Barenaked Ladies – an impossible interpreting challenge

During my cardio workouts I listen to a custom playlist of fast(ish) songs to keep me going. The list has songs from Pink, Maroon 5, Lifehouse, Matchbox 20, Jimmy Eat World, 3 Doors Down, and Barenaked Ladies along with a few others. I’ve heard all the songs enough times that I’ve pretty much figured out how I’d go about interpreting them into ASL should the need ever arise.

[scene location: SxSW]
Panicked Cop: Oh my God, is there an ASL interpreter in the house?
Me: I’m an ASL interpreter.
Panicked Cop: You have to help us, we have an emergency!
Me: What’s wrong, is a Deaf person hurt?
Panicked Cop: No, much worse! Maroon 5 is about to perform and we don’t have anyone to interpret for them!
Me: Never fear – I’ve been training for this moment for months!

The one major exception is several songs by Barenaked Ladies. Do you have any idea what the lyrics to One Week actually means? Eg: “Hot like wasabe when I bust rhymes / Big like LeAnn Rimes / Because I’m all about value” Yeah, me neither.

Maybe that one is a little unfair. But it isn’t as if Some Fantastic is any better although I have a really great interpretation of “I can’t stand to wait in line long / So I built a new machine / It just measures up the distance / and then eliminates the folks between” that I’m just dying to share with someone who will appreciate it.

Alcohol is a better but still a bit challenging due to the personification and direct address of alcohol in addition to another person (“O Alcohol, I still drink to your health” is said to alcohol but “A Malibu and Coke for you” is obviously not). By no means is that unsurmountable but does take a careful reading of the lyrics to parse through it.

The take-away is that you shouldn’t come looking for me if BNL need an interpreter for their shows. Instead I’ll show up to sit directly in front of the interpreter to see what he/she does with some of that crazyness!

IBM raises (or this year’s joke) arrive

IBM gave out raises again this year and I received one in contrast to last year. Given the economy and job situations that are out there, I’m happy to have a job. I’m happy to have gotten an increase when so many people in IBM didn’t. I’m happy that I live below my means so I don’t need an increase. I’m not oblivious to how lucky and blessed I am.

That said, I’m personally unhappy with the results. IBM had a strong year last year. IBM, Tivoli, and Tivoli Security all three had a great first quarter. And with all of that, the raises across the board sucked.

I’m now at 85% of the MRP meaning that people in my position in my area make on average 15% more than I do. Despite my management team telling me that I’m a top performer I’m just not feeling the love from IBM right now.

Yes, I know: cue the world’s smallest violin…

New car: 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid

Last Friday I purchased a car almost sight-unseen. After writing the sellers a check I gave the car back to them for an undetermined amount of time.

How’s that for a lead-in?

For the past three years we’ve been a one car household. Because I work from home and Benjamin’s school schedule allowed for some flexibility in car usage this hasn’t been too arduous. Since he’s started working full time it’s become apparent that we needed a second car to prevent me from being even more hermity than I already am.

Because I’ve gotten along without a car for so long and because it’s more for the periodic bopping around I wasn’t all that picky about what car I wanted. Enter Meghann and Peter, good friends from Austin who moved to Colorado last year. They recently bought a beautiful home up in the mountains at the end of snow season and discovered that their two hybrid vehicles weren’t going to cut it in the winter and that they really needed at least one 4-wheel drive vehicle. The car they were planning on selling was a 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid. We talked about it and they agreed to sell it to me.

At the time I purchased it, I had never seen the inside of the car, much less driven it. I knew Meghann and Peter took great car of their vehicles and that despite being a 2004 model it only had 59k miles on it. Add on that it gets ~50 mpg with a manual transmission and I was sold.

I borrowed the car from them this past Friday to get it registered (VIN verification, emissions test, etc) which was an ordeal I won’t bother going into detail here1. Then I gave it back to them on Saturday. Right now they need two vehicles until they make some time to purchase their new one. I on the other hand don’t really need it. I have survived without one for 3 years already, what’s another week or two (or three or four)?

The day and a half I had the car I really enjoyed it. It was fun to drive a stick again although it’s a bit different experience than my Mustang — not quite as much get up and go. I still have to get use to the optimal way to drive the vehicle. When driving the ‘stang it was more energy efficient to shift into neutral when coming to a stop light or stop sign to let the engine idle. In the Civic (who does not yet have a name) the vehicle must be in gear to charge the battery so taking it out of gear to coast to a stop prevents it from charging. I grok the necessary change but it’ll take a few weeks to retrain my muscle memory.

When Meghann and Peter hand off the car for good there are two very important things that must be done:

  1. Give the car a name. I’ve been assured that it currently doesn’t have a name so it won’t get confused when I christen it.
  2. Get the windows tinted. I’ve no idea how they survived in Austin without tinted windows!

1 The short version: hybrid cars don’t need emissions testing in CO; DL office != title registration office; Arapaho county != Denver county; was told I needed a Security Agreement form filled out by the bank but in truth I could have filled it out myself there in front of her instead of leaving, faxing it to my bank, having them fax it back, getting it notarized (by suggestion from my bank) and coming back later to wait in line again.

Heterocentric lyrical tendencies

On the way home from the gym today I was listening, again, to Adam Lambert’s What Do You Want From Me. It’s been getting a lot of airtime on the radio recently. I find the tune catchy and the lyrics decent. What got my mind reeling after I really stopped to think about it wasn’t the lyrics themselves, but what I had been reading into the lyrics the entire time: that it was being sung to a woman.

As I’m sure you’re aware, Adam Lambert is gay. So there’s no reason that the song couldn’t be sung to a guy. Thinking that perhaps there was some line in the song that triggered this assumption I took a gander at the lyrics. Nope – no mention of gender anywhere in there.

Which means it’s all in my head. For whatever reason I have hetrocentric lyrical tendencies. And frankly that bothers me.

10 Years at IBM

Saturday marked my 10 year anniversary with IBM. It’s very hard to believe that I’ve been here for a full decade.

When I started with IBM it was just before the dot-com bubble burst and companies were still hiring like crazy. I was courted by several different companies: FedEx in Colorado Springs, Ericsson in Dallas, Dell in Round Rock, among others. IBM offered me the most money and the job was in Austin, a fun-looking town after you got away from I-35. I accepted the position around November 1999 before I graduated the following May. The general mood of new-hires at the time, regardless of which company you went to work for, was that you’d be there for a few years and move elsewhere. Then the bubble burst <poof!> and everyone was quite happy to be gainfully employed.

Interestingly, shortly after I started working for IBM I discovered that I wasn’t a very strong candidate for hire. It was only because one of the interviewing managers thought I had some potential and wanted me in his department that they decided to make me an offer. Oddly, I never did work for him. They were wary enough of me to give me the lowest starting salary offered at that time — something I only found out the next year after my next manager said that while she was giving me a raise because of my great performance, she was also required to do so since the new hires would be starting higher than I was making!

I like to think since then they’ve changed their minds a bit. In 10 years I’ve gotten good performance reviews1, 3 promotions, and 9 notable awards2. I’ve been empowered to define my own position, which might as well be summed up by the word transponster ’cause there’s no good title for what I do3.

I’ve had a total of about 6 managers during my career and each one raises the bar for the next one. Each and every one of them have been amazing people who care about their employees and their employee’s career. To a one they have always watched out for me and ensured that I have retained a good work-life balance.

What’s the plan from here? Keep on keepin’ on. I’m continuing to grow into my new band and expand my sphere of influence. I’m working on increasing our project’s overall bus number for performance which should free me up to focus on other things. I’ll continue to work from home until it becomes impractical to advance without being in an office.

I always said I’d never go to a job I hated day in and day out regardless of the pay. I’ve been lucky that I am well compensated for a job I enjoy and part of a team that’s top notch.

1 I started to list the aggregate ratings but the definitions have changed enough over 10 years that it wouldn’t be meaningful.
2 This isn’t counting the 24 Thanks! awards over the years — 24 out of a potential 27 isn’t bad!
3 My title listed in the corporate directory is “LDAP & DB2 Performance Peon” — that’s what corporate gets for making it a free-form text field.