Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bollywood Fever!

I just returned from my morning walk at Atlanta's Piedmont Park. On the way back home, I stopped at my favorite city coffee shop, San Francisco Coffee, to pick up an iced espresso with vanilla -- gotta have fuel in this town. Coffee in hand, I popped the top down on the car and pumped up the volume on a mix CD I put together a few weeks ago called "Asian Chic". And there they were -- the glorious new tunes of Bollywood.

Last night, we watched the 2005 movie Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena, featuring Fardeen Khan and Koena Mitra. There is something about Bollywood (India's Hollywood, for those of you who have not heard the term) that is infectious, not the least of which being the seemingly random interspersing of music and dance routines throughout the movies. Indian filmmakers appear to have recaptured a spirit that we here in America left somewhere down the road -- old-fashioned escapism mixed with an off-beat sense of humor. Sure, there are some serious moments in these movies, but they don't get under your skin or keep you awake at night, and the comic relief surfaces when you least expect it.

It's going to be an interesting summer, because I intend to rent more Bollywood movies. Who knows -- I may even host a festival.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Forget the Zip Code. What's Your Cube Code?

This all started quite innocently. We were notified a few days ago that an office move was imminent; actually, we'd been expecting it for some time. Moves are not all bad, because they often give you a chance to experience your company from a slightly different perspective while (hopefully) allowing you to maintain your workflow and overall stream of consciousness without too much disruption. But this move would be different.

Our business unit is very creative. Perhaps that is an understatement. So, when we were presented with the move details and a map of the new building, we immediately began accounting for everyone's new location. (You always want to know where your peeps are.) Soon, it became apparent that a designation like 3701-D was just not sufficient to fully describe one's cube. A more descriptive system was needed.

Almost without thinking, the nomenclature evolved -- a basic cube would be a "3C", whereas a slightly smaller cube would be a "2C". (The actual theory behind the "3C" and "2C" logic is confidential company information which I am not permitted to disclose at this time, but suffice to say that it is hilarious.) It was duly noted that no cube, however small, could be designated less than a "2C".

From there it took off like a model rocket in a open field. A standard cube in the middle of an aisle became known as a "3CMA", for standard-sized cube, middle of aisle. An end cube that was slightly smaller was designated a "2CEA", indicating that it sat at the end of an aisle, etc. By the time the naming standards were fully developed (two days in this case), codes such as the following had been devised and agreed upon:
  • 3CMA - Standard cube, middle of aisle
  • 3CPMA - Standard cube with pillar outside, middle of aisle
  • 4CTVEA - Large cube with view of testing room, end of aisle
  • 2CLBVEA - Small cube with limited bathroom view, end of aisle
  • 3CLBVAG - Standard cube with limited bathroom view, adjacent to Gonzalo (our resident Colombian godfather)
By the end of the first week of this madness, people at all levels were literally lined up to receive their cube codes. Indeed, the flexible nomenclature has been so well-received by staff members that a proposal has been made to base office property values on the cube designation, in much the same way that municipalities assess property taxes based on location and millage rate.
So far, the system is working well. I'm sure that there will be some bugs to iron out, but hey, that's what we do for a living, and we are darned good at it. As for me, next Monday morning, I'll be in a nice, tastefully decorated 3CPMA, complete with a sconce uplight on the outside pillar. I'm ready.

Friday, April 6, 2007

The Refrigerator from Hell

Verily I say unto you, you are peering into the mouth of Hell. Yes, I know it looks more like the interior of a typical consumer refrigerator, but heed my warning -- this is no ordinary home appliance. Read on, my friends.

On a crisp evening in December of 1993, we ventured to Circuit City on Independence Boulevard in Charlotte, North Carolina, to purchase a side-by-side Whirlpool refrigerator for our newly built home, which was scheduled for completion within the week. We had our two small children in tow, and by the time we had selected the Model ED25DQXAW00 refrigerator, they were both tired and cranky. And frankly, so were we. The store did nothing to help, since they botched the VISA sales transaction in such a way that for all I know, I may still be paying for the thing. That should have been our first hint that something was wrong.

The unit performed well for the first several years. We moved from Charlotte to Atlanta in the summer of 1995, and from all indications, it was happy to move along with the rest of the family. We would host parties, and it cheerfully lit up the kitchen with its 250 internal bulbs, perfectly formed ice was ejected from the icemaker to liven up our margarita mixes, and it dispensed ice-cold water from its front door with grace and obedience. Little did we know what sinister inclinations its CFC-containing brain harbored.

But soon things took a turn. Somewhere around 1997, well after its warranty had expired, the shelves on the door of the refrigerator side started falling off at random when the door itself was opened. This was particularly troublesome when a party was being hosted, and a shelf full of jams and jellies would crash to the floor, missing our guests' feet by only fractions of an inch. They would laugh, but deep down, you could see the fear in their faces.

Shortly thereafter, we noticed that a couple of pins which supported the main inside shelves on both the refrigerator and freezer sides broke off, leaving the shelves sitting lopsided, causing the food items to either fall down or out the door. We contacted a local service company to see if the pins could be replaced, and indeed they could. We had several of them replaced and obtained from Whirpool a small stock of more replacement pins to use in future repairs.

Then one day, we noticed that the icemaker apparatus appeared to be struggling. Another service call revealed that the pipe which drops water into the ice cube trays had become frozen shut. The fix? Remove the pipe, hold it in your hand to warm it up, then stick it back into the freezer. Simple enough.

Soon, the shelves were breaking their support pins with increasing frequency, making it necessary to reposition the shelves on the remaining pins, which were becoming few and far between, given that we had of course lost those Whirlpool replacement pins. Did you buy a big bottle of wine? Well, there may not be enough room on the door. Want to put that milk somewhere else, please? Oh, by the way, that jar of strawberry jam looks way too heavy for the door -- maybe we'll have to throw it away.

A couple of years ago, the motor gave out, but when we had it replaced, the service person, in a very serious tone, stated that "these units are certainly more reliable than the new ones." I could only laugh hysterically to myself.

And finally, in the last several years, the icemaker has totally given up the ghost and surrendered to "old age," which in Whirlpool terminology must be somewhere around five years. Now, the thingie which twirls the ice cube maker tray around perpetually ticks and cranks, since the control lever which turns it on and off simply broke loose a few months ago.

Of course, the curious thing about all of this is that through their trials and tribulations, the refrigerator and freezer have both continued to keep the food items at their proper temperatures. It is almost as if the device is taunting us, saying "Well, you could replace me, but it's probably more than you want to spend." Whatever.

I grew up in the days when Whirpool appliances were respected for their reliability. But it appears that those days are gone. Now I can only hope that the people in Benton Harbor, Michigan, population 11,182 as of the 2000 census and home to Whirlpool, have thought of something else to do other than making refrigerators, because if this is their lot in life, their future as a community is indeed in question. I read that Whirlpool had recently acquired Maytag Corporation, making it the world's largest manufacturer of home appliances. Too bad they don't work. I guess the old Maytag Man will no longer be sitting around doing nothing. As a cartoon character once quipped, "Up, boy! Rise and shine! Half a day's gone...there's work to be done!"