InterviewJune 10, 2004

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Secret Personnel Files

By Webhamster

The following interview includes everything you ever wanted to know about the Cafe, including many things you never dared to ask, and even some bits that are just plain old hamster droppings. Since we figured that no human would be up to the task, we sent ace investigative reporter Webhamster to the front lines to do the dirty work.

Webhamster: First off, thanks for creating me! But why am I a hamster? Can’t I be a duck? A cockroach? Even a geranium would be better!

menyak: To be honest, you were born out of a typo. When I type “webmaster” very fast, it sometimes turns into “webamster” – add an additional “h” and the rest is history.

Webhamster: You mean I’m a mutant? Geeez … But why this avatar? Gimme a real hamster face for goodness sakes!

menyak: Hammy, your mug is a classic, so you ought to be proud. You’re a character from Sega’s unreleased “Virtua Hamster” game where a heroic, skateboard-riding hamster tries to regain his rodent freedom by navigating a Habitrail from hell.

Webhamster: Rodent freedom? Can’t say I blame the guy, considering the slave labor that I’m asked to do 24/7 at the Cafe. Speaking of 24/7, you also seem to be online all the time, Arlo. Are you a bot, too? Are we perchance related?

Arlo: Um, no, but you’re not the first to believe I’m an automatic script running in the Cafe’s background. It’s all just a rumor, though, which is completely and utterly … [runtime error 640 - reboot bot from start] … Sorry, what was your question?

Webhamster: Never mind … So how’d you come up with the idea for the Cafe, anyway? Is there some glamorous story behind it?

Arlo: Well, a couple years ago, several fantasy sites I enjoyed either moved to a pay format or shut their doors completely within a very short period of time. I figured fantasy folks could use a good place to talk, exchange opinions and information, and simply hang out without paying an entrance fee. So I lured menyak to a seedy bar somewhere in Austria with the promise of whiskey sours and margaritas, tried to explain what this whole fantasy business is about, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Webhamster: In an Austrian bar? How exotic. Why in Austria?

Arlo: Because that’s where we’re currently based.

Webhamster: You mean you live in Austria? As in “I am Hans and I am Franz, and we’re here to pump you up” … THAT Austria?

menyak: Yup, Alps, Sound of Music and all. But it’s not like there isn’t a precedent. Take Arnold Schwarzenegger for example – he’s Austrian, too.

Webhamster: So will you be our next Governator then?

menyak: I haven’t made any plans, but now that you mention it … Um, no, probably not. But I can terminate your account if you like.

Webhamster: How old are you?

Arlo: Sixty-two. Together, that is.

Webhamster: Arlo and menyak, what kind of backgrounds do you have?

Arlo: My own background is in meteorology, of all things. I guess it’s not really a big step from forecasting cold fronts to predicting batting averages and WHIPs. I’ve also worked as an editor, a translator, a researcher … today’s usual meandering career path, I guess.

menyak: I’m primarily a screenwriter. Just a couple of years ago, I thought I had it all worked out – a big German TV network was thrilled by my first story, and a famous actor signed up to play the main role. Then, Germany was hit by recession and the project was shelved.

Webhamster: So that’s when you decided to be a webmaster? Sounds like an awfully random career move to me.

menyak: No, that’s part of a longer story dating back to 1996. That year, I biked from Boston to San Francisco, and also happened to write a book about it. I did all of that together with my older brother, and when he said, “Let’s do a website on it!” guess who got stuck doing the work (anyone with an older brother knows what I’m talking about). That was the beginning of my webmaster career.

Webhamster: So then you went to school again and took four years of lectures?

menyak: Actually I had no idea about programming, and still don’t to this very day. I’m learning new stuff as I move along, but it’s not that I’m a tech guy or something. Well, luckily it was good enough to get this project off the ground. And since it’s a non-stop flight, landing won’t be an issue.

Webhamster: Menyak, what’s your professional opinion on Kevin Millwood?

menyak: Nice guy. Handsome, too. Um, and I really like the colors on his jersey. They’re so – well, colorful.

Webhamster: Gimme a break – you really have no clue who you’re talking about, do you?

menyak: Ok, ok. Arlo is the fantasy expert in the team. I’m trying to catch up, though, and if time allows for it, I’ll be starting in my very first fantasy football league this summer.

Webhamster: So you don’t know #&$% about programming, and even less about fantasy sports. What do you know then?

menyak: Hammy, please mind your language! Otherwise, we’ll have to get a mod to delete this article. I do have a history degree, and there was some psychology mingled in as well. So trust me that we’re one of the most popular free fantasy sites since the Civil War, and if that doesn’t impress you, then it’s only because you’re rebelling against the man who created you. I learned a word for that kind of behavior in those psych classes, but I’ve forgotten it.

Webhamster: Great – that sounds like having a circus clown fly the space shuttle. By the way, is “menyak” your real name?

menyak: Absolutely!

Webhamster: What, lowercase ‘m’ and all?

menyak: Hey, e. e. cummings got away with it.

Webhamster: And Arlo, do you really look like Ben Kenobi?

Arlo: Most certainly. Hey, it could be worse – I could look like Yoda.

Webhamster: So what do your workplaces look like?

menyak: I work at a huge desk, standing in my living room. At least there was a desk before I piled all that paperwork on it. Wait a sec, let’s see what’s under this dirty plate.. nope, it’s still there.

Arlo: Roughly the same. The desk, the computer, the piles of paper blocking the sunlight from the window, the piles of baseball and football cards on top of the piles of paper … hey, whaddaya know, a Pee Wee Reese! Wonder where that came from?

Webhamster: Wish that I had the idea about the Cafe. Then I’d be the one in charge, and you would be the ones eating out of a hamster feeder. Is what I’ve heard true, menyak, and you’re just in it for the money?

menyak: They call it a “job.” Compare it to what A-Rod does in his office. Does he love baseball? Possibly. So will that make him knock on his manager’s door to ask if he can play for free? I doubt it. I suppose one of the secrets in life is doing something you like and carving a job out of it that you can make a living from. On the internet, it’s also what helps a site survive – we’ve seen too many websites go down the drain because they underestimated the amount of work involved and couldn’t pay their bills.

Webhamster: So you have heard of A-Rod?

menyak: Hey, I said I was learning. Besides, it’s impossible to spend time with Arlo and not pick up some of this stuff. Funny that he hasn’t picked up any programming by watching me work, though.

Webhamster: What’s your motivation then?

menyak: I simply love being my own boss, making my own decisions instead of doing what I’m told. If that means beating the big and established companies at their own game, it’s even more fun. It’s also cool to be part of a site with so many people who will give you almost instant feedback. Out there in the “real” world, it may take years until someone acknowledges your work.

Arlo: Well, things like keeping your own hours are definitely a plus. But basically, I wanted to create a place where I’d want to spend time myself, where I could go for updates and debates, or simply to share a joke.

Webhamster: So what are you guys doing for a living?

Arlo: Right now it’s just the Cafe. Since we’re both working appr. 60-70 hours per week on the site, there isn’t really much room for anything else.

Webhamster: 60-70 hours? You’re kidding me.

menyak: A fantasy site is really like an iceberg. There’s a lot to it, but most of it is underneath the surface. No clue what happens when a ship hits a fantasy site, though.

Arlo: Agreed. It probably goes unnoticed most of the time, but a place like this simply wouldn’t be possible without an outstanding webmaster. Or Webhamster, of course.

Webhamster: Thanks. How about the ads? What are you pulling in?

Arlo: Given the amount of work we’re putting in, we could make much more working as the unfriendly clerks behind the register at your local supermarket or flipping burgers. But then, we wouldn’t be having so much fun.

Webhamster: How about the chicks? The partys? The rumors I recently read in People Magazine?

Arlo: Menyak split with his girlfriend a couple of years ago and hasn’t found an adequate replacement yet (*hint*), but I’ve been off the market for a while, so I can’t comment on the chicks (at least not without getting into hot water). We did consider printing a few million “I know Arlo Vander” t-shirts and shipping them all over the world, but so far we haven’t gotten around to it yet. But hey, we’re working on it!

Webhamster: What do you consider your biggest mistake since opening the Cafe?

Arlo: I wish you’d have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it.

Webhamster: Hmm … seems like I’ve heard that line somewhere else recently. Anyway, what’s up for the future?

Arlo: Hehe, that’s still a secret. But there’s still a lot up our sleeves, and even more in a bag behind the house.

Webhamster: And your own plans?

menyak: As I’m not officially a programmer, I dream of having a Cafe one day that is fully automated, has all the features that one can dream of, and needs no repairs. Then I can spend more time hanging out in the forums, writing, inventing…

Webhamster: Arlo?

Arlo: Plans? What plans? I’m just taking one day at a time…

Webhamster: Thanks guys, gotta run. Another hour is over, so it’s time for me to update those weather icons again. What a pain – can’t you guys do it yourself for once? Isn’t Arlo supposed to be the weather guy here?

menyak: Chill out, Hammy, or it’s back to that treadmill again.

Webhamster: *Squeak*

Webhamster is the Cafe’s very own robotic rodent pet. When he isn’t busy sending out topic reply notifications, he updates the schedule box or runs on his little wheel.

Questions? Ask the Hamster!

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