August 17, 2017
GrrrrrrrrRARRRRRGH First I slept like... um... something that sleeps really badly... last night. Then I got to work, looked at the claims rotation, and realized I was staring at nine hours or more of the worst type of claim possible. Not only has the client gone out of their way to make them more difficult, and thus slower, but they've also instituted new automation software that's supposed to take the easy claims out of the queue and do them automagically. This has been tried before. It didn't work then, and it's not working now. Which means we have to fix the problems they caused. AGAIN.
Then the lady who sits immediately to my left debuted a new perfume today. By the bucketful. And she was using her scented hand lotion nigh on constantly... like, every 20 minutes or so. Neither smell alone was overly offensive, though it's kinda rude to inflict that upon others in close proximity. Combined, however... combined, it was like an olfactory sledgehammer right between the eyes. Worse, the smell lingered. A blanket nastygram from the boss (at my request-slash-plea) got her to at least cut out the lotion, but the damage had already been done. It wasn't a migraine, but dear merciful heavens it does hurt a lot.
Then, as if all that wasn't enough, during the last two hours of the day, I was stuck there with three other people doing their overtime. They were spread out across the room, and decided that they just had to talk to each other. Without leaving their desks. By yelling. Loudly enough that it got through the music playing loudly in my headphones. Loudly.
With a bad headache. Friggin' shoot me. Tomorrow will be more of the same, only Friday. I'm so looking forward to it.
August 15, 2017
Why A Duck: The Story Of An Obsession In Five Acts, Act II Gesundheit.
As you may remember, in Act I of this tale Our Hero gained the first member of what would eventually become known as The Flock. One would think that would be the beginning of a beautiful tale. One would be incorrect.
Act II: The Duck Dark Ages
Things were not good. Our Hero, yours truly, was in truly dire straits. Two reasons for this. The first was simple: he had been kicked out of grad school and his dream of being a professional lighting designer had just shattered. The second reason was more existential: he had just failed at something important for the first time in his life. Along the way, he'd managed to screw up just about everything you could think of, and a few more besides. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Our Hero was mostly a seething ball of hate. He had moved back to the Old Home Pond, with Momzerduck and Ph.Duck, and we should all feel a moment's pity for them at this time. Our Hero was only barely human at this point, bitter and resentful of the world at large. It's fortunate that he mostly stayed in his bedroom for the first few months, exiting only to go shopping for more cigarettes and alcohol.
And Scooter the Wonderduck was in a box in the closet, along with other things that didn't really fit in the bedroom. Plus, unhappy bundles of evil didn't do rubber ducks. They just don't. Eventually, Our Hero got a job in the music department of BigBlueBoxRetailer, and got his radio gig back to boot. After a year or so, he'd leave BBBR for the greener pastures of an independent comic book store that he'd been shopping at since he was young. Another year passed and he'd quit that to become a telemarketer, then came a stint with RadioShanty. It was around this time that Our Hero met The Librarian, which coincidentally led to a job with a mall-based bookstore chain that rhymed with Maldenrooks as a store manager. This was 1999, and the future had begun to look somewhat exciting to Our Hero, but Scooter stayed in the box in the closet, forgotten. In 2001, Our Hero moved out of the Old Home Pond to Pond Central. One day that first week as unpacking occurred, Scooter saw the light of day again. He immediately got a spot on the computer desk, alone but important.
Then things went right to hell again. 9/11 happened, the Maldenrooks home office announced that Our Hero's store was to be closed at the end of the year, and that all of the employees would be offered positions at the Boredoors on the other end of town. As it turned out, all the employees but the manager. During the worst economic downturn in 20 years. For the next 18 months, Our Hero looked for work... and failed miserably. While he didn't become a hermit, his life was spent applying for jobs and not getting one.
Then, one day, while he was out shopping for foodstuffs, he noticed something. There, in the toy section of the children's aisle (right across from the shampoo and q-tips), was a rubber duckie... cute one, too. A moment later, the duckie had been added to the shopping cart... Scooter the Wonderduck probably was lonely after all. And thus did Scooter II: The Wrath of Khan become the second member of what would become known as The Flock.
There was no way for anybody to realize just how important that chance encounter was, nor what it would eventually lead to.
Next time: A New Hope and more.
August 13, 2017
Name That Mystery Ship XXXIII It's been seven months since the last Mystery Ship contest... which is better than a year, like the previous entry... so I think it's time once again! Name this mystery ship:
As usual, no image searching. I can't stop you from doing it, but you'll have to live with it on your conscience forever. As is also usual, CTX and FDM are on the leash until I let 'em at it. You get one guess, and one guess only, so make it count. Winners are determined by me, my decision is final, so don't push it, 'k? The winner gets his or her very own blog post on a topic of their choosing (exceptions: pr0n, politics, and religion).
This one might be easy, but we'll see. Good luck!
August 12, 2017
Random Anime Pictures #132: That Was Surprising
-New Game!, Ep02
We've all had one of those series... you expect nothing from it, and you get pleasantly surprised. Well, New Game! is one of those. "New girl starts working at small video game company, hijinks ensue" is not exactly either the most original concept, nor the most promising. Yet for whatever reason, there's actually something good coming out of this.
The animation is nothing overly special, true, we've met all these characters before in dozens of other shows (not literally, but you know what I mean), and the plot is "main character perseveres and gets stronger". It may be "New Game!" but it's really "Old Retread." And yet, I'm amazed to discover that I LIKE this show... a lot.
It's got just the right balance of seriousness to humor (maybe 1:50, but it's there), and as of episode five there's not even a hint of acrimony between any of the characters. These people are likable goofballs that are also professionals, putting in a ton of work and effort into making the newest entry in a video game series. While we're not exactly witnessing people coding and boring stuff like that, we do get to peek behind the curtain, so to speak. I'm sure it's dumbed down and not really like what we're seeing... it's anime, after all... but it's being handled better than anybody could have really expected.
That is not how you sword.
The purple-haired one is the main character, and honestly she's kinda the worst part of the series. She falls into the "earnest try-hard" camp, and is kind of annoying at times, at least to me. Fortunately, she's surrounded by other, more interesting, characters at all times.
Let's see... from left to right we've got: Quiet Geek, Earnest Try-Hard, Clothes Horse, Genki Girl (all four of whom work in the same pod), The Legend (she's the original character creator for the video game series), and The Level-Headed One (the Art Director for the game). The first three are artists for the game, Genki does motion work, and the other two... well, their jobs are obvious enough. The two older women actually have depth to their characters, too. The other four, eh, not so much.
There hasn't been any laugh-out-loud moments as of yet, but a good smile or chuckle is common enough. None of this should be taken as me saying that this is a GOOD series that I wholeheartedly recommend, just an entertaining one. Sometimes, that's enough.
August 10, 2017
Good Pilots Just Land Planes But the GREAT pilots land them with style!
August 08, 2017
Speech-like Substance Back in the days of enforced vacation, it was common for me to not leave my apartment for days at a time. Indeed, at one point it reached 10 days, but that was because it was very very cold, and ducks hate cold.
However! During those times, even in the worst of the periodic depressions I would go through, I would still talk. Maybe an Amazon delivery would be delivered by the postal worker, or I'd get a phone call from Ph.Duck, or maybe, just maybe, a phone interview for a job. In any case, words were a definite thing I'd do.
Which makes it entirely strange that I've literally not spoken a word since approximately 630pm Monday evening. I went to work at my normal time, left ten hours later, and not one word was said. Not because I was being unfriendly or anything like that... there just wasn't any reason to say anything. Nobody directed conversation my direction, nor vice-versa, my next-door neighbor is sick so she hasn't been in this week, my boss who's always up for Cubs talk is on vacation a business trip, and during my lunch I went into the breakroom and promptly fell asleep for the whole thing.
People used to find it amusing, but nowadays nary an eye is blinked. But anyway, as I write this it's going on 30 hours without speaking, and the earliest I'll be in to work tomorrow will be 9am... well. I dunno about you, but when I go a while without vocalizing, my voice comes out like a bag of gravel being dumped down an HVAC vent. Should be interesting tomorrow.
August 07, 2017
I Need A Nap Badly So, in lieu of the latest entry in Operation RTPTIFG, I'm going to direct you to go read a post over at Midnight Tease about yuri manga. I echo most of what he says. And I'll just emphasize that Kase-san and... is good for what ails ya. It's all in the expressions.
These are two people who really and truly like each other and like being with each other. They act just like you'd expect people to act, more or less, and it's a joy to not have to deal with angst for once.
Anyway, go read Ben's post.
August 06, 2017
On The 'L' So a few nights ago I get a steam message from friend Ben from the mysteriously named Midnite Tease, who really needs to blog some more. "I'm working on a modeling project," the aforementioned Ben says, "do you know anything interesting about Chicago's El?" After sending him a few links that I knew of, I did a little bit of digging myself... just for the 'L' of it.
Yes, I'm sorry. And yes, 'L' is the correct abbreviation, including the little quote marks. Leastwise, that's how the CTA does it, and if anybody knows, it's them. Anyway, since "anything interesting" covers a lot of ground, here's some cool pictures I've found along the way.
Diamonds Are Forever
Down in the Loop, Tower 18 is the control point for the confluence of five different routes, or "lines" as they're called in Chicago: the North-South running Brown and Purple lines, the East-West Pink and Green, and the Orange line, which runs to Midway Airport. Railroad diamonds scare me... they seem like magic. Solid tracks crossing each other without the trains derailing? I don't see it.
We Can Build It!
1908, and what would eventually be called the 'L' has been in use in one form or another for nearly 20 years. Mostly it was ground-level rail then, and it pretty much didn't go downtown at all due to obtuse trackage rights problems, but once those got figured out (i.e., enough bribes were passed around) some bright spark had the idea to not clog the streets. So they called out the heavy machinery, which I really hope was called "The Spider", because c'mon look at it, and began building. Chicago can really build things, y'know that?
February 4th, 1977. Due to a routing problem and an engineer smoking weed on the job, one 'L' train bumped into the back of another at low speed. The engineer, sitting at the other end of the train, continued to apply power until, inevitably, some of the cars jackknifed and derailed. One of the special problems you get with elevated tracks is that when you get a derailment, it's generally a Very Bad Thing. Two cars ended up on the ground, a third stopped only by a support, and a fourth (in the upper left-hand corner) dangling from the station at Randolph and Washington. Two died, something like 177 were injured. I vaguely remember this happening, as Momzerduck and I had only just moved from the Chicago area to Duckford. It scared me as a young waterfowl... "trains that I rode on crashed! It could have been me!" I was a simple duck back then. A different angle of the aftermath can be found here.
Art Or Something Like It
Sometimes utilitarian objects can be beautiful with the right lighting. Adams and Wabash Station, butting right up against buildings on either side, looking north to one of Chicago's ubiquitous skyscrapers. I'm sure it's ugly most of the time, but the photographer got it right here.
That's it. Nothing special, just some cool photos. Carry on.
August 05, 2017
Random Anime Pictures #131: Hi! My Name Is... Makoto Shinkai. It wouldn't be overly controversial to say that he's the best known anime movie director not named "Miyazaki" today. His films have all been successful, thought-provoking, and a little sad. To a certain subset of people, though, the wild popularity is a little confusing. His films have all been good, but have left me a little cold. It may be a cultural thing, I don't know. Except for "She and her Cat," that one worked with me on almost every level. One thing nobody will debate is that, going all the way back to his earliest works, Shinkai's films have been beautiful.
His newest film, Your Name (Kimi no na wa), pushes the bar even higher. It's absolutely the best looking piece of animation of any type that I've ever seen. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with progress in the use of CG, but my lord it's beautiful.
Even something as simple as a sliding door and the border of a tatami mat is given the full treatment... a simple, throwaway shot that lasts a second looks better than anything that's come before it.
And the story. The story. Holy crepe on a stick... but no matter how good it is, if you don't like the characters, the story doesn't work. And, unlike the way Shinkai's earlier films sat with me, Your Name hits just all the right notes.
I refuse to say any spoilers, not even about the plot. If you haven't seen it already, go watch it immediately... and go in blind. I intentionally avoided reviews and comment threads about it, and I'm very glad I did. And you will be, too.
August 03, 2017
Announcing: Operation RTPTIFG! I miss The Pond. I miss the way it was around here. A vibrant group of readers that I collectively called "The Pond Scum." Mildly clever writing about occasionally interesting subjects. A laugh or two along the way. Times were good, things were fun, and I had a blast.
...and then a series of things happened to derail the happytrain. I got promoted at the Bookstore, which took up more of my time. Then I got fired from the Bookstore which, while it gave me back all that time (and more!), sent me into a slide that ended up in a deep depression. Then I was hired by a job where I spend all my time in front of a computer. Then SDB passed away, something that hit me harder than I expected or realized. The good times were gone.
Well, no more.
Today, I'm putting into motion Operation RTPTIFG (Restore The Pond To Its Former Glory). Beginning this weekend, I am going to create time to write here at The Pond. The plan is at least five days a week, there will be a new post. Now, it may very well be a short thing, a Random Anime Picture or something of that sort, but there will be something. I may not be able to regain all that has been lost... blogs in general appear to have faded, eatenby the twittermonster... but I'm sure as hell gonna try.
Together we can make The Pond great again!
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