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.