Tuesday, May 27, 2008


and now for something completely different.

As the second anniversary of this blog draws near,--yes, can you believe it?! Two years! I'm going to kick off a month-long blogtravaganza by publishing a first here at Chickenlips: a guest blogger, sort of. It's very apropos that the first essay published here that was not written by me, was written by Mr. Stitchjones himself, my husband, Jason.

This is actually an email he wrote to his buddy Gary from the UK, who is also a career high-tech salesman. Gary sent this link about corporate workshops, which is howlingly funny. This was Jason's reply. Somewhat long, but totally worth it. Go ahead and grab a beverage, I'll wait.


Ah, yes, the thought of hotel conferences stirs so many fond memories. Particularly dear to my heart are the memories of the multi-day Company Kick-Off Meeting.

The meeting begins in the Main Hall, where you sit with all your co-workers in long rows of uncomfortable little chairs, under bright lights. In the morning the temperature is kept just above freezing, to make sure you can't go to sleep. In the afternoon, it will be 80 degrees Fahrenheit, to make sure you cannot stay awake.

Breakout sessions are in the smaller meeting rooms. The meeting room is always furnished the same way. You take your place at a big table, where you find a pen and a notepad, with the hotel logo on them. Of course, you take the hotel pens home with you, demonstrating that there is something genetic about claiming souvenirs. But you never use them, and when, years later, you finally do try to write something with one of the crappy pieces of plastic rattling around the back of the kitchen junk drawer, it doesn't work. At least you can write a grocery list on the 4-page-thick notepad. Needless to say, you must first let the notepad dry off, after the jerk opposite you spilled half the contents of the cheap water pitcher on the table while politely filling your glass.

The real problem with such conferences is that nothing of any consequence is ever accomplished at them, and everyone who isn't an idiot knows it. No matter how many times they say they "want your honest feedback," and no matter how many interminable brainstorming breakout sessions they make you endure, management will not tolerate any original thinking to challenge the foregone conclusions their conference has been designed to make you swallow.

The only rational way to deal with such a conference is to approach it like an impending unpleasant medical procedure, or a visit from in-laws--just endure it, stoically and quietly. Complaining just makes it take longer. Unfortunately, there are those irrational jerks who see the conference as an opportunity to "shine." They can demonstrate their company loyalty, and more importantly, their fitness for promotion, by talking. At every juncture, in every small group session, they must hold forth, to make sure they get noticed. They might be forgiven their arrogance and brazen self-promotion if they actually had something useful to say, but they never do. Instead you helplessly watch the minutes of your life slip away, while these mental midgets parrot the company line, and put their uninteresting spin on the previous speaker's comments, beginning with the dreaded words, "Let me just reiterate what Bob said." They firmly believe that no presentation is complete unless they interrupt a half dozen times to get "clarification" of a point that everyone else understands has no point, because they also seem to believe that no one else can truly comprehend anything unless it is first interpreted by them.

The afore-mentioned dunderheads are at their worst when some C-level blowhard's inconceivably dull presentation finally winds down. The moderator notes that "we are a little behind schedule (it's 12:45 and lunch was supposed to start at 12:00), but let's open it up for a few minutes for questions."

You and your depressed, weary comrades are hungry enough to actually look forward to the battlefield atrocities that have been provided for lunch, and you just want a break, to go to the bathroom, and try to get some oxygen flowing to your brains again. Everything would be fine if everyone would SHUT UP, so the moderator will say those blessed words, "OK, let's take a break."

But you know it won't happen that way. And you are powerless to stop it. The same brown-nosing imbeciles who have wasted half the morning listening to themselves talk must enthusiastically raise their hands and ask the presenter an endless series of inane puffball questions. This shows that they have been paying attention, and they really care about the company, and it will surely get them noticed by the Big Guy. While you conclude to yourself that killing these cretins is undoubtedly justifiable homicide, and you begin to plan how you can get away with it, another 30 minutes goes by.

Lunch is as awful as you knew it would be, but at least you get to move around and wake up a bit. You brighten a little with the thought that you can sit and eat undisturbed with some friends. But then a manager arrives at your table, plunks down across from you, and with his/her most insincere smile, says, "Do you mind if I join you?"

Of course you mind very much, and they know it, but you cannot say so. And they know that, too. Their purpose in sitting at your table is to make sure that you maintain the proper attitude about this conference. This they do by making you lie to them. They ask you, "So, how do you like the conference so far?"

The only honest answer is, "I would rather let starving rats eat my face off than put up with this ridiculous waste of time," but you won't say that. Instead, you and your companions smile and reply as one, "It's great. Yeah, it's really good."

Having lied once, you must now keep up the charade when asked what you thought of the "talk" given by the COO. You can feel your soul shrink a little as you say, "Oh, he really had some good things to say. I'm glad we had the chance to come here and listen to him."

Disgusted with yourself now, you note that this new opportunity for self-loathing has been ingeniously added to the list of the day's torments.

Perhaps you get to listen to voice messages, but forget returning calls, checking email, or doing any actual work. No, it is time for the CEO's keynote address. Marketing, which always organizes these torture fests, will prolong the suffering with some incredibly lame comedy sketch, starring the Marketing Manager, putting you through the intense embarrassment one feels at trying to laugh politely at something utterly stupid and silly. You are so relieved when the "entertainment" is over that you find yourself applauding enthusiastically as Your Leader hits the stage.

The afternoon death march finally ends an hour late. Your backside is asleep, your brain is numb, and you feel dead inside. It would be so good to just go back to your hotel room and rest, even though the company is "economizing" and you have to bunk with an annoying co-worker who will show you pictures of his children and ask you to join his church.

But no, this is the Company Kick-Off, and even the night is not your own. You must rush to get ready for dinner, and then be forced to participate in company-organized Fun Activities. These decidedly un-fun activities keep you out until midnight, assuring that you will be dead tired for tomorrow's Rise and Shine Breakout Sessions at 7:30 AM.

So ends Day One. Only three more to go.


Quite a writer, that man o'mine! A wit as dry as the Sahara, which is why I suggested you get something to drink first. Anyway, I finally finished his socks last week.

The lowdown: Basic 3x1 ribbing, 72 cast-on stitches on size 1 needles. I used Hipknits cashmere sock yarn, the yarn with a nightmare story that does not end. If you're curious about the whole Hipknits saga, just go to Ravelry forums and type "hipknits" in the Search field. They have been ripping people off left and right. Yes, it's cashmere sock yarn and very soft. Jason loves these socks and wore them almost the minute they came off the needles. How it ended up in my stash: My friend Jodi wanted me to make her a shawl, and back in January while I was still working at you-know-where, she picked out this yarn. Realizing there was no way I could finish her shawl in time with sock yarn on size 2 needles, I asked her if she wouldn't mind if I switched to a heavier yarn and that was OK with her. So I made her a lovely wrap out of Baby Cashmerino, which you may have seen a few posts back. I bought the sock yarn back from her, and still have another hank of it in my stash. And there it will stay for a while, as I'm jonesing (ha) to knit socks with lotsa bright color!

And because I can't seem to ever veer from my favorite subject, yarn, here's a new sock colorway. I call it "Tank Girl" for the desert and jungle camo colors and pretty pastel.

And with that, I'll sign off, this post being already way too long. O yasumi!*

(roughly translated: "nity nite.")

It's hard to swallow oatmeal while laughing. (I note this because I notice there is oatmeal on my keyboard.) That was so funny! In the Foreign Service, we had "teambuilding exercises" where they dragged us off to the woods for four days at a stretch and made us solve problems involving imaginary disasters, usually while blindfolded. Fun times.
Heh, funny guy there! Hey! I remember the Tank Girl dark horse comic and the stupid movie they made out of it. Do you?
Ok he cracks me up. look at you with all that beautiful yarn of yours, babe!
Conventions can be troubling that's why we should be thankful for people like, Jon Miller Marketing VP of Marketo a B2B marketing automation company. He has created a good list of 9 Commandments for marketing a high tech company. Fly over and land on it's thoughts, savor them slowly for full impact..
OMG, that link and your DH's response cracked me up! I'm sending this to my brother (he's an engineer with Raytheon); he is endlessly complaining about going to seminars and team building events!
hey yarnhog, that sounds like an early version of survivor!

If companies wanted to cut expenses, they ought to do away with these useless meetings. Most intelligent people know how to better themselves anyway. And the unintelligent ones? They can keep quoting the company line....

Just think, what if all of the "captive employees" brought their knitting to these meetings.....!
Thanks for visiting again - I'm glad you like the MuggleWarmer pattern!

If only knitty.com liked it better - sigh. just kidd'n!

Love that Tank Girl yarn!
Ah..that actually brought back memories, he captures it perfectly! LOVE tank girl, the movie sucked, your yarn gets the oscar!
What a great thing to read just as make my preparations to a software conference. At least the goodies are better. I'm bringing my knitting.
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