Monday, January 30, 2006


I left the house without my wallet this morning, only realizing I didn't have it when I entered work and didn't have my security swipe card.

The security database had my photograph so I was able to pass but, more importantly, not having my wallet meant that I didn't have any money for lunch.

I was able to survive by scavenging a handful of fortune cookies from a co-workers desk drawer.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

New Directions.

The Site Manager responded to my e-mail of yesterday with the following reply:

That was the reason for my reply. If we the management staff are holding the analysts to a standard - then I believe that we should lead by example.

So to your point - the only standard difference is the management team is more accountable.

Geis, we are looking at a new day for the Help Desk and the bulletin board speaks of a direction we are looking to move toward. Some make faster transitions than others. We must be tolerant to a certain degree to allow for change, both in management and analysts. With the level of experience you offer, I welcome your advice and insight but at the same time look to you not to just provide criticism of processes but offer process improvements.

Point made - point taken - point accepted.

He then came over to my cube and asked if I had read his e-mail. I told him that I did and have heard lots of talk over years about the Help Desk "moving in new directions" and I have never seen any of it pan out. Always a lot of talk and never any real progress. And, as to suggestions for improvements rather than just complaints, I have made plenty of suggestions over the years and those haven't seem to gone anywhere either. In this specific case, talk to D***** and have him fix his profile. Then maybe I'll actually see that we are being held to the same standard.

Of course, by the end of the day the only change I had seen is that the profile no longer had EvilScientist but had been changed to D*****'s logon id plus Evil Scientist.

Oh, yea. We're moving in a new direction.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Evil Scientist.

This morning, C****, our Help Desk Programmer, sent out a message reminding people to change their profiles in the e-pop utility. Every time we log on to the IM-like utility, it assigns the system's computername as our name and we are supposed to change it to our actual names so people know who is who. C**** simply sent out a reminder.

Shortly thereafter, someone sent out a message that said:

From: ***********.Users
Please make certain that you are using your 1st name and last name only.
Not a ficticious name so that it is clear who we are communicating to, as well as, who we need to reach.

The person sending it out had neglected to update their own profile so it was in no way clear who was communicating. And, of course, D***** continued to use EvilScientist as his profile. with his message:
From: Evil Scientist.Users
* * * ATTENTION * * *
If you received this message, then you need to change your epop identity from the workstation please change it now.

I'm really kind of fed up with this, so I sent the following to the Help Desk Site Manager:
"It is extremely hypocritical to be harangued both collectively and individually about not updating our E-Pop profiles and not using fictitious names when the person sending the message has failed to update their profile and D****is allowed to continue to use Evil Scientist as an alias.

I have long believed that Team Leads and Analysts are held to different standards and this behavior only reinforces that opinion. The motivational platitudes on the bulletin board at the front of the room are useless or are, in point of fact, counterproductive if Managers make rules which they themselves do not follow and then continue not to follow even after multiple messages that they themselves send out to Analysts."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Property Rights.

My wife is involved with a loose social group of mostly IT professionals who get together on a monthly basis to have dinner at a nice restaurant. I've joined them a few times and last night's "meeting" was at Green Forest.

Green Forest on Rodi Road is a Brazillian style restaurant that is all-you-can-eat meat, served on a sword.Turkey wrapped in bacon. Skirt steak. Strip steak. Flank steak. Garlic steak. Sirloin steak. Some other sort of steak wrapped in bacon. Fillet mignon. Lamb. Sausage. The waiter will come around with skewer after skewer of different kinds of meat until you tell him to stop.

But even though I was in a meatatarian's heaven, things did not go so well. The conversion turned to bicycling and at one point I spoke about some of the problems caused by land owners opposed to rail-to-trail going past their property. They will lay down carpet tacks, string wire across the trail and in one instance hung a bicycle from a tree by a noose.

This sort of behavior was endorsed by one of the attendants, a lawyer and self-proclaimed conservative Republican. He tried to not advocate violence but the more he spoke, the more he showed his true colors. He categorized the trail users as "jerkoffs" and "tree-hugging liberal hippies" and said that he would engage in "recreational lawsuits" to harass and bankrupt individuals and trail councils who dared to run this trail across his property.

Except that it's not you're property. It belongs to the railroad. It
probably belonged to the railroad since before your grandparents were born and if they choose to sell it to the trail council for conversion into trail then it's their right to do so. Lawsuit after lawsuit has been ruled against neighboring landowners. Sure, you've been using that "abandoned" throughway for years but it was never yours and you knew that when you bought the property. There it is clearly marked out in the survey. Yours. Theirs.

As he was challenged on this, he became more and more angry, completely flouting the rule of law. It bounced back and forth with him supporting nonexistent rights and myself saying "but it's not YOUR property." I don't remember what he said then but it was insulting and I just said "I'm done here" and got up to leave.

"If you're riding after November, be sure to wear an orange vest."

"Thanks for the threat." I could not believe that a lawyer had just made such a statement advocating violence against me because I was exercising my right to ride on trail designed and built for my use. It's why we have the trail in the first place; to get us on to a safe throughway and away from jerks like you who think the own the road and run us bicyclists off of it.

"I'm just saying that riding a bike, you look just like a deer."

A bicyclist looks like a deer only to drunken, inbred rednecks who have no business being out in the woods with a rifle. And you've just advocated negligent homicide, you ignorant, arrogant bastard.


Someone saw fit to post some print outs on our otherwise blank bulletin board.

"Five Tips to Reaching Your Success in 2006"

It included bullet points for Be clear, Be Realistic, Communicate, Facilitate, (and my personal favorite) Visualize Daily

Ugh. As if this sort of this motivational pablum is going to improve morale. What we really need is better and consistent training, fair management and, . . . oh yea. . . how about competitive pay.

I'm waiting for the repugnant prepackaged motivational signs to start appearing.

I'm visualizing a new job daily.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Oceana has Always has been at War with Eurasia.

My Sister-In-Law sent me the following link:

Loose Change 9-11

Now, I'm not a conspiracy theorist but it does present the events of 9/11 in a different light that makes you wonder if Dubbya really is trying to bring about the world portrayed in Orwell's "1984".

Discounting all the eyewitness accounts (because witnesses are notoriously unreliable), some debatable grainy video enlargements and looking only at the crash site at the Pentagon, the story of a jet liner crashing into the building doesn't hold up. How does a jet liner punch through three buildings? How does it target the building so precisely without skidding off the ground? Why didn't the intense power of the jetliner's engines not blow cars off the road as it supposedly passed 50 feet overhead? Why does the security cam footage from the convenience store across the street not show a jet liner? And the one that I could see with my own eyes on live broadcasts that day; Why is the hole not airplane shaped?

I used to disbelieve conspiracy theories because I was not confident that such a complex plot by the government could be kept secret. Surely, one of the hundreds of people involved would let something slip somewhere. But the more I think about it. . . we have an administration of zealots, crusaders and true believers. Lead by righteousness, they could probably keep a secret much better than a career bureaucrat. And since we now know that the government has been engaging in warrantless domestic wiretapping, they could certainly keep an eye on their own co-conspirators.

Orwell presented a dystopian world that was allowed to get that way because people believed the loss of their freedoms was necessary for their own defense. We eventually learn that the war that Big Brother is waging might not actually exist. That it is a fabrication by the government.

Oceania is at War with Eurasia. Oceana has Always has been at War with Eurasia.

The US is at War with el-Qaeda. The US has Always been at War with el-Qaeda.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Holiday Excitement

Working on a holiday when the bank and financial markets are closed is a mind-numingly boring experience. I had 6 calls by lunch and only one more in the afternoon. Given my typical call volume of around 50 a day it was good that I had a book to read.

A little investigation revealed that Team Lead D**** had neglected to send out the e-mail wherein he noted just who was supposed to be in today to everyone. The people who didn't get the e-mail came in and essentially made us well overstaffed with more than a dozen people logged in. I would say that it was six too many. All told, the Help Desk took a little over 100 calls when non-holiday Mondays pull in nearly 1200. Boredom compounded.


Someone chucked a Compaq Presario off the 10th Street Bridge onto the Eliza Furnace Trail. The memory I pulled from the wreckage probably survived but odds are that the 8 Gig drive did not. Terminal ballistics can be an odd thing, though. The case folded up and exploded. It's possible that most of the kinetic energy of impact went into destroying the case and thus protected the drive, much like modern cars fold up to protect to occupants. On the other hand, hard drives are fairly delicate so I may just have an 8 Gig paperweight.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Tax Evasion

On the 1st of February last year, I realized that The Corporate Overlords had never deducted my City of Pittsburgh Occupation Tax out of any of my paychecks for the 6 years I have been working for the Help Desk. I hadn't noticed previously because in 20 years of working within the City limits, my employers had always taken care of their tax obligations.

Well, over the course of two months, I sent out numerous e-mails to HR, the Payroll Manager, Employee Relations and others alerting them to this problem. I received no response. When I finally had a meeting with the then new Site Manager T*** in August, he assured me that he was going to leverage an answer for me. He was out the door a month or so later because he hadn't been qualified to do the job.

Today was my first paycheck of 2006 and sure enough, the City's Emergency & Municipal Services Tax was not deducted. I alerted the local HR Rep (officially titled the "Operations Manager") of this and, with the all too typical surprised look on her face, she said that she though she had told me that WE would be responsible for the taxes. I said, "No. You never said anything like that to me and I certainly haven't received any documentation to that effect." After that little conversation, I again sent out a series of e-mails in which I said:

As of 1 January 2005, what was previously known as the Occupation Privilege Tax had been changed under City Code Title II, Article VII, Chapter 252 to the Emergency & Municipal Services Tax. According to Article III, Section 301 of the Regulations, “All employers and self-employed individuals are required to collect the Emergency and Municipal Services Tax from all employees engaged in an occupation within the City of Pittsburgh.” Section 303 goes on to say “Any employer required to withhold the taxes in accordance with the City Code and with these Regulations shall be personally liable for payment of the tax in the event he fails, refuses or neglects to withhold or transmit the tax or any portion thereof, in addition to the interest and penalties.”
Perhaps quoting the law, chapter and verse, will get the Corporate Overlords to notice. I actually doubt it. That's why I went ahead and called the Audit Section of the City of Pittsburgh Department of Finance. The guy there was very pleased to take my anonymous report that an employer in the city had been shirking their tax obligation for the past seven years or so. "We love doing audits," he said.

In point of fact, even though the employer is legally responsible for withholding the tax from employee's paychecks, the employee is still responsible for the paying of the tax. My tax burden for the unpaid Occupation Tax of $10/year through 2004 and the Municipal Services Tax of $52/year from 2005 on is $152 total. The math for the assessment of penalties and interest is a bit tricky to understand but it can't be more than another $75 on top of the tax responsibility. Lets say $200 total. The pain of that is more than offset by the warm feeling I have from knowing that City auditors and lawyers will be descending upon my delinquent

I warned them.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Fully staffed.

I got an email that, among other things mentioned that "we finally have enough staff to cover our queues."

Back in December, I had it out with the Site Manager because they had gone through a cycle of hiring and training without involving me; the Help Desk Trainer. In spite of the assurances that I was indeed still the trainer, I have noticed at least two new faces out on the floor being trained. I wasn't introduced and I certainly have not been involved in their training.

Lies? Oversights? Ignorance? I don't know what's going on with management but I am now somewhat beyond caring. I was going to say something else, specifically pointing out that they are only proving me right when I said that no one listens to me. But, of course, they wouldn't listen to that either.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

You can't say that.

Even though we are now fully staffed, we have apparently not been meeting our metrics for the month. This means that Team Lead D**** has been sending out this message every day:

To: O=HelpDesk.Users
From: EvilScientist.Users
Sent: 01/10/2006 9:09:07 AM

*** EVERYONE ***

I understand that each of you want to resolve issues.... and that's a good thing. However, when we're in our SWAT hours, we really don't have the luxury of time....With that being said, I recommend a problem ticket for 2nd level support.

Our primary focus should be clearing the queue between the hours of 07:00 and 11:00...the only caveat is that you can't say that to the need to find a creative yet effective method to do this.

Thank you for your compliance.
My first problem with this is the signature. The message utility we use defaults to the system's computername for the From: field and we are required to change it to include our login ids and names. Except that D**** has chosen to define his name as EvilScientist. Not only has he gotten away with something that the rest of us can't, when someone else sends out a message and has neglected to change the field, he calls them on it. Just another shining example of the double standard extant.

I particularly like the directive that we focus on clearing the queue, cutting calls as short as possible. Of course, that's without letting the users in on that.

I have never really paid attention to these sorts of things. If I can solve a problem, I'm going to take the time necessary to solve it. The occasional 20 minute call that I take is more than balanced by the number of calls that I can clear out in 45 seconds or so. In the end, MY average stats are in the green. If managers want me to cut calls that I could otherwise solve then they can come to my cube and hang up on the user themselves. I refuse to treat them like that.

Opening a ticket for issues that we can solve means that the ticket will go to a second level support and they will just send it back to us saying that we should do it ourselves. Of course, in the hour or so that it takes for them to do that the user is doing nothing. And sometimes they are calling back wondering why they haven't been taken care of. My logic is that it's better to take the time to solve the problem than to have the user calling back into the queue.

Thirdly, I like the "Thank you for your compliance" line. Obey.

Monday, January 09, 2006