Print Story Big Bad John
By Christopher Robin was Murdered (Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 08:36:37 AM EST) (all tags)
John is here, today and tomorrow. Hiram Codd's contribution to the Japanese soda industry and his non-contribution to the English language. No sleep.


    John is half of the office help desk. He's tasked with keeping everything on this floor running. Daniel, the other half of help desk, is up on 11 and this story isn't about him so you can forget that he was ever mentioned.

    John, while being a nice guy and all, is one of the least reliable worker's I've ever met. He rolls in around 11:30, rolls out around 3:00. He avoids his desk like lawyers avoid facts, claiming he needs to meet with vendors in Midtown or Chinatown or Bangkok or Aspropyrgos. When, somehow, conditions make it impossible for him to actually be away from his desk, he spends his few moments their talking on the phone to his family. He's an old school Arthur Ave. type New York Italian and, as far as I can figure, his immediate family includes some 14 million people.

    Lately, John's been feeling some pressure from the PtB. Too many times he's been mysteriously absent when some computer crisis has befallen some field. Too many times a crucial meeting has been delayed because the PtB macro-entity was unable to remember how to work some mission critical bit of hardware. People, cynical and cruel as they are, have begun to suspect that their inability to reach John at any given moment of the day is not due to the fact that he is a dynamic whirlwind of tech-service action, but rather due to the fact that he is a slacker. People have begun to assume that if John is not at his desk, he is not at work.

    To counter this growing perception, John came up with a dynamite PR coup. He placed above his near constantly empty cube a large sign that reads, "I am here." Under this usually paradoxical message, he has the date written. He updates at the end of every day, changing the sign to read tomorrow's date. In a way, I find his habit of predating the sign strangely life-affirming. It is as if John is saying that despite these uncertain times, regardless of tragedy the constantly strikes our lives and the chaos that incessantly overthrows even the adamantine ideals and beliefs, he, John, will be here tomorrow. As far as shoddy attempts to cover one's lazy ass go, I find this effort heart warming.

    Sadly, it isn't working. First, nobody seems to believe John is actually behind the signs. Most think that Pete creates them in order to keep John out of trouble. A few have even suggested that Ollie or I have made them in order to underscore and satirize John's meticulous absenteeism.
    People have offered John solutions to counter this perception. The most popular suggestion involves setting up some sort of video loop which would feature John holding up the front page of the NY Post and talking to the camera, like he was a kidnap victim providing proof that he was okay. This would definitively prove that John was, at least for a time, actually at his desk. However, John thinks the ability to predate signs is an essential to the entire project. The predating is it central theme. The video project, with its drab insistence on proof over conviction is, from John's point of view, is practically and philosophically unsound.

    The second reasons for the sign's failure occurred at the conceptual level. Joan once explained it to him, "Nobody ever comes and asks if you're here. They come and ask where you are."
    John seemed did not seem to register the comment. I think he's somewhat hurt by the notion that the PtB collective shows no interest in him being for beings sake, they apparently just want him around to fix computers or something.


    I got my hands on a bottle of the Japanese citrus soda, Ramuné – and an odd bottle it is.

    Ramuné comes in a clear glass bottle – at 6.76 fluid ounces, a bit smaller than the average American soda bottle. Though its slight size isn't what sticks out. The thing that really pops out is the "Codd-neck" design, a bizarre no-spill design named after its inventor, Hiram Codd. The Codd-neck bends inward to restrict the neck of the bottle to a nearly half inch opening. The neck then opens up again, with two small lumps one side of the bottle, placed just about where the neck begins to open again.
    To open a bottle of Ramuné, you need to unwrap the shrink-wrap clear plastic that holds the yellow plastic cap to the top of the bottle. Remove the cap and you will see that the bottle is stopped up by a clear glass marble. To remove this marble, you snap a punch tool out of the middle of the yellow plastic cap. Then, you take the punch and push the marble down into the soda bottle. The marble will come to rest on the top of the pinched neck.
    Now, as if opening the drink were not challenging enough, the next step is actually trying to get soda out of the bottle and into your mouth. The marble that is now rolling around inside your drink will roll to the top of the bottle and act as a stopper unless you hold the bottle in such a way that the marble gets caught between two small lumps I mentioned earlier. Once you see how it works, it is all pretty simple and straight forward. But it is still elaborately involved when compared to the operational procedures for your standard soda bottle.

    The soda itself is a light, crisp drink. It has a delicate citrus taste up front, replaced by a slight bubble gum aftertaste. The soda is not, in and of itself, disappointing. Though, after the inventiveness of the bottle's design, to get such a conventional drink out of it is sort of an anti-climax. Still, that bit of thwarted expectation aside, the whole package is fun and worth getting at least once if only to play with the bottle.

    Language geek note: According to folk etymology, the British inventor Hiram Codd is the source of the word "codswallop," supposedly a portmanteau word combining the inventor's last name and a late-19th century slang term for beer. Language experts doubt this origin story, pointing to the fact that the term did not become popular until nearly one hundred years after people stopped using "wallop" as a term for beer. They theorize that the word was coined by the writers of the popular British 1950s radio comedy show Hancock's Half Hour.


    Couldn't sleep last night. Felt like I was going to explode into tears. Stress, I guess. I don't really have a reason.
    I can't explain it.
    The weather is nice. Things are okay. I've got nothing to be sad about.

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Big Bad John | 32 comments (32 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
I have 2 suggestions for the ptb's contact. by garlic (2.00 / 0) #1 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 09:00:37 AM EST
1. some form of pager or cellphone or blackberry. 2. using an office intercom paging system.

They've tried 1. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (4.00 / 2) #3 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 09:11:22 AM EST
He answers efforts to find him with this Burrough-style cut up technobabble:

"John, where are you?"

"Checking on overhead approach LZ77 variant deflation used to provide an upper limit for binary data within the United States."


"Barda District, Azerbaijan. Only place I can check on the overhead approach LZ77 variant deflation. Don't wait up."

The real problem is that they decided hiring an tech guy meant they would never have to know anything ever about computers again. If John told them he had to go to Nabrežina and make a human sacrifice or the email would crap out, they'd let him go.

[ Parent ]
On slackers by spacejack (4.00 / 1) #2 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 09:03:14 AM EST
I could write a 100,000 word essay about my old boss at The Corpse. He was in the office maybe once or twice a week, if that (and really, his was not a work-at-home kind of job.) His voicemail message had some lame excuse about the phone "not being a good way to get in touch with him." His reliance on "family stuff" and "I live 50km away" excuses were an insult to all working parents.

I worked with his protegé, a guy who showed up around 2:30. But at least he tended to show up most days. Eventually anyway, after our boss hassled him about showing up for work (do what I say, not as I do!)

Ah yes, our tax dollars at work.

awesome by MM (4.00 / 1) #5 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 09:42:53 AM EST
now I don't feel quite as bad about my occasional 9:30 - 4pm workdays...

[ Parent ]
I'm An 8:30 - 4:30 Guy. by CheeseburgerBrown (2.00 / 0) #10 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 10:38:25 AM EST
However, one of the fellows in my department is a 10:00 to 4:15 guy, which meant he was really confused when they explained the health club policy, which generously awarded members an hour per week of work-time to devote to fitness, provided they check in at 9:30 and check out at 4:30.

"So what the fuck am I supposed to do?" he wanted to know. "I don't want people knowing when I'm at work or not."

He still hasn't solved his conundrum.

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da.
[ Parent ]
Sadly, I'm 9:00 to 7:00ish, 8:00ish. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (2.00 / 0) #12 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 10:52:53 AM EST
We have a generous policy that states that anybody who doesn't like unpaid overtime can kiss Mr. Bruce's ass.

Still, it's better then my last job, which was 8:00 to 10:00 most days.

[ Parent ]
2 hours a day? by hulver (2.00 / 0) #24 Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 04:16:26 AM EST
Sounds like a dream job.
Cheese is not a hat. - clock
[ Parent ]
Just two a day and I do 'em backwards. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (2.00 / 0) #25 Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 04:52:31 AM EST
Not only do I barely work, but I'm getting younger too.

It is a pretty sweet gig.

[ Parent ]
the power of google by sasquatchan (2.00 / 0) #4 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 09:19:10 AM EST
or wiki or something.. Since I had to look it up myself, the codd-neck is an interesting contraption, and it does cross link to your review of ramune

Wiki-Ramune. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (2.00 / 0) #6 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 09:51:55 AM EST
I'm wondering if I got some overseas formulation. The soda didn't remind me of Sprite. There was no indication on the label (which was an almost all English design) that I had something other than the original flavor, but know I'm wondering if the bubble gum aftertaste was supposed to be the abstractly named "Blue Hawaii" flavor.

I'm also skeptical that the marble is held in place by the carbon in the soda. Maybe that's true, but it seems more like to me that the lip of the bottle, which is this large, blue plastic attachment, simply fits tight enough to seal it 'till you punch out the marble.

[ Parent ]
Portmanteau by thenick (2.00 / 0) #7 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 10:10:37 AM EST
That's one of my favorite words that I never get to use without getting blank stares in return. Such is the sad state of the vocabulary of the Midwest. Well, I'm off to Bellefontaine (Bell-Fountin), which is just south of Lima (like the bean), where I'll have a pop (soda) and a walking taco (small bag of Doritos with meat and lettuce in it).


"'Vengence is Mine', quoth Alvis. And then he shot the guy, right in the freaking face!"

Walking taco is brilliant. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (2.00 / 0) #8 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 10:14:58 AM EST
That would sell like freakin' gangbusters in the city. Seriously, you could ride the roach coach to riches by pushing taco bags in Financial District. I can't believe I've never heard of that before.

[ Parent ]
Ah Lima. I know it well. Okay, not that well. by ad hoc (2.00 / 0) #9 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 10:31:37 AM EST
I have relatives in McComb and used to live in Findlay. I also grew up near Nevada (pron. Nuh VAY duh).
Once you get used to the idea that everything is equally true, decisions get much easier. -- johnny
[ Parent ]
Two relevent TPFD cartoons: by thenick (4.00 / 1) #13 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 11:15:38 AM EST
Welcome to the Midwest!


Tucky Grammar

If you've lived here, you'll understand those two links. Who says Ohio doesn't have it's own culture?


"'Vengence is Mine', quoth Alvis. And then he shot the guy, right in the freaking face!"

[ Parent ]
Like a petri dish, there's so much culture. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (4.00 / 1) #15 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 12:18:48 PM EST
Ohio gave the world Devo and Pere Ubu - of course y'all have culture.

[ Parent ]
And Larry Flynt by ad hoc (2.00 / 0) #17 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 05:37:55 PM EST

Once you get used to the idea that everything is equally true, decisions get much easier. -- johnny
[ Parent ]
Oh hell by debacle (4.00 / 1) #11 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 10:41:43 AM EST
What a goddamned amatuer.

If you work in IT - even if you touch a computer from time to time - you should never need to look for an excuse to not be doing something someone needs you to do.

I guess working in a bit larger facility than John probably does, it's easy, but what John needs to do is find a sure fire alibi. The best one is his sign, he's correct in that, but he needs to really set things out. This is but one of my methods.

"I will be back at 5:00, in $random_department."

I come back at five after five, stick around for ten minutes, and then write another note.

"I will be back at 6:15, in $some_other_department."

I also usually set up a system to see if anyone has been looking for me (the alarm for the datacenter, usually) . If that's the case, well, I'm not going to tell you what I do then because if it ever got out I'd get fired.


Hours by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #14 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 11:18:56 AM EST
One place I used to work, there were two programmers. The guy wore a business suit every day and was, for the most part, useless. He'd show up at around 10 am, take a 2-3 hour lunch, and leave around 4:30. (Not counting the days he'd be gone all morning for "docter's appointements"...I think the guy must have been near death.) The woman, an amateur bike racer, when show up at 6:30 am, eat lunch at her desk, and leave at 3:30 pm so that she could get a few hours racing practice in each day. The boss liked to wander around the cube warren around four, and was constantly giving her shit about the number of hours she put it.

The real kicker: He was salaried. She was a contractor, and meticulously documented exactly how many hours she worked. (Always around 40/week.)

(The other fun bit was that they were grossly underpaying her.)
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

i know the feeling by LilFlightTest (2.00 / 0) #16 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 03:48:56 PM EST
i, too, have nothing really wrong...yet i find myself wanting to cry quite often.
Dance On, Gir!
looks around, whistles by yankeehack (2.00 / 0) #18 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 06:32:04 PM EST
Like I have no idea what that feeling has been like recently
"...she dares to indulge in the secret sport. You can't be a MILF with the F, at least in part because the M is predicated upon it."-CBB
[ Parent ]
i'm surviving by LilFlightTest (2.00 / 0) #20 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 08:26:38 PM EST
but it's no fun. getting through the day since i've become insuranceless (and, as a result, medless) has been exhausting. but i'm managing.
Dance On, Gir!
[ Parent ]
Medless. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (2.00 / 0) #26 Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 04:58:34 AM EST
Perhaps that's what is needed. Though I have a horror of health care providers and can't imagine letting one give me pills for my head.

If you don't mind me asking, what do the meds run without insurance?

[ Parent ]
it depends on what kind by LilFlightTest (2.00 / 0) #30 Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 02:00:42 PM EST
most generics are pretty cheap, only like $30 or so for a month. i was on effexor, though, which just (as in, less than a month ago) came out as generic. (but i'm never taking it again, i dont want to do the withdrawal all over again). actual effexor was going to be higher than $100 a month. sometimes the generics arent any cheaper. if you talk to your doc, though, usually something can be found for you. wellbutrin usually works pretty well (i'm a weird case, and it makes me puke) and was one of my options if i really needed something.
Dance On, Gir!
[ Parent ]
Mmm. Venlafaxine by Herring (2.00 / 0) #31 Thu Sep 28, 2006 at 09:32:04 AM EST
I quit cold-turkey from 150mg a day several months ago. I felt OK - although my wife disagrees. OK, maybe not completely OK.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky
[ Parent ]
i was at 150 by LilFlightTest (2.00 / 0) #32 Fri Sep 29, 2006 at 06:22:23 PM EST
and every single dosage lowering made me go thru withdrawal all over again. i dont even want to think about what might have happened if i just stopped.
Dance On, Gir!
[ Parent ]
Wallop by ambrosen (2.00 / 0) #19 Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 07:29:15 PM EST
Is local slang for saint. I guess that rules out it being slang for beer too.

The story of Mr Codd's marble in the neck was related to me at a local living history museum at the tender age of 9 in the company of my classmates. The faux smithy ended his story with a triumphant "and that's a load of coddswallop" but I believed in spite of his denial. That's a trait I got from my mum.

I need to get a different job by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #21 Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 12:53:14 AM EST
If I'm not here at 9.15 I get a ticking off. Do that 3 times and it's a warning. Meanwhile, my flatmate and most of my friends roll into work whenever they feel like it.

Mind you, if that were the case with me I'd end up just like John.

It's political correctness gone mad!

Whoah! by Breaker (2.00 / 0) #22 Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 03:03:36 AM EST
Does the PHB read out a register for you to answer to at 9:15 on the dot?

[ Parent ]
He might as well by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #23 Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 03:26:51 AM EST
We have a morning meeting at 9.15 before we open for the day, which in effect is registration. To be fair, it's a small workplace and lateness causes real problems for everyone else.

It was hell when I started but it's amazing how quickly you get used to it (and how much money you save because it is faaaar too risky to get pissed midweek).

It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
"...on the other hand, by Breaker (2.00 / 0) #27 Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 04:59:05 AM EST
the pellets are excellent"

Flexibility is the key to modern workplaces.  If your boss makes you work beyond 5:30 more than 3 times, can you give him a warning?

[ Parent ]
That's the thing by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #28 Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 05:05:25 AM EST
He doesn't, at least not regularly (by which I mean a few times a year), and we get the time back. We work by our opening hours so it's rare to have to stay over. Flexibility isn't really appropriate for our community drop-in office, it's all about consistency.

I quite like it this way, you know where you are.

It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Practice by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #29 Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 05:14:33 AM EST
The goosestep walk, for when you're next late.

[ Parent ]
Big Bad John | 32 comments (32 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback