Friday, December 29, 2006


Reports are that Saddam Hussein is due to be hung for crimes against humanity any time now. I will not be sad to see him go and, in all honesty, I don't think I would have a moral dilemma we I pulling the lever myself. Good riddance.

But that having been said, it was never our place to invade Iraq searching for mythical weapons of mass destruction, fictional al Qaeda links, contrived "war of Terror" excuses or even as revenge for an assassination plot against Dubbya's daddy. Neither any of that or the ultimate goal of having Saddam swing was worth the thousands of young American soldiers nor the tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths that have resulted.

And, in the end, even the death of a murderous tyrant will not be a silver lining in this otherwise black cloud, for his kin will only elevate him to the status of martyr and escalate the civil war further.

And Dubbya is only too happy to oblige them with a so-called "surge" of his own. Matters will only get worse. We should get out and get out fast. We should have gotten out a long time ago.

We never should have gone in in the first place.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Drive-by Performance Review

As I was originally hired in October, my annual performance appraisal should also be in October. Typically, though, management seems to forget about it until I remind them. Since my performance isn't going to be converted into any sort of bonus or salary increase, I figured I wouldn't bother. Without any incentive or penalty, the review process seems moot.

Apparently, the Corporate Overlords sent word down that requires performance reviews be done for the calendar year instead of based on employment date and also must be completed by the end of this year. So, my Team Lead called me in.

It used to be that the Site Manager, Operations Manager and Team Lead were all in on the reviews. I had been given a review sheet in advance so that I could rate my own performance and in the meeting the four of us would go item-by-item though the list, comparing my opinion of my performance to that of my Team Lead. Performance reviews would take at least half an hour and would often go longer, especially once I got rolling with my opinions about how things were going at the Help Desk. My performance appraisal of the managers, as it were.

This time, the review process has been streamlined. The meeting with only my Team Lead took only a few minutes. There was no point-by-point review, just a summary. I am apparently an "adequate" employee with some verbal communications issues. No, there's no chance of a raise in the foreseeable future.

Back to work.

cryPod echoes

Several months back, I went through a nightmare trying to get my newly purchased iPod to work with my antiquated Win98 OS.

Afterwards, I noticed problems with my system running out of resources. At first, I didn't know what was gobbling up my memory but more and more I came to suspect that the iPod "detector" running in the background had a memory leak. I tried uninstalling the software but it didn't seem to actually go away. Finally, I started up my Microhelp Uninstaller software and cleaned it out thoroughly.

Performance seems to have improved on my desktop machine and I haven't yet run out of memory resources. The Xplay software and iPod Updater is still running on my laptop (because that's the only machine I could get to actually work with the iPod) but I don't use that machine often or for long enough for the memory leak to be much of a factor.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Inquiring minds are confused

I'm a regular reader of The Inquirer as it updates what's going on out in the techie world. And while I generally appreciate the British perspective presented there, I've grown tired of their butchering of the language. This is not some po-tay-toe / po-tah-toe conflict, but a stylistic decision made my the writers at The Inquirer.

For one, they have taken to referring to Microsoft as the Vole. I'm not entirely sure why Microsoft would be made synonymous with a small rodent but I understand that it is somewhat derogatory so I can deal with it.

But the writers are going further and further afield and it is making the articles more difficult to understand.

Open source has become open sauce.

Intel is Chipzilla.

Apple has become Fruitzilla. Apple computers with Intel processors are MacInteltosh.

Firefox is referred to as Firebadger or even Fireferret. Mozilla is

And, most recently, blog and become bog and bloggers are now boggers.

An occasional usage to point out that you are heaping a certain amount of ridicule on these companies and products is appropriate. A little bit of satire never hurt anyone. But when they seem to replace the correct word with this revisioned word in the spell checker, it makes the article difficult to understand. I shouldn't have to translate the article to know who you're talking about.

If this keeps up, I may abandon The Inquisition and just stick with The Register for my IT news from across the pond.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Things started out quietly this Friday morning but then picked up a little. At one point, D**** sent out a message:

"Geis - we're in the middle of've been on your call for 10 mins.......please wrap it up."

I've gotten into the habit of simply ignoring his talk time whining. Eight minutes later, after I had wrapped up that call and taken two more, he sent out another message:

"Geis - please disregard previous're averaging approximately 80 calls per days.....take as long as you'd like... I apologize for the oversight but I react when I see the queue and just start sending IMs to everyone."

The interesting thing is that I am not actually averaging 80 calls a day. My average is a still impressive 60 calls or so a day but I only top 80 calls on unusual days, say when a few mail servers go down or a branch application update fails. However, on Wednesday I was talking to the site manager and mentioned that on those days that I do take 80 calls, I am still outperforming everyone. I pointed to one print out hung in my cube from Tuesday when I took 80 calls for the day and the next highest analyst took 63 calls. The average for the Help Desk that day was 37.

So, when D**** sent out that message and CC'd everyone, the Site Manager must have sent him a response referencing the 80 calls number and saying essentially, "Geis is working his ass off so chill out."

Monday, December 18, 2006

$25 buys a goat

My mailbox today contained a Christmas gift from my Father-in-law. Twenty-Five dollars in an envelope taped to a donation catalog from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Thirty-some pages of ways that I can give the money I just received to ministerial causes worldwide.

He sent the same thing to his daughter and granddaughter. He knows they are Unitarians, and that's insulting enough, but does he realize that I'm an atheist? Does if have any clue how arrogant it is to send such a gift to an atheist taped to a blatant suggestion that it then be donated to evangelicals?

It's like sending a Hanukkah ham.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

26 Degrees of Separation

Today was the weather I hate the most for bicycle commuting; in the low 30s for the ride in, 60s for the ride home. Weather like that is a challenge to dress for as anything you wear for the ride in you have to carry for the ride back. It's much easier to plan for when the weather is uniformly cold or warm or moderate.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Test of Citizenship

At the end of November, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a new set of questions that will be administered to immigrants hoping to become naturalized American citizens. It is apparently a lot tougher than the previous test, they claim to make better citizens but, more likely, to deter or prevent citizenship.

What I wonder about is how many natural born US Citizens and products of the American education system could pass this test? I am pleased to say that I went through it and was able to answer the vast majority of the questions correctly, missing only the more trivia related ones such as "How many amendments does the Constitution have?" In fact, I even found a few errors. (more on that later.)

Why don't you try your hand and see if you could earn your citizenship:

1. Name one important idea found in the Declaration of Independence.
2. What is the supreme law of the land?
3. What does the Constitution do?
4. What does "We the People" mean in the Constitution?
5. What do we call changes to the Constitution?
6. What is an amendment?
7. What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
8. Name one right or freedom from the First Amendment.
9. How many amendments does the Constitution have?
10. What did the Declaration of Independence do?
11. What does freedom of religion mean?
12. What type of economic system does the U.S. have?
13. What are the three branches or parts of the government?
14. Name one branch or part of the government.
15. Who is in charge of the executive branch?
16. Who makes federal laws?
17. What are the two parts of the United States Congress?
18. How many United States Senators are there?
19. We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
20. Name your state’s two U.S. Senators.
21. How many U.S. Senators does each state have?
22. The House of Representatives has how many voting members?
23. We elect a U.S. Representative for how many years?
24. Name your U.S. Representative.
25. Who does a U.S. Senator represent?
26. Who does a U.S. Representative represent?
27. What decides each state’s number of U.S. Representatives?
28. How is each state’s number of Representatives decided?
29. Why do we have three branches of government?
30. Name one example of checks and balances.
31. We elect a President for how many years?
32. How old must a President be?
33. The President must be born in what country?
34. Who is the President now?
35. What is the name of the President of the United States?
36. Who is the Vice President now?
37. What is the name of the Vice President of the United States?
38. If the President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
39. Who becomes President if both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve?
40. Who is the Commander-in-Chief of the military?
41. How many full terms can a President serve?
42. Who signs bills to become laws?
43. Who vetoes bills?
44. What is a veto?
45. What does the President’s Cabinet do?
46. Name two Cabinet-level positions.
47. What Cabinet-level agency advises the President on foreign policy?
48. What does the judicial branch do?
49. Who confirms Supreme Court justices?
50. Who is the Chief Justice of the United States?
51. How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
52. Who nominates justices to the Supreme Court?
53. Name one thing only the federal government can do.
54. What is one thing only a state government can do?
55. What does it mean that the U.S. Constitution is a constitution of limited powers?
56. Who is the Governor of your state?
57. What is the capital (or capital city) of your state?
58. What are the two major political parties in the U.S. today?
59. What is the highest court in the U.S.?
60. What is the majority political party in the House of Representatives now?
61. What is the political party of the majority in the Senate now?
62. What is the political party of the President now?
63. Who is the Speaker of the House of Representatives now?
64. Who is the Senate Majority Leader now?
65. In what month are elections held in the United States?
66. What is the current minimum wage in the U.S.?
67. When must all males register for the Selective Service?
68. Who is the Secretary of State now?
69. Who is the Attorney General now?
70. Is the current President in his first or second term?
71. What is self-government?
72. Who governs the people in a self-governed country?
73. What is the "rule of law"?
74. What are "inalienable rights"?
75. There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Describe one of them.
76. Name one responsibility that is only for United States citizens.
77. Name two rights that are only for United States citizens.
78. Name two rights of everyone living in the U.S.
79. What is the Pledge of Allegiance?
80. Name one promise you make when you say the Oath of Allegiance.
81. Who can vote in the U.S.?
82. Name two ways that Americans can participate in their democracy.
83. When is the last day you can send in federal income tax forms?
84. Name two of the natural, or inalienable, rights in the Declaration of Independence.
85. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
86. When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?
87. Name one reason why the colonists came to America?
88. What happened at the Constitutional Convention?
89. Why did the colonists fight the British?
90. When was the Constitution drafted?
91. There are 13 original states. Name three.
92. What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves?
93. Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?
94. Where did most of America’s colonists come from before the Revolution?
95. Why were the colonists upset with the British government?
96. Name one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for.
97. Name one famous battle from the Revolutionary War.
98. Who is called the "Father of Our Country"?
99. Who was the first President?
100. Name one of the writers of the Federalist Papers?
101. What group of essays supported passage of the U.S. Constitution?
102. Name one of the major American Indian tribes in the United States.
103. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s.
104. What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?
105. What country sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States?
106. In 1803, the United States bought a large amount of land from France. Where was that land?
107. Name one of the things that Abraham Lincoln did.
108. Name the U.S. war between the North and the South.
109. Name one problem that led to the Civil War.
110. What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?
111. What did the abolitionists try to end before the Civil War?
112. What did Susan B. Anthony do?
113. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1900s.
114. Who was President during World War I?
115. The United States fought Japan, Germany, and Italy during which war?
116. What was the main concern of the United States during the Cold War?
117. What major event happened on September 11, 2001, in the United States?
118. What international organization was established after World War II (WWII) to keep the world at peace?
119. What alliance of North America and European countries was created during the Cold War?
120. Who was President during the Great Depression and World War II?
121. Which U.S. World War II general later became President?
122. What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?
123. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream for America. What was his dream?
124. What movement tried to end racial discrimination?
125. What is the longest river in the United States?
126. What ocean is on the west coast of the United States?
127. What country is on the northern border of the United States?
128. Where is the Grand Canyon?
129. Where is the Statue of Liberty?
130. What country is on the southern border of the United States?
131. Name one large mountain range in the United States.
132. What is the tallest mountain in the United States?
133. Name one U.S. territory.
134. Name the state that is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
135. Name one state that borders Canada.
136. Name one state that borders on Mexico.
137. What is the capital of the U.S.?
138. Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
139. Why do we have 13 stripes on the flag?
140. Why does the flag have 50 stars?
141. What is the name of the National Anthem?
142. On the Fourth of July we celebrate independence from what country?
143. When do we celebrate Independence Day?
144. Name two national U.S. holidays.

You can check your answers at the USCIS Website.

You see that there are a number of redundant questions phrased differently. I can only assume that they would be mixed up so as not to be so obvious as they are here.

The answer to Questions 60 and 61 about which political party controls Congress is incorrect. While the website says it is the Democrats that control the House and the Senate, in point of fact, while the Democrats won the election, they do not actually take control of those bodies until January. But since the test isn't actually to be released into pilot cities until early 2007, by the time people start taking the test, the answer will be correct.

So, how did you do? Would you be admitted as a citizen of the United States? I wonder how well our elected representatives would do.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Government In Action. Corporate Inaction.

Back in September I began hearing rumors that The Corporation was screwing up reporting employee incomes to the Social Security Administration. There were lots of rumors about a lot of screw ups but I didn't follow up on it right away. As the reports got more prevalent, I finally contacted the SSA to get a reprint of my statement to be sure everything was OK.

It wasn't.

The Corporation had reported my income for 2004 as zero. That means that any Social Security benefits I might have earned for that period of time will also be zero.

Two weeks ago, after I received the confirmation of the screw-up, I went to the Operations Manager to have her initiate and investigation, or whatever it is that HR would call such an action. And, having zero confidence that The Corporate Overlords would actually take any sort of action, I contacted the Social Security Administration directly. Their solution was a simple as me mailing them a copy of my W-2, having then check it against a database, and amending my earnings statement.

From my phone call to them to my receipt of issue resolution took fifteen days. That includes the time the letters were in transit and the long Thanksgiving weekend. A spectacular response, given that the person I spoke to said that it could take up to 90 days.

As to my own Corporate HR. . . I'm going to let this sit to find out just how long it takes them to try to address this. I suspect that it is some large number approaching infinity. They are three months overdue for my performance appraisal. When they screwed up my occupation taxes it took the better part of a year for them to do anything and that took my pestering them and a phone call to the City tax auditor to get them moving. If I'm lucky, they'll eventually come back and say, "We couldn't find anything wrong."

"Of course," I'll say. "Based on past experience I expected you to drop the ball so I called the Feds myself and took care of it for you. They took less than two weeks to take care of it. Why did it take you as long as you did?"

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

OK to Drill

Even before work began on the Hot Metal Bridge project, I noticed a number of painted survey markers along the Eliza Furnace Trail. It only makes sense when you are going to build something like a bridge, you need to know where everything is. Recently, I've noticed that a few of those survey marks have a mysterious message "OK TO DRILL" painted next to them. Drill what? Why? These things are quite a way from the bridge itself, what possible reason could they have to drill there?

Well, today on the way back after work, I saw a work crew that appeared to be engaged in drilling at an OK place. Foolish me, I neglected to stop and ask what it was they were drilling for. Maybe I'll get lucky later this week and run across them again. This time I'll ask.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Geis (R)

I admit, I am a card carrying Republican. In my defense, I joined the Republican party two decades ago when the Reagan Revolution promised smaller government, a balanced budget and a strong defense against the Soviet Union. As I grew older, I realized that the things they promised were not what they delivered, as the budget spiraled higher, government got bigger and the Soviets failed to invade Europe, wasting all the money we spent on that strong defense. I grew wiser and learned that I wasn't even remotely a Republican. I like to describe myself as Politically Non-Euclidean, but as that only confused people, if I must accept a political label, I would choose a Centrist-leaning Libertarian.

And yet, I continue to carry that Republican registration card. Why should I do such a thing? Well, were I to register as a Libertarian or an Independent, I would be choosing to exclude myself from this country's institutionalized two-party primary system. So, with the third party option out, why not register as a Democrat? Surely more of the views of the Democratic Party parallel my own.

That's not so easy a thing to answer. Part if it could be keeping me in the loop so that I can see first hand all the propaganda that goes out to the party faithful. Perhaps by being a Liberal Republican I can, in some small way, pull the Republican Part back from the extreme right. Maybe, when the primary season comes along, I can vote for the most liberal Republican. Of course, in doing that I might be playing the part of the spoiler, taking a vote away from a centrist Republican, allowing the core of the Radical Right to install their blessed candidate. In the end, however, in the primaries I am always choosing the lesser of evils.

Not how our political system should work.

In the end, however, I remain a Republican (in name only) because of apathy. The label doesn't mean much to me. I don't feel a strong affinity for the Democratic Party. Why should I bother making the change? What does the country care whether I have a (D) or an (R) after my name?

Burn Rate

Typically, for me to have more than 80 calls in a day, it requires mail servers to go down or some other Bank-wide catastrophe. Then, for an hour or so, it's call after call of "Yes, we know the server is down. Yes, they're working on it. No, we don't know when it'll be back up. Have a nice day." Those short calls allow you to pack in the numbers.

But today, I had 50 calls by lunch and 80 for the day on typical calls. No servers down. No widespread outages. Just call after call. The Help Desk seems to continue to hire and bring on new people (the Operations Manager walked by just today with another interviewee), but when I look out on the floor there are the same number of empty desks as there have been for a year. They seem to be fighting an uphill battle as The Bank does more consolidation and requires the Help Desk to support more services groups and yet we can't seem to increase our staffing levels to accommodate the increasing call volume.

Why? Because they pay shit, have no opportunities for advancement or even raises and have no training for the job you're about to be thrown into. It's no wonder I'm left working my ass off. I took 80 calls for the day. Another analyst took 65, two others took 60 calls and the rest spread out from there in the 50s and 40s. I wish I could be truly apathetic and lazy. Instead, I care about the job I'm doing and actually put an effort into it. That nominal effort is able to outperform more and more analysts until it seems as if I'm carrying the whole Help Desk.


Winter Suddenly

When I hit the trail for my commute on Friday, it was 60 degrees. This morning it was 23. With the wind chill, 10 degrees. In some ways' I've actually been looking forward to this weather. There is in spring and fall that time between when it's cool in the morning and warm for the ride home. What was worn in the morning must be somehow carried at the end of the day. And the trunk bag simply doesn't have the space. But now that winter is here, the slight difference in temperature means that I don't have to play that packing game.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The wheel turns

Brown's Law Of Tire Sizing states: If two tires are marked with sizes that are mathematically equal, but one is expressed as a decimal and the other as a fraction, these two tires will not be interchangeable.

I have to deal with this first hand as my rear tire has worn to the point of replacement. Several years ago, I had my rim break. A spoke pulled a chunk of the rim out. When I replaced the wheels, they didn't seem to be the same size. My brakes didn't bear down on the rims the way they used to because the new rims were more narrow. My existing tires didn't fit right. I had trouble replacing the tires when their time came, I suspect because of the rims that I had gotten. So, now that it was time to replace another tire, I wanted to be sure of what I was in for.

The only information I could find on my original rims was "alloy 36H", which only seems to indicate that they have 36 spoke holes. Not really relevant until I want to replace my current rims, which are Alexrims RP15F rims.

Tech Spec
Pin joint 36 holes, silver/black
Optional CSW
700C, ERD 602.9mm, ETRTO 622X16mm

The tires I currently have are Bontrager 700x38C (40-622). Notice that the rims and tires are not described in quite the same way. You'll see that both the numbers 700 and 622 appear, but neither of them actually conform to an actual measurement on the wheel. ERD (Effective rim diameter) apparently refers to the interior diameter of the rim; 202.9mm (which is actually measured correct). But then the external diameter is 636.5. So, given that the tire needs to fit under the lip of the rim, you might think that the ERTO (European Tyre and Rim Technical Organization) number of 622 would refer to the interior diameter of the wheel. However, that actually measures closer to 627mm. One would think that if you're accurately measuring millimeters, you wouldn't be off by half a centimeter.

And then there's that pesky ERTO number of 16mm. Doesn't that refer to the width? 15.7 is close enough to 16 to think they just rounded that number. Except that my tire is labeled 40-622 compared to the wheel's 622-16mm. I suppose that the 40 refers to the width of the inflated wheel, but then why is there that 38C. Why say both 38 AND 40?

In the end, I purchased a Specialized Nimbus 700x38C because it was labeled the same as my current tire. Of course, according to the tire size charts, my tire is too wide for my rims. I should be using nothing larger than a 35mm wide tire when I am actually using a 38 or 40 (depending on which number is true). Sheldon Brown's website says, "if you use a very wide tire on a narrow rim, you risk sidewall or rim failure." Well, I've been riding this combination for a few years without tragedy but eventually I'll want to replace the undersized rims with what should be on the bike so that I can restore my braking performance.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I read an article recently about how much effort the City of Pittsburgh goes through to clean up graffiti. Apparently, however, the Eliza Furnace Trail doesn't get that sort of attention. Sure, occasionally the trucks will come through a paint over a section of concrete but they only seem to focus on the "inappropriate" things and the taggers look on the paint as a blank canvas on which to begin again.

Several years ago, I witnessed several vandals with backpacks full of spray cans having a good time on the trail. I called 911 to report them. After a while, when nothing seemed to be done by the authorities, I called them back only to be informed that they weren't coming. It turned out that Mayor Tom Murphy had recently made a public statement about believing that the abutment along the Eliza Furnace Trail was PennDOT responsibility and the City wasn't going to be taking any responsibility for it. The vandals would go out in broad daylight to paint armed with a xerox copy of the Mayor's statement essentially giving them carte blanche to do as they pleased.

With that freedom, they painted and continue to paint everything. The abutments and bridge pylons. The garbage cans. The signs. The trail surface itself. I have no doubt that once the Hot Metal Bridge opens to pedestrian and bike traffic, all the effort construction crews are engaged in now sandblasting the structure will be marred by this plague.
Vandalized Trail Map

Quote of the Day

"My eyes are about to pop out of my skull because I'm so constipated with evil!"

From the webcomic Brat-halla .

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Concrete filled hole

Last week, the construction on the Hot Metal Bridge project involved digging big holes for what I assumed to be footers for the ramps that will go at the Eliza Furnace Trail end of the bridge. Sometime today (12 weeks into the project) they poured a layer of concrete into one of the holes. They also have rebar structures to reinforce the bridge abutments or supports. It's beginning to take shape across Second Avenue as well, with some concrete walls and at least one concrete pylon. I don't know what's going on at the South Side end but one of the bridge sections is covered as they sand blast.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


You might think it strange or even foolish to have an important service migration on the day before a holiday but apparently The Bank thinks differently. We had a queue of over 100 and wait times of 20 minutes for several hours. Anticipating the heavy call volume, Help Desk Management bought us donuts as compensation for discouraging us from taking breaks. At one point, the mystery guy who has annexed the Site Manager's office (The site manager had called him a Strategist.) came around with the donuts.

Geis: "Not to be rude, but, who are you?"

He introduced himself.

Geis: "You've been here for what, three weeks? A month? What exactly are you doing here?"

Strategist: "I was going to send out a note to people soon. I'm the Service Delivery Manager."

Geis: "And what does the Service Delivery Manager do?"

Strategist: "I'm the liasion between The Bank and The Help Desk. The Site Manager and Operations Manager report to me."

Geis: "So, we now have an additional layer of management?"

Strategist: "Yes, you could put it that way."

Geis: "Terrific."

On numerous occasions over the past year, I have explicitly stated to management that I feel that local management really has no authority or power to solve the problems at the Help Desk. So, what do they do with this knowledge? They institutionalize that powerlessness by installing an additional level of bureaucracy.

Truly, I am living in a Dilbert world.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Social Security

Few, I am sure, pay attention to the periodic letters from the Social Security Administration detailing their contributions over their careers and expected compensation once they retire. With at least a quarter century of work still ahead of me, I typically don't even open the envelopes. Imagine my surprise when I opened my lasted letter from the government to find that, according to the SSA, I earned zero income for 2004. Over 6% of each paycheck was deducted but apparently never made it to government coffers.

Investigating further, I have discovered that my Corporate Overlords are notorious for not properly reporting the monies they have withheld from employee paychecks. Others have reported several years of misreporting to the Social Security Administration. Add to that my own experience with my Corporate Overlords not paying the City of Pittsburgh Occupation Tax and a long history of SEC misfilings and other corporate malfeasance and you can easily see the pattern.

How have these guys avoided prosecution?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Four wheeled slavery

$748! That's what my car inspection cost me today. Rear brakes. Rotors. Calipers. Oh, joy. Two weeks ago I took the car for an estimate on repairing the damage cause when my daughter hit a mailbox. That was going to be $650. I asked if the passenger-side rear-view mirror was going to be necessary to pass inspection and he said "no" so I felt comfortable putting that off. Well, when the inspection actually came it turns out that it is, indeed, necessary to pass inspection. So now, for $112, I have a white rear-view mirror on my green car.

But, wait. It's not over yet. I received a letter from Honda saying there was a known issue with their emissions systems that have been causing vehicles to fail to pass inspections. Well, that's exactly what's been going on with my car, except not. I have had issues with the "Check Engine" light almost continuously since I got the car. The mechanics would find nothing wrong and reset the computer but eventually the light would come back. Unfortunately, the letter said they would only extend the warranty for those vehicles under 150,000 miles and, the day I received the letter, my car was at 151,400 miles. Besides, the error code my computer is passing out is for the transmission and wouldn't be covered by the extended warranty anyway.

And lastly, at least for this round, the computer is refusing to pass the so-called "Driveability" test. The computer won't properly reset even after driving all over creation and, thus, the car won't pass inspection, so I will need to spend even more time on top of the 7 hours I spent at the shop today. I had this problem last year as well, but the mechanics couldn't find anything wrong and wouldn't even say that it was a bad sensor or a faulty computer module. The answer that "they're sometimes like that" does not fill me with confidence.

In the 1950s, America was sold on the idea that the automobile was our ticket to freedom. With a car we could travel anywhere. We could work in the city but live in the suburbs. We could vacation across the state or across the country. Ribbons of asphalt would whisk us to our destinations giving us more free time. The automobile was part and parcel of The American Dream.

It was all a sham. The automobile is the tool of our enslavement. Not only do those highways connect us to these distant places, they also separate us from those things we need. And, without the car, we are trapped on our own suburban blocks. Without our cars we can't get to work. We can't shop for food. And when the cars break, we must do whatever it takes, bankrupting ourselves to get back on the road. We have become slaves to the automobile.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Help Desk Strategery

For over two weeks now, a mystery man has been occupying the Site Manager's office. He hasn't been introduced. No one knows what his purpose is or his name. He doesn't interact with the Help Desk except for the occasional "Good morning".

So, I finally got the chance to talk to the Site Manager:

Geis: "So, who's the guy who's annexed your office?"

He laughed, but not in a good way.

Site Mgr: "He's the Strategist."

Geis: "And what exactly does he do?"

Site Mgr: "Strategy?"

Geis: "You don't really know, do you?"

Site Mgr: "No."

Geis: "I feel for you, man. We are so doomed."

No one has seen their way clear to give the employees any clue as to what this guy's doing here. He has been here for weeks doing. . . something. Even the Site Manager doesn't really know. And when I say this Company has a chronic issue with being unable to communicate, I can now point to our Strategist to prove my point.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


It has been suggested that I take my inability to find justice against Codename P to the press.

To what end?

This issue is about justice. And having not found justice, should I then seek revenge, for that's what going to the press would be. I would be harassing him just as he harassed me.

The courts have seen fit to take pity on a bitter, foolish old man. And while my overdeveloped sense of justice is unsatisfied by this outcome, I will be the better, more mature man by leaving it at that.

Monday, November 06, 2006


"This letter is to notify you, that for purposes of November and December 2006, commissions/bonuses will be based on a defined payment pool. As a result, your commissions/bonuses could be lower that in previous months."

How can my bonus be less than the $0 that it's been for the past four years?

It seems that The Corporation still doesn't have the revenues to support the bonuses that it actually has been paying out. They will pool up what money they do have and doll out what they think they can afford. It doesn't meant anything to me personally because I haven't gotten squat for years but it is yet another indication of how things are going for The Corporation.

Oh, and the top of the letter said "Sent Via Certified Mail" hen, in fact, it was in a regular envelope with a 39 cent First Class postage stamp.

I guess they can only afford to SAY that it's certified mail.

The scales tip.

Justitia, the goddess of justice, is the personification of the moral force that lies behind our legal system. In her right hand, She holds a double-edged sword that divides with the power of Reason in either direction simultaneously. In her left, she holds scales with which She measures the strengths of the case for and against. Her eyes are blindfolded, for justice does not see race, class, status or power.

It is a lie.

Today was the day that Codename P appeared in court to stand against the charge of harassment for vandalizing my car numerous times over the past year and a half. In that, I learned his "justification," as it were. The lot where I park was once his property. The city condemned it and then turned around and developed it as a parking lot for users of the Eliza Furnace Trail. Codename P apparently still owns the entryway and although there is a de facto easement, he believes that everyone who uses the lot is trespassing.

The evidence presented was pretty clear. The photo I took was undeniable and his lawyer offered no defense or denial except to say that he wouldn't do it again.

And with that, the charges were dropped. I must have had something of a disbelieving look on my face because the judge said to me:

"If he was a young man, I would have found him guilty and fined him."

But because he was 70 years old, she let him off with the promise that he not do it again. And, in saying what she said, the judge let me know that if it were me doing the exact same thing to his car, I would have been punished to the fullest extent of the law. I would have thought the scales would tip in the opposite direction. A 70 year old man should be wise and experienced enough to know that his actions have consequences and a young man might be forgiven for his youthful ignorance.

In this case, the Judge explicitly told me that justice is not blind, nor is it applied equally.

And so, I suppose it is over. The case is technically still open for 90 days should he break his promise but, after that, it will simply go away. As if it never happened.

The scales hang unbalanced.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Post Traumatic Stress

After running around in the woods playing paintball yesterday, the fronts of my thighs really hurt. Up and down stairs is particularly unpleasant.

It was worth it, though.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Birthday Warfare

To celebrate my nephew's birthday, we went to Riverside Renegades to play paintball. For myself, I used to play all the time but the group I played with sot of broke up and I haven't been out in years. It was fun to be back.

The Renegade's field is one of my favorites. It's a large field that allows you to run around in the woods without encountering the enemy all the time, even with large groups. It is less developed than some, with lots of narrow trails through thick brush. These features combine to allow the players to use strategy instead of just tactics.

A few of the highlights: There were 7 of us in the birthday party but a swarm of 40 from CMU was supposed to show up. They were late so the first game was just the 7 of us. Unfortunately it was then that I realized that the small 45-round hopper I had purchased for my Spyder Compact was defective and wouldn't allow the balls to drop into the gun. I set it aside to draw my backup, a classic Sheridan PGP. I was behind a fence barrier looking through a knothole in a fence barrier when one of the 'enemy' came running up to capture the seemingly undefended flag. I stood up full but could not see over the 6 foot fence so I just raised my gun over the top and took a blind shot. I quickly pumped the gun for when he would come around the fence to gun me down with his semi-auto but I had gotten him in the arm with my first shot. I'm pretty good with the pistol when I take the snap shots. Or maybe I'm just lucky.(Some of the next descriptions will reference specific bunkers of the trail. See them on the map)

When the college students finally showed up, it was pretty clear that they had no experience. I've been playing on and off for twenty years so I became the general. In one of the games, our team started up at the bottom of the hill at GI Joe's bunker and the enemy was way up at the top at Fort Apache. When the game started, most went straight up the middle so I decided to swing to the left, across the Covered Bridge and up the valley. Across from Tiani's Trench is Fort Suzuki (a insurance fraud vehicle dump that has become a permanent part of the field) and when I go there I realized it wasn't a very good spot. Three or four of my teammates had followed me and had bunched up behind a pile of branches. Above Fort Suzuki was a string of such branch/log bunkers that formed a broad front so I ran across open ground, taking fire the whole way to get there. As expected, my teemmates followed me one at a time. But instead of spreading out along this broad front, they all clustered around me. I didn't like taking all that fire and so began the push. To one of my teammates I pointed out where the enemy was hiding and told him that I was going to move forward and that he was to cover me. He seemed to do a good job and I got in without being hit. Except that three guys then followed me. So, it was the same thing. I pointed out that there was one person in Tiani's Trench, another above the bunker and probably another on the right. I ran across the bridge right up to the bunker and fired right through the "window" as the person there attempted to abandon the bunker. I drove the guy above the bunker out of hiding and eventually got him as well. Then my teammates came forward. Up the hill to Bush Garden's (which was empty) and then across towards DJ's DMZ. There were at least two in that bunker and they were throwing out heavy fire. The bunker was a three-wall structure that was a little off the ground so, if I could get up on it, I could shoot their legs. One of my teammates had run out of paint so I called on the other for covering fire and rushed the fort. I didn't see any feet so I slid like I was going into home plate and could fire up into the fort. The two were standing on the 2x4s at the corners so that their feet were up off the ground. Clever. I fired a number of shots up into the bunker and was pretty sure I got at least one of them but got myself shot in the hand. I was out but the person I had shot stayed in the bunker. I noticed a few instances of that during the day where there people would get shot but not call themselves out or would wander away with their hands up and then just go back into the game.

The next game we switched side, this time we started up at Fort Apache and attacked downhill. I sort of hung back while I waited for the battle to develop and then slowly moved down. There is a road that goes from the pond to the staging area that allow you to look down along the line of bunkers I had occupied in the previous game without being seen. A bit like Sargent York, I stayed up at the top and took out several of the enemy as they moved up this line of bunkers, paying more attention to the fire they were taking from the left. Once I saw that out team was moving steadily forward, I moved down the middle Towards the Dragon Scales bunker. It's a large 4-walled structure with windows coved by plastic pop bottle cases. This allows you to see into and out of the bunker but the grating keeps paintballs from getting through. There was at least one guy in there but he was able to hold off a number of my team. Whith them drawing his attention, I was able to flank him and get right up on the bunker, sticking my barrel through an opening and firing 1 shot from 10 feet away. Advancing on the bunker with the flag I took out one in the bunker. I moved up and got another on the left. I was able to take out one of a pair just to the right of the bunker. Now with a lot of backup I went to the flag. I was taking fire from the right of the bunker and from someone else near the Covered Bridge on the way back. I intended to throw the flag to someone else when I got hit in the back. I reach back and didn't come up with any paint so I assumed the ball hadn't broken so I picked up the flag and passed it off, turning to keep the enemy pinned down. Eventually I cot shot in the head but my job was done. That was the one game that ended in the flag being captured. I had take out at least 5 opponents.

By the time the last game of the day rolled around, I was out of paint. Actually, I had enough for my PGP so I went out on the field with that, intending to stay back at the flag. After watching the battle progress in stalemate I decided to just walk down the path with my gun at my side. I hoped that I would look like I was out and be ignored so that I could walk right through the enemy lines. It worked. I walked past a number of players without anyone shooting at me. Unfortunately, there wasn't anyone I could just turn and shoot in the back. I picked the last person in line and took a shot but my gun misfired and I missed. (The gun had been charged and ready to go in my holster for much of the game and had leaked by this point.) I took cover and was involved in a short firefight but was eventually taken out by his superior firepower.

Everyone had a good time and I was glad to be back. The CMU players had quite a number of paintballs left over and left behind so Buddy, the guy who runs Riverside, gave them to my nephew along with a box to carry them in as a birthday present.

I hope it's not years before I get out again.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Overly polite.

Kerry screwed up in allowing his speech writers to write a line that was too obtuse. I'm sure you've all hear what the press says that he said:

"Education, if you make the most of it, and you study hard and do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

But what he REALLY said was:

"Anyway, yesterday I was in the state of Texas. As you all know, President Bush used to live there. Now he lives in a state of denial. A state of deception.

I'm glad to be here with you. I really am. Thank you for the privilege of coming here. We're here to talk about education, but I want to say something before that – you know, education, if you make the most of it, and you study hard and do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

I don't know about you, but when I heard this I knew he was talking about Dubbya because I heard the sentences before the one that gets all the airplay. And when the spinsters started working and released the text that Kerry was SUPPOSED to say, it was even more clear.

"Yesterday I was in President Bush’s home state of Texas. He no longer lives there. Now he lives in the state of denial.

It’s great to be here with college students. I can’t overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush."

But, as I said, it was too obtuse. Too clever for his own good. The speech writers were being too generous to the President and trying to make it a joke. And Kerry, trying to speak like himself instead of like his speechwriters and not being an actor, paraphrased and flubbed it. That was unfortunate to feed such easily-twisted fuel to the wingnuts. He should have kept it simple and to the point. He SHOULD have said:

"President Bush is a moron."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Thrown to the wolves

A new Helpdesk analyst has been put in the cubicle across from mine. I could hear him through the "wall" and in the time it took him to resolve a single password issue, I had taken four calls. Not surprising when you consider that he only started YESTERDAY and has had absolutely no formal training. They simply sat him with another analyst for four hours yesterday and expected him to absorb enough to start working today.

Is it any wonder that they have been hiring and hiring since the beginning of the year yet still have the same number of empty seats out on the floor. With this sort of "training", employees can't be left with a favorable impression of what's in store for them and flee at the earliest possible opportunity.

52 Week Countdown

One year from this week, November 5th 2007, is the projected completion date for the Hot Metal Bridge project. Today, they moved the fence to direct people on the Eliza Furnace trail around the heavy construction equipment. They've just started drilling holes to sink supports for the ramps on the north side of the bridge. On the other side of Second Avenue there has been quite a bit of excavation and placement or rebar. I haven't noticed enough concrete to geet a good sense of how it's all going to look.

With the end of Daylight Savings Time, it's going to be tough to get pictures of the progress as it's dark when I ride in the morning and getting darker as I'm riding back.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Martial Law

Why are these men smiling? It's because Dubbya is signing the Military Commissions Act of 2006 wherein the writ of habeas corpus is suspended for those he deems "enemy combatants". They're smiling because these prisoners, defined by the president, can be detained indefinitely. They're smiling because these prisoners can be interrogated up to a point just short of torture but since the President also gets to define what constitutes torture, well, think creatively. They're smiling because they are thumbing their noses at the international community by ignoring the Geneva Convention.

But, they are also smiling because Dubbya is signing the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007. Take a look at Sec. 1076 where the President is given broad authority to declare martial law under a whole cornucopia of situations. The Insurrection Act had been put in place to prevent the President from deploying troops except under the most dire of circumstances and here is is signing that balance away.

Section 334 of such title is amended by inserting "or those obstructing the enforcement of the laws" after "insurgents".

Do you see where anyone who is "obstructing the law" is included in this? This means that if there is a mass demonstration on the mall in Washington DC and they block traffic, Dubbya could call out the military to disperse and/or arrest them.

Are you smiling, too? Do you feel safer knowing that the definition of the words "terrorist" or "insurgent" could include you at the whim of the President? No, you say, it could never happen to me. This is only to fight the War of Terror (tm). If you think so, then you are a fool. History has shown that all laws are acted upon to their limits. If there is no checks or balances in the law then there will be no checks or balances in their application in government and someone will eventually take them to their extreme. Dubbya could be doing it right now and you'd never know about it because those who are being arrested and imprisoned do not have the right to representation, visitation or to challenge their confinement. They are disappeared.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Revisionist Ticket History

The Bank has been rolling out a migration from local workstation passwords to a domain signon all week. This has lead to plenty of password issue calls. Expected. But I received one call from a user that had gone through the procedure, changed his password, been told by the system that all his passwords had been changed but then not had that new password work. The old password worked.

The system was lying about having changed his password.

It may have been just a glitch so we went through trying to change his password again and was able to confirm that it did, in fact, change. Later, I received another call for the same issue but in this case the user could not change the password even after several attempts and even though the system was saying that it was successfully changing the password each time.

So, I opened a ticket.

Later, I checked on this ticket to see if support had figured out what had been going on and saw that J** at the Function Desk had called the user back and gotten the password to change and close the ticket. She never escalated it to second level support to find out why users were being lied to by the system about their password change. What was worse, J** had DELETED the three lines of the ticket where I pointed out that multiple users had reported this issue and thus it was systemic.

She deleted the reason why I opened the ticket so that she wouldn't have to send it to second level. Why would she do that? To avoid the inconvenience of calling second level support and telling them what was going on? To make our Help Desk issue resolution numbers look better by one fifteenth of one percent?

Perhaps she doesn't realize that all changes within the ticket are
documented so there is a record of what I originally wrote and that she deleted it. Perhaps she thought no one would notice.

Of course, given the state of affairs around here, I have no expectation that more will come of it than a stern finger-shaking.

I got a call from a Government Contractor about a support position, so we'll see how that new job opportunity position pans out.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tis the season.

The Christmas music CDs and greeting cards on on the racks in the Rite Aid. The lights are going up at Melon Park along Smithfield Street. Construction has begun on the larger-than-life-sized nativity scene at USX Plaza. I haven't even passed out Halloween candy yet and already it's the Christmas season.

How much of this is faith and how much is capitalism? It's not that
difficult to figure that out. No other holiday, Christian or otherwise, has a two month lead-in. No other holiday generates over $400 Billion in retail sales, most of which being toys, games and other gifts that have nothing to do with the celebration of Jesus's birthday.

Christmas is no longer a Christian holiday. It's a consumerist holiday. And the hypocracy of it all annoys the shit out of me.

Actually, what annoys me the most about the two month long holiday season is the music. The incessant Christmas music. Thankfully, I know own an iPod. I have already started using it as a way of isolating myself from the world around me. I typically spend my entire lunch with the headphones on so I don't have to hear the Muzak that plays in restaurants and businesses in town. Also, the distraction allows me to not go over the unpleasantness of work during lunch.

That gets saved for the ride home.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

On my honor, I will do my best

I always been proud of my accomplishments as a Boys Scout but I have grown increasingly embarrassed of the Boy Scouts of America, Inc. Decades ago when I was a scout, I took issue with their religious imperative.

Even though I was still being nominally raised as a Lutheran (which means occasionally being taken to church and working through the Catechism classes) I had pretty much already stopped believing in any sort of god. When the reciting of the Scout Law required me to state that "a Scout is Reverent towards God," I simply mumbled. The Scout Oath where I promised "to do my duty to God and my country" received similar attention. The troop that I was in focused on other things so the issue never came up and no one noticed.

After earning my Eagle Award and going off to college, I began to learn just what the Boy Scouts was really about. Sure, it was about good citizenship, but I never knew that their official policy was that "the recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship."

In the oath, I promised "to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight." But I learned that when they said "straight" they meant "not gay" as if homosexuals are incapable of being morally upright. They tried to wrap their policies in legalistic speech and even wond their case in the Supreme Court but, in the end, they wer advocating ignorance and hatred.

Now, I've learned that the Boy Scouts have a new program wherein scouts can earn an activity patch for learning about the evils of downloading pirated movies and music. This program was developed in association with the Motion Picture Association of America. Scouts will be instructed in the basics of copyright law and learn how to identify five types of copyrighted works and three ways copyrighted materials may be stolen. Scouts also must choose one activity from a list that includes visiting a movie studio to see how many people can be harmed by film piracy. They also can create public service announcements urging others not to steal movies or music.

The Boy Scouts of America have prostituted themselves to a major industry. Sure, good citizenship includes obeying the laws and, in truth, distributing movies on the web is a violation of copyright law, but this interpretation has been bought and paid for by the MPAA. What is next, having environmental awards sponsored by the Oil Marketers Association? Awards for citizenship with a curriculum developed by the Republican National Committee?

The Boy Scouts of America is selling off their soul piecemeal to the highest bidder. So much for a scout being trustworthy.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


D****, Team Lead and arch-nemesis, came around to my cubicle today. He stood behind me while I ignored him for several minutes until I was done with the call I was on. It seems that the Help Desk is looking for people to work 10 hour days on Mondays and Tuesdays so that they can address some shortfalls in their Service Level Agreements.

I immediately said that I was not interested in working 10 hour shifts at this time. I wondered if working 10 hour shifts earlier in the week would allow me to take half a day off each Friday or if they would pay me overtime through the end of the month. Of course, the Help Desk has been hiring people regularly since December but each time I look out on the floor I see the same number of empty seats. The new hires quickly learn that they are going to get little training, have no hope for a raise and all the other fun that goes on. At $10.50 an hour, as soon as anything else comes up, they're gone.

So, on reflection, I still have no interest in working longer days to make up for their lack of forethought. Sure, Mondays and Tuesdays will have longer queues because we're short staffed but we've been suffering though that all year. Merely more of the same.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Credit where it isn't due.

Yesterday was a heavy call volume day. Several software updates, some servers down, the normal sort of stuff on a Monday. We had a fairly high number of people waiting in the queue. Late in the morning, things started to clear out and Team Lead D**** sent out a message:

I'm trying to clear it (the queue) out for you but I may need your help.

Finally, when the queue was cleared:

Great job everyone!!!!
...........With your assistance, I was able to clear the queue!

That is such complete bullshit. He doesn't do squat to clear out the queue. The ticket system shows that he took two calls. Two is nothing. I had 40 by that time. Why does he persist in taking credit for this when the most he does is badger us? And what's more, why does management continue to allow him to treat us like this because, really, this is very insulting when we do all the work and he is blatantly taking the credit.

Today, was even worse. We had a queue continuously, all day long. So after spending all morning off the floor in meetings, and once the other two Team Leads have gone home for the day, D**** does it again:

I'm trying to clear the queue but i can't do it alone..... I need
everyone's assistance

The system shows that he took no calls for the day. Not a single ticket. Now, unless he's operating under the radar and helping callers in some magic way that he is not entering the ticket system, he is doing absolutely nothing to clear the queue. He clearly has no idea how insulting he is being to the rest of us. I took over 80 calls for the day and did more to clear the queue than anyone at the Help Desk and here he is, doing nothing, but taking full credit.

I think he believes himself to be clever. Previously, one of his favorite "clear the queue" phrases to use was "You're killing me", as if the queue were a life-or-death situation. I haven't heard him using that for a while so now he's got the "I cleared the queue for you" crap.

Time to amend my "reasons morale sucks at the Help Desk" document for the Site Manager.

Monday, October 16, 2006


My bike got a flat tire on the way in, having hit a glass bottle in the morning darkness. The joy of this actually goes back to early in the year. I had a trunk bag that was OK for going to work but it had soft sides. When the bag was not packed with my work clothes it had a tendency to flop over. So, I bought another trunk bag with more rigid sides. Except that this other bag was a little smaller and barely has room for my work clothes. If I wanted to add a fleece or sweatshirt for the cooler weather (or rather, wear it in for the morning ride but pack it out for the way home because the afternoon is warmer) there wasn't enough room. So, I've taken to riding to work with one trunk bag and doing my recreational riding with the other bag.

The flaw in this is that this morning when I had the "work" trunk bag, my extra tube, tube repair kit and tools were still in the other trunk bag at home. I couldn't change or repair my tire so I had to walk a half mile back to my car, lock my bike to the rack on the back of the car and walk the three miles into work.

It's not that I had a particular problem walking three miles but it was an unexpected complication to my day.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Mugged by Turkeys

As I reached the end of the Eliza Furnace Trail and was going to begin my climb out of Panther Hollow, I came across several turkeys. Thinking I would get some pictures before they ran off, I stopped the bike and grabbed my camera. Instead of running off, they rushed me. They seemed particularly interested in my legs and I would put the camera in their faces and turn my bike wheel to ward them off. Eventually, I put the camera away to ride off and they chased me at for a block and a half. Thanksgiving is coming up and they are setting up something of a protection racket, harassing passers-by to encourage them to go out for Chineese.

Fresh Blacktop

Workers layed down bedding on top of the bedding along the Parkway East retaining wall on the Eliza Furnace. Five weeks into the Hot Metal Bridge project, they are set to actually narrow the trail so that they can begin real work on the bridge that will take the trail across Second Avenue. The fence will shift so that people will have to squeeze against the retaining wall, which is actually great. They won't be shutting down the trail through construction.On the other side of Second, there is a pile of timbers which look set to be set as the new decking on the Hot Metal Bridge itself.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Evil Mastermind Kim Jong-il

Kim Jong-il is fucking ingenious! By this time they have nothing to loose by going nuclear and everything to gain. The US has been whining about how North Korea won't negotiate when, in point of fact, they have always been willing to negotiate but only with the United States. The US has been ignoring them, building them up with all the "Axis of Evil" rhetoric, floating embargo and isolation talk and letting it be known that "all options are on the table" (which means bombing the shit out of them if they can afford to re-task some resources from Iraq).

So, if I were North Korea, I'd want nuclear weapons as the only thing left that will get the world to treat me with respect.

But nuclear weapons are difficult and expensive to build. So, make a big show, dig a big hole and pack it full of 500 tons of plain, old TNT. Boom! Make the announcement that it was a nuclear explosion and suddenly North Korea is part of the nuclear club.

That declaration and the "proof" of the seismic event gives you all the breathing room you need to actually build a nuclear arsenal. Or not. Hell, that's what nuclear deterrence is all about.

It's genius! I wish I'd thought of it.

Better late than never

The Operations Manager received an email from Corporate Payroll on Friday at 3:47pm saying that the failure of direct deposit was their bank's fault and that the transactions had been submitted at noon. Of course, my account didn't show anything of this until midnight last night and the Operations Manager didn't forward this message until 8:30 this morning.

Firstly, if the Operations Manager received this at 3:47pm Friday, she should have forwarded it to the rest of us at 3:48pm instead of waiting two and a half days. My guess is that she had already ducked out for the day at that point and didn't follow up all weekend. Secondly, I am unconvinced by the "It's our bank's fault", and then the "If it's not fixed by the end of today then it's YOUR bank's fault." excuses.

It was an interesting coincidence that this fiasco happened on a bank holiday weekend when, even if it was "resolved" by The Company on Friday, we still would not be sure to get our money until the following Tuesday. Another coincidence perhaps that The Company posted a healthy 9% jump in stock price during afternoon trading. Was there something about screwing the employees out of their pay that the shareholders liked?

I am, perhaps, overthinking the situation. Never ascribe to malice that which can easily be explained by stupidity.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Employee value

The Help Desk didn't get paid today.

We were told that there was some sort of foul-up between Corporate Paroll and the company's bank (which also happens to be a technical services client) leading to direct deposits not actually being deposited company wide. We waited all day for word about when we would be receiving our paychecks with no update. As the end of the day neared, I went to the Operations Manager's cubicle to ask her where my money was but she had already ducked out for the day. Checking my account now that I am home, I still haven't been paid.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

True story

Geis: ". . . and could I have your systems computername?"

User: "IBM?"

Geis: "No. I need your computername. There is a tag on the PC that says 'computername' on it."

User: "E74?"

Geis: "No. That's your monitor. I need you to be looking at the computer."

User: "Netvista?"

Geis: "That's the computer but I need the computername. On the tag taped to the machine."

User: "Intel Inside?"

Geis: "No. There is a white tag. The size of a business card. Taped to the machine."

User: "Pentium 4?"

Geis: "No. That's the same label you just read to me. I need the Bank tag. Taped to the machine. The size of a business card. It has the word 'computername' on it."

User: "This machine is leased by. . . "

Geis: "No. The computername. It's on a white tag. It's the size of a business card. It has the word 'computername' on the first line. There is hand-written information on it. It's the one thing left on that PC that you HAVEN'T read to me.

User: "Here where it says 'computername'?"

Geis: "Yes. . . . Thank you . . . "

The tragedy of this is that this is not an isolated conversation. Exactly this exchange is a common occurrence. Remember: these are the people who handle your money.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Failure to communicate

My Team Lead sent out an Instant Message telling us to read the e-mail he just sent out concerning a procedure. Opening the email he sent, there was a link to an item in the Team Database. Going to the Team Database message there was a link to the Help Desk Reference Manual. Going to the Reference Manual we finally found out what it was he was talking about.

Is it any wonder people don't know what the hell is going on around here.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


I few weeks ago, I rode my bike on the 19-mile Hockhocking Adena Bikeway near Athens, Ohio. I took a bunch of pictures to log my visit but when I got back home, there were all blurry. I had thought something was odd on the LCD display when I was taking them but it was foggy and I thought the small screen was just making it seem worse but no, when I got home and tested it I learned that it was blurry.

The camera was dead, so I bought a new one. A better camera. A Nikon Coolpix L4.

Looking at the pictures I had taken then, today I thought, "That looks about as blurry as it would be if I weren't wearing my glasses. My camera needs prescription lenses."

And, just to prove this, I went outsode and took two pictures. The one on the left is the pictures the camera is taking normally. On the right is what it looks like when I hold my glasses up to the lens.As you can see, not only does my camera need prescription lenses, it needs MY prescription.

My camera needs a monocle.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Rejected Timesheet

Last week, The Corporation announced some changes to the website that we use to fill out our time cards. "All changes are very MINOR and should not cause any difficulties when creating and submitting timesheets." I was not overwhelmed with confidence, having had paychecks screwed up before when there were so-called minor changes. The Operations Manager also included this little gem in her e-mail about the change:

"Over the past two weeks, you may have received a Recruitmax Timesheet Training Session Invite. If you did not receive this or you received this invite but was unable to attend, PLEASE DO NOT WORRY. I have attended the Training Session for you and have summarized some of the changes below."

Let's hear that again: "I have attended the Training Session for you." So, is that how training at the Help Desk is being handled now? Management takes the training and the rest of us are to learn by osmosis?

It was, therefore, no surprise, when Friday came along and noone was able to fill out their timesheets properly. My Thursday and Friday slots were blocked out so that I could not enter any times, as if these days were holidays that the offices were closed. The returned message was "Placement ended due to inactivity."

The Operations Manager had coincidentally called off so there was a scramble with HR to figure out what was going on. Team Lead D**** sent out the message:

"Please do not be alarmed by this.... it will be corrected and paychecks will not be affected."

First off, I have no reason not to be alarmed when every time there is a change, things get screwed up. It's not being paranoid if it's true. Secondly, as a Team Lead he had absolutely no authority to make the statement that paychecks would not be affected. He doesn't know shit about what's going on and it's inappropriate for him to make it out like he does.

Well, Monday rolled around and I was able to get back into the system an correct my time card so it looks like they fixed this foul-up. Even so, I have no reason to be confident in that their minor changes failed yet again.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


The lawyer for Codename P has asked for a continuance so the court date that was set for October 19th has been pushed back three weeks to November 6th. I can only guess that he's hoping that the delay will cause me to tire and abandon the case because I can't imagine what additional preparations he might need to make. It's not like it's a complicated case.

The most interesting thing is that the name of the lawyer making the request is clearly a relative of Codename P. Doing some websearching I'm guessing that he is Codename P's brother or cousin. Why don't I find it surprising that a weasel property owner who feels somehow empowered to vandalize cars would employ his brother the lawyer to defend him when he got caught.

Maybe it's a "family" thing.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Falling into the Equinox

It would seem that fall has officially arrived. My morning ride of 53 degrees was chilly only because my body is still adapted to the hot summer we've been having. Give me a few weeks and I'll be fully acclimated to wearing shorts down into the high 30s. To help that along, I'm going to ride the Pine Creek Trail this weekend. Mid-state above Rt 80 means a 10 degree drop in temperature. I'm not concerned about the cooler temperatures except that the forecast is for thundershowers and being wet can pull the heat right out of your body. My jacket is water resistant but I don't have anything that is water-proof. Normally, at the end of my daily commute I have a warm, dry place to be and a change of clothes. On the trail, I'm just going to have dry clothes and a tent (which may or may not be dry depending on how heavily it's raining when I try to pitch it).

Well, the adventure makes for good story telling. Hopefully, hypothermia isn't a part of the tale.

In other cycling news. . . Two weeks after the signs went up for the Hot Metal Bridge construction, it looks like they are actually doing some work. They have laid some drainage pipe along the front of the Parkway East retaining wall to redirect the water coming off the highway to make a solid bed for the trail around the ramps to be built at the end of the bridge. There is also a crane out by the bridge itself. It looks like they've built the bridge deck out to a retaining wall about 20 feet.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Things that bring down morale

I produced my extensive document on morale at the Help Desk and sent it up. Actually, it was two documents; one for "general" consumption sent to both D**** and the Site Manager and the other ABOUT D**** sent only to the Site Manager.

In the first document I mentioned no raises, no bonuses and the disappearance of the incentive program. I mentioned the regular confusion about holiday staffing. I covered no one being willing to admit to making the decision that I would not longer be the trainer. I went over illegal activities such as requesting that we not evacuate during fire drills and not paying taxes. I enlightened them about the big raise the CEO got last year when the Corporation had big losses. And finally, I brought up the lack of any results having said all this before when The Corporation sent an auditor to ask about morale.

"The evidence has lead me to believe that the management here at the Help Desk lacks the power to make the necessary changes."

After I came back from lunch, the Site Manager stopped by my cubicle and agreed with everything I had said. He confided in me that previous morale surveys had also listed the local Management's lack of power as one of the issues. Corporate's response was to ask him why that is.

"Because you're not lying well enough to deflect blame away from them," I explained. He shook his head in agreement. He is sitting in that hotseat where he knows he has no authority to make real decisions and his managers apparently want to know why he's not taking the blame.

The second document was sent just to the Site Manager and, in some ways, had the same answer.

"If I were asked what was the one thing that could be done here at the Help Desk to improve morale on a daily basis I would say “Fire D****.” Every interaction I have with him is riddled with nothing but stress. Other analysts regularly comment to me about his bullying tactics and micromanagement. “Petty dictator” is one of the kinder descriptors I’ve heard. Expletives make up a good percentage of other comments."

The Site Manager said that he had attempted to address that issue but that he was "deterred" from taking action. It all starts to fall into place and I see how it all happened:

Last year about this time, a trainee reported to Management that I had been bad-mouthing D****. T***, the Site Manager at the time, being the screw-up that he was, didn't exercise any authority but merely reported it up the chain. It would surprise me if D**** didn't have a part to play in this. Perhaps the trainee went to him directly. In any case, Corporate sent word back down that I was no longer to be the trainer. As has been typical with communications here at the Help Desk, no one wanted any sort of confrontation or really wanted to take responsibility (which, by rights, wasn't theirs anyway) so I was cut out of the loop. I was told nothing as if I wouldn't notice. When I did notice, everyone I asked could honestly say that they didn't make the decision.Unfortunately, they also lacked the guts to honestly tell me what had really gone on.

The Site Manager again registered his disappointment that my transfer over to The Pharm had fallen through. He thought the reasoning was "bullshit" and this time gave me the impression that, if he had it his way, I would be a Team Lead instead of D****.


"On 8 February 2006, a Corporate auditor came to the Help Desk asking what we needed to succeed. In my meeting with him I detailed many of the things I have stated in this document. Given that seven months later I am going over all this again says to me that little or nothing was actually done with what was said in that meeting. I feel I wasted my time then and am likely wasting my time now as I honestly expect nothing to be done."

Later in the day, D**** responded to the document I sent him:

"I just read your email...... and I'm speechless...... It's unfortunate that I never asked you for this in the past...... you bring up extremely valid issues."

Speechless. He would have an aneurism if he saw the OTHER document I created and sent to the Site Manager.

Northern Crown/7th Sea game session #2

[Read the blog about session #1 here.]

After beating up the guys with yellow tabards and looting the bodies, the rest of the party followed Kurt, who had set of after the one that had escaped. Having lost the guy, Kurt was returning. There wasn't much to go on so they wandered back to "our" tavern to see if we could figure something out. From the bodies they had recovered a knife which was believed to be that of the person they were looking for (since the GM had mentioned his knife several times) and a note with an address.

"Hy've got an idea. Ve go dere, kick in de door und kill everyone ve find."

"I don't think that's a good plan."

"Hy never saeed it vas a goot plan."

With a little more investigative work (I bought a local drunkard, a surprisingly good source of information, a few beers) we learned that the guys in the yellow tabards were Spanish mercenaries. We also learned that the address was for a seedy tavern. Samm had gotten himself drunk (the player didn't show last night) so, the remaining three of us went to the tavern, paying the barmaids at this tavern some extra money to look after our drunken comrade. Once there, Máire overheard a piece of conversation and set off after a boy who made a run for it after having been noticed. When I caught up with them, Máire had caught the boy and was trying to get information out of him but had only learned that "The Master" had told him to meet the mercenaries.

"Here, lemmee try."

Being a big orc with tusks and sharp, nasty teeth, I was easily able to terrify the boy into taking us to where his master was.

"It's a trap, uf kourse. Oddervise de mercenaries vould not hef de knife. Ve vere supposed to beat dem up, find de knife und address und follow de breadcrumbs back to de villain's's lair vere dey hope to put an end to us. Now vat do hyu tink uf my plan uf kickink in de door und killink everyone ve find?"

"Good plan."

I kicked in the door to find no one inside. He intimidated the boy into directing us to a hidden stairway to the basement. Finding no one there I intimidated the boy until he revealed the hidden door behind the big wine casks.

"Hyu first."

The boy made a run for it but fell to his death in a pit trap. Too bad. At the next "decision point" I was going to throw him a copper to buy himself some clean underpants and send him on his way. The first door we come to in the underground complex opened up into some sort of ritual room.

"Kultists. Hy hete kultists."

Second door was a library. Third door was a treasure room guarded by a trio of emaciated walking corpse things.

"Hoops. Vrong door."

I closed the door and was prepared to just move on to deal with the undead later but they began chopping at the door to get out. Once they had chopped a big enough hole in the door, I just shoved a grenade through the opening and blew the room to shit. One undead thing survived enough to stagger out of the room but an axe blow to the head finished it off. I wanted to storm ahead but a bunch of snake guys with spears showed up.

There were two one either side of us in the hallway. I was engaged with two when Máire tried throwing a dagger past me.

"Don' kill across me, voman. It's very rude."

She went back to fight with the other two snake guys and left these two to me. The one took a few hits to go down with an axe blow. The second missed spectacularly so that I was able to step into it, grab the spear under my arm and lift, crushing his skull against the ceiling.

The Rake had finished off the other two and wanted to loot the treasure room. I didn't want to waste time, this being a trap and all, and wanted to move ahead as quickly as possible before the forces of evil could rally. I rushed down the hall to some big double doors and kicked in the door to reveal another ritual chamber with pillers, an altar, more snake guys and "The Big Boss"

I half expected him to be the guy we were searching for. It turned out to be the head of the the temple. Ohhh, big surprise. He started to gloat:

"You are the first outsiders to . . . *erk!*"

I shot him in the head. It wasn't a good enough shot to put him down, however. Just a glancing blow. Whereupon he transformed himself into a snake-thing, too. (They're called Naga, right?) The snakey minions open fire. One pistol shot misses. The other fires a mortar that catches Máire in the gut, knocking her down. It bounces off and detonates a moment later, shrapnel rattling against my breastplate. My comrades want to run but I choose to rush them. The blast knocked off my hat.

I rush into the room and engage one of the minions with my axe but don't do too well. I can hit him but simply can't do enough damage to put him down. His comrade chucks a grenade and I take most of the blast in the back. Meanwhile, the Big Boss is trying to cast spells but I am easily resisting those effects. I finally put the snake guy down but the Big Boss casts another spell, raising him from the dead, or some such. Máire puts the other minion down and tries to stab the Big Boss, taking a lot of damage from a necromatic touch.

"Hy hef hed enough uf dese modderfuckink schnakes in dis modderfuckink game."

I throw down my axe and strike the minion with my fists. He goes down instantly. I rush over the the Big Boss, grab ahold of his head, and nearly twist it off. *Kerruntch*

After that, it was discover the guy we had been looking for all this time tied up behind the altar, hear his sob story (possession. called that one), collect up the loot, collect up our comrade left at the tavern and call it a day.


An axe does 1d8 of damage but Kurt's fists do 1d3+4. The maximum damage isn't as good as with an axe but I'm guaranteed of at least 4 points of damage whereas with an axe I have even odds of doing 4 or fewer points. So, now the axe is just for chopping wood

Chekhov is attributed with saying, "if you show a gun in act one, you have to use it by act three." In our own act one, the guy who had hired us to find the missing guy mentioned the knife. I knew it was going to show up again and immediately recognized it for what it was.

Kurt didn't interact much with the head of the temple much when the party visited looking for information so I, as a player, chose not to pay much attention. If I had, I would have seen the behavior of the head of the temple as a sure sign that he was involved and not just a jerk.

The mess with the Orcish pirates wasn't a ruse. We had heard that they were putting to see the next morning. Had we not figured things out, our quarry would have been on that ship and we would have to chase them down. Had we not killed the Big Boss, he would have been on that ship making his escape.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Back in June when Codename P and his lawyer went to the Pgh Police to accept a harassment citation for the repeated vandalism of my car, I thought it was pretty much over. The officer told me he said that he wouldn't do it again (which sounds like an admission of guilt).

Well, it seems that he has changed his mind and pled "not guilty" to the charges. That means that on October 19th at 8am, Codename P will appear in District Court to face the charges against him.

I'm not sure what part I have yet to play in this drama. The document I received was a copy of what was sent to him and not a call for me to appear as a witness. That document may be forthcoming. If not, I intend to at the very least be in the gallery to hear just how he justifies his actions or tries to deny that it's him in the picture.

The wheels of justice continue to turn.

The Helpdesk Manifesto

D****, team lead and arch nemesis, came to my cubicle to ask something of me. I thought he looked a little put off by my wearing of sunglasses against the glare of the newly re-installed fluorescent lights. Apparently he was looking for me to produce a list of things that were hurting morale at the Help Desk.

I laughed out loud. I could go on for hours detailing the things that destroy morale at the help desk: not getting raises in 4 years, not getting bonuses, the abandonment of the incentive program, etc, etc. But, if there is one thing that depresses morale on a daily basis, it is D**** himself.

So, I will go through my notes and produce two comprehensive and exhaustive documents. One document will be all the things I mentioned above and more. The other, sent only to the site manager, will be why D**** destroys morale. I may except some choice paragraphs once I'm done with it but, if you've been reading my blog, you already know what to expect.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Let there be light.

Looking over the wall of my cubicle last week I noticed that the floor was quite dark. Apparently many of the other analysts have discovered, as I did long ago, that working in a darker environment was more comfortable. They had gotten up on their desks and disconnected most of the florescent lights.

I've been doing that for years. Occasionally building maintenance will come around fixing lights and I would just say "leave it like it is." They would.

But today when the maintenance guy came around, he said he had been told to turn them all on. I went to the Site Manager to ask why. Some Corporate Bigwig is coming to visit and, on seeing all the lights out he is likely to say, "why don't you call maintenance to get the lights fixed?" Being a Bigwig, the answer of "we like it that way" will not be acceptable. Just do what he says. Don't question him. Be the mindless drones you are paid to be. In fact, don't even wait for him to make the comment, just do what you assume a Corporate Bigwig would say in such a situation so that there isn't even the remotest chance for displeasure on his part.

The only good thing is that immediately following the Bigwig visit, people will be back on top of their desks disconnecting the lights again. In the meantime, I'll bring in my sunglasses. Already, the glare is giving me a headache.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Certificate of Underappreciation.

I was in a coworker's cubicle asking a hardware question and noticed a Certificate of Appreciation pinned up on the wall. The Corporation's CEO was thanking her for her years of service and offering her corporate prizes in recognition for her valued work. Fascinating because I have put in more years of service and have never received much of anything other than a paycheck from Corporate.

Just one more thing to ask about when my seventh year performance review comes up next month.