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.