Observer's Notes

The ideas of a thoughtful college student (Updated Whenever)

  • Welcome to Observer’s Notes!

    I'm Brian. This is my blog. I write about things that I think about, since verbalizing it helps me put things in more concrete terms. So here you'll find my occasional thoughts.
  • Get Email Updates!

  • Subscribe

  • Blog Stats

    • 62,315 views

Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

Overqualified (writing project)

Posted by Brian on May 23, 2010

I’ve been really into Joey Comeau’s Overqualified lately. If you’ve never checked it out, I highly recommend doing so. He basically writes stories in the form of fake resume cover letters. It’s a surprisingly fun medium for story-telling. I decided to try my hand at one, since I haven’t done anything creative in a long time, and I really love writing.

Obviously nothing in this story is true. It’s just a story.

To: Microsoft
Re: What happened to me?

Dear Microsoft,

I am writing to apply for a software engineer position with your company. I have enclosed with this letter a copy of my resume for your review, but let me save you the time. I have never worked as a software engineer, or in any IT-related position. I have no relevant degrees. In short, I have nothing your company wants. I have nothing your company needs. But I do have something everyone else needs. But I need this job to make it happen.

The problem is that your software eviscerates people, Microsoft. It takes their quirks, their qualities, their flaws, and shoves them so far down they disappear. Your software certainly eviscerated me. Every day for fifteen years I sat down in front of your software. I stared at it for days, sometimes nights, on end. At the end, I could barely remember the sound of my wife’s voice, or the color of her eyes, or the way our bodies met and seemed to melt together. I was asleep, Microsoft, and it took a bottle of sleeping pills to wake me up.

It’s not that I blame you; how customers use your software is my psychotic boss’s responsibility, not yours. But you and I can fix this. And the answer is webcams. With access to your resources, we can program your software to recognize the warning signs: lethargy; bags under the eyes; that bottle of liquor you think no one knows about; desperate phone calls asking if you’re working late again, and if you’re OK, and if you love that job more than her.

And then your software tries to fix the problem. Sure, it’ll start out gentle. Maybe a few pop-up messages. Don’t you have some personal days left? How’re the kids doing? Weren’t you here last weekend too? Then it gets more aggressive. Every Google search becomes a dinner reservation for two. Explicit emails get “accidentally” sent to the boss. Quarterly reports get reformatted into order forms for that toy you don’t know your son wants. Eventually, Microsoft, your most desperate users will have no choice to but to leave and live and love.

It may be too late for her, but maybe together we can save someone else.

Yours,

Brian Hettinger

Posted in Computers, Literature, Technology, Uncategorized, Windows | Leave a Comment »

Of Kids and Tigers

Posted by Brian on April 6, 2008

(Update: Improved image resolution. And for anyone who’s curious, I have a fair use rationale to justify using copyrighted materials.)

Somehow over the course of this weekend, I’ve found myself reading Calvin & Hobbes comics online. There are really some very good ones. I remember now why I like this comic so much. So I figured for this week’s blog (which will put me back on schedule, by the way!) I’d reflect on some of the wisdom imparted by the two titular characters. These are five of my favorite Calvin & Hobbes strips, and my thoughts on them.

Dreams

Calvin and Hobbes - Dreams

This one actually took me a long time to find. I started looking for it after Mooku set an away message with one of the lines from this strip. This one strikes me as noteworthy simply because it’s so honest. It exemplifies the relationship between Calvin and Hobbes, which is (if you ask me) the archetype of a close friendship. Even though the two of them sometimes grate on each others’ nerves, they really couldn’t bear to be separated. The genius in Bill Watterson’s writing is that it accomplishes two dichotomous goals at once: it captures deep and mature ideas in a childish and innocent way. In my opinion, that’s what makes Calvin & Hobbes a great comic.

Big Sunny Field

Calvin and Hobbes - Happy

This one is pretty cool. Watterson pretty routinely took shots at society in general through his comic, though he rarely targeted specific events or people. Rather, he stuck to general societal commentary. This particular strip is one such comment. It’s long been my belief that the simplest of things in the world can generate the greatest happiness. I don’t know how many of you have ever actually taken the time to sleep in a big sunny field, but it’s pretty damn awesome. Getting a new car or having lots of money just doesn’t provide the same kind of enjoyment. It feels good for a little while, but eventually you realize that no matter how fast the car goes from 0 to 60, it’s not going to make your life better. Why? Because there’s more to life than material things. No matter what you buy, you’ll eventually want something better. You get a PDA, you want an iPhone. You get an iPhone, you want unlimited texting. You get unlimited texting, you realize you have no friends to text because you spent all your time working to get enough money for the damn iPhone! I’ll admit, I’m guilty of this quite frequently. And there’s nothing wrong with enjoying material things; but making it the driving focus of your life is a bad idea.

A Best Friend

Calvin and Hobbes - Best Friend

This is definitely one of my favorites, if only because this is one of the comics where I can really identify with Calvin. Some of you who’ve known me for a while know that I sometimes experience insomnia. Not just that I stay up late, but that I try to go to bed and end up lying in bed for hours and hours before I can finally fall asleep. Usually that will last from a few weeks to a few months. Oftentimes during that time I’m lying awake, I think about the same thing Calvin is in this strip: all my fears and concerns. And, again like Calvin, the darkness and solitude provides very little distraction from those thoughts. I remember one time I couldn’t sleep, and apparently Justin couldn’t either, because he called me at like one or two in the morning. I can’t remember why, or if there even was a specific reason. But either way, talking to him helped. I don’t think we talked about anything deep or anything that had to do with my not sleeping. But as soon as I hung up with him, I fell right asleep. Having a best friend by your side does make things a little less scary. Also, there have been quite a few social situations where I have been more comfortable because Justin was there with me. Even when I’m not with a close friend, just knowing that there are people out there who care for me is a huge confidence-booster. So, yes. Things are never quite as scary when you’ve got a best friend.

Merry Christmas

Calvin and Hobbes - Christmas

This one is another favorite, for obvious reasons. It’s between this strip and the next one for my favorite Calvin & Hobbes of all time. The expression of friendship between Calvin and Hobbes in this one is pretty touching, which is unique for a comic strip. Most comics aren’t this good at invoking emotional responses. But the other cool thing about it is that Christmas isn’t just about gifts for Calvin and Hobbes, nor should it be between any two good friends. For me, Christmas is a time when I can express how much I care about all the people around me, not just a day to dazzle people with how much money you can spend on gifts. It’s a day of love, just like in this strip.

I’m going to introduce this next strip before you actually see it, since anything I could say afterwards would simply diminish its brilliance. It’s actually 9 sequential strips forming one storyline; it’s long, but the ending is worth it. I’ll warn you, it’s very bittersweet (heavy on the bitter). To quote the website where I got this, “What makes [Calvin & Hobbes] one of the great treasures of our culture is its ability to invoke emotions that you never thought you’d spend on a comic strip. This one’s positively touching.” I think everyone can identify with this comic. So here you all go. My favorite Calvin & Hobbes comic:

“…But Don’t YOU Go Anywhere”

Raccoon complete

Posted in Friends, Life, Literature, Relationships, Time | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Disenchanted

Posted by Brian on February 22, 2008

So here’s the first of my promised Friday updates. I’m going to put on my anthropologist hat for this one, and make the claim that IB is not designed to educate students and grant them a more worldly perspective, as the whole program claims. Rather, I’ve come to the conclusion that the International Baccalaureate program’s objective is to make students callous and bitter, to help them survive in the real world.

Just think about the subject matter that’s covered in IB at Gresham High School. Starting with Biology, where part of every unit is a lecture on disorders, also known as an hour and a half every month learning about all the things that could go wrong in your body. Move on to history, where one subject is “causes, practices & effects of war,” where you spend your time talking about the deaths of millions of people as though it’s just another quiz question; that is, right after you finish discussing the histories and methods of the most brutal dictators in the history of the world. After that there is IB English class, where most of the novels you read deal with existentialism: a philosophy which is based around the idea that nothing in the universe really matters. Finally, Theory of Knowledge, where you review existentialism AGAIN and are also forced to accept that the entire human experience is ultimately subjective and unreliable.

Then there are all the extra requirements for the IB program. The Extended Essay and CAS for example. Now it might seem at first that CAS (which includes 50 hours of volunteering) is an honest attempt by IBO to do some good in the world. But there are a few problems with this. First of all, the entire point of volunteering is to do something good in the world, for no other reason than because it’s good. What happens in IB isn’t volunteering: it’s IB students being voluntold to do good things. There’s also the Extended Essay, which is just 4,000 more words for a student to schedule into their time.

“But wait, Brian!” you’re all saying, “Are the IBO coordinators really sitting around thinking of ways to disillusion us?” Well, of course not. But one of the most interesting things about culture is that it evolves on its own. If it finds that its young are unable to survive in the real world, it finds a way to adapt. The members of culture aren’t necessarily always aware of this; for example, many anthropologists argue that the Hindu people don’t worship cows because they’re actually holy, but because eating cows would ruin the entire economic structure of India. I’ve come to believe that idealists really don’t do as well in the “real” world as people who are disillusioned to a certain degree. If school is supposed to be the place where students are prepped to deal with the real world, then wouldn’t it follow that school has to disillusion us somewhat? IB seems fairly adept at doing that.

(My heart’s not really in this one tonight, guys. Sorry.)

Posted in Education, IB, Life, Literature | Leave a Comment »