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.