Thursday, June 23, 2005

Visualization part deux

I know I've posted on this topic before, but I still think visualization technology is hella cool, and if it happens to be useful, so much the better. So I was really excited when I actually read one of the Search Engine Watch newsletters that I get and ignore everyday (one of our clients advertises in it occasionally) and it mentioned visualization for Yahoo! search results. It's from a company called Grokker, and this thing ain't half bad. At least, I'm sure it won't be the next time I actually do a general search (I only ever search for song titles based on lyrics and yellow pages listings, and you don't need visualization to categorize by topic: I know exactly what I'm looking for). It's a handy little interface though, very fast, and very easy to navigate.


I realize my last post (if one were to actually get all the way through it) doesn't show me to be in the happiest of states, and that's accurate--I'm not. (Where's Tahiti when you need it? Oh yeah, an 8-hour flight away.) I've just started my first job, just begun my working life, and I know that it's going to last for the next four decades or so. It's the notion that this is what the rest of my life is going to be, and the best stuff is now behind me, that really gets me down. But things are getting better. I'm learning how to do what I need to in order to fulfil my job responsibilities, I like the people I work with, I've decided to spend those lunches I can lying in the shade in a nearby park, I've started staying up late again (I just don't understand my life without that... getting up at 5 am to go swimming most mornings just isn't me). And so I think I'm going to be ok. I still look brokenheartedly at some of the tech job listings I get (marketing analyst for Apple? Sigh.), but I think that after a couple years of working where I am now, I'll be poised to actually have a shot at those jobs. (Whether or not my master's degree will ever benefit me remains to be seen, but AccessGroup tells me I have to pay my loans back anyway.)

In short, I'm adjusting, and I think I'm doing pretty well happiness-wise (I will forever be mystified by the mechanism that makes the world look completely different from one day to the next, even though nothing's changed), but when I get pensive, that last post is about what it sounds like. I still haven't managed to think my way out of having to work at all, but give it time.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The consolations of philosophy... or not

This may be the product of an addled mind (it is, after all, way past my bedtime), but I was just lying here thinking and it occurred to me that maybe a bit of catharsis was in order.

I’ve been a bit philosophical of late… a major life change can do that to you. You ask yourself why, and try to understand it with respect to all the other steps and missteps you’ve taken thus far. Which category does this fall into? How do you know? Me, I’m not crazy about my job, but then that all depends. Isn’t this how it’s supposed to be? Was I just spoiled before, and that’s why I’m unhappy now? Are there other things at work here? What would make me happy? How do I know? I always thought that a career in marketing would make me happy because I like thinking about the challenges inherent in that line of work. But I’ve since discovered that, while I like thinking about those challenges, that’s a very tiny (and often nonexistent) part of what a job in marketing actually entails. And sadly, I’ve ruled out other roles in marketing that might be a better fit because I don’t think I’d like them or because I don’t think I’d be good at them. For an example of the former, an academic career (I hate writing, and that’s kind of what it comes down to). The latter, consumer insight/branding (I simply lack the instinct necessary to read people: I can’t think of a single instance when I’ve made an accurate assumption about what other people think and why).

And then I have to wonder, why really have I ruled those out? It’s not like I knew what I was doing when I took my current job. It’s not that I didn’t have all the facts, it’s just that I didn’t read them right (see end of last paragraph… I don’t even understand myself, how could I ever purport to understand others?). Whenever I get into questions of happiness, of my perspective on life, I always try to imagine how things would be if I were living a hundred, a thousand years earlier. I continually ruminate on the effects of living in the information age because it seems to me that one’s happiness and/or contentment at any given time is proportionate to how much their current experience compares with what they expected to be experiencing. I don’t know if my dissatisfaction, my disappointment, is a product of having glimpsed something better on tv or in books, or if it’s inherent in the human experience. The grass is always greener, right? But is it greener some times than others? How and why does that change? What if envy and discontent are inherent (as I tend to think they are… part of what makes us human is our awareness of others, and where that exists, there exists the awareness of how they are different from ourselves) but the wealth of information we have today has exacerbated the effect?

I can’t answer that last question without defining what the measurable results of such an occurrence would be and doing a fair amount of sociological research to determine if anything’s changed. And then evaluating the research upon which that was based (for example, I recently read in The Bell Curve that violent crime has been increasing since the 50’s, but have my doubts about what those numbers and that conclusion are based upon). But my instinctive answer would be that society is not going to hell because there’s too much information. In fact, all that information shuts us up. Information is the new religion. There’s so much to sort through, and it tells stories of such extremes as you never even dreamed of (I’m reading Chuck Palahniuk’s new book, Haunted, and never even imagined such a plethora of horrors between two covers). And it desensitizes you. Nothing is too horrific that you aren’t sure that it’s happened to somebody somewhere. And at the same time, no achievement is too great that aren’t sure it’ll happen. Maybe we won’t have flying cars by 2025, like we’ve all been dreaming about for years, but that doesn’t discourage us from believing that it’ll happen someday. No challenge is too great that someone won’t find a way to overcome it. Look at Lance Armstrong. Is it inspiring, or depressing that you can’t hope to ever live up to that kind of example? All this information has sucked out our own passions, because how can my love of art compare to the starving artist who gives his life to it? How can my love of travel compare to the researcher who lives among obscure tribesmen for years, learning their language and customs? It makes my pleasure in such hobbies look like a cheap thrill. I see where I stand in the grand scheme of things and feel there’s no way I can measure up, so why try? Why not just sit back, watch the newly-released first season of Scrubs, and try not to eat anything?

And the questions just keep on coming. This from a girl who never questioned anything.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I never get to do anything fun

I grew up in freaking California and yet suffer from a significant lack of earthquake experience. Not only did I sleep through the 6.6 in '94, but just now we were hit by a 5-pointer and I, not asleep, my car. I totally missed it, and would never have known anything had happened at all if I weren't immediately asked if I'd felt it upon walking through the door back at work. The Allstaff email with a link to a news story about it (helpfully titled "Earthquake we felt!!!!!!") was my next clue.

Well, if there have been 3 since Sunday (I also missed the one on Sunday, which I was awake for), chances are good we might have a couple more over the weekend...

Monday, June 13, 2005

"It really makes you think" moment of the day

On my way to work this morning, I stopped off at Hollywood Video to drop off some movies I'd rented (In Good Company--good movie, almost like someone who loves warm fuzzies picked up on the Office Space idea of portraying corporate America--and Be Cool, which totally blew; I didn't watch more than 20 minutes of it). As I got out of my car, I noticed a shirtless homeless guy nearby leaning over an open dumpster nearby. I didn't care to look too closely, but he seemed to be rummaging around a bit, looking for what I don't know. He was pretty calm though, as if he was just checking out what there was here before moving on to the next dumpster. He probably does things like this everyday. Me, I got back into my Jeep, picked up my Starbucks vanilla latte, and drove to the 405 freeway, just like I do everyday.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The eighth day

To the point of comments on my last post, Kristy was dead right when she said that my contentment with my job situation had nowhere to go but up (it has), Ben was right when he said I had to learn to be a shark (grrr, I'm a big scary shark now... really. I swear. Look! I growled and stuff!), and my soul has made a complete departure (it was nice of it to leave me the note there) and appears to have been replaced by one that gets up at 5 am most days to go swimming, which is something I did not see coming. I wrote out a long, more philosophical post full of questions during a launch meeting today that I may or may not post once I have a look at it with eyes that aren't full of despair, but I have another that I'd like to post in a more timely fashion: what I did today.

4:55 am - Alarm #1 goes off. Hit snooze.

5:00 am - Alarm #2 goes off. Walk to the other side of the room and hit snooze. Get back in bed.

5:01 am - Alarm #1 goes off again.

5:07 am - Alarm #1 goes off again.

5:10 am - Alarm #2 goes off again.

5:11 am - Realize that I'm awake and even if I don't get up now I'll still have to in an hour. Bleh.

5:12 am - Actually get up.

5:13 am - Oh crap, forgot to turn off alarm #1.

5:22 am - Throw clothes for work in backpack; casual Friday means I'm wearing jeans and flip flops today.

5:39 am - Holy shit, I still can't believe it only takes 10 minutes to get to UCLA from West Hollywood. Taking Sunset at 50 mph rocks.

5:45 am - In the pool. Little cold.

6:45 am - Well that was an easy workout, only 1925 today.

7:25 am - Can't believe I'm using a locker room World Dry thingy to blowdry my hair.

7:26 am - Ooh, my hair's straight. Score.

7:40 am - Mocha from Starbucks. Mmmm.

8:22 am - Arrive at work. Shit, I hate 2-hour street parking, hope I don't get a ticket like last week.

8:23 am - Hmm, kind of have a hankering to look at art. Will bring in Bridget Riley book that's in car cuz I've been too lazy to bring it up to my apartment.

8:35 am - Uh oh, more people here now, need to look like I'm busy doing something. Now what should I do...?

8:48 am - Great, boss is here and I have something to do. Man, I don't like working.

12:34 pm - Dude, I've gotta get the hell outta here.

12:46 pm - Mmmm, Quizno's.

12:47 pm - Fuck the diet.

1:08 pm - Wow, I forgot how much I like reading the Bell Curve. I should really do that more often and maybe finish the book within two years of starting it.

1:34 pm - Sigh, back to work.

2:38 pm - Wow, I seriously zone out when I'm listening to music.

2:39 pm - Omigod, how is it only 2:40?!

3:32 pm - Omigod, how is it only 3:30?!

3:33 pm - Oh yeah, I was totally supposed to make sure that project got done in creative today. I wonder what's going on with it...

3:44 pm - Yay, got the .pdf and forwarded it to the client-done!

4:02 pm - Shit, they noticed the typo.

5:08 pm - Ooh, moving to an actual cube rather than this tiny exposed piece of crap desk under the a/c vent!

5:09 pm - Man, I hate putting stuff away. Make piles for Monday.

5:56 pm - Yeah, I've gotta get out of here. It's Friday for Chrissakes.

6:07 pm - Arrive Alcapulco.

6:46 pm - Finish first margarita.

6:51 pm - Order a Corona.

7:12 pm - Coworker that used to be a photographer and now gets invites to lots of cool parties says he'll forward me invitation to a Malibu Rum-sponsored party! Open bar! Dreams do come true.

7:44 pm - Yeah, itsh kinda time fer me to goo...

8:15 pm - Arrive at home. After a drive that only took 25 minutes. 25. Minutes. LA traffic is fucking horrible.

8:27 pm - And now I'm going to blog all of this on a Friday night like the super cool person I am.

Am actually waiting for my roommate to get home, then we're going to go see The Longest Yard. Review to follow.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The first day

So I've always kind of assumed that when people wish you luck on the first day of work, that means they're rooting for you to not call your boss by the wrong name, or give away the fact that you don't know how to operate a door. Basic don't-start-off-on-the-wrong-foot stuff. It never occurred to me that "good luck" might also mean "I hope this job doesn't make you hate your life."

I might be going out on a limb here, but I have a sneaking suspicion that mentally chanting "I hate my job I hate my job" to yourself by afternoon on the first day is not a good sign. Nor is the desire to break down in tears. Granted, my emotional stability is somewhat up in the air when I'm short on sleep, but I wouldn't have guessed that a day at the office would be something that would send me off the deep end.

After clearing my head a bit by swimming a mile (thank God for master's swim), it occurred to me that I might have overreacted. So when I arrived at work today (my second day), I was in a fairly good mood (thank God for venti mochas), and things didn't go nearly as badly. I could hardly say that I enjoyed myself, but at least I made it to the end of the day without wanting to cry.

So what on earth could possibly make me so miserable? People seem nice: even the company president is pretty accessible; the commute isn't totally horrible, thanks to my iPod and my capacity to zone out for long periods of time while driving (I mean, it doesn't require more than three or four brain cells to operate a car on a freeway); my food expenses could theoretically be zero during the week, as they have a fully-stocked fridge and cabinet from which anyone can pull their breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Here's the problem: I pursued marketing because I enjoy thinking about the challenges of winning sales from consumers. How can you best communicate to them the benefits of your product? Who is "them"? What kinds of messages are meaningful? All of this, of course, makes the assumption that the product you're selling is worthwhile, and that your customers are educated enough to know the difference between that and one that is a waste of money (don't we all wish we were those consumers... I know I still haven't figured out how to do that more than 50% of the time).

But what if you had to sell something that you thought was worthless, via shady or irritating methods that give marketing a bad name? It's like being a lawyer without the compensation. And it's depressing. Not only are you disappointed in yourself for lending any kind of support to such an effort, but you lose faith in the intelligence of people in general, because some of them actually fall for this shit. You feel like you're duping consumers into buying the product. And I never wanted to have that low an opinion of other people: I don't want to be one of those who takes consumers for granted, who thinks less of them because they bought the product I'm hawking. Maybe it's inevitable. Maybe I just hadn't expected disillusionment (does anyone ever?), or didn't think it would be this painful. Maybe I've just been spoiled by jobs that I loved, but I didn't think that was too much to expect.

Goodbye soul.

Whole27: Seven (Eight?) Months Later

Breakfast this morning was cinnamon rolls. In fairness, I'm sick right now with something resembling that monster flu--hopefully it...