Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Day 48: Back from Hell... into dulliness

Here we are... back from hell into the routine of a never-changing story, battered and bruised, but all the same in the end.

I went to my "Integration Course", participated, got my share of the beat, won the first medal of my life (the first ever!) and returned knowing what I have always known: no matter how traumatic or joyful group experiences may be, nobody changes because of them.

It is true that some of us, the most observant, might have discovered some things about our co-workers we didn't realize before, but it is also true that, in the first meeting to evaluate the results, the boss's attitude has not changed a bit. He still believes we take 70% of his profits home, while we are working under an illegal contract where legal and mandatory fringe benefits are unknown. I'm still working with people who go as green as leprechauns when they see me obtaining something I worked hard for, and we still sharpen the knifes when the chance to criticize a parter arises.

Just one example:

At lunch time, in the common room)
A: Who won more tokens for the medal?
Yours truly: Me.
A: (to her team members): See? I told ya! If we had put ours together, we could've won that medal!
Yours truly: (with a scornful and ironic look): Oh, my dear, I'm so sorry you couldn't make it. It was as easy as raising your hand and participate!

Did we learn anything? No. Will we stop acting like ravenous wolves towards each other? Nope. The only good thing I brought with me (aside from the medal) was this answer:

Instructor: Please reflect upon this question: What are you exactly doing at your company?
Yours truly (to herself, with a big smile on her face): Looking for another job!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Day 47: Laws that rule the Universe: Hanlon's razor

Finally, the one I believe summarizes and gives a perfect corollary to any serious reflexion on the Universe.

"Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explainded by stupidity"


"Never assume malice when stupidity will suffice."

Wikipedia says that "According to Joseph Bigler, the quote first came from a certain Robert J. Hanlon as a submission for a book compilation of various jokes related to Murphy's law published in 1980 entitled Murphy's Law Book Two, More Reasons Why Things Go Wrong."

The importance of the theory can be understood if we consider that it has been stated by different men, in different countries, at totally different times! For instance:

My favorite version is the one from Albert Einstein: "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

In Mexico, we say "we don't fear morons because they are morons, but because they are way too many to be defeated".

And the oldest seems to be said by Napoleon Bonaparte: "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence."

All of them explaining brilliantly and simply why all the good, hard-working, well-meaning people in the world face so much trouble in succeding at almost anything. It's just about numbers: we are totally surrounded and outnumbered by stupids!! There's no army nor endurance that can beat that.

Therefore, next time you feel like killing your 'nice' co-workers for their mean behavior, your boss for yelling at you about a triviality or your assistant forgetting to inform you of an appointment, try to forgive them, because they don't know what they're doing. They are tooooo stupid!!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Day 46: Laws that rule the Universe: Finagle's Law

This one is an obscure reference in a science-fiction novel entitled "Ringworld" by master Larry Niven, who just happens to be one of the most acclaimed sci-fi writers of the last century. Despite its obscurity, it still remains one of the truths that may explain the complexity of our Universe.

"The perversity of the Universe tends towards a maximum"

And if you take the time to observe life under this principle, you will see it in action. A good example of it could be a hailstorm destroying a garden full of roses, but leaving weed totally unharmed.

It also applies to people. I'd say, especially to people. No matter how well a person behaves, or how good they may seem, they will always find a moment at which they will show their perversity, and it will be so mean, dark and cruel that even them will be surprised. You can observe kids, for instance. Despite their cherub-like faces, each boy or girl will get his little wrong-meaning hands on a little insect and start ripping its parts away just for fun, at least once in their lives. Oh... I know what most people is gonna say, that they do it "out of their need to explore the world". Naaahh. They'll do it because they can't do that to other bigger beings. Or what about these lovely people who are always stealing the pens from your desk, no matter how many you keep at hand?

When circumnstances have the chance to do you any harm, they will always try to do as much as they can...

Paranoia? No, not really. It is just that knowing this has helped me to be better prepared to face the little, inevitable, unpredicted annoyances of life. Just think about it.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Day 45: Laws that rule the universe – Murphy’s Law

Most people around the world have become familiar with the concepts, variations and circumvolutions of Murphy’s Law, but some of us have forgotten the essence of it.

According to Wikipedia (long life Wiki!) entry about Murphy’s Law, in its most summarized form, it can be stated as follows:

“Things will go wrong in any given situation, if you give them a chance.”


“If there’s more than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will result in disaster, then somebody will do it that way.”

Two attitudes can be taken out from this: either there’s no way to get things right, no matter what you do (and you might as well put an end to your misery right away), or there’s always a way to deal with disaster if you take all the possibilities into account from the very beginning.

This Law has turned into a practical use. For instance: “its spirit embodies the principle of defensive design — anticipating the mistakes the end-user is likely to make…The newer CD-ROM and DVD technologies permit one incorrect orientation — the disc may be inserted upside-down, which is harmless to the disc. A defensive designer knows that if it is possible for the disc to be inserted the wrong way, someone will eventually try it.”

Unfortunately, on the other hand, “if it seemingly is not possible to perform something incorrectly, someone will eventually manage it. This is often expressed as "Make something idiot-proof, and they will build a better idiot".

Another funny fact about the law is that “Murphy's law cannot operate as a subset of something useful; for example: "It will start raining as soon as I start washing my car, except when I wash the car for the purpose of causing rain”. That is, when we consciously try to make the Law operate in our favor, it won’t work, thus creating a paradox.

In my personal experience, Murphy’s Law has proven useful when dealing with the inevitable. Assuming that bad things tend to happen has helped me to deal with them in a more effective and light-hearted way. As we say here: “As soon as the Big Boss takes a business trip, something that requires his immediate attention will explode”. Murphy’s Law.

P.S. If you want to read more about this, check

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Day 44: Field trip with the Company - A desperate call for help

I do not consider myself either a weak or cowardly person, but recently I’ve found something that has really given me the creeps – a 3-day field trip with my co-workers.

Everything got started with the Big Boss coming up with the idea that a field trip would build up the company’s general performance (as if), so he scheduled this visit to a training facility located in Mineral del Chico County. Up to that moment, everybody was kind of interested but, when he announced in a general meeting that attending was mandatory and that whoever didn’t show up for the trip would get his sacking cheque ready, the spirits started to sink. Sadly, they went straight to the bottom when he pompously announced that the sole purpose of the trip was to crop the personnel and get rid of the “bad elements” (shocked gasp).

Obviously, if we were already pissed for having to spend one of our precious weekends working without payment, that was the last straw. Now everybody is really angry and looking towards this with a really nasty attitude, which only worsens my personal situation.

Given the fact that I define myself primarily as a lone wolf, the sole thought of spending a car trip and a three day stay in the company of people who I regard as total morons has already made me sick with anguish and disgust.

My co-workers listen to trashy music with great pleasure, and bask for hours in dirty jokes which have no sense at all, so you can picture what a joy ride will a three-hour car trip be. Since this trip is intended to “evaluate and improve the productivity”, I’ll have to spend the darned three days forcefully restraining my fierce temper. In addition, they are stealing the precious time I usually devote to my family and my housework. And just to cap it all, we are going to share the rooms. Can you imagine the torture that represents to me?

If I am to be honest, I must say that it is really difficult for me to keep a low profile regarding olfactory traits (to say the least), and my territoriality usually demands privacy. Sharing a room (and a bathroom!) with a total stranger, ready to take note of the smallest flaw to gossip it out is one of the most stressing situations you can place me in. Therefore, as the date slowly approaches, I’m growing more and more frustrated and desperate, since I see no way to worm myself out of it.

If anyone may have an idea for a good excuse out of this, I will be indebted to that person for the rest of my life. I have already tried getting infected (by visiting a young neighbor with the measles) and getting bitten by a dog (it never fell into the provocation). Any idea (which doesn’t include suicide, of course) that helps me preserve my privacy, my dignity and my job will be taken into account at the Gates of Heaven.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Day 43: Things that make me crazy… with joy

I’ve been dwelling in my thoughts for several days, wondering what my next post would be about. Since I was totally unable to write something really funny about my more-than-regular life, I decided to write about things that make me happy, maybe just to compensate for this strange rainy, windy, kind-a-gloomy weather we’re currently experiencing.

Happiness is something quite difficult to grasp, especially when you are not aware of the things or events that can trigger the feeling. Fortunately, I’m one of the few people who have been able to identify some.

1. Flying: I don’t care what they say: the greatest achievement of men has been the conquest of the skies. I’ve had the chance to practice abseiling, and I’m dying to fly a delta-wing. There’s nothing in the world that can compare to the emotion of taking off. How can people grow tired of flying?

2. Books: as I have mentioned before ‘till redundancy, starting a new book really makes me happy. It’s a new opportunity to escape from the little annoyances of daily life into a private world completely closed to others. Except for the statistically rare case someone is reading the same book in my vicinity. Not likely to happen.

3. Cats: most people regard those furry little beasts as treacherous and mean miniaturized tigers, to which I must disagree. If cats are treated with the same amount of attention and love dogs are given, they are very likely to develop the behavior one would expect from a dog. “Fuchi”, (/FOO-shi/) my Maine Coon queen cat is a perfect example. She is so fond of human company that most visitors to my place find her disturbing (and sometimes annoying). And all felines, both big and small, represent the sum of beauty and power to me.

4. Horses: what could be more delicious that hanging around with horses? Whether riding or tending them whenever I have the slightest chance, I can go crazy with joy if I can get my hands on them, not to mention taking a good ride.

5. Cartoons: again, my tendency to escape to little worlds of fantasy leaps with joy if I happen to find a good cartoon with a good story. From Noir to Danny Phantom, I can spend 30 minutes with my eyes glued to the screen, following their adventures rapturously.

6. Writing / Drawing: well, basically whatever involves a creative process. Actually, that’s one of the reasons why I accepted the suggestion to write a blog. Since my writing creativity seems to be on indefinite leave, I decided that at least I should try to continue expressing my thoughts in an articulated way (yeah, sure) to avoid getting rusty.

7. Expensive restaurants: due to the budget and dietary restraints, I haven’t been able to enjoy this one very much lately, but there’s nothing more pleasant than going into a fancy restaurant and try something unusual, such as frog legs, caviar, “escamoles” (ant eggs and larvae which, as disgusting as it may sound, are regarded as the Mexican caviar), and, of course, the dessert tray!

In conclusion, I must say that indeed is the simple things of life which can give us with those tiny little moments of happiness that may turn a dull day into a remarkable experience.

Have you found what makes you happy?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Day 42: Usual Annoyances at the Front Desk

Given the fact this blog was christened ‘The Usual Stuff’, I’d like to talk about that usual stuff going around my workstation, which happens to be The Front Desk.

Many people tend to believe, in a totally misinformed conception, that being “the receptionist” is a petty, unimportant, two-bit, sub-servient, low-status, any-man’s job, which only indicates how little importance we give to those apparently intranscendental* tasks that usually go unnoticed but happen to make life more comfortable, just like house keeping. It is commonly believed, as I mentioned before, that ‘anyone can do it’, so it is waged in consequence, and people who end up performing these jobs are regarded as mediocre, although the degree of preparation, experience and good attitude both require is usually ignored by most employers. Therefore, whoever outstands the regular performance is normally acquainted as either a shoe-licker or a total freak, thus gaining them people’s loathing, instead of their applause, which happens to be one of the usual annoying things I've found about it.

In addition to the situations I listed on a previous post, I would like to mention some other Usual Stuff that I have found highly irritating in this job:

1. Telephone sales: no day passes without receiving at least 5 phone calls asking for people who don’t work with us anymore, trying to sell credit cards. No matter how many times you tell them they must stop calling because they’re jamming the ring central, the same out-bound call center will call at least twice the same day.

2. Cookie monsters: one of my duties is to set the snack-and-drink service when my boss schedules meetings, and a cookie tray is set for that. Whatever I do to prevent it, there’s always one smart-ass who picks the cookies, leaving the obvious blank spaces on the tray, thus causing my boss to get mad at me, because there never seem to be enough cookies for the visitors.

3. The unpunctual visitor: tardiness is part of Mexican culture, so I’ve learned to live with it. What I can’t stand is these people who want to make a good impression by getting to appointments half an hour early. They cram the reception (which happens to have 3 damn chairs), they get in everybody’s way and they keep asking every 5 seconds if the person is already available. Sorry, but that is another form of unpunctuality.

4. Personal phone calls: I understand that sometimes it is necessary for our family and/or friends to reach us at work, but I really go berserk when I receive 8 phone calls a day (and there’s written proof!) from a girl’s boyfriend exactly at the moment when really relevant phone calls are hail storming over my head. In order to be fair, I must say that my family has strict instructions to call me to my mobile. Whenever this happens otherwise, I also jump at their throats.

5. Background music: we are supposed to have music all day long in the internal speaker system. To my despair, the selection tends to be must unfortunate, such as the awfully chaotic jazz music my boss loves, or the crappy, low-life-style ‘banda’ music my co-workers favor when the bosses are not around. Having that noise piercing my ears while I try to concentrate on a customer’s call, especially if it is in English, can really drive me psychotic.

As a form of conclusion, I would like to mention, in order to be fair with both sides of the story, that not all the receptionists are precisely saints. As a customer, I have also suffered the blatant incompetence of receptionists who seemed to have been placed at the front desks just because of their good looks. Women who are chatting, putting up make-up, chewing gum, smoking or answering personal calls right on the visitor’s face do not help improving the low perception this position has in the job market. In order to be honest, I must confess that all my complaints regard those situations that prevent me from fulfilling my duties with the high quality both my bosses and my clients deserve.

*If you happen to find any spelling mistakes, please feel free to correct me. I’ll sincerely appreciate it.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Day 41: How stupid can it get? 2nd Part

Following up the obsession idea, I just discovered a new one: actively noticing and recording how stupid people can be. Last time I wrote about it, it was more like a pressure release than an elaborated essay about human stupidity or lack of common sense. Since once in my life I took Psychology courses, I am willing to understand that some factors, such as fatigue, anger, hunger, stress or simply wanting to visit the loo are likely to affect our judgment at certain moments. On the other hand, we happen to live in a complicated world, where technology and human relations are more complex than ever, and some of us may seem a little slow at understanding things that are a piece of cake to others. But what I can’t understand is why people seem to use their brains less and less every time, as if the reasoning process hurt. Are we becoming more and more stupid due to pollution? Is it that people who show a hint of intelligence have been ostracized in our society for centuries? Or is it that we are desperate to fit in a dummy world?

Here you have some examples I had the bad luck to experience:

1. Finding a seat: here we are, my hubby and I, sitting exactly at the center of the projection hall, down at the center at our favorite locations and, right after the movie had started, there arrives this couple, standing right in front of us, wondering for five, five long minutes, where to sit. How long can it take you to decide when the hall is almost deserted?

2. Technology dummies: I left for home, ready to forget about the office work, and then I receive a phone call from the Systems Manager (believe it or not), asking me to unveil the mysteries of Fax Operation. I know these devices can be tricky but, isn’t that the reason why they have this enormous icons on the front to depict how to place the paper to be sent?

3. The phone number: do you really have to wait for your co-worker to arrive in order to decipher an address book? If the fax number is not indicated there, couldn’t you call the company to find out? I assumed it would be a matter of pure logic that, if the indication was not there, the same number serves as phone and fax, you dummie!

4. Language: If you are asking a yes or no question (in grammar terms, a direct question), the least you could get is a yes or a no, isn’t it? The answer is no, as you can see in the following example:
Me: Co-worker A, would you happen to know were the VGA cables are?
Co-worker A: I gave them to you. It was your responsibility to keep and eye on them. Besides, if they got lost, you will have to…
Me: Thanks for the extra info, but a yes or a no would have sufficed. Do you know where they are?
Co-worker A: No!
Me: Thanks. That's the only thing I needed to hear.
Which was the right answer from the very beginning.

And these are only the few examples I found mildly amusing, among another dozen I found just plainly annoying. Feel free to share your own.

In conclusion, I must say that it is not my intention to make public my intellectual superiority (I rarely screw it, but when I do, I do it big time!), but to make evident that something really creepy is happening among us, maybe some sort of evolutionary treat that is regressing us back to the dawn of humanity, or a conspiracy from the governments to make us so stupid that Americans might vote for Bush again and Mexicans for Lopez Obrador, or something. I don't know for sure, but I wonder if the truth might be out there.