Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Last night at 4:04am, we had a 4.4 earthquake epicentered about 10 miles away. I was only half-conscious of the entire thing. I remember suddenly being aware that the room was shaking, and the quake was over before I had even finished questioning whether I was dreaming or awake. But the split second of fear was enough to get my heart racing like a jackrabbit. It crossed my mind at that point that I still need to fasten my TV-bearing bookshelf to the wall. Then I was just pissed that I had been woken up at 4am for nothing, since I was already not getting enough sleep.

But like, having to fasten shit to the wall? I really hate California. A place where you have to arrange your belongings under the consideration that the EARTH BELOW YOU MIGHT SHAKE THE SHIT OUT OF YOUR HOUSE... that's not really a home. In a few years, I hope to move somewhere non-quakey.

Anyway, I did like the fact that I was barely even aware of the quake. I would like to sleep through every earthquake from now on. Whether it's another bullshit tiny one or the big one that kills thousands of people including me... either way, I'd rather not be awake.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


It took me forever to find this job. But I should've realized it was doomed when I came in on my first day, Thursday the 14th, a half hour early. I entered and said to the boss lady, "I'm here to do data entry...?" Her response was, "You're early." My response to her was something like, "Yes." I figured being early was a good thing, but I would later learn it probably wasn't, because nothing anyone could ever do at this job was good. Everything was bad.

The door was unmarked, and the company's name was not on the lobby directory. The place was named TCI. I never found out what that stood for. The boss lady was an older woman named Griselda. This is something I would be forced to learn from context, because she never introduced herself, nor did she show me around the office. Instead, she hastily put me at a computer and told me how to do my job. Basically, I would go to a shelf and grab a packet full of petition signatures. I would enter the names and addresses from the petition into the computer, write a number on the packet, and put the packet into a box. Then I would return to the shelf and do the whole thing over again. That was the entire job, and I loved how simple it was.

But there was a catch.

You needed to maintain an average of 150 names per hour. In terms of typing speed, this would be no problem, but the petitions had apparently been filled out by someone on a speeding cattle train with no clipboard, because nothing was ever written legibly. So if I wanted to enter anything other than gibberish into the system, I would have to slow down and analyze the handwriting until reasonable words started to take shape. I eventually trained myself to decipher these nonsensical chicken scratches at a much faster rate, but for those first few days, I was scared to death I was going to be fired for going too slowly, as one of my co-workers was at the end of that first day.

Sometime after 1pm on the first day, I decided to ask Griselda about lunch. As in, when was my lunchtime and how long did I have? She said I could go whenever-- BUT NOT YET, because half of the eight or so data entry people were already out to lunch, and she couldn't have so many people gone at once. I never understood this line of reasoning, because even if every single person took their lunch simultaneously, the exact same amount of work would get done by the end of the day. Was she basing the office's productivity solely on hourly quotas, even when part of the staff was at lunch? I just don't know. I should've asked at some point, though I can't imagine when would've been a good time to do so.

Griselda was an unpleasant woman, with a face you would only expect to see on the end of a desert beast. She would periodically make announcements showing us common mistakes that some of us were making, and begging us to please ask her questions as we go. "I would rather you ask me a hundred questions than make a mistake that later has to be corrected." But every time we asked her a question, she would get really annoyed and answer us with impatience and attitude. She was always stressed out and always talking down to us. And she would CONSTANTLY make all these loud passive-aggressive jabs. Like, one time she announced, "If anyone wants some coffee, I just started making some, because I really wanted a cup and no one had made any." Well, I don't drink coffee, and thus, don't know how to make it. I also had never been showed by anyone where the break room was, let alone been told it's the entire office's responsibility to keep the coffee flowing. So that's just a couple good reasons why I, for example, shouldn't have been expected to be making coffee. Another time, she told some new hires, "If you want some water... well, I have to order some, because someone drank the last one and didn't tell me we were out." Again, if you want people to be responsible for something, you have to tell them at some point. I guess it would be unreasonable to expect the regulated delivery of something as ridiculous as water.

On my second day, Friday the 15th, I brought an mp3 player to listen to while I worked. It's a crappy one that doesn't have a menu screen. It just plays everything in a straight loop. And I would find out on this day that it goes through a AAA battery in three hours. I decided to carry lots of batteries on me from that point on. The music I listened to was all movie scores with no lyrics, which would help keep me focused as I "data entered."

My second week started on Monday the 18th. It poured rain the entire week (a rarity in California), which didn't help. See, Griselda eventually told me that I was allotted one 30-minute lunch and two 10-minute breaks. And if I wanted to, I could combine them however I wished. But there was really nowhere in the building for me to eat my lunch. The kitchen was sort of a standing "area." So when lunchtime came, I would haul ass to Subway or something, and then haul ass back. The pouring rain made this take longer than I would've liked. So I ended up taking a 45-minute lunch every day, but I made up for it by taking no other breaks. Just working straight through from 9 to 5, minus lunch.

At some point during the second week, I noticed her telling one of my co-workers that when he comes to grab a packet off the shelf, he should grab several at once, then do them all at his desk, then bring the entire finished pile over to the box. As opposed to getting up after each completed packet. This did not sound enticing to me, because sitting at a computer and typing for seven or eight hours is hard enough. It helps to be able to stand up every once in a while and move for a few seconds. And we're literally talking about like five steps here. But she actually referred to them as "wasted steps." So the guy explained that he kinda liked the teensy moments in which he stood up. I chimed in, agreeing that it was a nice little break. But she responded by reminding us of our 150-name-an-hour quota. I could've easily pointed out that the fatigue of working straight through like she was suggesting, through back pain and deflated morale, might actually hinder our productivity far more than the periodic interruption of standing up and walking five steps. But of course, I didn't want to argue.

Later in the week, she would come to approach me and remind me of the "several packets at once" policy, explaining it to me like I was mentally deficient. "You just put one pile here, and another pile here, and when you're done with this one, you put it in this pile. See?" I think maybe she could tell that I could tell she was talking down to me.

The way this place works is, there's a day shift and a night shift. Because of something happening beyond my pay grade, there was no night shift on Wednesday the 20th, and no day shift on Thursday the 21st. This meant that I got Thursday off, which helped me immensely in my endeavor to recharge my own batteries mid-week. But as I was running errands on Thursday afternoon, I received some frantic calls from my temp agency, asking if I could please come in for the Thursday night shift, even for a few hours, because they were going to be understaffed and fall behind. I wasn't able to do it, but the next morning, Friday the 22nd, I came in like 15 or 30 minutes early. Griselda was on the phone. Thinking that they might still be behind, I just started working. Eventually, she got off the phone and got mad that I was working. She was all, "No, don't do that; I wanted you to do this. Okay, finish that, but then do this. And next time, don't start before you're supposed to. You start at 9am." So much for going above above and beyond.

My 5th grade teacher taught me the value of going above and beyond. But on January 22, 2010, I found out that it's actually a bad thing.

So the weekend finally arrived. I had now worked there for over a week, and figured the danger of getting fired, which had plagued the back of my mind since my first day, had now passed. I was getting better and more efficient at every task, and was set to follow through with this job until its completion in May. And I could finally stop worrying about how I was going to pay my rent. I ordered a nicer mp3 player off Amazon, that didn't require batteries and had an actual control screen!

Then came Monday the 25th. I left the house at the same time I always do, but the 101 was backed up the entire way. Like 20 miles. And since I live over 30 miles away from the office, this added up. I never found out what was causing the gridlock. I thought I heard something about a three car pileup on the radio. Then, as the traffic cleared up, I noticed a really big carcass on the road. Anyway, I got to work a full half hour late. As I was signing in, Griselda looked at me and said, "Traffic?" I said yes, that the 101 was backed up all the way to Hollywood. She then told me what batches to work on, so I got to it.

After one batch, I went to the bathroom. I was in the bathroom for a few minutes. Doing bathroom things. When I returned, I was starting on my second batch when I noticed Griselda motioning for me to come into her office. I did, and she said, "I want you to sign out and go home."

Let's stop right here. Can anyone imagine what was going through Griselda's mind at this point? Why she was doing this? I just want to convey some of the confusion I was feeling at that moment.

"Why?" I asked. She told me it was because I had been a half hour late and then immediately took a break, and that I can't be taking a break so early in the day. I explained that I had to go to the bathroom, and she said, "It's not the first time it's happened." And if you're having trouble following the line of logic in this conversation, it's because there isn't one. I tried to articulate the fact that I had zero control over traffic and bathroom emergencies. She then said that the other day, she had looked over at me and I had been sitting back in my chair, which I guess she construed as me being unproductive. I explained that me sitting back was because my back hurt from being hunched over the monitor for several hours straight, and was not an indication that I was taking the work lightly. She said, "I'll think about it, but for now, sign out and go home." She really just wanted me out of there. This was devastating to me, because I depended on this job to pay my rent, it had taken me forever to get hired anywhere, and now I was being fired for something that really wasn't my fault. I had never even been late before, and the entire time I worked there, I never once took all my allotted breaks. Unless you're a miserable cunt who counts bathroom emergencies as break time.

That night, my new mp3 player came.

Back when I was in 1st grade, I had a VHS tape of cartoons, but we didn't own a VCR yet, so I had never watched it. We had bought it at a supermarket or something. From the cover, I could see it had some Woody Woodpecker and Mighty Mouse on it. One day, we were told to bring in videotapes to watch in class, so I brought that tape. We were all sitting on the floor watching different people's tapes. As they were putting in my tape, some girl shoved up behind me and I turned around and told her to stop. As this was happening, the teacher was apparently sending kids out of the room for talking, and she promptly added me to that group. So as the class watched my tape, that I had never seen, I was sent to another classroom, to copy the rules of the classroom onto a sheet of paper. The injustice of my being fired from this job, for some reason, reminded me of that moment in 1st grade. I guess because both times, I felt that I did not deserve the punishment I was being given by an authority figure too distracted to bother thinking about where I was coming from. The irony is that as a child, I was prohibited from watching my videos and forced to perform mindless data entry, and as an adult, it was the other way around.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Buzz Tweets.

So recently this Avatar movie came out. I've been waiting to see this for a very long time. But I couldn't afford to see it as soon as it opened. IMAX 3D movies are really expensive! So I had to wait. And waiting is dangerous for certain movies. There have been times in the past when I wasn't able to enjoy a movie because I had heard so many intense emotional responses to it before I got a chance to see it. For example, I couldn't see Pixar's Up until about a month into its release. In that time, I saw a thousand different tweets and status updates proclaiming how heart-wrenching it was, and how every single person who saw it had cried. Every single person. This prevented me from having a truly pure viewing experience, which is the reason I go to the movies in the first place. When I finally saw Up, I knew from a mile away what was going to happen, and I wasn't emotionally affected at all. Maybe something like that wouldn't bother some viewers. Some people like to know everything going in. But I don't like to know anything going in, period.

So when Avatar came out, I tweeted:

"I want everyone to stop tweeting about Avatar until I can see it. You're going to ruin it for me."

I knew this was an unreasonable request, made with tongue lodged firmly in cheek, but I figured it might possibly curb some of the commentary. People maybe would word their tweets more carefully. Immediately, my friend Tom posted like five tweets about how perfect Avatar was. Which he's totally entitled to do. But this was exactly the kind of thing I was hoping to avoid. Buzz that would create unreasonable expectations. So I took Tom off my follow list. And even then, I knew this would be a hassle. Because Tom's tweets are protected, so he would have to approve me when I re-followed him later on. And I knew Tom would probably give me a hard time about it. But it was either stop following him, or stop logging onto Twitter altogether. I'm sure if I was doing something that was compromising Tom's potential enjoyment of a James Cameron movie, he would want to avoid it as well.

So, like ten days later, my brother and I were finally able to see Avatar. I went ahead and sent Tom a follow request. The next day, Tom tweeted this:

"Diego unfollowed me over Avatar hyperbole. Now that he's seen it, a new follow request has arrived. Yeah. Let me get back to you on that."


Why was he taking offense to this? He knew I was just trying to avoid Avatar discussion. I think he was just enjoying the power trip, creating drama out of a non-issue. I told him he shouldn't be offended because I didn't unfollow him for any personal reasons. I also suggested he was being a baby. He said unfollowing someone over non-spoiler hyperbole was "similarly infantile (winky face)." But exactly how is that infantile? I didn't block him from seeing my tweets. I didn't do anything that affected anyone but myself.

The word "spoiler" has come to be synonymous with specific plot points, but lots of things can spoil a movie. And "non-spoiler hyperbole," or "buzz," has spoiled many a viewing experience for me in the past. So now what, he wants to punish me for having a perfectly reasonable movie viewing preference? He knows I only meant to unfollow him temporarily. He should be honored that someone would even be interested in reading his stupid tweets.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

2006 Dell Battery Recall.

In 2006, they recalled a bunch of Dell laptop batteries because they were exploding or something. They told everyone to check the little numbers on their batteries to see if they needed to be recalled. Of my two batteries, one was part of the recall. So I just stuck it in my laptop bag and used the other one. It's nice having two batteries. I used to switch them out sometimes if one ran out and I couldn't plug into a wall socket for whatever reason. But since 2006, I've just been using the one, and the other just sat in my bag. I don't know why I never sent it in to get a free non-exploding replacement. To be fair, I did forget about it soon after, and haven't necessarily been consciously aware of this situation for the past three years.

Anyway, the other night, my battery broke. I don't know how it happened. I was running on battery power and walked away from the computer. The battery ran down to zero and the computer shut itself down. That's happened before. But when I plugged it in to recharge it, the battery started giving me error codes. I think it's dead. And I can't use my other battery, because it's one of the exploding ones. So I finally ordered the replacement today. It'll be here in 20 business days. I guess the real lesson here is, if there's a worldwide recall for your laptop battery, order the replacement right away. Because your other battery might break like three years later.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Alec Baldwin.

So Alec Baldwin says that he plans to retire from acting when his 30 Rock contract expires in 2012. I remember he said he was gonna quit acting a couple years ago because he wanted to devote his life to helping fight parental alienation in divorce cases. Now it seems he wants to retire because he's disappointed with his overall performance on the big screen, and has therefore lost all interest in acting.

"I consider my entire movie career a complete failure. I'll tell you why. The goal of moviemaking is to star in a film where your performance drives the film, and the film is either a soaring critical or commercial success, and I never had that," he says.

Sorry, Mr. Baldwin, but I must object, for your movie career is a remarkable one. You tangled with Beetlejuice himself. You gave life to such beloved characters as Jack Ryan and The Shadow. You fucked with Demi Moore in The Juror. You've made unforgettable cameos in movies like Notting Hill, and, to an extent of glory against which all subsequent cameos in the universe must now be measured, Glengarry Glen Ross. You created magic with Scorsese in The Aviator and The Departed. But you wanna talk about DRIVING a film, sir? You fucking REIGNED in The Edge, toe-to-toe with Sir Anthony Hopkins himself. Plus a bear. That movie soars, and it does so partly on your back.

And on the other end of the spectrum, we have The Cat in the Hat. An awful film. But you, sir, made it watchable. Which was perhaps your greatest feat of all.

Retire if you must, but do not trash a fine career in the process.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday.

Black Friday is happening right now.

Joyless families marching through Holocaust crowds. I can't believe that people will subject themselves to this torture just to save a couple of bucks. It's turned the holiday season into an ugly spectacle.

Black Friday used to just be a regular day. The day after Thanksgiving, when people realized Christmas was coming up, and we all had the day off, so everyone just went shopping. Because it was nice, and fun. Then all the crazy Black Friday deals started. People started lining up early in the morning so they could be sure to get the deals. Now I'm seeing things like people setting up gigantic tents in parking lots on the morning of Thanksgiving Eve. Staying there for 48 hours, through Thanksgiving, just so they can save a few hundred dollars on a laptop or a giant stuffed horse. I bet these people are spending more than they would have if there were no crazy deals.

I feel like shopping should be a relaxing experience. Go when it's not too crowded, pick out a few thoughtful gifts within your budget, and you're done. There are still plenty of deals outside the magical realm of Black Friday. Or you could be a part of the stampeding mob that actually took the doors off their hinges and trampled a Wal-Mart worker to death last year. This is why they call them doorbusters.

I hate this aspect of the holidays. I hate fighting through swarms of pissed-off consumers while the same 50 Christmas songs play on a solid loop for five weeks.

I definitely see myself one day moving to the mountains. Coming into town once a week, for provisions. And to go to the movies.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


I just saw 2012, which depicts a global disaster of apocalyptic proportions. I'm able to watch these gruesome events and enjoy them for the movie magic they are. However, the devastating kind of earthquake depicted in 2012 is a very real inevitability for the state of California, and I'm living right where it will one day hit. The fear of dying in a catastrophic earthquake that scientists are describing as "overdue" can be paralyzing. But when discussing this fear with my brother Jandro one time, he pointed something out to me.

At any given moment, a supervolcano could randomly erupt and kill everyone on the planet.

For some reason, all I have to do is think of that, and all my fears just melt away. I'll see you guys tomorrow.