June 27, 2015

Oh, Did I Have SUCH Plans...

I truly had great plans for this post.  I had intended to sit down earlier today and write out something that would both create and cement my reputation as a brilliant humorist with a deep philosophical side, a duck of both wisdom and goofiness.  It was to be wide-ranging, but each section would be self-contained to the degree that any part of the post could be read in a manner satisfying to both mind and soul, but to read the entire post together would be a monumentally edifying experience.  But more importantly, it would have been entertaining and fun and perhaps even in some ways actually life-changing.  This was my plan.

Much like this picture contains both wisdom and humor, so to was my post destined.
For some time, the post would have been treasured by my readers, kept private as a gift from me to my friends, the Pond Scum.  Eventually, inevitably perhaps, one of you would have a friend or family member who desperately needed what the post could offer.  Perhaps the trenchant wit, maybe the poignant sense of understanding, maybe just simply the knowledge that somewhere out there there is a hyperintelligent duck that can type deep and meaningful works of literary art.  Whatever the reason, I could not begrudge them the experience, nor would I want to.  That lone reader would be the starting point; soon thereafter there would be many more from "the outside world" coming to read the post.

As with any piece of art, reactions would likely be mixed.  Some would be unable or unwilling to see beyond the superficial words to the deep meaning behind them.  Some would be too willing to do just that and thus miss the point of the post altogether.  Some relative few, however, would understand the spirit of the post and become welcome members of the Pond Scum indeed.  The immense influx of readers would forever change The Pond.  Every post before, and every new post forevermore would be closely examined for the deeper meaning behind that which I had planned for today.  Along the way, there would be some interesting consequences... Rio Rainbow Gate! would become the best-selling anime of the last ten years.  Formula 1 fandom would finally take off across the United States.  Rubber ducks would skyrocket in popularity.  And the so-called pseudonym "Wonderduck" would be thought of as a literary giant in the same vein as Hemingway, Heinlein, Clemens, Poe, Clancy and Royko all in one.  Yet such fame, would like as not, ruin The Pond.  Quietly, a Second Pond would open, known only to those who were the Original Pond Scum.  There, we could go back to reading writeups of bad anime and the occasional WWII post.  But it could never truly be the same, and with great sadness all that was The Pond would quietly fade away.

In hindsight, it's probably better that I took a nap and watched a dumb movie instead of following my plans.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:59 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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June 24, 2015

Days Two and Three

More book learnin'.  I now know more about medical coding than I ever knew existed, ever dreamed could possibly exist.  Dear god, Dan Brown would be weeping with horror about the infodump we're dealing with... and there's still two days of basic training left before we start in on our specialty stuff.  To give you an idea about how much there is of that, they handed us brand new three-inch binders yesterday.  Occasionally, someone walks in with twelve sets of newly-printed pages for us to put in the binders.  Our binders are already half-full, with assurances that they'll be full tomorrow.  These are the instructions and rules and laws and dos and don'ts for what will be our specialty.  Or, more correctly, the first HALF of our instructions and rules and laws and dos and don'ts for our specialty.

But other than my brain overheating from all the stuff being... um... stuffed into it, it's certainly not difficult.  No more difficult than sitting in a college class.  For eight hours.  I know, I know, construction workers weep at the mere thought.  Really, the hard part is having to get up at 615am to be there by 8am.  I know me.  I know that I can get up, do the morning stuff, get dressed and get out the door in a half-hour if I really needed to, but I'd get to work with a toothbrush in my ear, half my face unshaven, and socks on the outside of my shoes.  So, I give myself time.  It bit me on Tuesday... I came home, had something to eat, checked e-mail, and decided to take a short nap before watching the new episode of Hibike! Euphonium.  My head hit pillow at 830pm.  I woke up around 130am, and was back to sleep by 215am.  When my alarm went off four hours later, the only reason I didn't roll over and hit snooze was because my bladder was acting like it was the Upper Geyser Basin, and there had just been an earthquake.  Well, that and I want to keep this job.

Your Weekly Asuka should be up later tonight, after I have dinner with Vaucaunson's Duck and his lovely wife Geese.

UPDATE: Dinner was great, conversation was grand, and after having watched Hib!Euph, I'm not sure what to say.  So I'm going to stew on it until tomorrow.  Because reasons.  And sleep.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 04:41 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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June 22, 2015

Day One

Knowing that I needed to get plenty of rest before the events of Monday, I went to bed at the early time of 115am.  Oh, sure, to most people that's not early, that's late... but most people haven't been engaged in less-than-sufficient-employment-status for the past 11 months.  My normal sleepy-bye time for most of the past few months has been closer to 4am.  So yes, I went to bed early!

Which is not to say I actually slept.  Oh heavens no.  That wouldn't be the Wonderduck Way®!  That would have been the easy way of doing things, and when it comes to the way Wonderduck deals with stuff like this, it ain't never easy.  But I went to bed early!  I flipped and flopped and flooped and checked to see what time it was over and over again ("oh, good, 10 minutes after I checked the last time... I'm doomed.").  Eventually, Chronos took pity on me.  No, not by letting me sleep, but he did eventually make it be 616am, the duly authorized time for my phone alarm to start its caterwauling.  A couple of minutes later, my clock radio clicked to life for the first time in 11 months, unused since the morning of my booting from the Duck U Bookstore.  Approximately 25 years old, the damn thing just keeps working.  I can only imagine the amount of dust inside of it.

After hoisting myself out of bed, all the usual things a middle-aged duck does in the morning followed along quickly.  By the time all that sort of thing was done, it was 7am and I was busy pulling on various bits and pieces of clothing.  Surprisingly, I got them all on my body in the correct order ("boxers, then t-shirt, then socks, then dress shirt, then finally pants."  It's never a good thing when those get mixed up... people begin to get ideas about you, not all of them complimentary), and with a good half-hour before the drop-dead leave time to boot!  After wandering around the interwebs for a little while... oh good, hot and humid until around 5pm, when it's gonna rain... I headed for the door. 

So much for the rain coming in the evening.  While it rained the entire six-minute drive to my new place of employ, the pitter-patter of moisture on the windshield providing a counterpoint to Mark Ronson telling me to funk on it, wonder of wonders it stopped just as I exited the DuckMobile!  I chose to take that as an good omen as I headed in to work.

During the next eight hours, it poured rain like nobody's business.  Small tornadoes popped up south of Duckford, hail the size of walnuts plummeted from the heavens, the wind was reported to have been gustifying up to 70mph at the Duckford International Airport, and as the training room was part of what used to be a warehouse, we heard every second of it.  Clearly.  Back when I went to Orlando for a biz conference with my previous employer, the opening ceremonies were going on when a Florida t-storm rolled in.  What was funny was that you could tell the managers from Midwestern states because we were the ones looking for the sturdy bits of the room to hide under when the storm got BAD.  Everybody else was like "what's this noise we hear?"  That's kinda the way we were all reacting today... "there's no basement, but this computer desk is pretty sturdy.  Hey, the trainer's desk is one of those old-fashioned steel jobbies, ain't nuthin' gonna crush that... we'll just have to go through her to get to it..." 

I'm not proud of that thought, by the way.

Eventually, the day came to an end, and as I walked out to my car, tired from being subjected to the usual battery of introductory forms and quizzes and "don't do this!" stuff, I had a sudden realization.  I had gone from spending all day in front of the computer, sitting in a comfy chair, to spending all day in front of a computer, sitting in a decidedly uncomfy chair.  But there's one huge difference... I was now being paid to do it.  And that makes all the difference in the world.  And Day Two is just a few hours away!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:47 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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June 19, 2015

No Stress. NO STRESS! Damn.

A couple of days ago, I began to feel a little under the weather.  Nothing terribad, just slightly unwell.  Felt the same way on Wednesday and Thursday, too.  I wasn't feeling at the peak of my game.  Still, nothing everybody hasn't dealt with before, particularly those of us of an older persuasion.  Sometimes, for no reason whatsoever, you don't feel as great as you did.  It happens.

However, this time came with an added complication.  All day Thursday, not only did I feel blech, but I was also bloody emotional.  Example: I watched an episode of Later... with Jules Holland that I had DVR'd that had a great lineup of acts: Norah Jones, Sting, Jay-Z, a Canadian hammer-style guitarist that just was impressive as hell, a generic group that sounded perfect for coffeehouses around the world... and the Foo Fighters, who were the real reason I was there.  All of them on the same soundstage at one time.  Jones did a couple of songs that I recognized from the Duck U Bookstore and they sounded much like their studio recordings.  Sting's just weird.  Jay-Z did a really slick version of "Empire State of Mind" with a live band that moved him up a few notches in my estimation.  But the Foos just killed it.  They played three songs while everybody else got two, and every single time they began playing, I began crying.  Not  "teenage girls at a Beatles concert" crying, just "too much damn emotion" crying.  Hell, earlier that day I saw a particularly cute picture of a cat, I said "kitty!" and bawled my eyes out for a few minutes.  That stuff ain't right.

But why?  I mean, yeah, I wasn't feeling great, but that doesn't make me all weepy.  I mean, it's not like the flu includes that in its symptoms: nausea, headache, runny nose, weepyness, body aches, lethargy....  And then I woke up Friday morning.  I had a headache.  Joint pain and muscle aches.  Ah.  Yay.  I really am unwell, it's not entirely in my mind.  Spiffy.  And then it hit me... I start the new job on Monday.  Could this be my brain's reaction to that?  I mean, the past 11 months have been... really, not so bad.  Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't really care to repeat them anytime soon, not without having so much money in the bank account that I'd never have to work ever again, but y'know?  Its been kinda cool not having to do anything for a year.  But the end is coming up fast, and my brain might be reacting.  Crap.

I don't have time to be stressed.  I need to be 100% for Monday.  I can't be sick.  I need to do laundry.  I need to go shopping for little incidental stuff.  I... I need my year back.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:57 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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June 15, 2015

Dynasty ! ! !

The Chicago Blackhawks just won Lord Stanley's Cup for the third time since 2010.

I'm not going to say I'm a hockey fan, because I'm really not.  I like the 'Hawks, of course, but it's not like I go out of my way to watch games.  I pay attention to the team, however, and I feel at least a little bit more "plugged in" to them than your average highlights watcher.

But I'm not a hockey fan, and I won't claim to be.  But my heavens, this is a cool feeling.  I don't really remember the Bulls run all that well... that ended 20 years ago, and my only real memory of it was thinking that having Michael Jordan on the team made it all unfair.  In retrospect, that was a stupid thing to think, but that's the way I thought.  The Bears Super Bowl was 30 years ago... I remember being more impressed by the big-screen TV I was watching the game on than by the game itself.  I left the party before the game ended and watched the rest at home.  And when the White Sox won in 2005, I hated the experience for a couple of reasons: first, it was the damn White Sox.  Second, and perhaps more importantly, I had just had my cardiac incident and was afraid that I was going to die at any moment.  But the Blackhawks won in 2010, which was fun.  They won again in 2013, which was even more fun... I was in Orlando for a couple of the games, and there was a lively rivalry going between the Boston-area and Chicago-area store managers.  This was unintentionally promulgated by the company itself when they gave us all iPads and allowed us to post e-messages to huge screens hung around the conference area with them.  Of course, the company is based in the Chicago 'burbs, too.  And now there's this one.

I either listened to or watched at least some of each game the Blackhawks played this playoff season, and it's an amazing feeling to have that attachment to a championship team.  No, it's not the same as what a REAL fan would be experiencing right now, but it's pretty darn cool nevertheless.  And they got to win it at home for the first time since 1938. 

CrawfordToewsKaneKeithHossa.  Chicago, you want the Cup?  They, and the rest of the Blackhawks, got it done.  And they've created a dynasty in the process.

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June 11, 2015

Achievement Unlocked

So there I was, asleep.  Peacefully, blissfully, sleepily asleep.  Totally asleep.  And then, at 854am, everything changed.  Because at 854am, my cellphone rang.  Immediately, I snapped awake... not because I'm really good at waking up, but because the phone was about six inches from my ear, and the ringer was ridiculously obnoxious.  Intentionally, of course, just on the off chance that this exact occurrence... um... occurred.  I looked at the listed number, and didn't recognize it... except for the area code.  It was the code for Duckford, and pretty much anybody who would be calling me from Duckford was programmed into the phone already... and I started to get excited.

A couple of weeks ago, an e-mail came through my inbox.  It was from the company that interviewed me back in March, and turned me down for a position because I apparently had a giant pulsating brain.  They didn't want giant pulsating brains on staff for fear they'd be bored with the job.  They were looking for more staff, and would I be interested in re-interviewing?  I failed to see what the point would be since I hadn't gotten much stupider in a couple of months, but it's not like dozens of other companies were beating down my door... and maybe if I drooled on myself during the interview, I could convince them that I was what they were looking for.

This was actually when I took a weekend off, by the way.  Part of the laundry I got done was my bestest dress shirt, don'tchaknow.  A couple of days later, I found myself at the job location attempting to look like a well-dressed simpleton.  I'm not entirely convinced I managed to pull off either of those two things, but at least I was wearing a suit and tie.  That matched.  Intentionally!  After I had been standing in the reception area for a few minutes, my interviewer popped up and I felt a moment of growing hope: it wasn't the person that had interviewed me in March.  After we chatted for maybe ten minutes, doing the usual interview routine ("oh, you were a paid assassin?  Interesting... would you have problems doing office work?"), the moment I had feared came to pass.  She looked at her notes and said "You're very smart."

If I had managed to keep that hidden up to this point in the interview, my response pretty much blew the camouflage right off.  "That's what the tests say, at any rate."  I then gave a short speech on how I felt that I had lost my chance at the previous position because of my giant pulsating brain, and that I wanted to assure her that it really wouldn't be a problem.  And then she said the magic words: "I agree.  My team does different, more difficult tasks.  Being smart isn't a drawback, because I can train you on more things."


Even with those assurances ringing in my ears, I was loathe to rejoice quite yet.  We talked for another fifteen minutes or so, then she said there's going to be a background check, of course.  For whatever reason, background checks fill me with terror.  No, there's no secrets in my history, no more than any other person that is.  But who's to say that the traffic ticket I got 27 years ago won't be enough to tell them not to hire me... or that the Powers That Be that ran the Duck U Bookstore wouldn't jab another pencil into my brain?  So I left the interview, picked up something for lunch, and returned to Pond Central.  And spent the next seven days waiting to hear something.  When it reached seven days, I began to rationalize.  When it hit eight days, I figured I was out of luck again and had a pleasant Mexican dinner with The Librarian.  That was last night.

So there I was, asleep.  Peacefully, blissfully, sleepily asleep.  Totally asleep.  And then, at 854am, everything changed.  Because at 854am, my cellphone rang.  It was the head of Human Resources at the place I had interviewed, saying those words I'd almost given up on ever hearing again: "we think you'd be a great fit with us and would like to offer you a position in our company."  I start June 22nd.

I feel more a sense of relief than joy.  Strangely, the feeling I have now is similar to the one I had when I got canned almost exactly 11 months ago.  Without the whole "getting canned" part, that is.  I'm certainly looking forward to feeling like a productive member of society again.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:37 PM | Comments (29) | Add Comment
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June 08, 2015

You Don't See THAT Every Darn Day...

So I was browsing the Flickrs earlier today, looking for fodder for computer desktops, when I stumbled upon this:

"Engines of Change" indeed... or, more likely, change of engines.  Union Pacific UPY2644 is a RP20BD, which is itself a rebuild of an older General Electric B23-7.  The original unit was Southern Pacific 5111, built in 1980, one of 15 owned by Southern Pacific.  It was acquired, along with the rest of SP's fleet, when Union Pacific took control of SP's assets in 1996.

The conversion took place in early 2007 at a company called "SuperSteel" in New York.  These RP20BDs seem to make their home in Texas, based out of San Antonio, Houston and Fort Worth.  As switchers, they probably don't venture too far away from those yards so you'll probably not want to hustle down to your nearest Union Pacific right of way to see them go by... Avatar, Ubu, and Ben, however, should grab their cameras.

UPY2644 in more intact days.
The RP20BDs are what's called a "genset" unit.  Instead of one big power unit, they have instead three smaller power generators that can be used (or not used) as needed.  These save on fuel and cut way down on emissions/pollution in the process.  I can only assume that 2644 either is having a major service performed on it, or it finally wore out and is in the process of being scrapped.  Either way, I can't claim to have seen a picture like that one at top before.  Kinda disturbing.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:40 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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