Thursday, December 22, 2005

Out in the cold.

Since around Thanksgiving, I've been noticing new faces at the Help Desk. It started with half a dozen people sitting with other analysts. Since we had previously had visitors from Branch Support over to see how we did things, a sort of exchange program, I first thought these new people might have been from downstairs. Then I thought they might be visitors from the now dismantled Financial Services Help Desk. When I saw them sitting in front of computers attempting to take calls I finally figured that they were new analysts.

Since I've been the trainer for a number of years now I wondered why I not only wasn't involved in the training of these new analysts but also why no one had even seen fit to tell me anything about this or even introduce me.

Yesterday, I got tired of waiting and asked M***, the designated "backup up trainer". He told me he had been tasked with bringing them up to speed on passwords only in two days. At which point they were put on the phone and expected to be productive. Except, I knew from experience that it took more than two days of training to prepare one for taking calls. I knew that callers regularly just pick the first selection on the phone menu just to get a person and, surprise, surprise, the first selection happened to be passwords so that even those who were supposed to get only password calls would get every call imaginable. M*** spent his entire day going cube to cube trying to help these people who had been thrown to the wolves without proper training.

This morning I went in to talk to the Site Manager.

"So, N***. When was someone going to tell me that I wasn't the trainer any more."

E said that I was still the trainer and I launched into him. If I was the trainer, why wasn't I doing any training of this half a dozen new analysts. If I was the trainer, why wasn't I even talked to about this? If I was the trainer, why weren't any of these new people sat with me to actually learn something.

He thought someone had talked to me. I told him that M*** had said on several occasions " Shouldn't you be talking to Geis about this?" At one point the Education Coordinator said that he thought M*** should do it. "Oh no. That's not my job," he said. And so no one ever talked to me.

N*** said that the training was on Fridays and Saturday afternoon and evenings and I wasn't available. Untrue. When D**** had asked me at the beginning of the summer about the possibilities of training on Saturdays I said that it would depend on which Saturdays in case I had already made plans. That I should have a little more advance notice than I had been getting for new training (3 days). When D**** conveyed this information to the Site Manager and HR Manager he changed my "it depends" to a "no".

I also took the opportunity to tell the Site Manager what was going on with his company. The missed SEC filing, the 25% drop in stock value, the probably delisting from NASDAQ. He didn't know this.

He tried to convince me that it was just an oversight.

"I see this as a long evolving pattern of neglect. I started out getting two weeks notice as to when new hires were going to start. Then it was a week. Then it was less than that. Then it was three days. Then I wasn't even told at all. I started out keeping a seating chart up to date and the HR Manager copied that file from the shared network drive into the training manual. Then she wasn't copying the up to date file anymore. Then she created a brand new seating chart from scratch and when I told her that I'd been doing that all along she looked surprised and said she didn't realize that I was doing that. My job description doesn't say that I'm a trainer. My salary doesn't say that I'm a trainer. I'm not doing any actual training when there are new hires sitting out there right now. What the fuck am I doing here?"

Here's what I see happening. Earlier this year, the HR Rep asked me about doing this "two days then taking passwords" program and I said it wouldn't work. It wasn't enough time. They wouldn't have enough experience and the Help Desk would suffer for it. So, instead of listening to my years of experience she gave the job to M*** who she thought didn't know it was impossible. And you know what? It failed, just like I said it would. THAT'S why I wasn't talked to about this. She didn't want to hear me tell her that her scheme wouldn't work. And now that I've been proven right yet again, no one has the guts to talk to me about it. If we had done this my way, the way I've been doing it successfully for nearly four years now, they would be productive now. Instead, M***'s off the phones solving their problems.

"I have absolutely no confidence in this management or this company," I told the Site Manager. "This is completely unprofessional. It's short sighted. And it's failing. . . . My phone is ringing."

And I walked out.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"breathtaking inanity"

The ruling in the case of the Parents vs. the Dover, PA School Board over the inclusion on an Intelligent Design statement in science class has been handed down with a strong victory for science and truth.

"In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."

"The breathtaking inanity of the BoardÂ’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial."

I particarly love the use of "breathtaking inanity".

His 139 page ruling made it abundantly clear that theirargumentss simply don't hold water. The ID proponentss brought in their big guns, their top scientist supporters and they had to resort to a redefinition of science broad enough to include the supernaturall to support their assertions.
"It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

It is, of course, too soon to claim real victory. Those who wouldpropagatee the lie that is ID as science will not go away but at least now we have a sound legal precedence more recent than the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial on which to base our defense of truth and religious freedom.

Monday, December 19, 2005

From the Department of Redundancies Department

I got a call today on a notes issue and while looking in out ticket database for similar occurances, I came upon this gem of a ticket. (It has been edited only slightly)

16:13 - REF TO NOTES
09:27 REFER TO ########## FOR REVIEW

Mojo Jojo is working at Deskside support. Does the local tech sound a little upset that it ended up on his desk? I don't know about you, but I think it sounds like a Deskside issue. Sure, the Notes application is causing the problem but it's not going to be the Notes group that's going to solve the problem. It's going to be the Deskside person who's going to have to re-install the application.

In the end the Notes application WAS re-installed but the text in the ticket doesn't make clear whether that solved the issue.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


The Company is listed on the NASDAQ and periodically I look at a website at YahooFinance to see how things are going because we, down here in the trenches, seldom get word about corporate goings on.

It turns out there was a bit of a shakeup last month. The Company announced that it was going to delay filing a quarterly report to the SEC because of irregularities in its billing. They also weren't going to make a profit forecast. As a result, their stock price plummeted 25%. Then it was announced that they had missed a filing deadline with NASDAQ and risked being delisted because of it. Shortly thereafter, but for supposedly unrelated reasons, the CFO resigned.

H**** worked for a company that bought out a struggling company. They then brought the executives from that struggling company onboard in the new company where they could work their same magic and within a year, the once healthy company was screwed up and H**** got herself laid off.

I see the same thing happening here. My original employer made some really bad mistakes and we paid for it with the loss of bonuses, 401k matching and raises. When we were bought out by our new Corporate Overlords we were all told that this would turn things around. I was right to be skeptical because it looks like the house wasn't properly cleaned and the rot that did in my original employer has infected this one.

Hmmmm, and it took about a year.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


A user called for an update on a ticket she opened two days ago but had yet to receive any response from Second Level Support. It turns out that I had been the one to open the ticket in the first place. I did my standard spiel for updating a ticket and sending "an electronic butt kicking" back up to support to remind them that the issue was still waiting out there unresolved.

After saying my good-byes, I could hear the user comment to a coworker before the handset reached the cradle:

"He is so nice"

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Get stuffed.

A user I was on a call with this morning had numerous problems. In the first place, the ticket that had been opened for her PC was completely wrong. The analyst had completely mis-described the issue and so support was not taking care of it properly. So, I had to almost start from the begining with troubleshooting and re-describing the problem.

Next, she had a second computer that support had given her in the meantime that she couldn't access her e-mail on. I needed to get her to bring up her old PC so that we could copy her Noted ID file (where the password is stored) onto her network drive so that she could then copy it back onto her loaner PC to get into her mail there.

On top of that, she had a networking issue to deal with.

All this troubleshooting took time. My Team Lead eventually sent me an IM saying that I couldn't be on a call for 30 minutes.

The irony was that the user had just finished thaking me for taking the time to solve her problems and complimenting me that I was the only one at the help desk who seemed to know what was going on.

So, in response to my Team Lead's message, I was formulating a response saying that I was taking care of three problems. After the user's compliment I said that I had just gotten a message from my lead telling me to wrap things up because I was taking to long and I was about to tell him to "get stuffed."

"I heard that," came the IM from my Team Lead. I have a loud, penetrative voice and while he may have heard me from across the room it wouldn't surprise me if he were listening in on my call.

"We're going to need to talk about this," came the next message.

I doubt it. I am now 8 weeks late for my annual performance appraisal so clearly having meetings with the employees are not very high on their program. And even if we did have this "talk" I would only admit that saying "get stuffed" was a poor choice of words. I hold by my assertion that it is rude and poor customer service to end a call with a user just because management is concerned with the metrics. If I can solve the problem then I'm going to solve the problem because that's why the user is calling. Were I to open a ticket for the user's ID file issue it would sit up at the Function Desk for an hour or so before it was sent back to me with the statement that I was capable of doing this and should call the user back or, even worse, it would be sent off to second level support who might get to it in the afternoon sometime.

If my team lead wants me to cut calls short then he can come over to my cubicle and press the release button on the phone. I'm not going to do it.

And so I thought to take a look at the actual metrics for the day. I took 61 calls for the day. The person who took the next highest number of calls was at 55 calls. Most people were taking around 30 calls for the day. So, even though I'm spending 30 minutes on a call here or there, I am still outperforming EVERYONE at the helpdesk. That's even compared to B*** who works a 10 hour shift rather than the 8 hour shift that I work and only took 40 calls.

Blast from the Past

I've bought an 8-track player.

As retro as that sounds, it has a singular purpose. Twenty five years ago when I was in junior high school I was introduced to several pieces of music in music clas that became some of my favorites. One was "Romantic Warrior" by Chick Corea and Return to Forever. The other was Gustav Holst's "The Planets". I went to the Irwin Public Library and made a copy of that record onto an 8-track, the technology we had at the time.

Eventually, the player was replaced and I went back to the library to borrow the record again. Except someone had stolen the record. The library had gotten a replacement but it wasn't the same. There were differences that I just didn't like and I began searching for the versiopn that I had first heard.

Unfortunately, I hadn't written down who the conductor was or what orchestra he was conducting. Early on, my search was based on the album cover but since just about every printing of the album had a picture of Saturn on the cover, it wasn't very helpful. Reissues and Cds added to the difficulty. To find what I considered the difinitive performance of "The Planets", I had to listen to it. There are a few key points in "Jupiter" and "Mars" that stand out, subtle pauses and tempos that my brain has kept on file for reference. But how do you explain this to someone else so that they can help in your search?

Thus, I have finally found an 8-track player. I will copy my tape onto a casette to convert it to MP3 so that I can post it to the web or send it in an e-mail so that others can listen and perhaps recognise this particular version from 1980 or before. Once I get my brother-in-law to do the conversion (or give me the software) my first thing will be to send an e-mail to WQED-FM.

The risk is that the tape is 25 years old. It may break. It may not play at all. It hasn't been used in all that time so it hasn't gotten worn out but if it does fail then I fear that my quest will finally fail.

Wy wife thinks I am imagining things. That what I remember about the music has been tainted and changed by time and that the version that has been playing in my head for a quarter century doesn't actually exist. I, of course, do not agree. When I listen to a version I replay my memory alongside. Sometimes I cannot tell the difference between the two but then I reach that key point and the pause is too short or too long and it leaps out at me. Of course, one I get the copy I will know for sure. Then again, my wife will probably say I'm deluding myself.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Doctor is In

My cubicle is my own little gulag. I am isolated and away from everyone else at the Helpdesk. Well, not completely isolated. We have a IM-like application that allows analysts to communicate with one another. Managers use it to remind us that there is a queue and we need to limit out talk times. Analysts will use it to alert the rest of the Helpdesk when there is a wide-spread issue so that others don't duplicate troubleshooting issues.

With the large influx of analysts recently, we suddenly have a lot of analysts who do not have all the accesses that they need. Specifically the application and access that allows us to change Lotus Notes passwords. So, the IM application is used by those analysts without the access to ask those with the access to change a password for them.

So, here I am behind my high wall getting requests from analysts out on the floor to change a password for them. But should I walk away from my desk to go to the rest room or to lunch, no one sees me go. And the requests keep coming in. Eventually, the analyst may ask someone else or come over to my desk looking for me only to find my cubicle empty. I'd come back from lunch to find a stack of password requests.

I figured I would put up some sort of sign so that people knew if I was in or not. I had a little bendy figure, some scissors and some tape and so I made a sign to stand on the top of my cube wall so that people will know.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Being a Meatatarian.

Last night, I went on a night hike in North Park with Venture Outdoors. That went well enough but at the beginning, a few of the women there were discussing having had a vegetarian Thanksgiving last week. Again, well enough, but one of them made a statement (that I don't remember exactly) that was looking for the opposite of a vegetarian Thanksgiving.

"That would be my Thanksgiving," I said. "Turkey, turkey and some stuffing. I'm a meatatarian."

She proceeded to tell me that I was wrong to eat meat. One of her primary statements was that my intestines were too long to eat meat. I countered that my stomach was too small to subsist on only plants.

"You have the right to believe what you want, no matter how wrong you are."

I had never actually hear that phrase used before except as satire or on bumper stickers. She wasn't willing to go any further, having made her declaration that she was right and I was wrong no matter how much evidence was offered.

So, it has me thinking about vegetarianism, being an omnivore and how to defend oneself from those who think meat is evil and humans shouldn't eat meat.

* Our nearest relatives, the chimpanzees, hunt other animals and eat them. We share a common ancestor some 5 to 8 million years ago. Anatomical comparisons show that this common ancestor probably didn't have eating habits much different from modern chimpanzees.

* Vegans argue that mountain gorillas are vegetarians. They are not as closely related to humans as the chimpanzee so that comparison only slightly less valid on that basis but, in point of fact, it is completely wrong because the gorilla isn't a herbivore. It is an omnivore. Granted, the bulk of the meat they eat is from termites and other insects but it is still meat. The huge canine teeth and incisors for ripping and tearing flesh shows that they have not completely evolved away from their more predatory ancestors.

* Humans have lost the large canines that the apes still retain, and both families have lost the claws that the carnivores still retain, but we still have binocular vision, which is the mark of a predator. All the herbivores, those things that are exclusively vegetarian, have their eyes on the sides of their heads because they are "prey" and need that wide field of vision to protect them from predators. Humans may not be the best predators, but we are still designed to hunt.

* At about 2.3 to 1.5 million years ago, the first "true" humans appeared. This coincided with an increased consumption of meat. In fact it is likely that the huge amounts of energy that can be derived from meat proteins actually lead to the development of the large human brain. Archeological and anatomical evidence shows that some human ate meat as up to 40% of their diet.

* Between 1.7 million years and 230,000 years ago, the human diet consisted of even more meat, with teeth wear micrographs of Homo erectus being comparable to that of the hyena.

* This much more meat-using diet allowed humans to move into new environments where proteins are more difficult to find in plantstuffs. During the ice age in Europe (25,000 to 15,000 years ago), the Cro-Magnons, fully modern humans, survived on a diet of nearly 50% meat.

* After the Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago, agriculture began to take over from hunting/gathering. By about 7,000 years ago, the human diet had shifted to about 10% meat. As meat consumption declined in paleolithic times, tooth decay, malnutrition, and rates of infectious disease increased. This has more to do with the types of vegetables (mostly starches) that were replacing meat in the diet than with a decline in meat consumption. But also, agriculture is hard, backbreaking work whereas the hunting/gathering lifestyle, while it can also be difficult, is not as oppressively and continuously stressful

So, this is where we come from. Millions of years of evolution that not only has always involved the consumption of meat but was actually accelerated by it.

* Vegans argue that human intestines are too long to digest meat. That the meat rots before it is digested. It is true to say that human intestines are too long to EFFECIENTLY digest meat when compared to carnivores like cats but conversely the stomach is too small to effectively digest an exclusively plant diet. What allowed humans to eat an up to 50% meat diet was the control of fire and cooking. Cooking the meat helps to break it down so that our so-called overly long intestines can handle it. We still have long intestines because we are designed by evolution to eat MOSTLY plants.

Now, saying I am a meatatarian is not saying I'm a carnivore. I invented that term because it sounded like the opposite of vegetarian. I eat a lot of meat because I happen to like meat and don't like vegetables and fruits. The proportions in my diet are a matter of taste. But the fact that I continue to be quite healthy and active shows that my diet is not so bad as the vegans claim I should be.

This is not to say that people shouldn't be vegetarian. The big brains that we have (thanks to meat eating) have also allowed us to develop alternatives to eating meat. We can get our dietary requirements elsewhere. But that comes with risks. There are some vitamins and minerals that are best found in meat. Sure, they are found in some vegetables but we simply couldn't eat enough of those in a day to fulfil our requirements. Multi-vitamin supplements must be taken to take care of that.

But don't go telling me I am wrong to eat meat. I am designed by millions of years of evolution to eat meat.

Friday, November 25, 2005

ID10T Quote of the Day

Geis: . . . . that error means that you're going to have to reboot your machine by doing a ctrl-alt-delete and selecting Shutdown and Restart.

User: So, how do I do that?

Geis: By doing a ctrl-alt-delete and selecting Shutdown and Restart.

Black Friday

H**** got up at 4:00 this morning to go shopping. At 6:00 am, WDUQ news reported that mall parking lots were already at 60% capacity and Bust Buy was at 80% capacity. It's a madouse. A MADHOUSE! I am actually glad that I had to work today. It will keep me from being dragged into the after-Thanksgiving shopping insanity.

In other news, it was pointed out to me by a coworker that The Corporate Overlords have designated the day after Thanksgiving as an official holiday. Before we were bought by our new Corporate Masters, the day after Thanksgiving was just another work day. There was an e-mail sent out at the begining of the month noting what days are official holidays but nothing to make sure we filled out our time sheets properly this week. Given how things have been screwed up, there is also some suspicion that they will not pay for the day after Thinksgiving. We'll just have to see.

Monday, November 21, 2005

There is No God.

I had heard that Penn Jillette was going to have an entry on NPR's "This I Believe" series and really wanted to hear it. I missed it but found it was posted on their website.

Penn Jillette is my new hero.

He starts out with the bold statement, "I believe there is no god." He goes from there and eventually hits on some of the same things that I believe but with a simplicity and clarity that I never bothered to sit down and compose.

"Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future."

These aren't new ideas, of course. J. Michael Straczynski (one of my other heroes) had his Ranger character Marcus say very much the same thing in "Babylon 5" many years ago:

"You know, I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe."

I've been paraphrasing those sentiments since then, remarking that I much prefer living in an uncaring universe. Because if the universe does care, then all the hate and evil and seemingly random misery inflicted on us are being done by someone TO us for a reason.

I was raised something of a Lutheran. My family went to church on all the important holidays and occasionally went on other Sundays. I went through and passed the Catechism classes. I went through the motions of belief. But I don't think I ever actually believed in God enough to consider myself to have "lost faith." The Catechism class was little more the memorization of some psalms and the books of the bible. Important questions of faith were never addressed and my specific questions were never answered. And certainly there was nothing about what Martin Luther was really talking about.

So, when I went off to college, I merely left the trappings of belief behind. I didn't even consider myself an agnostic or an atheist. I would say that I hovered somewhere in between but I never really thought in terms of the possibility or the need for a god. God simply didn't exist and trying to define how much he didn't exist with terms like atheist or agnostic didn't seem necessary.

I can't say I've been in a conversation for a long time in which I've had to proclaim my theological beliefs but now I have the right words: I believe there is no god.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Inflammatory Fashion

I was at the Pennsylvania Gun Collectors Association gun show at the Monroeville ExpoMart this morning. My intention was to buy a watchband compass for about $3.50. One of the dealers was selling t-shirts, one of which was the standard military green with the word "Infidel", largely writ in both English and Arabic.

How stupid can you be? For one, it's like wearing a shirt that says "I'm a bigot" and walking around. Of course, since people of Middle-Eastern descent are currently hiding as best they can because of racist bastards, it's not taking much of a risk like wearing a Klan shirt into a black neighborhood would be.

I was tempted to walk up to the dealers modeling the shirts and say "So, what you're saying is that you are unfaithful to God."

That's what it means. "Unfaithful to God". But since the Muslims used it so extensively to refer to the marauding Crusaders, you think it's their word for anyone other than themselves. Other than Muslims.

But when the Muslims were in control of Jerusalem from 638 to 1099, they didn't refer to the Christians and Jews under their administration as infidels. They were most assuredly faithful to God. The same god. But the Crusaders behaved in a deplorable fashion. After looting and pillaging their way across Europe, the first thing the did after crossing the Bosporus was to have the ruler of Edessa overthrown and assassinated. Edessa was a Christian city. When they broke through the defenses of Antioch after an 8 month siege, the killed nearly everyone. Men, women, children. These are not the actions of one who is "faithful to God".

So, for the Crusaders, the Muslims used the word "infidel." It was wholly apt and well deserved. And they did not engage in reprisals against the Christians of Jerusalem. That came later at the hands of the Crusaders themselves when they "liberated" the city on July 15th, 1099 and proceeded to kill everyone they could find. Muslim, Jew and Eastern Orthadox Christian. "Indeed, if you had been there," wrote Fulcher of Chartres, "you would have seen our feet coloured to our ankles with the blood of the slain. But what more shall I relate? None of them were left alive; neither women nor children were spared."

I recall just after 9/11, George W. made a speech and used the word "Christendom", invoking the language of the Crusades. Thankfully, someone smart in the administration told him this was a bad idea and that language was only used for about a week. But it frightened me the same way that this t-shirt does. You'd think in a thousand years we'd have learned something.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


The trap was spring this morning and inside. . . our little mousy ninja.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Mousy Ninja

For the past few days we have been checking the mouse trap in the morning only to find it un-sprung but also minus the moldy cheese set as bait. Now, admittedly I haven't been pushing the cheese all the way to the back of the trap because it is so sensitive that the weight of the bait itself is enough to set off the trap.

But our mouse has been able to get into the trap and make off with his treasure without getting trapped.

Clever rodent.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


We've had Financial Services people lurking around the Help Desk for the past several days. They are ostensively "observers" but their presence has created policies that require that for every time we open a ticket for a Financial Services user we have to inform our Function Desk. Essentially asking permission to open a ticket.

"Oh, teacher. Did I do this right?"

"Why yes, Timmy, you have done this correctly. You get a gold star."

Today, D***** the HR Rep (it says Operations Manager on her sig file) was hovering by my cubicle while I was on a call. She had some red plastic cups in her hand and I had a sinking feeling. Not wanting her to loom over me while I was trying to work I put the call on hold for a moment to hear the explanation I already knew. Yes, the cup was to put on top of the wall of my cube so the guy from the Financial Services group would know that I was on such a call and required assistance.

As if I'm too stupid to get up and ask for help. Or that the user is so important that they won't accept an "Hold on just a minute while I look into this" request.

We have issues called "911 Issues". These are things that are of extreme production importance such as "The Bank cannot communicate with the Federal Reserve." Billions of dollars things. We've been told that these procedures with Financial Services users "are just as critical as our 911 issues."

Hell, When we have a major system error and all of the branches loose connectivity it is not bad enough to warrant a 911 Issue. You can't tell me that these Financial Services users are that important. If they were, The Bank would not have "displaced" their specialist Help Desk. This is really quite absurd.

So, today was also the day the they turned out the lights over at the Financial Services Help Desk. Of course, they only sent an e-mail to us telling us about this change mid-way through the day when it was already pretty obvious what was going on. At one point I did receive a call that required assistance. Since the other Help Desk was gone, we had no way to track progress on the calls they had opened from within our databases.

Up went the cup.

After a while after having received no response I got up and sought one out. The Function Desk had access to the old database so I got a print out of what was going on and started generating a ticket to begin tracking the issue from our side. I was pretty much done with it when the Financial Services guy finally came over to help me out.

So much for "just as critical as our 911 issues."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Four and (probably) Five

H**** called me at work to say we had snagged another mouse. She was complaining that it wouldn't come out of the trap. I told her to just shake it harder and the little rodent will eventually fall out.

The other day one of the traps had been triggered but she hadn't checked to see if it was occupied. When she opened it to release the captive, she turned her head and thus didn't see if a mouse actually exited the trap. These little things are so light it's very difficult to recognize that the trap is actually occupied without looking.

Non-Issue and Stupid Procedures

It turned out that my application problems of yesterday did not cause the a recurrence of the widespread outage my system caused on Friday. Good. I needed to reinstall the application. But, again, it's a poor design when a single workstation can hang up the entire system.

In other news, yesterday we had a number of people from the Financial Services group here to look over our shoulders. It gave me an itchy feeling of impending doom. Today, word comes down that we cannot open any tickets for any issue concerning the financial services group without first conferring with the Function Desk to make sure we are doing it right.

What idiocy is this? I understand that there are some people who make crappy tickets (some of them are Team Leads) but in those cases they need to be talked to. By requiring all of us to ask permission to open a ticket, we are treated like ignorant children. This is a common problem here. Management has always attempted to resolve things with this "shotgun" approach instead of addressing the individuals who aren't doing their jobs.

This is not the way that professionals are treated.

McSeasons Greetings

McDonalds has their Christmas decorations up and we're still more than a week away from Thanksgiving. The larger-than-life figures are going into the creche on the plaza at USX. The tree continues to be decorated on the steps of the City-County Building. The holiday ads have really started in earnest on TV. Already, I am sick of Christmas and it's only just started.

Remember when the Thanksgiving Day parade was the start of the season?


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Keypress of Doom

Last Thursday I had to change my passwords at work. I have 22 passwords on different systems that I have to try to keep synched up so that I can use them for a month and then change them all again. One system for the Financial Services group gave me problems. The application I use threw a runtime error and I ended up having to end task. It was near the end of the day so and it wasn't a system I used often so I didn't think much of it.

On Friday, I tried again to change my password for that system and had some different errors after apparently successfully changing my password. Apparently everyone else was having problems with the system, there was a high severity ticket on the issue so I figured that my problems of the day before were part of that.

Today I found out that I was, in fact, the cause of the problems on Friday. Apparently, the problem with my system left me logged into an administrator table that locked up the whole system. Crappy design that it didn't time me out after X-minutes of inactivity but it wasn't intentional. My app had runtime errors.

Well, at the end of today, I again went into the system to change a
password for someone else and again threw runtime errors. The application ended up hanging completely. Not wanting to end task for fear that it would cause a recurrence of the problems on Friday, I left it alone and opened a ticket.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Two Minute Warning

Normally, training is done in about three weeks. The first week is split between classroom work and new analysts listening in on calls. The second week has the new analysts listening and transitioning to sitting in front of the pc and navigating the screens while an established analyst takes the call. The third week is the new analyst taking calls while the established analysts "ride shotgun" and can step in to help. When the 4th week rolls around, the new analyst is put at their own desk and is on their own.

We are now two weeks into this latest batch and they have been told they go on to their regular schedules tomorrow. Some of them have been taking calls with supervision but they simply aren't ready. You can see it in their eyes.

But the Corporate Overlords don't care. Feed them to the wolves. Get to work.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

How the Grinch Stole Thanksgiving

I'm flipping through channels and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" is on. It's the middle of November, guys! It's not even Thanksgiving yet! I mean, really! Can't you wait until December? Do you need that much of a jump on the so-called holiday season?

Two. Three.

Last night, I go back late from gaming and found another mouse trap tripped. I didn't want to leave the mouse in the trap all night so I went way back in my yard and let him go.

This morning when I got up after H**** had left, I saw that one of the traps was missing so clearly we had captured a third mouse overnight and H**** had taken it to release.

A few years back we had an "infestation" of about half a dozen mice. One of them had even crawled into my PC and attempted to build a nest there. I've got nothing particular against them, they're just doing their mousy thing, looking for a warmer home to spend the winter. We don't leave food out that they can get to but there are crumbs and such enough to have them come looking for better environs.

Sorry, guys. You're not welcome so out you go.

Mutants & Masterminds: Session 2

Mad Scientist Brian Czitrovszky is returning to his lab when he is suddenly attacked by a humanoid robot saying "Meta-human identified. Initiate Capture." Brian attempts to use his machine interface power to hack the robot's computer brain but is unsuccessful. He pulls a blaster pistol and shoots the robot a few times so that he can get inside. The robot attempts to beat down the door so Brian interfaces with his own van, directing it to run the robot down.

While the van is repeatedly running the robot over, Brian uses the X-ray feature of his goggles to look through the lab wall and sees the Confetti Ninja spectating from a nearby rooftop. Eventually, the van is beat up enough that it stops working and robot again goes for the door. After coming through, Brian shoots the robot repeatedly until it finally goes down.

Meanwhile, the Confetti Ninja is outside dodging the lab's paralyze-ray defense systems (which had no effect on the robot). Brian directs the system to stop shooting so he can find out what the Ninja really wants.

The Confetti Ninja, with swords drawn, attempts to intimidate Brian, demanding to know what he had sold to Mr Johnson. Brian points his blaster at him and tells him to put the swords away. The Ninja counters that the "Yellow Boxes" tell him that he needs to be intimidating. They dance around some of this. The ninja does some teleporting. He puts the swords away but draws a gun. More verbal dancing. Eventually the "Yellow Boxes" tell the Confetti Ninja that he should shoot Brian in the knees. Brian gives up, puts down the gun and gives half of the information asked for. With some more verbal dancing, the Confetti Ninja goes away.


I should have shot him. Here I am trying to be a Mad Scientist but I haven't quite gotten down the madness part. I think too much and tend to invest in my characters so I am a little prone to inaction or delay. No. I'm mad! I need to act on impulse. Hacking the van and using it to run over the robot caught the GM (and Deadpool) off guard. I need more of those type of things. I need to describe my lab so it has things like Tesla coils, electromagnets and chain hoists. Things that can be employed at a moments notice in ways unexpected. I also need to start designing and building something specific. A device that nullifies powers would be good. According to Wikipedia, Deadpool's teleport is a device. I could build an EMP gun to disable his device.

And, most importantly, I need to embrace the madness and be unafraid to take risks and even die. The game system has "Hero Points" that can be used to ensure heroic success or avoid death. I just need to remember that and go for it.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Mouse Trap

Last night, H**** noticed signs and announced that she thought we had mice. I didn't think it was a big deal, such things happen, so I simply got out the traps and set them up.

We use the "humane" traps that capture the mice for release later so, when I got up this morning I saw that one of the traps had been tripped. I looked inside to see a little deer mouse looking up at me. (They're kind of cute.)

H**** took the trap with her and dropped the little rodent off near a cemetary on her way somewhere (far away so they don't come back into our house, at least).

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Bungee Boss

Less then four months ago, T*** started as our new Site Manager. In doing so, they screwed over N***, who thankfully wasn't just let go. Instead, they made N*** the coordinator for the Help Desk picking up all the work from the Financial Services Helpdesk getting "displaced".

Good thing, because T*** left today and they needed someone to take over as Site Manager again.

On further investigation, I learned that T*** simply wasn't qualified for the job. He was a "paper manager" apparently without any practical or technical experience and he was simply overwhelmed. He never delivered on any of the promises he made, wouldn't interact with any of the staff and spent most of his time hiding in his office sending out e-messages to the floor telling us to buckle down when there was a queue.

He was given the option and chose to fall on his sword.

Four months.

So now that N*** has been put back into the position as Site Manager it also looks like they won't be wasting their time looking for another "bungee" replacement. Of course, now the Corporate Overlords are going to have to face the music. They had filled the position with someone making over $80,000 a year. When they "allowed" N*** to come back, he was making something on the order of what I was making, less than half of what the Site Manager's salary was. Now, if they want to keep him, they will have to compensate him fairly.

When G***** and T*** were leaving, management panicked and counter-offered to keep them. I have to wonder how they can justify not having given the rest of us raises for three years when they were paying the guy before "Bungee Boss" upwards of $130,000 a year and counter-offered a couple of function desk people.

Oh, yeah. They DON'T justify it. It's supposed to be a secret that the two were counter-offered. We're not supposed to know how much management is being paid (even though they posted it on and we're not supposed to know that the people getting hired now are making more than the people hired just 6 months ago (also posted on Monster).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Quote of the Day

I was changing a password for a user. . . .

Geis: "You'll have to enter a new password"

User: "Can I use the same one I used yesterday"

Geis: "No. That's whay it's called a NEW password"

This is a great day for education.

Kansas Board of Education Chairman Steve Abrams said, "This is a great day for education" when the board passed the requirement that Science teachers be required to instruct their students that evolutionary theory is not proven, and will have to add that life is in fact so complex, it could not have arisen without the involvement of some external agent, or higher power. They must include statements to the effect that the fossil record is inconsistent with evolutionary theory; that there is a lack of physical evidence to explain our genetic code, and that evolutionary explanations are "not based on direct observations and often reflect inferences from circumstantial evidence"

Really. What the fuck is wrong with these people?

This creationism garbage is not science and has no place in science education. These people have deluded themselves into the narrow minded and dogmatic belief that the Bible is the absolute and pure word of god and must be taken literally. Hell, even the Pope has warned about such an interpretation. Sure, it took the Catholic Church 500 years to admit it was wrong for them to convict Galileo for saying the Earth went around the Sun, but they had actually given up on the geocentric universe idea a long, long time ago.

What is wrong with the fundamentalists in this country? Do they want to create a nation of morons without critical thinking? A land of sheep who do not question or inquire or offer any challenge to the directives of their rulers? I guess they do. Idiots are easy to rule over. They don't question authority. They don't know better.

I read this news on the BBC website. The rest of the world is completely baffled by this behavior. It is akin to the religious fundamentalism that is producing terrorists in the Middle East.

Here in Pennsylvania, a small victory on that front. The entire Dover school board, who have since 2004 required that a creationist statement be read in biology classes, have been voted out of office. They are currently being sued for violating the constitutional separation of church and state and it seems likely that they will loose that case and the new board is unlikely to appeal. On the other hand, new board member Judy McIlvaine said "We are all for it (intelligent design) being discussed, but we do not want to see it in biology class."

Intelligent design is a sham. It certainly isn't science so, yes, it has no place in science class. But it's trying so hart to conceal its creationist foundation that it isn't even good theology anymore and as such has no place in a decent sociology, philosophy or any other -ogy class you could think of. I could see it in a class on the study of propaganda, but then it would be discussing the form and not the substance.

Monday, November 07, 2005


I got an e-mail from a contact at the city concerning another act of vandalism along the Eliza Furnace Trail. This gentleman has three flat bike tires in a week as a result of carpet tacks. The tacks were apparently along the trail and not associated with the lot so they are probably unrelated to our greasy vandal but with his having been greased before, he has decided to park somewhere else.

I haven't had any problems since August 18th but now that I have been able to save up a few bucks I am again thinking about getting a camera. I haven't been able to get my laptop/webcam to work properly due to software limitations and I don't want to mount a Sport Cam outside on a fence where it could be seen and taken. The problem is with putting such a camera inside. Would the IR trigger be able to detect someone through the window glass? Probably not.

Dunham's Sports has such cameras in their display case. I wonder if they would let me test one in their parking lot to see if it would work.

It wouldn't hurt to ask.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Selling out.

H**** is in San Diego this week at some sort of company-sponsored Microsoft conference. So, she calls me on Wednesday and out of the blue says, "I think you really should upgrade to WinXP."

My desktop machine at home has a 2 gig processor, 512 meg of ram, an 80 gig drive and is running Windows 98 Second Edition. Outdated? Perhaps. Obsolete? Certainly not. It runs all the software I need it to run, why should I upgrade?

H**** said she attended a demo of Symantec's latest anti-virus software which includes all sorts of neat features including anti-spyware software.

Ahhhh. Now I see why she wants me to upgrade. The latest Symantec product won't run on Win98. But, in all honesty, I don't need it.

First off, no hacker in his right mind, no matter how evil, is writing viruses to exploit weakness in Windows 98. Every hole in the system has been pretty much found and plugged by now so I don't need the latest and greatest AV software to protect my machine. I use Firefox and it does an excellent job of keeping spyware off of my machine. Scans with the software I have now turn up one piece of minor spyware only once every few months as opposed to the half a dozen I could pick up in a day of surfing with IE. I don't need a Symantec annual subscription. AVG works well.

On top of that, I have issues with Microsoft's requirement that I be connected to the Internet to update XP. Their EULAs give them permission to look at my system and install software, even from third parties, without asking my permission or even informing me about it. And in short order they are going to even further restrict the license so that they could use the online update process to make my operating system cease to function if I do not upgrade to the next OS.

I don't need WinXP. I don't need its features, capabilities or vulnerabilities and I certainly don't need to sell my soul to Bill Gates for it. So, why should I spend hundreds of dollars for something I don't need? I'm no neo-Luddite but I don't see the reason to jump on the latest technology bandwagon when the technology I have now, only seven years old, suits my purposes.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

More vacancies.

I just started training a new back of analysts, the fourth batch in a row.

But I hear some other recent news. D**, one of the people I trained earlier this year, has given his two week notice. Now, when he was hired, they offered him $10.50 an hour. Later, while looking for postings on, he saw a listing for Help Desk in Pittsburgh. When he looked up the details, it was for new employees at our help desk.

The kicker was that the offer for them was $12.00 a hour.

I know this sort of thing goes on all the time. I know that I am making more than some of the (few) employees who have worked there longer than I have, but to see that listed in black-and-white on the website is even more insulting.

Word quickly spread throughout the Help Desk and those that started at the same time for the $10,50 an hour rate went and talked to the HR Rep and the Site Manager. The response was that they would "look into it" which, from experience, means that they will send their question up to the Corporate Overlords and then forget about it. The only substantive thing to come about is that the listing at for the next batch of hires did not have an actual pay rate listed.

I asked D** to see what other sort of opportunities are available where he's gone. The benefits sound top rate and the owner sounds like he cares about his people. I could do for some improvement in that category.

I also learned that M*** gave his two week notice. Now M*** was one of those employees that you wished would leave. He didn't produce quality work and was an irritant to all those around him, speaking constantly about sports endlessly (Hockey and Baseball) and getting into every conversation whether he knew anything about the topic or not. I was very glad to be sitting on the other side of the room.

When he tendered his two week notice they told him not to bother filling out the time. Someone else has cleared out his desk for him.

Monday, October 31, 2005

And so, it begins

Today is Halloween and construction has begun on the big nativity scene that goes up each year on the plaza at USX. It does not bother me in and of itself, it is what it portents because in short order the holiday decorations will go up in the stores. The lights and advertisements will line the streets. The billboards will proclaim the coming season. The carols will play in lobbies and elevators. There will be no escape.

As a non-Christian, I understand better than most Christians the importance of the religious freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution. The pilgrims came to the New World looking for religious freedoms. Their descendants, faithful Christians all, fought a revolution and enshrined in the Constitution the right of people to worship the way they chose. But the modern Christians have forgotten this. They know themselves to be the majority and believe that it conveys on them the moral duty to guide the nation the way they think it should be guided. They are, after all, the majority.

But the Constitution is not there to protect the rights of the majority. It is to protect the individuals from the tyranny of the majority. The First Amendment freedom of religion is there to allow people to believe and worship as they wish. Or to not believe and not worship if they choose.

Of course, as a non-believer (or "infidel"), I must tolerate other's expression of faith or else I become as hypocritical as they are.

Doesn't the Bible say something about not worshiping idols, and yet I see people standing in adoration of larger-than-life ceramic replicas, literally praying to them. People pray directly to Mary, Saints and angels for divine intervention, forgetting their own First Commandment.

And didn't Jesus say a thing or two about charity and helping ones fellow man? How much money has been dropped into this exaltation? This huge advertisement which will stand for three months. Surely the tens of thousands of dollars could have been put towards the betterment of society. It's built like a house. With the same money and a slight re-design it could actually be a house to protect the homeless that wander the streets of Pittsburgh from the coming harsh winter.

And every day I'll walk by. There will be no escaping the music blaring on expensive stereo speakers.

The Grinch complained about the noise generated by the Whos down in Whoville. He became bitter because of the incessant joyful noise and I can understand his pain all the more because I have come to believe that the Whos singing in front of their creche don't really understand what it is they're actually singing about. They talk about "the meaning of the season" but then never take the steps that the guy they're worshiping told them they should take. The carols are empty self-agrandizement driven by a mob mentality.

It's that hypocrisy that will grate on my nerves day after day for the next few months.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Mutants & Masterminds: Session 1

H**** has convinced me to join in a Mutants & Masterminds superhero game that she's involved in. It wasn't a hard sell. It's been a long time since I've been in a role-playing game of any significance and I've been missing it. So, I've created a Mad Scientist.

Character: Brian Czitrovszky

Brian is a Mad Scientist in the mold of Christopher Lloyd's character in "Back to the Future" or Brent Spiner's character in "Independence Day". He's a super-genius with half a dozen doctorates. He wears these goggles all the time (even when sleeping or showering) that give him infrared, low light, x-ray and other specialty visions. He's got a force field belt with an extradimensional pocket built into it so that he can carry lots of tools and equipment. He has one super power in that he can mentally connect with computer, electronic and mechanical machines. He has that power at a fairly low level (level 3 with a range of 1000 feet) but I thought it would be useful. Brian has a lab in a former railroad roundhouse. Lots of equipment lying about. Weird things. Empty pizza boxes, cheetoes wrappers and Red Bull cans lying about. Don't look in the refrigerator.

I've been careful not to give him a superhero name. He doesn't have a secret identity. His computer (named Aimee) refers to him as Doctor. Most know him as Dr. Czitrovszky. His online name is Doctor Woot.


Brian is involved in some slightly less than above board activities. He is building low-level power enhancers and selling them to a minor-cape out of costume named Firebrand. Firebrand shows up at the Lab and pays in cash. He also warns of a villain out and about in the city named Scourge that is trying to kill people off. Oh, and there are political things in the works over the regulation or restriction of those with super powers.

Brian has another customer named "Mr. Johnson". He lives in a upscale end of town and deliveries of the devices are made to him. (He gets charged extra). In making a delivery I arrive to find his house on fire. Looking not at the house but at the surrounding area, I see a red-and-black clad, Ninja-esque guy on a rooftop watching things. When he notices me noticing him, he disappears in a puff of streamers. I take to calling him the Confetti Ninja. I later find out by listening to the Police frequencies that someone was found inside the home, burned beyond recognition but having been cut up.


I'm not familiar enough with the Marvel Comics universe to recognize a minor characters like Firebrand or Scourge, but that's where the GM got him. The political things are clearly based on the "Mutant Registration" storyline from X-Men. And the Confetti Ninja is Deadpool. Again, I don't know much about Deadpool but he is apparently a somewhat psychopathic mercenary with super-regeneration, the ability to teleport and who knows himself to be inside a comic book. I also have learned that Deadpool is the GM's favorite character and, based on past experience with GMs who really want to play one of the NPC's they happen to run, this version of Deadpool will be invincible. No matter what anyone does, the GMs pet NPC will be able to get away to move the plot where he wants it to go.

Not much exciting overall but it will be a few game sessions before he manipulates things to bring us all together to form a team.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Look, a bunny!

D****, our HR Contact, was at a meeting with the Corporate Overlords yesterday. On returning today, we didn't get exciting news about the restoration of salary increases, 401k matching, bonuses or any of the other valuable information one might expect from a meeting with the Lord High Muckedy-mucks.

We got. . . mousepads.

And it's not even a good mousepad. Sure, it have the corporate logo emblazoned in bright colors but those of us with optical mice have discovered that the surface it too reflective to work properly. The pointer bounces around, seemingly at random.

It strikes me as a piece of misdirection. Like a magician trying to point you in one direction while the real trick is going on somewhere else.

I am now a week past due for my performance appraisal. I haven't had any resolution on my occupation tax issue (9 months waiting). People who I started training nearly two months ago still haven't received their paychecks. The people who started nearly three weeks ago are due get their first paychecks the day after tomorrow. I wonder if they will get paid. They still haven't gotten most of the accounts they need to login nor have they all gotten access cards to enter the building. They still need to be escorted in by building security.

It's all smoke and mirrors.

Monday, October 17, 2005


I though both T*** and G***** were leaving but apparently at the last minute, literally, The Corporate Overlords made a counter-offer. Under normal circumstances they probably would not have accepted but the company to where they were going looks like they will be contracting with The Company for their Help Desk. They would be leaving here only to be bought up again by the same employer at a later date, having lost seniority and accumlated PTO.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Missing Serenity

I went to see "Serenity" today. In point of fact, I saw it a week ago but I was able to convince H**** to see it with me this time. And rather than going into a lengthy review (I liked it a lot), I want to comment on the differences between the two.

The movie I saw last week was not the same movie. There were three scenes that were cut. Not long scenes or terribly important scenes, but they were distinctly gone.

****** SPOILERS BELOW *******

When the crew is in the mule preparing to head off to the robbery and Simon says that it's OK to run and leave the others to die, River says, "I'm the brains of the operation."


When Mal receives the wave from Anara he is shirtless with pants but she can only see him from the waist up. She says "I hope you're wearing pants." Mal replies to the effect that he is the way he came into the world (implying that he is not, in fact, wearing any pants.


In the final fight scene between Mal and the Operative, the camera lingers close up so that you aren't sure who has been stabbed. For a moment, it cuts back to show the sword through Mal's side.


What is Destinta doing? Is Destinta getting a different version of the film or are they cutting it themselves? Whay would a theater show a version different from other theaters and, if they were editing it for some sort of content, why would those three scenes be cut?

I feel as if I've been robbed or deceived.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Tumbling tumbleweeds.

Today was T***'s last day. V*** also appears to be gone. N*** will be changing to part time next week and while G**** has anounced that he's leaving next week, he's hoping that perhaps The Corporate Overlords will make him a counter offer because his leaving (in addition to T***'s) will be cutting the Function Desk staff by half.

And here I was foolishly worrying that the new hires wouldn't have desks to sit at. Indeed, things are starting to look fairly empty at the Help Desk. Of course, their leaving and the increasing call volume due to the Finantial Services Help Desk downsizing make it all the more difficult for those of us that remain.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Annual delay.

Today is the sixth anniversary of working for The Bank. Not something I am particularly pleased with but it is the day that I was due to have my annual performance appraisal. It's not unusual for it to be late and this year was no exception. My Team Lead said that they couldn't have it today but they definitely wanted to have it by the end of the week.

Not that it matters. No pay raises. No bonuses. Just another year of superior performance by myself with no hope of fair compensation.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Welcome to The Suck.

Columbus Day.

The typical plan for bank holidays is, because the branches are closed, we are at half staff or less. Half of the staff works this holiday and then will have off the next minor bank holiday (Veteran's Day). Major bank holidays, like Thanksgiving, find everyone off except the handful of volunteers willing to get a little bit of extra time in addition to holiday pay. I may be one of them because I won't be able to get the Friday after Thanksgiving off and, since I won't be able to visit with family in Maryland because of that, I might as well get some extra pay by working that Thursday.

But, back to Columbus Day.

Even though we are at half staff and the branches are closed, the markets are still open. Which means brokers and financial service consultants. But the Help Desk that supports them are due to get the axe. They are working a bare minimum levels and most of their duties have been transferred to us. Which means a high volume of calls and almost noone at the Help Desk to take them.

The Powers That Be did not take that into account when staffing the Help Desk.

Wait times were 30 minutes long at times. I took 150 calls, one right after the other. All day.

The result is on Veteran's Day, a day I might have expected to have off, we'll have to be nearer to full staff. Well, I need the money.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Three of the four new hires showed up today. Not an good start. Many of the recent hires are coming in with a lot more experience than the Tech School recent grads that HR has been hiring of late. On one hand, it shows a market that has skilled people taking a cut in pay to find a job. On the other, these people will be jumping ship at the first opportunity.

And another analyst has done just that today. We ar hemorraging employees at an astonishing rate. And I have been training their replacements on an almost continuous basis for months.

I'm due for my annual performance appraisal next week. I'm not expecting good news. Sure, my performance has been excellent, but I suspect questions of pay raises, bonuses and the like will continue to be met with platitudes. "We're looking into it," seems to be the catch phrase.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Two for the road.

On Friday, I noticed that J**, one of the newest analysts, came in early and was sitting with B***. So, when the others showed up and I was looking to place them with established analysts to listen in on calls, I was surprised to see the new guy gone. Another of the new analysts didn't show today.

Another analyst told me that J** had been called into the office and, shortly thereafter, grabbed his backpack and was escorted off the floor.

The only thing that I can imagine a new analyst doing to generate that sort of reaction would be failing the drug test. I asked what was going on and D**** didn't tell me anything except to say neither of the two would likely be coming back.

So, out of the seven analysts hired three weeks ago, only three remain. That's an extremely high drop out rate. Four more are going to be starting tomorrow.

But, on top of that, two of our function desk people have found jobs. Both at a company that has hired people away from our helpdesk before. A place that has gotten a lot of praise from those who have gone before.

Oh, and N***, the analyst who used to sit next to me before I moved to the full cube and someone who I had trained, has gotten another job. He'll still be working part-time for the Helpdesk here but at his new place he's got full-time salary and benefits.

I need to send out more resumes.

Friday, September 30, 2005

The Whack-A-Mole Keyboard

I cannot type. No, that's not quite true. I typically type using the "5 finger" method, a step above "hunt-and-peck". I can even get up to 40 words per minute. But it's not 100% accurate. When I'm having a particularly difficult time typing, I will say that I need the "whack-a-mole" keyboard with big keys that I can smack with a hammer. "K!" *bam* "E!" *bam* "Y!" *bam*

Reading on I see that someone has, in fact, invented just that: The Sledgehammer Keyboard.

It needs TWO hammers!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

In the dungeon

This mornings bike ride into work was entertaining. The thunderstorms had ended just as I was getting up but it was still raining quite heavily on the way in. Nothing like arriving at work soaking wet.

Then, arriving on my floor and beginning the process of moving to my new cubicle. Someone had stolen the nice, new chair that had been there and left me a piece of junk that was more beat up than the chair I had now. I asked around but noone would fess up. Eventually, my Team Lead said that he and the other leads had claimed them. T**** said that she had had her chair for a long time and R**** just denied it. That left only my Team Lead to have taken it.

"Thanks a lot, J***."

"You're welcome."


I started moving my things and, once my computer was in place I turned it on and "tried it on for size." It was kind of bright so I climbed up and disconnected two on the fluorescent lights. Now it seemed a little dark but I had to make it that way to reduce the glare.

Perhaps I'll get a desk lamp to keep it from seeming like I'm in a dungeon.

I wasn't able to find a periscope but I did take a webcam to work. With that, I can mount it on a pole or something and use it just like a high-tech periscope. The problem is, the webcam is an old one that doesn't have drivers for WinXP.

I have a new webcam that I was going to bring in but I just read my daughter's blog. It seems that she's gotten a new tatoo and, to post a picture of it for all to see she was going to ask me to bring up the webcam for her when I visit her at school the weekend. Funny that I have to learn about this in her blog rather then her sending me an e-mail, IMing me or talking to me on the phone.

What a strange commentary on modern communication.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Main Street Theft.

When I got back to my bike today after work, I discovered that someone had stolen my handlebar bag. The contents were two or three chemical glow sticks and an almost empty bottle of chain lube but the bag itself was worth $20 or so. Not a tremendous loss but something I will eventually have to replace.

Apparently a busy street is not enough to deter petty criminals and someone without biking gear taking something from a locked-up bike obviously not his isn't enough to get the attention of nearby pedestrians.

I suppose I should start parking in the building. There really isn't a place to park the bike inside. There are no bike racks in the parking garage. Any railing I could lock my bike to is part of a thoroughfare and thus could be hindering pedestrian traffic. I don't want to just find, as was suggested by building security, "an out of the way corner" and just leave it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Movin' on up.

In an effort to find places for the new analysts to actually work, The Powers That Be have added four new cubicles. The rest of the Help Desk have half-height cubes so that everyone can see (and be seen) by everyone. The Bank didn't have any more pieces to put together half cubes and weren't going to spend any more money than is absolutely necessary so the four additional cubes stuck on the end are full, high-wall cubes.

And so the struggle began as to who would actually get them. The Hardware Guy and The Programmer were the two top choices because they really don't interract with anyone on a regular basis. They just sit and do their thing. Two down, two to go.

Well, 1 to go because I was offered one of the cubes.

I was a little hesitant to accept. I'm already as far away from the windows as one could be without being in the hallway. The cube I would be in was actually even further away from the windows and, with the high walls, I'd have to stand on a box to see them. I asked if anyone else wanted the cube and was told that they were being offered to those "who could work well unsupervised."

For as bad an egg as I am, they still think it's appropriate to put me in a position where noone will be able to see what I'm doing. A mark of respect, I suppose.

So, I'm going to accept. But I'll need a periscope or something so I won't be completely isolated.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Short Memories.

Lots of fun today. Twice today, D**** interrupted my class to ask me about changes he was making to a document that I had created to keep track of the accesses that had been granted or were still needed for new analysts. He was clearly working from an old document because it did not have the new accesses that we had received for a financial services group that is having their help desk responsibilities rolled into ours.

So, R*** the Education Coordinator later asks; "I know you are leaving early next Friday, would you be available to come in on Saturday?"


I was talking off early next Friday so I can spend the weekend visiting my daughter at college for Parent's Day.

Even later, D**** the HR Rep comes over to tell me that the week after next will be the third training group and by then I'll have to have this group (currently at the one week mark) up and running. So, what took three weeks with the last group will need to take two weeks for this current group. And to get the group after that up and running even more quickly I'll be spending six hours a day training instead of the current four hours.

I was unable to contain my joy.

And then I brought up the issue with D****. I asked if he had taken on the responsibility of tracking all the analysts accesses. I had thought to say that I didn't want to work with him because of all the previous issues (Something Stinks-16 Dec 2004) that I considered unresolved but instead I was more forceful.

"I won't work with him on this."

D***, as she almost always does, had a look on her face that was "I don't know what your talking about," having clearly forgotten the reminder I had sent her a month ago. (Do you remember when-25 Aug 2005) So, I had to explain it to her.

"Well, we're a teem and we have to be able to work together."

"I will not work with him."

She just said, "OK", and moved on the the training schedule again, apparently burying her head in the sand hoping it would all go away.

But, at the end of the day before going home I went to her cube to explain just how seriously I took this.

"The only thing that prevented my walking out of here that day was that I had a meeting with you in half an hour. If it wasn't for that, I would have been out of her and been calling a lawyer. And I would have been fully justified to do so. . . If he had said something like that to a Bank employee, The Bank would have had him fired. If I had said something like that to one of the people I was training, I wouldn't be a trainer anymore. As it was, he got a stern talking to. I don't consider the issue resolved."

"What do you expect?"

"I got what I expected. He got a stern talking to. But that's not what I believe should have been done. In just about any other business environment he would have been fired. At the very least he wouldn't be a team lead any more. I know that sort of action is never going to happen."

I told her I considered this the third major incident and, given that nothing of any significance has been done for any of those, I have no reason to believe that it won't happen again. She again got the quizzical look and I had to remind her of the incident where he warned me that "it's a tough job market out there" and the other where he accused me of "Just Geis being Geis" and refused to take the situation into the privacy of an office with the Site Manager, instead keeping it out on the floor in an attempt to embarrass me publicly.

She said that if I was angry all the time then maybe I shouldn't be working there. I didn't take it as a threat that I would be fired but as a suggestion that perhaps I should either get with the program or go somewhere else. Sorry, I'm not going to quit over this. They're going to have to fire me and then I'll have all this documentary evidence to take to a lawyer.

But I didn't say that. I simply reiterated, "I will not work with D**** without the filter of management. I will talk to you and you can talk to him then he can talk to you and back to me."

She suggested that since T*** is new to being the Site Manager and hasn't been involved in this, perhaps I should talk to him.

I know my employee folder has a lot of this stuff documented but, even though I've suggested it, I'm pretty sure that T*** hasn't gone through it. Hell, even D**** has forgotten issues I voiced less than a month ago. So I suppose I'll have to create an information package with all the relevant stuff and set up a meeting.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Day two of this batch of training and the guy who didn't show up yesterday didn't show again today. I was also told that one of the six remaining has decided that it's too far for him to drive for part time at $12 an hour and will no longer be joining us. That's a 30% loss in the first two days. A new record.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Out of the gate.

The second batch of eight started training today. Actually, they only hired seven and one of those didn't show up because he was in an auto accident yesterday. I don't know whether he didn't show because he was hospitalized or because he didn't have transportation but I figure if he doesn't show tomorrow then he's going to be asked not to bother.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Training Spaces

N*** tells me that the Help Desk has gotten approval for additional cubicles for our additional staff. Four cubes will be set up on the floor and four desks in the training room will be cubed off.

"So, with half the space from the training room gone, where will I do training next week when I get eight more people in here? And then what about the eight people coming after that?"

He didn't know anything about that. Apparently we're going to have to scramble, beg or otherwise seek out a place to train. We have two desks available on the floor now. Four additional cubes on the floor and four in the training room will make ten. Of course, we only have seven computers so, without the computers, the cubes are useless. We're still going to be a dozen cubes and computers short.

Oh, and the scheme for the third eight is that Management wants them to be trained on passwords so that they can get on the phones in three days. It typically takes three weeks to get people up to the point that they are taking calls, sometimes longer. But three days! That's completely unreasonable. And considering that it typically takes at least two weeks to get accounts for people, there is no way they are going to be up and running in three days no matter what sort of miracle I pull out of my ass.

In the e-mail I sent to the Site Manager and Education Coordinator, I used "slipshod training and piss-poor customer service" to express my opinion about this idea. The response I received expressed that they shared my concerns but tough cookies. It wasn't said like that but I was given the impression that this pressure is coming from The Corporate Overlords and The Bank so we have to come up with some ambitious plan, even if such plan is totally unreasonable and has no hope of actually succeeding.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Faronics fraud

I received an e-mail this morning that purported to be from Paypal:

Because of the recent Internet fraud activity and the recent innovations in our anti-fraud Department we are planning to introduce a new checking and money transfer coming from the PayPal system confirmation. You`ll get a notification about every PayPal transaction on to your mobile phone.

For this we strongly reccomend you to click the link bellow and update your personal info by entering the paypal site and entering your cell phone number.

Now, I've received these sorts of messages before and was able to immediately recognize it as fraudlent. The mispellings of "reccomend", "bellow" and a few gramatical problems helped. The way to know for sure is to point (but not click) on the link and see that the website it would take you to is instead of

So, I went to Network Solutions and did a WHOIS on the address and learned that it was registered by one Brent Smithurst of British Columbia two days ago. An internet search found out that Brent is Vice President of Technical Operations of Faronics Corporation in Coquitlam, BC.

So what Brent is doing is prending to be Paypal so he can mine the Internet for Paypal account passwords and cell phone numbers.

So, just for laughs, I went to the site and signed into the fraudlent Paypal site using Brent's e-mail address and the password "fraudster". It looked just like a Paypal site and even the code was lifted straight from Paypal's site, but since it allowed me to sign in with Brent's e-mail address and a made up password, it is not Paypal's site. (Unless Brent happened to have the password "fraudster".)

The site asked for credit card information, including the number on the back to "prove" that you actually have the card in your hands. It asked for a cell phone number. It asked for social security number. I filled in some information on behalf of Brent and submitted it whereupon it redirected me to an actual Paypal login site where I was told the login information I had entered was incorrect.

The irony of all this is that Faronics produces products to protect computers from unauthorized executables. I can't help but think that their products protect you from competators executables but allow the worms and viruses produced by the back offices at Faronics right on in.

I have, of course, forwarded all this information to Paypal. I hope that monday morning, Brent will be receiving a call from Paypal's lawyers or, better yet, from the Canadian authorities.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Third time's a charm.

So, R*** the Education Coordinator informs me that after the next batch of eight new hires that will be starting the 19th, there will be yet another batch of eight new hires. This is all on top of the fact that we don't have desks, or computers for the first batch of eight (now six because two have quit already). We have two desks available. There are three in the training room for a total of five. But we need to find places for twenty-two additional staff.

Oh, sure. techs have been in measuring the cubicles looking to add a few more, and there has been talk about of re-working all the cubicles to be two feet smaller and thus squeeze in another row but even that radical reconstruction doesn't find room for nearly doubling the staff in the Help Desk area. And they haven't actually done any work. They just show up again a few days later and measure the same things over again. During one day, techs were under my desk three times. What the hell did they see the third time that they didn't see the first two?

D****, the HR Contact said "It won't happen overnight," but I countered "I don't expect it to happen overnight but it has been going on four weeks now and the weeks are rolling by quickly. Very soon, 'not happening overnight' is going to become 'too late.'"

R*** is asking if I'd be willing to do earn some overtime and do some training on weekends. I suppose they have to since there aren't enough desks or the training room available during the week. And me, like an idiot, said, "I suppose. I'll have to check exactly when to see if I already have something scheduled."

A few weeks of sixteen hours of overtime will be nice but it won't make up for the fact that I haven't gotten a raise in THREE FUCKING YEARS!

It's not like I have much of a choice, though. It's an impossible task, getting worse and worse but if it's to have any hope of working out, I'm going to be the one to make it happen.

Monday, August 29, 2005

First and final warning.

The Education Coordinator came up to me today saying that they had four machines set up in the training room and that some of the new guys were going to be taking password calls tomorrow.

"You are aware that none of them have actually taken any calls yet and that, even under ideal circumstances, they wouldn't be on their own for another week, right?"

So, apparently even my impossibly accelerated schedule for training isn't fast enough. Normally it would be a week of classroom training, a week of listening on calls and then a week of taking calls with analyst supervision. I don't think three weeks is a bad turn around time for what is expected of these guys. But now we're just starting their third week and *BANG* they're being thrown to the wolves. And it's R***, the Education Coordinator that is going to be mentoring them.

It was because R*** was the trainer and doing a less that spectacular job that I volunteered to take over as trainer in the first place.

And management wonders why I think that what I have to say falls on deaf ears. I told the Site Manager outright last week that they would need another week. They got four hours.

Oh, and they didn't get paid on Friday like they should have. So, yet another batch of new people are having their paychecks screwed up.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Do you remember when?

After yesterday's frakas over the new printer procedures, I came in this morning to see an email from D**** reiterating the procedures I had violated in attempting to actually help a user instead of wasting thei time.

So, I replied and CCd to the Site Manager, the HR Person and my Team Lead reminding them of the Something Stinks Incident of last december and my request as a result of it that D**** not talk to me again.

If you ever want to talk to me or about me concerning policy, procedure or the cost of tea in China, you will go to the Help Desk Manager. Do not approach me in the hallway. Do not hover by my cubicle. Everything goes through Management"

If the new Site Manager hadn't gone through my file by now, I bet he'll look into it now. I did not describe the incident in today's reply, only the date and the resulting request to keep D**** away from me.

As of late, I've noticed that D**** has not been keeping his distance as he had been. Perhaps he had forgotten. Well, I have not. I still think about it often and steel feel uncomfortable with him on the floor.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The help desk shuffle.

Last week in my meeting with the Site Manager, I spoke with him about some of the stupid policies that had been instituted over the rears and that Managements inability to explain the reasons for these policies was one of the things that destroyed morale. I also admitted to ignoring particularly inane or tedious procedure when following those procedures interfered with my ability to to help the user's calling for my help.

Maybe if a Team Lead would say "Yes, I know it's a cumbersome procedure but we have to do it because the XYZ Group is accusing us of hanging up on them deliberately and we have to document what's going on," then maybe we would feel let put upon. We would be a team working together under the same circumstances towards the same goal. Perhaps with that knowledge of why such a procedure was put in place, those of us who are actually implimenting the procedure could come up with something better to resolve the issue.

He responded that he recognized those communication failures and that working with the Team Leads on that was one of his top priorities. He also expressed a committment to customer service.

A new, stupid procedure went into effect today.

Printer support in branches is provided my the printer manufacturer. They have consistantly shown a disinclination to go on site and resolve issues, I suspect because their contract doesn't pay them extra for on-site visits. So now, we have a new layer of troubleshooting. The analyst who gets the call needs to troubleshoot the issue. Then, if they cannot resolve it they must go to either J**, C**** or J*** to take the call and perform troubleshooting. If they are unable to resolve the issue then they need to conference in the Manufacturer Support Line to have them troubleshoot the call. Only if that does not work, then a ticket will be opened.

All the while, the user is waiting and waiting and waiting.

This is not good customer service. It's not good communication as to why this assenine procedure was put in place. It's not really workable. And, of course, when push came to shove, I ignored it.

Well, I didn't exactly ignore it. I waited for one of the Printer Triumverate but one was away from his desk, another was on another call that looked like it was going to take quite some time and the third, the person who is the head of our Hardware Escelation "group" doesn't usually bother with reading the entire ticket becauee he's so busy so why should I expect him to have time to troubleshoot.

I opened a ticket and said in the freeform that the "printer troubleshooting anaysts were unavailable".

D****, who I have had many a run in with before, threw a copy of the procedure on my desk, on top of what I was doing at the time. He had thoughtfully highlighted just the steps that I had violated. I was on a call, threw his paper out of my way, and took a moment to put the call on mute so I could tell him that noone had been available.

"You could have said that in the ticket."

"I did. Read the freeform again."

I'm pretty sure that D**** came up with the procedure, just as he has been the architect os so many poorly conceived and executed policies and procedures. And, that this happened yet again show me that the Site Managers rhetoric of last week was just that; empty rhetoric.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

What does that mean exactly?

I received a call from someone who saw my resume on the Internet. For a moment or two I was excited but then he said that it would involve 5 to 10 hours a week and earn me $2,500 to $3,000 a month. He said it was "redirecting buying power over the Internet."

"That's sounds fairly euphemistic. What does that mean exactly?"

He said that it was difficult to explain over the phone and that he would like to meet with me for twenty minutes or so at, say, Pannera's.

"When I've spoken with potential employers before, they have always been able to tell me what job I was performing. Even in general terms."

"Oh, I wouldn't be your employer. But it's like trying to get a haircut over the phone. I'd really want to meet with you to discuss this."

"Hmmm. 'Redirect buying power' sounds like a multi-level marketing. . . er. . . program."

"Well, yes. . . "

"Thank you for calling but I'm not interest in your scheme."

Many rears ago, I received a similar phone call from a "friend" of mine. We went on for nearly half an hour with him dancing around not only what his "offer" would actually entail or on whose behalf I would be working. It turned out to be Amway but I was astonished at the level of obsfucation. And it wasn't particularly effecting dodging. In this instance, I knew it was a scam as soon as he said "5 to 10 hours a week and $2,500 to 3,000 a month." An employer going to pay me essentially $75 a hour for my technical skill? No way.

I stayed on as long as I did just to see how long it would be before I could get him to admit it was a pyramid scheme.

It was disappointingly short.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Touched by his Noodly Appendage


Any description I try to make about this at this time will be inadequate. You simply must read it for yourself.

Open Letter to Kansas School Board
Touched by his Noodly Appendage by Niklas Jansson

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Upon the king!

I heard an open letter on NPR today from Stephen Mansfield, author of "The Faith of the American Soldier". In this commentary, he chided Cindy Sheehan for bringing her grief over the death of her son in Iraq into the spotlight by waiting outside the Bush ranch for an audience with the president.

The central issue is that when your son volunteered for military service, he placed himself upon an altar of sacrifice. Sadly, the ultimate sacrifice was indeed required. Yet he gave himself willingly, as all our soldiers do in this generation, and his death is therefore the noble death of a hero and not the needlessly tragic death of one accidentally or foolishly taken

When your son, and the thousands like him serving today, pledged himself to military service, he did not just "join the army." He offered himself to his God and his nation in an act of devotion that has been repeated for centuries. He entered the fellowship of those who offer their lives willingly in service to others. His death, though a horror, was a horror with meaning, willingly engaged.

My first thought at comments like these was that, in truth, these soldiers are not willing sacrifices. The vast majority of them are poor and undereducated, looking to do something better with their lives. They are enticed by military recruiters with promises of job training and money for college. I remember back in high school and early college when I was approached by these head hunters. They never talked about noble sacrifice. The never said anything about combat. They never mentioned the possibility of injury or death. They barely even mentioned service to country. No, this was a career opportunity.

The other image I had in my mind was Shakespearian. In Act 4, Scene 1 of "Henry V", the king, disguising himself as a "gentleman of a company" has an encounter with some soldiers pondering their fate and the coming battle.

One soldier speaks:

But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection.

This is Cindy Sheehan's contention. The war in Iraq is not the noble cause the administration makes it out to be. Saddam Hussein, while a tyrant, had nothing to do with the attacks of September 11th and did not have weapons of mass destruction. Without those reasons, George W's justifications evaporate, leaving only revenge for his father's embarrassment in not bringing down Saddam in the first war.

Only if George W's cause is just, will the deaths of the soldiers that he ordered into battle have meaning. Only if the battle objectives are noble will the deaths of the soldiers be noble. The president will have much to answer for should this adventure prove to be a fools errand. And, in my view and that of Cindy Sheehan, it's not looking to well.

Upon the king! let us our lives, our souls, Our debts, our careful wives, Our children and our sins lay on the king!

Flash! AAAAA-aaaaaaa!

Do you remember the Flash Gordon film from 1980? There is the scene where Flash is in the Forest capital (or something like that) and Prince Barin (Tomothy Dalton) is challenging him to put his hand in this tree root where some deadly poisonous creature may, or may not, bite him.

Well, every day when I return to my car after work, I have exactly that feeling when I reach for the door handle. Waiting to discover if that bastard has greased my door handle yet again. I breath a sigh of relief each time I learn that he has not struck yet again.

But, I was lulled into a false sense of security today when I opened the passenger side door without problem and then got slimed wen I want around to open the driver's side door.

This makes number five.