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Credits

Ten thousand years of Roboshrub.

Fangs for the memories.




In today’s state, Roboshrub Incorporated is an entity entirely devoted
to the execution of what normal people would refer to as “bad ideas.”

It was the creator’s original idea that all concepts, whether
useful or not, contribute to the global subconscious level of progress
for the human race. Therefore, we contend that no idea is an unfit
idea, and vow to act on each and every one of them.

Roboshrub Inc.
Public Communications Department






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For your insolence, I condemn you to...

Suffer the Fate of a Thousand Bees!
(Before they go extinct)

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2.09.2008

Whither the Giant Spiders?

Warning: this post will may contain demoralizing elements and graphic depictions of adequacy.
***
On the grounds of the Ulster County Community College lies a structure so foul that the college’s employees refuse to discuss it with outsiders.

The Robert S. Kelder Conference Center was a thriving part of the infrastructure for over 20 years, housing various state and local agencies and providing classrooms for driver’s education. Then about two years ago it was shut down because yearly flooding weakened its roof and boiler and infested it with mold. Its only purpose now is to store old furniture and really old computer equipment until recyclers will take them away, or until a public auction that’s definitely going to happen one day...

Everyone hates the place, especially the people who have to take inventory of everything in it. Guess where I used to work?

I remember once opening a box of crusty Iomega ZIP drives and finding a cute little family of spiders the size of quarters. Thinking fast, I whipped out a nearby mouse and lassoed the box closed. As someone in the IT field I’ve been trained from birth in the arcane art of mouse manipulation.

Despite all the melancholy, I’m very much an optimist; to me the building was always half not infested with mold. Seriously, Kelder was only a small part of an otherwise great job. And the position I recently... let’s say tried out... made me love that haunted-house-in-training all the more.
***
Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been making web pages for years. The problem is that I haven’t been making them commercially. So when I got an offer to work at a web site design company, I jumped for joy! What luck! I immediately e-mailed links to my most impressive web apps, such as my slideshow generator and cryptography widgets. Finally, a foot in the door!

The interview went well, I wore my good sweat pants and griped an adequate amount about Internet Explorer 6. Turns out that they didn’t use a lot of Javascript there, so my most impressive scripting skills were pretty much non-starters. But I’ve made beautiful static pages in the past — and the place was surrounded by restaurants — so I went with my gut.

I wish I’d listened a little more closely to my gut, though, since it was picking up all kinds of warning signs: it was a Tuesday afternoon, yet there were only two people working; half the cubicles were empty — not just unoccupied, but empty; if I didn’t have a laptop I could use a computer that was probably a Pentium III; and I would be paid on a “per-project basis.”

There were also no cups by the water cooler.

On the plus side, I got to stay for two hours after the interview helping the other guy there style a navigation bar. I joked about how we could do it in two lines of code using the :first-child selector, but since we were developing for Internet Explorer 6 it would be pretty futile to... what? You’ve never heard of the :first-child selector? Don’t worry, neither had he. But I had fun explaining it; the sound of my voice is very soothing.

Even before the interview, I knew that the company used a content management system called Drupal. Apparently it lets you put together a web site with very little actual coding. I spent the whole week watching online videos on it and reading about it. And the day before I started, my interviewer (who was also the owner) sent me a task list and a podcast about the latest version of Drupal. I skimmed the list. It didn’t seem all that hard, just tidying up a web site. So I listened to the podcast until one in the morning. Surely my first day would be a crash course in Drupal.

Since first impressions are tough, I showed up a half hour early in a display of eagerness... and promptly waited a half hour for the “early” guy to get there and unlock the place. If I’d gotten hired a week or so later, there would’ve been no problem; apparently, an early morning yoga class is subletting some of the cubicles.

When the boss came in forty minutes later, he introduced me to everyone as a “scout,” told me to use my own judgment as much as I could before asking questions (you just know this isn’t gonna end well) and set up my workstation for the day: it was a Pentium III, a five-year-old-laptop. But it was more than enough to run the ten-year-old software on it. It was hooked up to the saddest beige monitor ever, and a keyboard with a broken number pad; the corker was definitely the Apple Mighty Mouse.

From the look of the site I was supposed to work on, it was probably written on this computer. The code was completely invalid and full of conventions that went out of practice a decade ago. When I asked the boss when the site was made he said it was one of his first. In any event, I couldn’t do any of my tasks because of the unreadable code. So I spent three hours making the code valid and readable and adding semantic elements. Surely my hard work will be rewarded!

Then I took my lunch hour. I say “took” instead of “clocked out” because there was no time management system. I ended up going to three different restaurants; the first had no tables, and the other two had just horrible food. It turns out that the place with no tables had once sold my father food with a large chunk of wood in it. I heard there was a pretty good deli around the block, but they were closed.

Feeling refreshed, I jumped right back into de-mangling table layout and using tiny CSS tricks to make the site look more modern. Evidently I did my job a little too well. Just as I was about to update the last page, the boss dropped by to see what I had done all day. Turns out (aren’t you getting to love that phrase?) that what I should have done was use the Dreamweaver template to change all the pages for the site at the same time instead of fix each page individually. Earlier, when I’d asked if I should do something similar with PHP, he said not to bother.

I didn’t know I was supposed to use a template since it was the second-to-last task on my list of priorities. Turns out that I was reading the task list upside down the whole time, and that the first tasks were on the bottom. I hadn’t noticed since the top task was a description and none of the other tasks seemed related.

As far as I know, all the valid code I wrote is gone now. But they were trying to convince the customer to switch to a Drupal-powered site anyway, so none of my work mattered. I decided to just go home without completing my final task, which was quality assurance.

^^ That paragraph is my favorite.

I avoided mentioning money in my “I Quit” e-mail, just to see if I’d be offered compensation for my seven hours of coding, maybe for the two hours of consulting I’d done after the interview... nope. Not even an “attaboy.” It’s just as well; I wouldn’t want to tell him my address and the only reason I would ever go back to that area is because there’s supposed to be a store nearby that sells capes.
***
In an unrelated matter, I’ve updated this blog’s template slightly. The navigation bar at the top uses two lines of code to achieve the exact effect they were looking for. A special extra line of Javascript was needed to compensate for Internet Explorer 6, and it took me under ten minutes to complete. The only people who will have issues are those who are too paranoid to leave Javascript turned on, but not paranoid enough to switch away from an older version of Internet Explorer.

Processing 12×100 Robo-Comments:

Blogger Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator gesticulated...

Well, better luck next time then, right?

2/09/2008 10:58 PM  
Blogger Gyrobo gesticulated...

I plan to demand a fixed amount of colored beads from the outset.

2/09/2008 11:59 PM  
Blogger Professor Xavier gesticulated...

Ooh, you have a slideshow generator? I need one of those! You know, to do a slideshow.

2/10/2008 9:27 AM  
Blogger Professor Xavier gesticulated...

That is a very cool neon style font in your title. Sorry your experience with that company was so sad. I guess Ulster county isn't a hot bed for the IT industry.

2/10/2008 9:36 AM  
Blogger G3T Films gesticulated...

I could stand the lack of cups at the drinking fountain but I'm not sure I could have abided the sight of early morning exercise. Trying to code with all that deep breathing going on would have been all too distracting.

I think you got out at the right time.

2/10/2008 8:17 PM  
Blogger Delicious gesticulated...

Kelder.....


I have to write about it also

2/11/2008 3:07 PM  
Blogger Gyrobo gesticulated...

@Professor Xavier: Our title is pure Dragonwick, neonized under radiant illuminatricies. Also, enjoy your slideshows.

@Rich: I hear at Google they make their employees square dance. But that's only a rumor.

@Delicious: Make sure to discuss the leaning tower of 14" monitors.

2/11/2008 4:26 PM  
Blogger G3T Films gesticulated...

Ha! No wonder I failed at the Google interview. When I showed them my Tango they just smirked and rolled their eyes. A felt small. Very, very small.

2/11/2008 5:14 PM  
Blogger Professor Xavier gesticulated...

I got a down with Microsoft message when I clicked that link Gy. I won't burn in hell if I download Firefox, will I?

2/11/2008 11:01 PM  
Blogger Gyrobo gesticulated...

Only if you download the current version. It only works properly with the Firefox 3 betas... and Opera.

It's really an Opera widget.

I tried to make it work in Internet Explorer for the longest time... but there are some things that even partygoing astronauts can't fix.

2/12/2008 12:47 AM  
Blogger handmaiden gesticulated...

Don't ever let anyone tell you you aren't talented!

Only YOU can write about all that
"computer talk" & made me want to read more...

what's with the beard?

2/15/2008 9:42 AM  
Blogger Lee Ann gesticulated...

Hey!
Happy Valentine's weekend and Happy President's day weekend!
~xo
Lee Ann

2/17/2008 12:06 AM