Super-Short Storytime: “The Pit of Success”


Welcome to Super-Short Storytime, lovers of literature and fans of fiction!  I am Eduardo Soliz, the author and narrator of the fantastically frank tale that you are about to hear.

Like other folks who fashion fiction, inspiration for my stories often comes from real life. This particular tale was inspired my time spent in the corporate jungle. This story is part of “Nine to Five Lives,” a free e-book which can be downloaded from eduardosoliz.com, this big business brief bears the title of: “The Pit of Success”

Alan was particularly glad to be at work today. After months of working overtime, finishing projects ahead of schedule, and just a little bit of schmoozing, he had been deemed worthy to be promoted to work in “The Pit.” The Pit was a special area where the best of the best worked on secret projects that represented the future of the company.

As he struggled to hold up a cardboard box that held his personal items, Alan held his badge above the doorknob to the entrance to the Pit as he had been told. It was a nondescript door that he had walked by every day without ever thinking about what was inside. A click sounded as the lock released. Alan balanced the box on one hand and used his other one to quickly open the door.

He entered the room and closed the door behind him. But for a single light that was above him, the room was completely dark except for some blinking LED lights scattered about. A voice suddenly came from the ceiling. Alan recognized it as belonging to the supervisor that he had conducted a phone interview with the week before: “Leave that box by the door, Mister Johnson. You will not need those things here.”  It said.

Alan did as he was instructed. He nervously looked around for somebody, but the office appeared to be unoccupied. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he saw rows upon rows of cubicles, just like in his previous office.

“Please proceed to your new cubicle, Mister Johnson.” The supervisor’s voice said. A small light turned on in the room. Alan started to make his way towards the light. As he passed by the other cubicles, he noticed that each one contained an egg-shaped pod just large enough to hold a person. Alan recognized a few of the names on the name tags as former coworkers that had been promoted before him, much to his chagrin.

“You have gone above and beyond your peers in your devotion to this company, Mister Johnson. You will now become a part of the company as you had desired. Take your seat and join us.” The voice said. Alan peered into the interior pod and hesitated.

“This isn’t what I had in mind. Does everyone have to sit in these…things, here?” Alan asked, looking up at the ceiling.

“It is necessary to make you part of the company. You are free to return to your previous position if you wish. We can always find somebody else to fill this position.” The voice answered.

Hell, no. I worked too hard for this. Alan thought. He climbed into the pod. The leather seat within was surprisingly comfortable; he relaxed as he settled into it. Without warning, the pod closed above him. A screen built into the pod’s wall lit up and a keyboard and trak-ball slid in front of him from the side. Well, this is kinda neat, Alan thought as he logged into his terminal and started to work.

Alan noticed an odd flicker occasionally coming from the screen. It annoyed him at first, but it eventually became oddly comforting. He continued working and quickly discovered that he could do everything inside the pod, even attend meetings. He only left the pod to go to the bathroom and eat lunch.

Hours later, the clock on Alan’s computer screen indicated that it was time for the workday to end, but he had no desire to leave. Alan barely overheard his former coworkers leaving through the hallway and thought about his home and family for a moment, but the thought was quickly squelched by the messages that had been delivered to him by the hypnotic series of flashes that he had been subjected to on the screen.

YOU ARE PART OF THE COMPANY.
THERE IS NOTHING ELSE.
THERE IS WORK TO DO.

“There is work to do.” Alan softly said to nobody as he typed away. A message flashed on his screen: technicians would be coming in an hour to make him one with the pod so that he would never have to leave at all.

Alan smiled.

THE END.

This company definitely brings new meaning to the term ‘human resource,’ and this is one future that I hope never comes to pass. This has been Super-Short Storytime! Visit eduardo soliz dot com for more stories and free e-book downloads, and remember listeners, always keep that work-life balance!

A Few Things I Noticed While Flying

  1. BEFORE: “We’re flying you to Columbus, Ohio for training.” I’m not sure if that’s going to be better or worse than “PowerPoint hell.”
  2. I haven’t flown since 2010, so this is going to be interesting.
  3. It will also be interesting to compare this to my recent Amtrak trip to Dallas (see previous post).
  4. I recently moved, and I’m so glad I got my new driver’s license beforehand due to airport security. The picture on the new license is also of my currently less-fat self.
  5. Dear Uber driver: This is Texas. Turn on your gol-dang air conditioner.
  6. TRIP TO COLUMBUS: TSA was quick and pleasant; any delays were self-imposed.
  7. Then again, not having to do the TSA dance is a point in Amtrak’s favor
  8. Then again, an Amtrak to nearby Cincinnati would have taken nearly 2 days.
  9. The rollers on the X-Ray scanner quit rolling so we got held up just a little.
  10. I got to be zapped by the full-body scanner so I may be a little glowy while in Columbus.
  11. You’re darn skippy I’m going to savor every drop of this $3.25 airport Coca-Cola Zero
  12. Does wearing a Green Lantern ring qualify someone as a peace officer? Asking for a friend
  13. Coughing at the airport and thinking I should have had some Vitamin C with breakfast this morning
  14. Flying Southwest. Boarding group: C I guess I’m getting a window seat.
  15. Make that a center seat, which goes to show how long it’s been since I last flew.
  16. Amtrak seats are definitely better than airplane seats.
  17. Takeoffs make me a mite nervous, dunno that I’ll ever get used to it
  18. Seatmates aren’t very chatty but I have a slight headache so no biggie
  19. Actually, I talked a little with the gal who had the window seat…good luck with the marketing business!
  20. Other passengers: Read books and stories. Me: Write some 😉
  21. While I have a spare phone battery, I’m trying to keep from using it.
  22. I wonder how long it takes the plane to get out of Texas?
  23. Pretzels and cheese sandwich crackers. Mmm.
  24. Thing I forgot: Water bottle, which would have come in handy after the snack.
  25. I feel obligated to share my ‘peanut story’ with seatmates. Sorry.
  26. We’re all “random weirdos” here
  27. Complimentary drinks are a point in flying’s favor over Amtrak, but not so much due to the 4-ounce cups that are served.
  28. Tail’s dragging today; I stayed up way too late getting ready for the trip after driving up from Corpus Christi in the morning.
  29. I would like to sleep but I just can’t nod off on the plane. Being in the center seat doesn’t help.
  30. Thought about bringing my tablet along instead of my laptop but decided not to. After trying to type on the plane all squished up I definitely should have bought the tablet instead.
  31. Slight layover at Chicago Midway International. Part of me wishes I’d bought my fursuit along BECAUSE BEARS.
  32. Home Run Pizza hit the spot.
  33. I’m jonesing for some ice cream and I can’t find any at the airport. COME ON MAN
  34. At a Chicago airport yogurt shop:
    “Finally, some ice cream!”
    “It’s frozen yogurt, sir.”
    “Don’t ruin this for me, please.”
    “Yes, sir. It’s ice cream.”
  35. I just realized I should have worn something Texan but settled for furry instead. Oh well.
  36. I should have bought a bear souvenir while in Chicago. I HAVE FAILED MY PEOPLE.
  37. Head attendant on the second flight was kind of a wisenheimer, but he was a funny wisenheimer.
  38. Seatmates were glued to their phones on the second flight up.
  39. So was I. Yes, they had in flight WiFi, which we didn’t have on the flight to Chicago.
  40. Southwest Airlines Wi-Fi had 80s music, which made for a more pleasant flight!
  41. The presence of Wi-Fi is another point in air travel’s favor, though to get actual Internet you have to pay.  I dug the site where you can see your flight progress, though.
  42. Saw a seatmate playing Solitaire on his phone. Nice.
  43. Grey and rainy in Columbus. Just as well, given that I’m here for work!
  44. TRIP HOME: Got an email saying my flight home to San Antonio is delayed a half-hour. Crap.
  45. Having a company credit card means overpriced airport food is no biggie
  46. Thanks to my Furry Invasion t-shirt, I got to explain furry to a TSA agent in Columbus, Ohio.
  47. His coworker helped out, which made me wonder if she had something to share with the class. Hmm.
  48. Nearly showed up late to my flight home because I thought the plane was delayed (see #44)
  49. Was relieved to be in Group B for boarding which meant that I may be able to avoid another flight in the middle seat/steerage.
  50. Plane was only half-filled so I got an aisle seat for the flight home…in the same aisle with a toddler.
  51. Seatmate had a small dog in a carrier on the floor. Awww!
  52. Nothing says I’M A FURRY like watching the Walt Disney version of Robin Hood on your laptop for in-flight entertainment
  53. I was the only one who ordered ginger ale on the trip home so I got the whole can. Score!
  54. Arrived back home on time, which has me slightly irked at the time goof-up.
  55. Overall, flying wasn’t bad, though I would definitely take an Amtrak over it if I had the time: No TSA, roomier seats, lounge and dining cars, people appear more relaxed, and the ability to walk around the train make the train a much more pleasant experience.

Signs that the group is a just a BIT older than you are

randomEven though I’m bear-ly in my 40s 😀 I joined an online group for older furries recently.  After a while, my Spidey-Sense began to tell me that most of other folks in the group have at least a decade or two on me:

  1. “Attachment unavailable”
  2. Vertical videos
  3. “I hate that thing that’s popular with the young people!”
  4. Black and white pictures
  5. Scans of actual Polaroid pictures
  6. Pictures rotated the wrong way
  7. Five-year old memes
  8. “Why is this [meme] funny? It makes no sense!”
  9. When people say ‘back in the day’ they REALLY mean it
  10. And of course: “Get off my lawn!”

Contract-to-Fire

workI recently started a new position; my first-ever contract job.  At the beginning, I was enthusiastic about coming in and doing a good job.  I noticed a few deficiencies off the bat and made some recommendations for improvements in a group e-mail to everyone in the department.  My intention was to avoid some of the large issues that had plagued previous workplaces and improve our processes, because to be frank, there were none.

My recommendations were shrugged off with a big fat ‘MEH’ by everyone.  I don’t know if it was due to my relative inexperience at the workplace, or the arrogance of leadership, but for whatever the reason, the end result was that nothing happened, and the glaring issues remained.

I was miffed (but not completely surprised) by the lack of response.  I imagined that the thought process went something along the lines of:  “Why should we listen to this new guy?  He doesn’t know how we do things here.

My first thought was that I needed to change my approach and need address my manager directly instead of broadcasting to the group in the hope that we could come to a consensus.  My second thought became a lot more compelling the more it bounced around in my head:

“Why should I care?”

I should begin by mentioning that the position I was hired into has a nearly zero chance of becoming permanent.  Folks come here, they work for a year or two, and then they’re gone.  Because of that, I have nearly zero investment in this company.  Indeed, one of the issues that I wanted to address was knowledge management; if you’re going to have a revolving door of people coming in and out of a department, you might want to have a good documentation process in place so that not all of a person’s expertise walks out the door when their time inevitably comes.

Ultimately, I let it go.  I had said my peace, and if the Powers That Be decided to ignore it, then why should I make a fuss?  Obviously they know what they’re doing.  There’s also no sense in wasting my time with people that have no intention of listening to me.

The unfortunate truth is that a contract worker will never be completely engaged in the future of the company they work at, especially if they have no visible road to bigger and better things.

I’ve since kept my mouth shut about any new issues that I’ve noticed and given up any hope of things improving.  It doesn’t make any sense to fight the current, instead I’ll just keep surfing the wave of incompetence until my contract is up.

Besides, why should I be fully invested in the company’s problems when the company isn’t fully invested in me?

 

Adventures in Self-Publishing : Cover Stories

rotscover
It’ll do

I am not a visual person by any stretch of the imagination.

When I was in college studying computer science back in the 90’s, people would occasionally ask me if I could make websites for them.  The conversation would go something like this:

Person: “Can you make a website for me?”
Me: “Yeah, I can code one, but it’s going to look like a computer guy made it.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s going to look terrible.”
So yeah, I didn’t make any websites.

Given that I’m self-aware of my lack of design sense, I don’t know what possessed me to make my own book covers when I started self-publishing short story collections.  It comes even more perplexing considering that I knew artists that could do quality artwork.  Ego may have had something to do with it; the notion of doing everything on my own.  Maybe I didn’t want to pay for art at the time.  Whatever the reason, I figured some text on a solid color background would be good enough.  I did three covers like that, and it honestly only worked for The Rules of Tech Support.

cf1cover
A picture! Yay!

I like to think I made the most of my limited skills with my Nine to Five Lives ‘clock face,’ but that may have been too clever for its own good considering its low sales (it’s free now!).

At that point I figured it was time to get some actual artwork done.  My friend Damon Cone provided some artwork for Con Fluff 1, which I used to make a faux ‘con badge.’  I thought about making similar ones as promotional items for the book.  That never happened, but it remains an interesting idea for future use.  The character on the cover is me, which seems a little conceited, but at the same time, why the heck not?

cf2cover
SO PRETTY

I commissioned an artist friend who goes by Padunk for Con Fluff 2 and she knocked it out of the park.  She was also kind enough to put the title text on the artwork, which made it look really nice.  Future volumes have also featured artwork, and with the exception of The Rules of Tech Support, most of my collections featuring my early awful covers have been put off-sale, though you can still see them here.

While I have been happy with all of the artwork (Faeries, Fantasies, and Furries is another favorite) there are a few that need a do-over:  As the first book in the series, I don’t want to pull Seven Super-Short Sci-Fi Stories, but it does need a facelift.  Funny Animals, Funny People kind-of works, but I have a better concept in mind I’d like to see for it.  I took the easy way out with Fuzzy Words by plastering a picture into the middle of a (wait for it) solid colored background.

I’ve since commissioned new cover art for the printed version of Fuzzy Words from an artist named TinyBunner.  After spending the day arguing with CreateSpace I think everything is ready to go for printed copies.  I’m very excited at the prospect of having an actual printed book, but that’s a post for another day.

300 Seconds Episode #85: “Self-Checked Out”

Listen to this podcast episode here!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 85: “Self-Checked Out” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

After hearing good things from friends about the movie Coco for the last few weeks, I decided to finally watch it the other day.  I don’t go to the movies very often, and when I do, I like to go early in the morning to avoid the crowds.  Also, the fact that the tickets are cheaper is also a nice bonus.  I woke up and got dressed a little too late to catch the earliest show that was nearby, so I thought I’d catch the next one which was a few miles away.  The theater was one that I hadn’t been to since I moved out of that area a number of years ago, and it was a little bit of a drive.

It was eleven o’clock in the morning and I hadn’t had breakfast yet, and I’m a breakfast guy.   Whataburger is my usual go-to in the mornings, but I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’ that comes in just after breakfast hours asking for breakfast.   As a quick side note: Honey-butter chicken biscuits and BoBs would be great any time of the day, Whataburger.  I’m just sayin’

I remembered there was also McDonald’s on the way and thought a sausage biscuit would at least  get me through the movie.  Unless I’m in a huge hurry, I don’t like using the drive-thru window.  Since I spend nearly all of my workday sitting behind a computer and then go home and…sit behind a computer, I like to get on my feet whenever I can, so I parked my car and went inside.

I had never been to this McDonald’s before, but I figured it that it would be like most of the others I had been to.   I mean, it’s a McDonald’s, you know?  I walked in and the first thing I noticed was four giant screens to my left, beckoning me to use them place an order.  The second thing that I noticed was that nobody was using them, and since there w ere a few people in line, I thought I’d walk up to the touch screen and get a taste of The Future!

I have to admit, it was pretty neat ordering, it was like using an app on a really big phone.  Since there was nobody waiting behind me in line, I could take my time looking over the menu.  There was also an option to customize my order, which I didn’t really need but something to check out for later.  A card reader just below the screen allowed me to pay, and my receipt popped out of a slot to the left of the screen.  I placed my order, then walked away from the screen to wait.  Was it faster than going to the register?  Probably not, because not only did I take my time looking over the menu, but I had to learn how to use the system.

As I stood and waited for my order, a woman walked into the restaurant and also walked up to one of the screens.  She stared at it for a few seconds, tentatively poked at the screen a few times, then turned to ask somebody:  “Do I have to use the screen?”

The other customer told her ‘no’ and pointed to the register.  With a sigh of relief, the woman said “Oh, good” and she walked over to wait in line at the register.  I smiled.  Clearly, The Future had not arrived for her just yet.  I was genuinely surprised, because the woman was not very old.  Now don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t very young, either, but to me, at least, she appeared to be young enough to go: “Okay, maybe I’ll give this a shot.”

For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about how automated kiosks and self-check-outs are going to put people out of work, I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon.  Lots of folks, like the woman I saw in that McDonald’s, just aren’t going to be willing to try the new thing, and for people that are willing to try it, there is going to be a learning curve which will take some time to work through.  Let’s also not forget the people that do try it and get stuck, which I know all of you have witnessed if you’ve spent any time in a grocery store self-checkout.

As for me, I look forward to taking the opportunity to avoid any unnecessary human contact, because, well, I’m a computer guy, and that’s what we do.

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after my I pre-order my tickets for Wreck-It-Ralph 2.  I am Eduardo Soliz, if you’d like to hear more 300 Seconds subscribe via iTunes and check out my website at Eduardo Soliz dot com, and thanks you for listening!

35 Things I Noticed After Upgrading to iOS 11 and an iPhone SE

iOS 11 just happened to drop on the same day I bought a new 32 GB iPhone SE in order to replace my 16 GB iPhone 6 and switch over to a prepaid plan. The 6 was running low on storage space and the SE was on sale, so why the heck not upgrade my OS and my phone on the same day!

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#19-YUUUGE!
  1. First things first: Upgrade my iPhone 6 to iOS 11. Maybe I can use that as a selling point after I move to the SE.
  2. I can’t help but cackle at glee at how many problems iOS 11 is likely causing for customers at my old job. Jerks.
  3. Yes, I am saying my former customers and my former employer are jerks.
  4. Free space on 16GB iPhone 6 before upgrade: 900 MB. Free space after: 4.9 GB. WTF?
  5. When I hit the Wireless or Bluetooth buttons in the Control Center I expect them TO TURN OFF, not just disconnect. No bueno. iOS!
  6. Is a Location on/off button in the Control Center too much to ask for?  Android has had one in their Notification Area for years. Don’t you want to be cool like Android, iOS?
  7. On a related note, the fact that Apple constantly wants to know where you are is mildly creepy.
  8. Why would I want to turn off the cellular part by itself? Isn’t that what Airplane Mode is for?
  9. The “Do Not Disturb While Driving” thing is pretty cool.
  10. The Pebble smartwatch app is still standing; it’ll be a sad day when it or my watch stops working. Stupid FitBit.
  11. From the ‘what took Apple so long’ department: Files. Yeah.
  12. Only four app updates to install…so far!
  13. All in all, iOS 11 is pretty nice, with a few annoyances I can live with. On to the new phone!
  14. Why not Android? Let’s see: For $200 I can get a questionable phone with a lousy camera and maybe one OS update or a really good phone with an awesome camera that will get updates for a few years.
  15. Despite the smaller screen, I consider the SE an upgrade. Better CPU, twice the storage, and a better camera.
  16. Yeah, yeah. I shouldn’t have bought the 16GB model two years ago, but here we are.
  17. The SE is small enough to fit in my pocket and not be constantly clipped to my belt looking like it’s there for something important.
  18. I’m sort-of trying to not be tied to my phone so much.  I don’t know how successful I’ll be, but I’m trying!
  19. Funny how my old phone is nearly as big as the box my new one came in.
  20. Shopping for a case was a little annoying because the iPhone SE section at Ye Olde Electronics Store was cleaned out. It must have been one heck of a sale, or maybe the SE has become the ‘poor man’s iPhone.’
  21. Found an OtterBox case on the cheap at Wally Martinez (Wal-Mart) so maybe there’s something to that.
  22. Yay, another set of EarPods and Apple stickers I’ll never use.
  23. I can never put screen protectors on right.

    21559118_10212527897727487_9185315891786187206_n
    Out with the old, in with the small!
  24. The gal at the activation line has an interesting accent. I wonder if she’s in the Philippines…FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON.
  25. Accidentally hung up on her once during the activation process. Oops.
  26. Apparently the dweebie at the Best Buy warehouse didn’t scan my new phone so it wasn’t technically ‘purchased.’ That led to WHY IS IT NOT WORKING ANYMORE ten minutes after activating it, which led to another phone call to Whereveritis-istan.
  27. Realization: I’m going to have to be super-careful to not drop this thing in the toilet.
  28. It took me a half day before I realized I hadn’t set up my ringtone.
  29. Apple productivity apps are useless to me without OneDrive support.  Buh-bye.
  30. Garage Band, iMovie and TV apps on a 4-inch screen? Um, no.  Gone.
  31. Free space: 22 GB  That’s more like it!
  32. What the hell is up with not letting me use my phone as a hotspot, cellular prepaid people? Crazy idea: If people use up all their data tethering, THEY HAVE TO BUY MORE DATA WHICH MEANS YOU MAKE MORE MONEY.  Idiots.
  33. Tethering seems to work just fine via USB, so neener-neener, prepaid cell phone weenies!
  34. Going to take a little adjusting to having a smaller phone, but I think the SE is going to work. Hopefully my new provider works out, too!
  35. I’m just waiting for that one friend (you know who you are) to see my new SE and say “OH MY GOD, IT’S A BABY PHONE!”