Thursday, March 31, 2005

That light at the end of the tunnel . . .

The Corporate Overlords announced a new on-line feature that allows employees to adjust their direct deposit, change their W2 tax forms and view their pay stubs. So, having the new feature we decided to take a look. Imagine my horror when I discovered that I only worked two days last week.

OK, so I had actually worked a full 40 hour week. I then dutifully filled out the timesheet and submitted my time for said 40 hours. And somewhere between the submission and the printing of the checks the 40 changed to a 16.5. Some people were lucky and got credited for having worked 80 hours but more hit by an oncoming freight train and shorted like I was.

How do they fuck this up. This is an automated system where I enter the number and someone at HR looks at that number and says "OK". The system prints the checks from there. No math involved in figuring out the hours. I work 40 hours. I enter 40 hours. They approve 40 hours. The system prints 16.5. Where the hell did that number come from?

It's nice to see that my PTO balance is now included on the check so, after a pile of math because they didn't include cumulative hours worked for the year, I was able to determine that they did adjust for the 8 hours of PTO they shafted me for before Christmas. I've only been asking about that for three months.

It gets me thinking about if I get this job I want at The School, what will happen to that PTO? About 50 hours of it. I am entitled to be paid for it. Will I get a check? When I give my two weeks notice they better have that answer pretty damn quick or I will simply submit a week of PTO and leave a week early. I'll be damned if I'm going to let 50 hours of compensation just evaporate.

I hope I'm not counting my weasels before they've popped but I really want this other Help Desk job.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

It was me.

I had my interview at The School and I think it went exceptionally well. A few highpoints:

There were some 450 applications of which I am one of 4 or 5 that are being interviewed.

When the Manager took the position, the Help Desk was somewhat directionless. She has been moving towards a more customer service oriented operation which fits perfectly with my Help Desk philosophy.

She knows someone I know from another department and described him as "our best customer."

The Senior Consultant worked with my brother in-law.

The wife of the UNIX Engineering Manager works with my wife in a different department of The School.

All these connections were discovered after I made the "Final Four" on the strengths of my qualifications. These personal connections can only help to seal the deal.

The Purchasing Director recognized the Illuminiti tie-tack I was wearing. One of the Consultants also recognized it.

When the Senior Consultant was doing the first pass through the hundreds of applications, he saw that I had earned my Eagle Award in the Boy Scouts and on that alone flagged my resume for further attention. When I had been reworking my resume, my wife wondered if it was important and suggested I leave it out because it was from over 20 years ago. I insisted on including it and that decision has paid off.

The Network Manager had a sheet of networking questions. Things like "What is the difference between a switch and a router" and "What is IP?" I didn't do so well because, and I warned him about this in advance, I have worked with networks but have been out of practice. When I didn't answer the way he seemed to want he recited from memory answers that sounded right out of a textbook. Clearly, he was not focusing on the Help Desk philosophy. He also didn't seem too pleased with my lack of Linux experience.

It was immediately after that that I spoke with the Senior Consultant. "Did he ask you the 20 questions?" Apparently that sheet is a standard procedure of his and the Senior Consultant didn't seem too concerned (or impressed). As to Linux, the other Consultant in that interview said that he was hired with zero Linux experience but he learned it pretty quick.

The UNIX Manager also had the same sort of opinion of my lack of Linux experience and said that it is pretty much like Windows except that things are named differently and do things differently. That might not sound encouraging but, as with all OS systems, knowing that there is an analog makes it merely a matter of time to learn the nuances. He gave me a disk with a Knoppix version of Linux. This is a version that runs from the CD so it doesn't need to be installed, and also accesses the disk read-only so you can really work and navigate with the disk you have without risk. An excellent learning tool.

Almost everyone asked the standard question about why I wanted to leave my current position. I said that there were no opportunities for advancement, that I had gone about as far as I could and that I had not gotten a raise in three years. The Company had made a financial blunder back then and the employees were made to pay for it with a salary freeze. "That sucks!" the Help Desk Manager said.

"Yes. Yes, it does."

She said that they were going to interview 2 or maybe 3 other people this week. They would get people together to hammer out a decision on Monday and I should be hearing one way or the other after that. Probably Wednesday. When she first talked about how the process would go, it seemd like I would be brought in for another interview with the Department Manager. But at the end of the day it sounded more like that meeting would be more of a formality than a decision-making interview. Perhaps it was only an impression brought on by my good mood but I think that I really, really fit well into her idea of what she wants for the Help Desk. Whenever she spoke about her plans, I wanted to raise my hand and say, "Yea, that me."

Monday, March 28, 2005

Back on Track

A complete mystery.

The person at The School sent me an e-mail last Wednesday and I never received it. I sent her an e-mail on Thursday and she didn't receive that. Thankfully the voicemail I left today at her home number got through and so I'm back on for my interview tomorrow.

Or should I say interviews. I'm going to be meeting with various people in the department and other staff people over several hours. This is the typical "second interview" stuff that makes the final decision.


I haven't made any blog postings for a while. I've learned that if I wait until I get home to try to write about my day I simply don't do it. So, to combat this, I've opened up a Word document at work so that I can blog when the mood strikes me and then e-mail the text home to do the blog when I return home. It's not a great solution but it's better than nothing.

A coworker who sits next to me, the one who discovered that our employer had not been paying city taxes, has gotten another shock. He has apparently been the victim of identity theft and someone has been taking money from his checking account. He contacted Corporate HR to stop direct deposit from putting more money into the violated account. HR didn't do that. In fact, the local HR Rep said she had faxed the request out weeks ago but Corporate HR says they never saw it. Then, HR said they would overnight him a check to replace the one they had mistakenly deposited in the suspended account. When he received the overnight envelope it only contained an advice stub. Not an actual cashable check.

My own issues not only don't have a resolution but I have received no response whatsoever. It's been 4 weeks since I told them that my local taxes were being paid to the wrong municipality. It's been 6 weeks since I told them that they have never paid my city occupation tax. And it's been 3 months since they double-charged me for a day of PTO before Christmas.

I'm supposed to have a job interview tomorrow but I have not gotten a call or email from the person at The School confirming the details of exactly where and when. I sent a few reminder e-mails and left some voice mails but still no response. It's making me very nervous. I want very badly to be out of the place I am currently at.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Red shifting in place.

When I got home yesterday, there was a message on the answering machine. A job that I've been looking for and sent my resume in for several months ago looks like it may begin to pan out.

Now, at this point I will continue my policy of not identifying my employer by referring to this possible future employer as "The School."

I was very happy and my mood was pretty high all day, even though fate conspired to bring me down. The button on my pants popped off. The battery in my watch is going and I lost an hour somewhere. Someone greased the door handles on my car while it sat in the parking area. The new timecard procedures for my Corporate Overlords is a pain.

But, I got a call from The School and after a short discussion with the person there I am tentatively scheduled for a full interview in a week and a half.

I hate to get my hopes up but I can already feel myself getting ready to go.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Occasionally when I get into work, the oversize restroom stall that I use to change from my biking gear to my work clothes is occupied. I'm pretty sure it's the same guy each time because I can hear him in there turning the pages of his newspaper. So, instead of having the privacy of changing my clothes in a stall I have to change in front of the sinks. And I am able to undress, change, pack up and leave while he's still in there reading his newspaper.

I've never figured out what it is about sitting on the toilet and reading. Am I unusual in spending only the time necessary to take care of biological issues?

And another piece of restroom etiquette that I do not understand is people talking on their cell phones. Who in their right mind wants to talk to someone while sitting on the toilet? And who would want to hear someone talking while sitting on the toilet.

"Hey, Tom. How's it going? . . . . That's great. What I'm calling about is. . . er. . . hold on a sec. . . Ennnnnnnuggghhh *ploosh*. . . OK, where was I?"

Come on, guys. That is just so wrong.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


I've been watching the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy webcam of the Gulf Building Peregrine Falcon nest. I've known the pair have been back in the area and have been around the nesting box and have been looking forward to the real deal. Watching yesterday I saw what I assumed to be the female sitting on the "nest" all day. (The falcon nest is little more than a depression in the gravel of the nesting box).

Today, she decided to leave the nest revealing at least three reddish-brown brown eggs.

It turns out, I've been looking at an old website. The new one had updates that said that the first egg was laid on the 10th, the second on the 13th and the third earlier was earlier today.

More falcons = fewer pigeons.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Blocked and Logged

I wanted to sign on and blog about The Bank blocking access to Questionable Content, one of my favorite webcomics, only to find that they also blocked as well. From now on I'll have to save up these thoughts for when I get home. It kind of takes away some of the spontaneity of the blogs and takes away something that would otherwise fill the occasional downtimes.

I guess I'll have to start playing Nanaca-crash!!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Twice Shy

I was scheduled for a "Career Development Meeting" today and was completely forgotten. There is some managerial stuff going on as the Site Manager is moving on to "other opportunities" and someone else is being moved up temporarily. The Help Desk is also hiring some new agents.

So, my meeting was completely forgotten. For the second time. I was
supposed to have one of these meetings a month ago and they completely blew me off for that one as well.

But it's not like anything ever came of these meetings. The call them "Career Development Meetings" but, in fact they do nothing to develop my career. They just go over typical job performance things. Talk times, availability, all the normal day-to-day stuff. There are no more opportunities for career development here shot of going somewhere else. The use of the term "career development" is HR newspeak.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Can you hear me now?

Two weeks ago, I let my employer know that the city's occupation tax had not been taken out of my paycheck ever. Today, the HR Rep came to me on Corporate's behalf asking me to check the first paystub of the year to confirm that it hadn't been taken out.

First; don't they have these records?

Second; didn't you hear me when I said that the occupation tax had NEVER been taken out of my paycheck? Not this year. Not last year. Not in 2003, 2002, 2001 or in 2000. What part of NEVER did you not understand? Are you even listening to the words that are coming out of my mouth? For every problem I have, I seem to have to explain it in detail two or three times before they seem to do anything about it. I'm speaking English here. I'm saying the same thing each time. Do you think I'm making this stuff up? Don't you believe me?

And I think I may have mentioned this before but whenever one of these issues come up, or any issue for that matter, when I explain it to the HR Representative, she gets a very distinctive expression. I don't know what she's really thinking but her face always seems to say, "How could you even think that there's a problem?" Her expression is so vacuous it's amazing she doesn't actually become transparent.

At first, I found this vapidity somewhat amusing but I've really grown tired of it. Especially because I have to explain myself again and again and noone seems to take these issues seriously.