Monday, May 22, 2006

Differing levels of caring.

Progress towards my migration out of The Bank's Help Desk to another Help Desk is proceeding swiftly. At least, The Corporation seems intent on keeping me informed every step of the way. I had a short meeting again today with the Site Manager and Operations Manager wherein they told me who would likely be contacting me from The Corporation to set up an interview.

That's it. The whole meeting took less than a minute. I don't believe they are lavishing this attention on me because they care about me in particular. I suspect they are motivated by the pressure to put on a good show for the new client.

At the end of the micro-meeting, I mentioned so they might pass it on that I was going to be out of town after work on Wednesday to begin a bicycle ride to Washington DC. The conversation that followed was longer than the meeting. "Are you going to carry all your supplies to came or staying in motels?" "I'll be carrying it all. I bought a trailer for my bike." "A trailer? I've never seen a trailer for a bike." "Sure, just like a trailer for your car, it distributes the weight better and it's easier to tow it behind than strap it to the bike." And so on.

When I returned to my desk, I sent a pop message to the Site and Operations Managers with a link to a picture of me, my bike and trailer to show them what I was talking about.

When I immediately received a copy of the message I sent, I realized that I had made a mistake in addressing the message and had sent it to everyone at the Help Desk. I sent another message to that effect with a simple apology.

One coworker responded, "Nice legs" but otherwise it was a harmless mistake. Or so I thought. What I didn't know until it was pointed out to me at the end of the day was that Team Lead D**** had sent out a message immediately following mine:

". . . . like we care."

Of course, he edited his addressing carefully so that I didn't receive a copy of this juvenile sniping. As a manager, he should know better than to behave in this sort of harassment behind the backs of employees. Of course, this is not the first time that he's done this and he still hasn't learned his lesson and it really pisses me off that I am going to again take this up with Management.

In an odd way, I hope that he does this sort of backstabbing with everyone because then he would just be a bullying and small-minded tyrant of a manager. If he doesn't do this to everyone, then he has some sort of personal vendetta against me and this is workplace harassment.

In either case, what bothers me most about this is not the crap itself, I've been taking this shit from him for years, it is in the abysmally bad timing. Just as I'm looking to get out of this situation and I need to put on the best of impressions to my new clients, I have to go into the office and point out what sort of ass they continue to harbor in a management position. In so doing, I don't believe I will jeopardize this opportunity. I have not pulled any punches over the years and have issued some very harsh words about the goings on at the Help Desk and yet my competence still earned me the highest recommendation for this new position.

But, damn, why couldn't he just keep is fat mouth shut?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Are you curious about yourself?

That was the header on page 5 of the City Paper. A full page Personality Test care of Scientology Pittsburgh on the South Side. I won't go into great detail about this load of garbage (Read all about it at but in the lower right of the pager near the address box, I found this amusing direction:


This message brought to you by the Department of Tautological Pleonasms and Redundancies Department. Help stamp out and abolish redundancies!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Rain, rain, go away. . . .

It's been raining for ten days now. Well, not continuously, but it's been raining every day and I'm tired of bicycle commuting in the cold and wet. I've had a headache for a full day now and I'm wondering if riding in the rain all the time has made me sick. I don't have any other symptoms such as a runny nose or stuffed sinuses so it's hard to say.

So much for Bike to Work Week. But it's not like I've ever participated in those festivities anyway. My start time at the Help Desk is always before the scheduled "commuter breakfasts" and other celebratory events.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hot Metal Bridge

I was originally going to mention this on Monday but the Post-Gazette had an article stating that bidding for the refurbishing of the Hot Metal Bridge opens next week. Construction of the $7 million project would begin in July and be complete by the fall of 2007. The concern I have is how this will affect traffic on the trail. Will they need to close the trail completely for construction or will they be able to allow passage as they did where there was Parkway East abutment construction a few years back?

Of course, if all goes well, I will be working elsewhere and won't be riding that section of trail on a daily basis so construction will not have a direct affect on me.I'm actually much more interested in the progress in connecting Pittsburgh to Mckeesport. Sandcastle still wants nothing to do with a trail running across or even by their property. If this could be resolved, I would make a short drive from Turtle Creek across the river to Homestead and ride the rest of the way into town. And further up the Mon, USS aparently would be willing to have the trail have a section of property so long as someone else pays the millions for the EPA mandated cleanup.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Pursuit of Justice

I forwarded my photograph of the guy vandalizing my car to a short list of people involved in this issue. Several people with the city and bike advocacy groups. One of them was able to confirm the identity of the person in the picture as the owner of the neighboring lot. Given that legal action may be in the works, I will refer to him as "Codename P."

The discussion is what action to take next. The evidence has been given to the police and they will be investigating. Probably. Hopefully. But what will that accomplish? The photo does not show Codename P with toothpaste on his finger so is it actually proof of the commission of a crime? I would say that for all the photos taken during the day, only Codename P appears in the frame and, to trigger the camera and be so caught he needed to be standing there for 15 or 20 seconds. Is that enough to file criminal mischief charges? And what about the other half dozen reports I have filed or the reports filed by other victims in the lot? Can those be taken into account?

One suggestion was to put up posters for the trail users with a warning. "Have you seen this man?" These posters would not identify Codename P by name but would alert people that a vandal was in there area.

I see several flaws with this. If Codename P's objective is to drive people away (the speculation being that he wants to claim ownership of an underutilized lot for his own profit) then putting up posters saying that a vandal is on the loose may actually play into his hands. It could deter people from using the lot at all.

Putting up a poster could tip our hand, revealing that we have a hidden camera. One might think that this sort of surveillance would deter future crimes but, as evidenced by the scores of "Caught on Tape" TV shows, criminals tend to believe they won't get caught and will commit blatant crimes in front of even obvious security cameras. Should Codename P learn that there are hidden cameras, he may become more cautious but probably wouldn't be scared off. My camera isn't so well hidden that someone knowing that a camera was somewhere on the lot couldn't find it. Once found, it's gaze could be easily avoided.

He's been doing this for over a year. Before that, he was approached by the police and told to stop telling commuters that they couldn't park in the lot. He was not deterred by that, why should a vaguely worded poster have any effect?

No, I believe the only thing that will end this is criminal mischief
charges and a court date. A conviction would be nice. Sure, it's only a misdemeanor but I want this guy to have a criminal record and believe that only then will it stop. He needs to know that if any act of vandalism occurs in the lot, his will be the first door that police knock on.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Smile! You're on Candid Camera

For nearly two months now, I have been using a game camera disguised as a discarded plastic bag and hidden behind the Porta-John at the lot at the end of Eliza Furnace Trail to surveil for the vandal that has been putting grease and toothpaste under the doorhandles of trail users' cars for over a year. Today, my investment of time and money appears to have paid off.
Behold! The Squicky Vandal caught in the act.

Are you a cyclist who rides the Eliza Furnace trail? A jogger? A walker with children A Children's Hospital employee who daily parks in the lot next door? A shuttle driver who frequents that lot going to and from town? A city employee operating out of the Public Works warehouse across the way? If you are any one of these people and can recognize this person or his vehicle (just seen to the right in the image), please contact police officers of Zone 4 at 5858 Northumberland Street, Squirrel Hill, 412-422-6520. Mention police report number 93736.

Justice is served.

(One minor edit: I just realized that I forgot to set the clock on the camera ahead for daylight savings time, so the time stamp is actually 11:09 am.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Career Pathing.

I got a call from a Financial Services Group employee who had gotten his workstation password locked. They are on a different subnet from us at the Help Desk and they don't user the same standard for Administrator passwords so I would be unable to help him and would have to open a ticket for Local Deskside support to solve his issue.

He pitched a fit. He just couldn't accept that I couldn't solve his problem, even after explaining it. I kept offering to open a ticket to have someone at second level solve his problem but he kept demanding that I solve it over the phone. I kept saying that I didn't have the power to do that and he eventually hung up.

Some 10 minutes later, I got an IM from the Site Manager, "Can I talk with you for a few minutes in my office. Very important."


As I walked over to the office, the Site Manager was outside and I was tempted to say, "Is this about that Financial Services Asshat?" No, I wouldn't say that, but I was actually tempted to ask if this was about the call I had taken.

He sits me down and offers me a new job.

Some months ago, The Corporation landed a sizable Help Desk contract with another major Pittsburgh company. Several Help Desk people had been trying to get over to that employer but when I heard that The Corporation was taking over operations, I lost interest. Why would I want to drive further across the city to work for the same company that has been screwing me for years.

More money.

Here at The Bank, the Site Manager admitted that he can't do anything about increasing salaries but, given the opportunity, he would recommend me to go to the new site where the salary would be more.

How much more? Don't know yet. I'm going to have to do some math to determine how much more gas money I'm going to have to spend to get over there. Unlike working downtown, I won't be able to drive half way and bike the rest.

I still have no loyalty to The Corporation so if something even better comes along I will be out of there faster than my shadow but a raise in salary is a raise in salary. And the new environment could be a help.

It feels like it's a done deal, based on what the Site Manager said, but I'm not feeling enthusiastic about it.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Big Raise.

I had heard that the Corporate Overlord had somehow earned himself a big bonus but I only today found out the specifics. For 2004 he had earned a salary of about half a million dollars and received $180,000 in stock compensation. For 2005, a year plagued with financial scandals, a $10 million dollar loss, accusations of spousal abuse, earnings restatements, the purchase of a corporate jet, the threat of NASDAQ delisting, failure to file the proper SEC documents and, in short, the worst year in The Corporation's history, the board saw fit to DOUBLE his salary to over a million dollars a year and give him a similar value in stocks. All told a 286% increase in his income.

I am at a loss for words.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Please, don't fire me.

I received the following election-season message:

Dear Neighbor:

I voted to Repeal the Pay Raise and I returned every penny I earned as a result of this ill-advised raise.

We all make mistakes; voting for the pay raise was a regretable mistake. I'm honest enough to admit that.

I have worked hard for this district and, except for this one mistake, I believe I have effectively served the communities and the citizens that I represent.

I would be grateful to continue to server you and the citizens of our community in the same honorable manner I had served before this single mistake.

I extend my sincerest apology and I assure you that I will not make this mistake again.

Paul Costa, District 35 Representative.
First, let's review what lead to this plea. On July 7, 2005, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed pay increases for state lawmakers, judges, and top executive-branch officials. The raise increased legislators' base pay from 16% to 34% depending on position and making them the second higest paid state legislatiors in the nation. (In Costa's case, his base pay went from $69,647 to $81,050 anually) The vote took place at two in the morning without public review or commentary and Governor Rendell quickly signed the bill. In addition, they were able bypass the PA Constitution that forces legislators to wait until the end of the term before actually getting the raise by claiming "unvouchered expenses."

The government seemed shocked and somewhat indignant when the public took exception to this. It didn't take long, however, for them to see that Pennsylvanians were almost universally outraged and on November 16, 2005 the Governor signed unanimously passed bill repealing the pay raise.

So now, the primaries are coming up and my Representative is begging me for his political life. And he's not even doing a very good job of that.

The first obsfucation is in the first paragraph where he notes that he voted to repeal the pay raise without mentioning that he voted for it in the first place. He tries to dodge this by saying it was "ill-advised", blaming it on someone else. He says he "returned every penny" when, according to Article II, Section 8 of the Constution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, he wasn't actually entired to a single penny of said pay raise until the end of his current term . But, by using "unvouchered expenses" he was going to be pulling in nearly $1,000 a month for the 17 months remaining in his term.

In two separate paragraphs, he claims that this vote was his "single mistake" made in seven years of service. Really? One mistake in all that time? And after violating the state constitution we are to believe that you made this one mistake and wish to server "our community in the same honorable manner?"

Sorry, Paul. I'm not buying it. Look here at the bottom of the mailing: "Paid for by Paul Costa for State Representative, Treasurer: Kathleen Gallant Costa." His wife is the treasurer of his re-election committee. His brother, State Senator Jay Costa, also voted for the pay increase and was also taking unvouchered expenses.

Oh, yea. I am overhwlemed with confidence.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

It's payback time.

Got an e-mail today from the Operations Manager that everyone at the Help Desk was going to have the City of Pittsburgh Emergency and Municipal Services tax taken out of their next paycheck.

If you recall, it was well over a year ago that I first alerted Corporate HR that since I started in 1999, the Occupation Tax (and now the EMST) had never been withheld from my paycheck. After a year of them not doing anything about it, I reminded them and then called the City Auditor to turn them in. They finally deducted the tax that they were legally obligated to have been witholding all this time.

Since it took this long for them to take any sort of action with the taxes for everyone else at the Help Desk I suspect that they wouldn't have done anything at all until the City auditors caught up with them. Of course, the e-mail doesn't address why this was never done before. It's worded as if the change from the Occupation Tax to the EMST was something that happened recently even though it went into effect January 1st, 2005.

A small piece of justice. I hope they had some sort of fine or threat of legal action.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


At least one Peregrine chick has hatched at the Gulf Tower nest.

Monday, May 01, 2006

My Daddy Workz Here

They call themselves the Hand Washing Committee. A shadowy, secret society who put up informational signs in the restroom warning of the dire circumstances that shall befall us should we not strictly adhere to their commands. They demand that building maintence refill the soap dispensers so that "their rules can be followed". They attempt to have people fired for not washing their hands, citing non-existent health codes.

Their latest campaign involves a new sign on the exterior door to the men's restroom that says, "WASH YOUR HANDS, MY DADDY WORKS HERE", replicating the PennDOT signs that warn people to slow down through construction zones.

I find a certain irony in using the juvenile backward "S" font. Firstly, I have never know an actual juvenile who ever actually wrote the S backwards. Second, this so-called Hand Washing Committee is behaving in a childish way I though had been left behind in elementary school. Is crying to your boss and getting his boss to call my boss's, boss's boss to chide me for not washing my hands the sort of behavior one would expect from professionals? Don't you have something important to do like, say, YOUR JOB? If you're so obsessed about it that you try to get me fired, you really need to seek help.

REAL professional help.