Archive for August 16th, 2006

Back at Work

It's very exciting to be back in KQED's San Francisco offices, after a summer spent traveling. We're in pre-production for our show's second season -- and (in contrast to how I felt at my old day jobs, mostly as a really bad secretary) it's really cool to have a cubicle waiting for me. My newly acquired organizing skills will be tested in the coming days, as I make my way through piles of wonderful-looking books and press releases and such.

My series producer, Lori Halloran, is across the way from me, tapping away at her computer; perhaps, at her relatively advanced stage of pregnancy, we finally have the same waist size! (That's what happened to my wife in her ninth month carrying our son -- one of the few occurrences that wasn't predicted in our copy of What To Expect When You're Expecting.) My executive producer, Michael Isip, is meeting in his office with one of my former guests (I hope they're not complaining about me). ... This building (KQED's) is like a small city, and after a year here I still feel like I'm just learning the terrain. (One thing I can state with certainty, though, is that our station must have the best-dressed HR staff in the industry.)

So everything's cool. But I'm still having my usual trouble with transitions (beginning with each day's devastating transition from sleep to [relative] consciousness). Even though virtually all the tasks ahead of me are delightful ones, I keep obsessively turning over certain minor-ish dragalicious details in my greenhouse-effect of a brain: Like, for example, the problem I've been having with Earthlink. I wrote a whiny blog item about it, and actually got an incredibly kind comment back from a real-to-life Earthlink blogger, asking if my problem had been resolved. Since then, I've been corresponding with him via email -- but still, frustratingly, my issue remains unaddressed (on July 25, without any warning, all my incoming email was deleted, all the drafts and copies of sent emails were wiped away as well, and -- for good measure -- the extra storage space I've been paying for was taken away). Ever since that day, Earthlink has been promising me that my problem was being "escalated" to an "engineer," who would soon be calling me. Finally, last week, that call came -- on my home phone's answering machine, when I wasn't there -- but the engineer left neither a name nor a phone number for a callback. And this is from a company that has consistently provided me exemplary customer service -- I'm not talking about a nightmarish, MySpace-type situation here!

Anyhow, with this relatively small but irritating matter continually tickling at my thoughts, I've found a great deal of solace in a book titled Dreaming in Code. You can't get it yet, because Crown Books won't be publishing it till next January. But I've read it in manuscript -- and even though its author, Scott Rosenberg, is a dear friend of mine, I can honestly and objectively report to you that it's an incredible book. The subtitle may or may not be "Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs -- and One Quest for Transcendent Software" -- but in any case, that should give you a sense of the ambitious task Scott set himself: to somehow weave a page-turning narrative out of the -- to most of us -- absolutely forbidding subject of all that mysterious software that our lives currently depend on. I imagine that, as the pub date approaches, Scott will be writing about some of this stuff in his amazingly eclectic blog -- but in the meantime, I just wanted to give a head's-up about Dreaming in Code to anyone else out there who, like me, has sometimes been made to feel helpless and/or hopeless about aspects of our marvelously computerized existence. ...

I have to (actually) get back to work now, but I feel moved to add at least one gratuitous Scott Rosenberg story from back in the day -- so here it is: I used to host a radio show in Boston called "The Urban Happiness Radio Hour." We broadcast from the radio station at MIT (where I was working as a really bad secretary in the Biology Dept. office), and our engineer was always stoned and usually quite surly (perhaps he should have been more stoned?). My all-volunteer cast included Scott, then a freelance critic at the weekly Boston Phoenix (we'd met when I was a copy editor there). Scott's main role was as the "Urban Happiness Film Critic," who invariably would digress from his film review and begin ranting about his relationship problems. (I hasten to add that I wrote the scripts, which were totally -- totally! -- fictional, and which were, I'm ashamed to say, mostly written during my secretarial hours.) Our show was broadcast live, and inevitably there were glitches. For instance, on the episode when I was introducing Scott's critic character, we both realized -- at the last moment -- that I hadn't yet come up with a name for him. As Scott stood next to me at the microphone and I began reading the introduction, we both were wide-eyed with wonderment as to what name I'd come up with. (What came out -- after an uncomfortable pause -- was "Fred Schmertz." Who knows where from?) ... Another time I was trying to show the engineer how we could get the door-slamming sound I wanted for a sketch by slamming the actual door to our studio. The engineer was pretty fried, so I had to repeatedly open and slam the door, over and over, by way of illustration. I didn't realize that, at the same time, Scott was repeatedly trying to enter that same door from the other side, too polite to point out that it was being slammed in his face. ... And then there was our Election Day sketch -- an elaborate routine that, at its climax, called for my character (the outgoing mayor, I believe) to pull a gun on Scott's character. Perhaps chastened by the door-slamming incident, I had given a sound-effects record to our engineer, showing him which track had the sound of a gunshot -- but, in his usual state of surly vagueness, he had placed the needle on the following track -- so that when I announced, on live radio, that I had finally had it with my nemesis, our listeners (if, in fact, there was more than one -- we didn't have access to the ratings) heard, instead, the sound of a file drawer opening. Scott and I stared at each other, initially at a loss. Finally, in my desperation, I blurted out: "Okay, I'm opening this file drawer and am pulling out a bang-bang gun! Bang bang! You're dead!" To which, I believe, Scott responded with some of the most grateful death gurgles that have ever been broadcast. ... Good times, good times! ...

2 comments August 16th, 2006

Watch Mondays at 7:30pm
Comcast On Demand & KQED 191
email reminder Sign-up for email reminders


August 2006
« Jul   Sep »

Posts by Month

Posts by Category

The opinions expressed on
The Josh Kornbluth Show blog
are those of the author and not necessarily those of KQED.