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.