Lint-Trap 1/19/01: Improv!



A long long too long day at work. I was on the point of accusing one of my co-workers of sounding like something out of Dilbert when he accused me of sounding like something out of Dilbert! I think we were both right.

I've been deep into the planning process, using Microsoft Project 2000. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, I do believe it is one of the most toweringly wretched pieces of software I have ever encountered, and in my 30+ year career that covers a lot of ground.

I spent a good half hour today changing entries in one of the fields. The procedure was as follows:

  • Position the cursor in the field
  • Click
  • Wait for at least 1/4 second or so
  • Click again
  • Wait for at least 1/4 second or so
  • The field moves over, so the cursor is no longer where it needs to be. Move the cursor over to where it was.
  • Double click to select the word
  • Hit the delete key
  • Doing this for 100 or so entries would be tedious at best. What makes it torture is that if you don't wait long enough, you wipe out the field, and what's more the 'undo' key doesn't work. So, unless you have a perfect memory, you have to go to an older version of the schedule, find the milestone, and retype the description.

    I could go on for hours about the number of page faults, incompatible formats, misleading documentation, and screwball semantics that that this program has. All I can say is that it's now clear why Microsoft can't deliver software on time...

    My day picked up considerably, however, after dinner. I went to a benefit put on by my son's improv group. He's been doing improv for several years, and they are really getting good. The worst it got was pleasant, it was mostly funny, and at times hilarious.

    Can any parent watch their grown kids doing something like that without some very strange feelings? I diapered him, I helped him to learn to speak and walk. I took him to the dentist when he knocked out his two front teeth falling off his bike. I bled myself dry to send him to college. Etc. etc. And there he is up on stage pretending to stand at a urinal with two other men. And the three of them have us on the floor laughing.

    "My Baby!" I think contentedly, despite his topping me by more than three inches... Damn, I'm proud of him. So quick on his mental feet. You never knew what was coming out of his mouth. He didn't have the acting range of some of the members, but he came up with the wackiest ideas on the instant.

    At one point, he was playing a Republican vote counter in Florida who is falling for the Democratic woman vote counter. She is playing hard to get, though, and says she couldn't go out with him unless Gore wins. So my son says, "I know! If Gore wins, I'll go out with you, and if Bush wins, you go out with me."

    No, it isn't the greatest of humor, but to think it up on the spur of the moment deeply impresses me.

    At one point, they asked for a place from the audience for two people to interact, and I called out "P G & E". What followed was a side-splittingly funny scene where the woman is uttering little orgiastic squeeks of joy as she turns off the power, while the guy dreams of working for the Gas company, where he can turn big studly wheels to cut off the gas supply, instead of flipping wimpy little switches. Oh my, it was a relief to laugh so much at what has been a real source of irritation this week.

    So, don't we all need an improv troupe to follow us around. Finding the humor in premature double-clicks, stretching the truth more and more until it pops like bubblegum, smeared all over our faces. And we realize how silly our situation really is. And laugh. And laugh. And laugh.

    Thank you for reading.

    Copyright © 2001 Pete Stevens. All rights reserved.