Friday, November 26, 2010

It's in the Code, Sucka

"To study the history of mentalities is to enter the arena of human experience most resistant to change."
--Marc Bloch, The Historian's Craft

You have to be aware of cultural differences, if marketing wants to insert periods after each letter of UK, or if the German store wants to translate into either high or low, and whether the Japanese approve of a wayward Kanji character. I start with English. There's something pastoral about baskets on a bicycle. Think Liza's flower basket festooned with posies. Jars of lemon curd, smoked oysters, a package of biscuits, a bottle of wine.  All the makings for a picnic. In the United States, we lock-up purchases behind bars and bail them out at check-out. Do time in our homes.  

Driving to work I watched clouds cast shadows over the foothills, the hide of a prehistoric animal wrapped around my internal text. Light moves closer to autumn. With GPS I moved straight toward a target, a self-directed arrow that knew where to exit. No more days of getting lost, making a right and discovering a scenic look-out, a road side stand with the best strawberries. See white rabbit enter building through rear security gate and swipe badge past the employee reader. Green. Down an orange hallway, engineers tuck laptops beneath their arms and run to take orders from the next table.

Past the mall towers of Hayward and Fremont I drive with a nail in the sidewall of one of my tires held together with goo that I'd injected through the tire's stem cell, the old Nummi plant now transmogrified into Tesla, an electric car manufacturer; past Solyndra, solar panelist that was anointed with a half a million dollars by the feds this summer to be a bright star. But what's that I hear? KZSU, companion of these 50 minute rides down to Cupertino where the deejay is having broadcast problems because she's doing homework at the same time that she's doing her show. That's her talking, not me. "Wow, it's been a really bad day. No one has called in for tickets." I pass cows. Really? Cows in Fremont, remnants.

He bent me through the prism of whomever he thought I was, which hurt. So I composed an email, which didn’t help. Soon I found my way to Lake Tahoe, which wasn’t Lake Tahoe, but the Great Salt Lake, so many conference rooms named after lakes where I was invited to sit around the table with helpings of stale pretzels and fudge cookies to thrash out the next business requirements document with team members dialing in and hooked up through a bridge. Yellow stickie notes on a white screen, an entire wall covered in arrows and boxes, petroglyphs from a high-tech era. When I returned to my desk,  my email was empty.

I got my first cafĂ© latte this evening and it was good. Then I toured a management tool and visited products, parents and children gathered under one roof. In God We Trust. Scaled down design with a special spigot at the sink that offers cold drinking water. Forget your bottle. I notice a defibrillator cabinet installed outside the bathroom where toilets have both automatic and manual flushing options. Beatles today on the front cover of the web page. They look like high-tech employees, Men in Black. On the late-night shift, I talked with Elena who gathers up the day’s refuse and inserts a plastic liner into baskets and also stacks towers of cups beside the coffee maker. She’s looking for a better job in the cafeteria where it pays more.  

Time is tied to the device. There are no clocks anywhere.  I walk softly and try not to look like an idiot. At the coffee bar I wanted to sprinkle cinnamon on my coffee, but instead I dusted the counter. D'oh!  At meetings today with a Russian program manager, also with a director from England who's hoping that her boss doesn't get his knickers twisted around his neck when he hears about new due dates. My notebook floats in acronyms. Everyone says that it will take at least six months before I understand what's going on.  

Invite polarities within the container of a circle.  There's no tooling around. I'm in the throes of database archeology. Morning. Ask not for whom the grass blower whines. Outside my window and sitting on a Jeffrey Pine, a crow croaks. It's time for coffee with a dose of Dr. Oz. Working on swing shift has opened up a new world of late night television, Jewelry TV with its siren call of tanzanite and mocha diamonds. I put the program on mute. Odysseus was on to something. Boot up the computer on my living room table layered with a history of Genghis Khan whose armies made no technological breakthroughs. Instead, they passed skills through mountains, rivers, plains, from one civilization to the next. A pony express.

Wouldn't it be a century birthmark if a company chose to strategically invest its capital in developing great tools for its employees--software tools employees use to hold up the company's electronic face. Beautiful tools. A well-honed axe. A stone awl.  Is there some kind of law that says behind the face of simplicity must lie tangle, permanently in need of being untangled? But isn't Nature always using conditioner and how does she do that? It's in the code, sucka. I'm not talking about the relationship between simplicity and complexity, but an electric vocabulary that can be exchangeable, copiedleft.   Just imagine. If employees had the same wonderful tools on the inside as consumers did on the outside, a singularity, boundaries falling down.

I'm having an out-of-cart body experience. Jewelry TV says there's only 60 more seconds left on the tanzanite cross. I've passed by that station.  Genghis Khan assembled representatives from the world's religions for a theological bake-off. No side was able to convince the other of anything. Soon alcohol took center stage. Christians stopped with the logical arguments and started to sing. Muslims, who did not sing, responded by reciting the Koran, and Buddhists retreated into silent meditation. It was Shabbos for the Jews. Unable to convert or kill one another, they concluded the way most Mongol celebrations concluded, with everyone too drunk to continue. There was a real toad strangler last night and in the morning, tree branches were clenched in prayer.

The BBC announced that on Black Friday, Americans will boost the economy by spending lots of money, cheerleaders dressed in jogging suits filling up shopping carts with different things. Remember there are no baskets at WalMart, only carts. I stood next to an Asian woman near a shelf stocked with every kind of thing a person might  need for Thanksgiving--pineapple rings, cranberries, chicken broth, baking powder and tins of cinnamon. Standing room only for jars of mincemeat and bags of marshmallows on the opposite side of the display. She circled around like a hawk, looked at me and said, "Prices are so low. I can't believe it. This is the first time I've ever been here." She turned around and walked away.