June 2007

The Participant Medal goes to...

We've all been in a Smalltime or Netmeeting situation recently. This is supposed to save The Company a bundle in airfare, it will be "just like being there". Only it isn't like being there at all, it is like inhaling a pepper shaker when you have strep throat. Here's how it goes...

Can you see the desk top?

Glarb blarbels...

Can you see my mouse?

No. Flabic plaassword?


Waks kac 6S2wjBzk&Y?

Sorry, your phone is cutting off, I didn't get that.


Can you see it now?

(rhymes with "fit")

Sorry I can't hear you, all I'm getting is noise, can you hear me?

(crickets chirping...)

That's just great. I'm rebooting, this will only take a second. Let me put you on hold...


And on and on. You might hear 5% of the audio, mostly whoever is closest to the mike you will get to hear coughing, and maybe even picking their nose if they do it with gusto. And for this you got up at 4AM to participate in an all day east coast meeting from your west coast site.

Welcome to Modern Mediocrity. The way we define the term, it means any feature of life that is now not quite as good as it used to be. Want some more examples?

The Participant Medal

Perhaps the best symbol of Modern Mediocrity that exists, believe it or not, the first three finishers in a race were the only ones to get a medal not so long ago. Now we all do, all you have to do is show up. If you run you probably have a pile of medals you're saving for the smelter. Unfortunately here's one guy who didn't go home with the participant medal...

Web logs

Oops, we didn't use the "B" word here because the word itself sounds really stupid. And so do most of the people that spout their opinions on one. Once upon a time, people with really good opinions got paid to espouse them. Hey, you could argue that this page here is a web log but you'd be wrong. This is just the rantings of a crazed lunatic, that no one reads. But it ain't a freaking web log.

Pop Tarts

Go back in time, and purchase any type of "tart" you can find. It will be better than a Pop Tart. Pop tarts could perhaps be used as a building material in a Habitat for Humanity house, but they sure don't belong in any of the food groups. Speaking of mediocre food, don't get me started on the microwaved snack industry.

Update for July 2007: The following Pop Tart story was submitted by the Emperor of Leesburg. This individual might be a subject matter expert on mediocrity, having worked on some of NASA's most spectacular failed Mars missions...

A couple of summers ago I was working on a test in the manufacturing building on a hot Friday night. We were there late, the first shift had gone home. Along comes a huge thunderstorm. So we shut down our test, and me and one of the techs walk out to the lobby to watch the lightning show. All of a sudden: KA-BOOM! Lightning hits the big golf-ball antenna in front of the building, maybe 50 feet from where we are standing. The lights flicker in the building, but power stays on. We notify the owner of the antenna by email that he might want to see if it is still working. (We found out a few days later that it was still just fine.) A short time after the storm passed, I go to the break room next to the lobby to get some junk food out of the vending machine for my "dinner". I slide in my dollar bill, and it slides back out. I do this a couple of times with no success, and then absent-mindedly hit the M&M's button anyway. Out comes a bag of M&M's, plus $0.45 change like I had put in a dollar (but hadn't). So next I push the Kit Kat button, and out comes a Kit Kat bar plus another $0.45. At this point I realize the vending machine has been zapped by the lightning bolt, and is giving away the product along with the "change" from a dollar. I don't feel bad about my windfall because this machine has stolen money from me in the past. I tell one of the technicians, and then word gets around quickly and everyone visits the "magic vending machine" over the weekend. On Monday morning I return to the building and go to the breakroom to see if I can get one last bag of chips or maybe a Charleston Chew. But all that is left stocked in the 24 corkscrews of the machine is four packages of Pop Tarts. The rest of the machine is completely cleaned out, and it was pretty much full on Friday. The repair man shows up later that morning, and swaps out the machine.

Moral of the story: Pop Tarts suck so bad, you can't pay people to eat them!!!

Video games

Sure, it's great being a champion of simulated mass murder. But is it really better than a bridge game with three friends and a twelve pack? At which venue will you be more likely to eat a Pop Tart?

Digital cameras

Sure, the convenience of not printing bad photos is great benefit to mankind, but you can't compare an "affordable" (less than $1000) digital camera to a Canon or Minolta 35mm SLR you'd pick up at a yard sale for $20. Where's the fstop, focus, shutter speed and light meter?


You know what? Getting paid big Benjamin to sit at a desk and click a mouse, driving while eating snacks that you purchased at a drive-through window really isn't all that great. We are on the cusp of average life expectancy dropping for the first time in modern US history. Maybe a job as a dance instructor isn't so bad...


If you bring back any of the most mediocre presidents from the dead and enter him in the 2008 race, you'd have a sure winner. Here's a short list from a Simpson's episode:

We are the mediocre presidents!
You won't find our faces on dollars or on cents
There's Taylor, there's Tyler, there's Fillmore and there's Hayes
There's William Henry Harrison, "I died in thirty days"
We are the adequate, forgettable,
Occasionally regrettable
Caretaker presidents of the USA!


Earth to moviegoers... Pirates 3 and Spiderman 3 are just a little predictable. Notice that there was never a "Maltese Falcon 3"...

Best-selling novels

John Grishham, Danielle Steel, Mary Higgins Clark, J.K. Rowling, their books could all be the result of a 100 line C++ program, why waste infinite monkeys? Where are the Dickens', the Steinbecks, the Harper Lees of today? Another disturbing trend is that "end of times" novels are such big hits. Jerry Jenkins, put me on the "left behind" list, I just couldn't take a second of paradise if there's a chance I'd bump into you.

Disposable stuff

Pens, lighters, and all the crap you get a trade shows, heading for the landfill. People didn't use to throw out as much stuff. If you need to light things on fire, buy a Zippo, they're still made in Bradford, Pennsylvania, and they still last forever. Inventor George Blaisdell is shown to the right. Like the "F-word", the Zippo lighter served mighty well on the beachheads of Normandy 63 years ago.

Shirts with company logo

If you wear one as part of your job, what's that make you? Give you a hint: a screwdriver, a hammer, a chisel...

We realize that there are plenty of things that are better now than they've ever been. Witness all of the great new choices of the beverage industry. Go find a "web log" somewhere if you want someone to point out the obvious!

That's all for now!


Check out the Unknown Editor's amazing archives when you are looking for a way to screw off for a couple of hours or more!