which mustn't find out that we'd figured out its identity. Its disguise was much more convincing than my subconscious's paltry effort at pretending I was dreaming about something other than reality.
But at one point it really went too far. Sometime this morning, while other members of the household were awake and getting ready for bed, and I was still snoozing, someone slammed a cabinet in the kitchen twice. Slam! My dream-view was jerked across the room to a window, facing a dark sky, with an angry and sinister-looking man pounding on the other side of it. Slam! There he was again, pounding away. I was just slightly awake enough to realize after the second slam that what I was hearing was a kitchen cabinet, but not quite awake enough not to turn it into part of the dream.
We can't be having this. I mean, the whole thing about dreams is that they fuckin' aren't what's immediately relevant to you at the time! It isn't fair. I demand that if I'm going to have alarming dreams they should be about Martha Washington being menaced by giant, leering root vegetables and marmots playing sitars. With their NOSES.
As I lay in bed last night listening to the sounds of it being 3:30 a.m. immediately following Halloween (quiet quiet car quiet plane quiet quiet quiet quiet plane quiet plane plane PLANE), I realized why I shouldn't have been allowed to watch Donnie Darko last week. It has nothing to do with logical fears like creepy time-traveling bunnies or small girls dancing suggestively to Duran Duran. No, it's just that it lends support to my deeply-held belief that jet engines do fall out of the sky for no reason and land in houses where people are sleeping.
For those of you involved in the making of Fjords! the musical, I'll be bringing homemade banana muffins tomorrow because I have a freezer full of bananas that I need to use up so we can put non-banana foods in there again. If you'd like nuts, or if you'd like to register your desire for no nuts, speak now or forever hold your nuts.