Once every few months, I have lunch with a bunch of ex-Hewlett-Packard
employees. Unlike me, most of these guys have real jobs, so they’re
still in that bizarre business world I’m no longer a part of. This makes
the lunches a little like anthropological surveys for me; I get to peek
in and see what’s happening. And what’s happening, apparently, is that
everybody’s “adding value.”
I know this phrase is not new. But last time I checked, it was mostly
in annual reports and speeches by incoming General Managers. Now it’s
everywhere. A business failed because “it wasn’t adding value;” a
woman’s job is to “add value to the channel;” one man offered to help
me with my new novel by “adding value to your sales and marketing
Now, okay, value is important. You gotta have the value. But
“add value” as a phrase has clearly reached the point where it’s no longer
conveying any useful information. It’s adding no value. It’s so broad you can use
it in any situation. Here, watch. My job as a writer is to “add value
to letters.” My pajamas, which I’m wearing right now, are “adding value to
my legs.” I married Jen because she “adds value to my daily living
experience.” I saw Tomb Raider 2 on the plane, but
it “added no value to excrement.”
The only way to rid the world of this expression is to overuse
it so grossly that everyone gets sick of it. So if you’re at work today,
really pack it in to your conversations. There’s no reason why every
sentence coming out of your mouth can’t include “add value.” If people
start to look at you funny, that just means it’s working. And if
they nod their heads wisely and talk about strategic vision, it’s
time to look for another job.
I know what you’re thinking. “Sure, Max’s web site is kind of neat and all,
but I don’t want to have to keep checking it for updates. I have better
things to do with my time, like browse for naked pictures of John Ashcroft.
Can’t I just get Max’s posts in my e-mail?”
Yes! You can! After spending a few days slaving over a hot command prompt,
I managed to add a membership list, so you can now
join my site. It’s a bit like being in a
cult, only you don’t have to shave your head, mail me checks, or
commit ritual suicide. I think you’ll agree that’s a plus.
People kept telling me that turning 31 is harder than 30. From a
psychological perspective, that is. Because physically, neither is exactly
a struggle. You just keep doing what you’re doing and the birthdays
organize themselves. But the thought of being 31 years
old was, according to these people, more of a shock
than the thought of turning 30.
Now I’m 31, I can say for sure: that’s a load of crap. Thirty-one
has nothing on 30. When I turned 30, my body discovered age overnight.
I swear, it was like while I was sleeping someone had broken into my body and
taken it for a joyride. The vehicle was clearly no longer in showroom
condition. There were scuff marks and discolorations. The radio was
missing. My analogies had stopped making sense. And just to rub it in,
everyone kept calling me up and saying, “Ho ho ho, the big three-oh!”
But 31, so far, has been fine. I’ve checked and everything seems to
still be in working order. Nobody has tried to mock me with numbers.
It’s a good day.
Okay, this will be of zero interest to just about everybody,
but I need to announce it somewhere. I wrote a plugin for
Blosxom that allows a
blogger to preview their posts before they become
available to the world at large. The advantage over
plugins is that if everything looks right, you don’t
need to do anything.
If you want it for your site,
download autopreview here.
One of the cool things about having a web site is seeing
what people typed into search engines to bring them here.
“Jennifer Government,” is, as you might expect, the runaway
winner here (43%). But there are also some truly bizarre phrases.
My all-time favorite is “coke fuck shoes”. But this month’s winner is:
let me try on your lingerie and high heels
It’s hard to imagine exactly what this person was looking for.
In fact, it’s probably better not to. But it really
does match a page on my site*.
The other fun thing is seeing which sites link to mine.
Because occasionally—just occasionally—there’s one that
no apparent sense and has as its logo a guy blowing bubbles out of his
pipe. Don’t tell me what it’s about. I like it better not knowing.
* [Update: Well, it used to. Google now seems to be rebuilding its index
of my site. For the record, the
match is this page.]
People are mailing me strange things. A couple of weeks ago
I got an envelope that had nothing inside but a small
card with “THANK YOU” printed on the front and “Jennifer
Government #75” hand-written on the back.
Now, it’s nice to be thanked. People should thank me more
often. But—wha-huh? What’s it for? For writing the novel?
Who’s it from? And what does the #75 mean? Did I miss the
first 74 notes? Is it a series of clues? Is it someone who
writes thank you notes to all the authors they like, and I’m
Then a few days ago I checked my mail box and inside is a
DVD of the movie Office Space.
Everybody’s been telling me I have to see this film, but I’ve
never gotten around to it. Now somebody anonymously mailed it
to me. Who? God?
I’ve heard that the best thing about being famous
is that you get a lot of free stuff. This I can believe. But
I’m quasi-famous, at best. And not many people know my postal
Nothing inflames hatred of Microsoft quite like redesigning your web site.
Except, I guess, having your innovative internet business crushed through
monopolistic abuse of market power. Yeah, that’s probably worse. But
designing your web site means having thoughts like this: “Okay, I can
work around Internet Explorer 6’s float bug using absolute positioning, but
that means I run into IE5’s positioning bug—which I guess I could fix
by exploiting its CSS bug—” And so on.
I tell you, if everybody didn’t use Internet Explorer as their browser,
nobody would use it.
When Doubleday asked me for an author photo for Jennifer Government, I
e-mailed them a whole bunch of snaps. Most were of me looking like I thought
authors were meant to look like: serious, thoughtful, smoking a pipe and
rubbing my tweed elbow patches, that kind of thing. But one was
this one I took of
myself with my tongue poking
out—which, of course Doubleday chose for the book jacket.
Now that’s okay—people get the impression that I like smashing up
hotel rooms, but that’s actually kind of cool—but the problem is
I’m sitting in front of a standard Windows desktop. I can protest
that I dual-boot Linux all I like; it makes no difference. In the eyes
of geeks around the world, I am forever shamed.