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.